Fighting in the Gaza Strip between Hamas and the Israeli army continues. In a rather surprising development, it was reported that Hamas used Iran’s Ababil-2 suicide UAV to attack Israel.
According to the Bulgarian Military newspaper, a video made a strong impression on the international military community about Hamas’s suicide UAV. Two years ago, the conflict between Israel and the Hamas armed forces lasted a few days and focused only on rockets, but now there are also suicide UAVs.
The video shows Hamas militants launching several Ababil-2 suicide UAVs to attack the Israeli Army. The video source is from Türkiye’s military intelligence website; Notably, there is a caption above the video: “Hamas hits Israel with Iranian loitering Ababil-2 munitions”.
With improvements in the flight control system, the Ababil-2 suicide UAV represents significant advances in modern aviation. According to the British Defense Magazine Jane’s, this improved suicide UAV model began its first flight in 1997. However, Galen Wright asserts that it made its way into production five years earlier, in 1992. Interestingly enough, regardless of their differing perspectives, both sources concur that the Ababil-2 was officially unveiled to the public in 1999.
Crafted with a cylindrical fuselage, a sleekly swept-back vertical fin, and a pusher engine, the design of the Ababil-2 is impressively aerodynamic. The propulsion for this aircraft is supplied by an uncomplicated two-bladed pusher propeller, complemented by a rear-mounted wing alongside a front canard. This combination augments the stall, stability, and maneuverability attributes of the aircraft. It’s also essential to spot that all variants boast a range exceeding 100 km and are constructed using all-metal, except for the Ababil-T which utilizes composite.
The versatile Ababil-2 can take off either from a zero-length JATO platform or be dispatched from a Mercedes Benz 911 pneumatic truck launcher. Impressively, this rocket launch system can be operated from a ship deck, and it’s modular enough to be assembled or disassembled for easy portability. When it comes to recovery, a parachute can be utilized to garner a gentle descent rate of 4 m/s, whereas skids are an alternative option for standard landings on a runway or field. One can occasionally observe airframes equipped with landing gear too.
In 2002, Hezbollah came into possession of the Ababil-2 drones which were operated under the Mirsad-1 designation. According to information released by Israel, prior to the onset of the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah already had a minimum of 12 Ababils in their possession. During the skirmish, three of these unmanned vehicles were launched.
Israel shot down the first of these Ababils on August 7, 2006, using an Israeli F-16, off the coast of North Israel. The second Ababil suffered an unfortunate fate when it crashed inside Lebanon on August 13. A second F-16 claimed the third Ababil which was brought down just inside Israel’s northern border, mere hours after its deployment by Hezbollah. As of 2009, it was speculated that Hezbollah had a cache of Ababil UAVs at their disposal, with varying estimates placing their number anywhere between 12 to as much as 24–30. By 2018, Hezbollah announced that the Mirsad-1 had been officially retired from active service.
The Ababil-2 UAV is not only present in the Lebanese battlefield. On March 16, 2009, an event occurred when a US Air Force F-16, operating in Iraq, shot down an Iranian Ababil 3 UAV. The Iranian UAV violated Iraqi airspace for a significant period of about 70 minutes. Officials within the echelons of the Defense and Interior ministries of Iraq floated a theory that the drone could have been on a reconnaissance mission to identify potential smuggling routes for easing the dispatch of Iranian weapons into the country.
In more recent developments, usage of these Ababil-3 UAVs has climbed notably in the unfolding events of the Iraqi Civil War. Their operation began being noted in of summer 2014, particularly post the significant event of Mosul’s fall, where they were observed originating from Rasheed Air Base.
According to analysts, the Ababil-2 UAV is in fact outdated and is used by many armed forces in the region; Therefore, the possession of this type of UAV by the Palestinian Hamas armed forces is not necessarily directly provided by Iran, but may be due to the supply from a third party, such as the Lebanese Hezbollah force, when they have retire this version of the UAV.
Currently Ababil has been developed into more advanced versions – Ababil-4 and Ababil-5. Ababil-5 was first unveiled on April 18, 2022 during the Iran Army Day. It has a Rotax-914 engine with 115 horsepower and has a range of 480 km. It can carry four guided anti-tank missiles with a range of 8 kilometers or six precision-guided bombs weighing 2.4 kilograms with a range of 6 kilometers. The drone is used in reconnaissance and surveillance or combat roles.