Delaying Apocalypse: Iran Announces Missile Drones: New Level of Deterrence Achieved

The Unbearable Speed of Modern Times

There aren’t many reasons for praising the violent epoch we live in; the most violent states in human history claim being egalitarian and kind, while in fact they persecute everybody daring to efficiently criticize them. Their violent presidents receive Peace Nobel Prizes and congratulate each other by shaking their bloody hands.

Under this scary reality, even Genghis Khan is beginning to look like an enlightened leader worth of being remembered fondly; at least he attacked openly and frontwards as honorable men do.

Yet, yesterday, September 2, 2012, a reason for praising our times was nonchalantly disclosed by Deputy Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Eslami to Press TV. He said that Iran has gathered technical information from the U.S. RQ-170 stealth drone it captured last year and “we are currently mounting missiles” on Iran’s long-range drone, the Karrar.

The latter was unveiled on August 22 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. We are seeing technological development being achieved in unprecedented speeds, with systems being back-engineered and adapted in practically no time. The times in which people waited generations for new technologies to emerge are gone. The phrase “Israel will win due to its technological advantage!” never looked so lame!


Tupac Amaru ExecutionTupac Amaru Execution see box at bottom


Last April, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Division, said that Iran has reverse-engineered the American spy drone captured by Tehran’s armed forces and has begun building a copy. Soon afterwards, Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency said Russia and China have asked Tehran to provide them with information on the downed U.S. drone.

Ahmad Karimpour, an adviser to Iran’s defense minister, said that Iran received requests for many countries for information on the RQ-170 Sentinel, but Russia and China had been the most aggressive in their pursuit. Considering the dramatic advances in the Iranian drones program announced in recent days, it seems that everything went well along the reverse engineering path.


Iranian-Captured US DroneIranian-Captured US Drone


Of course the rushed Iranian development wasn’t a theoretical exercise aimed at checking out their technological capabilities. Iran is facing a real threat by Israel; day or night, Netanyahu and Barak keep hitting the drums of war. In this context, the Iranian disclosure was fascinating but it lacked something. The technical details of their drone were not exposed.

This is critical for understanding the exact role these missile-loaded drones will have if a violent conflict erupts. The most important data is the range of the device and which missiles can it carry. Can it fire them at fighter planes?


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiling the Karrar, a long-range drone | Tehran, August 22, 2010Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveiling the Karrar, a long-range drone | Tehran, August 22, 2010


 Reversing the Reverse Engineering

I didn’t try to contact Iran’s Ministry of Defense to find the answer to these intriguing questions. Instead, I assumed that the technologies gathered from the RQ-170 Sentinel were functional in the design of the Iranian Karrar. This American Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is among the most advanced the USA possesses. The US Air Force divides its UAV’s in five different tiers; the RQ-170 Sentinel belongs to Tier III, the most sophisticated class.

It is defined as high altitude, long endurance and low-observable UAV. This means it can reach an altitude of 60,000 to 65,000 feet (19,800 m), a speed of up to 300 knots (560 km/h), and a whooping 3,000-nautical-mile (6,000 km) radius, with a 24 hour time-on-station capability. It was the wrong UAV to be lost. Even if the Karrar performs can’t match it completely, it can probably reach Israel.

In 1939, Germany was the perceived champion, as the USA and Israel are perceived now. It meant nothing. The point is not the technological advantage, but the moral one; here Israel fails.

With the speed modern technologies move around, Iran may have found an efficient answer to Israel threats. The expensive step with these technologies is the development; after a factory is established, the item becomes dirt chip. It is safe to assume Iran will have in the near future a fleet of UAV’s capable of reaching Israel and striking military targets accurately.

This will create an almost solid wall between the two countries, generating an effective deterrence. Israeli planes may be targeted in their bases; or maybe even along the way. To this deterrence must be added the roughly 200,000 missiles Iran and Israel claim are being aimed at Israel by various sides.

For the sake of their political survival, both Netanyahu and Barak need a war with Iran. Yet, following the latter latest disclosures, we may have crossed the point of no-return, from where it is not possible anymore for Israel to begin a missile war with expectations of winning it. Apocalypse will arrive on another day.


Tov Roy,

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