As tensions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States continue to escalate over its nuclear program, the US military recently posted photographs of a powerful bomb designed to penetrate deep into the Earth and cripple underground facilities containing nuclear material like enriched uranium.
According to the report, in early May, the US Air Forces highlighted exclusive images of the GBU-57, known as the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” taking the photos down soon after because the images revealed critical details about the weapon’s makeup and abilities.
Military experts say the news photos revealed stenciling on the bombs listing the weapon’s weight at 12,300 kilograms. It also described the bomb as carrying a mix of an AFX-757, a standard explosive, and a new PBXN-114 explosive compound.
“I don’t underestimate the ability of large bureaucracies like the Air Force to simply screw things up; I don’t believe this would be a deliberate ploy. Nor is it any secret that we have weaponry like this,” said Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East.
Experts say the bomb’s weight shows it comes from a thick steel frame, allowing the bomb to chew through concrete and soil before exploding.
The posting of the US bomb photos comes as the regime in Tehran has been progressing in constructing and upgrading its nuclear capabilities beyond the reach of weaponry like the GBU-57 bomb, which experts say is the latest in military technology to destroy underground bunkers.
According to Rubin, the US “doesn’t need to destroy an underground facility; it only needs to destroy the entrances,” but a “bomb like the GBU-57 could help.”
In the 2000s, the US Army developed the Massive Ordnance Penetrator as concerns grew over the Islamic Republic’s underground nuclear program. The images of the bombs were posted on the Facebook page for Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the home of America’s B-2 stealth bombers and the only aircraft that can deploy the bomb.
On the Facebook post, the base said it received two Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs, allowing a munitions squadron to “test their performance.”
Media outlets Monday reported that satellite imagery from Planet Labs PBC showed officials in Tehran had been creating underground tunnels in the mountain near the Natanz nuclear site in central Iran. The excavation mounds at the site indicate that the atomic facility could be between 80 and 100 meters under the ground.
Experts say the scope of the construction project indicates that Iran could use the underground facility to enrich uranium, building tube-shaped centrifuges arranged in large cascades of dozens of machines, quickly spinning spin uranium gas. More enrichment machines would allow Tehran to enrich uranium under the mountain’s protection.
Military experts say such a construction plan could pose a significant problem for weaponry like the GBU-57, given that it can tear through 60 meters of ground and cement before detonating. In the past, US officials have talked about using several GBU-57 bombs to ensure the destruction of a nuclear site.
However, with new underground depths, facilities like the one in Natanz present a critical challenge.
Rubin noted that the problem with a military solution to Iran’s nuclear program is not the weaponry in the US arsenal but “the widespread belief among Iranian leaders that Joe Biden, Tony Blinken, and Jake Sullivan don’t have the backbone to do anything other than issue statements from afar. So far as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is concerned, Biden’s national security team is made up entirely of invertebrates.”
The Islamic Republic can “always dig deeper and add more steel,” Rubin said, but the real issue is “whether the US knows where the sites are and can cause an avalanche over the entrances, and the question is whether either Biden or Netanyahu have the mettle to entomb hundreds of Iranian nuclear scientists.”
Israel’s government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the US government and Pentagon for more military assistance against Iran, purchasing underground bunker bombs and strengthening Israel’s Air Force for a potential nuclear strike against Tehran. As the Ayatollahs continue to call for the Jewish State’s destruction, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his conservative allies have openly addressed the public that military operations against Iran’s nuclear program are a strong possibility, engaging with US forces in the Persian Gulf to send a message to Tehran.
“Israel has the weaponry it needs, though it could always use more powerful and precise armaments. That said, the problem is not whether or not Israel has a GBU-57; the problem is that Iran’s program is so widely scattered, whereas both Iraq (in 1981) and Syria (in 2007) had concentrated their program in a single site. Israel’s greatest need is for the White House not to leak its plans and for the Pentagon not to interfere when they see Israeli submarines and aircraft on the move,” Rubin told The Foreign Desk.
In response to America’s military buildup and supply of arms to Israel, the Islamic Republic has increased its arms supply to terrorist proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and other parts of the Middle East, vowing to combat American and Israeli forces seeking to stop Tehran’s nuclear aggression.