Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Drone converted to Cruise Missile by Iran

Warplanes: Iran Reinvents Cruise Missiles

January 27, 2015:  In December 2014 Iran held military exercises in which it claimed it had converted one of its UAVs into a “suicide drone” and successfully tested it. The story behind this story is far more interesting. This suicide drone is actually a cruise missile and is based on what Iran claims is a copy of the American ScanEagle UAV. This is a low-tech, commercially available UAV that contains no classified components. In early 2013 Iran released photos of their new production facility producing copies of ScanEagle. But Iran did not present any of the completed “Yasir” (as they called their version of ScanEagle) UAVs. Iran could have built a ScanEagle clone without copying from one they had obtained (either from a crash or the black market). The ScanEagle assembly line picture could have simply been Photoshopped, a technique Iran has been caught using numerous times. The Iranian version was said to have a range of 200 kilometers max altitude of 2,900 meters and max endurance of eight hours. By replacing the surveillance equipment and much of the fuel with explosives Iran would have a short range (a hundred kilometers or so) cruise missile with over a 10 kg (over 22 pounds) of explosives that could, in theory, hit anything within range. That is if it can get past the air defenses. Most Western air defense systems have been upgraded to detect UAVs and low flying cruise missiles.  
(read more here)

I might add that Strategy Page is one of the better links for world military situation reports without paying a subscription.

I strongly suggest you add it to at least your weekly reading list.

This is not rocket science.

As a matter of fact the Iranians are kind of dumb. 

Guys in the US have been making these for years
What is the difference between what .gov buys and what you can buy off the shelf? 
Or fabricate from off the shelf parts like this plane above made from house insulation Styrofoam purchased at Home Depot? 

I postulate that the only difference is the radio system, and the 100k dollar price tag the USGOV pays.  

Do you understand  4th gen warfare yet?

The Scan Eagle could be duplicated with a sheet of foam insulation, a hot wire cutter or CNC router (you could skip this step but performance would be reduced) to shape the airfoil.  Some carbon fiber tubes for reinforcement, a avionics package for RC planes, cameras, a gas engine, and a couple weekends spare time.

I know someone who flew 12 hours on one gallon of fuel with a larger plane than this, made from Styrofoam. It had a spare payload capacity of 8 pounds.  Almost exactly the same as this one, and his did not have a well shaped airfoil.

So if a guy can make this in his garage with wages that are less than a McDonald's fast food worker...

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Add in stealth counter measures with this off the shelf material

This stuff is open cell urethane foam.  Not suitable for structural parts.

However it could be laminated to regular urethane foam.

I suspect that it is mere urethane foam with graphite mixed in and the radar absorption properties are dependent on the pore size in relation to the microwave frequency wavelength.

Otherwise one could use 2 part urethane foam, a mold, and graphite to make either blanks or molded radar absorbing wings.

Another method would be to use chopped strand carbon fiber in lengths between 2mm and 4mm mixed into 2 part urethane foam.

The chopped strand would act as a radar antenna and the random orientation in the foam would disperse the radio energy along with providing strength to the foam.  A win-win in the engineering sense

One thing about radar is that the software is designed to ignore slow moving objects.  So a very slow plane like these RC planes will be less detectable by available tech.

I suspect that the only real countermeasure to a drone made like this is visual or audio tracking.

Audio tracking would be nearly impossible in urban environments due to the ambient noise from vehicles and garden tools and only effective at very short ranges.

With that in mind you should read this interesting related story here:

Did the USA "lean" on the NZ Government, forcing them to shut downthe DIY cruise missile project by fair means or foul?

see also