Ilya Bezruchko
Former editor and anchor of Jewish News 1 channel

Russian-Iranian threat on the Northern Border. Are we ready to the war?

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How Ukrainian experience can help to fight Hezbollah? 

Dozens of attacks on the Israeli northern cities show how seriously Hezbollah has prepared for the full-scale war with the Jewish State. Thousands of internally displaced people abandoned towns and villages, and this is only the beginning. What will face the Northern part of Israel after the IDF crosses the border with Lebanon to move terrorists behind the Litani River?

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Attribution: Roded Shlomo Pikiwiki Israel

Several scenarios are on the table, but none of them is optimistic. According to open data, Hezbollah obtained thousands of Iranian-made drones and rockets. Despite the fact that the Israeli Army and military industry are good in the fight against hostile rockets, the last eight months of the “slow war” in the North have shown that a lot has to be improved in terms of counter-UAV measures. We have seen dozens of videos of damaged military bases and armored vehicles by simple and cheap Iranian drones; even an Iron Dome battery was damaged (according to the video on social media) by hostile UAVs.

What can Israel oppose to this threat, and how should IDF and the military industry prepare for the full-scale invasion of Southern Lebanon? All military analytics have followed the Russian-Ukrainian war for the last two and a half years. Why? Because it changed the rules of modern warfare at all. The critical element of this war is drones. Both sides of the conflict often use them to strike vulnerable enemy targets, and both sides have their methods and techniques. After 7.10, it became clear that Russia was on the side of the International terrorist organizations and Iran, even for those Israelis who were not following the world news regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war. Russia has been trying to influence Israeli policies and international affairs since the times of the USSR and has kept its methods till nowadays. Since 2015, they have actively supported the al-Assad regime in the civil war in Syria in parallel with collecting intel regarding Israeli operations and military.

The Syrian Arab Army continues to master the widespread use of FPV drones, practicing and gaining skills with rebels in Idlib. Syria’s good weather and simple, open landscape, combined with the Syrian rebels’ lack of electronic warfare capabilities, create an ideal field for experimentation and gaining invaluable experience on real targets. Let me remind you that near the city of Homs in Syria, there is a base training center where Iranian, Syrian, and Russian drone operators, plus Hezbollah militants, are trained.

There is a general belief that Iran supposedly pays little attention to FPV technology, but this is untrue. The SAA and Syria are a significant testing ground for Iran, as well as Lebanon, Iraq, and Ukraine, where the Iranians test their military technologies for their subsequent improvement. At the same time, it is known for sure that Russia is helping the Syrian army master FPV technologies and, together with it, is teaching Hezbollah to do so.

When the time comes for conducting a ground operation on Lebanese territory, it is evident that the core of the IDF’s strike force will be armored forces. Suppose the latest modifications of the Merkava (Mk.4M) are equipped with protection systems against anti-tank weapons. In that case, most of the armored vehicles, such as Mk.3, APC M113, light command jeeps, armored vehicles like Tigris and others, as well as artillery crews, will become easy targets for FPV drone operators in Lebanon. The vulnerable targets are command buildings and military bases, which are also not equipped with personal air defense systems.

In this case, it is necessary now to equip tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, which can be used during an invasion of Lebanon as well as military bases around the Northern border, with EW equipment or passively countering the threats of FPV drones (such as gratings and nets). Modern experience of warfare in Ukraine suggests that a drone costing up to $300 can fly to a distance of 15 km and hit both static and moving targets. This inexpensive type of kamikaze drone can cause significant damage not only to the military but also to civilian infrastructure, including communication towers, power poles, etc. Materials for assembling FPV drones are not dual-use products and can be quickly supplied/smuggled to various countries in the Middle East, including Syria and Lebanon, without the need to evade any sanctions. This type of drone can be equipped with multiple projectiles (homemade and factory-made ammunition).

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At this stage in Ukraine, several production facilities of dome EW protection against FPV have been created. The main advantage of these systems is their low cost and effectiveness, which makes it possible to equip military vehicles and bases with a convenient and straightforward anti-drone protection system. It means that Israel will not have to spend dozens of thousands of USD on rockets against hostile UAVs and FPVs.

There are also several early warning systems for the presence of reconnaissance drones or drones dropping enemy grenades in your sector produced in Ukraine. Let me remind you that with the help of such drones, the security fence on the border with the Gaza Strip was blinded on 7.10, and armored vehicles at bases bordering the enclave were damaged.

In addition, several professional schools for UAV operators of various types, from multi-rotor to FPV, operate in Ukraine. There, professional instructors train to counter Russian Army electronic warfare tactics and counter FPV drone operators with electronic warfare forces. This experience could be precious for the IDF, given that Russian instructors pass on their combat experience to Hezbollah, IRGC, and Syrian Arab Army fighters.

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Considering the manner and quantity of attack/reconnaissance UAVs used by militants of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and the fact that alarms in most cases are triggered extremely late when the UAVs reach Nahariya or Acre and Krayot. Shoot-downs of Enemy UAVs in the Haifa Bay area also often occur without alarm. The flight trajectories of interceptor missiles suggest that IDF is intercepting low-flying targets, which, considering the geography of the region, fly into Israeli airspace from Lebanese territory by sea below the radar line of the Israeli missile defense system. This increases the risk of civilian casualties, as well as significant damage to military and civilian infrastructure.

To detect Iranian Shahed-136 UAVs and low-flying cruise missiles, Ukraine successfully uses acoustic sensors, which have been deployed in large numbers throughout the country, which makes it possible to highly effectively detect low-flying and stealthy targets. Thus, attracting such companies to cooperate with the Israeli defense industry can protect the Israeli coastline and the Northern border in general from penetration by UAVs and cruise missiles that could be launched from Lebanon in the case of a full-scale war with Hezbollah. In addition, the list of developments of Ukrainian companies includes interceptor drones of Shahed-type UAVs, which are adjusted and controlled using the acoustic location of enemy air assets.

During the two years of war, the Ukrainian army and military industry gained valuable experience countering Russian and Iranian military threats. The main interest for the IDF is in practical and inexpensive means of detecting and intercepting UAVs and low-flying targets, and Ukrainian specialists can train the Israeli military in the methods and principles of combat using FPV drones, which can significantly reduce the cost of fighting in densely built-up villages and cities of southern Lebanon. In addition, the price of one FPV drone is approximately equal to two 155 mm artillery shells, with certainly high accuracy compared to artillery shells. The cost of  UA-made EW devices that are jamming hostile drones is much lower than equipping every piece of  the Northern border with Iron Dome and other anti-rocket systems as well as installing such devices on army vehicles is much cheaper than Trophy (“Windbreaker”).

From my perspective, there are many areas where Israel and Ukraine can help each other during this complicated period in our history, and we, as an active civil society, should help develop bilateral relations and cooperation between two democratic states—Israel and Ukraine.

About the Author
Ilya Bezruchko is Co-founder of the co-working network in Ukraine, Entrepreneur, a blogger and the Jewish activist.
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