One of China’s leading defense companies has tested a massive bomb. It’s widely said to be the country’s answer to a U.S.-built weapon, known as the “Mother of All Bombs.”
The state-run China Ordnance Industries Group Corporation Limited, better known by its official acronym Norinco, shared test footage earlier this week of a new aerial bomb being dropped by a Xian H-6K strategic bomber. Referencing the official Xinhua News Agency, ruling Chinese Communist Party official newspaper The Global Times said the weapon weighed several tons and was considered the People’s Liberation Army’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb.
Citing Beijing-based military analyst Wei Dongxu, the outlet said the bomb’s size, when compared to the H-6K’s bomb, may measure five to six meters, or up to nearly 20 feet long.
“The massive blast can easily and completely wipe out fortified ground targets such as reinforced buildings, bastions and defense shelters,” Wei told said, noting that the weapon could be also be used to clear obstacles and make room for an aircraft landing zone.
The U.S. first developed the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, known as the “Mother of All Bombs” or M.O.A.B after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but did not use the weapon in combat until April 2017 when a Lockheed Martin MC-130 Hercules dropped the 11-ton device on an alleged Islamic State militant group (ISIS) cave complex in the Achin district of the southern Nangarhar province.
The strike was described as successful but then-Defense Secretary James Mattis declined to offer any casualty figures, telling reporters at the time that “frankly, digging into tunnels to count dead bodies is probably not a good use of our troops’ time.” Afghan officials estimates ranged from 36 to 92 ISIS fighters killed.
Not to be outdone, rumors emerged that Russia put its own oversized bomb to use in Syria as part of a rival campaign against ISIS in September. The weapon, known officially as the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power and dubbed the “Father of All Bombs” or F.O.A.B., was said by observers to have been used against a jihadi position in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
A commentary on the military section of Chinese website Sina noted the psychological effect of such powerful bombs, as demonstrated by the U.S. military’s use of the 7.5-ton BLU-82 during the Gulf War, which was reportedly so destructive that one British SAS commando team mistakenly reported to their headquarters that “the blokes have just nuked Kuwait!” as recounted in a 1991 Newsweek article.
The commentary, along with another write-up at Phoenix New Media, suggested the bomb may be around 10 tons. Wei’s analysis at The Global Times also suggested that the Chinese bomb was likely smaller than the U.S. version, allowing the Chinese air force to deploy the weapon using a bomber rather than a transport aircraft.