July 15, 2024

The US company Iridium provides a navigation system for Kartograf UAVs manufactured in Russia by AFM-Servers for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and used in the war with Ukraine.

Source: an investigation conducted by Trap Aggressor, a Ukrainian project

Quote: “The Kartograf is a classified Russian unmanned aerial system from the “Ptero” family. This model of armament was secretly developed for the needs of the Russian Federal Security Service. It is used by the Russian military in the war against Ukraine and Syria. It is produced by AFM-Servers.”

Details: The investigation began with a video from almost a year ago. In the video, Russian businessman Amir Valiyev, who is the CEO of AFM-Servers, says that he produces drones with the navigation system provided by Iridium.

Moreover, Valiyev claims that these drones can perform their tasks only thanks to the American navigation system manufactured by Iridium.

A year later, an investigation showed that Iridium is still present in the Russian market, including through its subsidiary Iridium Communications.

Trade databases show that in 2015-2022, the Russian subsidiary of the US company purchased products directly from the parent US company Iridium Satellite.

In 2023, the same subsidiary imported Iridium Satellite’s voice and image reception and conversion machines, although now this was done indirectly through some unknown companies.

Moreover, in 2022, Moscow-based Iridium Communications signed an agreement with the central communication hub of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), according to which the company was to connect the Rosgvardia to an international satellite radio communication system. This became known from the tender documentation.

In addition, the National Agency on Corruption Prevention [NACP] of Ukraine reported that the Moscow subsidiary of the American company has running contracts for satellite communication services for the Russian Armed Forces.

And in March 2022, one of the founding companies of Iridium Communications, the state enterprise Morsvyazsputnik, provided services to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Back in May 2014, Iridium reported possible problems due to sanctions against Russian businesses, but as we can see, after more than eight years of hybrid warfare and 1.5 years of full-scale war in Ukraine, no sanctions have affected Iridium’s cooperation with Russia,” the investigators note.

The data collected by Trap Aggressor confirma that the Russian company AFM-Servers, which produces drones using the Iridium navigation system, directly assists Russian military operations against Ukraine and regularly cooperates with the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia.

From 2013 to 2015, AFM-Servers signed contracts worth almost RUB 100 million [equiv. to US$1.03 million] with military unit No.55056. This is a division of the FSB that deals with material and technical support.

Investigators found out that today, the Russians use the Kartograf UAV in the frontline zone to assess the situation on the ground and determine the location of Ukrainian weapons. The system is equipped with 80-megapixel cameras and thermal imagers to quickly create 3D plans for the special operations zone.

Trap Aggressor investigators sent a letter to Iridium Satellite asking for comment on business in Russia after a year and a half of full-scale invasion. However, the company’s representatives decided to ignore this.

Background:

  • This week, the US imposed restrictions on a number of companies from Russia and China, which help the Russian army with drones. Some of them previously appeared in a journalistic investigation about components for Russian Orlan-10 drones.

  • Before that, the United States announced sanctions against a network of companies from Iran, China, Russia and Türkiye that contributed to smuggling components for the production of Iranian aircraft and drones.

  • Additionally, this week the European Commission warned of trade restrictions that can be introduced in relation to Türkiye, India and four other countries, from where Iran and Russia supply parts for drones and other weapons that have been striking Ukrainian cities.

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