It appears that the testing of new weapons “which have no match in the world” is becoming a tradition in Russia. The recent example is what the Russian military describes as the world’s most powerful non-nuclear air-delivered bomb, which was successfully tested on September 11, 2007, during the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The bomb was dropped by parachute from a Tu-160 strategic bomber. Unlike the recently demonstrated strategic and hypersonic cruise-type missiles, the new bomb could be used tomorrow if need be.
Click here to see photos of the bomb test
The new air-delivered ordnance is quite comparable to a nuclear weapon in terms of efficiency and capability. Unlike a nuclear weapon, the bomb does not contaminate the environment. The U.S. Massive Ordnance Air Blast, first tested in 2003, had been previously considered the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb in history. The U.S. bomb was nicknamed the Mother of All Bombs. In an evident fit of pique, the Russian military dubbed its new bomb the Father of All Bombs.
According to experts, there is no point in trying to determine which of the two nations pioneered the use of a thermobaric weapon that explodes in an intense fireball coupled with a massive blast. The original thermobaric bomb was used by the Germans to cause damage to the British military facilities in Gibraltar during Word War Two. The Germans sprayed hydrogen over a vast area to combine it with atmospheric oxygen and create a highly explosive mixture. The cloud was detonated using a conventional air-delivered bomb. U.S. aircraft used an advanced version of the bomb during the Vietnam War. The Soviet military used thermobaric ordnances against the Chinese troops during the border clashes in 1969. Similar weapons were also used by the Soviet military against Muslim guerilla fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s. These days the Russian armed forces are reported to have a wide variety of third-generation thermobaric ordnances.
Even terrorists holed up in the caves can be eliminated by the blast of a thermobaric or volume-detonation bomb that wreaks destruction through a massive shockwave created by the air burst and high temperature. The consumption of gases in the blast also creates a partial vacuum that compounds damage and injuries caused by the explosion itself. The overpressures equal to an atomic bomb can cause devastating damage to whatever is below. As a rule, humans sustain injures incompatible with life – the eyeballs are ripped out of the sockets, the lungs are torn into shreds, and other internal organs including the brain are irretrievably damaged.
The new bomb should supersede Russia’s arsenal of small-yield nuclear weapons, according to sources within the Russian military. Thebomb does not contradict a single international treaty, said a statement released by the Russian Defense Ministry. Indeed, there is no international treaty whatsoever that bans the manufacture and use of volume-detonation ordnances. “We have got a cheap bomb with a high strike power,” said Colonel General Alexander Rukshin, a first deputy of the Russian military’s General Staff, in televised remarks.
Thermobaric devices detonate in two stages. A main of load of explosive material is first dispersed into a cloud by a small blast. The highly explosive cloud is then set off by a second charge. An ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature constitute the bomb’s strike power. Thanks to nanotechnologies used during its manufacture, the highly explosive material of the new bomb explodes in an intense fireball that causes all that is alive to evaporate, said the Russian Defense Ministry. According to experts in explosion physics, it is the makeup of the bomb’s explosive material that is the Russian military’s main secret which is kept and will be kept under lock and key for a long time.
Both Soviet-made and U.S.-made thermobaric ordnances of the past were considered as “dirty bombs” because of the mixture of acetylene and propylene ignited in air during a blast.
The use of the above components can easily contaminate the environment. One can only guess what kind of a “new, highly efficient type” of explosives has been used for the making of Russia’s new thermobaric bomb.
Besides, shockwaves produced by the explosion of the new Russian bomb can be deliberately directed and amplified to commensurate with a strike power required for the destruction of a target, said the aforementioned experts in explosion physics. That is probably why Col.-Gen. Rukshin mentioned the low cost of the bomb. It is noteworthy that the testing of the air-delivered “Father of All Bombs” took place shortly after President Putin ordered the resumption of regular patrols of strategic bombers, which were suspended after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin is evidently sending a clear signal to whom it may concern.
The question is: why did the bomb come to light just a while ago? All and all, the “novelty” has been around for at least fifteen years. Some analysts draw a parallel between the testing of the new bomb and the start of Russia’s election campaign (a State Duma race is, without doubt, more preferable than an arms race). Others indicate that the Russian military-industrial complex simply has nothing else to display in an argument over the deployment of U.S. missile defense system assets in Europe. Some analysts are confident that an arms race is really taking place.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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