Iran marked its National Army Day with a military parade. The event was more limited due to social distancing and the pandemic. Of interest was a parade of drones that included dozens of types. Iran has become a drone superpower in recent years and exports the systems to its proxies such as the Houthis in Yemen and now Iraqi militias. A drone attack on a US facility in Erbil in Iraq last week showcased the increasing threat. 

The first drone that was showcased was alleged to be a Kaman-22 with a new underbelly, but looks like some kind of a mock-up of either a US Reaper or American Global Hawk drone. It came on a truck following another truck carrying a “down with Israel” slogan, which was shown at the parade. Iran shot down a US Global Hawk surveillance drone in June 2019. Then came trucks with Quds Muhajer 6 drones, which have a twin tail. There were at least four of them. 
Then came smaller Muahjer drones, perhaps Muhajer 2 or older versions. After showcasing the traditional Muhajers, a series of trucks with Ababil-style drones came, which look more like cruise missiles. Then came the Yasir light-surveillance UAV and what was probably a HESA Karar drone. There may also have been examples of the Kaman-12 and Kian-style drones. 

The parade did not appear to show off Iran’s larger Shahed line of drones or its Saegheh, which are copies of US drones. Tehran copied the US Predator and Sentinel drones. Prior to copying US drones, Iran had tried to model its drones on other examples, including Israeli ones. It did this by either acquiring examples from third countries or trying to get a hold of parts of foreign drones that were downed in places like Afghanistan. It also shot down several foreign drones itself. 
Since then, Iran has improved the range and guidance of its drones. It develops several types for surveillance and also for kamikaze attacks, basically used as cruise missiles. These use gyroscopes and can be pre-programmed to hit a target. When Iran repurposed its Ababil-style drones for the Houthis, they were renamed “Qasef” and have been used effectively against Saudi Arabia. They are not very large, carry a warhead of around 30 kg. and can travel in some cases hundreds of kilometers. Reports in January 2021 warned that Iran was trying to export to Yemen a drone with a range of some 2,000 km., meaning it could reach Israel. 
These long-range drones are not particularly sophisticated, improving basically on the V-1 design that the Germans built in the Second World War. However, Iran has gotten a lot better at making them more precise in their targeting. It used them against Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq facility in 2019. Since then, Tehran has increasingly used drones against Saudi Arabia and has exported them to Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. An Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace in February 2018 and had to be shot down.  
Iran’s Press TV commentators bragged about the country’s success with UAVs. One commentator said it was a “real show of might.” He noted that the trucks showcased the “latest military equipment.” Iran is proud of its indigenous production of drones. It has done all this under sanctions. The commentator, who was not familiar with the types of drones, nevertheless noted how advanced they are. He said it showcases Iran’s military might, and that the Islamic Republic produces 80% of its military equipment locally.
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