Russia ‘Actively Deploys’ Iranian Mohajer-6 UAVs For ISR Missions Over Black Sea & Crimea, UK Says

The UK’s Ministry of Defense has claimed that Russia is deploying Iranian Mohajer-6 drones for reconnaissance missions over the Black Sea and guiding attacks along the Ukrainian coastline.

Iranian Mohajer-6 drones, capable of reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition, as well as air-to-ground strikes, were spotted over the Black Sea and Crimea. 

In its latest intelligence update, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) noted that Mohajer-6’s operational range is about 200 km with line-of-sight control, which can be extended by transferring control to another ground station.

The update also pointed out that Russia’s ongoing possession of these systems in Crimea may indicate efforts by Russian occupying forces to identify potential threats to Russian ports and vessels, particularly in the aftermath of recent Ukrainian successes. 

“The continued presence of the system in western Crimea is likely evidence of Russia trying to identify threats to Russian ports and vessels following recent Ukrainian successes. There is a realistic possibility its mission also includes supporting Russian targeting processes for the south-west Ukrainian coastline,” the MoD points out. 

Image of Mohajer-6 UAV on Saky Airfield, Crimea.
Image of Mohajer-6 UAV on Saky Airfield, Crimea.

At least one Mohajer-6 was destroyed by Ukraine over the Black Sea in September 2022, while Russia likely accidentally downed a similar drone in Crimea in June 2023, according to the Ministry. 

Although the Ministry did not specify the number of such drones at Saky Airfield in Crimea, a satellite image from February 23, released by the UK Ministry of Defence, reveals the presence of one Iranian Mohajer-6 along with its associated ground station. 

Meanwhile, in a recent development, UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps announced a £325 million ($416 million) allocation for the purchase of over 10,000 advanced drones for Ukraine.

This aid supplements the £200 million ($256 million) drone package unveiled in January during UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s visit to Kyiv. The Defense Secretary highlighted Ukraine’s effective use of UK-donated weapons, contributing to the destruction of nearly 30% of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

“I am ramping up our commitment to arm Ukraine with cutting-edge new drones coming directly from the UK’s world-leading defense industries – straight from the factory floor to the front line,” Shapps added. 

The UK, in collaboration with Latvia, spearheads a coalition dedicated to enhancing Ukraine’s drone capabilities, recognizing the pivotal role drones play in Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s aggression.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that surpassing Russia in drone operations is among the top priorities for 2024. 

In a significant move on February 6, Zelensky issued a decree establishing a distinct branch within Ukraine’s Armed Forces dedicated solely to drones. This branch will concentrate on developing specialized drone units, expanding production capacities, intensifying training efforts, and fostering innovation in drone technology. 

Iranian Mohajer-6 Drone

The Mohajer-6, produced by Iran’s state-owned Qods Aviation Industries, is a mid-range combat drone equipped with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. This versatile UAV can also carry laser-guided munitions, providing air-to-ground strike capabilities. 

Unlike the single-attack Shahed-136s utilized by the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, the Mohajer-6 is designed to return to base after each mission, offering a sustainable and flexible concept of operations (CONOPS). 

With its cost-effectiveness and high performance, the Mohajer-6 has become a significant asset for military forces in need of reliable unmanned aerial vehicles. Its deployment by the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine underscores its strategic importance. 

Qods Mohajer-6 – Wikipedia

The primary operators of this drone are the Iranian Navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). In September 2022, a Mohajer-6 operated by the IRGC was shot down by a USAF F-15 on its way to Erbil in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. 

Beyond its association with the Iranian military, the Mohajer-6 has found its way into the arsenals of various countries. It has been combat-tested across various theaters and integrated into state inventories in nations such as Ethiopia, Iraq, Syria, and Venezuela. 

Ethiopia employs the Mohajer-6 in its campaign against rebels in Tigray, while in Venezuela, it was prominently featured during President Maduro’s speech on future multipurpose drone production.

However, the Mohajer-6 relies on electronic components obtained from the United States and other Western countries.

Documentation obtained by the Wall Street Journal in November 2022 revealed that a significant portion of the Mohajer-6’s components, including over half of its 200 distinct parts, originated from US-based companies, with a notable share also coming from Japan.