back to article Stealth bombers to get bunker-nobbling weapons

American stealth bombers will soon be equipped to drop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), the gigantic deep-bunker-blasting bomb currently being developed by the Yanks. Northrop Grumman announced the relatively cheap $2.5m stealth-bomber refit contract yesterday. An undisclosed number of the US Air Force's 22 B-2 "Spirit" …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait a minute..

    So, in order to counter the theat of an enemy developing nuclear weapons the proposal is to use a device that slams a bore-hole in the top of an enclosed nuclear facility, detonates around 3 tonnes of high explosive inside it and potentially creates a mile-high fountain of vapourised nuclear material to spread about as far as the wind takes it.

    This would basically be a massive dirty-bomb explosion but (and here's the sneaky bit) using the enemy's nuclear material for the 'dirty' bit - so you can blame them for the global outbreak of three-eyed children and glow-in-the-dark sheep that results from the fallout.

    I can hear the "if they didn't have it we couldn't have blown it up" defense being prepared for the senate hearings already.

    Fscking genius.

  2. Sig FPE


    Dirty bombs have never and never will work.

    Dick Destiny Reveals All!

  3. Ian Michael Gumby

    Think of it this way...

    What would happen if these guys were creating enough nuclear material for a couple of bombs?

    Then you wouldn't have to worry about a dirty nuke, but several live nukes that *will* be put to use.

    And they would ensure more nukes being put to use in retaliation.

    Yeah, thats a *good* thing .... Not!

    But better than a bunker busting bomb, why not just toss 'rocks' at it from a really high altitude. Like a space station. I mean how much damange could a couple of tons of rock do, moving at hypersonic speeds ? A large enough rock will leave a large enough crater so even if you're off by 1/2 a click, you've still knocked out the facility.

    Yes the moon is a harsh mistress. :-)


  4. Keith T

    Iran -- this would be the anti-al Qada country populated by Shia?

    The aggression towards Iran is classic sucking up to the Wahabi based Saudi Arabian dictatorship.

    Wahabi members of al Qada are the people who attacked the USA on 9-11.

    Wahabism is a sect of Sunni Islam.

    Endorsement by Wahabi clerics keeps the Saud family of dictators in charge of Saudi Arabia.

    The Shites are the Islamic alternative to Sunnis.

    They are natural opponents to al Qada.

    And American Republicans want to attack them because they pose a threat to the USA?

    I rather think the American Republicans want to attack them because they pose a threat to Saudi Arabia.

  5. Dillon Pyron


    When I worked at TI during Desert Storm, I knew the folks who took the original bunker buster from a vague concept to a deliverable product in 29 days. We got to see footage of it blowing through 8 5 foot thick concrete walls in an above ground test. In freefall, it was supposed to reach 450 mph.

    There was a proposal for a rocket powered version that would reach 1000 mph.

    Yes, the moon is a harsh mistress. And Footfall refined that concept.

  6. Stuart


    Iran is a relatively democratic and westernized nation, with an educated urban population.

    The US wants to attack them, because they still bear a grudge for having their puppet dictatorship overthrown, and replaced by a popular regime that is prepared to stand up for itself against continuing US/Israeli economic and military imperialism in the region.

    It would be perfectly reasonable and understandable for Iran to want to possess a nuclear capability - it will garauntee it's security and lift the ever-looming threat of attack or invasion posed by Israel and the US.

    It would be very surprising if Iran was not building as heavily fotified a position as possible, since an attack by Israel is almost certain should they get near a position of possesing a nuclear capability.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a bit of posturing...

    The supposed target is speculation, the US know what assumptions will be made and are just sending a not so clear message to Iran. I doubt they will use it until Iran prevent the UN (and the US) doing any kind of checks.

    After all Iran say its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, so why are they drilling big holes? They have to say it's for storage or else it becomes too obvious that the nuclear plant is a bit more than just a research facility for peaceful use of nuclear power.

    As soon as sat-recon shows the wrong type of equipment going into that hole, then people can start making judgements. If they then don't allow UN inspectors then you have a clear indication of the intent (not necessary that they have the nuclear product but intend to get it.)

    As for dirty bombs and nuclear reactions, well Chernobyl was the ultimate dirty bomb and there was quite a bit of fissionable material there too. So don't fret about causing a big bang by dropping one of these busters on to the facility.

    Yes Chernobyl was dirty and it causes problems (and deaths) but not on a world changing order apart from those unlucky enough to be directly affected. My respects to any suffering from the effects.

    I am never sure if economic pressure works in these situations as you are only harming the regular person in Iran with sanctions and given the political framework there, that doesn't count for much. Therefore mild non-specific "threats" like this can go a long way to getting them around a table.

  8. Nile Heffernan

    Yeah, and the filler is Hush-a-boom

    Right... They are putting a pair of 15-ton bombs with massive steel penetrator casings on a stealth bomber.

    It's not a 'stealth' bomber any more: you'll get a radar return off the bomb load.

    Reshape the casings, and they won't penetrate. Replace them with carbon fibre, ditto. You can go some way to absorb, deflect, or scatter a direct radar return from large hard components - the turbine discs in the engines being a prime example - but it isn't magic. Mostly, the radar beam is deflected, and everbody with a high-value strategic target knows that: they have a line of radar dishes picking up the side-lobes of the reflected signal, not just a single station working in isolation, and those thirty-ton steel tubes are going to light up like a Christmas Tree.

    It remains to be seen whether detectability translates to the technically-challenging task of getting missiles to lock on. But the USAF won't risk a billion-dollar aeroplane and classified technologies finding out the hard way. So the B-2 isn't going in without a massive radar-suppression operation - cruise missiles, HARM missions, ECM... This is not a simple single-mission 'drop' that will appeal to politicians as the quick-and-simple technological fix: it's a campaign, a war in its own right.

    And it might still fail.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop repeating propaganda Lewis

    Where's the evidence that Iran are seeking to build a nuke?

    Stop playing into the hands of American neo-conservatives by repeating their pathetic propaganda!

  10. Morely Dotes

    Who is the attacker? Who cares?

    "It would be very surprising if Iran was not building as heavily fotified a position as possible, since an attack by Israel is almost certain should they get near a position of possesing a nuclear capability."

    Frankly, I don't care if Iran's nuclear facilities are destroyed by the Smurfs, just so long as someone does it. There are enough lunatics in the world who have control of nuclear weapons already; Earth doesn't need another whacko like the President of Iran with the ability to start a nuclear war.

    Project Thor makes more sense that air-launched MOABs, however:

  11. s

    ..and if it *IS* an entrance to a tunnel?

    What's the problem? So the Americans just deliver multiple-wave of MOB's targeted at the doors to the tunnel - they'll cave eventually. Then they could launch TLAM's into it: wave after wave after wave.... And just think, TLAM's can already have Nuke warheads....

  12. Nexox Enigma


    First off, they'd obviously be putting the large bombs /inside/ the bomber. Nobody straps anything onto the outside of a stealth anything. Considering that the radar return off the bomber is so miniscule, even strapping a grenade to the outside would significantly increase the radar cross-section. The inside of the skin of the B-2 is layered with radar absorbing material, has got to work, if the other large metal objects in the craft don't affect the radar signature too much. The reason turbine blades are normally a problem is because they sit right behind large air intakes, so they typically don't have any sheilding in front of them - it is not because they are large chunks of metal. That is why the B-2 has its intakes on the top of the wing, and why the F-117 has large copper mesh panels over its intakes.

    It is doubtful that anyone with any sense would start a whole war to get a few stealth bombers over a base, since the whole point is surprise. And I have a feeling that $3bn (They wouldn't send just one bomber, 3 is more likely) really isn't that much to people that work at the Pentagon.

    Second, if you think that 3 tons of high explosive would manage to eject a mile high plume through 75 feet of earth and a few meters of concrete... well you just haven't thought very hard about it. The hole would be very narrow compared to its length, dirt would start to slide into the hole before the bomb ever got to the bottom, and most of the energy of the explosive would go into converting that 12 tons of metal casing into shrapnel. Plus most of the material down there is unrefined, so it isn't as if it could explode if it wanted to. Nuclear materials don't blow up with a spark or a match or another explosion.

    If they are aiming to take out this Iranian nuke facility, all they need to do is deliver a bit of an earthquake to the extremely delicate and high rpm centrifuges. They probably don't even need to get the bomb all the way into the room(s) with the centrifuges, they just need to put enough energy into the structure to cause some floors to crack and shift, or some rubble to fall from the ceiling. And they've got a couple years in which to do it.

    The problem is that if someone were to damage the facility, they'd just build a new one deeper in the ground, and with more intense protection around it.

  13. sean

    bunker bombs are old news

    something like this was developed during WWII to go after the V2 rocket launch sites and also massive concrete submarine pens. i think barnes wallis (invented the bouncing bomb used in the dambusters raid) was involved, and i know 617 squadron (the dambusters) dropped the things on various missions over mainland europe. i seem to remember reading the bombs were 10 tonnes, and they could penetrate reinforced concrete quite easily.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How do you get a radar signal off bombs inside a plan?

  15. Henry


    Iran is as Democratic as it's Shi'a clerics (Council of Guardians) allow it to be.

    Your choice of the word "relatively" is well placed given the outline of this report

    And I suppose its support of Hezzbollah in Lebanon is a shrewd stabilizing maneuver? Where the _elected_ leader avocates the destruction of another nation to win political points at home?

    Your bogus observation about the type of nuclear capability Iran should have is alarming even to your friends in the UN.

    Iran has the right, of course, to use nuclear for the betterment of its people. But for a nation that is sitting on one of the biggest pools of oil in the world and cannot supply fuel for its own population, it seems to me that taking care of its own population is not a high priority.

    The world would be a lot more comfortable with an Iran that is actually taking better care of it's people rather than its theocratic, pseudodemocratic ideology.

  16. Starace

    Bunker busters

    I'm interested to know if these things will actually work against newly built facilities, or if the people engineering the bunkers have actually taken into account the kinds of weapons that might be deployed against them, which you assume they would particularly after seeing what happened to other existing designs.

    The old WW2 submarine pens were pretty much bomb proof - as I remember it the facilities where construction was finished, and all the parts of the protection were in place were never successfully penetrated even by the largest of the dedicated Tallboy bomb designs. Only those pens that were incomplete and missing the upper protection structures were seriously damaged. The design of the pens took into account the weapons that would be deployed, and countered them. The same is likely to be true today.

    Given that the concept (and in some cases the detail) of the various pentrator bomb designs is well known (generally variations on the original gun tube based design), it isn't going to be a huge challenge to produce a bunker design to counter them. And after all, the design challenge isn't going to be too different to that involved in vehicle armour designed to stop penetrating rounds.

    I suspect that the right layout of alternating concrete, steel, composites, soil, voids, shaped deflection layers and an anti-spall liner would be adequate to stop one of these things. Even the 'smart' detonator designs could potentially be countered with the right layout. The kinetic energy of the impact will make some damage inevitable, with a big mess on the surface and for some distance underground, but the bunker complex itself could survive with no internal damage.

    Even attempting to attack the 'soft' entrance of a facility might not be viable, as it can either be hardened directly, or more likely you could contruct or site the entrance in such a way that a direct attack is impossible as you could ensure that terrain or structures would block the trajectory of any incoming weapons.

    Penetrating even thick layers of soil, rock, and mass reinforced concrete is relatively trivial, as is pentrating armour steel. But it's entirely possible to engineer something that would slow, deflect or disrupt a pentrating projectile to such an extent that it becomes ineffective. And when you've got many metres of space to play with to build your bunker roof, it's easy to add all kinds of tricks into the design.

    I'm sure these weapons will look the part, will make for some impressive demonstration videos and will be quite capable of erasing an older bunker, but it's quite possible that the newer facilities won't be such soft targets.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "why not just toss 'rocks' at it from a really high altitude"

    Mass drivers, hmmm, now there's a thought. The problem is getting a ready supply of large rocks in space. They aren't just lying around...

    re Sean's comment about bunker bombs : the bombs you are referring to are the 5 ton Tall Boy and the 10 ton Grand Slam, which were indeed used against V2 and V3 sites and submarine pens.

  18. Alan Donaly

    boo penetrators

    Hooray beer.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear deterrent

    If there is one country in the world today that can genuinely claim to need a nuclear deterrent, it's Iran. America has already shown them that they need it by the way they've dealt with Iraq (no nukes) and North Korea (got nukes).

    If you were Iran, wouldn't you want a few?

  20. Louis Cowan


    Big U-bends. Send their own bombs back up at them, harhar!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't like u I'll bomb you

    To Henry - Iran may have large oil reserves but it has very little refining capabilities, probably because of Americas long standing trade embargos, and crude don't burn in cars or anything else for that matter.

    Also a lack a what you may call true democracy does not immediately mean they are some sort of evil regime no matter what America says. As if the going by the size of the candiate's campaign budget is any better way to chose a leader ie. the American way.

    Plus the Allies after WW2 decided to create a state that hadn't existed for 1000's of years on land that had been promised to the Arabs since WW1, for no other reason than collective guilt in regards to the Jewish Holocaust. The vast majority of its first time citizens didn't even live anywhere near Isreal and had to be shipped there. Can u really blame them for being a little bit peaved.

  22. Trevor

    Nukes or Oil

    Iran is considered a threat (to the US Federal Reserve) because they want to trade oil in Euros. The nuclear "problem" is just diversionary.

  23. Henry

    RE:I don't like u I'll bomb you

    I like people who respond to posts by refering to content in the post that is not in the post.

    1. Ya think that after 25 or so years (Revolution= 1979) they could have done a little better? When do you stop apologizing for these guys?

    2. OK. Fine. Money doesn't buy deep thinkers. The Iranian Council of Gardians screens them out for you so that you don't even have a choice. They will do the thinking for you. Looks like they are good students of Soviet Style "Democracy".

    3. What history book are you reading? Since when were the Allies involved in the creation of Lebanon? Repeat after me: Hezzbolah. Hezzbolah. That's an Iranian funded _Lebanese_ organization. If you are puzzled by this response, refer to my opening remarks in this post. I'm not into red herring linkage.

This topic is closed for new posts.