'Aviation Week': Syrian politics helped IAF raid

Report alleges that Syrian military didn't know about site, and didn't set up defenses.

Syrian reactor 224 (photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
Syrian reactor 224
(photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
The secrecy under which Syria kept its nuclear development may have contributed to the success of Israel's air strike against an alleged nuclear facility in September, Aviation Week reported on Saturday. Quoting unnamed Israeli sources, the report stated that due to internal politics in Damascus, the site was so highly classified that even the Syrian military was unaware of its existence. Accordingly, proper air defenses were never erected, leaving the area vulnerable to aerial attack. The report also noted Israel's use of advanced technology to conduct the attack, saying that intelligence gathered by the recently launched Ofek-7 spy satellite played a major role. This theory would explain why Syria's new Russian-made air defenses may have been less effective, despite the warnings in the military community as to the Tor air defense short range missile system's ability to reduce the IAF's strategic advantage. The question of whether or not IAF planes evaded the Tor is critical, as the same Tor M1 technology that Syria purchased is also currently operational in Iran. According to Russia's state-run ITAR-TASS news service, the Tor has already been set up around Iran's nuclear sites. Details of the Syria raid continue to remain elusive, with government officials refusing to comment on either the means or the target of the attack. But experts - including some at Aviation Week - seem to favor the idea that the IAF used its two-seater F-16I's, a souped-up plane whose second seat carries a targeting specialist. The F-16I - or "Sufa" (Storm) - was made by US aircraft giant Lockheed-Martin specifically for use by the IAF. The first such aircraft entered Israel's arsenal in 2004, and three squadrons of the planes are expected to be operational by next year.