The Israeli military has revealed that the Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace in February was armed with explosives and due to carry out an attack.
The drone was tracked until it entered Israeli airspace and after 90 seconds was intercepted by an IDF Apache helicopter near Kfar Ruppin in the Beit She’an Valley. It was sent and operated from the Tiyas (T-4) base near Homs in Syria, where seven Iranians were killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike last week.
The Israeli military said that after analysing the flight path and investigating the drone, it “concluded that the Iranian UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] was armed with explosives and was tasked to attack Israel”. By intercepting the drone the “combat helicopters prevented the attack Iran had hoped to carry out in Israel”.
In an interview with the BBC in February, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi refused to confirm that Iran had sent the drone into Israel and said that the drone belonged to the Syrian army.
The drone incursion resulted in a retaliatory strike by the Israeli Air Force, during which two Israeli F-16 pilots were hurt after their plane was damaged by Syrian air defence systems. Israel responded with a wave of air strikes against a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria.
Aviation analysts believe that the Iranian drone was designed to be a duplicate of the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, which Iran intercepted during what the US described as a reconnaissance mission in December 2011. After being captured in Iran, the US asked for the drone to be returned but this was refused. Iran said the US drone came equipped with advanced intelligence gathering systems for electronic signals, images, communications and radar systems.
YNET reports that General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Air Force and Aerospace Division, said at the time that the Iranian model “is easier, faster and consumes less fuel than its source”.