Feeds

US Stealth bombers may get nuke-bunker nobbler for 2010

14-tonne supersonic steel pencil could have your eye out

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Reports from Washington suggest that the US military is seeking to speed up efforts to deploy a new 14 tonne bunker-piercing conventional weapon aboard its fleet of B-2 stealth bombers. The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) could be used to strike at heavily protected Iranian or North Korean nuclear facilities.

Reuters reports that the US Air Force is seeking to speed up the MOP programme, requesting extra funds from Washington politicians to that end. The Pentagon hopes to have B-2s equipped to carry MOPs as soon as next year.

"The Air Force and Department of Defense are looking at the possibility of accelerating the program," USAF spokesman Andy Bourland told the news wire. "There have been discussions with the four congressional committees with oversight responsibilities. No final decision has been made."

The MOP is a comparatively simple proposal, a massive sharpened steel pencil with a relatively small 2.5 tonne explosive charge inside. Dropped from high in the stratosphere, it will strike its target at supersonic speed and punch through many tens of metres of earth or concrete protection before detonating.

Very similar weapons - for instance the British "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrators, designed by legendary Brit bouncing-bomb boffin Barnes Wallis of Dambusters fame and termed "earthquake bombs" - were used against hardened Nazi targets in World War II. An even bigger design, the colossal 20-tonne American T12, arrived too late to see action*. The only significant enhancement boasted by the 14-tonne MOP over the 1940s models is precision guidance, which should mean that far fewer bombers will be needed to eliminate a target.

The likeliest target for MOPs in the immediate future - assuming that a US president chose to resort to military means against a perceived nuclear threat - would probably be the underground centrifuge farm at Natanz in Iran (Google Earth kmz file). A successful strike on the deeply buried enrichment bunkers there would be a major blow to the Iranian nuclear effort.

However, Iranian air defences have been beefed up with Russian missile systems in recent years, and may soon receive further enhancements from the same source. While MOPs could be dropped on Natanz from ordinary American B-52s, mounting such a raid would be difficult and likely to involve a significant aerial precursor campaign against missile sites and the like, with associated additional loss of life on the ground and risk to US aircrews.

By contrast, a B-2 stealth raid would be a comparatively surgical and painless affair - thus the desire to fit the new bunker-nobbling tool to the batwinged low-observable bomber. ®

Bootnote

*The MOP will not be "the largest non-nuclear bomb ever". Tchoh.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.