Jonathan Pollard
Jonathan PollardArutz Sheva

When tasked with conducting long range strike missions, the IDF has traditionally relied upon the Israeli Air Force, which is why the latter is unofficially known as the “long arm” of the Israeli Army. Two successful long range IAF missions exemplify their remarkable capabilities: the 7 June, 1981 Operation Opera, which destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad and the 1 October, 1985 Operation Wooden Leg that destroyed the PLO’s headquarters in Tunis. Today, however, the IAF’s future effectiveness against Iran’s nuclear weapons establishment has been called into question by a number of complicating factors.

Firstly, the range involved in such a strike would require multiple air-to-air refueling operations. Apart from its complexity, the number of tanker aircraft that would be needed for such a mission is beyond what’s currently available in the IAF inventory. Moreover, the American tankers which are on order have been experiencing multiple problems that have yet to be satisfactorily fixed. Another major problem with relying upon refueling to carry out such a long range mission is that if one or more of the tankers are destroyed or otherwise unavailable it could seriously compromise the mission’s success. This is because multiple strikes, employing all available tankers, would be required. Granted, the possibility of using foreign airbases for refueling has been mentioned. But it’s highly unlikely that they would be made available due to fears of Iranian retaliatory strikes against the host countries.

Yet another problem with relying upon the IAF in such a scenario, is the very real danger of massive Hezbollah missile bombardment of Israeli air bases. Such retaliatory attacks could close many IAF bases for extended periods of time, thereby compromising both the timing and weight of successive IAF strike packages. And while it might be possible to use highways for refueling and rearming tasks, this alternative basing arrangement would inject even more complexity into an already complicated operation.

Another fundamental problem with relying upon aircraft to conduct such a strike is the fact that it’s highly unlikely that any amount of conventional bombing could actually damage enough of the Iranian nuclear establishment to make it a worthwhile undertaking. This is because the Iranians have been given enough time to disperse, harden and make redundant their nuclear facilities. The Iranians are also in the midst of an extensive buildup of their air defenses, which will require far more F-35s to neutralize than we will have in our inventory. Assuming the Iranians receive sophisticated Russian fighters, as well, it will only further complicate the IAF’s entry and exit aspects of their operation.

So, given Israel’s closing window of opportunity to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, are there any technologies that could be used in place of manned fighter bombers to carry out such a critical mission? Yes, there are, but their adoption would not only require the IAF to take an unfamiliar back seat to their use, but it would also require the Israeli military industrial complex to be significantly ramped up to produce the weapons in question. Luckily, the specific technologies involved with these systems are well within our reach. And assuming the objections of the IAF to being relegated to follow up missions are overcome, what exactly are we talking about?

The items in question involve a variety of ballistic missiles, some of which would be nuclear armed.

Many of these missiles could be equipped with multiple maneuvering reentry vehicles and decoys that would most likely succeed in overcoming Iran’s current air defenses. Indeed, one of the more interesting uses of these ballistic missiles would be to replace our F-35s in their SAM suppression mission. As long as our reconnaissance was up to date, taking out the Iranian air defense network could probably be accomplished much faster than it would take if we were relying upon a combination of fixed wing aviation and cruise missiles.

Now, it goes without saying, that the most critical aspect of such an attack would be the need to guarantee the element of surprise. A massive long range strike employing both scores of attack planes and air-to-air refueling tankers would be extremely difficult to hide- especially given the fact that the US would probably join Russia and China in warning Iran of the inbound attack in time for Tehran to take some defensive measures. However, were we to employ a preliminary high altitude EMP detonation, followed by a day time missile strike that used depressed trajectories for targeting high value strategic facilities and military command headquarters, it’s unlikely the Iranians would have enough time to save either their political/military leadership centers or their equally valuable military industrial plants. And the quick elimination of such targets must be a priority for any strike we’d conduct against the Iranians.

In conclusion, the use of sophisticated ballistic missiles to simultaneously eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons establishment, their national command authority and their key military industrial plants offers Israeli military planners the flexibility, surprise and efficiency needed to quickly eliminate these high value strategic targets in Iran, without jeopardizing any of the IAF’s critically important manned fighter bombers and F-35 stealth fighters. Above all else, we have to keep in mind that time is running out for us to stop the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapons arsenal. Before this happens, the window of opportunity provided by long range, nuclear armed, precision guided ballistic missiles must be exploited to quickly destroy both Iran’s murderous leadership as well as their weapons of mass destruction. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations to eliminate these existential threats as soon as possible.

Assuming such a missile based campaign were to be successful, the development of a more sophisticated generation of “prompt response” hypersonic missiles would provide us with a new, politically dependable “long arm” with which to punish our enemies. Above all else, never again should we rely upon long range strike assets that require lengthy flight times and aircraft crews that we can ill afford to lose.