Israel to Iraq
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Flight Summary
07/06/1981 - 'Operation Opera' was a surprise Israeli F-16 airstrike on an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor 600 miles away. Many regard it as perhaps the most daring and significant mission of its type in History.
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Operation Opera - Wikipedia

 

Operation Opera - Israel Airstrike on Iraq Nuclear Reactor 1981 (youtube.com)

 

The operation started on 7 June 1981, at 15:55 local time (12:55 GMT). The Israeli planes left Etzion Airbase, flying unchallenged in Jordanian and Saudi airspace. To avoid detection, the Israeli pilots conversed in Saudi-accented Arabic while in Jordanian airspace and told Jordanian air controllers that they were a Saudi patrol that had gone off course. While flying over Saudi Arabia, they pretended to be Jordanians, using Jordanian radio signals and formations. The Israeli planes were so heavily loaded that the external fuel tanks that had been mounted on the planes were exhausted in-flight. The tanks were jettisoned over the Saudi desert.

 

King Hussein of Jordan, vacationing in the Gulf of Aqaba, witnessed the planes overfly his yacht, and noticed their Israeli markings. Taking into account the location, heading, and armament of the jets, Hussein quickly deduced the Iraqi reactor to be the most probable target. Hussein immediately contacted his government and ordered a warning to be sent to the Iraqis. However, due to a communication failure the message was never received and the Israeli planes entered Iraqi airspace undetected. Upon reaching Iraqi airspace, the squadron split up, with two of the F-15s forming close escort to the F-16 squadron, and the remaining F-15s dispersing into Iraqi airspace as a diversion and ready back-up. The attack squadron descended to 30 m (100 ft) over the Iraqi desert, attempting to fly under the radar of the Iraqi defences.

 

At 18:35 local time (14:35 GMT), 20 km (12 mi) from the Osirak reactor complex, the F-16 formation climbed to 2,100 m (6,900 ft) and went into a 35-degree dive at 1,100 km/h (680 mph), aimed at the reactor complex. At 1,100 m (3,600 ft), the F-16s began releasing the Mark 84 bombs in pairs, at 5-second intervals. At least eight of the sixteen released bombs struck the containment dome of the reactor. It was later revealed that half an hour before the Israeli planes arrived, a group of Iraqi soldiers manning anti-aircraft defenses had left their posts for an afternoon meal, turning off their radars.The Israeli planes were still intercepted by Iraqi defenses but managed to evade the remaining anti-aircraft fire. The squadron climbed to high altitude and started their return to Israel. The attack lasted less than two minutes.

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