The Bunker-Buster Has Come of Age

The Bunker-Buster Has Come of Age

By Joseph M. Frager

With President Trump’s authorization of the use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, on Thursday, April 13, a new age has begun. The 21,600-pound non-nuclear bomb named MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) [The Russians claim to have one that is four times more powerful, called FOAB – the Father of All Bombs] should send a chilling message to all of America’s enemies, including Iran and North Korea.

As “tunnel wars” now spring up across the Middle East, the use of bunker-buster bombs will become even more important. Many have pushed very hard (Dennis Ross and General David H. Petraeus co-authored an op-ed with this view in August of 2015 entitled, “How to put some teeth into the nuclear deal with Iran”) for bunker-busters to be sent to Israel. This was written after the Iran Deal was concluded on July 14, 2015. The Obama Administration did not send advanced bunker-buster bombs to Israel as suggested.

The vicious tunnel battles
could have been averted if Israel had the correct bunker-buster bombs to do the job

In contrast, the Bush administration had authorized the sale of 100 bunker-buster bombs to Israel. Unlike the MOAB, these were only 5000-pound bombs. They were called the GBU-28 prototype but could be dropped from F-15 Fighters. The MOAB had to be dropped from an MC-130 cargo plane.

It is believed that Israel used the GBU-28 bombs against the Syrian nuclear facility built by North Korea on September 6, 2007. Unfortunately, the Iranian nuclear facilities in Fordow, near Qom, are built 200 to 300 feet under a mountain to prevent most bunker-busters from doing significant damage. The Obama administration refused to send the larger and more penetrating bunker-busters to Israel after the Iran Deal.

In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that bombs weighing even more (30,000 pounds) than the MOAB (21,600 pounds) were not powerful enough to destroy some of the fortified Iranian nuclear facilities. An upgrade was then designed called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (the MOP – GBU-57/B), which weighed 37,000 pounds and was designed to penetrate 200 feet deep of 5000-psi-hardened concrete. To destroy or disable the Iranian underground facilities, the Pentagon envisages guiding two or more GBU-57/Bs to the same impact point in sequence, extending the weapon’s burrowing power. In order for this to happen, the MOP bunker-busters would have to be carried by F-15 or F-35 Fighters. A Hercules C-130 drop cannot pinpoint two bombs right on top of each other. Upgraded electronics and weapon guidance systems will be necessary.

It is not at all clear that Israel has been sold these MOP advanced bunker-busters. Hopefully, that will be rectified and may well have been done so by the Trump administration. The use for the first time of the MOAB by the United States has opened up numerous possibilities and changed the face of war forever.

Israel lost many fine young soldiers in Operation Protective Edge in 2014 including Hadar Goldin, who was killed by a tunnel terrorist after the cease fire was signed, and whose body has yet to be returned by Hamas. The vicious tunnel battles could have been averted if Israel had the correct bunker-buster bombs to do the job. Hopefully, President Trump will make sure that happens.

Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.