American-made weaponry which has been abandoned by Ukrainian troops on the battlefield is being sent by Russia to Iran for possible reverse engineering, U.S. and NATO officials are saying.
Since U.S., NATO, and other Western nations began shipping weapons to Ukraine, several instances have been reported in which Russian forces have seized shoulder-fired weapons equipment including Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems that Ukrainian forces have left behind.
Russia has sent some of the seized weaponry to Iran to dismantle and analyze so the Iranian military can attempt to make its own version of the weapons, , CNN cited officials as saying.
U.S. officials acknowledge that it is difficult to track the weaponry Ukrainian troops have left behind in fighting against Russian forces.
Iran has in the past proven quite capable of developing weapons systems by reverse engineering U.S. equipment.
A key weapon in Iran's arsenal, the Toophan anti-tank guided missile, was reverse engineered from the American BGM-71 TOW missile in the 1970s.
The Iranians also intercepted a U.S.-made drone in 2011, a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 "Sentinel", and reverse-engineered it to create a new drone that crossed into Israeli airspace in 2018 before being shot down.
"Iran has demonstrated the capability to reverse-engineer U.S. weapons in the past," said Jonathan Lord, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security.
"They reverse-engineered the TOW anti-tank guided missile, creating a near-perfect replica they called the Toophan, and have since proliferated it to the Houthis and Hizbullah. Iran could do the same with a Stinger, which could threaten both civil and military aviation throughout the region. A reverse-engineered Javelin could be used by Hamas or Hizbullah to threaten an Israeli Merkava tank. In the hands of Iran's proxies, these weapons pose a real threat to Israel's conventional military forces."
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