Hezbollah’s Drone Arsenal: What We Know and Fear

November 8, 2023 Topic: Hezbollah Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: HezbollahIsraelDronesDroneGazaHamas

Hezbollah’s Drone Arsenal: What We Know and Fear

According to Hezbollah, explosive-laden drones “precisely” struck their targets in the Chebaa Farms region of the Golan Heights territory in northern Israel.

 

Skirmishes along the Israeli-Lebanese border are continuing to heat up. After the Gaza-based terror group Hamas launched its gruesome October 7 attack against the Jewish state, Israeli officials grew concerned that Iran’s other regional proxies could exploit the crisis. Over the last month, Hezbollah has carried out increasing projectile attacks targeting its northern neighbor.

More recently, the Lebanon-based designated terror group claimed to have struck an Israeli army post with a pair of suicide drones. If true, this attack marks the first time loitering munitions have been used by Hezbollah since the Israel-Hamas war erupted. 

 

Did Hezbollah Launch Suicide Drones?

According to Hezbollah, explosive-laden drones “precisely” struck their targets in the Chebaa Farms region of the Golan Heights territory in northern Israel.

The group additionally targeted IDF posts along the shared border. These claims were announced hours before Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made public remarks surrounding Hamas’ October 7 attack.

In response, the IDF’s spokesperson said that the military was “currently attacking a series of targets of the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanese territory.” 

An Overview of Drone Warfare

Over the last few years, drone warfare has monopolized headlines. Beginning with the 2021 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the use of these cheap, easily operated and acquired aerial weapons has grown among militaries and non-state actors alike. UAVs can come in all shapes and sizes and can accomplish a myriad of tasks.

Iran’s regional proxy groups possess a range of drones, including surveillance, attack, and loitering variants. Like Hamas, Hezbollah receives a steady supply of weapons, training, and funding from the Islamic Republic.

Hezbollah’s claims involving its suicide drone attack against Israel last week for this reason are plausible, yet unconfirmed by the IDF. 

Loitering drones, often dubbed “suicide” or “kamikaze” UAVs, are particularly deadly. These autonomous missiles can linger in the air for a period of time before identifying and attacking a target. These unparalleled aerial weapons provide unprecedented levels of flexibility and precision in modern warfare.

These types of munitions have a proven track record and have been widely used by both sides in Russia’s ongoing Ukraine invasion. 

What We Know About Hezbollah’s Arsenal

Considered by many analysts to be the most powerful non-state actor in the Middle East, Hezbollah’s weapons arsenal is concerning. Israel estimates that the Lebanese-based group possesses up to 150,000 rockets – a stockpile much greater than that of Hamas. Although exact figures surrounding Hezbollah’s drone capabilities and numbers remain unknown, one Israeli think tank predicted that the group had over 2,000 UAVs in 2022. 

Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system has over a 90 percent success rate in intercepting projectiles. However, the system is not infallible. Over the years, Hamas has figured out that the air defense system is vulnerable to swarm tactics. When the Gaza-based group launches scores of projectiles simultaneously, the Dome is unable to intercept each aerial assault. Hezbollah and Iran’s other regional allies are aware of this vulnerability, which is why these affiliates have stocked up on rockets, drones, missiles, and other projectiles.

If Hezbollah does officially enter the war between Israel and Hamas, drones will certainly play a dominant role. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image Credit: IDF/Creative Commons.