Thermobaric, or fuel-air energy (FAE), explosives work in two stages. The shell, or container, is burst open to spread the combusting agent as a fine aerosol, then this is ignited, creating an over-pressure blast wave travelling at 3000 metres per second, and burning all available oxygen in the process.
The Global Security website describes the effect of a thermobaric bomb:
Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness. The destruction, death and injury are caused by the blast wave.
Enhanced performance is achieved by adding excess metals to the explosive composition, aluminum and magnesium being the metals of choice.
A report on the Defense Technology website says that, instead of shrapnel/fragment injuries, a thermobaric device produces blast effects. “Each tissue type, when interacting with the blast wave, is compressed, stretched, sheared or disintegrated by overload according to its material properties. Internal organs that contain air (sinuses, ears, lungs and intestines) are particularly vulnerable to blast.”
- “Six rounds in three seconds”
The U.S. uses dinky 40mm thermobaric grenades developed for the war against “terror” in Afghanistan. Is it too big a stretch of the imagination to suppose they are being supplied for use in places like Gaza? These little beauties produce “a thermobaric overpressure blast rather than fragmentation. As a result of the thermobaric reaction, all enemy personnel within the effective radius will suffer lethal effects as opposed to the conventional fragmentation round.”
The grenades look like cannon shells and are fired from a lumpy, aggressive-looking shoulder weapon with a multi-chambered revolving cylinder. “You can put six rounds on target in under three seconds,” one Marine Corps corporal said. “I thought this thing was sick.” Just the job, then, for eliminating Qassam rocketeers and their families and friends and anyone else who happens to get in the way.