The war's surprises
In its second Lebanon war, Israel was surprised by Hezbollah's anti-tank weapons and the way they used them. The Israel Defense Forces was similarly surprised on the Egyptian front in the Yom Kippur War.
In its second Lebanon war, Israel was surprised by Hezbollah's anti-tank weapons and the way they used them. The Israel Defense Forces was similarly surprised on the Egyptian front in the Yom Kippur War. At the time, we knew the Arab armies had Russian-made Sagger anti-tank guided missiles, but we did not understand the significance of the mass deployment of these missiles nor how it would affect the IDF's Armored Corps. On the first night of the war, the IDF lost 150 tanks.
This is what happened in the war against Hezbollah. We knew the organization had advanced anti-tank rockets; the IDF's Military Intelligence even acquired one. We also understood that Hezbollah was positioning anti-tank units; however, we failed to understand the significance of the mass deployment of these weapons.
The result: Anti-tank weapons caused most of the IDF casualties in the war - nearly all the Armored Corps' casualties and many from the infantry units. More infantry soldiers were killed by anti-tank weapons than in hand-to-hand combat. Many of the infantry soldiers who lost their lives because of anti-tank weapons entered houses in the villages; the rockets penetrated the walls, killing them.
Missiles have always surprised the IDF. A few months after the June 1967 Six-Day War, Israel was surprised by a Russian-made "Styx" SS-N-2C missile that sank an Israel Navy destroyer, the INS Eilat, causing dozens of crew to drown. The Israel Navy and the Rafael Armament Development Authority probed the problem, arriving at a solution that helped the navy win the Yom Kippur War despite the dozens of similar missiles that were fired at its ships.
In the Yom Kippur War, the Israel Air Force suffered a serious setback because of various Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles. For years afterwards, the IAF made every effort to find operational solutions to this problem. The result could be seen in the Lebanon War of 1982 when the IAF, under Major General David Ivry's command, knocked out 19 anti-aircraft missile batteries in Lebanon's Bekaa within hours. Syria and the Soviet Union, the missile's manufacturer, were dumbfounded.
In the Yom Kippur War, anti-tank rockets surprised the IDF's Armored Corps. Since then, no substantive solution has been found for that problem although the Merkava offers high survivability for the crew of a tank that has been hit. Before the last war, Israel was surprised by its inability - despite its advanced technology - to effectively deal with the primitive Qassam rockets the Palestinians were firing. Prior to the war, MI warned the IAF that the latter would not be able to effectively deal with all the rockets. And that is what happened when Israel had to handle even simpler ones.
This time, the Israel Navy was surprised by a single Chinese-made C-802 Silkworm shore-to-ship cruise missile, which neutralized the navy's flagship, the INS Hanit. According to some reports, an Iranian team fired the missile.
Hezbollah used seven different types of rockets in the war - four of them the most advanced available and all produced by Russia and sold to Syria. The most advanced rockets can penetrate steel armor of 70-centimeter to 1.2-meter thickness. After the armor has been pierced, a second warhead explodes inside the tank. MI acquired one of these rockets and understood that Hezbollah was positioning anti-tank units. However, the IDF was inadequately prepared for this development.
Four Israeli tanks hit large landmines. Three of the tanks, which lacked underbelly protective armor, lost all 12 crew members. The fourth had underbelly protective armor; of its six crew members, only one died.
Anti-tank missiles hit 46 tanks and 14 other armored vehicles. In all these attacks, the tanks sustained only 15 armor penetrations while the other armored vehicles sustained five, with 20 soldiers killed, 15 of them tank crew members. Another two Armored Corps soldiers, whose bodies were exposed, were killed. In another location, Wadi Salouki, Hezbollah carried out a successful anti-tank ambush, hitting 11 tanks. Missiles penetrated the armor of three tanks; in two of them, seven Armored Corps soldiers were killed. Two of the other tanks were immobilized.
The conclusions from this war have yet to be drawn, and we must remember that the enemy draws its own conclusions as well.