MOAB was first tested with the explosive tritonal on 11 March 2003, on Range 70 located at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. It was again tested on 21 November 2003.
Aside from two test articles, the only known production is of 15 units at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in 2003 in support of the Iraq War.
On 13 April 2017, a MOAB was dropped on an ISIS cave complex in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. It was the first use of the bomb on the battlefield. According to a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the fact that the MOAB was dropped in the same province where Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar of 7th Special Forces Group was killed 8 April is probably not a coincidence. “There might have been a degree of payback here as well,” Bill Roggio told Air Force Times. “There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, especially if you’re killing your enemy.”
The basic operational concept bears some similarity to the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, which was used to clear heavily wooded areas in the Vietnam War and in Iraq to clear mines and later as a psychological weapon against the Iraqi military. After the psychological impact of the BLU-82 on enemy soldiers was witnessed, and no BLU-82 weapons remained, the MOAB was developed partly to continue the ability to intimidate Iraqi soldiers. Pentagon officials had suggested their intention to use MOAB as an anti-personnel weapon, as part of the “shock and awe” strategy integral to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The MOAB is not a penetrator weapon and is primarily intended for soft to medium surface targets covering extended areas and targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system. However, multiple strikes with lower yield ordnance may be more effective and can be delivered by fighter/bombers such as the F-16 with greater stand-off capability than the C-130 and C-17. High altitude carpet-bombing with much smaller 230-to-910-kilogram (500 to 2,000 lb) bombs delivered via heavy bombers such as the B-52, B-2, or the B-1 is also highly effective at covering large areas.