US Transfers Captured Iranian Small Arms to Ukraine

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
VEPR AKS20U seized in 2023 (US Department of Defense)

The US government has announced the transfer of enough small arms to equip a brigade to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The weapons originate from the thousands of weapons and millions of rounds of ammunition that have been seized in recent years from Iranian shipments to the Houthis in Yemen.

Ukraine @ TFB:

The transfer includes 5,000 AK-pattern rifles, RPG-7 rocket launchers and machine guns. This is not the first transfer of seized small arms to Ukraine with a previous transfer occurring in October 2023, when 1.1 million rounds of an unspecified 7.62mm ammunition were transferred. In terms of the types of rifles likely transferred, previously released images of the arms seized largely appear to be of Chinese (7.62x39mm Type 56 AKs) and Russian (VEPR AKS20U in 5.45x39mm) origin.

Most recently, in February 2023, the US Navy reported that “more than 5,000 weapons and 1.6 million rounds of ammunition” had been seized since the beginning of the year. In 2021, approximately 9,000 weapons were intercepted on their way to the Houthis.

Type 56 AKs seized in February 2023 (US Department of Defense)

Here’s US Central Command’s press release in full:

On Apr. 4, 2024, the U.S. government transferred over 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces. This constitutes enough materiel to equip one UKR BDE with small arms rifles. These weapons will help Ukraine defend against Russia’s invasion.

The government obtained ownership of these munitions on December 1, 2023, through the Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture claims against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

These munitions were originally seized by U.S. Central Command and partner naval forces from four separate transiting stateless vessels between 22 May 2021 to 15 Feb 2023. The munitions were being transferred from the IRGC to the Houthis in Yemen in violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216. U.S. CENTCOM is committed to working with our allies and partners to counter the flow of Iranian lethal aid in the region by all lawful means including U.S. and U.N. sanctions and through interdictions.

Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, diplomatic personnel, and citizens in the region, as well as those of our partners. We will continue to do whatever we can to shed light on and stop Iran’s destabilizing activities.

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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  • Doom Doom on Apr 19, 2024

    Would have been way more cool if they brought them to the US to be put to good use (selling to me for cheap is the good use. especially the ammo. 45-50CPR is insane!)

  • THeWasTeDYouTh THeWasTeDYouTh on Apr 27, 2024

    All the weapons that the US captures from smugglers in the US/MEX border should also be sent to Ukraine