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What can you do with 18,000 pounds of high explosive that you can't do with 12,600 pounds?

Simple. Stuff it all into a box and call it the Massive Ordnance Air Burst, or MOAB, weapon. Designed by the United States military as part of their ongoing mission to make you sadly shake your head, the MOAB is the intended replacement for the aging--but no less effective for it--"Daisy Cutter" bomb, a Vietnam era dinosaur demonstrating that updates in weaponry apparently substitute for updates in policy.

The 21,000 pound MOAB--colloquially referred to by wiseguys who'll never see it from directly beneath as "the Mother of All Bombs"--is packed with tritonal explosives which have a shelf-life rivaling that of a Twinkie. This is also an "improvement" over the less walloping and more rapidly decaying GSX explosives of the Daisy Cutter.

Today marks the first live test of this abomination, to take place at Eglin Air Force base near Pensacola, Florida. Deployment will be by shoving the thing out of a C-130 aircraft on a pallet. And because accuracy is so important with a device designed to take out anything within just over a half-mile radius, it comes equipped with an Inertial Navigation System and Global Positioning System to guide it.

Don't worry--residents in the area have been warned in advance (that's good thinking) not to panic about the 10,000 foot high cloud of smoke, dust, and flame officials expect to rise above the landscape.

Which is more than they're telling the Iraqis, who will likely be the first to stand in its shadow. In addition to its ridiculous material destroying potential, the MOAB has an intended psychological effect. Indeed, the Pentagon reports that that's the weapon's primary function: to scare the bejeezus out of people. CNN reports that officials think enemy soldiers will mistake the blast for a nuclear strike.

A brilliant strategery, don't you think?

Update: mkb informs me that this weapon was discontinued, without ever having been used in combat.

Booms to CNN.

Hold that update!

Today the USA finally got to use the GBU-43, now commonly known as the Moab (popularly, the 'Mother of All Bombs'). It was dropped on the Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, in an area believed to be riddled with ISIS tunnels and bunkers. It is believed to be the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat.

This is indeed still the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, and yes, it has sat dormant for 14 years. This is simply due to the fact that it is not particularly effective for doing most things, but might, we hope, be really good at damaging large networks of underground tunnels... in much the same way as an earthquake is.

The Moab is simply a missile-shaped block of explosives, which is dropped onto the location that you wish to explode. This is somewhat unusual; missiles usually have frangible casings, shaped charges, submunitions, incendiaries, and other add-ons to optimize the damage. Even the fins on the Moab are duds, existing specifically to slow it down, because otherwise the lumbering planes needed to carry the massive bomb (in this case, a MC-130) might not be able to get out of the blast range before impact.

The blast is equal to 11 tones of TNT (to put this in context, the first nuclear bomb equaled 20,000 tons of TNT; the average Tomahawk, if I've done my math correctly, equals about 0.5). This is an effective way of creating a minor, but fairly wide-spreading earthquake, which is good if you want to take out a lot of tunnels.

We don't usually want to do that, but we have about 10 more of these bombs in storage, so we'll probably try again before this decade is over.

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