Photo: AP
IDF strike in Beirut
Photo: AP
Photo:Hagay Aharon
IDF gunship
Photo:Hagay Aharon

Nasrallah’s tactical surprise

In ’73 it was the Sager, this time it’s Iranian-produced C802 that caught Navy, perhaps even radars, with their pants down. There could be other surprises Hizbullah is planning for IDF. What do they have for sure? Are our helicopters also endangered? Experts try to infiltrate Hizbullah secret bunker

Thirty three years have passed since the Yom Kippur War and the missile threat still presents itself as a surprise to the IDF. Then it was the Egyptian Sager that endowed heavy losses on the Israeli armored corps. Now, Nasrallah is pulling rabbits out of his bunker.


After a fatal blow to the gunboat off the shores of Beirut, the Navy has let it be known that it didn’t even know about the existence of the Iranian C802 missile in the region. However, even if it was unexpected to find such a missile in Lebanon, the gunship should have dealt with the missile with relative ease, says an expert in the field.


It is not implausible that because of field security considerations – namely, fear of being exposed – the ship’s radar was not activated, and the result was fatal. In the meantime, adjacent to the refineries and explosive factories in the Haifa Bay, the decision has been made not to take a risk and Patriot missiles have been deployed in the area for the first time since the war in Iraq.


“Nasrallah’s authenticity has been fairly high throughout the years. This time around we should also believe him that he has long-range capabilities, even if we don’t know about them,” says a former officer who dealt with the issue during his military service. He raises the possibility that land-to-land, and possibly even land-to-air, missiles may have come into the hands of the Hizbullah by way of the Tehran-Damascus axis.


In other words, even the helicopter pilots have reason to worry. “When it comes to Iran, we are referring to a strategic arm of the first degree. It is much easier to arm a terrorist group with missiles with a range of up to 200-300 km and have them fired from a neighboring country than to launch the Shihab-3 with a range of upwards of 2000 km from their own sovereign territory. Furthermore, the effect of attack from close range is quite powerful. Here the affinity towards Iran is strong, sharp and intense, and is also problematic in terms of possible solutions to the current crisis.”


Some Order in Missiles


During the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, got in trouble with a clumsy statement about “the things we know we don’t know.” In the Northern Command and the in the Air Force, they are working arduously to figure out what is hiding in Nasrallah’s arsenal and what exactly are the “surprises” that Nasrallah promised in his last speech, intended for the Israeli public.


One thing is certain: even what we know for sure is in his hands is keeping sleep away from the eyes of the decision makers in the Kirya and those in the “pit” next to Safed, and is sending those living in the north down to the shelters for the fifth day in a row.


Israeli gunship back from Lebanon (Photo: Amir Cohen)


Until now, relatively simple Katyusha rockets have been launched into Israel. They are a kind of unguided ballistic missile, exactly like a shell from a tank. The minute it is launched, its trajectory cannot be corrected. As much as we know until now, Nasrallah’s Katyushas can hit a few dozens of kilometers away.


The Fajr-5 is an upgrade of the Frug-5, a Russian missile used against Israel during the Yom Kippur War. According to the manual, this missile, even though it is unguided, can reach up to 80 kilometers. But one must take into consideration that it is launched from a depth of at least 20 kilometers north of the border.


This is because the noise, along with a trail of smoke it creates during launching can give it away. Lieutenant Colonel Danny Reshef, a former intelligence officer in Lebanon, estimates that this is the reason the missiles that hit Haifa have been in at night. At night, smoke is not seen from far distances. The Fajer-5 is the precursor to missiles of a lower series that were less advanced in terms of range and loading.


The Zilzal-2, that it is debatable if the Hizbullah have, has a range of 200 kilometers and is also unguided such that the strike would be made according to the coordinates of the first firings. Beyond an increased range, this missile can carry a warhead of more than a half a ton. Although experts estimate that the likelihood of such a missile hitting the refineries, for instance, that it indeed will be launched from the Lebanon Valley that is farther away. If and when this happens it will be with heightened security measures and under the pressure of time.


Shooting with a stop watch


The Katyushas are portable. Because of the accurate pinpointing capability of the IDF which can use massive fire power against the launch site within a few minutes from the time of the launch, Lieutenant Colonel Reshef explains that the terrorists are already not on site at the time of the shooting. “They aim, place a simple battery with a cheap stop watch, and the shooting takes place without a person in sight.” The Fajer is very difficult to shoot in this manner, and if the launch team stays on site, “he has a very severe problem.”


As a rule, the shelf life of the Katyusha rockets of Hizbullah is likely to get shorter and the quality of the rockets to be damaged. This is due to a few reasons: unfit maintenance that stems from a fear of revealing the location of the launcher, distancing the launchers from the border, and as mentioned, the escape of the operating team at the moment of the launch, hasty aiming and shooting, and a lack of capability to calculate wind and pressure conditions which cause deviations from the flight path.


“The Islamic Jihad also attempted to shoot Katyushas from Gaza, but shoddy maintenance sabotaged the effort,” reminds Reshef. “In a regular army there is an arms department which oils and gives overall treatment to its missiles every few years. This doesn’t happen in Hizbullah such that even if missiles have arrived in the past few years, we don’t know how well they have been maintained. Where can the missiles actually reach after five years in warehouses, without ever being moved and without being maintained in critical conditions?”


In the meantime, Nasrallah and his followers have made the impression that they are faced with serious limitations beyond deviations of a few kilometers left or right, generally acceptable for rockets of this type (like, for instance, the hit on Majdel Krum, which was apparently intended for Carmiel). The ones who had a hard time coping with the missiles was actually the Israeli Navy, that took a fatal hit from one of the flag ships.


פרסום ראשון: 07.16.06, 11:18
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