Israel's New Battlefield Tech - Suicide Drones & Drone Swarms
By Yaakov Lappin/JNS.orgJuly 07, 2021
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The reported June 23 blast that rocked a building linked to Iran's nuclear program in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran, appears to have disrupted the ability of the Islamic Republic to feed key nuclear program sites with new centrifuges.
According to international media reports, an explosive suicide drone slammed into the building last month. Iran later confirmed that the site is state-owned.
Hours after the incident, Iranian state media claimed that security forces were able to foil "an act of sabotage" against a building belonging to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and that there were no casualties or damage.
On Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei as accusing Israel of being behind the attack. Rabiei claimed the attack was designed to torpedo ongoing nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and world powers in Vienna.
"Whatever sabotage has happened, our strength has increased," he said, seemingly contradicting earlier Iranian claims that the attack caused no damage.
Jonathan Ruhe, director of foreign policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), told JNS that the blast looks like it was designed to "disrupt centrifuge supply lines for both Natanz and Fordow [Iran's two main uranium enrichment sites]."
He added that "unlike Iran's declared nuclear facilities, where activities were regularly included in IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] reports, relatively little is publicly known about this facility in Karaj, other than it being part of the centrifuge supply chain for Iran's uranium enrichment program at Natanz and Fordow."
Any successful strike against the Iranian nuclear program's centrifuge supply chain would need to "appreciably delay one of Iran's key nuclear ambitions," said Ruhe, listing this as the ability "to replace its existing enrichment workhorse--the rudimentary IR-1 centrifuge--with much more productive models like the IR-2m, IR-6 and IR-8 that could ramp up enrichment capability very quickly."
On July 3, the Twitter account of the Intel Lab brand, which is made up of intelligence analysis professionals from around the world, released satellite imagery showing a significantly damaged structure at the Karaj site. It described the site as a "suspected centrifuge manufacturing facility" and showed pieces of the roof missing, as well black discoloration caused by fire.
Placing the June blast in a wider context, Ruhe recalled that on April 11, a blast tore through the Natanz active enrichment site, which according to JINSA's assessment likely took some 5,000 IR-1 type centrifuges offline. In July 2020, a blast targeted a centrifuge assembly center at Natanz, according to media reports.
"After covert strikes in July 2020 against another Iranian centrifuge production facility and in April 2021 against its actively enriching machines, a manufacturing plant like Karaj became much more of a chokepoint," said Ruhe.
"Therefore, taking it offline, even partially or temporarily, would represent another significant setback in Iran's ongoing efforts to grow its enrichment infrastructure and quickly cut breakout time, even if its fundamental ability to produce enough fissile material for a bomb remains intact."
On another front, Israel is believed to have used the first ever drone swarm deployed in battle to hunt down Hamas terrorists.
Arthur Holland of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research said that “if confirmed, they are certainly a notch up in the incremental growth of autonomy and machine-to-machine collaboration in warfare".
Drones have previously been directed by a single operator who ‘fly’ the aircraft from a remote base such as the one in the June 23rd attack detailed above.
But in recent years, militaries have been working on developing Artificial Intelligence that allows the drones to work together without the need for an operator.
The basic idea of a drone swarm is that its machines are able to make decisions among themselves.
The swarm continue its mission, even if loses some drones during its mission.
The machine learning system is fed with data sourced from satellites, other reconnaissance drones, and aerial vehicles, as well as intelligence collected by ground units.
The IDF have been using AI and supercomputers to identify locations of Hamas activity and plan strikes to remove any strategic advantage.
The IDF has not confirmed any specifics of the autonomous swarm attack on Hamas targets.
As well as Israel, several countries including the UK, Russia, the United States and China have been working on drone swarms.
Some reports have indicated China is researching the potential impact of drone swarms to take out US aircraft carriers.
Published in part from JNS.org - reposted with permission.