The US Department of Defense has notified Congress of a potential sale to Israel of 1,000 smart bombs capable of penetrating underground bunkers, which would likely be used in the event of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The notification to Congress was made over the weekend by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the branch of the Pentagon responsible for evaluating foreign military sales. Congress has 30 days to object to the deal.
The deal is valued at $77 million and the principal contractor would be Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
The bomb Israel wants is the GBU-39, developed in recent years by the US as a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision and low-collateral damage strikes.
Israel has also asked for 150 mounting carriages, 30 guided test vehicles and two instructors to train the air force in loading the bombs on its aircraft.
The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world. The 113 kg. bomb has the same penetration capabilities as a normal 900 kg. bomb, although it has only 22.7 kg. of explosives. At just 1.75 meters long, its small size increases the number of bombs an aircraft can carry and the number of targets it can attack in a sortie.
Tests conducted in the US have proven that the bomb is capable of penetrating at least 90 cm. of steel-reinforced concrete. The GBU-39 can be used in adverse weather conditions and has a standoff range of more than 110 km. due to pop-out wings.
In its recommendation to Congress, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency wrote that Israel's strategic position was "vital to the United States' interests throughout the Middle East."
"It is vital to the US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives," the statement read.
The agency's announcement came amid growing concern that the Pentagon was not willing to sell Israel advanced military platforms such as bunker-buster missiles in an effort to dissuade Jerusalem from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.
Bunker-buster missiles would be a fundamental component of an air strike against Iran, since many of the nuclear facilities, such as the Natanz uranium enrichment complex, have been built in underground, heavily fortified bunkers.
During the Second Lebanon War, Israel reportedly received an emergency shipment of bunker-buster missiles from the US to use against underground Hizbullah facilities.
Yiftah Shapir, from the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the GBU-39 is one of the most advanced in the world and would improve Israel's standoff fire capabilities.
"The bomb is extremely accurate," he said. "All you have to do is punch in the coordinates, fire and forget."
He said they could be used to attack Iranian underground facilities like Natanz but that they could only penetrate a few meters.
"Hundreds of these would have to be used in an attack on Natanz for it to be successful," Shapir said.