US Air Force (USAF) Secretary Michael Donley has confirmed the operational availability of the service's GBU-57 bunker buster bomb, also called the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, US.
Donley said the bomb was ready and can be operated even at the earliest if needed, adding: ''We continue to do testing on the bomb to refine its capabilities, and that is ongoing. We also have the capability to go with existing configuration today.''
Developed by Boeing, the MOP is a 30,000lb bunker buster (B2) bomb capable of penetrating up to 200ft underground before exploding to destroy deeply buried bunkers, which are built to store and safeguard chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Guided by global positioning system (GPS) satellites, the 20.5ft-long bomb can carry more than 5,300lbs of explosive material and has been designed for integration into the B-2 stealth bomber.
Encased in a 3.5-inch thick high-performance steel, the conventional bomb can be dropped either from a B-52 or a B-2 stealth bomber and is capable of delivering ten times more explosive power than its predecessor, the BLU-109.
A total of 20 precision-guided B2 bombs have been developed by Boeing to date, at an estimated cost of $300m, for use by the air force.
The Pentagon has requested an additional $82m to perform upgrades on the bomb in January 2012, insisting the initial tests conducted on the bomb revealed its incapability to fulfil its mission.