If you were asked what the largest and most powerful bomb there was in history, you’d probably think of the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay or the Tsar Bomba, which was developed by the Soviet Union in 1961, over 2,000 times as powerful as those dropped in Nagasaki.

But those are nuclear weapons, which are now tightly monitored by the world’s superpowers. What about non-nuclear weapons? Those that we can actually use in case of an attack without the stigma of nuking someone?

Well, look no further. The Mother of All Bombs is here to satisfy your craving for powerful non-nuclear bombs.

That’s One Big Mother Of A Bomb

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), better known as the Mother of All Bombs, is the largest non-nuclear weapon used by the United States Armed Forces. Filled with 18,700 pounds of H-6, this bomb yields a blast of 11 tons of TNT or 46 GJ.

Initially inspired by the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter (a 15,000-pound bomb), it was deemed highly effective when used to deter and dispose of enemy forces in Afghanistan. The US Air Force, notably Albert L. Weimorts Jr., was tasked to build a bigger and more powerful bomb. Aside from actually killing enemy personnel and bombing light to medium structures, it was intended to be a “shock and awe” bomb. This tactic involves showing the enemy forces that they cannot beat the forces who possessed such a bomb mainly due to the sheer overwhelming power of it, which would paralyze the enemy into a panic. As a result, enemy forces would retreat and lose their will to fight.

At least that was the idea.

Al Weimorts with Joseph Fellenz the lead model maker with a prototype version of the Mother of All Bombs (Wikipedia). Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-43/B_MOAB#/media/File:MOABprototype.jpg
Al Weimorts with Joseph Fellenz, the lead model maker with a prototype version of the Mother of All Bombs (U.S. Air Force, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia).

Known as an airburst bomb, it’s designed to bomb large areas above the ground. This is why the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter was deemed effective when the US initially used it to clear and flatten forests in Vietnam. These bad boys are dropped using a C-130 Hercules, particularly the Lockheed MC-130E Combat Talon I or its 130H variant, mainly used by the United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). Yup, it’s so big that no US bomber has a bomb bay big enough to carry it. When dropped, it is accompanied by drogue parachutes for steady and precise bombing together with the use of GPS technology.

The bomb was initially developed for the Iraq war. It was first tested in March 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base. Since then, 15 MOABs have been made by the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma.

Drop It Like It’s Hot On ISIS

This big bad boy was first used against ISIS-K in Nangarhar’s Achin district, Afghanistan, when it bombed a series of cave systems used by the terrorists in 2017. It was said that the bomb was used to minimize risk to Afghan civilians and US Armed Forces who were within the area.

The ISIS-K, also known as Daesh-Khorasan, is composed of former members of the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban, and the Afghan Taliban (the more known Taliban). A US MC-130 flew over the targeted tunnels killing over 36 ISIS fighters in the process. The bombing came after former President Trump’s promise to “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS.” People who were miles away from the blast reported that it felt like an earthquake and that several people had been knocked unconscious because of the blast.

“We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done their job as usual. So, we have given them total authorization,” former President Donald Trump said.

Several high-ranking military officials downplayed the bombing in 2017, stating that it was just another bomb used by the Armed Forces. “It allows us to go after deeply buried and hardened structures. It’s good use against tunnels, and it’s also good use because it’s going to set off IEDs in the area,” said Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt to Al Jazeera.

While it’s not the most powerful bomb out there when you compare it to the Hiroshima bomb that yielded 15 Kilotons of sheer firepower, the Mother of All Bombs is surely one weapon the enemies ought to look out for. The problem is finding a target worth the expense of dropping one on it.  Including the cost of development, each MOAB rings up at the register at $16 million, before the coupon.  We could go broke dropping these on terrorists, you know?

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