Iran’s latest entry in its Mohajer line of combat drones boasts a doubled payload and is claimed to put Israel within range. This comes amid an apparent escalation in suspected Israeli aerial strikes in Syria and a surge in armed assaults targeting Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. Beyond being interpreted as a message to Tel Aviv, the rolling out of the new drone is seen as Iran showcasing military hardware for potential buyers.

President Ebrahim Raisi on Aug. 22 unveiled the Mohajer-10 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) at an event marking Defense Industry Day in Iran.

-The drone is the latest entry in the Mohajer series of UAVs. It reportedly boasts an operational range of 2,000 km (1,240 miles) and can fly up to 24 hours, which would put Israel within reach.

-The Mohajer-10 has a declared payload capacity of 300 kg (661 lbs), twice that of its predecessor, the Mohajer-6. Of note, its design bears similarity to the American MQ-9 Reaper.

-A promotional video for the drone included a warning in Persian and Hebrew, telling Israelis to “prepare your shelters.”

At the Aug. 22 event, which was attended by senior military personnel, Raisi unveiled other new armaments too. This includes a new precision-guided air-launched bomb named Arman-1.

The president also instructed sizeable deliveries of the Khorramshahr and Haj Qasem ballistic missiles to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force.

The rolling out of the new munitions comes amid signs of an escalating confrontation between Israel and Iran.

-Syrian media on Aug. 21 reported a missile strike near the capital Damascus, blaming the attack on Israel. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the missile targeted warehouses and military positions of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Movement and other Iran-backed “militias.”

-On the same day, Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of funding and orchestrating several recent attacks on Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

-Ali Akbar Velayati, a top foreign policy advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, on Aug. 23 congratulated the heads of Palestinian militant factions for what he termed their “recent victories.”

The context/analysis: Facing a western arms embargo, Tehran has since the 1980s spent considerable resources on developing homegrown weapons. This has resulted in an expansive drone and missile arsenal which is a key element of the country’s deterrence posture.

-Aside from psychological warfare targeting primarily Israel, Iran displays its military technology with an eye toward expanding its arms exports. UAVs have been marketed as affordable and effective arms to countries willing to buy them.

-As recently as last month, Bolivia joined a growing number of actors that have expressed an interest in purchasing Iranian drones. While Iran is believed to have delivered UAV technology to some of its regional allies, Russia appears to be the biggest customer.

-One prominent anonymous military blogger has suggested that the Mohajer-10 can compete with similar-class UAVs in the Turkish Bayraktar series.

The unveiling of the Mohajer-10 follows several other claimed major military advancements in recent months.

-In June, Iran showcased its first “hypersonic” missile—asserting that it could render missile defense systems such as Israel’s Iron Dome “powerless.”

-In February, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh declared the development of a new cruise missile with a range of 1,650 km (1,025 miles). In a thinly veiled warning to Israel, Hajizadeh said the range “requires no explanation.”

While Iran prides itself on its drone arsenal and has used it to strengthen ties with Russia in recent years, the weapons have also become a new front for political contention with the west.

-The use of Iranian-manufactured drones played a pivotal role in fostering closer Moscow-Tehran relations after Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022. This has triggered multiple rounds of European Union and US sanctions.

-Iran has confirmed that it provided “a limited number of drones” to Russia “before” the invasion of Ukraine. However, Tehran continues to insist that the UAVs were not specifically supplied for Moscow’s war effort.

-Beyond sanctioning Iran over its drone deliveries to Russia, western powers have cited the latter as among key reasons for why a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer on the table. The Iranian drone exports have also been characterized by European powers as a violation of the nuclear accord.

The future: Tehran’s unveiling of advanced military weaponry may carry several messages.

-Amid an escalating confrontation with Israel, Iran wants to assert its military prowess. Tehran also likely wants to message that it is undeterred by Israeli espionage and sabotage operations within its borders.

-The Islamic Republic further wants to showcase its military technology to potential buyers. In March, a defense ministry official claimed that Iran’s arms exports had more than doubled compared to the previous year.

-While Iran’s growing military cooperation with Russia has fueled concerns in Europe and the US, Tehran may aspire to leverage the latter to incentivize the west to offer concessions in diplomatic engagements.

Source » amwaj