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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 11:45 GMT
Fact file: Moab

The Moab is an American experimental precision-guided bomb weighing about 21,000lbs (9,525kgs) - the largest non-nuclear weapon there is.

The Moab is an Air Force Research Laboratory technology project due to be completed in October 2003.

It is a modernisation of the current biggest bomb, the BLU-82B Commando Vault or "Daisy Cutter".

That is a 15,000lb device first used in Vietnam. Most recently a handful were used in Afghanistan.

It is so big it can be "launched" only by pushing it out of the open back door of a C-130 type transport plane on a sled, which falls away.

The new bomb was tested in the same way but differs significantly in having satellite and inertial guidance.

Whereas the Commando Vault simply falls to earth under a stabilising parachute, the new weapon directs itself towards the target and could be dropped from a higher altitude.

It contains a larger amount of the same explosive slurry of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminium.

Moab stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast - it is detonated above ground for maximum impact over a wide area.

Psychological warfare

These huge bombs create such massive explosions that one of the reasons for using them - or threatening to - is psychological.

This might be the key to the timing of the latest Moab test, and it is not clear how soon the experimental weapon might join the military arsenal.

The acronym Moab was already in the US military lexicon, standing for Missile Optimized Anti-Ballistic, according to the Ballistic Missile Defence Organization glossary.

To some the re-use of the name for a high-profile big bomb seems a little contrived - the acronym rather neatly lending itself to the "unofficial" nickname, Mother Of All Bombs.

Saddam Hussein said before the 1991 Gulf War that it would be the "mother of all battles".

The name has upset some.

The mayor of Moab, Utah - population 5,000 - wrote to the US president in February 2003 asking for another name to be used, fearing it would damage the town's image as a rural idyll famous for its outdoor pursuits.

The biggest bomb that has been used in aerial warfare was the 22,000lb British World War II Grand Slam, designed by Barnes Wallis.

The American B-36 bomber of the 1950s tested - but never dropped in anger - the 43,600lb T-12 bomb.






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