(Newsroom America) -- At 30,000 pounds, it's the largest piece of conventional bomb ordnance ever developed. The Pentagon calls it a "bunker buster" weapon, and military officials there say it's ready to use.
"If it needed to go today, we would be ready to do that," said U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
The bomb, years in development, is finally operational, he said.
"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," he said.
The Defense Department said it has spent some $330 million to develop and build 20 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bunker busting bombs. The weapons are designed to blast through up to 200 feet of concrete.
The bombs carry an explosive payload of 5,300 pounds and are six times larger than previous bunker buster weapons.
The Defense Department has said the weapons are designed to penetrate fortified underground nuclear bunkers of "rogue states" like North Korea and Iran.
Reports said earlier this year the Pentagon suddenly shifted $120 million from other weapons programs into MOP development and production.
The shift in funds sought to dramatically redesign and upgrade existing bunker buster ordnance to provide "an enhanced threat response" against the "deepest bunkers," according to a Pentagon report.
Whether the bombs would actually be able to penetrate and destroy underground nuclear facilities in Iran - which is the most likely target - is unknown, Air Force officials say. Much depends on the hardness of the soil, how well the bomb makes contact and the actual construction of the underground facility.
But analysts believe the weapons could at least be capable of collapsing passageways to the facilities and force major reconstruction, thereby setting back Teheran's nuclear program by years.
© 2012 Newsroom America.