The Biden administration has launched an expansive task force to investigate how US and western components, including American-made microelectronics, are ending up in Iranian-made drones Russia is launching by the hundreds into Ukraine, multiple officials familiar with the effort tell CNN.
The US has imposed tough export control restrictions and sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining high-end materials, but evidence has emerged that suggests Iran is finding an abundance of commercially-available technology.
Last month, the UK-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research examined several drones that had been downed in Ukraine and found that 82% of their components were manufactured by companies based in the US.
Among the components found in some of the drones are processors built by the Dallas-based technology company Texas Instruments, according to an investigation by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and a source familiar with the US inquiry, as well as an engine made by an Austrian firm owned by Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products. Both companies have condemned any use of their technology for illicit purposes.
Their apparently unintentional ensnarement in Iran’s drone manufacturing industry underscores how inexpensive products intended for civilian use can be easily retrofitted for military purposes, and often fall just outside the bounds of sanctions and export control regimes.
Texas Instruments said in a statement to CNN that “TI is not selling any products into Russia, Belarus or Iran. TI complies with applicable laws and regulations in the countries where we operate, and partners with law enforcement organizations as necessary and appropriate. Additionally, we do not support or condone the use of our products in applications they weren’t designed for. ”
Bombardier Recreational Products said in a statement that it was launching an investigation into how the engines ended up in the drones.
‘All hands on deck’
The investigation has intensified in recent weeks amid intelligence obtained by the US that the Kremlin is preparing to open its own factory for drone production inside Russia as part of a deal with Iran, the officials said.
Iran has already begun transferring blueprints and components for the drones to Russia to help with production there, CNN has reported, in a dramatic expansion of the countries’ military partnership.