Dealing with Hezbollah's Siegfried Line

As James Lewis notes  in his excellent article, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has had no luck in knocking out Hezbollah's multi—story bunkers in southern Lebanon.  In one operation, Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter—bombers dropped 23 tons of ordnance on the on a 'subterranean system at the edge of Beirut's Burj al Barajne Palestinian camp.'  Yet, the top Hezbollah leadership, including Hassan Nasrallah and his lieutenants escaped unharmed.

Once again, poor intelligence is to blame according to a DEBKA report .  Scapegoating intelligence, which is never perfect, has become de rigueur among military observers, especially in this age of precision—guided munitions, bunker busters, and laser designators.  But the lack of success in this attack really reveals the operational gap in IAF capabilities compared to what the USAF had in Operation Desert Storm, dealing with multi—story bunker complexes.

The USAF still relied on the tried and true B—52 Stratofortress  in the First Gulf War and, in fact, the 'Buff' delivered over 40 percent of the ordnance dropped on Saddam's forces.  In attacks against multi—story bunkers, B—52s operated in the 'rolling thunder mode' and pounded these facilities mercilessly.  In one pass the B—52 was capable of dropping 51 750 pound (over 19 tons for just one B—52)  or 51 500 pound (over 12 tons for just one aircraft)  dumb iron bombs.  (Anyone who has been on an observation post with a 500 pounder detonating several kilometers away knows the power of just one of these bombs as your fatigues flap in the wind from the shock wave.)

Even if no outright kills were made, the psychological effect was horrific.  Being cooped up in a concrete coffin hundreds of feet underground while under a B—52 attack was not exactly a morale boosting experience.  Once the USAF staggered the bombing routine to catch troops taking a much needed break on the surface, it was all over.

The other type of ordnance the US used to attack bunkers in Desert Storm was the 550—pound CBU—72 fuel/air explosive (FAE) bomb .  It was a sub—munitions type weapon that dispensed an aerosol cloud approximately 60 feet in diameter and 8 feet thick over the target area.  The cloud ignited and produced a deadly overpressure explosion.  The overpressure wave front would flatten all objects within 'close proximity' of ground zero, and even if a bunker complex didn't suffer catastrophic damage, anyone in the top levels of the complex was at risk of getting his skull crushed.

Because of the overpressure wave, FAE is also highly effective against minefields.  The US Army had a surface launched version (SLUFAE) expressly for clearing enemy minefields, but the system was never fielded.  All remaining air delivered FAE have since been withdrawn from service and demilitarized, and by 2001 there were only a few hundred left awaiting deactivation.  The only other nation that is publicly known to have used FAE  is Russia, which used "thermobaric" weapons during the 1994—1996 war in Chechnya.

The IAF obviously does not have a counterpart to the heavy strategic bomber, and even if it did, the civilian population routinely used as a shield by Hezbollah leaders would more than likely remove the rolling thunder attack as a viable option.  I can't discern if the IAF has FAE bombs, but the civilian population density may again preclude the use of this weapon, or at least limit the strike zones.

So as James Lewis says, the IDF will be put to the test with having to conduct a brutal, close—in combined arms fight to root out the Hezbollah 'suiciders' from the hills.  And like the US Army, the IDF prefers maneuver—style warfare rather than a direct confrontation in close terrain.  But that doesn't mean the US or the IDF lack the courage or will to go face—to—face with these fanatics.  Much to the surprise of the dead—enders in Iraq, US Soldiers and Marines are more than a match  for the Islamo—fascists in close—in fighting.

IDF soldiers will, in the end, be proven just as capable.  Now it's Hezbollah's turn for an unpleasant surprise.

Douglas Hanson is national security correspondent of The American Thinker.

As James Lewis notes  in his excellent article, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has had no luck in knocking out Hezbollah's multi—story bunkers in southern Lebanon.  In one operation, Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter—bombers dropped 23 tons of ordnance on the on a 'subterranean system at the edge of Beirut's Burj al Barajne Palestinian camp.'  Yet, the top Hezbollah leadership, including Hassan Nasrallah and his lieutenants escaped unharmed.

Once again, poor intelligence is to blame according to a DEBKA report .  Scapegoating intelligence, which is never perfect, has become de rigueur among military observers, especially in this age of precision—guided munitions, bunker busters, and laser designators.  But the lack of success in this attack really reveals the operational gap in IAF capabilities compared to what the USAF had in Operation Desert Storm, dealing with multi—story bunker complexes.

The USAF still relied on the tried and true B—52 Stratofortress  in the First Gulf War and, in fact, the 'Buff' delivered over 40 percent of the ordnance dropped on Saddam's forces.  In attacks against multi—story bunkers, B—52s operated in the 'rolling thunder mode' and pounded these facilities mercilessly.  In one pass the B—52 was capable of dropping 51 750 pound (over 19 tons for just one B—52)  or 51 500 pound (over 12 tons for just one aircraft)  dumb iron bombs.  (Anyone who has been on an observation post with a 500 pounder detonating several kilometers away knows the power of just one of these bombs as your fatigues flap in the wind from the shock wave.)

Even if no outright kills were made, the psychological effect was horrific.  Being cooped up in a concrete coffin hundreds of feet underground while under a B—52 attack was not exactly a morale boosting experience.  Once the USAF staggered the bombing routine to catch troops taking a much needed break on the surface, it was all over.

The other type of ordnance the US used to attack bunkers in Desert Storm was the 550—pound CBU—72 fuel/air explosive (FAE) bomb .  It was a sub—munitions type weapon that dispensed an aerosol cloud approximately 60 feet in diameter and 8 feet thick over the target area.  The cloud ignited and produced a deadly overpressure explosion.  The overpressure wave front would flatten all objects within 'close proximity' of ground zero, and even if a bunker complex didn't suffer catastrophic damage, anyone in the top levels of the complex was at risk of getting his skull crushed.

Because of the overpressure wave, FAE is also highly effective against minefields.  The US Army had a surface launched version (SLUFAE) expressly for clearing enemy minefields, but the system was never fielded.  All remaining air delivered FAE have since been withdrawn from service and demilitarized, and by 2001 there were only a few hundred left awaiting deactivation.  The only other nation that is publicly known to have used FAE  is Russia, which used "thermobaric" weapons during the 1994—1996 war in Chechnya.

The IAF obviously does not have a counterpart to the heavy strategic bomber, and even if it did, the civilian population routinely used as a shield by Hezbollah leaders would more than likely remove the rolling thunder attack as a viable option.  I can't discern if the IAF has FAE bombs, but the civilian population density may again preclude the use of this weapon, or at least limit the strike zones.

So as James Lewis says, the IDF will be put to the test with having to conduct a brutal, close—in combined arms fight to root out the Hezbollah 'suiciders' from the hills.  And like the US Army, the IDF prefers maneuver—style warfare rather than a direct confrontation in close terrain.  But that doesn't mean the US or the IDF lack the courage or will to go face—to—face with these fanatics.  Much to the surprise of the dead—enders in Iraq, US Soldiers and Marines are more than a match  for the Islamo—fascists in close—in fighting.

IDF soldiers will, in the end, be proven just as capable.  Now it's Hezbollah's turn for an unpleasant surprise.

Douglas Hanson is national security correspondent of The American Thinker.