A Russian drone manufacturing plant built in collaboration with Iran has begun producing drones to support Moscow’s war efforts in Ukraine.
Located in the Russian region of Tatarstan, the factory has produced around 50 reconnaissance drones so far for the Ukraine war, Financial Times reported.
The factory in Alabuga is being run by a former agricultural drone manufacturer, Albatross, whose M5 drones appear to be similar to the Albatross drones that the Russian Ministry of Defence recently showed to have been deployed in Ukraine.
Seeking Drone Engineers, Farsi Translators
According to Financial Times, the business park where the factory is located has been on a recruitment drive for the last few months, seeking unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) engineers and Farsi speakers who can translate “technical documents.”
Russia and Iran have reportedly been planning the drone facility since at least January.
Satellite Image of Facility
In June, White House national security spokesman John Kirby released a satellite image of the “prospective” plant some 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of Moscow.
“We have information that Russia is receiving materials from Iran needed to build a UAV manufacturing plant inside Russia,” Kirby said on June 9.
In turn, Tehran seeks to buy Su-35 fighter jets, attack helicopters, radars, and YAK-130 combat trainer aircraft from Russia, according to the White House.
Production Commenced in January
Financial Times and Aiwars identified Albatross as one of the two buildings in the satellite image.
“Statements by Albatross on the floor space of their facilities match the official dimensions of one of the buildings,” the outlet wrote.
“In addition, an address listed on Albatross’s website seems to correspond to the location identified by the US photograph.”
Kirby said that the factory would be fully functional early next year. However, Financial Times, citing photos and videos from Russian social media and local media outlets, wrote that the factory commenced drone production in January.
Ideal Location: Expert
Expert on autonomous weaponry at the Center for Naval Analyses Samuel Bendett told the outlet that the plant’s location is next to a river that flows to the Volga, from which “you can bring parts by ship from Iran covertly.”
“It is very close to Kazan, one of Russia’s high-tech manufacturing hubs,” he added. “All you have to do is take a boat cruise.”