Iran reportedly building new underground nuclear facility so deep, impenetrable to missile strikes
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warns that Iran is also turning civilian merchant ships into ‘floating terrorist bases’
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Iran is building a nuclear facility “so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of a last-ditch U.S. weapon designed to destroy such sites.”
The AP based their conclusion on experts and satellite imagery showing the vicinity of the underground Natanz nuclear site, located in the Zagros Mountains in central Iran. Photos and videos from the area reveal that Iran has been digging tunnels in the mountain nearby, according to the report.
Natanz is a key Iranian nuclear facility that has been the target of a few sabotage attacks in the past. In 2021, Iran blamed Israel for a cyberattack that caused a power outage at the site. The incident took place hours after the Natanz reactor restarted spinning advanced centrifuges capable of speeding up the production of enriched uranium.
The new underground Iranian project adjacent to Natanz is located about 225 kilometers (140 miles) south of Tehran and spreads across 2.7 square kilometers (1 square mile), according to the AP. It is reportedly guarded by anti-aircraft batteries, fencing and Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Experts say the scale of the underground facility, as observed, indicates that Iran will likely be able to use the site for the enrichment of uranium, in addition to building centrifuges. They assess that the new site will be even deeper underground than the key nuclear facility in Fordo.
“The depth of the facility is a concern because it would be much harder for us. It would be much harder to destroy using conventional weapons, such as like a typical bunker buster bomb,” said Steven De La Fuente, a research associate at the center who led the analysis of the tunnel work.
The report elaborated that Iran’s underground nuclear facilities have led the United States to create the GBU-57 bomb, able to penetrate through at least 60 meters (200 feet) of earth before detonating. U.S. military officials have reportedly discussed using two such bombs – one after the other – to ensure the destruction of a nuclear site.
However, the AP report stressed that it is not clear that such a strategy may not be efficient enough to operate a facility as deep as the one at Natanz.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Iran has been turning civilian merchant ships into military vessels in an effort to create “floating terrorist bases.”
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference of the Institute for Policy and Strategy in central Israel on Monday, Gallant revealed that Tehran has launched a secret war against Israel on the maritime front.
“These ships weigh tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of tons. They are capable of carrying all kinds of weapons, including drones, missiles, advanced assault and intelligence systems. They aim to form front-line terrorist bases in areas that are remote from the Iranian border,” Gallant explained.
“The floating terrorist bases are a direct continuation of the maritime terrorism that Iran controls throughout the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, and is working to expand it to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and even the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.”
"This is a coordinated and planned policy, designed to threaten the shipping and flight routes, both military and civilian, and to create a situation of declaring a permanent threat in the maritime space,” Gallant stated.
The minister urged international cooperation to confront the floating threat to the region by establishing anti-terrorism coalitions against the Islamic Republic.
Along with a credible military threat in front of every arena, this “will lead to an optimal confrontation with Iranian terrorism, in the air, at sea and on land," he added.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.