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About incendiary ammunition use by artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

Now the whole world knows that the ruling Ukrainian regime uses the forbidden weapon in hope to achieve a military victory at any cost. Human rights activists from the international organization Human Rights Watch officially reported about application of the incendiary weapon in the territory of Ukraine.

The Candidate of Military Sciences Andrey Kuptsov told about features of the device and the rule of application of artillery incendiary ammunition in the context of norms of international humanitarian law:

- During internal armed conflict in the territory of Ukraine the mass media repeatedly noted the cases of application of so-called «phosphoric» ammunition on settlements.

Such ammunition belongs to incendiary and white (yellow) phosphorus has so low temperature of flash that is capable to self-ignite on air. It burns with a bright flame with a temperature of burning more than 900 degrees centigrade and plentifully allocates the poisonous white smoke which is quickly hammering the gas mask filter. Burning proceeds until all phosphorus doesn’t burn out or oxygen access won’t stop yet. Defeat by phosphorus can cause especially heavy and painful mutilations or provoke slow and painful death. Treatment of such wounds requires specially trained medical personnel which during the work can get phosphoric wounds too.

Requirements of this Manual are based on the Protocol on prohibition or restriction of the incendiary weapon use (Protocol III) to the Convention on prohibition or restriction of concrete types' application of conventional weapons which can be considered putting excessive damages or having unselective action, accepted in Geneva on October 10, 1980.

Incendiary artillery ammunition of barrel artillery is intended for creation of certain seats of fire and destruction of wooden and other easily flammable constructions and objects on observed sites of the district. As a rule, the firing by incendiary ammunition is accompanied with firing by fragmentation and explosive shells with the purpose to prevent the opponent in fight against the arisen fires.
The rocket incendiary shells are intended for creation of the mass fires, as landscape and in areas of building, in warehouses etc.

Incendiary shells of rocket artillery apply in the presence of dry vegetation in the opponent’s arrangement to creation of the mass fire with a task: defeat of manpower, fire weapons and military equipment, a prohibition of maneuver of troops of the opponent by creation of the mass fire.

According to a chemical sign the incendiary substances applied to equipment of artillery ammunition can be united in two groups: the substances containing oxidizers and the substances which aren’t contain oxidizers. The first group includes termite-incendiary structures (for example, a termite is iron oxide mix with the aluminum powder Fe2O3+Al) or structures in which any salt is applied as an oxidizer. The second group includes an electron, organic substances (oil, kerosene, pitches) and self-igniting substances (phosphorus, phosphides, sulfides).

As it is rather simple to extinguish phosphorus — it is necessary to cover it with something dense, or to cover with earth and at the same time it is extremely dangerous both at charge and at storage and transportation, self-igniting substances didn’t find broad application for equipment of incendiary ammunition. Now the termite and napalm are applied as incendiary ammunition in aircraft and termite or an electron are applied in the charge of artillery ammunition.

The termite in appearance is the powder of gray colour with a silvery shade, for ammunition charge it is pressed in the form of briquettes of this or that form. The pressed termite isn’t sensitive to blow and ignites hardly. Termite-incendiary structures are capable to burn without air access, at burning develop very high temperature reaching 2500−3000 degrees centigrade that is even are capable to melt metal parts of military equipment.

Electron is the easy metal alloy consisting of magnesium and aluminum with small impurity of zinc, manganese, iron, etc. which burns only at access of air, dazzling a bright flame, the burning temperature of which is about 2500 degrees.

The electron combination with a termite represents highly effective incendiary remedy, as a rule, an electron is applied in the form of a cover of termite incendiary elements.

The greatest distribution as the incendiary one was gained by shells (mines) of remote action equipped with elements with termite-incendiary structure. In such shells automatically after the set time counted from the shot moment at a certain height over the purpose under the influence of a burster charge there is an emission of the incendiary elements from the case of a shell creating the fire on the big area.

For example, 120-mm incendiary mines 3-Z-2 contain four big and two small incendiary elements in the case. The mine 3-Z-2 creates six seats of fire, its components burn not less than a minute. Application of such mines in the southeast of Ukraine can be determined by character of a trajectory, by existence of six termite elements which at the height about 200 meters are beaten out by burster charge from this mine and on the remains of mines cases which remained in the territory of the fired settlements and also in the wake of ignition.

Uncontrollable rockets 9M22S and 9M28S of multiple rocket launcher Grad BM-21 which is also widely applied in the southeast of Ukraine, contain on 180 incendiary elements which are developed on the area about 6400 sq. m. (80×80 m), creating seats of fire. Thanks to a large number of the burning elements (180), the considerable area of their dispersion, their united distribution on the area, rather big time of burning of elements (about 3 min.) such shells possess reliable incendiary action and when firing on manpower — the considerable striking action.

It is necessary to consider that it is expedient to apply artillery incendiary ammunition only under favourable conditions. The centres of burning arise only in the presence of a dry soil cover (vegetation). In the wood it is mosses, lichens, heather and other low shrubs. In steppes and crops of agricultural structures — it is herbs, grain, corn, etc. when they got yellow colour. After plentiful rain (about 20 mm of rainfall) the ground cover is capable to burn in the woods in 4−6 days and in steppes and crops of crops in 1−2 days. A sign of fire danger is the emergence of dust on roads at traffic.
At application of incendiary ammunition the numerous centres of burning are created at the same time. The first 1−2 minutes they don’t constitute danger to manpower. At the small area of attack (10−20 hectares) the division of the opponent can extinguish the burning centres by own efforts or to leave a fire zone, without having received defeat. In 3−6 minutes intensity of the fire becomes maximum, the continuous zone of burning is formed, the height of a flame reaches 3−7 m. At creation of the fire on the big area (4−15 sq. km) the fight against the fire becomes useless and the emerged divisions can suffer considerable (to 60%) losses in manpower and equipment.

The mass fire is the fire created by incendiary ammunition practically at the same time on such area and with such expense of shells which in specific forest vegetation and weather conditions at this density of manpower of the opponent and a hardware of its divisions fire extinguishing means excludes successful fight against the fire and creates conditions under which the object of defeat sustains losses, temporarily loses the fighting capacity, its maneuver is limited or forbidden, management and providing is broken.

The losses put to divisions depend on duration of their withdrawal (stay) from a zone of the mass fire. Therefore at firing at the destruction (for achievement of extent of defeat of 50−60%) the rocket artillery has to create the mass fire on the area a little bigger than the occupied object.

The rocket artillery can create a strip of the mass fire by several consecutive volleys. The strip of the mass fire is created for the purpose of a prohibition of a regrouping, concentration of troops, their maneuver and promotion; for difficulty or failure of material support. Thus there is a continuous zone of burning by depth in some hundreds of meters that excludes possibility of its overcoming.

At a wind for the opponent the extending zone of the fire compels the units of the opponent to stop the movement or to leave the occupied areas. Duration of influence of the created strip of the mass fire depends on depth of the forest (steppe) area, speed of a wind and fluctuates from 30 minutes till several hours.

Thus the Protocol on prohibition or restriction of the incendiary weapon use to the Convention on prohibition or restriction of concrete types use of conventional weapons which can be considered putting excessive damages or having unselective action, directly specifies: «It is forbidden to turn the woods or other types of a vegetable cover into object of attack with use of the incendiary weapon, except the cases when such natural elements are used to cover, hide or disguise combatants or other military facilities or when they are military facilities».

Having considering the questions of legality of incendiary ammunition use, it is necessary to consider that according to the Protocol the incendiary weapon doesn’t include «ammunition which can have casual incendiary or burn effect such as lighting means, tracer shells, smoke or alarm systems».

The modern artillery and the Ukrainian too, are armed with smoke and lighting ammunition. Smoke shells (mines) apply to smoke of fire weapons of the opponent (first of all anti-tank), its command and observation posts, statement of smoke screens. The burning pieces of smoke-generating substance of smoke shells and mines possess good incendiary properties therefore in favourable conditions they can be applied for creation of seats of fire, formally without falling under the Convention ban.

Lighting shells (mines) are intended for illumination of the purposes and district, statement of light reference points and light alignments, dazzle of observation posts (electron-optical means) and fire weapons of the opponent. Dazzle of observation posts (electron-optical means) and fire weapons of the opponent is reached when burning torches of lighting shells are on the earth in 100−150 m before the blinded object. The seat of fire is also possible at torch burning of a lighting shell on the earth emergence, however such ammunition is not the incendiary one.

Thus, it is rather difficult to define person who is not the expert which artillery ammunition is applied: incendiary, smoke or lighting. The concept «phosphoric» ammunition used in mass media is generalizing, that is in each case of application of similar ammunition expert opinions of experts are required, whether this weapon is incendiary.

Viewed : 2900   Commented: 0

Author: Andrey Kuptsov, Candidate of Military Sciences

Publication date : 04 December 2014 02:25

Source: The world and we

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