War is ugly and inhumane but seemingly inevitable - so it makes sense to have some rules around what is acceptable and what isn’t. One of the most interesting stories of the week surfaced when David Hambling wrote in Defensetech about a new weapon in use by the US in Iraq - the SMAW-NE. Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapons (SMAW) have been in use for two decades, using High Explosive Anti-Armor (HEAA) rockets against tanks and High Explosive, Dual Purpose (HEDP) rockets against bunkers and light armour. But now there’s a new rocket with a thermobaric charge so destructive it can be used to demolish buildings. Thermobaric weapons disperse a flammable mist of underoxidised fuel which ignites to create a multipurpose explosion of immense destructiveness. Firstly, it is accompanied by a massive fireball which incinerates all in its path. Secondly, it creates a massive pressure wave capable of rupturing the internal organs of all those nearby and so powerful that it can reduce load-bearing walls to rubble and bring down buildings. Finally, the explosion also sucks all the oxygen out of the air, asphyxiating anyone in the immediate vicinity . Basically, if you’re in the building when it hits, it’ll kill you. Human Rights Organisations believe the weapons are inhumane, and that the potential for non-combatant deaths is far too great for the weapons to be used in urban areas.
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