​Now We Know How Austrian Rotax Engines Got Into iranian UAVs: Those Could Have Been Stolen Off Private Jets

iranian Mohajer-6 captured by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in September / Photo credit Ministry of Defense of Ukraine
iranian Mohajer-6 captured by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in September / Photo credit Ministry of Defense of Ukraine

Austrian Rotax 912 might have gotten into the iranian Mohajer-6 drone in a very interesting way

When the Armed Forces of Ukraine dismantled the iranian-made Mohajer-6 reconnaissance-and-strike drone and examined every little detail, they found all manner of Western components inside. Japanese, American, Chinese electronics, and an Austrian Rotax 912 engine in particular – all of these are commercial-use goods.

As for the latter, the Austrian company already stated it had not issued any permits for selling those, via distributors included, to iran or even to russia who used this Mohajer-6 to attack Ukraine (but ended up carefully landed by Ukrainian air defense).

Read more: ​Ukrainian Intelligence Service Has Dismantle Iranian Mohajer-6 and Found Something Unusual

In fact, the use of Austrian Rotax engines in iranian drones is no news since these technologies were found in another recon UAV, the Shahed-129. Though may it look like some covert supplies are hiding behind this matter, The Drive suggests another reason which is a strange series of engine thefts from private jets.

As noted, Rotax 912 is one of the bestselling engines on the light aircraft market, and over 50,000 such engines were made since the start of production in 1989.

Rotax 912 / Image credit: Rotax

The mentioned wave of thefts began in 2000. In 12 years, more than 130 Rotax 912 and six Rotax 914 engines were stolen. Most of the incidents took place in the EU countries, they all had one feature – the thieves were very careful and professional in removing the engine and bypassing security.

Great Britain takes the "first place" by the number of thefts with 36 cases, then Germany with 31 engines stolen. Also, seven units were stolen in the USA and four in the russian federation. The issue caused discussions among the pilots of light aviation who started to set GPS beacons on their engines.

The biggest "outbreak" took place in 2016 when 18 engines were stolen; in 2021 only five cases were recorded. Notably, only the engine itself was stolen, without the blades, and not just a Rotax 912 but only those modified for low rotation per minute.

The thieves knew well what kind of aircraft these engines would be installed on, so they did not target planes with other engines or high-rpm versions of Rotax 912. All of the operations on 110-kg engines were made very quickly and carefully, with all the unnecessary equipment dismantled from them. None of the stolen engines or their components was found after.

The results of the thieves' work in Great Britain / Open source photo

All of that leads to an assumption that these thefts became one of the sources of Rotax engines for iranian aircraft. Surely, those are not the only source either. Tehran has a whole network of front companies to manage contraband supplies for decades. For example, in 2014, a group of iranians was detained in Germany when trying to take out of the country 61 engines that potentially could be used on UAVs, under the guise of jet ski engines.

Most likely, this is about the Limbach 550 engines, the original version of the Chinese MD-550 used in Shahed-136 drones.

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