US Air Force Special Operations aircraft used the largest conventional bomb ever dropped by the United States military, targeting an ISIS bunker complex in Afghanistan on Thursday evening at 1800 hours local time.
The aircraft used was a specially designed MC-130 Combat Talon cargo plane, where the bomb, a GBU-43B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst), also nicknamed the “Mother of all Bombs” was jettisoned out the tail of the C-130. It is too large to drop from a conventional bomb bay door.
The bomb targeted an ISIS complex in Achin district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. It was in this province where an American Green Beret of the 7th Special Forces Group was killed in action just last week.
The massive, 11-ton, parachute deployed GBU-43B is the largest conventional air dropped weapon ever employed by the U.S. military. The “MOAB” produces shock, overpressure and blast effects equal to tactical nuclear weapons without residual radioactive fallout or the political ramifications associated with nuclear weapons.
The GBU-43B MOAB is deployed from a specially adapted MC-130 Combat Talon II using a system of rollers and a deployment sled. The bomb is attached to the deployment sled then pulled from the rear cargo ramp using a drogue parachute. Once pulled out the back cargo door of the MC-130 the sled falls away from the 30-foot long bomb. The bomb uses guidance wings and a system of stabilizers to maintain consistent ballistic flight trajectory and control its descent rate for more precise guidance. The MOAB uses a satellite guidance system along with internal gyros. GPS target coordinates are initially slaved from the launch aircraft then programmed into the weapon prior to release in close proximity to the target. Once released at medium to high altitude depending on target stand-off requirements the weapon uses its internal GPS for its terminal guidance to the target.
The GBU-43B is primarily intended to produce an “overpressure” or localized barometric shock wave effect to neutralize its target. The 9,500-kilogram bomb uses 18,700 pounds of H6 explosive, a combination of RDX explosive made of cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, conventional TNT explosive used in commercial dynamite and aluminum powder. The high-energy H6 explosive is made in Australia according to sources and is also used in concussive weapons such as mines and depth charges to produce a similar overpressure effect.
The shock wave generated by the massive release of energy from the explosion is transmitted through the air and into solid objects such as reinforced bunkers and cave complexes. This often results in their collapse. U.S. military officials also note a significant psychological impact to the employment of the GBU-43B MOAB because of its massive blast and the ability to produce a large mushroom-shaped cloud in certain atmospheric and terrain environments mimicking the appearance of a nuclear strike. There is no radioactive component to the GBU-43B.
President Trump praised the military for their hard work and dedication but said he didn’t give the order, that was given by the Commanders on the ground in the theater. It also sent a subliminal message to North Korea, who’s army is constantly tunneling under the territory of the South that this weapon could be used there as well.
Democratic leaders in Congress, not surprisingly lamented the use of the MOAB wondering about civilian casualties and how many people would be driven to ISIS over this. One has to ponder how many “civilians” work and live in ISIS tunnel complexes, however.
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Photo courtesy US Air Force