Conflict researchers found a Chinese part made in 2023 in an Iranian-made drone Russia is using in combat, demonstrating how the three countries continue to get around U.S. sanctions meant to throttle their defense industries, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Ukrainian forces downed an Iranian-made Shahed-136 drone in April, one of hundreds that Russia has sourced from Iran and used in its offensive campaign against Ukraine, that, when dissected, contained a Chinese part, the U.K.-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR) group found in a July report. That part, a fairly common voltage converter, appeared to have been produced in January, showing how quickly and effectively three U.S. adversaries are able to reinforceTehran’s drone program and Moscow’s war in Ukraine despite moves to to cut them off from international trade, according to the WSJ.
Russia has used at least 700 of the Iranian-made weapons, often referred to as “kamikaze drones” because they detonate upon reaching their target, to attack Ukrainian military positions and civilian infrastructure, according to the WSJ, citing the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian forces shoot down most of the drones, but they are effective at tying up and depleting Kyiv’s air defenses.
The U.S. has repeatedly sanctioned Iranian, Russian and Chinese companies and individuals known to contribute to malign and illicit weapons programs, an attempt to cut them off from global supply chains. But targeting relatively benign commercial parts, such as voltage converters, presents a problem for sanctioning bodies, according to the WSJ.
While CAR has documented several instances of Chinese parts showing up in Iranian Shahed drones, this is the first time a component manufactured in 2023 was found and the first after Russia began deploying the drones in Ukraine, according to the organization.
The discovery shows “extremely rapid turnover” in Shahed production, according to CAR. From the time of aquiring component parts, manufacturing the drone and its final use in dive-bombing targets in Ukraine, just over three months has transpired.
“This is testament to the central importance of Shahed-series UAVs for the Russian Federation’s military campaign in Ukraine: the short period between production and deployment of this expendable weapon system shows an expedited time frame, likely compelled by military necessity,” the researchers wrote.
CAR says it knows which Chinese company manufactured the part but is withholding identities until a formal tracing process.
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