Jane VaynmanQuestioning Russia's Bomb Test

A few weeks ago I blogged about Russia’s “Father of All Bombs,” a fuel-air bomb they claimed to be the world’s largest non-nuclear weapon.

Did the Russians really drop the bomb off a Tu-160 bomber or was the drop a hoax?

David Axe at Wired has some interesting speculations.


  1. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    The larger question is the gradual merging of capabilities between nuclear and conventional weapons. (with the exception of fallout and radiation.)

    As conventional bombs get more accurate, penetrate ground / bunkers better, or the bombs simply get bigger and more efficient, at what point do the use of them have similar outcomes / effects (except radiation and fallout) to a small nuclear device?

    Being ‘conventional’ weapons, they do not have the taboo against using them that nuclear enjoyed after WWII and are far more likely to be used in a conflict.

    At what point do states that rely on relatively small nuclear arsenals begin to get worried that they are vulnerable to a conventional first strike?

    Whether or not the Russians bluffed or not is beside the point. The larger worry is the obsolescence of smaller nuclear arsenals – especially those who are not well protected.

    What if small scale nuclear deterrence starts to lose credibility?

  2. Rob (History)

    Russians are known for their “thermobaric” weapons. Like the RPO-A Shmel Bumblebee… We don’t have one like this. the Marines come close but its not a true thermobaric weapon.

    But I can’t get excited about something that is no more than an oversized daisy cutter… of course they are not bluffing… why wwould they this weapon is very simple to build, so simple your grand kids could do it….

  3. Alex W. (History)

    In any case, these sorts of arms are probably less relevant in modern warfare than, say, IEDs and ANFOs. In my opinion small, cheap, and easy to assemble conventional bombs are a lot scarier than high-tech and gigantic conventional bombs. As far as I know the MOAB (much less the FOAB) has never been used in actual battle, whereas IEDs are being set off on a weekly/daily(?) basis in Iraq…

    (I’ve been getting very into Mike Davis’ Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb — heavily recommended, fascinating stuff!)

  4. Jim (History)

    Referencing Alex W’s post, and taking it one step further, the Russians built the true weapon of mass destruction long ago, the AK-47.

    In regards to Axe’s article, while I appreciate healthy skepticism of the CW, I lose him big-time here:

    ‘The details of the “new” bomb’s provenance and design are murky, but one thing is clear. The Father of All Bombs’ test model was not delivered by a Tu-160 bomber, as implied. Nowhere in the video are the bomber and the bomb in the same shot.’

    I know he goes on to mention the a few other ideas, but he has nothing concrete as to why Tu-160 can’t deliver this bomb, just ideas. Yet it is “clear.”

    I think these claims of clarity should be taken with at least as much a grain of salt as Axe takes the bomb itself with.