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The Pentagon is acknowledging it has moved up the date for deployment
of a massive bomb capable of penetrating deeply buried enemy
facilities. Many observers believe the weapon is designed for a
possible attack on Iranian facilities, but officials will not make that
officially called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, but it's known
informally as a new and larger type of Bunker Buster. It weighs more
than 13 metric tons - so heavy that only one can be carried on the
most capable U.S. bomber aircraft. The Defense Department will not
confirm its capabilities, but analysts believe it is designed to
penetrate up to 60 meters of earth, or a thick layer of concrete,
The bomb has been under development for
several years. Its deployment was delayed due to budget constraints
and because officials believed it was not needed urgently. But
Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman says that assessment changed earlier
"The threats have been developing over the years," he
said. "There are, without getting into any intelligence, there are
countries that have used technologies to go further under ground and to
take those facilities and make them hardened. This is not a new
phenomenon, but it is a growing one."
The Pentagon got
permission from the congress to redirect $52 million to move up the
deployment date of the new bunker buster. Whitman says the first of
the bombs should be ready by the middle of next year. He notes that
the United States has other weapons capable of penetrating hardened
facilities, but he says the technology in the Massive Ordnance
Penetrator takes the capability to a new level.
"If you look
at the spectrum of munitions, certain munitions have greater
penetrating capability than others," said Whitman. "But the Massive
Ordnance Penetrator is a bomb that, for the most part, I would put in a
class by itself."
Whitman would not discuss the weapon's
possible use against any specific country. Many analysts believe it is
designed particularly for North Korea and Iran. Last month, U.S.
officials revealed the existence of an Iranian nuclear facility inside
a mountain, which they have known about for three years. And U.S.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted this week Iran could have other
Again without reference to any specific
country, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell spoke about the bunker
buster bomb on Wednesday.
"The reality is that the world we
live in is one in which there are people who seek to build weapons of
mass destruction, and they seek to do so in a clandestine fashion," he
said. "And this has been a capability that we have long believed was
missing from our quiver, our arsenal, and we wanted to make sure we
filled in that gap."
Morrell said the new weapon provides a capability that defense department officials believe is necessary in today's world.