The Ababil (translated from the Persian as “Swallow”) is an Iranian-made UAV. Iran has developed a number of variants, including the tactical Ababil-5 for medium-range reconnaissance and surveillance, the Ababil-T for short/medium-range attack, and also the Ababil-B and -S.
The Ababil is much smaller than manned airplanes. The length of 2.9 m is shorter than a (true) Volkswagen Beetle. It is powered by a simple two-bladed pusher propeller with a rear mounted wing and a front canard for good stall, stability and maneuverability characteristics. It can be launched from a rail mounted on the back of a truck which provides power for the pneumatic launcher. A rocket launch system can be used from a ship deck, and can be assembled or broken down for portability. A parachute recovery system provides a descent rate of 4 m/s, while skids can be used for conventional landings on a runway or field.
It has a maximum operational radius of 150 km (93 mi) and a maximum ceiling of 14,000 ft (4,268 m). It has the ability to travel at a maximum speed of 300 km/h and is capable of carrying a 45 kg (88 lb.) payload. It has a surveillance configuration, carrying a camera and digital communications equipment, but also an attack configuration, carrying a high-explosive warhead that would be delivered by the UAV crashing onto a target.
Israel has said that Hezbollah received at least 12 Ababils before the 2006 Lebanon War, and launched three into Israel during the conflict, though all three were shot down by Israeli jets before inflicting damage.
On March 16, 2009 it was reported that an American F-16 operating in Iraq shot down an Iranian Ababil 3 drone on February 25, 2009 that had been flying through Iraqi airspace for “almost an hour and 10 minutes.” The drone crashed about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, 12 miles inside Iraqi territory near the town of Balad Ruz in Diyala province. Officials at Iraq’s Defense and Interior ministries suggested that the drone might have been scouting for routes to smuggle Iranian weapons into the country. The New York Times, however, speculated that the drone was monitoring Iranian dissidents in Iraq, such as those at Camp Ashraf, which is located near where the drone crashed. However, Maj. Gen Abdul Aziz Mohammed Jassim, head of military operations at the Iraqi defense ministry stated the drone, “crossed 10km into Iraq, It’s most likely that its entrance was a mistake.”
The Ababil has also been reported to be in service in Sudan. On March 18, 2012 Sudanese rebels claimed to have downed a government operated Ababil using ground fire. The Sudanese government admitted that a UAV had been lost, though it claimed the crash was due to mechanical failure and not ground fire.
A medium-range surveillance vehicle with an onboard digital processor that first appeared in 2000 and has a mission radius in the order of 150 km. It is believed to be in low-rate production and has been seen in use with the regular armed forces and the Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps).
A medium range (50-150km) attack UAV with a daylight TV sensor and carries a high explosive warhead. All composite construction as opposed to the metal construction of the other variants.
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