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Iran is sharing its experience of operating UAVs with Russia, including three years of operations over Iraq and Syria.

According to ainonline.com, the cooperation started in October 2013, when Russian air force commander Gen. Victor Bondarev visited Tehran and was presented with a local copy of the Scan Eagle UAV. Solid proof of this cooperation came on June 8, when a U.S. Air Force F-15E shot down an Iranian-made UAV similar in size to the MQ-1 Predator. This vehicle was later identified as a Shahed 129 UCAV. Operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, the drone had attacked Syrian rebels.

The Shahed 129 has a claimed range of 1,700 km and a 24-hour endurance and can carry various air-launch munitions including guided missiles. It was not the first Iranian UAV to be shot down by rebel fire, but all previous incidents involved relatively small and inexpensive drones for close-in tactical reconnaissance and surveillance.

Russian forces in Syria are also operating a total of 80 small UAVs. Some time after Bondarev’s visit to Tehran, the Russian MoD stated that Iranian drones, along with those from Israel, were being used for evaluation and training of Russian UAV operators. Recently, Russian media has reported the testing of a United 40 Block 5 UCAV with claimed 100-hour endurance that was acquired from the UAE’s Adcom Systems.

Although there is no information on whether Moscow has acquired any UAVs from Tehran, practical experience of operating such equipment, especially in a war zone, is of great interest to the Russian military and industry as they are in the early phase of testing new drone types. No UCAVs are known to have entered service with the Russian military yet.

In addition, deputy defense minister, procurement, Yuri Borisov said that four Russian UCAV projects “that solve their tasks in tactical, operative and strategic depth” are nearing completion, while “we have closed down several other projects.”

The Sukhoi design bureau has been working on heavyweight UAVs. The Yakovlev design bureau is developing a pilotless version of the Yak-130.