Iran, Israel and Drones

There has been a lot of drone-related activity in the middle east at the moment – mainly involving Iran and Israel.    Two weeks after it happened, it was reported on Aug. 16th that the ‘father’ of Iran’s UAV programme, Reza Baruni, has been killed in an explosion at his home.  Debkafile reports that officially he was killed when a gas canister exploded whilst ‘intelligence sources’ report that he was assassinated.   

Meanwhile Iran also announced that it will unveil two new drone on August 22nd.    The two hi-tech drones named ‘Ra’d’ (Thunder) and ‘Nazir’ (Harbinger) are capable of conducting long-range reconnaissance, patrolling, assault and bombing missions with high precision and are the first drones to roll off Iran’s new UAV production line set up in February.

There has been much speculation that the news about the new drones is linked to the announcement that Iran is due to start its nuclear power station at Bushehr on Aug 21st with fuel delivered from Russia (this has been approved by IAEA) not least because US neo-con John Bolton has urged Israel to attack the nuclear site:

“Once that uranium, once those fuel rods are very close to the reactor, certainly once they’re in the reactor, attacking it means a release of radiation, no question about it,” Bolton told Fox Business Network. “So if Israel is going to do anything against Bushehr it has to move in the next eight days.”

Meanwhile Israel is expecting a ‘boom time’ for its UAV’s according to a report in Aviation Week.  The head of Elbit, Joseph Ackerman, is quoted as saying he wants to sell drones like a ‘Sears and Roebuck’ type operation. 

“Our strategy is to build a range of UAVs up to 1.1 tons with the communications, sensors and intelligence payloads that let them do all the necessary missions at long distances,” say Ackerman.

However the rift between Israel and Turkey following the murder of Turkish activists on the Gaza means that Turkey may not get its US made Reaper drones.  The US is putting pressure on Turkey to soften its stance against Israel  – and as a punishment for voting against UN sanctions on Iran – otherwise it will not provide the drone which Turkey wants to use against the PKK.

Drone boats and bombs

The Daily Mail has reported that British military special forces have trialled the Silver Marlin, an Israeli-built drone boat.  The trials, watched by Special Boat Service and civil servants took place recently in the Middle East.    According to the report, the Silver Marlin, built by Elbit:

can be used for electronic warfare and mine clearance. Coated in bullet-resistant Kevlar and equipped with radar, it has a 7.62mm calibre weapon system with laser aiming, range finder and target illuminator and can carry missiles. With a maximum speed of 45 knots, the drone can operate for 24 hours over a distance of 500 miles. It carries a TV camera to send back images of its missions and has sensors to detect small boats or obstructions up to four miles away.

Meanwhile another CIA drone strike has  left five dead in North Waziristan – the third CIA strike in Pakistan in a week.