The Obama Pentagon has made a secret request to re-develop its largest bomb because officials believe it is not capable of destroying Iran's fortified underground facilities.
The 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is the deepest penetrating 'bunker buster' currently in the U.S. military's arsenal.
A request has now been secretly submitted to Congress for funding to make a more powerful weapon.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
WASHINGTON—Pentagon war planners have concluded that their largest conventional bomb isn't yet capable of destroying Iran's most heavily fortified underground facilities, and are stepping up efforts to make it more powerful, according to U.S. officials briefed on the plan.
The 30,000-pound "bunker-buster" bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, was specifically designed to take out the hardened fortifications built by Iran and North Korea to cloak their nuclear programs.
But initial tests indicated that the bomb, as currently configured, wouldn't be capable of destroying some of Iran's facilities, either because of their depth or because Tehran has added new fortifications to protect them. [...]
The Pentagon notified Congress in mid-January that it wants to divert around $82 million to refine the MOP, taking the money from other defense programs. The decision to sidestep the normal budget request process suggests the Pentagon deems the MOP upgrades to be a matter of some urgency. [...]
The decision to ask now for more money to develop the weapon was directly related to efforts by the U.S. military's Central Command to prepare military options against Iran as quickly as possible, according to a person briefed on the request for additional funds.
A senior defense official said the U.S. had other options besides the MOP to set back Iran's nuclear program. "The Massive Ordnance Penetrators are by no means the only capability at our disposal to deal with potential nuclear threats in Iran," the official said.
Another senior U.S. official said the Pentagon could make up for the MOPs' shortcomings by dropping them along with other guided bombs on top of a bunker's entry and exit points—provided the intelligence is available about where they are all located.
Successful strikes on bunker entry and exit points could prevent an enemy from accessing such a site and could cause enough damage to stop or slow enrichment activity there.
"There is a virtue to deepness but you still need to get in and out," the senior U.S. official said. [...]
According to Air Force officials, the 20.5 foot-long MOP carries over 5,300 pounds of explosive material. It is designed to penetrate up to 200 feet underground before exploding. The mountain above the Iranian enrichment site at Fordow is estimated to be at least 200 feet tall.