‘IAF expects losses, and knows it can’t destroy entire Iranian program’
A major Israel TV station on Sunday night broadcast a detailed report on how Israel will go about attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event that diplomacy and sanctions fail and Israel decides to carry out a military strike.
The report, screened on the main evening news of Channel 10, was remarkable both in terms of the access granted to the reporter, who said he had spent weeks with the pilots and other personnel he interviewed, and in the fact that his assessments on a strike were cleared by the military censor.
No order to strike is likely to be given before the P5+1 talks with Iran resume in May, the reporter, Alon Ben-David, said. “But the coming summer will not only be hot but tense.”
In the event that negotiations fail and the order is given for Israel to carry out an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, “dozens if not more planes” will take part in the mission: attack and escort jets, tankers for mid-air refueling, electronic warfare planes and rescue helicopters, the report said.
Ben-David said the Israel Air Force “does not have the capacity to destroy the entire Iranian program.” There will be no replication of the decisive strikes on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 or on Syria in 2007, he said. “The result won’t be definitive.” But, a pilot quoted in the report said, the IAF will have to ensure that it emerges with the necessary result, with “a short and professional” assault.
Ben-David said that if negotiations break down, and Iran moves key parts of its nuclear program underground to its Qom facility, the IAF “is likely to get the order and to set out on the long journey to Iran.”
“Years of preparations are likely to come to realization,” he said, adding that “the moment of truth is near.”
Ben-David interviewed several squadron leaders, pilots and other officers. He noted that some of the IAF personnel, “it is likely, will not return from the mission.” An officer named Gilad said it would be “naive” to think there would be no losses.
The IAF is said to be worried about the advanced anti-aircraft systems that Russia has sold to countries in the region, the report said. Among those systems, the SA 17 and 22 in Syria and Iran present a challenge.
According to the report, it’s the older versions of the F-15 that can fly further than any other plane in Israel’s arsenal, and this puts them on the front line of any potential attack.
One pilot said in the report that the F-15 “is a plane with a very wide range of operation — a combination of relatively energy-efficient engines, and significant flightworthiness regarding weapons and fuel.”
The IAF has a full-sized unmanned plane, the “Eitan,” that is said to be able to fly to Iran, the report indicated. “This plane can do all that is required of it when the order is given,” a pilot said, without elaboration.
The attack, the report said, would presumably trigger a war in northern Israel, with missile attacks (presumably from the Iranian-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon). “There will be no tranquility and peace anywhere in Israel,” Ben-David said.
This could be the first full-scale war the IAF has fought in nearly 30 years, the report stated.
Pilots had already been told where their families would be moved, away from their bases, for safety, the report said.