Syria, Afghanistan, and North Korea, what do these 3 countries have in common? It’s simple; a renewed and reenergized eye of the bald eagle on them. Having made headlines with the superfluous Tomahawk strike on Syria (which will be dealt with in the next article), the US military gave more fodder for the ever hungry media with the high profile and widely publicized strike on a terror hideout in Afghanistan. Everyone has been having a field day with the news reports, and here at Defencyclopedia, we bring you the complete analysis of the airstrike from another perspective.
HOW THE BOMB IS DROPPED
When you hear about an airstrike conducted by the US Air Force, the first pictures that pop into your mind are of the B-52, B-1, and B2 bombers, which have proved their bombing capabilities over and over again. And when the news headline says ‘The Mother of All Bombs has been dropped’, you are sure that it is the job of the B-2 Spirit. But unfortunately, all these bombers had to watch the action from the sidelines as the humble, innocent-looking C-130 transport was the designated bomber for the day. The terrorists would have probably had a lookout, who would have conveyed back to their mountain hideouts “Looks like a C-130 flying by, nothing to worry about, back to party”.
A few minutes later, this innocent looking transport jet would open its cargo ramp door and a big fat sausage would slide out. Then a parachute would pop out of the sled carrying the bomb, allowing it to fall gracefully towards its target. While the lookout would be puzzled and scratching his head with the barrel of his AK-47, the big fat parachute-retarded bomb would explode mid-air after a few seconds, turning everything and everyone for several hundred meters around it, into rubble.
The effect of the explosion would be felt for several kilometers around the blast site. It is safe to assume that any underground structure like tunnels or caves in the nearby mountains would have collapsed partially or completely due to the extremely powerful shockwaves released during the explosion. Although it is almost impossible to ascertain the exact number of terror elements eliminated in the strike, it is expected to be significantly high.
Although officials would definitely deny it with absolute confidence, the explosion would have resulted in quite a bit of civilian casualties as well. Any civilian structure for several kilometers around would have suffered permanent structural damage, making them unsafe to live in. This is similar to an earthquake, where buildings are sometimes left intact but weakened internally, thereby compromising its structural integrity.
Check out this FLIR video of the strike released by the USAF
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) April 14, 2017
Notice the powerful shockwaves in the video.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE ‘MOTHER OF ALL BOMBS’
Now that we know how it is deployed and the amount of destruction it can cause, let us have a look at the bomb itself. The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast is a 22,600 lb (10,300 kg) bomb, developed to take out large targets such as unarmored and lightly armored/ reinforced targets spread over a large area. It can also be used to target non-reinforced structures like caves or underground tunnels. It has been incorrectly labeled as the largest conventional in the US arsenal and the credit for that actually goes to the 30,000 lb (14,000 kg) GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which is the largest operational bunker buster bomb.
The US Military has had a fascination for such large bombs ever since the powerful 15,000 lb (8,600 kg) BLU-82 Daisy Cutters were used during the Vietnam war for clearing dense forests to create helicopter landing zones. The Daisy Cutters were employed during the Iraq war as well in order to clear minefields and to create a psychological impact on the enemy using its powerful shockwaves and large explosive radius. The MOAB, since its induction in 2003, to replace the Daisy Cutter, has been kept in storage since the US Military had never gotten a chance to use it.
WHY WAS THE MOAB USED?
There are many plausible reasons for the USAF to employ this weapon.
1. A good ‘ol American show of force
Sending a carrier battle group off the coast of a hostile country is a good enough show of force while dealing with a state actor. But when you are dealing with non-state actors who have gotten a strong grip on several countries, you actually need to use force to send a message. Since the MOAB has a wide blast radius and its shockwaves travel for several kilometers, it is bound to leave a minor psychological impact on the terror elements. But we have so far seen that no amount of fancy bombing can demoralize these elements.
2. They were itching to break open the seal and use it
This is also a possibility as we saw Russia using Syria as a realistic testing ground for its new weapons which had never seen combat. Thr US could have taken this as an opportunity to test this never before used weapon in a realistic scenario, in a country where war is perpetual. Even though a similar effect could have been achieved using a B-52 loaded with 2000 lb bombs, that option was not exercised.
3. The POTUS wanted to make a big statement
This is the most likely reason, although it is possible that reasons 1 and 2 were also partially responsible. The POTUS (President of the United States) has taken a tough stand against terrorism and the best way to show that he means business is not by carrying out practical and economical bombing raids against such undefended targets, but to use a powerful weapon which would guarantee instant publicity. Since nukes were put of the equation, MOAB came next.
THE RUSSIAN COUNTERPART
Whenever we talk about an American weapon, there is almost always a Russian counter to it and vice versa. Russia has no shortage of big bombs and the only reason they haven’t used them over Syria till now is because they don’t want to antagonize the civilian population there as they see a future of Russian permanent presence in Syria. The Russian bomb is nicknamed the ‘Father of All Bombs’, and aptly so because it has 4 times the yield of the American ‘Mother of All Bombs’.
The strike is just a grain of sand in the ongoing global war against terrorism being waged by the US. The usage of the MOAB looks like a positive step in this direction as it shows that the US is willing to use serious force to dislodge and take out terror networks and hideouts BUT only if they have an actual strategy regarding how they will eliminate the terror groups. A good strategy of using air power and ground troops reinforced by solid HUMINT (human intelligence) needs to be followed, as randomly dropping big bombs or firing dozens of missiles isn’t going to solve a problem, but will surely make you the top news item for a week.
Considering the recent actions, it looks like the US is focused on short-term goals rather than any serious long term goals in their global war on terror. This will no doubt project a very formidable image of the US military globally, in the face of a resurgent Russia and rising China, but will do little in dismantling terror groups. Alo, this spate of recent missile and bombing missions are an attempt to recapture public interest after Russia got the whole world’s attention last year by doing the same fancy bombing in Syria, using almost every type of weapon in their arsenal.
Thus it has become clear that it is merely a contest that is going on between the two top military powers regarding who has the best toys and who can create global interest with their usage. If Russia does a crazy move, the US just has to top that with an even crazier move. And with their recent actions over the past couple of weeks, they have cemented themselves in the top position.
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