Leon Panetta revealed to the Wall Street Journal that the U.S.’ most powerful bunker buster has failed tests designed to prove it could penetrate and destroy Iran’s most hardened nuclear facility in Fordow:
Pentagon war planners have concluded that their largest conventional bomb isn’t yet capable of destroying Iran’s most heavily fortified underground facilities, and are stepping up efforts to make it more powerful, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan.
…But initial tests indicated that the bomb, as currently configured, wouldn’t be capable of destroying some of Iran’s facilities…
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday, acknowledged the bomb’s shortcomings against some of Iran’s deepest bunkers. He said more development work would be done and that he expected the bomb to be ready to take on the deepest bunkers soon.
But never fear, the boys in the back room are devising ever larger and more destructive capability for the 30,000-lb. weapon. They spent $330-million for 20 of these babies. They say they need another $80-million. Eventually, they promise to get it right:
Doubts about the MOP’s effectiveness prompted the Pentagon this month to secretly submit a request to Congress for funding to enhance the bomb’s ability to penetrate deeper into rock, concrete and steel before exploding, the officials said.
In the meantime, Israel, which doesn’t yet have our most lethal variety of bunker buster, pursues its own plans to attack Iran. Reuven Pedatzur, one of the leading analysts of Israel’s military air capability, warns in a deliciously ironic Haaretz column that if the U.S. doesn’t yet have a weapon capable of knocking out Iran’s most impenetrable facilities, Israel has no business trying to do this with even less capable weaponry:
If Israeli Air Force planes succeed in reaching the targets and in dropping bombs on them with great accuracy, but they are nevertheless not destroyed, this would pose questions about the justification of a military operation…
It is doubtful whether the price we would pay – which would find expression in the form of an Iranian response that could lead to a regional conflict, barrages of missiles and rockets from the north and the south, international pressure on Israel, waves of terror against Jewish targets around the world and various other negative repercussions – would justify the strike.
The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus adds a few other caveats that should make policymakers in Tel Aviv and Washington think and think again about what they’re planning. He mentions that the Israelis don’t have enough refueling capability to cover the needs of their planes for a 2,000 mile total round trip journey in attacking Iran. The columnist lists six major Iranian target sites for attack and notes how much more complicated such strikes would be than the previously successful ones against Saddam’s reactor and Syria’s.