Iraq producing two types of surveillance drones: Official

A member of the US-led coalition against ISIS walks past a military drone parked at Ain Al-Asad airbase in Iraq's western Anbar province, Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP)
A member of the US-led coalition against ISIS walks past a military drone parked at Ain Al-Asad airbase in Iraq's western Anbar province, Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's military industry recently began manufacturing surveillance drones, an official announced. 

The country is presently producing two types of surveillance drones, director of military industry Mohammad Sahib Al-Daraji told state-run Al Iraqiya News on Tuesday night. 

The manufacture of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is being done in partnership with the private sector since the government has provided "zero" budget for the project, Al-Daraji added. 

He said the locally-built drones are used to monitor the Iraqi-Syrian border, electricity towers, and oil pipelines, which armed groups sometimes threaten.

Iraq previously bought 12 CH-4 drones from China. However, according to the latest US Defense Department's Lead Inspector General report on the anti-ISIS coalition, these drones have not been capable of performing missions since September 2019. As a result, the Iraqi military has lacked "a medium altitude, long endurance ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capability."

These locally-made surveillance drones may be an attempt to address this gap in the Iraqi military's capabilities, especially since the US-led coalition officially ended its combat mission in Iraq in late 2021. 

More generally, enemy drones have also become a security challenge for Iraq, especially since the rise of ISIS, which used homemade explosive-laden drones in previous battles against Iraqi forces.

Off-the-shelf commercial drones that anyone can buy have been modified and used for illicit activities, such as bringing narcotics over the Iraq-Iran border. 

Explosive-laden drones have targeted US diplomatic and military installations in Iraq on multiple occasions. Such attacks are invariably blamed on Iran-backed militias in the country. 

In November 2021, three drones targeted the Baghdad residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in what the Iraqi security forces described as an "assassination attempt". Two of the drones were shot down, while one hit the prime minister's residence but didn't cause any fatalities. 

Low-flying drones are also becoming an increasing threat since they can fly at low altitudes and evade many air defense systems.