U.S. officials are hopeful that an agreement can be reached during ongoing negotiations with Iran aimed at halting its development of nuclear weapons.
However the U.S. military is preparing for every eventuality, and has developed a huge bomb which could be used to disable heavily fortified underground nuclear facilities in Iran should talks fail, writes Norvell Rose for Western Journalism.
U.S. military preparing for failure of talks
Talks are supposed to be over by the end of the month, when the self-imposed deadline for an agreement will expire. Negotiators remain hopeful that a deal can be struck, and Tehran’s nuclear weapons program will be halted by peaceful means. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been pushing for a deal, despite aggressive statements from Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Hope remains, despite the fact that Kerry recently threatened to end negotiations. However more cynical observers are concerned that even if a deal can be struck, there are no guarantees that Iran complies with its terms. Previous negotiations with Tehran have not shown Iranian authorities to be particularly trustworthy.
There would be nothing stopping Iran from signing a deal, but continuing its work on nuclear weapons in subterranean facilities. And now it has been revealed that the U.S. military has prepared for such an eventuality by building one of the world’s largest non-nuclear bombs.
New bomb capable of penetrating subterranean facilities
Final testing is currently underway in the deserts of New Mexico, and the frankly terrifying bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) should send a clear message to Iran. The MOP weighs 15 tons and is around 20 feet long, and is similar to the “bunker buster” bombs previously used to hit underground targets.
“When dropped from an altitude likely above 20,000 feet, the bomb would have approached supersonic speed before striking a mock target in the desert, smashing through rock and burrowing deep into the ground before its 6,000 pounds of high explosives detonated with devastating force,” reads a recent piece on the MOP from Politico.
That same piece cites a former Pentagon official, who claimed that the new weapon “boggles the mind” after watching a classified video of the tests at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Although the video remains classified, a photo of one version of the weapon has been released by manufacturer Boeing. That particular version is known as the BLU-109, and can be seen towering over an assembled group of people. The BLU-109 carries a 535 pound warhead and weighs around a ton all in, whereas the MOP carries around 5,300 pounds of explosives.
MOP could be used to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities
In its report on the new bomb, Business Insider cites sources from the Air Force who claim that the B-2 stealth bomber is the only aircraft which can carry the 15-ton MOP. After it is dropped from the plane, the bomb is guided to its target by GPS, and is capable of penetrating 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before its warhead detonates.
These capabilities mean that the MOP would be perfect for use in a series of strikes against Iran’s once secret nuclear facility at Fordow. A number of centrifuges contained inside a fortified, hollowed-out mountain are capable of enriching uranium for use in nuclear weapons, and would be a prime target for U.S. strikes should negotiations fail.
An attack against the facility would not be easy, even counting the monstrous size and capabilities of the MOP. Politico claims that in order to totally destroy Fordow, at least two of the bombs would have to be dropped on the same spot, given the tough defenses which surround the centrifuges. However tough the defenses, a coordinated strike with one MOP clearing a path for a second one should ensure destruction of the site.
Successful talks would prevent potential conflict
Another further complication for a hypothetical bombing run includes the potential sale of S-300 air-defense systems to Iran by Russia.Officials in Moscow recently lifted a self-imposed ban on the sale of the system to Tehran, and announced that a deal is now possible.
The S-300 system is capable of hitting enemy planes flying at high altitude from a range of up to 150 miles, and the sale of the system to Iran would allow the country to ring its nuclear sites with the powerful defense system. The system is sophisticated enough to raise the stakes of any hypothetical U.S. bombing raid.
All of these eventualities remain pure speculation given the fact that talks are still underway. It must be hoped that a deal is reached, and compliance successfully demonstrated by Iran, in order to rule out the possibility of devastating air strikes using the MOP.