Even though it was first tested, and entered service in 2003, and video has been online for years, the Massive Ordinance Air Blast-bomb was a shocking surprise for some journalists.
Observers were almost instantly stunned as 2003 file footage surfaced of the nearly-10,000kg weapon — commonly referred to as the Mother Of All Bombs — demonstrating its destructive capabilities amid the seemingly randomly timed deployment of a previously dormant device.
An obvious question arises: “How does it differ to other bombs?”
Unlike most conventional bombs, the MOAB is designed to take out field-fortified targets — like caves, canyons and tunnels — that are not easily reachable.
There’s no point in field-fortifying – whatever that means – a canyon when it’s open to attack from above.
It is what is known as a thermobaric weapon which is a type of explosive that uses oxygen from surrounding air to generate an intense, high-temperature blast wave that packs an incredible amount of energy into a small, localised location.
Whereas most conventional bombs consist of a mix of fuel and oxygen-generating substances, thermobaric weapons are almost entirely 100 per cent fuel, meaning they rely on atmospheric oxygen.
This quality is what allows the MOAB’s intensive blast wave to travel through underground, oxygen-filled networks, like underground tunnels and caves.
The MOAB is not a super-scary thermobaric weapon; it is different to other conventional bombs only in that it is bigger.
Why has it never been used before?
The MOAB’s massive size, in addition to its powerful thermobaric qualities that cause devastating surface destruction are said by analysts to be two of the main reasons it has not previously been used on the battlefield.
Applications suited to the MOAB are extremely limited. An equal weight of accurately targeted smaller bombs – 86 250 lb bombs, for example – will destroyed targets over a larger radius.
Is it the world’s biggest conventional bomb?
For all its destructive capabilities, the MOAB is still only the second largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal, coming second only to the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) which has yet never been used in combat.
Unlike the MOAB, which detonates shortly before hitting the surface making it capable of destroying both building and networks just below the surface, like tunnels and caves, the MOP is able to penetrate much deeper and reportedly takeout military bunkers.
That’s a trick question. The MOAB is longer and fatter but the MOP, with a massively thicker steel casing enabling it to penetrate many metres of reinforced concrete, is heavier. The MOAB contains over three as much explosive as the MOP, so it produces a much bigger blast.
What does this mean for the future war?
It is still far too early to tell, but experts say the bombing may open up a “can of worms” considering Russia has the [Father Of All Bombs thermobaric bomb].
The head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, Professor John Blaxland, told the ABC increasing the threshold of violence in the region will no doubt have unintended, knock-on consequences.
The only way to increase the already extreme “threshold of violence in the region” would be to nuke it. Kim Jong-un is determined for that honour to go to North Korea.