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Iran touts drone sent to Israel as sign of strength
By YAAKOV LAPPIN AND JOANNA PARASZCZUK
14/10/2012
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi proclaims Iran's "natural right" to fly drones over Israel at military ceremony.
 
Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Sunday boasted of his country’s “capabilities” and claimed Hezbollah had a “natural right” to fly drones over Israel – following the flight of a hostile unmanned aircraft into Israeli airspace earlier this month.

“The Islamic Republic’s capabilities are very high, and are in support of the Islamic ummah [collective nation],” Vahidi, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, said at a ceremony to inaugurate new military production units, alluding to Iran’s continued backing of Hezbollah.

His comments were relayed by Fars News, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards.

Hezbollah’s activities had “shown the weakness of the Zionist Regime’s Iron Dome,” Vahidi added.

“The Zionist Regime cannot be immune to the wrath of the Islamic ummah,” he said.

Vahidi added that the October 6 Hezbollah drone flight was a response to Israel’s “repeated violations” of Lebanese airspace.

Also on Sunday, the commander of Iran’s Khatam-ol- Anbiya Air Defense Base announced the development of a new domestically built unmanned aerial vehicle with bombing capabilities.

According to Fars News, Brig.-Gen. Farzad Esmaeili said the Hazem UAV would have three models, shortrange, medium-range and long-range. The main purpose of the Hazem was reconnaissance missions but it could also carry a payload, the report said.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Tehran frequently publicizes its military achievements, and in recent months has increased its focus on promoting claims of advances in its domestically designed and produced weaponry, including drones.

However, according to analysts including the United States Institute of Peace, Iran often exaggerates about its weapons designs.

Vahidi also used his speech to reinforce the message, repeated frequently in past months by regime officials, that Iran had concentrated resources on becoming selfsufficient in military production.

As Iran’s currency and economic woes continue, its state and pro-government media have devoted considerable space to discussing the Hezbollah drone, a trend that continued on Sunday.

Mashregh News, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards and is known for promoting government ideology, speculated in detail about which Iranian-made UAV Hezbollah could have used.

Mashregh was quick to note that the Iranian regime had not officially stated that it provided Hezbollah with a specific drone.

However, the report suggested that while Hezbollah could have used Iranianmade UAVs Ababil (“Swallow”) and Mohajer-4 (“Migrant”) for reconnaissance and surveillance flights over Israel, Iran may also have equipped its Lebanese proxy with newer and more powerful drones.

Hezbollah has used both Ababil and Mohajer-4 UAVs in the past to violate Israeli airspace. Iran first gave the Lebanese terrorist group Ababil drones in 2002. The Ababil, which was developed by Iran’s HESA aircraft manufacturing company, can be used as an aerial weapons platform delivering a payload of 40 kg. of explosives, or to conduct surveillance missions.

The Mohajer, first tested in 2002, can also be used to carry a payload or as a reconnaissance craft. In November 2004, Hezbollah managed to violate Israeli airspace with a Mohajer UAV, which reached Nahariya on the northern coast.

Mashregh suggested that Iran could now have supplied Hezbollah with the newer Ra’d, Karrar or Shahed- 129 UAVs, which also have both operational and combat capabilities. Ra’d (“Thunder”) can carry a 10- kg. warhead over 100 km., Mashregh claimed, and could be used to fly longer distances to carry out lethal attacks against Israel.

Iran’s state media first reported the existence of the Ra’d UAV in early 2010, claiming that it is optimized for low altitude flights and can deliver high-precision short-range attacks.

According to reports in the Iranian media, the Karrar (“Striker”) is a bomber drone, first unveiled in 2010, although a scale model was displayed in 2004. Iran’s state television reported that the drone had a range of up to 1,000 km. and was built to deliver various configurations of bombs or to carry out reconnaissance missions, transmitting images back to ground control as it flies.

Announced in September, the Shahed-129 (“Witness”) is Iran’s latest combat and surveillance UAV, which Tehran claims has an endurance of 24 hours and which was developed by various Revolutionary Guards subsidiaries.

Earlier, the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper claimed in a report that the Hezbollah drone on October 6 flew in Israeli air space for three hours, and managed to broadcast video of Israeli preparations for a joint missile defense exercise with the US, before being shot down.

The report said the drone sent back images of classified ballistic missile sites, airfields and possibly the nuclear reactor in Dimona.

The US and Israel are due to hold the largest air defense drill of its kind later this month.

Hezbollah leader Hassan
Nasrallah took credit on Thursday for sending the drone aircraft into Israel, saying in a televised speech on the Al-Manar station that it was Iranian-made and that it was shot down near the Dimona reactor.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
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