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.


About David Cenciotti 4450 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


  1. Natanz has the mist dense anti aircraft defence network in Iran including a full radar coverage. There is no sense in sending a slow moving not stealth drone over such an area.

    Maybe they wanted to test Iran capability in intercepting incoming aircrafts.

  2. Maybe it wasn’t a round trip. Being unmanned, it is possible that the importance of the intelligence gathered justified considering the UAV expendable.

  3. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Iran’s story, regardless of the type of the drone. it was also reported today (Wednesday) that a similar drone crashed near the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the ruins were gathered by specialists sent by the US embassy, if these reports are true it confirms Iran’s story that the drone originated from a neighbouring country near the red sea.
    there is also a report that sheds light on the Israeli drone mishaps in Israel Iran and Iraq: http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2013/10/13/iranian-sabotage-saudi-arabia-stations-israeli-drones-for-iran-attack-on-its-territory/

    • Richard Silverstein is not a good source. As his recent stories on Iran ‘hacking’ Israeli UAVs show, he is frequently wrong and reliant on ‘anonymous sources’. He will report any anti-Israel story as true.

      There is no proof that this has anything to do with Israel beyond the help that Azerbaijan has had in the past with building it’s domestic drone fleet.

      MODERATOR, please disregard my previous lengthy comment in response to ‘noble’. I’d prefer to leave it at this instead of creating the potential for this to deteriorate into some kind of argument.

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