Iranian 358 loitering missile linked to $12M Israeli UAVs downing

In a remarkable display of their air defense prowess, the Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah, intercepted and destroyed two Israeli surveillance drones named Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 on April 6. This act marks a pivotal moment in their military history. 

Iranian 358 loitering missile linked to $12M Israeli UAVs downing
Photo credit: Twitter

Western speculations run rife about the type of instrument that played a role in this shootdown, with the Iranian 358—a surface-to-air loitering missile—emerging as the most probable suspect. 

Optimized for interception and destruction of drones and helicopters, this three-meter, infrared-guided missile travels at a relatively slow speed. The Hermes 900, bearing an estimated price tag of $10 million, ranks among the most valuable unmanned aerial vehicles in the Israeli arsenal. It can be equipped for either combat, including the deployment of anti-tank missiles, or various types of surveillance. Meanwhile, the Hermes 450, a precursor to the Hermes 900, has previously fallen victim to Hezbollah’s attacks.

Iranian 358 loitering missile linked to $12M Israeli UAVs downing
Photo credit: Russian MoD

What the 358 missile is?

Iran’s 358 loitering missile, colloquially known as the ‘suicide drone,’ serves as an example of the nation’s rapid advancements in military technology. The blueprint for this weapon involves hovering over a battleground until a target presents itself, which it then ambushes. 

This missile boasts an electro-optical seeker pivotal for distinguishing and tracking targets. Such cutting-edge technology allows it to function seamlessly in both daylight and nocturnal conditions, unaffected by the unpredictability of weather. The warhead it carries enhances its potential for damage upon collision with a target. 

Iranian 358 loitering missile linked to $12M Israeli UAVs downing
Photo credit: UK Crown

Packing an impressive operational range of approximately 50 kilometers, which is about 31 miles, the Iranian 358 loitering missile provides expansive coverage of a battlefield. This extended reach increases the likelihood of the missile spotting and destroying targets, thus escalating its lethality.

How does the missile work?

The way this missile functions is by being deployed to an area presumed to be a hotspot of enemy activity. Once in the air, it maintains its position, a strategy often described as ‘loitering’, while continuously scanning its surroundings with its electro-optical seeker for potential targets. On identifying a valid target, the missile promptly heads towards it, detonating its warhead upon reaching it. 

Iranian 358 loitering missile linked to $12M Israeli UAVs downing
Photo credit: Elbit Systems

The Iranian 358 loitering missile represents a significant advancement in Iran’s military capabilities. Its ability to loiter over battlefields and deliver precision strikes categorizes it firmly under ‘awe-inspiring weaponry’. However, an essential point to keep in mind is that the efficacy of this weapon is as much dependent on the sophistication and strategic acumen of the operator using it, as it is on the technology propelling it.

Dollar opposition

The cost of military equipment can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the specific configuration of the equipment, the number of units purchased, and any associated support or maintenance contracts. However, it’s possible to provide an estimate based on publicly available information. 

The Hermes 450, an Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV], is reported to cost around $2 million per unit. This medium-sized drone is used for a variety of purposes, including surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition. Moving onto the Hermes 900, this is a larger and more advanced UAV. As such, it carries a higher price tag. Estimates suggest that each Hermes 900 drone costs approximately $10 million. 

The exact cost of the 358 missile is not publicly disclosed due to the sensitive nature of military equipment pricing. This is common practice for most nations, including Iran. Comparable systems from other countries, such as the Israeli Harpy loitering munition, have been reported to cost anywhere from $70,000 to $120,000 per unit. It’s reasonable to assume that the Iranian 358 loitering missile would fall within a similar price range.

Hezbollah is actively involved

Since October 2023, Hezbollah has been involved in continuous confrontations with Israeli forces. It’s significant to mention that this militia group holds the distinction of being the only force to deal a blow to Israel, achieving a victory in a 34-day war from July to August 2006. 

Hezbollah Will Hit More Targets of 'Weak and Debilitated' Israel, Hassan Nasrallah Said
Photo credit: Anwar Anmro/AA/AFP

In a clear demonstration of upgraded military prowess, this Lebanese entity has leveraged the use of drones and artillery to successfully neutralize Israel’s Iron Dome air defense batteries. Earlier this year, they utilized precision-guided rocket artillery to incapacitate a significant airbase and deployed sophisticated ‘fire and forget’ anti-tank weaponry against Israeli armor. It’s also noteworthy to add that Hezbollah drones have previously operated within Israeli airspace for significant periods.

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