March 26, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11229

Iran's IRGC-Affiliated Tasnim News Agency Publishes Detailed Overview Of Iran-Made Suicide Drones

March 26, 2024
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 11229

Over the past several years, Iran has become a major global manufacturer and exporter of weapons, including suicide drones. The Iranian regime and its officials take great pride in this fact; in October 2022, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the West is now "calling the Iranian drones dangerous and asking 'Why are you selling them and giving them to others?'" More recently, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh boasted: "We are one of the leading superpowers in the field of drones. As of now, we can aim at floating and moving targets or carry out reconnaissance operations anywhere, with our advanced and invisible drones."[1]

Suicide drones – drones that can loiter in an area until the target is located and then crash into it – have a wide range of features that will likely change the battlefield, as has been seen in the Ukraine-Russia war. Iran's position as a major manufacturer of these drones significantly boosts its military capabilities and increases both its influence and the threat it poses – for example, in its relations with Russia, who buys drones from it. This threat is manifested most clearly with regard to Iran's proxies in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, which directly menace other countries in the region as well as international maritime navigation routes.

Officially, Iranian Spokesmen Deny That Iran Exports Drones – But Express Their Pride In Iranian Drones' Achievements In Ukraine And Yemen

On countless occasions, Iranian spokesmen – including its representative in the United Nations – have vehemently denied Western claims that Iran has been sending drones to its proxy in Yemen, the Houthis, or to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.[2] This denial is aimed at avoiding sanctions and penalties from the international community.

However, for the domestic audience, in an attempt to present Iran as a rising exporter and to show the extent to which Iran supports its resistance axis, Iranian sources have hinted that Russia and Iran's proxies are using Iranian suicide drones. For instance, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency has stated that "the Yemeni resistance forces [i.e. the Houthis] attacked the Saudi Aramco oil facilities [in 2019] using Wa'id-type drones that very closely resemble Iranian drones... Other drone models [resembling Iranian drones] known as 'Geranium-1' and 'Geranium-2' have been used by the Russian military in Ukraine."[3]

On occasion, the Iranian regime even openly acknowledges that it supplies Russia with suicide drones for use in Ukraine and against NATO.[4] In addition, former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed in November 2023 that Iran had provided drones to Russia for this purpose, saying: "Unfortunately, the Russians betrayed us in the matter of Ukraine. Not only did they get drones from us, but they also made this known to the public."[5]

It should be noted that on March 5, 2024, the IRGC-affiliated Iran Military Capabilities channel on Telegram shared a video showing a production line of Shahed-136 suicide drones in Russian territory. The channel even expressed pride in the fact that these drones are being used by the Russian air force to destroy "Western" strongholds in Ukraine.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

In January 2024, contradicting the denials by Iranian officials, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published visual evidence of Iran's provision of advanced weapons, including drones, to the Houthis for use against targets including Israel, the U.S., Britain, and shipping in the Red Sea."[6] That same month, the U.S. Department of Defense blamed the IRGC for the Iranian proxy militia Iraqi Hizbullah Brigades attack on a U.S. base in Jordan that resulted in the death of three U.S. servicemembers and the wounding of over 40 others. According to assessments, the attack was carried out with an Iranian Shahed-type suicide drone.[7]

Iran Publishes Videos Depicting Its Suicide Drones As Deterrent Weapons

The Iranian regime has published many propaganda videos depicting its suicide drones as deterrent weapons and threatening countries from which Iran fears attacks. For instance, the Tasnim News Agency published a video from the December 25, 2021 "Great Prophet 17" military exercise showing Shahed-type suicide drones in a simulated strike against a nuclear power plant in the Israeli city of Dimona.

In addition, on August 20, 2023 the Iranian regime released a video of an attack on a U.S. Navy helicopter carrier by Iranian Ababil-type suicide drones These drones can carry warheads of up to 40 kilograms (see MEMRI TV clip below).

In the context of suicide drones as deterrent weapons, and perhaps out of a desire to attract potential buyers, on February, 6, 2024 the Tasnim News Agency published a review of the details, specifications, and capabilities of a wide array of suicide drones designed and manufactured by Iran.

The following is a translation of the Tasnim report.

Iran's Suicide Drone Industry: Ranges Of Up To 2,000 Kilometers, Payloads Of Up To 200 Kilograms

"Over the past several decades, drone technology has played a prominent role in battles and wars worldwide, with suicide drones playing the most prominent role. Suicide drones have characteristics similar to cruise missiles. They have become a weapon that sometimes determines the fate of the battlefield, or is at least able to inflict a large number of casualties on the enemy because of their economic efficiency and ease of use. In addition, they are difficult to detect by radar, since they are smaller than other types of drones. Some of them are man-portable, and can be used by infantry or special forces units.

"In recent years, Iran's armed forces and defense industries have designed and manufactured a wide variety of suicide drones. As a result, Iran is today a leader in the design and manufacture of suicide drones. The quality of Iran-made drones has proven itself in some of the operations carried out by [Iran's] armed forces, sparking several countries' interest in them.

"This report will provide an overview of the most important suicide drones manufactured in Iran.

A table providing details about Iranian-made suicide drones.

Translation of the above table. Note: Fields left blank were blank in the original.

"Toufan ['Flood' or 'Storm'] – An Iranian drone designed for detecting and destroying the enemy using an optic sensor. Also known as the Chamran 2, it is made of lightweight materials that absorb radar waves, in addition to its small radar profile. The front camera, located in the nose of the aircraft, broadcasts images in real time until the very last moment, enabling it to zoom in [on the target]. The top speed of the Toufan is 250 kilometers per hour, it has a flight radius of 100 kilometers, its flight ceiling is 14,000 feet (approximately 4,267 meters), and it has a flight time of one to two hours. The 100-kilometer range makes it operationally valuable, and thanks to its continuous flight, it provides sufficient time to detect and attack a target.

"Moreover, if guided independently from a ground station, the Toufan can reach ranges of 200 to 400 kilometers. So far, two models of this craft have been unveiled. It uses a JATO [jet-assisted takeoff] launching mechanism, and if it needs to land, it can recover with a soft landing on the ground. Hence, launching these small drones close to front lines or in urban combat environments can be considered, for an immediate solution and rapid response for destroying an important target.

Top: A Toufan drone. Bottom: Then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next to a Toufan drone.

"Saekeh ['Thunder'] – Here you can see a Saekeh drone equipped with a 10kg warhead, for suicide operations. It has a range of 100 kilometers and can broadcast images until the last moment before striking the target. This allows it to obtain information about the most up-to-date state of the target, and the operator can increase accuracy with a deviation of less than one meter and, if necessary, can also select another target. The Saekeh is manufactured in two models, to slightly different specifications.

A Saekeh drone.

"Saekeh 1 – This drone's delta wing was designed by domestic [Iranian] experts, and it was mass manufactured and supplied to [Iran's] armed forces. This is one of the fastest propellor-driven Iranian drones, making it suitable for artillery training... This drone is launched using a JATO launcher designed and built by local experts, enabling it to achieve its minimum maneuvering speed without the need for a runway.

A Saekeh drone.

"The launcher uses a solid fuel rocket and the drone can be launched easily under any conditions, such as from the deck of a ship, from a vehicle, in mountainous terrain, and even from the entrance of a shelter or tunnel. It is used in aerial defense training exercises as a target for non-radar air defense systems, and is also used to disorient the enemy on the battlefield.

"Because of its light weight and aerodynamic profile, this drone can carry out various flight maneuvers at high speed. The drone is provided with a parachute for salvaging, and in emergencies it can make a soft landing on a runway. The top speed for the Saekeh 1 is 250 kilometers per hour, it has a flight radius of 10 kilometers, its flight ceiling is 11,000 feet (approximately 3,300 meters), and it has a flight time of approximately 60 minutes.

"Saekeh 2 – Based on the first model, with a composite fuselage, it can be used for subterfuge against the enemy in the battlefield and for training radar and air defense operators. It can fly at an altitude of between 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) and 12,00 feet (3,600 meters). This model is 2.81 meters long, has a wingspan of 2.60 meters, has a maximum launch weight of 60 kilograms, has a top speed of 230-250 kilometers per hour, has a flight time of 45-60 minutes, and has a range of 50 kilometers...

"The drone's ground control system enables it to receive information and orders for guiding and controlling it. After completing its planned flight course, the drone automatically returns to a preset location.

"The experts of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army's land forces developed a combat and attack prototype [of this drone] that has a range of 100 kilometers and that uses the structure and optimal capabilities of the Saekeh 1 and Saekeh 2. It can also broadcast images, and it has an option to carry out a rapid strike within 30 minutes against any desired target.

"Ababil [named for the birds that dropped rocks on elephants in a Quranic battle] – The Ababil B, Ababil S, and Ababil T family of drones is another series of independently manufactured drones. In 1992, the updated model began production and became one of the most commonly found Iranian drones.

Ababil drones delivered to the IRGC Navy in September 2020.

"The technical and flight specifications of the various Ababil models [mean that they] can reach a speed of 300 kilometers per hour, an operation reconnaissance range of 150 kilometers, a flight altitude of approximately 4,200 meters, and a cargo or explosive payload of 30-40 kilograms."

Note: On August 21, 2023, the Tasnim News Agency aired footage from an August 17 incident involving the IRGC Navy and a U.S. Navy helicopter carrier in the Strait of Hormuz in which an Ababil drone was used. In the video, an IRGC Navy officer informs the American ship that its helicopters are flying over Iranian waters and are too close to IRGC vessels, warning that if they do not return to the carrier, IRGC forces will fire upon them. The report features footage of the American carrier and helicopters taken by an Ababil drone.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The Tasnim report continues:

"In addition to the reconnaissance missions in which the Ababil drone has demonstrated its capabilities by capturing footage of the American aircraft carrier [in the August 2023 incident], this drone is also used as a simulation target in air defense exercises. The Ababil has a canard wing and this unique feature makes it highly maneuverable under unstable conditions.

Ababil drones and their launchers atop speedboats.

This drone's general features include a high-quality aerodynamic design, rapid disassembly and reassembly, ease of use and repair, high mobility, flexibility, usability in sea and land environments, salvageability, and reusability, at a reasonable cost.

An Ababil drone being launched from a ship belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran Army's Navy

"Kian 1 ['Dynasty'] – The Kian drone was built in 2015 for missions such as measuring aerial defense equipment, attacks, and small-scale suicide operations. It has a microjet engine and can reach 480 kilometers per hour. A large number of these drones are in use. This drone has a payload of up to 30 kilograms, a flight ceiling of almost 5,500 meters, and a cruising speed of 350 kilometers per hour.

A Kian drone.

"Kian 2 – Built on the successful design of the Kian 1, but twice as large and used for different missions. In August 2019, it was supplied to Iran's armed forces. This drone can carry out a variety of missions, including accurately destroying air defense targets. Its operational range can reach over 1,000 kilometers, thanks to its significant size relative to the Kian 1.

Kian drones.

"The Kian 2 is equipped with a small jet engine with a gas turbine, apparently a turbojet with two air intakes – with a very advanced design – located on the fuselage and its sides. The drone has delta wings that give it good dynamic characteristics at high speeds, including high maneuverability for increased accuracy in destroying targets.

Kian drones.

"The drone, approximately 4.5 meters long, is larger than the Kian 1, and its thick wings that are appropriate for subsonic flight enable it to carry much more fuel. Both the Kian 1 and Kian 2 use solid fuel to begin their flight and to reach the initial speed required for the jet engine. These drones can be used to carry out critical attack operations that require the use of national air defenses, including destroying centers used by the enemy for listening or for electronic warfare that threaten the operations of [Iran's] national air defense systems.

The air intake of the Kian drone's jet engine.

"Karar ['Returns to Strike Again'] – The newest member of the Karar suicide drone family was unveiled during an air defense exercise in 2020. This model was developed and expanded for carrying out operations that require rapid deployment of drones for confronting aerial targets as they attack.

"The Karar drone, produced by Iran's Aircraft Manufacturing Industries Corporation (HESA), was officially unveiled on Defense Industry Day in 2011. At that time, its two primary missions were to be as a simulation target for testing radar and defense systems, and for use in aerial bombing operations. To date, four generations of Karar drones have been introduced, with slight differences in their flight specifications, although with a variety of mission profiles. All of these drones are launched from rail launchers and with solid fuel, and they land using parachutes and air cushions.

A Karar multipurpose drone.

"The Karar 3's specifications are: 3.75 meters in length, 3.1 meter wingspan, 1.5 meters high, maximum takeoff weight of 750 kilograms, and a 250 kilogram payload. This model has a flight ceiling of 35,000 feet, i.e. 10,670 meters, and its top speed is 700 kilometers per hour, with a cruising speed of 650 kilometers per hour and a flight time of one hour and 15 minutes. This model has a Tulua 4 jet engine, which uses JP-4 fuel. The drone's fuselage is made primarily of aluminum.

"Other models of the drone have a flight ceiling of 40,000 feet, which is approximately 12,200 meters, and a top speed of 900 kilometers per hour. The drone has a range of up to 200 kilometers with direct communication with its takeoff point, and a range of 800-1,000 kilometers on autopilot, with no need for direct communication with the station.

Karar drones.

"Thanks to a variety of added navigation systems and an optical sensor in its nose, as well as, of course, a secure communication line with the air defense systems, the Karar suicide drone can fly automatically from its storage facility – which can be anywhere – using information about its target and from an optimal takeoff route. The Krar drone detonates its warhead either with a direct strike or by approaching the target from an appropriate distance."

Note: On April 20, 2023, Iran's Channel 2 reported that 200 drones had entered service in the Islamic Republic of Iran Army, including Arash, Karar, and Ababil drones. This was part of a 1,000-drone deal between Iran's Defense Ministry and the Army.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The Tasnim report continues:

"Shahed-type family of drones ['Witness'] – Photos showing Shahed 131 and Shahed 136 drones destroying a variety of targets were published for the first time during the Great Prophet 15 military drill held by the IRGC Aerospace Force [in January 2021].

A Shahed-131 drone.

"During the Great Prophet 17 exercise [in January 2022], these drones also played a prominent role in a simulated attack against the nuclear plant in [the Israeli city of] Dimona, proving their accuracy.


"Before these drones were presented in the IRGC drill, the Yemeni resistance forces [i.e. the Houthis] carried out an attack against the Saudi Aramco oil facility [in September 2019] using Wa'id ['Threat'] drones, which closely resemble Iranian drones. The Wa'id drones were subsequently referred to as 'Aramco killers.'

A Houthi Wa'id-type drone, very similar to Shahed-type drones.

"Shahed 131 and Shahed 136 are Iranian suicide drones with a delta-shaped (triangular) fuselage and piston engines. Even though they are very similar, the Shahed 131 has smaller dimensions than the Shahed 136, and it therefore has different technical specifications and a different look than the Shahed 136."

Note: A video uploaded on December 25, 2021 to the IMA Media YouTube channel showed footage of a missile and drone attack against what appeared to be a model of Israel's nuclear plant in Dimona. The video was titled "Attack on the Zionist Regime’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Center during The Great Prophet 17 War Games." IMA Media is an acronym for "Iran's Military Achievements."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The Tasnim report continues:

"One of the differences in the appearance between the Shahed 131 and the Shahed 136 is in their winglets. In the Shahed 136, these winglets are on the top and the bottom of the fuselage, while in the Shahed 131 they are only on the top of the fuselage.

"The Shahed 136 is 2.5 meters wide, and the Shahed 131 is a bit smaller, coming it at 2.2 meters wide. The Shahed 136 is 3.5 meters long and the Shahed 131 is 2.6 meters long. The Shahed 136 apparently has a range of 2,000 kilometers, while the Shahed 131's range is 900 kilometers. They have warheads of 50 kilograms [on the Shahed 136] and 15 kilograms [on the Shahed 131].

Information published by Ukraine about the Geranium 1 and Geranium 2 drones (the Russian designations for the Iranian Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 drones, respectively).

"The international acclaim of these drones rose when similar models named Wa'id 1 and Wa'id 2 were used by the Ansar Allah [Houthi movement] in Yemen, as well as when other similar models known as Geranium 1 and Geranium 2 were used by the Russian military in Ukraine."

Note: On March 5, 2024, the IRGC-linked Iran Military Capabilities Telegram channel shared a video showing a production line of Shahed 136 suicide drones in Russian territory. The channel expressed pride in the fact that these drones are used by the Russian air force, primarily to destroy "Western" strongholds in Ukraine.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The Tasnim report about the drones continues:

"In addition, we witnessed these drones being successfully used during many operations by the IRGC's ground forces against separatist groups in northern Iraq.

"Shahed-238 – The experience accrued using these drones in various operations and in dealing with their weak points led to the introduction of a new model to the family: the Shahed 238, which has a jet engine. This new drone was first unveiled during Iranian [Supreme] Leader Ali Khamenei's [November 2023] visit to an exhibit of IRGC aerospace achievements. It comes in three types: with thermal sensors, with optical sensors, or with no sensors.

Shahed 238 drones.

"Shahed-107 – Another drone whose details were published by unofficial sources that claimed it was supplied by Iran to Russia. According to the information published, the Shahed 107 is a multipurpose suicide drone that can also be used for attacks and for reconnaissance.

Details about Shahed 107 drones.

"Shahed-101 – Information was recently published about this drone, but it has not been officially unveiled in Iran. Its photos and name have been published in foreign media as a new drone provided by Iran to Russia. Even though no information about it is available, its design is similar to the Me'raj 532 drone operated by the Ground Forces, so it is believed to have similar specifications."

Shahed 101 drone.

Note: The Tasnim report omits details about the Shahed 149 drone, also designated "Gaza." The Shahed 149 was unveiled in May 2021 and named after Gaza due to the "victory" of the Palestinian resistance against Israel in Israel's Operation Guardian of the Walls earlier that month. Reports about the drone state: "This is one of the highest-quality Iranian drones, and an upgraded model of the Shahed 129. It has a wingspan of 21 meters, a consecutive flight time of 35 hours, a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, a flight altitude of 35,000 feet (10,500 meters), a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour, and a payload of up to 500 kilograms – which is significantly more than the Shahed 129. The drone's large wings enable it to carry a larger payload of bombs, and, according to the commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, it can carry 13 bombs."[8]

Shahed 149 drone, also known as a Gaza-type drone. Source: Mashreq News, July 23, 2024.

The Tasnim report about the drones continues:

"Arash ['Archer'; also a mythological Persian hero] – The Iranian Arash 2 drone has a range of 2,000 kilometers. It uses a piston engine, a cylindrical fuselage with a vertical tail, and two wings at the edge of the fuselage.

Arash 2 drone.

"The Arash 2 drone uses a JITO [sic] takeoff mechanism, which eliminates the need for a runway. This way, the Arash drone can fly towards its targets from a variety of mobile launchers, making it a tactical drone with high mobility and enabling its use in different geographic environments.

"Siad ['Hunter'] – Another Iranian suicide drone, the details of which are not known. It first appeared in a large supply of drones for the IRGC Navy. It was first officially presented last year during an armed forces parade in Bandar Abbas. This drone is slim-bodied with a V-shaped tail, decreasing its radar signature. It uses a piston engine.

Siad drone.

The Samad drone [named after Houthi Supreme Political Council chairman Saleh Al-Samad, killed in an airstrike in Yemen in 2018] is similar to the Siad drone and is used by the Houthis in Yemen. They have used it many times in varied and successful operations.

"Me'raj" [named for the Prophet Muhammad's night journey] – The Me'raj 532 drone was designed and manufactured by the Jihad Organization for Independent Supply [an Iranian organization that provides military support to Iran's military organizations] for the IRGC's ground forces. It has a piston engine and a one-way range of 450 kilometers. It can fly at an altitude of up to 12,000 feet for three hours. It is launched from vehicles and carries a warhead weighing 50 kilograms.

Me'raj 532 drone.

"Another suicide drone belonging to the IRGC ground forces which falls into the category of loitering munitions is the Me'raj 521 drone. This drone is considered an Iranian switchblade [a small loitering munition launched from a tube using pressurized gasses]. It is man-portable and can be used by combat units. This is why it is considered an appropriate weapon for quick reaction forces. In addition, the Me'raj 521 can be launched from a variety of vehicles.

Me'raj 521 man-portable drone.

"Sina ['Sinai'] – The Sina loitering munition drone is one of the suicide drones meant for use against targets such as groups of people and vehicles. This drone was first unveiled in August of this year. This is another Iranian switchblade drone, designed and manufactured by the Defense Ministry.

Sina man-portable drone being launched in an Iranian military exercise.

"The Sina has a range of 5 kilometers, and is fired from a ground launcher. Its flight time is eight minutes and it is guided manually and automatically. It has an EFP warhead and an electric motor.

"So far, other suicide drones like the Omid ['Hope'], Baver ['Faith'], Ababil Cruise, and Moharram drones have been designed and manufactured by the Defense Ministry and Iran's Army.

"Another Iranian drone named Emir ['Ruler'] is very similar to the Israeli Harop drone, and as can be seen from its appearance, it can be assumed to have a range of approximately 1,000 kilometers. In addition, this drone – which was designed by the Iranian Army – has an optic sensor and can be used as a suicide drone.

Omid drone.

"The Baver ['Faith'] drone was designed and produced by the Defense Ministry, and its design seems to have been based on the Arash and Shahed 131 drones. Additional details have not yet been published, but it is known that it was tested in an IRGC exercise.

Baver drones.

"The Ababil Cruise drone is another suicide drone, with an optic sensor, designed and manufactured by the Defense Ministry. It was only last year that its photo was presented at a Defense Ministry exhibition. The drone has a cylindrical fuselage that resembles a missile more than it does a drone. Information about its use by the armed forces has not yet been published."[9]

Left: Arash drone. Right: Ababil Cruise drone.


[1] Tasnim News Agency (Iran), February 21, 2024.

[2] IRNA (Iran), February 19, 2024.

[3] Tasnim News Agency (Iran), February 6, 2024.

[5] Hammihan Online (Iran), November 13, 2023.

[6], January 17, 2024.

[7], January 29, 2024.

[8] Mashreq News (Iran), July 23, 2023.

[9] Tasnim News Agency (Iran), February 6, 2024.

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