Hezbollah amassed 2,000 drones as part of Iranian ‘drone army’, report warns
Lebanon-based terror group Hezbollah is estimated to have amassed around 2,000 unmanned aerial vehicles over the past 15 years with the help of its Iranian sponsor, according to a new report from the Israel-based Alma Research Center.
Hezbollah has received both advanced drones from Iran, as well as assistance to develop and manufacture them independently, according to the report. The Islamist group has deployed drones since the 1990s in Lebanon, Syria and against Israel. Hezbollah reportedly had fewer than 50 drones in 2006, the year of the Second Lebanon War, but subsequently increased its arsenal to 200 in 2013. It had around 800 drones in 2016, according to the report.
Hezbollah “most likely” has advanced drone models like the Karrar type, intended to disrupt air strikes, and the Saegheh type, which can carry anti-tank missiles, among others. The group also uses dozens of drones, mostly Chinese-made, for photography as well as for transporting and dropping bombs.
Since Iran developed its first drone in 1984, it has built up an “army of drones” capable of deploying across the Middle East, greatly expanding the country’s operational reach, according to the report. Drones pose a distinct threat to Israel, as a “swarm” could attack air defense systems in the north of the country or close the port of Haifa.
December 23, 2021 9:41 a.m.
Beyond Hezbollah, Iranian-made drones are also proliferating to Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.
“The capabilities of the Iranian drone army in general and the independent production capabilities of its proxies constitute a significant, central and very troubling military challenge for Israel,” the report warned.
Last September, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz described the drone army as “one of the most important tools developed by Iran”. The force is “a collection of deadly, precision weapons that, like a ballistic missile or an aircraft, can travel thousands of kilometers,” he said. “The Iranians produce and export these planes to their proxies, in coordination and led by the IRGC Air Force and the Quds Force. “
Gantz last month identified two bases in southern Iran that were used to launch maritime UAV attacks, and said Tehran was deploying drones not only for offensive operations, but also to deliver weapons to agents.
Earlier this year, the IDF shot down a suicide drone carrying explosives launched by Hamas, which had similarities to other drones used by the Iranian “Resistance Axis”.