A little noticed July 19, 2007 press release from aerospace and defense conglomerate Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) reveals that the company is undertaking the task of refitting a number of the US Air Force's B-2 Stealth Bombers with new bomb racks able to hold and deliver the Boeing produced 30,000 pound (13,600 kg) Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bunker busting bomb.
PALMDALE, Calif., July 19, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The U.S. Air Force's B-2 stealth bomber would be able to attack and destroy an expanded set of hardened, deeply buried military targets using a new 30,000 pound-class penetrator weapon that Northrop Grumman has begun integrating on the aircraft.
The company is doing the work under a seven-month, $2.5 million contract awarded June 1 by the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.
The new Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which is being developed by The Boeing Company, is a GPS-guided weapon containing more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside a 20.5-foot long enclosure of hardened steel. It is designed to penetrate dirt, rock and reinforced concrete to reach enemy bunker or tunnel installations. The B-2 is capable of carrying two MOPs, one in each weapons bay.
The weapon is substantially larger than the previously deepest penetrating bunker buster, the 5000 lb (2,270 kg) GBU-28. It joins a select arsenal of massive non-nuclear bombs along side the famous "Daisycutter", the 15,000 pound BLU-82 bomb designed originally to create clearings in the Vietnam jungle to enable helicopters to put down, and which had a lethality radius of 300 metres, and the so called Mother Of All Bombs, the 30 ft (9.17 m) long, 21,000 pound (9.5 metric tonnes) GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), the hitherto most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed.
There has of course been much chatter lately that any air strikes intended to knock out, or set back the Iranian nuclear program, located at hardened underground facilities such as Natanz, would require the use of either small tactical nuclear devices, or conventional explosive bombs of a size and design hitherto never before used, like the MOP.
Of course, planning, and even preparing for a contingency, does not in itself imply any decision to launch an attack. But it might be prudent on the part of the Iranian leadership to dig a little deeper, both in the diplomatic bag, and in a very real and concrete sense.