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MILTECH
Five views on the 'Mother of All Bombs' in Afghanistan
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) April 14, 2017


US strike in Afghanistan: What is the 'Mother of All Bombs'
Kabul (AFP) April 14, 2017 - The United States has dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, otherwise known as the 'Mother of All Bombs', on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province.

It is the first time the bomb, developed in the early days of the Iraq war, has been used in combat.

- How powerful is the MOAB? -

The 9.8-tonne guided bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in America's arsenal, is described by the US-based GlobalSecurity.org watchdog as "large, powerful and accurately delivered".

It is a demolition bomb containing 18,700 pounds (8,480 kilogrammes) of the explosive H6, the watchdog's website says, with a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT.

Nine metres (30 feet) long, with a diameter of one metre, according to GlobalSecurity.org, it is the largest-ever satellite-guided, air-delivered weapon in history. Popular Mechanics described it as weighing as much as an F-16 fighter jet.

Guided by GPS, it is dropped from the cargo ramp of a C-130 transport plane with its descent slowed by parachute, meaning it can be deployed from a greater height -- giving US pilots more time to reach safety.

It is a concussive bomb, meaning it is designed to detonate before it hits the ground. Its thin aluminium skin helps to maximise its blast radius and generate a shockwave which Wired.com said can reach up to 150 metres.

- Who made it? -

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

The website said the bomb's preliminary concept was developed into a detailed design within just three months, and successfully tested three times in 13 days. It was first produced for use in the early days of the Iraq war.

According to the Air Force, the last time the MOAB was tested in 2003, a huge mushroom cloud could be seen from 20 miles (32 kilometres) away.

- What was the target? -

The US Air Force said the target of Thursday's bombing was a tunnel complex in Achin district in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, a hotbed of Islamic State (IS) militancy on the border with Pakistan.

Achin District Governor Esmail Shinwari said the bomb landed in the Momand Dara area while the defence ministry said the attack killed at least 36 IS militants. A damage assessment is still being carried out.

The area is extremely remote and mountainous, inaccessible to government forces. It is north of Tora Bora, the complex network of caves from where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden gave US forces the slip and escaped into Pakistan in late 2001.

The US said it believed the area was so remote that no civilians were in the area.

The strike hit a system of tunnels and caves that IS fighters had used to "move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces" nearby, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Wired.com said a concussive bomb such as the MOAB has the advantage in such terrain: "Its blast can turn corners, and push all the way to the furthest reaches of a cave."

The United States has dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan, killing dozens of Islamic State militants in a dramatic escalation that US President Donald Trump said had been "very, very successful".

Here are five other views on the use of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb -- dubbed the "Mother Of All Bombs" -- for the first time in combat since it was developed in the early days of the Iraq war.

US Central Command

General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told a press conference in Kabul Friday that the bomb was the "right weapon against the right target".

"The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels and extensive mine fields, and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles so that we could continue our offensive in southern Nangarhar," he said, adding US and Afghan forces at the site had seen "no evidence of civilian casualties".

Afghan leaders

Afghanistan's president Ashraf Ghani threw his support behind the bombardment, emphasising that "precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties".

But other officials dissented, with several such as Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan envoy to Pakistan, slamming the strike as "reprehensible" and "counterproductive".

"If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today," he tweeted.

Analysts

As the dust settled analysts also began to question just how much the sound and fury of the strike signified, with some suggesting the decision may have been "disproportionate".

"The Trump administration made a lot of noise with this bomb, but the general state of play on the ground remains the same: The Taliban continues to wage a formidable and ferocious insurgency. ISIS, by comparison, is a sideshow," Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington told AFP, using an alternative acronym for IS.

"Still, from a strategic standpoint, there is an unsettling takeaway here: The US pulled off a huge shock and awe mission against an enemy that isn't even the top threat to the US in Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to sit pretty," he said.

Residents of Achin

Civilians living in Achin district appeared to welcome the bombardment.

"Daesh (IS) fighters are active in this area and have overrun our houses," said Achin resident Khair Mohammad. "We don't care if our houses are destroyed, we want Daesh to be eliminated."

Achin residents who spoke to AFP along the border with Pakistan, near the Torkham Gate crossing, appeared to shrug off early reports of the blast, however.

"I heard that there was some sort of bombing last night but it's nothing new, we are used to it," welder Arshad Ali told AFP.

"I talked to my family members over the phone last night and they said there had been shelling," said labourer Safdar Shinwari.

"Shelling and drone strikes are routine in that area and it's nothing unusual," he added.

Islamic State

More than 20 hours after the blast, IS issued a statement denying it had suffered any casualties whatsoever.

"Security source to Amaq agency denies any dead or wounded from yesterday's American strike in Nangarhar using a GBU-43/B," the group's self-styled news agency said on social media accounts.

IS rarely admits its losses after such attacks.

For its part, the Taliban quickly condemned what it called "America's heavy use of weapons on Afghanistan".

burs-st/rb

MILTECH
British Army extends support contract with Saab for simulator system
Washington (UPI) Apr 10, 2017
The British Army is extending its contract with Saab, continuing the company's support for the Direct Fire Weapon Effects Simulator. The three-year contract extension is valued at approximately $25 million, and will go into effect during the first quarter of 2017. The Direct Fire Weapon Effects Simulator, or DFWES, is a high-fidelity laser-based training simulation platform desig ... read more

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