According to reports that began to emerge just a few days ago, the US air force claimed to have shot down an Iranian drone (unmanned aircraft) on 25 February 2009. Most reports say the drone was operating over an area some 60-70 miles northeast of Baghdad and was shot down after having operated over the area for 70 minutes. The US military identified the Iranian drone as an Ababil 3 unmanned aircraft. While the aircraft can be used as a type of flying bomb capable of delivering some 45kgs of explosives, its usual use is as a reconnaissance aircraft fitted out with cameras and other such equipment.
But, wearing my aeronautical engineers hat, here’s the problem with the story as the US is telling it: The Ababil 3 drone is capable of a speed of 300 kph and an operational radius of just 150 kms. or 300 kms. all-out straight flight range. Since the aircrafts maximum speed is only 300 kph this would give the aircraft an operational duration of just one hour (60 minutes) at full speed and full power yet we are told that the drone was flying around for 70 minutes and that, even if it included its flight time from the launch place in Iran to the place it was monitored operating over, is over the aircraft’s duration ability even if the motor had been throttled back to increase duration. And if the 70 minutes is the time it spent over the operational area and excluded the time it took to fly to there from the launch site in Iran, and presumably the time needed to fly the drone back to Iran for recovery, then we have a technical impossibility if we assume that the specs for the Ababil 3 are correct. (See ‘Janes All the Worlds Aircraft’.)
The US has not provided any physical evidence that supports their claim of having shot down the drone. Certainly there seems to be no photographic evidence of the wreckage that may identify the drone type. All we have is their claim.
To top it off there is also Iran’s denial that any of their drones was shot down over Iraq. While they are hardly likely to put their hands up and admit that they had, it does seem in this case that the US story has been fabricated as part of a propaganda campaign to prepare the West for the possibility of an attack against Iran in the future.
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