Picking up where I left off in Gaming an Israeli conventional strike on Iran: Scenario 1, I set up and ran Scenario 2 – the no overflight scenario. It became immediately apparent that 5 KC-707 tankers was an insufficient number for a one-shot strike. There is no problem putting all 25 F-15I’s on the target but including enough F-16I’s to carry two 900 kg GBU-31/BLU-109 penetrator bombs, provide escort, and suppress air defenses can’t be done. For the scenario, the bombers have to go in without escort. Just one more tanker makes a 50% difference in the size of the raid. The reason is that it is necessary to refuel twice: once on the way to the target and once on the way back. A six tanker fleet makes three tankers available for each leg. One less tanker means that one leg will have only two tankers.
How accurate is Scenario 2? I used the identical Iranian setup from Scenario 1, which greatly overestimates Iranian defensive capabilities. If I scale the defense back to something close to reality then it becomes just possible for an Israeli raid of 40 or so planes to make it to Natanz.
The buried enrichment buildings in Scenarios 1 and 2 are very strong – it takes around 12 of the 2100 kg GBU-28/BLU-113 bombs, carried by 12 F-15I’s, plus 22 [corrected 14-Feb] of the BLU-109 bombs to destroy one of them. I suspect that Harpoon3 has a simplified way of modeling weapon effects versus target types. In the real world, there would be a depth below which the BLU-109 would have no effect. I’m not sure that Harpoon3 handles this. Even if the model is accurate, there is the question of how protected the enrichment buildings really are. Perhaps they are more vulnerable in the real world than in the scenarios, perhaps not. Various sources seem to agree that the enrichment buildings are capped with 2.5 meters of reinforced concrete above which is 8 meters of packed earth. If this information is correct, then the scenario is too conservative and the F-15’s alone can do the job.
To sum up, the excessive difficulty I built into Scenario 2 indicates that Israel could actually manage a one-shot, no overflight attack against Iran’s enrichment facility but it would be “close-run thing” with little margin for error. What the Israeli’s need most is an extra tanker.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the U.S. is developing the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). This 6 meter long, 13.6 metric tonne behemoth will be deployed later this year and carried by the B-2 bomber. Any guesses as to its probable targets?