Thermobaric weapons in WW2?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wiking85, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Zippermayr

    Apparently the Germans were working on such weapons since 1943 and were somewhat close to getting small versions of the weapon operational in 1945:
    Massenvernichtungswaffe: Gro├čvaters Vakuumbombe - Physik Chemie - FAZ

    Was this a reality or just a figment of someone's imagination like Nazi UFOs? Technologically I don't see what was impossible about having a thermobaric weapon in service by 1945, but then again I'm not an expert, I just hope someone here can answer this question.
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    In a way coal dust explosions or even grain elevator explosions are in the same category, The two practical problems into "weaponizing" this phenomenon is getting the explosive agent/s to disperse in a consistent and reliable manner and then igniting the "cloud".
     
  3. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    Was that an issue that WW2-era tech couldn't solve? It seems the Germans were working with coal dust, liquid oxygen, and some sort of waxy agent to get the desired aerosol effect.
     
  4. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    Heck, the Germans were working with chlorine trifluoride, which is hypergolic with just about everything, including water. I have no doubt that, given time, their industry would have been able to get something working, just about in time for the Allies to capture the development team and their documentation.
     
  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I don't see any technical reason why such weapons couldn't have been developed in time. The Germans were testing them in 1943/4 but never got them into production.

    German chemistry and chemists led the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You'll see that chlorine trifluoride was first prepared by two gentlemen called Ruff and Krug who sound German at least. As an ex chemist myself I heartily agree with the advice given in the article linked to, make sure you've got a good pair of running shoes.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  6. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    It is not so much the chemical/s themselves as the dispersion and trigger/detonation mechanisms.

    The US used Fuel air munitions in Veit Nam.

    U.S. Naval Museum of Armament Technology

    Three sub muntions that had to "burst" and disperse the "agent" before detonation and it has to be the right height above ground level to get desired effect.

    Also see: Fuel/Air Explosive (FAE)

    Thermobaric weapons add high temperature to the blast wave/effect and this is done using things like Magnesium and Aluminium. Aluminiumized explosives were used in WWII but getting powdered or granulated metal powders to disperse an ignite properly in your "normal" fuel cloud may take a bit of doing.

    There may have been nothing to "prevent" it except lots of testing and time.
     
  7. wiking85

    wiking85 Well-Known Member

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    #7 wiking85, Aug 13, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2013
    What's to say that the sort of exact timed fuzes that were used for FLAK shells couldn't achieve the same precise detonations? The bomb itself can be pre-fuzed to explode at a certain height that the bomber dropping it will have to achieve. As it was both the Allies and Axis used pre-fuzed munitions during the war to set off 'block buster' airburst munitions at a precise height prior to the invention of the proximity fuze.

    As to the Magnesium and Aluminum powders, thermite was used since WW1 and widely used in WW2, but they aren't necessary to achieve a thermobaric explosion, just to achieve the maximum heat effect. From what I understand the metal powders are a feature of the third generation of FAE weapons, but weren't necessarily part of the first generation, which is what the Germans were working with with coal dust and liquid oxygen. So theirs won't be as effective as the modern versions, but that is of course a given.

    As far as the three submunitions bursting, that is a modern version of the weapon, i.e. the third generation development, not a feature of the earlier generations AFAIK nor necessary to make the concept work.

    Edit:
    The first US versions of the FAE used the three submunitions containing ethylene oxide and no magnesium or aluminum:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBU-72
    This one used a proximity fuze, but again, I don't see why that's necessary given the precisely timed fuzes the Germans developed for their FLAK shells. There would be a higher failure rate for sure, but not necessarily a prohibitively high one.
     
  8. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    What precisely timed fuzes ?

    The German fuses were very good but all time fuses have an error tolerance of a few percent or 10ths of a percent. This was the problem with high altitude AA fire and the idea of using contact fuses. At long flight times the fuse error (line) became greater than the lateral error.

    It takes an object 10 seconds to fall 1872ft in a vacuum, an error of 1% is about 30ft in altitude. Dropped from higher altitudes and/or with air resistance and things get worse. This, of course, assumes your aircraft are bombing from the absolutely correct altitude and not off by 60-70ft. If bombs are dropped from level flight they fall 64ft in the first 2 seconds. If bombs are NOT dropped from level (plane is climbing or descending even a little bit) things get worse very quickly.

    It is not impossible but the time fuse doesn't seem like a good idea. Using an Altimeter as a trigger may be better but still requires the proper air pressure to be determined for the target area.
     
  9. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    U.S. forces used a 55 gallon bomb (stabilized with plywood fins) to deliver an air-fuel style bomb against Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater. I have info (and a pic) somewhere on the drive, I'll see if I can find the specifics.
     
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