Feeds

Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons

As new Iranian nuke bunker appears on Google Earth

Top three mobile application threats

American stealth bombers will soon be equipped to drop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), the gigantic deep-bunker-blasting bomb currently being developed by the Yanks.

Northrop Grumman announced the relatively cheap $2.5m stealth-bomber refit contract yesterday. An undisclosed number of the US Air Force's 22 B-2 "Spirit" bombers will each be able to carry a brace of 15-tonne MOPs in around seven months' time.

B2 stealth bomber

The B-2 Stealth Bomber, soon to be equipped with Massive Ordnance Penetrators.

The US Air Force says the B-2's stealth characteristics give it "the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten his most valued, and heavily defended, targets".

The MOP mega-bomb, second heaviest conventional weapon ever built, is said to be able to drill through many metres of earth or concrete protection. Only 20 per cent of the weapon's weight is explosives; the rest is a hardened metal case. The idea is that the MOP will fall from high altitude and strike its target like a supersonic - or even hypersonic - spear, punching through to explode at the correct depth.

There isn't much doubt regarding whose air defence the stealth-bombers might fly through, or what valued targets they might hit with their penetrating superbombs.

The uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz is generally thought to be the main point of vulnerability in the Iranian nuclear programme, where weapons-grade metals could be produced. Most analyses - some even publicly available - reckon Natanz is the big target for the US (or Israel) in the event of a move to cripple Iran's nuke effort.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, significant parts of the Natanz facilities are underground, buried beneath a few metres of concrete and perhaps 75 feet of earth. The MOP wouldn't have a problem with that, though. In any case, Mohammed el-Baradei of the UN says Iran is at present producing only small amounts of uranium.

Things may not be totally under control, however. There are recent reports that civilian satellite pictures show new digging efforts in the mountains just outside the Natanz facility. Analysts worldwide believe the pics show a tunnel complex being developed.

The Washington Post quotes David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, as saying: "The tunnel complex certainly appears to be related to Natanz... it is probably for storage of nuclear items."

Albright's Institute for Science and International Security thinktank provided the Post scribes with copies of the snaps, taken by Digital Globe. Fortunately, the Reg and its readers can have a look too, as Digital Globe is a provider to our old friend Google Earth.

Natanz_drawn

The Natanz uranium enrichment complex.

Natanz tunnel?

Tunnel complex entrance? Could be ...

Or Google Earth users can poke about for themselves, here.

A large enough layer of rock could stop even the MOP. On the other hand, this may just be a storage or waste facility.

The UN nuke watchdog told the Post on Friday: "We have been in contact with the Iranian authorities about this, and we have received clarifications," but didn't go into detail.

Nor would US intelligence officials, though they confirmed that they were aware of the situation.

IS the new MOP/B-2 contract a response to satellite intel? Is the US government worried Natanz or the uranium it produces could soon be invulnerable?

Perhaps the Pentagon just wants to look as though it's on top of things. The bunker-buster contract was awarded, according to Northrop, just days before the Natanz story broke in the civilian press. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
LOHAN and the amazing technicolor spaceplane
Our Vulture 2 livery is wrapped, and it's les noix du mutt
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.