The display of a stealth drone powered by a turbo-jet engine by Iran Aviation Industries Organization (IAIO) at the MAKS 2019 show in Moscow (August 27-Sept 1) may hold a clue to the Yemeni Houti attack on two Saudi oil refineries last weekend.
The Yemeni Houti Army used drones with a new type of engine, “something between a regular and jet engine,” Yemen's Army spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said referring to the drone used in attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries.
Saree gave no other details about the drone in his interview to Al Mashriq TV, other than giving credit to “intelligence inputs from inside Saudi Arabia” for the attack’s success that specifically targeted storage and compression facilities with pin-point accuracy within the huge complex which knocked off 50% of its oil processing capacity.
While the Yemini Houti Army claims the drones were of its own make, the claim is not tenable going by the distance travelled and the precision strike achieved.
Presuming the drones travelled from somewhere near the Yemini border, the distance to the Abqaiq refinery is around 800km, and going by the US Pentagon claim that the drones were launched from Iraq, the closest distance is around 400km.
The IAIO had displayed a one-fourth scale model of a projectile called “Mobin” at the MAKS 2019 show accompanied by a life-size model of its engine called “Toloo-4 turbojet engine.”
The drones managed to fly at a speed and altitude undetected by the sophisticated Saudi Arabian defense radars. It shows the use of stealth drones with a level of technology never used before by the Yemeni Houtis and which could only have been supplied by the Houtis’ ideological master, the Iranian regime.
While IAIO calls the “Mobin” a “drone,” a marketing handout about the “Mobin” describes it as a “cruise missile.” Its key features, according to the handout are; Stealth radar cross signature of less than 0.1M2, mid-course guidance (which will help it avoid large obstacles) and terminal phase guidance (to guide it to the target).
The Iranian drone/cruise missile has a wide service ceiling (flight altitude) of 30-45000 ft, range of 450 km, speed of 900km/h, weight of 670 kg and a payload of 120 kg.
The New York Times wrote after interviewing intelligence experts that the drone could be the “Quds 1- a small cruise missile or a large drone.” However the experts also said that the range of the Quds 1 may not be sufficient to reach the target sites.
The Toloo-4 engine consists of 3 stage axial compressor, and 1 stage axial turbine. It weighs 55.9 kg with a diameter of 330mm and length of 1130mm-1330mm. Its thrust is rated at 345daN and an in-performance engine life of 20 hours.
This correspondent noted that the engine was the cynosure of all eyes of military experts who were visiting the IAIO stall.
The engine thrust is rated at 345daN with an engine speed of 28500RPM. Its hydro-pneumatic life is rated at 20 hours.
The Mobin-Toloo-4 combination, going by their on-paper specs, should have been sufficient to reach the Saudi refineries if launched from a distance of around 400km.