A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program

August 26, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Military


Michael Rubin

Author's Title: 

Resident Scholar


American Enterprise Institute

The 1980–88 Iran-Iraq War was a formative event for the Islamic Republic of Iran. The surprise Iraqi invasion caught Iran’s revolutionary regime unprepared. In the last decade of his rule, the ousted shah centered the Iranian military around big ticket items such as F-14 Tomcats, M60 tanks, and AH-1 SuperCobra helicopters. At the time of the revolution, however, not only did many Iranian pilots choose not to return to their homeland from training ranges abroad but some of the equipment purchased by Iran also got stuck overseas. The Islamic Republic’s inability to purchase spare parts from Western suppliers further undercut its ability to defend itself over subsequent years.

As a result, both during and after the Iran-Iraq War, Iranian authorities doubled down on indigenous military industry so as not to become reliant on any overseas power and asymmetric technologies to bypass the fact that they no longer had access to the most modern, expensive platforms on which many of their adversaries relied. In practice, there have been three main pillars to the Islamic Republic asymmetric military response.


Read the full report at the American Enterprise Institute.