Warplanes: ISIL Sort Of Bags Another Iranian UAV

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November 28, 2014: In Iraq ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) claims to have captured an Iranian Mohajer 4 UAV near the Iranian border. ISIL also claims to have shot down several Iranian UAVs but the one they claim to have captured looks like it crash landed (because of mechanical or electronic problems) and does not show any gunfire damage. In any event capturing a UAV or seizing one that crash landed largely intact does not mean you have an operational UAV. To operate it you need a ground control station, which ISIL apparently does not have (as these tend to stay in Iran) and reverse engineering a control station from a captured UAV is a time consuming and very technical task. Not the sort of thing ISIL is well equipped to do. Iran, on the other hand, has been developing, building and using its own UAVs for several decades.

There's nothing exotic about UAV technology, at least for something like the Ababil and Mohajer type UAVs that Iran most frequently uses and exports. Iranian UAV development also got a boost from American UAVs received in the 1970s (Firebee target drones). The Iranians have been developing UAVs since the 1980s and the first successful one, Ababil, appeared in the 1990s. There are several versions, with the current one being an 82 kg (183 pound) UAV with a 3.2 meter (ten foot) wing span, a payload of about 35 kg (77 pounds), a cruising speed of 290 kilometers an hour, and an endurance of 90 minutes. The Ababil is known to operate as far as 150 kilometers from its ground controller. But it also has GPS and a guidance system that allows it to fly a pre-programmed route and then return to its ground controllers for a landing (which is by parachute). Ababil can also be programmed to fly one-way, which would enable it to hit targets up to 400 kilometers away (carrying more fuel and less payload). The Ababil can carry a variety of day and night still and video cameras, or explosives. There are many inexpensive and very capable cameras available on the open market, as is the equipment needed to transmit video and pictures back to the ground.

The Mohajer 2 is about the same size and capabilities of the Ababil, while the Mohajer 4 is a 174 kg (383 pound) aircraft with a 5.3 meter (17.2 foot) wingspan, max range (from ground station) of 150 kilometers, top speed of 220 kilometers and endurance of seven hours. Both Ababil and Mojaher are made by the same firm and both began development in the 1980s. Total production of both models is believed to be more than 400 aircraft and more than ten percent of them have been exported to Hezbollah, Hamas, Sudan and others who prefer to keep quiet about it.

 

 


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