U.S. Army report: Israel can't stop Iran nukes

Monday, December 5, 2005

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--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 report said.

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 intelligence.

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 easily deterred."

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 surprise operation."

Copyright 2005 East West Services, Inc.

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