So how would Israel go about attacking Iran?

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icemaverick

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Unread post02 Mar 2012, 00:57

Personally, I don't think that an attack is imminent. The fact that an attack is being discussed so much in the media lately tells me that it's probably not going to happen (why would anyone telegraph their intentions?).

But if Israel were to proceed, how would they do it? Iran has multiple sites. Would they try and hit them in quick succession or would they try and fly several SEAD missions and then attack the targets over a period of days?

I'm guessing the attack would be carried out by F-15Is or F-16s escorted by F-15s? I'm pretty sure the Israelis should easily handle any aerial threats they encounter. Iran has some upgraded F-5s, some F-14s and MiG-29s.

One big logistical hurdle would be refueling. Could F-16s/15s fly from Israel and back with drop tanks or would they need aerial refueling along the way? I wonder if the Saudis or another Gulf state would secretly cooperate and allow the use of their air space for refueling. They might not like Israel but they really don't want Iran to get the bomb.

But it appears the Iranians may have some good surface-to-air missiles in their arsenal. Also, given what happened to our RQ-70 Sentinel, we shouldn't underestimate their electronic warfare capability.
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archeman

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Unread post21 Mar 2012, 03:56

So I see the gist of the question here and we need to accept that we are doing a lot of guessing here right?
I would think that the target of the attack is as much the political/religious forces that have initiated the arms race in Iran. So that means that key individuals should be an important part of the targeting.
What portion of the effort should be devoted to removing the capacity to re-develop as opposed to the completed elements?
What portion of the effort should be devoted to intimidation of those who support the atomic weapons development? (Don't assume that intimiation doesn't work when you have just demonstrated your ability to execute your will when you wish to)

There is also the Day After and Week After operations that need to be taken into account.
It will probably take non-nation state actors hostile to Israel about a week to put together their own responses.
The 'fantail' of spinout possibilities following the attack boggles the mind.

I appreciate your bringing up this topic, there are an amazing number of complex issues far removed from the kinetic options.
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Unread post26 Mar 2012, 07:08

icemaverick wrote:I don't think that an attack is imminent. The fact that an attack is being discussed so much in the media lately tells me that it's probably not going to happen (why would anyone telegraph their intentions?).
That logic would only apply if the discussions you're talking about were being driven by Israeli authorities bringing it up, instead of various other people just pondering it on their own like you. (And even then, they could be doing it just to make people think they're not doing anything!)

icemaverick wrote:But if Israel were to proceed, how would they do it?
Based on some reports about the apparent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, it would seem that Israel is already proceeding, and assassination is the method they've chosen so far.

If they've got people on the ground in Iran that Iran hasn't been able to catch, then they might be able to visit nuclear development sites in person, shoot only who needs to be shot, and destroy the relevant equipment with grenades, small C-4 packs, and/or fire, and/or confiscate the fuel metal, rather than completely level the place with bombardment from above. But there probably aren't enough of such forces on the ground to get every site like that.

icemaverick wrote:Iran has multiple sites.
First, they'd need to know how many, where, and how big and well protected. I've read once that there could be dozens, even over a hundred, including some under ground, but that doesn't seem practical for such small amounts of metal as they'd be working with, so I'm not sure what to think.

icemaverick wrote:I'm guessing the attack would be carried out by F-15Is or F-16s escorted by F-15s?
The range problem is pretty dire. Only a tiny sliver of western Iran is barely within the combat radius, the eastern side is more than twice that far away, and you can bet that Iran put these sites in the eastern area as much as possible. This would call for multiple refuelings, some of them actually in or dangerously close to Iran itself, which means the tankers would need escorts, which themselves would need refueling just to stay with the tankers. You'd pretty much need to keep several tankers in the air near the Iraq-Iran border for as long as the strikes were going on, ready to catch the fighters whenever they arrive near them going both ways, including second and later waves returning with more bombs. And the fighters could only even reach those tankers that far out if they carried external tanks themselves, which means carrying less bombs; carry more bombs per fighter instead of tanks, and you need a second layer of tankers closer to home. (It's worse for Falcons than for Eagles, so the actual strikes would need to be carried out by Eagles as much as possible, while Falcons patrol at home to keep the neighbors from attacking while this is going on.)

Range is no problem for Jericho missiles, but those are a pretty expensive way to deliver only about a 1-ton bomb apiece. You might need to hit the same facility with more than one missile, or put a small nuclear warhead on it instead of a conventional one, to be sure the target was really eliminated. And those missiles and warheads are probably a limited resource that they don't want to toss away a bunch of at once. (And then there's the reaction they can expect from others if they used even the world's smallest tactical nuke ever, with even less yield than some conventional/fuel-air bombs: "OMG the Joos used an evil Zion-weapon!")

So if there are few enough targets and each one can be destroyed with a light enough bombing, they could do it with the fighters they've got, playing tanker relay, plus possibly using Jerichos to pick up the slack for the farthest targets. But if there are too many sites, and/or if they're in bunkers or just large enough to need more than one bomb apiece or bigger bombs than fighters carry, then fighters might not be able to cause enough destruction in a reasonable amount of time anyway. What then? If they had another way to drop the bombs, then maybe at least the fighters could be configured purely as escorts.

If they had bombers, that would call for their range and payload, but they don't. But if they decided that the need for an increase in their bomb-dropping abilities was great enough, I'm sure they can be at least as weird and creative as me at coming up with ways to tinker with what they do have to make up for what they don't...

The closest they have already is C-130s, which can carry much more payload than a fighter and are designed to be able to drop it in flight. But they don't come with bomb targeting/guidance systems, and their range is only enough to get to a target in Iran but not back. So they'd need new electronics installed, along with an extra gas tank that takes up something like half of the cargo bay, and some kind of conveyor system to roll/slide bombs out the back. And even then, those custom "BC-130s" would still need fighters to escort them, and the escorts would need tankers. But at least the overall demands on the fighters & tankers would be lower and the bomb delivery would be heavier and faster.

Israel does have two kinds of planes with the range to go anywhere in Iran and come back with fuel to spare. But they're both cargo planes without even the C-130's ability to drop stuff in flight. One (Gulfstream 550, also known as C-37B to USAF) has so little payload that even if it could drop it in flight, it wouldn't help much for this kind of mission. The other (Boeing 707, also known as C-137 to USAF) can carry more, and can fly higher and faster than a C-130, but would still need the same new electronics as the hypothetical C-130 upgrade above, PLUS a way to physically get the bombs out of the plane while it's flying.

icemaverick wrote:I wonder if the Saudis or another Gulf state would secretly cooperate and allow the use of their air space for refueling.
Saudi Arabia is one of the less likely countries in the area to give permission for even an overflight, nevermind refueling, and not much closer to Iran anyway. Iraq is the way to go; it's right next door to the target country, not so hostile to Israel as Saudi Arabia, and lacking in air defenses if they had a problem with it anyway.
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southernphantom

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Unread post27 Mar 2012, 22:44

Offhand, I wonder if Israel has SADMs or the indigenous equivalent.

What I would look into is a one-way run. If the target is deep in Iran, the IAF could land their Eagles at US airbases in Afghanistan, and ship them out by sea.

If we were willing to get a little crazier, we deploy KC-135Rs to the 'stans' on a near-permanent basis. If the White House could be circumvented, our tankers could clandestinely refuel the Israeli fighters over the Caspian in preparation for a return home.

I have to say, I wish we were still in Iraq at this point. If so, it would be completely plausible to fly F-15s from airfields in that country. Nowadays, not so much.

Finally, the basic weight of a B61-type tactical nuke is less than a single GBU-32. If you picture an F-15I carrying one or two of these, two AMRAAMs, and two or three gasbags, you have something that can fly far and hit hard.

I apologize if this comes off as a nonsensical rant, I was just pondering very unconventional Doolittle Raid-style operations.
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archeman

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Unread post28 Mar 2012, 06:04

Turning to my buddy the internet yielded this rather in depth bit:

http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/0 ... keiran.pdf
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archeman

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Unread post28 Mar 2012, 08:39

The above paper is abit dated (2009), but it suggests that Israel has 3 possible routes North (Turkey/Syria border) Central (Syria/Jordan) and Southern (Jordan/Saudi) if it wants to avoid moving through the heart of Jordan and Syrian air defences. It recommends via it's own conclusions that the North route is the best for a combination of political and military resistance reasons. The Central route is judged too risky for military reasons since the corridor would have to be held open too long to allow the safe transit of large refuel platforms. The South route is judged too risky for political reasons due to the closeness of the U.S. relations with Jordan and Saudi. The authors may have given too much weight to the U.S. influence however. The paper also clearly misses the option to move in one of these three routes and out on another. If all assets are marshalled for the mission then Israel seems to have the tools that they need to strike all the prime targets w/out any magic tricks or direct kinetic, fuel, or basing assistance from the U.S. however. The very act sort of precludes any follow-up however and also kind of dooms the chances for future dialog of any kind really (political/commercial/nuke/military/dirty jokes/etc).
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Unread post23 Apr 2012, 03:28

Interesting thing I should have noticed sooner, since it involves the plane that actually brought me to this site...

Both my own previous post and the document that "archeman" linked to are entirely in context of Israel's present aircraft. But in about five years, they'll have F-35s. Even if that doesn't increase their total number of fighters because they immediately retire an equal number of older ones, that still changes things in a couple of significant ways.

One is that F-35's combat radius with only internal fuel is close to that of an Eagle, so with extra tanks, it should make the refueling demands easier to deal with. The other is, of course, stealth; the whole mission becomes easier if selected targets blow up before Iran even knows there's a battle. Refueling would still be necessary and tankers aren't stealthy, but fighters can refuel other fighters. Something like half of the fighter force doesn't reach the targets that way, probably more if some of the more distant targets need two refuelings to reach, but it would be worth it to get in that first wave of strikes without warning and take a bite out of Iran's potential for counterattack. Then the rest of the fighters (including the F-35s that were just used as small stealth tankers before) and the true tankers can follow to increase the bomb delivery rate after it's not a surprise anymore.

Considering that, Israel's apparent assassinations of nuclear scientists in Iran could be seen as not just an alternative to an air strike but also a way to delay the need for one. And this upcoming change could also give Iran incentive to hurry and try to get their nukes ready before that time comes.
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firstimpulse

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Unread post23 Aug 2012, 14:58

http://manglermuldoon.blogspot.com/2012 ... -iran.html

Here's some good stuff on the matter.
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Unread post23 Aug 2012, 18:40

There is yet another angle to this whole issue:
http://original.antiwar.com/mcgovern/20 ... timetable/

McGovern is former CIA.
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