Pentagon to speed giant “bunker buster” production amid Iranian, North Korean nuclear concerns
The Obama administration has indicated for the first time that diplomatic engagement is not its only option for grappling with Iran’s nuclear weapons drive, debkafile‘s military sources report. US Air Force spokesman Andy Bourland announced Monday, Aug. 3 that if Congress shifts enough funds to the program, Northrop Grumman Corp’s radar-evading “stealth” B-2 bomber would be capable of carrying the non-nuclear, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, MOP, which is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers, by July 2010.
“The Air force and Department of Defense are looking at ways to accelerate the program,” he said.
Shortly before the announcement, the London Times quoted Western intelligence sources as reporting that it would take Iran six months to enrich enough uranium and another six months to assemble the warhead for mounting on its long-range Shehab-3 missile. The industry was only waiting for supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to give the nod for the first bomb to be produced.
The estimated target date for the accelerated US bunker buster’s deployment tallies closely therefore with the timeline for Iran’s prospective nuclear capability.
On July 31, debkafile revealed that visiting US officials asked Israel last week to leave the handling of Iran’s nuclear threat to the United States, up to and including military action – according to a three-stage plan they unveiled.
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The Washington announcement of Monday added weight to that message.
The precision-guided weapon carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives and would be the biggest conventional bomb the US has ever used. It can deliver more than 10 times the explosive power of its predecessor, the 2,000-pound BLU-109, and penetrates to a depth of 61 meters before exploding. Boeing could be put on contract within 72 hours to build the first models if Congress signed off.
The US military commands for the Pacific and Middle East appear to be backing the acceleration request, intent on sending a signal to both North Korea and Iran that if they do not back off, America is developing a military option for almost instantaneous deployment against the military programs they have buried deep underground to escape detection.