Russian cargo planes have quietly picked up the first of scores of Iranian-made combat drones for use against Ukraine, U.S. officials said, in a move that underscores deepening ties between Moscow and Tehran while also highlighting Russia’s struggles to supply its overstretched military.
Transport planes departed Iran on Aug. 19 hauling at least two types of unmanned aerial vehicles, both capable of carrying munitions for attacks on radars, artillery and other military targets, according to intelligence gathered by U.S. and other spy agencies.
But while the weapons could provide a significant boost for Russia’s war effort against Ukraine, the transfer has been marred by technical problems, security officials from the United States and an allied government said in interviews. In early tests by the Russians, the Iranian drones experienced numerous failures, the officials said.
“There are a few bugs in the system,” said an allied security official whose government closely monitored the transfer. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity and that his nationality not be revealed to discuss sensitive intelligence. “The Russians are not satisfied,” the official said.
The initial delivery of the Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series drones to Moscow is believed to be the first installment of a planned transfer of hundreds of Iranian UAVs of various types, Biden administration officials said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
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