Friday, June 20, 2008

Israeli Air Exercise: A Rehearsal for War with Iran? Updated

The International Herald Tribune is reporting that a large Israeli air exercise has taken place earlier this month, in what appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said. The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.


[T]he scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies. A senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on the exercise, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the matter, said the exercise appeared to serve multiple purposes. One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles. A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter. "They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said. "There's a lot of signaling going on at different levels."


Iran has shown signs that it is taking the Israeli warnings seriously, by beefing up its air defenses in recent weeks, including increasing air patrols. In one instance, Iran scrambled F-4 jets to double-check an Iraqi civilian flight from Baghdad to Tehran. Iran is also taking steps to better defend its nuclear facilities. Two sets of advance Russian-made radar systems were recently delivered to Iran. The radar will enhance Iran's ability to detect planes flying at low altitude. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said in February that Iran was close to acquiring Russian-produced SA-20 surface-to-air missiles. American military officials said that the deployment of such systems would hamper Israel's attack planning, putting pressure on Israel to act before the missiles are fielded.

This isn't the first Israeli exercise of this type, but it may be the largest and most detailed. In the past, Iran has even reciprocated by conducting a similar type air exercise of its own.

Update: For analysis on Israeli strike options, view the following:

Iran - Israel's Strike Options by USAF Lt Col Rick Francona

Israeli and US Strikes on Iran: A Speculative Analysis by Anthony H. Cordesman

Osirak Relux? Assessing Israeli Capabilities to Destroy Iranian Nuclear Facilities by Whitney Raas and Austin Long


Anonymous said...

Its time for the whole free world to attack Israel. Each time Israel starts a bombing on its neighbours in the name of its sequrity like its attack on iraq before the war. whats the world waiting for.

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous', your anti-Semitism is showing!

I completely support Israel's right, as God's chosen nation, to attack Iran. We of America will be in that Coalition of the God Willing, and we will see nuclear materials spread dangerously across the countryside of Iran by our allies' bombs, which I believe they bought from us in the first place.

The time has come for Total War. The End Times of the Book of Revelations are soon to begin. Let the faithful Christians and Jews rejoice! Our Kingdom is soon to Come!

Kemjika said...

oh my god. two of you sound like morons, but i'll get to my educated point first. Yes, this "large" israeli practice is very suspicious, and Israel wants to strike before its "too late", but i'm afraid its already too late. They don't have the element of surprise, and iran's program is much larger, more spread out, better defended, and its just a huge task. Cowardly Israel can't do it alone, that why they need US to follow suit and join them. IRGC, get ready!