Tag Archives: Israel

How a Syrian nuclear facility was destroyed by the Israeli Air Force 7 years ago today

On Sept. 6, 2007 the Israeli Air Force (IAF) conducted a precision air strike, code-named Operation Orchard, against a Syrian nuclear installation.

Even if Israel has never publicly admitted that some of its aircraft destroyed the facility, some details about the mission have been either disclosed or leaked throughout the years.

Some of them are well described in the book The Sword of David – The Israeli Air Force at War, written by Donald McCarthy.

According to McCarthy, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1968 before becoming a respected and well informed historian, the information for Operation Orchard is alleged to have come from Ali Reza Asgari, an Iranian general disappeared in February 2007, who may have been the source of the intelligence required by the Syrian nuclear site attack.

After gathering the required details, the Israelis planned a secret mission that was launched on Sept. 6 2007, at night.

At least a four F-16I Sufa (Storm) jets and another four F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) aircraft crossed the Syrian border, in bound to the nuclear plant located near the city of Dir A-Zur, in eastern Syria.

McCarthy points out the fact that Syria as well as other Arab countries were equipped with advanced Russian air defense systems, such as the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound as reported by NATO designation), claimed to be immune to electronic jamming. At the time of Operation Orchard, Syria operated twenty nine of these advanced air defense systems, so it remains unclear how the IAF aircraft flew undetected into the night sky out over the Mediterranean Sea, across the Euphrates River and along their route to the nuclear facility.

As explained by McCarthy, according to the most widely accepted theory the strike force included one or more Gulfstream G550 aircraft, equipped with the IAI Elta EL/W-2085 radar system.

Indeed, the success of the operation was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems.

This system, combined with the F-15Is electronic warfare capabilities, shut down Syrian air defense systems, providing the other airplanes the cover they needed to hit and destroy the Dir A-Zur nuclear plant.

F-15I Orchard

After the attack, the initial reports stated that the IAF aircraft had almost entirely destroyed the nuclear site, claims that were also confirmed by the comparison of pre and post-attack satellite imagery.

Even if the incident was shrouded in secrecy, Turkish media outlets reported that external fuel tanks were found on the ground not far away from the Syrian border: as reported by Shlomo Aloni & Zvi Avidror in their book Hammers Israel’s Long-Range Heavy Bomber Arm: The Story of 69 Squadron, these external fuel tanks were identified by foreign press as belonging to F-15 aircraft.

Operation Orchard showed the capabilities of the Israeli Air Force, capabilities that were most probably used to carry out an air strike on a weapons convoy and military complex near Damascus, at the beginning of 2013. As done in 2007, on the night between Jan. 29 and 30, 2013, Israeli bombers entered and egressed the Syrian airspace almost completely undetected by the Syrian air defenses: a sign that Syrian radars can do nothing against Israel’s Electronic Warfare systems, most probably further improved to embed the capability to inject malware from F-16s into enemy networks.

Image credit: IAF

 

Another Israeli drone reportedly crashed. In Iraq.

An Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle has just crashed in the vicinity of Baghdad Airport.

According to the FARS News Agency, an Israeli Hermes drone crashed near Baghdad airport on Aug. 27.

It is still not clear whether the UAV was shot down or crashed (for unknown reasons) but, if confirmed, the loss would be the second in less than three days, after another drone, yet to be identified, was allegedly shot down on its way to Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, in the Central parts of Iran.

Even if the FNA has published the image on a Hermes 900 UAV (a High Altitude Long Endurance UAV – with capabilities superior to those of the Hermes 450 – that has had its baptmism of fire during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza) the model involved in the incident is still unknown.

Image credit: Elbit

 

What’s wrong with the story of Iran shooting down an Israeli stealth drone near Natanz nuclear facility

Few days ago Iran reportedly shot down an Israeli “stealth” drone near one of its nuclear enrichment facilities. But there are several weird things in Tehran authorities report of the shooting down.

On Aug. 24, several Iranian media outlets reported the news of an Israeli drone shot down near Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in central Iran.

According to FARS, the Revolutionary Guards Public (IRGC) Relations Department said that the drone was a stealth, radar-evading  model targeted by a surface-to-air missile. Then, on Aug. 25, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that “The downed spy drone is Hermes and made in Israel.”

israel drone wreck 2

Even if the news that an Israeli drone was operating inside Iranian airspace is not a big surprise, what makes IRGC claims a bit weird is the fact that Hermes drones are not stealth and their operational range is known to be much lower than the 800 kilometers claimed by Hajizadeh (who added that the unmanned aircraft is capable of flying 1,600 kilometers without refueling). And, above all, the shape of the aircraft does not resemble that of a Hermes 180 or 450.

israel drone wreck

Indeed, the drone is identical to a mysterious drone shot down in 2011 by Armenian forces in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. At that time Azerbaijan denied the unmanned aircraft belonged to Baku. Then a drone of the same type, most probably made in Israel (with inputs from both the Hermes 180 and 450) was displayed during an Armenian parade as the following image shows.

Azeri drone

Interestingly, the “Azeri” drone showcased in the parade (nose section has been highlighted to help identifying it in the images of wreckage) didn’t carry any national flag/roundel, unlike the other models operated by the Azerbaijani forces.

We don’t know anything about this somehow mysterious drone but its range is unlikely to make a round trip to Natanz possible from both Azerbaijan and northern Iraq (someone suggested this could be the launch area). Actually, the size of the drone is quite small, much smaller than a Hermes 450, meaning that it’s most probably a tactical, short-medium range UAV.

Indeed, most recent reports said that the aircraft was shot down “on the way” to Natanz. So, it seems more likely that the drone, made-in-Israel (although it’s not confirmed) and possibly launched from Azerbaijan was shot down/crashed somewhere closer to the border and then moved near Natanz.

H/T to Giuliano Ranieri and Farzam Mir for providing additional details to this report.

Image credit: Sephanews, Mashreghnews.

 

US, European airlines cancel all flights to Israel after rocket lands near Tel Aviv airport

Tel Aviv airport is almost isolated following the decision of several U.S. and European airlines to cancel all flights to Israel amid concern for the continuing rocket attacks.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, shot down by an SA-11 Gadfly (“Buk”) while overflying eastern Ukraine, has reminded the world that civilian planes should be kept away from war zones.

For this reason, when on Jul. 22 rockets fell close to Ben Gurion international airport, in Tel Aviv, Delta Airlines and several U.S. and European airlines decided to cancell all their flights to Israel not to jeopardize the safety of their planes.

At the time Delta decided it was not safe to fly to Israel, DL468, a Boeing 747-400 was en route from JFK to Tel Aviv. The flight was then diverted to Paris Charles De Gaulle international airport.

Along with Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia and other airlines decided to cancel their flights to Tel Aviv, most of them for at least 24 – 36 hours, or “until further notice.”

Image credit: Flightaradar24.com

 

Hamas flying an Iranian-made Armed Drone over Gaza

Al Qassam Brigades are using their Twitter feed to show an Armed Drone flying over Gaza.

Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas are flying an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) over Gaza Strip and are using the social media to show footage and photographs of the rarely seen Ababil A1B armed drone.

Ababil (Persian: ابابیل‎, “swallow”) is the name of a large family of UAV made in Iran developed for tactical reconnaissance, short/medium range attack and as target drones.

Notheworthy, the Ababil 1 is one of the less known variants belonging to the family, which includes the Ababil 3, reportedly shot down in Iraq by a U.S. F-16 in February 2009, the Ababil 5 medium range recon drone; the Ababil-T, a a twin-tailed attack variant used by Hezbollah in northern Israel; and several other scarcely seen or unconfirmed models, as the Ababil-R and the Ababil-S.

The aircraft depicted in the footage released by Hamas carries four AGMs (Air-to-Ground Missiles) even though it is almost impossible to say whether they are real weapons or just mock ups.

In fact, the group claimed on Twitter that the A1B carried out three missions over Israeli military bases and a specific mission over the Israeli war ministry but the fact the drone didn’t use any of the on board weaponry seems to suggest it does not have a real capability to use it.

In other words, even if we can’t rule the possibility that Hamas’s drones can use their air-to-surface weapons, it seems that it carries four missiles it can’t fire.

These missiles are quite similar to those carried by Fotros, the largest Iranian UCAV to date. When it was unveiled, the Fotros was showcased carrying missiles that resembled the AGM-114 Hellfire. They sported a ‘K-2′ written on them in a similar style to that seen on AGM-114K-2 missiles.

Nevertheless, the unprecedented activity by Hamas drones is confirmed by the Israeli Defense Force, that confirmed to have shot down a UAV with a Patriot missile, near Ashdod, earlier on Monday Jul. 14.

This is not the first time made-in-Iran drones appear far from Tehran, in war-time. Several types of UAV, including brand new models and drones based on captured US robots, have been spotted over Syria during the uprising and subsequent fighting between rebels and Assadists.

But it is quite surprising to see a small/medium drone, as the Ababil 1, flying (almost undisturbed) over Gaza (especially since the airspace over the Strip is currently filled with Israeli Air Force fighter planes). And, above all, it is weird such a small UAV does carry weapons and surveillance sensors: all things that imply a significant payload and require larger airframes, more robust wings and engineering capabilities not believed to be in Hamas possession until today.

 

 

H/T @troublejee for the heads-up