Thursday, June 24, 2021

Iran's Nuclear Facilities Under Attack From Drones To Remote Control Weapons

Iran’s new fears: From drones to remote control weapons, sabotage

Iranian sources said on Wednesday that a facility in Karaj was targeted by a quadcopter-style drone. Iran says it shot down the drone.

The alleged target was a complex run by Tehran’s Atomic Energy Organization. The Jerusalem Post reported that the sabotage caused major damage. The New York Times also reported that the attack targeted production of centrifuges.

While many popular, commercially available quadcopters, like the DJI Mavic, can fly for only around half an hour, and don’t have a long range, some companies have achieved longer ranges using gas/electric hybrids. However, in general, quadcopters don’t fly very far, can’t carry much of a payload, such as a bomb so would not be very effective for sabotage or major destructive operations.

That is why militaries around the world, including Iran, have opted for kamikaze drones, or loitering munitions, which are essentially a cruise missile that can fly around until it finds its target and destroys it. Some of these have long ranges. Iran has pioneered several versions that it exported to the Houthis in Yemen and which Hamas has copied and used.  

So, this leaves the report with many questions about why Iran would admit it was being harassed by a drone apparently flown from inside the country. It’s not the first time Tehran has admitted that “interesting” and “advanced” weapons might have been smuggled into the Islamic Republic to carry out attacks. In November 2020, according to a BBC report, Iran said it “believes Israel and an exiled opposition group used a remote-control weapon to shoot deal top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.”

Iran has also said its Natanz facility sabotaged in April 2021. It also claimed the same facility was damaged by sabotage in 2020. Tehran appears to be admitting that many of its sensitive nuclear facilities are at risk and are being targeted by increasingly complex means. Iran’s only nuclear power plant was shut down several days ago as well.

The country appears unable to guard against diverse and complex threats. While it claimed to stop the recent drone attack, it’s not entirely clear the drone itself was the main weapon used. Quadcopters can also be used for other things, such as surveillance. The regime hasn’t yet shown photos of the quadcopter – and it’s not entirely clear how it would have shot it down or jammed it.

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