What the IDF’s Iran wish list would look like

Analysis: If IDF were to present Pentagon with wish list to ensure military attack against Iran succeeds, this is what it might ask for.

IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
New smart bombs with extended ranges and greater penetration as well as landing rights on aircraft carriers are just some of the requests that would appear on an Israeli military wish list – if one was presented to the Obama administration as a method to ensure Israel’s success in a potential attack against Iran.
While US President Barack Obama voiced clear opposition earlier this week to such a strike, Israel has been noncommittal.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC comparing Iran’s nuclear facilities to Auschwitz leaves little doubt about Israel’s seriousness when it comes to the military option.
And while the question of whether Israel can go at it alone against Iran remains up in the air, it would likely request some specific assistance from the US ahead of a strike, in order to make one – if it is launched – more effective.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will head to the US in late March – and if he had to present a wish list to the Pentagon, it might look something like this: Currently, one of the primary pitfalls of Israel’s strike plan is its midair refueling capability, based on a small fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft. The last 707 arrived in Israel in early 2011 and while the official size of the fleet is classified, various reports have placed it at around nine.
Due to the distance the Israel Air Force’s F-15 and F-16 fighter jets would need to fly to attack Iran, the need for midair refueling is critical, particularly when considering the possibility that the planes will be engaged by Iranian interceptors or air defense systems, and will need to burn fuel to outmaneuver them.
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If the US loaned or quickly sold a few tankers to Israel, that could increase Israel’s ability to reach Iran and carry out the number of sorties required to do the necessary damage to its nuclear facilities.
The second gap is in Israel’s arsenal of bunker buster weapons. The IAF has a relatively significant stockpile of GBU- 28s that are said to be capable of penetrating either 30 meters of earth or over 6 meters of reinforced concrete before detonating its warhead. Israel is also believed to have developed some of its own penetrator bombs, but only a few were manufactured in recent years due to high costs.
Israel has, however, closely followed Boeing’s development of the GBU-43/B – nicknamed the “Mother of all Bombs” (MOAB) – as well as the more recent disclosure of the GBU-57A/B, better known as the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator” (MOP).
While the MOAB is not specifically designed to penetrate hardened targets, it would make the destruction of above surface targets easier, since it can be done in one sortie with a C-130 Hercules.
The MOP, however, was specially developed to eliminate underground and fortified targets in North Korea and Iran and is said to be able to penetrate around 60 meters.
As far as other weapons, Israel could potentially ask for additional Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits, particularly the JDAM-ER with its extended range.
This kit, which is installed on bombs like regular JDAMs, comes with an additional set of wings that extends the bombing range from about 30 km. to close to 100, endowing aircraft with the capability to attack Iranian facilities from a greater standoff position – possibly even out of range of Iran’s surfaceto- air missile systems.
The third request that Israel could potentially ask of the US would be to station search-and-rescue teams – possibly from the IAF’s 669 Unit – aboard aircraft carriers that the US Navy has stationed in the Persian Gulf, or alternatively on bases it maintains nearby. This would help Israel tremendously should it need to launch a rescue mission to retrieve a downed pilot.
Due to the possibility of mechanical malfunctions in such a complicated mission, the ability to land, repair, refuel and rearm its aircraft in bases near Iran could also be something Israel would request.
But why would Obama agree to any of this? This would depend on the timing of Israel’s request. While the president currently appears to be opposed to military force, he did stress at AIPAC that Israel has the right to act in self defense and to do what it feels it needs to do as a sovereign state.
In addition, if Israel informed the president that it had decided to attack and there was no alternative, it would ultimately be in the US’s interest to ensure Israel succeeds, and that the damage it causes be surgical but also extensive. All of the capabilities enumerated above would increase the likelihood of this occurring.