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Air Force Tests New Bomb

Aired March 11, 2003 - 15:02   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's called MOAB for massive ordinance air blast or, some would say, the mother of all bombs. And the Air Force exploded one of these 21,000 bombs (sic) -- conventional bomb, we should tell you -- this afternoon at a test range at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, Florida's panhandle. It was the first test of MOAB using real explosives.
CNN's Jamie McIntyre is at the Pentagon to tell us a little bit more about how the test went -- hello, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, apparently it went pretty well. We are hoping to have some video of this either some time later today, or perhaps from tomorrow.

We're told that it creates a 10,000-foot-high mushroom cloud that looks kind of like a nuclear weapon, but obviously this is a conventional explosive.

It's kind of a -- it's like the Daisy Cutter that was used in Afghanistan that dates back from the Vietnam era. It's kind of a Daisy Cutter on steroids, uses a much higher explosive, about 18,000 pounds of explosives, and really creates a big blast.

Now, is it ready for Iraq? We're not sure yet. But even if it's not deployed in Iraq, according to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it still can have a devastating psychological affect.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The goal is to not have a war. The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates. Short of that, an unwillingness to cooperate, the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition, and there is an enormous incentive for Saddam Hussein to leave, and spare the world a conflict.


MCINTYRE: Well, let's look at the stats on this mother of all bombs, as it has become known here at the Pentagon because of its acronym MOAB. It is a 21,000-pound bomb that carries about 18,000 of tritonal. That is a very high explosive that has a long shelf life. It also uses wings and fins to guide itself to the target, so it's a guided weapon, unlike the Daisy Cutter it replaces, which had to be dropped from a -- parachute dropped out of an airplane. And it is basically an updated -- with updated guidance, updated explosives, the biggest conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Now, could it be deployed in Iraq? Today, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs, General Richard Myers, suggested it's possible.


GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We're certainly not going to deploy something that is not ready yet, and that is not operationally suitable and effective and reliable, and all those other issues you have to go through, and supportable in the field.


MCINTYRE: That said though, the Pentagon cites many cases where weapons that were not finished with their testing process where they had been pressed into service. In fact, in the last gulf war in 1991, they cobbled together a 5,000-pound "bunker buster" bomb that was only used at the end of the Gulf War by taking a Howitzer barrel, sawing it off, and filling it up with explosives and loading it onto F-15s.

So, when it comes to war, the Pentagon is not adverse to using things that aren't fully tested if they think it will give them an advantage -- Wolf -- sorry, Miles.

O'BRIEN: It's Miles. That is alright. That sort of hurries their R and D production schedule somewhat. Jamie, let me ask you a somewhat skeptical question. This is a conventional bomb. The Pentagon knows plenty about how conventional bombs fly, they know a lot about GPS. Did they really need to do this test for any technical or engineering reasons, or is this all about sending a message to Baghdad?

MCINTYRE: Well, I think it is both. They did need to test it to see how the explosive -- if it would react the way they thought it would react. But it clearly is a psychological weapon.

Now, in Afghanistan, they dropped the Daisy Cutter not so much because it could kill a lot of al Qaeda and Taliban, which was certainly the case, but they could have done the same thing with conventional bombs dropped from B-52s. But this also, because of its massive explosion, has a real demoralizing effect, and in this case, if they use the bomb in Iraq, it may be against one of the first units to resist in order to try to set an example so that other, say, Republican Guard divisions might be convinced to give up, or just, as you said, just publicizing a videotape of this kind of explosion could also send a powerful message to the Iraqi military.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you very much. We're not done with this subject. We'll talk a little bit more about the MOAB in just a few minutes. Major General Don Shepperd joining us from Tucson. He'll give us some insights into the use for the MOAB: psychological, perhaps to clear mines. We'll ask him all about it. Now, let's move to the United Nations. Facing almost certain defeat, the U.S. and Britain have delayed today's vote in the U.N. Security Council. They are buying some time to try to sway the still undecided council members.

We turn now to our Richard Roth as we always do in these circumstances at the United Nations. We're talking about six relatively small nations, who are suddenly the toast of New York, I guess.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That's true, but don't forget that France, Russia, and Geena (ph) -- China, the permanent members still have a veto threat out there, and if they veto, it doesn't matter what the undecided six have to say.

Of course, discussions here at the United Nations have been continuing here in the building and outside the building and in the corridors. The British government has been in touch with the so- called elected 10 -- excuse me, the six undecideds about trying to get language that works for the new resolution, things that could give more time to the uncommitted to sign on.

And what does it come down to? The so-called benchmarks, so- called undecided, unfulfilled, key outstanding issues, tasks like interviews with Iraqi scientists outside of the country, where was the anthrax, sarin gas. Some tasks that are going to be hard to hit by this March 17 deadline, unless it is extended. It would still be pretty hard even after that.

Coming up right now at the United Nations Security Council, an open debate where countries from around the world get to speak on Iraq. Canada and Angola reflected on the importance, if any, of the session.


PAUL HEINBECKER, CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It's going to be an expression of international public opinion at least as translated by the governments concerned.

There are differences this time from last time. The last time, there was no U.S./U.K. resolution on the table when the debate took place. The French, Germans, and Russians hadn't articulated the position they have now done when that discussion took place. Our ideas of a compromise were not there either.

ISMAEL GASPAR MARTINS, ANGOLAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Maybe they'll not bring to the table anything new, but they will bring a voice which we must listen to.


ROTH: Inside -- right now, you're looking live at the Security Council chamber. Iraq is expected to be the first of the speakers. Dozens of countries are lined up here, and Iraq, sometimes in these types of sessions, does not really make any news or say anything different, but there are a lot of issues to talk about that it may use this forum as a chance to speak. Of course, it got to speak as the last delegate to speak in Friday's big session, along with the 15 members of the Security Council speaking.

Here at the United Nations, Miles, people know that the deadline is running short. The United States says it wants the vote by the end of this week. The U.K. government is struggling to see if, should there be any changes to the resolution and if so, what are they, and what will attract more votes -- back to you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Richard, tell me a little about this open session. How much is it apt to sway any members of the Security Council, no matter where they stand?

ROTH: Well, if we look at the session right now -- by the way, I think you can see the British ambassador on the right talking with Kuwait's ambassador. These speeches that will take place here are for national consumption.

They may be used to put more weight on the undecided six, as if they needed more, and they give a chance to update the world on how these countries feel about the new resolution, which was not on the table the last time such a debate was held.

Some people criticized the U.N. as being a talk shop, and maybe point to meetings like this, but the majority of these countries are going to be speaking out against a war, and they may represent what the public view is in a lot of their countries.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Richard Roth at the United Nations. We'll be watching this open session very closely, of course -- Heidi.

COLLINS: And Miles, while the U.N. tries to figure out a time line, troops of the 101st Airborne division in the Kuwaiti desert are busy waiting for war.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote is with the troops at Camp New Jersey in Kuwait. He joins us now live.

Ryan, with the timeline of war, we're wondering with respect to any new equipment that might be coming in, and also the morale of the troops. How are these people holding up?

CHILCOTE: Well, the troops are holding up. Obviously, they are prepared to wait. They are soldiers. They are fulfilling their duty. But they are not prepared to wait indefinitely. The way that most of the soldiers that I've talked to are looking at this, they say they have come here to do a job. They would prefer to get that job done so that they can get home.

Now, in terms of their equipment, the 101st Airborne division is steaming forward irrespective of those deliberations at the United Nations. This weekend the USS Dahl pulled into port after a three week trek -- three week journey from the port of Jacksonville, Florida. On board it, its Apache, the first of the 101st Airborne's Apache attack helicopters to arrive. Today, we saw dozens of those Apaches already on the flight line out at Camp Udari (ph). Today, another ship arrived in port, the USS Bob Hope. On board it, even more Apache attack helicopters, even more helicopters for moving troops and more equipment.

The 101st Airborne says once they get that ship unloaded, they will have enough of what they call "combat power" to fulfill any mission that the president might hand down to them in any war in Iraq.

So the 101st says, should the March 17 deadline hold, they will be prepared to fulfill any missions they get long before that deadline -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Ryan Chilcote coming to us live from Camp New Jersey in Kuwait. Thank you.

And as we know, MOAB -- Miles, back over to you...

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Heidi.

MOAB: it can be used against big formations of troops and equipment, above ground or hardened bunkers, facilities that are deeply buried. It is that big bomb we have been telling you about. But the bomb's main value may be in what are called the psychological operations.

Our military analyst, retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd joining us now from Tucson to talk a little bit about MOAB. General Shepperd, good to see you again, sir.


O'BRIEN: How much of this is psychological, how much is actual mine clearing oomph (ph)?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's hard to say. As Jamie McIntyre said in his report, this a really big conventional bomb. The value of it is, just like any conventional explosion, blast and concussion. It's not designed to clear mine fields. It's designed for troops in the open, vertical structures, and there are rumors that some versions may be designed, at least later on, to dig out deeply buried targets.

On the other hand, it has a great psychological value simply because of the blast. We used them in Afghanistan for that very purpose. It could be -- it could be deployed if required in Iraq.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk about the bomb that was deployed in Afghanistan, and take a look at some animation we put together for you. That one was called Daisy Cutter, has about 5,000 or 6,000 pounds less explosive power than the MOAB. You can see when it comes out, this is a dumb bomb. It has a parachute on it, and then it goes down and has essentially, a kind of napalm in it, right, General Shepperd?

SHEPPERD: Well, actually it was a -- it's a bomb that came out of the Vietnam era, and it was pushed out of the back of a C-130 as you saw by parachute to clear landing fields for helicopters was the main use of it. I saw some of them delivered when I was in Vietnam.

In Afghanistan, it was greatly improved. It had been reported as a fuel-air explosive. That is not the case, it is a conventional explosive. But the old Daisy Cutter weighed 15,000. The new one weighs 21,000, and it has around 18,000 pounds of tritonal in it. So it is a very, very massive advancement in this particular weapon if it's used -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: And there is one other thing, as we look at the animation which would depict exactly how a MOAB -- same aircraft, the MC-130, special operations might be flying it. And as we look at that and fly that particular segment -- not that particular one, if we could get the other one up in the weather segment and show you exactly how it goes. There goes the C-130. The door opens, out it comes the back. And what we have shown here, if you take a look at those lines -- couldn't really freeze it, but you can see that tremendous explosion. They talked about a 10,000-foot mushroom cloud. But those lines leading to it indicate guidance from satellites, GPS guidance. That is very significant, isn't it?

SHEPPERD: It is indeed. This is being advertised as JDAM or Global Positioning System satellite-assisted guidance for this weapon, making it very accurate, unlike the one released in the Vietnam era with the parachute. So this should be much, much more accurate and much more powerful.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this question. I asked Barbara Starr this question a few moments ago. In a sense, has MOAB potentially already done its job?

SHEPPERD: Could be. This could be psychological. It could be part of the information warfare campaign, letting Saddam and his forces know that we have got it. Now, clearly, this bomb is not ready to deploy because it's in testing. On the other hand, we have a track record, if needed in a war, of rushing these things in at the last minute, such as the Predator, such as the Global Hawk, such as the penetrator bomb that Jamie McIntyre talked about in his report -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Major General Don Shepperd, joining us from Tucson.


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