Is the earliest the Mullahs will be able to make good their Israel-wiping pledge – thats because they have to enrich enough Uranium not just for one test, but also to be able immediately to destroy Israel.

Although the Uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima was never tested, that’s because its design was very simple. Such weapons are low yield, and won’t destroy the Israelis – much of the loss of life caused by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was caused by the flimsy Japanese houses catching fire when the blast overturned cooking stoves.

To get better yield, they’ll use implosion weapons that squeeze a Uranium core using the shaped charge technologies they’re killing our troops with in Iraq. They’ll also need neutron boosters, a Uranium tampers, and a fusion booster containing deuterium and tritium. This all needs testing, since a fizzle over Tel Aviv would just get the Mullahs nuked for zero return.

But Uranium for one bomb isn’t enough, since the Israelis will hit them as soon as they test. So, they’ll need a sufficient armory ready to launch on their Shahab missiles. How many is sufficient?

Allowing for the Israeli Arrow BMD system, my guess is about 10. The Arrow has worked well in tests but, like all defensive systems, can be overwhelmed by a mass attack,. That would force the Israeli satellites and radars to track multiple targets, and the Arrow Battle Management System to figure out which are decoys and then attack the warheads in order of threat.

The Israelis are brilliant engineers, but my guess is they’ll do well to stop 75% of incoming warheads. To destroy Israel, the Mullahs will need to get four 100 Kiloton weapons through, and at 75% interception, that means a volley of 20. With clever use of decoys, the Mullahs might be able to get their desired result with 10 real and 10 decoy warheads.

The Mullahs’ Pakistani bomb design uses 20 Kg of 85% enriched Uranium per warhead, so allowing for the test, that’s 11*20 – 220 Kg.

So, how long will it take them? They just claimed they have 3,000 centrifuges operational. That’s probably not true, but let’s accept it at face value.

It takes about 1500 cascaded centrifuges to make enough Uranium for one implosion bomb in a year, so that means 5.5 years for 11 bombs from 3,000 centrifuges.

But if they really can build centrifuges as quickly as they say, they might just ramp to 15,000 in another year, giving a capacity of 10 bombs a year.

So, bottom line is an earliest test and destruction of Israel in about three years. That’s later than our last forecast, but that didn’t take account of the success of the Arrow 2.

Hence, the Mullahs will be ringing 2010 in their calendars.

And the Israelis will be ringing 2009.


5 Responses to 2010

  1. Jay says:

    Not sure about the test thing. Those guys are lunatics, and testing is the sort of thing done by sane countries. I don’t see it as a stretch for them to have full confidance their first bomb will work, even if it says “ACME” on the side and is held together with duct tape.

    (ok maybe it will say “la acme” or “le acme”)

  2. gandalf says:


    You could be right.

    But the Mullahs would surely hate it if all they had to show for decades of effort were a) a bunch of 50′ craters in Tel Aviv and b) the arrival of 400 Israeli nukes.

    They could bypass testing with simulation on supercomputers – as the Israelis no doubt do – but the concept “Iranian Supercomputer” does not, er, compute.

    Or they could test in Pakistan, but another test there risks Indian wrath.

    So on balance I think they’ll test.

    But the Israelis may decide not to take the chance.

  3. dearieme says:

    The Israelis must test surely? A supercomputer just tells you the consequences of your assumptions – a test is what tests your assumptions. Where do they do it? As allegedly French tests in the Pacific?

  4. gandalf says:


    The Israelis are thought to have tested in September 1979 in the Indian Ocean. The test was run jointly with the South Africans (who subsequently built 6 A bombs).



    You’re right that supercomputers are just modeling devices, but that’s how we build bridges, forecast the weather etc.

    That’s also why supercomputers are under heavy export controls. Or were when I last looked – who knows, maybe we now hand them out to despots for free!

  5. dearieme says:

    “You’re right that supercomputers are just modeling devices, but that’s how we build bridges, forecast the weather etc.” Yes, but the models of bridges are tested when the bridges work; the weather models are tested daily. I’d be damned if I wanted to punt my nation’s existence on untested models. Of course, you could test your models against other nation’s test explosions, if you happened to get access to the data. That’s a thought.

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