Bomb kills head of Iran’s military drone program

On Aug. 1, Reza Baruni, the father of Iran's military UAV program, died in a mighty explosion that destroyed his closely secured villa, debkafile's military and intelligence sources reveal. He lived in the high-scale neighborhood secluded for high Iranian officials in the southern town of Ahwaz in oil-rich Khuzestan.

Very few people in the country outside the top leaders and air force knew about his job and so his death was not generally appreciated as fatally stalling Iran's military drone program for many years.

The official version produced the old standby of an exploding gas canister as the cause of the blast. However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence source report that bombs were planted in at least three corners of the building and expertly rigged to explode simultaneously and bring the ceilings crashing down on its occupants. The bomber must therefore have had access to the Baruni home.
The authorities tended to fix the blame on underground organizations representing the local Arab-speaking Ahwazis' fight for self-rule against the repressive regime. Some suspect certain Gulf Arab emirates' intelligence services commissioned the Baruni murder.
Hiding behind his public face as a retired army major, the dead man created Iran's program for manufacturing military drones from scratch and trained a new generation of engineers and planners to take over. But despite his efforts and the hefty sums Iran invested in the industry, the product never really came up to the advanced standards achieved by a very few countries.

Five months ago, US Defense Security Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee. "Countries like Iran are developing their own UAVs and already have a UAV capability. That is a concern because it is one of these areas where, if they chose to – in Iraq, in Afghanistan – they could create difficulties for us."

There is also a growing concern that drone technology could be sold to terrorist groups.
Gates was responding to a statement last February by the Iranian Air Force's coordination deputy, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, that Iran had successfully tested the prototype of its first domestically-built "stealth drone" calling it Sofeh Mahi (Manta Ray)."
He boasted that the drone, "due to its physical attributes and the material used in its body, cannot be detected by any radar." But he also introduced a cautious note by explaining that the production process would not be rushed, as such complex systems need thorough analysis and exhaustive testing.
debkafile's sources: Reza Baruni's death will most likely put Iran's ambitious project for developing sophisticated UAVs in mothballs in the foreseeable future.

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