The Thermobaric Bomb
Only in the land of the free would a woman be given the opportunity to make the newest super-duper weaponthe thermobaric bomb!
Anh Duong, who fled Saigon for the U.S. in 1975, wished to serve her adopted country against tyranny. And in doing so she became the lead bomb-maker at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland, where she is the designer behind the bunker-buster custom-crafted to atomize Osama bin Laden's underground lairs.
Duong and her team of bombing boffins worked out the explosive kinks at an accelerated pace, taking only two months to devise the ultra-powerful munition after the Defense Threat Reduction Agency sent out an order for a new fire in the hole. The first was sicced on a Nevada tunnel in December 2001.
The test brought the house downturning a regular-looking mine into a really trashed-looking one.
The thermobaric bomb's magic ingredient is aluminum dust, also the secret component of another legendary weapon in the arsenal, the behemoth Daisy Cutter. Aluminum, handy foil in your kitchen drawer, is a highly dangerous explosive hazard when powdered. Duong's design duplicates conditions in a mine saturated with the flammable dustand then strikes a match, unleashing a twisting inferno and metal-shredding concussion.
Ten thermobaric bombs were commissioned for the war in Afghanistan. One is known to have been used, according to The Baltimore Sun. That round missed, proving that even techno-wizard bangs are useless if one can't aim.
Despite publicly reported failure, the legend of the thermobaric bomb is great. Introduced as a wonder weapon by mainstream-media lapdogs, it has also been denounced as a weapon of mass destruction akin to a massive and sinister Russian fuel-air explosive used in Chechnya. One publication dubbed it an anti-Muslim bomb.
Not so, said an air force general assigned to spin control. The thermobaric incinerator was vetted by the Pentagon, and, in Kafkaesque wordage, "found consistent with all international legal obligations of the United States, including the law of armed conflict."
Straight with the law of armed conflict or not, it is certain the thermobaric bomb is now being eyed for use in Iraq. In Gulf War I, Baghdad bunker-busting backfired when civilians were cooked in a bomb shelter. With the thermobaric bomb, however, one cannot tell if one has hit Saddam or plain folk, because everything in range is . . . dusted.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.