Iran’s Unknown Systems Neutralize Israel’s Electronic Warfare Gadgets
Until the watershed date of July 12, 2006, when the Hizballah triggered the Lebanon War, Israel was accounted an important world power in the development of electronic warfare systems – so much so that a symbiotic relationship evolved for the research and development of many US and Israeli electronic warfare systems, in which a combination of complementary American and Israeli devices and methods was invested.
The collaboration covers almost every military branch – ground units, air and navy, special operations forces and the devices that track terrorists worldwide.
Israel’s electronic warfare units belong to its Signal Corps, and its early warning systems units are part of the Military Intelligence Corps-AMAN.
In combat against Hizballah (whose makeup and methods of operation will be outlined in a separate article in this issue), both were not only found wanting, but had been actively neutralized, so that none performed the functions for which they were designed.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources reveal how this happened:
1. The intelligence and electronic warfare units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps provided Hizballah with an electronic warfare arm.
2. Iran developed special systems capable of blocking a large section of Israel’s electronic warfare network.
3. Thirty days into the Lebanon war, American and Israeli officials have concluded that Iran decided to use the Lebanon conflict as the testing ground for its military, intelligence and electronic capabilities in preparation for a potential clash with the United States and Israel in other theaters of war.
The first indication of something amiss on the Israeli side showed up on day three of the Lebanon War
On July 14, shortly before 20:00 local time, two Iranian-made C-802 Silkworm shore-to-sea missiles fired from a Hizballah base in Beirut port seriously damaged an Israeli Saar-5 corvette, the “Hanit”.
The mysterious beam that blocked the Barak anti-missile device
The first was shot in a high arc to drop amidships on the vessel from above; it missed and exploded in the water. The second was fired at a difference angle to skim the water’s surface in the manner of a cruise missile. It homed in and struck the helicopter pad, setting the pad, the deck and the crew’s living quarters on fire. The captain’s fast reflexes and the crew’s bravery in jumping into the flames to extinguish the fire saved the Hanit from exploding and sinking.
The C-802 missile is based on the Chinese Ying-Ji 802 land attack and anti-ship cruise missile (designated in the West as SACCADE).
Fitted with a small turbojet engine with paraffin-based fuel, the missile has a 165 kilo warhead and a range of 120 km. Most significantly, this missile has small radar reflectivity, attacks the target only a few meters above the sea surface and its guidance equipment has a strong anti-jamming capability. It is therefore exceptionally difficult to intercept and boasts a 98 percent hit probability.
The Ying-Ji-802 can be launched from airplanes, ships, submarines and motor vehicles and rivals the American Harpoon as among the best anti-ship weapons on the market.
The Israeli warship was taken completely by surprise because Israeli intelligence had had no idea that the Hizballah had acquired this missile.
The experts tried to find out why the stricken vessel’s advanced Barak ship-borne anti-missile defense system and its anti-air/anti-surface gunnery system had not been activated to thwart the attack.
The Barak missile is a vertically launched, supersonic, lightweight missile with a very large and powerful warhead designed for Israeli Navy missile boats to counter anti-ship missile and airborne attack by aircraft. It uses advanced radar techniques for target acquisition and target tracking. Using an autonomous capability to gain a tactical picture and evaluate threat, the Barak can interface with various sensors, guns and weapons.
The system operates successfully on the ships of various foreign navies.
So why didn’t this marvel of electronic engineering do its job for the Israeli corvette?
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals here that, 12 hours before the Israeli ship was crippled, Hizballah fighters seized control of Beirut’s naval radar station, throwing out its Lebanese operators. Two minivans then drew up and a team of Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval intelligence officers and radar technicians jumped out carrying a load of unfamiliar equipment which they installed.
A subsequent probe revealed that they must have used this gear to beam a mysterious electronic wave to disarm the Barak system.
A state of the art communications room in (almost) every bunker
Hours after the Hanit was attacked, the Israeli air force destroyed Lebanese coastal radar facilities. An Israeli officer who works with electronic warfare systems told DEBKA-Net–Weekly that no one knows to this day what gear the Iranians installed, or where and when the next electronic ambush will be coming from.
Since the attack, therefore, Israeli missile ships blockading the Lebanese coast are wary of coming in too close to the shore. That is why the Israeli naval commandoes who raided the hideout of a Hizballah rocket crew in Tyre last week were flown in and evacuated by helicopter, not by sea.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that, in the course of the Lebanon War, Hizballah – or rather Iran – had more than one surprise in store
In the first three days of the war, Israel was certain it had cast an electronic blanket over South Lebanon and jammed military communications and telephone networks, including mobile phones. The IDF general staff were under the illusion that they had knocked out the communication links between Hassan Nasrallah and his local commanders.
They were wrong.
It took a while to discover that Iranian electronic warfare operators had chalked up another major success in the Lebanon War. They had prevented Israeli electronic devices from jamming Hizballah’s communications networks in the battle zones of South Lebanon and blanking out the signal systems connecting Hizballah command and control posts across the country and linking them to Syria. This explains why, despite repeatedly bomb strikes of Hizballah’s Al Manar TV and Nour Radio studios in S. Beirut, the station has been able to broadcast almost without interruption.
The Iranian electronic engineers’ success was such that, on Wednesday, Aug. 9, Day 29 of the war, Hizballah’s communications networks were still operating at points only 500 meters from the Israeli border.
They were also functioning at the toughest strongholds holding out against Israel attacks: Ayt a-Chaab in the west and Al Khaim in the east.
However, after a fierce battle at Qantara just south of the Litani River, the bodies were found of three Iranian intelligence officers with documents of identification and gear that showed them to have been operators of local networks for jamming Israeli radar and communications.
Israeli forces searching through the bunkers they cleaned out in South Lebanon were amazed to discover that many contained subterranean state of the art communications rooms fitted out with advanced instruments with Iranian encoding.
Not every part of the Hizballah militia is armed with standard military communications equipment, it is important to note. They also use SMS, runners and ordinary telephones to transmit messages.
The terrorist war room in the Iranian embassy
So concerned were some members of the Bush administration by Iranian electronic successes in the Lebanon War that, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources, they sent over last week a large team of electronic warfare experts to work with the Israelis on cracking the dual problem of Iranian interference and the protective measures guarding Hizballah.
Both sides came to the conclusion that neither Israel nor the United States took enough notice of the naval exercise Iran staged in the Persian Gulf last April, its largest in recent years. Both the Americans and Israelis dismissed most of the weapons systems as old-fashioned. Some were clearly functioning badly.
But among them were the C-802 cruise missile and several electronic warfare systems, both of which turned up in the Lebanon war with deadly effect. American and Israeli military experts have since decided they may have missed the most important feature of the Iranian exercise, their electronic prowess. Now, the Lebanon War is giving them a second chance to catch up with the Iranian accomplishments they missed last April.
They are particularly troubled by Iran’s success in making its Beirut embassy totally impregnable to any electronic or hi-tech ears or penetration.
It means that the war room the Hizballah high command has set up in the embassy can function free of oversight. Our sources report that Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s “chief of staff” Ibrahim Akil and chief of special operations the arch terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, fled Beirut to a northern underground command post in the Hermel region in the early part of the war. But at some point, they slipped back and made it to the Iranian embassy.
Israeli and American intelligence tried dismissing their presence in the embassy as a wild rumor. However Monday, August 7, Turkish military intelligence tipped Washington that a very reliable source had placed Nasrallah and his high command in the Iranian embassy. The source did not know how long he had been holed up there. But US intelligence watchers noted that when the Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Beirut Wednesday, August 9, he gave the embassy a wide berth. Aware of the suspicions that Nasrallah was in the building, the minister decided not to draw attention to the embassy or create the impression he had come to hold talks with the Hizballah leader.