Thermobaric Weapons and Body Armor

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 3 months ago

There is indication that Hezbollah used thermobaric weapons against the Israeli Army in the recent conflict, as asserted and discussed by Defense Tech.  On the other hand, the comments to this post at Defense Tech are interesting, one of which profers another explanation for the collapse of the building:

Nine elite IDF unit soldiers were killed, seven troops have been seriously injured, and 10 sustained light to moderate wounds after a building they were staying in collapsed as a result of a missile strike in the Lebanese village of Dibel.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Hizbullah gunmen fired several missiles at a structure in which the soldiers were staying. One missile hit the building, causing an arms cache to explode. Several soldiers were hurt as a result. A short while later, the structure partially collapsed, and a few other troops were hurt as well.

Either way, this post and the followup discussion point to a need in the U.S. defense capabilities that seems at the present to be unmet.

You can read about thermobaric weapons here and here.  The U.S. Marines used thermobaric weapons against the Iraqi army in the war with great success, although it appears that these weapons were used to knock selected walls down and were usually followed up by conventional fragmentation explosives (Marines Quiet about Brutal New Weapon).  Apparently the Hezbollah had some degree of success against the IDF using thermobaric devices, killing nine reservists in one structure by causing the structure to collapse.

One of the truly problematic things about thermobaric weapons — and one of the reasons the U.S. should designate the monies to get out ahead of the curve — is that they render body armor useless, and possibly even detrimental, to the Solider or Marine.  There is indication that the use of body armor in a thermobaric blast simply creates a larger surface area on the body with which the pressure wave has to work, thus causing more internal injuries.  There is also some indication that the use of body armor changes the loading function on the thorax.

There is a proliferation of these weapons, and while some attention has been paid to creating body armor that is different from the conventional ballistic body armor (multiple layers of composites that are of different densities), little has been published, and no such body armor is in service.

The U.S. needs to devote the time, energy, money and research resources to countering the effects of these weapons, or the battlefield casualties will be much higher during the next urban war.

Every once in a while you get the gift of peaking into the future just a bit to get prepared for it.  This is just such a time.  We see the effects of the use of thermobaric weapons against the IDF.  Now, can we prepare our troops in advance of the next urban war, please?


You are currently reading "Thermobaric Weapons and Body Armor", entry #232 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) War & Warfare and was published August 23rd, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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