Iran publicly unveiled yet another new drone on Sunday, part of its growing arsenal of locally produced drones and munitions. The Islamic Republic has been on a surge recently in terms of showing off new military technology. It showed off a new radar on August 10 and a new missile defense system on August 22.
The new drone is called Kian and is supposed to be able to carry out precision strikes against "distant targets." In an apparent threat to Israel or other countries, Iran's Army Air Defense commander Brig.-Gen. Alireza Sabahi-Fardand said that it was capable of hitting targets "far from Iran's borders."
Oddly, the drone announcement was made in English – but Farsi media downplayed its importance. This likely means that ISNA and PressTV were given orders to push this information to make Western audiences aware of it.
Iran also showed off another drone called Mobin in Russia on August 27. It can supposedly fly up to 45,000 feet high for 45 minutes, and has a warhead of 120 kg. That's a lot, but it's not clear how far it can go.
Tehran also showed off new "smart bombs" on August 6. According to reports, these were dubbed the Yasin and Balaban and a new series of Qaem "optic bombs." They can be used on drones and have "advanced, precision-guided" equipment. In January, Iran also showed off another UAV called Saegheh-2, which looks like a medium-range reconnaissance drone modeled on the US RQ-170.
As if that wasn't enough drones, Iran also showed off another drone, the Mohajer 6, in June. It is capable of conducting surveillance missions. Tehran seems to have a surfeit of all this new military technology. It also seems to have a huge spectrum of drones, but it isn't clear if all of them work well.
In addition to those mentioned above, Tehran also has the Kaman-12 which can supposedly fly for ten hours and has a payload of 100 kg. The Shahed-129 can launch bombs and missiles. There is also the Akhgar missile which Iran built to equip its drones. The 1.7 meter missile has a range of 30 km, according to reports.
Iran is rolling out these weapons to send a message to Washington and its allies.
It is hard not to conclude that Iran is rolling out these weapons to show off and also to send a message to Washington and its allies. It wants to show that despite US sanctions, the country is rapidly stockpiling advanced weapons systems.
Iran has an impressive indigenous defense industry. It has showed off precision missiles and used them in Syria and Iraq, and has used drones as well. It has transferred this technology to allies, including Houthi rebels, Hezbollah and Shi'ite militias. It is no surprise that Iran boasts of "precision" in all of its new ordinances, at a time when Israel has accused Hezbollah and the IRGC of working on precision rocket conversion programs.
This is the real message from Tehran: We have precision weapons and we are building more and more of them in different shapes and sizes with different ranges and missions. Iran now has what appears to be a sophisticated multi-layered drone force, as well as new air defense and precision missiles. It has never tested them in a real battle scenario, but it has gained knowledge from seeing how the Houthis have conducted attacks on Saudi Arabia.
Its limited use of drones in Iraq and Syria, as well as precision missile strikes, have shown that Iran's capabilities are expanding and are not just for show, even if some of the drones it has demonstrated appear to be less than how they are advertised.
Seth Frantzman, a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum, is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (Gefen, 2019). He is the op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.