Feeds

Nuke-bunker-nobbling US megabomb delayed

The (14-tonne, steel) pencil is mightier than the sword

Boost IT visibility and business value

Efforts by the US military to equip the batwinged B-2 "Spirit" Stealth bomber with a huge penetrator weapon - suitable for use against underground Iranian nuclear facilities - have been delayed.

B2 stealth bomber

Flying the unfriendly skies in 2011?

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is a huge, 14-tonne steel pencil containing a relatively small 2.5-tonne explosive charge. Dropped from high altitude, it strikes at supersonic speed with terrific force, punching through many metres of concrete or earth protection before exploding.

Very similar weapons - for instance the British "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrators - designed by legendary 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 weapons and bombers will be needed to eliminate a target.

In the event of America deciding to take military action against Iran's nuclear programme, MOPs dropped from B-2s would seem like one of the least-worst options. The high-flying stealthy bombers would probably be able to penetrate Iranian air defences without a major battle, and the MOPs would be able to wreck even deeply-buried targets like the uranium-enrichment centrifuge bunkers of Natanz.

The effort to develop the MOP and get it deployed aboard B-2s has been underway for some years now. The US government assigned extra funds to speed things up earlier this year, but nonetheless Reuters is now reporting that the delivery date has slipped 6 months to December 2010.

"Funding delays and enhancements to the planned test schedule have pushed the capability availability date to December 2010," Tara Rigler, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told the newswire.

The MOP has been used in successful test drops already, but only from older B-52 Stratofortresses. A raid on Iran by B-52s would probably involve more fighting and casualties than one by Spirits, and Pentagon spokesmen have confirmed that the Stratofortress will not be the operational platform for the weapon.

Some analysts have suggested that less-powerful air forces like those of Israel could mount an effective raid on Iran's nuclear complex. Such an operation would involve large numbers of aircraft, a tough battle with Iran's Russian-supplied defences, serious risks of failure and certainty of major diplomatic protests - not just from Iran, but also from countries overflown by the raiders.

The arrival of MOP-armed B-2s on the international scene can be expected to figure large in the deliberations of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when it happens, and perhaps also in the government councils of North Korea. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.