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Russia Traded Captured Western Weapons for Iranian Drones: Report

Russia traded western weapons and cash for dozens of Iranian drones in August, Sky News reported, citing sources.

Two Russian military transport aircraft, believed to be Ilyushin IL-76s, flew out of a Tehran airport on August 20 carrying the drone consignment in return for 140 million euros ($141 million) cash and three Western shoulder-fired missile systems.

The Western weapons were a British NLAW anti-tank missile, a US Javelin anti-tank missile, and a Stinger anti-aircraft missile. 

Missiles Intended for Ukraine

Initially intended for the Ukrainian military, the weapons “fell into Russian hands,” the outlet wrote, adding that at least five more Russian aircraft have transported Iranian drones out of the country since August 20.

The sources shared satellite imagery of the purported transaction with the outlet to buttress their claim.

Risk of Reverse Engineering by Iran

Sky News wrote that the transaction would help Tehran study and potentially reverse engineer the western weapons to develop similar systems, something it claimed the Iranians did in 2011 with a captured US RQ-17 Sentinel surveillance drone, resulting in the Shahed series of drones.

“We think that the Iranians have proven that they have an efficient reverse-engineering system, as we can see with the UAVs they have reverse-engineered from the US’s UAV captured in 2011,” the outlet quoted the source as saying.

“It seems that Iran also wants to benefit from the war [in Ukraine] by receiving from the Russians Western capabilities that will be useful for them in the future – as happened in the past.”

Iran has supplied over 160 drones to Russia, including 100 Shahed-136s, 60 smaller Shahed-131 suicide drones, and six Mohajer-6 armed drones, the British outlet wrote, adding that a new drone deal worth $200 million had been struck between the two countries in the past few days.

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