WASHINGTON – Iran plans to send Russia ballistic missiles and additional “kamikaze” drones for use against Ukraine as Moscow turns to the few allies it has, according to media reports.
The shipment is estimated to include about 1,000 weapons, which for the first time will include precision-guided, surface-to-surface missiles, according to CNN. Russia previously purchased up to 1,000 Shahed-136 drones from Iran in August.
A senior US military official on Monday acknowledged reports of Iran sending ballistic missiles, but did not have “any information to provide” on the matter.
Sending ballistic missiles would mark a significant escalation in Iran’s contribution to Russia’s war efforts. The news comes days after the US confirmed that Iranian troops have moved into Crimea to help Russian forces use the drones Tehran has sent so far.
As of Friday, Ukraine had shot down about 300 of the Iranian drones, Ukraine air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told reporters. Others, however, have managed to get through the defenses and target Ukrainians and civilian infrastructure.
“We are continuing to see widespread and brutal Russian attacks targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure,” the US official said Monday. “Ukraine has been able to defend against some of these attacks, but damage to the electric grid and water supply are serious concerns directly harming the civilian population.”
The Shahed-136s – nicknamed “kamikaze drones” due to their ability to crash into targets and explode – are small and difficult to detect.
The Iranian troops had to help Russia with the drones because “either they weren’t being piloted appropriately … or the systems themselves were suffering failures and not performing to the standards that apparently the customers expected,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Oct. 20.
The missiles would also boost Russia as its munitions dwindle following more than eight months of war. Unlike the US, Russia maintains ties with just a few countries, including Iran and China.
Ukraine on Tuesday claimed to have killed more than 72,470 Russian troops and destroyed 397 Russian cruise missiles, 55,001 armored combat vehicles, 1,730 artillery and 276 fighter jets. However, those numbers have not been independently verified.