Iran unveils capability to independently manufacture drone engines

Iran’s Defense Minister said recently that Iran is now “designing and manufacturing airplane and drone engines, and that the country is self-sufficient in this field,” according to reports in pro-government Iranian Fars News media.

Iran’s defense minister also praised Qatar and noted that Iran has had talks with Doha about potential cooperation. Doha hosts Hamas leaders. Iran backs Hamas. After October 7, the Iranian foreign minister met Hamas members in Doha.

According to the report, Mohammad-Rez Ashtiani, the defense minister, made the comments alongside other claims that it is producing larger engines as well. He said Iran’s defense exports are also growing. This has resulted in a major increase in the last two years. He did not mention Russia, but Iran has been exporting Shahed 136 drones to Russia. Russia uses drones as part of its war on Ukraine.

The drone war by Moscow against Ukraine is also increasingly deadly. For instance, the BBC reported that UK Defense Secretary Grant Schapps canceled a planned trip to Odesa last week due to missile threats from Germany. It was not clear if the threats also included drones.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visits the military equipment of IRGC Navy in Bandar Abbas, Iran, February 2, 2024 (credit: Iran’s Presidency/WANA/Handout via Reuters)

Iran is increasing its drone and missile arsenal. It is also prodding its proxies to attack Israel, shipping in the Red Sea, and also to target US soldiers in Iraq and Syria. In late January, Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah also used drones to murder three US soldiers in Jordan. “We have achieved self-sufficiency in the field of drone engine manufacturing, and we are also pursuing (production of) heavier engines,” the Iranian defense minister said.

Iran used to source drone engine materials from the West

Engines are important for drones. In the past, Iran imported many drone parts from abroad. It sources these materials from many Western countries.

Many of these engines or other components, such as gyroscopes, could be considered “dual use” and not necessarily flagged as military use. Iran also reached out to Chinese firms to build engines. Therefore, engine production in Iran is important for Iran’s drone warfare program.

“Next year, we will have very good progress in the space sector and expand the range of activities with the Simorgh satellite launcher,” Ashtiani said. “We have had about 4 to 5 times growth in the defense exports sector. This growth will expand in the future, and with the innovations and new armaments being produced, these exports will increase further,” he said.

Ashtiani also highlighted Iran’s desire to expand defense ties with other countries. “Ashtiani pointed to the potential for cooperation with other nations, specifically mentioning Qatar’s influence in the region and noting that his talks with the Qatari defense minister during his recent visit to Doha covered various regional issues,” according to Tasnim News.

“Discussions were held on the development of cooperation and the work that can be done as a basis for expanding cooperation, and we will definitely pursue this path with other countries as well.”