Just as the U.S. returns its attention to concealed weapons of mass destruction programs in Syria and (possibly) Iran, the Air Force is saying its mega-weapon for blowing up hidden factories of death is finally ready.
That would be the Massive Ordnance Penetrator — all 30,000 destructive pounds of it. It’s an absolutely ginormous bomb designed to convince rogue regimes that there is no redoubt for the manufacture of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons buried deep enough to escape the U.S. Air Force.
The military has been at work super-sizing its bunker-busters for years, and the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is the premier upgraded weapon. Supposedly, it can penetrate 60 feet of reinforced concrete, although it depends just how hard that concrete is. Although the Pentagon has spent over $200 million developing 30 of the bombs, there are doubts over how well equipped it is to destroy the hardened facilities believed to house Iran’s nuclear program.
The secretary of the Air Force does not share those doubts. “If it needed to go today, we would be ready to do that,” Secretary Michael Donley told Danger Room pal Jeff Schogol of Air Force Times. “We continue to do testing on the bomb to refine its capabilities, and that is ongoing. We also have the capability to go with existing configuration today.”
Donley may not have had Iran in mind. The beleaguered Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is threatening to use chemical weapons against a foreign attack. His chemical arsenal is spread out amongst several concealed sites and stands a giant proliferation risk. Not the greatest opportunity for a mega-bomb — intelligence about the sites is dubious — but the U.S. would rather have the option than not.
Then there’s Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may have been hinting about the new bomb’s capabilities when he remarked that the U.S. would do a better job of attacking Iran than Israel could. Not that that’s what the Obama administration wants to do.
The Massive Ordnance Penetrator may even have a political component to it. During a debate on foreign policy between surrogates for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday, former Amb. Rich Williamson accused the Obama administration of ruling out the use of military force for Iran. The long-awaited arrival of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator would suggest otherwise. (Plus, its acronym has special resonance to fans of a certain era of East Coast hip hop.)