Military & Aerospace

Israel-Hezbollah Conflict Part-5 : The Rocket Threat
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Issue Vol 22.1 Jan - Mar 2007 | Date : 26 Apr , 2007

Iraqs Scud missiles had caught the imagination of the media in the First Gulf War. It had proved to be a “super power buster” and gave the Iraqis their sole means of hitting back at Israel and the Arab Bases of the Coalition Forces.

In the 2006 Lebanon conflict, the 122mm Katyusha Rockets stole the limelight. The Hezbollah had clearly prepared well for this war. Given their hopeless lack of air cover, they opted for this rugged but simple solution and prepared for a Rocket War in an elaborate and painstaking manner. The entire issue of conflict termination got mixed up with the need to suppress this rain of simple rockets. This was a virtually impossible task given the low visibility, short range and negligible signature of the Katyusha class rockets. Thus the war dragged on for a month, without the Israelis being able to ensure full suppression of this rocket barrage. This gave the Hezbollah a moral victory of sorts ( in as much as the Israelis were not able to pound them into submission in the near term). However, in the long term, they ended up absorbing more punishment than they had bargained for and this is becoming tellingly evident with each month that passes with the cease-fire intact/holding.

Anti-Rocket Measures

The relative lack of sophistication of the Katyusha is what makes it so hard to defeat as a terror weapon. An air alone option just could not have suppressed this barrage. The only option was to seize a contiguous strip of territory all along the Lebanon frontier, that would put the civilian habitations out of Heroallahs Katyusha range. This called for a broad based land offensive that should have come much earlier in the war. The longer range Raads, Fajrs and Zel Zal Rockets had a far more prominent signature and were very successfully neutralised by the IAF. Arrow Anti Ballistic Missile Batteries were deployed for the defence of Tel Aviv. The Patriot Advanced Capability – 2 (PAC – 2) low to high altitude Missile Defence Battery was deployed in Haifa (the port town) to intercept the longer range missiles like the Zel Zal. The Israeli Navy deployed its Saar Class Missile Boats with their Barrak Missile point Defence Systems for the defence of the Haifa harbor. However, the threat was apparently taken lightly as an Israeli Saar V class Missile Correvette was hit by an Iranian C – 802 Noor class Anti Ship Guided Missile. Strangely the ships multilayered protection system had not been activated and the INS Hanit was disabled. This was serious loss of face for the Israeli Navy. Reportedly another C- 701 class missile was also fired at the Hanit but missed it and sank a Cambodian ship instead.55

Anti-Rocket Solutions

Alon Ben David says overall some 4228 rockets were fired on Israel at the overall rate of almost 130 rockets a day Actually the rate averaged around 150 – 180 rockets per day for the first 10 days, with as many as 47 being fired in a single salvo. The rate peaked at 380 on 18 July and then dropped to an average of little over 100 a day towards the end Aug. In early Aug the rate began to climb again after a two days cease-fire, reached 250 rocket strikes on 13 Aug 06, the last day of the hostilities.56

Tactical High Energy Laser

One solution being explored to counter Free Rockets is the Tactical High Energy Laser. The Northrop Grumman Skyguard Land based air defence system was under trial. However, though it demonstrated its ability to intercept Katyushas, the IDF feels that the size of the chemical laser generator is too large, while the area coverage is very narrow. Thus it would require a huge amount of funding and is unaffordable for the present.57

Stunner/other Solutions

A short range Anti Ballistic Missile Interceptor (called Stunner) is being developed by Rafel and Raytheon (for intercepting low cost Ballistic Missiles and rockets with ranges from 40 – 200 km). Low cost radar controlled, high rate guns like Oerlikon Contraves are being examined as an interim solution. Another cheaper solution being examined is firing homing Rocket salvos against such incoming barrages of Free Rockets.58

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen GD Bakshi, (Retd)

is a war Veteran and Strategic Analyst.

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