Iran is currently shipping a record number of its own armed drones to Russia, and it will soon ship its own ballistic missiles to Moscow. Additionally, 22 nations are interested in purchasing Tehran’s drones, according to a high-ranking Iranian general. It would appear from these developments that Iran’s arms industry is just about to explode. However, it could also indicate Tehran’s desperation. (Iran’s Arms Supply to Russia)
Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, claims that Russia has ordered up to 2,400 Shahid loitering munitions—also known as “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones—from Iran. Even though there are a lot of them, one estimate says that each drone will cost only $20,000.The acquisition would only cost Moscow $48 million if Russia were to purchase them for that amount, although the price is probably higher because the deal could include support and other services.
When compared to the majority of arms sales, it is likely that Moscow is paying a relatively insignificant amount for this large quantity of loitering munitions. As an illustration, Ukraine only placed an order for six Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones in 2019 as part of a contract worth $69 million.
Additionally, Russia desires Iran’s Zolfaghar and Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) with respective ranges of 186 and 435 miles. Russia may be able to maintain its bombardment of Ukrainian cities by placing a large order of such missiles, substituting for its reported diminished arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles. (Iran’s Arms Supply to Russia)
Moscow appears to have turned to Tehran primarily out of desperation, despite the fact that Iranian weapons are relatively inexpensive, making large purchases economical for the buyer (which, incidentally, is a point that Russia has made about its hardware in the past). Moscow appears to be in a situation that is very similar to Iran’s in the 1980s, when it was a pariah state fighting a desperate and depleting war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, as evidenced by its purchase of large quantities of Iranian weapons and, according to reports, North Korean artillery.
It is unquestionably a remarkable turnaround for a nation to export its military hardware in bulk to a former superpower from one that was desperately searching the world for arms and only obtaining some from other unpopular countries like Libya and North Korea. At the same time, Iran may have ironically replaced the former Soviet Union near the end, even though Russia arguably replaced Iran in the 1980s.In those final years, the defunct Soviet Union was eager to sell as much of its military equipment to anyone who could afford it to get out of its deep economic crisis.
Shortly after the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988) came to an end, Soviet officials offered Iran 72 MiG-29 Fulcrums, 24 MiG-31 Foxhounds, and 36 Su-24 Fencers. After eight debilitating years of war, Iran could only afford 18 MiG-29s and 12 Su-24s, however.S-200 air defence systems would also be purchased by Tehran just a few months before the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
The head of the Mikoyan design bureau, Rostislav Belakov, made the announcement that Moscow was willing to sell MiG-31s to any country other than Iraq. (Iran’s Arms Supply to Russia)
He declared, “There are no longer any political barriers to our sales.” We will provide you with a MiG-31 if you have $40 million.”
Christoper Bellamy wrote in the Independent that month, “Offering the MiG-31 – which can fly at three times the speed of sound and is believed to have a radar unmatched in any Western fighter – to anyone who can afford it hardly seems appropriate just at the moment.” However, the Soviet Union is hesitant to export some of its most advanced and one-of-a-kind products, such as military hardware, due to its acute need for hard currency.
When Soviet Aircraft Industry Minister Apollon Systsov suggested that Israel might purchase the MiG-31, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens was surprised.” Arens’ jaw visibly dropped” when Systsov told him, “With just three MiG-31s, you could protect all of Israel,” according to a Reuters report from the time.
“We will be ready to sell Israel any defensive equipment it requires, and the MiG-31 is a solely defensive interceptor aircraft without bombing capacity,” Systsov said, adding that such a sale could not begin until diplomatic relations between the two countries were established.
“If you are willing to buy this aircraft, we will give you all the codes and operation procedures,” said Soviet test pilot Valery Minitsky to Arens in an effort to sweeten the deal.
At the time, Noah Shachar, a spokesperson for Rafael, an Israeli defence technology company, stated that a Soviet defence official had also offered to sell Israel the S-300 air defence missile system, which at the time was the most advanced system of its kind in Soviet service. The Soviet official claimed that it was superior to the American Patriot missile defence system, which gained notoriety earlier that year for its use in the Persian Gulf War.
Shachar stated, “We were obviously very surprised because the offer is the first of its kind that Moscow has ever made to us. However, the Soviets made it clear in the meetings that everything [in their arsenal] is on the market.” Obviously, Israel never imported Russian or Soviet hardware.
If something similar were to occur today, it wouldn’t be all that surprising. A new cooperation agreement with Russia that lasts for 20 years was recently signed. In the shadows, there is probably significant technical and military cooperation between the two nations. Iran may have offered technology transfers as part of its massive sale of SRBMs and drones as part of a broader cooperation agreement; however, the low-tech Shahid-136 does not appear to be particularly challenging to reverse engineer. As has been speculated for months, Russia may soon supply Iran with Su-35 Flanker fighter jets.
We might even find out in a few years that Iran gave Russia a blank check similar to the one it got from the Soviets in the hope that Moscow could help it stop going down the drain.