US, Germany differ on Israeli ability to hit Iran (JERUSALEM POST) By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 02/21/12)
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BERLIN – Competing analysis articles appeared Monday in The New York
Times and last week in the German daily Die Welt outlining vastly
different conclusions about Israel’s military capability to knock out
Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
While The New York Times report cast doubt on Israel’s success
chances, Hans Rühle, who directed the planning department of the
German Defense Ministry between 1982-1988, expressed confidence that
Israel’s air force could decimate Iran’s principal nuclear
The core differences surround the number of Israeli jets and bombs
required to destroy Iran’s primary nuclear facilities, as well as the
challenge of refueling fighter planes to travel a distance of more
than 1,000 miles into Iranian airspace and return safely to Israel.
The Times titled its rather pessimistic analysis “Iran Raid Seen as a
Huge Task for Israeli Jets,” and wrote that an Israeli mission to
annihilate Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would require a minimum of
100 fighter jets.
According to a sample of US defense and military analysts, it would
be a Herculean challenge for Israel to penetrate Iran’s air space and
launch attacks on the country’s nuclear complexes.
The Times cited Michael V. Hayden, the former director of the Central
Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, who explicitly declared that
pulverizing Iran’s nuclear facilities is “beyond the capacity” of
Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula told the Times that, “All the pundits who
talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to be that easy.”
Deptula, served as the US Air Force’s top intelligence official until
last year, and oversaw the air military strikes conducted in the 2001
Afghanistan War theater in 2001, and during the first Gulf war in
1991 in Iraq.
The Times offered a bleak assessment of Israel’s capability to refuel
its fighter planes, saying “Israel would have to use airborne
refueling planes, called tankers, but Israel is not thought to have
In a sharp contrast to the Times analysis, Hans Rühle, a leading
German security expert, asserted last week in a lengthy article in
the Die Welt that a comprehensive Israel-based bombing campaign could
significantly set back, perhaps a decade or more, Iran’s nuclear
In the article titled “How Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear program”
Rühle analyzed the number of Israeli fighter jets and bombs necessary
to obliterate Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Citing experts, Rühle writes that an extensive bombing campaign is
within Israel’s capability to decimate Iran’s ability to continue to
make progress on developing nuclear weapons.
According to Rühle, there are 25 to 30 facilities in Iran used for
its atomic program, of which six are primary-bombing targets.
He cites the nuclear enrichment plant Natanz, the conversion facility
in Isfahan, the heavy water reactor Arak and the weapons and
munitions sites in Parchin. In addition, he notes the deep
underground enrichment facility Fordow and Iran’s operational nuclear
The popular PJ Media news website columnist, David P. Goldman, wrote
last week that “Hans Rühle was one of the toughest and most
perspicacious analysts in those heady days” during the Cold war
Goldman added that “Rühle is highly confident that Israel could knock
out Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or more with about 25 of its
87 F-15 fighter-bombers and a smaller number of its F-16s. Each of
the F- 15s would carry two of the GBU-28 bunker busters, with the F-
16s armed with smaller bombs.
Rühle writes that surveillance “information about Natanz is solid,“
adding that the “project has been observed from satellites and from
the location from ´Israeli tourists.´”
He added that Israel strongest bunker buster bombs GBU-28 could
destroy the roof of the facility. If the damage is not sufficient, a
second GBU-28 could be launched to complete the aim of destruction.
According to Rühle, Israel’s successful obliteration of the Syrian
nuclear reactor in 2007 laid an important precedent. He writes
that “many experts believe “ that strikes against Iran’s nuclear
operations could set back the program 10 years, or possibly longer,
based on present knowledge.
The fighter plane requirement would entail 20 F-15 machines each
accompanied with two GBU-28s. He estimates that Israel’s air force
has over 87 F-15 planes at its disposal. The conversion Nuclear
Technology Center of Isfahan, which is largely vulnerable to attack
because its buildings are not underground, could be eliminated with
GBU-27 bombs. Isfahan converts the yellow cake process into uranium.
The least difficult challenge for Israel’s air force is the heavy-
water reactor Arak, observes Rühle. The above-ground facility could
be razed with 10 GBU-10 bombs, wrote Rühle. The strike would require
10 F- 16 fighter jets.
According to Rühe, the most difficult obstacle to destroy is the
underground Fordow enrichment plant. He notes that special team
forces would have to attack the facility.
The alternative would be to strike the tunnel openings with GBU-28
bombs to plug the entry points for a period of time.
The complex Parchin site remains beyond the International Atomic
Energy Agency inspections and it is unclear how many bombs it would
take to destroy the over 100 buildings, many of which are buried
underground. Nuclear warheads are believed to be worked on in the
Rühle views the nuclear power plant Bushehr as a possible primary
military target, largely because the plants plutonium can be used for
weapons. In contrast to the United States State Department, which
views the Bushehr plant as a civilian-energy program without a
military dimension, Rühle writes that “the destruction of Bushehr
should not be a problem for Israel’s army – 10 GBU-28 or GBU-27 bombs
would be sufficient.”
He quotes a high-level representative of the Israeli nuclear expert
class who was in Berlin last year. The Israeli expert said “we cannot
live with this reactor” in Bushehr because it is not immune to
stopping the spread of proliferation-related material.
Rühle adds that if Israel can wipe out essential pieces of Iran’s
nuclear program, then the problem is solved for a generation.
His essay is filled with a kind of supreme confidence about the
ability of Israel’s military systems.
“Israel’s Air Force is first class, “ writes Rühle. “Their pilots are
conditioned from the history of Israel and the constant dangers faced
by the Jewish state.”
Though Rühle identifies the refueling of Israel’s fighter jets to be
a thorny problem because Israel only has five tankers of the type KC-
130H and four of the category B- 700, he said he believes the number
to be higher.
He calls the public refuel tanker number a “rather lean supply, “ but
notes that Israel’s government had requested to buy or lease from US
President George W. Bush’s Administration additional refueling tanks.
He adds that Israel’s Air Force has expertise over the “buddy
refueling“ process among F-15 and F-16 planes. There is also the
possibility of a temporary landing to refuel in Syria, Turkey, or
Iraq, noted Rühle. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/21/12)
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