Tag Archives: F-15I

New details of Israel’s 2007 attack on the Syrian Nuclear reactor emerge

An article appeared in the ‘New Yorker’ (written by David Makovsky, a Jewish American who has lived in Israel for many years although now living back in the US) has revealed several previously unknown facts about the IDF strike code named “Operation Orchard”. The facts have allegedly come from conversations Makovsky has had with a dozen or so high ranking Israeli officials.

According to Makovsky Israel suspected that Syria had stepped up its nuclear program during 2006, and the intelligence they held at that time pointed towards a building in northeast Syria in the Deir al-Zour region.

What they needed was damning evidence that this was the case. According to Makovsky on Mar. 7, 2007 Mossad agents broke into the Vienna home of the head of the Syrian atomic agency Ibrahim Othman. It’s thought that the agents hacked into Othman’s computer and copied three dozen photos from the hard drive: among them, color photos taken from within the facility.

Image credit: IAF

The images are thought to have shown images of North Korean workers which corroborated Israel’s suspicion that Pyongyang was building a plutonium reactor for the Syrians.

The following day Mossad director Meir Dagan met with the then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. During their meeting, Dagan presented the findings to Olmert and explained the PM that they needed to act quickly as there would be a risk of radioactive contamination of the Euphrates river should the site go “hot”.

Olmert left the meeting and discretely sought advice from top officials all of whom signed secrecy agreements.

On Apr. 18 Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz met with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: the Americans launched their own investigation but did not really have an apatite for another pre-emptive strike on a Muslim country.

Although CIA director Micheal Haydon did confirm that “Al Kibar was part of a nuclear weapons program” and that “we could conceive of no other alternative uses for the facility”  he said that there was no concrete evidence that the site was part of a weapons program.

President Bush had apparently called Olmert to say that there wasn’t enough evidence for an American pre-emptive attack based on Israeli intelligence.

Makovsky said that Israel couldn’t afford for the information to be leaked so the Syrians would place SAM sites near to the building, therefore Olmert asked Bush to keep the matter quiet. Olmert didn’t ask for a green light from Bush but didn’t get a red light therefore took it as a green light to go.

Sept. 1, 2007 saw the preparations complete. The White House was informed as well as British MI6 (whom it’s thought Mossad works very closely with) although timings were with held. Then, on Sept. 5, the Israeli cabinet voted on whether they should take action on the reactor: all voted yes other than one who abstained and it was then decided the attack would take place that night.

Just past midnight a four ship of F-16s and another four ship of F-15s (although other sources say it was more) took off from the Ramat David Airbase.

They flew along the Mediterranean coast before heading in land near to the Syrian Turkish border and at sometime between 12.40 and 12.53 the codeword ‘Arizona’ came across the secure channels indicating that the reactor had been destroyed.

Markovsky’s article has some convenient blanks but that can be forgiven due to the matter still being regarded as secret in Israel.

Some sources say that this attack was the first time the Suter airborne network system was used against Syrian radar systems from one of two ELINT aircraft.

A modified version would more than likely be used against Iran if an attack were to take place, along with much more advanced tech. Including malware injected by F-16s, as someone speculates.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: IAF

Photo: Israeli Air Force F-15I backseater self-portrait clearly shows advanced DASH helmet

Few months after releasing a cool self-portrait of an F-15I backseater during an inverted climb, the Israeli Air Force has just released another interesting picture.

The picture show an F-15I’s WSO (Weapon System Officer) as his plane breaks from a formation (whose remaining two elements are visible above the aircraft in foreground).

The photograph provides a close-up view of the DASH (Display And Sight Helmet) helmet and its shape.

As all the others HMDs (Helmet Mounted Displays) DASH helmets enable pilots to aim weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets: aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, weapons status, aiming etc is in fact projected onto the visor so as to enable the pilot to look out in any direction with all the required data always in his field of vision.

As the famous JHMCS (Joint Helment Mounted Cueing System), the DASH is a normal Gentex helmet fitted with Israel’s Elbit Systems optics.

Image credit: Israeli Air Force

Analysis: This could be the airfield in Azerbaijan used by the Israeli Air Force to attack Iran

Even if it is not easy to identify the Azeri airbases the Israeli Air Force would use in case of attack on Iran I thought that it might be interesting to select the one that I would pick if I had to plan a complex strike operation.

I consider quite unlikely the possibility that the IAF will use one of the available airfields in Azerbaijan to launch the first strike for the political/diplomatic consequences as well as the risk that any weird activity spotted there would be a clear sign of an imminent strike. Furthermore, the first strike will involve the largest packages and the creation of a sort-of forward operating base from where first attack sorties could be launched would require a prior air bridge, much support personnel, weapons: something difficult, still not impossible, to hide.

Hence, I will select an airport that could be an used as an intermediate stopover on the return leg from the raid and to launch another strike thereafter; let’s consider it as divert field the Israeli fighters could use for refueling or to get technical assistance. In this case, they would not need much things over there: fuel, support personnel and some technical equipment needed to perform maintenance activities on the planes experiencing (minor) failures.

The same airport could be used to host KC-130s for aerial refueling, as well as Combat SAR assets, even though I would base the latter elsewhere, not far from the border and on an improvised airfield (no need for runway, aprons, taxiways, and so on).

I’ve checked all airports in Azerbaijan using Google Earth. Provided the Israeli were given the clearance to use the Azeri airspace and airports, any runway long enough, could be suitable in case of failure with the airbases equipped with arresting cables and safelands obviously preferred.

Some of the Azeri airports considered in the analysis (all screen dumps taken with Google Earth)

Baku Kala

Many reports have pointed to Baku Kala, near the capital, on the Caspian Sea, 330 miles from Tehran. The base hosts Azeri combat choppers and transport aircraft. Bringing cargo planes over there in anticipation of an air strike would disclose the imminent attack. Unlikely.

Baku Kala airbase

Lankaran

Lankaran, in the South, 34 km from the Iranian border, would be the “most obvious” airbase and for this reason any activity on the small runway would be immediately noticed. Unlikely.

Khankendi

Khankendi in the southwest part looks like abandoned. It is located far from any large town under the control of the de facto control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has a few aprons and a taxiway (seemingly in very bad conditions) and a runway about 2,000 mt in length. It was due to be opened to commercial traffic but the opening date of the airport was postponed. Provided the security of the air operations could be ensured in the disputed area (de jure recongnized as part of Azerbaijan) this is one of the airfields I’d consider for a special operations/CSAR force also because of the limited implications for Baku.

Another similar airport (with grass runway) is Tanrykulular in the north part of the country (a bit too far from Iran).

Khankendi

Dollyar

Dollyar airbase is among those I consider suitable, the farthest from Tehran (465 miles). However it is a functional airbase, with empty shelters (some of which destroyed…), taxiways, aprons. A lonely Mig-25 can be spotted using Google Earth. Although a bit distant from Iran, it is also quite isolated. The presence of a Mig makes it an active airbase where movements of planes would not be too suspicious. I think this is one of the likely “places”.

Dollyar

Aghstafa

Aghstafa has just a runway (in poor conditions), it’s far from Iran and relatively next to a village (and to the border with Georgia): I think this airport can be removed from the “list” of suitable airfields.

Gyanzdah

Gyanzdah seems to have the proper infrastructures but it is reported to be also a civilian airport opened to the general air traffic. Indeed the main apron has a mini-terminal: the arrival of foreign military cargos would not be unnoticed. I think it’s quite unlikely it would be considered as a suitable airfield.

Continua a leggere

Image: Israeli F-15 strike on Tehran on Day 1 of the war on Iran’s nuclear program

Update Mar. 8 19.00 GMT

The following drawing, exclusively prepared by Al Clark for The Aviationist, shows how an attack by a formation of F-15Is on a nuclear facility located in downtown Tehran might look like.

Obviously, it is only a fictional scene, however it is quite realistic for an eventual strike on the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, that is located not far from the Milad Tower, clearly visible on the background.

Someone might argue that the first and most of strikes would be launched at night. That is true, but it is quite likely that subsequent missions would be flown during daylight conditions too. Even the surroundings of the Nuclear Research Center are probably a bit different from those depicted, the payload could be different, tanks would be dropped, altitude should be higher and so on, but please take it just as an interesting artwork.

Please note that I’ve used the word “image” on the title because it is not a drawing, nor a rendering or a photo. It is a Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).

Image by Al Clark for The Aviationist

A draconian long range strike: Israel's attempt to smash the Iranian nuclear program.

There is much debate these days about the ability of Israel to hit Iran’s nuclear program. Some analysts believe that it would be a draconian challenge to launch such a long range attack on the facilities used for the atomic program while others are much more optimistic. To such an extent there’s someone who firmly believes that 25 F-15Is, each carrying a single GBU-28, and about a dozen F-16Is with lighter weapons could be enough to achieve the goal.

I’m among those who think that it is not going to be an walk in the park. The problem is not only to penetrate Tehran’s airspace but execute concurrent air strikes on several ground targets.

There are about 30 nuclear facilities in Iran, six of those are believed to be primary targets for anyone willing to halt the Iranian nuke ambitions.

Unless something really unbelievable happens (as, for instance, a southern circumnavigation or a northern trip with a stopover in Azerbaijan to enter Iran from the Caspian Sea or any other unexpected direction) there are only 3 possible routes to Iran: Northern (via Turkey), Central (via Jordan and Iraq) and Southern (via Saudi Arabia). Both require (more or less) a violation of sovereign airspaces as well as several supporting aircraft. AEW, EW, SEAD and many refueling planes.

The Israeli can almost do everything. But this is not a pre-emptive surprise strike. Unless the IAF is going to perform only a symbolic strike (that would be almost a suicide mission, considered the reaction it would spark) the one in Iran will be an extremely long range mission in which many fortified underground targets will have to be smashed along with other surrounding targets. Not static unprotected targets, but SAM sites, radars, and everything belonging to the Integrated Air Defense System that will try to repel the attacking force.

Unlike previous attacks on Iraq and Syria, that came almost unexpected, Iran is probably on heightnet alert status: with several geographically dispersed targets, the surprise factor would be quickly mitigated and IAF planes would have to deal with anti-aircraft threats and IRIAF fighter planes flying sort-of isolated air defense missions.

Furthermore, few analysts have taken Iran’s military capability into account. Even if the current Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force is mainly flying on vintage American and Russian “hardware” hardly maintained because of the international sanctions, it can still count on about 200 combat planes flown by proud pilots.

The Iranian fighters would not need to destroy many bombers. Disturb them in point-defense missions, let them spend some more fuel and make their long strike missions longer and more risky, would be enough.

Hence, a proper escort must be taken into account.

Drones will mainly provide pre and post-strike ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance).

Obviously, the scenario changes when/if air superiority is established and subsequent missions can be launched to look after individual targets in a battlefield freed of anti-aircraft threats. But this is something not going to be achieved very fast.

Summing up, if we consider that in 2007 air strike in Syria (isolated target caught by surprise) the Israelis employed ten planes to attack surface targets, I think that in Iran each target will require some 12-15 planes (spares comprised). This means that 60 planes would be called into action to strike 6 priority targets. If some secondary sites should be attacked as well, the armada would be made of several packages for more than 100 planes.

Hence, it would not be an air strike, but a small scale much dangerous air campaign.

That’s the reason why a conventional attack is unlikely.

Actually, as pointed out at the end of 2011, the war on Iran nuke ambition has already begun. A covert war made of less visible weapons: computer viruses, assassinations and mysterious bomb blasts…