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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reflections: World can't bomb its way to peace

In April 13, the United States military dropped America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan at 7.32pm, local time. It was on a Thursday.

The target was an ISIS cave and tunnel complex, and this was the first time this weapon had ever been used in a combat operation.

Hm! my curiosity said to me after I heard the news. What’s that about? asked curiosity. And so, I decided to find out.

The technical name of this bomb that made headlines all around the world is the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or MOAB, which also happens to be the initials for the bomb’s nickname, ‘Mother Of All Bombs.’

Developed in the early 2000s, during the Iraq war, MOAB was mainly conceived as a psychological weapon, the idea being that when employed, the bomb’s huge blast would have such a rattling psychological effect on enemy survivors or observers, they would lose all will to fight.

After reading a bit more about what exactly this bomb is and what it does, I could see how MOAB would leave a lasting, terrifying impression on any enemy.

So here’s what it is, and what it does. The GBU-43/B is a 30-foot-long, GPS-guided munition. It weighs 9,800kg and contains a little over 8 metric tons of explosive. MOAB’s ‘blast yield’, or explosion in everyday language, is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT.

MOAB, like most large weapons, including nuclear bombs, is an ‘air blast’ bomb, meaning it explodes moments before impact; in MOAB’s case, six feet above ground. The idea behind this is an air blast bomb, as opposed to a ground blast bomb, is more destructively effective, as it distributes the explosion evenly and over a wider area.

This distribution of explosion, or rather the distance that will be affected, is called a blast radius, and MOAB’s blast radius is 1 square mile, within which everything is obliterated.

I take into consideration that we’re not square mile measurement people, but rather size of land people, so let me put the size of this bomb’s explosion into a frame we can easily picture. One square mile is equivalent to 640 acres of land. Contemplate that for a moment.

Now as it turns out, MOAB is not in actual fact the most powerful non-nuclear weapon. It was, when it was originally developed, but the Americans went ahead to create an even larger weapon, which they call, Massive Ordnance Penetrator GBU-57. It has never been used in battle.

Russia, too, has a similar weapon, the ATBIP. Though physically smaller than MOAB, it has roughly four times more power and the blast radius is double.

This to say that the explosion from the ATBIP, sometimes called the ‘Father of All Bombs’, is designed to lay waste to about 1,300 acres of land.

This is not the first time I’ve looked up that weapon, or this warplane, or such and such missile, and every time I do, I often wonder, who comes up with these weapons?

Why do we humans apply ourselves so diligently to war, using science and creativity to build machines that annihilate and terrify? And what would the world be like if we applied just half this energy to peace?

Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means

– Ronald Reagan


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