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Iran drones said to contain many Western-made parts, possibly Israeli lenses too

Report cites documents by Ukrainian experts who studied downed Iranian UAVs and concluded 75% of components are US-made, despite vigorous sanctions regime

This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)
This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)

A majority of the components in Iranian drones captured in Ukraine and analyzed by experts were produced by the United States, Japan and other Western nations — including infrared lenses that appear to be identical to those produced by an Israeli company — according to a report Wednesday.

The finding — which the Wall Street Journal report said has caused concern among Western analysts and prompted a US government probe — comes as the West is increasingly viewing Tehran’s fleet of unmanned aircraft as a threat, with some of them used by Russia to attack targets in Ukraine as part of its invasion.

It also comes despite one of the world’s most comprehensive sanctions campaigns, led by the US, against arms sales to the Islamic Republic.

The report, which cited industry officials and detailed intelligence documents compiled by Ukrainian investigators, said local experts believe 75 percent of components of Iranian drones felled in Ukraine were originally produced in the US.

The conclusion was based on an analysis of several downed drones, including a Mohajer-6 UAV that was hacked in midair and landed intact, the report said.

While the vast majority of the components studied by the experts were determined to have originated in the US or in Japan, others were produced in China or Germany.

A screen capture from video showing then-Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, left, during the opening of a production line to produce Iran’s Mohajer 6 drone, in Tehran, February 5, 2018. (YouTube)

In addition, the Mohajer-6’s telescopic infrared lens, used for surveillance and attack purposes, the report said, “appears to be identical to a model made by an Israeli firm, Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd., according to photos of the device in the Mohajer-6 and corporate brochures reviewed by the Journal.”

The Israeli company declined to comment to the Journal, but its parent company MKS Instruments Inc. denied selling products to Iran and said it abides by US and other applicable law as well as export controls and Western sanctions.

Israel’s Defense Ministry said it was reviewing the findings of the report, adding that according to a preliminary investigation, “the lens is neither a controlled defense item nor a dual-use item, according to Israeli law based on international arrangements.”

The report said that in some cases, it is a tough task even for the companies that produce the components to identify their origin with certainty.

The report said the embassies of Israel, the US, Japan, Germany and China all declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Besides the Mohajer-6, another advanced Iranian drone used by Russia in Ukraine is the Shahed-136. On Wednesday, an Israeli official accused Tehran of using the same drone to target an oil tanker affiliated with Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer near the coast of Oman a day earlier.

In this photo released by the Iranian Army on August 25, 2022, a drone is launched from a warship in a military drone drill in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP, File)

In 2018, a report by the Arabic-language Al Jazeera news network said Iran’s military was increasingly building up its arsenal of powerful drones based on captured Israeli and American drones.

That report quoted Dawoud Najafi-pour of the Iran Aviation Industries Organization as saying Iran had “managed to enhance its capabilities and employ the most modern technologies after it managed to take control of an American UAV and an Israeli one,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which tracks Middle Eastern television broadcasts.

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