Blue Eighty-Two

(Mother of all Bombs. It is not Halloween, so it did not come in pumpkin colors this morning).

Well, they did it yesterday morning, their time, and if it just so happened that the largest non-nuclear air-dropped bomb in the world was dropped from a specially configured C-130 near a tunnel and bunker complex in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, in the extreme eastern part of the Country. It is a complete coincidence that a firefight in the same Achin district of the province took the life of US Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, of the 7th Special Forces Group. Complete coincidence.

(SSGT. Mark De Alencar, US Special Forces. RIP).

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is known to users as the Mother of All Bombs. It is 21,000 pounds of outreach. The one in the picture above is the test platform used in Florida in 2003. I imagine the real thing is much more subdued in its paint scheme. The Mother is a large-yield conventional developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

(Albert Weimorts, desinger of the Mother, and a great American).

It is a special weapon. I have dealt with requirements to take out deeply buried targets- bunkers and the like- which require highly strengthened penetrating weapons. That is not what the Mother was intended to do, so this is not a “bunker buster.” It is an area effects weapon, and it has got some effect.

(BLU-82B Daisy Cutter weapon like the one we used in DESERT STORM to breach the Iraqi defensive berms).

The Mother is not that. It is a lineal descendent of the famous BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a fuel-air bomb designed to detonate feet above the jungle floor and clear helicopter landing zones in Southeast Asia. There are other applications, of course, and as our jungle-fighting requirements diminished after Vietnam was lost, the weapons were retired to that big warehouse at Area 51 where they keep the Arc of the Covenant when the White House is not using it and all the other cool stuff.

Our little merry band of Joint Staff planners was neck-deep in big bombs as we approached the time for the big “left hook” swing around the mass of Saddam’s Republican Guards as we transitioned from the Air War to the Ground Offensive in Iraq in 1990. Big Blue (no offense, IBM!) turned out to have a powerful psychological effect, and the follow-on Mother is primarily intended for soft-to-medium surface targets covering extended areas. And targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system where the overpressure can do some truly amazing and fun things to people you do not like.

It is a thing of wonder.

Back in my day, all we had was the limited inventory of remaining BLU-82B weapons and no one was talking about dropping the Arc of the Covenant, the only thing possibly more powerful. We had to get by with only 15,000 pounds of explosives, but you do what you can.

The night of the breaching operation we were all gathered around the televisions to see if we could get CNN Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) in real time and not have to wait for the satellite overhead time.

As it turned out, the BLU-82 did just fine, and anyone within a few miles of the detonation were rendered- how do you say in English? Hors de combat?

For our purposes, it was perfectly sufficient, and I understand they used the last of the the inventory early in the Afghanistan campaign that followed 9/11. The best characterization I can give you is that a British commander who was going across the berms with the Yanks saw what had happened when the bomb struck, and reported that the Americans had “gone nuke.”

We were delighted.

But before we get too cozy with all this, word is that the Russians have got one they claim is more than twice as big. I have to shrug, though. They would probably have to deliver it by FedEx.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

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