October 22, 2012
Credit: Credit: U.S. Army
David Fulghum Washington
If Israel alone, or in concert with the U.S., decides to slow Iran's nuclear development program by force, strike aircraft would be likely to hit a mix of uranium enrichment and reactor facilities, ballistic missile cantonments and mobile launchers, radar surveillance sites and air bases.
The target set could include five main nuclear facilities (Natanz, Parchin, Isfahan, Fordow and Arak), eight missile bases (Bakhtaran, Abu Musa Island, Bandar Abbass, Imam Ali, Kuhestak, Mashad, Tabriz and the Semnan space and missile center), 15 missile production facilities and 22 mobile launchers, according to an attack scenario formulated in a report by analysts Anthony Cordesman and Abdullah Toukan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Other probable strike sites are fighter bases along the country's eastern, western and southern borders.
Israeli analysts confirm those targeting priorities.
“Any nuclear weapons program has three parts,” says Ephraim Asculai, senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). “The most important part is the production of fissile materials. The second is the weaponization—putting the explosive and fissile materials together and making them work. The third part is the delivery system [in this case, Iran's ballistic missiles].”
However, there would be another tough problem for strike planners—long-range radar facilities located in Syria and Lebanon are linked to Iran and could provide Tehran with early warning of a raid. Iran has tried to modernize its defenses, but the resulting mix of Russian, Chinese, U.S., European and Iranian equipment is expected to be vulnerable to anti-radiation weapons and other defense-suppression systems, undoubtedly including cyber- and electronic attack.
Iran is considered far more vulnerable than any of the surrounding countries it might be tempted to retaliate against. A level of 75% damage to each target, created by an attack force of 10 B-2 bombers and 90 strike aircraft, could delay Iran's nuclear program by “at least 5-10 years” and substantially weaken Iran's ballistic missile retaliatory capability, according to the CSIS report. Cruise missiles also are sure to be part of the mix.