The drone that penetrated Israel’s airspace on Saturday managed to take photographs of the Dimona nuclear facility before it was shot down by the Israel Air Force, Al-Arabiya claimed on Monday, citing an unnamed Iranian source.
The drone was Iranian-manufactured, the source said, according to the Saudi-owned news outlet.
Israeli reports have indicated that the drone was relatively primitive and incapable of relaying real-time information back to its dispatchers.
Al-Arabiya said its source, whom it described as being close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander General Kassem Suleimani, also said Iran was capable of hitting the Dimona site if Israel decides to strike at Iran.
Earlier Monday, IRGC sources were reported to have denied any connection to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Still, Jamaluddin Aberoumand, deputy coordinator of the IRGC, said the incident exposed the weakness of Israeli air defenses. Aberoumand said the failure to intercept the drone earlier showed that Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system “does not work and lacks the necessary capacity,” Fars news agency reported.
Israeli reports have indicated that Saturday’s drone — monitored by the IAF along its route, and shot down some 18 miles north of the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona — was relatively old-fashioned, and incapable of relaying surveillance information back to its senders in real time.
In order to do that, the drone would need to either maintain a line of vision with its launch station — highly unlikely if in fact Saturday’s drone was launched from Lebanon, as has been widely speculated — or it would have to relay the information through a satellite, “a capability which Iran lacks in all of its UAVs,” Tal Inbar, the head of the Space and UAV Research Center at the IAF-affiliated Fischer Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, told The Times of Israel.
In general, Inbar said, Iran is “20-plus years behind modern UAVs.”
Hezbollah has sent several drones toward Israel in the past, and Iran, according to a September Global Post report, has been using extensive drone technology over the past several months in Syria, including sending a drone to facilitate the killing of American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik in Homs.