The Pentagon Is Upgrading Its Biggest Non-Nuclear Bomb

Earlier this month, three B-2s and over 200 airmen arrived at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam, an American territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific. The addition of the B-2 brings unique capabilities to the Pacific theater, especially ones that would be essential for the Pentagon’s task of nation-building in North Korea.

With the deployment of the B-2s in Guam, the Pentagon can restore its strategic nuclear strike options in the region. The B-2 swapped out the B-1B, which did not have such "tactical" capabilities.

And besides the B-2’s shape resembling something like a boomerang with stealth technologies embedded into the airframe, the stealth bomber offers another unique option: the ability to release a Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

On Wednesday, Bloomberg shared some more hints why the Pentagon might have shifted the B-2s to Guam. According to the report, the Air Force has recently upgraded the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal — a 30,000-pound “bunker-buster,” which can be only dropped by the B-2s.

In an email to Bloomberg, Captain Emily Grabowski, an Air Force spokeswoman said this is the fourth upgrade to Boeing’s GBU-57 “bunker buster” bomb. The adjustment to the bomb “has improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” she said.

With the B-2s parked on a tarmac in Guam. Grabowski declined to say whether the redeployment of the upgraded GBU-57 would be present in the Pacific region.

The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is a 20-foot long GPS-guided bomb said to be able to pierce up to 200 feet of concrete before exploding: for this very reason it is considered the best non-nuclear option for neutralizing North Korean targets buried deep underground.

Bloomberg adds:

Bombs known as bunker-busters have been in the Air Force’s arsenal for years for potential attacks against buried targets. The GBU-57, which is six times bigger than the 5,000-pound bomb the Air Force has had for years, could be used if the U.S. decided to hit underground nuclear or missile facilities in North Korea, as tensions persist over Kim Jong Un’s growing nuclear arsenal.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s combat testing office, Army Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza said the Air Force dropped three GBU-57s last May over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, which the bombs demonstrated the weapon’s effectiveness. The Massive Ordnance Penetrator is much larger than the 21,600-pound bomb dropped in Afghanistan last April against the Islamic State.

We have found a rare clip of a MOP released from the B-2’s bomb bay in a promotional video from the 393rd Bomb Squadron. The extraordinary size of the MOP is obvious in the video, 1'54" in.

The upgraded version of the GBU-57 is the best non-nuclear option of neutralizing North Korea targets without provoking a nuclear response. Earlier this month, the Pentagon shifted B-2 stealth bombers to Guam and weeks later announced that the largest bomb ever to be made is upgraded and ready for operational use. As mentioned before, the B-2 is the only airplane in the U.S. Air Force that can drop the MOP, which has prompted speculation that the USAF may be preparing to use the MOP in the Pacific theatre.