BERLIN – Competing analysis articles appeared Monday in The New York Times and
last week in the German daily Die Welt outlining vastly different conclusions
about Israel’s military capability to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons
While The New York Times report cast doubt on Israel’s success
chances, Hans Rühle, who directed the planning department of the German Defense
Ministry between 1982-1988, expressed confidence that Israel’s air force could
decimate Iran’s principal nuclear installations.
The core differences
surround the number of Israeli jets and bombs required to destroy Iran’s primary
nuclear facilities, as well as the challenge of refueling fighter planes to
travel a distance of more than 1,000 miles into Iranian airspace and return
safely to Israel.The Times
titled its rather pessimistic analysis “Iran
Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets,” and wrote that an Israeli mission to
annihilate Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would require a minimum of 100 fighter
According to a sample of US defense and military analysts, it would
be a Herculean challenge for Israel to penetrate Iran’s air space and launch
attacks on the country’s nuclear complexes.The Times
cited Michael V.
Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to
2009, who explicitly declared that pulverizing Iran’s nuclear facilities is
“beyond the capacity” of Israel.
Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula told the Times
that, “All the pundits who talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to
be that easy.”
Deptula, served as the US Air Force’s top intelligence
official until last year, and oversaw the air military strikes conducted in the
2001 Afghanistan War theater in 2001, and during the first Gulf war in 1991 in
offered a bleak assessment of Israel’s capability to
refuel its fighter planes, saying “Israel would have to use airborne refueling
planes, called tankers, but Israel is not thought to have enough.”
sharp contrast to the Times
analysis, Hans Rühle, a leading German security
expert, asserted last week in a lengthy article in the Die Welt
comprehensive Israel-based bombing campaign could significantly set back, perhaps
a decade or more, Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
In the article titled
“How Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear program” Rühle analyzed the number of
Israeli fighter jets and bombs necessary to obliterate Iran’s nuclear
Citing experts, Rühle writes that an extensive bombing
campaign is within Israel’s capability to decimate Iran’s ability to continue to
make progress on developing nuclear weapons.
According to Rühle, there
are 25 to 30 facilities in Iran used for its atomic program, of which six are
He cites the nuclear enrichment plant Natanz,
the conversion facility in Isfahan, the heavy water reactor Arak and the weapons
and munitions sites in Parchin. In addition, he notes the deep underground
enrichment facility Fordow and Iran’s operational nuclear plant
The popular PJ Media news website columnist, David P. Goldman,
wrote last week that “Hans Rühle was one of the toughest and most perspicacious
analysts in those heady days” during the Cold war period.
that “Rühle is highly confident that Israel could knock out Iran’s nuclear
program for a decade or more with about 25 of its 87 F-15 fighter-bombers and a
smaller number of its F-16s. Each of the F- 15s would carry two of the GBU-28
bunker busters, with the F-16s armed with smaller bombs.
that surveillance “information about Natanz is solid,“ adding that the “project
has been observed from satellites and from the location from 'Israeli
He added that Israel strongest bunker buster bombs GBU-28
could destroy the roof of the facility. If the damage is not sufficient, a
second GBU-28 could be launched to complete the aim of
According to Rühle, Israel’s successful obliteration of the
Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 laid an important precedent. He writes that “many
experts believe “ that strikes against Iran’s nuclear operations could set back
the program 10 years, or possibly longer, based on present knowledge.
fighter plane requirement would entail 20 F-15 machines each accompanied with
two GBU-28s. He estimates that Israel’s air force has over 87 F-15 planes at its
disposal. The conversion Nuclear Technology Center of Isfahan, which is largely
vulnerable to attack because its buildings are not underground, could be
eliminated with GBU-27 bombs. Isfahan converts the yellow cake process into
The least difficult challenge for Israel’s air force is the
heavy-water reactor Arak, observes Rühle. The above-ground facility could be
razed with 10 GBU-10 bombs, wrote Rühle. The strike would require 10 F- 16
According to Rühe, the most difficult obstacle to destroy
is the underground Fordow enrichment plant. He notes that special team forces
would have to attack the facility.
The alternative would be to strike the
tunnel openings with GBU-28 bombs to plug the entry points for a period of
The complex Parchin site remains beyond the International Atomic
Energy Agency inspections and it is unclear how many bombs it would take to
destroy the over 100 buildings, many of which are buried underground. Nuclear
warheads are believed to be worked on in the Parchin plant.
the nuclear power plant Bushehr as a possible primary military target, largely
because the plants plutonium can be used for weapons. In contrast to the United
States State Department, which views the Bushehr plant as a civilian-energy
program without a military dimension, Rühle writes that “the destruction of
Bushehr should not be a problem for Israel’s army – 10 GBU-28 or GBU-27 bombs
would be sufficient.”
He quotes a high-level representative of the
Israeli nuclear expert class who was in Berlin last year. The Israeli expert
said “we cannot live with this reactor” in Bushehr because it is not immune to
stopping the spread of proliferation-related material.
Rühle adds that if
Israel can wipe out essential pieces of Iran’s nuclear program, then the problem
is solved for a generation.
His essay is filled with a kind of supreme
confidence about the ability of Israel’s military systems.
Force is first class, “ writes Rühle. “Their pilots are conditioned from the
history of Israel and the constant dangers faced by the Jewish
Though Rühle identifies the refueling of Israel’s fighter jets to
be a thorny problem because Israel only has five tankers of the type KC-130H and
four of the category B- 700, he said he believes the number to be
He calls the public refuel tanker number a “rather lean supply, “
but notes that Israel’s government had requested to buy or lease from US
President George W. Bush’s Administration additional refueling tanks. He adds
that Israel’s Air Force has expertise over the “buddy refueling“ process among
F-15 and F-16 planes. There is also the possibility of a temporary landing to
refuel in Syria, Turkey, or Iraq, noted Rühle.