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Iranian drones – in the Middle East and Ukraine

At night the cell phone vibrates - it must be someone who is on my "VIP" list, otherwise I wouldn't see it. So the closest family or colleagues who are currently somewhere on the front. 

Rescue workers on duty after the attacks. Photo: МВС України
Rescue workers on duty after the attacks. Photo: МВС України

“Hello – Kyiv attacked again. 4 explosions so far…” is the first thing I read from Christoph Klawitter, our photographer in Kyiv. A look at the alarm app shows: It continues all the time. After twenty years in Afghanistan and almost two years in Ukraine, nothing upsets him so quickly. But today it's worse than it has been in a long time: "It's a mess... old manager" - the next message. There is also a video in which loud explosions can be heard. A week ago I was in Kyiv during the drone strikes. It was quieter there. Russia has optimized its terror over the years to be able to murder more civilians.

Screenshot: Russian X-101 missile launches decoys
Screenshot: Russian X-101 missile launches decoys

The Russian cruise missiles are now firing decoys ("chaffs" and "flares") as they approach the residential buildings, those with heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and those that deflect radar. This allows the Russian missiles to fly further into the cities and repeatedly hit inhabited buildings. 

Christoph Klawitter in Ukraine (archive)
Christoph Klawitter in Ukraine (archive)

“The buildings here shook, the apartment and the window panes. Very loud explosions from the anti-aircraft defense as well as from the impacts of the cruise missiles and from the parts of the missiles that were launched. The pressure waves also triggered the alarm systems, which could then be heard throughout the city. People in my building were all gathered in the hallways, and many were in fear and panic. “Those were Russian missiles and Iranian drones again,” Christoph continues.

Screenshot of the alarm app
Screenshot of the alarm app

A friend of mine shares a picture of her child in the empty bathtub with toys on Instagram. Bathrooms often have no windows, making them the safest place in the home. The bursting windows quickly cause so many cuts that you can no longer stop the bleeding in time. There are hardly any bunkers. You would have to flee to the subway or parking garages and hope that they stop. It's no different than in Germany. We don't have bunkers growing when someone attacks us. There are actually too few everywhere.

While I'm talking to Christoph Klawitter, I'm waiting for an acquaintance at Erbil Airport in Kurdistan, Iraq. While I'm standing in the sun with a cappuccino at one end of the airport, the air defense of the US base is activated at the other end of the airport. The base shares the runway with the civilian airport. They shoot down an Iranian drone (we reported). Like Christoph in Kyiv.

But how can Iran, plagued by sanctions and cut off from the world for decades, supply weapons for at least two wars? Rather more - to Gaza they also deliver.

Iranian drone program

In recent years, Iran has significantly expanded its drone and weapons programs. Despite international sanctions, the country has managed to develop and produce an impressive range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These drones have played a significant role in conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq. In addition, Iran has increased its military cooperation with Russia. The Iranian drones, called “mopeds” by Ukrainians because of the sound they make, have spread fear and terror throughout Ukraine.

Iran began developing drones in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War. These drones were initially used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and could not compete with those of the West. However, over time they became better and better and were therefore also used for attacks.

Iran now has a wide range of drones: some are small and lightweight, ideal for short-range tasks, while others are larger and more powerful, with the ability to fly longer distances and carry payloads such as bombs or missiles. Military cooperation between Iran and Russia has increased in recent years. A key element of this collaboration is the joint development and production of drones. 

Despite international sanctions, Iran has continued to advance its drone and weapons programs. While the sanctions have hurt the country's economy, they have not significantly inhibited the development of drones and other military technologies. In fact, Iran has proven that, despite sanctions, it is capable of producing advanced military equipment - but not advanced passenger vehicles.

Iranian drones in Ukraine and the Middle East

Drones have played a crucial role in Ukraine. They have been used by both Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists. Drones have been used for reconnaissance, surveillance and strike missions. Additionally, there have been reports of drones being used for tactical bombing and even suicide attacks.

Iranian drones have played an important role in conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq. They were used for a variety of tasks, including reconnaissance, surveillance and attacks on US soldiers. There are also reports of the use of Iranian drones by non-state actors such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.

The future of Iran's drone program

Iran's development of drones and weapons programs poses a significant challenge to international security. Despite international sanctions, the country has developed and produced an impressive range of drones that have been used in conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. This development highlights the need for the international community to remain vigilant and take measures to control and limit the spread of this technology.