Israel hits Hezbollah with Gulf War-style technology

JERUSALEM — Israel's army is taking a high-tech lesson from the Gulf War in Lebanon.

As Israeli air force fighter jets bombard Hezbollah targets, army officials hold press conferences showing videos of highly accurate, ultra-high-tech weaponry a la Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf in the Gulf War.

They show videos of laser-guided bombs approaching their targets and helicopter pilots firing their missiles — exactly what the pilots see during their air raids.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Herzl Bodinger proudly showed reporters the exclusive air force videotapes of the attacks over the weekend, narrating pilots' actions like a father at a bar mitzvah. The dramatic footage was broadcast repeatedly on Israeli television.

The raids by F-16 bombers were done using the Lantern laser guidance system, which uses forward-looking infrared targeting. This allows the pilot to see the target day or night, using heat differentials to provide infrared images magnified by up to 15 times.

Such images allow pilots to drop bombs from up to 15,000 feet. After the laser designator locks onto the target, the bomb is released and follows the beam down. Small fins attached to the bomb give the final touches and guide it in to within three meters of the target.

Grainy video images of helicopter attacks on the Hezbollah operations center in Beirut or against Syrian gunners came from the thermal targeting system mounted on the attack helicopters — the same images pilots see in their infrared visors.

The targeting system, as well as the 25 mm cannon mounted underneath the helicopter, follows the pilot's view. Once he locks onto a target he fires high explosive incendiary shells or Hellfire laser-guided air-to-surface missiles.

The U.S.-made Lantern system was developed in the mid-1980s, costs about $2.5 million per unit and was battle-proven by the U.S. Air Force during the Gulf War. The Israel Air Force is now buying a similar home-grown system called Lightning for the next generation of aircraft, at less than half the price of the American system.

The Israeli army is also using high-tech artillery to score direct hits on Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket launchers, the commander of artillery forces in the north, Col. Reuven, (whose identify cannot be revealed) said Saturday of last week.

"We are using the best equipment, the most up-to-date, with radar which enables us to pinpoint where Hezbollah is firing from and this is connected in a loop with digital networks directly to the computers in the gun itself," the colonel said in a briefing with reporters.

"This enables us to fire back as fast as possible…and react to what Hezbollah is doing."

The quality of Hezbollah's weaponry is both good and bad for Israel, he said.

"We have many more guns [than Hezbollah] and if we find it necessary we have got even more sophisticated artillery," he said.