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.
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
and all variants have all-metal construction, except for the Ababil-T, which is composite (fiberglass).
The Ababil can be launched from a zero-lengthJATO
platform or a Mercedes Benz 911 pneumatic truck launcher.
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.
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.
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.
Some sources also designate the Ababil-2 as the Ababil-II
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
. The Ababil-B's mission payloads are acoustic miss-distance-indicators, IR
devices, and radar reflectors.
This variant is the oldest Ababil-2 variant and it apparently entered service in 2001.
An Iranian Ababil-B on a JATO launcher.
The name of the Ababil-2 surveillance variant is similarly unclear,
but Jane's reports that this is called the Ababil-S
Some sources may also designate this the Ababil-R
Galen Wright assesses it as having "only rudimentary" surveillance capabilities in contrast to other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAVs.
The Ababil-2 also exists in a twin-tail variant, which some (but not all) sources name the Ababil-T
This variant can be fitted with surveillance, target drone, or disposable strike munition payloads.
It is probably coterminous with the "Mirsad-1
" UAV operated by Hezbollah
and may have been renamed "Qasef-1" in Houthi service.
The Ababil-CH has two rear tails, like the Ababil-T, but is used as a target drone like the Ababil-B.
It is slightly larger than the Ababil-T.
The Qasef-1 and Qasef-2K loitering munition
versions are based on the Ababil-2 airframe and has a 30-kg warhead.
It has been solely operated by Yemeni Houthis
, who have mostly used it to attack the radar components of MIM-104 Patriot
The Qasef-1 has been in use since late 2016 and some examples have been intercepted in transit to Yemen.
It is possibly a renamed or modified Ababil-T with an installed explosive
charge or a warhead
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.
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.
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.
It is more widely exported than the Ababil-2, and is known to have entered production by 2008, with specific parts manufactured by 2006.
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.
It uses an engine from German company Limbach Flugmotoren
possibly the Limbach L550E
Other sources suggest the Ababil-3 is powered by Chinese or Iranian clones of the L550.
Other particular parts inside the Ababil-3 were sourced from Irish defense contractors.
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.
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.
There were also a number of defects in the downed Ababil-3 model, which could suggest poor manufacture or handling in the field.
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.
In 2014 Iran announced that they had developed night vision capabilities for the Ababil-3.
Previous Ababil variants were most effective in daytime. As of 2020, Iran has armed versions of the Ababil-3 drone.
Ababil-3s have been extensively used in the Syrian Civil War
The heterogeneity of pro-regime forces makes it difficult to determine who operates or controls their use.
An Ababil-3 crashed or was brought down in Pakistani territory in July 2019.
Wreckage of the Hezbollah Ababil-2 launched August 7, 2006.
Hezbollah acquired Ababil-2 drones (twin-tail variant) in 2002,
and operated them under the Mirsad-1
has said that Hezbollah
received at least 12 Ababils before the 2006 Lebanon War
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.
Hezbollah was assessed as having several Ababil UAVs in 2009,
although other estimates have ranged from 12 to 24-30.
By 2018, Hezbollah stated that the Mirsad-1 had been retired from service.
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.
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.
On March 13, 2012 another Sudanese Ababil was lost in action near Toroji, South Kordofan
Sudanese rebels of the SPLA-N
said they downed it using ground fire, while the Sudanese government said it was due to mechanical failure.
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."
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. 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.
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."
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.
Ababil-3 UAVs have been used in the Syrian Civil War
They have been used heavily
and are some of the most commonly used UAVs in the war.
They are especially commonly seen over Damascus.
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.
Wreckage of a Qasef-1 from Yemen.
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
Najran, 840km southwest of Riyadh on the Saudi-Yemen border also has been receiving Houthi drone attacks.
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
with several drones being downed since then.
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.
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.
An Ababil-2 as seen from the ground.
- Crew: none
- Capacity: 40 kg payload
- Length: 2.88 m (9 ft 5 in)
- Wingspan: 3.25 m (10 ft 8 in)
- Height: 0.91 m (3 ft 0 in)
- Wing area: 1.76 m2 (18.9 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 30 kg (66 lb) approx.
- Max takeoff weight: 83 kg (183 lb)
- Fuel capacity: 16 liters
- Powerplant: 1 × WAE-342 twin-cylinder piston engine, 19 kW (25 hp)
- Propellers: 2-bladed
- Maximum speed: 370 km/h (230 mph, 200 kn) in level flight
- Cruise speed: 250–305 km/h (155–190 mph, 135–165 kn)
- Combat range: 120 km (75 mi, 65 nmi)
- Endurance: 1 ¼ – 2 hr
- Service ceiling: 3,000 m (9,800 ft) or higher
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
- ^ Ahmad, Naveed (2 June 2019). "The Advent of Drones: Iran's Weapon of Choice" (PDF). International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah).[dead link]
- ^ 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.
- ^ Peterson, Zach (17 August 2012). "Are These Really Iranian Drones?". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty.
- ^ 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.
- ^ Interavia: Business & Technology, Issues 649-659 (2001)
- ^ Peter La Franchi (15 August 2006). "Iranian-made Ababil-T Hezbollah UAV shot down by Israeli fighter in Lebanon crisis". London: Flight Global.
- ^ a b c d e f "'Kamikaze' drones used by Houthi forces to attack Coalition missile defence systems". Conflict Armament Research. March 2017.
- ^ Jeremy Binnie (2 March 2017). "Yemeni rebels display UAVs". London: IHS Jane's. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017.
- ^ Nicholas Blanford (23 April 2015). "Hizbullah airstrip revealed". Beirut: IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 18 July 2015.
- ^ "Der Generalbundesanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof: Pressemitteilung". www.generalbundesanwalt.de. 20 February 2013.
- ^ US State Department (12 May 2008). "UAE-Based Intermediary Working to Supply Iranian Entity with German-Origin Uav Engines" – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
- ^ Pyruz, Mark. "Pahpad AB-3 UAV powerplant".
- ^ Wade, Jennifer. "Parts made by Irish manufacturer found in Sudan drone - reports". TheJournal.ie.
- ^ a b c Pyruz, Mark (13 February 2017). "Intel on Iran: Technical commentary on a captured Iranian UAV".
- ^ a b c Dan Gettinger. "Drone Activity in Iran".
- ^ Iranian-made Ababil-3 Swallow-3 drone is now equipped with night vision capability – Armyrecognition.com, 2 July 2014
- ^ https://www.janes.com/article/95629/iran-unveils-armed-ababil-3-uav
- ^ 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.
- ^ Ronen Bergman (27 April 2012). "Hezbollah boosting drone unit". Ynetnews.
- ^ 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.
- ^ "40th Jpmg: Countersmuggling Technical Discussion (part 2 of 4)" – via WikiLeaks PlusD.
- ^ "الإعلام الحربي المركزي-في ذكرى #نصر_تموز... قوة #المقاومة الجوية حاضرة في #مليتا". central-media.org.
- ^ Rawnsley, Adam (25 April 2015). "New Airstrip Could Be Home to Hezbollah's Drones". War is Boring.
- ^ Dörrie, Peter (5 May 2014). "Sudan's Drones Are Dropping Like Flies". War is Boring.
- ^ SAF weapons documented in South Kordofan (PDF). HSBA Arms and Ammunition Tracing Desk. Small Arms Survey. April 2012. p. 3.
- ^ "Warplanes: Iranian UAVs In Africa". March 18, 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- ^ "Iranian drone 'shot down in Iraq'". BBC News. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
- ^ Shadid, Anthony, "U.S. Downed Iranian Drone Over Iraq", The Washington Post, p. 9.
- ^ Nordland, Rod, and Alissa J. Rubin, "U.S. Says It Shot Down An Iranian Drone Over Iraq", The New York Times, March 17, 2009.
- ^ "Iranian drone 'shot down in Iraq'". BBC News. March 16, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- ^ Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt (June 25, 2014). "Iran Secretly Sending Drones and Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say". New York Times.
- ^ Dan Gettinger, (December 2016) Drones Operating in Syria and Iraq. Bard College
- ^ a b Rawnsley, Adam (14 February 2015). "A Bunch of Iranian Drones Have Crashed in Iraq". War is Boring.
- ^ Galen Wright (27 October 2014). "UAVs Over Syria". Open Source IMINT. Archived from the original on 27 October 2014.
- ^ Arie Egozi (15 December 2014). "Israel scrambles fighters as Hamas parades Ababil UAV". FlightGlobal.
- ^ "Houthi rebel drone kills several at Saudi coalition military parade". France 24. 10 January 2019.
- ^ https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/39186/yemens-houthi-rebels-strike-airliner-in-new-drone-attack-on-saudi-airport
- ^ https://www.seelatest.com/india/middle-east-saudi-f-15s-shoot-down-iran-backed-houthi-drones
- ^ https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/continued-houthi-strikes-threaten-saudi-oil-and-global-economic-recovery
- ^ 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
- ^ a b International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (14 February 2018). "The Military Balance 2018". The Military Balance. Routledge. 118.
- ^ Ranter, Harro. "Hard landing Accident Ghods Ababil 3-2-R 139, 13 Oct 2015". aviation-safety.net.
- ^ A number of sources report a spurious "Ababil-5" designation based on a misreading of the name Ababil-S.
- ^ The Ababil-2 compares with the Mohajer-2; the Ababil-3 compares with the Mohajer-4.
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