Feeds

US military tests ground-penetrating monster bomb

Now why would they want one of those?

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The US military's effort to build what may become the largest conventional bomb ever used is making progress.

Boeing announced on Monday that its Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) demo weapon had successfully completed a "static tunnel lethality test" at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The MOP, which also goes under the names "Big BLU" and "Direct Hard Target Strike Weapon", is a 30,000-pound brute, intended for delivery by B-52 Stratofortresses or B-2 stealth bombers against deeply buried or heavily protected targets.

It's being developed under the auspices of the US military's interestingly-named Threat Reduction Agency, which normally does things like verifying nuke disposals. The MOP is intended to reduce the threats faced by the USA only, of course, by pulverising them. From the viewpoint of other countries the new bomb could be described more as a threat enhancement.

Even so, to some the MOP seems like a relatively delicate tool. The US originally had a plan to deal with enemy bunkers, WMD facilities or whatnot using a special ground-penetrating nuke. The "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" programme was axed by the Senate in 2005, however, leaving the MOP as America's last best hope for taking out difficult targets.

Bomb spotters may care to note that the MOP won't be the heaviest conventional bomb ever made by the US. The 1940s era T-12, at almost 44,000lb, was a substantially bigger brute. The T-12 was one of the final developments of the World War II Allies' "earthquake bomb" programmes, developed to knock out German V-weapon sites and U-boat pens. Famed British bomb boffin Barnes Wallis, inventor of the dam-busting "bouncing bomb", was an early innovator, designing the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrators.

The T-12 didn't arrive in time for wartime use, and is now obsolete. The US does have some pretty hefty ordnance in current service, most famously the 21,700-lb GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) job – perhaps better known under its media nickname "Mother Of All Bombs".

The MOAB isn't any good for knocking out bunkers, however. It's a pure blast weapon, essentially a massive lump of explosive without penetrating abilities. It was developed to replace the old 15,000lb "Daisy Cutters" which US forces used to flatten jungle and create helicopter landing zones in Vietnam.

The MOP, however, should be just the ticket for deep bunkers. Most of its weight is actually in the hardened metal casing, which will strike the earth at several times the speed of sound after falling from high altitude. This should enable the MOP to drill a long way down before exploding.

There must be a lot of planners at the Pentagon scratching their heads right now over the Iranian nuke facility at Natanz, parts of which are said to be 75 feet underground and covered by metres of reinforced concrete. They'll be very keen to see the MOP ready for use. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.