Massive bunker buster may be ready for B-2 by July 2010

If Congress agrees to shift enough funds to the program, Northrop Grumman Corp's radar-evading B-2 bomber "would be capable of carrying the bomb by July 2010," said Andy Bourland, an Air Force spokesman.

"The Air Force and Department of Defense are looking at the possibility of accelerating the program," he said. "There have been discussions with the four congressional committees with oversight responsibilities. No final decision has been made."

The precision-guided weapon, built by Boeing Co, could become the biggest conventional bomb the United States has ever used.

The Pentagon is seeking to speed deployment of an ultra-large "bunker-buster" bomb on the most advanced U.S. bomber as soon as July 2010, the Air Force said on Sunday, amid concerns over perceived nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran.

The non-nuclear, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, which is still being tested, is designed to destroy deeply buried bunkers beyond the reach of existing bombs.

Carrying more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. it would deliver more than 10 times the explosive power of its predecessor, the 2,000-pound BLU-109, according to the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which has funded and managed the seed program.

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Both the U.S. Pacific Command, which takes the lead in U.S. military planning for North Korea, and the Central Command, which prepares for contingencies with Iran, appeared to be backing the acceleration request, said Kenneth Katzman, an expert on Iran at the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress.

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The 20-foot-long (6-meter) MOP is built to be dropped from either the B-52 or the B-2 "stealth" bomber. It is designed to penetrate up to 200 feet underground before exploding, according to the U.S. Air Force.

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There is definitely a message for Iran and North Korea in this announcement. That is an extraordinary large piece of ordinance. Both countries have invested heavily in underground bunkers to resist more conventional weapons. I assume the US military knows the depths of their bunkers.