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Thread: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

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    Default Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

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    Venezuela says building drones with Iran's help



    By Brian Ellsworth
    CARACAS | Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:46pm EDT

    (Reuters) - Venezuela is building unmanned drone aircraft as part of military cooperation with Iran and other allies, President Hugo Chavez said, in a move likely to heighten U.S. anxiety over his socialist government's role in the region.

    Referring to a Spanish media report that U.S. prosecutors are investigating drone production in Venezuela, Chavez said late on Wednesday: "Of course we're doing it, and we have the right to. We are a free and independent country."

    In a televised speech to military officers at Venezuela's Defense Ministry, Chavez said the aircraft only has a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. "We don't have any plans to harm anyone," he said.

    "We are doing this with the help of different countries including China, Russia, Iran, and other allied countries," he added, apparently referring both to drone construction and to other projects including a munitions and weapons factory.

    During the lengthy broadcast, Chavez spoke by satellite link with a Venezuelan military officer at the state-owned arms maker Cavim.

    The officer stood by a small drone labeled Harpy-001. He said it was 13 feet by 8 feet, could fly as high as 10,000 feet and for as long as 90 minutes. Venezuela has produced three of them, he said.

    "They are made in this country with military engineers who went to do a course in the sister Republic of Iran," said the officer.

    Chavez, whose stridently anti-Washington politics are highly popular in his OPEC nation, has expanded ties with Iran amid growing pressure by the United States and other nations on Tehran over its nuclear program. Iran denies Western charges that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

    Spain's ABC reported this week that U.S. prosecutors in New York were looking into Venezuela's construction of drones and purchase of drones from Iran, citing sources familiar with the investigation.

    'INTERNAL DEFENSE'

    In March, U.S. News and World Report's military blog DOTMIL quoted General Douglas Fraser, the head of U.S. Southern Command, as saying Iran planned to build "fairly limited capacity" drones in Venezuela for the Venezuelan military that were similar to the U.S.-made unarmed ScanEagle class of drones.

    "It's not up into the Predator class," DOTMIL quoted Fraser as telling reporters in Washington, referring to the bigger drones that can be armed with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles.

    He said the drones were likely for "internal defense."

    Iran in December said it shot down a U.S. military drone that had violated its airspace and demanded an apology from Washington. Iranian officials said later they were close to cracking the Lockheed Martin Corp aircraft's technology.

    Chavez said Venezuela would soon receive visits from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to Caracas in January, as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

    He scoffed at what he said would be the likely U.S. reaction to Venezuela building drones.

    "Pretty soon someone is probably going to say there's an atomic bomb on the tip of it," joked Chavez, dressed in military fatigues, adding that the drone could be used in oil and mining exploration.

    Armed drones have become a key weapon in the U.S. fight against Taliban and other militants in Pakistan, sparking outrage by Pakistan's government. U.S. officials said last week a drone strike in Pakistan killed al Qaeda's second-in-command.

    (Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Will Dunham)

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    Default Re: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    Venezuela has made its first drone with help from allies Iran, Russia and China, and plans to start exporting it soon.

    Jill LangloisJune 15, 2012 17:50Add Jill Langlois to your circles


    In this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, airmen move a Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle at Tallil Air Base in Iraq. (AFP/Getty Images)


    Venezuela has made its first drone with help from allies Iran, Russia and China, and plans to start exporting it soon.

    In a televised speech addressed to military officers at Venezuela's Defense Ministry, President Hugo Chavez said the aircraft is only equipped with a camera and is solely for defensive purposes, according to Reuters.

    "We don't have any plans to harm anyone," Chavez said during the broadcast. "We are doing this with the help of different countries including China, Russia, Iran, and other allied countries."

    More from GlobalPost: Drone Wars: Are drones making war too easy?
    The drone "does not carry arms" and has a 100-kilometer (60 mile) sweep, reported Agence France-Presse. "It can fly solo for some 90 minutes and reach an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,000 feet)," said General Julio Cesar Morales Prieto, president of Venezuela's state-run Military Industrial Company Cavim.

    According to the Associated Press, Chavez also said that Venezuela has begun to assemble Kalashnikov assault rifles with the help of Russia.

    Morales Prieto said 3,000 AK-103 assault rifles have been assembled since Venezuela and Russia signed an agreement in 2005 to build a Kalashnikov assembly factory. Though construction of the factory has not yet been completed, production has begun. It will eventually be able to produce 25,000 rifles each year.

    More from GlobalPost: Iran: China, Russia eager to take a peek at our US spy drone

    China, Iran, Russia Helped Venezuela Build Drone: Chavez

    Jun. 14, 2012 - 05:20PM |
    By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE




    CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez has revealed that Venezuela has made its first drone in partnership with Iran, Russia and China, and said Caracas plans to start exporting it soon.

    “It is one of the three planes that we have manufactured here, and we are continuing to make them ... not just for military use, [as] much of its equipment is for civilian use,” Chavez said during a meeting with top military and defense officials.

    The drones were developed in cooperation with “Russia, China, Iran and other allied countries,” he said in remarks broadcast on radio and television.

    Designed as a surveillance tool, the machine “does not carry arms” and has a 60 mile (100-kilometer) sweep. It can fly solo for some 90 minutes and reach an altitude of 9,000 feet (3,000 meters), according to Venezuelan Gen. Julio Morales, president of the state-run Venezuelan Military Industrial Company (CAVIM).

    Chavez is a left-wing firebrand who often criticizes the United States, which has closely monitored for any signs of Iranian influence in Venezuela.
    The United States, which has controversially waged drone strikes remotely against suspected militants in Pakistan and Yemen, expressed caution about Chavez’s announcement.

    “The Venezuelans make lots of extravagant claims. So do the Iranians,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington. “Our concern, obviously, would be with any breaking of international sanctions on Iran. And we will be most vigilant in watching how this goes forward.”

    Another official in Venezuela said that the drone was assembled from parts made locally and built by engineers trained in Iran.

    Measuring four meters (13 feet) long by three meters (10 feet) wide, the drone can transmit real time photographs and video, officials said. It is currently being modified so it can also carry out night flights.

    CAVIM is also developing guns such as the AK103 in partnership with Russia, grenades and munitions, as well as more pilotless planes.

    “Of course we are developing a powder factory ... a drone factory, of course we are doing it. We have the right, we wouldn’t have it if we were a colony, but we are a free and independent nation,” Chavez said.

    A one-time lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan Army, Chavez has been developing cooperation with several countries to boost the force.

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    Default Re: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    Iranian Missile Engineer Oversees Chavez’s Drones


    The Karrar drone, Iran's first long-range unmanned bomber, goes on display at an undisclosed location on Aug. 22, 2010. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry

    The manager of Venezuela’s drone program is an engineer who helped build ballistic missiles for Iran. The engineer’s identity raises new questions about the purposes behind Venezuela’s drone program. But it’s also only one part of a mystery involving drones shipped from Iran to Venezuela while hidden in secret cargo containing possibly more military hardware than just ‘bots.

    According to El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister paper of The Miami Herald, US officials believe Iran shipped drones to Venezuela hidden in cargo containers. The date and specific port are not known, but Venezuela only received six drones — in a shipment of 70 containers carrying each more than 24,000 pounds of cargo. The cargo was camouflaged as material “from Venirauto (Venezuelan-Iranian Automotive) through a Chilean company,” a source told the newspaper.

    The containers were headed for a Venezuelan air base and the location for the M2 drone project, named after the Mohajer, a light surveillance drone manufactured by Iran. The supervisor, Ramin Keshavarz, is member of the Revolutionary Guards and former employee of Iran’s Defense Industry Organization, a firm embargoed by the United States for overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile program. The stealthy cargo, the Iranian missile engineer, and more than a million pounds of unaccounted weight, was not all.

    “Excessively high” amounts of money are paid for the drone program, much higher than the total cost of the ‘bots.

    Also under investigation is a Parchin Industries site in Morón, Venezuela.

    Parchin is believed to make fuel for Iran’s mid-range missiles and has been accused by the International Atomic Energy Agency of conducting explosive tests inside a containment chamber located in Iran. Morón also houses a joint Iranian-Venezuelan gunpowder factory. Venezuela is also testing six Iranian drone models, with three under “special suspicion” for being not what they seem: the Justiciero, Vengador and Venezolano drones. In other words, US officials believe these drones could be more than just drones.

    Last week, Venezuela’s president and potentate Hugo Chavez acknowledged the drone program. “Of course we’re doing it, and we have the right to. We are a free and independent country,” Chavez said. He added that Venezuela does not “have any plans to harm anyone,” and that it is just one of many programs built “with the help of different countries including China, Russia, Iran, and other allied countries,” he said.

    The drones also appear to be primarily used for surveillance, with limited — if any — ability to carry weapons. The Mohajer, which is used by Venezuela, does not carry weapons but can guide missiles by laser. And drones are meant to loiter, not travel long distances, which means it’s exceedingly unlikely that Venezuela and Iran will be able to team up and invade the United States with a fleet of robotic aircraft any time soon.

    Or even reach Florida. The maximum range — about 1,200 miles — of an (unnamed) Venezuelan drone revealed in March might reach Florida, but no further, and even the former possibility is theoretical. Chavez also weighed in on the concerns. “Pretty soon someone is probably going to say there’s an atomic bomb on the tip of it,” he joked.

    To understand Chavez’s comment, and to whom it’s directed, it’s important to note one common but poorly supported explanation for why Venezuela and Iran cooperate with each other. The explanation has Iran using Venezuela as a forward base against the United States. In this view, Venezuela is a location to store Iranian military assets, possibly even missiles. Therefore, it’s just a matter of time before Iran either lets loose with the hidden nukes, or provokes another Cuban Missile Crisis.

    But the evidence for any military relationship — beyond defense projects like drones — is circumstantial, at best.

    Venezuela and Iran have other reasons to cooperate. For one, it suits rhetoric from both Venezuela and Iranian leaders. Chavez’s political identity is partly defined by a demagogic opposition to the United States. Iran does not share Chavez’s socialist policy goals, but there is a common foe. And Iran uses Chavez as means to build international support against the sanctions.

    But could the drone program also be a way to subvert the sanctions? Venezuela doesn’t have to be housing materials directly related to Iran’s nuclear program. Relocating ballistic missile development, which indirectly ties into a potential nuclear weapon, could bypass the embargo. It’s also another way to avoid the prying eyes of IAEA inspectors.

    It’s also possible the secret, unaccounted cargo is not so subversive after all. A Venirauto office is reportedly located next to the air base where the containers were first spotted. In January 2011, a nearby arms depot exploded. But there is also speculation the site could be the location of a sensitive military project. But it couldn’t be a drone project, or could it?

    Adding to the mystery, a drone factory built at the site was never put into operation.

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    Default Re: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    U.S. 'Vigilant' As Chavez Claims Iran, Russia Among Those Helping Make Drones



    Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) is welcomed by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas in January 2012.


    June 14, 2012

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his country is building drones with the help of Iran.

    In a televised speech to military officers at Venezuela's Defense Ministry, Chavez said that China, Russia, and other countries had also assisted Caracas in producing the aircraft and that the drones are intended for surveillance purposes only.

    A military officer who appeared alongside the president said Venezuela has produced three drones so far after engineers were trained in Iran.

    Chavez, who is known for his anti-U.S. stance, has maintained close military and other ties with Tehran.

    Spanish and U.S. media have recently reported that U.S. officials are aware of the drone project.

    U.S. State Department Victoria Nuland said Washington would be "most vigilant in watching how this goes forward."

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
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    Default Re: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    I suspect that once Hugo is room temperature, all the minions around him will begin looting. Once that's begun, building drones will be a very distant need.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Venezuela building drones with Iran, Russia, China

    That's a distinct possibility Mal. I would love to see him gone and out of the picture. But, you know, even Castro IS STILL HERE.... geez
    Libertatem Prius!


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