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HESA Ababil-3

Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) Drone

The HESA Ababil-3 ISR drone is a further evolution of the original Ababil series - reworked to include a twin-boom configuration among other changes.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/21/2019
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Year: 2008
Status: Active, In-Service
Manufacturer(s): Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) - Iran
Production: 550
Capabilities: Reconnaissance (RECCE); Unmanned;
Crew: 0
Width: 22.97 ft (7 m)
Power: 1 x Conventional engine (perhaps Limbach L550E or similar) driving a multi-bladed propeller unit at the rear of the fuselage in "pusher" arrangement.
Speed: 121 mph (195 kph; 105 kts)
Ceiling: 16,404 feet (5,000 m; 3.11 miles)
Range: 62 miles (100 km; 54 nm)
Operators: Iraq; Iran; Sudan; Syria
The Ababil-3 (also Ababil-III) is a further evolution of the "Ababil" family of Iranian-originated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) featured elsewhere on this site. The family of drones, developed and manufactured by Iranian local industry, includes the original Ababil-1 "loitering munition" drone, the improved Ababil-2, and the twin-boom Ababil-CH. The Ababil-3 variant is a major reworking of the established design and intended as a dedicated Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) platform at the military or national security levels. Production is thought to have started in 2008 and the system remains in service as of this writing (May 2019).

Due to its physical resemblance to the Denel Dynamics "Seeker" product, the Ababil-3 is suspected to be an Iranian copy/clone of the South African design. Additionally, its internal components appear to be copies/clones of existing Western-originated offerings.

Externally, the Ababil-3 utilizes a proven twin-boom arrangement which seats the tubular fuselage centrally in its design arrangement. The fuselage contains all pertinent systems including the optics set, avionics, powerplant, and fuel stores. The optics set is contained in a ventral "blister" with 360-degree traversal and real-time tracking and reporting possible. The mainplanes were fixed members seated along the dorsal spine of the fuselage providing the needed lift-versus-drag qualities as well as flight control surfaces. The twin booms are slim appendages reaching aft and each is capped by rectangular tailplanes joined by a single horizontal surface (elevator). The aircraft can conduct its ground actions (such as take-off, landing, and general ground-running) by way of a fixed, three-point undercarriage that is wheeled and faired over. Construction of the aircraft includes composites.

Dimensions of the air vehicle include a wingspan of seven meters, making it dimensionally larger than the preceding Ababil-2 mark. Power is derived from a single conventional engine, most likely a copied form of a German design (believed to stem from the Limbach L550E) driving a multi-bladed propeller unit found at the rear of the fuselage component set in a "pusher" configuration. Performance figures include a maximum speed of 120 miles-per-hour and a combat radius out to 62 miles while being capable of reaching altitudes of 16,000 feet.

The Ababil-3 is a known entity above the skies of Iraq, Syria, and Sudan. Several have been lost in both combat-related and accidental actions, the latter owing to either poor training or poor quality of the air vehicle. An American-flown F-16 Fighting Falcon claimed an Ababil-3 on February 25th, 2009 after the aircraft had been trailed across Iraqi airspace for some seventy minutes.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force operates the Ababil-3 exclusively in the ISR role. In Syria, the system is redesignated as "Zagil III-B". To Kataib Hezbollah, the air vehicle becomes the "Basir-1".


None. Mission-equipment to satisfy the ISR role (mainly cameras and sensors).

Variants / Models

• Ababil-3 - Base Series Designation.
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