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2008-07-02
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Controversial Weapon Used by British in Afghanistan

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When your enemy is hiding deep within a cave or reinforced building, oftentimes bombing the target simply shakes things up rather than causing actual harm. One weapon to mitigate this weakness currently in use by British forces in Afghanistan is the Hellfire AGM-114N missile. The AGM-114N is known as a thermobaric munition designed to expel a fine cloud of volatile mixture, in this case fluorinated aluminium powder, that penetrates deep into the structure, whereupon a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The resultant explosion violently burns all of the oxygen out of a localized area (especially in a cave) creating a suction, vacuum effect that can crush the bodies of enemies hiding beyond normal blast range. Thermobaric weapons are not a new technology and have been used in the past by Russians against Chechnya and employed on few occasions by American forces. However, the weapon comes with a negative international stigma that led the British Ministry of Defense to debate for 18 months whether it could be used. The British used the weapon after the MoD finally authorized thermobarics after re-designating them as more friendly: "We no longer accept the term thermobaric [for the AGM-114N] as there is no internationally agreed definition. We call it an enhanced blast weapon." (NOTE: The original Times Online article has disappeared, but the quote can still be found on-line).


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