British universities helped develop Iranian 'suicide drones', report finds

According to an investigation by The Jewish Chronicle, some of the UK's most prominent universities conducted research that may have helped develop Iranian "suicide drones."
Christopher McFadden
Remains of an Iranian suicide drone in Ukraine.

Kyiv City 

A shocking report from The Jewish Chronicle has found that British universities have, in part, helped develop Iranian "suicide drones." Not only that, but some institutions have also contributed to developing technology that could be fitted to Iranian jets.

This has led to calls from British Members of Parliament to intensify existing bans on technology transfer to the leading regime of the Middle Eastern nation.

"At least 11 British universities, including Cambridge and Imperial College London, are involved, with staff producing at least 16 studies with potential Iranian military applications," the JC reported. UK government officials have expressed serious concern over the results, with senior MPs and peers echoing their sentiments. The spokesperson for the British government made it clear that any collaborations that threaten national security will not be tolerated.

Researchers in the UK collaborated with Tehran to enhance drone engines

The United Kingdom has prohibited the export of military and "dual-use" technology to Iran and has recently imposed additional sanctions on Iranian individuals and organizations providing kamikaze drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls Iran's drone and missile arsenal, and there is mounting pressure on the government to designate it as a terrorist organization.

However, it has come to light that researchers in the UK collaborated with Tehran to enhance drone engines, increasing their altitude, speed, and range with the research partly or fully funded by Iran. Another British university partnered with Iranian counterparts to test advanced control systems for jet engines, with the aim of improving their "maneuverability and response time" in "military applications."

For example, the JC found that researchers from Imperial College, Shahrood University of Technology, and the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad jointly produced a significant UK-Iran research study on drone engines.

Ahmad Najjaran Kheirabadi, a researcher at Imperial College, was involved in the study, which focused on enhancing the lightweight, two-stroke engines that power drones. Specifically, the study explored the benefits of installing a fuel-injection system into these engines.

British universities helped develop Iranian 'suicide drones', report finds
Representational picture.

Research also included the development of military-directed energy weapons

The upgraded propulsion system has several advantages, including high power, low fuel consumption, high flight endurance, and tolerance to extreme environmental conditions. Notably, Russia is currently using the HESA Shahed 136 drone, which was also examined in the study, to attack Ukrainian targets.

Other research included the development of military-directed energy weapons, optical communications, and various other technologies that would prove beneficial to the Iranian aerospace industry.

The JC also found that scientists in the UK collaborated with Iranian researchers to investigate the potential use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as mobile base stations for extending the reach of communication systems. They explored special alloys for military aircraft and coatings for upgrading armor plating. Concerns have been raised by MPs about how this research was conducted given the tough sanctions regime in place.

“It’s clear that the IRGC controls Iran’s drone programs, and that these weapons are being used by the Russians in Putin’s war on Ukraine," said Lord Polak, President of Conservative Friends of Israel, in response to the news, "That it has a presence in British universities is yet more evidence — not that any should be needed — that we should have banned the IRGC a long time ago,” he added.

Former Tory cabinet minister David Davis MP said: “There is little point in having a sanctions regime unless the relevant government departments monitor and enforce it properly.“

"It should not be possible for researchers at British universities to effectively assist the Iranian state in enhancing its weapons systems which may be deployed against our allies, or even our own soldiers.," he added.

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