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.