As the clock ticks, it appears Israel will have to pick between two frightful scenarios; attack Iran or live with a nuclear Iran and the constant fear of annihilation.
This choice crossed my mind during a recent trip to Israel. While at the ancient fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea, the tour guide proclaimed that Masada is one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols. Israeli soldiers sometimes use it for training and they are known to take an oath there: “Masada shall not fall again.”
Therefore, knowing the Israeli’s and their history, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they eventually pick option one.
If they do, and theoretically war does breaks out [but lets hope it doesn’t], it will undoubtedly be a missile and air force fight. Therefore, it makes logical sense to scrutinize the weaponry/capability on both sides.
AIR FORCE: edge: Israel
Fighters/bombers are the main aircraft that would likely be used. Israel has a range of Lockheed Martin F-16s and Boeing’s F-15. Israel has ordered Lockheed’s F-35 and the sale has been approved by the US Congress. However, it was announced yesterday [12 December] that the Israeli air force is upgrading its Lockheed Martin F-16C/D jets amid growing concerns the delivery of 20 of the US F-35 stealth fighters will be delayed past 2017.
Israel also has a large UAV arsenal. It was reported in November that the Israeli’s largest unmanned aircraft, Eitan, is scheduled to begin operations within several months after eight years in development. Eitan was developed in order to reach Iran and Sudan.
Iran, on the other hand, has a number of F-14’s, Dassault Mirage F1s and MIG29s. However, the issue of spare parts and replacement equipment has hit them hard.
Iran was supposedly negotiating with Russia to buy 250 Sukhoi Su-30 “Flanker” fighter-bombers in 2007, but it is believed that this deal never took place.
MISSILES: edge: neither
Neither country can be seen as having an edge in this particular war.
Iran has made great strides in its missile technology. In October 2010, Iran carried out an unannounced test of its Sejil-2 missile, sometimes known as the “Ashura.” The Sejil is a solid propellant missile with a range of approximately 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles). It was first flown successfully in November 2008. In February of this year, Iran successfully tested a modified Shahab-3, a liquid-fueled missile based on the North Korean Taepodong series. It reportedly has a range of approximately 900 kilometers, bringing northern Israel into Iran’s range.
One recent blow to Iran’s missile program came in November when General Hasan Moghaddam, a commander of the Revoluntary Guard and missile expert was killed in an explosion at an ammunition depot west of Tehran.
Nevertheless, the threat to launch “150,000 or more” missiles if Iran was attacked, was delivered to army volunteers by Iranian Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi on 11 December. Iranian officials have also threatened retaliation against Turkey’s NATO installation, should an attack on Iran take place. For more information, see the International Institute for Strategic Studies Iran’s Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A net assessment.
Meanwhile, Israel is reportedly deploying its own Jericho missiles around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. It may be a military drill to test a new engine for the long-range Jericho III design. Its specifications are classified, but military experts believe the Israeli missile to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to any destination in the Middle East, most of Europe, North America and Africa.
Ballistic missiles are one thing, but the ground to air missile capability would play an equally crucial role in this war.
Iran has in its possession Russia’s S-300 Russian ground-to-air radar systems. The S-300 is considered one of the world’s most versatile radar-missile systems and can simultaneous track hundreds of semi-stealth cruise missiles, long-range missiles and aircraft, including airborne monitoring jets. According to military sources, as many as ten intruders can be simultaneously engaged. For more on Iran’s defense strategies, see the report by Meepas, an independent political and economic analysis company.
Israel recently teamed up with Greece, who also has the S-300, to obtain information on how to defeat Iran’s radar system. Israel flew a number of its jets into the S-300’s massive electronics and was able to record details about defeating, jamming and circumventing the potent radar system. The exercise was appropriately called “Glorious Spartan.”
Israel itself has the assistance of NATO’s early warning radar station in Turkey, which is there to protect the Jewish State against Iranian missile attacks. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO’s missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.
However, Israel recently revealed more details about its own air defense systems when it hosted international journalists in May. This included a closer look at its Iron Dome anti-rocket missile defense system. Israel also has the Arrow system, which came about via President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars program. Israel assisted in the research and development effort, and the latest Arrow 2 air defense system can intercept missiles at a high altitude according to air defense standards. The Arrow 2 can cover major parts of Israel, but the more advanced and sophisticated Arrow 3 is currently being developed.
Senior Israeli military officers described a “new era” in defense, now that rockets and missiles have become the “main effort” of Israel’s enemies and the civilian population is on the front line.
PURE SIZE- edge: Iran
Israel is only 8,000 sq miles and could fit into Florida eight times. Compare this to Iran’s area of 636,374 square miles and we see a real difference here. Iran is only 4% smaller than Alaska.
NUCLEAR CAPABILITY- edge: Israel
The one way to take down a bigger enemy is with a bigger weapon and that is what Israel possesses. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Israel has between 100 and 300 nuclear warheads, but most guesses are between 60 and 400.
The Israeli military possess land, sea and air methods to deploy their nuclear weapons. This includes, tactical aircraft, submarine launched cruise missiles and ICBMs.
COMBAT READINESS- edge: Israel
Israel is by far the most combat ready country in the region. It has been involved in numerous campaigns including the 2007 Israeli fighter-bomber attack on a suspected nuclear installation in Syria.
The last real operation launched by the Iranian air force was during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.
BIG QUESTION MARKS:
The area size factor alone is enough to prove the point that Israel cannot attack Iran by itself. It would simply not be able to inflict enough damage unless it uses nuclear weapons, and it wouldn’t dare cross that line.
Yiftah Shapir, director of the Military Balance Project at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies argues that Israel is “far from capable of disabling the Iran nuclear program. That would take at least a month of sustained bombing. That’s not something Israel can carry out alone.”
With that in mind and if this war breaks out, will America be Israel’s only ally? The UK? Saudi Arabia? And on Iran’s side? The vast majority of the Middle East?
This also leads to a whole of host of questions:
• Could the Israelis attack over Iraqi airspace? Will Turkey allow them to use theirs? What if Iran bombs the NATO installation? Would Turkey allow them then? How about Saudi airspace? They said they would in the past.
• What role would US have in the Iranian attacks? Where will they be launched from? The Qatari emir has said the U.S. will not be allowed to use its military base in the tiny Gulf state in a military conflict with Iran, the Financial Times reported.
• Would Hezbollah and Hamas strike Israel along with Iran?
• What role would China and Russia play, as they are now claiming they will protect Iran if they are attacked?
• Roughly 27,000 US forces are deployed at an array of bases and sites throughout the Gulf, along with a 50,000-strong contingent in Iraq and thousands more aboard naval ships, a US military official told AFP. How can Washington reassure their allies (Qatar, UAE, Oman etc) that they will be protected from Iran?
• Will those countries’ allow the US military to continue to use their air bases? Over flight rules? Access to strategic water routes?
No one wants this war, but it seems to becoming closer and closer as long as Iran continues with their nuclear ambitions. It would be a war filled with an unthinkable amount of human causalities and it would destroy the world’s economy.
Lets hope the continued bilateral and multilateral dialogue and diplomacy proves effective. But in the very end, Israel is the only who can determine what is best for its safety and security.