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US tech components in Iranian attack drones used against Ukraine

The Joe Biden administration has launched an expansive task force to investigate how US and western tech componentshas launched an expansive task force to investigate how US and western tech components, including American made microelectronics, are ending up in Iranian made drones Russia is launching by the hundreds into Ukraine, multiple officials familiar with the effort are telling CNN. 

The US has imposed tough export control restrictions and sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining high-end materials, but evidence has emerged that suggests Iran is finding an abundance of commercially available technology. 

Last month, the UK-based investigative organization Conflict Armament Research examined several drones that had been downed in Ukraine and found that 82% of their components were manufactured by companies based in the US. 

Among the components found in some of the drones are processors built by the Dallas-based technology company Texas Instruments, according to an investigation by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and a source familiar with the US inquiry, as well as an engine made by an Austrian firm owned by Canada’s Bombardier Recreational Products. Both companies have condemned any use of their technology for illicit purposes. 

The investigation has intensified in recent weeks amid intelligence obtained by the US that the Kremlin is preparing to open its own factory for drone production inside Russia as part of a deal with Iran, the official’s said. 

CNN reports that Iran has already begun transferring blueprints and components for the drones to Russia to help with production there,in a dramatic expansion of the countries’ military partnership. 

The task force is also having to coordinate with foreign allies, since the components being used in the drones are not limited to those produced by American companies. 

In October, CNN obtained access to a drone that was downed in the Black Sea near Odesa and captured by Ukrainian forces. It was found to contain Japanese batteries, an Austrian engine and American processors. 

The White House believes it is successfully driving home the scale of the issue with allies. The senior administration official told CNN that there was “growing broad and deep international consensus on Iran, from the EU to Canada to Australia and New Zealand, which is being led by US diplomacy.”

There is no evidence however that any of the western companies are knowingly exporting their technology to be used in the drones, and that is partly why the task force’s job has been so difficult, officials said. 

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas