An Israeli F-15 fighter
An Israeli F-15 fighter

Israel's attack on Iran could be more complex that first assumed with at least 100 fighter jets needed to carry out a successful mission against nuclear installations, the New York Times reported.

American military analysts have drawn up a scenario of an attack on Iran. Israel jets would have to fly more than 1,000 miles above unfriendly airspace and the entire operation would be very different from Israel "surgical" strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated and threats of a strike have given rise to a real ebate in Washington.

Some analysts have even questioned Israel's capability to conduct airstrikes that would significantly set back Iran's nuclear programme.

Now the New York Times report stresses that such an operation also presents several hurdles.

The first obstacle would be to reach Iran's four major nuclear sites: the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak and the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan.

Israel has three potential routes to Iran's nuclear facilities: north over Turkey, south over Saudi Arabia or a central route across Jordan and Iraq.

Iraq is the most likely one, analysts said. It is the most direct and Iraq's lack of air defences is an added advantage. Also the US is no longer obligated to defend Iraqi skies.

Jordan is the next option. Even if it allows the Israeli flight into its airspace, distance remains a major problem.

The range of Israel's fighter jets falls short of the 2,000-mile round trip, forcing Israel to use airborne refueling planes. Analysts warned Israel might not have enough of them.

Israel would also have to use its electronic warfare planes to infiltrate Iran's air defences and jam its radar systems to create a corridor for an attack, the report explained.

Finally Israel would have to penetrate Iran's Natanz facility, which is thought to be buried under 30 feet of concrete, and the Fordo facility, built inside a mountain.

Israel possesses bombs able to damage such targets but it is not known how far down they could go, the report pointed out.