The shooting down last week of a sophisticated US drone by an Iranian missile demonstrates that Tehran’s air defence capabilities can pose a challenge to US air superiority, experts say.
The Global Hawk, an advanced US navy surveillance drone, was flying at high altitude — it can reach 60,000 feet (18 kilometers) — early Friday local time when it was struck by a ground-to-air missile by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“The fact that Iran was able to shoot down the drone demonstrates that they have developed or purchased fairly significant capabilities and are skilled at employing these systems.”
Wasser noted an Iranian claim that it had used a home-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) system to shoot down the drone.
“If true, this would be significant because it is a domestically produced capability that Iran could replicate and potentially provide to proxy groups throughout the region to threaten US and partner militaries,” she told AFP.
According to the Military Balance — an annual publication by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) — Iran has 32 batteries of Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air missiles that have been delivered by Moscow since 2016. They are seen as posing a serious threat.
The Islamic Republic has also developed Iranian versions of these missile systems, including the Bavar 373, SAM Tabas and SAM Raad which are regularly displayed at military parades.
The Revolutionary Guards claim that they shot down the US drone with a Khordad 3 missile, a version of the SAM Raad.
Senior Iranian officials and military officers have welcomed the strike and warned against a possible US retaliation.
“The enemy dispatched its most advanced, smartest and most sophisticated surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to the forbidden area and everyone saw the shooting down of this unmanned aircraft,” Iran’s navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Monday.
“I say confidently that this crushing response can be repeated and the enemy knows this,” he said.
– Spy Plane –
The former head of a French intelligence service, who asked to remain anonymous, said that if the US airforce sends large numbers of aircraft over Iran, they should be prepared for some losses, because Iranian forces will be prepared.
“That said, in the case of the drone, it may not have had sufficient counter-measures — to deceive, deflect or outmaneuvre the missile — and the Americans thought that the Iranians would not dare” shoot it down, he told AFP.
Dan Gettinger, co-director at the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, New York, said the Global Hawk is a large plane that flies slowly.
The plane “is not a stealthy aircraft — it’s very large” with a wingspan of 40 meters, similar to a Boeing 737, Gettinger said.
The drone’s fate is “definitely going to be taken into account in future operations,” Gettinger told AFP.
He said the incident is also reminiscent of the time the Soviet Union shot down a U-2 spy plane in 1960.
That event, targeting a piloted craft, “is a large part of the reason why the US started developing drones in the first place,” Gettinger said.
Experts however say that the latest incident does not mean Iran is capable of building a firewall against the airforce of the world’s largest military, whose superior firepower and electronic warfare capabilities are overwhelming.
At the end of 2015, just after Moscow agreed to sell the S-300 systems to Tehran, a move Israel tried in vain to prevent, the head of the Israeli Air Force General Amir Eshel said the missiles posed “a significant but not insurmountable challenge”.
Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at IISS, said Iran had shown it is capable of shooting down a large drone.
But, he said, “this is a long way from being able to sustain air defense operations in the face of a significant attack involving missile strikes and counter-measures to degrade its air defenses.”
Watch Chris Hayes’ epic scolding of the commander-in-chief in MSNBC special before a live studio audience
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes publicly scolded President Donald Trump during a special showing of "All In" before a live studio audience.
The host broke down the discredited conspiracy theory Trump has been pushing that it was actually Ukraine -- not Russia -- that interfered in the 2016 election.
Hayes was especially shocked that Trump was going after Hunter Biden, when his job is to protect Americans.
"Because the president -- and I know he doesn't believe this, but it's true -- the president is the president of Hunter Biden, too," Hayes said. "He is."
"Because Hunter Biden is an American citizen and it is the president's duty to protect all Americans -- all Americans -- from the deprivations of foreign judicial systems. In fact, it is really the president's job to represent all of America's national interests. That's the job."
The Republican Party will be judged for many many years for what it does in this trial: Carl Bernstein
Veteran newsman Carl Bernstein warned the Republican Party that they will be "judged" for decades based on their behavior in President Donald Trump's impeachment.
During a Friday CNN appearance, the Watergate reporter from The Washington Post explained that the GOP clearly doesn't care about truth, justice or the rule of law.
"There's very little interest in the truth by the president's Republican defenders," he told host Erin Burnett. "Which is a really terrible thing given the grievous nature of the president's corruption, his illegal acts that have now been demonstrably made apparent through the impeachment hearings. The Republican Party is really also on trial in the Senate. And we'll see if there's any breaking of ranks. And right now, it doesn't appear that there is going to be. But I think it will be many, many years that the Republican Party will be judged for what it does in this trial of Donald Trump."
John Bolton ripped for refusing his ‘patriotic duty’ to testify: CNN legal analyst lectures him to ‘show up!’
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin didn't have any kind words for former national security adviser John Bolton, who was spotted coming into Washington, D.C. at Union Station Friday.
"Are you concerned they're trying to keep you from testifying?" a reporter asked Bolton.
"No. I won't," Bolton replied.
Bolton complained Friday that the White House had blocked him from accessing his Twitter account, which was the reason for his two-month silence on the social media site. The White House released a statement denying the account.
None of that mattered to Toobin, who quite simply blew up at Bolton.