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What is a Lob Bomb?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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A lob bomb is a type of improvised explosive made by packing a large metal canister with explosives and shrapnel, and then propelling it with the assistance of a rocket. Lob bombs are highly effective, and extremely efficient. Because they are easy to make, they are a major concern for many military leaders, who are concerned about the potential devastation which can be caused by lob bombs.

Lob bombs, known as an Improvised Rocket-Assisted Mortars (IRAMs) in military jargon, were first more widely reported during the Iraq War of the early 21st century. In this war, the first lob bombs seemed to first appear in Baghdad in 2007, fired by Shiite insurgents. While the initial lob bombs were not terribly effective, it became readily apparent that insurgents would perfect the method, potentially creating weapons which could pose a serious threat, especially when combined with other improvised explosives.

A typical lob bomb is made from a propane tank or welding tank which is drained of fuel, sawed open, packed, and then welded shut again. In some cases, the lob bomb is simply tossed off the side of a truck, without any rockets to propel it, in which case insurgents must get very close to their target. In other instances, rockets or a remote detonator are used, allowing people to target a site from a distance.

Like other improvised explosives, the lob bomb is cheap to make, and frustratingly hard to track down. Plenty of people have entirely legitimate reasons to carry around welding and propane tanks, especially in a country where propane is the major source of fuel for heaters and stoves, and it is not logistically possible to stop everyone carrying such a tank. The very cheapness of the lob bomb means that insurgents can construct a large number of such bombs, and they may not worry about duds or poorly constructed bombs, which can sometimes be even more dangerous than functioning bombs.

As with other weapons developed by insurgents in the Iraq War, the lob bomb represents a creative use of available materials, along with a serious threat. Insurgents also use the experiences of previous lob bomb attacks to refine the design, seeking out the most effective and most devastating incarnation for the lob bomb while also seeking out better targets. The explosive power of the lob bomb makes it especially ideally suited to more heavily fortified areas and structures, such as those used to protect key government and military officials.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon276032 — On Jun 21, 2012

These are also used in South and Central America by drug warriors against the governments there. But

like the gun control mob's answer in the USA, the answer is simple: most arms and components are made by governments, so stop making them and reduce them to rock throwing.

By anon25904 — On Feb 05, 2009

The British faced this threat during the height of the IRA and PIRA attacks in the 1980s. Islamic radicals learn from past successes of other terrorist groups. EODbre

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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