Raid on the Sun

Raid on the Sun

4.18 (391 ratings by Goodreads)
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The first authorized inside account of one of the most daring—and successful—military operations in recent history

From the earliest days of his dictatorship, Saddam Hussein had vowed to destroy Israel. So when France sold Iraq a top-of-the-line nuclear reactor in 1975, the Israelis were justifiably concerned—especially when they discovered that Iraqi scientists had already formulated a secret program to extract weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor, a first critical step in creating an atomic bomb. The reactor formed the heart of a huge nuclear plant situated twelve miles from Baghdad, 1,100 kilometers from Tel Aviv. By 1981, the reactor was on the verge of becoming “hot,” and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin knew he would have to confront its deadly potential. He turned to Israeli Air Force commander General David Ivry to secretly plan a daring surgical strike on the reactor—a never-before-contemplated mission that would prove to be one of the most remarkable military operations of all time.

Written with the full and exclusive cooperation of the Israeli Air Force high command, General Ivry (ret.), and all of the eight mission pilots (including Ilan Ramon, who become Israel’s first astronaut and perished tragically in the shuttle Columbia disaster), Raid on the Sun tells the extraordinary story of how Israel plotted the unthinkable: defying its U.S. and European allies to eliminate Iraq’s nuclear threat. In the tradition of Black Hawk Down, journalist Rodger Claire re-creates a gripping tale of personal sacrifice and survival, of young pilots who trained in the United States on the then-new, radically sophisticated F-16 fighter bombers, then faced a nearly insurmountable challenge: how to fly the 1,000-plus-kilometer mission to Baghdad and back on one tank of fuel. He recounts Israeli intelligence’s incredible “black ops” to sabotage construction on the French reactor and eliminate Iraqi nuclear scientists, and he gives the reader a pilot’s-eye view of the action on June 7, 1981, when the planes roared off a runway on the Sinai Peninsula for the first successful destruction of a nuclear reactor in history.
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Weapons of mass destruction? Look for them in the rubble of Iraq's al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility, destroyed by Israeli flyers 23 years ago. After attaining power, writes Los Angeles-based journalist and screenwriter Claire, Saddam Hussein set about making Iraq a nuclear power. But early on, "for all Hussein's obsession with control, it was clear that Iraq had been taken for a ride by the superpowers." The Soviets, for instance, sold Hussein a leaky reactor in the early 1960s, for which the Soviets charged by the ton and layered on all kinds of useless and ancient hardware. Hussein had his revenge: he ordered his scientists to figure out how to develop weapons-grade materials from the reactor, then expelled the Soviets in 1972 and stopped payment. Claire marvels at the ingenuity of those scientists, among them Khidir Hamza, who worried about "his part in enabling Saddam's ambitious plans to become a nuclear state" but still figured that the achievement of building the Arab world's first nuclear weapon would look good on his resume. Enter France, which sold Hussein a better reactor and helped speed the process along. Enter Israel, which had no intention of sharing nuclear-power status with a hostile neighbor; it launched a daring air raid on Iraq that involved crossing over hundreds of miles of desert only a hundred or so feet above the ground. The pilots, among them Israeli's first astronaut, passed directly above Jordanian King Hussein's yacht; fortunately, he didn't pick up the phone to call Baghdad, and the raid went on as planned, destroying the Iraqi nuclear plant with letter-perfect precision and making the French technicians there very glum indeed-as well as displeasing US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who called the raid "reckless" and briefly suspended arms sales to Israel. Drawing on interviews with the Israeli pilots involved, Claire's well-paced account is of interest to aerial-warfare buffs, and a useful if minor footnote to the war against Hussein. (Kirkus Reviews)
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391 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 40% (157)
4 41% (161)
3 16% (63)
2 2% (8)
1 1% (2)
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