Saturday, April 15, 2017

MOAB - Less and More Than Meets the Eye

A grand furore ensued following the use of a U.S. mega-bomb called MOAB against what was said to be an ISIS gathering point in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. MOAB, an acronym for Mother of All Bombs/Massive Ordinance Air Blast, is really just a huge firecracker with a twist.

MOAB is thermobaric. Think of it as "blast plus." These weapons don't carry their own oxidizer. They're all explosive, often very fine aluminum dust particles, that disperse into a cloud where they mix with oxygen. Then they explode, creating a massive overpressurization capable of killing within a one mile radius. The wicked part is what happens next. The bomb creates a powerful vacuum that tends to draw innards out. No point getting into the minutiae of that.

The US military has used MOAB exactly once. Because of the state of the corpses you don't want to use it where photographers might show up. Another problem is the delivery system. MOAB is dropped out of the cargo bay of a C-130 Hercules transport. You don't want to go trolling a C-130 anywhere there might be hostile fighters or surface to air batteries. You don't want your MOAB and your Hercules finding terra firma at the same time.

It's now estimated that Trump's MOAB killed 94 ISIS fighters. That's the story anyway. Hard to have much sympathy for ISIS types. But maybe ISIS wasn't the real target.

MOAB might have been intended to deliver a message to Pyongyang and Beijing that Trump won't hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction, next time perhaps nuclear. It was also a big hit with America's "red meat" brigade.

There are concerns that Trump has taken America to a "near-nuclear" threshold just in time for Easter. Meanwhile peace talks are underway today, Good Friday, in Moscow. Everybody who's anybody is there, including the Taliban. Well, not quite everybody. The United States wasn't invited nor any of the NATO/ISAF partners. That leaves just the Talibs, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, four of the other "stans," China and Russia sitting at the table.


Toby said...

One would think that after thousands of years of wars that people would learn that violence solves nothing. Unfortunately, humans tend to be slow learners.

Eventually, Americans will learn the hard way. Turtle Island is reachable. North Korea already deals on the underground market. It wouldn't surprise me in the least that Kim might sell a nuke to a suicide squad to sail up Chesapeake Bay with.

Lorne said...

I can't help but think that, Trump supporters aside, many Americans will welcome a return to the U.S. being feared throughout the world, once more showing their might as 'the greatest country in the world.' With a madman as its president, the world indeed has much to fear from our neighbour to the south.

The Mound of Sound said...

Some argue, Toby, that warfare is inherent in human nature. We've been doing it since we first displaced fellow humans from that "must have" cave. Animals kill for food, for survival. We kill for "more."

The Mound of Sound said...

I had to remind myself yesterday, Lorne, that we need to be a bit more reflective about loosely criticizing Americans. If we focus on Trump's legion it can prevent us from remembering the other half of the American population that is aghast at what's happening to their homeland. I have friends in Seattle who are truly distressed at what is becoming of America.

Yet there are many who now see their country through the lens of the permanent warfare state. They may be losing their jobs, their homes may be "underwater," and their kids may be languishing in the basement, unemployable, but at least Amerika can still kick ass and they'll reward that with their votes.

Dana said...

Americans like this one, Mound.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Dana, although not so eloquent as Mr. Thornton. He does have a way with words that truly propels his thoughts. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Lorne said...
I can't help but think that, Trump supporters aside, many Americans will welcome a return to the U.S. being feared throughout the world, once more showing their might as 'the greatest country in the world.' With a madman as its president, the world indeed has much to fear from our neighbour to the south.

The USA media gushes with pride at every bomb dropped.
I can envision the 'reporters" at CNN and Fox rushing to the window to see the results of every bomb blast, hoping to see the smoke.
The printed USA media ( and the National Post) are not far behind with glowing comments of the USA's military capabilities.
As I suggested earlier; the media is slowly warming to Trump and the Russia connection is almost history.

We live in an age of mass distraction.


Anonymous said...

Two ways of delivering ten tons of explosives.


Anonymous said...

One can imagine Trump only gives peripheral attention to intelligence briefings. One day: "Wait, what's that about this 'MOAB' thing-a-ma-jig?" Blah, blah, blah. "Holy crap! I gotta fire that MF off!"

And thus the history of the first MOAB.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Bomb them. Any excuse is good - for the neocons and for a financial-military-industrial complex.

John B. said...

I could have this totally wrong, but is it coincidental that discussion in the media seems to be gushing over these exploits at the same time that it's become apparent that the presiding dogs in the situational rugged-individualist camp are firmly in charge? Maybe they always were. If the only dead fish that Trump was able to toss out in consideration of China eating other people's lunches was "currency manipulation", then what now for his hordes of flipper flappers? I don't accept the realpolitik rationalization. And it didn't just occur to him last night (or last week) that half of the voting public consists of idiots.

The market-libertarian faction has never really had a problem overcoming whatever philosophical differences it has with the hawks. It's just a matter of emphasis. It's like smoking a bone together or sharing a dessert and asking the waiter for separate bills. And besides, a lot of them are cross-dressers. As you'd expect, the innocent true believers are maintaining their purity. Trump may have to find the time to get Rand back out to the golf course so he can promise to stop stealing his lunch money again.

MAFGA (Make America Feel Good Again)

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, TB, I revisited Grand Slam and its smaller cousin, Tall Boy, when I read they had used MOAB. Those were Barnes Wallis' conceptions but they operated far differently. The Brit bombs were fin-stabilized, spun by the cant of the fins. They were also sufficiently streamlined they could go supersonic before hitting. You may remember that a raid with Tall Boy bombs took out Tirpitz.

One would think that Grand Slam, being a penetrating or "earthquake" weapon, would be more destructive of tunnel complexes than MOAB's surface detonation. MOAB is more of an anti-personnel device. It's thermobaric effect inflicts hideous death first by the overpressure blast and then by an ensuing yet devastating vacuum.

The Mound of Sound said...

We can speculate on and question the motivation for dropping MOAB but it would definitely get the attention of ISIS forces in the area. That said, a second MOAB strike is pretty easily countered. Simply dispersing to areas nearer to the civilian population would probably work.