After watching the performance of Iran's new, locally-produced Karrar bomber drone, debkafile's military sources summed it up as a primitive copy of an obsolete unmanned US cruise missile from the 1950s that was derived from the V1 "buzz bomb" which the Germans fired against London at the end of World War II. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a big production of unveiling the Karrar (Ambassador of Death) Aug. 22 in a showy ceremony.
Even so, Western intelligence sources believe that mass-produced with extended range, large swarms of these flying bombs could cause death and destruction if released over densely populated Israeli areas and US military facilities and warships in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.
They would be fired from automatic anti-air artillery or dropped from Iran's outdated F-4 Phantom warplanes. Neither the Israeli Arrow nor the US Patriot missile interceptors are designed for unsophisticated flying bombs. And, if the Iranian claims of its 1,000-kilometer range is exaggerated and it can only reach 400-600 kilometers - short of Israel - the experts believe the Ambassador of Death could be transferred to the Hizballah in Lebanon or fired from an Iranian vessel opposite the Israeli coast.
In any case, American targets around Iran's borders and coasts could be threatened.
Iran's development of this UAV and the possibility of it reaching terrorist hands in Lebanon have sent Israel Air force missile and air defense experts to the drawing board for solutions.
it is possible the may look at reviving the development of the US-Israeli Nautilus Tactical High Energy Laser, a project US and Israel armed forces abandoned in 2006 because of the prohibitive cost of development and inconclusive evidence of its effectiveness. However, its purpose as a weapon and radar guidance system capable of firing highly concentrated laser beams that can destroy low-flying missiles and artillery and mortar rounds, could work against the Iranian Karrar.
While no more than a primitive flying bomb, the Iranian UAV's effectiveness against urban and large targets is undeniable in the same way as small speedboats can menace a large aircraft carrier. The Iranians have fitted it without strong, new jet engines as well as advanced flight control and GBS navigating systems. Ahmadinejad boasted that the Ambassador of Death carries four cruise missiles. As far as is known to Western intelligence, Iran has never fully mastered cruise missile technology.
The UAV he exhibited with such pride lags far behind the products turned out by the US and Israel, which are capable of hovering over a target for 50 hours at a stretch and following orders either to collect intelligence or attack relayed from ground stations thousands of miles away.
The Iranian Karrar cannot return to base or undertake a second mission after its first which is to do the work of a small airborne bomb. The only big difference is that its approach on target is silent and therefore an unwelcome surprise to its victims.
Neither Israeli nor American strategists take its menace lightly.
Six months ago, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates commented: "Those Iranian drones are a concern because it is one of these areas where, if they chose to - in Iraq, in Afghanistan - they could create difficulties for us."