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Iran’s Drone Programme How It Managed To Overcome Sanctions

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the extent to which cheap drones, like the Iran-made Shahed-136, have democratised the modern battlefield. Iran’s success in developing drones despite sanctions is a lesson for India’s defence and security establishment, especially the DRDO.

Eleven months into the invasion, the Biden administration is scrambling to prevent Iran from supplying drones to Russia after witnessing the extent to which the Iranian Shahed-136 drones — also called “lawn mowers” or “mopeds” — wreaked havoc in war-torn Ukraine. Iran’s success in developing drones despite sanctions is a lesson for India’s defence and security establishment, especially the DRDO. Tehran’s focus on drones came about as it was looking for ways to monitor and harass ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran has unveiled numerous new drone systems just over the last decade, many of which have been used in combat, demonstrating Tehran’s advancements in the UAV space. Despite Tehran’s persistent anti-West rhetoric, western components are key to the Iranian drone programme. India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had in 2020 slammed DRDO’s UAV programme for poor planning, keeping end users in dark and flouting standard operating procedures. India’s focus has been on the process itself and the government has been trying to make the process simpler. However, industry sources say the government’s thrust on adding more projects to the IDEX initiative actually works against the concept.

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