I like Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker. A highly-educated man and a usually a sensible one but I must shake my head he when praised the decision to drop the US Military's largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan a day or two ago. He seems to think that it was “a reminder both to the Russians and the North Koreans that we have enormous assets if we want to use them.” Note, I don’t dispute the use of the weapon at all, in a place like Afghanistan, in the rural area, why not… but don’t tell me it will frighten the Russians and North Koreans, that is the mother of all idiotic thinking and coming on the recent cruise missile strike on Syria, without any evidence that the guilty was attacked, I must wonder if the Trump White House lost the plot. It seems to me we are back at the Pentagon’s way of thinking, “let us flatten everything and then run for home leaving a complete mess behind.” In counter terrorism, as well as counter insurgency, that is 100% the wrong way of doing things, the easy way, yes, but wrong. The next step would be to re-introduce ground forces (something the Dramarats, as we call Democrats in GMJ Books, want, it will destroy Mr Trump’s Presidency) and then a few years from now, they too will be back, having lost yet another war. Time will tell.
You may ask me, what is the GBU-43, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” which Gingrich is so proud about? When you have written almost 32 good novels, well researched, you will know the answer and we discussed the subject in Code Name Celery 50, let me share it with you:
… “Eh, good point, that is. Hmm, anyway, when you spray the fields, the fluids create vapours? Why not then spray Abaskuul’s plants with a fuel mixture? We shoot a flare down or someone do so from below and run like hell!”
“FAE, fuel air explosives?” As always she caught on pretty quickly.
There are wonderful weapons of destruction around and seldom used and thermobaric bomb falls in this category. The Russians got such a device which they claim and it may be true, they demonstrated it in 2007, which contains almost 8 tons of explosives – but because they used “nanotechnology” the 7.8 tons, to be precise, is as effective as 44 tons of regular TNT. As you may imagine, that is an enormous explosion in itself but it gets worse, they combined it with tons of fuel and what happens is two explosions. The bomb is dropped from a fairly high height, a drone parachute deploys to slow it down (so the dropping aircraft can escape) and then above the surface target area, the first and smaller explosion creates the fuel to vaporise into a cloud around the falling bomb, and then comes the second explosion, igniting the fuel. The effect is the same as a small nuclear device, the tactical nukes, with a blast radius of 990 feet and more. These are seriously scary weapons. (We found out later, that the Russian FAE contained liquid fuel known as ethylene oxide, mixed with some aluminium. It is not new as they claimed. During the Second World War a fellow named Mario Zippermayr, working for the Luftwaffe, tried to make a FAE bomb. What the Nazis also did, was to add powdered aluminium into their explosive mixtures, that increased the German bombs destructive capabilities, pound for pound, over the Allies’ versions by about 30%. The Russians used the same tactic, Angelique.)
Such thermobaric weapons are significantly more effective than conventional chemical explosions but they have drawbacks, serious ones. Firstly, they won’t and cannot work underwater nor at too high an altitude (not sure why anyone would want to explode one above 1,500 feet anyway, Angelique). The reason for this shortcoming is the third element, they need oxygen to work. On the other hand, once they explode, they are destructive like hell and very able to clear a jungle for helicopter to land in (done in Vietnam by the USAF) or to take a building down. Best of all from the viewpoint of the bombers, it will kill with its blast wave most combatants in foxholes and confined spaces such as caves, bunkers and other hiding places. After the blast wave comes a vacuum which ruptures your lungs, you may also inhale the burning fuel and it is not an easy way to die if you survived the initial blast. The ones at ground zero, and we are speaking of human beings here, will be obliterated into atoms, gone forever, but those a bit further away will suffer many invisible injuries like burst eardrums, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs, and it is known, blindness. Such a weapon will severely test your medical units to cope.
The US led the initial development and was followed by the Soviets, and then the Chinese and now most major countries have such bombs even the Pommies (US sourced). The Yanks will always fascinate me with their military speak, designed to make no sense to outsiders, a code. They called their latest and greatest thermobaric bomb “MOAB” which apparently stands for “Massive Ordnance Air Burst” and that part is as boring as eating garlic fish, unofficially, the MOAB is called “Mother of All Bombs” and demonstrated in 2003, probably to impress the Iraqis, it was just before the invasion. They did use them operationally in Afghanistan. It seems a single 2,000-pound laser guided thermobaric bomb was dropped against caves in the Gardez region of Afghanistan, the concealed Taliban members stood no chance. And then in 2004, US Marines used thermobaric weapons, the SMAW-NE, during the First and Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. Yet it is not a common weapon, it has very specific uses.
The Russians, as ever interested in making weapons to counter the rest of the world, they are a suspicious lot, called their bomb “FAOB” or “Father of All Bombs” since it outperforms the MOAB by several factors. Yet, as effective as such weapons are, you need a bomber flying steady at a level height to drop it, free falling down like World War Two bombs. In other words, against a decent air force, without air superiority, you may very well be shot down during the attempt as will something like a C-130 gunship, you will not make it against fighter jets. But technology went on, as it is with weapons. Not all such bombs need aircraft for delivery. We know they can be fired by handheld rocket launchers or from artillery, both tube and guided rocket variety and they are powerful weapons no matter how they get to you. For example, the Russian RPO-M (handheld) fires a thermobaric warhead with a TNT equivalence of 12 pounds but has the destructive power of a 6-inch (155mm) high explosive artillery shell. The guided missile variety will clear fields of infantry in no time, and there is no nuclear fallout to worry about (ask me about being contaminated, most cruelly). There is no doubt that Russia used their thermobaric weapons in Chechnya to great effect. They do not have liberals crying foul or abetting the enemy by sitting inside Baghdad giving advice on television on how to screw the American Military. Such people and members of the opposition have a nasty way of being shot dead by people unknown, inside Moscow or poisoned in London.
Worryingly, from a counter terrorism viewpoint, thermobaric and fuel-air explosives are used in terrorist attacks. The best-known example is probably the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing in Lebanon. The bombs used some gas-enhanced mixture (probably propane or butane, Angelique) and then again in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. There they attempted to use the three tanks of bottled hydrogen gas as boosters, trying to get a bigger explosion or FAE. Certainly, the same principles were used in the 2002 Bali bombings of the Sari nightclub where many died, it was terrible. (Once again Islamic terrorism, the so-called Jemaah Islamiyah bombers conducted that attack in the name of Islam. They murdered 202 people, the majority Australians – 88 and 20 other nations’ citizens including 38 Indonesians. The arrested terrorists were executed in 2008. There will be many more such attacks in the future, Angelique.) … (Taken from Code Name Celery 50.)
It worries me when you start believing your own propaganda, when you don’t understand that you are not the only country in the world with advanced weapons, and you seem to know even less history. Do you know what Field Marshal Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein said? “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow’. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: ‘Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.’ It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives.” It is ironical to me that whatever other problems we have in South Africa, and I highlight them in every GMJ Book, having to worry about nuclear armed countries attacking each other because of stupidity and a desire to look macho to local voters, is not one of them. GMJ
George M James is a pseudo name for the author and used for security reasons. He is an expert on counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations in sub Saharan Africa, a military and war historian and published author of 43 books. His late wife was an American Patriot that served with the U.S. Navy. His books are widely read among military veterans of many nations.