New U.S. bomb gives Iran something to think about
Remember "the mother of all bombs"?
Well, there's a whole new mama in town.
The Air Force's Massive Ordnance Penetrator, developed by Boeing, is more than 20 feet long, weighs in at 30,000 pounds (by comparison, the "mother" GBU-43 MOAB is a trim 22,600 pounds) and is packed with 5,300 pounds of explosives.
The Air Force ordered 20, at a total cost of $314 million, and started taking delivery in September.
The Massive Ordnance Penetrator (wonder if anyone calls it the MOP?) has one job: pulverize underground enemy hide-outs.
Hmmm, wonder which country we don't like that has stuff hidden in underground bunkers?
From Times staff writer W.J. Hennigan's story:
"The Massive Ordnance Penetrator is a weapon system designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries' weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities," Lt. Col. Melinda F. Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Experts took note of the fact that the military disclosed delivery of the new bunker-busting bomb less than a week after a United Nations agency warned that Iran was secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon. That country is known to have hidden nuclear complexes that are fortified with steel and concrete, and buried under mountains.
This week, Times columnist Doyle McManus wrote that both President Obama and his Republican rivals have made similar statements on Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon:
Obama and all the likely Republican nominees for president have long said they consider a nuclear-capable Iran unacceptable. There's no wiggle room in that word; no president could back down from that warning without major damage to U.S. influence.
Obama has favored sanctions. The GOP's Mitt Romney has offered saber-rattling, writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he said that "I won't let Iran get nukes."
Romney's prescription? Increase military aid to Israel and send more ships to the Persian Gulf to convince Iran that when the United States threatens to use force, it means it.
But as McManus points out:
If the Iranians called his bluff, a President Romney would all too quickly face that same stark choice: go to war, or back down.
Which is when, yes, the MOP might come in really handy.
But would we use it? Should we use it?
No one can say now, of course. But certainly the option of a non-nuclear weapon with such destructive power seems a sensible precaution.
Iran's leaders now know that their nuclear facilities are at risk. That, coupled with sanctions, might persuade them to abandon their efforts to build the bomb.
If not? Well, then the United States has one big saber it can rattle.
Image: An artist's rendering of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound bomb. Credit: Boeing Co.