Emanuele Ottolenghi’s instincts are spot-on regarding the Scottish Herald report of bunker-buster bombs going to Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia is a British-owned island in the Indian Ocean where the U.S. has maintained storage and communication facilities for decades. The island is a hub in our global network of prepositioned supplies and ammunition; shipments to and from the island occur far more often than we go to war.
The bomb shipment discussed in the Herald item isn’t of a kind that happens frequently, but it’s exactly the sort that happens as a result of long-term contingency planning. The Pentagon parks ammunition in certain spots around the world to support the operations we may have to undertake. Standing policy drives these preparations most of the time.
The bombs in question — assuming the Herald got their nomenclature right — aren’t our most impressive bunker-busters anyway. The BLU-110 and BLU-117 bombs described in the report are 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs, respectively: weight classes we have used since the early 1990s or before. Fitting these bombs with modern guidance packages and improved penetration capability has given them more punch, but it doesn’t place them in the same category as our premier weapons.
For comparison, the bunker-busters we sold to Israel in 2005 are 5,000-pound weapons. In the U.S. inventory we have an 18,700-pound bunker-buster and a newer 30,000-pound penetrating bomb. Without turning this into “Bomb 101,” the point to take away is that we move the little bombs, which are the workhorses of our inventory, on a more routine basis than we do the big, exotic bombs. Presidents since Bill Clinton have wanted the military to be prepared to attack Iranian targets if it should become necessary, and having the right bombs staged forward is part of that effort. We can deduce from the shipment to Diego Garcia that the military is updating CENTCOM’s inventory and that Obama hasn’t ruled out a military approach to Iran. But there are no grounds to conclude that a strike must be imminent.