USAF’s Big Penetrator Needs to Be Harder

Yup, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) needs to be harder, according to anonymous Pentagon sources cited in a Wall Street Journal article.

A series of recent tests found that the Air Force’s 30,000-pound tool for penetrating 32 stories of reinforced concrete might not have enough penetrating power to take out Iran’s most heavily protected nuclear facilities, reports the WSJ. This has prompted the Pentagon to secretly ask lawmakers for $82 million to improve the bomb’s penetrating power. The MOP is getting Viagra.

Remember, the Pentagon just spent about $60 million for 16 MOPs that are designed to be carried by B-2 stealth bombers.

While the Pentagon says the improvements aren’t aimed at targeting any one country’s hardened facilities (uhuh, sure), the article reports that these upgrades will allow the weapon to hit some of Iran’s most heavily guarded nuke research sites:

“The development of this weapon is not intended to send a signal to any one particular country,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said. “It’s a capability we believe we need in our arsenal and will continue to invest in it.”

Officials said the planned improvements to the MOP were meant to overcome shortcomings that emerged in initial testing. They said the new money was meant to ensure the weapon would be more effective against the deepest bunkers, including Iran’s Fordow enrichment plant facility, which is buried in a mountain complex surrounded by antiaircraft batteries, making it a particularly difficult target even for the most powerful weapons available to the U.S.

Developing an effective bunker-buster is complicated in part because of the variables, experts say. Penetration varies depending on factors such as soil density and the types of stone and rock shielding the target.

Boeing received a contract in 2009 to fit the weapon on the U.S.’s B-2 Stealth Bomber. The Air Force began receiving the first of the bombs in September, a time of growing tensions with Iran. The Air Force has so far contracted to buy 20 of the bombs, and more deliveries are expected in 2013, after additional tests are made.

Should a decision be made to use the MOP as currently configured, it could cause “a lot of damage” to Iran’s underground nuclear facilities but wouldn’t necessarily destroy them outright, Mr. Panetta said.

“We’re developing it. I think we’re pretty close, let’s put it that way. But we’re still working at it because these things are not easy to be able to make sure that they will do what we want them to.”

Mr. Panetta added: “But I’m confident, frankly, that we’re going to have that capability and have it soon,”

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.



  • blight

    If you drop an MOP from 50,000 feet and it isn’t powerful enough…hum.

    Is the matter developing a rugged explosive that still works after being dropped from high altitudes and and into deep objects? I can imagine an explosive device being asked to work after being dropped into a mountain is its own technical hurdle.

    Hurdle two is developing materials that can penetrate deeply into earth or reinforced concrete, or both in great quantity.

    Hurdle three is increasing the explosive power that can be carried in a payload that fits within the bomb bay of the standard Air Force bomber.

    Wonder if at some point we will just develop a massive UAV to remotely fly into the target. Or maybe a large flying bomb with a small manned parasite aircraft that detaches before the terminal stage. Why be limited by the interior of a bomb bay? Get crazy!

    • STemplar

      Strap gophers on the front to dig?

    • BravoPapa

      Like, maybe, an ICBM?

    • Mastro

      Time delay fuses aren’t all that – the Germans had good ones at the Battle of Jutland- the British didn’t

      The problem is making a casing that will stay in one piece as it impacts granite from 50,000 ft (probably 30)

      They used to use artillery barrels- I wonder what they have here- Titanium?

      • Maxtrue

        Wouldn’t the heat and compression of a Mach 25 mass with a core of deuterium slamming into Fordo go bang?

        Make a metallic rod and rail gun it into granite. Its not like we can’t test scaled models.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          “Wouldn’t the heat and compression of a Mach 25 mass with a core of deuterium slamming into Fordo go bang?”

          Yes, but only from release of kinetic energy, and from the deuterium burning with the surrounding air. It’s not even close to the kind of energy density required for a thermonuclear reaction.

          And why bother, with perfectly good nukes being (sort of) freely available?

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen

      • There’s always depleted uranium?

        • Bullet Dr

          DU is a poor candidate for a penetrator of this type because it is pyrophorically ablative as it penetrates and would substantially erode after a few levels, losing mass and therefore KE in the process.

      • Bullet Dr

        These do not use time delay fuzes. They use setback/setforward “counters” to compete an arming circuit. The fuze actually senses each floor it penetrates and the minor deceleration event associated with each, and counts them. In that way the fuze can be set to detonate at any desired level for effect.

  • Tim

    Even if it could not penetrate the complex, just the collapsing of the entrance/exit(s) or air/supply intake is enough to destroy the facilities or render them inaccessible for a while.

    They are not making them harder… They are making more of them… Muh huh huh… :)

    • Mat

      32 stories of reinforced concrete sounds real ****** but in reality its just 32 times 20 inches of rebar reinforced concrete that is a lot softer target that solid bedrock most likely similar in composition to Granit.
      Bunker busters are really only meant to collapse entrances,penetrating a core of an underground facility is normally not possible with out going nuclear . To increase survivability such facility normally has dozens of of real and fake exits and ventilation shafts. .Experience in the Balkans where bunker busters were used repeatedly on underground air base were dismal and at the end of the conflict all the planes were flown out, and airbase is much softer target than Norad or similar complexes .Even so some of these airbases were designed for to survive a 20kiloton hit.

  • Insert sexual innuendo here…

    • Black Owl

      I think whoever made the title was trying to put that in there. If he included the three words “Big” “Penetrator” and “Harder” in one phrase, well then…

    • kg air force

      That headline got my attention, sex and war what else does a man need. Sports in lieu of war of course.

    • incraigulous

      what do you get when you mix viagra and a bunker buster bomb?

  • Mauler

    Why not rocket-assist the final phase of flight before impact for greater kinetic force?

    • Flounder

      Why not use a nuke… Just a lil one.
      Ya know give the Iranians their bomb. :D

      • Israel

        or just nuke them and make it look like Iran made a mistake.

        • STemplar

          Or just nuke them and say we nuked them.

          • odoacer


          • TH1

            exactly, why apologize?

    • Parakitteh

      That’d reduce the warhead payload in the current body, or require a new body to be designed entirely from scratch.
      Such an endeavour would not be practical. The best option in terms of payload may be a conventional explosive/kinetic tipped IRBM, but bad for many reasons as primarily it WILL look like you’ve just tried to nuke Iran. China and Russia would not be best pleased. Nor would anyone else, if they actually thought that.

      This is literally the one logical application for Rod From God platforms in orbit that people love to fap over.

  • Copper

    Or we could just drop two in – one after the other

    • Demon

      That’s what I was thinking. If they don’t go deep enough, just have them keep hitting the same spot until you see an unusual cloud of smoke!

      • Black Owl

        Sorry that comes too close to making sense for the Air Force.

        • Thinking_ExUSAF

          Perhaps in some parts of the AF, but. . . .

          One thing that might need to be considered though is how much of a “dampening” effect might be caused when the second bomb has to plow through the pile of rubble left by the first. Im not sure but I have a sneaky feeling that the penetrator might behave differently going through chunks of rock than solid rock. Still. . . two or three or four of these big’uns should make a mess out of that facility, even if only through shaking everything to pieces! LOL!

      • jumper

        Oh wow!! You solved the problem!! It’s so simple!!!

        This isn’t a cartoon where you can keep shooting bullets into the back of the previous one until it pushes through. There are several technical issues that prohibit that; control, det timing, the fact the first bomb doesn’t make a clear entry point, etc, etc.

    • derekcrane

      I am not in the military but I am in construction and demolition. If one wack from a sledge doesn’t do the job, another in the same spot will usually do it.

      • blight

        I guess Paul Bunyan is getting a plane ticket to Iran and a giant sledgehammer to get to Fordo, now is he?

    • Jason

      Bingo. That’s what we do with our current crop of penetrators, the GBU-31V3, when a singleton won’t do the job.

    • blight

      What is the CEP of MOP? Probably not enough to drop a bomb directly on top of, and right after a previous MOP.

      Tandem warhead MOP might work though…

  • STemplar

    How about we hire the super assassin on the motorcycle with the magnetic mines to take care of it?

    • Bill

      He’s busy solving the debt crisis and curing cancer.

    • Nicky

      You mean Chuck Norris. I think hey might be available, though we’ll have to check and see what’s his going rate and how much he’s going to charge for taking out IRAN

  • Nicky

    Either that or we need to start building some Conventional ICBM MOP

    • Nadnerbus

      I’m sure the folks in charge have thought of that kinda thing. Prompt global strike and all that. It’s just that the launch plume from ICBMs makes other nuclear armed nations very nervous and prone to pop off their own. Until they figure out how to solve that, I don’t think we will see conventional ICBMs.

  • Jacob

    “”The development of this weapon is not intended to send a signal to any one particular country,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said.”

    Sure it is, it’s just that being a government official he’s not supposed to say it.

  • glycerin

    why not drop 2, one after the other? is that a crazy suggestion?

  • Vincent

    How about taping one of those old Nokia phones to the front. You know, the ones that also went by the name of T34, minus the three man crew.

  • Black Owl

    “USAF’s Big Penetrator Needs to Be Harder”

    When I read this I immediately had some very dirty thoughts. Now I feel ashamed.

  • Lance

    Sorry to say….. GOT TO GO NUCLEAR! LOL

  • Kotch

    well yeah, fight nukes with nukes. It seems legit. We thought you were building nukes… so we nuked your site. We’re allowed to do this, we invented nukes, copyright laws and all that….

    I can only imagine how difficult it is to build something to punch through 32 stories of fancy bunkerness. WOW!

    • CCDC

      where did it say that the MOP was nuclear?
      its not. it’s just a bomb.

  • Can you just drop two?

  • pandaa

    I wonder if some poor bastard has been given the task of coming up with a solution to bomb through a mountain without nukes.

    I bet he just sits all there day, staring at a drawing of a mountain on a whiteboard with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip whilst pushing his fingers into his eyes and sighing.

    cue Hollywood general storming out whilst shouting ‘I DON’T WANNA HEAR YOUR EXCUSES, JUST GET IT DONE!’

    • or, “MAKE IT HAPPEN”

      Always loved those guys… Too important to be involved in solving the problem but first in line to take credit for the solution.

    • Musson

      I don’t care how you do it Mr. Scott. Just do it!

  • David

    According to the official USAF fact sheet, the B-2 has a payload limit of 40,000. Two of these bombs would equate to being a full 50% more weight than the aircraft can carry. That means we can’t drop two of them without commiting two aircraft to the same target with a near simultaneous drop time. Putting 2 x B-2s in the same small chunk of airspace strikes me as a fool’s venture since it would increase the chance they’d get engaged.

    • blight

      That would be about 3 billion dollars of aircraft (2x B-2’s) on a single target. Scary eh?

      • Nadnerbus

        We can always just borrow more money to build a couple more.

    • Mike

      Thats with max/max (a full bag of fuel and a full bomb load.) Once airborne, they take on more fuel or less fuel, depending on the bomb load. The B-2 can in fact carry two, with 20K less of fuel. All big bombers play that numbers game.

    • beaver

      the bombs are precision guided. an aircraft doesnt have to be right on top of the target anymore to hit it. from high alt they could by a long way away from each other and drop and modify the timeing and the bombs would enter one after another. my only worry is from the rubble of the first bomb going through would make the second bounce off and richochet plus the explosion of the first bomb could help or hender the second bomb going through and make it glance off and not completely procecute the target as needed.

  • CurtisLemay

    What would be harder than a depleted uranium nosecone?

    • STemplar

      A US Congressman’s skull.

    • blight

      DU is dense, but from a material science perspective, is it “hard”?

      Going to dig for more info. In the meantime…

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        When you’re talking penetration “hardness” (e.g. brinell) isn’t all. Glass, for example, is extremely hard (approx. 1500 HB), but you wouldn’t want to make penetrators out of it, since most hard materials are also brittle.

        You need the exact combination of hardness, density, ductility and shape that will give you the maximum penetration for your particular target medium at you particular impact speed.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

    • TLAM Strike



      • blight


        • crackedlenses

          Makes me want to sign up with the RDA already…..

  • blight

    Old news, but what ever happened to this?

  • A. Nonymous

    It also needs more cowbell…

  • Tad

    I think it was Jerry Pournelle who came up with the idea a number of years ago of having, essentially, long tungsten rods in orbit with some kind of guidance ability attached to them. I would imagine that something like that would penetrate deeper than MOP.

    • blight

      How high into orbit do you want to put these rods? If they are long rods, then can be launched aboard present rockets?

    • TLAM Strike

      The Rods from God.

      • Maxtrue

        Gees, I’ve been here for years promoting the idea of kinetic energy. I’m sure many have read my comments. Speed is more a multiplier than size. About 4 to 1 as a multiplier of joules. Take a tungsten rod with an ablative skin and accelerate it downwards from about 80,000 ft with a booster. I think the magic number is about Mach 25 for a 5,000 lb mass and then what? Does it vaporize? What is the pathway of energy energy conversion? How focused and directed the compression wave? NASA’s been simulating such impacts for years in relation to meteors and asteroids. Sure. they’re large, but the dynamics are relatively the same although no natural object would reach the speed of a rocket assisted Mass. The atmosphere would provide some resistance.
        I could add things to kinetic concept like how we get such bombs to 80,000 ft., how to steer them as they speed downward, but rail gun simulations should tell us first what materials will do what when slammed into other material at very high speed. Hardness? Commercial diamonds engineered into the Tungsten alloy? An industrial process that hardens the alloy such as high temp. cooling, hammering, etc.

        There would be plasma generated by the front end pressure of the mass traveling a 20 mach and one can imagine the temperature and compression of ground zero as the mass makes contact with an immovable mountain such as Fordo.

        Perhaps Tungsten with an inner core of deuterium?

        In any case, I have yet to see anyone here lay out the data that would send a modified Rod of God to the trash.

        So I say again, MOAPs ain’t gonna shred Fordo, but perhaps we can build a sleeker alternative without going suborbital, use nukes or ballistic missiles that threaten existing “arrangements with China and Russia.



        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          “I’m sure many have read my comments” – Yes. We have.

          “I think the magic number is about Mach 25 for a 5,000 lb mass….” – Magic number? As in…what?

          “Does it vaporize?” Yes.

          “What is the pathway of energy energy conversion?” – Huh?

          “Perhaps Tungsten with an inner core of deuterium?” – Perhaps. Deuterium is low-density, so you lose mass. However, you do get a nice *pop* when the deuterium burns off.

          “I have yet to see anyone here lay out the data that would send a modified Rod of God to the trash” – Just as you have not presented data to prove it the do-all-end-all of penetrating weaponry. For what it’s worth, I consider the Thor concept (what RoG was known as before the bible thumpers got hold of it) to be a valid concept, but not as a replacement for something like the MOP. It would just be another tool in the box.

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen

        • blight

          We’ve also read your ad nauseum advocacy using a kitbash of datum figures.

        • Tom

          Mach 20? Mach 25? Are such speeds even possible in the atmosphere? How would you accelerate something to that speed? I can imagine the apparatus itself you need to generate anywhere near those speeds would generate enough drag to prevent such speeds from actually being attained in reality.

          mass x veloicty … minus drag … air drag increases at the square of velocity, so an object traveling at mach 20 has 400 times (20 x 20) the amount of air drag as an object traveling at mach 1. I have a difficult time imagining a propulsion device that can generate those speeds without itself creating so much drag that prevents such speeds from actually being attained.

          • WulfTheSaxon

            The Apollo Command Module went around Mach 30.

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            Yes, when it hit atmo. Then it started slowing right down. It never went anywhere near Mach 30 in the lower (read: denser) part of the atmosphere.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • WulfTheSaxon

            Right, but it was specifically designed to slow down. Picture something more missile-shaped.

            Either way, the HTV-2 is (was?) Mach 20, so such speeds really aren’t too far out of reach.

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            Again, when the HTV-2 did Mach 20, that also was not in the lower atmosphere (where air resistance would have been significantly higher).

            And it was boosted by a Minotaur IV Light, which isn’t exactly small….

            “Not too far out of reach”? That depends on your definition of “not too far”.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

        • STemplar

          Again, all very interesting but the launch cost on one rod alone would exceed the amount of $ the USAF is requesting for the new bunker buster development.

          • Maxtrue

            Not true. It is not extremely expensive to ramp up a White Knight to carry 20,000 lbs to high altitude (4 booster-assisted 5000lb mass drivers). With a missile shape one can accelerate a spear to Mach 25 despite drag.

            As far as facts, against gravity’s pull we boosted an enhanced warhead in several less than a minute against gravity to plus Mach 5-7. That was 40 years ago.

            Is velocity a greater force multiplier than mass? Yes, I have not actually built a tungsten rod and slammed it into the ground at 25 Mach, but lets be serious. With Rail and computer simulation we can understand the conversion of mass and velocity into energy. The question besides the hardness/brittleness issue is what this energy conversion translates into. Moving earth, heat, concussion wave……

            The Apollo capsule was hardly designed to slice through the atmosphere was it? In fact, it was designed to increase drag and slow the capsule. Meteors are hardly sleek object either, burning up on the way down through the atmosphere. No object I know of has traveled at Mach twenty and hit the earth.

            I also find it hard to believe the DOD hasn’t tried to measure the effects of such weapons. Again, one doesn’t need to deliver telephonepole-sized tungsten pole into space. It is more effective and cheaper to drop them below sub-orbital and give them a big push downward avoiding ballistic trajectories. maybe someone will place a bet that in the end we’ll have such weapons. may its time for Strategy page….

            5000lbs x Mach 25 does what to granite and the 32 stories of granite like earth below it? Even small meteors (by the time they hit) leave craters and they aren’t going Mach 25.

            I think the .5 billion Obama blew on that Solar Energy company could test the idea. Or maybe that would buy a robotic tunneling machine that could deliver the 30,000lb MOAB directly to the facility provided we know where it is.

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            “It is not extremely expensive to ramp up a White Knight to carry 20,000 lbs to high altitude (4 booster-assisted 5000lb mass drivers).”:
            And you base this analysis on what? What does “not extremely expensive” mean?

            “With a missile shape one can accelerate a spear to Mach 25 despite drag.”:
            Same question as above.

            “Yes, I have not actually built a tungsten rod and slammed it into the ground at 25 Mach….”:
            We sort of guessed as much.

            “….but lets be serious”:
            I look forward to you being serious, Really, I do.

            “Even small meteors (by the time they hit) leave craters”:
            Craters! Not penetration, not earthquakes, not thermonuclear detonations.

            Regards & all,
            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • STemplar

            A White Knight? The spaceship one program was estimated to cost $25 million and was funded by Paul Allen. That didn’t just get whipped up. This request for the Program for the bomb is $82 million. That leaves you $57 million to design, build, test and procure the 2 or 3 dozen weapons we want. Good luck.

        • Andrew

          Here’s a pretty important question:

          How do you aim it at anything smaller then a continent?

          I would assume any fins on the side of the rod would literally burn away at the amount of air friction they would generate by trying to rotate and create drag.

          Also the thought of what kind of corrective measurements do you make to something travelling Mach 20+? It seems like adjusting a nanometer would put you in another county.

          Do you add rotation like a bullet? How do you make corrections without it spinning out of control?

          Can you even send/recieve GPS signals on something going Mach 20? How do you mount the GPS that doesn’t involve it melting?

  • Flight Eng

    “This has prompted the Pentagon to secretly ask lawmakers for $82 million to improve the bomb’s penetrating power.”

    Not so much secret if you know about it, and now the whole world…

  • Nick V

    Just put a nuclear warhead on the end of it and call it a day… If it’s used on a nuke facility, who cares anyways

    • There you go. Who could tell the difference between our nuke stuff and theirs after it’s all over. Of course, Obama would probably blame the Israelis

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “Who could tell the difference between our nuke stuff and theirs after it’s all over”:
        Anyone with equipment for isotope detection. Unless Iran got their fissionable material from the US (I assume the “our” above refers to the US).

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • J Hughes

    Sounds like something Extenze could help with…

    • Nadnerbus

      “Air Force hires Ron Jeremy to work on Massive Penetrator.”

      About the only way they could have put more innuendo into the title.

    • Dan

      Maybe we could just strap Smilin’ Bob to the nose….

  • Ron

    First drop a drum of K-Y and then drop the bomb for better penatration

    • TH1

      LOL !!!!!

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      OMG/ONOZ! The Dreaded K-Y Bomb! Isn’t there some international convention against that? Or didn’t the US ratify it?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

  • nraddin

    Anyone else remember the idea of “Rods From God”. Essentially the idea was to drop telephone pole size tungsten rods and drop them on targets at speeds of around 25,000mph. The kinetic force produced shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with deeply buried targets. They could either be launched from satellites or just from ICBMs.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Just for the record, you’d never get 25,000mph just by dropping something, even from orbit. LEO velocity is approx. 8 km/s, or 17 900 mph, and if you de-orbit something, even something like a tungsten rod, you are still going to bleed off a lot of that speed during re-entry.

      According to the always-reliable (*ahem*) Wikipedia, the predicted impact speed of the Project Thor rods was approx. Mach 10, or roughly 7 200mph.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

      • nraddin

        Your right you can’t just drop them and get that speed, not that 7200mph at 3tons isn’t quite a hit on it’s own. Terminal velocity will catch up with you, but it’s a pretty simple matter to use the kinetic energy from your orbit (say around (15,000 to 20,000 miles per hour), acceleration with gravity before air drag picks up and then use a fairly small rocket motor to keep it from loosing to much energy. Might not get 25k without some real work, but 15k wouldn’t be that hard. Your biggest problem is going to be reentry shielding at that speed.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          “….then use a fairly small rocket motor to keep it from loosing to much energy.” – That would depend a lot on your definition of “fairly small”.

          15 000 mph, about Mach 20, is still more than twice the freefall velocity predicted by Project Thor.

          Take as a rough (very rough) benchmark that the rocket booster would need to add about 10 Mach numbers to the speed of the penetrator. The only missile I can immediately recall that ever made Mach 10 at low altitude is the Martin Marietta Sprint. And that was not what I would describe as a “fairly small” missile (2 stages, total start mass 7 700 lbs).

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen

          • Maxtrue

            40 years ago we reached Mach 10 against gravity. We can double that going with gravity as well as shrink the size, yes? The second stage was solid propellent with metallic power. Remember the Hercules was designed to reach 150,000 ft. The flight program for the rod is quite different. The booster doesn’t even kick in until the terminal approach phase when the rod has already obtained some significant speed.

            I see your objections as size of booster required (thus the problem of lifting it) and that the spear will vaporize upon impact with unknown effect.
            All this is quite expensive if it doesn’t work.

            Agreed, so let’s test it.

            And your thoughts about the deuterium component going BANG?

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            “….when the rod has already obtained some significant speed.”:
            It will have achieved approx. Mach 10, the predicted terminal speed for the Project Thor penetrators. Regardless of when the booster kicks in, it still needs to deliver that extra 10-15 Mach numbers.

            “And your thoughts about the deuterium component going BANG?”:
            Probably more like *pop*. The deuterium, once released, will burn with the surrounding air.

            “so let’s test it.”:

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • Maxtrue

            Okay, so at Mach 10 we would need a booster that would add 10-15 Mach traveling with gravity. Yes, I already understood that as per my comments above. You know rail technology could scale a test to at least determine the impact behavior.

            Other scram programs plan to go past Mach 10 so ablative surfaces will be improved as they were after the X-15 showed thermal damage to wing surfaces.

            Again, I suggested an embedded deuterium capsule perhaps in a sphere so compression and heat will effect it before it becomes released. Under such enormous pressure and heat of impact, nothing but a “pop”? I suppose rail technology could scale that down and test as well.

            Thanks for your replies. Still, given the 30,000lb MOAB, if you put a 7000lb booster on a 7000lb tungsten spear that is still 14,000lbs or half a super MOAB. Now don’t you think such a booster could achieve Mach 25 traveling towards the ground? And one of them could be lofted by a high altitude drone or White Knight with some modification.

            Although I’m purely amateur, it is hard not to think a 5-7000lb hardened high density metallic spear going Mach 25 into the ground wouldn’t produce far more directed damage than a 30,000 free falling MOAB. Yes, a test is in order.

            But then I’m just a reader of DT…..

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            Part I:
            “You know rail technology could scale a test to at least determine the impact behavior”
            And? The ability to scale test something does not in itself validate it.

            “Under such enormous pressure and heat of impact, nothing but a “pop”?”
            Maybe a small *BANG* then. But if you’re waiting for a thermonuclear reaction, don’t hold your breath. And also don’t forget that for every unit volume of penetrator material you replace with deuterium (or any other chemical explosive) you reduce the mass of the penetrator.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            Part II:
            “Thanks for your replies.”
            You are most welcome.

            “Now don’t you think such a booster could achieve Mach 25 traveling towards the ground?”
            I’m doubtful, but ready to be proven wrong by actual data and acceleration calculations rather than just wishful thinking.

            “….produce far more directed damage….”
            “Direct damage”? Yes, since the energy delivered is an order of magnitude higher than the MOP (not MOAB). Penetration? Not so sure, since at those impact speeds virtually any penetrator material would lose structural integrity.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen


    There’s a physical limitation to how large the new MOAB can get unless we’re planning to use a Lockheed C-130J to chuck it out from; but let’s face it, dropping a MOAB into a nuclear facility will release a lot of radiation and one might need to do a calculation of whether a MOAB is the right approach or simply jumping to a nuclear warhead where much of the radioactive material at the site will be consumed in the explosion to minimize the fallout.

    • STemplar

      There’s no such thing as surface burst nuclear explosion that minimizes fallout.

      • Maxtrue

        Then what does MRR mean when describing nuclear weapons?

        “MRRs may have military utility as a tactical weapon, since residual contamination is slight. Such weapons are more costly and have lower performance of course.”

        I have read various open sources that indicate some progress in designs that fall under MRR. I believe Israel suggested to the DOD they use one of theirs to get to Saddam’s underground bunkers. Of course the man who invented the Neutron Bomb says designs exist that reduce RR lower than the article claims above. Pakistan and India both agree with the inventor’s logic consider the proximity of the battle lines between the two countries.

        Many suspect Israel’s first test was a Neutron bomb detonated near South Africa.

        Of course my crazy though above would eliminate the fission trigger and replace it with kinetic impact energy.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          The only way to avoid residual radiation from a nuclear explosion, whether fission, fusion, enhanced radiation or otherwise, is to detonate the device so high above the ground that the fireball doesn’t reach the surface.

          ANY surface or sub-surface nuclear detonation produces residual radiation, as the soil gets irradiated by the initial radiation pulse from the bomb.

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen

          • blight

            Doesn’t that just dump I-131 into the upper atmosphere and cause it to get carried to many corners of the world via jetstream?

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            For lighter particles, yes. The heavier ones (rocks, small pebbles, dogs, people’s heads….) will come down closer to the detonation site.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen

          • blight

            Wouldn’t the weather system drop I-131 on Luxembourg before the United States?

    • Dan

      Scientific American had an article about this idea a few years ago if I recall….

    • Jay

      Its not a new MOAB. Its a Massive Ordanance Penetrator, not an air burst. Also with how deep the facility is the radiation will be very slight if any, sense everything will collapse in on itself. Also you realize that nukes release radiation? It would be a lot better to release the radiation in a mountain or underneath 200 ft of sand then them blow one up in a city.

  • Mad Dog

    Instead of trying to destroy the underground facility, simply seal the entrances thus creating their own tomb.

  • john

    Drop my ex-wife on them… that would fawk them up, they would all get bitched to death! LOL

  • STemplar

    All fun aside, and it has been fun, the rods from God conversation is interesting from a technical stand point but we have treaties that say we won’t do that. To say nothing of the fact a military option may not be far off, so we need something ready to go pretty much now.

    Frankly I don’t think this is going to be or should be some airstrike on nuclear facilities. It isn’t like we just get to hit nuke facilities and the dynamic between us and the Iranians goes back to how it was. So we might as well all in and essentially launch an air campaign to dissect the regime and be done with it. No occupation and nation building, just nation un-building. Do away with the regimes ability to maintain control in Iran and they won’t have the time or resources to bother anyone else. Really at the point we pull the military option we might as well green light regime change.

    For the nuke facilities in particular we are going to make a hell of an environmental mess blowing up an operational centrifuge facility. Might be better to consider an airborne/airmobile/SF op against them. Go in short term, seize them, get into the place itself, wrap some centrifuges in det cord and contaminate the hell out of the place without spewing some cloud of debris. Probably be an intel bonanza as well.

    • Nadnerbus

      That’s real talk.

      We sort of did the bulk of that against Saddam in 91 though, and it didn’t do much but keep him in his “box” as they said. Knocking off, or even seriously disrupting the Iranian Regime probably isn’t possible through air power alone. Then there is the whole unifying effect of attacking them. The average Iranian will probably fall in line with patriotism when attacked.

      The spec ops scenario probably makes the most sense, but is the highest risk. The targets are just too big to sneak in with a relatively small force, attack and/or sabotage, and then jet out. I would think it would take basically a limited, intense, and focused invasion to get the job done. Eliminate the air defenses to clear a corridor into the target(s), suppress IAF counter attack and offensive air capabilities, drop in a battalion or 2 from the 82nd to secure the area, take out security, and defend the site from counter attack, while the spec ops guys go in and do their thing. Then there has to be a massive pull-out (more innuendo?) that gets everyone out clean before the regime can get their act together and hit the place with full force. Lots of moving parts and places things can go wrong.

      • Especially interesting discussion and I agree. Love that “nation un-building” concept though it conflicts with the “you broke it, you bought it” wisdom. I have no confidence that airpower alone would take the regime down though there are some Douhet disciples out there that would argue citing Bosnia as an example (Apples and Oranges).

        At Fordo ground troops are the sure way but we’d need detailed intel on doors. A vault safe would be a serious obstacle for a force unequipped to deal with it. Ranger BN’s, some tier one units, reinforced by the 82nd would be able to handle it but it would be a MESS politically.

        The greatest obstacle though is we lack the political will. There was a time not long ago that the world took us serious and our enemies feared us. Our capabilities weren’t different, our leaders were

        • crackedlenses

          We as a nation have bought into the belief that us being big and powerful and throwing our weight around is a bad thing; at the rate we’re going, it would take a Red Dawn scenario to give us the resolve to seriously fight…..

    • STemplar

      I don’t see this as a sneak in scenario at all, and it would be in conjunction with a rolling air campaign. I just look at it this way. We can’t let them have nukes. If this last round of sanctions don’t work, sanctions won’t work. So that pretty much leaves the option of a strike or let them have nuclear weapons.

      I wouldn’t want some new occupation and I agree the Iranian people will rally round the flag at first, but I think some will be quite happy to see the regime beat up, and more importantly the infrastructure it uses to maintain control.

      In addition to the ground raids on the nuke sites he air campaign should annihilate their IADS. Sink their navy. Destroy their air force. Savage as many Revolutionary guard/Qods force facilities as we can. Destroy the ASM CMs in the Straits. In addition I would launch an amphibious assault of the islands in the Straits they took from the UAE and take em back. Make nice permanent basing site for US forces Im sure the UAE would happily lease to us.

      • Maxtrue

        Yes, the original thought was an expeditionary mission which conflict in Hormuz could precipitate. As for Fordo, that might still be the best option. I don’t see the will from the WH so the Rod idea is more consistent with Obama’s idea of droning away our problems.

        At the moment. I would use the 30,000 lb MOAB on the IRGC positions and less protected facilities, but special ops seems more likely the very dangerous mission of going into Fordo on foot. I agree that occupation is the last thing we should do right after doing nothing as Iran goes nuclear.

    • saychoss

      Many think the weapons in outer space ban is only talking about nuclear weapons, not conventional. Can anyone prove otherwise? De-orbiting telephone pole sized rods on a target at 12K? mph would do a lot of damage even without explosives.

  • Jeff

    I thought it was interesting when the AirForce was talking about droping two or more of these in tandem to get the desired effect,

  • P.D. Sims

    A rod from god may not be a bad idea, the MOAB is the wrong bomb to use on hardened targets. Have a B-2 carry a guided bomb with a tungsten carbite core. Have a rocket solid fueled engine fire durring the decent to increase the velocity and hence the kenetic energy on impact. Remember the first bunker busters were discarded cannon barrels with fins welded on the back and a bomb laser guided unit in front. this problem can be solved without spending 82 million dollars. Stop thinking explosions and think kenetic energy.

    • blight

      I’m sure the GBU’s tested during GW1 are not up to the challenge of Fordo Mountain.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      I’d like to see where you got the ideas that a laser-guided, tungsten-core, rocket boosted bomb would

      a) penetrate to the required level
      b) be cheaper to develop then the MOP

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

    • bbmn

      Yeah, that’d be great if kenetic energy impacts were cool to watch. Sadly they aren’t and explosions are.

  • person

    why not just not go to war

    • saychoss

      that wouldn’t be as fun

  • bbmn

    Wash, Rinse and Repeat… Aquire, Launch and Repeat. That which works for hair works for bunkers.

  • lj81581

    Does the writer have peni$ envy, or just a case of wilt? Must have collaborated with the developers of the “new” capitol for Florida to come up with that title and reference to V!agra.

    But, seriously, I hope someone considers the effect of dropping this on a nuke facility and the “fallout” that comes from that, environmentally, politically, economically, and the backlash from injured civilians that will be more inclined to want to get back at us. There are likely to be better options than spending another $82 million just for the upgrades. And, how many of these do we need anyway? Sounds like two will do the job, so why an arsenal of 20+? I am all for a strong military, but we also need to re-build our economy at home. There needs to be a balance.

    • saychoss

      Need more than two in case the damn pilot misses the target. Need 20+ for other targets in Iran, and in case North Korea wants to play as well.

  • Mat

    32 stories of reinforced concrete sounds real badass but in reality its just 32 times 20 inches of rebar reinforced concrete that is a lot softer target that solid bedrock most likely similar in composition to Granit.

    Bunker busters are really only meant to collapse entrances,penetrating a core of an underground facility is normally not possible with out going nuclear . To increase survivability such facility normally has dozens of of real and fake exits and ventilation shafts. .Experience in the Balkans where bunker busters were used repeatedly on underground air base were dismal and at the end of the conflict all the planes were flown out, and airbase is much softer target than Norad or similar complexes .Even so some of these airbases were designed for to survive a 20kiloton hit.

  • howard

    According to the always-reliable (*ahem*) Wikipedia, the predicted impact speed of the Project Thor rods was approx. Mach 10, or roughly 7 200mph.

    i’d focus on the mass needed to make up the difference.

  • If we are going to the realm of scifi and Thor is too small then Heinlein had the answer. Put a moon colony up with a magnetic mass accelerator and throw rocks, really big stone masses in a ferrous skin with rocket thrusters to fine tune the earth atmospheric entry to hit the target. An aerodynamic 100 ton rock entering atmosphere at 7-10 kilometers per second will have enough residual energy to shake most bunkers. And the moon has LOTS of rocks. See “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Anson Heinlein.

  • ltcjwb

    Actually, it was Robert Heinlein, in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. Good read, as was his “Starship Troopers”. All it takes is dropping a sizeable rock a couple hundred thousand miles down the gravity well. it ain’t the fall that hurts, but the sudden stop . . .

  • fritz

    The tail fins should be angled instead of flat to make the bomb spin instead of retarding its descent. the faster the bomb accelerates the deeper it should pentrate the target. There are WW2 Axis submarine pens today in France that resisted all of the latest design of bombs dropped during the war.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “The tail fins should be angled instead of flat to make the bomb spin instead of retarding its descent.”
      Tail fins are needed for stability, and they induce drag. Making the bomb spin does not change this.

      “the faster the bomb accelerates the deeper it should pentrate the target”
      Up to the point where it smacks into the ground so fast that the bomb casing loses structural integrity.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Daryl

    What about the hypersonic aircraft the Air Force has been testing? Could that not be turned in to a hypersonic kinetic kill weapon? Sounds reasonable to me. That way you get the MOP with a speed kick to it!

    • blight

      But it doesn’t do Mach 25.

  • Old Fed Vet

    I have a great and inexpensive idea. Drop the POTUS in by Paracheute and he can talk them into submission or at the least put them to sleep while Seal Team 6 finishes the job.

  • Trent J. Telenko

    The easiest and quickest way to upgrade MOAB penetration is to put a shaped charge explosive warhead inside the existing bomb case.

    The NDRC of WW2 did that very successfully with the USAAF AN/M65 1000lb warhead for an Azon or Razon guided bombs to deal with Japanese cave defenses and armored warships.

    The idea was dropped and forgotten when the A-bomb got the Imperial Japanese Military to surrender.

    Getting such a warhead to function properly after a deep penetrating MOAB impact is a non-trivial, but reasonable, engineering challenge.

    $82 million for a quickie development program to drop a dozen shaped charge MOABs, and retrofit the existing inventory is very reasonable, as Pentagon programs go.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “The easiest and quickest way to upgrade MOAB penetration….”

      MOAB is an air blast weapon. The last thing you want is to increase its penetration. Or did you mean MOP?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Sheila

    I don’t like the color of it. We need more cooler colors.

  • watchyourself

    That’s what she said.

  • The Tireless Agorist: Uncle Sam Seeks Harder, Deeper Penetrator

  • Jay

    Yes one penetrator doing the job would be nice. But if its this high of a priority then the decision to use two will be made. Dual weapon delivery is something that has only recently been used and increases the damage. Yes it’s an expensive weapon but it looks a lot better than using a nuke to the national community.

  • StrumPanzer

    Apparently Uncle Sam’s Deep Penetrator needs the little blue pill. He is over a 100 now.

  • The Daring Dufas

    I always thought the perfect weapon with perfect deniability would be an asteroid plucked from The Asteroid Belt with a guidance system and rocket boosters so

    it could be dropped on the offending country. The claim could be that it was the will

    of their chosen deity. ^_^


    • blight

      All it would take is an orbital miscalculation to drop a rock on Israel instead of Iran. The wrong people would be pleased.

  • Lou

    There must be a reason that motivates so many players to devote so many hours to games such as EverQuest, World of Warcraft and many other Massive MultiPlayer Online Role Playing Games, or MMORPGs.
    Other role playing games work on a more limited levvel in that the character has a task to perform.
    It’s possible that some ggames may still ruun well
    on a PC with lower specifications, but there are often problems with game
    pkay andd graphics.