Iran launches explosive drone at mock Israeli Navy base during drill

Target seen hit in Iranian video resembles Eilat Naval Base on Red Sea coast; mock Israeli corvette also on display

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

An explosive-laden drone slams into a mock Israeli Navy base during a drill in Iran, December 31, 2022. (IRNA)
An explosive-laden drone slams into a mock Israeli Navy base during a drill in Iran, December 31, 2022. (IRNA)

In an apparent warning to Israel, the Iranian military launched an explosive-laden drone from a landing ship at a mock version of an Israeli Navy base during a drill Saturday.

Footage published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency showed the Hengam-class landing ship IRIS Lavan launching an Ababil “suicide drone” toward the simulated naval base.

Twitter accounts dedicated to open-source intelligence-gathering were quick to point out that the mock base was designed with a similar building layout to the Eilat Naval Base, in the Red Sea coast city of the same name.

Next to the simulated target was also a mock version of an Israeli Navy Sa’ar 6-class corvette.

Iran’s Army launched a series of drills on Thursday, dubbed Zolfaqar 1401, in an area stretching from the Strait of Hormuz near the Persian Gulf to the northern area of the Indian Ocean.

The drills are being held by the Iranian Army’s various wings — the Ground Forces, Air Defense Forces, Air Force and Navy.

Tehran has used mock Israeli targets in drills in the past. Last December, Iran launched missiles at a target set up to resemble Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have intensified in recent years following the assassination of a top Iranian officer in Tehran, a number of other mysterious deaths of security personnel inside Iran, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders, and Iran’s increasing violation of nuclear agreements.

In early July, former defense minister Benny Gantz revealed satellite images he said showed the “most significant” Iranian military maritime activity in the Red Sea in a decade.

In recent years, Iran and Israel have been accused of engaging in what analysts have called a naval “shadow war,” in which vessels linked to each nation have come under attack in waters around the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges.

Iran has been blamed for a series of limpet mine attacks that damaged tankers in the Gulf region in 2019, as well as for a fatal drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members in 2021.

This October 1, 2020, satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows the Iranian cargo ship MV Saviz in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Also in 2021, the MV Saviz Iranian cargo ship, said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea, was struck by an explosion.

Iran blamed Israel for the blast, and an American official told The New York Times that Israel called the strike a retaliation for several attacks on Israeli-owned shipping vessels.

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