[Iran] Israel to request America’s new GBU-72 bunker buster bomb

A GBU-17 mounted on the bottom of a USAF F-15 (US Air Force)

Arie Egozi

Breaking Defense  /  October 22, 2021

Israeli planners have shared operational lessons from their recent heavy use of the GBU-28 bomb with the US Air Force in order to help develop operational profiles for the GBU-72.

TEL AVIV: In the coming months, Israel plans to ask the US to sell its new 5,000 pound GBU-72 bomb to the Israeli Defense Forces, sources here say, with the goal of utilizing it against Hamas’ subterranean bases.

Already, Israeli planners have shared operational lessons from their use of the GBU-28 bomb with the US Air Force in order to help develop operational profiles for the GBU-72. In turn, Israeli military officials hope Washington will ok the eventual sale of the GBU-72 once it enters full use in for the US Air Force.

During this years “Guardian of the Walls” military operation in Gaza, Israeli made significant use of the GBU-28, an older 5,000 pound “bunker buster” weapon,” in order to target Hamas’ so called “Metro City” tunnel network.

Israeli sources told Breaking Defense that the use of these bombs in a densely populated area like Gaza required very accurate planning in order not to the hit the civil population.

Data about these special attack profiles has been transferred to the US Air Force, which just last week announced the successful completion of a series of tests for the GBU-72, proving the weapon can be successfully released from an F-15 fighter. The weapons test included an “arena test,” which a warhead was detonated while surrounded by sensor to determine the full impact and lethality.

The GBU-72 was developed to “overcome hardened, deeply buried target challenges and designed for both fighter and bomber aircraft,” per the USAF announcement. Given the liberal use of underground tunnels by Hamas, it’s easy to see why Israel would be interested in the GBU-72s improved capability over the older GBU-28 design. And as Israel already operates the F-15 — and is seeking to add to its fleet — integration should be simple.

Aside from its interest in the new bunker-busting weapon, Israel’s Air Force has had a busy week during Blue Flag, an exercise that kicked off October 17 and will run through October 28. In addition to the IDF and USAF, air forces from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India and Greece are taking part, with planned appearances from the Lockheed Martin made F-35, Boeing F-15, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Dassault Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets.

This is the first deployment of a British fighter squadron in Israel since the establishment of the country, as well as the first-ever deployment of both the Indian Mirage fighters and the French Rafales.

According to the IDF the exercise provides the opportunity to conduct joint tactical flights against a variety of threats using advanced technology.  Throughout the exercise, the participating forces will drill air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, advanced surface-to-air missiles threats, and various operational scenarios in enemy territory.

Miki Bar, a former Brig. Gen. in the Israeli Air Force, told Breaking Defense that the inclusion of multiple air forces in the exercise is notable, as it allows the different fleets to experiment with “the exchange of operational intelligence and the use of a base in another country when this is needed.” Even if the exercise is largely a “power show,” as Bar put it, there are interoperability benefits to participants.

The exercise is also serving as the proving ground for the Training Scorpius (Scorpius T) system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which is getting its first international military exercise exposure.

The system emulates modern threat scenarios, with a focus on signal-dense and EW challenges, for aircrews and operators. It uses a range of transmitter and receiver units to simulate combat scenarios for jets in flight.