WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said a giant "bunker buster" bomb will be ready within months, adding a powerful weapon to the US arsenal amid tensions over Iran's nuclear program.
The 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrator (MOP) is designed to knock out fortified sites buried deep underground, like those used by Iran and North Korea to protect its nuclear work.
"It is under development right now and should be deployable in the coming months," press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
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The Defense Department had said in August it wanted to speed up production plans for the super bomb, asking Congress to shift funds to the project.
Congress approved the request and the Pentagon announced Friday it awarded McDonnell Douglas Corporation a 51.9-million-dollar contract to enable B-2 aircraft to carry the enormous MOP.
The bomb, which holds 5,300 pounds of explosives, is designed "to defeat hardened facilities used by hostile states to protect weapons of mass destruction," Morrell said.
But he declined to comment whether the weapon's development was in response to Iran's disputed nuclear program.
"I don't think anybody can divine potential targets or anything of that nature. This is just a capability that we think is necessary given the world we live in these days," he said.
"The reality is that the world we live in is one in which there are people who seek to build weapons of mass destruction and they seek to do so in a clandestine fashion."
The United States has refused to rule out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails though President Barack Obama's administration has played down the possibility.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month that a military strike against Iran would only "buy time" and delay a nuclear weapons program by about one to three years.
The earth-penetrating MOP is often cited as a potential weapon to take out Iran's underground centrifuge facilities in Natanz.
Iran admitted last month it had been building a new uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom, sparking international outrage. In subsequent talks with world powers, Tehran has adopted a more conciliatory stance and agreed to UN inspections of the new plant.
In an earlier request to Congress, the Pentagon comptroller had cited an "urgent operational need" to develop a weapon against buried targets in "high threat environments," ABC television news reported.
The request for the MOP was backed by US Pacific Command, which oversees an area that includes North Korea, and Central Command, which covers the Middle East, including Iran, it said.
Aerospace giant Boeing manufactures the MOP, which could become the biggest conventional bomb ever used by the US military.
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