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AFP April 16, 2017

GBU-43 Afghanistan: MOAB strike kills 90

By Sean Lennox

AFGHANISTAN – "The mother of all bombs". This expression devotes a non-nuclear bomb of a power never equaled in the American arsenal. It was dropped on Thursday (April 13th) by the United States, in eastern Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, in a stronghold of the Islamic state.

The effects of this bomb are still difficult to establish. Several hours after its impact, smoke continues to emerge from the mountains it aimed at (see photo below). How does this monster, known as GBU-43 / B and the acronym MOAB, work for "massive order air blast", or "heavy artillery blast bomb"?

An unbeatable target

"It's the biggest explosion I've ever seen. The place has been invaded by very high flames," said Esmail Shinwari, district governor of Achin County. Locals felt the earth moving "as in an earthquake", and some fainted due to the power of the breath, according to a source close to the Afghan insurgents who confided to AFP.

According to statements by the US Air Force, the target was a complex of underground tunnels and caves in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, a stronghold of the jihadist Islamic state Border with Pakistan.

"Until the last corners of the caves"

The United States believes that the place is so isolated that no civilian was there. It is a mountainous area, inaccessible for Afghan forces, north of the Tora Bora caves where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had taken refuge to escape the Americans in the early 2000s.

A US commander in Afghanistan said the bomb was "the right ammunition" to deal with bunkers and tunnels that are increasingly used by jihadists.

According to technology magazine Wired.com , a blast bomb like the MOAB has an advantage in this type of terrain: "its shock wave can sneak through the mazes to the last corners of the caves."

What is the power of the MOAB?

This 9.8 tonne machine is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, described by the website specialized in the defense GlobalSecurity.org bomb "huge, powerful, and dropped with precision."

It is a craft containing 8.48 tons of explosive H6, details the site, an explosive power comparable to 11 tons of TNT. Nine meters long, and one meter in diameter, according to GlobalSecurity.org , it is the largest satellite-guided and air-launched weapon ever designed. Popular Mechanics points out that it weighs as heavily as an F-16 combat aircraft.

A parachute to slow down its descent and protect the pilots

Guided by GPS, it is dropped by the rear ramp of a C-130 type transport aircraft. It is equipped with a parachute to slow down its descent, in order to be able to be dropped from a high height leaving the pilots time to take shelter.

Designed to explode just before hitting the ground, it has a thin aluminum shell so that the shock wave, which can reach 150 meters according to Wired.com , is as wide as possible.

According to Hans Kristensen, an expert in the US Federation of American Scientists, the MOAB is said to have power equal to about 1 / 30th of the current smallest US nuclear bomb, B61-12.

Who made it?

It was developed in 2002-2003 by US-based defense company Dynetics , based in Alabama, in partnership with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), according to the company's website.

It was produced in a few months with a view to being used in the early days of the war in Iraq. According to the US Air Force, the last test of the GBU-43 bomb in 2003 caused a plume of dust and smoke visible at more than 32 kilometers.

According to information provided by the Afghan government, the MOAB allegedly destroyed a mountainous stronghold of the Islamic State group and killed at least 36 of its fighters.

Another bomb made by Russia in 2007 would be even more powerful than the MOAB. She is even called "the father of all bombs". But it has never been used at the moment. Tested in 2007, Moscow says that this bomb is four times more powerful than the MOAB, with the equivalent of 44 tons of TNT.

Copyright 2017, AFP