After sitting through a relentless barrage of ignorance, bad hot takes and general stupidity on Twitter and parts of the internet unknown, I’ve decided to write a post clearing up some of the misconceptions about the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb…weapon…thingy that we dropped on ISIS a few days ago.
What is it?
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast or “MOAB” is the largest conventional bomb in the U.S arsenal. It weighs about as much a small bus and requires a cargo plane or strategic bomber to drop it. The weapon was designed to target large troop formations and intimate enemy soldiers. As it’s designation implies (Guided Bomb Unit 43/B), the MOAB is a guided weapon that can be used against individual targets.
Is it a nuke or WMD?
The MOAB is America’s most powerful non-nuclear weapon. It is not a nuke or WMD of any kind; nor is it “nuke-like” in it’s effects. While it is the largest conventional bomb in the U.S arsenal, it’s blast measures a mere 11 ton of TNT equivalent, compared to 300 tons for the lowest yield setting for the B61-4; our smallest nuclear bomb currently in stockpile. For perspective, the the Mark 1 “Little Boy” that leveled Hiroshima had a yield of 15,000 tons and a typical nuclear missile will range from 300,000 to 475,000 tons.
In addition to being several orders of magnitude less powerful than a nuclear weapon the MOAB generates no radioactive fallout or heat flash; it’s just a really big bomb.
Why did they use it?
According to sources, commanders on the ground (likely General Nicholson) decided on its use after multiple failed attempts to assault a heavily fortified ISIS controlled tunnel complex in the mountains of Nangahar province, Afghanistan. Given the terrain location and militant presence no civilians were in the area, leaving only the militants in their fortified positions.
In such circumstance using the MOAB allowed the military to destroy the militants and their stronghold without worrying about collateral damage; the primary reason it was not used in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While there has been some questions to why they used an air burst weapon on a cave complex, the the large blast radius would be capable of taking out IEDs and other obstacles around the complex while it’s precision guidance system would allow it to target vulnerable points like tunnel entrances.
Is Trump trying to send a message?
By all accounts Trump was not involved in the decision to use the bomb. The weapon has reportedly been in Afghanistan for months and commanders on the ground where the ones who decided that it was appropriate to use.
Trump has differentiated himself from Obama by loosening the reigns on the military and giving commanders broader authority to make decisions. Its very possible that Trump didn’t even know the GBU-43 existed before it was used let alone told CENTCOM to deploy it. When questioned about the strike he implied that he had given his generals broad permission and was not micromanaging particular strikes.
Doesn’t it need higher authorization though?
The GBU-43 is not a strategic weapon, it is a large bomb used on the tactical level that requires no authorization outside of the United States military. The U.S has been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001 (if you hadn’t noticed) and the fighting there is still covered under the 2001 AUMF passed by congress after the 9/11 attacks.
In that time period over 16,000 strikes have been conducted in Afghanistan. It is not and should not be Congress or the President who fight wars on the tactical and operational levels, that is what generals like Nicholson are for.
What is the strategy behind it?
Again, the MOAB is just a big bomb. It’s use was purely tactical as part of an operation aimed at clearing ISIS out of Nangahar. It’s use doesn’t rise beyond that level.
Should Fox News feel ashamed for ignoring Afghanistan for years then celebrating to terrible country music after we dropped a really big bomb?
Yes. It was bad and they should feel bad. (Link)