Procurement: Untraceable Gyroscopes and Toy Engines Matter

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October 30, 2020: Iran was recently found equipping their UAVS with aircraft engines built for hobbyist remote control aircraft. The UN has been studying the wreckage of many of these Iranian UAVs employed as weapons and an examination of the key components revealed many items that are not banned from going to Iran because these items are widely used in civilian products. Iran was still careful, because there is not a lot of demand for these small hobby engines in Iran. Any unusual quantity of these engines sold to Iran would be noted. To avoid discovery Iran had these engines, mainly models made in Germany or China, sold to a middleman in a third country and then those engines could be diverted to Iran and smuggled in. At that point Iran can smuggle the engines, and other forbidden components to pro-Iran groups that assemble the Iranian designed UAVs with the help of Iranian advisors for use as weapons or just reconnaissance.

There is new convincing evidence that Iran is supplying UAVs, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon for attacks on Israel, Saudi Arabia and anyone who opposes Iranian aggression. These weapons are built with dual-use components like the hobbyist engines or with Iranian components that are deliberately made with key components that are either dual use (legal to import) or lacking any visible evidence that they were manufactured in Iran. A lot of effort is put into this. But Iran sometimes uses the same unmarked components in weapons that are clearly labeled as Iranian.

Iran was found out, despite all their deceptions, because UN and other investigators have been collecting and scrutinizing components from debris of Iranian (labeled or unlabeled) UAVs and missiles that functioned properly and exploded as well as some that were captured or crashed near Iranian territory.

The UN and Saudi Arabia have put many of these components on public display and the U.S. has also displayed captured Iranian arms shipments or missile components recovered from weapons that have crashed. One of the common items found in all these cases are unmarked (no indication of manufacturer or national origin) gyroscopes. These miniature devices are common in all manner of UAVs and missiles. Gyroscopes of the type Iran is supplying are available on the commercial market but only the model Iran denies producing is showing up in systems, used by Islamic terrorists as well as systems that are clearly marked as Iranian. This was the result of Iran trying to save some money by not manufacturing a similar gyroscope clearly marked as Iranian for systems that are officially Iranian. That was false economy because dozens of these gyroscopes have been collected from crashed systems. There is always debris, even when a system explodes, and many small components like these gyroscopes survive intact. Iran denounces this evidence as an American conspiracy but no one except Iran and its allies pretend to accept this. A growing number of these Iran-backed groups are recognized by the UN and other organizations as international terrorists.

The gyroscopes have been collected in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Afghanistan. One of the earliest examples was found in 2016 when an Iranian UAV crashed in Afghanistan where U.S. forces seized it and photographed/scrutinized the components. In later years this model of gyroscope kept showing up in other countries. It is a unique design not available from any Western, Chinese or Russian manufacturer. It is of no identifiable (by markings) country but all the evidence points to Iran, especially since the mystery gyroscope shows up in UAVs that Iran proudly claims are Iranian and made from Iranian components.

Some of these “unidentified” UAVs and missiles also contain other components that indicate Iranian origin even though the Iranians claim that they were produced locally by Iranian backed groups. That explanation falls apart when you look at pictures of the local product and the Iranian made model it is based on. Differences are often minimal. Some of these UAVs and missiles are built with some local materials like sheet metal but the design is clearly Iranian and key components, like the gyroscopes, are not from any commercial supplier but smuggled in by Iran. The unmarked gyroscopes have one thing in common, they are found in “locally built” systems of Iran-backed groups.

The most telling evidence comes from Iranian arms shipments captured from the smugglers who are paid to get them into Yemen or Gaza. In addition to Iranian weapons clearly marked as Iranian made, there are often quantities of Iranian components, including the mystery gyroscopes. Iran dismisses all this as an American or Israeli plot to defame Iran. Yet in Iran, the Quds Force, a special section of the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) is praised for the extensive support it provides for Iran-backed rebel and terrorist forces throughout the region. It is no secret in Iran that Quds provides technical as well as tactical and organizational help to these groups carry out attacks using rockets, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes against Quds Force operations in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza to halt Iranian shipments of these guided weapons or components. Hezbollah already has large stockpiles of unguided rockets in Lebanon. Iran has developed upgrade kits that make these rockets much more accurate. Those upgrade kit shipments contain more of the mystery gyroscopes.

 


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