Israeli, American parts found in Iranian combat drones sold to Russia

One hi-tech component, a high-resolution telescopic infrared lens, “appears to be identical to a model made by an Israeli firm, Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Iranian drones that Russia is using in its war in Ukraine are mostly filled with components obtained from the United States and other Western countries, including Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Besides examining UAVs shot down by Ukrainian soldiers, experts managed to take over one combat drone, a Mohajer-6, in flight, and land it safely. After taking it apart, local investigators determined that about half of its inner workings, including microchips, are “made in America,” according to a report shown to the Journal by a Kyiv NGO, the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission.

About a third of the 200 technical parts were made by Japanese firms; some were manufactured in Germany; and the logo of Rotax, an Austrian subsidiary of a Canadian company, was found on engines in drone wreckages. The Rotax engines are dual use (civilian and military) products, found in snowmobiles as well as in American Predator and Israeli Heron drones.

According to the report, one high-tech component, a high-resolution telescopic infrared lens, “appears to be identical to a model made by an Israeli firm, Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd., according to photos of the device in the Mohajer-6 and corporate brochures reviewed by the Journal.”

The lens can be used both for observation from above and to aid in attacking a target.

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Ophir’s parent company, MKS Instruments Inc., told the Journal that it adhered to the West’s sanctions policy on Tehran and did not sell any parts to the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, basing itself on a preliminary investigation, Israel’s defense ministry said in response to the report that even if the part was locally produced, “the lens is neither a controlled defense item nor a dual-use item, according to Israeli law based on international arrangements.”

Two weeks ago, a report by the Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit primarily focused on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology to other countries as well as to terrorists, noted that “many of the commodities used in the Iranian drones are off-the-shelf parts that are used in civil aircraft, including civilian drones.”

Such general-use items can be bought easily and openly online or imported in bulk from their manufacturers, without any laws being violated.

Other parts are procured from countries that do not abide by Western sanctions.

The Institute, for example, blamed China for helping the Iranians produce their drones, saying, “It appears that Chinese companies are supplying Iran with copies of Western commodities to produce UAV combat drones.”

A third – and illegal – way to obtain parts is to set up fake companies that purchase them from firms that are either innocent or lazy in checking their customers. The Iranian fronts then reroute the  products to Tehran.

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The Journal reported that the American government has now begun an investigation based on the intelligence information provided by the Ukrainians.