I just set him up with a comment account, so maybe he’ll elaborate below. But here’s what he e-mailed me last night:
NPP and I are saying the exact same thing. While it’s not certain that it was a 2.75″ rocket, all the evidence points to it. It’s a matter of knowing what load-outs the IDF helicopters carry. During my EOD career, I did literally hundreds of post blast investigations. I’d bet beer that it was a 2.75″ hit.
“NPP” is the guy who first suggested it was a 70mm (a.k.a. 2.75″) rocket; you can read his original e-mail to me here. He’s been debating with a few other readers down in the comments to that post as well. Highlights:
I didn’t make it clear in my email to Allah, but the rocket itself certainly did not penetrate the vehicle before exploding. It detonated at, or just above the roof. The ‘crater’ seen in the pictures with torn metal is consistent with blast damage pushing the metal down and tearing it. In other words, the “crater” was caused by the blast, not the impact of the rocket itself. If the weapon had penetrated the roof and exploded, everyone inside would probably be dead and the hole would be blown outwards, not inwards. Another indicator (that I should have noticed earlier) that the weapon had to have detonated at or just above the roof is the lack of much, if any, frag damage on the hood of the vehicle…
This vehicle appears to be a level 6 armored Land Rover Defender… Level 6 protection means that a lot of ballistic steel is used instead of Kevlar blankets, so the roof is not thin sheet metal.
Finally, I don’t understand why people are disputing the rust thing. It’s obvious from the pictures the vehicle rusted rather quickly, and a quick google search would tell them why. I completely agree that the Lebanese ambulances were a complete fraud, but this rust conspiracy is getting out of hand.
Indeed it is. Another commenter, “Egfrow,” found this photo of the van taken shortly after the attack. What’s missing?
As for why there are no scorch marks on the roof, NPP again:
As for the fireball, there isn’t much of one. I’ve seen a couple of these (not from real close, admittedly), and I don’t remember a fireball at all. One of the EOD guys could give you a definitive answer, but I believe that comp b (the explosive in these rockets) isn’t going to burn any paint that isn’t blasted off – IOW, most of the explosive energy is blast energy, not heat energy.
The leading alternate theory is that it was shrapnel. And yes, that’s an important distinction, although not as important as some might think. If a rocket hit the van, it proves that the IAF was aiming at it. If it was shrapnel, it suggests that they were aiming at something else, which would put the kibosh on hysterical claims that Israel is targeting the media. On the other hand, NPP insists that it’s impossible to see the markings on a vehicle like this from overhead at night, so even if you accept the rocket theory, it still doesn’t prove Israel was gunning for the press. Although that won’t stop Reuters from insinuating it in the breathless lede to their article about this incident.
Update: Just received this from someone claiming to be a veteran of the Israeli army. I’m going to e-mail NPP and the other guy who thought it was a 70mm rocket and see what they say.
I can’t remember at any time seeing an Apache taking off with more than hellfires and two gas tanks on the wings. Never seen the hydra going up to a mission on Aza. The Hydra (the rockets in question) are almost never launched single, or in pairs, but in salvos – at least that has been my experience. Also, they have a very large dispersion area – they’re not precise at all. They’re more of a saturation weapon.
Considering the IAF’s worry about collateral damage, and the nature of the attack and the damage itself, I’d be surprised if the hydra had been used in that particular setting, unless the van was located near a target that demanded the amount of fire over an area that it can provide…
You may be able to find pictures of IAF Cobras carrying rockets, but those, if I am not mistaken, are of the Zuni variety, smaller than the Hydra. But, the Cobras are not used for night attacks in the IAF, to the best of my knowledge…
The sensors used by the missiles prior to firing can’t really see writings on a van (unless they’re the kind that gives off IF radiation. These are sometimes used for IFF purposes). But the night-vision googles can, on normal conditions. And I know for a fact that the amount of “should I, shouldn’t I” questioning that comes before a pickle by a pilot would put any good iddishe momma to shame, for the number of concurring factors that have to be “in line” in order to enable a firing.
Unless it is a “special occasion”, the final command that releases the helicopter for firing is given to the regional commander, who is in contact with “eyes on the ground” most of the times. These are troops with very potent optical and night vision equipment, who have immediate access to the area to be attacked. All these officers have been almost indoctrinated to the power of the press and to the way bad press can come back and haunt the army and the coutnry. All IDF soldiers know they are, ultimatelly, representing the country in the eyes of an unforgiving and critic world opinion arena. So, again, I’d be very surprised if the firing order was given once the vehicle was identified, if it was.
Hellfire, or as it is known in the IDF, Kardum, would have transformed that little jeep into a smouldering pile of metal. The M variant, which was not in service during my time but might be now, in my humble opinion, would be a very poor choice of weapon for attacking in the Aza conditions. For starters, it is expensive. It is not “pinpoint” enough. It’s blast can’t be contained properly.
I don’t presume to discuss it at the level of the EOD experts (if at all, in deferrence to the sheer balls required by their work :) ), but for the fact that identification of targets is important in the IDF and that the damage done was, really, minimal, I’d say it was either a mis-representation of truth, or collateral damage. Btw, one of the experts said the climate in “South Lebanon”, having 70-80% humidity, would lend itself as the cause for the rust. Aza, of course, doesn’t have the same climate (they wish). But I really know nothing about that, I just didn’t see the location of the occurence corrected anywhere, probably my mistake. Also, the “bloody vest and clean undershirt” make me think…oh well.
Update: Confederate Yankee talked to some experts and they don’t think it was a 70mm rocket either. Although at least one of them seems to think, by virtue of the rust, that the hole wasn’t recently made — a conclusion the photo posted above disproves.