Lebanese Hezbollah has long served as a linchpin of Iran’s IRGC drone programme, assembling drones at its bases with parts smuggled in from Iran via Syria, and training cadres from Yemen’s Houthis and other proxies.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah went so far as to boast about his party’s prowess in this area in February, claiming Hezbollah is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to turn its missiles into precision-guided weapons.
He even invited interested parties to “fill out an application” to buy his party’s weapons.
Despite Nasrallah’s flaunting, however, Iran is behind most of the party’s drones.
Since 2004, the Islamic Republic has provided drones, drone components and designs to its proxies, including Hezbollah, and also has provided the party’s fighters with training, The Iran Primer said in a June 2021 report.
Between 2005 and 2012, Hezbollah obtained more advanced drones, expanding its UAV operations after joining the conflict in Syria in 2012 in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
By late 2013, Hezbollah possessed hundreds of Iranian-designed drones, the report said, including Mersad-1 light-weight combat and reconnaissance drones and heavyweight reconnaissance and combat Ayoub drones, in addition to the Hassan.
“While Hezbollah has been silent about whether it actually has a factory to manufacture drones, it is certain that it has trained experts,” retired Lebanese Brig. Gen. Naji Malaeb told Al-Mashareq.
In Syria, Hezbollah “hid Iranian-made IRGC drones in underground bunkers it had previously dug at an old military base” in the Khirbet al-Ward area near Sayyida Zainab shrine, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in January.
ran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah experts trained in Iran are present in this area, it said.
The Iran-backed party used drones in Eastern Ghouta and in rural Aleppo and Idlib, Malaeb said.