Can Iran's new drone really reach Tel Aviv? - analysis

Why would Iran need a new drone to strike Israel when it already possesses a plethora of drones that can threaten Israel?

 A drone is seen during an Iranian Army exercise dubbed 'Zulfiqar 1400', in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman, Iran, November, 2021 (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)
A drone is seen during an Iranian Army exercise dubbed 'Zulfiqar 1400', in the coastal area of the Gulf of Oman, Iran, November, 2021
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY)

An Iranian commander claimed this week that Iran has a new drone that is designed to be able to strike at Israeli cities. The commander made the comments on the SNN network in videos that were posted online.

The drone is named Arash-2, he said. An earlier version of the Arash line of drones was known since at least November 2021, raising questions about what makes this new version unique.

It was unclear why Iran released this information this week, unless it was specifically designed to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Iran-Israel tensions continue to rise in the region, particularly in Syria. In addition, there have been a number of comments in Israel regarding Hezbollah and Iran’s role in the region.

Why does Iran need a new drone?

The big question about Iran’s claims to have a new drone is why Iran would need a new drone to strike at Israel when it already possesses a plethora of drones that already can.

For instance, Iran used drones earlier this year to try to strike at Israel, but they were shot down by the US-led coalition. Iran also used a drone last year, flown from Iraq, to try to target Israel. It also flew a drone into Israeli airspace in February 2018. Iran also reportedly moved Shahed 136 drones to Yemen, which were capable of reaching Israel. So why does Iran need to claim it has yet another drone?

A drone is launched from an Iranian submarine during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)A drone is launched from an Iranian submarine during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

We have specially designed this drone for Haifa and Tel Aviv,” state media quoted Kiyoumars Heydari, commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces, as saying. “This is a unique drone that was developed for this task.” He said the drone would appear at future military drills.

Since the ground forces announced this drone, it may mean that it is not at the forefront of Iran’s anti-Israel capabilities. Usually, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its units based in places such as Syria are the ones that threaten Israel. The ground forces have recently conducted a series of drills using drones, as well as a new Fateh-type missile. The ground forces want to prove that they are relevant.

Iran is boasting that this drone is specifically designed as a kamikaze drone to strike at Haifa or Tel Aviv. The drone itself doesn’t appear very large, and it is unclear if Iran has large numbers of them. According to photos posted online, the drone is launched from the back of a truck, and it is encased in a kind of large canister, or box, before launch.

Iran has apparently copied this type of launch from how Azerbaijan launches the Harop drone that it uses. It is not clear if the photos posted online are actually of the new Arash-2 drone. Iran has a large number of similar types of kamikaze drones.

Iran's use of kamikaze drones across the Middle East

Iran used kamikaze drones to attack Saudi Arabia in 2019, and it also targeted a ship last July in the Gulf of Oman. It has also equipped and advised Hezbollah, the Houthis, Hamas and militants in Iraq to use similar types of drones. In August, Iranian proxies in Iraq launched drones that targeted US forces in Iraq. The US carried out retaliatory airstrikes.

It would appear that Iran has many types of kamikaze drones. It unveiled something called the Meraj 504 drone in March. This drone is a delta-wing design, as is the Shahed 136. There is also the Ababil-T, which is used on kamikaze missions.

Other drones, such as the Karrar and the Yasir, can also conduct kamikaze, or suicide, missions. A version of the Arash was also shown last year by Iran and again this year when Iran army spokesman Mahmoud Mousavi discussed the drone.