Top secret Iranian drone site used by IRGC, terror proxies exposed by opposition group

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The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), an exiled Iranian resistance group, provided a report to Fox News Digital presenting evidence of a top-secret unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) site in the Islamic Republic of Iran, north of Qom City in the Ganjine region. 

According to the report, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are trained to use “all kinds of drones” at the base, including the Mohajer series, manufactured by Qods Aviation Industry. Employees of Qods Aviation Industry also reportedly use the site to train small groups of Iranian proxy operatives of Hezbollah, as well as members of Iranian proxy groups from Syria, Yemen and Iraq, to use the Mohajer-4 drone platform. 

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), based on information from the MEK, told Fox News Digital that the site is a proving ground for Mohajer-4, Mohajer-6, and Mohajer-10 drones. 

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of NCRI’s Washington, D.C., office, told Fox News Digital that “seven months into the regional conflict, it has become evident that the regime in Tehran is the proverbial ‘head of the snake’ of belligerence and terror export in the Middle East. As such, Western governments must exercise firmness instead of accommodation and engagement in dealing with Tehran and hold it to account for its malign activities.” 

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The Iranian Mohajer-4 drone, manufactured by Qods Aviation Industries and tested at the Ganjine airfield, has been proliferated widely according to online documents from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. (Courtesy of National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Qods Aviation Industry is listed on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, as is its new moniker, Light Airplanes Design and Manufacturing Industries. 

The newest drone in its arsenal, the Mohajer-10, can carry a payload of 300 kilograms for a range of 2,000 kilometers, according to Breaking Defense. Released in August 2023, the drone has a 450-liter fuel tank and can stay airborne for 24 hours. In a photo of the new drone shared on an Iranian television station, text in both Hebrew and Persian advised viewers to “prepare your shelters,” Reuters reported.

Brett Velicovich, a U.S. Army veteran and author of “Drone Warrior: An Elite Soldier’s Inside Account of the Hunt for America’s Most Dangerous Enemies,” said that the schematics for deadly Mohajer- and Shahed-series drones are being exported to Iranian proxies around the world. “One or two guys can launch one of these drones from the middle of a field…and they have the capability to conduct just as powerful a strike as major nation states could before,” Velicovich said.

Velicovich added this allows Iran to “sow chaos and discord” while also “having plausible deniability.” He claims the regime “want to use these long-range drone systems to show that they somehow have control over the Middle East and the region.” 

Iran's secret drone program

A new 30- by 40-meter hangar was added to the UAV testing site, 10 kilometers north of Qom City, in 2020. Qods Aviation Industry, a sanctioned entity, trains Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members and Iranian proxies at the site.  (Courtesy of National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Drones have played a role in the escalations taking place overseas following Oct. 7. The United States Institute of Peace notes that “U.S. forces deployed across the Middle East were attacked more than 160 times by pro-Iranian militias” between October 2023 and February 2024.

One of those strikes was deadly. On Jan. 28, an Iranian proxy used a drone to kill three U.S. service members in Jordan. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated that the Islamic Resistance in Iraq was behind the attack. He did not state which of the Iranian proxy groups under the resistance umbrella bore responsibility. The Pentagon stated it could not provide answers to Fox News Digital’s request for information about the group behind the attack or the type of drone that was used. United States Central Command told Fox News Digital that it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

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Top secret drone base exposed in Iran.

An Iranian opposition group exposed a top-secret drone base in the country. It is said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has overseen the country’s drone project since 2004. (Photo: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Getty Images/Base: NCRI)

On Apr. 13, Iran fired dozens of drones, including the Shahed-136, and hundreds of missiles at Israel in retaliation for an Apr. 1 bombing that killed seven IRGC members at the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not respond to a request for comment about whether the Mohajer system was used against Israel in Iran’s attack, or in any attacks since Oct. 7.

Velicovich recently traveled to Israel, where he said he witnessed “a lot of activity” at the northern border, where the IDF “are fighting with Hezbollah…in a sort of covert battle.” Drones are part of that conflict, though Velicovich did not report witnessing Iranian drones at the northern border. 

“Israelis have extremely strong defenses against UAVs,” Velicovich said. “But Iranian scientists are everyday trying to develop something new and testing those airwaves to figure out how to get around the Iron Dome, how to get around the Patriot missile system,” he added.

Secret site of drone program.

The UAV proving ground in Ganjine, Iran, where the Mohajer-series drone is tested, and Iranian proxies are trained in drone operations. The airstrip has been enlarged twice since 2007. Now 1,500 meters in length, larger drones can be tested at the site. (Courtesy of National Council of Resistance of Iran)

There has been no indication of whether Mohajer series drones have been utilized by Iran, its proxy Hezbollah or other proxy groups attacking Israel or U.S. forces since Oct. 7. The MEK was not aware of evidence that the drone site in Qom has been used in any attacks against Israel since Oct. 7.

According to online documents from the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the Mohajer system has proliferated to Iran’s allies. TRADOC writes that the Mohajer-4 platform, which entered mass production in 1999, has been distributed “widely,” including to non-state actors. Used for surveillance and to interdict drug smugglers, the Mohajer-4 can also be equipped with the Hydra unguided rocket. It can remain airborne for seven hours.

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The Mohajer-6 entered production in 2018. Syria, Hezbollah, Ethiopia, the Russian Federation, Iraq and Venezuela have access to the drone, according to TRADOC. Army documents state the drone, which can be airborne up to 12 hours, can be launched and recovered from a runway, and can carry “a multispectral surveillance payload, and/or up to two precision-guided munitions.”

The MEK provided documents and aerial imagery to Fox News Digital showing how the Qom site has expanded in recent years. According to translated documents MEK provided from the Iranian Armed Forces’ Real Estate and Land Organization, the site was first proposed as a UAV testing ground in February 2005. In May 2006, 1,800 hectares (more than 4,400 acres) of land near Qom were handed over to the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.

Raisi IRGC Salami

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) addressed while standing next to commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami (L), and Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during a military parade marking Iran’s Army Day anniversary near the Imam Khomeini shrine in the south of Tehran, April 18, 2023. Raisi said, we will destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if Israel takes ”the slightest action” against Iran. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The MEK reports that just 949 hectares have been used for the site. Aerial photographs show the site’s first 500-meter runway, created in 2007. In 2014, photos demonstrated that the runway was expanded to 1400 meters. Photos show the runway was further enlarged in 2020 to 1500 meters “so larger drones could also be tested.” Additional photos show that a hangar of about 30 by 40 meters was added in 2021. 

According to the MEK’s report, asymmetric warfare forms “a critical part of a deliberate strategy” that relies on “extensive use of drones and missiles, which the regime is capable of manufacturing with the support of its allies. Proxies execute these operations on behalf of the regime.” The MEK also cites “intelligence sources” claiming that Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei “has personally overseen Iran’s drone project since 2004.” 

The MEK urges other Western states to follow suit with the U.S.’ 2019 designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

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Velicovich noted that “Iran was the orchestrator, in my opinion, on the Oct. 7 attacks.” He explained that the regime used “one of their proxy groups, to not pin the full blame on them, but it’s their money and material.” He worries that the U.S. government “doesn’t have a handle right now on the true amount of drone systems that the Iranians are trying to build. And we won’t feel the effect tomorrow. It will be years from now,” he warned.

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