The Ababil, meaning "Swallow", was developed by HESA (Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company / IAMI) in 1986 to expand Iran's reconnaissance and intelligence capability during their war with Iraq. (1) 369 Ababils have been produced as of ~2006-2007. (2)
The basic design of the Ababil features a slender cigarette shaped fuselage with canards mounted on the upper fuselage while the primary cropped-delta wings are mounted on the lower fuselage at the rear of the airframe. Depending on the model, the Ababil has either a single or dual tailplane. Control surfaces are located on all horizontal wings, but are absent on the tailplane.Construction was originally of aluminum, though recent models are now made of composite materials.
It is powered by a single two-stroke WAE-342 engine which turns a pusher-style prop, though an alternate engine is also advertised, the slightly more powerful Vanckle P73.
The Ababil is launched from the usual range of truck-mounted or towed launch trailers using either pneumatic or RATO boosters while recovery is via parachute or skids.
|Ababil Launch Platforms (Various)|
The Ababil is controlled through the usual range of radio telemetry, though for longer ranges it is fitted with the "Shahid Norouzi" autopilot system. This package is full-spectrum in the sense that it can control every aspect of the drones flight, from launch to recovery. The primary feature of the autopilot is the use of INS/GPS to extend the range of the UAV beyond the limits of conventional communication means, up to 60 km under normal circumstances, and up to 120 km if the transmitter power is boosted.It is unknown whether real-time data uplink/downlink is part of this system, allowing full use of the UAV's surveillance capability.
|Ababil Ground Control Post (Iran Military Forum)|
Depending on the variant, the Ababil can carry a range of day or night-time surveillance equipment, mounted either in the nose or in an under-fuselage mount. In the attack role, they can carry 40 kg of explosives. As a target drone, it can carry flares or radar reflectors. All models can carry a miss distance indicator (MDI).
|Unknown Surveillance Variant (Fars News)|
There are quite a few rumored versions that exist or may have existed at any given time. One very real possibility is that several of designations in fact relate to a single design, or slight variations of a single design.
Features a single tail and is most likely a target drone model due to the lack of surveillance equipment.
|Ababil-2 at 2010 Kish Airshow (Kish Trade Promotion Center)|
Reported to have been shot down by a US F-16 in Iraq in February 2009. Designation may simply be due to inexperienced staff writers rather then an actual positive ID. (4) Possibly the "base" model.
Reported to be a medium range reconnaissance variant. (5) Intuitively, the extended range would logically mean a model fitted with the Shahid Norouzi autopilot. No further details.
Reported to be a short/medium range attack variant. (6) This is the twin-tailed model which can be fitted with a 40 kg warhead. Possible secondary reconnaissance capability with payload under the fuselage. Used by Hezbollah during several flights into northern Israel in 2004, 2005, and 2006(7)
|Remains of a downed Hezbollah Ababil-T During their 2006 War with Israel (HNN)|
Twin tailed model used by Iran as a target drone. The twin tails, in addition to providing greater stability, have the benefit of increasing radar cross-section which can be seen as a benefit in target drones.(8)
|Ababil-CH (Mehr News)|
Reported to be the base surveillance version with EO payload mounted in the nose.(9)
Reported to be a newer, advanced surveillance variant.(10)
Target drone model(11)
Ababil Jet / Hadaf-1
The Hadaf-1 is a development of the Ababil platform, but powered by the Toloue-4 jet engine instead of a propeller. Postulated roles include advanced air-defense training, reconnaissance and strike roles. As of 2007, the Hadaf-1 had completed parachute tests and was still under development (12) It is possible, this project evolved into the Karrar (separate entry).
Base Model* (13)
Length: 2.88 m
Wingspan: 3.25 m
Height: .90 m
Empty Weight: ~30 kg (estimated)
MTOW: 84 kg
Payload Weight: 40 kg
Cruise Speed: 300 km/h
Endurance: 1.5+ hr
Ceiling: 2.5 km - 3.0 km (with WAE-342) OR 4.5 km - 5.2 km (with Vanckle P73)
Powerplant: 25 hp WAE-342 OR 30 hp Vanckle P73
Payload: Varies my model, see text.
Ababil Jet / Hadaf-1 (Provisional) (14)
Cruise Speed: 700-800 km/h
*Note: It is unclear exactly which model these specifications are in reference to. However, it can be assumed that it is reference to the most-commonly seen single tail-plane model.
(1) Devlin, Liam. "Iran Expands UAV Capability." Unmanned Vehicles. December 2006 - January 2007. Accessed Online.
(2) Unknown industry poster. Attained via forum member "M-ATF".
(3) ibd Devlin, 2007
(4)Hodge, Nathan. "U.S. Military Confirms It Shot Down Iranian Drone." Danger Room. Wired, March 16th 2009. Web.
(5) "Ababil." Global Security. 10-07-2008.
(6) ibd Global Security, 2008
(7)La Franchi, Peter. "Iranian-made Ababil-T Hezbollah UAV shot down by Israeli fighter in Lebanon crisis ." Flight Global, 15/08/06. Web.
(8) ibd Devlin, 2007
(9) ibd La Franchi, 2006
(10) ibd Global Security, 2008
(11) UAV Center. "Middle East - Asia." http://www.uavcenter.com/english/wwuavs/asia/emiddle_east-asia.asp
(12) ibd Devlin, 2007
(13) ibd Global Security, 2008
(14) ibd Devlin, 2007