U.S., Israel Ponder How to Slow Iranian Nuclear Weapons Development

[Aviation Week] David A. Fulghum and Douglas Barrie - The Iranians purposefully have not followed Iraq's 1981 model of concentrating their nuclear development in a single area. Yet U.S. and Israel officials suggest that not every nuclear-related site need be struck to hobble any nascent nuclear weapons program. "There are lots of links in the chain you can attack," says a former senior Israeli diplomat. "There may be 40 facilities, but you select only four. You don't have to attack all of them. For example, some targets are vulnerable to movement, like centrifuges. They need stability, so if you create enough [vibration or Earth tremors], their alignment can be distorted." U.S. officials have estimated there are as many as 70 Iranian nuclear sites, of which a minimum of 15 would have to be attacked. A senior U.S. Air Force official contends that evidence of plutonium, centrifuge use, cooling and power generation/transmission will provide the proper targeting signatures for "a couple of handfuls of attacks - less than a dozen" to shut down Iranian nuclear progress for years. Yet the fact that many of the Iranian targets are underground presents a problem. U.S. weapons like the GBU-28 can penetrate 30 ft. of hardened materials or 100 ft. of earth. But Iranian facilities are reportedly buried 100-200 ft. below the surface. "Conventional weapons can't penetrate to 200 ft., and the U.S. won't use nuclear weapons," a retired Israeli air force general notes.

2006-09-11 01:00:00

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