By Haider Abbas
The Russia-Ukraine war has now entered into its second year, with massive US and West support to Ukraine in terms of billions of USD and weaponry, but what it turning out as an anti-climax for US, is that the captured US military weapons, by Russia, are now to be put to ‘reverse-engineering’ not only by Russia, but to be supplied to China as well as to Iran-the troika of US opposition in the world. It has been reported by Edition.CNN that ‘Russia has been capturing some of the US and NATO-provided weapons and equipment left on the battlefield in Ukraine and sending them to Iran , where the US believes Tehran will try to reverse-engineer the systems.
The report further tell, ‘Western officials have seen several instances of Russian forces seizing smaller, shoulder-fired weapons equipment including Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems that Ukrainian forces have at times been forced to leave behind on the battlefield. In many of those cases, Russia has then flown the equipment to Iran to dismantle and analyze, likely so the Iranian military can attempt to make their own version of the weapons. Russia believes that continuing to provide captured Western weapons to Iran will incentivize Tehran to maintain its support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.’ Iran has been openly supportive of Russia in the war against Ukraine.
This Russian step is definitely to transform the whole global arms market, as Russian experts and scientist are to brain-storm alongside Iranian scientists and manufacturers to counter US on its on terms but with great cost-effectiveness. Iran is likely to be the great beneficiary as Iran will then be able to export the ‘reverse-engineered’ weapons to the world. Here every marks will go to Iran-to the nemesis of US. Iran and US are the worst bêtenoires since more than around 75 years now. Russia is also very likely to benefit, as Iran would of course ‘firstly’ exports such weapons to Russia, which already has been supplied with Iranian Kamikaze drones, although Iran denies it. Once these high-tech US weapons are to be ‘reverse-engineered’ Russia would also export them, to the whole world, at a much cost-effective rate than to the extremely ‘heavy-cost’ rates of US weapons.
Iran has now drawn the mantle of having achieved the status of an expert in ‘reverse-engineering’ on the lines of that of China. The Print had carried an elaborate piece in 2018, to showcase as to how China had long drawn the expertise to decode the US weapons way back in 1960’s. ‘New pictures and videos of the Chinese J-20 stealth aircraft, leaked recently, suggest that the fighter has been under development for long and that a fair deal of reverse-engineering has gone into it, essentially by ‘borrowing’ US technology. China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) seems to have mastered the art of copying the technology invented by other nations, helped to some extent by the Chinese diaspora. Reverse engineering has been China’s forte since the 1960s. They have learnt to fine tune the reverse-engineered product and make some changes to give it a completely different look, latest satellite imagery suggests.’
US worst fears are now to come true as Iran is set to bludgeon its resources to the treasures-trove provided by Russia, of US weapons, as that is what it has been doing since almost the last two decades. An article published in The Guardian more than a decade back, in 2012, had highlighted the Iranian craving to ‘reverse-engineer’ the US weaponry, ‘Iran claims to have reverse-engineered US spy drone. Tehran has extracted data and figured out workings of Sentinel craft captured last year, and that it had been building a copy. It cited as proof details of the aircraft’s history, The US dismissed the claim as “bluster”, notwithstanding the incumbent embarrassment of the US military and intelligence community, as Iran had been was able to produce a replica!’
Necessity is the mother of invention and Iran had to do it, as firstly it had been under extreme US sanctions, which are now around five-decades old, and also since Iran has been a traditional rival to Israel and US, therefore, it was never in a position to buy-US technology, which on the contrary has always been supplied uninterrupted to Israel from the past 70 years. Russia and Iran have already entered into a pact for drone-production as a joint venture. But, after this ‘reverse-engineering’ Russia has actually found an opportunity in calamity, as now US weapons, with a Russian/Iranian stamp are to be available at a heavily low-cost market value with the same precision and accuracy! This is where now US has been found napping. As after all, the memories are still afresh when Iran had brought down the most powerful stealth fighter Lockheed Martin Jet of US in 2011.
Russia is now to revolutionize the arms industry as soon the Asian and African nations etc. are to make a beeline towards the upcoming Russian arms market. The highly expensive French/German or US arms are to face this new reality. The major brunt going to US. Here, what are to be the prospects for India? Perhaps, India has missed the bus, as India should have been the first to have got this ‘offer’ from Russia, but Russia instead has gone towards Iran-primarily for the unstinted Iranian support to Russia in the last one year, while India has started to count ‘too much’ on US, despite having imported Russian oil at much subsidized rates!
China has been into ‘reverse-engineering’ since around 50 years and also Russia while Iran too has been catching-up, ironically all the three are in anti-US bloc too, but India too had been with Russia, and might have withstood to Western pressures, if India was to experiment with the same object, but now India is deep into joint production with France/US, hence, such a maneuver would obviously damage the relations. India can now, hence, only rely on transfer of technology. How and what contours this Russian move will have on the arms manufacturing industry is what only time would tell.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international .