In a joint press conference back in 2010, the then-U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, delivered a sobering assessment alongside his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, stating, “We are now at the point where Hezbollah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world.”
Gates’ prophecy has indeed come to pass, and Hezbollah’s arsenal has grown exponentially since then, making it one of the most heavily armed non-state actors globally. This article delves into the alarming expansion and capabilities of Hezbollah’s weaponry, examining its strategic significance in the volatile Middle East.
The Proliferation of Rockets and Missiles
Hezbollah’s robust rocket and missile inventory is a major cause for concern. According to the most recent public estimates, the organization possesses around 150,000 rockets and missiles, primarily with a range of a few dozen kilometers.
This astonishing stockpile has earned Hezbollah the dubious distinction of being one of the most heavily armed non-state actors in the world, as concluded by researchers from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a comprehensive 2018 report.
Hezbollah’s inventory is diverse and menacing, encompassing “dumb” rocket artillery, ballistic missiles, anti-aircraft systems, anti-tank missiles, and anti-ship missiles. This extensive arsenal ensures that Hezbollah is well-equipped to engage in both defensive and offensive operations.
FIGURE 1 – HEZBOLLAH’S ARSENAL – MISSILES AND ROCKETS RANGE – Conflict Map – SATELLITE (https://www.sentinel-hub.com/ – SATELLITE IMAGE) Copyright © www.debuglies.com
Syrian Civil War and Iranian Support
Hezbollah’s remarkable increase in firepower can be attributed to its involvement in the Syrian Civil War. The group played a pivotal role in supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, gaining invaluable experience and resources that further strengthened its capabilities. Additionally, Iran has been a key enabler, providing Hezbollah with both financial and military support. This partnership has allowed Hezbollah to acquire advanced weaponry and further elevate its standing as a formidable regional player.
Precision-Guided Missiles and Standoff Capabilities
In recent years, Hezbollah has concentrated its efforts on its “precision project.” This project aims to transform its unguided rockets into guided, precision munitions capable of hitting strategic targets. By enhancing the accuracy and destructive potential of their arsenal, Hezbollah aims to pose a direct threat to critical infrastructure, military installations, and troop concentrations.
The organization’s pursuit of precision-guided missiles raises concerns about their acquisition from various sources, including Syria, Iran, or Russia. Standoff missiles, characterized by their long-range capabilities, offer Hezbollah the advantage of launching attacks from a safe distance, reducing the risk to their launchers.
A Comprehensive Arsenal
Detailed estimates from the Institute for National Security Studies outline Hezbollah’s arsenal composition, which includes approximately 40,000 short-range Grad-type rockets, 80,000 medium-long-range rockets like Fajr-3, Fajr-5, Khaibar, and Ra’ad, and 30,000 long-range Zelzal rockets and Fateh-110 (M600) missiles.
Furthermore, Hezbollah has received a limited number of Scud-type missiles from Syria, which add another layer of complexity to the regional security landscape.
Potential Impact in Conflict
In the event of a conflict, Hezbollah’s military and defense experts anticipate the firing of several thousand rockets in the first few days, followed by a daily barrage of 1,500 rockets.
This is a significant escalation from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when Hezbollah fired approximately 200 rockets a day. The devastating impact of such an onslaught on both military and civilian targets cannot be overstated.
Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Capabilities
Hezbollah’s formidable capabilities extend beyond rockets and missiles. The organization boasts a substantial stock of anti-aircraft missiles, including shoulder-fired systems that can target helicopters and low-altitude aircraft.
These systems are particularly dangerous, as they leave no trace of the launcher’s location, allowing for rapid evasion.
Moreover, Hezbollah possesses heavy anti-air systems, such as surface-to-air missiles and launchers, with the capacity to engage aerial threats at a range of up to 50 kilometers and a height of up to 24 kilometers. This arsenal poses a grave challenge to any potential air operation in the region.
One of the most significant threats posed by Hezbollah is its anti-tank units. Equipped with the Russian-developed Kornet guided missiles, these units have the capability to target tanks from above, exploiting vulnerabilities in the armor.
Although Israel has made efforts to enhance tank survivability with systems like Trophy, the Kornet missiles remain a formidable threat, highlighting the ongoing arms race in the region.
Developing an Air Force and Commando Units
Hezbollah has also been steadily developing its own air force over the past two decades, primarily reliant on drones of various sizes and roles, some locally manufactured and others supplied by Iran.
These drones can carry weapons and serve as potential suicide drones, presenting a novel and versatile threat to regional security.
The organization is estimated to possess about 2,000 drones of diverse types, including civilian drones repurposed for military use.
Additionally, Hezbollah maintains a well-trained commando unit known as the Radwan Force. This force is designed to serve as the spearhead in a potential conflict with Israel, with a mission to capture towns and villages along the border, mirroring Hamas’ tactics.
Comprising around 2,500 personnel who receive training in Lebanon and Iran, including specialized training in paragliding and sea infiltration, the Radwan Force is a formidable asset within Hezbollah’s ranks.
TABLE 1 – HEZBOLLAH’S ARSENAL – MISSILES AND ROCKETS RANGE – Copyright © www.debuglies.com
Tunnel Incursions and Future Challenges
The discovery of tunnels under the northern Israeli border in 2018, intended for Hezbollah’s infiltration, underscores the organization’s adaptability and resourcefulness. These tunnels have the potential to facilitate covert incursions into Israeli territory and are but one example of Hezbollah’s innovative approach to asymmetrical warfare.
In conclusion, Hezbollah’s extensive and diverse arsenal, coupled with its strategic capabilities, represents a significant challenge not only to Israel but to regional stability as a whole. Its capacity to strike with precision, launch barrages of rockets and missiles, operate anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems, deploy drones, and maintain a well-trained commando unit makes
Hezbollah a potent player in the Middle East’s turbulent landscape. As regional tensions persist, monitoring and addressing the evolving capabilities of Hezbollah remains a paramount concern for governments and security experts worldwide.