A leading European analyst has determined that Israel could destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure.
A former senior German defense official has asserted that the Israel Air Force was capable of destroying key Iran’s nuclear facilities within hours. Hans Ruhle, planning director of the German Defense Ministry from 1982 to 1988, said Israel could torpedo Iranian nuclear weapons development for years by bombing only six of up to 30 Iranian sites.
“Israel has enough aircraft with suitable weapons to destroy Iran’s sustainable nuclear program,” Ruhle said.
In an analysis for Germany’s Die Welt daily on Feb. 16, Ruhle said Israel contained sufficient fighter-jets and munitions to conduct a massive attack on Iran. But Ruhle said any Israeli air campaign might be limited by its small fleet of air fuel tankers.
“Officially, Israel has five tankers — one KC-130H and four B-700s,” Ruhle said. “This is a rather meager fleet.”
The analysis said Israel has used F-15s and F-16s as tankers for mid-air refueling. Another option was for Israeli combat aircraft to refuel in such Iranian neighbors as Iraq and Turkey.
The leading Israeli targets were identified as the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Isfahan uranium conversion facility, Arak heavy water reactor, Parchin munitions sites, the Fordow underground nuclear facility and the nuclear energy reactor in Bushehr.
The analysis assessed that the Israel Air Force would require at least 25 F-15 fighter-jets and 10 F-16 multi-role fighters for the attack on Iran, located about 1,000 kilometers away. Ruhle, who cited the Israeli destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor at Kibar in 2007, said the Israeli aircraft must be equipped with U.S.-origin GBU-28 bunker-buster bombs as well as other air-to-ground munitions.
“When in doubt, two GBU-28s would be used in succession, and the second bomb would penetrate beyond the first bomb and safely achieve the desired result,” Ruhle said.
Ruhle’s analysis appeared to differ from those published in the United States. The U.S. Defense Department has repeatedly warned Israel against air strikes on Iran, with officials suggesting that the Jewish state contained insufficient assets.
“Although some seem ready to write off the Israelis, it is worth remembering that a number of folks with operational know-how are not ready to do just that,” Benjamin Weinthal a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said.
The analysis said Israel would not have to demolish entire nuclear facilities. Ruhle asserted that the four entrances to the underground section of Isfahan must be destroyed while Arak could be eliminated by as few as 10 GPU-10 laser-guided munitions.
“The plants [at Arak] are not very large, are above ground and not hardened,” Ruhle said.
A key challenge for Israel would be Fordow, designed to contain 3,000 centrifuges. Fordow, built into a mountain near Qom, was said to be protected by 70 meters of stone.
“In the first phase of an attack, the only initial option would be to bomb the two tunnel entrances with GBU-28 and thus close it for a while,” the analysis said. “The alternative would be a special forces operation to invade the facility and destroy it with explosives or at least render it useless.”