What is the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ and what is it capable of

Published: April 14, 2017

Armed with more than 8,000 kilogrammes of explosives, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) – or the ‘Mother of All Bombs’ as it is more commonly known – is the most powerful conventional [read non-nuclear] weapon in the United States’ military arsenal.

It has an explosion equal to 11 tonnes of TNT and a blast radius as wide as a mile. In the words of Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank, “What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and light the air on fire… It’s a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.”

Until 2007 – when Russia tested the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP) or the ‘Father of All Bombs’ as it was dubbed – the MOAB had been the most powerful conventional bomb in the entire world.

US drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on Da’ish hideouts in Afghanistan

Developed by Albert L Weimorts Jr of the US Air Force Research Laboratory, the MOAB was designed as the very personification of ‘shock and awe’ strategy that was integral to then president George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

The concept for the weapon was inspired by the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, which US forces first used to clear heavily wooded areas in the Vietnam War. The Daisy Cutter was also used in Iraq in the 2000s, first to clear mines and late to intimidate the Iraqi military into submission.

Interestingly, the need for the MOAB arose once the US ran out of Daisy Cutters and wanted to retain the ability to strike terror in the heart of ‘enemy combatants’.

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What brings the MOAB into the 21st century is its satellite-guided targeted system. While Russia’s ATBIP may have dethroned the MOAB as the most potent conventional weapon, at 10,000 kilogrammes the latter is still the heaviest – and strongest – precision guided weapon system.

Its massive size, however, means that MOAB can only be delivered by variants of the C-130 Hercules aircraft. The bomb is carried in a cradle on a platform in the C-130’s cargo hold and is delivered to its target by parachute.

Despite its huge payload, the bomb is designed to only destroy softer targets, such as cave systems, as opposed to reinforced structures such as bunkers.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Oommen
    Apr 14, 2017 - 8:32AM

    Russia has an even bigger one. – “Father of all bombs”.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 9:08AM

    US Ambassador Haley in the UN Indicated that she was very concerned about the well being of little children in Syria.. I wonder if she will raise her concerns in the UN today in regard to the little children that “Mother of All Bombs” killed in Afghanistan? Recommend

  • khan
    Apr 14, 2017 - 10:31AM

    Americans are cruelRecommend

  • Fariha
    Apr 14, 2017 - 10:50AM

    Seems WWIII is much more nearer than we thought!!!!Recommend

  • cautous
    Apr 14, 2017 - 12:43PM

    @Sexton: Classic anti American blather – long on blather and short on substance. If you took the time to read the article you would note that this MOAB was used on IS cave system with no children or other civilian casualties. Recommend

  • Shams Khan
    Apr 14, 2017 - 12:56PM

    It is weapon of mass destruction capable of killing every oul within 1 KM radius and damaging ears within 2 Km radius No further question askedRecommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 6:20PM

    Trump pretended to be upset about children in Syria but did not mention that he killed a lot of people, including children, when he illegally sent over 59 missiles, so he will not mention it when he drops a ‘Mother of All Bombs”Recommend

  • a
    Apr 14, 2017 - 6:48PM

    The way SO called Donald Trump going it wont be long before there is ww111,He is pushing his luck with n korea,Amercian are like a bully boy in a class.When it comes to big boys they are back of the queue.Recommend

  • Shah
    Apr 14, 2017 - 10:10PM

    @Sexton: Killing of women children do not matter how many and how killed by US bombs and missiles, as long as Trump get good TV cover showing him and his brave military so proud for killing women and children which are not shown dead on TV; Recommend

  • Shah
    Apr 14, 2017 - 10:13PM

    This one actually is used to move a few hills and mountain, rocks, sand and dirt to another location; make big sound noise, lots of fire, debris, smoke and smell; Has no valuable critical advantage of eliminating terrorists; To be used to kill innocent unarmed civilians, women, children; Recommend

  • Sheikh Sa'adi
    Apr 14, 2017 - 11:35PM

    I don’t understand why Pakistanis are so concerned about the US targeting ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Sheikh Sa'adi
    Apr 14, 2017 - 11:38PM


    To be used to kill innocent unarmed civilians, women, children

    And precisely what are ‘innocent unarmed civilians, women and children’ doing in an IS Cave complex?

    And perhaps Pakistani bombs spare ‘innocent unarmed civilians, women and children’.;Recommend

  • cautious
    Apr 15, 2017 - 2:23AM

    @Sexton: @cautous: Trump pretended to be upset about children in Syria but did not mention that he killed a lot of people, including children, when he illegally sent over 59 missiles, so he will not mention it when he drops a ‘Mother of All Bombs”
    Rubbish. None of the missiles hit civilian targets and even Syria admits that casualties were limited to six soldier. Easy Google. As previously stated – your comments are classic anti American blather – long on blather and short on facts. Recommend

  • June
    Apr 15, 2017 - 4:08AM

    Sexton I have a question for you where there any children killed and Afghanistan when the bomb dropped was there?Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 15, 2017 - 9:57AM

    We know that the US and its puppet governments obfuscate the truth, we know that the US has been supporting various military groups in Syria, We know that Madeleine Albright stated that 500,000 child deaths in Iraq “was worth it”, we know that the US illegally fired 59 missiles into Syria, We know the US just dropped the largest bomb ever We know the latest report is that US/NATO just bombed a chemical plant in Syria and killed many people. We know that the US has dropped millions of depleted uranium weapons. We know that the West has reduced Syria to rubble. I will leave it up to you to decide if any children have been killed in comparatively recent times. Why do I have a feeling my reply will not be printed?Recommend

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