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Analysis

BICOM Briefing | Hezbollah’s Precision Missile Project

A new briefing by BICOM, “Hezbollah’s Precision Missile Project,” analyses Iran’s attempt to convert Hezbollah’s existing missiles into precision-guided missiles.

Hezbollah is estimated to have more than 100,000 missiles, but currently has only between 20 and 200 precision-guided missiles. The precision project aims to upgrade its 14,000 Zelzal-2 missiles with precision guidance systems that would enhance their accuracy to 50m from their intended target with a range of 210km. Such a project could trigger war with Israel, who would be confronted with the dilemma as to whether to launch a pre-emptive strike and destroy Hezbollah missile factories or delay military action and risk facing a substantially more destructive missile threat to its critical infrastructure and population centres.

KEY POINTS

  • Hezbollah’s ‘precision project’ refers to its work to upgrade its missiles by improving their Circular Error Probability (CEP) to increase their accuracy. Circular Error Probability is defined as the radius of a circle whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50 per cent of missiles fired. The firing of numerous missiles with a CEP of 10m – a range Iran has aimed for but has not achieved – means half of those will fall within 10m of the intended target. The lower the CEP, the fewer the missiles required to destroy a target.
  • The process of upgrading Zelzal 2 missiles involves fitting GPS guidance packs and transforming them into something similar to the Fateh 110 missile. These packs include a command and guidance system and a control system.
  • Hezbollah took control of Iranian-built factories to manufacture missiles and firearms in Lebanon in December 2016. The sites are located 50m underground to protect them from attack.
  • Estimates of how many precision missiles Hezbollah possess range from 20 to 200. Between 20-40 precision guided missiles with a CEP of 100m would destroy a specific, hardened military target with 75 per cent confidence. For softer targets, such as urban centres, the number of missiles required is significantly less.
  • The Israel Defence Forces estimate that in a future war Hezbollah could fire 1200 missiles a day from its arsenal at Israel.
  • Israel is a small densely populated country with a small number of critical infrastructure sites. Israel has a multi-layered missile defence system – including Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 – alongside highly advanced radar systems.

The full paper is available as a PDF below.

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