Satellite Spots Syria’s Iranian-Made Drones
Since at least February, the Syrian government has been using Iranian-built drones to track and target Free Syrian Army rebels in their strongholds, including Homs and Hamah. Now some fresh commercial satellite imagery provides new details about the unmanned aerial vehicles’ possible tactics and capabilities.
Based on the imagery, acquired by George Kaplan for his blog Open-Source Geo-Intelligence, the small unarmed, propeller-driven Mohajer 4 drone is apparently limited in range. The Mohajer 4 most likely relies on control signals radioed from its launch base, unlike some Western ‘bots which can be controlled via satellite from facilities pretty much anywhere in the world. The Syrian UAV’s ability to transmit video is probably equally constrained.
The first glimpse by outsiders of drones in Syria came in February, when someone uploaded a video to YouTube depicting what appeared to be a UAV flying over the rebel-controlled town of Kafr Batna. (The February video has been rehosted several times.) Later there was at least one more sighting of a UAV in the insurgent city Homs.
Damascus is not particularly known for operating UAVs. So there was speculation that the drone was U.S. or Israeli and being used to spy on the regime ahead of any possible intervention. But informed observers soon identified the Kafr Batna ‘bot as an Iranian-built Mohajer 4, also known by its general term pahpad, which debuted in a 2010 Iranian naval exercise. “In addition to reconnaissance flight over the operation field, this kind of drone brings ease to battle command by transferring real-time data,” Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh boasted at the time.