Russia has experienced “numerous failures” with the Iran-made drones it acquired earlier this month for use in its war against Ukraine, several media outlets have reported, citing senior US officials.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US has assessed that Russia received the delivery of the Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series unmanned aerial vehicles this month, with Moscow probably aiming to acquire hundreds of drones.
“We assess that Russia intends to use these Iranian UAVs, which can conduct air-to-surface attacks, electronic warfare and targeting, on the battlefield in Ukraine,” one official said.
However, the first drones have been beset by mechanical and technical problems.
Russian operators are continuing to receive training in Iran on how to use these systems on the battlefield in Ukraine, the officials said.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last month that the White House believed “the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs”.
President Joe Biden's administration also released satellite imagery appearing to indicate that Russian officials visited Kashan Airfield in Iran on June 8 and July 5 to view the drones.
US officials said a Russian aircraft was loaded with the drones at an airfield in Iran before it was flown to Russia.
Iran continues drones exercises — in pictures
Russia has turned to Iran as a major weapons supplier in response to supply-chain constraints caused by economic sanctions due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said last month that Tehran had “various types of collaboration with Russia, including in the defence sector”.
“But we won’t help either of the sides involved in this war because we believe that [the war] needs to be stopped,” he said.
The US officials confirmed Russia's acquisition of the Iran-made drones amid continuing negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that was scrapped by then-president Donald Trump in 2018.
Iran said last week it had received a response from Washington about the European Union's final draft for a return to the agreement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report