Iran begins training Russians to use its drones - US

Last month, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with hundreds of drones, some capable of being armed with weapons.

 A drone is seen at an underground site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on May 28, 2022. (photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)
A drone is seen at an underground site at an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on May 28, 2022.
(photo credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA/REUTERS)

Russian officials conducted training in Iran during the last several weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Thursday.

"During the last several weeks, Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia," a US official told CNN.

The Washington Post reported based on an unnamed US official that the training was launched as part of an agreement with Iran to provide Russia with hundreds of drones.

Last month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that Iran is preparing to provide Russia with several hundred drones, including some that are capable of being armed with weapons.

“The Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable [ones], on an expedited timeline."

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

“The Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable [ones], on an expedited timeline," Sullivan said. “Our information further indicates that Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use these UAVs, with initial training sessions slated to begin as soon as early as July."

 Servicemen of pro-Russian militia hoist flags of Russia and the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) outside the Oschad bank branch in Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk region, Ukraine February 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) Servicemen of pro-Russian militia hoist flags of Russia and the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) outside the Oschad bank branch in Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk region, Ukraine February 27, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

“It is unclear whether Iran has delivered any of these UAVs to Russia already," he said at the time. “This is just one example of how Russia is looking to countries like Iran for capabilities that are also being used or have been used, before we got the ceasefire in place in Yemen, to attack Saudi Arabia.”

Iranian officials have denied that they intend to provide Russia with drones. In July, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that Iran is "not helping either side involved in the [Ukrainian] conflict because we are certain that it should be concluded."

The foreign minister pointed to Western countries, saying that they were manufacturing arms and trying to sell their products.

Iran's drone fleet

Iran has been building its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) fleet since 1984. Not only does it have a significant range of over 3,000 kilometers but it has very advanced development and operational capabilities.

The Islamic Republic has hundreds of drones in 48 different models, including those that are operational and others that are still in trial phases. 

Reuters and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.