From the moment that it was identified, a squadron of F-16I fighter jets were scrambled from the Ramon airbase in the Negev, and accompanied the UAV. The air force was able to shoot down the UAV at any time, but chose to fly along with it for several minutes. For safety reasons, the air force took a decision to shoot down the UAV over the northern Negev…IDF ground forces collected the fragments and were analyzing them.The IDF did not believe that the UAV was on an attack mission, but rather sent to gather intelligence. There were no explosives attached to the air craft, and it did not originate in the Gaza Strip, contrary to Palestinian reports. It remains unclear where the UAV took off from.
While facts are hard to come by at the moment speculation is tightly focused on Lebanon, Hezbollah, and of course Iran. And it should be. Miri Regev, a former IDF spokeswoman, quickly offered her thoughts on her Facebook page:
This may have been something like Hezbollah’s Mirsad-1 but I haven’t seen any mention of that specific platform. It would be helpful if there was a less destructive way to take these out of the sky so they could be analyzed. The giant fireball of death brought forth by the IDF is cool and all but it probably doesn’t leave much to look at.
Anyway, is going to be a increasingly common challenge for Israel. There are plenty of state sponsored bad actors who can get within drone distance of their territory and that problem isn’t going away. However, this technology is getting cheaper and more accessible by the minute. State sponsorship or particularly deep pockets are not required to build a moderately capable UAV and it is getting easier and cheaper with each passing day. Building and deploying weaponized UAVs poses an even greater challenge but advancing technology continues to boost the killing power of the individual and so that too will get easier and more common.
Still, DIY ISR and weapon delivery platforms are likely to remain just an annoyance for some time. The value of the intelligence they generate is questionable at best. And if the aim is to kill or destroy the impact will be minimal unless someone gets extremely creative with the payload. In most cases these platforms are more likely to benefit conventional forces, rather than non-state actors, who can deploy them with greater frequency and effectiveness.