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Tuesday, October 30, 2007       Free Headline Alerts     Reader Comments

Pentagon seeks huge new bunker-buster for Iran

WASHINGTON The Democrat-controlled Congress is examining a request to develop a new bomb designed for a U.S. air strike on Iran.

The Bush administration wants $88 million for the production of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP. The 30,000-pound conventional bomb, meant for deployment by the B-2 aircraft, would be the most powerful bunker-buster ever designed.

Analysts agree that MOP was designed to destroy Iranian and North Korean underground facilities, such as Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, Middle East Newsline reported. The bomb was said to be able to penetrate more than 65 meters of earth.

"It'll go through it like a hot knife through butter," John Pike, a leading U.S. weapons analyst, told Congressional Quarterly.

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The administration did not explain the use of MOP. A White House statement cited "an urgent operational need from theater commanders" in its funding request to modify B-2s to carry MOP.

"We are not authorizing Bush to use a 30,000-pound bunker buster," Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat, said, according to the Congressional Quarterly report. "They've been banging the drums the same way as they did in 2002 with Iraq."

MOP has been developed by Boeing, which completed the first test of the bunker-buster in March 2007. Two months later, Northrop Grumman, won a $2.5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to modify the B-2 to carry the new weapon.

"We need to have this as a conventional weapon," Rep. Norm Dicks, a Washington Democrat and a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said. "It adds to our deterrent."

"I would characterize it as routine," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. "The focus that we all have is on using diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions to persuade the Iranian government that they are isolated, they need to alter their policies and ambitions."

The Democratic-led Congress has been divided over whether to fund U.S. military preparations for any war with Iran. Most of the Democratic leadership has warned that a U.S. air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would result in a major war in the Middle East ahead of the U.S. elections in November 2008.

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