On Tuesday, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Defense Ministry unveiled a drone mirroring the United States’ MQ-9 Reaper drone, claiming that the aircraft can stay airborne for 24 hours and has the range to reach the country’s sworn enemy, Israel.
The Islamic Republic’s state-run IRNA news agency published a photograph of the newly unveiled Mohajer-10 drone showcased at the Defense Industry Day conference.
“Any improvement in Iranian offensive capabilities is troubling to me because they have no rational control of their radical elements,” said Steve Bucci, a former Pentagon official and visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Truluck Center for Leadership Development.
“That said, they tend to exaggerate a lot, so I will assume that while it may look like a Reaper, I doubt it is as capable,” he added.
The Islamic Republic’s media outlets claimed the drone can fly up to 24,000 feet with a speed of 210 kph carrying a bomb payload of up to 300 kilograms. The drone can also allegedly hold electronic surveillance equipment and a camera.
The Islamic Republic’s President, Ebrahim Raisi, viewed the drone, stating that the regime can “firmly introduce Iran as an advanced and technologic nation to the world.”
Raisi added the regime’s stance about friendly relations with “all countries in the world,” telling officials that the Islamic Republic’s military forces would prevent outside groups from attempting to invade Tehran.
“Iran has a history of boasting about new technologies, including drones, that don’t live up to the hype they proclaim,” explained Matthew RJ Brodsky, senior fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategy.
“Iran has also used drones in the past that resemble the American MQ-9 Reaper and the Predator in Iraq and Syria. The regime claims this new drone can fly up to 24,000 feet and reach a speed of 130 mph and carry a payload of 660 lbs. That is half the speed of the Reaper and a quarter of the payload,” Brodsky told The Foreign Desk.
Tehran has a history of copy-cat technology, previously capturing American drones and their materials attempting to replicate exact models.
In 2011, Iran seized an RQ-170 Sentinel flown by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to monitor Iranian nuclear sites after it entered Iranian airspace from Afghanistan. Upon the drone’s capture, Tehran reverse-engineered it to create variants.
“This should be alarming, coming on the heels of their previous recent announcement about having hypersonic missile capabilities. That said, this upgraded drone itself is not a game-changer,” Brodsky explained.
According to Brodsky the regime in Tehran “hopes to cash in with sales to Russia and other bad actors, aside from threatening the Persian Gulf and Israel.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, US officials have found that the Islamic Republic has supplied Moscow with military drones to assist the Kremlin in its military campaign. In one instance, Western officials found a single Iranian drone contained parts made by more than a dozen American and Western companies.
In addition to Iran attempting to copy American military drones, China has also engaged in similar actions, capturing equipment and creating new variants for its military forces.
Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other allies have been sounding the alarm about Iran’s growing drone threat, noting that Tehran continues to use such military technology to disrupt commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf and attack US forces in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. In the past few years, the Israeli government has seized drones from Tehran used by Hezbollah to target Israeli citizens.
“With the Biden administration loosening sanctions and pumping $6 billion directly to the regime in exchange for hostages, Iran has more money to throw at its defense industries. The Biden administration appears to have no Plan B for their feckless policies, which amount to appeasement at the expense of America’s regional allies and the Iranian people,” Brodsky told The Foreign Desk.
Despite condemnations and sanctions from the Biden administration, Tehran continues to create new military drones to harass American forces in the Middle East.
“Israel is more than ready to address the large-size drone threat. If they launch one at Israel, it will soon be a pile of wreckage. Iran should spend its sparse cash on caring for their population rather than building more ‘targets’ for Israeli air defense units to practice on,” Bucci told The Foreign Desk.