Analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency told a small group of reporters during a briefing on Friday that the drone-manufacturing facility now under construction is expected to provide Russia with a new drone stockpile that is “orders of magnitude larger” than what it has been able to procure from Iran to date.
When the facility is completed, likely by early next year, the new drones could have a significant impact on the conflict, the analysts warned.
In April, the US released a satellite image of the planned location of the purported drone manufacturing plant, inside Russia’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone about 600 miles east of Moscow.
The analysts said Iran has regularly been ferrying equipment to Russia to help with the facility’s construction.
They added that to date, it is believed that Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 Shahed-131, 136 and Mohajer drones — a stockpile that Russia has almost completely depleted, they said.
Russia is primarily using the drones to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure and stretch Ukraine’s air defenses, a senior DIA official stated.
CNN has reported Iran has been using the Caspian Sea to move drones, bullets and mortar shells to Russia, often using vessels that are “dark”, or have turned off their tracking data to disguise their movements.
The US obtained and analyzed several of the drones downed in Ukraine, and officials say there is “undeniable evidence” that the drones are Iranian, despite repeated denials from Tehran that it is providing the equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine.
The DIA analysts showcased debris from drones recovered in Ukraine in 2022 during the briefing on Friday, comparing them side-by-side with Iranian-made drones found in Iraq last year.
One of the drones recovered in Ukraine had only its wings and engine partially intact. But judging by its shape and size, it appeared to be a Shahed-131, the same model as an Iranian-made drone found in Iraq. The analysts removed components from one and easily slid them onto the other, showing that they are virtually “indistinguishable” in their design.
Both Iran and Russia have repeatedly denied claims that Tehran has provided Moscow with drones to be used in the Ukraine war.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in November dismissed media controversy over Iran’s alleged support for Russia in the Ukraine war, adding, however, that Tehran had provided Moscow with a limited number of drones months before the war in Ukraine.
He also assured that Iran will not be indifferent if it is proven that Russia has used Iranian drones in the conflict.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has also blasted these reports as bogus and stressed that the Russian army used domestically-made drones.