A top Iranian defense
official says Tehran has built an unmanned surveillance aircraft with a range of
more than 950 kilometers. The claim, if true, would put the drone within range
Iran's Deputy Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has told the semi-official Fars news
agency his country has succeeded in building an unmanned aircraft.
This is not the first time Iran has claimed to have built a drone aircraft, but
Iranian officials have never before indicated the range capability of such
Contest for designers and
manufacturers of drones at Sharif Technical University
Hezbollah claimed, several years ago, to possess an unmanned drone, capable of
reaching Israel, but photos of the drone proved to be little more than a
slightly larger than normal model aircraft.
Iran also showed grainy
footage, in 2006, of what it said was an Iranian-built unmanned aircraft,
circling the USS Ronald Reagan in the Persian Gulf. A number of military
experts said the footage, however, was "faked."
Internationally recognized, London-based security expert Bob Ayers thinks the
ability to build a drone is quite "trivial," unless the equipment on board is
"Drones are really nothing more than small aircraft and they are usually
remote-controlled, some sort of radio control, some can be pre-programmed, they
have onboard computer systems. That tends to be the bigger ones. The smaller
ones are easier to make. They are easy to control. Radio-controlled model
aircraft have been around for 40 years with the hobbyists," said Ayers.
"The thing that makes a drone valuable is the electronics on board. What has it
got on? Has it got a camera on it? Is it taking pictures? Are the pictures
down-linked? Is it real time? Do they take pictures with a camera, then have to
develop the film? So, the drone itself is fundamentally trivial," he added. "It
is the payload that makes it either important or unimportant."
Iran expert Ali Nourizadeh of the London-based Center for Arab And Iranian
Studies says the Iranian leadership likes to make exaggerated claims to give the
impression their country is a superpower.
"Since 1999, I have been gathering all the statements issued by the Iranian
Defense Ministry officials, as well as the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian
Army, about their achievements, and if I believe what they say, then we should
say that Iran is the strongest superpower in the world," he said. "I think that
every day they come up with the idea of new weapons and then when we dig and
search, we found out it is the same missile, they have just changed a little
part of it. So therefore, although Iran has achieved in certain areas, you know,
some fascinating achievement, but as far as strategic weapons are concerned they
are not that much advanced, and the aircraft you are talking about is also
modification of some of the aircraft they had."
Iran sent shivers in Western defense circles, several weeks ago, when it
launched a domestically-built satellite into space on a multi-stage rocket. That
rocket, when adapted for military purposes, could also be used to launch
long-range ballistic missiles, capable of hitting Europe and possibly more