Once again, there’s something – no one will say just what – that the Air Force’s $15 million Massive Ordnance Penetrator can’t do, or can’t do well enough. That’s the 15-ton, Boeing-built bomb the U.S. now has on hand to use against deeply-buried bunkers in places like Iran.
On Thursday, the Air Force awarded this $98.8 million contract to Boeing for more work on the bomb. The money is for an “enhanced threat response redesign,” which suggests Air Force engineers found something – perhaps in Iran or North Korea, or on the weapon itself – that requires the MOP stockpile be tweaked in some way. Apparently, the additional work is going to drive the price per bomb from about $15 million to $20 million.
Guided to its destination by GPS-guided lattice-type fins, the MOP’s alloy steel hull – some 80% of its weight – is designed to remain intact as it drills through rock or reinforced concrete before setting off its 5,300-pound warhead. Air Force officials say it represents a “bridge” capability between existing bunker busters and nuclear weapons themselves.
Seeing as the work isn’t slated for completion until March 30, 2014, it’s one way for President Obama to delay attacking Iran until he’s re-elected, or it’s someone else’s call.