US Orders Probe After Western Components Found in Iranian Drones: Report

The US government has ordered a probe after Western, Japanese, and Israeli components were found in downed Iranian drones in Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Citing intelligence documents, the outlet estimated that three-quarters of the components were found to be American-made, despite Tehran being subjected to harsh sanctions.

The aim of the sanctions is largely to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons but includes other arms development such as drones.

Japanese Components Found

Ukrainian investigators also found Japanese components in Iranian Mohajer-6 drones captured intact after being hacked mid-flight.

Nearly a third of the drone’s components were of Japanese origin, while roughly half were manufactured by US firms. The findings were revealed and verified by Kyiv-based nonprofit the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (NAKO), which also inspected the drone.

The servomotors in the Mohajer-6 drone, essential to maneuver the aircraft, were made by Japanese firm Tonegawa-Seiko Co., according to the intelligence documents and NAKO report.

A drone flies over Kyiv during a Russian attack on October 17, 2022. Image: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Third-Party Distributors

Similarly, several electronic components of the drone were manufactured by German-owned Infineon Technologies AG and Arizona-based Microchip Technology Inc., two of the most prominent global chip manufacturers.

A spokesman for Microchip, Brian Thorsentold The Wall Street Journal, “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.”

He said that the company supplies its products to more than 120,000 customers in the industrial, aerospace, defense, and other sectors, adding that third-party distributors also sell its products worldwide.

Israeli Infrared Lens in Iranian Drone?

The outlet also claimed that the Mohajer’s high-resolution telescopic infrared lens looks identical to a model made by Ophir Optronics Solutions Ltd., a Jerusalem-based firm, citing the device image and company brochures.

The company’s parent organization, MKS Instruments Inc., said they don’t supply to Iran.

The Israeli government responded to the report following a review, saying that “the relevant international export control regimes indicate that the lens is neither a controlled defense item nor a dual-use item, according to Israeli law based on international arrangements.”

Probe Ordered

The US officials responsible for export-control enforcement declined to verify the findings, the outlet said.

However, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security has launched an investigation into the matter.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations also avoided a direct response, saying that Tehran “is ready to meet with Ukraine at the level of technical experts and investigate drone- or parts-ownership claims.”

Export-Control Loopholes

Citing a report of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, The Wall Street Journal wrote that Chinese companies might be supplying Iran with counterfeit Western components essential to produce combat drones.

Industry and Western security officials said that many of the parts are not covered under export control and could have been bought on the internet and shipped to Iran through other countries, a violation of the law but difficult to prevent.