Examining Israeli Air Force Weaponeering in the Damascus Strike
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.
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