What to Know About the GBU-43/B, ‘Mother of All Bombs’

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb sits in theater of the Global War on Terror awaiting to be used should it become necessary. The MOAB is also called “The Mother of all Bombs” by scientists and the community alike.

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Washington, DC – The “Mother of All Bombs,” the GBU-43/B Massive Air Blast, is the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal, and it was used for the first time in combat on April 13 in Afghanistan against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

If you’ve never heard of this bomb, you’re likely not alone. To help you get educated about it, here are some facts to know:

First a Fun Fact: Why Is the MOAB Green?

According to Robert Hammack, the Air Force Research Lab chief behind the bomb’s creation, it’s pretty simple – they were in a hurry.

“Since we were in such a rush to get the weapon into our inventory to send over to aid the war effort, resources were limited. The weekend the MOAB arrived, the only color available in the amount we needed was John Deere green,” he said.

Al Weimorts, the creator of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (pictured left), and Joseph Fellenz, lead model maker, look over the prototype before it was painted and tested. Courtesy photo

When and Why Was It Created?

According to global security.org, it’s the largest-ever satellite-guided, air-delivered weapon in history, made to replace the unguided 15,000-pound BLU-82 Daisy Cutter that was used in Vietnam and early on in Afghanistan.

The MOAB was developed in only nine weeks in 2003 to be available for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it was created to put pressure on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to stop fighting against the coalition. The smart bomb was never used during that war.

The MOAB’s Specs:

It has a relatively thin aluminum casing designed to burst on a surface, not penetrate it. That creates a large blast with lesser fragmentation.
It’s a “smart bomb” with GPS-guided munition. It’s got stabilizing fins and inertial gyro for pitch and roll control.
It weighs 21,000 pounds!
The MOAB delivers an 18,700-pound warhead known as the BLU-120/B, which is made of H6 – a mixture of cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, TNT and aluminum.
It’s BIG – 30 feet long with a diameter of 40.5 inches, to be exact.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype moments before it makes contact during testing March 11, 2003. The detonation created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from up to 20 miles away. Courtesy photo

How Does the MOAB Reach Its Target?

The MOAB was loaded into a C-130 Hercules, where it sat in a cradle on an airdrop platform until the whole platform was pulled off the plane at a high altitude by a drogue parachute, which is used to slow it down. Once in the air, the weapon was quickly released from the platform to keep up its forward momentum. The grid fins then opened to stabilize it and guide it to its target.

An image from aerial footage of a GBU-43/B bomb striking an ISIS-K cave and tunnel systems in the Achin district of the Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, April 13, 2017.

It’s Got Competition

According to globalsecurity.org, on Sept. 11, 2007, the Russian military announced it had tested the “Father of all Bombs,” the world’s most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered munition. The Russians said it’s four times more powerful than the MOAB, even though it technically has fewer explosives in it (7.8 tons compared to the MOAB’s 8 tons). The FOAB is said to use more efficient explosives, yielding the equivalent of 44 tons of TNT with a blast radius of 300 meters – double that of the MOAB.

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