Artillery: November 17, 2001


: Thermobaric explosions (fuel-air explosive devices) were discovered in 1785 when an Italian bakery suffered the first known "dust explosion". Modern fuel-air weapons duplicate this effect by putting a cloud of fuel into the air and then detonating it. This produces an overpressure and fire, removing all of the oxygen from the area and killing anyone in the target zone. The US used such weapons in Vietnam to create landing zones and to destroy cave and bunker complexes; and has used them in Afghanistan. Russia uses thermobaric weapons in both large and small forms. (The small rocket-propelled systems are often mis-translated as "flamethrower units".) The Russian "Shmel" launcher delivers a 2.1kg bomb to a range of 1,000 meters; the warhead causes 50-meter fireball that reaches temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The Russians also use the TOS-1 Buratino (Pinocchio) which is a 30-barrel 220mm rocket launcher on a T-72 chassis. With a range of 400-3500 meters, it can create a devastated zone of 200x400 meters. The Russians also have the ODAB-500PM aircraft bomb, the KAB-500Kr-OD TV-guided bomb, the ODS-OD BLU dispensor which scatters a cluster of fuel-air bombs, the Smerch (twelve 300mm rocket tubes on a mobile launcher), Uragan (sixteen 220mm rocket tubes on a mobile launcher), the Shturm anti-tank missile with a fuel-air warhead, the ATAA anti-tank missile with a fuel-air warhead, the S8D 80mm fuel-air rocket used by aircraft, the S13D 122mm fuel-air rocket used by aircraft, and the Kornet-E long-range anti-tank missile with a thermobaric warhead.--Stephen V Cole

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