Iran unveils HESA Ababil-3 unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) during ceremony to mark the delivery of three types of unmanned aircraft to the military. The HESA Ababil-3 (swallow) is an Iranian single-engine multirole tactical unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA). The Ababil program was begun during the Iran–Iraq War. The larger and more capable Ababil-3, introduced in the 2000s, was designed for Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance use and has improved surveillance capabilities. Overall, the Ababil is “a pretty rough-and-ready system”: cheap, simple, and easy to use.
According to Brigadier-General Hatami the 470 kg unmanned combat aerial vehicle, have a speed of 900 km/h and a range of 1000 km, and can be deployed for a duration of 180 minutes without interruption at an altitude of 40,000 – 45,000 feet. The Ababil-3 are mid-range combat drones with the capability of carrying various electro-optic and combat equipment. the drones are mainly used for gathering and transmitting optical data and can also be deployed for combat operations with an operation range of 150 km. The Iranian Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics released photographs showing a hangar in Isfahan with 11 Ababil-3s, one of which was carrying a Ghaem guided munition on a hardpoint under a wing.
The Ababil-3 is a complete redesign of the Ababil with an improved airframe used solely for surveillance: it carries better equipment and can stay aloft for longer. The Ababil-3 is very likely based off the South African Denel Dynamics Seeker, and possibly the Seeker-2D model in particular. It is more widely exported than the Ababil-2, and is known to have entered production by 2008, with specific parts manufactured by 2006. The Ababil-2 and Ababil-3 have been widely exported to governments and non-state actors in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Ababil-3s have been extensively used in the Syrian Civil War. The heterogeneity of pro-regime forces makes it difficult to determine who operates or controls their use. An Ababil-3 crashed or was brought down in Pakistani territory in July 2019.