BOOK REVIEW: Raid on the Sun – Inside Israel’s Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb

I actually finished reading this book sometime during the last quarter of last year, but it’s only now that I got to go around and review it. The book is about a successful raid by the “Heyl Ha’Avir” (Israeli Air Force) in 1981 using their F-16 Fighting Falcons on a Nuclear Reactor in Iraq called “Osirak”. The raid is significant for a number of reasons, first of which is that it was the first time the F-16 was used to bomb a target in actual combat.

Second was that the F-16 was very new to the Israelis, the first ones were delivered in January of 1980 and yet just over a year later they were already using it in combat. Third was that the Israelis did have a number of older aircraft that they were more familiar with like the F-4 Phantom, for example, and yet despite that they insisted on using the F-16 instead, a testament to the aircraft’s capabilities.

Last is that since this was in the 1980s then Precision Guided Weapons were not as readily available as it is now, so the pilots had to use conventional or “dumb” 907 kg bombs and yet almost all of them were able to score direct hits and destroy their objective. They used a “Pop-Up Maneuver” for the mission, climbing to a higher altitude when they were near and then diving back down to release their bombs on the target.

Most of the first parts of the book dealt with Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, his subsequent pursuit for a Nuclear Capability program for Iraq and the Mossad’s many attempts to sabotage it. Also discussed was Israel’s own secretive Nuclear Weapons program. Then there is the extensive political maneuverings under the administration of Menachem Begin leading up to the decision to finally launch the raid after postponing it a couple of times.

The backgrounds of the pilots themselves and their training leading up to the attack was discussed, including some professional intrigue that occurred between them; and the actual raid itself in which was very successful despite a close call over a near navigational mix up. Remember that at that time, Global Positioning System (GPS) was still not widely available.

The author was granted access to interview the Pilots and their families, giving a detailed and more or less complete picture of what really happened during the raid. The only thing that bothered me about the mission was how the F-16s were able to reach their target which was over 1,100 km (one way) away without refueling? It was well beyond the range of the aircraft especially when flying on low altitude as they did on the way to the target, even with drop tanks, and yet they were able to carry it out.

The pilots claimed that they overloaded the aircraft to beyond their maximum takeoff weight and used techniques like “Hot Refueling” (i.e., the dangerous practice of refueling the aircraft just before takeoff while their engines were running), but somehow I am not sure if that was really enough to allow them to reach their target. There could be something there which was not revealed and still remains a mystery up to now.

At any rate, a pretty good book to read, I am giving this an overall rating of Five out of Five Stars. A “must read” for me if you are an aviation or military enthusiast.

(Link to the book at the Amazon Kindle Store can be found here.)

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