Hezbollah tactics and weaponry: the analysis rolls in

Now that the dust is settling, we are hearing reports from the field about what exactly Hezbollah was doing down in South Lebanon. For more military analyses look at this excellent thread on Agonist.org Lessons Learned. Guys like William Lind have good stuff too.

For the moment, we are going to post a big chunk of Anthony Cordesman's summary of the whole damn thing. The press conference is here (PDF), the actual doc is here.

Center for Strategic and International Studies

1800 K Street, N.W. • Suite 400 • Washington, DC 20006

Phone: 1 (202) 775-3270 • Fax: 1 (202) 457-8746

Web: http://www.csis.org/burke/

Preliminary “Lessons” of the Israeli-Hezbollah War (PDF)

Anthony H. Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy acordesman@aol.com

Working Draft for Outside Comment, Revised: August 17, 2006

[Page 16]....

Lessons and Insights into Various Tactical,

Technological, and Other Military Aspects of the War

Once again, it is important to stress that many key details of the tactics, technology, and

other aspects of the fighting are not yet clear. There are, however, several additional

lessons that do seem to emerge from the conflict.

High Technology Asymmetric Warfare

There is virtually no controversy over whether the fighting with the Hezbollah shows just

how well a non-State actor can do when it achieves advanced arms, and has strong

outside support from state actors like Iran and Syria. Top-level Israeli intelligence

personnel and officers stated that most aspects of the Hezbollah build-up did not surprise

them in the six years following Israel’s withdrawal in Lebanon.

Mosad officials stated that they had tracked the deployment of some 13,000 Katyushas,

far more sophisticated Iranian medium and long-range artillery rockets and guided

missiles (Zelzal 3), better surface-to-air missiles like the SA-14, SA-16, and possibly SA-

8 and SA-18, the CS-801 anti-ship missile, and several more capable anti-tank weapons

like the AT-3 Sagger Two and Kornet. They also identified the armed UAV the

Hezbollah used as either the Iranian Mirsad-1 or Ababil-3 Swallow.

Israeli intelligence officials also stated that they knew some 100 Iranian advisors were

working with the Hezbollah, and that they knew Iran not only maintained high volumes

of deliveries, but also had created a Hezbollah command center for targeting and

controlling missile fire with advanced C2 assets and links to UAVs. They noted that they

had warnings of better sniper rifles, night vision devices, and communications as well as

of technical improvements to the IEDs, bombs, and booby traps that the Hezbollah had

used before the Israeli withdrawal.

Israeli officials and officers were not consistent about the scale or nature of the

technology transfer to the Hezbollah or of how many weapons they had. In broad terms,

however, they agreed on several points.

Hezbollah Rocket and Missile Forces

Israel faced a serious local threat from some 10,000-16,000 shorter-range regular and

extended range versions of the Kaytusha. These are small artillery rockets with individual

manportable launchers. The rockets have small warheads and ranges of 19-28 kilometers

(12-18 miles) that can only strike about 11-19 kilometers (7-12 miles) into Israel unless

launched right at the border. They can easily be fired in large numbers from virtually any

position or building, and the Hezbollah had a limited capacity for ripple fire that partly

made up for the fact that such weapons were so inaccurate that they hit at random, could

only be aimed at town-sized targets, and had very small warheads. They were, however,

more than adequate to force substantial evacuations, paralyze local economic activity,

and drive the Israelis that remained to shelters.

Israeli officers and officials made it clear that Israel’s real reason for going to war,

however, was the steady deployment of medium and longer range systems, and the

potential creation of a major Iranian and Syrian proxy missile force that could hit targets

throughout Israel.

This force included Syrian 220mm rockets and systems like the Fajr 3, with ranges of 45-

75 kilometers, capable of striking targets as far south as Haifa and Naharia. The IAF was

able to destroy most of the Iranian Fajr 3 launchers the first night of the war, but the IDF

did not know the Syrian rockets were present.

The Fajr 3, or Ra’ad, has a range of 45 kilometers, a 45-kilogram warhead, a 240-mm

diameter, a 5.2-meter length, and a weight of 408 kilograms.

A total of some 24-30 launchers and launch vehicles, carrying up to 14 rockets each, seem to have been present.

The IAF feels it destroyed virtually all launchers that fired after the first few days, but

Israeli officers did not provide an estimate of how many actually survived.

They also included the Syrian 302-mm artillery rockets and Fajr 5, with ranges of 75 and

higher kilometers. The IAF again feels that it was able to destroy most of the Iranian Fajr

5 launchers the first night of the war, but the IDF again did not know the Syrian 302-mm

rockets were present.

The Fajr 5 is launched from a mobile platform with up to four rockets per launcher, and

has a maximum range of 75 kilometers, a 45-kilogram warhead, a 333-mm diameter, a

6.48-meter length, and a weight of 915 kilograms.

A total of some 24-30 launchers and launch vehicles seem to have been present. Again, the IAF feels it destroyed virtually all

launchers that fired after the first few days, but Israeli officers did not provide an estimate

of how many actually survived.

The level of Hezbollah capabilities with the Zelzal 1, 2, and 3 and other possible systems

has been described earlier. These missiles have ranges of 115-220 kilometers. The Zelzal

2 is known to be in Hezbollah hands and illustrates the level of technology involved. It is

a derivative of the Russian FROG 7, and has a range in excess of 115 kilometers. It has a

610-mm diameter, a 8.46-meter length, and a weight of 3,545 kilograms.

It requires a large TEL vehicle with a large target signature.

Anti-Ship Missiles

The Hezbollah C-802 missile that damaged an Israeli Sa’ar 5, one of Israel’s latest and

most capable ships, struck the ship when it was not using active countermeasures. It may

or may not have had support from the coastal radar operated by Lebanese military fires

destroyed by IAF forces the following day.

According to Global Security, the Yingji YJ-2 (C-802) is powered by a turbojet with

paraffin-based fuel. It is subsonic (0.9 Mach), weighs 715 kilograms, has a range 120

kilometers, and a 165 kilogram (363 lb.). It has a small radar cross section and skims

about five to seven meters above the sea surface when it attacks the target. It has good

anti-jamming capability.

Anti-Armor Systems

The IDF faced both older anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) threats like the AT-3 Sagger,

AT-4 Spigot, and AT-5 Spandrel—each of which is a wire-guided system but which

become progressively more effective and easier to operate as the model number


The IDF also faced far more advanced weapons like the Russian AT-13 Metis-

M which only requires the operator to track the target, and the AT-14 Kornet-E, a third

generation system, that can be used to attack tanks fitted with explosive reactive armor,

and bunkers, buildings, and entrenched troops. Many of these systems bore serial

numbers that showed they came directly from Syria, but others may have come from Iran.

The AT-14 is a particularly good example of the kind of high technology weapon the US

may face in future asymmetric wars. It can be fitted to vehicles or used as a crew-portable


It has thermal sights for night warfare and tracking heat signatures, and the

missile has semi-automatic command-to-line-of-sight laser beam-riding guidance. It flies

along the line of sight to engage the target head-on in a direct attack profile. It has a

nominal maximum range of 5 kilometers. It can be fitted with tandem shaped charge

HEAT warheads to defeat tanks fitted with reactive armor, or with high

explosive/incendiary warheads, for use against bunkers and fortifications. Maximum

penetration is claimed to be up to 1,200mm.

Other systems include a greatly improved version of the 105.2-mm rocket-propelled

grenade called the RPG-29 or Vampire. This is a much heavier system than most

previous designs. It is a two-man crew weapon with a 450-meter range, and with an

advanced 4.5-kilogram grenade that can be used to attack both armor and bunkers and

buildings. Some versions are equipped with night sights.

The IDF saw such weapons used with great tactical skill, and few technical errors,

reflecting the ease with which third generation ATGMs can be operated. They did serious

damage to buildings as well as armor. The Hezbollah also showed that it could use the

same “swarm” techniques to fire multiple rounds at the same target at the same time often

used in similar ambushes in Iraq. As of August 11th, however, a total of 60 armored

vehicles of all types (reports these were all tanks are wrong) had been hit. Most continued

to operate or were rapidly repaired in the field and restored to service. Only 5-6 of all

types represented a lasting vehicle kill.


The IDF estimates that the Hezbollah at least have the SA-7 and SA-14 manportable

surface-to-air missile system, probably have the SA-16, and may have the SA-18. The

SA-14 and SA-16 are much more advanced than the SA-7, but still possible to counter

with considerable success. The SA-18 Grouse (Igla 9K38) is more problematic.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, it is an improved variant of the SA-

14 that uses a similar thermal battery/gas bottle, and the same 2 kilogram high-explosive

warhead fitted with a contact and grazing fuse. The missile, however, is a totally new

design and has much greater operational range and speed. It has a maximum range of

5200 meters and a maximum altitude of 3500 meters, and uses an IR guidance system

with proportional convergence logic, and much better protection against electro-optical


It is possible that it may have been given a few SA-8 Gecko (Russian 9K33 Osa) SAM

systems that are vehicle mounted, radar-guided systems with up to a 10-kilomter range,

and six missiles per vehicle.

The IDF is concerned that these systems would allow the Hezbollah to set up “ambushes”

of a few IAF aircraft without clear warning—a tactic where only a few SA-8s could

achieve a major propaganda victory. This concern, coupled to the risk of SA-16 and SA-

18 attacks, forced the IAF to actively use countermeasures to an unprecedented degree

during the fighting.

Low Signature; Asymmetric Stealth

One key aspect of the above list is that all of the systems that are not vehicle-mounted

are low signature weapons that very difficult to characterize and target and easy to bury

or conceal in civilian facilities. Stealth is normally thought of as high technology. It is

not. Conventional forces still have sensors geared largely to major military platforms and

operating in environments when any possible target becomes a real target. None of these

conditions applied to most Hezbollah weapons, and the problem was compounded by the

fact that a light weapon is often easier to move and place without detection in a built-up

area than a heavy one.

This signature issue applies to small rockets like the Qassam and Kaytusha that require

only a vestigial launcher that can be place in a house or covert area in seconds, and fired

with a timer. Israeli video showed numerous examples of Hezbollah rushing into a home,

setting up a system, and firing or leaving in a time in less than a minute.

It also applies to UAVs. Israel’s normal surveillance radars could not detect the Iranian

UAVs, and the IDF was forced to rush experiments to find one that could detect such a

small, low-flying platform. (This may be an artillery counterbattery radar but Israeli

sources would not confirm this.)

Technological Surprise

Israeli officers and experts did indicate that the IDF faced technological surprise and

uncertainty in some areas.

Syria evidently supplied nearly as many medium range artillery rockets—220 mm and

302 mm—as Iran, and a major portion of the Katyushas. The RPG-29 anti-tank weapon

and possible deployment of more advanced anti-tank guided weapons was not

anticipated. It was not possible to determine how advanced the surface-to-air missiles

going to Hezbollah forces were. It was not possible to determine the exact types and level

of capability for Iran’s long-range missile transfers because the three types of Zelzal are

so different in performance, and other Iranian systems (including ones with much better

guidance) are similar to what Israel calls the Zelzal 2 and 3.

The fact Israel faced some degree of technological surprise should not, however, be a

source of criticism unless there is evidence of negligence. If there is a lesson to be drawn

from such surprise, it is that it is almost unavoidable when deliveries are high and many

weapons are small and/or are delivered in trucks or containers and never seen used in


It is even more unavoidable when rapid transfer can occur in wartime, or new facilities

are created, such as the joint Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah intelligence (and advisory?) center

set up during the fighting in Damascus to give the Hezbollah technical and tactical

intelligence support. The lesson is rather that the war demonstrates a new level of

capability for non-state actors to use such weapons.


The US and Israel quote figures for the cost of these arms transfers that can reach the

billions, and talk about $100-$250 million in Iranian aid per year. The fact is that some

six years of build-up and arms transfers may have cost closer to $50-$100 million in all.

The bulk of the weapons involved were cheap, disposable or surplus, and transfers put no

strain of any kind on either Syria or Iran.

This is a critical point, not a quibble. Playing the spoiler role in arming non-state actors

even with relatively advanced weapons is cheap by comparison with other military

options. The US must be prepared for a sharp increase in such efforts as its enemies

realize just how cheap and easy this option can be.

Reevaluating the Level of Tactical and Technological Risk in the Forces of

Asymmetric and Non-State Actors

Experts like Sir Rupert Smith have already highlighted the risk posed to modern military

forces and states by opponents that fight below the threshold in which conventional

armies are most effective. Iraq has shown that even comparatively small transfers of

technology like motion sensors, crude shaped charges, and better triggering devices can

have a major impact in increasing the ability of insurgents and terrorists.

The Hezbollah have raised this to a whole new level, operating with effective sanctuary

in a state and with major outside suppliers—which Al Qa’ida has largely lacked. It is also

only the tip of the iceberg. It does not seem to have used the advanced SAMs listed

above, but the very threat forces IAF fighters and helicopters to constantly use

countermeasures. The use of ATGMs and RPG-29 not only inhibits the use of armor, but

sharply reduces the ability to enter buildings and requires dispersal and shelter.

The simple risk of long-range rocket attacks requires constant air and sensor coverage in

detail over the entire Hezbollah launch front to be sure of hitting launchers immediately.

The IDF’s task also could grow sharply if Iran/Syria sent the Hezbollah longer-range

rockets or missiles with precision guidance—allowing one missile to do serious damage

to a power plant, desalination plant, refinery/fuel storage facility with little or no warning.

The lesson here is not simply Hezbollah tactics to date. It is the need to survey all of the

weapons systems and technology that insurgents and terrorists could use in future strikes

and wars with the thesis that technology constraints are sharply weakening, and the US

and its allies face proliferation of a very different kind. It is to explore potential areas of

vulnerability in US forces and tactics non-state or asymmetric attackers can exploit,

carefully examine the holdings of state sponsors of such movements, and reexamine web

sites, training manuals, etc, to track the sharing or exploration of such technology.

Like Israel, the US and its other allies face long wars against enemies that have already

shown they are highly adaptive, and will constantly seek out weaknesses and the ability

to exploit the limits to conventional warfighting capabilities. The US must anticipate and

preempt when it can, and share countermeasure tactics and technologies with its allies.

Informal Networks and Asymmetric "Netcentric Warfare"

Like insurgent and terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan—and in Arab states like

Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other states threatened by such groups—the Hezbollah

showed the ability of non-state actors to fight their own form of netcentric warfare. The

Hezbollah acted as a "distributed network" of small cells and units acting with

considerable independence, and capable of rapidly adapting to local conditions using

media reports on the, verbal communication, etc.

Rather than have to react faster than the IDF's decision cycle, they could largely ignore it,

waiting out Israeli attacks, staying in positions, reinfiltrating or reemerging from cover,

and choosing the time to attack or ambush. Forward fighters could be left behind or

sacrificed, and "self-attrition" became a tactic substituting for speed of maneuver and the

ability to anticipated IDF movements.

Skilled cadres and leadership cadres could be hidden, sheltered, or dispersed. Rear areas

became partial sanctuaries in spite of the IDF. Aside from Nasrallah, who survived, no

given element of the leadership cadre was critical.

A strategy of attrition and slow response substituted for speed and efficiency in command

and control. The lack of a formal and hierarchical supply system meant that disperse

weapons and supplies—the equivalent of "feed forward logistics"—accumulated over six

years ensured the ability to keep operating in spite of IDF attacks on supply facilities and


The ability to fight on local religious, ideological, and sectarian grounds the IDF could

not match provided extensive cover and the equivalent of both depth and protection. As

noted earlier, civilians became a defensive weapon, the ability to exploit civilian

casualties and collateral damage became a weapon in political warfare, and the ability to

exploit virtually any built up area and familiar terrain as fortresses or ambush sites at

least partially compensated for IDF armor, air mobility, superior firepower, and sensors.

The value and capability of such asymmetric "netcentric" warfare, and comparatively

slow moving wars of attrition, should not be exaggerated. The IDF could win any clash,

and might have won decisively with different ground tactics. It also should not be

ignored. The kind of Western netcentric warfare that is so effective against conventional

forces has met a major challenge and one it must recognize.

Well that sounds like some badass shit. More later, but for now, dig the asymmetrical networkality of the low apogee swarm missile strategy. It delivers the goods!

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