Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Change In The Weather - US Decides To Sell Israel Bunker Busting Bombs

As you'll remember, US SecDef Robert Gates had declined Israel's request to buy bunker buster bombs out of fear that the Israelis would use them to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. Doing that obviously would have derailed the obvious quid pro quo we appear to have with Iran Iran that involves our trading control of Lebanon, Shiite domination of Iraq and a guarantee not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities or assist Israel in doing so for a ceiling on oil prices, an end to Iran's agitation in OPEC to end oil trading in dollars and a graceful exit from Iraq, as I've described before on these pages.

Apparently there's been a major change of heart in Washington, as the US has now agreed to sell Israel over 1,000 units of Guided Bomb Unit-39 (GBU-39) - a special weapon developed for knocking out fortified facilities located deep underground:

The $77 million shipment, which includes launchers and appurtenances, will allow the IAF to hit a lot more sites and more bunkers than they currently can. Although each bomb weighs 113 kilograms, its penetration capabilities equal those of a one ton bomb, according to professional literature.

Most U.S. Air Force aircraft are able to carry a pack of four of these bombs in place of a single one-ton bomb. The bomb’s small size allows a single-strike aircraft to carry more of the munitions than is possible utilizing currently available bomb units, thus increasing firepower, or, alternatively, allowing the aircraft to fly longer distances to deliver a single bomb.

During demonstrations, the GBU-39 - labeled by the manufacturer, Boeing, as a Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) - has successfully penetrated more than 1.8 meters of thick reinforced concrete with a 23-kilogram warhead. The GPS-guided weapon is said to have a 50-percent probability of hitting its intended target within 5-8 meters, which should minimize collateral damage.

Along with the new bombs, Israel is also slated to receive upgrades to the IDF's Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and enhanced integration with US anti-Missile defense early warning systems, as well as 28,000 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) tube launchers for land forces.

The LAWS rockets are particularly interesting.While their effectiveness against tanks is limited, they're quite adequate for dealing with the APCs and armored cars Hamas 'inherited' from the Palestinian Authority when Abbas' mob fled Gaza - and, at close range, with the sort of hardened bunkers Hamas and Hezbollah have set up as part of their military infrastructure.

So, why the sudden change of heart?

It could be a number of things, but here's how I see the pieces fitting together.

First, there's the Russian decision to refuse any cooperation with UN sanctions on Iran, to accelerate Iran's nuclear development and to seek formal security arrangements with Iran, including arms shipments, advisers and port facilities for Russian warships on the Caspian sea and the Persian Gulf.

I have a feeling that right up until the Georgia debacle, President Bush was being assured by Condi Rice and Robert Gates that Putin was still capable of being reasonable and that Russia was going to go along with efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons program diplomatically.He knows different now, and although it's not politically expedient to admit it, he realizes that UN sanctions are a no hoper.Which indeed they always were.

Another factor is the actual placement of the proposed Russian naval bases, on the Caspian Sea astride the remaining energy pipeline into Europe and on Iranian-held Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf. Once this is in place, it would not only protect Iran's missile launchers (which threaten the Saudi and UAE oil fields), nuclear sites and refineries from attack, it would challenge the US for control of the vital Persian Gulf oil routes.

As some of you might remember, I've spoken about the importance of Kharg Island before.

The Iranians themselves are getting increasingly intransigent, and no longer even giving the pretense of any cooperation with the IAEA.

And last but by no means least, the Saudis are getting increasingly antsy over Iran's presumptive nuclear status.

So Israel will get its weaponry...although an overflight over US controlled Iraqi territory might still be problematical.

Will they use it? Undoubtedly, if they see Iran on the verge of going nuclear.And the use of the new GBU-39s appears to jibe with my prior thoughts on what form an Israeli attack on Iran would take...small tactical groups of planes, flying in tight formation to minimize radar footprint flying along established air corridors, mimicking the call signals and radio traffic common to commercial airlines.

It's exactly how the Israelis have done this sort of thing successfully before.

I'd also expect a IDF strike would likely be proceeded by an Israeli missile strike on the Iranian surface to air missile sites and radar installations just before the Israeli planes hit their targets. Some will probably be delivered from the air outside the range of Iran's jet fighter aircraft (most of which are outdated and in bad shape),and others from Israel's Dolphin class submarines.

Time frame? Lessee what we got here.The wild card, of course, is how long it takes to deliver the GBU 39s.

Ramadan ends October 1st. Ehud Olmert is set to resign September 21st, less than a week from today.The Jewish High Holy Days begin with Rosh Hashanah on September 29th and run through the end of Yom Kippur, October 9th.Our election day is November 4th.

Based on that, I would guess one of two likely time frames. First during or after the Jewish High Holy Days,say October 1st through October 31st.

The second scenario is after our elections, November 5th through January 20th.

Part of the timing will depend on how the Israelis see the strikes on Iran impacting on our elections. I would assume that by now they've figured out that an Obama administration would be the second coming of Jimmy Carter, and that provided they have the new weaponry and everything else is ready, they'd hit Iran as an "October Surprise" if they perceive it will help McCain.

After November 4th, that won't be a factor anymore, and they would likely take out the Iranians before the new president takes office...and before the Russians stock the Bushehr plant with nuclear fuel in February or so.

In any event, I think we can expect things to heat up fairly soon. And as always, the Israelis will be roundly condemned as warmongers and aggressors in public...while the West privately breathes a huge sigh of relief.


Anonymous said...

iba news reported this last evening. during the report they were very explicit in their description of the weapons NOT being able to penetrate the type of bunkers the iranians used to protect their nuke facilities.
of course it is a news organization so it may be what else are they gonna say.
stay tuned for the date and time??????
confused gentile.

Smithy said...

Thank God there's been a change of mind in Washington. Those nations who will condemn Israel loudly will include Western Europe... who will have the biggest sigh of relief.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi louie
Actually,all respect to IBA but if you read the specs on these babies they're designed to have the same impact as a 1 ton bomb, the specs are conservative if anything based on what I've heard and there's no reason for the IDF to spend the money to buy them if they can't do the job, no?..

Hi Smithy I think Georgia and Putin's actions world wide are what caused th echange in direction. I doubt it, but the Israelis may even pull this caper off in conjunction with the US..we'll see.

All Best,