UPDATE 07/15/06 11:19 AM: There's an old saw about war: that first reports are always wrong. Looks like that the case about this unmanned plane attack. "A missile fired by Hezbollah, not an unmanned drone laden with explosives, damaged an Israeli warship off Lebanon," Fox News reports.
The attack on Friday night had raised widespread concern in the Israeli military because initial information indicated that the guerrillas had used a drone for the first time to attack Israeli forces.But the army's investigation into the attack, which left four Israeli sailors missing, showed that Hezbollah had fired an Iranian-made missile at the vessel from the shores of Lebanon, said Brig. Gen. Ido Nehushtan."We can confirm that it was hit by an Iranian-made missile launched by Hezbollah. We see this as very profound fingerprint of Iranian involvement in Hezbollah," Nehushtan said in an interview with The Associated Press.Another Hezbollah missile also hit and sank a nearby civilian merchant ship at around the same time, Nehushtan said. He said that ship apparently was Egyptian, but he had no other information about it.UPDATE 07/15/06 12:29 PM: Bill Roggio is now throwing cold water on the missile theory. "The use of a ground based anti-ship missile system in these attacks, while certainly a possibility, is unlikely as the characteristics of this system would certainly have been detected by the Israeli Defense Forces," he writes. "A UAV launched missile system, on the other hand, would be a more stealthy system. The UAVs are difficult to detect as they can fly in below radar, [and] can be flown by remote visual methods."Stay tuned."An unmanned Hezbollah aircraft rigged with explosives slammed into an Israeli warship late Friday, causing heavy damage to the vessel," the AP reports. It's the first time the terrorist group -- any terrorist group -- has used a drone in combat, as far as I know. Hezbollah has flown simple "Misrad-1" unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, twice before, in November 2004 and April 2005. But those were reconnaissance flights, last just a couple of minutes each. And the drones were spotted fairly quickly, both times.But, as Defense Tech noted in the Spring, the UAV had the potential to be much, much worse -- "a suicide bomber on steroids, basically."That's what seems to have happened around 8:30pm Friday night to a Saar 5 navy gunship, ten miles off of the Lebanese coast, according to Ynetnews.
It was reported that the stern of an Israeli navy war ship suffered a direct hit in an attack by Hizbullah, which damaged the helicopter landing pad area. The hit caused a conflagration, which was extinguished. No one was hurt in the fire.Shortly afterwards, crewmembers assessed the damage to the ship and discovered the hit was more severe than originally thought, and had caused damage to the ships internal operating systems...Four crewmembers are reported to be missing.There's more than bit of irony in Israel being hit with drone attacks. For years, the Israeli military was the world's leader in unmanned aviation. During the first Gulf War, Iraqi troops surrendered to Israel-made, American-run Pioneer UAVs. U.S. Army drone mechanics had to learn Hebrew, to repair their Israeli drones.But in recent years, the rest of the world has caught up. "Some 32 nations are developing or manufacturing more than 250 models" of UAVs, according to the Defense Department.In response, Pentagon extreme science arm Darpa has launched a $5 million per year effort to build a drone-killing UAV. But the results of that effort are still years away. For now, more conventional methods will have to be used to guard against terrorists' robotic air force.(Big ups: SMT)