07.06.

1981: Israeli Air Strike Destroys a Nuclear Facility in Iraq

1981: Israeli Air Strike Destroys a Nuclear Facility in Iraq
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 7 June 1981
  • Israel sent a squadron of eight fighter-bombers, each armed with two heavy bombs (925 kg) and equipped with additional fuel tanks because of the long distance to the target.

On this day the Israeli Air Force undertook an offensive in the heart of Iraq’s territory. They bombed and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor located 17 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.

It was believed in Israel that the reactor was intended for the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. The story about the Iraqi nuclear program began six years before, when Saddam Hussein tried to acquire the first real nuclear reactor for his country.

He turned to the USSR, but they conditioned the building of the reactor with placing the plant under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Saddam refused.

Six months later, the French offered their reactor to Iraq, without any conditions of supervision. Saddam accepted and the construction of the 40 megawatt reactor began in 1979.

The purchase of 72 kilograms of enriched uranium to fuel the reactor was also agreed with the French.

The Israelis decided to respond with a pre-emptive strike. They concluded that the facility must be destroyed before the reactor is filled with nuclear fuel, or else radioactive contamination would occur, which could threaten one million inhabitants of the nearby city of Baghdad.

Of course, the Cabinet of Israel was composed of hawks (pro-intervention members) and doves (peace-loving members), but the hawks prevailed and it was decided to strike.

A squadron of eight F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-bombers was sent, each armed with two heavy bombs of 925 kg and equipped with additional fuel tanks because of the long distance to target.

Another six F-15 Eagle fighters were sent as an escort, which were supposed to secure airspace. The man who later became the first Israeli astronaut was among the pilots of F-16.

All of the weaponry was, of course, made in America. The Americans readily used the mentioned bombs in Vietnam and, because of their power, gave them the nickname “Hammer”.

The center of the plant was directly hit by at least eight bombs. 10 Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian employed on the construction of the reactor were killed. The Israeli aircraft returned without suffering any losses.

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