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While the U.S. and Europe have joined forces in an effort to target putting sanctions on Iranian-made drones that are being shipped to Russia, Iran and Russia have agreed to establish a joint drone manufacturing facility in Russia, according to a weekend report from Wall Street Journal.
Iran has been supplying Russia with its kamikaze drones, including the Shahed-136, which Moscow has been using to launch persistent strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure. The drones cost $20,000 to produce, and Iran and Russia now have plans to construct a manufacturing site for the drones inside Russian territory. The new facility would allow Russia to produce an additional 6,000 drones for use in its war against Ukraine.
The deal to build a facility in Russia was reportedly agreed to with Iran in November at the height of Russia’s consistent drone attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Concerns are growing, however, that the new manufacturing site could result in new UAVs. A delegation of high-level Iranian officials visited Russia in January to work out the necessary details to get the site running. Russia and Iran plan to use the new facility to design and build a faster drone that would pose new threats to Ukraine and challenge its air defenses.
The Russian facility is also seen as an attempt to avoid what the Biden administration referred to as its plans to “choke off Iran’s ability to manufacture the drones” as U.S. forces assist “Ukrian’s military to target the sites where the drones are being prepared for launch,” according to statements from U.S. officials.
It is an uphill battle for Ukraine as the air defense systems used to intercept and destroy Iran’s kamikaze drones cost far more than the drones themselves. Now, with Iran moving production of the drones to neighboring Russia and increasing production numbers, protecting its cities and infrastructure will become an even bigger challenge for Kyiv.