Breaking down Hezbollah’s rocket strategy: the Short-Range Threat 

Part one in a series.

Hezbollah entered the 2006 war against Israel with an arsenal of 14,000 projectiles – a mixture of rockets and missiles of various ranges. By the end of the 34-day conflict, Hezbollah had lost approximately half of this arsenal – expending it in attacks against Israel or having caches destroyed by Israeli military operations.

In the aftermath of that war, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1701, hoping to install guardrails to prevent Hezbollah’s rearmament and, through that, the outbreak of another lethal war between the group and the Jewish state. Those guardrails have failed. In the intervening 18 years, Hezbollah has transformed into the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, amassing an arsenal qualitatively and quantitatively dwarfing its old cache, estimated at somewhere between at least 150,000 – 200,000 projectiles – which include unguided artillery rockets, as well as ballistic, anti-air, anti-tank, antiship missiles, mortars, and drones.

The following analysis will break down this arsenal into its components and corollary Israeli countermeasures, giving an idea of what a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel will look like.  


The bulk of Hezbollah’s arsenal consists of short-range and unguided projectiles, mostly “Katyusha” variants. This part of the arsenal is comprised of different types of rockets, whose reach ranges from four to 40 km, and can carry warheads with between 10-20 kg of high explosives or submunitions.

According to a 2023 study by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Hezbollah has about 40,000 rockets within the Katyusha variants, complemented by about 80,000 slightly longer range Fajr-3 (45km, 45kg) and Fajr-5 (75 km, 90kg), Raad 2 (65km) and Raad-3 (70km, 50kg), and Khaibar-1/M-302 (100km, 150kg). If fired from near Metula, this part of Hezbollah’s arsenal alone could reach halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv, or close to Herzliya if fired from near Naqoura, at the southernmost possible point.

Additionally, during the current conflict, Hezbollah revealed that it also possesses the Iranian-made Falaq-1 rockets, using them for the first time in strikes against Israel beginning on January 26, 2024. The Falaq-1 is an unguided surface-to-surface missile, capable of carting a 50kg warhead, with a maximum range of 10km. It is launched from platforms mounted to the rear of 4×4 light jeeps, which have six Falaq-1 rocket launchers in a ready-to-launch position.  

Illustrative: Maximum Potential Range of Hezbollah’s Short-Range Arsenal 

Older Israeli estimates suggested that Hezbollah would fire at least 1,000-1,500 rockets per day at Israel in a future war. More current estimates suggest a more ominous possibility of 3,000 to 4,000-plus rockets fired daily at Israel, at least in the first stages of the war. For point of comparison, Hezbollah succeeded in firing a maximum of 160 rockets per day during the 2006 War and averaged approximately 100 rockets per day. 

Israel’s primary countermeasure to this tier of rockets is the Iron Dome. Different estimates exist of this system’s accuracy, but its median success rate is approximately 90 percent — which means that 10 percent of the number of rockets fired into Israel will likely succeed in penetrating northern Israel at various depths – which is 100-150 rockets at the low range, and 300-400 rockets at the higher range.  

But that is the ideal world scenario, which assumes 1) Israel has infinite funds and infinite Tamir Interceptors for its Iron Dome batteries, 2) Iron Dome performs optimally, and 3) Hezbollah doesn’t employ tactics to throw off Iron Dome’s radar.  

The price of each interceptor and Israel’s Tamir stockpile are classified. But most estimates suggest that, given the expected rate and quantity of Hezbollah’s fire, this stockpile would “run out within mere days of the onset of fighting, leaving Israel exposed to thousands of rockets and missiles at all hours of the day, without any effective active defense, and certainly not a hermetic one.” Moreover, endless restocking of Tamirs is not a feasible option. At the lower estimates, each interceptor costs approximately $40-$50k. Attempting to intercept even the low estimate of 1,000-1,500 rockets per day would create a daily price tag of roughly $40,000,000 at a minimum – economically bleeding Israel within days. By contrast, Hezbollah’s short-range rockets are cheap, with much of this portion of its arsenal costing the group somewhere between $100-$150 per rocket to produce.  

This suggests the Israelis are going to have to make painful but judicious choices to determine the bearable number of rockets to permit to strike the country and in which locations. Israel will also be forced to choose between protecting critical infrastructure and military installations or its civilian population. Given the inaccurate nature of these rockets, it is hard to estimate beforehand the number of casualties they will cause on the Israeli side of the frontline. What can be certain is that, even at the low end, Hezbollah’s short-range rocket fire will succeed in halting daily and economic life in the north and creating mass civilian displacement from the Galilee, further straining Israel’s financial resources. 


Hezbollah possesses an assortment of drones – including Mirsad-1 (200km range), Ayoub, a Shahed-129 derivative (1600+ km range), and potential access to other Iranian-made drones like the Karrar, Mohajer, and Samed. Hezbollah also possesses loitering munitions, which it has used in recent attacks on Israel. Launching a large number of drones could very likely overwhelm Iron Dome’s capabilities. The exact number of drones in Hezbollah’s possessions is unknown. Still, one Israeli think tank estimates that the group possesses as many as 2000 UAVs – though how it came about this estimate is unknown.  

Iron Dome can theoretically engage drones, but its effectiveness has not been tested against swarms of drones, and their flat trajectory makes it harder for the missile defense system to be as effective with them as with rockets. This could allow Hezbollah to penetrate many kilometers into the Israeli Home Front and target critical civilian and military infrastructure. This drone arsenal would pose a sufficient challenge in and of itself to Israel, particularly if Hezbollah launches swarms of drones or loitering munitions. But Hezbollah could also combine drone swarms with rocket barrages, throwing off Iron Dome’s radar and targeting system, and allowing more of the group’s projectiles to hit targets within Israel. Credible assessments suggest that by using a combination of rocket barrages, “loitering munitions, [and] armed drones,” Hezbollah could “bring about the collapse of [Israel’s] missile defense system, completely exposing Israel to rocket fire directed at it.” 

Anti-Tank Weapons 

Hezbollah also holds an assortment of anti-tank weapons and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). These include tripod-launched AT-3 Sagger (3km, 2.6-3.5kg warhead), the AT-4 Spigot (2.5km, armor penetrating), AT-5 Spandrel (4km), AT-13 Saxhorn (1.5 km, armor piercing). But the most effective anti-tank missile known to be possessed by Hezbollah is the AT-14 Kornet, which has an effective range of 5-8km while carrying an anti-armor or bunker-busting thermobaric warhead, and a longer-range variant capable of striking 8-10km away. Hezbollah also possesses an Iranian variant with a dual-launcher capable of simultaneously firing two missiles to counter active protection systems (APS) like Israel’s Trophy.  

Hezbollah also possesses Iranian-made “Almas-1” missiles, which are reverse-engineered variants of the Israeli Spike missile, and which it has used in attacks against Israel since Oct. 8, including the Jan. 25, 2024 strike on an IDF intelligence facility located on the border ridge in Israel, north of Shlomi, and the Jan. 27, 2024 strike on an IDF intelligence base in Rosh HaNikra Hezbollah has hinted that it also possesses the most recent third generation capable of reaching a maximum range of 16km. The group also hinted at possessing a second generation of the Almas, which it claims can be fired from an airborne platform to reach a range of 25km. 

Hezbollah has had decades to hone its ATGM capabilities, with experience stretching back to its 1985-2000 South Lebanon Conflict with the IDF, the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel War, and its experience fighting in Syria. Hezbollah used its ATGMs, particularly its Kornets, to great effect against Israeli Merkava tanks during the 2006 Lebanon War. Still, since beginning its attacks against Israel on October 8, it has also demonstrated perfecting a different use for them as terror weapons. Hezbollah has been targeting soldiers and civilian and military infrastructure along the border. This use of ATGMs as a precision weapon, essentially to snipe at more vulnerable Israeli targets, especially civilian ones, has been described as “unprecedented in Israel and perhaps the world.” Critically, when used in this manner, Israel has no defense against ATGMs.  

The IDF possesses no means to intercept these missiles when they are fired at squads of soldiers, vehicles, and buildings along Israel’s northern border. Since anti-tank missiles are fired by direct sight on a flat trajectory, despite having a reasonably long flight time of at least 30 seconds, Israel has no countermeasures that would give residents even five seconds of warning to seek shelter or intercept incoming missiles to a community. The most likely option would be evacuating civilians from areas within their range, though electromagnetic jamming or smokescreens could be used as a stopgap measure. 

But Hezbollah’s possession of Almas missiles may pose an additional challenge for the Israelis, especially if they were able to reproduce the capabilities of the Spike original. The Spike possesses an electro-optic guidance system, including thermal guidance, which gives it a “fire and forget” capability. The operator can choose a target, launch the missile which locks onto even a moving target, and tracks it until impact. If the target is beyond the operator’s line of sight, he can launch the missile first, let it approach the estimated area, and then select the intended target. The Spike can also strike tanks and armored vehicles from above, where their armor is relatively thin. Spike missiles can be launched from relatively mobile platforms like tripods, as well as light vehicles or drones. 

Israel’s Response to Hezbollah’s Short-Range Rocket Threat 

Israel is currently developing the Iron Beam, a 100kw class High Energy Laser Weapon System, in response to the challenges posed by Hezbollah’s short. Iron Beam possesses several advantages over Iron Dome, all of which would effectively alter the foregoing assessment. It is designed to intercept a broader range of threats, including mortars, rockets, UAVs, mini-UAV swarms, and anti-tank missiles. Moreover, unlike its kinetic interceptor counterpart, Iron Beam is cheap to operate – low-range estimates indicate it would cost $2 per shot – and, because it doesn’t use ammunition, has an unlimited magazine, eliminating the challenge of resupply and production costs. 

The system is not without its constraintsIron Beam has a considerably shorter interception range than Iron Dome’s 70km reach. Its effectiveness can be negatively impacted by weather, and its “dwell time” – it takes several seconds of contact for an Iron Beam laser to destroy its target, which can be further complicated if missiles are sheathed in heat-resistant materials – makes it relatively ineffective against heavy barrages, unlike Iron Dome’s rapid-fire capability. Iron Beam batteries also have a much higher set-up cost than Iron Dome’s. Moreover, Iron Beam has yet to be deployed or battle-tested, but at best, it can only complement Iron Dome and reduce the harm that Hezbollah can inflict upon the Israeli home front, but only to a degree. This means Israel will have to transition quickly to using its offensive capabilities against Hezbollah. 

Israel’s longstanding military doctrine has been predicated upon quickly and overwhelmingly transferring the fight into enemy territory. Hezbollah’s rocket strategy, and the inadequacy of current Israeli countermeasures to blunt its impact on Israel, will require a swift, complete, and heavy-handed application of this classical IDF doctrine – particularly since Hezbollah will use this short-range projectile arsenal in combination with more advanced and long-range capabilities which will all need to be countered before their total impact can overwhelm the Israelis. 

Israel’s first resort will be to unleash its standoff fire capabilities, including artillery, particularly the Israel Air Force. But as powerful as these assets are, their effectiveness in dealing with Hezbollah’s short-range arsenal will be limited. They may be able to counter Hezbollah’s projectiles that require fixed positions to be launched, especially those whose locations have been predetermined by the Israelis in their extensive target bank. This could counter, to a degree, the threat posed by Hezbollah’s drones – at least those that require stationary airstrips to be launched. 

But the challenge posed by most of Hezbollah’s short-range arsenal is its mobility. Most of the group’s projectiles in this category – be they rockets or ATGMs – are typically launched from highly mobile platforms, like trucks or tripods. Their operators will be able to strike and disappear before they can be located and destroyed by Israeli jets. That is why Israel, which relied heavily on its air force during the 2006 Lebanon War, failed to silence Hezbollah’s rocket fire on northern Israel until the ceasefire went into effect on August 12.  

Israel could tolerate 34 days of 100+ rockets striking its home front daily. But Israel cannot endure the current threat, quantitatively and qualitatively, for anywhere near that long of a duration. To properly counter Hezbollah’s short-range threat alone, Israel will have no choice but to complement its use of standoff firepower with immediate and large-scale deployment of ground troops to penetrate Lebanon deeply enough to either locate and destroy these launchers and eliminate their operators or at least place them out of range of northern Israel.  

David Daoud is Senior Fellow at at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies where he focuses on Israel, Hezbollah, and Lebanon affairs.

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