Who and Where Will Produce Iranian Attack Drones in Russia


On June 9, 2023, world media quoted US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby who disclosed US intelligence findings about Teheran’s supply of equipment to Russia for joint factory manufacturing Iranian kamikaze drones. The factory will be built on the territory of «Alabuga» special economic zone in Tatarstan. Its launch is expected at the beginning of the next year.

Mass media also published satellite photos of Maxar Technologies released by the White House. The Center for Journalist Investigations localized photos and identified company registered in «Alabuga» special economic zone. It is likely to become the contractor of the Russian Ministry of Defense for manufacturing Iranian Shaheds.

«U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia with Iran’s help is building a factory to produce attack drones for use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. U.S. officials believe the plant in Russia’s «Alabuga» special economic zone could be operational by early next year», as reported Associated Press. 

Media also published satellite photos made by Maxar Technologies in April 2023 and released by the White House. Photos contain images of roofs of two manufacturing shops.

Аерознімок заводу в ОЕЗ “Алабуга”, Татарстан, де ймовірно збиратимуть “іранські” дрони-камікадзе. Фото Maxar Technologies, квітень 2023

Satellite photo of the factory in «Alabuga» special economic zone, Tatarstan, where «Iranian» attack drones are likely to be manufactured. Photo by Maxar Technologies, April 2023.

It is worth mentioning that the White House reported in December 2022 that the Russian Federation and Iran were going to launch joint manufacturing of attack drones on the territory of Russia.

In February 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported with reference to U.S. officials that Moscow and Teheran moved ahead with their plans to build drone factory and Iranian delegation visited Russian city of Yelabuga, 600 miles east from Moscow, on January 5, 2023.

«They visited empty space where leaders of two countries plan to build new factory that could make at least 6 000 Iranian designed drones in coming years. the Iranian delegation has been headed by Brigadier General Abdullah Mehrabi, the Head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force (IRGC AF) Research and Self-Sufficiency Jihad Organization, and Hassem Damavandian, Managing Director of Qods Aviation Industries, key Iranian arms manufacturer. According to US officials, Qods Aviation Industries will play leading role in Russian-Iranian manufacturing of attack drones», as stated sources of WSJ.  

Where «death factory» is located?

«Alabuga» special economic zone is situated 10 kilometers away from the Russian city of Yelabuga in Tatarstan. It has been created to boost local economy by launching modern manufacturing facilities. It is owned by the government of Tatarstan through its Ministry of Property Relations. Residents enjoy tax and customs benefits. They are able to initiate their production activity in manufacturing shops equipped with necessary infrastructure.

According to the US intelligence, Russian-Iranian drone factory should be set up somewhere on the territory of this zone. However, John Kirby did not disclose the name of the Russian company, planned to manufacture Iranian drones.

We succeeded in identifying this company.

Comparing photos of Maxar Technologies and Google Maps, we identified manufacturing shops and their address (Sh-1 street, building 8/1).

Корпуси заводу в ОЕЗ “Алабуга”, Татарстан, де ймовірно вироблятимуть дрони-камікадзе. Скріншот з Google Maps

Manufacturing shops in «Alabuga» special economic zone, Tatarstan, where kamikaze drones are likely to be produced. Screenshot from Google Maps.

Photos of Google Maps demonstrate the snow in the neighboring forest and not-equipped territory around shops. They do not look like photos made by Maxar in April 2023, with dozens of cars parked around production facilities.

But we identified five identical elements on both sets of photos.

Photo by Maxar Technologies of the factory in «Alabuga» special economic zone, April 2023

Screenshot of Google Maps with the image of the factory in «Alabuga» special economic zone, investigator.org.ua

Then, we looked at the Russian State Register of Legal Entities and searched for companies with addresses in «Alabuga». We also examined the list of all «Alabuga» residents.

As a result, we identified Russian limited liability company «Albatros» (Russian taxpayer’s code 5038127220) founded in 2017. It is focused on production of drones for the monitoring of agriculture and forestry. The company has been registered as the resident of «Alabuga» in January 2023.

De facto address of the main office of the company, indicated on its official website, coincides with the address of manufacturing shops on satellite photos of Maxar Technologies and Google Maps (Sh-1 street, building 8/1). Legal address of «Albatros» is close to its factual address (Sh-1 street, building 5/12, room 253).

Thus, we can assume with high probability that US National Security Council spokesman Kirby talked about production facilities of this company.

On January 12, 2023, the Supervisory Board of «Alabuga» special economic zone, headed by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, approved investment project about manufacturing of drones called «Albatros M5». It is expected to bring 990 million Rubles of investments for the yearly production of 1 thousand drones. Before the meeting of the Supervisory Board, Minnikhanov attended the assembly line of «Albatros» in the shop on the territory of «Alabuga». Authors of the project claimed that their drones would be able to fly during 4,5 hours up to 300 kilometers. 

«In 2021, import of drones to Russia exceeded 100 million USD. We want to replace this import with our own production on the territory of «Alabuga», as Russian media quoted Ilia Voronkov, who has been the founder of the company until March 2023. 

Президенту Татарствану Рустаму Мінніханову показали виробництво БПЛА “Альбатрос М5” в ОЕЗ “Алабуга”. Січень 2023

President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov attended the assembly line of drone «Albatros M5» in «Alabuga» special economic zone, January 12, 2023.

On March 15, 2023, LLC «Albatros» changed its legal address from Russian city of Pushkino near Moscow to the territory of «Alabuga» special economic zone. Management of the company promised to launch production of drones on the area of 2,2 thousand square meters in the first quarter of 2023.

Thus, we can assume that the factory of «Albatros» works in «Alabuga», manufactures drones for farmers, foresters and emergency personnel. As Voronkov said, one quarter of drones were supposed to be supplied for military needs.

It is remarkable that media activity of «Albatros» suddenly stopped after January 2023. The website of «Alabuga» posted the news about approval of its project as well as video and photos about Minnikhanov’s visit of company’s assembly line. The website of «Albatros» also posted on January 23 the news about the launch of assembly line with Voronkov’s quotes.

After January, there has been no news about project in «Alabuga»! Russian media and website of «Albatros» posted news about participation of the company in various conferences and the role of drone «Albatros M5» in finding four blocks of Russian rocket «Soyuz». But no news about drone factory in «Alabuga»!

The peak of media activity has been on January 12-13, immediately after the visit of the Iranian delegation.

It is also interesting that January meeting of the Supervisory Board of «Alabuga» approved another investment project for the production of motor boats. Its total value is astonishing – 80 billion Rubles or almost 1 billion USD! In accordance with WSJ’s sources, the value of an agreement between Moscow and Teheran about production of attack drones equals 1 billion USD.

After January, 2023, there has been no news about «boat project». We failed to find its declared initiator LLC «Delphine Alabuga» among residents of «Alabuga» special economic zone or in the Russian State Register of Legal Entities.

We think that the above mentioned «media silence» has been caused by direct involvement of «Albatros» in launching Russian-Iranian co-production of attack drones.

Who owns and manages «Albatros»?

Public presentation of «boat project» gave us a clue about direct owners and managers of «Albatros» and Russian-Iranian drone factory. «Boat project» has been presented by Aleksei Vadimovich Florov, director of JSC «Geomir». Now they are co-founders of «Albatros».

The composition of founders of «Albatros» has been changed since January 2023 when five physical persons and one legal entity (JSC «Impakt capital») left the company. Ilia Voronkov left the set of founders later, in spring 2023.

Now Aleksei Florov owns 40% of the founding capital of «Albatros», «Albatros» itself owns another 40% and 20% of the capital are owned by JSC «Geomir» (its shareholders are not disclosed).

Besides JSC «Geomir», Florov is also top-manager of Russian LLC «ALB.AERO».

Vladimir Voronkov and Aleksei Florov

In 2016, JSC «Geomir» has been co-founder of non-commercial partnership «Assotsiatsia bespilotnykh sistem» [Association of drones]. At that time, «Geomir» has been represented by its director Voronkov Vladimir Nikolaevich, PhD, with multi-faceted experience in space industry. Ilia Vladimirovuch Voronkov is likely to be his son. Many renowned Russian manufacturers of attack drones and robotized systems have been members of the Association of drones.

For example, Russian company «NITI Progress» developed «Platform M – attack robo-technical complexes» in 2015, upon the order of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Its General Director Zorin Andrei Vasiljevich has been among co-founders of the Association of drones.  

Фото комплексу «Платформа-М»

Complex «Platforma-M»

Aleksandr Vyacheslavovich Zakharov, founder and general director of the Association of drones in 2016, founded Russian LLC «Bespilotnye sistemy», together with «Geomir».

Today Aleksandr Zakharov is known as the co-owner of Zala Aero (legal entity is Russian LLC «TST») – the developer and manufacturer of reconnaissance and attack drones «Lancet». They are largely used by the Russian military in the war against Ukraine.

Renowned Russian company «Konsern Kalashnikov» has been the co-owner of «TST» since January 2015. Its production facilities are located in the Russian city of Izhevsk.

Aleksandr Zakharov with «Lancet» drone

It is remarkable that website of Zala Aero, the manufacturer of «Lancet», does not contain any information about its military use.

Sergi Danylov, the director of the Ukrainian Center for Near Eastern Studies, believes that alliance between Russia and Iran about joint manufacturing of kamikaze drones has been already launched:

«It is obvious that this alliance has been already launched. It follows traditional Iranian approach. They like to transfer technologies in exchange for something else. They transferred technologies to Yemen, Syria, Tajikistan and the Gaza Strip. There is one question without precise answer – who will look for chips and electronic components and smuggle them? Iran, or Russia, or both?»