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US military makes first drop of Mother-of-All-Bombs on Daesh-bags

Trump praises largest US non-nuke explosion

By Iain Thomson, 13 Apr 2017

Video For the first time, the US has used its largest non-nuclear explosive, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (also known as the Mother Of All Bombs) in Afghanistan.

The MOAB is a 10.5-ton bomb containing 18,700 pounds (8,482 kilograms) of high explosive. It was used against a cave and tunnel complex in use by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the part of Daesh operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It was dropped from a C-130 Hercules transport plane – the MOAB is too large for conventional bombers – at 19:32 local time (08:32 Pacific time) and guided by satellite to its target. The military said it had taken "every precaution" to avoid civilian casualties.

"As ISIS-K's losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers, and tunnels to thicken their defense," said General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan. "This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K."

At a White House press conference, press secretary (and foot-in-mouth artiste) Sean Spicer said that the bomb would deny ISIS-K vital operating space. Later on, President Trump described the bombing as a "very, very successful event."

"What I do is authorize my military," Trump said, when asked if he had given the go-ahead for the strike. "We have the greatest military in the world and they have done the job as usual so we have given them total authorization and that's what they're doing."

The MOAB was first tested back in 2003, but has never been used on the battlefield until now. The explosive power of the bomb, and the pressure wave it generates, means most humans within a one mile radius of the impact point would be killed. If you were in tunnels the situation could be worse.

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"What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire," Bill Roggio, fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told Air Force Times.

"It's a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can't reach. They were wanting to collapse tunnels, and they don't know exactly where the tunnel is, so they want to cause an earthquake to cave them in."

The US military has shied away from using the MOAB in the past, but the new administration has clearly decided an unused weapon is a useless weapon and rolled it out. This raises some interesting and scary possibilities – during the presidential campaign Trump questioned if there was a point in having nuclear weapons.

The timing of the bombing is also interesting. Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar, of the 7th Special Forces Group, was killed on Saturday in the region and it's possible the use of the MOAB is retaliation.

"There might have been a degree of payback here as well," Roggio said. "There's certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you're killing your enemy."

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The MOAB might be the largest US non-nuke, but the Russians – never one to lose a weaponry willy-waving competition – have shown off a munition four times as large, dubbed the Father of All Bombs. The bomb uses a different explosive to produce a yield of over 44 tons of TNT. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech sector. Part of Situation Publishing