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IDF released findings - Hezbollah fired C-802
Committee: Israel Navy's Understanding of Lebanon Operational Reality Deficient
Defense Daily 11/08/2006
Author: B.C. Kessner
TEL AVIV, Israel--The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) yesterday released key findings of a special committee that investigated the Hezbollah-fired C-802 missile attack on the Israel navy ship Hanit in July 2006, and the report said deficient understanding of the operational situation was to blame in the incident that killed four sailors.
"The committee found deficiencies in the forces' understanding and assimilation of the operational reality, thus affecting the level of operational performance--which was deficient," an IDF statement last night said.
Brig. Gen. Nir Maor headed the committee and submitted the findings to the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz on Sunday. Halutz stressed that the investigation was thorough and of high standard and accepted all the operational recommendations of the committee and instructed to implement them, the IDF said.
According to the findings, the investigation showed that despite the lack of specific prior intelligence regarding the weapons held by Hezbollah, there was certain information received by the Israeli navy in the past, which could have lead to the operational assumption of a possibility that the enemy holds coastal ammunition.
"Accordingly, it would have been advisable to operate in a way that would precede this threat," the findings said.
The July 14 attack on the INS Hanit emerged as one of the key puzzles of the recent Lebanon war that the IDF and Israel's defense industry would be pressed to explain once the war was over (Defense Daily, Aug. 11).
In the last couple of months, industry and defense sources have told Defense Daily that any of Hanit's "four rings of defense" could have defeated the Chinese origin C- 802 if they had been on and working properly.
Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and RAFAEL spent many years and many millions of dollars to develop the Barak-1 missile defense system found on Hanit (and many other platforms from now very watchful international customers), which was designed specifically to beat threats like the one on July 14.
The Hanit was also equipped with a close-in weapons system (CIWS), electronic counter measures and chaff.
There was some talk of possible 'service interoperability issues' in the local press and defense circles as one cause for some Hanit's systems to have been off when the attack occurred, although nothing official was ever released to that effect.
Sources say that, for its part, the Israeli navy has been particularly clear of pointing any fingers at the other services or placing any degree of blame on systems in the wake of the missile incident.
"It boils down to an operational outlook problem and an over reliance on the Intel estimate, and they realize that," one source said recently.
Following the investigation, the Halutz instructed the Israeli navy to raise the level of operational management required from the commanders, alongside preservation of the level of the professional operation of the navy vessels, the IDF said. "The Chief of Staff instructed the IDF commanders to operate based on strict operational assumptions whenever precise intelligence regarding the enemy does not exist."
Additionally, Halutz instructed that intelligence information, such as information held by the IDF, would be examined by several bodies in the Israel navy and not only by one organization and instructed the navy to prepare for all possible threats, the IDF added.
The Israel navy has been operating off the coast of Lebanon for a long time. Prior to the escalation of the war and the C-802 attack, the generally regarded estimate of the 'threat zone' offshore was out to six kilometers, or sufficiently past the maximum 5500-meter range of the Russian-built AT-14 Kornet laser guided anti-tank missile. Reports here said Hanit was hit about 14 kilometers offshore, though it may have been closer deterring small craft earlier before heading to that position.
Doctrinally, during wartime Israel's Saar-5 missile boats like the Hanit are intended to sail out, attack and sink enemy vessels and return in relatively short order. Long-term operations for the Israel navy, like what it faced with the blockade and extended area patrols, are very challenging.
The extended wartime operations require almost continuous full battle stations, akin to the U.S. Navy's Condition One. On a vessel crewed by about 55 personnel, only the commanding and executive officers are typically career officers, and the rest of the wardroom is rather junior.
Maintaining a readiness state between full battle stations and wartime steaming (Condition Three) for days on end is particularly taxing with such a setup, one source said. "At some point the CO's got to get some sleep, and the crew's got to eat and rest."
It was a wartime environment, and Israel Air Force aircraft were in the air, but they were fighting Hezbollah, not some country known to have weapons like the C-802, the source added. "One can understand why the CO didn't keep the systems on full auto."
There could have been other considerations, but none are likely to mitigate the fact that there was lack of appreciation on several levels that the situation leading up to July 14 had changed, with devastating consequences.
Across the board, industry and defense sources privately here have been saying the navy was extremely lucky with the result of the attack on the Hanit, and that if the angles had been slightly different, or the missile fusing had been different or had it detonated at a different location, the Saar-5 missile boat could have suffered much more severe damage or been sunk.
Information has not yet been released as to who in the navy will ultimately bear responsibility for the incident, be they the Hanit commanding officer, the Saar-5 flotilla commander or someone higher.