March 31, 2006

The Big Nothing

On the day that Iran stated it would not halt uranium enrichment, the U.S. military made what some are interpreting as a thinly-veilled threat:

The US military plans to detonate a 700 tonne explosive charge in a test called "Divine Strake" that will send a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas, a senior defense official said.

"I don't want to sound glib here but it is the first time in Nevada that you'll see a mushroom cloud over Las Vegas since we stopped testing nuclear weapons," said James Tegnelia, head of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Tegnelia said the test was part of a US effort to develop weapons capable of destroying deeply buried bunkers housing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

"We have several very large penetrators we're developing," he told defense reporters.

"We also have -- are you ready for this - a 700-tonne explosively formed charge that we're going to be putting in a tunnel in Nevada," he said.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this would be one of the most pathetic messages we've ever sent, as it is by far the emptiest threat we can make. To put it plainly (or perhaps planely), this bomb project could never get off the ground.


According to the article, this bomb weighs "700 tonnes." It doesn't exactly specify if this is 700 long tons ( 2,240 lbs/ton, or a total of 1,588,000 lbs) or 700 short tons (2,000 lbs/ton, or a total of 1,400,000 lbs), but in the end the key detail is that no airplane on earth can carry such a payload.

The massive American C5 Galaxy carries a payload of 240,000 lbs. The world's largest cargo airplane is the Antonov An-225, which carries a maximum payload of "just" 551,150 lbs.

This is an empty threat, as the Iranians surely know.

If the Pentagon wants to send a real message to the Iranians, they could test a B61-11. I think the folks in Las Vegas and Tehran would be much more impressed with the show.

Update: a closer look reveals that the 700-lb bomb may be a surrogate for a low yield B61-11.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at March 31, 2006 12:33 AM | TrackBack

Ah...dude...a 1 megaton bomb does not weight a thousand tons and this bomb doesnt really physically weight 700 tons. It refers to the explosive power as compared to the baseline (TNT). Modern explosives are much more effective than TNT. I would guess that this bomb might physically weight 1-2 tons.

Posted by: Rey at March 31, 2006 01:59 AM

Rey, I think yo ae misreading this.

The U.S military seems to measure conventional bombs by their rough gross weight, while nuclear weapons are measured by explosive yield.

They were not talking explosive power but raw weight when they referred to a "700-tonne explosively formed charge," just like a "250-lb" bomb is the weapons weight, even though it has has just 50 lbs. of explosives.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at March 31, 2006 02:19 AM

I'd go with one of the "crowd pleasers" as a demo to enhance a mental image of us being crazed, rabid, and maybe just twitchy enough to maybe use one on them.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at March 31, 2006 06:32 AM

I think it's time to field test the b61-11. LOL

Posted by: Specter at March 31, 2006 09:22 AM