The Iranian military began extensive drone drills across Iran on Wednesday to boost the Islamic Republic’s military strength, Iranian state media reported Tuesday.

The drills involved testing 150 unmanned aerial vehicles, or remotely piloted aircraft – RPAs.

Iranian armed forces deputy coordinator Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told Iran’s state broadcaster that drills would evaluate the drones for the “accuracy and power of [their] weapons, … the capabilities of [their] guidance and control systems and [their] combat capabilities.” 

“This is only a part of the drone power of … Iran’s army, which is carrying out operations in various reconnaissance, surveillance and combat missions,” Sayyari said. 

“This is the first time that a joint drone exercise is conducted at the level of the four forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s army and the country’s joint air defense base,” he noted, saying the drills would take place “from the warm waters of the Gulf and the Sea of Oman in the south, to the eastern, western, northern and central parts of the country.” 

Iran began developing RPAs in the 1980s during its eight-year war with Iraq. Last October, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran’s progress in developing, building and deploying drones was changing the security situation in the Middle East region, according to defense officials from the United States, Israel and Europe.

“The drones themselves are often made with widely available components used in the ever-growing commercial-drone market and by hobbyists, the officials say,” the Journal said. “Some mimic the designs of Israeli and American military drones.”

“Tehran’s engineers rely on imported components to create aerial vehicles that can accurately strike targets at [a] long distance and rapidly change direction to avoid air defenses and radar,” according to European and Middle Eastern security officials who have studied drone wreckages, the Journal reported. Drones are a cheap way to wreak military havoc.

“Developing a nuclear weapon would take years. With drones, just a few months,” an Iranian official told The Wall Street Journal at the time. “Drones have changed the balance of power in the Middle East.”

Iran has used drones to attack oil tankers, oil refineries in Saudi Arabia and bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. The Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hamas, who runs the Gaza Strip, and other Iranian-proxy terrorist organizations have also used Iranian drones. 

“Since 2004, Iran has provided drones, components or designs to proxies in at least four locations: Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Gaza,” wrote The Iran Primer, a publication of the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

“Tehran’s drone exports vary in mission, range and capabilities,” the Primer said, noting that “the shortest range can fly only 15 k.m., or nine miles, while the longest can fly 1,700 k.m., or 1,000 miles.” 

Some RPAs “allow Iran’s allies to spy on enemies, while others are used to conduct low-cost kamikaze attacks from a distance. The drones have also allowed Iran to deter attacks beyond its borders by threatening attacks against enemies via proxies,” the Primer stated. “As of mid-2021, Iranian proxies had conducted drone attacks against U.S., Israeli and Saudi forces, as well as against jihadi extremists in Syria and Iraq.”

An unnamed Israeli official told The Wall Street Journal that Western nations, including the U.S., underestimate the threat from Iran’s drones and asked that they act more forcefully against the regime.  

“There very well might be a situation where they are getting bolder, more courageous and less deterred,” the official said.

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