The lame-duck Bush administration has their pre-election strategy all drawn up and now appears to be moving ahead with plans to attack Iran just prior to the 2008 election.
Citing an "urgent operational need," the Pentagon is seeking funds to modify B-2 stealth bombers to deliver an experimental 30,000-pound (13.6 ton), satellite-guided bunker busting bomb, officials said Oct. 24.
The likely purpose of the new weapon is to strike Iran's underground nuclear facilities, experts said.
"It raises a red flag," said U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., who called for hearings on the request. "My immediate assumption is that it is a target in Iran, rather than Iraq or Afghanistan."
The U.S. Air Force has asked Congress for nearly $88 million to complete development of the so-called Massive Ordnance Penetrator and modify B-2 bombers so that they can deliver it, an Air Force spokeswoman said.
It's a single bomb with a singular purpose.
"This program is an effort to satisfy an urgent operational need for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000 pound (13,608 kilogram) GPS guided penetrator weapon on B-2 for hard and deeply buried" targets, the Air Force's request budget said.
The item was buried in a $42.3 billion request for "war on terror" funding submitted by the administration last week, raising suspicions about the rush to field what would be the largest satellite-guided conventional bomb in the U.S. arsenal.
"It's a capability that has some relation to the capabilities in the [Central Command area of responsibility]," a senior defense official said. "You have buried targets, particularly in Afghanistan, that you are concerned about," the official added, referring to cave systems that insurgents have used in Afghanistan.
But some experts believe the bomb, also known as "Big Blue," was developed with Iran's deeply buried nuclear facilities in mind.
"I do know they got interested in this around the time the Iranians began backfilling the large uranium enrichment facility at Natanz," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, which follows military issues.
On a strict 'pre-election' timetable:
A first test was conducted in March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., using a "statically emplaced conventional weapon within a DTRA tunnel," according to the agency.
Tests from a B-52 bomber are planned for next month and in July 2008, the agency said in a fact sheet on the bomb.
Hmm, looks like Bush will have this ready to drop just before the 2008 elections, exactly as predicted.
Pike described the bomb as "a big dart. It's basically just a long skinny pointy chunk of steel."
Its massive weight would drive the weapon through rock and reinforced concrete, he said. Fuses could be used to detonate the explosives as it breaks through a ceiling into a void.
UPDATE: VP Cheney predicts the inevitable, and the Fox pundits cheer him on:
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