The US Air Force today revealed plans to acquire a small arsenal of a new 13,600kg (30,000lb) penetrator bomb to deploy on Northrop Grumman B-2As in three years.

The USAF's public notice follows several years of testing the Boeing GBU57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which is designed to destroy hardened bunkers buried deeply underground.

The USAF plans to begin flight tests on the B-2A starting in June 2011 and reach operational status by June 2012, the USAF notice says. Integrating the MOP requires no changes to the B-2A's operational flight programme, avoiding a potentially costly and time-consuming recertification process.

The USAF's "best estimate" anticipates buying five test and 10 residual MOP bombs. But another five residual bombs could also be purchased, the USAF notice says.

In previous years, lawmakers had rejected the previous Administration's requests to fund a "quick reaction capability" to buy up to 20 MOPs for the B-2A fleet.

But the opposition from Congress appears to have faded, allowing the USAF to move forward with development and procurement of the 15t bunker-buster bombs.

The next-largest penetrator weapon in the USAF arsenal is currently the 2,270kg (5,000lb)-class GBU-28. The USAF also demonstrated a 9,080kg (20,000lb) massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) weapon in 2003.

The MOP is precision guided weapon, and includes lattice-type fins for aerial maneouvring.

 Massive ordnance penetrator MOP
 US Air Force photo

Source: Flight International