‘Drone wars’ articles by Seth J. Frantzman

Drones or UAVs have become increasingly important on the battlefield. They are used by proxies and terrorists and by states. In 2019 this became highly visible as Iran shot down a US drone on June 20 and then Iranian drone technology was used to strike at Saudi Arabia on September 14.

I’ve been covering drones and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for several publications. Here are some of my articles and other interesting articles I’ve come across. This list will be updated from time to time.

The illustrative photo with this piece is of a Hero 400 by UVision

February 21

UVision opens US subsidiary – Defense News

UVision, a maker of loitering munitions, is seeking to expand its business in the U.S. with the launch of UVision USA, a fully owned subsidiary of UVision Air in Israel. The company has developed a family of lethal loitering munitions, including the Hero-30, the man-packable, canister-launched system. U.S.-based Raytheon signed an agreement in 2016 to work on the Hero-30. These munition types will be part of the future battlespace because they offer a lightweight precision-strike munition alongside the ability to reduce collateral damage, as there is a man in the loop at all times, according to UVision USA CEO Jim Truxel.

March 14

Fifty drones conduct drill in Iran – The Jerusalem Post

Iran’s Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it had launched a massive exercise involving 50 drones that are based on a US Sentinel drone the Iranians captured in 2011. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it was the strongest exercise of its kind to date. Named “Beit al-Maqdis,” a reference to Jerusalem, the operation was attended by the commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, and IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Fars News and Tasnim News both reported details of the operation, noting that, “for the first time, 50 Iranian drones on the RQ-170 [US Sentinel] model operated with a number of assault and combat drones.”

July 4

Seth Frantzman referenced in ICT report about Iran drone threat

July 9

Innovations in Israel-US defense relationship – Tablet

One Israeli company, General Robotics, makes a small robot capable of firing a Glock 9mm, or using pepper spray to assist special forces in entering a building. This kind of technology can save lives on both sides by sparing American or Israeli soldiers from the need to put themselves in a dangerous environment where they could potentially shoot the wrong person or overreact. Another Israeli drone technology developed by UVision can carry a warhead that weighs only 200 grams, small enough to avoid harming innocent people around a target.

July 13

Iran says it used new drone unit in attack on Kurdish dissidents – The Jerusalem Post

Confirmation comes from Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which say that Iran’s IRGC used its new UAV or drone unit to strike at the Kurds. The report claims that this shows how successful Iran’s drone technology has become. Tasnim says that the Qods Mohajer-6 or M-6, called the “Migrant” in Farsi, was used. It is a hi-tech drone that has precision-guided munitions and is supposed to be the latest generation, similar to other hi-tech drones in the West. It was unveiled in 2017 and declared operational last year.

July 13

How Israel became a leader in drone technology – The Jerusalem Post

ARE now in the era of drone wars. It sounds a bit like the Star Wars “clone wars” and perhaps it should, because the era of drones and air defense systems that combat them is something of the future. Except in this case, the future is here and now. For Israel, this is many decades in the making. In September 2016, Atelier magazine sat down with David Harari, a former head of Israel Aerospace Industries to talk about the origins of drone technology. “I’d like to make clear that unmanned aerial vehicles already existed before Israel started looking at the subject,” he said. However, “We developed the very first operation system.” This was important for Israel facing the threats of the 1970s and early 1980s, first in the Egyptian conflict of 1973 and then against terrorists in Lebanon. Harari told Globes in 2011 that when he began looking into UAVs, people laughed at him and his staff. One of Israel’s first drones was called Zahavan “Scout” and was used in the 1982 Lebanon War. At 22 kg., it could fly for several hours and its camera weighed 25 kg., Globes notes. “When we wanted to expand the capabilities of the next UAV, we had to build a new and bigger plane,” Harari said.

July 19

Iran is becoming a drone superpower – The Hill

Iran is quietly building up an arsenal of locally-produced drones that it is exporting to its allies in the region and testing against enemies in Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia. On July 10, Iranian drones reportedly were used to attack a Kurdish dissident group in northern Iraq, after Iran accused the group of killing members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iranian media said that a new IRGC drone unit was used during the attack, which comes three weeks after Iran downed a sophisticated American drone over the Gulf of Oman.

July 20

Drone war politics over the Gulf – The Jerusalem Post

The US says it downed an Iranian drone using electronic jamming while Iran says it didn’t lose a drone, leading to growing questions about what happened on Thursday in the tense waters off the coast of Iran. According to US officials, numerous reports and US President Donald Trump, the Iranian drone had come within a thousand yards of the USS Boxer and was brought down by some kind of electronic weapon. Trump painted a more explosive picture of the event, noting that the Iranian drone was one of the latest of “many provocative and hostile actions” and that it was “immediately destroyed.” Electronic jamming alone wouldn’t necessarily destroy a drone.

July 22

A mysterious drone attacked Iran-backed militias in Iraq – The Jerusalem Post

A drone attacked Iraqi Security Forces on Friday that were deployed 180 km. north of Baghdad, near the city of Tuz Khurmatu. Initially reported as an attack on Iranian-allied forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the mysterious drone incident is still being investigated, and it is not clear where it came from or who carried out the attack that left several wounded.

August 24

Israel prevents Iranian-backed ‘killer drone’ attack – thread on Twitter

September 15

Rafael acquires aeronautics – Defense News

September 14

Notes on the Abqaiq strike

September 26

Are air defense systems ready to confront drone swarms – Defense News

Exclusive interviews with Uzi Rubin, founder of missile defense in Israel, and Pini Yungman of Rafael air defense systems

The attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities on Sept. 14 served as a reality check for countries struggling to define the level of the threat posed by drone swarms and low-altitude cruise missiles. Now, in a region where that threat is particularly acute, countries are left to reexamine existing air defense technology. According to the Saudi Defense Ministry, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were fired at the kingdom in the early hours the day in mid-September. The drones struck Abqaiq, a facility that the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank had warned the month before was a potential critical infrastructure target. Several cruise missiles fell short and did not hit the facility. Four cruise missiles struck Khurais. Saudi and U.S. official blame on Iran, but the government there denies involvement.


September 29

How did one of the poorest countries build state-of-the-art drones

A look at Yemen’s eight drones, as covered by Press TV propaganda


Other articles

September 30 Chinese drones hunt Turkish drones in Libya

Do you enjoy Seth J. Frantzman’s articles? Read his new book After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (Gefen 2019), available now 


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