The U.S. Dropped a MOAB in Afghanistan and You'll Never Believe What Happened Next!

Short answer: someone opened the bag of idiots.

But let’s examine that further. It was big news all over that the MOAB (officially the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) is the “largest non-nuclear bomb in the Air Force inventory.”


And yeah, it is. Big bomb. 18,700 pounds, about 9.35 tons, of explosives. (By the way, I’m cribbing from the Global Security web page; you’ll find slightly different numbers other places.)

The explosive is a formulation called H6, which combines “RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), TNT, and aluminum,” which is slightly more energetic than TNT, so it’s estimated to be about an 11-ton yield. (Bomb yield is normalized to the explosive force of pure TNT.)

Big bada boom.

(Love that movie.)

But the story has the usual sudden but inevitable betrayal for journalists: it has numbers. Someone at USA Today heard “biggest non-nuclear bomb” and produced this graphic (since corrected):

Okay, pop quiz: what’s the problem there? The answer: the Hiroshima bomb was 15 KILOtons, not 15 TONS. The Hiroshima bomb was 1363.636363… times bigger, not 1.36.

This either incited, or just happened to fit into, the Trump derangement crowds’ immediate reaction, exemplified by a post on Facebook to the effect that since this was almost as big as a nuclear weapon, it was foreshadowing the coming Trump nuclear war.


So, let’s get some sense of proportion.

A Tomahawk has a 1000-pound payload. So this is like 19 Tomahawks.

A B-52 has a nominal payload of 70,000 pounds, but that’s with full fuel load. The tweet below shows a B-52 dropping 81 1000-pound bombs.

So, this was roughly a quarter of a B-52.

But none of that matters, because first, it’s Trump, and second, it’s numbers, and between the two of them for a large part of the population, all thinking is extinguished.


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