Car bomb

The result of a car bombing in Iraq

A car bomb, lorry bomb, or truck bomb, also known as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED),[1] is an improvised explosive device placed inside a car or other vehicle and detonated.

Car bombs can be roughly divided into two main categories; some are used primarily to kill the occupants of the vehicle (often as an assassination) and others are used as a means to kill, injure or damage people and buildings outside the vehicle. The latter type may be either parked up (the vehicle disguising the bomb and allowing the bomber to get away) or the vehicle might be used to deliver the bomb (often as part of a suicide bombing).

It is commonly used as a weapon of terrorism or guerrilla warfare to kill people near the blast site or to damage buildings or other property. Car bombs act as their own delivery mechanisms and can carry a relatively large amount of explosives without attracting suspicion; in larger vehicles and trucks, weights of at least 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) have been used,[1] for example, in the Oklahoma City bombing. Car bombs are activated in a variety of ways, including opening the vehicle's doors, starting the engine, depressing the accelerator or brake pedals or simply lighting a fuse or setting a timing device.[2] The gasoline in the vehicle's fuel tank may make the explosion of the bomb more powerful by dispersing and igniting the fuel.

Using a vehicle as delivery system

Car bomb in Iraq, made up of a number of artillery shells concealed in the back of a pickup truck.

Car bombs are effective weapons as they are an easy way to transport a large amount of explosives to the intended target. A car bomb also produces copious shrapnel, or flying debris, and secondary damage to bystanders and buildings. In recent years, car bombs have become widely used by suicide bombers.[3][4][5]


Defending against a car bomb involves keeping vehicles at a distance from vulnerable targets by using roadblocks and checkpoints, Jersey barriers, concrete blocks or bollards, metal barriers, or by hardening buildings to withstand an explosion. Since the height of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) campaign in 1991, the entrance to Downing Street has been closed, preventing the general public from getting near Number 10. Where major public roads pass near buildings, road closures may be the only option (thus, for instance, in Washington, D.C. the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue immediately in front of the White House is closed to traffic). Historically these tactics have encouraged potential bombers to target "soft" or unprotected targets, such as markets.[6]

Suicide usage

In the Syrian Civil War, and Iraq, the car bomb concept was modified so that it could be driven and detonated by a driver, but armoured to withstand incoming fire. The vehicle would be driven to its target area, in a similar fashion to a kamikaze plane of WW2. These were known by the acronym SVBIED (from Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) or VBIEDs. This saw generally civilian cars with armour plating added, that would protect the car for as long as possible, so that it could reach its intended target. Cars were sometimes driven into enemy troop areas, or into incoming enemy columns. Most often, the SVIEDs were used by ISIS against Government forces, but also used by Syrian rebels (FSA and allied militias) against government troops.[7][8]

The vehicles became more sophisticated as time went, with armour plating on the vehicle, protected vision slits, armour plating over the wheels so they would withstand being shot at, and also in some cases, additional metal grating over the front of the vehicle designed to activate rocket propelled grenades before hitting the actual surface of the vehicle.[9]

In some cases trucks were also used, as well as cars. They were sometimes used to start an assault. Generally the vehicles had a large space that would contain very heavy explosives. In some cases, animal drawn carts with improvised explosive devices (ADCBIED) have been used, generally either mules or horses. Tactically, a single vehicle may be used, or an initial "breakthrough" vehicle, then followed by another vehicle.[10]

While many car bombs are disguised as ordinary vehicles,[11] some that are used against military forces have improvised vehicle armour attached to prevent the driver from being shot when attacking a fortified outpost.[12]


Car bombs can be seen as the remote descendants of the 16th century hellburners, explosive-loaded ships which were used to deadly effect by the besieged Dutch forces in Antwerp against the besieging Spanish. Though using a less refined technology, the basic principle of the hellburner is similar to that of the car bomb.

The first possible suicide car bombing (and possibly the first suicide bombing) was the Bath School bombings of 1927, where 45, including the bomber, were killed and half of a school was blown up.

Mass-casualty car bombing, and especially suicide car bombing, is currently a predominantly Middle Eastern phenomenon. The tactic was first introduced to the region by the Stern Gang, who used it extensively against Palestinian and British military targets; it was subsequently taken up by Palestinian bombers as well.[13] The tactic was widely used in the Lebanese Civil War by the Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah. A notable suicide car bombing was the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, when two simultaneous attacks killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French military personnel. The perpetrator of these attacks has never been positively confirmed. In the Lebanese Civil War, an estimated 3,641 car bombs were detonated.[14]

While not an adaptation of a vehicle meant to carry people, the WW2 German Goliath remote control tank, has many parallels with a VBIED. It approached a target (often another tank) at some speed, and then exploded, destroying itself and the target. It was armoured so that it couldn't be destroyed en route. However, it wasn't driven by a person, it was instead operated by remote control, by German infantry, from a safe distance. It was effectively, an armoured suicide drone.

Other Languages
العربية: سيارة مفخخة
български: Кола-бомба
català: Cotxe bomba
dansk: Bilbombe
Deutsch: Autobombe
español: Coche bomba
Esperanto: Bombaŭto
euskara: Bonba-auto
Frysk: Autobom
galego: Coche bomba
한국어: 차량 폭탄
hrvatski: Auto-bomba
Bahasa Indonesia: Bom mobil
íslenska: Bílsprengja
italiano: Autobomba
Lëtzebuergesch: Autobomm
Nederlands: Autobom
日本語: 車爆弾
norsk: Bilbombe
norsk nynorsk: Bilbombe
português: Carro-bomba
Simple English: Car bomb
slovenščina: Avtomobil bomba
suomi: Autopommi
svenska: Bilbomb
Türkçe: Bombalı araç
Tiếng Việt: Bom xe
中文: 汽车炸弹