American and Israeli defense officials welcomed a new arms deal as a big boost in Israel’s military strength, but Israeli officials said it still left them without the American-made bunker-buster weapons they need to attack Iran’s most important, deep-buried nuclear sites.
The New York Times reported Tuesday on the visit to the region by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who appeared with his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon, to reaffirm their publicly united commitment to preventing Iran getting nuclear weapons. The two men sidestepped what the paper called the “continuing disagreement” between the two allies about how close Iran should be allowed to get towards an A-bomb.
“The fundamental difference of views on how much risk we can take with Iran is re-emerging,” a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told The Times.
The new weapons deal includes flying tankers for midair refueling and guided missiles that home in on and destroy enemy air defense systems. Analysts say both kinds of systems would be critical to Israeli success if the Jewish state were to launch a unilateral attack on the Iranian nuclear program.
“But what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package,” the Times reported, the so-called Massive Ordnance Penetrator — a giant explosive device weighing more than 30,000 lbs and specially designed to penetrate deep-buried, reinforced concrete bunkers to destroy them.
Analysts told the paper the “Bunker Buster” is the only weapon with the power to destroy the Iranian uranium enrichment center at Fordo, buried more than 200 feet under a mountain near the holy city of Qum.
Even if the U.S. were to sell the bunker buster, Israel has no aircraft bid enough to carry and deliver it, the Times said.
Only the B-2 supersonic stealth bomber can carry the bunker buster and there is no prospect of the Obama administration selling that to the Israelis, the Times reported.
Iran has repeatedly denied seeking a nuclear weapons capability and has said its secretive, deeply buried uranium fuel enrichment is for purely peaceful purposes.