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German Brennkommando Burning Detachment destroying Warsaw during the Planned destruction of the city. The man-portable flamethrower consists of two elements: a backpack and the gun. The backpack element usually consists of two or three cylinders.
In a two-cylinder system, one cylinder holds compressed, inert propellant gas usually nitrogen , and the other holds flammable liquid - typically petrol with some form of fuel thickener added to it. A three-cylinder system often has two outer cylinders of inflammable liquid and a central cylinder of propellant gas to maintain the balance of the soldier carrying it. The gas propels the liquid fuel out of the cylinder through a flexible pipe and then into the gun element of the flamethrower system.
The gun consists of a small reservoir, a spring-loaded valve, and an ignition system; depressing a trigger opens the valve, allowing pressurized inflammable liquid to flow and pass over the igniter and out of the gun nozzle. The igniter can be one of several ignition systems: A simple type is an electrically-heated wire coil; another used a small pilot flame , fueled with pressurized gas from the system.
The flamethrower is a potent weapon with great psychological impact upon unprepared soldiers, inflicting a particularly horrific death. This has led to some calls for the weapon to be banned. It is primarily used against battlefield fortifications, bunkers , and other protected emplacements. A flamethrower projects a stream of flammable liquid, rather than flame, which allows bouncing the stream off walls and ceilings to project the fire into blind and unseen spaces, such as inside bunkers or pillboxes.
Typically, popular visual media depict the flamethrower as short-ranged and only effective for a few meters due to the common use of propane gas as the fuel in flamethrowers in movies, for the safety of the actors.
Flamethrowers pose many risks to the operator. The weapon was very visible on the battlefield, operators become prominent targets for snipers. Flamethrower operators were rarely taken prisoner, especially when their target survived an attack by the weapon; captured flamethrower users were often summarily executed.
To be effective, flamethrower soldiers must approach their target, risking exposure to enemy fire. Vehicular flamethrowers also have this problem; they may have considerably greater range than a man-portable flamethrower, but their range is still short compared with that of other infantry weapons. The risk of a flamethrower operator being caught in the explosion of his weapon due to enemy hits on the tanks is exaggerated in Hollywood films.
The Gas Container [i. If this tank were ruptured, it might knock the operator forward as it was expended in the same way a pressurized aerosol can bursts outward when punctured. The fuel mixture in the Fuel Containers is difficult to light which is why magnesium filled igniters are required when the weapon is fired.
Fire a bullet into a metal can filled with diesel or napalm and it will merely leak out the hole unless the round was an incendiary type that could possibly ignite the mixture inside.
This also applies to the flame thrower Fuel Container. The Commonwealth and the United States were the most prolific users of vehicle mounted flame weapons; the British and Canadians fielded the "Wasp" a Universal Carrier fitted with a flamethrower at infantry battalion level, beginning in mid , and eventually incorporating them into infantry battalions. The gas is expelled through the gun assembly by its own pressure and is ignited at the exit of the barrel through piezo ignition.
Liquid-operated flamethrowers use a smaller propane tank to expel the liquid. For safety reasons, the propane tank is behind the combustible liquid tanks in order to prevent being hit by a bullet.
The propane is fed to two tubes. The first opens in the napalm tanks, providing the pressure necessary for expelling the liquid. This pre-ignition propane line is the source of the flame seen in front of the gun assembly in movies and documentaries.
As the napalm passes through the flame, it is ignited and propelled towards the target. Origins Main article: Greek fire Greek fire may have been an early version of the flamethrower. The concept of throwing fire as a weapon has existed since ancient times. Early flame weapons date from the Byzantine era, whose inhabitants used rudimentary hand-pumped flamethrowers on board their naval ships in the early 1st century AD see Greek fire.
Greek fire, extensively used by the Byzantine Empire , is said to have been invented by Kallinikos Callinicus of Heliopolis, probably about The flamethrower found its origins also in the Byzantine Empire, employing Greek fire in a device of a hand-held pump that shot bursts of Greek fire via a siphon -hose and piston, igniting it with a match, similar to modern versions, as it was ejected. An 11th century illustration of its use survives in the John Skylitzes manuscript.
Advances in military technology aided the Song Dynasty in its defense against hostile neighbors to the north, including the Mongols. Southern Tang forces attempted to use flamethrowers against the Song navy, but were accidentally consumed by their own fire when violent winds swept in their direction. Although flamethrowers were never used in the American Civil War , the use of Greek Fire was threatened, and flamethrowers have been in use in most modern conflicts ever since.
The first flamethrower, in the modern sense, is usually credited to Richard Fiedler. He submitted evaluation models of his Flammenwerfer to the German army in On depressing a lever the propellant gas forced the flammable oil into and through a rubber tube and over a simple igniting wick device in a steel nozzle. It was a single-shot weapon - for burst firing, a new igniter section was attached each time. German flamethrowers during the First World War on the Western Front , Using fire in a World War I battle predated actual flamethrower use, with a petrol spray being ignited by an incendiary bomb in the Argonne-Meuse sector in October On July 30, , it was first used in a concerted action, against British trenches at Hooge , where the lines were just 4.
In , the Wehrmacht first deployed man-portable flamethrowers against the Polish Post Office in Danzig. Subsequently, in , the U. Army introduced its own man-portable flamethrower. Axis use.
Breath of the Dragon Homebuilt Flamethrowers by Ragnar Benson Paladin Press