Iran in January had conducted a military drone drill at an undisclosed location on the anniversary of the US drone strike in Baghdad in which military commander Qasem Soleimani was killed.
Iran and the regional forces it backs have increasingly relied in recent years on drones in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. Iran's armed forces tested combat drones used as bombers, interceptors and in reconnaissance missions in the two-day exercises in central Semnan province in January.
Beyond surveillance, Iranian drones can drop munitions and also carry out a "kamikaze" flight when loaded with explosives and flown into a target, according to a US official.
Iran's MQ-9 Reaper lookalike
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that bar it from importing many weapons.
A few days ago Iran unveiled its latest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Kaman-22. The Iranian drone reportedly has a range of 3,000 km and is in its final stage of production with 300 kg payload.
The latest drone is an upgrade of the Kaman-12 drone which was introduced in September 2020. According to Iranian officials, the drone can reportedly carry all types of payloads.
Iran searching opportunity to avenge Soleimani killing
Iran is believed to be searching for an opportunity to avenge the US assassination of top general Qasem Soleimani one year ago. Soleimani, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander, was Iran's key liaison to its allies in Iraq and Syria, and elsewhere in the region.
He was killed in a US drone strike just as he arrived in Baghdad for meetings with top Iraqi officials.
MQ-9 Reaper hunter killer
The US Predator drone is widely believed to be the best in the world. The sophisticated hunter-killer MQ-9 Reaper with its deadly hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 JDAMs is an all out modern weapon built for the kill.
The US had used the MQ-9 missile strike at Baghdad International Airport earlier this year which killed Iran's Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of Iraqi forces.
Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, though concerns about its long-range ballistic missile programme contributed to Washington leaving Tehran's 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.
China says CH-5 Rainbow better than Reaper
In fact, China started commercial production of the deadly CH-5 Rainbow it says is better than the US-made Reaper Drones. The CH-5 is also available at half the cost.
The US has been on collision course with China on various fronts with the South China Sea being the most open area where the two superpowers have been battling to show there upper hand, although no shots have been fired and there are other nations at play as well trying to protect their interests from the ambitions of the Dragon, the US nevertheless has employed its most lethal third eye in the sky - the MQ-9 Reaper drone.
US drone policy
The former Trump administration's arms policy was based on broad basing its defence strategy while reinterpreting the MTCR as part of broader effort to sell more weapons overseas.
A few years ago, the Iraqi defence ministry had released a video showing a Chinese made drone - CH-4B - carrying out a missile attack on an Islamic State target.
US embassy in Baghdad struck
Analysts say renewed rocket attacks on US targets in Iraq show Iran-aligned factions are heaping pressure on the government while Tehran may be seeking leverage over America's new administration.
Analysts and officials in Iraq say the resumption of attacks after four months of relative calm shows that Iran and its Iraqi allies are now abandoning de-escalation and seeking leverage over their rivals.
The US embassy in Baghdad was struck by two rockets, days after a volley hit an airbase further north where a US military contractor is maintaining F-16 fighter-jets purchased from Washington.
Rockets also hit a military complex in the Kurdish region's capital Arbil on February 15, killing a civilian and a foreign contractor working with US-led troops.
Great Prophet 15
This year, the pro-Iran groups typically blamed for such attacks -- including Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq -- have been quick to condemn the strikes.
State Department spokesman Ned Price had said the US would "hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies that attack Americans" but would not "lash out" and risk destabilising Iraq.
In January, Iran's Revolutionary Guards had test-fired ballistic missiles against targets in the Indian Ocean as they wrapped up a two-day exercise. Dubbed Great Prophet 15, the exercise also featured a drone attack on a missile defence system followed by the launch of a barrage of "new generation" surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.
The exercises had started two days after Iran marked the anniversary of the assassination of revered Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.