What are thermite bombs

History of Explosives - From Greek Fire to Modern Explosives

As the name suggests, this type of bomb was used to ignite fires. The constituent parts all have one thing in common: They are extremely difficult to delete. A small explosive device usually serves as a dismantling charge. These bombs were used after an attack with high-explosive bombs and cause even greater destruction.

Due to the widespread use, there were many sources of fire that were difficult, if not impossible, to control. The destruction caused by incendiary bombs was immense in World War II. This weapon caused the worst burn injuries in humans.

The white phosphorus used also led to the most severe poisoning, which also killed many people.

The enormous oxygen demand of these incendiary agents also led to many victims, as the air was drawn from the surrounding streets and cellars like a hurricane. The high combustion temperature creates strong thermals. People in close proximity die not only from burns, but also from dehydration and suffocation.

The very first firestorm was kindled by the German Air Force on the night of 14/15. November in Coventry (England). But the British Air Force also set German cities on fire, such as Lübeck in 1942 and Hamburg in 1943.


10.1 Mixtures used

10.1.1 Electron thermite stick incendiary bomb

Electron is a mixture of at least 90% magnesium and approx. 10% aluminum. This alloy melts at approx. 650 ° C and burns at a temperature of approx. 2200 ° C. The ignition charge consists of thermite. The mixture burns with the oxygen in the air.


10.1.2 Flame jet bomb

In this bomb, gasoline is covered with pressurized oxygen. The gasoline-oxygen mixture is sprayed with a nozzle and ignited on thermite.


10.1.3 Phosphorus bomb

The filling consists of white phosphorus and rubber. The white phosphorus ignites by itself when it comes into contact with air and sets the rubber on fire. The combustion temperature is around 1300 ° C. Duds of this type of weapon still cause injuries among the population today. In Peenemünde on the island of Usedom, parts of white phosphorus are still washed up on the beach and often mistaken for amber. Once the white phosphorus dries, it ignites and sets fingers and clothing on fire.


10.1.4 Metal incendiary bombs

There are some metals that have pyrophoric properties at small grain sizes; H. spontaneously ignite on contact with air.

Metals with this property include:

  • aluminum
  • Zirconium
  • uranium
  • magnesium
  • iron
  • tungsten
  • copper

Depending on the metal used, the combustion temperature can reach over 3200 ° C.

This type of bomb is also known as a DIME (D.ense I.nert M.et al E.xplosive), in German: explosive with dense, inert metal. They unfold their lethal effect in a very limited radius. This property also makes them usable in cities.


10.1.5 Napalm

A whole group of incendiary mixtures is referred to as napalm. Essentially, they all have one thing in common: They consist to a large extent of gelled gasoline.

Aluminum soaps such as, for example, hydroxylaluminum bis (2-ethylhexanoate) are often used as gelling agents.

The combustion temperature is between 800 ° C and 1200 ° C.

The American armed forces used large amounts of napalm in the Vietnam War, which unfortunately cost the lives of many civilians.
Sources: [96], [97], [98], [99], [100]


History of explosives


Manfred Seidl
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