Iran will target and destroy any enemy aircraft flying over its airspace, Chief of Staff of Armed Forces General Hassan Firouzabadi said after the country’s military shot down an Israeli spy drone near Natanz nuclear enrichment facility last week.
“We will destroy any enemy aircraft which violates our country’s airspace,” Firouzabadi told FNA on Saturday.
“The Israelis pursue spying policies and they have repeatedly shown that they are after spying on our country” in a bid to display that Iran’s nuclear program has a non-peaceful drive, while Iran has always been committed to international laws and pursues peaceful purposes in its nuclear activities.
“Hence, they move in line with this goal and use drones and other spying devices” to this end, Firouzabadi added.
On Sunday, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced in a statement that it had shot down an Israeli drone near the highly sensitive nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz in Central Iran.
The IRGC Public Relations Department said in the statement that the Israeli pilotless aircraft was a radar-evading, stealth drone with the mission to spy on Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.
The IRGC also pointed out in its statement that the Israeli hostile aircraft had been targeted by a surface-to-air missile.
The IRGC has warned that it “reserves the right of response and retaliation for itself”.
A few hours later on Sunday, Director of the IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif told FNA that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts”.
“We are now analyzing the information of this plane,” he added.
Then, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh announced on Monday that “the downed spy drone is Hermes and made in Israel”.
He said the operational range of Hermes drones is 800 kilometers, adding that the aircraft can fly 1,600 kilometers by refueling once.
The General said parts of the aircraft have burnt out after it was targeted by the ground-to-air missiles of the IRGC Aerospace Force and after its fuel tank blast, yet “some parts of this drone are intact and we are now analyzing the information and intel of these parts”.
Elaborating on the details of the down Israeli aircraft, the commander further stated that the drone, which is 5.5 meters wide in wings, is equipped with two cameras which can take high-quality photos.
“There was no prior information available about the aircraft and the only one of this type had been downed in Syria, but this one is more advanced,” General Hajizadeh said.
Later on Friday, Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli announced that the country’s home-made Shahab radar system played a major role in tracing the Israeli spy drone that was shot down near Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility this weekend, adding that the aircraft was intercepted at an altitude of 3,700 meters (over 11,000ft).
“The Israeli spy drone, which enjoyed one of their most advanced technologies, was destroyed at the altitude of 3,700m,” Gen. Esmayeeli said.
He further underlined full operational harmony between the army and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps in hunting the Israeli pilotless plane, and said, “This drone was targeted by firing only one missile, (and it is much precious because) otherwise it could have been dangerous to the Iranian aircraft flying through this or nearby corridors.”
“We allowed the drone to reach our desired zone because if it had been targeted at the borders, we could have lost its debris and the information of its cameras,” the Gen. added.
The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload UAV, designed for tactical long endurance missions.
It has a flight endurance of over 20 hours, with a primary mission of reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay.
Also on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham strongly condemned Israel’s hostile move as a violation of Iran’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and said “We…pursue the issue at legal and international bodies… within the framework of international regulations.”
But, senior Generals in Tehran warned on Tuesday that Iran would not give a diplomatic response to the violation of its airspace by the Israeli spy drone which was shot downed near Natanz nuclear site a few days ago, and said Tel Aviv should wait for Iran’s retaliatory moves in battlefield.
“Our response to this aggression will not be diplomatic, we will retaliate in the battlefield, but will not necessarily announce it. The enemy will see and understand it,” IRGC Lieutenant Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami said, addressing a ceremony to honor the memory of martyred Basij (volunteer) forces in Tehran on Tuesday.
Salami said although the shooting down of the Israeli spy drone seems to be only one of the few cases tactically, it sent a powerful strategic message to the enemy in the field of defense.
Later on Tuesday, Salami announced that Iran knows well from which country and which base the Israeli drone that it shot down a few days ago had taken off.
“What some people say that the drone had started its flight from Israel is not correct and we are almost certain about its origin, yet we would like to reserve judgment at present,” Salami told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.
He further pointed out that the drone had been traced as soon as it crossed Iran’s borders, but “it was allowed to enter the country to see the intention (of the hostile forces operating it) and then we targeted and hit it at the right time”.
Asked if Iran would reverse engineer the aircraft to start its production, Salami said that Iran doesn’t need to do so “although we have the power to do so”, implying that technology of the Israeli drone, which was a Hermes model, does not have anything new to Iran.
A day later on Wednesday, a higher ranking Iranian commander said that downing the Israeli hostile drone was just the beginning of Iran’s retaliatory moves and Tel Aviv should wait for Tehran’s tougher responses, adding that the drone had started its mission from a country North of Iran.
“The destruction of the spy drone is not the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (retaliatory) action as we will give our (main) response to the enemy in the occupied territories,” Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces for Cultural Affairs and Defense Publicity Brigadier General Massoud Jazzayeri told FNA on Wednesday.
He further expressed regret that a regional country North of Iran has collaborated with Israel and served as a launch-pad for the mission, and said, “We are waiting for that country which has cooperated with the Quds Occupying Regime (Israel) to send the drone to Iran to make up for its wrong deed; otherwise, we will declare its name.”
Jazzayeri said that the drone had taken off from a former Soviet republic in the North of Iran.
Gen. Hajizadeh as well as Basij Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi have underlined that Iran would speed up arming the West Bank in retaliation to the Israeli aggression, although they have warned that this would not be Iran’s only response.
Later on Wednesday, Naqdi announced that arming the Palestinian resistance groups in the West bank had already started.
“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” Naqdi told FNA on the sidelines of the closing ceremony of a forum of Basiji university professors in Tehran today.
He underlined that arming the West Bank will lead to the annihilation of the Zionist regime.
Stressing the need for Israel to return the Palestinian lands to their real owners, Naqdi said, “The Zionists should know that the next war won’t be confined to the present borders and the Mujahedeen will push them back.”
He also revealed that many of the equipment and possibilities used by the Palestinians in their recent defense against Israel were the products of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and added that Tehran has also trained them on how to use such technologies to defend themselves.
And on Friday, Iran’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Hossein Dehqani, in separate letters to the heads of the UN, UN Security Council and UN General Assembly, strongly deplored the recent violation of Iran’s airspace by an Israeli spy drone and asked for international action against Tel Aviv’s threats.
In the letters addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN Security Council President Mark Lyall Grant and President of the UN General Assembly John Ashe, Dehqani condemned the Israeli intrusion into Iranian airspace.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right to take any defensive measure to protect its territory and warns that such provocative acts will have serious repercussions for the aggressor,” the Iranian envoy said.
“The recent intrusion into Iran’s airspace by an Israeli drone constituted a blatant violation of the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of the Islamic Republic and contravened the principles of international law and the contents of the UN Charter,” the Dehqani added.
He described the violation as a threat to regional peace and stability, and urged the international community, specially the UN Security Council, to condemn the act of aggression.
Meantime, another Israeli Hermes drone crashed in the vicinity of Baghdad Airport on Wednesday, the second such loss in less than three days.
The Arabic-language Al-Mayadin TV channel reported Wednesday night that an Israeli drone crashed near Baghdad Airport, adding that the unmanned aircraft was a Hermes Model.
The TV channel said the cause of the crash is still unclear and Iraq’s Army has refrained from speaking to the media about the event.
FNA correspondent in Baghdad reported that the US embassy security staff had rushed to the crash site and collected the debris and the remains of the downed Israeli drone.
This was the third drone loss by the Israeli army in the last one month. The first drone was shot down by Palestinians in Gaza a few weeks ago.
Iran has so far downed several US drones in the last few years. In the most notable case the country announced on December 4, 2011 that its defense forces had downed a US RQ-170 aircraft through a sophisticated cyber attack. The drone was the first such loss by the US. US officials have described the loss of the aircraft in Iran as a setback and a fatal blow to the stealth drone program.
The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
Since December, 2011, Iran has hunted down several more US drones of various types.
In January 2013, a deputy commander of the Iranian Navy announced that the country’s Army had hunted two more advanced RQ type UAVs.
“The air-defense units of the Army have hunted two enemy drones,” Deputy Commander of the Iranian Navy for Coordination Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari told FNA.
“These drones were from 11th series of the RQ class, and one of them was hunted in Shahrivar 1390 (August 21-September 19, 2011) and the other one in Aban (October 22-November 20, 2012),” Rastegari said, adding that the Army research center is now studying the two UAVs.
“Much of the data of these drones has been decoded by the Army’s Jihad and Research Center,” he said, but did not provide any further detail.
The remarks by the Iranian commander came after Iran announced on December 4, 2012 that the IRGC Navy had hunted a US UAV over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.
The IRGC navy commander announced at the time that the hunted UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that “such drones are usually launched from large warships”.
ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
Iran later reproduced its own model of ScanEagle through reverse engineering techniques.
Iran has downed many other US drones as well, and they have always started reproducing them after conducting reverse engineering on them.
The unmanned surveillance plane lost by the United States in Iran was a stealth aircraft being used for secret missions by the CIA, US officials admitted in December. The aircraft is among the highly sensitive surveillance platform in the CIA’s fleet that was shaped and designed to evade enemy defenses.
In December, Lieutenant Commander of the IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami announced that the Iranian version of the US drone, RQ-170, would be unveiled to the public soon.
“The construction of this drone will finish soon and most of the job has been done now,” General Salami told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran in December, 2013.
In relevant remarks in October, Hajizadeh said that Iran moved as much as 35 years ahead in building drone engines by reverse engineering the US drone, RQ-170 which was tracked and hunted down in Iran late in 2011.
The RQ-170 engines are the fifth generation and the engines of Iranian unmanned planes are the third generation, Hajizadeh said, adding that to produce the engine we had to spend 35 years on the project.
He said that the home-made version of the US drone RQ-170 captured by the IRGC would make its maiden flight in the near future.
In April, 2013, a senior Iranian parliamentary official announced that Iran has reverse engineered the RQ-170, adding that the Iranian version of the drone would soon have a test flight.
“The brave personnel of the Armed Forces hunted down the drone with their knowledge and science and the Americans protested immediately and called for the return of the UAV,” Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said in the Northern city of Rasht last April.
Iran has downed several US drones so far and Boroujerdi did not mention which one he meant, but explained, “The reverse engineering started immediately (by the Iranian experts after hunting down the US UAV) and the Iranian type of the US drone will fly in Iran’s Aerospace Organization soon which shows the Islamic Republic’s might and power.”