A Brief History
On September 11, 2007, the Russian military tested the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in history, a weapon they called “The Father of All Bombs.” Actually designated “Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power,” or ATBIP, this 15,650 lb bomb has the explosive equivalence of around 44 tons of TNT.
Trumping the US “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” also known as “The Mother of All Bombs,” the FOAB was designed to take the place of smaller nuclear weapons, thus giving the Russian military an alternative to nuclear escalation.
Consisting of a mixture of high explosives and powdered aluminum with ethylene oxide, the bomb does its damage by creating tremendous blast rather than throwing shrapnel. It is the supersonic blast wave that does all the damage, and thermo baric bombs have a much longer blast duration than conventional bombs, creating a larger and sustained blast wave. Despite the American MOAB being heavier than the Russian FOAB, the Russian bomb is about 4 times more powerful. The effects of these thermobaric bombs are quite similar to that of fuel air explosives (FAE) that have been around for the past few decades, first used in Viet Nam by the US, though the Germans experimented with powdered coal bombs during World War II.
Even terrorists have attempted to employ thermobaric/fuel air explosives of a sort with some success in the 1983 attack on the US Marine compound in Beirut and in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. This “Poor Man’s” enhanced bomb uses conventional explosives with canisters of flammable gas, such as propane or acetylene. Witnesses to the Beirut bomb told me personally that they thought they had been nuked when the bomb went off. (I was a Marine Corps intelligence officer at the time.)
Humankind just does not seem to stop dreaming up ways to kill and destroy, as these weapons prove. What other non-nuclear weapons do you fear?
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