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Venezuela Makes Its Own Iranian Combat Drones

October 9, 2022
Via Youtube.

Now that its national economy is turning a corner, no doubt from having the world’s largest oil reserves, the armed forces revealed their latest innovation: combat drones based on Iranian models. During a grandiose parade for its independence day on July 5 the armed forces and law enforcement showed off all their kit. Since the 2000s the National Bolivarian Armed Forces switched to China and Russia as its main suppliers as part of its realignment against the United States. These new relationships allowed it to field premium weapon systems such as the S-300VM long-range SAM but Iran’s recent inputs could become just as dramatic.

At the July 5 parade at least two models were shown although the military’s drone fleet is known to be a colorful one. Both resemble the Mohajer-series of combat drones that are the oldest “lineage” among Iran’s unmanned aircraft, which received a huge boost in the 1980s due to wartime expediency. Since the 2000s a Venezuelan entity called EANSA has been at the forefront of collaboration with Iran on unmanned aircraft. The state-owned company is in charge of a repair and overhaul plant at an airbase and together with the defense ministry and another enterprise called CAVIM it assembles these indigenized Mohajers . One is a conventional take off and landing twin boom drone that can be armed with a small payload. Its sibling shares the same fuselage but has skids instead and is launched from a catapult towed by a transporter–a utility truck.

Via Youtube.

A strange detail about the drones is one of them is tailored for airstrikes. The model with tricycle landing gear was seen at the parade loaded with ordnance but these looked dubious, consisting of a small rocket and a mortar round under each wing, despite a presenter who claimed the drone had an “anti-armor” role. When taking into account the number of companies under the Aviation Industries Organization (AIO) and how vast their production is it’s surprising precision-guided munitions are unavailable to the Venezuelans. An impressive showing came soon after the Mohajers when a flatbed truck drove by carrying mockups of the ANSU-200 flying wing drone. (Pictured above.)

The ANSU-200 imitates the appearance of jet-powered “stealth” drones although there’s no proof that at least a functional prototype being flight tested. An obvious problem when advertising these conceptual aircraft are the details underpinning their production, from the materials used on the airframe to the power plant that in all likelihood is imported from China or Europe. An overlooked disadvantage among the current generation of jet-powered drones is they are slower than conventional piloted jet aircraft and have limited payloads. Most air forces haven’t even accomplished the “data fusion” that allows these drones to seamlessly network with other aircraft. Venezuela’s state-owned aerospace sector does face a steep learning curve with the ANSU-200. If the ANSU-200 enters service it represents a breakthrough for Venezuela’s marginal aviation sector and counts as the first of its kind in South America. But surprisingly, the advancement of combat drones in the National Bolivarian Armed Forces have no implications outside the country’s borders as these are outdated models with mediocre performance characteristics.

The cutting edge of Iranian unmanned systems, especially drones, are now in composite materials, mission endurance, and long-range strike. None of these are apparent in Venezuela yet. However, a boost in production numbers and further improvements to its existing fleet opens the door to more powerful technology. From Iran’s perspective its relationship with Venezuela has one more crucial linkage whose importance can grow over time. Contrary to how the US likes to portray the Tehran-Caracas alliance their military collaboration is minimal but economic exchanges are sophisticated and involve investment, logistics, manufacturing, and natural resources.

The known clientele for Iranian combat drones are Ethiopia, Libya, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela. Proxies such as Ansar Allah, Hezbollah, and Iraq’s dreaded PMU’s have received substantial numbers of these as well.

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