Are we getting ready to bomb Iran? ABC News, among others, thinks so:
Tucked inside the White House’s $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.
The item: $88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP.
The MOP is the the military’s largest conventional bomb, a super “bunker-buster” capable of destroying hardened targets deep underground. The one-line explanation for the request said it is in response to “an urgent operational need from theater commanders.”
What urgent need? The Pentagon referred questions on this to Central Command.
ABC News called CENTCOM to ask what the “urgent operational need” is. CENTCOM spokesman Maj. Todd White said he would look into it, but, so far, no answer.
There doesn’t appear to be any potential targets for a bomb like that in Iraq. It could potentially be used on Taliban or al Qaeda hideouts in the caves along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but there would be no need to use a stealth bomber there.
So where would the military use a stealth bomber armed with a 30,000-pound bomb like this? Defense analysts say the most likely target for this bomb would be Iran’s flagship nuclear facility in Natanz, which is both heavily fortified and deeply buried.
However, if you check Northrop Grumman’s website, the company retrofitting the B2 to carry the MOP, this was announced in July:
The new Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which is being developed by The Boeing Company, is a GPS-guided weapon containing more than 5,300 pounds of conventional explosives inside a 20.5-foot long enclosure of hardened steel. It is designed to penetrate dirt, rock and reinforced concrete to reach enemy bunker or tunnel installations. The B-2 is capable of carrying two MOPs, one in each weapons bay.
“This integration contract is part of Northrop Grumman’s on-going effort to ensure that the B-2 remains capable of delivering a decisive blow to an increasingly sophisticated enemy,” said Dave Mazur, vice president of long-range strike for the company’s Integrated Systems sector. “It is the first step in helping the Air Force make this new weapon available for operational use on the B-2.”
According to Mazur, the Air Force is expected to make a decision later this year on whether to develop a limited operational capability for the MOP, or to proceed with a more comprehensive development program that would optimize the weapon’s operational utility.
So, it sounds like they’ve decided to move forward with the larger program, not gearing up for an immediate war with Iran.