Iran’s drones are clones. Now they’re being used in multiple conflicts. – Atlantic Council



November 18, 2021 • 1:52 pm ET

Iran’s drones are clones. Now they’re being used in multiple conflicts.

Seth J. Frantzman

An October 20 attack on the Tanf garrison in Syria, where a few hundred US soldiers are based near the Iraqi and Jordanian border, has exposed Iran’s increasing use of drones throughout the Middle East. US officials blamed Iran for the attack that involved five drones.

The drone strike at Tanf is only one of many recent incidents involving Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the region. Iran’s military drone program has grown in recent years and Iran-backed groups have increasingly used drones in conflicts. This includes the Houthi rebels in Yemen using drones against Saudi Arabia, militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip using drones against Israel during the May conflict, and Iraqi-based Shia militias using drones. Iran’s increasing use of this technology, specifically kamikaze drones that fly into their targets and explode, is highlighted by Iranian media and the use of UAVs has become a point of pride for Tehran. What follows is an excerpt on Iranian drones from Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future by Seth J. Frantzman:

The battle in the skies over Iran was about possessing the latest intelligence capability. Much like U-2 flights over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the RQ-170 was supposed to be a gamechanger. It was supposed to be able to fly up to 50,000 feet and pack numerous sensors into its stealth body. It might be able to sniff for chemicals, a RAND Corporation analyst said. Sentinels had full-motion video (FMV), the latest technology being affixed to drones. This video, eventually combined with high-definition (HD), when combined with a map that shows where the drone is, can help analysts see potential suspicious activity quickly and combine all the metadata with other sensors.  Moving from analog to digital and integrating it with forces on the ground so that everyone sees the same picture would change the way war is fought. Sentinel was a layer in that quiet revolution.

Iran wanted to grab hold of that revolution like a man riding a bull and take advantage of US advances. [General Amir Ali] Hajizadeh was leading those efforts from 2011 to 2020. He gained the personal blessing of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. Khamenei believed in the Iranian drone program and in efforts to counter America’s drone army.

Having secured support from [Iranian] leaders[ship], Hajizadeh pushed Iran to down more US drones, eventually acquiring not only the Sentinel, but also the Predator, Reaper, ScanEagle5 and even an Israeli-made Hermes. Tehran had grabbed up to eight foreign drones over Iraq, Syria, and Iran by monitoring and even “controlling” them. …….

Source: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/irans-drones-are-clones-now-theyre-being-used-in-multiple-conflicts/