Friday, February 26, 2010

A Piece of the Puzzle

Israel's new UAV has gotten some press attention as a possible weapon for a strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure:

The Eitan can carry a ton of payload and can reach Iran's nuclear facilities, which the United Nations last week determined is hiding an active weapons program. But that does not mean these will be used as bombers. The IAF has been buying and upgrading airplanes specifically for long-distance strikes such as a potential attack against Iran. At least 50 F-15 Raam and F-16 Soufa aircraft have been converted by installing extra fuel tanks for greater range and countermeasures to defeat radar and missiles. So maybe the warplane/UAV tag team presented at the "operational acceptance ceremony" speaks to how manned and unmanned aircraft will work together on missions: The drone provides information while the manned airplanes drop the guided munitions.

Working from high altitudes, the Eitan will likely be used to provide prestrike information on targets, to eavesdrop on electronic communications and to send battle damage assessments back after an attack. It will also undoubtably be used to monitor any retaliation for the airstrike—seeking rocket launches and eavesdropping on Iran.
Forget about notions that this UAV would function as a strategic bomber. Battle damage assessment would be valuable for determining whether Israel needs to follow up an attack by aircraft with attacks using conventional ballistic missiles or cruise missiles, as I speculated in this WAG about the outlines of an Israeli attack on Iran.