Ex-pilots Split on What Sudan Strike Means for Iran

Ex-Defense Ministry weapons chief: Operation proves Israel can hit moving targets from great distance.

Former senior Israel Air Force officers are divided over what the IAF's alleged strike on an arms convoy in Sudan means for the possibility of attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, who headed the Defense Ministry's weapons development program, said "the main innovation in the attack on Sudan, according to reports, was the ability to hit a moving target at such a distance ... The fact that Israel has the technical ability to do such a thing proves even more what we are capable of in Iran."

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gil Regev said the fact that this was a moving target whose exact location was not known in advance affected the pilots' training, since they could not rehearse a precise mission outline. "But today, we have the platforms, and the pilots routinely train for such long distances, as well as for aerial refueling," he said.

Over the last decade, the IAF has acquired one F-15I squadron and four F-16I squadrons. The latter, built especially for long-range strategic strikes, arrived only a few months ago.

But with regard to Iran, Regev warned, "a critical mass of planes must be brought to one point to cause maximum damage, and the real riddle is whether we can bring such a mass over long distances."

Another senior officer said aerial refueling was a weak point: "The air force has a small number of old Boeing 707s refitted more than 20 years ago for aerial refueling. Some people in the air force doubt there will be enough of these planes for the targets in Iran."

Israel's special security relationship with Ethiopia improves the quality of its intelligence in East Africa in general and Sudan in particular, and Addis Ababa is a key Mossad base for operations against extremist Islamic groups in this region. Some of the weapons that reached Sudan from Iran reportedly passed through Ethiopia and Eritrea first.