Reports in the US media say that the country’s intelligence has stepped up spying operation on Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant. The Pentagon seems to have been using every opportunity to learn more about the Bushehr. “However, the lack of reliable agents in Iran prevents Washington from achieving its target, - says Ivan Konovalov, who runs the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. "Drones have become one of the major instruments used by intelligence agencies. If we talk about the Bushehr reactor, the US has no alternative to using drones since its ground intelligence in Iran is not as sophisticated as it should be, offering poor evidence on the issue. That is why the US entirely relies on space intelligence and drones.”
How useful is the evidence collected by drones? Military expert Ilya Kramnik says that it would be of more help while planning a military operation: “Optical observation will help them monitor logistics at the Bushehr station but it won’t tell what exactly is taking place there. Perhaps, by using drones together with other instruments the US would like to have a round the clock control of the station to prepare an attack on it. The question is how justified this attack would be.”
Chief editor for the Arms Exports magazine, Andrei Frolov, believes that drones can offer more extensive opportunities in spying, “Heavy drones can have sensors on them to collect evidence on the way the station’s radio-electronic system operates. But I do not think that this method is widely used as this interceptor system requires much space and as a rule is used onboard large aircraft.”
Ilya Kramnik believes that drones could be used as a tool of political provocation in the brewing conflict in the Middle East. “Iran has intercepted drones, including American ones. Nothing prevents Tehran from doing this again if US drones become too annoying. On the other hand, such attacks could one day be used to justify a war against Iran.”
Experts agree that drones cannot be viewed as the most sophisticated intelligence ‘tools’. The frequency of their use is explained by the fact that they are cheaper than intelligence aircraft and spy satellites.