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

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 …

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It should be noted that the thing costs $314 Million USD to build, plus expenses related to schlepping the thing from the factory to Afghanistan, then the cost of actually dropping it (Fuel for the aircraft dropping, plus the escorts). All that, just to kill, at most, 800 people (That is the maximum estimate of the number of Daesh fighters in the entire country of Afghanistan).

You could pay every member of Daesh in Afghanistan a half million dollars to stop fighting and it'd still be cheaper than dropping the damn thing...

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The entire project was $314 million to develop with a unit cost of $16 million.

They built 20 of those things within that project.

See http://finance.yahoo.com/news/heres-much-mother-bombs-costs-173900074.html or http://twitchy.com/sd-3133/2017/04/13/thinkprogress-hack-gets-his-moab-math-wrong-and-gets-his-butt-handed-to-him/.

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Actually that figure includes the R&D to design it, which is already spent whether we use it or not. A steel casing, explosive to fill it, and the fins & guidance package isn't that expensive.

I believe it was originally designed for "if we find Saddam and/or bin Laden, and they're underground and we can't get 'em out..."

Fuel for dropping it is not an issue. C-130s fly every day in and out of Afghanistan anyway. A C-130 flies carrying the Thunderbirds demo team around to airshows all over the US. As for expenses "schlepping it there" what's a 10 ton bomb cost in fuel on an aircraft carrier massing 93,284 tons?

Bomb 'em again, I say.

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Yes, because negotiating with ISIS has been *so* productive!

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Meanwhile the Taliban/ISIS recieve money every week from opium sales and donations from rich nutty individuals in the middle east who have to be bought off for political support by their autocratic rulers.

Imagine if that $314 million had been spent on researching and building a demo molten salt reactor to produce ammonia to replace the petrol used in cars, or if the US had decided to legalise drugs and spend the $314 on education to ensure that not too many more people fell victim to drugs...

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"You could pay every member of Daesh in Afghanistan a half million dollars to stop fighting and it'd still be cheaper than dropping the damn thing..."

But... where's the "Kaboom"?

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Mushroom

"where's the Kaboom?"

"There was supposed to be an earth shattering Kaboom!"

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> You could pay every member of Daesh

The trouble with bribing the ideologically motivated not to fight is that they have a tendency not to stay bribed, in which case all you have achieved is to finance your enemies.

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Do you know how you can tell an honest politician?

But will they stay paid off?

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Re: The entire project was $314 million to develop with a unit cost of $16 million.

This isn't nearly the big maths fail. I've spent all morning fighting a frustrating meme where someone has used HYDESim to simulate the MOAB blast over New York without realizing that the yield box is in kt and they should have entered 0.011 instead of 11.

I've even seen people suggest a "21,000 tonne bomb" has been dropped, confusing pounds and tonnes. Who seriously thinks something weighing as much as a passenger ferry can be dropped out of a plane?

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@Gene Cash

Just picking nits, it's not a steel casing but actually a thin aluminum skin so as to not hinder the blast.

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Re: Do you know how you can tell an honest politician?

"But will they stay paid off?"

I tell you again and again

That once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane (Kipling)

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Always wondered if we had started buying Afghan opium for medical use rather than buying it from some farm in the richer west whether it would have made a difference.

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Re: The entire project was $314 million to develop with a unit cost of $16 million.

I've even seen people suggest a "21,000 tonne bomb" has been dropped,

It wouldn't even need an explosive charge; if you manage to drop it from, say, 3000m you'll get a rather impressive dent anyway.

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@Triggerfish, American money is buying Afghan opium but it's the kids on the street (in more ways than one) who are paying. Apparently, 90% of heroin on the streets of the US is Afghan, the US stopped eradicating opium there in around 2009 as the population was becoming impoverished, the majority of farmers were depending on opium for their income so in a hearts and minds attempt to win them over they were allowed to continue growing it.

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So if you buy it for medical use, you get a double bonus really effectively hit the drug trade, and also open up trade routes with Afghans.

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At this pricetag one could surely fund a suicide squad that would take of all ISIS (while members' families get paid "life insurance" money).

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Mushroom

Re: "where's the Kaboom?"

as I have seen in photos and movies of MOAB under test, it _CAN_ generate a nice mushroom cloud

So yeah, as far as ISIS goes, near-NUKE 'em till they glow, then SHOOT THEM IN THE DARK!

I'm sure many ISIS members will have nightmares guessing when the next one's coming. The rest will scatter like roaches when you flip the light switch on. Those will be the ones NOT willing to strap bombs to their OWN bodies to kill innocent civilians...

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Re: The entire project was $314 million to develop with a unit cost of $16 million.

Understanding how the US military works, just keeping it in wh, inspected, ready to go, probably costs an arm and a leg. "carrying costs" mum.

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Mushroom

"What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire"

Sounds like Trump at a campaign rally.

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Anonymous Coward

Gather Dust?

Look, we have the thing, it works, and it does an army job (break things, kill people). What more could you ask for. The $$$ have been spent, so why not use it. Probably cheaper than storing the beast.

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Re: Gather Dust?

My understanding is that it can be used as an airburst to "suck all the oxygen out of the air", but can also penetrate as much as 100 feet deep into the ground to take out a big crater. I would guess it would have a lot of the force directed sideways assuming it was aimed correctly and penetrated within the tunnel network.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gather Dust?

Some loggy noticed the 'Use By' dates and kicked it up the chain. Can't help thinking a fair chunk of the R&D budget went on safety. So things like ability to jetison, or not prematurely airburst. Or just getting it out the back of a C-130 safely. Pilot gets on the intercom to confirm weapons release, or could confirm a SNAFU by spotting the loadmaster's parachutes. I guess confirming it's gorn should be noticeable by the trim change.

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Re: Gather Dust?

I agree, after dropping it they should have carpet bombed the area for 24 hours...

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Re: Gather Dust?

I have real problems with the "Suck all the oxygen out of the air" statement. Not denying, it just don't understand it.

If the bomb is going to use the oxygen in the air as an oxidising agent then it is constrained by simple geometry. Before it can detonate is has to mix its combustible agents (presumably mainly gaseous) with the air. Sort of half a sphere shape. which implies about an inverse cube law. Now I suppose it could fire off projectiles in a mainly horizontal direction that dispersed inflammable (suck this oxygen!) agents over a larger area, but this seems not similar to the design of the weapon as shown.

So a single centralised "big bang" will not particularly "Suck the oxygen", but an "oxygen sucker" will not seem to fit the images shown. Thermobaric weapons are usually much smaller due to the inverse cube law earlier described.

Can anyone enlighten me?

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Re: Gather Dust?

Tell that to Barnes Wallace and the 617 Squadron. This thing is designed to do a task that no (realistic) number of 1000 lb bombs can do. Go deep and take out (or at least cut access to) hardened facilities beyond the reach of conventional ordinance.

The reason that 1000 lb was more or less established as the "ideal" size for a bomb, way back when they were still calling the aforementioned Barnes Wallace an idiot, is indeed the devastation per dollar expended you allude to. And that calculation was made based on the targets of the day. CITIES. Cities full of structures and infrastructures that can be knocked flat by an excessively stiff breeze.

1000 lb bombs are designed to bomb PEOPLE and the things that PEOPLE need to survive. Last time I looked the updated rules of "civilised" warfare kinda forbade targeting civilians.

Germany proved rather convincingly that railway line could be laid, and power lines strung faster than they could be bombed out of existence. It took specialised weapons like the Barrel Bomb, Tallboy and Grand Slam, and the critter under discussion here, to damage the truly important stuff buried under mountains of dirt and whacking great lumps of concrete.

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Re: Gather Dust?

I suspect an ignorant conflation between this bunker buster and the Daisy Cutter fuel-air bomb.

Or perhaps a squeamish writer decided a less than factual "suck all the air from your lungs" was an improvement over "lungs exploded inside your chest".

Reading between the lines, it would appear that the M110 can be fused to explode on contact, generating a shockwave in air capable of rupturing unprotected lungs and destroying lightweight structures out to distance of a mile or so, along with a surface shockwave that would knock more substantial buildings off their foundations. Alternatively it can be fused for delayed detonation, to take out hardened/buried targets at a significantly reduced distance.

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Headmaster

Re: Gather Dust?

Barnes Wallace

Barnes Wallis.

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Mushroom

Re: Gather Dust?

The MOAB is the stupidest thing ever built since a very large portion of its energy ends up just going straight up at the atmosphere,

Go read up on the WWII Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs designed by Barnes Wallis, and look at some of the pictures of the damage done by those.

You don't blow a hole in a 3.5m thick reinforced concrete U-boot pen or penetrate a hillside to have the explosion take out a railway tunnel for the rest of the war with 1000lb bombs. Trying to seriously damage a tunnel/cave complex that way is a similarly futile endeavour.

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Re: Gather Dust?

I have real problems with the "Suck all the oxygen out of the air" statement.

Whoever said it had a lisp?

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Re: Gather Dust?

The MOAB is the spiritual successor to British Cookies if WWII. These were cans of explosive that did damage by blast.

The Massive Ordnance Penetrator is the successor to Grand Slam and Tallboy. Weapons designed to penetrate the ground, explode causing a underground hole into which the target falls.

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Re: Gather Dust?

I suspect an ignorant conflation between this bunker buster and the Daisy Cutter fuel-air bomb.

Or perhaps a squeamish writer decided a less than factual "suck all the air from your lungs" was an improvement over "lungs exploded inside your chest".

Another possibility with the overpressure effects is it apparently uses aluminium powder explosives, puff them out with a smaller initial explosion for air dispersal and you have an explosion in a custard factory effect, scaled up because of the materials. I could imagine that combustion would remove a lot of oxygen.

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Re: Gather Dust?

Yah, it's been about 20 years since I last read me some Dam Busters. I was reminded of the correct spelling too late to correct it.

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Mushroom

Re: Gather Dust?

It uses a rather nifty (and quite unpleasant for those targeted) technique called thermobaric weaponry. (Even the word sounds cool.) Normal explosives have a fuel and an oxidizer. Thermobaric weapons are virtually all fuel. When you drop the bomb, a small explosive blows up the device, creating a cloud of fuel, and then the heated fuel hits oxygen and ignites. This causes a massive shockwave and, as previously stated, depletes all the oxygen in the local air, making it a very effective weapon against fortifications (Big Boom + Pressure Shockwave + Asphyxiation generally wipes out defenses and kills everyone inside).

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Coat

Barnes Wallace

Another British inventor, with his dog Barnes Gromit

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Re: Gather Dust?

Theres one huge difference between the MOAB and bunker busters like Tallboy, Grand Slam or the GBU-28:

- the MOAB has a thin alloy skin so it doesn't interfere with the blast wave. This means that it must be exploded above ground - drop it onto anything hard and it will splatter rather than penetrate.

- Tallboy is the archetypical bunker buster, or penetrating bomb. It weighed 5,400kg, but only 2,400kg, or just over 50%, of that was Torpex explosive. Most of the rest was a thick high tensile steel case, strong enough to be dropped through the few metres of reinforced concrete forming the roof of a U-boat or E-boat pen. Its tail boom and fins were light alloy and were only there to make sure it arrived nose first and spun up to stop it tumbling. One is known to have penetrated 18m into a hill to explode in the railway tunnel underneath.

Grand Slam was a bigger, 10,000 kg version of Tallboy

The Americans have the GBU-28, a laser-guided, 2,268kg bunker buster

THOSE are what you need to destroy caves and tunnels, not airblast bombs: I wonder why they didn't use one or two GBU-28s on the tunnel complex. Earthquakes and wrecked tunnels not spectacular enough for Proper Shock & Awe?.

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Re: Gather Dust?

"Trying to seriously damage a tunnel/cave complex that way is a similarly futile endeavour."

No, you find where the tunnel is then fuel up your Mosquito and destroy it the British way :-)

"One pilot flew down a cutting at a height of 100 feet and in a width space of only three Mosquito wing spans to throw his bomb into the tunnel mouth. The bomb travelled down the tunnel before exploding, belching out dirt and smoke from the opposite end. "

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the British way

Thankyou for that :) now I have this mental image of the Death Star attack with the Dambusters theme playing. Dare not research the Kiel attack further in case one of the crews was Lucas Cloudhopper & Arty Deetle.

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Mushroom

Re: Gather Dust?

The thing I found strangest about the Grand Slam bomb on Wiki was "Known officially as the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb"! If that was medium, I'd hate to see a big one!

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Re: Gather Dust?

If that was medium, I'd hate to see a big one!

In naming things that come in a range of sizes, you leave room for expansion so that you can add items at both ends of the range without getting into rather convoluted names.

Sensible: bomb, medium capacity.

Daft: Mother/Father of all bombs

Inbetween: Very Large Telescope. Because that would need to expand upwards as Even Larger Telescope, and after that you get into names like Humongous* Telescope and Brobdignagian Telescope or you have to resort to expletives, and in both cases you have to supply a reference list sorted by size.

* Huge (pron. Yuuge) is a registered trademark of the Trump Dynasty, and may not be used without permissionpayment.

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Re: Gather Dust?

Sir Barnes Wallis to you...

http://www.sirbarneswallis.com/ is highly recommended - necessary reading for a few I think given some of the comments.

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Re: Gather Dust?

I wonder why they didn't use one or two GBU-28s on the tunnel complex. Earthquakes and wrecked tunnels not spectacular enough for Proper Shock & Awe?.

I would think in a large complex structure like a cave system, where there are not hardened weapons installation but just occupied by people the MOAB might be better, basically with a thermobaric weapon you are recereating a BLEVI, so something like that dispersing it's material down the tunnels first would probably be more effect than hoping the blastwave can propogate around corners say, and then it igniting would probably be more effect in a kill everyone way due to expanded blastwave only needing to hit soft bodies after all, and removal of oxgen/ overpressure lung damge.

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Mushroom

Stupid bastards

When will they learn. One can't simply bomb ISIS out of existence, the same way one couldn't bomb the IRA out of existence. Look at the size of Northern Ireland and consider that at the height of the conflict there were 35000 British soldiers on the ground and they were totally ineffective. To make matters worse, there is no reasoning with ISIS.

In summary then: we're fucked.

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Mushroom

Re: Stupid bastards

So, we're effed, in the meantime, it'll be fun to tear stuff up! And now where that bomb was dropped, the soil is fluffed up and ready for planting poppies. That's what they grow over there after all!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid bastards

Islamic militarism is simply the reaction to neoliberalism's action.

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Re: Stupid bastards

"When will they learn?" Might want to internalize that. This was less to do with bombing the shit out of ISIS and more to send a clear message to Syria, Iran, Russia and most importantly, North Korea.

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Re: Stupid bastards

How true. But those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. We tried bombing the hell out Vietnam. All we did was knock down trees and generally make a mess of the landscape. Didn't change the course of the war.

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Re: Stupid bastards

Roto Till it via carpet bombing....

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Re: Stupid bastards

In Vietnam we were pussies, we had nukes and we used them on Japan. We should have used them on North Korea and Vietnam we would have sent the right message...

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