Last week, Conflict Armament Research published an investigation into Iranian technology transfers to Yemen. The investigation links a drone captured in northern Iraq, a drone-like body that crashed near Aden International Airport in Yemen, and an intercepted shipment full of drone-like parts, all curiously missing surveillance equipment.
What is a drone without a camera?
The drones, all Qasef-1 models, appear to be one-use weapons, made to attack missile defense systems. Researchers with CAR examined drone parts seized by UAE forces, and in their report argue convincingly that the drones are not just a modification of an Iranian design, but were made by Iran. And, matching reports that these drone bodies were filled with explosives and launched like missiles at radars, the drone parts the researchers examined lacked any sort of camera or surveillance hardware.
Military drones, as we generally know them, are unmanned aerial vehicles controlled by a human operator, and used as a flying camera, sometimes with weapons attached. While Ababil 2 drones built for surveillance can land with either a parachute or by skidding on their bellies, the researchers examining the seized Qasef-1s found no landing gear, and no explosives inside.
Still, they found components for arming and initiating explosives. With that, and without surveillance equipment, it’s more likely that the Qasef-1s are disposable strike munitions, a fancy way of saying “one-use flying bombs.”
Crashing a drone into the radar that guides a missile battery is a pretty good way to knock out the defensive missiles, and with the missiles visible on satellite footage, it’s possible to just program in the GPS coordinates of the radar into Qasef’s guidance system.
That makes the Qasef-1 a simpler alternative to other anti-missile kamikaze drones, like Israel’s Harop loitering munition. Without missile defenses in the way, cruise missiles can strike with impunity.
A kamikaze drone just the first part of a complex attack.