If Iran tries to attack, Israel will reportedly target its missiles before they get off the ground

With the help of the US-made X-band radar, Eitan drones stationed in Azerbaijan will attempt to hit the missiles ‘the moment their engines are ignited,’ Sunday Times reports

Elie Leshem is deputy editor of The Times of Israel.

The Eitan (Heron TP) UAV (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)
The Eitan (Heron TP) UAV (Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

In the event that Iran attempts to fire missiles at Israel, Jerusalem will deploy giant drones stationed in neighboring Azerbaijan to destroy the missiles before they leave the ground, the London-based Sunday Times reported.

According to the report Sunday, an American-made X-band radar system deployed at the Nevatim airbase in the Negev “can detect an Iranian missile on its launchpad 1,000 miles to the northeast,” giving Israel up to 13 minutes of warning.

The report quoted an Israeli military source as saying “We’ll try to ‘kill’ them at the booster stage — the moment their engines are ignited.”

Reportedly, such a preemptive strike would be carried out with American Hellfire missiles, delivered by Eitan drones — also known as Herons — based in Azerbaijan.

“If that happens, and it isn’t as easy as it sounds, then the remaining missiles will be finished off by our Air Defense Command,” a “well-informed Israeli source” was quoted as saying.

The story was written for the British newspaper by the Tel Aviv-based Uzi Mahnaimi, who in the past has reported that the IAF used Eitan drones in an alleged attack on a Gaza-bound Iranian arms convoy in Sudan.

The Eitan has a range of over 7,400 kilometers, over four times the distance between Israel and Iran. It can also remain airborne for over 70 hours, which means that if Israel were to jam Iran’s radar system and/or destroy its air-defense batteries — as it reportedly did to Sudan in another alleged attack, on an arms factory in October — the drones could hover, unimpeded, above Iran, as their operators located targets.

The IDF claims that during the initial hours of November’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza — a coming-out party of sorts for Israel’s anti-missile technology — IAF aircraft destroyed hundreds of rocket launchers, decimating Hamas’s sizable stockpile of mid-range Fajr-5 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Although some analysts have derided the notion, Azerbaijan has been the subject of rife speculation as a possible launch pad — or, at the very least, a refueling station — for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Any such strike faces the difficult challenge of overcoming long flight distances, which makes Azerbaijan, located on the Caspian Sea near Iran’s northern border, an ideal platform for launching airstrikes, refueling, and missions to recover downed pilots.

Azeri officials have denied reports that their country would allow Israel to use its bases for an airstrike on Iran.

read more: