TEL AVIV – Israel is “fully capable” of striking Iran, a former Israel Air Force pilot who was part of the team that destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 told the Jerusalem Post amid increased tensions between the two countries.
“If the decision is taken by the political echelon, the air force pilots and planes are capable of doing it,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Nachumi said. “The attack against the Syrian reactor [in Deir al-Zor in 2007] is just one proof of that.”
Nachumi said that past operations in Iraq and Syria, carried out by F-15s and F-16s, were proof of Israel’s long-range mission capabilities with fighter jets able to carry out the attacks with “no aerial refueling.”
The pilot led one of two formations of four aircraft each that destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in the 1980s.
However, Nachumi acknowledged that the distance between Israel and Iran “makes it more complicated” than the strikes on Iraq and Syria. He added that there are various other obstacles to attacking nuclear facilities on Iranian soil.
Nonetheless, “Even though Syria is closer to us distance-wise, the complications are no less than what we are expecting if we go to Iran,” he said.
He added that it is “sure that the air force of today – which is by far more developed and advanced with technology that we did not have in 1981 – is capable of doing it.”
The Israel Air Force in December showcased the first operational flights of the F-35 stealth fighter jets, called Adir in Hebrew. By 2024, the IAF should have a total of 50 planes, making up two full squadrons.
The F-35’s low radar presence means it can operate undetected deep inside enemy territory such as Iran and makes it harder for missile defense systems, like the Russian-made S-300, to detect.
The Adir jet was designed by Lockheed Martin to Israel’s own specifications and includes Israeli-invented electronic warfare pods and weaponry.