Warplanes: Israeli Robots Roam The Red Sea


March 31, 2009: Speculation rages over how Israel destroyed convoys of Iranian missiles, being trucked from Sudan into Egypt, for delivery to Hamas in Gaza. The current speculation was that Israel did it with UAVs. That's certainly possible. Israel appears to have people on the ground, who are watching the movement of these cargoes from Port Sudan to the few roads heading north to Egypt. A discrete email or cell phone text message can be sent to alert the Israeli Air Force. It takes UAVs about ten hours to get from Israeli to the Egypt/Sudan border.

Israel revealed that it has sent warplanes down the Red Sea coast of Egypt, to attack a convoy of trucks, near the Egyptian border in Sudan, carrying Iranian long range rockets destined for Gaza. Iran brings the rockets (and other weapons) in through Port Sudan, and then trucks them to Egypt. Sudan is an ally of Iran, and thus does not interfere. Egypt is not a friend of Iran, but the border police can be bribed. The January attack destroyed 17 truckloads of weapons, and killed the 39 men operating the vehicles. Since then, the smugglers have resorted to individual trucks, and the use of small boats moving up the Red Sea coast. There were apparently additional attacks in February.

The most likely UAV for this is the Heron TP. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper (or Predator B). You would need several Heron TPs to make the kinds of attacks that hit those convoys. Each Heron TP can carry up to eight Spike ER or Hellfire missiles.

Using the UAVs for this kind of attack makes sense. You don't risk pilots getting killed or captured. The UAVs have sufficient endurance to hang around for a few hours if there's some kind of delay on the ground. And. The UAVs are cheaper to operate than an F-16I or F-15.





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