As negotiators in Geneva feverishly work towards finalizing a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran; it appears that the June 30th deadline will be extended until a definitive resolution can be reached.
Pundits from across the political spectrum have cast aspersions on the ultimate outcome of the talks and attention has now turned towards other options of dealing with the rogue regime of Iran in the event that negotiations dissolve.
According to published reports, the United States has devised a “plan B” and is in possession of a massive 30,000 pound bunker buster bomb, also known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).
A unnamed Pentagon official was quoted as saying that the MOP which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind” in terms of its ability to utterly devastate its target.
“The Pentagon continues to be focused on being able to provide military options for Iran if needed,” the official said. “We have not taken our eyes off the ball.”
According to a report in Business Insider, the MOP carries about 5,300 pounds of explosives, giving it an explosive yield about an order of magnitude greater than the BLU-109 which has a 535-pound warhead and weighs about a ton.
The report continues: “The MOP is the world's largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep underground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs' potent penetration capabilities.
RT News reported that the most recent testing took place in January of this year, when the improved bunker buster was dropped at a testing site at an undisclosed location by a B-2 bomber that took off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that according to Pentagon war planners the 30,000-pound (13,607 kg) bunker buster wasn’t powerful enough to destroy some fortified Iranian nuclear facilities. So work reportedly began to upgrade the bomb’s design and guidance systems.
Upgraded electronic countermeasures have been added to the weapon to prevent jamming of its guidance systems by Iran. Electronic jammers could be allegedly used to throw an incoming bomb off target, according to an RT News report.
The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds, according to the Business Insider report.
Officials have intimated that if negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries result in an abysmal failure, then the US will have capabilities of launching a series of air strikes targeting the Fordow nuclear power plant in Iran. The once clandestine facility is contained in a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack, according to the Business Insider report. International inspectors have said that the Fordow facility is capable of uranium enrichment, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.
Despite its massive force of the MOP, political analysts have estimated that complete destruction of the Fordow facility would be an arduous endeavor. The web site ‘Politico’ notes that the total destruction of the facility “would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility's hardened shell before detonating.”
Teheran, however, could possibly erect a ring of formidable defense in close proximity to their nuclear facilities if they should purchase the Russian made S-300 air defense system. According to published reports, the S-300 can accurately target aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range.
During the course of negotiations, the Iranians have insisted that the fortified facility at Fordow will be converted to a nuclear physics and technology research center, while the reactor at Arak is to be redesigned as a heavy-water research reactor, and will not produce weapons-grade plutonium, according to an RT News report.
Currently, Israel is in possession of US made 5000 pound bunker buster bombs but its arsenal does not include the GBU-57 30,000 bunker buster bombs that have the potential of destroying Iran’s nuclear sites.
According to an op-ed piece entitled, “It’s Time To Give Israel the Means to Take out Iranian Nukes” by Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-LI) that appeared in the New York Post in May of this year, the authors indicate that the US has an ample supply of the MOP. “The Defense Department has MOPs to spare, aircraft in storage that could carry the MOP payload and legal authority to transfer such arms to the Israelis,” say the authors.
Crafting a highly cogent argument for US transfer of MOPs to Israel, the authors opine that:
“Providing Israel with a stronger capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities would help deter Iran from ever trying to break any agreement it may sign. Transferring MOPs to Israel would also help assuage the concerns of Congress and our Middle East allies, who are wary of the emerging deal. President Obama will need to take measures to strengthen the security of our allies and ensure Congress that he is negotiating from a position of strength. Transferring MOPs to Israel would help the president achieve these objectives.”
They add that:
“Because the MOPs are outside the scope of the negotiations, Iran is in no position to object to transferring them to the Israelis. Iran continues to expand Hezbollah’s arsenal, placing all of Israel’s population centers within range of Hezbollah rockets. Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have violently overthrown a democratically elected government. It propagates violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East.”
According to a 2013 New York Times report, a US weapons sale package to Israel included “aircraft for midair refueling and missiles that can cripple an adversary’s air defense system” that would be critical for Israel if it were to make the decision to launch an attack on Iran but did not include the bunker buster bombs.
The report indicated that the Obama administration had expressed reluctance in even discussing selling such capabilities to the Israelis. It added that Israel had made previous requests from the US for the MOP and their requests had been denied but the report did not provide precise reasons.