Tehran Procures Ground Effect Vehicles (GEVs) from Russia, as Moscow Continues to Lobby Against UN Arms Embargo on Iran

On July 27, Russia’s state-owned media outlet, RIA Novosti disclosed that Russia is “implementing” a contract for the supply of 6 twin-engine ekranoplans (known colloquially as, the “Caspian Sea Monster”) to Iran. Three of the Russian-made ground effect vehicles (GEVs) have been successfully delivered thus far.  Separate reports have claimed that the GEVs, which facilitate the maritime transport of cargo, military equipment, and passengers, have been integrated with Iran’s naval capability.

In 2009, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. displayed a previous iteration of the ekranoplan that Tehran claimed to have produced indigenously, however, it was widely speculated that the GEVs were in fact procured from Russia.

News of the latest delivery arrives days following remarks made by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, reasserting Moscow’s opposition to renewal and expansion of the current UN arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October 2020. Meanwhile, Tehran has consistently expressed interest in procuring Russian weapons systems.

Separate reports this month also indicate that the renewal of the Russia-Iran 20-year strategic partnership agreement is expected after its expiration in March 2021. Terms and areas of cooperation of a renewed agreement remain unclear, but the original pact defined bilateral cooperation that included energy and arms sales.

In the period since, the two countries have also intensified their cooperation in the Caspian Sea, where both Moscow and Tehran have increased commercial and naval cooperation since the August 2018 signing of the Convention on Legal Status of the Caspian Sea among the five littoral states surrounding the body of water. The Convention established distinct maritime borders in the Caspian and has allowed for renewed operation, exploration, and military cooperation in the sea.