The helicopters and refuelling tankers flew more than 1,400km (870 miles), roughly the distance between Israel and Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
The New York Times reported that Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise.
A spokesman for the Israeli military said the air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel". " BBC
We went over this once before in a study of what Israeli routes would likely be in an attack on Natanz. Rick Francona has looked at this on his blog. He is a skilled and experienced air force officer and I trust his judgment as I always did.
My thoughts on the overflight clearance issue:
"Overflight Clearance" is the granting of permission for one country’s military or civilian aircraft to fly over and through the air space of another sovereign political entity. For one country to overfly the territory of another without permission is a clear violation of international law which invites engagement by air defense forces of the country overflown or any country that has effective authority to grant or deny overflight permission.
"could be used to rescue downed pilots" Really? Where? Routes to and from Natanz would have to cross some combination of the territories of Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia are extremely unlikely to grant overflight clearance for this purpose. Presumably this would include Search-Air Rescue (SAR) missions over their territory as well as the strike itself. Egress from Iran after a strike might well involve Israeli aircraft with combat damage or mechanical problems. Downed aviators in Jordan, Iraq or Saudi Arabia would be a distinct possibility. Are the Israelis envisioning fighting their way into and out of these countries on SAR missions? Would the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Iraq allow damaged Israeli aircraft to land on airfields in Iraq or these other countries?
Is Turkey going to grant Israel overflight clearance for a routing of the strike or SAR that would enter Turkey at its Mediterranean coast near Iskendurun, turn east to reach Iranian kurdistan, then south to Natnz and return by same route? Opinions?
Is a Syrian route a realistic possibility? Certainly the Syrians are not going to grant such overflight permission. Was the "celebrated" Israeli mission in Syria a while back a test to see how difficult it would be to use Syrian airspace?
Finally, there is the issue of whether or not the Israelis would have overflight clearance for Iraqi airspace at all. At present, the US exercizes airspace control for Iraqi airspace under the authority it has from the UN for the coalition’s operations. This authority from the UN is to expire soon. Because of this (and other reasons), the US is seeking acceptance from the Iraqi government for two agreements. One is a SOFA agreement and the other amounts to a mutual defense and cooperation pact. Among the things the US wants under these agreements is a continuation of its authority over Iraqi airspace. The Iraqis are reluctant to concede this as well as a number of other points.
I wonder why. pl