The BLU-82B/C-130 weapon system, nicknamed Commando Vault in Vietnam and Daisy Cutter in Afghanistan, is a high altitude delivery of 15,000 pound conventional bomb, delivered from an MC-130 since it is far too heavy for the bomb racks on any bomber or attack aircraft. Originally designed to create an instant clearing in the jungle, it has been used in Afghanistan as an anti-personnel weapon and as an intimidation weapon because of its very large lethal radius (variously reported as 300-900 feet) combined with flash and sound visible at long distances. It is the largest conventional bomb in existence but is less than one thousandth the power of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.
Frequent press reports to the contrary, the Daisy Cutter is not a fuel-air explosive (FAE). It is a conventional explosive incorporating both agent and oxidizer. In contrast, an FAE consists only of agent and a dispersing mechanism, and takes its oxidizer from the oxygen in the air. FAEs generally run between 500 and 2000 pounds; it would be difficult to make an FAE the size of Daisy Cutter because the correct uniform mixture of agent with ambient air would be difficult to maintain if the agent were so widely dispersed. Thus, the conventional explosive technique of Daisy Cutter is more reliable than that of an FAE, particularly if there is significant wind or thermal gradient.
This system depends upon the accurate positioning of the aircraft by either a fixed ground radar or onboard navigation equipment. The ground radar controller, or aircrew navigator as applicable, is responsible for positioning the aircraft prior to final countdown and release. Primary aircrew considerations include accurate ballistic and wind computations provided by the navigator, and precision instrument flying with strict adherence to controller instructions. The minimum altitude for release due to blast effects of the weapon is 6,000 feet AGL. The BLU-82 was originally designed to clear helicopter landing zones and artillery emplacements in Vietnam. The warhead contains 12,600 pounds of low-cost GSX slurry (ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, and polystyrene) and is detonated just above ground level by a 38-inch fuze extender, optimized for destruction and ground level without digging a crater. The weapon produces an overpressure of 1000 psi [pounds per square inch] near ground zero, tapering off as distance increases.
Eleven BLU-82s were dropped during Desert Storm, all from Special Operations C-130s. The initial drops were intended to test the ability of the bomb to clear mines; no reliable bomb damage assessment exists on mine clearing effectiveness. Later, bombs were dropped as much for their psychological effect as for their antipersonnel effects. The Air Force dropped several BLU-82s during the campaign to destory the Taliban and al-Qaeda terror networks in Afganistan to attack and demoralize personnel and to destroy underground- and cave-complexes.
|Class||15,000 lb. Blast|
|Explosive||Aluminum Powder (12,600 lbs.)|
|Fuze||M904 (Nose); M905 (Tail)|