As part of a major escalation military aid to Israel, in the aftermath of the outbreak of open hostilities between Israeli forces and multiple Palestinian militia groups in the Gaza Strip, American officials have reported that the United States has supplied Israel with 100 BLU-109 bunker buster bombs for use in the conflict. While the U.S. had not disclosed the content of its arms shipments publicly, officials have spoken anonymously with local media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal. The 2000 pound bombs formed a small minority of approximately 15,000 bombs that have been shipped to Israel over the past two months. The assets are considered vital to neutralising Hamas and other Palestinian militias’ fortified underground positions, which although far less well protected than those used by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, another Israeli adversary, are still challenging to destroy from the air. Supplies of high payload bombs for use in Israeli operations has raised significant controversies particularly outside the Western world, with international observers widely accusing Israeli forces of war crimes, and at times even genocide, against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has sought to acquire new generations of ‘bunker buster’ bombs from the United States for over two decades, and in 2005 first requested the delivery of GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators. While the George W. Bush administration refused to provide the bombs in 2005, deliveries were approved under high secrecy in the first year of the Obama administration in 2009 with 55 bombs reportedly sent that year. There were concerns in Washington at the time that the deliveries would be perceived in Iran as a green light from Washington for Israel to launch an attack on the country. The GBU-28 is a much larger 5000 pound bomb, and is operated only by the U.S., Israel and South Korea. The recently delivered and far less costly BLU-109 is much more widely deployed by U.S.-aligned states including in the Middle East Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel faced its greatest challenge tackling forces using underground bunkers and tunnels in 2006 during its brief war with the Hezbollah, which had commissioned North Korean experts to oversee the construction of a vast underground network including many positions too well fortified to be targeted by either of the two aforementioned bombs. An Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip limiting the construction materials available, as well as a significant discrepancy in the soil types seen due to its proximity to the sea, has meant that the tunnel network there represents a significantly softer target. Among the most hardened targets the U.S. Military may potentially face are key military facilities in China and North Korea, many of which are built deeply under mountains to depths well over 100 metres. Such positions can potentially be targeted by launching multiple strikes using the very large 30,000 pound GBU-57 Massive Ordinance Penetrators, which can only be carried by strategic bombers such as the B-2 Spirit due to their sheer weight. Multiple variants of the B61 tactical nuclear bomb, which can deploy 350 kiloton warheads well over twenty times as powerful as those used against Hiroshima, are also well optimised to neutralising deeply fortified positions.