“For the past few weeks, Russian officials have been conducting training in Iran under the deal on UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” a US official told CNN. The official said the information about the training was recently declassified.
CNN has reached out to the Russian Embassy in Washington for comment. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month that Russia had made “no comments on the matter” when asked by reporters about the drones.CNN first reported last month that a Russian delegation had visited an airfield in central Iran at least twice since June to examine weaponized drones, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and satellite imagery obtained exclusively by CNN. Iran began demonstrating the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones, also known as UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles, to Russia at Kashan Airfield south of Tehran in June, US officials told CNN. Both types of drones are capable of carrying precision-guided missiles. Sullivan said in July that the US believes Iran intends to sell Russia hundreds of drones for Russia to use in its war in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military has primarily used Turkish-built Bayraktar UAVs to destroy Russian command posts, tanks and surface-to-air missile systems, while the Russians have used homemade Orlan-10 drones for reconnaissance and electronic warfare.
But the Russians have struggled to replenish supplies, prompting them to turn to Iran for the equipment, the US believes. US officials have also argued that the growing relationship between Iran and Russia exemplifies why the US must maintain its presence and influence in the Middle East.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has asked the US to provide more powerful armed drones like the Gray Eagle, but the US has been reluctant to provide them for fear Russia may see it as overly escalating.