back to article MOAB and the pain ray - Iraq's war-missing wonder weapons

Five years ago, as we hurtled unstoppably towards war with Iraq, I was busy with an alternative weekly column called "Weapon of the Week." At the time journalists were being fed - and in general, were happily eating - a stream of marketing for the weapons and ideas that would make the coming war neat and painless. Well, we know …

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Alert

Double-think.

Most curious that the "ADS weapon" which has been shown to not cause torture like symptoms should have fallen foul of perceived opinion, yet the taser, which causes nasty pain and even death and has been filmed being used to excess on many American citizens, should still be in widespread use.

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Shock and Awe. Patent infringement

If the Germanys had only patented their Blitzkrieg i'm sure they would have had a case :)

Strangely they had the same problems to; though they took a country very fast it was pacifying them afterwards which was the problem. Though kudos must be given to the Germans because they actually took on countries that on paper had better equiped armies eg. France in 1940 and Russia, the Germans had to get pretty imaginative to take out T34 and KV1's at the start of the campaign. Ulitmately Russia was a bit much though as everyone knows.

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Shock & Awe = Terrorise

I never understood the difference between using "shock and awe" to change people's behaviour and using "terrorism" to do the same. Is there some subtle difference between terror and shock which makes one really good and the other really bad? Or is this war a hypocritical load of bullcrap? I know which one my money is on.

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Bronze badge

Locust control?

A while ago there was mention of a massive airborne microwave 'gun', running at megawatt power levels. I did back-of-envelope sums on the published details, and it was close to being sufficient to cook a locust swarm in mid-flight. Maybe someone can get onto the Pentagon's PR team to see if this is mothballed somewhere? Perhaps it could be useful after all.

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Anonymous Coward

Shock and Awe

The Germans got in first with this, they called it blitzkrieg.

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Heart

MOAB does not work as advertised

The real story that the MOAB has not been deployed: it does not work. It was apparent at the public test the sheer amounts of unconsumed amounts of explosive laying around the test site after weapon "detonation" (it mostly deflagrated). The biggest conventional bomb in USAF inventory is still the BLU-82 "daisy cutter", also deployed of the back of a cargo plane (C-130).

The reason why Eglin AFB and the state of Florida tout this as a success story is simply to keep the money flowing in on this program. Eglin AFB is NOT the US Air Force. The test facilities and AFRL located at Eglin AFB are owned by AFMC (headquartered in Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio) who then reports to the Secretary of the Air Force at the Pentagon. Needless to say, the whole AF did not celebrate the MOAB, only Eglin AFB.

Eglin AFB is notorious for over-spending and over-reporting success of under-performing new acquisition programs. However reality shows something different. How come Eglin is not touting the success of the Joint Programmable Fuze (FMU-152) that has been in development for over 10 years at a cost of $300 million? What is going on with JDAM? Small Diameter Bomb?

The real story here is the corruption at Eglin AFB that is still mired with the legacy of Darleen "Dragon Lady" Druyun.

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Go

MOAB, still smaller than the Grand Slam

The MOAB is only 21,000 pounds, and doesn't work. In 1944, the RAF were droppign the Grand Slam, 22,000 pounds, on German Submarine pens, and it worked - and was actually needed, unlike the MOAB.

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Ian
Boffin

Pedant mode.

In 1944 the RAF were dropping 12,000 lb Tallboy's, the Grand Slam was first used on the 14th of March 1945 on the Bielefeld Viaduct.

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First of *many* directed-energy weapons...

The millimeter-wave "pain ray" ADS may or may not be a breakthrough during [this particular] Iraq war but it *is* seminal in being the first real directed-energy weapon. I personally think its developers HAVE made a tactical error, especially in the war against radical Islam: when you have thousands (or millions) of people anxious and happy to die fighting you and destroying the world's [Western] culture, a non-lethal weapon is just plain stupid. It will become clear, once the terrorists have gotten their hands on enough fissile material to bomb New York, or Washington, or Las Vegas or wherever, that they will eventually push us to the use of nuclear weapons to win this, the early stages of the Third World War.

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Pirate

Re:Blitzkrieg

I think you'll find that the Germans copied the British who first used it in the last stages of World War One, the first use of combined forces, tanks, artillery, ground troops and aircraft. The idea was then further refined by Basil Liddell Hart and JFC Fuller. Their work was much appreciated by Guderian, and Hitler. On 20 April 1939 Fuller was an honoured guest at Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday parade and watched as "for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer." Afterwards Hitler asked, "I hope you were pleased with your children?" Fuller replied, "Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them." So there, our American cousins never invented much really, just have bigger mouths.

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Black Helicopters

MOAB use

I thought the actual purpose of the MOAB was as an upgrade to the Daisy Cutter, which was not for making super-loud booms to frighten the enemy into not fighting (as if that would work - "Eeek! I return to a life of peace and harmony!") but for crushing vegetation to produce helicopter landing zones.

While both the Daisy Cutter and the MOAB are pushed out the back of a cargo plane, the Daisy Cutter had to be dropped more carefully (and at much lower altitude) over the intended target spot because it couldn't steer itself. This made it unusable not only where an operational air defense system was to be found, but where hostile personnel with more pedestrian weapons were around. The MOAB fixed half this problem, I was led to understand.

If these bombs were meant to make helicopter landing zones, I'm not excessively concerned either has to be sent by a plane that couldn't be expected to pass through a working air defense system.

If these bombs are for use in places where there is lots of vegetation that needs a spot flattened out because there's absolutely nowhere decent to land a helicopter nearby, I'm not surprised our (I'm 'Mer'kin) time in Iraq has not produced any use of them.

The overmarketing of these weapons, of course, I believe happened. That's any marketing department, though, isn't it? Must be a number of engineers clutching their heads saying "That's never what it was supposed to do!".

Icon: sign warning that helicopters will be landing in your forest soon, and you're going to want to be somewhere else while some extremely intense hedge-clipping occurs.

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Silver badge
Pirate

Be careful what you wish for ..... :-) for Anything is Possible if IT does no Harm.

"I personally think its developers HAVE made a tactical error, especially in the war against radical Islam: when you have thousands (or millions) of people anxious and happy to die fighting you and destroying the world's [Western] culture, a non-lethal weapon is just plain stupid. It will become clear, once the terrorists have gotten their hands on enough fissile material to bomb New York, or Washington, or Las Vegas or wherever, that they will eventually push us to the use of nuclear weapons to win this, the early stages of the Third World War." .... By Dave S Posted Sunday 30th March 2008 03:26 GMT

Dave S,

Methinks that is solely the Western fear/expectation/plan and I would disagree with it by virtue of its perverse and corrupted reasoning.

It is illogical and mistaken to think that a successful non-nuclear strategy, which has its counterpart considering their failure to contain and or maintain Order, by propagating escalation rhetoric highlighting/pimping their own potential nuclear arsenal use, would change into one which would require them to have old weapons systems/destructive nuclear weapons in which they have no experience nor any desire to emulate....... for that would render an obvious disadvantage and unnecessary escalation in old technology, jealously guarded, rather than opening up new Fields of Endeavour and Challenge.

That would not be SMART as it would attract the wrong sort of attention/bully boy attention. Maintaining/Reinforcing Effort in Non-Military Fields would then require a Non-Military Fields Response which would Ideally contain New Answers for Progress.

Or does using Brains rather than Bombs endanger and destroy the Economic Military Industrial Complex Model? That would suggest that it is a Dumb Model way past ITs Sell By Date and Rotten to its Core and therefore Best to Replace it with something much more Constructive in Better Beta Programming.

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Thumb Up

It's torture...

Reading bad articles on El Reg amounts to torture. Or perhaps it is merely a cruel & unusual punishment (this article is all right, I skimmed it without screaming). I'm getting used to the shite though. No pleasure without some pain, right?

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IT Angle

I like it

"put together by people of great vigor who lacked common sense"

I like this quote, In fact it can probably be used quite extensively throughout the IT&T Industry - Can I use it please?

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Flame

@Dave S

"I personally think its developers HAVE made a tactical error, especially in the war against radical Islam: when you have thousands (or millions) of people anxious and happy to die fighting you and destroying the world's [Western] culture, a non-lethal weapon is just plain stupid."

Dave, I'm a Muslim. Muslim's, radical or otherwise are not particularly interested in destroying "the world's [Western] culture". Rather they (I) are interested in protecting Muslims and Islamic culture from destruction by the West. The west is welcome to its own problems.

Currently a million or so Muslims have died; been killed either through direct military attack by the west since Desert Storm (great name) or through sanctions targetting medical and humanitarian supplies. That is just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other millions have been made refugees, internal and external. can you justify the web of lies which surrounded these actions by the west? You should just be thankful that the "thousands (or millions)" don't get so effing angry at the injustice of this that they haven't come after you to rip out your bigotted heart. If Muslims were the way you suggest then westerners would be dying by the bucketload. But they are not are they? Not even a few on a regular basis, outside of any area the west has invaded.

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Bronze badge

@Michael Compton

While I agree with some of what you say I don't think you can say that Russia was better equipped than Germany n WW2. In fact A German officer is quoted at saying it made him sick that the Russians would try and charge down gun emplacements with picks and other implements and just die n their hundreds.

From a Russian perspective these were often people from Gulags, so ere "expendable". In think you can say the Russians fought bravely and had large numbers and the weather on their side, but I don't think you can say they were better equipped.

I'm afraid I can't remember he details of the quote by heat, it was something I read on a recent visit to a decommissioned Gulag.

@Patrick Ernst: Good point!

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Flame

@Patrick Ernst

"Rather they (I) are interested in protecting Muslims and Islamic culture from destruction by the West."

So that's why Islamic snipers and (not only suicide) bombers kill their Islamic brethren on an almost daily basis in Indonesia and Pakistan? Why they're bombing Hindu temples in India?

Agreed, most Muslims are not radical Islamists. But those radical Islamists sure produce a lot of mischief that in absolutely no way defends Islam from anything.

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Anonymous Coward

@Leo Davidson

The idea of Blitzkrieg / Shock and Awe / name-of-the-week fast military action is to move into an area so rapidly and with such overwhelming force that the opposing army is unable to react quickly and demoralized.

Terrorism is designed to gradually alter public policy by instilling constant fear in the *civilian* population over long periods of time.

The two tactics are polar opposites in almost every way.

I am not in favor of the Bush whitehouse's policies on both a 'why are we doing it' and 'how are we doing it' level, but people like you, who fly off the handle foaming at the mouth without putting a shred of effort into thinking about the situation, do nothing but harm the credibility of your - and my - position.

Also, regarding the general scorn piled upon the shock/awe thing from all corners, the 'real' war itself *was*, in fact, over in a few days - that is, the war to remove the government currently in power and defeat the organized army of the opposing country.

It's the years of guerilla fighting afterwords that's gotten to be a pain in the arse. As the saying goes, shock and awe... not particularly useful against an insurgency.

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Anonymous Coward

Russian equipment WW2

*Some* of the Russian equipment at the time of Barbarossa was excellent. KV-1 tanks caused the Wehrmacht severe headaches. The Panther's sloped armour was predated by that of Russian designs. Russian vehicles were better designed for the conditions of the Eastern front with lower ground pressure.

*Some* of the Russian "troops" in the early stages of the Great Patriotic War were "under-equipped", with one rifle between 3, or even no rifles at all.

As the war progressed, the Russian armour pretty much only became better. They never really matched the Germans for guns and gunsights, but their tanks' protection and mobility were a match.

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Well, we know how the main event turned out?

Surely that should read

Well, we know how the main event is turning out

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Anonymous Coward

MOAB... tested the same month that GWB went WMD hunting.

The only reason that they never fixed the MOAB was because it was indescriminate, it cannot destyroy a target without causing collatoral damages, hence a weapon of mass destruction. WMD's found closer to home!

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Black Helicopters

@Dave S

Please remember to take your medication

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Pirate

Never, Ever, Ever...

The MOAB was never intended to be used in Iraq. The desert war ended after a couple of weeks and moved into the cities. Dropping that monster would have demonstrated how to turn a city to dust in 10 seconds flat, along with most of it's inhabitants. However demonstrating to a potential enemy (IRAN) that you have this capability in the region is always usefull...

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Ian

@ Leo Davidson

The difference is fairly simple.

The idea of shock and awe is to destroy a military's capability so quick they don't bother prolonging the war, in real terms this can actually save lives over a prolonged war.

The idea of terrorism is to terrorise civilians into accepting their cause.

Terrorism is used to oppress people and whilst shock and awe can be used for the same purpose it can also be used for good - that is, destroying an evil regime's oppressive military. Shock and awe against Saddam's military when it itself was responsible for massacres is no bad thing, similarly it did a brilliant job of ousting the Taliban in a pretty short time. The real issues this time round were in not having a plan after the existing military/political was removed leaving a power struggle that's much harder to quell than it is to just have a proper plan from the start. Realistically the remnants of Iraq's existing military should've stayed in place under allied oversight to ensure they behaved themselves but also to ensure there was no power void and no room for uprisings.

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Alert

@Leo Davidson

If it's a government, it's 'Shock and Awe', whereas if it's a bunched of ugly religious nutters, it's '...

Oh.

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@Ian

"Terrorism is used to oppress people and whilst shock and awe can be used for the same purpose it can also be used for good - that is, destroying an evil regime's oppressive military."

Funnily enough that argument can be used very nicely against the United States and the UK. From my perspective, I perceive your governments as the evil oppressive regime, in that with self-righteous justification, they have sanctioned, bombed and invaded other countries, oppressing and killing civilians and military. Neither the Geneva Convention nor International Law allows one country to attack another simply because the incumbent leaders of that country are seen as "bad" or "oppressive". If this was the case, why have the US and UK not rescued Zimbabwe from evil oppressor Mugabe?

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Anonymous Coward

@Patrick Ernst

Does Zimbabwe have vast energy reserves then? No. How about being strategically located in an area holding vast energy reserves and/or right up Russia's bum? Also no.

How can modern western capitalism (*cough* legalised theft *cough*) be expected to make that pay, then? No prospective loot = no "humanitarian invasions".

Incidentally: ironic that the main victims of displacement in Iraq are the Christian minority. They were safer than most under the Baathist regime, but due to George's Idiot Crusade they have had to flee.

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