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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Hizbullah Reveals Its (Iranian-Made) “Air Force”

Filed under: Hizbullah, Iran

Hizbullah Reveals Its (Iranian-Made) “Air Force”
The symbol of Hizbullah’s air force on display in Mleeta.

Hizbullah’s news mouthpiece, Al Ahed News, published on August 1, 2018, an “exclusive” feature on Hizbullah’s “Air Force,” on display at an open-air museum located in Mleeta in southern Lebanon, 45 km. from Israel’s border and 82 km. from Beirut.1

The symbol of Hizbullah’s air force
The symbol of Hizbullah’s air force on display in Mleeta.
The highest flagpole in all of Lebanon
“The Mleeta Landmark is now home to the highest flagpole in all of Lebanon. The largest flag is atop that post, with an area of about 16 square meters. The mast rises 50 meters above the ground.”

Dispelling any doubt about Hizbullah’s dominance over Lebanon, the museum website states:

We are a Lebanese association with a mission to regenerate the resisting heritage….This tourist landmark is run by the Lebanese Association for Tourism & Tradition.2

Al Ahed reports, “The latest weapon to be unveiled [in the Mleeta Museum] is a squadron of drones belonging to the Islamic Resistance.”

Unmanned drones (“RPAV” is the term today – Remotely Piloted Air Vehicle) are being used throughout the Middle East for surveillance, combat, targeting, platforms for bombs and missiles, and as “suicide” drones (in effect, cruise missiles). RPAVs’ endurance and range can reach many hours and hundreds of kilometers. Iranian-made drones are now flying in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Over the last decade, they have attempted to enter Israeli airspace from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.

Defense planners are also watching for “drone swarms,” an Iranian military tactic developed for swarming fast boats in the Persian Gulf.

Jane’s Defense Weekly revealed in 2015 that satellite photo analyses discovered a Hizbullah drone airstrip in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, built between 2013 and 2014.3

Hizbullah Drones? Actually Iranian Drones with Different Names

The Hizbullah drones on display have been given Hizbullah names, but their designation does not hide the fact that they are all of Iranian origin. Some of the drones’ twins also appear in the Houthi and Hamas orders of battle, particularly the “Ababil” RPAV.

Hizbullah’s Ababil drone on display in Mleeta
Hizbullah’s Ababil drone on display in Mleeta with the Hizbullah air force insignia (above), a variant of Iran’s Mohajer (below).

Iran’s Mohajer drone

A monument dedicated to Zouari in Gaza with an Ababil drone on top.
Hamas’ version of the Ababil displayed on a Gaza monument.
A Hamas obituary poster for Mohammed al-Zoari
Hamas drone engineer Mohammed al-Zawari, assassinated in Tunis on December 15, 2016.
A range of Houthi drones used in Yemen, all of Iranian origin.4

Iran’s Mohajer-2 drone, renamed the Arpia

Long-Range, Long-Endurance Attack Drone

The Mleeta drone display shows this Hizbullah craft with its distinctive V-tail. It appears to be the Shahed 129, an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which has conducted offensive operations in Syria.

Hizbullah version of the UCAV Shahed 129
Is this a Hizbullah version of the UCAV Shahed 129?
Iran’s Shahed 129 drone
Iran’s long-range, long-endurance Shahed 129 on its roll-out.
A crashed Iranian Shahed 129 drone
An Iranian Shahed 129 drone that crashed along the Iran-Pakistan border in 2015. Analysts noted two missile-hardpoints on the craft enabling it to deliver weapons.

Iranian drone bases in Syria provide easy access for Hizbullah fighters and shared intelligence between Hizbullah and the Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards.

Iranian Obituary
Iranian colonel Mehdi Dehghan, senior drone commander, killed allegedly by an Israeli airstrike against Tiyas (T4), an Iranian drone base in Syria, in April 2018.5

Iranian drones and control center

One System Is Missing from the Park’s Display

Missing from Hizbullah’s Tourist Resistance Landmark Park is one very significant weapons system in Hizbullah’s arsenal – its vast quantity of missiles and rockets, some with 200-500-km. ranges (Fateh-110 and Scud). By some estimates, the combined arsenal numbers more than 100,000. Missile guidance systems have been provided to provide accuracy to some of the weapons, and Hizbullah missile teams are reportedly firing missiles in Yemen against Saudi Arabia, testing and improving payloads and guidance systems.

Hizbullah has dispersed its missiles and rockets throughout Lebanon – including in civilian areas. Lebanese civilians do not need a national park to view these weapons; they can be found in their own backyards.

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