Karrar - Reconnaissance/Strike Drone
Karar UAV is the first Iranian jet UAV that was first unveiled in 2010. The drone has a turbojet engine and is capable of carrying a load of 500 kg. The drone has a range of 1000 km and can travel at a speed of 900 km per hour. Other capabilities of the Jet Karar UAV include automatic pilot system, the ability to reprogram during flight and mission change, closing the possibility of communication to prevent enemy infiltration into the guidance and control system, and having advanced navigation systems.
So far, various types of Karar drones have been designed and manufactured with various missions, such as targets for defense systems, attack drones and air interceptor drones, and depending on the type of mission, it is able to fly at an altitude of 25,000 to 40,000 feet. Another feature of the drone is the ability to fire a 25-kilometer Kowsar anti-ship cruise missile against naval target.
The “Karrar” (Strike) UCAV bomber, reconnaissance drone’s and potential attack submarine based cruise missile SLCM, first public showing on August 22, 2010 strongly suggest that it is a near identical primary copy turned up side down of a South African, (Denel Aerospace Systems) Kentron - designed - HTD -1 Skua high speed target drone UAV with some modification adaptations from the Russian TU-143 “Reis” VR-3 reconnaissance drone and potential offensive cruise missile. In both cases this is no surprise based on the known 2006 technology transfers from both South Africa and Russia to several nation states of the region and Asia going back to the Gorbachev era of the mid 1990’s. Certainly the technology mix seen in the Karrar is primarily from South African in its details as illustrated in the Hesa Ababil-Jet design.
South Africa’s Skua was designed as a primarily ground launched high speed drone target to simulate high performance aircraft attack operations and cruise missile operations for South Africa, and could likely be launched from a carrier aircraft. The Russian TU-143, Reis VR-3 appears to have been designed primarily for reconnaissance drone purposes and perhaps for cruise missile operations.
The Karrar, Iranian high speed long range bomber cruise missile has a reported range of up to 1,000 kilometers with airspeeds up to 900 kilometers per hour. It has been designed to carry 113.4 kilogram bombs, 204.12 kilograms guided bombs, 230 kilogram missiles as well as smaller cruise missiles. The test versions of the UCAV appear to be designed for parachute recovery when used as a reconnaissance drone. Karrar’s turbojet engine for propulsion appears to be a home grown derivation of the South African Apex TJ 350/APA-1 gas turbojet engine originating from the French Microturbo TR1 60 jet called the Toloue in Iran . The Karrar is likely powered by either the Toloue-4 or -5. The Iranian UCAV is launched by an undercarriage solid motor jettisoned soon after launch after the gas turbojet engine has taken over for its powered flight. It can carry its munitions on its undercarriage or wings providing a total of five to seven weapons mounting position possibilities total. Ditching its external armaments in lieu of fuel tanks – or even as yet possibly unrevealed conformal fuel tanks – could take Karrar all the way on a one-way cruise-missile journey to Israeli territory itself!
In August 2010 Iran unveiled a new type of turbojet-powered drone designated 'Karrar' (striker - in Farsi), described by Iranian officials as capable to perform long-range reconnaissance and attack missions. Iranian Defense Minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced that the country's first home-made long-range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) named 'Karrar' has a flight-range of 1,000km. Karrar is described as capable of operating at long range, and in 'great operational depth', at high or low altitudes.
According to Iranian reports, on reconnaissance missions the Karrar can record images flying over targets of interest and transmit them back to the ground control as it re-establishes communications. The drone can also carry weapons, two configurations were displayed – carrying a unitary bomb (what seemed to be a 500 lb weapon) on the centerline, or carrying two smaller weapons (assessed by their shape and size, these weapons could be the Kowsar (C-701) anti-ship missiles).
The design of the Karrar traces back to the BQM-126A target drone, developed by the U.S. company Beechcraft in the 1970s. Like the Iranian unmanned plane, the BQM-126 was powered by an expendable turbojet engine, developing thrust around 4 kN. (Iran's Tolloue 5 turbojet engine, rated at 4.4kN is in production powering some of the country's long range anti-ship missile program.) The fully loaded BQM-126 weighed about 0.6 tons and offered mission endurance over two hours. Its top speed was 950 kph, with service ceiling at 40,000 ft. It had a wingspan of 3 meters and length of 5.51 meters. This target plane also influenced the South African Skua target drone, developed by Denel. Skua Karrar is believed to be shorter (around 4.meter long), and, carrying less fuel, its useful payload can be increased to around 700 kg. Its cruising speed is 900 kph.
While the origins of new drone could bear upon the U.S. original, the Iranian designers invested significant effort in modifying and shaping it to their demands. The podded turbojet was moved inside the fuselage, with the air intake emplaced in a dorsal fairing, feeding the turbojet through a curved duct, assisting in absorbing some of the radar reflections from the turbine surface. The dorsal intake position cleared the belly for the carriage of stores or weapons on the centerline. To enable aerial carriage, the dorsal fairing behind the air duct has been strengthened, providing attachments for aerial pylons, with ample space for avionics and support systems,while also accommodating the recovery parachute. The center fuselage and forward section provides space for payloads, flight control sensors and, possibly, an internally carried warhead. The swept wings are designed for high speed flight, at relatively high altitude, but videos released by the Iranians also indicate the Karrar is also capable of flying low-level flights.
For what missions is the Karrar designed for? The first question to be asked would be – whether it is an unmanned aerial vehicle (operated as a reusable asset) or is it a 'one way only' cruise missile? As it is based on a target drone, Karrar could perform both missions successfully and affordably. Unlike conventional UAVs, it is not designed to operate with real-time, man-in-the-loop, but most likely to fly a pre-programmed mission, however – with more advanced flight controls already available to the Iranians with their UAVs and anti-ship missiles, it could 'improvise' with evasive maneuvering to evade potential threats, typically being the characteristics of a cruise missile. The Iranians already gained access to cruise missile knowhow, with the acquisition of Kh55 missiles from the Ukraine. Karrar could be the first manifestation of what they have learned from the Russian Kh55 technology.
Unlike other cruise missiles, Karrar seems to have the unique capability for carrying relatively heavy weapons slung under the wings, or on the centerline. However, it must be assumed that carrying such weapons should dramatically reduce its operational radius. Beyond deep recce missions, two offensive missions, that the drone might be used for, could be extended range anti-ship or missile-defense-suppression. The drone's range could be further extended by aerial delivery,using transport aircraft, such as the C-130 or P-3 or Il-76 launching Karrars from strengthened underwing pylons. Typically, a C-130 carries two aerial targets.
In a naval attack role, the Karrar equipped with two or four Kowsar missiles could extend the Iranian reach well beyond their coast, without being detected by maritime patrols. Similarly, the drone could be used as an anti-radar 'missile bus', or employ 'suicide attack' mode, in an attempt to blind the 'eyes' of ballistic-missile defense systems – systems such as the THAAD, Patriot PAC-3 that rely on early warning and fire control radars for their operation, being deployed in several Gulf states which are well within Karrar's combat radius.
As the counter ABM mission employs radar homing missiles, the Karrar can be flown without active sensors, engaging fixed targets at known positions. To mask its approach the drone could employ some radar deception techniques to close-in for a quick shot - including mimicking and magnifying the radar signature of the drone to look like a commercial aircraft – such techniques are widely used with aerial targets, enabling a small target to simulate larger aircraft. According to Iranian sources the drone can carry up to four weapons on external stores. Another advantage of the autonomous operation is the communications silence maintained by the drone throughout its operation, minimizing early warning and detection by the defender's electronic surveillance.
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