Reports emerging from the conflict along the Gaza strip suggest that new weapons are being employed by the Israel Air Force. Among the systems allegedly employed are several types of earth- and bunker-penetrating weapons, used in target underground facilities, including tunnels, weapons caches and rocket launching sites.
Israel pioneered earth-penetrating weapon technology back in the 1960s, when Israel Military Industries (IMI) developed the runway-piercing bomb that was successfully used to neutralize the Egyptian and Syrian airfields on Operation Moked, the dramatic and highly successful opening air strike on the first day of the 1967 Six Day War.
A new version of the concept is the Runway Attack Munition (RAM), designed to destroy airfield runways by exploding underneath the runway's concrete surface. This weapon has become a popular export product in recent years. While the RAM is not guided, its submunitions could be effectively used for earth penetrations.
For precision attacks, such as those against known tunnels, a much larger weapon known as the IMI PB500A1 can be used. This bunker-buster is much smaller than the massive US GBU-28 two-ton weapon acquired by Israel. The 1000 pound class (425 kg) PB500A1 weapon is comparable in performance to some 1000-pound class warheads, enabling aircraft to carry more weapons on every sortie. That facilitates multiple, simultaneous attacks, as demonstrated during Sunday's tunnel operation.
The PB500A1 is compatible with standard laser guidance kits including the IAI-MBT Next Generation LGB - specifically designed to optimize the use of penetrators and minimize collateral damage, by controlling the weapon's trajectory and impact angle.
The Jerusalem Post indicated Tuesday that the Israel Air Force has used the US-supplied Boeing GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb in in the latest operation. According to the Post, the new weapons were ordered in September and arrived last month. The SDB uses the same GPS-inertial guidance as JDAM and is therefore not as accurate a laser-guided weapon.
Video released by the Israel Air Force depicts highly accurate hits by earth penetrators, causing secondary explosions throughout along the tunnel axis.