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back to article US stealth bombers finally get nuke-nobbling super bomb

Long-delayed plans to equip American stealth bombers with super-heavy penetrator bombs – similar to those employed by British bombers against hardened Nazi targets in WWII – have finally been completed, offering the US a possibly timely option to destroy deeply buried nuclear weapons factories. The Massive Ordnance Penetrator …

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Happy

90 meters

You only have to collapse the entrance tunnel, vent shafts and the like...

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Easy enough...

...if you knew WHERE they were all located. But what about if the opponent took that into consideration and used hardened or reinforced shafts, included redundancies to allow for one or more of them to collapse, or even included facilities to allow for being cut off from the outside for a time—say, long enough for the outside to get a new opening made?

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Facepalm

Which can then be dug out in short order to regain access to the untouched goodies within. Presumably said goodies are worth the effort and risk, as there wouldn't have been much point in putting 'em in a collossally expensive hardened bunker deep underground otherwise.

You need to knock out the bunker and its contents, not just block the door for a few days.

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Mushroom

RE: 90 meters

Digging out entrance tunnels isn't a great problem. What would be much more of a problem for the Iranians would be the shockwave that would be transmitted through the rock to the underground bunkers, and would probably trash most of the high-tech kit like centrifuges without needing to actually penetrate the rooms. To increase the effect, the Septics could use the old "smash 'n' trash" trick used by tanks against thick concrete defences - AP round to crack the surface, followed by an HE round to break it apart. In this case, a MOP strike could be followed up by something like several 5000Lb GBU-28 penetrators to literally break the mountain apart. Both can use GPS or laser guidance to ensure the second attack hits the area of mountain already fractured by the MOP. Or, if the Yanks are feelling brave (and the Iranian air-def really is "puny" and could be suppressed), they could follow up the MOP with a GBU-43/B MOAB dropped from a very unstealthy Herc!

But of course, the handwringers will still be telling us the immense trouble and cost of digging bunkers under a mountain is all a part of the Iranian civillian nuke power scheme.....

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Actually it is fairly simple to significantly amplify the effect of such weapons - just make them dirty weapons. Make the heavy outer shell from an allow with semi-depleted uranium or pack in some highly radioactive nuclear waste and presto! - After detonation the entire area is deadly radioactive and the Iranians cannot prove that is wasn't their own facility that leaked radiation.

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Mushroom

Think they do this already with cobalt jackets they can place on normal muntions. It goes bang and spreads radioactive crap everywhere. not particularly lethal (at first) but a real pig to clean up and can deny access to a huge area

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Black Helicopters

@Xenobyte

Can't you feel something is wrong with this approach?

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Anonymous Coward

Threat

If Israel keeps threatening to destroy the nuclear programme, even if it's civilian they will want to protect it. They may have oil but they can't refine effectively - and they increasingly need more power and don't want to rely on anyone for their nuclear material (sanctions / embargoes could put out their lights).

Have you found those WMDs in Iraq yet ? Some people never learn.

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Seems a bit of a lot of hard work

Centrifuge plants require a lot of power to work. Bomb the power plants if you can't get to the 'fuges themselves.

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WTF?

Iranians cannot prove that is wasn't their own facility that leaked radiation

Nuclear material has trace eements that can be used to determine the source.

For example, the Israeli nuclear material, which they continue to lie about, was traced to a U.S. laboratory in California.

It seems that Reg readers are overlooking the fact this is yet another act of war.

The Chinese and Russians have stated they will oppose UN action against Iran because Britain, France and the USA exceeded the action authorised in Libya.

The question that remains unaswered is: When is Israel going to submit to the same inspections that the Iranians are asked to submit to. Little wonder the US isn't trusted and little wonder why Americans are disliked in most of the world.

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@Xenobyte

Except that all radioactive material carries different "signatures" which can tell you where it was produced.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: 90 meters → @Matt Bryant

Exactly, it will not take a lot to throw all active centrifuges off their axis which is equivalent to putting a hand grenade in a bucket of toxic Uranium HexaFluoride. Definitely not fun to cleanup. The shockwave from 2.5tons attached to a 13 tons of steel should be more than enough to do this job.

Similarly, knocking out the supply on a working centrifuge installation will lead to the same result. Centrifuges which run at that speed use magnetic "bearings". Turn off the power and the whole thing goes flying all over the place once again with UF6 leakage and so on.

By the way, the same goes for an Israeli attack. If they can knock out the power supply properly or "shake" the install it is as good as dead. They have done it before - the strike at the Iraqi reactor was an example of such "surgical engineering by high explosive". I would not discount them outright now.

So even 90m will not help Iran. They need 900. I am surprised they have not put the kit in a disused salt mine or something (they have a few).

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@Jaitch

When is Israel going to submit? Likely never as it has never signed the Nonproliferation Treaty as Iran has.

Iran engages in nuclear willy-waving with threats to destroy Israel. Israel refrains from such threats, and doesn't even admit to having atomic weapons. Which is the more prudent?

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Anonymous Coward

Cost effective power gen

Iran can build hydro power stations, cheaper, easier, with no possibility that people think there for obtaining weapons material.

When you look at the number of centrifuges they are rumoured to have, it becomes clear that it is not a civilian programme being done despite cost due to a lack of viable alternatives

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Looks like a Buff not a Spirit in the photo...

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Boffin

So what?

Test firings generally do occur from the least expensive platform, doesn't mean that a B2 cannot carry the same weapon, the main point of this test was to prove that the weapon itself worked.

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TRT
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Brings new meaning...

to pencil pushing.

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Black Helicopters

"...hits with even greater force and can penetrate deeper..."

Hmm, I see that and immediately think of scramjet powered cruise penetrator missiles. Scream in low from range and loop up to dive on the target at Mach 8+ in the final seconds.

I wonder if there's already a top-secret research project to ma..........*&&^$#^%&^&

NO CARRIER

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WTF?

Am I the only one

Who thought for a second that the last part of the comment was going to be an off topic rant on the state of the UK's Navy?

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Thumb Up

"Similar weapons were used by specially modified Lancaster heavy bombers during World War Two: the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrator superbombs. These were dropped by the elite crews of 617 Squadron RAF – the special unit formed to carry out the Dambuster raids and other priority missions"

Barnes Wallis is one of the most under-appreciated geniuses of WW2. His single minded brilliance shortened the war in Europe by at least a year and potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

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Headmaster

And I have the privilege of...

...driving to work on Wallis Way every morning as I pass by the airship sheds at Cardington (well actually Shortstown if you're being picky). Wallis was the designer of the R100, the successful one of the R100/R101 pair which was based at Cardington after its construction and testing at Howden.

I shall also turn on the pedant in me by saying that it was not only 617 squadron that dropped Wallis' earth penetrating bombs, they were also accompanied by IX squadron for many raids including those on the Tirpitz. As a result the Tirpitz bulkhead liberated from the hulk after the war has regularly changed hands between the two squadrons since they have never agreed as to which squadron finally laid the ship to rest.

And, to remember the men of the wartime 617 squadron, one phrase from Paul Brickhill's book The Dam Busters has never left me, "No 617 crews were lost in those three weeks, the longest holiday that death ever took on the squadron."

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Flame

Bouncing Bomb?

The Barnes Wallace bouncing bomb was an abysmal failure.

It killed many air-crew in the raid and hundereds (thousands?) of slave workers below the dams, and overall it had little or no effect on the German war effort.

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Theres no doubt that BW is a great man. But hes not unappreciated. He has many statues and buildings around the UK named after him, not least the students union building at Manchester Uni. I'm told that theres even a golf swing named for him for bouncing your ball across water. Plus he rightly made it into the BBC's top 100 Britons. The notion of him being unappreciated is, happpily, a myth.

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Trollface

I wouldn't agree with that. It may not have had a huge direct impact on the German war effort (though it severely affected German agriculture), but it did have several important indirect effects:

1) It significantly boosted morale in the UK

2) It boosted the UK's standing among it's allies (America, Russia)

3) It showed that precision-bombing attacks could be effective (rather than just carpet bombing everything in the area)

4) It paved the way for Barnes Wallis to produce his tallboy/grand-slam bombs (the bouncing-bomb came about because he initially couldn't get anyone to sign-up to his "earthquake bomb" strategy) - and these arguably had a far bigger impact on the war, being used to take out railways, bridges, V2 bomb factories and the V3 site.

(for more details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Chastise )

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Alternatively

You can argue that the rebuilding of the Ruhr dams consumed so much material and manpower that it prevented the Germans from reinforcing the Atlantic Wall, and so made the Normandy landings possible.

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Paris Hilton

C'mon UK!

Iran will be looking for a supply of new tin hats to protect against these bunker busters, so here's our chance to get a few bob out of Iran.

Paris because it might be sensible to wear a certain type of hat when trying to damage her bunker, though tin might not be the best material for that job.

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Stop

Moral high ground

"You must not build terrible weapons! We will build our own reasonably terrible weapons with which to stop you doing that!"

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Joke

Between the MOP and the Nuke I know which one I would rather have dropped on my home town....

.... as its Swindon - the Nuke.

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Anonymous Coward

Or...

You must not build terrible weapons, while simultaneously preaching about erasing a nation from the map, training terrorists to make IEDs, generally being hostile and provoking other nations.

Whatever you think of Israel and I'm not its biggest fan, by a long shot, the Israeli people do not deserve to be wiped off the map.

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Sorry Gordon

The first nuke is reserved for Slough

http://www-cdr.stanford.edu/intuition/Slough.html

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FAIL

So, you go on the assumption that you have to consider the justification for your own self defense, or for your offensive operations, to be either equal to or inferior to those of your enemy? Sorry, but that's a load of horseshit. There may be times when the west has made mistakes - perhaps even numerous ones - but trying to pull the, "Well, maybe Gaddafi isn't such a bad guy; we should really maybe just have pistols and pitchforks instead of F22s..." is absurd.

Building better weapons than your adversary isn't hypocrisy, it's sanity. Not to Godwin the whole thing (which I guess I'm not as WW2 was already mentioned in the article) but what if we'd taken the same line with Germany? "Who are we to say who's right! If we develop better bombers, tanks, and ordnance then we're just as bad as they are. No sir - we'll just sit tight, stick with mid-30s-era equipment, and it'll all come out right in the end."

Yuhhh -huh.

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Trollface

Listed improvements upon Grand Slam and Tallboy

"boasts precision guidance", eh?

http://www.rafactive.co.uk/e27/images/e27cheshire%20(1).jpg - We've got your precision guidance right here...

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Indeed and also

And lets not forget the "Black Welshman" Willie Tait DSO and three bars, DFC and bar who succeeded Cheshire as C/O 617

Although recommended for the VC after being retired from active combat at 101 ops he got the third bar instead.

And for the IT angle he worked for ICL

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Mushroom

I can feel the heat already

Waiting for "Destroy All Monsters" to get all spitty and angry, and the other moral relativists to pop up in defence of Ahmedinnerjacket and his bunch of loonies.

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Yeah not as if christian nutjobs arent running the US military after all.

Personally we should sell Iran nuclears and guarantee there won't be a military conflict there

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Anonymous Coward

No!

You don't understand - It's alright for the Iranians to execute homosexuals, stone women to death because they've been raped and have government sponsored miltia on the streets brutally repressing protests. (The sort of things that would never be tolerated in other countries.)

I have yet to work out why, but it appears that these things are all acceptable, possibly because Iran doesn't like America, therefore they must be ok, mkay? because a lot of people who comment here seem to think that America=bad. Black and white, not shades of grey.

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Mushroom

@Lieberman -- what's that, a pre-emptive strike?

Everyone knows American is the most dangerous, aggressive nation in the world.

Does it make you feel good that they just got more dangerous and will probably soon get even more aggressive?

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@AC

Another pre-emptive strike? Strange...

Iran doesn't really have a problem with America. I think Iranians would be happy to be left in peace.

Unfortunately America (and Israel) know absolutely nothing about Peace and are intent on ruining another country, killing hundreds of thousands of inccocent civilians and bombing it back to the dark ages with depleted uranium weapons which will cause untold problens to the people of those nations for generations to come.

I could go on...

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Anonymous Coward

Iran doesn't have a problem with America?

Are you for real? Seriously? Iranian government types call America "The Great Satan" and the UK "The Little Satan" do you think that they reserve that kind of language for people they like?

The standard chant of "Death to America" at rallies, that's friendly also.

In case you haven't noticed the USA and UK et al seem to be going to extremely large lengths not to go to war with Iran - Do you think that any other country would get away with taking the naval seamen of another nation hostage in open waters, without a massive shoot-out?

I could also go on...

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Devil

Meh!

Just drop a large enough rock from space.

No new secret plot, just lift it from 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.

Seriously, Mass and Gravity can do wonders in taking out a target.

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Airbags

If the opposition has been smart, they'll not just have constructed their facility a mile underground, accessed by tunnels (multiple) going sideways into a mountain with blast doors and several changs of direction. They'll not just have stocked it with enough supplies to wait out having all the entrances collapsed. They'll also have put it in a massive concrete shell, decoupled from the rock of the mountain by air bags.

Unless you can generate enough of a shockwave to cause the mountain to move by more than the width of the airbags, they'll completely decouple the precision quipment from any shockwaves travelling through the rock. Methinks your chances of damaging such with conventional explosives are infinitessimal, and your chances of managing to do so with half a megatonne of nuclear explosion are slim.

Is USA SAC HQ still under that mountain in Colorado? If so, they think like I do.

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FAIL

RE: Airbags

"......They'll also have put it in a massive concrete shell, decoupled from the rock of the mountain by air bags......" Yeah, please do supply details of a Western installation of such tech, seeing as it is highly unlikely even with our level of capability, and very, very unlikely with Iran's generally poor level of engineering capability. Then consider that air only suppresses shockwaves when it is not compressed - using it to hold up a "massive concrete shell" will mean air under considerable pressure, which will actually transmit shockwaves quite well (for example, go read up on pneumatic drills).

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OK

But please explain - what exactly would be the problem with Iranians having developed a nuke? I mean not the difficulties it will create to Israeli and US foreign policies but the actual threat?

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WTF?

@Vladimir Plouzhnikov -- Seriously?

Because the Iranians will actually use the nuke?

Because the Iranians support state sponsored terrorism?

Because even without a nuke missile, there are things like dirty bombs that would be hard to detect and could be used by terrorist groups?

Yes, the threat is real.

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Also...

...because the Iranian government and clergy seem not just willing but EAGER to witness if not START Armageddon.

http://armageddonalert.blogspot.com/2011/03/12th-imam-and-islamic-propecy.html

Talking about Eternal War or the 12th Imam (essentially Islam's version of The Second Coming) leads one to suspect that deterrence will not affect such a mindset. Even MAD won't sway them—to them it would be a WINNING scenario.

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@Ian

"Because the Iranians will actually use the nuke?"

Why would they do that. Please explain. I'd like to know.

"Because the Iranians support state sponsored terrorism?"

And nukes have what relation to that? You do realise that nukes can be traced back to manufacturer much more easily than conventional explosives, don't you? And that it eliminates the only reason for using terrorists as agents - deniability.

"Because even without a nuke missile, there are things like dirty bombs that would be hard to detect and could be used by terrorist groups?"

Why haven't they already done that - you certainly don't need enriched U or Pu for that kind of thing, just spread out some powdered yellowcake on Oxford street?

Please also name to me one single case of two nuclear possessing countries going at war with each other (not counting minor border skirmishes or colonial wars-by-proxy).

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Mr Gumby seems to conveniently forget

that 1) the United States is the only nation hitherto to have used nucear weapons in war, and 2) the United States (and inter alia, its favourite satrapy, the UK) and that dog-wagging tail, Israel, have been supporting and waging state terrorism these last six decades and more....

The threat is indeed real - but it originates with other lands than Iran....

Henri

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FAIL

RE: Mr Gumby seems to conveniently forget

Mrhenriday seems to have forgotten history, fullstop.

"....1) the United States is the only nation hitherto to have used nucear weapons in war...." A war started by the other party (Japan), and the dropping of the nukes was to END the war to avoid the millions (of mainly civillian Japanese) that would have died in the otherwise necessary invasion of Japan. It also wasn't the deadliest attack of WW2, the firebombing of Tokyo being more destructive and killing more people, but that is forgotten as it was "conventional" weapons.

".....2) the United States (and inter alia, its favourite satrapy, the UK) and that dog-wagging tail, Israel, have been supporting and waging state terrorism these last six decades and more...." <Yawn> So do all the superpowers, it was how they fought wars by proxy to AVOID having a full-blown nuke war. It's obvious that your rabid anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism blinds you to some very simple truths.

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@Vladimir Plouzhnikov

I think you need to really do a better job of studying history.

The fact that multiple countries have the bomb and have yet to use it means we're lucky with the world leaders not getting itchy trigger fingers. (You do realize that the nuke doomsday clock is still pretty close to midnight, right?)

The problem is that there are countries that will push their agenda to the point of using WMD.

Iran has already shown how they have funded and sponsored terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, etc ...

The more countries that have nuke capabilities the greater the chance for its use.

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Mushroom

@Matt Bryant

Thanks.

Actually no, I didn't forget. My uncle who recently passed away was supposed to be leading a platoon in the second wave of the planned invasion of Japan. He always said the day the bomb was dropped, he knelt down and kissed the tarmac. Yes, the bombs generated huge number of casualties, but as you point out, the number of dead in just civilians alone would have been staggering. Looking at the civilian suicides on Okinawa alone was enough of a reason to drop the bombs.

And to add one last thing...

One of the reasons America is no longer an isolationist country like some wanted pre-WW2, was that when waiting for the wars to come to your shore is too late. Lessons learned from WW1 and WW2 combined showed just how much we all lose when there is total all out war.

The proliferation of nukes and fissionable material is probably the worst thing that could happen. It would be great if India and Pakistan didn't have the bomb. But unfortunately the genie is out of the bottle and its one more potential threat against Western countries.

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