by Omar H. Sharif


Israel has the capabilities of attacking the Iranian nuclear plant employing Land-Based Weapons (Jericho long-range missiles), Air Based Weapons (F-4E-2000 Phantom, F-16 Falcon and F-35 Radar Evading Stealth Bomber) and Sea-Based Weapons (Warships and Dolphin Class Submarines).

Israel might use two possible strike routes against Iran: one direct from the bases in Israel and second from an American base in Azerbaijan. 

Land-Based Weapons

Jericho-1 (Luz YA-1) SRBM

– Year Deployed: 1973

– Dimensions: 10.0 meters length

– Weight: 4,500 kilograms

– Propulsion: Single-stage

– Throw-weight: 500 kilograms

– Range: 500 kilometers

– Guidance: Inertial

– Circular Error Probable: Unknown

– Warhead: Single

– Yield: Conventional, chemical, or nuclear possible

– Locations: Unknown

– Number Deployed: ~50 missiles

– Primary Contractor: IAI

The Jericho I short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) was developed in the 1960’s, reportedly with French assistance. Such aid was concurrent with French nuclear aid, in the form of the Dimona nuclear reactor. This reactor produced the plutonium which was used in Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

The Jericho I was based on the French Dassault MD-600 design, and has the Israeli name of “Luz.” The missile is reported as having a 500 kilogram high explosive warhead, but could be fitted with nuclear warheads as well. It is unknown whether they are allocated to this role. The Jericho is carried on a wheeled transporter erector vehicle (TEL) or on railroad car launchers. Approximately 100 total of both Jericho I and II missiles are believed constructed. Israel is reportedly trying to obtain technology to improve the accuracy of the Jericho missiles, as it currently lacks the components necessary for precision gyroscopes and sensors.

It should be noted for all Israel’s purported nuclear weapon delivery vehicles, that the nuclear warheads for these systems may not actually be deployed. In fact, many analysts believe that Israel maintains a nuclear arsenal that is stored but not armed, requiring some preparation before use. This allows for the oft-repeated mantra that “Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.” The semantic rationalization is that the bomb components are not actually assembled “weapons.”

There is also the fact that the U.S. Navy deployed nuclear weapons in the region for years in the Sixth Fleet, and the U.S. stationed nuclear weapons at the bomber base in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Despite the Israeli arsenal’s likely unassembled status, as Professor Martin van Creveld of Hebrew University stated, “An A-bomb that is, or is believed to be ‘only a screw-driver away,’ is nearly as effective a deterrent as one openly brandished.”

Jericho-2 (Luz YA-3) MRBM

– Year Deployed: 1990

– Dimensions: 12.0 meters length, 1.2 meters width

– Weight: 6,500 kilograms

– Propulsion: Two stage solid propellent

– Throw-weight: 1,000 kilograms

– Range: 1,500 kilometers

– Guidance: Inertial

– Circular Error Probable: Unknown

– Warhead: Single

– Yield: Conventional, chemical, or nuclear possible

– Locations: Unknown

– Number Deployed: ~50 missiles

– Primary Contractor: IAI

The Jericho II improved greatly upon the performance of its predecessor. It was developed in the mid-1970’s to early 1980’s, with the first test flight in 1986. Unlike the single-stage Jericho I, the Jericho II has two stages, which allow for a greatly increased range of 1,500 kilometers as opposed to 500.

Like its predecessor, the Jericho II is road mobile. In addition to inertial guidance, it may have some sort of terminal guidance as well to increase accuracy — details are unknown. There also appears to be a South African connection. Unconfirmed reports suggest that there was significant South African funding for the Jericho II, and that the South Africans may even possess modified Jericho IIs under the designation “Arniston.”

The payload is reportedly double that of the Jericho I, at 1,000 kilograms, more than enough to carry a nuclear weapon. It is not conclusively known whether the Israelis have allocated nuclear weapons to the Jericho II, but it is extremely likely, given the great range, payload, and capability of the system.

The Jericho II brings a dramatic increase in prompt delivery capability for the Israelis with its long range. It is capable of hitting the entire panoply of targets in the Middle East (particularly Iran), as well as southwestern Russia. There is an even greater incipient capability in Israel’s space launch program. The Jericho II and the Shavit (Comet) space launch rocket are very similar. The Shavit launched the first Israeli satellite (Ofeq-1) into orbit in September 1988. The Shavit could conceivably be modified and used to deliver a nuclear weapon. Its mere existence means Israel is be capable of building an ICBM, though there appears to be no strategic imperative or political desire to do so.


Jericho 3 IRBM



Alternate Name: 





Road mobile


15.50 m


1.56 m

Launch Weight: 

29000 kg


1000 to 1300 kg


750 kg Nuclear; possible MIRV


3-stage solid


4800-6500 km



In Service: 

Exp. 2008 (?)



The Jericho 3 is currently in development. It is believed to have a two or three-stage solid propellant ballistic missile with a payload of 1,000 to 1,300 kg. It is possible for the missile to be equipped with a single 750 kg nuclear warhead or two or three low yield MIRV warheads. It has an estimated launch weight of 29,000 kg and a length of 15.5 m with a width of 1.56 m. It likely is similar to an upgraded Shavit space launch vehicle, though it will probably have longer first and second-stage motors. It is estimated that it will have a range of 4,800 to 6,500 km (2,982 to 4,038 miles). It is believed that the Jericho 3 uses inertial guidance with a radar guided warhead. The missile will probably be silo-based with mobile vehicle and railcar capabilities

The Jericho 3 will give Israel nuclear strike capabilities within the entire Middle East. In the advent of another Israeli-Arab war, the Jericho 3 will provide a deterrent against a possible nuclear attack. It will also provide Israel a last option to prevent being overrun and will likely secure U.S. military aid, as the U.S. government will have a strong desire to advert a nuclear war in the region. The range of the Jericho 3 also provides an extremely high impact speed for nearby targets, enabling it to avoid any Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) defenses that may develop in the immediate region.

Reports suggest that the Jericho 3 missile was first tested in January 2008 with a subsequent motor test in February 2008. Though originally estimated to be in service by the end of 2008, its current status is unknown.

January 17, 2008 :: Ha’aretz :: News

Israel today announced the successful test launch of a ballistic missile capable of carrying an “unconventional” warhead, presumably nuclear.  The missile was launched from the Palmachim military base near Jerusalem, where some 90 Jericho II missiles are believed to be stationed, according to Jane’s Strategic Weapons Systems.  The identity of the missile was not released.  The Israeli Defense Force’s brief press release on the test only described it as a “two-stage” missile.  The purpose of the test was described as “testing missile propulsion.”

Israel has been believed to have had for several years the Jericho II missile with a range of 1500 km, and to be developing a Jericho III missile with a possible range between 4,800 and 6,500 km.  The Jericho III was at one time expected to be in service by 2008, but has also been previously reported as having three stages.

It is believed a Jericho Three will be able to travel around 5,000 kilometres, bringing all of Iran and Europe into its range.–tmYe04

Air-Based Weapons

F-4E-2000 Phantom

– Year Deployed: Unknown

– Dimensions: 17.76 meters length, 4.69 meters height, 11,70 meters wingspan

– Weight: maximum takeoff – 24,765 kilograms

– Propulsion: Two J79-GE-8 turbojets

– Range: 1,600 kilometers

– Speed: Mach 2+

– Maximum Loadout: Four ground-attack munition hardpoints

– Weapon Load: 7,200 kilograms

– Locations: Unknown

– Number Deployed: 50 aircraft

– Primary Contractor: McDonnell Douglas

The Phantom (officially the Phantom II) was originally designed as a two-seat, two-engine, long-range all-weather attack fighter for American carriers. Initial development began in 1954, although its role was soon changed to that of a missile fighter. The Phantom has had a long and distinguished history since the first F-4A flew in 1958, going through various upgrades and variations and serving with several U.S. allies.

The Israelis have the F-4E version, which was designed as a multi-role fighter capable of air superiority, close air support, and interdiction missions.

This version also has an additional fuselage fuel cell for increased range, as well as the leading edge slats developed for the F-4F, which give the aircraft more maneuverability. More recently they have entered a refit for their entire force known as Phantom 2000, to extend the life of the aircraft beyond the year 2000. The first aircraft completed modifications in 1989, which include reinforced skin and fuel cells, complete rewiring, and improved avionics, electronic countermeasures, and cockpit enhancements.

Though aging, the Phantoms remain capable aircraft. There is reason to believe they were once allocated to the nuclear role, and so may still be. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israeli force were being driven back across the Sinai by the Egyptians, and were in jeopardy of losing the Golan to the Syrians, Israel’s nuclear forces were reportedly put on heightened alert. This allegedly included placing a squadron of F-4Es on continuous alert, manned by Israel’s most elite pilots, ready to strike with Israel’s nascent nuclear arsenal.

Another report in Time magazine credits Prime Minister Golda Meir with ordering the nuclear weapons armed in preparation for a strike, though “Before any triggers were set, however, the battle on both fronts turned in Israel’s favor. The 13 bombs were sent [back] to their desert arsenals.”These actions were partially taken to convince the U.S. of the seriousness of the situation, and to intervene, but it does seem that the Middle East came quite close to nuclear conflict in 1973.

Today, despite the Phantom 2000 modernization program, these aircraft are aging. The nuclear bomb delivery role is more likely allocated to the more modern F-16s. However, given the F-4E’s past nuclear mission, and the possibility of a continued role, they are listed here.

F-16 Falcon

– Year Deployed: 1980

– Dimensions: 15.03 meters length, 5.09 meters height, 9.45 meters wingspan

– Weight: empty – 8,273 kilograms, maximum takeoff – 19,187 kilograms

– Propulsion: F-16A-10 – F100PW200, F-16C-30 – F110GE100A, F-16C-40 – F110GE100

– Range: (hi-lo-lo-hi) 630 kilometers

– Speed: Mach 2+

– Maximum Loadout: 1 fuselage hardpoint, 6 wing hardpoints, two wingtip air-to-air missile mounts — carries various munitions, including nuclear gravity bombs

– Weapon Load: 5,400 kilograms

– Locations: Unknown

– Number Deployed: 205 F-16 aircraft

– Primary Contractor: Lockheed (General Dynamics)

The F-16 Fighting Falcon has been a very successful American fighter, produced in great numbers (approximately 4,000 aircraft) and widely exported. The design goal was to produce a capable, but inexpensive multirole fighter — the first test flight took place in December 1976. The A and C versions are single seat, while the B and D versions have two seats. The F-16 is a capable and flexible design, capable of high performance in both the air superiority and ground attack roles, depending on munitions. The flight controls are digital computer-controlled fly-by-wire, complemented by advanced navigation and avionics systems.

The Israeli F-16 have been extensively modified with Israeli equipment, as well as optional U.S. equipment, particularly enhanced jamming and electronic countermeasures equipment. Israel began accepting deliveries of the A-model starting in 1980, with deliveries of the block 40 C-model starting in 1992. Israel was also slated to receive an additional 50 older F-16s A/Bs starting in October 1994. Israel has been the biggest export recipient of the F-16. Given that the Falcon is probably the most capable Israeli attack aircraft, it would likely be tasked with the delivery of nuclear air-to-ground munitions.

Israel Acquires 20 F-35 Radar Evading Stealth Bomber

In the strongest indication that the Jewish state is spoiling for an armed conflict with Teheran, Israel has acquired the most powerful and dangerous stealth bomber in the world, F-35. Tel-Aviv has entered a purchase contract with Lockheed Martin to acquire 20- F-35 Stealth fighters.

The F-35 is the worlds most advanced combat jets, increasing the defense capacity of the Jewish state significantly. Israel has threatened to launch a pre-emptive attack on Teheran’s nuclear installation facilities and the F-35 is best suited for such a mission.

Tel Aviv hopes to equip four air force squadrons with these radar-evading fighters with 50 more of these most powerful fighter-bombers in Middle East.

The US government through its $3 billion annual military aid funds the purchase alongside the Israeli defense $1.4 billion in contract for the jets components.

Other Weapons

Seymour Hersh alleges that Israel’s nuclear artillery infrastructure is particularly large. During the Yom Kippur War there were allegedly three nuclear capable artillery battalions, containing self-propelled 175 mm guns. Later 203 mm nuclear artillery shells were reportedly developed. However, it should be noted that some of Hersh’s reporting has been disputed, and these allegations of a sizable nuclear artillery infrastructure cannot be taken as proven fact.

There were also allegations that a flash in the southern Indian Ocean on September 22, 1979, detected by a VELA satellite was a joint Israeli/South African nuclear test. Seymour Hersh has alleged that Israeli Defense Force sources have confirmed that the test was of a nuclear artillery shell, detonated on a barge. Nearby South African and Israeli naval forces lend credence to the allegations, as does the fact that South Africa reportedly completed its first nuclear device a short time afterwards. The covert test allegations are still officially denied today.

It was the revelations of nuclear weapons worker Mordechai Vanunu which revealed Israeli’s nuclear secrets. He published pictures and detailed descriptions of the secret Dimona reactor and weapon facility in the October 6, 1986 London Sunday Times. He estimated the arsenal at 200 weapons, including sophisticated types such as enhanced-radiation (neutron) and even hydrogen bombs. It appears Israel bypassed the first generation of fission weapons all together and went to boosted fission weapons, whereby deuterium and tritium are inserted into the plutonium warhead at the moment of explosion, flooding it with neutrons and “jump starting” the reaction.

There was a real shift in Israel’s nuclear posture during the Gulf War, when oblique references nuclear attack became common in response to Saddam Hussein’s threats to use chemical weapons against Israel. Indeed, American spy satellites reportedly photographed Israel flexing its nuclear muscles in a way it had not since the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (see the Phantom entry for description of that incident.) Israel had gone on full nuclear alert and deployed nuclear launchers facing Iraq — a move probably as much to impress the seriousness of the situation on the watching Americans as to threaten Iraq.

In short, the Israeli nuclear weapon infrastructure is probably quite large, including the full range of strategic and tactical battlefield weapons.


Israel ALSO deploys nuclear arms in submarines

Israeli and American officials have admitted collaborating to deploy US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel’s fleet of Dolphin-class submarines, giving the Middle East’s only nuclear power the ability to strike at any of its Arab neighbours.

The sea-launch capability gives Israel the ability to target Iran more easily should the Iranians develop their own nuclear weapons.

Although it has been long suspected that Israel bought three German diesel-electric submarines with the specific aim of arming them with nuclear cruise missiles, the admission that the two countries had collaborated in arming the fleet with a nuclear-capable weapons system is significant at a time of growing crisis between Israel and its neighbours.

The disclosure, is certain to complicate UN-led efforts to persuade Iran to make a full disclosure of its nuclear programme. Although Israel has long been known to possess nuclear weapons, in the past it has abided by a deal struck with President Richard Nixon in 1969 that it would maintain ‘ambiguity’ about its retention of weapons in exchange for the US turning a blind eye. According to reliable estimates, Israel has around 200 to 500 nuclear warheads.

It acquired the three Dolphin class submarines, which can remain at sea for a month, in the late Nineties. They are equipped with six torpedo tubes suitable for the 21-inch torpedoes that are normally used on most submarines.

It had been understood they would carry a version of the ‘Popeye Turbo’ cruise missiles being developed by Rafael Armament Development Authority of Israel.

Israel’s seaborne nuclear doctrine is designed to place one submarine in the Persian Gulf, the other in the Mediterranean, with a third on standby. Secret test launches of the cruise missile systems were understood to have been undertaken in May 2000 when Israel carried out tests in the Indian Ocean.

The US stand on the sophisticated Israeli nuclear arsenal: ‘We tolerate nuclear weapons in Israel for the same reason we tolerate them in Britain and France,’ one of the LA Times’ American official sources told the paper. ‘We don’t regard Israel as a threat.’  (OSHSH)


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