Iran is scheduled to unveil its homegrown Kaman-22 armed drone this month, said Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, Commander of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force last week.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be an upgrade of the Kaman-12 drone, which was first introduced in September last year. The improved aircraft will be able to carry 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of explosives, Nasirzadeh said.
Speaking during an online interview with Mehr News Agency, Nasirzadeh said professionals are being trained at Tehran’s Shahid Sattari Aeronautical University to operate the drone, and that exchange programs between Iranian students and Chinese and Pakistani institutions are underway.
A few days earlier, speaking at the 13th edition of Aero India 2021 in Bengaluru, Nasirzadeh said that his country reserves the right to develop drones equipped with nanotechnology and artificial intelligence as well as nanosatellites and airborne launchers.
Towards that end, Nasirzadeh mentioned the recent launch of an Iranian satellite-carrying rocket, Zuljanah, as an example to showcase his country’s achievements. He added that developing aerospace technology is in line with the country’s interest in maintaining independence and self-sufficiency.
— A new advanced Iranian drone named “Kaman-22” will be revealed by the end of the month.
The UAV will have an armament payload of 300KG.
(Picture shows its predecessor Kaman-12) pic.twitter.com/gzYQZZ4Zrf
— Mehdi Rizvi (@MehdiRizvi123) February 5, 2021
Iran’s Drone Push
The announcement is the latest in a series of recent steps the Islamic Republic has taken to bolster its unmanned armed capabilities.
Earlier in January, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards undertook a two-day missile and drone drill in a central part of the country, which was the third military exercise in the month.
The drill was to test the indigenous drone’s “combat, surveillance, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare” capabilities over short and long distances.
Iran has a growing list of homegrown armed and unarmed drones to compensate for the air force’s loss of strength due to economic sanctions.
Speaking to Reuters, an unnamed US official said earlier this year that apart from surveillance work, Iranian drones are capable of dropping munitions and carrying out “kamikaze” flights when loaded with explosives.
Sharing Drone Tech With Proxies
Another dimension of the Iranian drone threat is the country’s collusion with proxies such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, with whom the Persian Gulf nation shares drone manufacturing know-how while also training them to operate the UAVs.
Due to Iranian assistance, these militias are now able to execute complex, integrated drone swarm and missile attacks such as that which was carried out on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia in 2019.