Hezbollah's UAVs Concern Israeli and US Security Experts
by Jim Kouri, CPP
Use of technologically advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, by Hezbollah during its 34-day conflict with Israel, is causing both American and Israeli defense officials attempting to formulate an effective defense against drone attacks.
According to a report in Newsweek, the three UAVs Hezbollah launched against Israel were Iranian-built Ababil vehicles, which carry an 88-pound conventional explosives payload and can travel at least 150 miles.
Israeli jets did, however, succeed in shooting down all three UAVs before they could reach cause any death and destruction.
According to Newsweek, even if they had reached their intended destinations, most analysts and Israeli defense officials who spoke to Newsweek said the drones' small warhead made them little more of a threat than the 4,000 Katyusha and other rockets fired by Hezbollah during the month-long conflagration.
But US experts contend that "the strength of the drones was not in their explosive power, but in their ability to strike with great precision. A successful hit on Haifa's petrochemical plant during this summer's war, for instance, would have devastated a large, densely-populated area."
Iran is believed to have supplied Hezbollah with 12 Ababil UAVs, meaning the group may still have a significant arsenal of the weapons. US defense analysts told Newsweek they fear the Iranians will provide the drones to Iraqi insurgents or Al-Qaeda terrorists, as well.
UAVs are not new; they have a long history in aviation. Pilotless aircraft, whether as aerial targets or for more belligerent purposes, have a history stretching back to the First World War, according to Christopher Jones of the US Air Force Air Command and Staff College.
The annual Jane's All the World's Aircraft has described UAVs since the 1920s. From early use as target drones and remotely piloted vehicles, the US employed UAVs for reconnaissance purposes during the Korean War, and then as highly classified "special purpose aircraft" during the conflict in Vietnam. UAV missions flew mainly to cover areas determined too hazardous for manned reconnaissance aircraft.
Additionally, these missions occurred at a fraction of the cost of and risk to manned aircraft. The Air Force also investigated the potential utility of expanding the UAV's role beyond reconnaissance, specifically in air defense suppression and strike missions, but never operationally fielded these possibilities. Interest in UAVs dwindled through the 1970s and 1980s, according to Jones.
According to Major Steve Howard of the US Air University, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are among the many tools at the disposal of Special Operations Forces leaders for dealing with difficult situations. The key question is whether SOF leaders should continue relying only on manned aerial assets and national space assets for reconnaissance and surveillance, or should they shift to developing unmanned aerial assets for some of these purposes.
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, according to Defense Update.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.