While that possibility of collateral damage also exists with manned aircraft, “The IAF's confidence level in its air and maintenance crews and Sudan's insignificant air defense might well convince them to risk sending manned aircraft on a mission of that distance,” the first U.S. Air Force official says. “It depends on the planning factors and weaponeering. A UAV cannot carry as much as an F-15I and Israeli planners have a great deal of confidence in their aircrews to carry out such missions.”
The target site had contained dozens of silver shipping containers in a cleared area between warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Sudan has been fingered in the past for allowing trans-shipment of Iranian weapons via Port Sudan and looted weapons from Libya into Egypt. Israeli officials contend that Sudan ensures delivery of both arms to Islamic militants and the trafficking of African immigrants.
What has been identified in satellite pictures by a U.S.-based monitoring group (Satellite Sentinel Project) as six, approximately 50-ft. craters indicate the use of 2,000-lb. bombs, which would be too large to be carried long distances by known Israeli-build UAVs. However, Israeli Aerospace Industries and Elbit are both working on new and larger UAV designs, Israeli officials say. While the country's new cruise-missile-armed submarines make a formidable stealth weapon, revealing their conventional capabilities on such a vulnerable and unsophisticated target would not be a useful strategic move.
The F-15I also can carry the GBU-28 deep-penetrating bomb, which burrowed through 100 ft. of earth in its original test during the 1991 Persian Gulf war with Iraq. A third U.S. Air Force official—a former senior civilian decision-maker—says that 10 years ago, the National Reconnaissance Office conducted an intense study of an Iranian command-and-control center about 15 mi. north of Tehran as it was built. The 100,000-sq.-ft. structure was buried 35 ft. deep, as were the power and radio-frequency sensor transmission lines that could only be successfully attacked by very deep-penetrating weapons. The U.S. also produced detailed attack plans at the time. Because of the center's size and buried communications, it was considered a very complicated target that would have taken repeated strikes. But with the service's new and larger penetrating weapons, the site could be damaged beyond use with three or four bombs, he avers.