Iranian officials have for the first time acknowledged plans to sell Russia hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and drones, Reuters has reported, citing two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats.
The acknowledgment flies in the face of previous denials by Iran about selling missiles and drones to Russia despite the glaring fact that they had done so.
Just last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said “the Islamic Republic of Iran has not and will not provide any weapon to be used in the war in Ukraine,” according to an Oct. 16 readout of his call with his Portuguese counterpart, the Washington Post reported. “We believe that the arming of each side of the crisis will prolong the war.”
The deal, first reported in that Post story which did not have an acknowledgment by Iran, involves Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar SRBMs capable of striking targets at distances of between 186 and 435 miles.
Both SRBMs have been used by Iran to strike targets operationally in the past.
The Zolfaghar was used in its Jan. 2020 attack on the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, according to Michael Elleman, Director of Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former U.N. weapons inspector. That attack left more than 100 U.S. troops with traumatic brain injuries. The Fateh-110 was used by Iran in its March 2022 attack on Erbil in Iraq. Zolfaghars were also used to strike targets in Syria prior to both those operations. These weapons hit very hard with an impressive degree of accuracy. That’s something we wrote about earlier this month when we predicted that Iran, which makes a wide range of ballistic missiles and military drones, would sell Russia ballistic missiles. You can read more about that here.
"They (Russians) wanted to buy hundreds of our missiles, even mid-range ones, but we told them that we can ship soon a few hundred of their demanded Zolfaghar and Fateh 110 short-range, surface-to-surface missiles," one of the Iranian security officials told Reuters. "I cannot give you the exact time, but soon, very soon those will be shipped in two to three shipments."
The sale comes as Russia appears to be running short of its own stock of ballistic missiles, like the long-range Kalibr cruise missiles that can be fired from warships and submarines, with a derivative of the same 3M14 land-attack missile also being available for ground launch. Stocks of Russia's primary short-range ballistic missile, the Iskander-M, which also has a nuclear application, also appear to be running low after heavy use during the opening stages of the invasion. Iranian stocks would help offset that major loss in capability.
The deal drew condemnation from Ukraine, where Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday submitted a proposal to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for the cutting of diplomatic ties with Iran.
Iran agreed to sell Russia SRBMs on Oct. 6, Reuters reported, “when Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, two senior officials from Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and an official from the Supreme National Security Council visited Moscow for talks with Russia about the delivery of” Shahed-136 drones, the kind that rained down on cities across Ukraine Monday.
"The Russians had asked for more drones and those Iranian ballistic missiles with improved accuracy, particularly the Fateh and Zolfaghar missiles family," one of the Iranian diplomats, who was briefed about the trip, told Reuters.
The Iranian diplomat rejected assertions by Western officials that such transfers breach a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution.
"Where they are being used is not the seller's issue,” the diplomat told Reuters. “We do not take sides in the Ukraine crisis like the West. We want an end to the crisis through diplomatic means.”
Regardless of what Iran says, its drones are playing a big role in the destruction of Ukraine's power infrastructure, which Zelensky said about a third of which has been damaged in waves of attacks that did not take place in earlier phases of Russia's all-out war.
CNN was recently given exclusive access to an Iranian Mohajer-6 drone, that was captured a few weeks ago in southern Ukraine. It once again showcases that Russia is lying when it claims it is using only "Russian weapons with Russian numbers."
Meanwhile, there are apparently IRGC trainers already operating in Crimea, according to the New York Times.
Before we head into more from a busy day in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
There does not appear to have been much movement across the battlefield in the past 24 hours. The Russian Ministry of Defense claims on its Telegram channel that it blunted Ukrainian attempts to advance in both its Kharkiv and Kherson counteroffensives and in Donetsk, while the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said on its Telegram channel that it stopped Russian efforts to advance in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine has retaken enough territory in Kharkiv, though, that it can fly its Mi-8 Hip helicopters to offer a scenic view of the area.
The Institute for the Study of War listed a number of key takeaways in its latest assessment of the war:
- Russian sources continued to discuss potential Ukrainian counteroffensive operations northwest of Svatove on October 16 and 17.
- Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian Forces are conducting counteroffensive operations in Kherson Oblast on October 16 and 17.
- Russian forces conducted ground assaults in Donetsk Oblast on October 16 and 17.
- Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian concentrations of manpower and equipment in Zaporizhia Oblast on October 16 and 17.
- Russian authorities continued measures to exert full control over the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
- Moscow City officials announced the completion of partial mobilization in the city on October 17, likely in an effort to subdue criticism among Moscow residents of reports of illegal mobilization in the city.
- Russian and occupation administration officials continue to promote “vacation” programs to residents of Russian-occupied territories likely as a pretext for the deportation of Ukrainian citizens and the resettlement of Russian citizens.
The head of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, made a bold prediction about the future of the war, saying that there will be "significant victories" ahead.
The new commander of Russian forces, Gen. Sergey Surovikin, however, seems less optimistic regarding the future of Kherson City, which is a key strategic location for both sides.
The situation in Ukraine, which includes Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats of nuclear weapon use, spurred a hasty visit to the U.S. by U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. The Pentagon earlier Tuesday promised to provide a readout of his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and we will update this story if and when that is provided.
A big factor in Ukraine's battlefield success has been the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, of which the U.S. has already provided Ukraine 20, along with unknown quantities of associated Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munitions.
Tuesday morning, Lockheed Martin, which makes both the HIMARS and the GMLRS, announced it was increasing its production of HIMARS to 96 per year.
"About six, seven months ago, when we saw what was beginning to happen in Eastern Europe, I went over to visit some of the senior officials in the Pentagon and basically took them a letter and said, 'We're going to start spending on capacity for a few of these systems,'" including HIMARS, company CEO Jim Taiclet told investors during a third-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
"And now we've got a lot done already. On HIMARS specifically, we've already met with our long lead supply chain to plan for increasing production to 96 of these units a year."
Taiclet said Lockheed Martin spent $65 million, before any contracts were signed, "to shorten the manufacturing lead time."
Ukraine isn't the only country interested in HIMARS.
Lockheed Martin “confirmed that there is a slot for Estonia” on the production line, Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told POLITICO, which also reported Estonia ordered six systems in July for $500 million.
The company is also facing pressure from the U.S. Army to double, or more than double its current annual output of 60 HIMARS, POLITICO reported.
Though increasing production from five to eight HIMARS a month may not sound like a lot, ramping up to do that will likely take more time than some foreign customers wanted, POLITICO noted.
Other weapons systems are still flowing into, or have been promised to Ukraine.
Greece announced that it will send Ukraine 40 Soviet-era BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) after receiving 40 more modern German BMP Marder IFVs. It was an arrangement we first reported on last month.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was full of praise for his German counterpart, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.
Images of some of Finland's military aid are showing up on the battlefield. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group displayed a picture of a Finnish Sirpalekäsikranaatti M50 fragmentation hand grenade.
Ukrainians, meanwhile, continue to try and develop their own weapons. Roman Kyryliuk, a Ukrainian software engineer, posted a video of a device he and others are designing that places an automatic weapon on a drone. While they claim the goal is to be able to counter Shahed-136 drones, this may be a case of good intentions with a questionable understanding of the laws of physics. In other words, it won't be able to do that.
And Ukraine has updated an old tactic of using civilian spotters to help locate incoming aerial threats by creating an application for mobile devices allowing users to report aircraft or missiles, according to the Jerusalem Post, citing Ukraine's Strategic Communications Department.
The air defense duel between Russian missiles and Ukrainian air defenses continued this morning, with the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group posting what it claims to be Ukrainian air defenses shooting down what may have been a Russian Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile.
Ukraine also was on the offensive, attacking Nova Kahovka in the Kherson Oblast.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian forces used a Mk 19 40 mm belt-fed automatic grenade launcher, set up in the back of a pickup.
Ukrainian forces destroyed another Russian T-80BVM tank, this time in the Donetsk Oblast, according to the Ukraine Weapons Tracker OSINT group.
And Russia continues to "donate" arms to Ukraine, this time a large cache of 120 mm shells and other ammunition.
But Ukraine is still suffering large losses as well, in this case, a T-72M1 tank and a BMP-2 IFV.
And, taking a page out of Ukraine's strong information operations game, Russia is stepping up its own efforts, turning the Shahed-136 - nicknamed "Dorito" because of its now iconic delta wing shape - into a meme.
Despite severe logistics issues, some Russian troops still sport some nice weaponry, like this Steyr-Mannlicher SSG 08 sniper rifle.
But not every Russian is so well equipped, especially the mobilized reservists who are showing up on the battlefield apparently equipped to fight WWI.
It appears that the destruction of the world's largest cargo jet, the An-225 affectionately known as Mriya, may have been an inside job. The Ukrainian SBU security service said Antonov, the six-engine jet's owners, "did not take adequate measures" to save the aircraft during the first days of the all-out invasion when the Hostomel airport was attacked. You can read our interview with Miya's first pilot here.
Ukraine's Security Service stated that "unnamed employees of state company Antonov prevented Ukraine's authorities from organizing anti-aircraft and ground protection of the airfield," according to the Kyiv Independent. "This led to the destruction of the world's largest cargo aircraft AN-225 Mriya by Russian forces on Feb. 27."
We will update this story until we state otherwise.
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Update: 8:54 a.m. EST Oct. 19 2022
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III met UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace Tuesday at the Pentagon "to reaffirm the U.S.-UK defense relationship across a wide range of shared defense and security priorities, including Ukraine," according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman.
Their meeting "was a continuation of their discussions at NATO defence ministerial meetings in Brussels last week. They discussed ongoing efforts to support Ukraine, including through the provision of security assistance, and the importance of transatlantic cooperation and regional security in light of Russia’s continued brutal attack on Ukraine."
This story has been also been updated to reflect which country will provide Ukraine with BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles.