Iran’s History and Extent of Kamikaze Drone Program
On February 6, Iranian pro-government Tasnim News published an article detailing the history and extent of Iran’s kamikaze drone program. These are known as “one-way” attack drones or “suicide” drones. The essence of these drones is that the drone itself is a warhead, so it flies into a target like a cruise missile. Iran has been in the spotlight for exporting these drones to Russia, the Houthis, Hezbollah, and militias in Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian drone program goes back many decades and has often tried to copy US and Israeli drone models. Iran has now shifted resources to invest in kamikaze drones, which are easy to build, export, and can project Iran’s power for thousands of miles around the region. These drones are Iran’s instant air force, seeking to replicate what the Soviets did with the AK-47.
The article at Tasnim sheds some light on the extent of this program. It says that Iran’s defense industry has invested in numerous types of drones, which are hard to spot on radar. The article details past drone types of this kamikaze model and mentions the Shahed 136 and Shahed 131, among other models such as the Chamran, Saegh, Ababil, Kian, Karar, Arash, Sayad, Miraj, and Sina, the latter being an attempt to copy the US switchblade.
The article also includes information on the export of Iranian drones to Russia for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. It shows how sensitive this issue still is, with Tasnim News bragging about the program accomplishments based on “foreign sources.”
Overall, Iran’s drone program is complex, consisting of numerous companies and drones provided to different military branches. The Shahed 136 has become the face of this program and has spread havoc around the region and in Ukraine. Other Iranian drones have also been exported to proxy groups such as Hezbollah and the Iran-backed Houthis, posing a significant threat to ships and land facilities. An Iranian-backed group in Iraq recently used a drone to kill three American soldiers in Jordan on January 27.