'US bombs can't destroy buried Iran nuke plants'

US "Mass Ordnance Penetrators" fail initial testing, says 'Wall Street Journal'; Pentagon seeks to upgrade program.

January 28, 2012 05:57
2 minute read.
B-2 Bomber, capable of carrying MOP bombs

B2 Bomber 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/Str Old)


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Even the heaviest US bombs are not powerful enough to destroy some of Iran’s more fortified nuclear facilities, The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials as saying on Friday. The Pentagon is taking steps to improve its “bunker-busting” capabilities, they added.

The US’s 13,600-kg. “mass ordnance penetrator” (MOP) was specifically designed to be able to take out Iranian and North Korean nuclear facilities.

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According to the report, initial tests indicated that the bomb would be incapable of performing these tasks, either because of the depth of the facilities or their recent reinforcement.

The Wall Street Journal said that the MOP’s test failure prompted a secret funding request by the Pentagon to US Congress, seeking to enhance the bomb’s capabilities. The US Department of Defense has already spent approximately $330 million so far to develop about 20 of the bombs. The Pentagon is seeking an additional $82m. for upgrading purposes, according to government officials briefed on the plan.

The US defense establishment has been particularly concerned about Iranian underground facilities, such as the Fordow site near Qom, the Wall Street Journal quoted a former senior US official who is an expert on Iran as saying. He added that the MOP may be more effective against Iran’s main enrichment plant at Natanz, but said that “even that is guesswork.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted to the bomb’s shortcomings, saying: “We’re developing it. I think we’re pretty close, let’s put it that way. But we’re still working at it because these things are not easy to be able to make sure that they will do what we want them to.” He added that he expects the bomb to be ready to penetrate Iran’s deepest bunkers soon.

Panetta also said that the MOP was not specifically designed for Iran.

“It’s not just aimed at Iran. Frankly, it’s aimed at any enemy that decides to locate in some kind of impenetrable location. The goal here is to be able to get at any enemy, anywhere,” he said.

The Pentagon’s press secretary, George Little, echoed this sentiment, saying that “the development of this weapon is not intended to send a signal to any one particular country... It’s a capability we believe we need in our arsenal and will continue to invest in it.”

Regarding potential alternatives to the MOP, the Wall Street Journal quoted a US official as saying that “The massive ordnance penetrators are by no means the only capability at our disposal to deal with potential nuclear threats in Iran.” Iranian nuclear facilities have been attacked through sophisticated computer viruses as well as bombs, and a number of Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed.

Another senior official said that the Pentagon could make up for the MOP’s shortcomings by dropping them along with other guided bombs on bunkers’ entry and exit points.

“There is a virtue to deepness but you still need to get in and out,” he said.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

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