Iranian Involvement In Missile Attack On Israeli Ship
Contrary to initial reports, it now appears almost certain that the Israeli Eilat-class Saar-5 missile corvette was hit by a C-802 missile, rather that a guided drone. The ship, reportedly the INS Hanit, lost four sailors in the attack. According to this report from YNet:
Brigadier-General Noam Page of the Navy said in a press conference Saturday that the Navy was unaware that a missile threat existed in the sector, and that the boat's crew had acted accordingly.This seems to be a fairly significant failure on the part of Israeli intelligence. In what strikes me as an attempt to deflect blame for this failure, the Israelis are now claiming that Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces actually fired the missile from Lebanon:
Missile boats are equipped with a missile interception system capable of automatically intercepting any missile or aircraft approaching it. However, as the boat was operating in an area where a large number of IDF planes were present, the Navy had refrained from activating the system.
Navy sources said that had they known the Hizbullah was in possession of missiles of the type used against the boat Saturday, the missile interception system would have been turned on.
Israeli officials charged that elite Iranian troops operating in Lebanon were involved in the Hezbollah offensive, and were responsible for firing an Iranian-made, radar-guided C802 missile - not the unmanned bomb-laden drone originally reported - that struck the warship on Friday, killing four sailors.While there's no doubt that the missile was probably supplied by the Iranians, and there's also no question that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are, in general, a few feathers short of a duck (and therefore wouldn't see the problem with actively engaging in combat with Israel and potentially being caught doing so), I see no reason why the Hezbollah terrorists couldn't be taught how to fire the missile -- especially with the reports that they shot two missiles at the Hanit, but the other missed and hit an Egyptian merchant further downrange.
"There are Iranian officers belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard among Hezbollah and they operated the missile," said Israeli Vice Prime Minister and elder statesman Shimon Peres.
My take on the whole episode: Based on reports I've seen of the damage to the ship, my guess is that the warhead didn't explode, and that all the damage was done by the missile's fuel cooking off when it hit (the kinetic energy of the missile would also contribute some damage.) The Israelis, normally the epitome of good planning, screwed the pooch on this one by underestimating their adversary -- the Israelis who commented on this news article seem to mostly agree. Expect some people to be held responsible for the failure both in the Israeli Navy and intelligence services. However, don't expect the Israelis to engage in a big public self-flagellation about it; they'll make the necessary changes and get back to business.
Eagle1 has much more on the story here.
Update 2016 16 July: CDR Salamander has more over at Milblogs Ring HQ.
Update 1145 22 July: Here's a report on the initial "lessons learned" evaluation by the IDF. It says the missile did explode above the ship, which would imply a proximity fuse -- that's almost scarier than if it had hit the ship directly.