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Advanced Israeli Drone Hijacked by Iran or Hezbollah, Then Destroyed by Israel

shoval drone

Israeli Shoval drone hijacked

A highly-placed Israeli source elaborates on a partially truthful Ynetnews report that Israel destroyed an advanced Shoval (“Heron”) drone that was on a mission over the sea between Tel Aviv and Netanya. Israel did indeed destroy the drone, one of the most advanced in its fleet. Here is what its manufacturer had to say about it after its October 2012 launch:

The drone, called Heron 1 (Shoval), will help improve Israel’s Naval and Air Force’s recognition of unknown or hostile ships and aircraft even if they are 300 km away, with a radar that can reach Turkey, Cyprus or Egypt.

“The system can inquire and intercept any object within just a few minutes,” an IAI official told the newspaper on Sunday, after the Shoval drone had concluded a demonstration in which the new cameras captured every detail of a ship sailing the Mediterranean.

“The Shoval has satellite communication abilities, which means any footage it takes will be broadcasted [sic] online to distant location like Paris [!],” the official said.

But there was no “malfunction.” Rather an unknown hostile force exploited a breach in the navigation system and took control of the vehicle.

Once the drone became unresponsive, the IAF realized either it could be crashed into a sensitive Israeli target or else hijacked to Lebanon or Syria. At that point, the IAF launched flares over Israeli territory in a search to find it. They must’ve succeeded, which enabled them to destroy it.

I do not know who took control of the aerial vehicle. It was either Iranian forces or Hezbollah (or both). That makes it likely the drone was patrolling over Lebanon or Syria. The Ynetnews report said it was on a “routine” mission, which could mean anything or nothing.

Further support for my source may be found in the decision to ground the entire Shoval fleet. The hijackers discovered a weakness in the drone’s software controls and they can’t be flown again until it’s fixed.

Last year, the Iranians claimed to have done precisely the same thing to a U.S. Predator drone over Iranian territory. Though we claimed there had been a navigational malfunction, our protestations sounded hollow. The current incident points to a hitherto unknown or unappreciated ability by the Iranians to penetrate Israeli aerial guidance systems.

Just before the Shoval upgrade was announced above, Hezbollah had launched a drone which penetrated 30 miles into Israeli territory near the Dimona nuclear plant. A few weeks ago, Israel shot down another drone that may’ve been launched from Lebanon.

I should note that Hezbollah, with the likely help of the Iranians, compromised the IDF communications systems to devastating effect during the 2006 Lebanon war.

In 1997, Hezbollah intercepted the transmission (Hebrew) of Israeli aerial surveillance images which allowed the militant group to ambush IDF navy commandos, causing the death of 12. At the time, the army told the public the ambush had not been planned, but the result of a lucky break for Hezbollah. Then Hassan Nasrallah released the stolen images, which put egg on the face of lying Israeli generals. They were even forced to acknowledge that some intelligence data of this sort wasn’t even encrypted, thus allowing it to be intercepted.

Israel likes to tout its military invincibility and superiority over its enemies. Incidents like this remind us there are large chinks in the IDF’s armor.

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Elad R May 11, 2013, 8:43 PM

    Stunning- no less.
    1. Do you know what type of control system is used with the Heron ? Is it satellite based ? Is it Short Radio Wave Based ? is it an autonomous system ? is it a combination of all 3 ?
    2. Your source claim’s that the intruder was able to kill the IFF system, the Heron suddenly became stealth and no one was able to detect it using Radar ?
    3. How come the Israeli Radar system was able to pick up the Hezbollah/Iranian UAV (2 weeks ago) – a smaller size object – but was unable to detect the “kidnapped” – much bigger – Heron ?
    4. Is it possible that the Israeli Radar system doesn’t work at night ?

    • Richard Silverstein May 11, 2013, 8:48 PM

      I don’t know the answers to your questions aobut the control system. But perhaps other commenters here may.

      I wonder if the Shoval has the ability to render itself invisible to Syrian radar & this system was used to cloak it from Israeli radar as well. Just guessing.

      Keep in mind that the earlier drone penetrated Israeli air space 30 miles before it was intercepted. So it’s possible there are very large holes in the radar system.

      • Elad R May 11, 2013, 9:26 PM

        So let me understand, you write a story which involves highly technical details, of which you know nothing about, and you expect your readers to believe that you ware able to asses the information – given to you by anonymous source (and we know you were provided wrong information before, based on your own statement) – and despite the lack of knowledge you were able to come up with an educated assumption/conclusion ?

        • Marc May 12, 2013, 12:05 AM

          Elad, there are a number of possible propositions:

          1. Richard does not, in fact, know what he’s talking about
          2. Richard is being fed false information, in order to damage his credibility
          3. Richard does not, in fact, know what he’s talking about but by sheer coincidence, he’s right
          4. Richard does know what he’s talking about, but is being fed false information as above
          5. Richard does know what he’s talking about and is correct on all or many points of the story

          There are too many unknowns in the story. The grounding of the Shoval UAV fleet _can_ be caused by the software gap and an attempt to rectify it. It could be also prompted by a decision to re-evaluate the engine mounting/fitting/etc.

          This story – in my book – mainly lends colour. Whether right or wrong – the drone WAS downed on time – before it either crashed in a populated are or went Lebanon-avisiting. And the makers, hopefully, will learn from it.

          Conspiracy-theory-wise, I actually would prefer a different possibility – the budget cuts looming and the rapacious Israeli security apparatus and the IDF having to fight over their moolah – they could well have sacrificed an advanced drone to a make-believe Hizbollah/Iranian hijack attempt in order to wail – “Don’t take our money – we need to fix our drones! If we don’t, our children will die in droves in some future unspecified but looming conflict.”

        • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2013, 2:20 AM

          @EladR: So let me understand–you’ve slummed through this blog for years using different identities, and trying to feed me bogus (& a few accurate) stories. And you think I haven’t seen through the act?

          The only difference is that your act was smoother this time. You downplayed the abuse & insults you used with your earlier personas. That was smart. I didn’t much like the other versions of you. Especially when you tried to con me.

          But I get especially annoyed when 2 bit shysters like you impugn my reporting and sources. Especially since you’ve been part of the attempt to discredit me before.

          All I can say is nice try.

          • Elad R May 12, 2013, 6:22 AM

            I have never tried to discredit you. You claimed you were intentionally given wrong information in the Ben Z story by the Mossad, to that i was referring.

          • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2013, 1:47 PM

            @EladR: I don’t mind so much people attempting to disprove things I write. But what I really can’t stand is people who deny their patently transparent motives. Of course you tried to discredit me. You brayed about how little I knew about drones. You brayed about the fact that I’ve reported a few stories (including one fed me by you some years ago) which turned out to be false. You reminded readers of it in your comment. What is that if not an attempt to discredit me?

            The problem for you is that if I’ve published something false, I acknowledge it as soon as I discover the error. That defangs efforts like yours.

            For other readers who may want an answer to your taunts: I publish the information I’m given by this particular source. He tells me what he wants to tell me. If I want to know something more I ask & he either adds information, refuses, or else he doesn’t know & tells me so. He doesn’t tell me how the control system of a Shoval drone works. He may not even know this himself. He doesn’t tell me the particular security breach that caused the hack. So attempting to discredit any lack of technical or scientific knowledge I have on such subjects is just plain dumb.

            I will only publish future comments of yours that respect me and the comment rules.

        • Deïr Yassin May 12, 2013, 5:52 AM

          @ Richard
          Great answer :-))
          It’s so obvious to everyone that Elad R isn’t just a ‘private’ commenter. I would love to know some of his former identities here. Guess we’re not going to see much of “Elad R” any longer, though those peole have no shame.

      • Noam May 12, 2013, 3:53 AM

        Richard, the drone who penetrated israel 2 weeks ago was spotted even when it crossed the border, the reason why it wasn’t taken down before is because they wanted to understand where it was headed (he was followed the whole time by the IAF jets) and to try to take over his controls (that takes a bit of time). when they realized they couldn’t, they took it down. it had nothing to do with holes in the radar system.

        • Noam May 12, 2013, 3:55 AM

          sorry for my bad english didn’t proof :)

          • Noam May 12, 2013, 4:26 AM

            another inaccurate fact, you can make of it whatever you like:
            when a malfunction is detected to any IAF aircraft the IAF automatically grounds all their fleet (if a f-16 crashed – all the f-16′s are grounded until the investigation is complete) – it is standart procedure. (which might point that it was a malfunction and not an hostile take over – all is possible).

            about the take over you mention – it is possible. taking over the controls is very hard and i don’t think that was the case – there are relative easier ways to take over the drone (of course that i won’t mention them here)- no system is hack proof – the iranian and hezbollah probably have some capabilities to do so – but it’s doubtful. my guess is we’ll never know for sure – but the fact that i haven’t heard the hezbollah gloating over the take down makes me doubt even more they were involved – but again can’t know for sure (or maybe i just haven’t read the latest news).
            (and i say this information as an aeronautic eng. student)

    • The Mighty Cynic May 13, 2013, 7:51 AM

      Your questions lack any relevance to the thesis here. Richard does not need to know the average cruise speed of an IAI Heron to see the obvious: Hezbollah has out-hacked the most sophisticated unmanned vehicle Israel had to offer (and woe on those countries that purchased the junk!)

      As to your stupid questions:
      1. All three. Autonomous for emergency maneuvers (gas is out, etc.)
      2. They lost track of the Heron when it stopped relaying back to ground control. Their ability to locate it relied on that.
      3. The Hezbollah/Iranian UAV was not meant to be sophisticated and was actually INTENDED to light up Israel’s defenses. Thanks to Israel for showing the Iranian faction many of their defensive “secrets” like idiots. Iran and Hezbollah are capable of producing stealth UAVs. The Heron is a stealth UAV and undetectable by Israeli radar (hence, it being stealth). WTF kind of question was this?
      4. No. They have many other options. Night does provide cover for many things, however.

      • Noam May 13, 2013, 9:13 AM

        1. you are wrong. have you ever heard of a pilot saying “oh no we’re crashing!! let’s switch to auto pilot!!”. actually Autonomous is the main system of control in big uav’s.

        2. i can’t really say if you are right or wrong about that, and unless you are an IAF drone operator i don’t think you know that as well. what can be said, is that there is never only one way to triangulate uav’s (fail proof systems).

        3. light up israel defenses? so the IAF should just let an enemy uav fly around until he ran out of gas? taking pictures or just crashing in a populated area? that’s why the defenses are there in the first place. and i think Nassrallah knew already that israel has f-16′s . and don’t underestimate him – he knew the scramble time too.

        4. you are right. batman uses the cover of night.

  • Unknown May 11, 2013, 9:27 PM

    The Russians helped the Iranians and Hezbollah to do it, retaliation for Israel blowing up S300 systems recently.

    • Richard Silverstein May 12, 2013, 2:14 AM

      @Unknown: What in heaven’s name are you talking about?? I don’t think a real fact has ever crossed paths with you.

    • The Mighty Cynic May 13, 2013, 7:54 AM

      Russia purchased UAVs from Israel – the same junk ones it supposedly just aided Iran/Hezbollah in hacking? Doesn’t make sense. Don’t bite everything you read on the internet in this regard without giving it some thought.

      Iran is a sophisticated and educated country. Their use of Russian expertise in the nuclear field is more political than out of necessity (having a superpower present in installing such systems is a major deterrent to actions by other, zombied superpowers prone to following Tel Aviv’s command/script).

  • Rehmat May 12, 2013, 8:55 AM

    Yes – there is no doubt Israel shot-down its own drone to implicate Hizbullah and Iran. Earlier it fed lie to Washington about Syrian army using chemical weapons against the western-trained and funded Syrian rebels, which the UN investigators have claimed to be used by the rebels against Syrian civilians.

    Israel has a history of shooting Iranian-made Hizbullah drones.On October 6, 2012, Israeli press claimed Israeli Air force shot down an Iranian or Russian made unarmed drone thirty kilometers away from the Dimona nuclear facility, the source of Israel’s nuclear bombs. According to Israeli military sources, the drone entered Israeli skies coming in from the southern Mediterranean Sea. The aircraft is believed to have been on a reconnaissance mission to gather intelligence and identify weaknesses in Israel’s defenses. Israeli lawmakers have called it an act of aggression by Lebanon. As a retaliatory action, the Zionist regime sent fighter jets into Lebanese airspace to scare Lebanese civilians.

    This is not the first time Israel has claimed such achievement. In December 2010, CNN had reported that Israeli Air Force shot down an unidentified flying object over the Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev Desert. However, later, the Zionist regime admitted that the flying object could have been a party balloon – but the Israeli airforce was put on red-alert as Iranian President Ahmadinejad had visited Lebanon a few months earlier.

    In September 2004, Israel’s most circulated English daily Ha’aretz had reported that an “Iranian-made Hizbullah drone had spent about five minutes in space over Israel”, without being detected by the Israel Air Force.

    On December 4, 2011 – Iranian Army’s electronic warfare unit announced that it downed a US-built RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft after it crossed into Iran’s airspace over the border with neighboring Afghanistan.

    Julian E. Barnes wrote in the Wall Street Journal (December 7, 2011) that the US officials have considered several covert mission inside Iran to retrieve or destroy the shot-down drone. However, considering all of them to be very risky – had decided not to go ahead with either of them. The covert missions mentioned by Barnes, are – One, send a team of US commando based in Afghanistan as well as using allied agents (Mossad, MI6, MK, etc.) inside Iran to hunt down the downed drone; Two, let a team sneak to blow up the remaining pieces of the drone and Third, to destroy the wreckage with an airstrike.

    http://rehmat1.com/2012/10/09/israel-shot-down-hizbullah-drone-again/

    • Noam May 13, 2013, 12:22 AM

      yesterday there was a large government meeting about cutting down 4 billion shekels from the ministry of defence budget,and you are saying that israel shut down it’s own perfectly good (as you claim it was an plot act) millions worth drone???
      do you have any proof? a hard fact? do you even consider the logic of what you are saying??? 2 weeks ago hezbollah or iran launched a drone to israel – but that’s not enough we need to act as if it happens every other week??
      and if it was an act to blame hezbollah and iran then where is that blame? the whole point of an act is that someone needs to see it. i can’t see any major report on the news saying that israel publicly accuses hezbollah or iran for sending a drone to israel. and as ricahard wrote the official IDF response is that it was a malfunction!
      i don’t know if you are only trying to do a smeer campaign and you’re just writing lies between some facts or you actually believe does things you write. and i don’t know which one is worse.
      about the israeli fed lie about syria chemical weapons use – i envy your naivety.
      i don’t know if you read the news but turkey has also claimed that after examine the refugees coming to their borders – and the u.s is now admitting it also. but i guess you think it’s all a plot again – it really is hard to acknowledge that a regime could actually use these weapons against it’s own citizens. i just wonder what it takes for you to be convinced…

      it’s not the first time i’ve read your comments – check your facts please there’s lots of inaccurate information at best

      • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 2:13 AM

        Hey, I have home video of the shoot down. Took it myself. Send me your home address and I’ll send it to you personally. Because it is only your respect that I crave.

        I don’t lie. But since you’ve violated the comment rules by accusing me of lying without offering any evidence in support of your claim, you will be moderated. Read the comment rules & respect them. Any future comments that violate the rules may cause your privileges to be cancelled.

        Other readers will note the concerted effort to discredit me and my sources by your ilk in this thread. Unsurprising.

        • Noam May 13, 2013, 2:46 AM

          i didn’t understand your reply. i commented on rehmat comment here. i haven’t accused you of lying.
          and what i said above when i commented on what you wrote is not to discredit – it was 2 inaccuracies that are relevant to this story. i didn’t say you were wrong at any point – no one here knows what really happened (i even told you it was possible from my own knowledge as a student who studies these exact fields of engineering) – i just pointed out points that are worth knowing and mentioning in this regard.

          you are more than welcome to see if i am wrong about my comments.
          and for the record, i’m not part of an effort to discredit you – i’m just sitting in class right now in a boring lesson :)

          • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 9:29 PM

            @Noam: I’m very sorry. I confused who you directed your comment to. I sloppily didn’t look carefully to see you were replying to Rehmat.

        • Deïr Yassin May 13, 2013, 3:44 AM

          @ Richard
          I guess you don’t read the comments directly on the blog but as they come into your mail-box. Noam’s reply was clearly not to you but to Rehmat – who IS a nutcase obsessed with conspiracy (remember: François Hollande and his ex-wife Ségolene Royal (both of Catholic descent) are Jewish etc).
          Maybe we should all try to write the name of the person that we’re reponding to. Particularly at the bottom of a thread with many comments, often I have no idea who responds to whom, and your comments pop up on a blue background. If one doesn’t have the ‘conversation’ in mind, it’s often difficult to follow the exchange.

          • The Mighty Cynic May 13, 2013, 7:58 AM

            Deir, you’re not a shining example of a knowledgeable individual in geopolitical affairs. Please allow Richard to moderate his own blog and stop trying to silence voices that know FAR MORE than you ever will with your blind eyes and mute ears.

          • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 9:25 PM

            @The Mighty Cynic: In fact, I’d prefer you not to impugn commenters like Deir Yassin who’ve posted here far longer than you & whose contributions are much valued.

          • Deïr Yassin May 13, 2013, 9:43 AM

            @ The Mighty Cynic
            Exacly, I’m not a specialist in geopolitical affairs (there are tons of them on the net, aren’t there ? I sometimes wonder how they have the time to comment on blogs instead of lecturing in the best colleges…..) and that’s why I didn’t write anything about geopolitics !
            Still, the comment that Richard thought was addressed to him (because he reads through his mail box) was addressed to Rehmat who IS obsessed with conspiracy-theories and Jewish takeover of the world. A friend of yours (like Persian Advocate) ?
            Even with my “blind eyes and mute ears”, I know there are people out there who – to paraphrase Golda Meir (who thought I would that one day…) – hate Jews more than they love the Palestinians, and who hurt the Palestinian cause with their BS. Rehmat is such a person, and I’ve read him elsewhere too.

          • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 9:27 PM

            @Deir Yassin: Yes, I agree it would be very useful for commenters to use the ‘@’ sign & include the name of the commenter you’re replying to.

            All I can do is apologize for a comment system that leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve experimented with other systems & they leave even more to be desired.

  • Israeli Dude May 12, 2013, 10:03 AM

    Dear Richard,
    I have no more words at my disposal.
    You have single-handedly brought your reputation to nil.

    Congrats :-)

    • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 2:09 AM

      If you respected me and my reputation I’d know I was an abject failure. As it is, I’m doing pretty well, thank you.

  • Jamie May 12, 2013, 11:14 AM

    I’ve only been reading this blog for a few weeks, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite sources of insight into the Israeli/Palestinian situation and Middle Eastern affairs in general. I’m a staunch critic of the harsh right-wing regimes in both Israel and the United States, so it’s refreshing to read analysis with more of a progressive disposition.

    I look forward to reading your analysis of the recent car bombings in Turkey. What would Assad’s regime stand to gain from executing this attack? Is it Assad who would likely be opposed to the US/Russian brokered cease fire/end to hostilities? I would think it more likely that the rebels or another group who wants Assad deposed would be more likely to have orchestrated these attacks, because having both the US and Russians lobbying for peace would likely leave Assad in power.

    • Rehmat May 12, 2013, 9:05 PM

      As an “acid test” one has to ponder who benefits from the twin car bombing in Turkey? Surely, not the Assad regime.

      Here is my Canadian two cents worth.

      http://rehmat1.com/2013/05/13/israel-behind-twin-car-bombing-in-turkey/

      • The Mighty Cynic May 13, 2013, 7:59 AM

        Cui bono analysis — well done, Rehmat. Deir Yassin needs to figure out a thing or two about how things work before she tries to silence you about anything.

        • Deïr Yassin May 13, 2013, 10:08 AM

          @ The Mighty-Machine
          Oh, I’ve “figured out a thing or two”, don’t worry. Such as when you post exactly the same comment as “Persian Advocate” two minutes after him (cf. the article on Meir Javedandar), then you ARE the same person.
          As you write further down: “Conspiracy is REQUIRED to advance agenda”. The question is: what is YOUR agenda ?
          Rehmat is right, of course Israel is behind the bombings in Turkey, they were also responsible for the Tsunami in South-East Asie (you know, Israeli technology….) And I’m a crypto-Zionist.

  • Fred Plester May 12, 2013, 12:23 PM

    One possible reason for some images not being encrypted, might be that there was an off-the-shelf video encryption system around a few years ago, which didn’t cope with thermal imaging cameras having a different number of scan lines from visible light cameras. (I must confess I was surprised to discover that TI cameras did have a different number of scan lines: most monitor screens simply adapted and one never noticed, but encryption involved swapping lines around and this obviously got bolloxed by the difference as it started swapping lines between frames and everything became scrambled beyond recovery.)

    Arab soldiers solved the problem by not encrypting TI images from their recce assets and it wouldn’t utterly surprise me if Israeli ones followed suit, especially if there was no way that people in the field could fix the problem, which there wasn’t, as the encryption and decryption modules were black boxes that stopped working if you took the lid off. In any case, a fix would have meant a complete software re-write, and would need to be applied to every single box in the fleet, which might be very many, in Israel’s case.

    A more flexible encryption system was developed, but as indicated above, it would have been necessary to replace all the video-lock modules across the fleet, and all the ground stations, to make use of it.

    For the wealthier Arab countries this problem was solved by about 2003: I just don’t know how long it would have been a problem elsewhere and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some hangover even now.

    To this day I don’t know why TI cameras needed to have a different number of lines and I can’t think of a good reason for it.

  • Fred Plester May 12, 2013, 12:31 PM

    I believe that the Russians did a lot of work on counter-measures to Israeli-made drones operated by the Republic of Georgia, though their favoured solution was a Mig29 with suitable missiles.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BypnhFI7HGY

    I’m pretty sure that Russia could neutralize an Israeli or American drone in all sorts of ways, but subtle might not be their first choice.

  • motti May 12, 2013, 11:09 PM

    How does Silverstein know that the UAV fleet is still grounded (as claims)?
    Does he get updates from inside the IAF?
    This sounds mostly like conspiracy theories. Not credible.

    • Richard Silverstein May 13, 2013, 2:07 AM

      The Haaretz article said the entire fleet would be grounded until the malfunction was corrected.

      But again, nice try from the IDF/intelligence apologist brigade.

    • The Mighty Cynic May 13, 2013, 8:00 AM

      All power is compiled through conspiracy. Your use of the term to knock down reliable analysis should teach Richard a thing or two about using the phrase himself (and Deir).

      Welcome to the real world of geopolitics: where conspiracy is REQUIRED to advance agendas.

  • Rabbitnexus May 13, 2013, 6:53 AM

    [Comment deleted for comment rule violation]

    • Fred Plester May 13, 2013, 7:38 AM

      I must confess that I’m looking forward to seeing how the Hasabara handle this one.

  • motti May 14, 2013, 9:04 AM

    I tried to have a civil discussions with you and you accused me of apologist. Meir Javendanfar was right. You are a trash blogger.

    • Richard Silverstein May 14, 2013, 12:54 PM

      @Motti: The only trash here is your nonsense. But it tells us reams that you’re an acolyte of the Israel Lobby’s favorite Iran basher, Javedanfar.

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