With concern mounting over Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. and allies in the region are adding bunker-busting bombs designed to penetrate hardened targets from the air. In a television interview on December 19, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noticeably toughened his previous stance. Iran could build a nuclear weapon within a year, he said, and if they do, “We will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.”
The U.S. Air Force disclosed last month that it was receiving deliveries from Boeing of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), according to the Los Angeles Times. The MOP is a 30,000-pound, precision-guided bomb dropped from B-52s or B-2s that is designed to penetrate up to 200 feet underground before exploding. Development of the bomb, a more powerful successor to the BLU-109, started in 2004 with support of the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).
The DTRA said it conducted flight tests of the bomb at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, from 2008 to 2010 under the MOP Technology Demonstration program. In February 2010, the demonstration transitioned to the Air Force as a Quick Reaction Capability program. Final system refinement, design and test will be complete in 2012, with additional weapon deliveries in 2013.The contract with Boeing calls for 20 bombs.
Last January, AIN reported on a State Department cable published by Wikileaks that revealed the transfer in 2009 of 55 Raytheon-built GBU-28 “bunker buster” bombs to Israel to counter the threat posed by Iran. The 5,000-pound, laser-guided GBU-28s originally were developed to penetrate Iraqi command centers. They could be carried by Israeli Air Force F-15s or F-16s tasked with destroying Iranian nuclear sites.
Furthermore, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on November 30 of a possible foreign military sale to the United Arab Emirates of 4,900 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS/inertial navigation kits to convert unguided bombs into precision-guided “smart” weapons. The request, valued at $304 million, seeks 304 Laser JDAM kits for 500-pound GBU-54 laser-guided bombs, and includes 3,300 BLU-111 500-pound bombs, 1,000 BLU-117 2,000-pound bombs and 600 BLU-109 2,000-pound hard target penetrator bombs, designed to penetrate up to six feet of reinforced concrete. The munitions would be deployed on the UAE’s Block 60 F-16s. Boeing is the prime contractor, with the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma.
“The UAE government continues vital host-nation support of U.S. forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base [in the UAE], plays an important role in supporting U.S. regional interests and has proved to be a valued partner in overseas operations,” states the DSCA notification. “The proposed sale will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future regional threats.”