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MOP + UON Spells Trouble For Iran

October 9, 2009

MOP + UON Spells Trouble For Iran

IBD: 9 Oct. 2009

Security: After Iran admits building a second enrichment facility inside a mountain, the Pentagon shifts money from other programs to urgently fund the mother of all bunker-buster bombs. Why the need for speed?

At the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last month, President Obama announced, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.”

U.S. officials said they knew for some time that the facility existed. The announcement was made after U.S. officials learned Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency of Qom’s existence.

Our knowledge of the facility built in a mountainous area may explain why back in 2007 there was tucked inside an Iraq/Afghanistan emergency war funding request some $88 million to rush the development of a 30,000-pound bunker buster called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

As we reported in August, Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale sent a formal request to four congressional committees asking permission to shift about $68 million in the Pentagon’s slashed budget to accelerate our bunker buster bomb program by three years so that at least four 30,000-pound bombs could be mounted on B-2 stealth bombers by July 2010.

In his July 8 letter to Congress, Hale said there was “an urgent operational need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high-threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON. ”

The request noted that it was endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).

The request has been quietly approved and, last Friday, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide “Massive Ordnance Penetrator Integration” on B-2 stealth bombers.

The MOP, developed by Northrop Grumman and Boeing, is designed to destroy deeply buried and reinforced bunkers and tunnels of the type North Korea and Iran have been building for years.

Iran’s Natanz facility, where Tehran is enriching uranium and producing weapons-grade material, is thought to be protected by several yards of concrete and as much as 75 feet of dirt.

Before the Qom facility was disclosed, John Pike of Global Security explained the “urgent operational need” the Pentagon was so reluctant to reveal:

“You’d use it on Natanz,” Pike said. “And you’d use it on a stealth bomber because you want it to be a surprise. And you put it in an emergency request because you want to bomb quickly.”

Certainly the Israelis are feeling a sense of urgency and have been making their own preparations for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Air Force has purchased more than 100 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition kits. The first LJDAMs were delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 2008.

Retired Lt. Col. Bob McGinnis says this new technology could be used in a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.

“It would appear as if Israel is certainly assembling the pieces for a strike, should they decide to do it,” said McGinnis.

The Israeli Navy recently took delivery of two more German-built Dolphin-class submarines, bringing their total to five. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the submarines, called U212s, are capable of launching cruise missiles carrying nuclear weapons.

It could be the bunker buster contract is just a bargaining chip, a message to Iran. It could be that it is a recognition that Israel will attack anyway and might need some help and backing that only we can provide.

Or it could be that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was serious when she said on July 26 on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that “it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons” and that “we’re not going to let that happen.”

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