Have You Heard of This Bomb?


The US Air Force wants Boeing to integrate the GBU-57 bomb on the Northrop Grumman B-2A, or so says this solicitation document released earlier this week.

I find that very interesting on a number of levels, not least because the USAF has never before disclosed the existence of a weapon called the GBU-57!

(Designation-systems.net, in fact, lists weapons all the way up GBU-54, so that means a GBU-55 and GBU-56 could be somewhere in the classified inventory, too!)

But the existence of the GBU-57 gets even more interesting after a Google search. The only direct mention to the weapon appeared in an article in London's Guardian newspaper in 2003, and then bizarrely as a passing reference. I would love to know how the Guardian's reporter so casually came across that seemingly classified factoid for his article.

I would also love to know more about the GBU-57. The Guardian article describes the weapon as a 5,000lb-class penetrator. That puts it in the same class as the GBU-28/B. It likely shares the BLU-122 or improved BLU-113 warhead for 5,000lb-class penetrators. I wonder what makes the GBU-57 different in capability than the GBU-28?

I'm also interested in the timing of the USAF's plan to integrate the weapon on the B-2. The GBU-57 would be the largest weapon ever integrated on the stealth bomber, and it's capabilities seem ideal for a strike on heavily fortified, underground bunkers (ahem, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Dick Cheney is on line 2.)

The USAF hoped to integrate the even larger Massive Ordnance Penetrator (30,000lbs) on the B-2A, but last year Congress blocked the funding. There's a chance the Guardian article was completely wrong, and the GBU-57 is in fact the new designation for the MOP. Even if that's the case, I still wonder how the Guardian reporter came up with that designation in 2003, long before the MOP was conceived.

-- Steve Trimble

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