Iran bomber drone reveals new sophistication

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Iran has publicly revealed a new level of sophistication with aerial drone technology, displaying a new vehicle that, government officials say, can deliver a 500lb bomb to a target 1,000km away.

The revelation on Sunday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was closely scrutinized in Israel, which lies just within the combat radius of the new drone.

Israeli analysts have classified the so-called Karrar, a Farsi word meaning "strike," as a heavily modified version of the Skua target drone manufactured by Denel in South Africa.

In 2006, Denel officials revealed that three export customers of the Skua had transferred the technology to unidentified third parties as part of a growing training services business.

It was not clear if Iran or any of its defense suppliers were among the countries that had received the technology.

Images of the Karrar released by the Iran-based Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reveal an aircraft featuring scaled-up versions of the Skua's fuselage body and distinctive horizontal tail surfaces.

The engines, however, have been moved to the top of the fuselage in the Karrar design. The Skua's swept-back wings have also been straightened and enlarged for the Iranian drone.

According to Israeli analysts, the Karrar was shown in two configurations carrying either a 500lb bomb or four copies of a Chinese anti-ship missile called the Kosar. Tal Inbar, a senior research for the Fisher Brothers Institute for Aviation and Space in Israel, speculated the engine comes from a copy of the French TRI-60 jet.

Iran's previous standard for an internally developed unmanned aerial vehicle was the Ababil family, which has been projected with offering roughly 250km endurance.

Iranian officials said the drone is able to provide both attack and surveillance capabilities.

"They can not only record and transmit images, but possess operational capabilities as well," says Iranian Defense Minister Brig Gen Ahmad Vahidi. "The Karrar bomber drone has numerous capabilities, mostly having a long operational radius."

In the Defence Industry Day event, Ahmadinejad said, "This jet is a messenger of honour and human generosity and a saviour of mankind, before being a messenger of death for enemies of mankind.

"The key message is friendship," he adds. "We must make efforts to render all the enemy's weapons useless with our defense potential."