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Father of All Bombs
Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP)
Aviacionnaya Vakuumnaya Bomba Povyshennoy Moshhnosti (AVBPM )
Aviation vacuum high-power bomb (AVBPM)

For some time the American GBU-43 was the most powerful non-nuclear bomb. The US Air Force tested this bomb in 2003, when television footage showed all the world then the super-weapon MOAB [which officially stands for Massive Ordnance Air Burst but was unofficially interpreted as Mother Of All Bombs, from Saddam Hussein's Mother of All Battles]. By analogy, Russian developers nicknamed their new and ammunition the Father of All Bombs" [in America, warships are a she, while in Russia they are a he].

In 2007, a high power bomb test took place in Russia. It is also based on the effect of the volume of the vacuum explosion and has the code name Aviation vacuum high-power bomb (AVBPM). It contains about seven tons of high explosives compared with more than eight for the MOAB, but was said to be four times more powerful because it used a new type of explosive developed with the use of nanotechnology.

"The test results established aircraft ammunition have shown that it is their effectiveness and capabilities commensurate with a nuclear warhead, at the same time, I particularly want to emphasize the effect of this ammunition is absolutely no pollution compared with the nuclear warhead," - said the TV channel deputy chief General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Alexander Rukshin. The new vacuum bomb will replace a number of nuclear weapons created earlier defeat of low power. The Defense Ministry strongly emphasize that this military development does not violate any international treaty.

Americans began to use bombs with such effect in Vietnam. Their operating principle is dispersed in a large amount of explosives. This forms a cloud that can penetrate the space and shelter. After igniting the cloud in significant volume fade in the air creates a vacuum into which rushes outside air, producing a total destruction.

AVBPM has a capacity equivalent to 44 tons of TNT, which the military did not have before. Between existing Americans GBU-43 bombs and vacuum our huge distance size. It has been achieved by the use of a new type of explosive, the composition is strictly classified. "They" 8200 kg of explosives has an output equivalent to 11 tons of TNT. "We" 7100 kg of explosives equivalent to 44 tonnes.

The bomb is reportedly four times as powerful as the US military's GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (whose official military acronym "MOAB" is often colloquially called the "Mother of All Bombs" as a backronym). This Russian device would therefore be the most powerful conventional (non-nuclear) weapon in the world.

At the same time there is a nonlinear relationship between the power of the bomb and the area damaged. The Russian bomb area 20 is larger and the combustion temperature is a factor of 2 higher. The picture of destruction by explosion AVBPM follows:

  • 90 meters from the epicenter - the complete destruction of even the most hardened structures.
  • 200 meters from the epicenter - the complete destruction of unfortified structures and the almost complete destruction of concrete structures.
  • 300 meters from the epicenter - the almost complete destruction of unfortified structures (houses). Reinforced structure partially destroyed.
  • 450 meters from the epicenter - partial destruction unfortified designs.
  • 1100 meters from the epicenter - the shock wave breaks the glass.
  • 2300 meters from the epicenter - the shock wave can knock a person down.

The veracity of Russia's claims concerning the weapon's size and power have been questioned by US defense analysts. Sascha Lange, an expert in the analysis of arms development at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said a Russian video showing a massive explosion is not solid evidence that the country has developed the "father of all bombs."

" I doubt that everything took place the way the Russians claim. The pictures that were shown on state television do not clearly show what is claimed. For example, a Tupolev 160 "Blackjack," a strategic bomber, is shown opening its bomb hatch in the pictures, but you do not see the weapon fall out of the plane. A cut is made and then a body falls out of a different plane. You can recognize this because there is a different weapons bay and the bomb releases differently than it would from a "Blackjack bomber....

"You can see the weapon in free fall and you can see an explosion. But as big as the explosion in the pictures is, you cannot tell if it was caused by the bomb that has fallen. This large explosion could also have been carried out on the ground and not have resulted from the dropped bomb.

"When you examine the explosion, you see it happens on a completely level plain. Then pictures are shown with buildings and vehicles that are supposed to have been destroyed by the bomb. But they are not at visible before the explosion. There are several points where all the pictures don't entirely fit together and the claims are not at all supported by these pictures. The bomb is also not shown dropping from the "Blackjack bomber's" weapons bay. The pictures imply what is claimed in the Russian media, but they don't show it at all.....

"The Russians have now simply issued a news report saying, "We have the biggest bomb." I think it is mainly driven by domestic, political concerns -- for the Russian population to see that Putin is the strongest and now we also have the strongest bomb."

A Russian video implies that a Tu-160 long-range bomber dropped the FOAB test munition, but the bomb and bomber never appear in the same shot. "All that is alive merely evaporates." That's how a Russian official described the effects of what is reportedly the world's most powerful non-nuclear bomb, tested on Sept. 11. A video released by state media shows a Tupolev 160 bomber, a bomb falling as a parachute unfurls and a huge fireball.

The Russians call the device the "Father of All Bombs," an homage to the American GBU-43 Massive-Ordnance Air Blast munition nicknamed "Mother of All Bombs." Both weapons weigh around 8 tons, but the Russian device reportedly has a more powerful blast: equivalent to 44 tons of TNT, whereas the American bomb is equivalent to 10 tons. Father of All Bombs "has no match in the world," a military officer boasts in the official video.

Some Western media reacted with alarm. An editor for Jane's told the BBC it was likely that FOAB indeed represented "the world's biggest non-nuclear bomb." UPI claimed the device "would enormously boost Russia's conventional military capabilities."

But close analysis of the video reveals inconsistencies that have led some U.S. experts to question the veracity of the Russian claims, and to downgrade assessments of the weapon. It's possible, they say, that the video was partially faked, and that the test was hyped for political reasons. "You've got to approach Russian claims with skepticism," says John Pike, an analyst at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org in Alexandria, Virginia.

Russian state-run television released this video of a bomber dropping the "Father of all Bombs". It's not even clear what kind of weapon the Russians tested -- if it was what some experts call a "fuel-air explosive," or if it was a "thermobaric" weapon. Fuel-air and thermobaric bombs differ in usefulness.

Traditional bombs rely on metal fragments propelled by TNT to do their damage. Thermobaric weapons, by contrast, release a massive shockwave. They're meant for taking out big buildings and cave complexes, places where fragmentation doesn't work very well, explains Tom Burky, a senior research scientist at Battelle, an Ohio-based defense contractor. Thermobaric blasts can push around corners and down corridors.

Fuel-air bombs, on the other hand, have a small explosive device connected to a large tank of compressed fuel. The tank cracks on impact with the ground, spreading a cloud of fuel vapor. The warhead explodes, igniting the fuel. The effect is roughly the same, but fuel-air bombs are much more finicky than thermobarics, according to Burky. "The mixing process is highly randomized -- very difficult to control on the battlefield."

The official video compares the Russian bomb to the thermobaric GBU-43, but the weapon depicted in the video appears to be a fuel-air explosive, based on its shape, Burky says. Regardless, Phillip Coyle, an adviser to the Washington, D.C., Center for Defense Information, says he is skeptical about Father of All Bombs' true power. "It (the blast) may be bigger than MOAB," he concedes, "but it's not four times bigger -- at best 50 percent bigger, just going on the bomb's size and how these bombs are designed."

FOAB's ski-like legs -- and the drag-'chute lines seen on top -- indicate the bomb was released by a slow-flying cargo plane, contrary to Russian claims.

The force of a thermobaric/fuel-air blast is a function of the fuel type, the proportions of fuel and high explosive, and the way these elements mix during the blast. "The difficulty with bombs of this type is predicting the shape of the blast," Pike says. Teasing a fourfold improvement over the MOAB would require sophisticated chemistry, according to Burky, and that would challenge what Pike describes as cash-strapped Russian military labs.

Despite his skepticism regarding many Russian military developments, Pike says he believes that the Father of All Bombs is roughly as powerful as the Russians claim. What he doesn't necessarily buy is that the weapon is actually new. The Russian military has a tendency to rename old weapons in order to create the impression that they are new, Pike says. The Russians have possessed a range of thermobaric weapons for at least four decades.

The details of the "new" bomb's provenance and design are murky, but one thing is clear. The Father of All Bombs’ test model was not delivered by a Tu-160 bomber, as implied. Nowhere in the video are the bomber and the bomb in the same shot.

The Father of All Bombs, as shown, would not fit in a Tu-160's bomb bay, as it features a horizontally deploying drogue parachute that would be fouled by the aircraft if released vertically. The only way to deploy a bomb like this is to slide it out of the cargo hold of an airlifter, as the U.S. Air Force has done with its fuel-air "Daisy Cutter" bombs used in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. The appearance of ski-like legs on the bottom of the Father of All Bombs attests to this delivery method.

The Father of All Bombs cannot be used against defended targets; a cargo plane is too vulnerable. Daisy Cutters, for their part, were only ever dropped on remote deserts or jungles or against terrorists hiding in caves.

The force of FOAB's blast was estimated at 44 tons -- four times the power of the equivalent U.S. bomb -- but some analysts doubt the claim. "It's actually a niche weapon," Burky says. "They have their place, in attacking caves. But there are only so many caves you're going to attack. Not that we should ignore them."

Indeed, the Father of All Bombs' actual destructive force and military utility are perhaps less important than its apparent power. "Some people claim Russia did this because they were upset about our (ballistic) missile-defense proposals for Poland and the Czech Republic," Coyle says. "Other people say it has more to do with the upcoming presidential elections in Russia. Maybe (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is trying to preserve his legacy."

Pike says that despite Moscow's recent surge in oil revenue, the underfunded Russian military is still 15 years behind the United States. But with Putin's regime positioning itself as a bulwark against the United States, the Russian military has had to step up. And where it lacks genuine capabilities, it has not hesitated to fake them.

Case in point, the much-hyped bomber patrols. In the past year, Russian long-range bomber types, including the Tu-160 featured in the video, have begun probing Western air defenses, in an echo of Cold War practices. But according to Hudson Institute fellow Richard Weitz, the bombers themselves are old and poorly maintained -- State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack referred to them being taken "out of mothballs." Henry T. Nash, in his book Nuclear Weapons and International Behavior, describes deterrence as "being closely tied to the 'politics of appearances.'"

So it doesn't matter so much if a bomber is well-maintained, as long as it appears on U.S. radars. Nor does it matter if the Father of All Bombs is a fuel-air explosive or a thermobaric device, if it is really the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the world, or even if it is a new weapon at all. All that matters is that it makes an impressive explosion for the cameras.

Semantics support this view. The nickname Father of All Bombs is more than just an homage to the American MOAB. It's also an apparently intentional reference to an earlier episode in Russian military showmanship. The Russian term for the Father of All Bombs, "Kuzkin otets," translates literally as "Kuzkin's father." The phrase itself makes no sense. But to "show you 'Kuzkina mat,'" "to show Kuzkina's mother," is one of the most famous Russian idioms. It equates roughly with the English-language threat "we'll show you." Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev forever cemented "Kuzkina mat" in the Russian lexicon in 1962, during a period of escalating tension that preceded the Cuban missile crisis, and described a reportedly successful test of a 50-megaton H-bomb, the most powerful weapon ever.

The kicker? Khrushchev's H-bomb itself was mostly a demonstration of might rather than a serious attempt at fielding a practical weapon. The H-bomb was too big and unwieldy for day-to-day carriage on Soviet bombers, so only the one test model was ever built.

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Page last modified: 16-01-2019 13:13:16 ZULU