An Air Force general says Iraqi military leaders were the target of a powerful new U.S. bomb dropped on a fortified Iraqi bunker at the close of the Persian Gulf war.
Gen. Ronald Yates, commander of Air Force Systems Command, told reporters Wednesday that the bomb, called the GBU-28, was dropped on a single target, which he described as a command and control complex containing "senior staff" of the Iraqi military.Yates, whose command was in charge of building the bomb, did not describe the extent of damage nor did he say whether the Air Force knew exactly which Iraqi military officials were in the bunker.
The existence of the bomb and its use against Iraqi command shelters near Baghdad was disclosed May 6 by the magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology, which said the Air Force denied it was targeting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
A presidential executive order forbids U.S. agents or forces from killing foreign leaders. During the war, U.S. military leaders said they were targeting Iraq's military command structure but not Saddam himself.
Last September during the U.S. military buildup in the gulf, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael Dugan, was fired by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney for telling reporters that the Air Force would target the Iraqi leadership, including Saddam, in an air war.
Yates, speaking at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters, declined to elaborate further on the use of the GBU-28 bomb. He said "a classified number" of the bombs were built in the final days of the war, but he would not be more specific. He would not say whether more of the bombs will be built.
At 4,700 pounds, the laser-guided bomb is more than twice as heavy and several feet longer than the BLU-109, a 2,000-pound bomb that had been the Air Force's most effective weapon against reinforced bunkers.
The Air Force Development Test Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said in a statement Monday that two GBU-28 bombs were sent to the gulf, both on Feb. 27. It said gun camera footage from the F-111 aircraft that dropped one of the bombs showed that it entered the center of the bunker and that a large cloud exploded from one of the entrances. It gave no other details on damage.