Mashreghnews runs an extensive report on Iran's latest advancements in the development of Shahed 149 ("Gaza") High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) UAVs, boasting that the UAV "marks significant progress towards joining the league of nations possessing such sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The acquisition of a HALE UAV equipped with a turboprop engine by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is expected to yield important effects and capabilities in unmanned aerial operations".
The Shahed 149 is an improvement of the Shahed 129, a multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed by HESA. It is considered the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) program. The Shahed 129 is primarily designed for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) missions. Still, it can also be used in attack roles, primarily for deploying air-to-surface munitions like the Sadid‐345, and uses Eagle 4 and 6 cameras. This UAV has a maximum speed of 135 km/h and 24-hour continuous flight and can monitor 20,000 square kilometers, "equivalent to the area of occupied Palestine, in one day."
The anticipated deployment of the "Gaza" UAV reinforces Iran's dominant position in the region and reflects its persistent use of the Palestinian issue to achieve regional influence. Iran's continued efforts to develop, refine, and diversify its UAVs are considered integral components of its symmetrical war doctrine aimed at countering Israel, the United States, and their allies in the region.
Mashraqhnews details the characteristics and capabilities of the "Gaza" UAV: a 21-meter wing length, 35 hours of continuous flight, a flight ceiling of 35,000 feet (10.5 km), a maximum flight speed of 350 km/h, and the ability to carry cargo up to 500 kg, which has a significant jump in flight characteristics compared to the Shahed 129. The "Gaza" UAV is larger than the Shahed 129 UAV, with the most obvious difference being the length of its wings. The longer wings of the Gaza UAV allow it to carry more bombs.
According to the IRGC Aerospace Force commander, this UAV can carry 13 bombs using new technology. The "Gaza" UAV uses a turboprop engine instead of the usual piston and rotary engines in other UAVs making it more efficient at higher altitudes and providing a higher speed which increases the flight ceiling and speed of the Gaza UAV compared to other UAVs.
According to information from the Mashreghnews website, the Gaza UAV is equipped with hard points on its wings to accommodate bomb installation. Additionally, the UAV features a central compartment capable of carrying various electronic warfare equipment, including radar systems. Moreover, this compartment is designed to hold a rotating bomb magazine with a capacity to carry up to 5 bombs, thereby enhancing the UAV's reconnaissance capabilities alongside its combat mission. The integration of these advanced features suggests that the Gaza UAV is moving closer to becoming a high-altitude air base platform, combining the advantages of a UAV with an extended flight ceiling and long-range sensor capabilities.
A meticulous examination of the latest prototype of the Gaza UAV shows notable differences in components, such as the landing gear and pylons beneath the wing, indicating its advanced stage of final testing and evaluation. It is anticipated that significant developments will soon be revealed, including missile firings and the commencement of its operational phase within this year. Additionally, the design of the Shahed 149 UAV's nose reveals the integration of satellite communication antennas. This strategic inclusion aligns with previous success in employing similar antennas on Shahed-129 variants, facilitating effective communication, command reception, and data transmission, notably for video-related functions.
Mashreghnews' analysis concludes that the imminent deployment of the "Gaza" UAV in IRGC Aerospace Force units will reaffirm the Islamic Republic's unparalleled supremacy in this category within the region. With modern and exceptional UAVs like "Gaza," Iran has surpassed regional competitors and established a distinct reputation and brand among the world's foremost military powers. The UAV's strategic significance is further emphasized "as it aligns with Iran's aspirations for the liberation of occupied Palestine, reflecting a powerful symbol of resilience and determination (of the people in Gaza) until the day when "Gaza" and its alike contribute to the fulfillment of this noble cause.
The unveiling of the "Gaza" UAV "coincided with the victory of the new Palestinian intifada. The name 'Gaza' was chosen to symbolize the repetition of the victories of the resistance against the occupying enemy".
Iran persistently utilizes the Palestinian issue as a primary avenue to garner regional influence, seeking to rally all Muslims to support the struggle against Israel. The deployment of the "Gaza" UAV is intended to evoke sympathy among Palestinians and the broader Arab and Islamic world, showcasing Iran's stance in the Israel conflict and its actions towards the residents of Gaza.
Concurrently, Iran maintains an ongoing commitment to advancing, perfecting, and diversifying its UAVs, viewing them as pivotal elements in its symmetrical war doctrine aimed at countering Israel, the United States, and its regional allies.