Another US foe just revealed a drone that looks very similar to the American MQ-9 Reaper.
Iran unveiled its new Mohajer 10 aircraft on Tuesday. It follows a North Korean look-alike in July.
While the drones appear to resemble the US Reaper, they are presumed to lack the same operational abilities.
Iran unveiled a new drone this week that closely resembles the US military's MQ-9 Reaper, becoming the latest country to produce an aircraft that looks like the formidable American combat drone.
State-run media on Tuesday published a video unveiling Iran's new drone, called the "Mohajer 10," full of glitzy footage showcasing the aircraft alongside strobe lights and a fog machine, as well as shots of the drone taking off, flying, and landing back on a runway.
Iran claims the Mohajer 10 can operate for 24 straight hours and has an operational range of over 1,200 miles, according to the government-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), putting Israel — Tehran's longstanding enemy and a key US ally — potentially within the aircraft's reach.
The Mohajer 10 can carry various armaments with a maximum bomb payload of over 650 pounds, is capable of flying at speeds up to 130 mph, and is outfitted with surveillance and electronic warfare capabilities, IRNA claims.
The Iranian drone was unveiled during a ceremony to mark the country's Defense Industry Day. State media said Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also attended the event, where he announced the delivery of ballistic missiles to Iran's military and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
One of the missiles is named after Qasem Soleimani, the former chief of the IRGC's elite Quds Force who was killed in a 2020 US military Reaper drone strike.
—IRNA News Agency (@IrnaEnglish) August 22, 2023
Iran's drone programs have come under heavy scrutiny over the past year as US officials routinely accuse Tehran of providing Russia with several different types of drones to use in Ukraine. The new Mohajer 10 doesn't resemble any of those drones, but it does look similar in shape and size to the American MQ-9 Reaper.
Though Iran has managed to capture an American drone before, there is no obvious indication that Iran has ever gotten its hands on one of the General Atomics MQ-9s. Still, the design, at least, looks very familiar.
Well-armed and tested in combat, the powerful Reaper drone has operational experience around the world. It is capable of flying at an altitude of 50,000 feet, hailed for its ability to conduct long-endurance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and can be equipped with as many as eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Reaper drones see regular usage during US counterterrorism operations in the Middle East, where they have become the center of attention in recent months as Russian fighter jets routinely harass the aircraft while they're carrying out missions against the Islamic State.
The repeated incidents have frustrated US officials, who constantly criticize Moscow's pilots for performing dangerous and unprofessional maneuvers. War experts say the engagements may be attempts by the Kremlin to support Iran in its longstanding goal of ousting US forces from the region.
Iran's Mohajer 10 is only the latest instance in which a US adversary has developed a Reaper look-alike drone. Last month, North Korea unveiled its own MQ-9 doppelganger at a high-profile military parade in Pyongyang, reflecting an effort by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to boost the status of his country's drone program.
North Korea also released images at the time of an aircraft that appeared similar to the US military's RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is larger than the Reaper and can fly lengthy ISR missions.
There are few details surrounding what North Korea's new Reaper-style attack drone, but the country released video footage in late July showing the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) firing an unspecified type of missile. Like the Mohajer 10, it hasn't seen any combat experience, and while it's unclear how similar both aircraft are to the Reaper from an operational standpoint, they both likely lack the same characteristics and capabilities.
"There is broad agreement among outside analysts that the North's new UAVs are highly unlikely to be as capable as those of the US," Vann Van Diepen, a former US State Department official, wrote in an early August article for the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center think tank. "Nonetheless, Pyongyang clearly is trying to show its technological prowess by unveiling look-alike UAVs."
Iran and North Korea have cooperated in the past on various military issues, including the development of long-range missiles. The two countries also back Russia during its ongoing war in Ukraine. Tehran has given Moscow thousands of explosive drones that have been used to attack Ukrainian cities while the Kremlin has sought ammunition and weaponry from Pyongyang.
White House officials have asserted that Moscow's quest for security assistance from pariah states like Iran and North Korea is a sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin's desperation and highlights several issues plaguing his military on the battlefield in Ukraine.
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