TechIsrael's Stealth Strikes: Decoding the Isfahan Attack Arsenal

Israel's Stealth Strikes: Decoding the Isfahan Attack Arsenal

F-16I Sufa
F-16I Sufa
Images source: © Public domain | Master Sgt. Kevin Gruenwald

7:33 AM EDT, April 20, 2024

Israel might have employed sophisticated long-range weaponry launched from aircraft to strike the Iranian facility in Isfahan. This article explores the potential armaments Jerusalem could have deployed against its adversary.

The assault on the Iranian complex in Isfahan was executed using cruise missiles, though the specific models remain undisclosed. Israel's arsenal for striking targets over 621 miles away is somewhat limited.

Apart from the ballistic missiles Jericho, which are armed with nuclear warheads and serve as a form of "last resort" weapon, Israel can launch cruise missiles from aircraft several hundred miles away from their targets.

The Extended Reach of Israeli Aircraft

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) boasts a broad array of precision-guided munitions. Among the most well-known is the Popeye cruise missile, which entered service in 1986. Initially, these missiles had a range of about 62 miles. Today, the most prevalent version, the Popeye Turbo, features a turbojet engine and can travel over 186 miles.

These missiles, weighing more than a ton, carry a warhead of 770 pounds. Popeye is noted for its exceptional accuracy, with a circular error probable (CEP) of less than 10 feet. This precision is achieved through satellite and inertial navigation, complemented by an infrared optoelectronic head. The head is also capable of autonomously identifying targets using image recognition algorithms.

The second most recognized IAF weapon is the Delilah cruise missile, introduced in 1994. This missile, powered by a turbojet, can cover a distance of 155 miles and is notable for its lightweight of 407 pounds, including a 66-pound warhead. Its accuracy of less than one meter makes it ideal for taking out specific targets like radars or anti-aircraft missile sites.

This precision is obtained through GPS and INS navigation systems, along with an optoelectronic head that captures the thermal signature of the target. Remarkably, the missile can loiter in the air, waiting for its target to appear or to re-engage in case of a missed initial attempt. A single aircraft can carry multiple units of this weapon.

Both the Delilah and Popeye are subsonic, flying at speeds below Mach 1 (767 mph) and maintaining low altitudes to evade radar detection, similar to the Storm Shadow missiles used in Ukraine.

Recent Advances in Long-Range Capability

Despite their capabilities, these missile systems have relatively short ranges, necessitating launches from locations near Iranian airspace. Israel has recently developed missiles like ROCKS and RAMPAGE, which boast significantly extended ranges compared to their predecessors, estimated at at least 311 miles.

The ROCKS missile, a versatile addition to Israel's arsenal, can be equipped with either a fragmentation or penetrating warhead. Designed to achieve accuracy within 10 feet, it utilizes a GPS/INS navigation system and an infrared optoelectronic head. This advanced system not only serves as a precision strike weapon but can also be deployed as an anti-radar weapon, effectively neutralizing enemy radar installations.

RAMPAGE, contrastingly, is a supersonic missile, making it a challenging target for adversaries. Its exact range has not been disclosed, but it's known for its ability to execute complex manoeuvres and reach speeds of up to 1228 mph, or Mach 1.7. RAMPAGE has a weight of approximately 1257 pounds, with a length of 15 feet and a diameter of 12 inches.

The manufacturer has highlighted that up to four RAMPAGE missiles can be mounted on F-16 fighters and are compatible with the internal bays of Israel's F-35I Adir jets. The specifics of the munitions used in the Isfahan attack will likely come to light following the analysis of debris from the site.

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