Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine
Ukrainian military intelligence on Tuesday said Iran is planning to send more than 200 combat drones to Russia, including the Arash-2 touted by the Iranian military as one of the longest-range attack drones in the world.
Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, part of the Defense Ministry, said “a batch of more than 200 combat drones Shahed-136, Mohajer-6 and Arash-2 is planned to be sent from Iran to the Russian Federation at the beginning of November.”
The intelligence agency said in a post on Telegram that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles “will be delivered via the Caspian Sea to the port of Astrakhan.”
The agency said the drones are being shipped in a disassembled state and once inside Russian territory, “they will be collected, repainted and applied with Russian markings.”
The intelligence agency did not specify how it obtained the information on the shipments and CNN cannot independently verify the details.
But it echoes reporting by CNN on Tuesday, citing officials from a Western country that closely monitors Iran’s weapons program, that Tehran was preparing a large shipment of drones and ballistic missiles to Russia.
Any Russian deployment of the Arash-2 drone to the war in Ukraine could put further pressure on the country’s already challenged air defenses.
Since Sept. 13, Ukraine’s air defense forces say they have shot down more than 300 attack drones — but dozens have managed to strike their targets and destroy vital energy infrastructure.
Some background: CNN’s Clarissa Ward said the deployment of the Arash-2 has the potential to be a “big game changer” in the war in Ukraine as it “can carry five times the explosives of the Shahed.”
Unlike the noisy propeller of the Shahed-136, it has been claimed the Arash-2 uses jet propulsion, not only making it much faster and harder to shoot down, but also giving it a greater range. However, photos of what was described as an Arash-2 by Iranian state media clearly show it having a propeller at the back.
Speaking on Iranian TV at a military event in Tehran in late September, Iran’s Brig. Gen. Kioomars Heidari suggested the Arash-2 had a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles), which would make it one of the longest-range attack drones in the world. However, Iranian military leaders have a history of exaggerating the capabilities of Iranian-built weapons systems.