Hostilities surge: Hezbollah struck Hermes drone in air clash

On April 21, Hezbollah’s military arm in Lebanon escalated tensions by shooting down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone over Southern Lebanon with a surface-to-air missile. This incident adds to a series of increased hostilities over the past six months between these rival factions. 

Hostilities surge: Hezbollah targets Hermes drone in air clash
Photo credit: YouTube screenshot

The claim made by Hezbollah noted that “At 10:50 pm [19:50 GMT] on Sunday, the enemy drone was successfully intercepted over the Al Aishiyeh location in southern Lebanon by Islamic resistance forces.” The Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] later confirmed this assertion. Responding to the event, the IDF indicated that it launched reprisal air strikes to disable the Hezbollah air defense mechanisms involved. It reiterated its commitment to continue flying over Lebanese airspace to protect Israeli interests.

Recent successful defenses by Hezbollah, on April 6, witnessed the shooting down of two more Israeli drones: another Hermes 450 and a Hermes 900. This event extends the pattern of their increasingly effective defensive capabilities. Western evaluations have praised the effectiveness of the Hermes 450, often rating it higher than its European and American counterparts fulfilling similar roles. The Hermes 900, which comes with a significant price tag of an estimated $30 million, is considered one of the premier unmanned aircraft within Israel’s arsenal. 

Hermes 450

The Israeli Hermes 450 drone, also known as the Zik, is an unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] developed by Elbit Systems. Its primary design is for long endurance, and tactical missions, offering real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance [ISR] capabilities. The Hermes 450 stands out due to its considerable dimensions, with a length of 6.1 meters and a wingspan of 10.5 meters. Its maximum takeoff weight of 450 kg includes a payload of 150 kg. 

The drone is powered by a single rotary engine allowing it to reach maximum speeds of 130 knots. Its service ceiling is around 18,000 feet, and it can stay airborne for up to 20 hours, providing an operational range of approximately 300 kilometers.

The Hermes 450 is equipped with various types of surveillance equipment. It typically carries a multi-sensor payload that includes day and night cameras, infrared sensors, laser designators, and synthetic aperture radar [SAR]. This allows it to perform a wide range of missions, from border patrol to damage assessment. 

Beyond surveillance and reconnaissance, the Hermes 450 is also used for target acquisition and artillery adjustment. Its advanced avionics and sensors enable it to provide accurate real-time data to ground control stations, making it a valuable asset in modern warfare. 

Hezbollah shows power

Historically, Hezbollah is recognized for handing Israel a solitary defeat in a 34-day conflict that unfolded between July and August of 2006. Subsequently, beginning in 2013, the militia reinforced the Syrian government’s counterinsurgency operations against militants backed by Israel and numerous NATO-associated strategic partners. 

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

The militant prowess of Hezbollah has increasingly come to light amidst its skirmishes with Israeli forces over the prior six months. Their advanced military tactics involve the employment of drones and artillery in neutralizing the Israeli Iron Dome air defense systems. They also leverage precision-guided rocket artillery to dismantle a crucial airbase in early January, as well as employing state-of-the-art ‘fire and forget’ anti-tank weaponry to target Israeli armor. 

A notable military operation was launched by Hezbollah on December 6. A key Israeli air surveillance installation near the Lebanese border, situated atop Mount Meron – the highest peak within Israel’s control beyond the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, was targeted using precision-guided rocket artillery. Persistent displays of force by Hezbollah have been instrumental in maintaining the balance of deterrence it established through its military victories in 2006.

Hezbollah – Israel (2023-)

Quiet night in Israel and Gaza achieved through Egypt
Photo credit: BBC

During the conflict between Israel and Hamas, a disputed region known as the Shebaa Farms was targeted by guided rockets and artillery from Hezbollah. This Lebanese militant group executed the attack on October 8, 2023. Responding rapidly, Israel launched drone assaults and heavy artillery targeting Hezbollah’s primary positions near the Golan Heights. This region, controlled by Israel, borders Lebanon directly. It’s worth noting that Hezbollah had publicly backed Hamas’s attack on Israel, which had begun on October 7. 

Regrettably, the conflict isn’t confined to the initial battle zones. It has spread to other parts of the Israel-Lebanon border, Syria, and the occupied Golan Heights. Indeed, this is the greatest escalation seen between Hezbollah and Israel since the 2006 Lebanon War. To fully understand the scale of this conflict, it’s critical to consider the human cost. Close to 96,000 Israelis in the northern realm had to abandon their homes. More than 100,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced. 

According to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), between October 21, 2023, and February 20, 2024, an estimated 7,948 artillery rounds were fired from Lebanon towards Israel, known as the Blue Line. Conversely, Israel launched 978 rounds in the opposite direction, towards Lebanon.

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