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Iran hosting UAV competition for Russia's Army Games

A Shahed-191 displayed at the IRGC's National Aerospace Park in Tehran. (Iranian Students News Agency)

An Iranian base that is allegedly used to train foreign terrorists to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is hosting part of the International Army Games 2022, raising questions about earlier reports that Russians are training to operate UAVs in Iran.

The Fars News Agency cited a senior officer in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force as saying on 15 August that the Falcon Hunting UAV competition would be held in Kashan, near Isfahan, as part of the games. It will involve teams from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, and Russia.

Visiting teams in the International Army Games often use equipment supplied by the host, which was initially the Russian military in 2015, but the event has since expanded, with 12 countries hosting competitions this year.

The IRGC has a base at Kashan Airport that has been used for its larger UAVs since at least 2016, when it was identified as the location of the test site for a copy of the US RQ-170 stealth UAV that crashed in Iran in December 2011.

Israeli Minister of Defence Benny Gantz said in September 2021 that the base is used to train members of Iranian-backed groups from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. “These terrorists are trained to employ UAVs produced by Iran,” he said. “This base is a key point from which Iranian aerial terrorism is exported to the region.”

The White House said on 16 July that Russian officials visited the base on 8 June and 15 July for demonstrations of the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 UAVs, both of which are capable of launching guided weapons.

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