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Kirby: Iran supplying Russia with glide bombs

US National Security Council’s Kirby reports Iran’s delivery of glide bombs to Russia, with potential plans to transfer ballistic missiles.
Balaban (‘a bird of prey’), Iran’s GPS-guided gliding bomb. Photo via globalsecurity.org

US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said on 21 November that Iran is supplying Russia with glide bombs and that Iran may be preparing to transfer short-range ballistic missiles to Russia, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

ISW says it has observed Russian forces increasingly using glide bombs, particularly modified FAB-500, KAB-500, and RPK-500 aerial bombs equipped with glide bomb structures, in the Lyman and Kherson directions in Ukraine.

Kirby’s statement did not specify whether Iran’s support to Russia includes the supply of component parts or fully assembled glide bombs, with the Critical Threats Project (CTP)-ISW noting Iran’s domestic production of various glide bombs, including Ghaem, Yasin, Sadid, and Balaban models.

Iran commonly uses these domestically produced glide bombs, such as the Ghaem, Yasin, Sadid, and Balaban, with its drone platforms, potentially including the Shahed-131/136 drones provided to Russia. Additionally, a Russian military blogger has echoed assertions that Russian Su-25 aircraft might be adapted to use these Iranian glide bombs.

At the Russian Army-2023 Forum in Moscow in August 2023, Iran showcased various glide bomb models, and these may also have been presented during Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s subsequent visit to Tehran in September 2023.

Kirby added that Iran also continues to supply Russia with drones and artillery ammunition.

On 6 November, Major General Vadym Skibitskyi of the Ukrainian military intelligence suggested that Iran might persist in delivering Shahed-131/136 drones to Russia in limited quantities, notwithstanding Russia’s intensified attempts to manufacture these drones internally and Iran’s completion of initial supply agreements with Russia.

CTP-ISW previously assessed that Iran and Russia may conclude a drone and missile sale agreement following the expiration of UN missile restrictions against Iranian missile and missile-related technology exports on 18 October 2023.

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