NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
Lebanon launched three unmanned aerial vehicles toward Israel’s gas rigs

On Saturday afternoon, July 2, 2022, three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were launched from Lebanon toward Israel's gas rigs. The UAVs were launched by Hezbollah's UAV unit; a unit that currently operates more than 2000 aircraft of various models. This unit has operational capabilities for long distances and for various missions, including intelligence gathering and attack.

The UAVs flew at low altitudes, close to sea level, in an attempt to evade the Israeli aerial radars network. In addition, each UAV flew in a different trajectory rather than a unified structure to make their detection difficult.

But Hezbollah's UAVs were detected and tracked by the Israeli air defence systems. The UAVs were also detected and identified by the Israeli Navy corvettes. It is also possible that Hezbollah's intentions to use the UAVs also came as a warning by the intelligence gathering units of the Israeli intelligence community (no approval was received from the IDF spokesman).

An F-16 aircraft was launched at the UAVs, intercepting one of them. The Navy's Saar 5 corvette intercepted the two other UAVs using the "Barak 1" interceptor. The three UAVs were intercepted several dozen nautical miles from the "Shark" gas rig.

The "Barak 1" system is an air defence system which was installed in the mid-1990s on Israeli naval ships, and its goal is to protect the vessels from ariel threats - bombs, anti-ship missiles, aeroplanes, helicopters, and unmanned aircraft. In addition, the "Barak 1" system can also protect vessels and marine installations in the protective vessel area.

The "Barak 1" system was developed with joint and long-standing cooperation of the Navy, IAI, and Rafael (which began in the 1980s). The system has been sold worldwide to several countries, including India, Singapore, and Chile. During the Second Lebanese War, in July 2006, a Saar 5 ship, the INS "Spear," was hit by an Iranian/Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile launched by the Hezbollah naval unit from the Beirut area. Back then, the "Barak 1," which was installed onboard the INS "Spear," did not operate (about this event in another article).

The current interception of two UAVs by the "Barak 1" system is the first operational interception of the system since the completion of its development and installation on naval ships (from the late 1990s, as stated).

The IDF spokesman said that in the IDF's assessment, the UAVs were unarmed and did not pose a threat. This assessment is based on the fact that no sub-explosions were caused after they were intercepted. The IDF estimated that the UAVs were flying toward the "Shark" rig that is not yet producing gas. According to the IDF, the UAVs' mission was to carry out a psychological-effect operation.

About two hours after the Israeli announcement of the UAVs interception, Hezbollah confirmed that the organization had launched "unarmed UAVs toward the disputed maritime area in the “Shark” gas field to carry out an observation mission.”

The maritime conflict between Israel and Lebanon

The conflict over the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon is long-standing. The disputed area for Israel is less than two per cent of the total area of its exclusive economic zone, and for the Lebanese, it is about three per cent. But the gas field in the area is large, and both sides are interested in using it to their advantage.

In 2012, Israel signalled to Lebanon that it was ready to divide the territorial rights in the area, in a ratio of 42:58 in favour of Lebanon. But the negotiations since 2000 under the US mediation have been stopped and renewed repeatedly and have not reached any agreement.

To the displeasure of Lebanon, Israel is already planning to produce gas from a shark reservoir, which for its part, is in its territorial waters. The area in dispute between Israel and Lebanon is very small, relatively speaking. It is only 860 square kilometres of economic water, with a "Shark" gas field at its end, it is an area under Israeli control.

After several months of negotiations, in the last few weeks, a rig reached a "Shark" field, through which the gas is expected to be extracted. The arrival of the rig re-flooded the old controversy. Lebanon reacted sharply to the continued development of the Israeli gas field. The Lebanese president and prime minister appealed to the US, claiming that Israel was taking a one-sided snatch to take over the maritime area.

Hezbollah's secretary-general, Nasrallah, also commented on the rig's arrival and, in his speech to the media, said that the organization had set itself the goal of preventing Israel from producing gas from "Shark". In addition, Nasrallah noted that Lebanon has all the rights and power to fight against Israel.

The beginning of Israeli activity to produce gas from the "Shark" gas rig is at a time when the economic situation in Lebanon is in a severe crisis, including a shortage of fuel and energy in the country. Lebanon, in desperate need of gas for energy and as a source of income, is pinning its hopes on the "shark" gas field to get it out of the economic mud and reduce the country's galloping inflation.


The offshore gas rigs, from which Israel derives most of its energy requirements, are not only a strategic asset for the State of Israel but are also a strategic target for Israel's rivals, with an emphasis on Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In any future campaign against Hamas and Hezbollah, the gas rigs will be the target for the terror organizations' missiles and rockets. This is why the Israeli Navy was equipped with the "Magen" Saar 6 ships, made in Germany and designed to protect Israel's critical strategic infrastructure at sea and near the coast.

The Israeli Navy conducts ongoing and regular operational activities to secure the rigs. This is an essential mission of the Navy, requiring the ability to operate for long terms near the rigs. This mission requires the Navy ships to have real-time target detection and a short interception time from the moment of detection capabilities. The Navy's air defence systems, "Barak 1" and "Barak 8", are a critical defence layer for the rigs' security.

The UAVs' interception event will be studied in the coming days by many navies around the world and will be leveraged by the Israeli defence industry to sell such systems to additional navies.

It should be noted that this wasn't the first operational incident of UAV interception using naval interceptor missiles. For example, last May, Russia reported the interception of Turkish UAVs in the service of Ukraine by its Black Sea Fleet ships, using Aerial defence systems.

The event highlights the importance of aerial target detection over the sea, launched from Lebanon by the Air Force and Navy Air detection and control System. The Navy and the Air force cooperate in building in real-time the aerial picture.

It seems that the air defence system, the readiness of the navy ships, and the operational coordination between the air force and the Navy operated at a high operational and technological level (in contrast to the INS "Spear" incident in the Second Lebanon War).

The trajectory of the UAVs, as published by the IDF Spokesman indicates that contrary to his announcement that the UAVs tried to carry out a psychological-effect operation, it appears that the UAVs were on an intelligence-gathering mission and were trying to test the Israeli air detection systems capabilities and responses.

At the same time, there is no doubt that the use of UAVs has a significant and essential psychological effect, an effect that Hezbollah and Iran well understand.

Hezbollah and Iran see Hezbollah's UAV systems as a strategic array, with a range of operational capabilities for intelligence gathering, maritime picture building, targeting at sea and on land, and attack capabilities (whether through "suicide" or missiles launch).

Iran and Hezbollah have learned many operational, technical, and logistical lessons from the campaigns in Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Libya, and Ukraine. In those campaigns, UAVs were widely used in various surveillance, detection, and attack missions. Therefore, it will be reasonable to assume that the use of Hezbollah's (and even Hamas) UAVs will increase, hence the threats to Israel from this direction.

Lebanon (and Hezbollah) are in a desperate economic situation, with the Lebanese economy collapsing. Iran is limited in its ability to assist Lebanon, as it is also in a major financial crisis while focusing on concluding the nuclear program negotiations and removing the economic sanctions.

Iran needs some "breathing" these days and cannot help Lebanon. As the crisis in Lebanon worsens, Hezbollah is trying to assist in the efforts, but mainly trying to divert the public criticism that is heard (relatively quietly) against it and blame Israel for the situation.

The economic crisis in Lebanon, the outbreak of negotiations with Israel, together with the continuation of work to produce gas from the "Shark" field may cause Hezbollah to act again (and soon) against the Israeli gas rigs and not just against the "Shark" rig.

This is the most sensitive period in which the Navy, Air Force, and the intelligence community are required not to rest on the "laurels" of intercepting the three UAVs but to be even more vigilant, focusing the air control and naval control system against a variety of threats and scenarios against Israel's strategic infrastructure at sea and on the coast, from north to south.

Hezbollah can operate against Israel not only using UAVs but also using fast attack boats, unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, midget submarines, and other commando operations.

Sea And Coast