Re(2): "F-16I Sufa (Storm)", www.GlobalSecurity.org
Re(3): "Syrian Airfields", www.globalsecurity.org
Re(4): "ISIS is Losing", www.vox.com
After reading Drudge's headline "Paper: Obama Threatened to Shoot Down Israeli Jets" I was brought back to a post discussing an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities I wrote a number of years ago. In it I postulated that Israel could temporarily take an air field in eastern Syria to use as a sortie base for bombing nuclear targets in Iran. The diciest part of the plan would have been traversing the Iraq/Turkish border in such a way as to avoid conflict with the United States or Turkey. While conflict with the U.S. in 2006 was not likely, the political storm would have been massive and destructive. Since we controlled the airspace such an attack would have had at least the implicit of the United States.
My, how nine years have changed things.
- Syria can no longer defend it's eastern territories
- ISIS controls at least one of the eastern airfields
- The United States no longer has a big footprint in Iraq
- It is uncertain that the United States could defend Iraq's airspace
- And, finally, would Jordan do anything if Israeli fuel tankers use their airspace.
Those are interesting questions that dramatically change the calculus. Here are some interesting maps from GlobalSecurity.com:
In this map note that the air field at Dayh An Zawr is controlled by ISIS. The field I spoke about in the earlier post is contested by Hezbollah and other Islamist groups.. Also, note that the Syrian regime does not have much control of the region between Israel and the eastern air bases. Thus the risk to Israel taking those eastern air fields has dramatically reduced since 2006. An additional question: Would the act of Israel taking an airfield from ISIS be an act of war on Syria? I really do not think Assad would come to the defense of ISIS.
So, let us assume that Israel takes one of the two major airfields in eastern Syria - it would be much easier to do so now. The following map documents the Iranian nuclear sites:
This map (Joel C. Robinson) assumes an attack from Israel, overflying Syria, Turkey, and Iraq or Jordan and Iraq, or Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Sorties originating from eastern Syria that overfly Iraq would only be half as long. The F15s in Israel's inventory can reach those targets from any site in the region, the F16Is would have to be within 1,800 km (combat radius) - see below:
Move those strike circles east almost a thousand clicks and Israeli aircraft could easily hit any target in Iran without refueling and with enough fuel for combat action as well.
The final question would be whether President Obama would order whatever air superiority assets we have in Iraq to "shoot down Israeli' strike aircraft. How probable is that. Actually, that is not even the final question. Here is one to ponder. Would Air Force pilots ordered to shoot down allied aircraft attacking an enemy who wants to destroy that ally actually find any of the hundreds of strike planes overflying Iraq? Or would they take off and not find anything - yuk, yuk. Would they actually want to attempt to shoot down allied aircraft piloted by some of the best in the world. That is an interesting question - eh.