The U.S. Air Force has taken delivery of a new 30,000-pound bomb from Boeing Co. that’s capable of penetrating deeply buried enemy targets.
The huge bunker buster, dubbed the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, is built to fit the B-2 stealth bomber. The Air Force Global Strike Command started receiving the bombs in September, Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jack Miller said in a short statement to Bloomberg News.
The deliveries “will meet requirements for the current operational need,” he said.
The Air Force in 2009 said Boeing might build as many as 16 of the munitions. Miller yesterday had no details on how many the Air Force plans to buy. Boeing in August received a $32 million contract that included eight of the munitions.
Command head Lieutenant General James Kowalski told the annual Air Force Association conference in September the command “completed integration” of the bunker-buster bomb with the B-2, “giving the war-fighter increased capability against hardened and deeply buried targets.”
The bomb is the U.S. military’s largest conventional penetrator. It’s six times bigger than the 5,000-pound bunker buster that the Air Force now uses to attack deeply buried nuclear, biological or chemical sites.
Chicago-based Boeing is manufacturing the bomb, which was successfully demonstrated in March 2007.
The B-2, developed by Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp., has a shape and skin capable of evading radar. It’s the only U.S. bomber designed to penetrate air defenses such as those believed in use by North Korea and Iran. It’s also the only aircraft currently capable of carrying the new bomb.
The B-2 has bombed targets in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Three in March flew round-trip, non-stop missions from Missouri to Libya in the opening hours of U.S. air strikes, dropping 45 bombs.
Little authoritative information has been published about the capability of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. A December 2007 story by the Air Force News Service said it has a hardened-steel casing and can reach targets as far down as 200 feet underground before exploding.
The new, 20.5-foot-long bomb carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives and is guided by Global Positioning System satellites, according to a description on the Web site of the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
The Pentagon in July 2009 formally asked Congress to shift funds in order to accelerate by three years fielding the weapon.
Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale, in his July 8, 2009, request, said there was “an urgent operational need for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high-threat environments,” and top commanders of U.S. forces in Asia and the Middle East “recently identified the need to expedite” the bomb program.
The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency last week reported Iran was trying to develop an atomic bomb to fit on a missile capable of hitting Israel.
Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons facilities are dispersed over a broad area 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) and multiple countries to the east of Tel Aviv. Some are underground. Iran has repeatedly asserted that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian goals, such as power generation.
Iran is following the lead of China and Russia in protecting its Natanz and Qom nuclear facilities by moving them underground, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, told a Senate panel in February.
“Buried, hardened facilities and improved air defenses are key elements of Iran’s extensive program to protect its nuclear infrastructure from destruction,” Burgess said.
“The spread of western tunneling technology and equipment is contributing to a rise in construction by countries and organizations that have not previously used modern techniques,” he said.
Authorities in Tehran announced recently that they’re moving some uranium enrichment from a more vulnerable site at Natanz to a location at Qom that is 90 meters (295 feet) under rock, said David Albright, who is founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.