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3 May, 2013 13:30

MOP up: US 'upgrades' biggest bunker buster to calm Israel over Iran

MOP up: US 'upgrades' biggest bunker buster to calm Israel over Iran

The Pentagon has reportedly upgraded its biggest conventional bomb to be able to take out Iran’s fortified Fordow nuclear site. It is meant to allay Israeli fears that should Iran try to make a nuclear bomb, military action would not stop it.

The upgrade of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) reported by the Wall Street Journal includes deeper burrowing capability, better guidance system and improved countermeasures to avoid air defense systems. The upgraded version had not been tested yet, the newspaper reports, citing unnamed US officials.

American officials gave details of the upgrade to their Israeli counterparts and demonstrated a classified video showing the test of an earlier version of MOP several times in recent weeks, WSJ says. The contacts were part of Obama administration’s effort to convince the Israelis not to carry out a unilateral military strike on Iran, according to the report.

Israel threatened an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, saying that if it doesn’t act soon than the Islamic Republic would soon become impervious to such an airstrike. The US publicly discouraged Israel from it and advocated diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue.

The US, Israel and some of their allies believe that Iran is trying to secretly develop a nuclear weapon under the guise of its civilian nuclear program. They want Tehran to halt enrichment of uranium, accusing it of hoarding the fissile material in preparation to rush production of a nuclear bomb.

Iran denies the allegations and insists that it has a sovereign right for peaceful nuclear development. It says it needs domestic enrichment facilities as an independent source of fuel for its reactors.

MOP is the successor BLU-109 as US Air Force’s ‘bunker buster’ weapon, designed to be dropped from the B-2 and B-52 bombers. The GPS-enabled 14-ton 6-meter weapon is designed to penetrate reinforced concrete facilities before detonation. The Pentagon said it contracted a total of 20 of such bombs from the producer, Boeing.

Fordow nuclear enrichment facility is buried under a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom. Israel has concerns that its Air Force would not be able to completely destroy it even with latest supplies offered by the US.

The news comes as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Israel. The secretary reportedly was trying to convince his Israeli counterparts to wait until after the Iranian parliamentary election in June, according to WSJ.

The Obama administration views the event is a milestone, which is to show how successful was its campaign to pressure Iran into changing its policies with a series of crippling economic sanctions.