Congress takes first steps to provide ‘bunker buster’ bombs to Israel

Republican, Democratic congressmen co-sponsor bill to “secure both the U.S. and Israel from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Two Congressmen said Tuesday they will submit a bipartisan bill that would provide a legal basis for the U.S. to supply Israel with advanced bunker-busting bombs that the Americans have previously refused to supply.

Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey and Republican Brian Mast of Florida want Israel to have the 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb in its arsenal to use defensively against Iran if the ayatollahs there are found to be resuming work to obtain nuclear weapons.

Gottheimer said in a statement the two are co-sponsoring the “U.S.-Israel Common Defense Authorization Act” that will be tabled this week “to strengthen Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region and secure both the U.S. and Israel from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

“We must ensure our ally Israel is equipped and prepared to confront a full range of threats, including the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. That’s why I’m proud to be introducing this new bipartisan bill to defend Israel from Iran and Hezbollah and reinforce our historic ally’s qualitative military edge in the region with ‘bunker buster’ munitions,” Gottheimer said.

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The massive bomb is capable of penetrating to a depth of 60 meters (200 feet), the equivalent to reaching the bottom of an 18-story underground building, before detonating. It would be theoretically used to destroy Iranian underground nuclear facilities.

However, in order to get the bombs, the Pentagon would first have to “consult with Israel and report to Congress on Israel’s capability to deter a full range of threats,” including whether or not the bunker-busters “would advance both countries’ security,” Gottheimer said.

“There should be absolutely no doubt that our ally Israel must be prepared for every contingency if Iran seeks… a nuclear weapon,” Gottheimer emphasized in a video conference with reporters.

Although news reports indicate that the Obama administration had supplied Israel with some bunker buster bombs in 2009, the weapon has been greatly improved since then and the new bombs are more than three times the size of the 2009 weapons.

The bill by Gottheimer and Mast comes a week after Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz made a lightning visit to Washington, where he and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a joint agreement on maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed their concerns after the Trump administration indicated it would sell advanced F-35 stealth bombers to the United Arab Emirates in the wake of its signing a peace deal with Israel last month.

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Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first objected to the sale, he later relented after apparently receiving assurances that the U.S. would guarantee that Israel will continue to have access to the most advanced weapons in the Middle East.

If Israel does receive the latest bunker buster, it will have to solve the problem of how to transport the 30,000-pound bomb. The only aircraft in the Israel Air Force that could carry the device is the slow-flying C-130 transport plane. The F-35, currently the most advanced plane Israel is known to possess, as well as the F-15I fighter have maximum reported payloads of about 22,000 pounds.