Iranian coverage of the Simorgh & Saegheh UAVs in October 2016.
IHS Jane’s identified the test site of one of Iran’s latest UAVs, the Simorgh, through open source geolocation analysis.
Video released by several of Iran’s domestic broadcasters was used to determine that Kashan Airport is the location of the country’s Simorgh testing activities. The surrounding buildings, situated to the West of the runway and viewed from the landing gear, were a primary indicator confirming the site.
The video, showing the aircraft taking off and landing at the airport, is the latest sign that Iran has successfully reverse engineered elements of the captured RQ-170 Sentinel reconnaissance UAV. The advanced U.S. drone reportedly crashed in Iran in December 2011, while conducting surveillance on Iranian targets presumably connected to the country’s secretive nuclear program.
The Kashan airport, otherwise known as the Nasr airbase subordinate to the IRGC, is familiar to imagery watchers as a location already supporting Iran’s unmanned aircraft. Historical imagery available in Google Earth has shown equipment associated with Iran’s drones deployed at the site since at least 2010, if not earlier.
Specifically, the country’s rail launched UAVs have been observed operating from the airport. Imagery from April 2014 shows a probable Ababil-2 in flight along with the platform’s rail launcher and support equipment parked near the runway. More recently however, we’ve observed ground control stations similar to the later variants of the rail-launched or landing gear-equipped Mohajer series. It’s possible these ground stations may also work with Iran’s Simorgh and related variants.
Video also released by the regime showed handhelds of one identified Simorgh variant, the Saegheh (or Thunderbolt). The drone was displayed on a stand and armed with four missiles. Unfortunately, there was no video evidence showing the drone in operation. However, we did notice a new bermed munitions storage area added to the site since 2014, which could suggest Iran is experimenting with the armed variant at the airfield. We look to future imagery to provide more insight.