China has shown off a "new type" of massive aerial bomb, which they claim is second only in power to nuclear weapons, and dubbed it the Chinese version of the "mother of all bombs".
In a video published on the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) account on Chinese social media website Weibo, a closer image of the bomb could be seen, which was then screengrabbed and shared to non-Chinese media.
Little is known about the bomb, though there is speculation that the weapon is thermobaric and similar to the US's own mother of all bombs, or Russia's father of all bombs, The Drive reports.
China had previously shown off the weapon via the state-affiliated site Global Times. In the promotional video, a H-6K bomber drops the weapon in a test, releasing a substantial explosion.
"The massive blast can easily and completely wipe out fortified ground targets such as reinforced buildings, bastions and defense shelters," Wei Dongxu, a military analyst told the state-affiliated news site. They added that military observers noted "the weapon will also spread fear among enemies if a weapon of this caliber is deployed".
The weapon, claimed to be smaller than the similar US model, is thought to be thermobaric in nature. Thermobaric weapons, or vacuum bombs, create explosions more powerful and devastating than conventional weapons of the same size, by exploding a vapor in the blast zone.
"Thennobaric munitions work by initially dispersing an aerosol cloud of gas, liquid or finely powdered explosive," a piece in the Journal of Military Veterans' Health (JMVH) explains. "This cloud flows around objects and into cavities and structures. lt may penetrate small openings, such as openings in buildings, bunkers and engine bays of armoured vehicles, before being ignited."
"The result is a plasma cloud that reaches temperatures of between 2,500-3,000°C [4,500-5,000°F]."
This cloud burns more slowly than conventional weapons, adding to the destructive power.
"The injuries are more severe in confined spaces as the blast wave reflects back and forth, submitting the target to multiple insults," the JMVH explains. "One should not forget the burning effects of the explosion either, as it consumes all oxygen in the area and the resultant vacuum pulls loose objects into this void."
Smaller versions of the weapons (than the so-called "mother of all bombs") have been deployed by the US, Russia, Syria and the UK, and roundly condemned by human rights groups on every occasion, largely due to the method of death it induces.
"The effect of a [thermobaric] explosion within confined spaces is immense," a CIA report into the weapons found. "Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness."
The method of death for a lot of victims is the vacuum, which ruptures the lungs. A separate US government report added, rather grimly, that the "shock and pressure waves cause minimal damage to brain tissue," adding "it is possible that victims of [thermobaric weapons] are not rendered unconscious by the blast, but instead suffer for several seconds or minutes while they suffocate."