The message was clear — Iran now has a new, weaponized drone that could easily strike Israel. Or do they?
And even though it has not achieved such a long range flight — easily far enough to fly from Tehran to Reykjavik — the implication is clear.
The United States and Israel reportedly held talks earlier this month on co-operation against unmanned Iranian drones, with which the Islamic Republic is believed to be arming Shiite militias and terrorist organizations in the region.
Iran recently unveiled a drone called Gaza, a clear reference to the recent 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel. It is unclear if the 7,000-km range refers to the range of the new Gaza drone or another type.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami has confirmed that its new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could fly from Iran or via Yemen or Syria over Israel and back to its base.
The Islamic republic does not recognize Israel, and supporting the Palestinian cause has been a pillar of Iran’s foreign policy since the country’s 1979 revolution.
IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh is one of the key figures behind the drone and missile program.
The “IRGC commander-in-chief, who was enumerating the country’s achievements in technology and science and also developed the field of aerospace, said today we have wide-body drones that go back and forth 7,000 kilometers and land anywhere they want,” Tasnim reported.
The new Gaza drone is called the Shahed 149 and is larger than the Shahed 129, the report said.
According to Salami, the new Shahed 149 can carry 13 bombs.
“Until now, the Shahed 171 drone, which was a one-to-one scale [copy] of the American RQ-170, had a range of 4,400 km and was the longest-range drone in Iran,” Tasnim reported.
Iran downed the US RQ-170, a secretive spy drone, in 2011 and claimed to have reverse-engineered it.
The new long-range drone supposedly can take off and land, unlike Iran’s kamikaze drones, which are preprogrammed to fly and hit a specific target, similar to a cruise missile.
In theory, this new drone could be programmed to fly a long distance and then land somewhere else, Iranian media sources said.
“In recent years, the armed forces of our country, especially the IRGC Air Force, have made extensive investments in the field of UAVs and have achieved significant achievements in this field,” Tasnim reported.
In May, Israel downed a drone as it approached Israeli airspace near the northeastern city of Beit She’an, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu later saying it was made by Iran and launched by Iranian forces toward Israel from either Syria or Iraq, The Times of Israel reported.
In a similar case in 2018, a drone was flown from Syria into northern Israel before it was shot down by an Israeli helicopter. In response, the IDF launched a wave of strikes on Iranian assets in Syria.
Israel has waged a nearly decade-long bombing campaign in Syria aimed at thwarting Iran and allied militias, including Hezbollah, from setting up bases to attack the Jewish state, as well as the transfer of advanced arms from Iran to Hezbollah.
Iran also boasted about how pro-Iran militias in Iraq have been showing off new drone capabilities.
According to Jane’s, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces displayed UAVs during the parade they held on 26 June to mark their seventh anniversary.
The parade was reportedly originally scheduled to be held in Baghdad earlier in June, but was delayed and then moved to Camp Ashraf, a base in the east of Diyala governorate, for unclear reasons. It was attended by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Photographs emerged from the parade showing Mohajer-6 – one of Iran’s latest UAV models – that was carried on a truck and armed with guided munitions.
This could not be seen in the 83-minute video of the event that the PMF released via its YouTube channel.
Photographs and amateur video of the event also showed the Mohajer-6 was preceded by various other types of UAVs carried on pickup trucks.
Two examples of a type with a wheeled undercarriage were shown that did not match a known model but looked like a cross between Iran’s Ababil-3 and Karman-12.
Another type was similar to the Samad family used by the Iranian-backed Yemeni group Ansar Allah (Houthis), although is not known to be in service with Iranian military forces.
Sources: Jerusalem Post, Jane’s, The Defense Post, Tasnim News Agency, The Times of Israel