How the IDF Blew Chance to Destroy Short-range Rockets

A large number of the short-range rockets fired at Israel from southern Lebanon were launched from permanent positions, the Israel Air Force discovered by chance toward the end of the war. The discovery was made after an air strike burned away vegetation, revealing a dug-in Katyusha position on a permanent launch pad. Additional permanent positions were subsequently discovered.

If the tactical intelligence of the Northern Command was unaware of the existence of hundreds of permanent short-range rocket launching positions in South Lebanon, then this is a major intelligence failure. If the Northern Command knew of them and did not pass on detailed information to the air force, then this is a serious failure in the management of the war.

Short-range rockets were one of the biggest problems in Hezbollah's war of attrition against Israeli civilians. The size of these rockets - sometimes small enough to be carried on the back of a donkey, on a motorcycle or by one or two men - made then difficult to pinpoint.

Hezbollah managed to fire a large number of Katyushas during the war - as many as 240 in one day toward the end of the fighting. The rockets, stored near the launch points in underground shelters or houses, were usually aimed with a direction and trajectory precalculated to hit a specific target in Israel. They were usually set up in orchards by arrangement with the grove owners, who were paid by Hezbollah.

The two-by-three-meter positions consisted of a hydraulic launch pad in a lined pit. The pad could be raised to fire the 122-mm rockets from a launcher at its center, and then lowered and camouflaged with vegetation. The farmers received instructions by cell phone regarding the number of rockets to launch and in what direction and range. They were often provided with thermal blankets to cover the position in order to keep IAF aircraft from detecting the post-shooting heat signature.

If the IAF had had details regarding the permanent positions of these short-range rockets, it is reasonable to assume the results of the struggle against them would have been different at the end of the fighting.