The Last Time A MOAB Was Detonated Was Very Different

by Celia Darrough
Carl Court/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The U.S. military dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb in Afghanistan on Thursday that reportedly targeted a ISIS complex in the region. Commonly known as a MOAB — and nicknamed the "mother of all Bombs — the bomb is touted as the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the United States' arsenal. But has a MOAB ever been used before? The last time one was detonated was done so in a very different manner.

In fact, a MOAB has reportedly never been used on the battlefield, making this the first time the United States has used the 22,000-pound bomb in a combat situation. The only times one of these bombs have ever been detonated before were in testing. The most recent was in November 2003, when a test took place at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. It was previously tested once prior, in March 2003.

The bomb was developed for the Iraq War but was never used. Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003 that it was as much meant to deter the war from escalating. "The goal is to not have a war," he said at the time, according to CBS. "The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates."

The nickname "mother of all bombs" reportedly alludes to something Saddam Hussein once said before the 1991 Gulf War, saying that it would be the "mother of all battles."

It's unclear why now, of all times, the bomb was used. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the bomb targeted a "system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely." The bomb reportedly has 11 tons of explosives and is designed to be "delivered accurately to enemy forces with the main intention of permanently disabling them," according to a 2008 article from Eglin Air Force Base.

President Donald Trump did say during his presidential campaign that he would go after ISIS and their oil fields and "bomb the shit out of 'em." However, according to CBS, Spicer would not confirm if Trump personally approved the use of the MOAB, only stating that Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, would have been required to get permission from someone up his chain of command.

Just one week prior to the MOAB being dropped in Afghanistan, the United States sent 59 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in Syria, though that was in response to a chemical attack reportedly carried out by Bashar al-Assad's regime. Spicer stated, "The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously, and in order to defeat the group, we must deny them operational space, which we did." This could be the start of Trump's aggressive fight against ISIS.