August 15, 2006:
Israel shot down two more Hizbollah UAVs, which were apparently being used as cruise missiles. One of the UAVs was downed over northern Israel, the other over south Lebanon. One of the downed UAVs was definitely carrying explosives, and the other probably was.
Hizbollah calls their UAV "Mirsad 1", but it appears to be an Iranian Ababil. This is a 183 pound UAV with a ten foot wing span, a payload of about 80 pounds, a cruising speed of 290 kilometers an hour and an endurance of 90 minutes. The Ababil is known to operate as far as 150 kilometers from its ground controller. but it also has a GPS guidance system that allows it to fly a pre-programmed route and then return to the control by its ground controllers for a landing (which is by parachute). Used as a cruise missile, it has a one way range of about 400 kilometers. Using GPS guidance, it could deliver about 60 pounds of explosives to a prominent Israeli government building in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. The Ababil normally carries a variety of day and night still and video cameras.
When the Hizbollah UAVs first appeared, the Israelis feared that the low flying Ababils could come south carrying a load of nerve gas, or even just explosives. There's nothing exotic about UAV technology, at least for something like the Ababil. It was no surprise that Iran began using home made UAVs in the late 1990s. After all, they had received some UAVs from the United States in the 1970s (Firebee target drones.) The Israelis immediately tagged Iran as the supplier of the Hizbollah drone, because Iran has long supplied that terrorist organization with cash, weapons and equipment for decades. Now Israel has many components of two shot down UAVs, which will enable them to make a positive identification.