Cost a bomb: Congress approves $82 million for army’s biggest weapon

This US Air Force photo shows weapon specialistsas they look on as a mock up of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator sits in bomb bay of the B-2 weapons load trainer (AFP Photo)
It weighs as much as the bell in Big Ben; it’s capable of plunging through 60 feet of reinforced concrete and has the most ridiculously sexual name imaginable for a deadly weapon – but the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is THE bomb, says the Pentagon.

­Talk of beefing the bomb up with a hardened case and further advancements has been ongoing since the Air Force took delivery of it in September 2011. But Bloomberg reported that, in response to “an urgent request” from the Pentagon, immediate approval was given to shift $81.6 million to the so-called MOP program.

The urgency is not explained – but it can be speculated that the Pentagon does not want to mop up a potential mess if (or when) it goes to war with Iran. So they’re putting a rush on something that can easily destroy things like underground labs, or secret nuclear facilities.

Like, for example, the Fordo fuel enrichment plant, hidden deep underneath Iranian bedrock, where uranium enrichment has begun (a fact that has made the military top brass in Washington more than a little antsy).

But the existing modification of the bunker-buster, which the Pentagon paid over $330 million for, still presented some concerns. As did the Iranian lab location, deep within the Persian mountains.

So it was back to Chicago-based Boeing for some serious modifications – like a second fuse, enhanced weapon capabilities and tail-fin adjustments. In other words, everything needed to penetrate nearly 300 feet of mountain rock, as opposed to the current 60 that is the Massive Penetrator’s current limit (and according to the Army, a massive limitation).

However, it now looks like there is no nut the army won’t be able to crack (and no rock it won’t be able to penetrate), as an army fact sheet claims “final system refinement, design and test will be complete in 2012 with additional weapon deliveries in 2013.”

All this comes on the back of a long-simmering nuclear dispute that has come to the boil in recent weeks, with the West imposing new sanctions that are having a real impact on Iran's economy, and Iran responding with threats to the transit of oil tankers through the Gulf, which have shaken up markets.

Secretary of defense Leon Panetta has recently confirmed no option is off the table in dealing with Iran, including the military one, and the US has been strengthening ties with its allies in the Persian Gulf, by selling them billions of dollars’ worth of bombs, missiles, fighter jets and other munitions.

With this latest investment in the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, however, the US clearly wants Iran to know that its military will MOP the floor with the Islamic Republic and its alleged nuclear threat. In 2013, of course, when the new Penetrator will achieve its new, superb levels of penetration

­Katerina Azarova, RT