Warplanes: December 21, 2001

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Correcting its previous reports, the Pentagon now says that no fuel-air explosive (FAE) bombs have been dropped in Afghanistan. Three BLU-82s have been dropped. Two were enough to break the defenses of Mazar-I-Sharif and the third broke the back of Taliban resistance at Kandahar. While these are referred to in the press as Daisy Cutter bombs, this term in fact refers to the fuze (which could be fitted to any of several bombs). The Daisy Cutter fuze is a four-foot stand-off probe that detonates the weapon a few feet above the ground, improving its blast effect. This is slowly being phased out in favor of radar-altimeter fuzes. The BLU-82/B doesn't have a name, although some pilots call it the Big Blue. Missions to drop these (and other types of) huge bombs are called Commando Vault. It is a 15,400-pound high explosive bomb, containing 12,600 pounds of a slurry of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum. The bomb was designed to be as big as it could be and still fit into a C-130. Big Blue was confused (by Pentagon spokesmen) with the CBU-72/B, which is a fuel-air explosive bomb used in the Gulf War, and with the BLU-72/B which was used only in Vietnam. The Pentagon says it is currently redeveloping fuel-air explosive bombs for future use.--Stephen V Cole

 


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