WASHINGTON — Geopolitical limitations render Israel's air force militarily incapable of
halting Iran's nuclear weapons program according to a new report published the by U.S. Army War College.
The report asserts Israel lacks the military capability to locate and destroy Iranian nuclear
assets. The report said the Israel Air Force cannot operate at such long
distances from its bases.
"The Israeli Air Force has formidable capabilities and enjoys
unchallenged supremacy vis-à-vis the other Middle East air powers, but
Israel has no aircraft carriers and it cannot use airbases in other Middle
East states," the report entitled "Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran,"
said. "Therefore its operational capabilities are reduced when the targets
are located far from its territory."
[On Sunday, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that
diplomatic pressure would not stop Iran's nuclear weapons program, Middle East Newsline reported. Halutz
was one of three senior Israeli officials who warned that Iran would soon be
able to turn into a nuclear power.]
In an article authored by Shlomo Brom, former head of air force
strategic planning, the report said Israel's deep-strike air capability was
based on the F-15I and F-16C/D aircraft. At a range of more than 600
kilometers, Brom said, Israel could not sustain an air campaign. Iran is
about 1,000 kilometers from Israel.
"It is possible to determine that at long ranges — more then 600
kilometers — the IAF is capable of a few surgical strikes, but it is not
capable of a sustained air campaign against a full array of targets," the
An Israeli air attack on Iran must also include such support aircraft as
air refueling, electronic countermeasures, support, communication, and
rescue, the report said. The mission would also require precision
Brom said Israel's intelligence and military community was divided
over the Iranian threat. He said military intelligence regards Iran as
determined to destroy Israel. The Mossad and National Security Council see
Teheran as preoccupied with national defense and regime survival.
"While the first school assumes no political pressure can force Iran to
stop its military nuclear program, the other school believes that political
pressure can be effective in at least delaying the nuclear program
significantly," the report said. "The second school believes that a nuclear
Iran with a different regime will not pose a high risk to Israel and can be
The report said the Bushehr nuclear power plant was vulnerable to
attacks but does not constitute a key element of the military nuclear
program. As a result, the destruction of Bushehr would not have a
significant effect on Iran's military program.
Brom said Iranian nuclear assets are located between 1,500 and 1,700
kilometers from Israel. The report expressed doubts whether such Israeli
allies as India and Turkey would allow Israel to launch a military strike
from their territory.
"This means that the Israeli attack aircraft would have to take off from
air bases in Israel, fly 1,500-1,700 kilometers to the targets, destroy
them, and then fly back 1,500-1,700 kilometers," the report said.
The Israel Air Force has 25 F-15I and 137 F-16C/D fighter-bombers. The
air force has already received more than 20 F-16Is, with longer range on the
F-15I, but the report said the F-15I aircraft contains greater capabilities
at long ranges.
The report said the F-15I has an operational radius of 1,270 kilometers.
The F-16I has an operational radius of 2,100 kilometers while that of the
F-16C/D is 925 kilometers.
But the report said the real operational radius was shorter because the
planes would have to fly at low altitude to avoid radar detection. Brom said
the Israeli aircraft could avoid Iranian air defense but would be detected.
"In any case, any Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear target would be a
very complex operation in which a relatively large number of attack aircraft
and support aircraft — interceptors, ECM [electronic counter-measures]
aircraft, refuelers, and rescue aircraft — would participate," the report
said. "The conclusion is that Israel could attack only a few Iranian targets
and not as part of a sustainable operation over time, but as a one time