•The 2012 bombing of power lines to Iran's Fordow and Natanz uranium enrichment facilities.
The open questions include not only who launches these attacks, but what weapons are involved. Israel has both bomb-carrying, manned and unmanned strike aircraft. Moreover, the country now has four, cruise-missile-carrying, German-made, extra-quiet Dolphin submarines that could deliver stealth attacks from very long range.
The ground attacks in Iran could have involved special operations teams of Kurds, Iraqi Sunnis or dissident Iranians. No one has claimed credit for any of the strikes.
In analyzing the latest attack, a senior U.S. Air Force official suggested that the Khartoum attack—if it was conducted by Israeli air force—would likely have been carried out by Tel Aviv's longest-range aircraft—F-15Is—for several reasons. The round-trip mission would stretch about 2,400 mi. Aerial raids by unmanned aircraft (stationed in the Negev) or cruise missiles (fired from submarines) on a facility in the middle of a built-up, high-density population area would have a high potential for creating collateral damage.
An un-sourced story in The Sunday Times of London states that the attack was conducted by eight F-15Is—with four of them carrying two 2,000-lb. bombs each—two combat search-and-rescue helicopters, an Israeli Aerospace Industries-modified Gulfstream 550 electronic-attack aircraft and a Boeing 707 tanker.
“You certainly don't need eight F-15s to deliver eight Mk.84s,” says a veteran U.S. Air Force warplanner. Israeli officials agree, telling Aviation Week that they only used four F-15s for the raid in Syria, and far fewer than the eight F-16s and a covering force of F-15s they used to bomb the nuclear reactor in Iraq. Israeli airmen contend that precision weapons and sensors allow them to use much smaller attack units than in the past.
A veteran Israeli pilot says that the Israeli air force—despite its predilection to use smaller, low-profile attack packages—because of the distances involved, would be obligated to increase the size of the force to as many as eight fighters for redundancy. They had to ensure that despite mechanical problems, a sufficient number of aircraft reached the target.
Moreover the extra fighters, tanker and electronic-warfare aircraft would likely have orbited over international waters while only the bombing aircraft penetrated Sudan's airspace, the Israeli pilot says.
“You don't really need four F-15s, you only need two with four bombs and they could have used either [500-lb.] Mk.82s or (2,000-lb.] Mk.84s given the accuracy of the weapons now,” he says. “But you want to make sure, so there is no reason not to use Mk.84s [to ensure destruction of the target] if you are not worried about collateral damage. I don't think it would make sense to use UAVs or cruise missiles for this mission.”
Analysts contend that a number of buildings in the compound also were damaged and destroyed by flying debris. Videos of the fierce fires and a continuing series of explosions showed burning projectiles arcing hundreds of yards into adjacent areas.