By William Tucker
The Israeli Air Force shot down an unmanned aircraft that entered Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean on Saturday. According to the IAF, the UAV was monitored and followed by fighter aircraft until it was shot down over a sparsely populated area. Despite media reports and claims by some Israeli politicians, the military has not confirmed the source of the UAV, nor have they given any indication about the nature of the aircraft. Truth be told, however, the speculation that the UAV was originated in Lebanon and was operated by Hezbollah is perhaps the most likely scenario. The Israeli military did say that the aircraft was unarmed which indicates that it was likely used for intelligence collection. Another possibility to consider would be the aircraft owners were attempting to test the capabilities of Israel’s air defense. The day following the downing of the UAV, the IAF ran ‘mock air raids’ over several villages in southern Lebanon. Whether or not the two events were related is unknown, but the proximity of the events is suggestive.
After the airspace violation, and subsequent downing of the UAV, Reuters solicited the opinion of several Iranian military leaders regarding this event. Other than the typical bravado, the Iranian line seemed to indicate a belief, wishful thinking, or both, that Israel’s air defense was inadequate. Indeed, several pundits in the media have made similar statements, but that may not be the case. According to reports from the Israeli military, the UAV was spotted and tracked before being shot down over a rather sparsely populated area in the south of the country. Had the IAF engaged the aircraft over water the recovery of the wreckage would have been significantly complicated. Aircraft wreckage, especially that of the military sort, offers quite a bit of intelligence on the operators intentions and capabilities. Had the UAV gone down over water this information could have been lost or degraded at the very least. Naturally, this is speculation, but the promptness and openness with which the IAF reported the event suggests that the airspace violation was managed properly. Militaries don’t like to advertise vulnerabilities, and the speed with which the Israelis made this event public tend to belay that type of concern.