30th anniversary of Operation Opera

In a complex operation, IAF planes eliminated a nuclear threat from Iraq in 1981

Date: 10/08/2011, 12:45 PM     Author: IDF (Zahal) Website

On June 7, 1981, the IAF destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Baghdad in a complex operation – Operation Opera – and eliminated a pending threat to Israel’s existence.

Iraq’s nuclear developments posed a clear danger to Israel’s existence according to several military intelligence reports. This was fortified by Saddam Hussein’s claims that Iraq’s nuclear developments were intended to be used against Israel.

Israel’s efforts to eliminate this threat proved difficult due to the remote location of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, the route through hostile countries that IAF aircraft were required to take and limited fuel capacity.

Regardless of these complications, IAF F-16 planes bombed the Baghdad reactor, destroying the structure. The Iraqi radar system did not detect the IAF planes, enabling the planes to use the element of surprise and return safely to Israel after successfully completing their mission.

One of the IAF pilots that participated in the operation was Ilan Ramon, who later became the first Israeli astronaut and lost his life in 2003 when the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated during its return to Earth.