Ukrainian analysis identifies Western supply chain behind Iran’s drones
16 November 2022
New intelligence collected from downed Iranian drones in Ukraine shows that a majority of the aircrafts’ parts are manufactured by companies in the U.S., Europe and other allied nations, stoking concern among Western officials and analysts and prompting a U.S. government investigation, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The documentation of Western parts shows how Tehran has been arming itself and its allies with powerful new weaponry despite being the target of one of the most comprehensive sanction regimes in modern history.
Ukrainian intelligence estimates that three-quarters of the components of the Iranian drones downed in Ukraine are American-made, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. The findings were made after the Ukrainian military downed several drones, including an Iranian Mohajer-6 drone that agents hacked midflight and landed intact, according to Ukrainian investigators. The components, identified by Ukrainian military intelligence, were verified by the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission, or NAKO...
Out of more than 200 technical components identified by Ukrainian investigators that make up the innards of the captured drone, roughly half were made by firms based in the U.S., and nearly a third by companies in Japan, according to the report.
When contacted by the Journal, U.S. officials responsible for export-control enforcement declined to confirm the origin of the components. The companies whose parts were identified weren’t able to confirm the origin of components or didn’t respond to a request for comment...
The servomotors in the Mohajer-6, which allow operators to maneuver the unmanned craft through the air, were made by Japan’s Tonegawa-Seiko Co., according to Ukrainian intelligence documents and NAKO’s report. The firm didn’t respond to a request for comment...
A host of other electronic components were manufactured by units of German-owned Infineon Technologies AG and Arizona-based Microchip Technology Inc., two of the world’s top-tier chip manufacturers, according to the intelligence and NAKO report.
Brian Thorsen, a spokesman for Microchip Technology, said the firm “takes care to maintain supply-chain integrity,” which includes screening clients. He also said that besides having more than 120,000 customers in the industrial, aerospace, defense and other sectors, third-party distributors also sell its products around the world.
“Without access to the device itself, we are unable to advise whether it is a Microchip product or counterfeit product, and if it is a Microchip product, how it ended up in this particular application,” Mr. Thorsen said.
An Infineon spokesman said the company doesn’t sell any of its products to Iran.
The high-resolution telescopic infrared lens used in the Mohajer-6 for surveillance and targeting appears to be identical to a model made by an Israeli firm, Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd., according to photos of the device in the Mohajer-6 and corporate brochures reviewed by the Journal. The company declined to comment.
MKS Instruments Inc., Ophir’s parent company, said that it doesn’t sell to Iran and that it abides by U.S. or other applicable laws, including export controls and sanctions.
Israel’s government is reviewing the findings, said Mayan Lazarovich, a spokeswoman for Israel’s Ministry of Defense...
“A preliminary review of the relevant international export control regimes indicates that the lens is neither a controlled defense item nor a dual-use item, according to Israeli law based on international arrangements,” she said.Identifying the origins of a particular component can be difficult, even for the companies which produce them.
For example, Ukrainian intelligence suspected the infrared camera was manufactured by Sierra-Olympic Technologies Inc., an Oregon-based company that uses Ophir lenses, according to the report. But Chris Johnston, Sierra-Olympic’s founder and chief executive, said after reviewing photos that some of the camera’s parts are the same, but others are different, suggesting that it didn’t originate from his firm.
Sierra-Olympic had followed up with every client that bought one of the cameras after being contacted by the Journal, “and every one is accounted for,” Mr. Johnston said...