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Iranian drones full of US tech

by on06 January 2023

Big Tech says it has done nothing wrong 

It appears that most of the parts of Iranian drones which are being used by the Russians to destroy the Ukrainian power grid come from US tech companies.

Parts made by US and Western companies were found inside a single Iranian drone downed in Ukraine according to a Ukrainian intelligence assessment.

Of the 52 components Ukrainians removed from the Iranian Shahed-136 drone, 40 appear to have been manufactured by 13 different American companies. The remaining 12 components were manufactured by companies in Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and China.

What is surprising is that it should be harder to get components into Iran than Russia. The US has for years imposed tough export control restrictions and sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining high-end materials. 

There is no evidence suggesting that any of those companies are running afoul of US sanctions laws and knowingly exporting their technology to be used in the drones. Even with many companies promising increased monitoring, controlling where these parts end up in the global market is often very difficult for manufacturers.

It seems that the Russian and Iranians have set up shell companies to use to purchase the equipment and evade sanctions than it is for Western governments to uncover those front companies, which can sometimes take years, experts said.

Part of the issue is that the microelectronics industry relies heavily on third party distributors and resellers that are difficult to track, and the microchips and other small devices ending up in so many of the Iranian and Russian drones are not only inexpensive and widely available, they are also easily hidden.

According to the Ukrainian assessment, among the US-made components found in the drone were nearly two dozen parts built by Texas Instruments, including microcontrollers, voltage regulators, and digital signal controllers; a GPS module by Hemisphere GNSS; a microprocessor by NXP USA Inc.; and circuit board components by Analog Devices and Onsemi. Also discovered were components built by International Rectifier – now owned by the German company Infineon – and the Swiss company U-Blox.

Texas Instruments said: ” 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.”

Infineon said: "Infineon condemns the Russian aggression against Ukraine. It is a blatant violation of international law and an attack on the values of humanity.” He added that “apart from the direct business it proves difficult to control consecutive sales throughout the entire lifetime of a product. Nevertheless, we instruct our customers including distributors to only conduct consecutive sales in line with applicable rules.”

Analog Devices said in a statement that it was intensifying efforts “to identify and counter this activity, including implementing enhanced monitoring and audit processes, and taking enforcement action where appropriate…to help to reduce unauthorised resale, diversion, and unintended misuse of our products.”


Last modified on 06 January 2023
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