Incendiary device

A fire or light ball from the 17th century from Veste Coburg, Germany
Essay on fireworks for spectators and for warfare by Jean-Charles Perrinet d'Orval, 1745

Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are weapons designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using fire (and sometimes used as anti-personnel weaponry), that use materials such as napalm, thermite, magnesium powder, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus. Though colloquially often known as bombs, they are not explosives but in fact are designed to slow the process of chemical reactions and use ignition rather than detonation to start and or maintain the reaction. Napalm for example, is petroleum especially thickened with certain chemicals into a 'gel' to slow, but not stop, combustion, releasing energy over a longer time than an explosive device. In the case of napalm, the gel adheres to surfaces and resists suppression.

Development and use in World War I

The first incendiary devices to be dropped during World War I fell on coastal towns in the south west of England on the night of 18–19 January 1915. The small number of German bombs, also known as firebombs, were finned containers filled with kerosene and oil and wrapped with tar-covered rope. They were dropped from Zeppelin airships. On 8 September 1915, Zeppelin L-13 dropped a large number of firebombs, but even then the results were poor and they were generally ineffective in terms of the damage inflicted. They did have a considerable effect on the morale of the civilian population of the United Kingdom. [1]

After further experiments with 5-litre barrels of benzol, in 1918, the B-1E Elektron fire bomb (German: Elektronbrandbombe) was developed by scientists and engineers at the Griesheim-Elektron chemical works. The bomb was ignited by a thermite charge, but the main incendiary effect was from the magnesium and aluminium alloy casing, which ignited at 650° Celsius, burned at 1,100 °C and emitted vapour that burned at 1,800 °C. A further advantage of the alloy casing was its lightness, being a quarter of the density of steel, which meant that each bomber could carry a considerable number. [2] The German High Command devised an operation called "The Fire Plan" (German: Der Feuerplan), which involved the use of the whole German heavy bomber fleet, flying in waves over London and Paris and dropping all the incendiary bombs that they could carry, until they were either all shot down or the crews were too exhausted to fly. The hope was that the two capitals would be engulfed in an inextinguishable blaze, causing the Allies to sue for peace. [3] Thousands of Elektron bombs were stockpiled at forward bomber bases and the operation was scheduled for August and again in early September 1918, but on both occasions, the order to take off was countermanded at the last moment, perhaps because of the fear of Allied reprisals against German cities. [4] The Royal Air Force had already used their own "Baby" Incendiary Bomb (BIB) which also contained a thermite charge. [5] A plan to fire bomb New York with new long range Zeppelins of the L70 class was proposed by the naval airship fleet commander Peter Strasser in July 1918, but it was vetoed by Admiral Reinhard Scheer. [6]

Other Languages
Deutsch: Brandwaffe
português: Arma incendiária
Simple English: Incendiary device
slovenščina: Zažigalno orožje