Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 5 News List

First-time use for MOAB in Afghanistan strike

AFP, KABUL

A mushroom cloud created by a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype blooms moments after impact at a test site at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in a screen grab from a 2003 US Air Force video.

Photo: AFP, Provided by the US AIR FORCE

The US has dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb — known as the “Mother of All Bombs” — on an Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province.

It is the first time the bomb, developed in the early days of the Iraq war, has been used in combat.

The 9.8-tonne guided bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in the US’ arsenal, is described by the US-based GlobalSecurity.org watchdog as “large, powerful and accurately delivered.”

It is a demolition bomb containing 8,480kg of the explosive H6, the watchdog’s Web site says.

It is 9m long with a diameter of 1m, and is the largest satellite-guided, air-delivered weapon in history, the watchdog says.

Popular Mechanics described it as weighing as much as an F-16 fighter jet.

Guided by GPS, it is dropped from the cargo ramp of a C-130 transport plane with its descent slowed by parachute, meaning it could be deployed from a greater height — giving US pilots more time to reach safety.

It is a concussive bomb, meaning it is designed to detonate before it hits the ground.

Its thin aluminum skin helps to maximize its blast radius and generate a shock wave which Wired.com said could reach up to 150m.

It was developed in 2002-2003 by Alabama-based aerospace and defense company Dynetics in partnership with the Air Force Research Lab, according to the company’s Web site.

The Web site said the bomb’s preliminary concept was developed into a detailed design within just three months and was successfully tested three times in 13 days.

It was first produced for use in the early days of the Iraq war.

According to the US Air Force, the last time the MOAB was tested in 2003, a huge mushroom cloud could be seen from 32km away.

The US Air Force said the target of Thursday’s bombing was a tunnel complex in Achin District in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province, a hotbed of IS militancy on the border with Pakistan.

The area is extremely remote and mountainous, inaccessible to government forces. It is north of Tora Bora, the complex network of caves from which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden gave US forces the slip and escaped into Pakistan in late 2001.

The US said it believed the area was so remote that no civilians were there.

Wired.com said a concussive bomb such as the MOAB has the advantage in such terrain: “Its blast can turn corners and push all the way to the furthest reaches of a cave.”

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