Examining Israeli Air Force Weaponeering in the Damascus Strike

May 06 2013 - 12 Comments
By Michael Glynn

For the second time in three days, strike aircraft of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) attacked targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.  The targets are alleged to have been shipments of Syrian ballistic missiles bound for Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.  U.S. Intelligence sources and open-source reporting have claimed that Israeli jets struck these weapons caches during the first raid without penetrating Syrian airspace.

If it is true that Israeli fighters remained over Lebanon during the strike, it raises interesting questions regarding the choice of weapons used in the raid.  The distance from the Lebanese border to Damascus prevents the use of JDAM series weapons or Paveway series Laser Guided Bombs.  However, by examining the IAF order of battle, it can be inferred that the Israelis likely utilized the Rafael Popeye standoff missile to strike these targets.

IAF F-15 taxi

The IAF currently utilizes three weapons that possess the range and precision targeting capabilities necessary for the Damascus raid.  The Popeye, with a reported 48 nm range, could easily be launched from inside Lebanese airspace and fly the approximately 30 nm to strike Damascus.  Additionally, the end-game EO/IR targeting and large 750 lb warhead makes the weapon a logical choice.

It is unlikely, but possible, that the Israelis used the Delilah air to surface missile.  Delilah was originally conceived as a low-speed, loitering weapon that could strike moving targets and be reprogrammed after launch.  The loiter capability of the weapon makes it ideal for attacking surface to air (SAM) sites or radars as well as high value mobile targets such as ballistic missiles.  However, the small 66 lb warhead is a poor choice for a large target such as a warehouse.

It is also possible that the Israelis used the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.  The folding wings of the glide weapon give the requisite range.  However, the small warhead makes the weapon a less attractive choice, unless a large number of the weapons were used.  The GBU-39 uses a JDAM style GPS guidance system and is believed to only have been integrated on the F-15I strike fighter.

Michael Glynn for TheAviationist.com

Enhanced by Zemanta
  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCN Winston Smith

    Don’t they use their F-16s for air to ground missions?

    • Lama glama

      They use both. The F-15 Baz (models A through D) have had significant A-G capabilities for years and were already tasked with long-range strike missions for a decade before the arrival of the Strike Eagle.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Wooden_Leg

  • Shimon

    Here is what I think is turning out to be the biggest question in these strikes: In the most recent strike, did the Israelis challenge the Syrian (Russian) air defenses, or did they shoot standoff missiles?

    It is possible that they attacked with F15s in the first/second raids (depends how far back you count), but used standoffs in the most recent, seemingly large attack.

    If that is true, I would ask the question: why did they use standoffs in the most recent strike if they were so successful in penetrating in the preceding raids?

    Did the Israelis use so called “zero day” exploits in the first attacks, but when the Russians released a patch to the Syrians, revert to standoffs? We have to remember Syria actually has Russian S-300s, which if penetrated, would be a major blow to Russian credibility and reliability.

    • t_j

      Where is the source that confirms that Syria has S-300s? Russia has always stated that no S-300s have been delivered to Syria. Potential S-300 contracts for Syria have always been put on hold as with deliveries to Iran. Both Israel and the US have always pressured Russia to keep these strategic systems from being delivered.

      A few years ago Israel used the leverage of the transfer and sales of UAV systems to Russia to keep such Syrian contracts from being honoured.

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently ruled out any S-300s for Syria.

      http://rt.com/news/russia-syria-weapons-sell-103/

      It isn’t a system that Syria can hide and simply keep for a rainy day. The Russians know that any clandestine sale is going to be found out and will be extremely embarrassing after constant denials of S-300 contracts being fulfilled. If Russia was to deliver S-300s to Syria then it would be via an open and acknowledged contract for example if they were to fulfil deliveries of Yak-130s or MiGs.

    • t_j

      Where is the source that confirms that Syria has S-300s? Russia has always stated that no S-300s have been delivered to Syria. Potential S-300 contracts for Syria have always been put on hold as with deliveries to Iran. Both Israel and the US have always pressured Russia to keep these strategic systems from being delivered.

      A few years ago Israel used the leverage of the transfer and sales of UAV systems to Russia to keep such Syrian contracts from being honoured.

      Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently ruled out any S-300s for Syria.

      http://rt.com/news/russia-syria-weapons-sell-103/

      It isn’t a system that Syria can hide and simply keep for a rainy day. The Russians know that any clandestine sale is going to be found out and will be extremely embarrassing after constant denials of S-300 contracts being fulfilled. If Russia was to deliver S-300s to Syria then it would be via an open and acknowledged contract for example if they were to fulfil deliveries of Yak-130s or MiGs.

  • abatard

    I am sure the Israeli air force uses whatever platform works best for the mission(s) they undertake. To say they use exclusively one aircraft type for a particular mission , would not be correct in my opinion. All Israeli F-15, F-16 are capable of ground strikes.

  • bill smith

    Spice?

  • SeerNimbus

    How about MLRS from the Golan Heights?

  • john

    What is up with R2-D2 sitting behind the weapons officer?

    • Lama glama

      Elta EL/K-1891 broadband SATCOM equipment. Two-seaters have been receiving it during depot maintenance to serve as command aicraft in strike packages in long-range missions.

  • Brzezinski

    So what’s this then .

  • cencio4

    Yes,
    but the video was recorded in Gaza.
    Here’s the original one: