• Eyal Pinko

The Iranian missile "Abu Mahdi" in the service of Hezbollah

In the background of Hezbollah's recent threats, it will not allow Israel to extract gas from the gas rigs located in "Lebanon's territory," a tweet posted on Twitter on May 11.

The tweet showed Hezbollah's video of a firing drill with the Iranian missile 'Abu Mahdi' launched from a vehicle. According to the tweet, the missile is in operational service in Hezbollah.

"Abu-Mahdi" is an anti-ship cruise missile with a range of 1000 km, developed in Iran in the last ten years and was first presented at an Iranian weapons exhibition in late August 2020. The missile can be launched from various platforms such as vehicles, ships, and aircraft.

The Iranian missile, which went into operational service in Hezbollah, is actually based on reverse engineering of the Russian missile KH-55 as part of an Iranian project known as Soumar. The reverse engineering upgrade began in 2001 after Iran purchased KH-55 missiles from Ukraine. Some argue that the missiles' purchase from Ukraine was made illegally from Ukraine's missile arsenal and below the government radar.

In this project, the Soumar cruise missiles were developed to be used against static quality land targets up to a range of 3000 km. In the "Abu-Mahdi" project, the missile was converted against naval targets.

The missile in its Russian version is designed to carry nuclear warheads. It is likely that the Iranian version will also have the capability to incorporate a nuclear warhead, with Iran reaching a military nuclear capability.

The missile flies at a relatively low altitude of 30 to 70 meters above the ground, avoiding the opponent's radars and being detected only in later stages, shortly before hitting the target.

The missiles in the naval version are equipped with a navigation system based on an inertial platform and a satellite navigation receiver (GPS and GLONASS), and a Doppler homing seeker with anti-electronic warfare capabilities. However, it is unclear whether the missile is equipped with a communication channel.

The missiles also include jet engines made in Iran, model Tolou. These engines have entered service on various platforms, including naval cruise missiles and jet UAVs such as the Karar.

Hezbollah's equipped with these missiles allows the terror organization to open a very wide operational envelope. Hezbollah's naval unit is equipped with hundreds of Iranian coastal anti-ship missiles, including the Noor (200 km), the Ghader (300 km), the Ghadir (500 km), and of course, the advanced Russian supersonic missile "Yakhont" (300 to 450 km) which the organization received directly from Syria.

Hezbollah's acquisition of missiles is further proof that Lebanon is Iran's front test field and that any weapons developed in Iran will end up in the hands of Hezbollah in the Lebanese arena.

Furthermore, the acquisition of missiles indicates the great importance that Hezbollah and Iran see in Hezbollah's naval unit and its functions, including imposing a maritime blockade on Israel, damaging its seaports and gas rigs, and disrupting shipping routes to and from Israel during a military conflict. Hezbollah and Iran have realized that Israel is dependent on the sea and that a maritime blockade on Israel will disrupt its functional continuity in terms of trade, energy, and security.

But along with the missile's operational capability, Hezbollah will require a much more significant challenge than the missile's launch, which is the ability to build a real-time maritime picture within the missile's operational ranges. Real-time detection and identification of Israeli ships in blue waters within these ranges is a significant and non-trivial challenge.

It is doubtful whether Hezbollah will be able to take advantage of the missile's operational ranges in the depths of the sea. However, any target in Israel's maritime territory up to its southern maritime border is likely to be relevant to Hezbollah.

The new missile and the huge arsenal of anti-ship missiles are an additional challenge to the Israeli Navy. The challenge is triangular. It begins with an intelligence challenge. The Naval intelligence will be required to analyze the missile and its capabilities, identify its operators and launch sites prematurely, and give a real-time alert before launching it.

The second challenge is a technological one, in which the Navy will be required to develop countermeasures and defend its forces from the missile. Finally, the third challenge is the operational challenge, which incorporates the force operation and the vessels' operation, according to such doctrine that will allow the vessel to operate unharmed in a missile envelope zone, which extends across the entire eastern basin of the Mediterranean

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