The Pentagon has redesigned its biggest "bunker buster" bomb with more advanced features intended to enable it to destroy Iran's most heavily fortified and defended nuclear site, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, adding that American officials, showed Israeli military and civilian leaders secret Air Force video of an earlier version of the bomb hitting its target in high-altitude testing.
The Wall Street Journal said American officials see development of the weapon as critical to convincing Israel that the US has the ability to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb if diplomatic efforts fail, and also that Israel's army "can't do that on its own."
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According to the report, the newest version of the Pentagon's largest conventional bomb, the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, has adjusted fuses to maximize its burrowing power, upgraded guidance systems to improve its precision and high-tech equipment intended to allow it to evade Iranian air defenses in order to reach and destroy the Fordo nuclear enrichment complex, which is buried under a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom. The upgraded MOP designed for Fordo hasn't been dropped from a plane yet.
The improvements, The Wall Street Journal said, are meant to address US and Israeli concerns that Fordo couldn't be destroyed from the air. Overcoming that obstacle could also give the West more leverage in diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to curtail its nuclear program, the newspaper said.
"Hopefully we never have to use it," a senior US official familiar with the development of the new version told the Wall Street Journal. "But if we had to, it would work."
Knockout blow? Fordo nuclear facility (Photo: AFP)
According to the report, American intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran's nuclear facilities are so well fortified that Israel's military alone can't deliver what a US official called "a knockout blow." Even if Israel were able to obtain its own MOP—and US officials said they haven't offered it to its ally - US officials said Israel doesn't have stealth aircraft capable of carrying the bomb to its target deep inside Iran.
According to The Wall Street Journal, US officials said they believe the enhanced US bunker-busting capability decreases the chances that Israel will launch a unilateral strike against Iran in 2013 and possibly next year, buying more time for the Obama administration to pursue diplomacy after Iran holds presidential elections in June.
The newspaper reported that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other senior American officials have told their Israeli counterparts in recent weeks that the Obama administration will look more closely at military options to deal with Iran's nuclear program after assessing the impact of those elections on Tehran's intentions.
The White House wants to find a diplomatic solution but hasn't ruled out military action, The Wall Street Journal said. In part to increase pressure on Tehran, both President Barack Obama and Hagel have used recent visits to Israel to stress Israel's right to decide for itself whether to strike Iran, the newspaper said.
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