With talk of possible military action against both North Korea and Iran, ostensibly for the purpose of removing both nations' nuclear programs to prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons, many have expressed concerns over the type of weapons U.S. and allied forces could use to attack the nuclear facilities, along with the command and control networks, of both countries. Obviously, nuclear weapons release would be extremely dangerous and provocative, but most of the command and control networks, along with some of the research facilities themselves, are buried deep underground, beyond the reach of most American weapons.
Except one. Recently, development began on the GBU-57, otherwise known as the "Massive Ordinance Penetrator," or MOP. The weapon, which weighs in at 20,000 pounds, with a 5,000 pound high-explosive, conventional warhead, will be carried by either the U.S. B-52 Stratofortress or B-2 Spirit strategic bombers. The B-2 would be more likely used in any type of scenario against Iran or North Korea, due to their highly concentrated air defense systems. The B-52, with the radar cross section of a large bird, would be hard pressed to complete a bombing mission in the midst of modern air defense capabilities.
MOP will make use of the latest GPS and satellite guidance systems, and with its hardened shell and possible addition of a rocket motor for additional thrust, can penetrate over 100 feet of solid, reinforced concrete with its 5,000 pound payload. Research is also underway to see if this combination could deliver clean, low-yield nuclear weapons to underground targets.
Some reports indicate that a development program for GBU-57 is being "fast-tracked," pushed hard into development, much like the program that led to the GBU-28 "bunker-buster" that proved so successful in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Whether this means some type of military strike against either Iran or North Korea is imminent remains to be seen, but this weapon, when operational, will provide NCA (National Command Authority) and on-scene theater commanders with a viable, non-nuclear option to attack underground bunkers and research facilities, wherever they may be hidden.