Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pausing to take stockpile

In the interregnum between August 6 and August 9, it seemed appropriate to include the following, even though it's not about nuclear weapons.
In what could be seen as a message to Iran and North Korea, the U.S. Department of Defense is looking to speed the development of the largest bomb ever used by the United States, in hopes of having the massive device ready for deployment in July, 2010.

The device, weighing in at a stunning 30,000 lbs., is designed to penetrate through hardened surfaces and destroy underground structures.

“The department has asked for reprogramming of about 68 million dollars to start production for some of these in 2009,” Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman said. “This will help it accelerate some if it’s approved.”
The "MOP," for "Massive Ordnance Penetrator," is 20 feet long, carries 5300 pounds of explosives, and is designed to penetrate 200 feet of dry earth before exploding. It is 10 times more powerful than the bomb it replaces.

Admittedly, with just over 2.5 tons of explosives, it's a popgun compared to nuclear weapons - the Hiroshima bomb, small by later standards, had a yield equivalent to 14,000 tons of TNT. Now, the difference isn't truly as big as it sounds since modern explosives are considerably more efficient than TNT, but the point remains. Still, it's a reminder that just because we're not paying attention, it doesn't means that new weapons are not being developed and deployed, and being done with specific purposes in mind:
“It’s very possible that the Pentagon wants to send a signal to various countries, particularly Iran and North Korea, that the United States is developing a viable military option against their nuclear programs,” [Kenneth] Katzman [of the Congressional Research Service] told the [European publication Adelaide] Daily.
Because nuclear weapons are bad! Very bad! So bad that we have to build brand new weapons to keep anyone else from getting them even as we grandly pat ourselves on the back for planning on having "only" 2500 nuclear weapons deployed two years from now. Yay, us.

Footnote: The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, and State to jointly "conduct a comprehensive review" of our nuclear weapons posture and programs and to make a report by the end of 2009. So maybe the discussion that might generate will cause the continuing existence of these behemoths of brutality to again penetrate our political consciousness.

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