Report: Iranian drone fed live pictures of Dimona, preps for US-Israel anti-missile exercise

October 14, 2012
(Carl) From the beginning of the story regarding the Iranian drone that was shot down over the Northern Negev last Saturday, I said that if the IDF was telling the truth, the incident did not sound too serious, but if they were not telling the whole truth….

The Times of London is reporting in Sunday’s editions (behind a paywall) that the Iranian drone flew over Israel for more than three hours before it was shot down, and sent back to Iran live pictures of Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor and of preparations for the US-Israel joint anti-missile exercise.

The three-hour drone flight was initially downplayed by Israeli officials red-faced over the shocking breach of their airspace.

Even the drone’s ultimate interception by an F-16 jet was botched — it took two tries for the pilot to down the unmanned plane.

An Israeli defense source blamed the drone’s infiltration on its “unfamiliar stealth elements.”

An Israeli military observer asked: “How could we defend this country from thousands of rockets and missiles if we can’t block a single Iranian drone?”

The drone is said to have been a new Shahed-129, unveiled by Tehran last month. It has a range of up to 1,200 miles and a flight duration of 24 hours.

Hezbollah vowed to continue drone surveillance flights.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, a Hezbollah leader, said in a televised address that the drone was built in Iran, launched in Lebanon, and conducted a reconnaissance of “sensitive and important locations.”

He claimed the Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev desert was one of the sites it overflew.

Hezbollah’s TV station broadcast animated footage detailing the drone’s flight, saying it flew south over the Mediterranean, avoiding detection by Israeli radar before reaching the Gaza Strip.

The drone appears to have flown unseen over Gaza before proceeding to the Negev, where it was shot down. The aircraft had traveled 200 miles, the station claimed.

JPost adds:

Nasrallah claimed the Ayoub drone was designed and manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon, denying reports that the drone was a Russian design.

The Hezbollah leader said the drone was sent as a response to what he referred to as Israel’s violations of Lebanese airspace since 2006.

“This flight was not our first will not be our last, and we give assurances we can reach any point we want. We have the right to dispatch recon planes over occupied Palestine at any time,” Nasrallah said.

But at least one expert is unconcerned

Hezbollah has been flying drones over Israel for years, said Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, who specializes in drone technology proliferation and the Middle East.

“That it happened again is absolutely insignificant,” he said.

He described Nasrallah’s comments as blustering and largely empty.

“Israel usually tracks these drones as they come across the border and often doesn’t bother to shoot them down,” Zenko said. “They just want to see what Hezbollah thinks it can do.”

Drones like the one shot down on Saturday cannot even be piloted until someone has “line control” of the device, or is at least within 50 kilometers of it, he said.

“To call them rinky-dink would be polite,” he said. “The drones that Iranians display at airshows or that they tout for sale, defense industry press people describe them as crude.”

These drones don’t have “hard points,” or brackets, on which ammunition can be fixed, Zenko said, but they do have the ability to conduct surveillance. It’s unclear if the Iranians have drones that can do surveillance in real time, he added.

That’s easy for him to say. He’s thousands of miles away….