It appears that the mysterious drone shot down by the Israeli Air Force yesterday was in fact an unmanned surveillance helicopter that apparently interdicted deep into Israeli air space via the Mediterranean. Sources say that the helicopter was prowling around or heading towards Israel’s secretive nuclear reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona, an area where many of Israel’s nuclear weapons are also supposed to be kept. At this time, it is not clear what the exact type of drone was involved in the incident. I am not aware of Iran or Hezbollah operating unmanned helicopters in the past, especially of decent size and range. Currently, there are various unmanned helicopter programs in development around the world ranging from the size of a Bell Jet Ranger (US Fire Scout derivative) to China’s much smaller SVU2000. At this time it seems like there is a consensus that this aircraft was launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon. Was this a way for Iran to tell Israel and the US that they also have the ability, although in a very limited nature, to send drones over Israeli territory to survey their sensitive nuclear facilities? Or was this some other, more nefarious, dry run to test Israel’s fighter alert response time and/or to collect electronic intelligence? Frankly, it is all very mysterious to say the least. What is certain is that an unmanned helicopter that could possibly fly hundreds of miles away from its control station is a fairly serious piece of hardware to expend for propaganda’s sake or for traditional “probing” exercises…

As for Israel’s fighter jet scramble response to the drone’s airspace violation, there is a buzz around the net that the IAF tracked the unarmed helicopter before it entered the country’s air space, and possibly attempted to jam or manipulate its data link or control communications in an attempt to take direct control of the aircraft or to send it into the ground via lack of connectivity to its controllers. This makes sense as having an article to study that was not pummeled by a missile is greatly preferred to the alternative. Alternatively, the IAF could have intercepted and deemed the helicopter as not a direct threat and thus were following it to see where it went. Seeing as the aircraft ended up being shot down by a missile, most likely a Python 5, such jamming or hijacking attempts either did not work or did not ever occur in the first place. Yet such an unmanned system may not have had a data link at all. It is possible that the drone was just flying a pre-programmed route, with its surveillance video available for download only upon its recovery, possibly in an entirely different country than its origin. As to why the IAF F-16’s used a missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to shoot down a fragile helicopter instead of employing their 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons, I would imagine such a call was for safety’s sake as those rounds will end up hitting the ground somewhere, whereas the missile will detonate into many small free-falling fragments.

In what appears to be a show of force in response to this strange event, Israeli fighter jets flew into Lebanon today at high-speed and low-level. Further “exercises” also saw Israeli defense units deployed to, or possibly even beyond, their northern borders for maneuvers. Some sources even say that many of the units involved did not return as is customary after such training events. This would lead to the growing evidence that Israel foresees a possible conflict with Hezbollah in the near term.

Such developments are troubling to say the least as currently the whole region, from Western Africa to Syria, from the Persian Gulf to Pakistan is on edge or embroiled in conflict outright. The cauldron that is the Middle East is boiling and the brew is potent folks, stay tuned for further developments…

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  1. Bailey says:

    A few things. I’m going to bet it came from Russia, via Iran, via Hezbollah. Aren’t their Iranian ships in the gulf right now?

    Second, when it comes to small drones… why not get a C-130 with a net?

  2. says:

    Bailey- Only UAV copter I know of of Russian Origin is the KA-135 and I am not sure it has even began testing yet. There are others, but I have only seen mockups of them pictured at trade shows etc. I really wonder what this thing was and where it was from.

    Great thinking on the ships in the gulf, I checked this when I was writing the piece above, last piece I could find was from back in early spring regarding their presence in the Med. Now the Red sea may be possible but I have no intel on this.

    On the C-130- not a bad idea, reminds me of satellite dumps from the Cold War, but I think you would have to have them on quick reaction alert for a very infrequent threat which is not really feasible considering the size of Israel’s Hercules fleet. Also, it would be tough to actually catch a maneuvering, small object like this with a net. Better with a helicopter. Probably will see a Cobra or Apaches on standby after this even. F-16 is not a great interceptor for something like this!

  3. Visitor says:

    Dimona could have been a secondary mission, with a primary to move something into Israel (don’t know how well an ATGW, MANPADS, or cylinder of Syrian Novichok gas in lots of bubblewrap survives a 50′ drop). Agents/gear could ride the skis. Could also have been an optionally piloted vehicle with the autopilot switched on for the second leg — the Dimona no-fly zone shootdown set up to confuse the evidence when the chopper is blown from the sky.

    Factoid: Russian paratroopers in WWII didn’t always use ‘chutes, they sometimes exited an aircraft at 50’ in just their heavy felt winter uniform. The 25% injury rate was an acceptible loss — mission planning included the extra troopers needed!

  4. Israel is now working for the UAV drones in a regular basis. They are demanding that they have some UAV and SUV. But let the world know first and after that all will sure for there achievements.

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