How Iran Is Deploying Its Drone Program at Home and Abroad

How Iran Is Deploying Its Drone Program at Home and Abroad
Iranians attend a rally displaying a Shahed-129 Iranian drone, Tehran, Iran, Feb. 11, 2016 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

On June 20, Pakistani officials announced that an air force fighter had shot down an Iranian drone in Baluchistan province. The same day, Pentagon officials said an American fighter jet had shot down an Iranian-made drone that was approaching U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in southeastern Syria. The two incidents highlighted Iran’s increasing operational deployment of its drones. In an email interview, Ariane Tabatabai, visiting assistant professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, describes the evolution of Iran’s drone program and its importance to the country’s defense sector.

WPR: What progress has Iran made in developing its drone technology in recent years, and especially its attack drone technology?

Ariane Tabatabai: Iran has been working on its drone program for a while, though the program has only started to make headlines recently. In fact, Iran has one of the oldest drone programs in the world. It started in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, the program has made remarkable progress, especially considering that the country’s defense sector has been under sanctions since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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