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The Sunday Paper

Bunker buster test.jpgNow imagine the close air support you could do with this puppy. Forget a nine-line brief. This is about a one-line brief. Problem with a city block in Fallujah? Level Fallujah with a single sortie. And before you go all Dr. Strangelove on us, you should know we're talking conventional ordnance here.

But this ain't a CAS weapon. It's a . . . well, the Air Force won't really say, except to say that we really need it regardless of how much it costs.

Yesterday Stars and Stripes ran an article about the Pentagon's request for $88 million to fund the development of a "deep-earth-bunker-buster."

According to the article . . .

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, is a joint project between Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

At 30,000 pounds and 20 feet long, the mass of the bomb makes it three and a half times more powerful than the most powerful weapon in the Air Forces inventory. The bomb carries 6,000 pounds of high explosives.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency, or DTRA, is helping to test the weapon, spokeswoman Cheri Abdelnour said.

The MOPs job is to destroy deeply buried and what the military calls hardened targets, or those specifically reinforced to survive strikes with high explosives.

The bomb is capable of burrowing 60 meters through 5,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of reinforced concrete, or 8 meters through 10,000 psi reinforced concrete.

Like all modern smart munitions, the weapon is virtually a mini-aircraft, with tail fins that steer the weapon in flight via preprogrammed minicomputers and an integrated global positioning system that keeps it on target, according to DTRA.

The first successful tests of the weapon took place at the end of March at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, according to the Air Force and DTRA press releases issued at the time.

The budget request is part of an amendment to the fiscal 2008 defense budget supplemental request that the White House submitted Monday to Congress.

The money is in two parts: $83.5 million for continuing the development of the MOP weapon itself, including a technology demonstration sponsored by DTRA that would conclude at some point in fiscal 2008; and another $4.2 million to modify the B-52 bomber as a launching platform, Air Force spokeswoman Vicki Stein told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday

.

Now here's the best part. The Pentagon (read "Air Force") isn't sure or won't say what the bomb is for. Although the flacks quack about the MOP as an "urgently needed, critical global strike capability to fight the war on terrorism," General Mosely, the USAF Chief of Staff said, "Its not specifically geared at an individual country. Its a capability discussion."

An $88 million capability discussion? Wouldn't an offsite to Vegas or -- better still -- a Webex be cheaper?

And who knew we had at Threat Reduction Agency? Isn't that DoD's job? Oh, that's right. They do threat proliferation.

And heaven forbid that we actually threaten . . . Iran. (Oh, no. I said that which shall not be said when hitting Congress up for large sums of money that will be used to justify the service's existence in the nearer term. My bust, general. Or should I say, my bunker bust, general?)

(Gouge: NC)

(Photo: Engineers examine a test penetrator after it showed the ability to burrow through hundreds of feet of solid rock before the first explosive test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Courtesy Stars and Stripes.) (H/T SMSgt. Mac.)

-- Ward

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