Israel is developing a loitering drone capable of tracking elusive ground targets amid reports that Iran is seeking an anti-aircraft system.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is reportedly developing a killer drone, known as Harop, which can be used against “anti-aircraft systems and mobile or concealed ballistic missile launchers”.
Video footage of the hunter-killer drone’s test-flight showed a prototype of the system destroy a naval target.
Harop, which is deployed as a “fire and forget” weapon, is designed to travel over 1,000 kilometers to patrol an assigned area and attack any hostile radar activated in its vicinity.
The development comes at a time when the Israeli military is making preliminary preparations for launching a war against Iran to take out the country’s nuclear infrastructure — according to its annual work plan for 2009.
Despite Western doubts over the success of any military plan against Iran, Israel — which terms the country as an “existential threat” — has repeatedly threatened to take out Iranian nuclear infrastructure through aerial strikes.
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Officials in Tehran contend that the country’s nuclear program is directed at the civilian applications of the technology. Israel, however, accuses Iran, a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of developing nuclear weaponry.
While casting doubt over the possibility of an imminent Israeli attack, Iran has moved to enhance its defensive capabilities against aerial strikes through acquiring a sophisticated Russian-built anti-aircraft missile system, S-300.
The S-300, dubbed as the “game-changer”, is feared by US and Israeli weapons experts as an element that can effectively rule out a successful attack against Iran.
“If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran,” says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.
The surface-to-air system tracks targets using a mobile radar station, immune to jamming.
The Harop drone, meanwhile, is designed to loiter over suspected locations to spot and attack targets as they are exposed right before activation.
Due to its low speed and economical fuel consumption, the drone can sustain a mission of several hours over the targeted area.
Harop, an advanced version of the Harpy killer drone, has been optimized to operate against enemy radars and surface-to-air missiles.
The radar killer drone is also capable of detecting suspected ballistic missile sites, where it would target missile silos and shelters as they are opened before firing.
With Israeli war threats running hot and cold, Tehran has long been eying the S-300 defense system to ensure the safety of its nuclear infrastructure against a potential Israeli strike.
Tel Aviv, however, expects to surprise Iranian military officials with the loitering weapon as it can target the radar-equipped S-300 before it enters attack mode.