Air Crash Near Bushehr, Drones Slam Into Reactor Dome
Debkafiles - August 17, 2010
Two mysterious incidents are reported in the run-up to the fueling up of Iran's first nuclear reactor Saturday, Aug. 21
Tuesday, Aug. 17, an Iranian F4 Phantom fighter jet was claimed by Tehran to have crashed 6 kilometers north of the Bushehr nuclear reactor in southern Iran. Military sources report it was shot down by Russian-made TOR-M1 air-missile defense batteries guarding the reactor. A local government official Gholam Reza Keshtkar said the pilot and co-pilot ejected from the plane before it crashed and were rushed to hospital.
The TOR-M1 is designed to intercept planes or missiles coming in at medium or very low altitudes in case of American or Israeli attack.
Our sources ask: How did the Phantom penetrate to a distance of 6 kilometers from the reactor when its skies up to a 20-kilometer radius are a no-fly zone?
Perhaps the Bushehr's air defense system is slow to pick up intruders - although it is known to have been on high alert since a previous incident on Aug. 1. Or else it may been activated when inquiries to Iranian Air Force command about the jet's identity and mission failed to elicit a satisfactory reply.
Our Iranian sources report extreme edginess in Tehran ahead of August 21 when the Russian-built Bushehr reactor enters its first operational phase in the presence of high-ranking officials from Moscow. Tuesday afternoon, after the fighter jet crashed, the foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast warned "any aggression against the Bushehr nuclear plant can provoke serious reactions. Based on international rules, a facility with nuclear fuel cannot be damaged" All the Bushehr defensive systems have been on the highest alert since a previous incident first revealed on Aug. 6.
On Aug. 1, three unidentified UAVs slammed into the reactor buildings, scaring the townspeople who were sure the plant was under American or Israeli attack.
After the heads of government in Tehran put their heads together to try and identify the drones, without success, the defense ministry emerged with a communiqué reporting that a single drone had crashed on the nuclear reactor's dome, but insisted it was launched by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to test the alertness of the air defense personnel guarding it and the effectiveness of its anti-air radar system.
AccordinG to Iranian and intelligence sources, Bushehr citizens were sure they heard three mighty explosions - not one. So the deputy district governor for security affairs, Mohammad Hossein Shenidi, who is responsible for safeguarding Bushehr and its reactors against air or missile attacks, pitched in with a lighter version of the communiqué: A single drone had indeed been fired, he admitted, but it carried no explosives because its only purpose was to simulate a loud bang to check the level of local alertness.
According to our sources, the townspeople were correct: Three drones hit the reactor killing at least five of its staff members.
Tuesday afternoon, another Iranian high-up, defense minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, talked to reporters. He declared that the "long range UAV called Karrar would be unveiled on this day" - an apparent reference to the debkafile report of Monday, Aug. 16, that the death of Iran's drone program head Reza Baruni had buried the program for years go come.
Regarding the delay in Moscow's delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, Vahidi declared: "We build whatever we want inside the country… and the production of long-range air defense system in Iran is already on the agenda of the defense ministry."
Former US envoy to the UN John Bolton Tuesday Aug. 17 repeated his warning that Israel has "eight days" to launch a military strike against Bushehr and stop Tehran from acquiring a functioning atomic plant. Once Russian loads it with fuel on Saturday, it will be too late because any attack would spread radiation and affect Iranian citizens, he said.
In the absence of an Israeli strike, said Bolton, "Iran will achieve something that no other opponent of Israel, no other opponent of the US in the Middle East really has and that is a functioning nuclear reactor."