Israel has a big advantage with more modern aircraft and nuclear capability

The armament of the air forces of Israel and Iran for a war between the two countries

Several Western countries have asked their citizens not to travel to Israel due to an imminent attack by Iran.

The weapons that the Israel Defense Forces have to wipe Hamas off the map
Photos of an Israeli captain showing the Merkava MkIV in action against Hamas

Among the countries that have issued security alerts are United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia. Everything indicates that the Iranian attack on Israel could arrive in the coming days.

Due to the geographical distance between both countries and the fact that they do not have a common border (between them are the territories of Iraq and Syria), we could be facing an imminent war with aerial means (planes, drones and missiles, mainly), regardless of the fact that Iran can resort to its terrorist terminals in the area (Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad) to contribute to Iranian attacks against Israel.

We are going to review below the military means that both countries have to face a war of these characteristics. I advance, from the start, that Israel has an Air Force much superior to that of Iran and, in addition, has the capacity to launch nuclear weapons. The data shown below is largely taken from the report "The Military Balance 2024" from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.


Two F-15D Eagle fighters of the Israeli Air Force during an exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada, United States (Photo: Israel Defense Forces).

Israeli Air Force

It has 34,000 members and 340 combat-capable aircraft, a figure that includes 310 fighters and attack aircraft:

  • 8 F-15A Eagle (Baz).
  • 6 F-15B Eagle (Baz).
  • 17 F-15C Eagle (Baz).
  • 19 F-15D Eagle (Baz).
  • 25 F-15I Ra’am, with the capacity to transport nuclear weapons.
  • 50 F-16C Fighting Falcon (Barak).
  • 49 F-16D Fighting Falcon (Barak).
  • 97 F-16I Fighting Falcon (Sufa), with the capacity to transport nuclear weapons.
  • 39 F-35I Adir.

In addition, the Israeli Air Force has other aircraft that would have an important role in that air war, in support and intelligence tasks:

  • 10 reconnaissance aircraft and intelligence collection (6 RC-12D Guardrail, 1 Gulfstream G-550 Oron and 3 Gulfstream G-550 Shavit).
  • 2 early warning aircraft Gulfstream G-550 Eitam.
  • 10 tanker aircraft (4 KC-130H and 6 KC-707).

The Israeli Air Force has the following unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs):

  • 3 IAI Heron (Shoval) heavy reconnaissance drones, with a range of up to 1,000 km through satellite control.
  • 3 heavy reconnaissance and intelligence drones IAI Heron Heron TP (Eitan), an advanced version of the Shoval.
  • An unknown number of Hermes 450 medium reconnaissance drones, with a range of 300 km.
  • An unknown number of Hermes 900 medium reconnaissance drones, with an autonomy of 36 hours.
  • An unknown number of Orbiter 4 (Nitzotz) light drones, with a range of 150 km.

In addition, the Israeli Air Force has other aircraft:

  • 65 transport aircraft (5 C-130E, 6 C-130H, 7 C-130J-30, 3 AT-802 Air Tractor, 9 Beechcraft 200 King Air, 8 Beechcraft 200T King Air, 5 Beechcraft 200CT King Air and 22 Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza).
  • and 66 training aircraft (16 Grob G-120, 30 M-346 Master and 20 T-6A).
  • 43 attack helicopters (26 AH-64A Apache and 17 AH-64D).
  • 7 anti-submarine warfare helicopters AS-565SA Panther.
  • 12 Bell OH-58B Kiowa reconnaissance and observation helicopters.
  • 80 transport helicopters (25 CH-53D Sea Stallion, 39 S-70A Black Hawk, 10 UH-60A Black Hawk and 6 Bell 206 Jet Ranger).

Surface-to-surface ballistic missiles

Although Israel has concentrated much of its efforts on acquiring anti-aircraft missiles, it also has intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles (IRBM) and long-range (ICBM). As a previous note, to reach any point in Iran's territory, Israel needs missiles with a range of up to 2,800 km:

  • 24 Jericho II missiles, equipping 3 squadrons. Its range and warhead are unknown, but in 2001 Canadian intelligence noted that its range could be up to 7,800 km with a 500 kg warhead, and it could have nuclear capacity.
  • An unknown number of nuclear-capable Jericho III YA-4 missiles, capable of carrying a warhead of between 1,000 and 1,300 kg and 150 to 400 kT (in the case of nuclear warheads) at a distance maximum 4,800 to 6,500 km.

Anti-aircraft defenses

They depend on the Israeli Air Force. It has more than 40 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems:

  • An unknown number of M901 Patriot PAC-2 (Yahalom) long-range missiles, capable of shooting down both aircraft and ballistic missiles. Israel has 4 batteries with these launchers.
  • An unknown number of David's Honda long-range missiles (Kela David), capable of shooting down both aircraft and ballistic missiles. Israel has 2 batteries with these launchers.
  • More than 40 Iron Dome short-range missile launchers (Kipat Barzel), with the capacity to shoot down aircraft and missiles. Israel has 10 batteries with these launchers.
  • 24 Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 long-range missile launchers, with the capacity to shoot down ballistic missiles. Israel has 3 batteries with these launchers.
  • An unknown number of M-163 Machbet anti-aircraft systems, based on the M-113 armored vehicle. Each carries four FIM-92 Stinger short-range surface-to-air missiles and one M-61 Vulcan 20mm rotary cannon.

In addition, Israel has an unknown number of M-167 VADS towed anti-aircraft artillery systems, equipped with a 20 mm M-61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Finally, Israel's newest anti-aircraft weapon is made up of an unknown number of high-energy Iron Beam (Keren Barzel) lasers, with the capacity to shoot down missiles.


An F-14 Tomcat fighter of the Iranian Air Force (Photo:

Iranian Air Force

It has 37,000 members and 265 combat-capable aircraft, a figure that includes 240 fighters and attack aircraft, mostly older than Israel's:

  • 15 F-5B Freedom Fighter.
  • 54 F-5E/F Tiger II.
  • 18 F-7M Airguard (version of the Chinese Chengdu J-7).
  • 10 F-14 Tomcat.
  • 35 MiG-29A/UB.
  • 6 Azarakhsh (a modification of the F-5).
  • 55 F-4D/E Phantom II.
  • 2 Mirage F-1BQ.
  • 10 Mirage F-1EQ.
  • 6 Saegheh (a modification of the F-5).
  • 29 Su-24MK Fencer D.

In addition, the Israeli Air Force has these aircraft that would play an important role in the war:

  • 6 reconnaissance aircraft RF-4E Phantom II.
  • 4 tanker planes (2 B-707 and 2 B-747).

The Iranian Air Force has the following unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs):

  • An unknown number of Kaman 22 heavy combat drones, with a range of 3,000 km and the capacity to carry up to 300 kg of weapons.
  • An unknown number of Ababil 4/5 medium reconnaissance drones, with 100 km range.
  • An unknown number of Kaman 12 medium drones, with up to 1,000 km range.
  • An unknown number of Kaman 22 medium drones, with up to 1,000 km range and capable of transporting up to 300 kg of explosives.
  • An unknown number of Qods Mohajer-6 medium combat drones, with up to 500 km range and capable of carrying up to 150 kg of weapons.

In addition, Iran has these other aircraft:

  • 3 anti-submarine warfare aircraft P-3F Orion.
  • 116 transport aircraft: Heavy: 12 Il-76 Candid; Medium: 19 C-130E/H Hercules; Lightweight: 11 An-74TK-200; 5 An-140; 10 F-27 Friendship; 1 L-1329 Jetstar; 10 PC-6B Turbo Porter; 8 TB-21 Trinidad; 4 TB-200 Tobago; 3 Turbo Commander 680; 14 Y-7; 9 Y-12; PAX 10: ε1 B-707; 1 B-747; 4 B-747F; 1 Falcon 20; 3 Falcon 50.
  • 128 training aircraft: 25 Beech F33A/C Bonanza; 14 JJ-7; 25 MFI-17 Mushshak; 12 Parastu; 15 PC-6; 35 PC-7 Turbo Trainer; 2 Yak-130 Mitten.
  • 36 transport helicopters: Heavy:2 CH-47 Chinook; Medium: 30 Bell 214C (AB-214C); 2Bell 412; Lightweight: 2 Bell 206A Jet Ranger; algunpos Shabaviz 2-75 y Shabaviz 2061 (versiones locales del Bell 206).

Surface-to-surface ballistic missiles

Iran has medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM). This country does not have nuclear capacity. The known weapons are the following:

  • Up to 50 MRBM Emad-1, Ghadr-1/-2, Sajjil-2, Shahab-3 and Khorramshahr.
  • Up to 100 SRBM Fateh-110, Fateh-313, Khalij Fars, Qiam-1/-1 mod, Shahab-1/-2, Zelzal and Zolfaghar.
  • An unknown number of GLCM Ya’ali (Quds-1), Quds-2 and Quds-3.

Anti-aircraft defenses

Iran has more than 410 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers:

  • 10 long-range S-200 Angara (RS-SA-5 Gammon).
  • 32 long-range S-300PMU2 (RS-SA-20 Gargoyle), in 4 batteries.
  • An unknown number of Bavar-373 long-range missiles.
  • 50 medium-range MIM-23B I-Hawk/Shahin, with 16 batteries.
  • 9 medium-range HQ-2 (CH-SA-1).
  • An unknown number of medium-range Talash/15th Khordad.
  • 250 FM-80 short range (CH-SA-4).
  • 29 9K331 Tor-M1 Short Range (RS-SA-15 Gauntlet).


Main photo: Israel Defense Forces. An F-35I of the Israeli Air Force.

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