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Mar 11, 2003 | 23:41 GMT

2 mins read

MOAB: A Psychological Letdown?

The United States Air Force tested a 21,000-pound Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida March 11. The bomb "did what they expected it to do. Nothing malfunctioned," a Pentagon spokesperson told the media. The Pentagon had played up the MOAB for days before the test, emphasizing the size and power of the bomb and commenting on its effectiveness as part of a psychological warfare campaign. During comments earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joked that the bomb was "not small," and said there was a psychological component to all aspects of warfare. Rumsfeld added, "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." Yet the hype before the test may have backfired, as reports following the detonation of the MOAB were anything but exciting. A CNN reporter stationed in Florida and monitoring a seismograph that had clearly registered the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia earlier in the year noted that the MOAB test barely registered on the machine. Other media interviews with people living in and near Eglin were similarly under-whelmed by the test, saying it did not live up to the warnings and expectations the military and media had purveyed for days. The Air Force, which was to release a tape of the explosion and hold a news conference following the test, still has not done so, adding to speculation that, while the test was successful, it was not as impressive as anticipated. And in this, the lead-up media hype may well have undermined the psychological impact of the MOAB. While the detonation was reportedly successful, the bomb cannot approach the perceived image of destructive power that was expected.

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