Jerusalem, 7 March, 2022 (TPS) — In March 2021, Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35 fighters intercepted two Undammed Aerial Vehicles (UAV) en route from Iran to the Gaza Strip, the IDF cleared for publication on Sunday night, the first recorded downing of a drone by an F-35 fighter in history.
The interceptions were “carried out in the region’s skies in coordination with neighboring countries, thus preventing intrusion into Israel,” the IDF stated.
The UAVs were monitored by the IAF’s control and detection systems throughout their flight, the IDF underscored.
The two drones were reportedly carrying a small shipment of weapons and flew towards the Gaza Strip, in what was apparently an Iranian experiment in smuggling weapons to the terror organizations in the Strip.
Israel Hayom military commentator Yoav Limor wrote that the decision to allow the publication of the incident at this time stems from the re-signing of the nuclear agreement between Western powers and Iran, which is expected to take place in the coming days Vienna.”
“It is estimated that after the signing of the agreement, Tehran will feel much more liberated to act against Israel, and more aggressively than before. In Israel, they want to broadcast to the Islamic Republic that it is exposed and that all its attempts will be intercepted – and answered sharply,” he wrote.
Israeli analyst Yoni Ben Menachem, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), wrote Monday that Israel is “preparing to face the danger of Iranian drones that has been gaining momentum in recent months.”
Hezbollah and Hamas are stepping up preparations to attack Israel with UAV swarms, with Israel warning that signing a new nuclear deal will accelerate Iranian Quds Force military operations against Israel, he said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz exposed in November that Iran was carrying out attacks using suicide drones launched from its territory and from the countries in which its proxies are deployed, and presented the two major bases in the Shabhar region and the Island of Qeshm in southern Iran, from which operations are carried out against maritime targets and where advanced attacking UAVs are still located today.
The Defense Minister further revealed that in February 2018, Iran launched a m-Shahed 141 UAV from the T4 airport in Syria, which carried TNT explosives. The UAV was intercepted near the Israeli city of Beit She’an and its destination was terrorist elements in Judea and Samaria.
“Iran not only uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to attack but also to carry out weapons transfers to its proxies,” he underscored.
Incidents in recent months and years have provided a glimpse into the devastating manner in which UAVs can be used in modern combat to target strategic sites. They have been used to strike airports and oil fields in Saudi Arabia, both by the Houthis and directly by Iran, used against US forces in Iraq and Syria by Shi’ite militias, and used by Iran to strike merchant ships linked to Israeli businessmen.
The increasing use of UAV swarms, mass attacks of multiple units simultaneously, is also an indication of the future of this weapon system.
In Israel and around the world, the realization of the strategic threat posed by UAVs is pushing this issue to the top of the list. In September, Gantz said Iran’s UAV arsenal is “one of the most significant tools” developed by Tehran, calling it an “array of deadly weapons which, like ballistic missiles or planes, can cross thousands of miles.”