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Eyeing Iran reactors, Israel seeks US bunker bombs

* Washington will sell 500 ‘bunker busters’ to Israel with the ability to penetrate Iran’s underground nuclear facilities
* The package will also include airborne models, guidance units, training bombs and detonators for Israel’s air force

JERUSALEM: The United States plans to sell Israel $139 million worth of air-launched bombs, including 500 “bunker busters” able to penetrate Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, Israeli security sources said on Tuesday.

The 319 million-dollar purchase also includes airborne models, guidance units, training bombs and detonators for Israel’s air force, said the paper citing a US Congress report. The bombs are all guided by a satellite system, which sends a signal to the devices to adjust their course to the target.

Smart bombs are intended to inflict maximum damage to the target and minimise the effect of the impact outside of the target, so-called “collateral damage”. The Haaretz newspaper quoted a Pentagon report as saying the planned procurement sought “to maintain Israel’s qualitative advantage and advance US strategic and tactical interests”.

The paper said the deal, which includes 500 one-ton bunker busters that can penetrate two-meter-thick cement walls, 2,500 regular one-ton bombs, 1,000 half-ton bombs and 500 quarter-ton bombs, was easily reached despite the Israelis previous use of high explosives against Palestinian targets. The US embassy in Israel had no comment, referring queries to Washington. Israel’s Defence Ministry also declined comment.

But a senior Israeli security source who confirmed the Haaretz story told Reuters: “This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria.”

Haaretz quoted Israeli government sources as saying the sale, including 4,500 other guided munitions, was not expected to go through until after the US elections in November. Earlier this month, Haaretz said Israel sought to obtain the US-made, one-tonne “bunker buster” bombs for a possible future strike against arch-foe Iran’s atomic development programme, which the Jewish state considers a strategic threat.

Known by the military designations GBU-27 or GBU-28, “bunker busters” are guided by lasers or satellites and can penetrate up to 10 metres (30 feet) of earth and concrete. Israel may already have some of the bombs for its US-supplied F-15 fighter jets. “As they are part of the weapon set for the F-15, I would assume them to be in place,” said Robert Hewson, editor of Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons. He said the bombs proved effective in the 1991 Gulf war and 1990s NATO strikes on Serbian forces.

Israel, which is widely assumed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed nation, wants to stop Iran going atomic, but officials say diplomatic pressure on Tehran is the best method. Many believe a military strike, especially by Israel, could kill off any chance of a diplomatic resolution or efforts by Iranian opposition groups to achieve internal reform.

“I think (military action) should be a last, last, last resort. Unlike Iraq and North Korea, there is at least some chance of bringing about an undermining of the Velayat-e Faqih’s authority,” former CIA director R James Woolsey told Reuters this month, referring to Iran’s ruling Islamic clerics. agencies

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