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

The free rocket threat may not be relevant immediately in the sub continental context. However it is certain that terrorist organisations operating in J&K are likely to draw their lessons form this conflict.

Hence the need to study the equipment employed, its performance and response options. The Hezbollah had as arsenal of some 14,000 of the following class of free or unguided rockets:

  • Katyusha Rockets. Alon Ben David, writing in the Janes Defence Weekly (25 July 06 issue) states that the most popular were the Katyusha rockets of 122mm caliber with a range of upto 40 kms.48
  • R’aad. The Syrian made 220mm Rocket has a 45 km range and a 50 kg explosive and fragmentation war head. This was used by the Hezbollah to strike Haifa – Israel’s third largest city.49
  • Fajr-3. This is an Iranian made 240 mm Rocket with a range of 50kms. This was used by the Hezbollah in its failed attempt to strike the Israeli Air Force (IAF) Base in Northern Israel. 50
  • Fajr-5. This is a 330mm Iranian Rocket with a range of 70kms.51
  • Zelzal. There are three variants of this Iranian Rocket (Zezal 1,2 and 3). These have a 600kg war head and ranges of 120km, 200km and 400km respectively. The prime feature of this war was the Hezbollah’s massive use of these unguided rockets to strike the Israeli population centres in Northern Israel.52

Impact of Rockets

The Free Rockets of the 122mm Katyusha class were extensively used in the the Second World War by the Russians. They made up for their lack of accuracy by their employment in mass. Not very effective against well entrenched troops, they are nevertheless quite lethal and effective when employed as terror weapons against the civilian targets and crowded population centers. As per Alon Ben David about a million Israeli civilians in Northern Israel were forced to live in bomb shelters for the duration of the war. Another 250,000 fled to Southern Israel. 54 civilians were killed in the rocket attacks and several hundred more were wounded.53

Though the threat from the larger rockets was very effectively tackled by the Israeli Air Force, the relatively unsophisticated 122mm Katyusha Rockets were very hard to locate (especially from the air) and conversely very easy to hide and carry. The Israeli Air Force wasted considerable effort looking for the mobile launchers.

Towards the end of the war it became evident that most of these rockets were fired from “kill boxes” in static, underground and well dug in position 3-4 kms from the border. The Launchers were stored in clusters of ten, hydraulically raised to the surface and fired by remote actuators/ timers. The survivability of these underground kill boxes was exceedingly high. Tank runs to these were well reconnoitered and covered by Hezbollah Anti-tank Missiles and RPG teams. Despite the fierce pounding by the IAF and the Israeli Artillery and tanks, these kept up a steady barrage averaging between 130-200 rockets a day at Israeli Civilian targets. 54

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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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