I read in the past for the existence of the so called "Mother Of All Bombs" and for some reason I still thought it was a fuel-air or thermobaric bomb. However after the first operational use (here) I went back to re-read its technical aspects.

It is claimed to have 8,5 tons of tritonal which is a 80-20 TNT-Aluminium powder mixture, 18% more powerful than TNT alone with a blast yield equal to 11 tons of TNT.

Is it true that they used 8,5 tons of a more sophisticated explosive, to achieve a destructive effect of 11 tons of TNT? It is also claimed that has a very large cost of about $16M dollars. Is this also true?

  • 1
    Skeptics.SE is for pointing to a notable claim and asking "Is this true?" It is not for pointing to a notable object and asking "Why's this special?"
    – jwodder
    Apr 14, 2017 at 14:22
  • 2
    IIRC 59 cruise missiles of 1.6 million US$ each were launched at this Syrian airfield 10 days ago, so cost does not seem to be an issue.
    – user22865
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:21
  • It's GBU, not GRU.
    – Scrontch
    Apr 18, 2017 at 7:51

1 Answer 1


Yes, both claims appear to be true

The NYT reports:

...using a 20,000-pound bomb that cost $16 million, and more than $300 million to develop...

Business Insider:

But the number heavily cited across social media, $314 million, was how much the US military paid for 20 such bombs, technically called the Massive Ordnance Air Blast.

A lot of reputable news media outlets base those estimate on this site: http://www.deagel.com/Defensive-Weapons/GBU-43B_a000978001.aspx

So it appears that the cost of the program was around $314 million, 20 bombs were delivered to the military thus the unit cost was ~ $16 million.

It's not unusual for the first unit to have very high cost because of large capital investment (research, design, machines, etc) but the variable cost (how much it costs for materials & labor to build a bomb once you have all the facilities) to be fairly low. So the first bomb might be $200 million, the next 19 another 120 million, thus the average unit cost is $16 million and total program expenditure $320 million.

If they build a 1000 more, the unit cost will probably go down.

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    See also: economies of scale. Apr 14, 2017 at 19:58
  • I suppose they used one or two for tests, this is the first one in real use, so hopefully we will never get to "economies of scale".
    – gnasher729
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:01
  • If they wanted to build 1000 more, they would spend significant money first to make the process of building it cheaper. They could spend $500 million to find a way to build each one for $1 million less.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:03
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    The actual tritonal ingredients hopefully wouldn't cost much more than $10 a kilo, so as stated the real costs are in non materials such as research, safety of production, retirement plans and so on. If you were just kicking the raw materials out of the back of a plane your mileage may vary.
    – daniel
    Apr 14, 2017 at 22:19

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