Feeds

Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons

As new Iranian nuke bunker appears on Google Earth

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.