As the Obama administration continues to pursue a diplomatic solution for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Israel in recent years has extended the range of its bombers, launched sophisticated spy satellites and developed a more accurate ordnance-dropping system.
The reasons are clear: Israel is now in a position to send scores of F-16Is and F-15Is on the 1,000-mile penetration of Iranian airspace to try to disable the regime’s far-flung network of nuclear research and uranium-enrichment facilities.
But a U.S. air-war planner in the Persian Gulf War tells The Washington Times he does not think Israel’s relatively small air force — compared with the United States huge bomber and cruise-missile fleet — has the firepower to properly hit all the necessary Iranian targets.
The only real way to stop Iran’s atomic bomb, said retired Air Force Col. John Warden, is for the U.S. to shut down Iran’s electric generation for the foreseeable future — a strategy not currently on the Pentagon’s table.
That Israel is now ready to make war with Iran, whose radical Islamic rulers have threatened to destroy the Jewish state, was announced earlier this month. Speaking to an air and space institute audience, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon bluntly spelled out the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) milestone.
“This capability can be used for a war on terror in Gaza, for a war in the face of rockets from Lebanon, for war on the conventional Syrian army, and also for war on a peripheral state like Iran,” said Mr. Yaalon, who was Israel’s top uniformed officer during the buildup.
Israel’s improved air-war prowess centers on three major achievements:
• Long-range bombers. Israel has purchased premier U.S. fighters especially configured for the buyer’s specific threats — read, Iran. The more than 100 F-15I Ra’ams and F-16I Sufas are equipped with special extended-range fuel tanks. Augmenting the supersonic strike jets is Israel’s perfection of aerial refueling from B-707 tankers.
• Armaments. Israel’s innovative avionics industry is fitting the jets with a new bomb-guidance system that can find intended targets easier. The defense force now owns scores of BLUs — the military acronym for “bomb, live unit,” which is also known as powerful “bunker buster” bombs capable of penetrating underground or hardened facilities.
• Intelligence. Israel now has in orbit a fleet of super-spy satellites, such as the Ofek-7 launched in 2007, that can regularly capture images of Iran’s nuclear and defense sites for the air force’s target list. With such constant satellite coverage, it is a safe assumption that war planners have studied Iran’s high-value facilities and have a tactic for how to strike each one. Israel has added expertise in analyzing such sites since it produces atomic weapons.
But Israel likely would face stiff challenges. There are at least two-dozen prime nuclear sites in Iran, some that would require multiple strikes, a feat Israel’s limited bomber fleet might not be able to achieve. It is one thing to take out Iraq’s nearby nuclear reactor — as Israel’s F-16s did in 1981. It is another to launch a much more massive campaign against fortified, dispersed targets more than 1,000 miles away.
“Given they can fly more airplanes longer distances, fine,” said Col. Warden, who worked with a team of air-war specialists to develop the unprecedented precision strikes on Iraq in 1991.
“It seems to me the real issue is, what are they going to do when they get there?” he said. “When they did that against Iraq, the Iraqis had focused a pretty significant part of their research program in that one place outside of Baghdad. So the targeting was fairly straightforward. You get a handful of airplanes there, and you have a pretty good chance of doing some work.”
“The Iranians have not been ignorant of that particular operation or what was done to Iraq in two wars,” he said. “It’s just inconceivable they would not have put all that stuff in fairly well-protected places, deep underground, a lot of dispersal. The ability of the Israelis, and us for that matter, to find that stuff and to hit it all with sufficient numbers of things to actually to bring it to a halt strikes me as an extraordinary challenge.”
Israel took out Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. In a mini-display of what it might do over the skies of Iran, the Israeli air force on Sept. 6, 2007, bombed an under-construction nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert, 60 miles from the Iraq border.View Entire Story
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