US Briefly Posted, Then Removed Photos Of Bomb Designed To Obliterate Iranian Nuclear Facilities From The Internet
The U.S. Air Force briefly published rare photos of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator “bunker buster” bomb earlier in May as recently revealed satellite imagery shows that Iran is constructing nuclear facilities that could be out of reach, The Associated Press reported.
Photos of the powerful GBU-57, a bomb that can penetrate deep into the Earth and could target Iran’s underground bunkers used to enrich uranium, surfaced on the Whiteman Air Force Base Facebook page on May 2 before disappearing hours later, the AP reported. It comes as Tehran has begun construction on a nuclear facility that is likely beyond the reach of the weapon, the outlet reported, citing experts, satellite photos and videos from Planet Labs PBC.
A caption below the photos said the base had received two of the bombs so a munitions team on base could “test their performance,” the AP reported.
Expert analysis suggested the Air Force photos may have revealed sensitive information about the Massive Ordnance Penetrator’s strike capabilities, according to the AP.
“Immediate removal from the internet without comment (or) justification means there is a potential lapse,” Rahul Udoshi, a senior weapons analyst at Janes, an open-source intelligence company, told the AP.
Markings on the bombs featured in the photos outlined an ordnance weight of 27,125 pounds and the weapons’ composition as a mix between AFX-757, a standard explosive, and PBXN-114, a newer compound, Udoshi said, according to the AP.
The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation about whether the posting of the photos was related to tensions over Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Pentagon invested in the GBU-57 in the early 2000s as Iran began tunneling into the Earth to house nuclear enrichment sites, rendering the facilities more difficult to target, according to the AP.
The U.S. has posted photos of the bomb in the past, according to the AP. In 2019, the Air Force released a video of a B-2 bomber dropping two of the GBU-57 bombs. Whiteman Air Force Base houses the B-2 Bomber, the only aircraft capable of delivering the weapon, according to the AP.
GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (Trainer version).
US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is presently the only aircraft capable of and clear to employ this 30,000-pound bunker buster bomb.
Photo from 131st Bomb Wing Missouri Air National Guard Facebook page. pic.twitter.com/72siz5bI7c
— Ryan Chan 陳家翹 (@ryankakiuchan) April 2, 2023
Meanwhile, Tehran is digging into the mountain near the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility at depths somewhere between 260 feet and 328 feet, according to experts and the AP’s analysis. The scope of construction suggests Iran would be able to build centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, and perform the actual enrichment process in the new facility. However, previous descriptions of the “bunker buster” describe it as having a penetration depth of 200 feet, the AP reported.
Iran is reportedly enriching Uranium to 83.7% purity, just shy of the level considered ideal for fueling nuclear weapons, according to the AP.