HESA Ababil - Wikipedia
HESA Ababil
For the legendary birds in the Quran, see Ababil (mythology).
The HESA Ababil (Persian: ابابیل‎‎) is an Iranian single-engine multirole tactical unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA). The Ababil comes in two main lines, the Ababil-2 and the Ababil-3, of which the former has a number of variants. It is considered a long-range, low-technology drone.[2]
HESA Ababil
A Hezbollah Ababil-2 UAV, twin-tail variant with surveillance payload, on display at Mleeta, Lebanon. This specific drone is described as a Mirsad-1.
Rolemultirole UAV
National originIran
ManufacturerHESA Isfahan factory
Design groupIran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company
First flight1986[1]
StatusIn service
Primary usersIran
Number built370 (2006)[citation needed]
The Ababil program was begun during the Iran–Iraq War. The Ababil-2, developed in the 1990s, has rudimentary surveillance capabilities and can be used as a loitering munition, but is mainly used as a target drone. The larger and more capable Ababil-3, introduced in the 2000s, was designed for Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance use and has improved surveillance capabilities.[citation needed] Overall, the Ababil is "a pretty rough-and-ready system": cheap, simple, and easy to use.[3]
The Ababil-2 and Ababil-3 have been widely exported to governments and paramilitaries in the Middle East and elsewhere.[citation needed] The Ababil has been used in the 2006 Lebanon War, the Iraq War, and the Sudanese, Syrian, Iraqi, and Yemeni civil wars.[citation needed]
The early history of the Ababil is unclear. Jane's reports that the Ababil program was begun at Qods Aviation Industries in 1986 and the first delivery was in 1993.[4] Iranian military expert Galen Wright writes that the program began at Iran Electronics Industries in the mid-1980s and began mass production in 1986, with possible use in the Iran–Iraq War.[citation needed]
Artist's impression of an Ababil-R being launched from a pneumatic truck launcher.
The Ababil has a cylindrical fuselage, a sweptback vertical fin, and a pusher engine.[4] It is powered by a simple two-bladed pusher propeller with a rear-mounted wing and a front canard for good stall, stability and maneuverability characteristics. All variants have a range of over 100 km[citation needed] and all variants have all-metal construction, except for the Ababil-T, which is composite (fiberglass).[4]
The Ababil can be launched from a zero-lengthJATO platform or a Mercedes Benz 911 pneumatic truck launcher.[4] The rocket launch system can be used from a ship deck and can be assembled or broken down for portability. For recovery, a parachute provides a descent rate of 4 m/s, or skids can be used for conventional landings on a runway or field. Some airframes have also been seen with landing gear.[citation needed]
The Ababil is built in a number of poorly documented variants.[a]
The Ababil-1 was an obscure loitering munition built in the 1980s. Its specifications are not known, there are no known photographs, and it is unknown if it was ever used in combat. It is believed to be out of service.[citation needed]
Artist's impression of Ababil-2
The Ababil-2 has an improved flight-control system. Jane's reports that the Ababil-2 had its first flight in 1997 while Galen Wright writes that it entered production in 1992. Both sources agree the Ababil-2 was publicly revealed in 1999.[4] Some sources also designate the Ababil-2 as the Ababil-II.
Target drone
The most common Ababil-2 variant is a target drone variant used for training air-defense crews. The name of Ababil variants is unclear, but Jane's reports that this variant is called the Ababil-B.[4] The Ababil-B's mission payloads are acoustic miss-distance-indicators, IR devices, and radar reflectors.[4] This variant is the oldest Ababil-2 variant and it apparently entered service in 2001.[5]
An Iranian Ababil-B on a JATO launcher.
The name of the Ababil-2 surveillance variant is similarly unclear,[citation needed] but Jane's reports that this is called the Ababil-S.[4] Some sources may also designate this the Ababil-R.[6] Galen Wright assesses it as having "only rudimentary" surveillance capabilities in contrast to other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAVs.[citation needed]
Twin-tail variant
The Ababil-2 also exists in a twin-tail variant, which some (but not all) sources name the Ababil-T.[4] This variant can be fitted with surveillance, target drone, or disposable strike munition payloads.[citation needed] It is probably coterminous with the "Mirsad-1" UAV operated by Hezbollah[4] and may have been renamed "Qasef-1" in Houthi service.[7]
The Ababil-CH has two rear tails, like the Ababil-T, but is used as a target drone like the Ababil-B.[4] It is slightly larger than the Ababil-T.[7]
The Qasef-1 and Qasef-2K loitering munition versions are based on the Ababil-2 airframe and has a 30-kg warhead.[8] It has been solely operated by Yemeni Houthis, who have mostly used it to attack the radar components of MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles.[7] The Qasef-1 has been in use since late 2016 and some examples have been intercepted in transit to Yemen.[7] It is possibly a renamed or modified Ababil-T with an installed explosive charge or a warhead.[7]
The Houthis claim that they manufacture Qasef-1s themselves, but this claim has been disputed and there is widespread suspicion that it is Iranian-built.[7]
An Iranian Ababil-3. Note that with a mid-body wing, twin tailbooms, and horizontal tail, the Ababil-3 is very different from other Ababils.
The Ababil-3 is a complete redesign of the Ababil with an improved airframe used solely for surveillance: it carries better equipment and can stay aloft for longer.[citation needed] Some sources also designate the Ababil-3 as the Ababil-III. The Ababil-3 is thought to be based on the South African Denel Dynamics Seeker, and possibly the Seeker-2D model in particular.[citation needed] It is more widely exported than the Ababil-2, and is known to have entered production by 2008, with specific parts manufactured by 2006.[citation needed]
The Ababil-3 can collect real-time video.
The Ababil-3 has a cylindrical body, with wings mounted on top while at the end of the body is an H-shaped twin boom. The wing design is a rectangle which after half its lengths tapers toward the wing tips. The Ababil-3's wingspan is about 7 meters, compared to 3 meters for the Ababil-2.[9] It uses an engine from German company Limbach Flugmotoren,[10] possibly the Limbach L550E.[11] Other sources suggest the Ababil-3 is powered by Chinese or Iranian clones of the L550.[12] Other particular parts inside the Ababil-3 were sourced from Irish defense contractors.[13]
The Ababil-T's fiberglass construction, seen here in a Qasef-1 recovered from Houthis in Yemen, is clearly visible.
Analysis of an Ababil-3 downed over ISIS-held territory in Iraq, apparently due to mechanical failure, finds that the Ababil-3 is built out of composite materials.[14] The powerplant had plain-surfaced cylinder heads; it was unclear if the engine was manufactured in Iran or China. Overall, the manufacture was "very economical" and the Ababil-3 was designed for low cost.[14] There were also a number of defects in the downed Ababil-3 model, which could suggest poor manufacture or handling in the field.[14]
Ababil-3s are based at an airstrip outside of Minab, a town near Bandar Abbas.[15] Ababil-3s are also known to be based at Bandar Abbas International Airport.[15] The Ababil-3 is comparable with the RQ-2.[15]
The Ababil-3's max airspeed is 200 km/h (120 mph), its range is 100 km (62 mi) (roundtrip), and it has a service ceiling of 5,000 m (16,000 ft). It has an endurance of 4 hours. An estimated 217 Ababil-3s have been built as of July 2019.[citation needed]
In 2014 Iran announced that they had developed night vision capabilities for the Ababil-3.[16] Previous Ababil variants were most effective in daytime. As of 2020, Iran has armed versions of the Ababil-3 drone.[17]
Ababil-3s have been extensively used in the Syrian Civil War.[18] The heterogeneity of pro-regime forces makes it difficult to determine who operates or controls their use.[18] An Ababil-3 crashed or was brought down in Pakistani territory in July 2019.[citation needed]
Operational history
Wreckage of the Hezbollah Ababil-2 launched August 7, 2006.
Hezbollah acquired Ababil-2 drones (twin-tail variant) in 2002,[19] and operated them under the Mirsad-1 designation. Israel has said that Hezbollah received at least 12 Ababils before the 2006 Lebanon War.[20] Three Ababils were launched during the conflict.
The first Ababil was shot down by an Israeli F-16 on 7 August 2006 off the coast of Northern Israel. The second Ababil crashed inside Lebanon on 13 August. The third Ababil deployed by Hezbollah was shot down by another F-16 hours later just inside Israel's northern border.[20] Hezbollah was assessed as having several Ababil UAVs in 2009,[21] although other estimates have ranged from 12 to 24-30.[citation needed] By 2018, Hezbollah stated that the Mirsad-1 had been retired from service.[22]
Hezbollah has also built a large airstrip in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. There is speculation that the airstrip could support larger, runway-launched Ababil-3 UAVs.[23] Hezbollah is not definitively known to operate the Ababil-3.
The Ababil-3 is in service with Sudan. In 2008, an Ababil-3 crashed or was shot down while on a surveillance mission.[24]
On March 13, 2012 another Sudanese Ababil was lost in action near Toroji, South Kordofan.[25] Sudanese rebels of the SPLA-N said they downed it using ground fire, while the Sudanese government said it was due to mechanical failure.[26]
The underside of an Ababil-2.
On 16 March 2009, an American F-16 operating in Iraq shot down an Iranian Ababil 3 drone on 25 February 2009 that had been flying through Iraqi airspace for "almost an hour and 10 minutes."[27] The drone crashed about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, 12 miles inside Iraqi territory near the town of Balad Ruz in Diyala Governorate. Officials at Iraq's Defence and Interior ministries suggested that the drone might have been scouting for routes to smuggle Iranian weapons into the country.[28] The New York Times, however, speculated that the drone was monitoring Iranian dissidents in Iraq, such as those at Camp Ashraf, which is located near where the drone crashed.[29] Abdul Aziz Mohammed Jassim, head of military operations at the Iraqi defence ministry stated that since the drone, "crossed 10 km into Iraq, it's most likely that its entrance was a mistake."[30]
More recently, Ababil-3 UAVs have been used extensively in the Iraqi Civil War.[18] Their use began in summer 2014, shortly after the Fall of Mosul, from Rasheed Air Base.[31]
Iran is the primary operator of Ababil UAVs. Iran operates large numbers of Ababil-2 UAVs, mostly for training air defense crews, and operates Ababil-3 UAVs for surveillance use.[citation needed]
Ababil-3 UAVs have been used in the Syrian Civil War since 2012.[32] They have been used heavily[citation needed] and are some of the most commonly used UAVs in the war.[33] They are especially commonly seen over Damascus.[34]
On 14 December 2014, Hamas militants flew an unmanned air vehicle over a parade in the Gaza Strip marking the 27th anniversary of the organization's establishment. Israeli sources identified the aircraft as an Iranian-made Ababil.[35]
Wreckage of a Qasef-1 from Yemen.
Houthi rebels have operated Ababil-T loitering munitions under the name "Qasef-1" to target Saudi and Emirati radar batteries. According to the Houthis, a new variant of the drone named "Qasef-2K" has been designed to explode from a height of 20 meters in the air and rain shrapnel down on its target and has been used to kill 6 people in the coalition controlled Al Anad Air Base in Yemen.[36] Najran, 840km southwest of Riyadh on the Saudi-Yemen border also has been receiving Houthi drone attacks.[37]
After the Houthi attack on Saudi oil infrastructure on 14 September 2019, Saudi Arabia tasked F-15 fighter jets armed with missiles to intercept low flying drones, difficult to intercept with ground based high altitude missile systems like the MIM-104 Patriot[38] with several drones being downed since then.[39]On 7 March 2021, during a Houthi attack at several Saudi oil installations, Saudi F-15s shot down several attacking drones shot down using heatseeking AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, with video evidence showing at least two Samad-3 UAVs and one Qasef-2K downed.[40][41] On 30 March 2021, a video made by Saudi border guards showed a Saudi F-15 shooting down a Houthi Quasef-2K drone with an AIM-120 AMRAAM fired at short range.[42]
Current operators
Non-state operators
Specifications (Ababil-2)
An Ababil-2 as seen from the ground.
Data from Jane's[4]
General characteristics
See also
Equipment of the Iranian Army
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
  1. ^ Ahmad, Naveed (2 June 2019). "The Advent of Drones: Iran's Weapon of Choice" (PDF). International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah).[dead link]
  2. ^ Davis, Lynn E., Michael J. McNerney, James S. Chow, Thomas Hamilton, Sarah Harting, and Daniel Byman (2014). "Armed and Dangerous? UAVs and U.S. Security". Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
  3. ^ Peterson, Zach (17 August 2012). "Are These Really Iranian Drones?". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Martin Streetly, ed. (2014). Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Unmanned 2014–2015. London: IHS Jane's. p. 79-80. ISBN 978-0-7106-3096-4.
  5. ^ Interavia: Business & Technology, Issues 649-659 (2001)
  6. ^ Peter La Franchi (15 August 2006). "Iranian-made Ababil-T Hezbollah UAV shot down by Israeli fighter in Lebanon crisis". London: Flight Global.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "'Kamikaze' drones used by Houthi forces to attack Coalition missile defence systems". Conflict Armament Research. March 2017.
  8. ^ Jeremy Binnie (2 March 2017). "Yemeni rebels display UAVs". London: IHS Jane's. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017.
  9. ^ Nicholas Blanford (23 April 2015). "Hizbullah airstrip revealed". Beirut: IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 18 July 2015.
  10. ^ "Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof: Pressemitteilung". www.generalbundesanwalt.de​. 20 February 2013.
  11. ^ US State Department (12 May 2008). "UAE-Based Intermediary Working to Supply Iranian Entity with German-Origin Uav Engines" – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
  12. ^ Pyruz, Mark. "Pahpad AB-3 UAV powerplant".
  13. ^ Wade, Jennifer. "Parts made by Irish manufacturer found in Sudan drone - reports". TheJournal.ie.
  14. ^ a b c Pyruz, Mark (13 February 2017). "Intel on Iran: Technical commentary on a captured Iranian UAV".
  15. ^ a b c Dan Gettinger. "Drone Activity in Iran".
  16. ^ Iranian-made Ababil-3 Swallow-3 drone is now equipped with night vision capability – Armyrecognition.com, 2 July 2014
  17. ^ https://www.janes.com/article/95629/iran-unveils-armed-ababil-3-uav
  18. ^ a b c Lucas Winter (April 2015). "Special Look: Counter UAV". Operational Environment Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment. Foreign Military Studies Office. 5 (4): 12.
  19. ^ Ronen Bergman (27 April 2012). "Hezbollah boosting drone unit". Ynetnews.
  20. ^ a b Lambeth, Benjamin S. (2011). "Air operations in Israel's war against Hezbollah: learning from Lebanon and getting it right in Gaza". RAND Corporation. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  21. ^ "40th Jpmg: Countersmuggling Technical Discussion (part 2 of 4)" – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
  22. ^ "الإعلام الحربي المركزي-في ذكرى #نصر_تموز... قوة #المقاومة الجوية حاضرة في #مليتا". central-media.org.
  23. ^ Rawnsley, Adam (25 April 2015). "New Airstrip Could Be Home to Hezbollah's Drones". War is Boring.
  24. ^ Dörrie, Peter (5 May 2014). "Sudan's Drones Are Dropping Like Flies". War is Boring.
  25. ^ SAF weapons documented in South Kordofan (PDF). HSBA Arms and Ammunition Tracing Desk. Small Arms Survey. April 2012. p. 3.
  26. ^ "Warplanes: Iranian UAVs In Africa". March 18, 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  27. ^ "Iranian drone 'shot down in Iraq'". BBC News. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
  28. ^ Shadid, Anthony, "U.S. Downed Iranian Drone Over Iraq", The Washington Post, p. 9.
  29. ^ Nordland, Rod, and Alissa J. Rubin, "U.S. Says It Shot Down An Iranian Drone Over Iraq", The New York Times, March 17, 2009.
  30. ^ "Iranian drone 'shot down in Iraq'". BBC News. March 16, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
  31. ^ Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt (June 25, 2014). "Iran Secretly Sending Drones and Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say". New York Times.
  32. ^ Dan Gettinger, (December 2016) Drones Operating in Syria and Iraq. Bard College
  33. ^ a b Rawnsley, Adam (14 February 2015). "A Bunch of Iranian Drones Have Crashed in Iraq". War is Boring.
  34. ^ Galen Wright (27 October 2014). "UAVs Over Syria". Open Source IMINT. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014.
  35. ^ Arie Egozi (15 December 2014). "Israel scrambles fighters as Hamas parades Ababil UAV". FlightGlobal.
  36. ^ "Houthi rebel drone kills several at Saudi coalition military parade". France 24. 10 January 2019.
  37. ^​https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/yemen-houthi-rebels-attack-saudi-najran-airport-190523140308211.html
  38. ^​https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/iranian-backed-houthi-rebels-yemen-ramp-drone-missile-attacks-saudi-n1260488
  39. ^ https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/39186/yemens-houthi-rebels-strike-airliner-in-new-drone-attack-on-saudi-airport
  40. ^ https://www.seelatest.com/india/middle-east-saudi-f-15s-shoot-down-iran-backed-houthi-drones
  41. ^ https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/continued-houthi-strikes-threaten-saudi-oil-and-global-economic-recovery
  42. ^ https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/39992/watch-a-saudi-f-15-fighter-swoop-in-low-to-blast-a-houthi-rebel-drone-out-of-the-sky
  43. ^ a b International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (14 February 2018). "The Military Balance 2018". The Military Balance. Routledge. 118.
  44. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Hard landing Accident Ghods Ababil 3-2-R 139, 13 Oct 2015". aviation-safety.net.
  1. ^ A number of sources report a spurious "Ababil-5" designation based on a misreading of the name Ababil-S.
  2. ^ The Ababil-2 compares with the Mohajer-2; the Ababil-3 compares with the Mohajer-4.[citation needed]
 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document: "Iran Unveils Night Vision Drone, by Foreign Military Studies Office OE Watch".
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