Tehran on Track for Advanced Stealth Spy and Bomber Drones
Tehran is obsessed with making bigger and better military drones possessing iconic stealth qualities. This capability first came within Iran’s grasp when it downed the US RQ-170 top-secret Sentinel on Dec. 4, 2011.
Today Tehran is in advanced planning for the manufacture of two top-line stealth drones, one for intelligence-gathering and one as a pilotless bomber, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and Iranian sources report.
To this end, Tehran is hunting for any technology it can buy, steal or dig out from the highly sophisticated captured US RQ-170 Sentinel, propositioning China and Russia for their high-tech secrets and sending industrial spies out to the West.
Most of its drone development budget is now spent on upgrading the UAVs’ navigation, surveillance and cyber war capabilities. In five years, Iran has made large strides in these fields, largely with the help of students returning home from studies at MIT and other universities in America, Britain and Germany. These students are treated to high-prestige jobs and fat pay packets for working hard to meet their targets.
The Ababil, reputed to be the most advanced UAV in Iranian operational service, is the star perfomer of its drone arsenal and has produced variants: the tactical Ababil-5 for medium-range reconnaissance and surveillance, the Ababil-T for short/medium-range attack, and the Ababil-B and –S.
(The term Ababil appears in the Koran in reference to the battle in which an enemy attacked the Ka’aba with elephants and was defeated by swallows sent by Allah.)
It is equipped with electronic warfare devices for gathering military intelligence and relaying information online from the front line. Iranians pin hopes on this drone for disrupting enemy electronic systems in wartime.
Ababil is claimed to have flown undetected over a US warship
Ababil can stay in the air for about 10 hours. It has a maximum operational radius of 150 km (93 miles) and a ceiling of 14,000 ft (4,268 m). The Iranian drone industry promises to soon increase its speed, expand its radius and imbue it with the ability to stay aloft more than 10 hours, so that the Arabil can cover the long flight to Israel and transmit high-quality images from there online.
It is possible that the photographic equipment Israeli intelligence engineers discover in the Iranian UAV which flew into Israel and was downed on Oct. 6 was destined for use in a future Iranian Ababil drone.
So far, the task of sending the Ababil to Israel by direct flight has defeated Iran’s war planners. Its range is too short. Sending it over Iraq or Turkey would expose the drone to detection and US or NATO interception.
In mid-September, an Ababil UAV was secretly shipped to Lebanon, our military sources reveal. But for all practical purposes, Lebanon is not much use as a forward drone base, because it would be located too close to Israel and vulnerable to discovery. The Israeli Air Force would blow it up before it got started on its mission.
The Syrian crisis is anyway making it hard to keep a permanent flight support crew in Lebanon.
A year ago, the Ababil flew over US warships in the Persian Gulf for a test in combat conditions. It was not detected, apparently already equipped with stealth equipment.
Iranian sources claimed they gleaned extremely important information and experience from this test flight.
In Nov. 2011, the Revolutionary Guards were in possession of almost an hour of video tape showing a US aircraft carrier shot from an attitude of about 1,500 feet above the vessel.
The Karrar2 makes up for lack of precision with range and ordnance
The first Shiite Imam Ali’s nickname was Karrar.
Karrar 2 is an unmanned Iranian bomber that was first unveiled in 2010 without much detailed information. Our sources define it as essentially a warhead or bomb propelled by an engine equipped with guidance and aviation devices.
The Karrar makes up for its lack of precision by a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) and capacity to carry two 115 kilograms (220 lb) bombs, or a precision-guided device weighing 227 kilograms (500 lb). The Karrar can also carry four light anti-ship Kowsar missiles or one anti-ship Nasr-1 missile.
Its turbojet engine can reach a speed of 900 kilometers per hour. The Karrar uses a rocket system to assist in take-off and is recovered by parachute.
Our military sources report that this bomber-drone is still in the initial stages of development though its performance has been greatly improved in the last two years.
Mohajer 2 is a smaller UAV designed for gathering information and online photography. It is faster than the Ababil with a speed of 200 kph. But its flight time is just 90 minutes and although it can reach an altitude of 11,000 ft, the Mohajer 2 can only transmit data and images to a distance of 50 kilometers.
Saequeh 2 is used as a decoy for training missile and air defense crews. It can reach an altitude of 11,000 ft and speed of 200 kph, staying aloft for just 90 minutes. This drone was planned and manufactured by a Revolutionary Guards Corp-owned firm called Quds Company.
A drone fitting into a soldier’s backpack
Iran’s drone industry has an active department working on manually-operated UAV’s for the use of soldiers in the battlefield. One of its products, the Faraz 2, is essentially an Iranian version of the US Pointer, which can be fitted into a soldier’s backpack. With a single electric engine, a speed of 90 kph, a 10-kilometer range and altitude ceiling of 300 ft., Faraz can send pictures directly to computer while remaining aloft for an estimated 5 hours.
Mohammad-Reza Naqdi, a senior planning and logistics official for the Iranian armed forces, said in June 2012 that Iran had succeeded in planning and manufacturing a stealth drone that could fly at a speed of 700 kph and evade enemy radar. He refused to give details about any other features. But he did explain that the drone’s body was made of complex materials undetectable by radar and had a slender, streamlined silhouette making it hard to spot.
According to our military sources, this drone has never been shown and there is no evidence that it actually exists.