The Pentagon notified Congress it wants to sell Israel as many as 6,900 tail kits used to convert free-fall bombs into satellite-guided ordnance, including weapons capable of penetrating hardened targets.
The proposed deal to resupply the Israeli Air Force with bombs, tail kits, fuses and logistical support would be valued at as much as $647 million, according to a statement yesterday from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The all-weather satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, tail kits are made by Boeing Co. Bombs delivered this way are among the most precise weapons in the U.S. and Israeli arsenal. They can be dropped by F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.
The proposed sale includes 1,725 JDAM tail kits with BLU-109 bombs, which are 2,000-pound, hard-target penetrators. The BLU-109 is a so-called bunker buster. The bomb is designed to “defeat an enemy’s most critical and hardened targets,” such as protected weapons storage sites, and penetrate as much as six feet of reinforced concrete, according to a U.S. Air Force fact sheet.
The new order in part could be driven by a need to resupply Israel for the bombs dropped during last month’s strike in Gaza to stop Hamas rocket attacks, said Jeff White, a military analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Hamas and the other groups had lots of underground targets that were attacked,” White said in an e-mail statement. The additional weapons “could be an effort to give the Israeli Air Force a capability for more extended or more extensive air campaigns than before.”
The weapons aren’t “suitable for the really deep underground facilities,” while good for command posts, aircraft shelters and air defense facilities, he said.
The move “does not appear intended to transfer any new capability that Israel could use against the most hardened sites of Iran’s nuclear program,” Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, said in an e-mailed statement.
The order, which Congress has 30 days to review before it automatically goes into effect, includes 3,450 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs, a 250-pound weapon the U.S. Air Force developed to minimize non-combatant injuries and deaths near a target.
It’s designed to penetrate three feet of reinforced concrete and can be launched more than 60 nautical miles from a target, according to a fact sheet from Chicago-based Boeing. The U.S. has sold the weapons to Israel previously.
The small-diameter bombs could be used “in built-up areas like Gaza and parts of southern Lebanon where Israel’s enemies mix their forces in with the civilian population,” White said.
Other contractors involved the potential sale include Arlington, Virginia-based Alliant Techsystems Inc., Raytheon Co.’s Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Arizona, and Cincinnati, Ohio-based KDI Precision Products Inc.