US offers 500 'bunker-busting' bombs to Israel

Click to follow
The Independent US

The United States is planning to sell Israel 500 "bunker busting" bombs which could destroy Iran's underground nuclear stores and laboratories. Security sources in Tel Aviv said yesterday that they would be part of a $319m (£178m) package of air-launched bombs paid for by American military aid.

The United States is planning to sell Israel 500 "bunker busting" bombs which could destroy Iran's underground nuclear stores and laboratories. Security sources in Tel Aviv said yesterday that they would be part of a $319m (£178m) package of air-launched bombs paid for by American military aid.

The news came on the same day that Iran reiterated its determination to continue its uranium enrichment programme in defiance of the United Nations watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told reporters at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters that they had begun converting 37 tons of raw "yellowcake" uranium for use in nuclear centrifuges, which is seen as a crucial step towards the bomb. "Some of the 37 tons have been used," he said. "The tests have been successful, but they have to be continued."

Western diplomats are not convinced by Tehran's insistence that the programme is purely for civilian purposes, not least because Iran has some of the world's largest oil reserves. It hardly needs nuclear power stations. Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director, again called on Iran to suspend the tests.

The bunker busters are guided by lasers or satellites. They can be launched from Israel's advanced fleet of American F-15 fighters, which took part in the 1981 bombing of Saddam Hussein's Osirak reactor. They can penetrate up to 30 feet of earth and concrete.

Israel has also recently taken delivery of a squadron of modern, long-range F-16 fighter bombers that could carry the new weapons.

Israel, with a widely estimated 100 to 200 warheads, is the only Middle East state known to have nuclear weapons.

The weapons could also be deployed against other potential enemies, such as Syria, Egypt and Iraq, which have been storing advanced weapons in reinforced facilities underground.

Comments