Russia is seeking more attack drones from Iran after depleting its stockpiles, the White House says.

The White House said on Monday that Russia was looking to buy more advanced attack drones from Iran for use in its war against Ukraine after using up the bulk of the 400 drones it had previously purchased from Tehran.

Last year, the Biden administration released satellite images and intelligence results indicating that Iran had sold hundreds of attack drones to Russia. And for months, officials have said the United States believed Iran was considering selling hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia, but Washington had no evidence a deal had been consummated.

“Iran also continues to supply Russia with one-way attack UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). Since August, Iran has provided Russia with more than 400 UAVs, mainly of the Shahed variety,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“Russia has expended most of these UAVs, using them to attack Ukrainian critical infrastructure inside Ukraine. By providing Russia with these UAVs, Iran has directly facilitated Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine,” Kirby told reporters.

The Shahed drones that Russia has already acquired are loaded with explosives and programmed to hover overhead until they plummet onto a target: unmanned versions of World War II kamikaze pilots who slammed their explosives-laden planes into US warships in the Pacific.

Kirby said the Russians are now looking into the possibility of acquiring even more advanced drones “capable of greater lethality.”

The latest revelation is part of a persistent trickle of intelligence findings from the administration to detail what US officials say is a deepening defense partnership between Russia and Iran. The US accusations are part of a broader effort to declassify and make public intelligence findings regarding Moscow’s pursuit of its nearly 15-month war in Ukraine in the hope of furthering Russia’s global isolation.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office announced on Monday that it was sending hundreds more air defense missiles to Ukraine and “long-range attack drones” with a range of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles).

The Biden administration says the Kremlin’s confidence in Iran and North Korea – countries largely isolated on the international stage by their nuclear programs and human rights records – shows desperation. 

All this is in the face of Ukrainian resistance and the global coalition’s success in disrupting Russian military supply chains and denying replacements for weapons lost on the battlefield. The White House claims that Russia has turned to North Korea for artillery officials say Iran has also supplied Russia with artillery and tanks for its invasion of Ukraine.

“This is a large-scale defense partnership that is detrimental to Ukraine, the Middle East region and the international community,” Kirby said, adding that Iran has been “Russia’s main military backer” from the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

Kirby said the administration is trying to tighten export controls further to prevent Western components from reaching Iran to manufacture drones. He also said that new sanctions could come against Iran and Russia.

Iran has stated that it supplied drones to Russia before the start of the war but not since. North Korea has denied supplying Russia with artillery. For months, the White House has been saying that it has seen worrying signs that military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran could go both ways.

According to the White House, Iran is seeking to buy more military hardware from Russia, including attack helicopters, radar, and YAK-130 combat trainer aircraft. In addition, Iran announced last month that it had closed a deal to buy Su-35 fighters from Russia.

The White House has also previously said that Russia and Iran were considering setting up a drone assembly line in Russia for the Ukraine conflict.

Aamer Madhani