Military

USAF takes delivery of the GBU-57A/B Penetrator - now there's nowhere to hide

USAF takes delivery of the GBU...
An artist's impression of the GBU-57A/B
An artist's impression of the GBU-57A/B
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The B-52 drops a GBU-57A/B
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The B-52 drops a GBU-57A/B
Here's the MOP close up
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Here's the MOP close up
The GBU-57A/B loaded into mock-up of the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit
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The GBU-57A/B loaded into mock-up of the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit looks so "Darth Vader" that it's hard to believe this image hasn't been photoshoped
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The B-2 Spirit looks so "Darth Vader" that it's hard to believe this image hasn't been photoshoped
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
A B-52 and B-2 side-by-side
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A B-52 and B-2 side-by-side
The B-52 holds the world endurance record for a combat flight
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The B-52 holds the world endurance record for a combat flight
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit is a very large plane
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The B-2 Spirit is a very large plane
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit
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The B-2 Spirit
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An artist's impression of the GBU-57A/B
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An artist's impression of the GBU-57A/B
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-52
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The B-52
The awesome firepower of the U.S. military with the B-52 top and centre
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The awesome firepower of the U.S. military with the B-52 top and centre
A diagram from the original proposal for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from 2004. The GBU-57A/B will penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock
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A diagram from the original proposal for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from 2004. The GBU-57A/B will penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-2
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The B-2
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-52
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The B-52
The B-2
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The B-2
The B-52
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The B-52
Two B-52s
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Two B-52s
The GBU-57A/B without its fins
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The GBU-57A/B without its fins
The B-2
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The B-2
The B-2
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The B-2
The B-52 and friends
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The B-52 and friends
The B-52
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The B-52
The 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator is launched at high altitude and gathers momentum until it strikes with massive kinetic energy
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The 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator is launched at high altitude and gathers momentum until it strikes with massive kinetic energy

Military technology has created some fearsome weapons, such as the 5,000 lb GBU-28 Deep Throat bunker buster, 15,000 lb BLU-82 Daisycutter, 15,650 lb Russian ATBIP (Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power), 22,000 lb Grand Slam earthquake bomb, and the 22,600 lb GBU-43 MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast), but if you were hiding under 50 meters of hardened concrete, none of them were going to bother you.

Not any more!

The U.S. Air Force has just taken delivery of the first GBU-57A/B (Massive Ordnance Penetrator). It weighs 30,000 lb and will penetrate 200 ft of hardened concrete BEFORE it goes off. If you are reading this from an underground nuclear facility in Iran or North Korea, might we suggest some extended sick leave is (or soon will be) in order.

Here's the MOP close up
Here's the MOP close up

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator is that it is a relatively simple weapon.

The GBU-57A/B loaded into mock-up of the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit
The GBU-57A/B loaded into mock-up of the bomb bay of a B-2 Spirit

The GBU acronym at the front of the the official designation for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (GBU-57A/B or MOP) can be found at the front of the name of almost everything the United States Air Force drops from a plane these days.

The B-52
The B-52

Not all that long ago, bombs were dropped in large numbers in the hope that at least some of them would hit their target.

The B-52 drops a GBU-57A/B
The B-52 drops a GBU-57A/B

These days, almost every bomb and missile is delivered with pinpoint accuracy. GBU stands for Guided Bomb Unit, and it means that the 20 foot GBU-57 A/B missile is zeroed in on the target by a GPS navigation system guiding its four lattice-type fins.

The GBU-57A/B without its fins
The GBU-57A/B without its fins

Not surprisingly, the bomb is intended for only one purpose - to destroy the type of hardened concrete bunkers which house central command facilities and weapons of mass destruction. It's hence not surprising that the program has been hurried into readiness with the growing concern that Iran has developed nuclear weaponry.

It is designed to penetrate supposedly untouchable facilities in one piece. The warhead case of the MOP is made from a special high performance steel alloy designed to maintain the integrity of the penetrator case during impact so that the payload can then do its job most effectively by exploding deep underground.

The image below is a diagram from the original proposal for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from February 2004. The GBU-57A/B will penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock

A diagram from the original proposal for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from 2004. The GBU-57A/B will penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock
A diagram from the original proposal for the Massive Ordnance Penetrator from 2004. The GBU-57A/B will penetrate 200 ft (61 m) of 5,000 psi (34 MPa) reinforced concrete, 26 ft of 10,000 psi (69 MPa) reinforced concrete or 130 ft (40 m) of moderately hard rock

The MOP is deployed from high altitude and allows gravity to add momentum to its 30,000 pound weight so that it hits with enormous kinetic energy.

Put simply, the MOP hits exactly where it is intended to hit with enough energy to bury itself 200+ feet into hardened concrete, then it explodes its 5,300 pound warhead.

The B-52
The B-52

The MOP is designed to be carried aboard B-2 and B-52 bombers so there's nowhere that is out of reach. The B-52 has a combat range of nearly 9000 miles, but aerial refueling means it effectively has an unlimited range.

During Operation Desert Strike on September 2/3, 1996, two B-52s flew out of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and disrupted communications in Baghdad with AGM-86C cruise missiles. By the time the mission was over, 34 hours had expired. Hence it would be fair to say that the B-52 is only limited in its range by the endurance of the four-person air crew.

A B-52 and B-2 side-by-side
A B-52 and B-2 side-by-side

The most likely aircraft to deliver the MOP however, is the B-2 Spirit which like the B-52, can carry two MOPs.

The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit

The largely composite B-2 has vastly reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures, extraordinary aerodynamic efficiency, a long range (6000 miles) without refueling and a massive payload. It is hence a potent delivery system for the likes of the MOP, as it is very difficult for defensive systems to detect, track and engage.

The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 Spirit

With aerial refueling, there is now nowhere to hide.

55 comments
Tw Tan
In the stone age world, there were always spear vs shield.But in knowledge world, that would not the whole picture.50meter concrete are very expensive,thus suggest a cheap solution.Build 50meter Top Soil with soft texture soil on top of hideout.Let the bomb blast at middle of soft texture soil.Ooop! Soft Texture Soil haven\'t been invent yet! No,You don\'t need to invent, engineering it yourself! It your guy need R&D reference, go to swamp area and start test drop bomb into mud, there you are. The soil mix with, wood chip,fiber soil stabilizer and most important the multiple layer stainless steel mesh.Place SST mesh with appropriate gap to decelerate drop speed and capture. The word is CAPTURE, capture the bomb before it reach hard surface. The bomb fail it not blast at high density surface.
exioce
200 feet of hardened concrete is a lot of penetration power, but what would happen if every 20 feet or so the concrete was covered with a layer of metal? Would multiple barriers such as this negate the effect of this bomb? Even without those layers, would this bomb be able to penetrate the under-mountain complex Iran allegedly has?
Kanika Sharma
Great sir! i like army... my real brother is also in INDIAN NAVY... Very good jobs... health-today
Caimbeul
Gee, aren\'t we all lucky the United States never attacks or invades another nation without a declaration of war and full international support. Oh.
Gregory Minor
60 feet of hardened concrete or 200? Which one. The pictures are contradicting the article.
liquidschwarz
Gee, aren\'t we all lucky that full international support has stopped Iran and North Korea from attempting to develop nuclear weapons? Boom.
EinSascha
But what use is this for? No sane politician would really want to kill his enemy fellow politicians. He needs them to rule the conquered country, or at least do kill one or two publicly to calm the masses.
Christian Kepler
@Tw Tan , You are exactly correct I also immediately thought of at least 3-ways to get around this 30K lb MOP, earthen works, metal mesh layers, even cheap lose gravel(tiny stones) layered with cheap metal mesh would render this MOP absolutely ineffective. The thing about any weapon is understanding how it works what is the strongest link... then with some ingenuity turning that into the weakest link. Sounds like this is more a wonder waffen... in other words military propaganda to scare the Iranians into submission than an actual feasible weapon, you would have to a modern version of Teslas best kept secrets to undo a \"nuclear power\" like North Korea or Iran.
Leonard Foster Jr
ahhh they failed to state the weapon can be armed with a small tactical nuke it does not matter how deep the bunker is and it contains most of the fallout which you would have anyhow if your bombing a nuke site.
Jon A.
Christian and TW TAN: If it forces you to abandon your bunker and build a new one, it has already worked. Moreover, hardened concrete generally already has the kind of metal reinforcements you are describing in it. As to the need for this, US forces have already encountered very heavily fortified underground bunkers during the Iraq war and in Afghanistan. Saddam Hussein\'s command bunker was under 60 feet of concrete, and existing munitions did not penetrate it.