Skip to comments.Even Nuclear Arms Might Not Bust Enemy Bunkers, Scientists Say
Posted on 03/28/2002 12:14:54 PM PST by Stand Watch Listen
Kansas City Star Even Nuclear Arms Might Not Bust Enemy Bunkers, Scientists Say
March 26, 2002
Even Nuclear Arms Might Not Bust Enemy Bunkers, Scientists Say
By Scott Canon, The Kansas City Star
There is good reason the United States put its doomsday command center inside a mountain and its shadow government in subterranean bunkers.
It is the same reason al-Qaida fighters take to caves and that, the world suspects, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein stashes his deadliest weapons underground.
Because even when chased by a military with the most amazing bombs, an enemy on the run or trying to cache supplies can expect that a bunker dug deep enough rarely buckles.
"There's a race on between people who want to hide their stuff or themselves underground and the people they're hiding from," said Robert Hewson, the London-based editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons. "Right now, the people who are hiding have the edge."
Simply put, experts in areas ranging from geology to engineering to warfare concur that a low-tech refuge carved sufficiently deep into rock can withstand assault from even the most sophisticated of 21st-century bombs. The government estimates 1,100 such bunkers exist from North Korea to Iraq to hide the nastiest of weapons or the highest ranking of enemy leaders.
In fact, leaks this month suggest that American frustration with cat-and-mouse has the Bush administration contemplating a taboo -- unleashing nuclear firepower on targets previously reserved for conventional weapons.
A draft of the Nuclear Posture Review -- echoing the thoughts of Bill Clinton's nuclear war planners -- calls for the military to study using nuclear weapons against hardened targets in a handful of nations.
"But a nuclear weapon is not a magic bullet," said Steve Fetter, a physicist and public policy professor at the University of Maryland who worked in the Defense Department under Clinton.
Theory and practice
While nuclear weapons represent the most extreme approach, they also show how hard it is to crumple an underground compound.
Experts expect an attack on, for instance, an Iraqi bunker probably would be an earth-penetrating B61-11 -- partly assembled at the Honeywell plant in Kansas City. It would be carried by the B-2 stealth bomber, which flies nonstop to anywhere in the world from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
In theory, that relatively small nuclear warhead's shape and super-hardened steel nose would knife deep into the earth's surface before exploding.
Instead of Hiroshima-style blinding light and mushroom cloud, the energy of this atom-splitting would run out in shock waves through the earth to collapse caves or bunkers.
Or perhaps not.
Princeton University physicist and arms-control specialist Robert Nelson studied how the B61-11 might work in practice. In test drops from a B-2 cruising at 40,000 feet, the bomb usually burrowed 20 to 30 feet in the Alaska permafrost. (It does, however, have a tendency to skip off the ground if it strikes at too shallow an angle.)
But a nuclear explosion at 20 feet underground actually maximizes radioactive fallout.
"The fireball breaks through the surface of the earth, carrying into the air large amounts of dirt and debris," Nelson wrote last year. "This material has been exposed to the intense neutron flux from the nuclear detonation, which adds to the radioactivity from the fission products."
To contain the radiation from a 5-kiloton explosion -- relatively small by today's standards -- such bombs at the Nevada Test Site were buried 650 feet.
"We're back where we started with nuclear weapons," said Stephen Schwartz, publisher of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. "The fallout, both radioactive and political, is just too great."
Checking the science
Another physicist looked at what destructive power a buried nuclear bomb could wreak.
"I figured if you buried a nuke, it was going to destroy a lot of stuff underground," said Geoffrey Forden, a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's security studies program.
But in preparing an article for Jane's Intelligence Review, Forden needed to check the science first. He combed through decades-old research that explored the use of nuclear explosions to build reservoirs or to clear a channel for a canal across Panama.
Forden used that data to analyze the likely damage to underground bunkers from a bomb penetrating about 100 feet -- five times deeper than B61-11s burrow and well beyond what physicists believe is possible.
"Even a (10 kiloton) nuclear weapon cannot destroy or even damage the equipment in an underground facility buried 300 meters in granite," Forden wrote.
The Pentagon acknowledges the 700-pound B61-11 does not penetrate deep enough to reach some bunkers. It recommends studying whether a 5,000-pound version could do better, although physicists say the existing bomb is already at the limits of how far a projectile could sink into the earth without breaking apart.
Even a bunker less than a quarter-mile underground might survive a nuclear bomb that misses by fewer than 200 yards -- which is quite possible considering the B61-11 comes without a guidance system.
Forden studied the problem posed by the suspected underground chemical weapons near Tarhunah, Libya. The plant is believed to have a pair of tunnel entrances. Which direction those tunnels lead, however, is a mystery.
That means a nuclear bomb might strike the area and still spare the bunker, Forden concluded.
All this strategy is based on the assumption that the bomb would even go off. That is no sure bet.
An earth-penetrating bomb would meet a shock equal to 10,000 times the force of gravity. Consequently, it uses a warhead adapted from the technology used for atomic artillery shells -- they were subject to similar forces when shot from a cannon -- that are no longer in use.
But the package of earth-penetrating shell and atomic warhead never has been tested as a whole. The U.S. has operated under a self-imposed nuclear testing ban for more than 10 years.
A new role
The Bush administration has dismissed suggestions that it is considering anything very new for American nuclear policy. Yet high-ranking officials also have stressed that the United States stands willing to use a range of options to deter chemical or biological attacks.
Stephen Younger, a nuclear-weapons specialist who recently went from a top spot at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to a key policy-making post in the Pentagon, wrote two years ago in favor of a new role for nuclear strikes.
"Some very hard targets require high yield to destroy them," Younger wrote when he was at Los Alamos. "It might be desirable to retain a small number of higher-yield nuclear weapons in the arsenal as deterrents against enemy confidence in the survival of such targets."
Still, many experts said conventional bombs currently may hold at least as good an answer to attacking buried shelters. While ordinary bombs could not be expected to cave in the buried Libyan depot, perhaps if guided by lasers or satellites they could reliably slam shut the entrances.
"Then you just keep watching it to see if they dig it open," said Hewson, the British air weapons expert. "When they do, you just hit it again. Maybe you haven't destroyed their anthrax supplies, but you've put them out of reach."
In Afghanistan, the U.S. military has tried new 2,000-pound "thermobaric" bombs. Instead of packing explosive power, they come as super-charged fire breathers that, when they hit the entrance of a cave or tunnel, can suck out the air from inside and reduce any occupants to ash. A barrier in a tunnel, however, can protect against that sort of attack.
Among those answering the military's call for bunker-busting ideas was Paul Worsey, a University of Missouri-Rolla professor who deals with explosives and engineering as a mining specialist.
Worsey's proposal assumes ground troops can grab the territory over a bunker for at least a few hours. Then, he said, a crew simply could drill a narrow hole from ground level into a bunker, pour in liquid explosives and stand back.
"If they plug your hole, you just blast away the plug," Worsey said. "I suppose the Air Force would prefer to drop something off a stealth bomber, but that approach doesn't seem to solve the problem."
2. Sealing a cave is a viable alternative to destroying it.
February 10, 1997
Researching this issue has been a cooperative effort. This summary could not have been written without the help of Bruce Hall at Greenpeace, Bill Arkin, and Stan Norris and Chris Paine of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Background research on new weapons generally has been partially supported by Tri-Valley CAREs of Livermore, California.
The United States is now fielding a new tactical and strategic nuclear military capability that has already been used to threaten a non-nuclear country. This new capability was certified without nuclear testing, using an existing surrogate testing facility with capabilities much less than those under construction and planned. The weapon was developed and deployed in secret, without public and congressional debate, contrary to domestic and international assurances that no new nuclear weapons were being developed. Other new or "modified" nuclear weapons, earth-penetrating and otherwise, are planned.
The B61-11 story came to light in slow installments. Dr. Don Wolkerstorfer, Above-Ground Experiments I (AGEX I) Program Manager, Nuclear Weapons Technology Program, Los Alamos, shed some light on this modification in a July 1995 radio debate: "The services are looking at redeploying an existing weapon in such an earth penetrating warhead to address hardened targets, that's exactly right. The hope is to replace the high yield B53, which has some safety problems..."2
In early September 1995, the DOE and its three national nuclear weapons laboratories (Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia) released a revised version of a report about their nuclear stockpile surveillance program. This report contained a footnote on page 11: "A modification of the B61 is expected to replace the B53 by the year 2000. Since this modification of the B61 is not currently in the stockpile, there is no Stockpile Evaluation data for it. The B61-7 data can be used to represent this weapon."3
For reference, the B53 is a nine megaton gravity bomb first placed in service in 1962. Retirement of early versions began in 1967, but later versions of this bomb remained in the arsenal until 1987, when retirements were halted and retired (but still assembled) bombs were brought back into the active stockpile. The B53 can be a surface-burst but not an earth-penetrating weapon.4 It lacks complete electrical safety. There are thought to be 50 of these weapons in the stockpile.5
The B61-7 is a more recent strategic bomb in the stockpile. It has a selectable yield of 10 to about 340 kilotons. The original B61-1 first entered the stockpile in 1968; the "mod 7" was first placed in service in 1985. The B61-7 can be fuzed for air or surface burst and has "a hardened ground-penetrator nose" with a retarded contact burst fuzing option. It can be dropped with or without a parachute. There are thought to be 750 of these bombs in the active stockpile, along with about 600 B61-3, -4, and -10 tactical bombs.6 The B61 family of weapons can be configured with a wide variety of yields, including 0.3, 1.5, 5, 10, 45, 60, 60, 80, 170, and 340 kilotons.7
In recent years, many military strategists have advocated the deployment and use of very small tactical nuclear weapons against Third-World adversaries, especially in earth-penetrating roles.8 The two lowest yields of the B61 family lie well within this so-called "mininuke" range. The percent of blast energy converted into shock waves in the earth is extremely sensitive to the depth of the blast. Thus even a small increase in earth penetrating capability can greatly affect the military utility of a nuclear weapon to hold deeply buried and hardened targets at risk. Hardening of the B61 to allow very high altitude release, with consequent high velocity ground impact, apparently provides such an increase in capability.
In September 1995, when the B61-11 story first received critical media attention, Lab spokespersons said the development of the modified warhead would take two years, and would be done primarily at Sandia. Development, but allegedly not deployment, had been approved at that time.9 DOE's classified request to reprogram $3.3 million in funds within its Atomic Energy Defense Activities account was dated April 18, 1995 and was sent to the following committees:
Not long after the existence of the weapon became public, Dr. Harold Smith, then Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), requested at a Nuclear Weapons Council Standing Safety Committee meeting of November 15, 1995 that the above schedule be accelerated, with the First Production Unit (FPU) of the B61-11 be delivered "as soon as possible, with a goal of December 31, 1996."11
The response from the nuclear labs, here from Los Alamos, was positive:
In August 1996, LANL provided an update on the project, along with some additional details.
Note that the "nuclear certification" mentioned is being done on the basis of hydrodynamic testing and computer modeling, without underground nuclear testing. The reference to earlier B61 earth- penetration tests is discussed below.
Two months later, Steven Younger, Program Director of NWT, encouraged his troops with this message: "As I see it, our highest priority over the next several months is the B61 Mod 11, and the Air Force is anxiously awaiting this system....The project is proceeding at a very fast pace, and almost every division associated with our Program is contributing to this important work."14
These goals have now been achieved:
Inquiries with DOE have confirmed that deployment is indeed now underway. The "front" components of the new weapon are being or were made at the Y-12 Plant at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, with "tail" (read: arming and fuzing?) components made at the Kansas City Plant in Missouri. The decision to retire the B53 is now "pending." The location(s) where the modifications are being done is classified, as is the number of weapons being converted.16
Why did Harold Smith insist that the deployment of the B61-11 be rushed? Isn't the purpose of the new bomb just what DOE has said, namely to replace the aging and "unsafe" nine megaton B53 in its role of excavating deeply-buried Russian command bunkers in the event of a global nuclear apocalypse? If so, why the rush?
The reason for the November 1995 schedule change became clear the following April, when a series of Pentagon spokespersons, including Dr. Smith, used the imminent deployment of the B61-11 to threaten Libya. At a breakfast meeting with reporters on April 23, 1996, Dr. Smith outlined U.S. conventional and nuclear capability for destroying a suspected Libyan chemical weapons factory, under construction underground at Tarhunah, 40 miles southeast of Tripoli.17
Dr. Smith explained that, at present, the United States has no conventional weapon capable of destroying the plant from the air, and such a weapon could not be ready in less than two years. Smith went on to tell reporters that an earth-penetrating B61 nuclear bomb, in development, could take out the plant. The new bomb would be ready for possible use by the end of this year, Smith said, before the expected completion date of the factory.
Since 1978, the United States has assured the world that it would never use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries who signed the NPT, unless a country were allied in aggression with a nuclear weapon state. On April 5, 1995, President Clinton reaffirmed this policy, which has been a cornerstone of U.S. nonproliferation efforts, and an important part of the offer the U.S. made to skittish nonnuclear states to induce them to vote for the indefinite renewal of the NPT.
On April 11, just 12 days before Dr. Smith's announcement, and after an interagency struggle that pitted the Pentagon against the State Department, the United States signed the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty in Cairo. In this treaty the U.S. pledged not to use or threaten to use a nuclear weapon in Africa against any of the nearly 50 signatory states, including Libya.
U.S. negative assurance pledges (pledges of "no first use" except under the circumstances mentioned) were thus clearly devalued by the Pentagon's threat, which marked a shift in explicit U.S. nuclear policy. That shift was to openly include the possibility of preemptive strikes against weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities, in addition to the possibility of a nuclear response to WMD use. Such a posture, if allowed to stand, would have been unprecedented in nuclear history.
The announcement by Dr. Smith, which had been joined by statements from Secretary of Defense William Perry and others, sent shock waves through diplomatic circles. A retraction was given by Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon at a press conference on May 7, 1996.18 B61-11 development continued on the previously accelerated schedule, however.
Finally, and probably coincidentally, the cover photograph of the December 1996 issue of Air Force Magazine shows an F-16 parked in front of what is clearly a nuclear weapons storage facility at Aviano Air Force Base, in Pordenone, Italy, about 900 miles from Libya.19
From the DOE perspective, the B61-11 is a "modification" to the B61-7 strategic gravity bomb. As military capability, however, the B61-11 provides something newelse why deploy it? That deployment appears to be at odds with the statement of John Holum, Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, in Geneva three months before, where, in the context of CTBT negotiations, Holum said that the United States would not develop new nuclear weapons.
That being said, the B61-11 is not the only new nuclear weapon, and not even the only new earth-penetrating nuclear weapon, planned for the stockpile. During a DoD news briefing on April 23, 1996, the following colloquy occurred between spokesman Kenneth Bacon and reporters:
In order to address deeper targets at a given yield, deeper earth penetration and hence higher speed are needed. Such weapons have been under development for many years. A prototype W86 warhead was developed by LANL for the Pershing II missile but was canceled in 1980 in favor of a Livermore design.21 There were underground nuclear tests of earth penetrator warheads in 1988 and 1989 of both "interim" and "strategic" designs; the former was in fact based on the B61 and was called the W61.22
To pick one nuclear command, it can only be assumed that the U.S. Navy has not changed its previous advocacy of "a wider range of targeting options for maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent in the new world order," in which low-yield earth-penetrating warheads are an explicit part of efforts to expand options for the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile.23
The Los Alamos Study Group is compiling what is known about other new proposed new and "modified" nuclear weapons. This work has been partially supported by Tri-Valley CAREs of Livermore, California.
1 See R. Jeffrey Smith, "Retired Nuclear Warrior Sounds Alarm on Weapons," Washington Post, December 4, 1996, p. A1; "Text of Remarks by Gen. Butler at the National Press Club," December 4, 1996; "Text of Remarks by Gen. Butler at the Henry L. Stimson Award Luncheon," January 8, 1997; "Questioning Nuclear Arms," A debate between General Charles Horner (USAF, ret.) and former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (PBS), December 4, 1996; Terry Atlas, "Nuclear Weapons Criticized: Ex-Generals Want to Eliminate Them," The Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1996; David M. North, "Destroying Nukes Will Save More Than Lives," Aviation Week and Space Technology, December 9, 1996, p. 98. [Back]
2 Broadcast by radio station KSFR in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 18, 1995. [Back]
3 Kent Johnson et. al., Stockpile Surveillance: Past and Future, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories, September 1995. This is the text of the report given to Hisham Zerriffi of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research on September 13, 1995 at Los Alamos and subsequently analyzed in Hisham Zerriffi and Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D.,The Nuclear Safety Smokescreen: Warhead Safety and Reliability and the Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program, May 1996. The footnote was abridged in subsequent editions of the report. [Back]
4 History from Chuck Hansen, U.S. Nuclear Weapons: The Secret History, (New York: Orion Books, 1988), pp. 162-164. [Back]
5 Robert S. Norris and William Arkin, "Nuclear Notebook," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1996, pp. 61-63. [Back]
6 Quote and descriptive information in this paragraph are from Hansen, op. cit.; stockpile numbers are from Norris and Arkin, op. cit. [Back]
7 Norris and Arkin, op. cit.; the largest yield is from Arkin, personal communication, January 14, 1997. [Back]
8 For example, see the following Strategic Review articles: Thomas Dowler and Joseph Howard, "Countering the Threat of the Well-Armed Tyrant: A Modest Proposal for Small Nuclear Weapons," Fall 1991, pp. 34-40, and, by the same authors, "Stability in a Proliferated World," Spring 1995 (Dowler and Howard work at Los Alamos); and Philip Ritcheson, "Proliferation and the Challenge to Deterrence," Spring 1995. See also, William M. Arkin and Robert S. Norris, "Tinynukes for Mini Minds," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1992, pp. 24-25, and William M. Arkin, "Those Lovable Little Bombs," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1993, pp. 22-27. Important reviews of the post-Cold-War shift in U.S. nuclear targeting plans can be found in Hans Kristensen and Joshua Handler, Changing Targets: Nuclear Doctrine from the Cold War to the Third World, Greenpeace International, January 1995; and William Arkin, "Nuclear Agnosticism When Real Values Are Needed: Nuclear Policy in the Clinton Administration," F.A.S. Public Interest Report, September/October 1994, pp. 3-10. [Back]
9 Jonathan Weisman, "Old Nuclear Warheads Get New Life," Tri-Valley Herald (Livermore, CA), September 21, 1995, p. A-1; John Fleck, "Sandia Redesigns N-Bomb," The Albuquerque Journal, September 22, 1995, p. A-1; Nancy Plevin, "Activists Accuse LANL of Creating New Nuclear Bomb," The New Mexican (Santa Fe), September 22, 1995, p. A-1. [Back]
10 Approval letters are on file at the office of DOE Defense Programs. [Back]
11 Memorandum from Thomas Seitz, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Military Application (DASMA) and Stockpile Support to weapons program administrators at Sandia and Los Alamos National l Laboratories, November 17, 1995, requesting response as to feasibility of earlier FPU delivery date. Dr. Smith followed up his request at the November 15 meeting with a letter to Mr. Seitz on November 21. [Back]
12 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Weapons Insider, April 1996, pp. 1-2. [Back]
13 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Weapons Insider, August 1996, pp. 2-3. [Back]
14 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Weapons Insider, October 1996, p. 1. [Back]
15 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Weapons Insider, January/February 1997, pp. 1-2. [Back]
16 Telephone conversation with John Ventura, DOE Defense Programs, January 29, 1997. In a statement prepared for delivery before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on March 19, 1997, C. Paul Robinson, director and president of Sandia National Laboratories, said, "For twenty years we have known that there was a need to replace the B53 thermonuclear bomb with a system equipped with modern surety features. Yet, replacement was repeatedly postponed. Today, I am very pleased to report that we have begun the replacement of the B53 without designing a new weapon and are bringing the replacement on-line in record time with only a very modest budget. On November 20, 1996, Modification 11 of the B61 bomb passed its certification flight tests. All electrical and mechanical interfaces performed as expected. In December, four complete retrofit kits were delivered to the Air Force, two weeks ahead of schedule. This delivery met the milestone to support Mod. 11 conversions in the field by a joint DOE/DoD team in January. The B61 Mod. 11 has been accepted as a 'limited stockpile item' pending additional tests during 1997. Work on the B61-11 had been authorized in August 1995, with a requested delivery date of December 31, 1996. This schedule required one of the most efficient development efforts in our laboratorys history. The retrofit involved repackaging the B61-7 into a new, one-piece, earth-penetrating steel case designed by Sandia. The Mod. 11 will now permit us to retire the B53, which is a 35-year-old weapon, and provide the operational military with a safer, more secure, and flexible system. This program establishes one route to keeping the stockpile modern." See, Statement of C. Paul Robinson, Sandia National Laboratories, United States Senate Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, March 19, 1997. [Back]
17 Art Pine, "A-Bomb Against Libya Target Suggested," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), April 24, 1996, p. A4. [Back]
18 Charles Aldinger (Reuters), "U.S. Rules Out Nuclear Attack on Libya plant." The Washington Post, May 8, 1996, p. A32. [Back]
19 Personal conversation with Stan Norris, Natural Resources Defense Council. See also, William M. Arkin, "Nuking Libya," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 1996, p. 64. [Back]
20 Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), DoD News Briefing, Tuesday April 23, 1996. [Back]
21 See photograph and caption in Thomas B. Cochran. et. al., Nuclear Weapons Databook Volume 2: U.S. Nuclear Warhead Production (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1987), p. 37. [Back]
22 The source for this information wishes to remain anonymous. [Back]
23 Kristensen and Handler, op. cit., p. 9, quoting "STRATPLAN 2010," June 1992, U.S. Navy. [Back]
Fallout? Yep. OVER THEIR SOIL.... War is hell
Nice thing about nukes in the megaton range is they blow the fallout up so high into the atmosphere, by the time it comes down its cooled off quite a bit.
Go here: OFFICIAL BUMP(TOPIC)LIST
and then click the topic to initiate the search! !
Why can't our "great" military leaders fiqure this out too!!
Crap ... NORAD was a sitting duck. The Russians had a whole regiment of SS-18 Satan Mod 1's with 25 megaton warheads tasked to it.
If the exchange had come Cheyenne mountain would have gone to Cheyenne Lake.
Those SS18 Mod.5's (and the Mod.3's with their 14 550 kiloton MIRVed warheads) are still online, BTW. They scrapped the 25 megaton warhead for a 20 megaton with a better re-entry vehicle that is less vulnerable to counter-measures.
"Princeton University physicist and arms-control specialist"
What a stupid article. Nukes could take out most of the worlds bunkers. Only places built like Colorado Springs could survive direct nuclear arms.
And comparing a man-made, super-reinforced bunker to a cave is flat-asinine. The author's a liberal shill.
Well, firstly, the GBU-28 can penetrate to 100 feet of earth or more (granted, it's heaver by a few thousand pounds), so there's no reason a nuke couldn't be built to the same specs. Secondly, the author was talking about a miss with a 10 kiloton device, but the the B61 family of weapons can be configured with a wide variety of yields, including 0.3, 1.5, 5, 10, 45, 60, 60, 80, 170, and 340 kilotons. What you lack in accuracy could be made up for in tonnage.
Precisely. This article speaks about a specific (an rather small and lightweight) nuke. He also complains about accuracy, and doesn't mention that the laser guided weapons are nothing more than iron bombs with a laser seeker on front and control surfaces in the back that come as a kit and are "strapped on" during bomb prep. These could be used on nukes as well.
They dropped a couple of these up here. Minus nukes. Permafrost is tough. The way they get through it for mining buried mineral deposits is to drill down using steam points or wash it away with water giants, both involving melting the ice. A bunker under permafrost might be a bad idea for other reasons, but it would be excellent against nuke warheads.
The Guided Bomb Unit-28 (GBU-28) is a special weapon developed for penetrating hardened Iraqi command centers located deep underground. The GBU-28 is a 5,000-pound laser-guided conventional munition that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead. The bombs are modified Army artillery tubes, weigh 4,637 pounds, and contain 630 pounds of high explosives. They are fitted with GBU-27 LGB kits, 14.5 inches in diameter and almost 19 feet long. The operator illuminates a target with a laser designator and then the munition guides to a spot of laser energy reflected from the target.
The GBU 28 "Bunker Buster" was put together in record time to support targeting of the Iraqi hardened command bunker by adapting existing materiel. The GBU-28 was not even in the early stages of research when Kuwait was invaded. The USAF asked industry for ideas in the week after combat operations started. Work on the bomb was conducted in research laboratories including the the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate located at Eglin AFB, Florida and the Watervliet Armory in New York. The bomb was fabricated starting on 1 February, using surplus 8-inch artillery tubes as bomb casings because of their strength and weight. The official go-ahead for the project was issued on 14 February, and explosives for the initial units were hand-loaded by laboratory personnel into a bomb body that was partially buried upright in the ground. The first two units were delivered to the USAF on 16 and 17 February, and the first flight to test the guidance software and fin configuration was conducted on 20 February. These tests were successful and the program proceeded with a contract let on 22 February. A sled test on 26 February proved that the bomb could penetrate over 20 feet of concrete, while an earlier flight test had demonstrated the bomb's ability to penetrate more than 100 feet of earth. The first two operational bombs were delivered to the theater on 27 February.
The Air Force produced a limited quantity of the GBU-28 during Operation Desert Storm to attack multi-layered, hardened underground targets. Only two of these weapons were dropped in Desert Storm, both by F-111Fs. One weapon hit its precise aimpoint, and the onboard aircraft video recorder displayed an outpouring of smoke from an entrance way approximately 6 seconds after impact. After Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force incorporated some modifications, and further tested the munition. The Fy1997 budget request contained $18.4 million to procure 161 GBU-28 hard target penetrator bombs.
For a visual depiction of how the GBU-28 works view the grapic produced by Bob Sherman and USA Today on-line.
They have built their own Roach Motel, they check in,but can not check out.
Makes you wonder who's running the asylum.
If that's true then why did most missile commanders in the hardened missile soli control rooms expect to die at their posts ? This author is full of crap.
Secondly, the author was talking about a miss with a 10 kiloton device, but the the B61 family of weapons can be configured with a wide variety of yields, including 0.3, 1.5, 5, 10, 45, 60, 60, 80, 170, and 340 kilotons.
That's correct -- "Dial a Yield" -- and a strange omission.
OK, so who volunteers to stick around and illuminate the target until the nuke hits it?
Keep the enemies guessing!
May not be any guess to it. I would not be at all surprised if the first blow was a nuke on Iraq's command & control, WMD research center and/or Saddam's bunker.
This would be in accord with our stated national policy that we would be prepared to respond to any chemical or bio-attack with nuclear weapons. It is becoming increasingly clear that the anthrax came from Iraq. And that Iraq may have been waging a surreptitious war against us for as much as a decade.
Ya mean they're still fighting the Gulf War? Nahhh. We won that one fair and square...