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Iranian Sabotage Compromises Entire Israeli Drone Fleet, Saudi Arabia Stations Israeli Drones for Iran Attack on Its Territory

harpy drone

Israel’s hopelessly compromised Harpy drone fleet was to take out Iran’s air defenses. (Rheinmetall Defense)

A few days ago, I published two different reports: one on Israeli war games simulating an attack on Iran; the second on Iranian sabotaging of four Israeli drones over the past two years.  Tonight’s post will draw those two reports together in some quite amazing and disturbing ways.

Regular readers will recall that in the post about the drone failures I quoted an anonymous Israeli source who appeared quite knowledgeable about Israel’s UAV program.  The same source has offered a new report that is even more alarming than the first one he sent.

He says that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, operating out of the Bekaa Valley, have so compromised Israel’s drone fleet that it cannot be used for the critical mission Israel has set for them: to disable Iran’s air defenses as preparation for an IAF assault on Iranian targets, including its nuclear program.  Without UAV capability, Israel must use conventional means to knock out Iran’s anti-aircraft systems.  That would be too costly considering distance and other technical challenges.  All this leads to the possible conclusion that if Bibi attacks Iran he would have to consider very seriously using a nuclear weapon (or as the source calls it, ‘BVR tactical nukes’).

He notes the latest sabotage of an Israeli drone occurred during Israel’s semi-secret war games over Greece simulating an attack on Iran.  Imagine the drama and frustration of preparing for this momentous battle and the key element of your initial attack phase is neutralized.

Another mind-blowing claim of this report is that Israel is collaborating with Saudi Arabia on a possible attack on Iran: that IDF personnel are stationed on Saudi soil and that Israeli drones which would attack Iran are based there.  Note that Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar, recently made a secret trip to Israel.  What might be so important that it would require such an extraordinary trip (no senior Saudi official has ever visited Israel as far as I know)?  Stationing Israeli personnel and armaments on Saudi soil and coordinating a potential attack on Iran warrant that.

Before reading this, note that Israel’s Harpy UAVs are built to (among other things) attack air defenses.  I’ve done some minor editing of the message below for clarity and comprehension’s sake):

The real story behind the Israeli UAV crash landing into the Mediterranean Sea, last week off the shores of Ashdod, is more complicated and worrisome than I first told you.

Last Wednesday (October 9th), the IAF conducted a long-range exercise to rehearse the executing of an attack on Iran. The opening move on behalf of the IAF calls for a large-scale drone strike against Iranian air-defense batteries in the vicinity of the different Iranian main targets.

…The drones are…to be launched from [a] few countries located to the north and west of Iran.  That is due to [the] UAV’s range and number of targets.  I think they are talking about Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia. The location in Saudi Arabia is the city of Khafji. A few of my colleagues, have been there recently.

The Heron UAV is [tasked with] intelligence coverage and relay services and the Hermes 450 and Harpy drones…provide weapon delivery. Although the Heron has the ability to carry its own weapon systems, the required [payload for this mission exceeds its capacity]; the plan calls for the use of the Hermes and Harpy UAVs as the main weapon delivery-systems.

All three UAVs (Heron, Hermes 450 and Harpy) share the same guidance system. On January 28th 2012, a Heron UAV crashed outside of Tel-Nof Air-Base in the center of Israel. The formal cover up story in the news was that its wing broke off. The real story was that the Control Center lost control over the UAV and ‘someone’ else flew the UAV and mistakenly crashed it. Electronic evidence led to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) unit stationed in the Bek’aa Valley in Lebanon.

The IAF decided to decommission the entire Heron fleet for 8 months.  During this time, Israel Air Industries (IAI) allocated a team of 50 engineers to secure the guidance system and make it un-hackable.

Last Tuesday, when the Hermes was deliberately brought down, it was during the final phases of testing the new guidance system. The disappointment in Israel is huge. Electronic analysis carried as part of a post-mortem…led to the same IRG compound in the Bak’aa Valley and to another unit stationed near Beirut.

I wanted to clarify one aspect of my original reporting on the drone crash at Tel Nof, which the source describes above.  In that first post on the crash (linked above), a separate Israeli source alleged that the drone was actually a Hezbollah UAV and that Iran and its Lebanese allies were trying to attack the air base.  This source now concedes that this part of his report was incorrect.  The drone wasn’t foreign.  It was Israeli.  But it was being piloted by the IRG, who accidentally crashed it into the base as the source of this latest message indicates.

Thus far, he has dealt with the drone sabotage and the role UAVs played in Israel’s battle plan against Iran.  The next passage analyzes how such a major military failure may force Israel to adopt far more drastic measures for any attack.

I want to add that while what the source suggests below may not happen and may appear far-fetched to some, the desperation Bibi faces is very real and when desperate men act they can do dangerous and desperate things.  This report appears to be authored by an Israeli military official deeply worried that Bibi may do something exceedingly stupid.  If that’s true, then we should be very worried.  That’s why I believe this passage should be taken very seriously by Obama administration officials:

IAF planners have been working on their plans to attack Iran for years…The IAF [has reported] that due to Iranian superiority [compromising the drone navigation systems], it will be impossible to use UAV’s as Iranian air-defense batteries suppressors, to open the way for the main IAF strike.

As a result of this ultimate fuck-up and to cover up the real facts, PM Bibi ordered to release of the mid-air refueling video, and instructed MK Hanegbi to make his statement.  Bibi is basically bluffing on an empty hand try[ing to] maintain a [strong] posture and delay sanctions relief.

[The] situation is very dangerous at the moment, since there is no real option [for] eliminating the Iranian air-defense batteries using UAV’s.  Other conventional means bear too much risk.

Israel is being pushed [to] launch BVR [Beyond Visual Range] tactical nukes as the main way to attack Iran. I don’t know if you read Bib’s comparisons, but the lunatic is comparing himself to Churchill, and with Israel’s isolation growing I fear he’s losing it and will attack.  Ronen Shoval, one of Bibi’s proxies, published an op-ed calling for a tactical nuclear attack, Shoval would have never stated that without Bibi’s specific instruction.

To be very clear, I do not know the source’s identity.  I have done as much due diligence as I can to verify the information he offered.  I have not been able to debunk or discredit it.  But since I don’t know the source, I can’t confirm its authenticity.

All that being said, anyone who derides this report without seriously weighing its substance will look awfully stupid if Bibi does decide to ‘do the Slim Pickens’ and take a ride on an ICBM to Natanz.

NOTE: For any Hebrew speakers out there, I wanted to point out that the Israeli military forum, Fresh, which denounced the post I published about Israel’s battle plan against Iran, has pinned a post about the Israeli drone story at the top of its Security forum section.  It’s nice to go from being a bum to a hero (well, not quite–there are lots of readers there thinking unprintable thoughts about me, but whatever).  Clearly, Fresh takes these latest reports and my source seriously which is a nice change of pace.

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{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Oui October 13, 2013, 3:04 AM

    Netanyahu on a non-stop charm offensive to persuade Western allies to stay tough on Iran sanctions, not to let their guard down for a ‘deceitful’ Rouhani. In interview with France24, Netanyhau seemed awkward in some answers related to an Iran attack.

    Exclusive: France must resist Iran, Netanyahu says

    (France24) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to take a tough stance on Iran and look past Prime Minister Hassan Rohani’s “smile campaign”, in this exclusive interview.

    When asked whether Israel would strike Iran on its own, without the help of ally the United States, the Israeli Prime Minister refused to discuss his country’s military options.

    “The Americans have great capacities, certainly greater than anyone else, but I wouldn’t cut short Israel’s capacities either.”

    President Peres led his own charm offensive when visiting The Netherlands recently in order to get rid of the coming EU economic sanctions on goods from occupied territory.

    Listening closely to Netanyahu over the years, he hasn’t changed his doctrine on Palestinians, Israel’s enemies and no chance for an independent state next to Israel. Video of Bibi as 28 year-old Ben Nitay.

  • Damien Flinter October 13, 2013, 3:57 AM

    Indeed, quite credible..Bibi looks more demented and rancid with each successive appearance.
    Scalded cat syndrome crossed with the Hellish fury of the scorned…no knowing which way he will jump in his overcooked rage. Its time for someone to overdub that ‘last days in the bunker’ youtube video from his cabinet perspective.

  • Aitan October 13, 2013, 10:18 AM

    Unlikely! Even if the Iranians have managed to crack the encrypted communication between drawns and their command (and I seriously doubt this), It’s relatively easy to change the encryption.

    • Dana October 15, 2013, 7:56 AM

      “drawns” is an interesting slip of the keyboard. Brings to mind “drawn and quartered”.

  • Cyrus October 13, 2013, 12:40 PM

    Very interesting.
    1. I wonder why the Israeli media didn’t pick on this post of yours yet.
    2. What’s your logic in writing a post based on things you can’t authenticate from an anonymous source ?

    • Richard Silverstein October 13, 2013, 3:21 PM

      I wonder why the Israeli media didn’t pick on this post of yours yet.

      It’s a little thing called military censorship. Have you heard of it??

      I have a 5 yr record of reporting. If you want to review my reporting record I suggest you read the Hebrew or English language Wikipedia articles about Tikun Olam.

      • Cyrus October 13, 2013, 4:05 PM

        i read the Wikipedia page – very impressive and respectful. but i fear that after reading it i still didn’t find an answer to my question.

        Why do you publish unauthenticated stories from anonymous sources ? unless of course you think it’s a true report. Is that the case ?

        • Richard Silverstein October 14, 2013, 12:47 AM

          @ Cyrus: Are you for real? Do you think I publish stories for my own enjoyment? I can’t tell whether your comment is meant seriously or not. But if it is meant seriously, asking me if I think what I report is true is insulting. I have answered similar questions from skeptical readers in the past more expansively & I hate repeating myself & won’t do so here.

          Suffice to say that in the past I’ve revealed a bit more information about my source & his background. I just don’t want to do this every time he gives me a scoop. It would get tedious & boring.

          • Cyrus October 14, 2013, 9:16 AM

            Mr. Silverstein
            You are contradicting yourself, in the post itself you stated: ” To be very clear, I do not know the source’s identity.”
            Yet in your reply to my question above you stated: “Suffice to say that in the past I’ve revealed a bit more information about my source & his background.”

            how can you publish more information on the background of a person who’s identity you don’t know ?

          • Richard Silverstein October 14, 2013, 1:47 PM

            You asked whether I believe in the truth of the stories I report. Therefore I replied generally about the source of most of those stories. Once again, I’m talking about two different sources. The drone report comes from one source, whose identity I don’t know. Many (but not all) of my other scoops come from a different source,
            whose identity I do know.

            As to the question of not knowing the identity of the drone source. Clearly, someone like this runs a major risk in conveying such information to me. It’s not my job to put him at greater risk by demanding that he expose himself in a way he doesn’t wish to. The source’s bona Fides speak for themselves, which is why I published his report.

  • Sirpad October 13, 2013, 2:09 PM

    Before you erase/edit my comment, let’s be clear: the guys at Fresh.co.il’s community never EVER took you and your so-called-sources seriously!

    • Richard Silverstein October 13, 2013, 3:24 PM

      Ah, it’s Sirpad the Fresh forum member & liar. The guy who lied when he claimed he’d made up the Israeli war plan against Iran. The guy who received it from the same person my source received it from. The guy who tried to disguise it by calling it his own fictional account.

      I checked with the source who leaked the Iran battle plan to both of us before I published the drone story to ensure there wouldn’t be the same double leak; and that you couldn’t again claim you invented a fictional story that was actually real. Luckily for me, the source of the drone story isn’t the same one who leaked the Iran war plan story to both of us. So you didn’t get this one. Too bad for you.

      As for what Fresh thinks of my work, to my knowledge you’re not an official representative of Fresh. If you were you wouldn’t have pinned the thread about my drone post in such a prominent position in the forum. That drew a decent amount of traffic to my blog, which no doubt irked you. That’s why you published that whiny comment in the Fresh thread about me.

      The decision to anchor or pin my post at the top of the forum section was made by a Fresh admin who thought the post was credible. So perhaps you want to take up your doubts with the admins. And perhaps you’ll want to stop speaking on behalf of Fresh when the admin’s opinion of my drone report is clearly different than yours.

      BTW, I don’t erase or edit comments as long as they respect the comment rules. So far, despite the fact that you’re misrepresenting Fresh’s official opinion of my recent post, you haven’t broken any comment rules. As long as you don’t, your comments will be published.

      • Sirpad October 13, 2013, 4:57 PM

        As a matter of fact, I AM one of the mods (admins) of the military forum – note the small green leaf next to my user name, marking one as a site admin/moderator. One of my coleagues pinned it just for fun – after all, not ALL things in life have to be serious… So unfortunately for you I AM an official representative of Fresh, the pinning was done with MY approval, and therefore your knowledge is wrong (AGAIN).

        Two points for your general knowledge:
        1. As for the “Israeli war plan against Iran”, i NEVER called it “my own fictional account” since i never wrote it, and i wrote it very specifically at the beginning of the relevant post – you should read more carefully.

        2. As for the drone story, you might want to consult a military aircraft engineer before making such a ridiculous claim. Unlike spook stories and james bond movies, self destruction of intelligence collection systems (both airborne and others) are not done by finger-sized stick of dynamite, it requires a considerable amount of explosives that will have a severe and even extreme effect on flight characteristics – it might be good enough as a safety measure for expendable target drone, but downright unusable for a long range, high altitude intel collection flight. And besides, if the drone was that close to its own base there are numerous other methods to down it – anything from surface to air missile to gun run by an IAF aircraft. Last but not least, if the control was lost how come the only system that was still responsive was the self destruction mechanism? Why didnt the iranians disable it at the moment they took control? Better luck next time, eh..?

        • Cyrus October 13, 2013, 8:42 PM

          Sirpad,
          1. I don’t think Mr. Silverstein has mentioned explosives in this report as the destruction method of choice
          2. What’s good for the QF-4 should be adequate for the UAV’s with proper modification for size and performance.
          http://www.newsherald.com/news/crime-public-safety/drone-crash-at-tyndall-u-s-98-to-be-closed-until-mid-day-thursday-1.173327

          “To compound the problem, Air Force officials, as of Wednesday afternoon, were searching for an explosive device or “charge” used to destroy drones if they veer off course or out of control during missions. Air Force officials also said the device has a battery inside that will run down, which usually takes about 24 hours.”

        • Richard Silverstein October 14, 2013, 12:59 AM

          @ Sirpad: You’re an even worse liar than I thought. No forum administrator pins a post in the way Fresh did unless they wish to give it prominence. And you did & I thank you for it. Fresh readers have been flocking to that post. And your derision towards me & my work apparently isn’t shared by the rest of your readers & posters in that thread.

          So you called the Iran war plan a “fictional account.” Whether it was your alleged fiction or someone else’s is immaterial. The fact is that my source was real and the document was real. My source was the same as your source. But likely to protect yourself from being accused of violating Israeli censorship or whatever reason you may choose, you decided to cover up the fact that you had an official document by calling it fictional. That’s the act of a coward. BTW, the BBC’s defense correspondent confirmed it in his reporting. Even the Israeli official representative who commented for the media did not support your claim it was fictional nor deny it was an official document (as I noted in blog posts I wrote on this subject). So you’re caught out lying again.

          As for the drone story, I don’t need to consult a “military aircraft engineer” because my source appears to be something very close to that. As Cyrus pointed out to you, I never claimed the drone was brought down by a “stick of dynamite.” You might want to read what I write more closely. There are myriad ways to decapitate an aerial vehicle or cause it to self-destruct or crash. Cyrus pointed out but one of many that don’t involve explosives.

          As for the Iranians, I never claimed that they took control of all systems of the vehicle. They took control of the navigation system. There may be other systems aboard that are independent of it that the Iranians couldn’t control. Perhaps it’s YOU who should consult a military aircraft engineer?

          • Fred Plester October 14, 2013, 9:34 AM

            Since Israel does not own the GPS satellite system, it has
            no control over how that’s encoded (and at military resolution
            only, encrypted.) If there are lots of GPS satellites above the
            horizon, you probably could programme the system to only accept
            data from ones at such a high angle the signal couldn’t be coming
            from the ground, but in my experience there are often periods where
            only a few satellites are giving good signals and you have to
            accept something near the horizon, which might be a spoof.
            Verifying each navtrack stream against the others and against some
            sort of inertial navigation would work, providing that the
            navigation system had enough processing power to do this (and do it
            constantly) as well as navigate. I think that what the IRG has done
            is create a situation where drones need a ten or one hundredfold
            increase in processing power, rather than a simple change in
            encryption key or even encryption protocol. The extra processing
            power is probably attainable, at a price, but the next step will be
            integrating and testing software which verifies ALL the navigation
            data inputs before using them. That will take time as well as
            money, and unless the extra processing power is even greater, it
            will produce a lag in the navigation response time which in itself
            could cause accidents. A few years ago, there was an announcement
            that BAe had produced a processor chip (for fairly narrow
            applications) which was several orders of magnitude faster than
            anything previously known. It’s beginning to look as if this was
            development and design to a known requirement rather than a blue
            skies breakthrough. But while that chip would allow you to run
            software which constantly cross-checked all the navigation inputs,
            at an acceptable or even dazzling speed, it wouldn’t debug the
            necessarily more complicated software for you. A quicker and
            dirtier solution might be to supplement the GPS data with a few
            fixed beacons that either worked on some part of the RF spectrum
            that the IRG cannot access, or were so powerful that spoof signals
            would always be overwhelmed. It might even be cheaper for the IDF
            to orbit a few navigation satellites of its own, which were not
            required to work in an international known and compatible way. Not
            to duplicate the whole GPS capability, but to make it easier to
            verify which are good GPS signals and which are not. Again, it’s
            do-able, but would take time to calibrate and de-bug.

        • Dana October 15, 2013, 8:07 AM

          Sirpad seems to be seriously deficient in his knowledge about drones. based on his technically uninformed comment, I would conclude that he is one of the many israeli security state “groupies”. Israel is full of those – people who have had no first hand knowledge, or for that matter, understanding of what goes into certain technologies, especially those that are more complex. many times such people did not get to serve in the capacity they craved in the IDF, most of the time, because they did not score at the level needed on the exams’ most typically, they would come up a bit short on both mathematics and Physics. Unfortunately, that leaves many in a perpetual state of yearning – the outsiders looking in. A rather common profile attribute of the israeli male that cuts across all age groups.

          I come to my conclusions based on the uninformed questions Sirpad is raising. definitely, kindergarten stuff.

          Note to the better informed: any more specific caveats with Sirpad’s shallow understanding of technical specifications and capabilities of certain drones (or “drawns” as Aitan penned above?), and it would be too much.

  • Joe Greek October 13, 2013, 11:02 PM

    Useless.

    • Richard Silverstein October 14, 2013, 12:41 AM

      @ Joe Greek: That’s an improvement over your last comment which contained barely more than the word “shit” in it. Read the comment rules if you can read. Respect them or you won’t comment here in future. The rules insist that a comment be substantive, contain ideas or an argument and support their claims. Your comment above is, well, useless.

  • Oui October 14, 2013, 6:05 AM

    rel="nofollow">Iran copied Hermes 450 drone At the end
    of 2012 video appeared that purported to show Iranian success in
    copying the Israeli drone Hermes 450. The Iranian Hermes look-alike
    is called the rel="nofollow">Shahed 129. The Shahed looks like the
    Hermes 450 and flies like it. (A post in this rel="nofollow">newsgroup shows some of the differences
    between various Hermes 450 clones and versions. By the photos the
    Iranian Shahed 129 is cloned from Hermes 450, not Watchkeeper). In
    2011 Iran claimed to have captured several US and Israeli drones
    along its eastern borders, (perhaps flying covert missions from
    Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Azerbaijan). ○ rel="nofollow">Hillary Clinton Asked to Investigate Downed Azeri
    Drone
    – an Israeli Hermes-450. (VIDEO) The rel="nofollow">British Watchkeeper WK450 is based on
    the Elbit Hermes 450 UAV. The engine is a rotary Wankel engine. It
    has a mass of 450 kg and a payload capacity of 150 kg, with a
    typical endurance of 17 hours. The Watchkeeper is built in the UK
    by a joint venture company, UAV Tactical Systems (U-TacS), set up
    by the Israeli company Elbit Systems (51% ownership) and French
    company Thales.

    See my previous comment about
    the rel="nofollow">Georgian drones bought from Elbit
    Systems
    , President Saakashvili said these were
    compromised after Israel and Russia made a swap – Israel gave
    Russia the ‘data link’ code for those specific UAVs. ○
    rel="nofollow">Iranian Shahed-129 UCAV (English
    Translation)

  • IM October 14, 2013, 11:27 AM

    “All three UAVs (Heron, Hermes 450 and Harpy) share the
    same guidance system” – uh…no, they don’t. The Harpy loiters in a
    pre-defined area waiting for radar sources to show up. It doesn’t
    do auto-nav, it can’t change its mission on flight. The Hermes and
    the Heron have very distinct C&C characteristics.

  • dickerson3870 October 14, 2013, 12:53 PM

    RE: “Israel is being pushed [to] launch BVR [Beyond Visual Range] tactical nukes as the main way to attack Iran. I don’t know if you read Bib’s comparisons, but the lunatic is comparing himself to Churchill, and with Israel’s isolation growing I fear he’s losing it and will attack.” ~ unidentified Israeli source

    MY COMMENT: Netanyahu seems to alternate between seeing himself as Churchill, and seeing himself as King David*.

    .* SEE: “Netanyahu’s ‘King David’ Complex”, by Paul Pillar, Consortium News, 4/02/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . A former Likud activist who has become a critic of Netanyahu explains, “Bibi is a messianist. He believes with all his soul and every last molecule of his being that he — I don’t quite know how to express it — is King David.”*
    It is not in a superpower’s interest to get sucked into projects of someone with a King David complex. . .
    . . . If it [the U.S.] does not escape a war, it will be hard to find any silver lining in the consequences. But perhaps one would be that Americans would then be more likely to understand how contrary to their own interests it has been to follow the preferences of the Israeli government. Perhaps that could be a first step toward a more normal — and more beneficial for the United States — U.S. relationship with Israel. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://digg.com/newsbar/Politics/netanyahu_s_king_david_complex_consortiumnews

    * ALSO SEE – “Bibi: Israel Will Raise ‘David’s Sword’ Against Iran” ~ By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 9/28/11

    [EXCERPTS] . . . But the most interesting and frightening element of the interview was his [Netanyahu's] comments about Iran. Other reporters have been noting that Bibi lately has been waxing apocalyptic and mystical about the possibly oncoming war with Iran. In this interview he says:
    Iran’s nuclear programs are turning it into an existential danger to the State of Israel. The question is not just what Israel is doing to stop it, but what the world is doing. The awareness by the world community that Iran is progressing on a track toward developing a nuclear weapon obligates it to act so that Iran does not get this weapon. With every day that passes, Iran gets closer. The obligation of the international community to act grows as the fear [that Iran progresses toward a bomb] does.
    You must keep in mind: that we aspire toward peace; but at the same time we must wield the sword of David to defend the Jewish State.

    Of course, in Bibi’s skewed world-view, David’s sword was raised only to defend his people, not in aggression against a victim. But we should keep in mind that David’s sword slew an Israelite enemy and led to the killer’s annointment as King of Israel. . .
    . . . Bibi (and to a lesser extent, Barak) have a very complicated complex that is little short of messianic and frightening. In the past, I’ve written dismissively about Bibi saying he has no principles and that even his so-called Jewish values appear to be manufactured. Now, I’m not so sure. And I don’t know which is worse, a megalomaniac with no principles or values; or a Jewish megalomaniac with religious-nationalist principles and values. They both scare the living hell out of me. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2011/09/28/bibi-israel-will-raise-davids-sword-against-iran/

  • Effendi October 15, 2013, 3:34 PM

    Dear Richard, Keep up the most excellent work. I see that the megaphony hasbaRATS are out in force and on you.
    Ignore them as they know what is coming. As a member of the US Military and with Persian blood, I used to worry about israel’s nuttyjawingjew some how actually activating an attack on Iran. It’s NEVER going to happen. I really do have to grin when I read you post up the facts and all the paid hasbarats scream irrationally back at you. They don’t even bother to hide who they are anymore. Stay safe and keep informing us. Enjoy this day. :)

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