A display (non-flying) version of an Iranian “Saegheh” drone based on the US RQ-170 Sentinel. [credit:
Iran TV ]
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Division staged what Iranian state media described as “massive drone drills” on March 14, including coordinated offensive operations with dozens of flying-wing drones based on the Lockheed RQ-170 Sentinel, captured by Iran in 2011, and Iranian copies of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. During the exercise, called “Towards al-Quds” (al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem), a total of about 50 drones—including “Saegheh” unmanned combat aerial vehicles based on the RQ-170’s flying wing design—were used in a coordinated air strike on training targets 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles) from their launch site.
The Saegheh is much smaller than the RQ-170, with a wingspan of about six meters (about 20 feet). It has been shown carrying Sadid-1 TV-guided antitank missiles on its belly in static displays, and it does not appear to have landing gear—unlike a fiberglass replica of the RQ-170 that was displayed five years ago. There are two variants of the Saegheh: one uses a piston-driven propeller for thrust, while the other uses a small turbofan engine.
Video from Iran’s PressTV showed guided bombs being dropped from other types of Iranian drones but did not show weapons released from the Saegheh drones. The video claimed 50 of the RQ-170 knockoffs were used in the exercise, while the text of the article published by PressTV said “dozens” in a headline, and then the actual text of the article stated 10 Saegheh drones were used. So just how many were flown is left as an exercise for the reader’s imagination.