"B-52s for Israel": One Really Bad Idea

Robert Farley

Key Point: If the United States sold planes to Israel that then were used to attack Iran, the Iranians would probably still see the U.S. as culpable in the attack and respond.

In April 2014, retired Air Force lieutenant general David Deptula and Michael Makovsky of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal arguing that the United States should turn over a dozen surplus B-52 heavy bombers to Israel.

Deptula and Makovsky said that the eight-engine B-52s should come with a consignment of America’s special Massive Ordnance Penetrators—gigantic bombs tailored for smashing buried facilities. Specifically, nuclear facilities.

“B-52s for Israel,” as we’ve dubbed it, is a silly little proposal with approximately zero chance of actually being implemented. And it’s possible Deptula and Makovsky don’t even mean for anyone to take its details seriously.

Their bomber idea could be part of a media game of sorts, one that certain political constituencies are playing in order to broadly influencepolicy, rather than comprise policy.

But just for fun, let’s consider “B-52s for Israel” as a sober proposal.

Bombers versus Iran:

MOP is a precision-guided gravity bomb. So a B-52 cannot deploy it from standoff range. The bomber has to get close to the target.

The B-52 is slow. This is why you don’t normally fly the giant warplane through contested air space. In 1972, the North Vietnamese shot down a staggering 16 B-52s in 11 days during Operation Linebacker II.

The Iranian air force flies hundreds of MiG-29s, F-7s, F-4s and F-5s and a couple squadrons of U.S.-made F-14s, pictured, that might still wield a version of the long-range Phoenix missile. Any of these jets could intercept Israeli B-52s.

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