WH task force probing how US technology ends up in Iranian-made drones: report

The Biden administration has established a task force as part of an “all hands on deck” investigation into how US-manufactured technology is winding up in Iranian-made drones that Russia is using to attack targets in Ukraine, according to a report Wednesday.​

Despite tight restrictions on exports and United Nations sanctions, Tehran has been able to get its hands on commercially available high-end materials that heighten the drones’ targeting and navigation capabilities, CNN reported.

The report emerged ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Wednesday meeting with President Biden and address to Congress as US lawmakers debate more security and military aid for the country.

Conflict Armament Research, ​an investigative organization based in the United Kingdom, said an examination of drones downed in Ukraine last month found that 82% of their components were made by US tech companies, the report said.

A police official examines parts of a drone used in an attack on a fuel station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 6.
Reuters
A drone is used in a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran.
A drone is used in a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran.
via Reuters

The examination by CAR found that 70 companies in 17 different countries made the hundreds of components found in the drones, but the vast majority came from America.

Those companies include Dallas-based Texas Instruments and an Austrian firm owned by Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products, CNN reported, citing an investigation by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and a source.

The report noted that both companies have condemned the illegal use of their products and officials told CNN there is no evidence that any Western companies are exporting their technology to Iran to be used in the drones.​

Firefighters at an apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, hit by a drone on Oct.  17.
Firefighters at an apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, hit by a drone on Oct. 17.
AP

The White House National Security Council is overseeing the task force, which stretches across the Defense, State, Justice, Commerce and Treasury departments in an “all hands on deck” initiative, the report said.

The probe is part of a large “holistic approach” to dealing with Iran, which also involves Tehran’s crackdown on protesters and its nuclear program.

The report pointed out how products intended for civilian use can be retrofitted for military purposes.

A drone flies over Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct.  17.
A drone flies over Kyiv, Ukraine, on Oct. 17.
AFP via Getty Images

Texas Instruments, in a statement to CNN, said it “is not selling any products into Russia, Belarus or Iran.”

“TI complies with applicable laws and regulations in the countries where we operate, and partners with law enforcement organizations as necessary and appropriate. Additionally, we do not support or condone the use of our products in applications they were not designed for,” the statement said.

Bombardier said it would launch an internal investigation into how its engine parts ended up in the drones.

Parts of what Ukrainian officials believe is an Iranian-made drone after a strike on a fuel dump in Kharkiv on Oct.  6.
Parts of what Ukrainian officials believe is an Iranian-made drone after a strike on a fuel dump in Kharkiv on Oct. 6.
Reuters

The task force investigation picked up speed in recent weeks after US intelligence learned that Moscow is planning to open a factory to produce drones inside Russia, and Iran has already started to transfer blueprints and components for the weapons as part of their expanding military alliance.

The report by CAR concluded that the Iranian drones found in Russia represent a “significant jump in hardware compared with other systems previously observed in the Middle East.”

The components found in the drones “significantly advance” features that improve targeting accuracy and satellite navigation.

A part of a drone shot down by Ukrainian forces near Odesa on Sept.  25.
A part of a drone shot down by Ukrainian forces near Odessa on Sept. 25.
via Reuters

The high-end material, the organization found, “demonstrates that Iran has been able to circumvent current sanction regimes and has added more capabilities and resiliency to its weapons.”

The Iranian-made drones in Russia “include high-end components, such as semiconductors and tactical-grade inertial measurement units, that have been sourced outside Iran. Some of these components are on the US control list for hardware prohibited for export to Iran.”

The White House task force is also working with foreign allies because some of the drone components came from manufacturers in Asia and Europe.

The Biden administration says it believes it has been successful in convincing allies abroad about the seriousness of the threat.

There is “growing broad and deep international consensus on Iran, from the EU to Canada to Australia and New Zealand, which is being led by US diplomacy,” an official told CNN.

.

Leave a Comment