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Does Hezbollah have Saddam’s drones?

Posted by Richard on July 15, 2006

UPDATE (7/15): As Emily Littela used to say, "Oh. That’s different. Never mind!" Initial reports were wrong. Apparently, the Israeli ship was hit by a sophisticated, radar-guided Iranian missile. Apparently, Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops are aiding Hezbollah, which lacks the sophistication and skills to use such a weapon without help.

An Israeli warship off the Lebanese coast apparently was severely damaged by an unmanned drone carrying explosives (emphasis added):

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah rammed an Israeli warship with an unmanned aircraft rigged with explosives and set it ablaze Friday, Israeli military officials said, after attack jets smashed Lebanon’s links to the world one by one and destroyed the headquarters of the Islamic guerrilla group’s leader.

The Israeli warship, which had been carrying several dozen sailors, was towed to Haifa after suffering heavy damage. The fire was put out after several hours. The military confirmed news reports that four sailors were missing and said a search for them was underway.

The Israeli army said the source of the attack was still under investigation. But military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the probe, said the ship had been targeted by an unmanned drone.

The explanation indicated Hezbollah has added a new weapon to the arsenal of rockets and mortars it has used against Israel.

I wonder if Hezbollah’s drone looked like this:

Iraqi drone (UAV) with 25-ft. wingspan
Or like this:

The one on the left is, I believe, a Quds-10, the 25-ft.-wingspan drone that Hans Blix’s weapons inspectors discovered in March, 2003. Secretary of State Colin Powell included it in his testimony to the U.N. about the Iraq threat, arguing that it could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons. U.N. weapons inspectors were quite interested in Iraqi drones because Iraq had experimented with using them to deliver chemical weapons in the 80s. It may have a range greater than 150 km. (93 mi.).

The one on the right is a smaller, 12-ft.-wingspan "prototype" drone that the Iraqis trotted out to reporters immediately after the U.S. made public Blix’s discovery, claiming it was what the fuss was about. Reporters and commentators subsequently dismissed Powell’s claims, pointing out that the (smaller) drone couldn’t carry much more than a video camera, batteries, and electronics and was little more than a big model airplane.

Well, guess what? Even with just line-of-sight control (such as in a model airplane radio controller you could buy at Radio Shack), either drone could easily be flown into an Israeli ship a few miles off the Lebanese coast. The larger plane could obviously carry more high explosives, but even the "toy" on the right could probably carry 10-15 lbs., enough to cause a serious fire and damage on a small warship.

I wonder how many drones Hezbollah has and what size they are. You think Hezbollah’s drones were built in the Palestinian National Drone Factory? Me neither. I’m guessing they come from either Iran or Syria. Either way, don’t you think there’s a good chance that the "country of origin," as those little labels put it, was Saddam’s Iraq?

(HT to Jan of Denver for reminding me about Powell’s drone testimony.)

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