From the Archives: Mirsad-1 Hezbollah UAV

From the Dreams Into Lightning archives:
Morning Report: April 12, 2005 (Hezbollah drone penetrates Israeli airspace.)

Hezbollah drone penetrates Israeli airspace. Hezbollah flew another drone over Israel on Monday - the second such mission in five months. Debka reports: 'Israel confirms Hizballah drone penetrated Israeli airspace but reports it turned tail in seconds after air force fighters scrambled. According to Hizballah TV, unmanned spy vehicle photographed N. Israeli towns of Acre and Nahariya and returned to Lebanon undetected. DEBKAfile: Lebanese terrorist group timed action for Bush-Sharon talks in Texas Monday.' Ha'Aretz elaborates: 'The IDF said Hezbollah is resorting to gimmicks, because the political situation in the region does not permit it to carry out actual terror attacks. Hezbollah's television station Al-Manar reported last night that a drone had entered Israeli skies at 5:15 P.M. and had flown over the Nahariya, Acre and "18 other settlements in the territory of the Zionist enemy." Citizens in the Nahariya area detected the drone and reported it to police. The Air Force's anti-aircraft systems picked up the drone but did not fire rockets at it, and the F-16 planes did not hit it either. The Air Force admits an operational failure, which will be investigated. After the last incursion, in November 2004, the anti-aircraft systems were upgraded in the north. Yesterday's drone was apparently of the same make - Iranian - as the one flown in November. [Known as 'Mirsad-1' - aa.] Although capable of carrying explosives, Hezbollah has refrained from putting it to this use. IDF sources said the intelligence value of such a brief flight was limited. According to IDF officers, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah wants to prove capable of action against Israel, yet escalation in the north would not serve the interests of his patron, Syria, which is under international pressure to withdraw from Lebanon. Nasrallah is therefore opting for provocative acts with propaganda value.' (Debka, Ha'Aretz)

Hezbollah Drone Update - November 19, 2004
On November 12, a Hezbollah-operated reconnaissance drone called the Mirsad-1 penetrated Israeli airspace and flew over the northern town of Nahariya for fifteen minutes. The incident raises serious questions about Israel's air security, according to this Debka report. Debka notes that a Patriot air-defense system normally posted in the area was absent on the day of the intrusion, leaving the area guarded only by the less advanced Hawk missiles - which, unlike the Patriots usually on duty, lacked the ability to detect small objects like the drone. Debka points out another curious aspect of the incident: the footage broadcast after the overflight, purportedly shot by the drone, "shows a Patriot battery present". Either these photographs were taken by a previous, undetected mission over Israel, or they were illicitly obtained from another source such as a private satellite company. The report also weighs in on an unidentified submarine spotted of Israel's coast at the time of the incident; read the article at the link for full details.

Eagle/Heron, and Another UAV - November 7, 2004
The Times of India reports:
Israel is likely to sign a deal to supply spy drones worth $230 million to India soon, officials said Sunday.

State-owned Israeli Aircraft Industries will also supply military surveillance hardware for the unmanned aircraft which will be jointly produced in India, defence ministry officials said.

"We are quite close to signing a deal," a highly-placed official said. They said the offer includes 50 Eagle-Heron Israeli drones which have a range of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles), can stay airborne for more than 24 hours and cruise at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,575 metres).

India, which treated Israel like a pariah for decades, has forged close military links in recent years. It is acquiring two Phalcon Airborne Early Warning Systems worth a billion dollars and will jointly produce a long-range missile from the Jewish state.'

Also on the subject of drones, an Iranian-produced drone operated by Hezbollah made an incursion into Israeli airspace. According to Ha'Aretz:
Hezbollah announced Sunday that it had sent an unmanned reconnaissance drone on sorties over northern Israel earlier in the day, saying that the plane - known as the Mirsad-1 - flew as far as Nahariya before returning safely to its base in southern Lebanon.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed Sunday evening that a drone did indeed enter Israeli airspace, and flew over the northern city of Nahariya. The IDF said that the drone crashed into the sea when it returned to Lebanon. Reports from Lebanese fishermen of an object slamming into the sea apparently confirms the IDF's report.

"The new qualitative achievement comes as part of the natural response to Israel's violation of Lebanese air space," the militant organization said in a report on its television channel, Al-Manar.

The Jerusalem Post elaborates:
The penetration of an unmanned spy plane into northern Israel Sunday has gravely concerned the IDF command, which is bracing for a flare up on the northern border as the disengagement approaches.

The IDF confirmed Sunday night Hizbullah's claim that it had succeeded in sending a drone over the skies of the western Galilee.

It was the first time an enemy unmanned aerial vehicle had succeeded in entering Israel and represented a bold and provocative step by the Iranian-backed Shiite group.

Hizbullah said the UAV, dubbed "Mirsad 1" or Ambush, had reached all the way to the northern Israeli costal town of Nahariya at 10:30 a.m. and "returned safely to base," mimicking the old IDF statements usually put out after bombing raids in Lebanon.

But reports from Lebanon said the UAV crashed at sea on its return trip from it sojourn over the tiny corner of Israel. An IDF statement said Hizbullah was aided in the endeavor by Iran and Syria "with the aim of targeting Israeli civilians."

It was a propaganda coup for Hizbullah, showing it could succeed in doing what no Arab state has. Only Egypt among the Arab nations has a serious UAV program. Iraq had attempted to develop one but it was not a success.

The Iranians, however, have been developing UAVs for over a decade and it is one of theirs that is believed to have been used Sunday by Hizbullah. The Mirsad 1 is a small remote-controlled drone with one engine and a small camera.

Hezbollah Drone Mirsad-1 - November 9, 2004
The Iranian/Hezbollah "Mirsad-1" UAV that recently accomplished an incursion into Israeli airspace had a payload capacity of 40kg, according to this bulletin from Debka:
Hizballah unmanned aerial craft that penetrated Israel two days ago is capable of carrying 40 kilos - and therefore a bomb, according to Israeli chief of staff Gen. Yaalon’s report to Knesset committee Tuesday. Craft spent 7-12 minutes over northern town of Nahariya.

Ha'Aretz writes that
Apparently, the drone carried a camera capable of transmitting images while the plane is in motion. On Monday, Hezbollah's television channel, Al-Manar, aired footage of what it said was the drone it had sent into Israel.

and adds:
The drone was Iranian made. It was developed and built in Iranian plants in the 1990s. The aircraft is considered technologically very simple, with a pre-programmed route that is installed before launch. During the flight, a camera sends images back to a ground station, which was supposedly manned by Iranians, and the plane is apparently supposed to land by parachute.

The Iranians supplied several such planes to the Hezbollah, just as they supplied rockets. One of the Iranian conditions for the supply of the drones was that Hezbollah get clearance from Tehran before any launch.

The Hezbollah operatives were trained in the use of the plane by experts from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Some analysts believe the drone is primarily a psychological tactic, and that the actual military value of the Mirsad-1 is limited. It may serve as a signal of Iran's determination to defend itself and its nuclear program against strikes by Israel or the US; Syria may also be using the incident to strengthen its negotiating position with regard to the Golan Heights.

In other news, Iran announced it has acquired the capability to mass-produce medium-range ballistic missiles. Iranian Defense Minister Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani told journalists in Tehran that the IRI is able to manufacture in bulk the Shahab-3 missile, whose range was recently upgraded to 1,250 miles.

The Belmont Club has a new post on the Mirsad-1 UAV.