It's a mess -- hurry and get a MOP

Bloomberg's Pentagon reporter reports that the Pentagon's comptroller has made an urgent request to Congress to authorize reprogramming current-year funds in order to accelerate the delivery of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), a 30,000 pound bunker-busting bomb. Here is an excerpt from the story:

Comptroller Robert Hale, in a formal request to the four congressional defense committees earlier this month, asked permission to shift about $68 million in the Pentagon's budget to this program to ensure the first four bombs could be mounted on stealthy B-2 bombers by July 2010.

Hale, in his July 8 request, said there was "an urgent operational need for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high-threat environments," and top commanders of U.S. forces in Asia and the Middle East "recently identified the need to expedite" the bomb program.

The bomb would be the U.S. military's largest and six times bigger than the 5,000-pound bunker buster that the Air Force now uses to attack deeply buried nuclear, biological or chemical sites.

The U.S. Air Force and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) have already tested the MOP from B-52 aircraft. The urgent reprogramming of funding is apparently required to complete work on adapting B-2 aircraft to carry the MOP. MOP is said to be capable of penetrating 200 feet to buried targets. We can presume that USAF and DTRA targeting analysts have concluded that existing 5,000 and 2,000 pound bunker-busters were insufficient for either the Natanz or Kumchang-ni target sets. If true, this would also imply that the Israeli Air Force might not have the proper ordnance or aircraft to succeed in an air campaign against the Iranian nuclear complex.

According to the Bloomberg story, the accelerated work on B-2 MOP delivery will cut three years from the original deployment plan. As this DTRA fact-sheet on the MOP explains, the Air Force and DTRA have been working on the bomb since 2004. Why the sudden request, apparently from CENTCOM and PACOM, to get this capability by next summer? Who prompted an update of the war plans? And why?

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