“Potential adversaries have increasingly turned to underground bunkers and tunnels to protect their most valuable assets,” reports Robert Haddick at Foreign Policy. Talk about your hard targets, “Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom are quintessential ‘hardened and deeply-buried targets.'”
It’s led to a new “arms race underway between the diggers and the bombers. Iran’s vast Natanz uranium enrichment plant was built underground to protect it against an air attack.” But, the “U.S. Air Force’s 5,000-pound bunker-busting bomb may be enough to defeat Natanz’s reinforced ceilings. Iran then searched for another site for uranium enrichment and found one in the tunnel system near Qom, which may be under almost 300 feet of rock. MOP’s accelerated development may have been in response to the discovery of the Qom facility.”
What’s MOP? Managing to sound both erotic and scatological in name at the same time, the Massive Ordinance Penetrator weighs 30,000 pounds, six times heavier than the bunker-buster alluded to above. The “Air Force claims that MOP penetrates 200 feet into the earth before exploding,” Haddick writes. Delivering it requires a B-2 stealth bomber.
Instead of a race for more nuclear weapons and of increasing yield, the new arms race is between ever more drastic measures to secure a uranium-enrichment program and the development of larger and more powerful conventional (if you can call a 30,000-pound bomb conventional) bombs intended to stop the program. Doesn’t sound like much of an improvement over the Cold War nuclear arms race.