Bombardier Recreational Products says a series of engine thefts is one of many possible explanations for how they could have ended up in Iranian drones

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A Quebec-based company says it stopped selling aircraft engines to Iran in 2019 and is “deeply concerned” by reports that some of the engines are being used in Iranian military drones, including at least one piloted by Iran. Russia in Ukraine.

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Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) says it is investigating the reports, confirming that a series of engine thefts is one of many possible explanations for how they could have ended up in Iranian unmanned planes.

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Its Austrian subsidiary Rotax also once sold to the Islamic Republic, and a Tehran-based engine maintenance and overhaul company, Mahtabalstill describes itself as Iran’s official representative for Rotax aviation engines.

BRP – best known for its Ski-Doos, Sea-Doos and other recreational vehicles – stressed that the components are designed for light civilian aircraft, not military vehicles.

“We are deeply concerned and take this situation very seriously,” spokeswoman Biliana Necheva said. “We have already begun an investigation into this matter to try to determine the source of the engines.”

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It is the second time in two years that the company has been embroiled in a controversy over the use of engines in warfare. This discontinued sales in Turkey following news that that country’s Rotax-powered Bayraktar TB-2 drones were targeting Armenian forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Ottawa has also banned the use on the Bayraktar plane of target detection cameras made by another Canadian company. (Ironically, Ukraine is now piloting Turkey’s drones, with the federal government donating the same Ontario-made devices it previously barred Ankara from buying.)

Meanwhile, a water jet and possible engine from one of BRP’s Sea-Doo jet skis has been spotted by a UK defense analyst in a photograph of a unique marine drone apparently used by the forces Ukrainians. The autonomous boat was recently recovered by Russia after being stranded in Crimea.

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Asked about the latest news on Iranian drones, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Lama Khodr said the government had put in place a number of sanctions related to Russia and Iran, including bans on the export to the two countries of military equipment or goods which could be used. in the manufacture of weapons.

“Bombardier Recreational Products has opened an investigation into the situation,” she said. “We will closely monitor the development of the situation.”

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Iran admitted last week, which has become virtually undeniable, that it had supplied Russia with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently being used in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. He said they were sold before the war started.

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Most of the attention has focused on the Shahed-136 kamikaze drone, a chilling element of the ongoing Russian bombardment of Ukraine’s electricity and water infrastructure. The attacks have left millions of civilians with limited access to electricity and drinking water.

The Rotax engine was spotted in a different model – the Mohajer-6 – which is used for both surveillance and missile firing. He was shot down by Ukrainian forces and shown for the first time in a CNN broadcast last month. The company logo features prominently in photographs of what appeared to be a Rotax 912 engine.

The same part – or a facsimile of it – was also discovered in another Mohajer-6, shot by Kurdish forces in Iraq last month.

And a pro-regime news site – Iran Press News Agency – ran a story last year about another Iranian military drone – the Shahed-129 – which he said was powered by the Rotax 914 engine.

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Although its aircraft engines, known for their lightness and low fuel consumption, are mainly used in civilian watercraft, they also have a history with outboard defense applications. The United States Predator, a pioneer in modern drone warfare, was powered by a Rotax 914 engine.

Necheva said the company’s internal controls — including a military sale policy — strictly limit the use of its products for defense purposes. BRP prohibits sales for military activities in Iran, Turkey or Russia, she said.

And it hasn’t supplied any engines to Iran since 2019 “and none will be sold in the future,” Necheva said.

Those found in Iranian drones may have been counterfeit – there are reports of Chinese-made copies – removed from civilian planes Tehran bought, or stolen, she said.

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In fact, BRP-Rotax has documented a startling series of flights of more than 150 of its engines dating as far back as 1996. Most were flown from airfields in the UK and Europe, but at least one was taken here in Carp, Ontario, in 2009, according to a list on the company’s website.

An Iranian-American expert in Iran’s military and intelligence sectors, who asked to be identified only as Mehdi for security reasons, said Iran may well have used these methods to procure engines. But he argued that most of them were likely obtained through front companies.

He pointed to that of Tehran Mahtabalwhose website describes the company as an “aviation engine repair and overhaul organization” and “the official representative of Rotax air motors in Iran,” according to a Google translation from Farsi.

The site’s home page features photographs of a series of Rotax engines, although it does not appear to actually sell them, and the image hyperlinks to BRP-Rotax web pages are broken.

BRP was sold by Bombardier Inc. in 2003, eventually becoming a publicly traded company. Bombardier had acquired Rotax in 1970.

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