US says drone factory Russia is building with help from Iran could be operational early next year

The United States believes that an attack drone manufacturing plant that Russia is building with help from Iran could be fully operational by early next year, a government official said on Friday. National Security Council, John Kirby.

Iran is shipping equipment for the factory, as well as fully built drones, to Russia via the Caspian Sea, according to US officials. Russia has bought hundreds of drones from Iran since last summer and is using them extensively in the war in Ukraine.

Kirby confirmed previous CNN reports that Iran is using the Caspian Sea route to move drones, bullets and mortar shells into Russia, often using ‘dark’ ships or having their tracking data turned off. to conceal their movements.

The United States released a map on Friday showing the route Iran appears to be taking to ship equipment from Amirabad, Iran to Makhachkala, Russia.

The route Iran uses to send drones and other equipment to Russia, according to the US government. – United States Government

“Russia has used Iranian drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in recent weeks to strike at Kiev and terrorize the Ukrainian population, and the Russian-Iranian military partnership appears to be deepening,” Kirby said in a statement.

The United States also believes Iran shipped materials that Russia used to build its own drone factory in Russia’s Alabuga special economic zone, about 600 miles east of Moscow. The United States has released a satellite image of the planned location of the alleged drone manufacturing plant, taken on April 3.

Satellite imagery of a facility where Russia plans to build a factory to manufacture drones with help from Iran, according to the US government. – Maxar/US Government

CNN has requested comment from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Iranian Mission to the United Nations.

“Support flows both ways: from Iran to Russia and from Russia to Iran,” Kirby said.

“Russia has offered Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics and air defense,” he added. “Earlier this year, Iran announced that it had finalized an agreement to purchase Su-35 fighter jets from Russia. Iran is seeking to purchase additional military equipment from Russia, including helicopters. attack, radar and YAK-130 combat training aircraft.In total, Iran is seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Russia.

Kirby said the United States was releasing this information to the public “to expose and disrupt” the countries’ “large-scale defense partnership”.

He also announced that the United States will issue a new advisory on Friday to help companies and governments better understand how Iran is illegally obtaining the components needed to build its drones, and how they can “put measures in place.” to ensure that they do not inadvertently contribute to Iran’s UAV program.

The United States has imposed strict export control restrictions and sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining the materials needed for its drones, but evidence has emerged suggesting that Iran is finding an abundance of technology available in trade, including components made by American companies, CNN reported.

The Biden administration launched a broad task force last year to investigate how American and Western components, including American-made microelectronics, ended up in Iranian-made drones used in Russia.

Kirby said the United States would continue to impose sanctions on Iranians, Russians and other countries involved in purchasing the equipment.

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