TEHRAN // Iran unveiled a new aircraft yesterday it says is the biggest drone yet to be developed in the Islamic Republic, capable of flying for up to 30 hours.
Iran’s defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, said the reconnaissance and combat drone Fotros has a range of 2,000 kilometres. That would cover much of the Middle East including Israel. The earlier Shahed-129 drone is reported to have a similar range, but can only fly 24 hours.
“This drone is able to carry out reconnaissance missions and carry air-to-surface rockets for combat operations,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Mr Dehghan as saying.
Dehghan said scientists at Iranian Aircraft Manufacturing Industries, affiliated to Iran’s Defense Ministry, have designed and developed the drone. He said the country has achieved self-sufficiency in building drones but did not elaborate.
Iran has pursued a military self-sufficiency programme since 1980s, and frequently announces technological breakthroughs including the building of jet fighters, tanks, missile, submarines, torpedoes and drones. Most of these claims cannot be independently confirmed.
He said the new drone is a key strategic addition to Iran’s military capabilities, and was developed despite tough sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear programme.
“Sanctions by enemies can’t create an obstacle in the path of progress for our defence industries,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
The sanctions were imposed on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a programme that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for a warhead.
The country says it is fighting an intelligence battle with the US and Israel, which accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.