Summary:America has redesigned the “bunker buster” bomb that would be used to attack Iran’s most important underground nuclear plant to ensure that any such air strike would destroy the heavily-fortified facility.
Pentagon officials are said to have shown video of the extensive upgrade of what was already the world’s largest conventional bomb to their Israeli counterparts in recent weeks, in an effort to reassure them that the US still has an effective military option against Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The world’s largest conventional bomb, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, has been upgraded with a new design of explosive fuses to enable it to penetrate the depths of the Fordow mountain complex where Iran is enriching uranium that could be used to make a nuclear bomb.
Engineers have also installed cyber warfare capabilities to the 30,000lbs device to ensure that Iran would not be able to knock it off target after it is dropped from a B2 stealth bomber, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Updated electronic guidance technology should overcome recent advances in Iran’s air defences and electronic warfare systems.
America has developed a series of “bunker buster” bombs with varying designs depending on the target.
Hopefully we never have to use it,” a senior US official familiar with the development of the new version told the newspaper. “But if we had to, it would work.”
The new bunker buster has a fusing system that will withstand impact with the more than 100ft of earth and concrete that shields the chambers housing the equipment at Fordow, allowing it to penetrate deeper before exploding.
The 20ft long, 1ft wide weapon underwrites American promises to Israel that Iran’s nuclear facilities can be wiped out if diplomacy and sanctions fail.
Iran’s fortification of the Fordow Enrichment Plant, where it has thousands of centrifuges refining uranium that could be converted into a nuclear bomb, has raised alarm in Israel.
Videos of the secret tests of a previous version of the device have been shown to Israel as American officials attempt to explain the changes and reassure their counterparts about the bunker busters’ effectiveness.
Congress agreed to an “urgent” Pentagon request to divert $81.6m (£52m) into improvements for the bunker buster last year after assessments that Iran’s nuclear programme could emerge damaged but intact following an air strike.
US officials said last year that the previous version of the bomb would probably fail to destroy all the centrifuges at Fordow.
Now they appear confident that the upgraded device has restored that conventional weapon’s capability to strike against Iran.
The availability of the new bomb provides vital reassurance to Israel. Officials have said the country would act before it is too late but have so far accepted American assurances that there is still time to keep sanctions at the forefront of efforts to stop Iran making a bomb.
“This is a very clear signal to Iran but also to Israel from the US that really serves to restrain them, saying we can take responsibility for this so you don’t have to,” said Shashank Joshi, a fellow at the Rusi defence think tank.
Officials also told the newspaper that the device would be more devastating if used against North Korea’s nuclear programme, which is also subject to UN sanctions, because Pyongyang defences are not as solid as Iran’s.
Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, promised Israel during a visit last month that the US would look more closely at options for a a military attack on Iran