Extremely Complex and Unique
The Air Force is taking the reins of developing the MOP bunker-buster bomb.
—Michael C. Sirak
March 16, 2010—The Pentagon has had "mixed results" to date in test drops of the massive ordnance penetrator, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told a House defense oversight panel last week.
MOP is the 30,000-pound air-delivered bunker-buster bomb that Boeing is under contract to develop for fielding on Air Force B-2A and B-52H bombers. It would give the US the powerful non-nuclear means of taking out deeply buried and hardened facilities like weapons labs that may be beyond the reach of existing bunker busters since potential foes are said to be tunneling ever deeper to evade US reach.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency led a MOP technology demonstration that concluded in January with the fifth and final test drop of a MOP from a B-52, a Pentagon spokeswoman told the Daily Report March 15.
Three of these flight tests featured MOPs with live warheads, she said.
MOP developmental work is now shifting to the Air Force, which aims to integrate the huge munition on the B-2 under a quick-reaction-capability initiative so that it could be operationally ready as soon as possible.
The first QRC flight test will actually be conducted on a B-52, but will then be followed by seven flight tests on the B-2, the spokeswoman said. This first test is scheduled for sometime in March.
Despite the test record, Donley and Schwartz told the House Appropriations Committee Defense subcommittee on March 10 that they are "closely monitoring" MOP's progress.
They said "future successes likely will result in a reprogramming request to accelerate its development in Fiscal 2010."
The Pentagon last August announced its intent to accelerate MOP development by several years so that the first units could be available for operational use sometime in 2010.
When asked to provide the notional fielding schedule, the Pentagon spokeswoman declined, saying "placing a timeline on this program isn't prudent at this point in testing." She also did not detail the test record to date.
She did say MOP is "an extremely complex and unique capability." Like any program of this magnitude and complexity, "it will have ups and downs" during development.
(Donley-Schwartz prepared testimony)
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