Both types of UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are capable of carrying precision guided munitions and can be used for surveillance. Russian operators are still training on the drones inside Iran, the officials said, and the US believes that Russia intends to import hundreds of them to use for air-to-surface attacks, electronic warfare and targeting inside Ukraine.
The introduction of the Iranian drones, which can also be used for surveillance, could have a significant impact on the battlefield as Russia looks to blunt the impact of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that the US and its allies have provided to Ukraine. The HIMARS have a range of 49 miles and have enabled Ukraine to attack targets behind Russian front lines.
US intelligence officials believe, however, that when tested, many of the drones Russia has purchased from Iran have already experienced numerous failures, the officials said, so it is unclear how much of a game changer they will be for the Russians when deployed.
The news of the drone transfers comes as the Biden administration has expressed cautious optimism about a possible deal to revive the Iran nuclear deal. The deal’s detractors say that a new deal will result in sanctions relief for Iran and, in turn, a financial windfall that could enable Iran’s malign activities throughout the region and beyond.
White House officials have insisted, however, that the decision to reenter the nuclear deal should be motivated only by the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and should not be influenced by Iranian actions that fall outside the scope of their nuclear program.