The HESA Qasef-1 is an offshoot of the established Ababil line of Iranian developed and produced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) detailed elsewhere on this site. Iran has deliberately moved to strengthen its expertise in the field of military-level drones and the Ababil is a product of this initiative. It has been in service since the volatile 1980s and has been consistently evolved into more capable, potent forms. One byproduct of this undeterred work is the "Qasef-1" which is believed to have been in operational service since sometime in 2016.
NOTE: It is actively debated whether the Qasef-1 is the direct product of local Iranian industry or the product of in-the-field modification of the Ababil-2 production form by Houthi rebels operating actively in Yemen. For the purposes of this article, it is assumed that local Iranian industry has driven this development.
Unlike other Ababil forms, the Qasef-1 is an expendable "loitering munition", tracking for ground targets (ground-based control is via GPS), engaging on-command, and expending itself in a suicidal action. The air vehicle adds a 66lb 30kg) explosive warhead to the mix which provides the detonation / damage capabilities of a conventional drop bomb at much reduced cost - making the Qasef-1 an excellent budget attack weapon and perfect for rebel-types seeking to make some noise. To this quality add the fact that drones are small and slow enough to evade traditional radar, giving them an inherent "stealth" quality.
The physical characteristics of the aircraft, based on captured specimens and displayed by Saudi officials, include a centralized, tubular fuselage, rear-set mainplanes (featuring little sweepback), and foreplanes for added control. Vertical fins are seated at the mainplanes at the rear of the aircraft. The fuselage holds all of the pertinent operational equipment included the engine, optics set, fuel stores, and avionics. The engine is installed at the extreme end of the fuselage and drives a multi-bladed propeller unit in "pusher" fashion. Since these air vehicles are designed to be expendable (i.e. no return trip), no undercarriage is necessary, further simplifying construction and reducing cost. Launching of the air vehicle is by ground-assistance, either pneumatic catapult (stand-alone or vehicle-mounted) or jet- / rocket-assisted.
Houthi rebels have been known to use their Qasef-1 drones to directly attack "Patriot" missile station components, mainly the critical radar sections of the arrangement. This represents a considerably enhanced capability for the rebels and a new type of escalation in the long-running Yemeni war. Houthi-directed armed drones have also attacked UAE and Saudi airports as well as key Saudi sections of oil pipeline.
Status Active, In-Service
Production 100 Units
Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) - Iran
Iran; Yemen (rebels)
- Ground Attack
9.45 ft (2.88 m)
10.66 ft (3.25 m)
2.95 ft (0.9 m)
66 lb (30 kg)
187 lb (85 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the HESA Qasef-1 production model)
1 x WAE-342 twin-cylinder piston engine developing 25 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the rear of the fuselage in pusher arrangement.
230 mph (370 kph; 200 kts)
9,843 feet (3,000 m; 1.86 miles)
75 miles (120 km; 65 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the HESA Qasef-1 production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
1 x 66lb (30kg) warhead with impact detonation (roughly the same effect of a conventional drop bomb upon detonation).
(Showcased armament details pertain to the HESA Qasef-1 production model)
Qasef-1 - Base Series Designation; dispute remains whether the aircraft is a product of local Iranian industry or in-the-field conversion of Ababil-2 drones by Houthi rebels in Yemen.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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