President Donald Trump finally fulfilled his campaign promise to “bomb the sh**” out of Islamic State by authorizing the United States military to drop the largest non-nuclear weapon in its arsenal near suspected ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
The GBU-43, or the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb – also known as the “Mother of all bombs,” is a 21,600-pound weapon, which was first designed in 2002 by Air Force Research Laboratory and publicly tested in the days leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
However, despite developing it over a decade ago, the U.S. never used it in combat due to concerns of massive civilian casualties – until now.
“Although the MOAB weapon leaves a large footprint, it is discriminate and requires a deliberate launching toward the target,” stated Pentagon in its 2003 review of the legality of using the MOAB. “It is expected that the weapon will have a substantial psychological effect on those who witness its use.”
The Department of Defense also released a video showing the exact moment the MOAB detonated above the suspected network of tunnels and caves, reportedly killing up to 36 Islamic State militants.
The number of civilian causalities is yet unknown.
Here is what you need to know about the GBU-43 – and why it is rightfully called the “Mother of all bombs.”
How Big Is It?
- It weighs in at roughly 10,000 kilograms
- It is 10 meters long and one meter wide
- It packs 8,000 kilograms of explosives. In comparison, the average weight of most deployed conventional bombs is roughly 250 kilograms.
How Much Damage Does Is Cause?
Since it is an “air burst weapon,” its destructive range is much larger than weapons that explode on impact with the ground.
“What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank told the Air Force Times. “It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”
As soon as the bomb detonates, a massive fireball incinerates and vaporizes anything within 30 feet radius, forcing all the oxygen out of the air – and in this particular case, a complex network of tunnels – literally suffocating humans in the affected area as their lungs implode.
The highly complex explosives would then cause the ground to collapse.
The shockwave that would radiate outwards at the speed of sound for up to a mile would batter internal organs and leave many within two miles radius of the blast without their hearing. The sheer force would not only cause huge blunt force trauma injuries to humans, but would also level everything caught in its path – including buildings and trees.
“It’s got a huge blast radius. I mean, it’s beyond huge,” Marc Garlasco, a former senior Pentagon official, told The Intercept. “I’m sure the collateral damage estimate is going to be fairly extensive. And you’re not talking about just blast, and people within that blast, you have to consider secondary and tertiary effects of use of the weapon. So looking at things like: How does that affect the water supply to people? Is it going to destroy power within the area?”
As for those who survived or were lucky enough to not be in the radius of the explosion, they would battle the psychological scars for a very long time, because that terrifying sight of the giant mushroom cloud is not going to be easy to forget.