Peter La Franchi / London
The Israeli Air Force has released video apparently showing the shooting down of a Hezbollah unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in a night-time air-to-air engagement off the coast of Akka on the Bay of Haifa in northern Israel.
Another video shows Israeli Navy personnel handling the recovered wreckage of a delta-wing, twin-tail, pusher-propeller aircraft. The configuration of the components is identical to that of the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries (HESA) Ababil-T armed UAV, strengthening Hezbollah claims made since 2004 that it is able to field an armed UAV.
The Israeli Defence Force says that the "said UAV was Iranian” but “as far as we know it was not armed”.
The UAV was engaged some 10km offshore by a Lockheed Martin F-16. Israeli Defence Force thermal imaging video of the engagement shows the missile struck the UAV at the rear. The UAV airframe broke into several pieces, some burning, before impacting into the sea.
The engagement “lasted less than ten minutes” says the IDF, “including the identification and interception stages”.
The Israeli Air Force’s “northern air control unit identified the craft before it crossed the border and dispatched aircraft to intercept it. The UAV was shot down at a low altitude over the Mediterranean Sea, and Israeli naval vessels collected its pieces”.
The UAV was launched from within Southern Lebanon the IDF statement says. "The UAV was identified at a low altitude and intercepted by an F-16 using a locally-produced missile.".
Video footage of recovered wreckage shows the two halves of the main wing broken evenly at the root, but with the twin-tails remaining intact. The recovered wreckage also includes the full starboard canard minus its flight control surface.
The port tail carries a Hezbollah roundel with the English language words “Islamic resistance”. A similar roundel appears to have been carried on the starboard tail but has been worn away.
The UAV uppers carry a multicolour camouflage pattern in greens and tans against a base sand coat. The undersides are painted a dull light grey, with the port wing also displaying a large white roundel space.
The basic reconnaissance version of the Ababil – which translates from Arabic to 'Swallow' – has a single vertical tail mounted above the rear fuselage. The Ababil-T in its standard configuration carries a daylight television camera as well as a medium sized high explosive warhead. The fact that the UAV was flying at night indicates its sensor package has been modified to include a thermal imaging system.
Ababil-T is launched using either a catapult or a rocket booster, with the reconnaissance and target versions of the UAV family recovered using either parachute or belly skid landing.
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