Russia To Supply Advanced Spy Satellite To Iran, Washington Post

In this photo released on April 22, 2020, by Sepahnews, an Iranian rocket carrying a satellite is launched from an undisclosed site believed to be in Iran's Semnan province. (Sepahnews via AP)

Russia is preparing to provide Iran with an advanced satellite that would enable it to track potential military targets across the Middle East, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The plan would deliver a Russian-made Kanopus-V satellite equipped with a high-resolution camera which could be launched from Russia within months, the Post said.

The report was published days before U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Geneva and as Iran and the United States are engaged in indirect talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal designed to put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions.

The satellite would allow “continuous monitoring of facilities ranging from Persian Gulf oil refineries and Israeli military bases to Iraqi barracks that house U.S. troops,” said the paper, which cited three unnamed sources – a current and a former U.S. official and a senior Middle Eastern government official briefed on the sale.

While the Kanopus-V is marketed for civilian use, leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have made several trips to Russia since 2018 to help negotiate the agreement, the Post said.

Russian experts traveled to Iran this spring to help train crews who would operate the satellite from a newly built facility near Karaj west of Tehran, it added.

Noor Satellite

The satellite features Russian hardware, the Post said, “including a camera with a resolution of 1.2 meters — a significant improvement over Iran’s current capabilities, though still far short of the quality achieved by U.S. spy satellites.”

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While technically a civilian satellite, it would give Iran the ability to continuously monitor sites ranging from Israeli army facilities to US military bases to Saudi oil refineries, the officials said.

Iran has stepped up its attempts at a satellite program in recent years. In April 2020 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched their first satellite into space, dramatically revealing what experts described as a secret military space program.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division stands in front of an Iranian rocket carrying a satellite in an undisclosed site believed to be in Iran’s Semnan province, April 22, 2020. (Sepahnews via AP)

However, Pentagon officials derided the “Noor” satellite as little more than a “rotating webcam” and Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “façade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology.”

But it appears Iran’s military is also actively pursuing advanced surveillance capabilities.

The Revolutionary Guards said in April 2020 that they had successfully launched the country’s first military satellite into orbit, prompting then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to call for Tehran to be held accountable because he believed the action defied a U.N. Security Council resolution.

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