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Medium Potatoes

Over at Hot Air, they're pointing out a news story that indicates the US might be prepping for an attack on Iran's nuclear weapons program. It seems that the Air Force wants a whole bunch of "bunker buster" bombs moved from the US to Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean where we have a whole lot of bombers -- and is the primary "safe" airbase for strikes in the Middle East. There aren't a whole lot of places that both have bunkers we'd like to see blown up and relatively close to Diego Garcia, and Iran's right at the top of the list.

I have my doubts about the story, though. Because I'm a bit of a military buff.

The two bombs specifically cited in the article are the ones the Air Force designates "BLU-110" and "BLU-113." The author calls the latter a "massive" bomb, weighing 2,000 pounds. Not surprisingly, he got it wrong.

The BLU-110 is a superb weapon. It does what it was intended to do quite thoroughly. But it only weighs 1,000 pounds -- that's about standard weight for a bomb these days. (During World War II, most bombs weighed between 250 and 500 pounds.) It's a good penetrator for blowing up hardened targets, but only moderately hard targets. Against really, really tough targets, it won't do much. And Iran's nuclear bunkers are really, really hardened targets.

Now, the BLU-113 is a bit more serious weapon. It weighs in at around 4,500 pounds, not 2,000, and has a fascinating history. During the first Gulf War, we suddenly discovered we needed a "bunker buster" -- and fast. So in seventeen days flat, we went from "we need this" to "we got this."

Seventeen days.

The GBU-28 (from which the BLU-113 is derived) is an amazingly simple concept that really should not have worked. They took the barrels from 8-inch artillery guns, buried them most of the way in the ground, poured in about 600 pounds of molten high explosive, let it cool, dug it out, slapped fins on the front, a guidance unit and a fuze on the nose, and dropped it off an airplane. And by god, it worked.

Now, the BLU-113 can cause Iran some serious inconveniences they were to suddenly start falling from the sky over their key nuclear facilities. But these "bunker busters" ain't about to bust the Iranian bunkers -- they've built them seriously strong. No, to maximize our chances of taking them out, we'd need to use the BLU-113's big brother, the bomb they call "Big BLU."

Now, remember that the BLU-110 is about half a ton. BLU-113 is about a ton and a quarter two and a quarter tons. Big BLU is 15 tons of bomb. And the Air Force has only ordered three of them. Maybe. Possibly more. For obvious reasons, they don't give out detailed inventories of such things.

Now, even Big BLU might not be enough to take out the Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. They might be hardened against anything short of a nuke. And I don't see Obama ordering a nuclear strike on Iran, even if it could be plausibly spun to the world as a "work accident" by those clumsy Iranians who tried to build a bomb and instead blew themselves up.

So, what's behind this sudden move of smaller "bunker buster" bombs to Diego Garcia? Beats me. Maybe it's to threaten Iran's other, less hardened facilities. Maybe it's for a possible strike on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal should the situation in that country suddenly go pear-shaped and it looks like Muslim militant fanatics might be on the verge of getting control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Maybe it's not for a threat against Iran, but an actual strike. Maybe it's just normal resupply movements, shuffling around inventory to cover possibilities. Maybe some Pentagon accountant had to suddenly burn up a bunch of transportation contract money, or had a brother-in-law who had some cargo ships that needed a job.

What is almost certainly is not is a prelude for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. At least, not by itself. But it's certainly an interesting development.


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Comments (25)

I don't put any stock in th... (Below threshold)

I don't put any stock in the idea that we're about to bomb Iran. That would indicate that Barry's grown a spine. I'm sure the MSM would have reported this if he had.

Knowing Obama, he's probabl... (Below threshold)

Knowing Obama, he's probably getting ready to nail Israel.

There could be lots of reas... (Below threshold)

There could be lots of reasonable explanations, some of which you covered. It might simply be building a supply of quality weapons closest to the theaters that might need them. They could also be used against cave complexes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They could be for use against Iran, but not against the nuclear facilities. A more lucrative target might be the facilities that house the Iranian government, revolutionary guards bunkers, hardened infrastructure etc. A nuclear or non-nuclear strike against possibly nuclear facilities could raise risk of un predictable results. You could set off a chain reaction that goes out of control, launch tones of radioactive radiation in the air, etc. A strike agains conventional targets seems more appropriate.

The question on whether US ... (Below threshold)

The question on whether US will attack Iran do not follows any logical and rational path.
If it is good for Israel, it will happens, regardless of interest or harm to US. Just like Iraq, Us payed four thousand lives and trillion of dollars and will pay trillion more for the care of the veterans for years to com, just because it was good for Israel, not U.S

I think Smurf, Papa Smurf a... (Below threshold)

I think Smurf, Papa Smurf and Grandpa Smurf would be better names.

That warmongering BOOOSH!</... (Below threshold)

That warmongering BOOOSH!

maybe Obammy was afraid the... (Below threshold)

maybe Obammy was afraid the military would use them on him.

jus' sayin'

So, what's behind this s... (Below threshold)

So, what's behind this sudden move of smaller "bunker buster" bombs to Diego Garcia?

The US Military doesn't make anything public knowledge unless it wants it to be known. A little Psy Ops maybe????? Keep the enemy thinking. A coup??? This seems like a way to push a coup in Iran.

What's behind the move? ..... (Below threshold)

What's behind the move? ...Maybe it's because the government is running military ops now, and their goal, while ostensibly being to win wars, has in the past rather been to stir up hornets nests (domestic or foreign).

In which case, perhaps showing aggression, no matter how impotent, is all they think needs to be done.

"Now, the BLU-113 is a bit ... (Below threshold)

"Now, the BLU-113 is a bit more serious weapon. It weighs in at around 4,500 pounds, not 2,000"

"BLU-113 is about a ton and a quarter"

Those don't mesh.

Anyway, I am with the psy ops angle

Jay Tea, Hot Air (one of yo... (Below threshold)
Fetid Dingo's Kidneys:

Jay Tea, Hot Air (one of your sources) is always wrong, and as oaf mentions above, your entire piece is slap dash regarding technical details that a younger, more serious "military buff" would care deeply about.

I'm putting you on scullery duty.

Ground your gear and report to MSgt. Jones at the chow hall.

Wow. The bomb is two-and-a-... (Below threshold)

Wow. The bomb is two-and-a-quarter tons instead of one-and-a-quarter. Burn the witch!

"Jay Tea, Hot Air (one of y... (Below threshold)

"Jay Tea, Hot Air (one of your sources) is always wrong"

And this from a guy who lives at DK and Think Progress.

Bye bye BryanD... Thanks fo... (Below threshold)

Bye bye BryanD... Thanks for the input.

Dingo, my mistake was a sim... (Below threshold)

Dingo, my mistake was a simple one, already corrected. Hot Air has a very good record of being right, compared with, say, TruthOut, which I believe STILL hasn't changed its report that there was a double-secret indictment of Karl Rove over the Plame non-scandal.

Also, Hot Air's "mistake" here was in not correcting the original error by the Herald.

Oaf, thanks for catching my error. As I said, I already fixed it.


Since you're in the mood to... (Below threshold)
Senor Cardgage:

Since you're in the mood to correct your errors, take another look at the linked article: "Crucially, the cargo includes 195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs." There's no mention of BLU-113.

Why on earth are we ... (Below threshold)
Arizona CJ:

Why on earth are we thinking that effectiveness has anything at all to do with a US strike on Iran?

Here's my reasoning; If a strike on Iran is used as a late October surprise, I think that helps the Democrats, a lot. It does not matter if it is effective; by the time it's seem as a failure, the election is over.

The only question I see that's relevant is this; while I have no doubts Obama would throw his ideology to the wind to get himself reelected, would he do it to save the dems in congress?

BTW, Something about the linked article smells funny. All those bombs.. in 10 ammo containers? Also, if we wanted to keep that kind of a shipment secret, I think we would... therefor, I place high odds that this is either BS, or an intentional leak.

Latest report is that this ... (Below threshold)

Latest report is that this is actually an attack on Israel


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Obama blocks delivery of bunker-busters to Israel
WASHINGTON -- The United States has diverted a shipment of bunker-busters designated for Israel. ShareThis

Officials said the U.S. military was ordered to divert a shipment of smart bunker-buster bombs from Israel to a military base in Diego Garcia. They said the shipment of 387 smart munitions had been slated to join pre-positioned U.S. military equipment in Israel Air Force bases.

"This was a political decision," an official said.

In 2008, the United States approved an Israeli request for bunker-busters capable of destroying underground facilities, including Iranian nuclear weapons sites. Officials said delivery of the weapons was held up by the administration of President Barack Obama.

Since taking office, Obama has refused to approve any major Israeli requests for U.S. weapons platforms or advanced systems. Officials said this included proposed Israeli procurement of AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, refueling systems, advanced munitions and data on a stealth variant of the F-15E.

"All signs indicate that this will continue in 2010," a congressional source familiar with the Israeli military requests said. "This is really an embargo, but nobody talks about it publicly."

Under the plan, the U.S. military was to have stored 195 BLU-110 and 192 BLU-117 munitions in unspecified air force bases in Israel. The U.S. military uses four Israeli bases for the storage of about $400 million worth of pre-positioned equipment meant for use by either Washington or Jerusalem in any regional war.

In January 2010, the administration agreed to an Israeli request to double the amount of U.S. military stockpiles to $800 million. Officials said the bunker-busters as well as Patriot missile interceptors were included in the agreement.

The decision to divert the BLU munitions was taken amid the crisis between Israel and the United States over planned construction of Jewish homes in Jerusalem. The administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has warned that Washington could reduce military aid to Israel because of its construction policy.

In 2007, after its war in Lebanon, Israel requested 2,000 BLU-109 live bombs from the United States. The 2,000-pound bomb, produced by Boeing and coupled with a laser guidance kit, was designed to penetrate concrete bunkers and other underground hardened sites.

Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was quoted as saying that his country faced its biggest crisis with the United States since 1975. A pro-Israel lobbyist said Oren was referring to the current U.S. embargo, which echoed a decision taken 35 years ago by then-President Gerald Ford after Israel's refusal to withdraw from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Oren has since denied the remark.

That figures.Rathe... (Below threshold)

That figures.

Rather doubt this will 'hurt' them in the long run. They manufacture their own tanks. What's too stop them from making their own bunker busters? I doubt it will be the fact that Barry will 'get mad' at them.

This is nothing but bs to d... (Below threshold)

This is nothing but bs to distract us from the vote this weekend on the ObamaCare bill that a majority of Americans DO NOT WANT.

Look, over here, something shiny!!

I agree with Boots. Clinton... (Below threshold)

I agree with Boots. Clinton was also good at using the military to take our eye off the ball. (Love the "shiney" comment)

Obama and other liberals do not have a problem dropping bombs because they do not have to worry politically about ground troops being killed. Everything Obama does is motivated by politics. What scum. ww

<a href="http://www.comment... (Below threshold)

This post seems to indicate that the whole story is false.

How an Internet Myth Is Born Emanuele Ottolenghi - 03.18.2010 - 4:21 PM

Further to my post from yesterday casting more than a little doubt on the veracity of the report about an imminent attack on Iran (J.E. Dyer backed me up here with some hard facts), I've done a little more digging about the three sources quoted in the Scottish Herald article. Of Dr. Daniel Plesch of the University of London and his recurrent predictions of an imminent American attack on Iran, I have already written extensively here. The other two sources also deserve some scrutiny. Ian Davis heads a think tank called NATO WATCH. He also has his own "consultancy," which seems to amount to a webpage with his own writings. His think tank does not seem to be too crowded with experts -- Ian Davis appears to be the only guy, though there is a long list of associates and a history of cooperation with outfits that curiously stand for nuclear disarmament.

NATO WATCH's address is also more than a little odd -- Strath 17, by the Gairloch Loch, in the Scottish Highlands. Pretty place it must be, but you'd think that a think tank dedicated to being the watchdog of NATO might be closer to the alliance's headquarters, no? Then again, the website says that NATO WATCH is a virtual think tank, so who am I to find it a bit more than suspicious that, to produce an unsubstantiated accusation that America is about to go to war against Iran, a Scottish paper turns to NATO WATCH for reasons other than it happens to be in the neighborhood. Funny also is the fact that two of the quoted experts/sources are also in Scotland (aside from Ian Davis, there is the CND local guy, Ales MacKinnon). And all three of them happen to have campaigned for or written in favor of nuclear disarmament, are on the record as hostile to American policies in the Middle East, and in the past expressed some degree of support for Iran's claims.

All this, of course, is speculation. But I hereby propose a theory. A Scottish paper with an anti-nuclear editorial line (and all the baggage that comes with it) chooses to spin a news item to accuse America of warmongering -- again. To back it up, the paper calls three ideological fellow travelers who supply the backup for the story - not the facts, but the backup, by which I mean the spin and the gravitas that goes with their titles. The paper publishes the story. And the global media, going into a frenzy, reprints it without basic fact-checking. You can examples of this rush to judgment, devoid any effort to question the veracity of the story, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here just to start.

The CBO's report on Obamaca... (Below threshold)
Don L:

The CBO's report on Obamacarenomics

The CBO's report on a big D.C. wedding

Obama and Nancy Pelosi get married; big expensive wedding, big house, big future.

Obama gets all snuggly on the first night of the honeymoon and Nancy slaps him upside the head. He sits right up and in his best Ron Reagan imitation says, "I paid for this right so it's mine to have when I want it."

Nancy bats her botoxed eyes at him, smiles and says, "Yes dear, and you shall - but first you'll have to wait six years."

"What? Where did you learn that wee wee stuff?"

"You taught me it dear, when you showed me how we should handle Obamacare to make it seem like real savings. Have a good night dear!"

What is the delivery plane ... (Below threshold)
Don L:

What is the delivery plane on that 30,000 lbs of terror? It's not a Piper Cub I hope?

Jay:Those bombs <i... (Below threshold)
Mark L:


Those bombs will penetrate Iranian bunkers regardless of how thick they are. It just takes more than one.

Drop the first penetrator. It digs a hole "n" deep through the armor of the bunker. Not deep enough? Drop a second penetrator into the hole created by the first one. It will go deeper.

Still not deep enough? Drop a third one. Lather, rinse, repeat until the final bomb explodes inside the bunker.

With precision guided munitions there is enough accuracy for this to work. It was what they did during the Gulf War 1990-91, and they have better guidance systems today. And generally they determine how many bombs they need to burrow to paydirt, add a couple to allow for inaccuracy, and then drop them 10 to 20 seconds apart so you do not get fratricide.






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