Analysis: What may be involved in an Israeli strike on Iran

Israel is believed to have a fully prepared plan to launch a strike, which would likely involve at least several hundred aircraft.

November 1, 2011 10:46
3 minute read.
Mission to bomb Iran would likely re-fuel in air

IDF mission to bomb Iran would likely re-fuel mid-air. (photo credit: Courtesy IDF)


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Over the past several days, Hebrew media reports have been engaged in intense speculation regarding a possible imminent Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared to have made a veiled reference to the issue again on Tuesday, when he told the Knesset that Israel may have to protect its vital interests alone, while other reports focused on comments by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who stated this week that difficult decisions were “keeping him up at nights,” without elaborating further.

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Israel is believed to have a fully prepared plan to launch such a strike, which would likely involve at least several hundred aircraft.

Multiple aerial routes are theoretically available for Israeli aircraft to reach targets in Iran. In all those paths though, the jets would likely have to either neutralize or evade radar systems of other countries along the route, as well as face the potential fallout that could follow an intrusion of foreign airspace.

Israel also possesses the advanced midair refueling capabilities required for carrying out sorties over multiple Iranian targets situated between 1,500 and 2,000 km. away from home. Possible targets could include uranium- enrichment sites at Natanz and Qom, the uranium- conversion plant at Isfahan, and a heavy water reactor in Arak suspected of being used to pursue a plutoniumbased nuclear arms program, as well as additional facilities.

But getting there is only half the story.


The Air Force, which according to foreign reports has gone on dry runs to practice such an attack on previous occasions over the past decade, would first have to neutralize Iran’s aerial defense capabilities, blind Iran’s radars, destroy command and control centers and paralyze Iran’s own air force for a while, before overcoming fortifications and special aerial defense measures placed by the Iranians around their nuclear sites. The operational challenge is vast.

The Air Force would in effect have to take temporary control over sections of Iran’s airspace before being able to target nuclear facilities, some of which are hidden in mountains or deep underground.

The mission would require the use of powerful bunker-busting bombs, as well as possible repeated strikes to ensure success.

According to a Newsweek article from September, the US has already transferred 55 such bombs to Israel.

The attack would likely be coordinated with the assistance of Israeli intelligence satellites that could provide real time detailed images from the battle arena, as well as Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft.

It could also involve the use of a fleet of giant Heron 2 drones, which are the size of 737 commercial airliners.

These UAVs form the first line of defense against an expected Iranian counterstrike, involving the launch of long-range Shihab 3 missiles.

The Israeli drones can reportedly reach Iran and hover over missile launch sites. Israel’s Arrow missile defense shield would also come into play to intercept missiles heading into Israeli airspace.

However, such a strike would undoubtedly touch off conflict with Iran’s proxy in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah, which is armed with tens of thousands of rockets, as well as Hamas in Gaza, and possibly with Syria. The resulting chain of events could easily lead to a major regional war and long-term instability, so much so that some senior Israeli defense figures have reportedly been rejecting the idea of attacking Iran for years.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

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