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The Drone Index: Qods + IAMIC Shahed 129

December 7, 2014

Iranian Shahed 129 UAV

Lacking a well-funded R&D arm for its state-owned military-industrial complex, Iran is no different from China when it copies foreign technology and hails the resulting product as a breakthrough. It’s hardly surprising the Shahed 129, first unveiled in 2012, follows the same familiar script. But the latest Shahed aircraft isn’t unique among contemporary UAVs.

Judging by its appearance, it’s another derivative of the Hermes 450, a widely exported model built by Israel’s Elbit Systems. Thales, the French electronics and aerospace company, used the Hermes 450 as the basis for its own UAV the Watchkeeper.

Other sources point out that the Shahed 129 more closely resembles the Hermes 900, a later and heavier variant of the 450. Since details about its power plant and internal sensors aren’t published online, the extent of its capabilities are a matter of speculation. Judging by the Shahed 129’s appearance and its size, it’s a MALE that is flown from runways via a ground control station.

As a derivative of the Hermes and the Predator, its ceiling reaches 24,000 feet. Footage aired in Iran two years ago reveals its operational range is 1,700 kilometers. Its endurance, or the time it can spend flying, should last a day or 24 hours. If the Shahed is an exact replica of the Hermes 450, then its measurements are the same, with a 30 ft wingspan and a 10 ft body. The lack of a bump above the nose cone, however, can suggest the Shahed 129 only possesses a fire control system and a camera.

But more than a reconnaissance and surveillance UAV, the Shahed 129 is meant to fulfill the same role as the General Atomics Predator B. It can track targets and eliminate them. With a payload of four air-to-ground missiles–indigenous copies of the Raytheon TOW 2 ATGM–the Shahed 129 is among the few armed UAV made in the Middle East.

The Shahed 129’s lethality has already been proven in Syria and with the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) current activities in Iraq, its exploits may soon establish it as one of the deadliest UAVs in the region. The secretive nature of the IRGC business activities shrouds the Shahed 129’s origins, including the facility where it’s built. It can be assumed the Shahed 129 is a joint venture between two Iranian aerospace firms who plan to build the model in limited numbers.