Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Monday, August 07, 2006

Israel Intercept Two Attack UAV Launched by Hezbollah


Updated Aug. 14, 2006:

Two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) launched by Hezbollah against Israel August 13, 2006 were downed by Israel. Some 30 kilograms of explosives were found at the site where one of the UAVs crashed in Northern Israel. One of the UAVs was downed in Lebanese area, and crashed near the city of Tyre, on the Lebanese Mediterranean coast. The other managed to penetrate Israel and was intercepted and downed by Israel, and crashed over the western Israeli coastal plain, near the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Few days ago, another UAV tried to penetrate the Israeli airspace. An Iranian made Ababil unmanned aerial vehicle launched by the Hezbollah was intercepted tonight (July 7th, 2006) off the Israeli coast over the Mediterranean Sea. The UAV was detected by Israel Air Force air defense radars as it was launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon. After crossing the international border, it continued south toward the center of Israel, and was intercepted at a very low altitude, and low speed (about 70 kt) about 10 kilometers from the coastline, over the Haifa bay by Israel Air Force F-16C jet. In a video which recorded a live FLIR image taken by a UAV flying above the scene, the F-16 (the bright dot at the upper center) is shown identifying the Ababil target, then firing an air-to-air missile which clears the jet in a streight flight, then makes a sharp right turn and hits the UAV (marked with a circle). After the event, as the Ababil wreckage was salvaged Hezbollah markings are clearly seen (picture below).



This is the third time Hezbollah is flying UAVs over Israel. In past incursions the Hezbollah used an Iranian twin-tail delta winged UAV they called Mersed 1; the current vehicle is also believed to be of the same type. The first two attempts flown in 2005 lasted about 10 - 18 minutes, where Hezbollah successfully flew the UAVs over the Israeli border and northern towns, challenging the Israeli defenses which did not respond effectively. This time, the UAV managed to remain airborne for about 10 minutes, as the Israelis were prepared and intercepted the vehicle before it penetrated Israeli airspace.

Endorsing the Hezbollah UAV capability, Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah claimed in a speach in April 2005 that these unmanned vehicles can be packed with 40-50 kg of explosives to attack priority targets deep inside Israel. However, according to the the IAF Chief of operations, the UAV was not armed. Nevertheless, the Israelis scrambled their interceptors to maintain combat air patrols throughout the night, to repel potential attacks by armed UAVs. Hezbollah can use armed UAVs to offset its limited deep strike capability originally maintained by Iranian controlled Zelzal missiles, most of which are believed to have been destroyed by IAF attacks during the first week of the war.

The Hezbollah conducts extensive intelligence gathering activity to improve its capability to target sensitive Israeli sites, utilizing signals intelligence (SIGINT), long range observations conducted by its own forces, as well as utilizing intelligence support and weather forecasts (required for accurate aiming of its medium range rockets) provided by Syria. Target analysis, including coordinates gathering has been dramatically improved in recent months, as a significant part of Israel was included in "Google Earth" service, offering everyone a free access to relatively high resolution satellite images of Israel, provided with fairly accurate GPS coordinates which are accurate enough to support the aiming of rocket attacks.

Photos & Video: Israel AIr Force.

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