The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salaami, announced on Sunday that the country has drones with a range of 7,000 km. “They can fly, return home and land wherever they are planned,” said General Salami of the Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences in Tehran.
Iran has had experience with drones since the war with Iraq in the 1980s. More recently, however, Iran-made drones have been used by Iranian agents across the Middle East. The Abqaiq-Khurais attack on facilities in Saudi Aramco in 2019, which paralyzed the country’s oil production capabilities for days – allegedly carried out by the Houthis against whom the kingdom was at war in Yemen – allegedly included Iran-made missiles and drones, Saudi alleged -Arabia later.
While Iranian drones like the Shahed 129 are known to have a ferry range of under 2,000 km with an endurance of 24, the existence of a 7,000 km range drone has not yet been confirmed by Iran. In May, the IRGC unveiled its armed drone Ghazzeh, which announced a flight time of 2,000 km with the ability to carry 13 bombs. In 2011, however, a US-made RQ-170 Sentinel was captured by the Iranian armed forces, which gave Iran access to advanced UAV technology. Iran later showed what appeared to be reverse engineering copies with its Shahed 171 Simorgh and Saegheh UAVS.
Iran is known to have provided allied militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen with drones, including “kamikaze UAVs,” intended to crash on their targets. According to a Reuters report, Iranian representatives like the Houthis manufacture their weapons on site with foreign know-how and parts smuggled in from Iran. Drone strikes in Iraq by Iran-backed militias have also increased, causing concern among US military officials. These fixed-wing drones fly low to avoid being picked up by defense systems. Such drone strikes have recently been aimed at US facilities.
The use of proxy armed drones has become increasingly widespread in conflict areas around the world. India first witnessed an IED-laden explosive that hit a military airport in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday.
In January, Iran revealed a series of suicide drones that could allegedly hit targets 4,000 km away. Last year, the IRGC unveiled rapid attack boats equipped with Ababil-2 suicide drones that it had stationed in the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
Iran’s longtime enemy in the Middle East, Israel, is the world’s largest exporter of drones.