22 October 2015

FWS Armory: Flamethrowers

If you were an animal what would you be? Have you ever dream been a Dragon? If you have then as Dr. Farnsworth would say: "good news everyone!"... there is an answer: flamethrowers! Flamethrowers are the military tool to the little arsonist within us all! The flamethrower is the"'must have" item of any Science Fiction/Horror movie like every zombie movie MUST have shotgun. While those incendiary devices have their roots in the real world and in the real history of the great wars of the 20th century their representation in movies & TV shows has lame, off the charts lame…In this new addition to the Armory series we'll skim the flamethrower: history, structure, usage, tactics and more. So comrades, buckle-up that backpack! Light your pilot flame! And…KILL IT WITH FIRE!
Thanks to Yoel!
I would like to thank Yoel for his continued support of FWS by continuing to contribute to the Armory serial. Solid work and again, thanks!

Definition & Meaning of the Name
The definition of flamethrower is a device that projects a stream of flammable fluid or gas. Often an ignition element in the flamethrower is been used to ignite the fluid or gas when it leaves the flamethrower. Since the first modern flamethrowers were invented by the Germans at the beginning of the 20th - the term "flamethrower" was borrowed from the German word 'Flammenwerfer' which means exactly that: "flame-thrower".

The Difference between Military Flamethrower & Commercial Flamethrower
The first split when categorized the different flamethrowers types out there regards the substance they emitted: gas or fluid. Military flamethrowers emit flammable/burning fluid while commercial spews burning gas. Throw out this article if not specify otherwise, all of information is regarding to military flamethrowers.

The History of the Flamethrower

Ancient past (pre-20th century)
The earliest form of devices that share resemblance to modern flamers could be traced to the legendary and almost mythical 'Greek fire'. This term refers to a flammable mixture that could burn so instance that even water couldn't turn it off. Such mixture used by the Byzantine Empire against their opponents, the Arabs, mainly as a naval weapon against enemy ships. The Byzantine ships used crude but effective manual operated pumps to project the flaming substance out of a beast-shaped nozzle toward their foes.
Such dreadful fuel and its composites kept in total secret to prevent it falling into enemy hands and while several Byzantine ships captured intact the Arabs couldn't reverse engineered the Greek fire formula. The secrets of Byzantine Empire's weapon specialists died with the empire and till this day the formula of the Greek fire continue to puzzle historians and chemist alike. Several other armies throughout the ancient world used such incendiary weapon, including the Arabs, Chinese and Mongols but none of them discovered the Greek Fire's formula.          

Recent past (WW1 – Vietnam War)
A few attempts had been made with Flamethrowers in the modern times prior to the First World War. Both in America and Europe, stationary flamethrowers were used, but nothing come out of those devices. The first steps toward modern flamethrowers began in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, a few models of flamethrower been patent, usually based on previous paint dispensers or fire-fighting water pumps. By the beginning of World War One. the Imperial Germans were the first to use such devices with great successes at the trench warfare and soon enough all of the other players of the war adapted their own versions. More mature & deadly models of flamethrowers been developed and used over the following decades till the end of Vietnam War.    

Modern (Post-Vietnam War)
After the end of Vietnam War the necessity of having flamethrowers in the military arsenal had disappeared. In 1978, the US Department of Defense unilaterally decides stop using flamethrowers. Other western nations' decided similarly at that time to abandon those weapons. After being part of warfare since the time of the ancient Greeks, the almighty flamethrower was shelved.

The Role of Flamethrower on the Battlefield
To understand the flamethrower is to understand its rule and purpose in the battle field, the flamethrower day job is to defeat fortifications where enemy combatants are hiding and firing from. In that list there are trenches, pillboxes, bunkers and even tanks. Basically, any structure or vehicle where there isn't a clear line of sight with your soft skin foes to take them down with conventional slug thrower. Since the flamethrower draws its distinctive power from the blazing liquid and not the kinetic energy of solid slugs the tactics & methods of firing are different from the regular gun.

The first and the most obvious method of confronting your enemy in an indirect fire are to use Gaia and her gravity field to bend and arch the burning fluid stream. Like grenade launcher or mortar a flamethrower have a low muzzle velocity, and like grenade launcher or mortar the arched trajectory of the fluid is used to strike trenches and other roofless structures.  

Dripping & Pouring
The flammable liquid has all the properties of regular liquid – it's gravitated and flows downwards. When using the flamethrower to tackle vertical cave shaft or underground bunker the burning fuel will flow from where it impact the target and poured in.

As a young boy I used to play a sort of indoor corridors soccer game called "Stanga" to the displeasing of the teachers, the game relays on ricocheting the ball of the walls in the right angle to pass the "goalkeeper". Little did I known that those are the skills necessary of being a good flamethrower operator!In order to cover blind spots inside a structure the operator can bounce the fuel stream of the walls & ceiling, produce a flaming corner-shot gun.        

As if dying by fire isn't terrifying enough, flamethrowers have another method of killing without the flaming substance ever touch its victim. The burning of fuel consumes the oxygen & toxifying the air inside the targeted structure, suffocating its dwellers.  

Driving out
Another sinister method of killing without actually burn anyone is implement the phrase "out of the frying pan into the fire"… literally!  The flamethrower is used to drive enemy soldiers out of their trenches and bunkers where the platoon's riflemen can gun them down.

The Structure of the Flamethrower
The flamethrower can be broke to three components:

The backpack element contains the liquid fuel tank/s & the pressurized gas tank.

Pressure tank-The tank contains high pressure gas, usually inert gas like nitrogen, to use as 'propellant' or pusher to launch the fuel out of its tank throw the hose & gun and to the target(s)

Pressure regulator-The pressure regulator sits between the pressure tank and the fuel tank/s and its job is to apply continues and constant pressure on the fuel tank side when the pressure in the pressure tank slowly decline for every single shot

Fuel tank/s-The fuel tank/s contains the liquid fuel of the flamethrower. The pressurized tank is connected from one side (usually the upper side of the tank) and from the other side of the tank there is the exit to the hose and the gun.

2.The Fuel
The fuel of the flamethrower is the crucial factor determines the flamethrower performance in battle. Flamethrowers are loaded with petrol, usually added with ingredients for thicken the fluid and raise the ignition temperatures. Petrol mixtures like Napalm are meant to be sticky & gluey that the victims couldn’t get rid of the flaming substance by falling on the ground and rolling. Another aspects of such mixes is the fact they burn longer with higher temperatures and hard to turn off.

The hose or hoses connected the backpack element to the gun element. Most of the flamethrowers designs have only one hose which convey the fuel. The British lifebuoy flamethrower has two – one for the fuel and the second to deliver the propane gas from a small propane tank in the backpack to the gun's Igniter unit.

3. The Gun
The gun element is what the operator holds in his hands and points its nozzle where he wants the flame stream to go. The gun is simply put a hollow metal tube with grips, fuel value & Igniter unit in its forward end.

Trigger unit
The trigger unit controls the fuel valve of the flamer. The trigger locates in the rear side of the gun near the hose entrance. Often the trigger unit has a pistol grip.

Igniter unit –pilot flame
The igniters light up the fuel when it leaves the gun nuzzle. Since most flamethrowers are loaded with fuels & fuel mixtures with high ignition temperature the ignition process is more complex than your regular Zippo…Most westerners' flamers used pilot flame fed from small flammable gas tank locate in the middle of the gun element (the lifebuoy flamethrower's igniter tank has part of the backpack). The pilot flame itself is ignited using a small battery and a spark plug.    

Igniter unit –blank cartridges
Some of the early Russian models and most of the Japanese models had igniter unit without pilot flame but used blank cartridges to ignite the fuel stream. Those cartridges housed inside a revolver-like mechanism that 'shot' the cartridge into the stream.

The Dangers Facing Flamethrower Operator
The life of a solider sucks, life of flamethrower operator suck twice! Beside the common dangers every foot soldier faces, flamethrower operator faces several additional:

Damage to fuel or pressure tanks
The danger of the flaming explosive of the backpack was overly exaggerated. Military flamethrower's pressure tank contains inert gas, not flammable one and the liquid fuel generally don't easily ignite by a random bullet or shrapnel. Of course, you can be successfully dead without any burning marks what so ever. The rapid rapture of high pressure tank sits an inch off your back is enough to kill the operator.

Weight of the Weapon
The United States Army and Marines M2 Flamethrower weighted in at 68lbs fully fueled. This heavy load of a fully loaded flamethrower slows the soldier and exposes him to enemy fire. This also exposes other soldiers that were assigned to the flamethrower trooper has protection. Given this weight, the flamethrower soldiers carried less personnel gear.

Short Effective Range
The effective range of flamethrower is short compare to other weapons in the battle field, about 65.5 feet for the M2 flamethrower. This forces the operator to move in (slowly cause the flamethrower heavy) at closer ranges to engage the enemy. Thus, exposes him to enemy fire.

Personnel Protection
Whenever a specialized soldier with a specialized role or weapon is on the battlefield, personnel protection can be an issue. With weapons like the M2 flamethrower and the M79 40mm grenade launcher, the soldiers carried M1911 .45ACP pistols for personnel protection and were also given escorts. While the flamethrower is a terrifying weapon, it is also a target. When the flamethrower was used to burn out fortified positions or tunnels, he was focused on using the flamethrower in a proper way, and this could mean that he could fall under fire. If the flamethrower malfunctions or runs out of fuel, the soldier is just armed with a pistol. Not good in certain situations, especially if his escorts are wiped out. Given the weight of the flamethrower, it was difficult for the soldier to carry an M3 submachine gun or even an M1 carbine. This was even seen in ALIENS.  This is why the underslung flamethrower is the best way.

Distinct optical signature
Both the bulky figure of the backpack, the flickering pilot flame and blazing stream of fire are clear indicators that the target is a flamethrower operator which usually makes him a prime target to enemy fire, especially for snipers.

The flamethrowers were regard as fearsome weapon by those who use it and hated by its victims, when operators were captured they were rarely been kept alive by their captors. The enemy soldiers usually view the flamethrowers as 'dishonest' way of fighting and when any operator (of portable flamer or vehicle mount flamer) fall into their hands they usually conduct a summary execution. In 2014, the brutal North Korean government executed Deputy Security Minister O Sang-hon was executed by flamethrower and burned alive.

Technologies & tactics reducing those dangers

Suppressive fire
The usage of suppressive fire is not new or exclusive to flamethrowers tactics.Basically it relays upon large number of guns spray lead on the enemy, forcing them to keep their head down while small group is closing distance or outflanks the target.While the platoon fires the flamethrower operator/s moves to short distance from the target.

Arrangement of the fuel tank/s
The fuel tank/s often arranged around the pressure tank and/or between the pressure tank and the operator's back. Such arrangement purpose is to partially shield the pressure tank from bullet or shrapnel using the fuel tank/s as the shield and if the pressure tank rapture shield the operator from the blast. Another aspect of this arrangement is well balanced and symmetric distribution of fuel weight in the backpack, easing its carrying.

Camouflaging the backpack & gun
In order to conceal their flamethrower operators among the regular riflemen, the Soviet designed the ROKS-2 to resemble their standard battle rifle, the Mosin-Nagant, during the 2nd World War. The gun element mimics the rifle itself and the flamer backpack camouflage as a standard riflemen backpack. Leave to the Soviets to come up with this creative solution.

Delaying the ignition
One way to avoid been detected while targeting the target is not to ignite the fuel at all. The so call "Wet shot" or "Cold shot" is a clever tactic where the operator juice up the target with streams of unignited fuel without the distinguish optical signature of burning glow and without the danger the operator will get on fire by his own fire.The ignition is done either by self-ignition, some hot spot in the target area like rifle barrel let say will ignite the fuel; or by the operator ignite is pilot flame for the last shot.  

Why Did the Flamethrower Disappeared from the Battlefield?
The flamethrowers golden age was the World War II and the Vietnam War was the last major conflict where those incendiary tools toke a role in the conflict. What was change that drove the flamethrowers from the hands of the troops to museums and horror movies?

Fewer fortifications more mobility
The main reason for the change was the changes in the battle field. Ever since the end of the Second World War, the mobility and firepower of armies and individual soldiers been increased dramatically. There were fewer situations where enemy forces are hiding inside bunkers and fortifications. Vietnam was one last exception to that shift; it wasn't a war between two equally powered and equally armed nations but what today called asymmetrical war. The Vietcong & North Vietnam wouldn't have a chance to win on an open field against enemy with tanks & boomers so they resort to build and hide in tunnels and bunkers.  

The Replacer – Thermo-baric armament
In the past three decades there is a new player in the battle field, the Thermo-baric. For the purpose of this article the explanation will be short and simple – the Thermo-baric warhead contains only the explosive substance without the necessary amount of oxidizer needed for chemical reaction. The Thermo-baric relays upon the oxygen in the air. The Thermo-baric is extremely effective inside close structures, the nature of explosions such weapon produce are high pressure blast wave with high temperatures.Several nations, particularly the Russians, develop and deployed a family of RPGs and grenade launchers with Thermo-baric warheads.Basically – if there is a need today to take down foes hiding inside a bunker the solution is such a weapon.            

The Horrible Consequences
The undeniable truth about flamethrowers is their nasty results, death by fire is a horrible way to die and surviving it is a horrible way to live. Wounds cause by flamethrowers never hills and not a nice thing to look at, unlike bullet scar that you may brag about fire burns are nasty thing. The psychological impacted on the flamethrower operators inflicting such damage along with the bad PR-ing (especially when civilian are involved) convince militaries around the world voluntarily "banned" the use of flamethrowers

Commercial Flamethrower – structure & usage
The commercial flamethrower shot flaming stream of gas. Its structure is simpler, lighter & cheaper; the backpack element contains only pressure tank filled with flammable gas and the ignition unit is often a simple spark plug.
The commercial is safer & easier to use than the military type. Its role is mainly in agriculture and been use in fields (like Sugarcane) for controlled burning and cleaning of vegetation and land.

Heavier variants of flamethrowers

Underslung flamethrower
If you think Ripley strapping an M41A1 Pulse Rifle to the M240 flamethrower was a cool idea you were right, if you think it was a new idea you were damn wrong! During the continuous winter war between Finland and USSR the Fins developed and maybe even deployed small number of M/44 flamethrower to their troops. This weapon is an M/31 Suomi SMG fitted with underslung flamethrower. The flamethrower been fed from a backpack via a hose. The idea behind such device is simple, give the flamethrower operator a PDW for protection in short range encounters. This was seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, when you could mount a flamethrower attachment to your assault rifle. This attachment gives the weapon an automatic red camo pattern in multiplayer.

Two or more man's flamethrower
They called it 'the great war' but for weapons developers World War One could have been called 'the great experiment'. One of many concepts tested has the 'heavy' portable flamethrower, like heavy machinegun that requires a team to operate those early models requires several men to carry and operates.

Vehicle mounted
Vehicle mounted flamethrower is pretty much the same as any other gun mounted to a vehicle, to minimize two of the flamethrower's main drawbacks: weight & vulnerability military engineers load the flamethrower onto a vehicle.In the 20th century several platforms been used to carry an enlarge variants of a flamethrower like: trucks, tanks & river boats. The uses of a vehicle enable the mobility and protection far behind what regular infantry have. Most if not all of the flame-throwing vehicles are modifications of a regular armed vehicle which one or more of the vehicle's guns been replaced by flamethrower nuzzles. One of the most common examples of the vehicle-mounted flamethrower is the United States Marine M67 "Zippo" tank, which was a variant of the M48 MBT.
Stationary flamethrower
 One of the many weapons tested in order to break the standstill of the trench line of the First World War was the use of stationary flamethrower, an equivalent of a heavy mortar or field cannon those massive devices relayed on the short ranges between the parallels trench line and use primarily as 'softening' attack at the beginning of surprise attack against the enemy. The coolest aspect about those devices is that their nozzle could be placed far from their pressure and fuel tank so many of the designs of the stationary flamethrower like the Livens “Large Gallery” flamethrower placed their leading pipe to the nozzle inside a tunnel dogged under the no-man land (the area between the trench lines) and seconds before attack a pneumatic cylinder pushed the nuzzle up throw the ground and expose it short distance from the enemy lines.

Major Bernhard Reddemann - the Prince of Hades
In 1901, an Berlin-based Chemical Engineer developed nozzle for spraying liquids. This technology allowed the development of the military-grade flamethrower. Former Poznan fire chief  Bernhad Reddemann was tasked by the German Imperial military in 1907 to develop ideas for defending fortress of Glowono Poznan. He recalled that the Greeks had used fire, and he used his knowledge of fireflighting and the technology to develop a hose that sprayed flammable liquid. This was combined with the nozzle technology, and by 1915, the Imperial German forces had used the first successful military flamethrower attack at the forest of Malancourt. The majority of flamethrowers at this point in the Great War were team-crewed weapons were more akin to fire-hoses than the M2 flamethrower of World War II. Specialized units of flamethrower troopers was developed by the Imperial German Army, called the "Garde-Reserve-Pionier Regiment." Not only were these troops being used in-field, but they also developed new flamethrower techniques and technology. The symbol of the unit was an skull and crossbones.  By the end of the war in November of 1918, the Garde-Reserve-Pionier Regiment had used their flamethrowers 635 times, with an 82% success rate.

Legality of Flamethrowers

US civilian market
It may surprise you, but flamethrowers, both military and commercial alike aren’t banned for purchase and ownership under US Federal law! Since the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 has primarily targeted against gangsters & mafia wars of the prohibition are some guns and accessories like automatic guns, short barrel guns & silencers been banned while the flamethrower, which never been used in those wars, remained legal.    Although federal law doesn't prohibit flamethrowers in several states, for example… wait for it… California is illegal for purchase or ownership of flamethrowers.

International laws
According to protocol III of UN's Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (1980) the use of flamethrower as other incendiary weapons is restricted against all civilian targets or military target with concentration of civilians in the area. The protocol doesn't outright prohibit the use of flamers in the battlefield against purely military targets. As to 2015 there are 121 nations that accept the convention.

Misconceptions and tropes about flamethrower
Yes, my friends Hollywood does a bad job with flamethrowers, here are several of the common tropes when see a flamethrower in movie:

No Military Flamethrower On the Horizon
Most obvious issue with flamers in films is the use of commercial types that spewing flammable gas rather than a liquid. Even war movies involving a real past war and a real military flamethrower have flamethrowers loaded up with propane gas.The reason is pretty simple, the use of fire on the movie set even with trained doubles is very dangers; using a flammable liquid is far more dangers to the actors, doubled, cameramen and others. The use of flammable gas is safer, controlled and cheaper, the flame is faded immediately when the user removes his/her finger from the trigger and no burning droplets linger on the set or on the people…

Flamethrower as shotgun
As the result of using commercial flamethrower on the movie set the purpose of the weapon was change too, the flamer no longer been used for indirect fire against fortifications but as a powerful short range gun, kind like a ubercool shotgun. This image of close encounters and room clearing weapon been engraved to the mindset of viewers.

One part Flamethrower
More often than not the Hollywood flamethrowers lack their backpack and connecting hose. It's easier for the propmaster to construct flamer with propane tank as part of the gun than a full realistic flamer and it easier and safer for the actor/double to use such water-down device.  

Explosive backpack
Movie, TV shows and computer games – all teach us that flamethrower's backpack is a massive bomb waiting to explode by the first bullet or shrapnel. The reality is that the pressure tank contains inert gas and the fuel has a high ignition point so no 'big-a-boom!' For you. Even if the pressure tank contains flammable gas like propane, the Mythbusters debunk the myth of propane tank explode by been hit by a single bullet, even tracer one. Years later Sons of Gun tried to de-bust the myth by firing several projectiles from custom M-203 grenade hoping that the first and fast round will piercing the tank and the other will ignite the propane gas, they failed de-busting.

Usage in closed quarters
As stated in the Tactics section, one of the methods of killing with flamethrower is consuming oxygen and toxicat the volume of air inside the target structure. In the real world the operator doesn't enter the structure only fires from outside but when using the trope "flamethrowers as shotguns" the operator have to be inside the structure, expose to the same suffocation threat as his victims.

The Future of Flamethrower
Currently, the flamethrower is a thing of the past; no military around the world using it anymore and there is any reason to think that could change in the foreseen future. Without any earthly reason for another flamethrower arms race the only salvation could come from above…Let's imagine a scenario similar to what shown in 2013 Edge of Tomorrow movie – an alien race of semi-sentinel creatures crash to earth carried with some metros. Like the Mimics those aliens don't have any technology, but the offset that with superior speed, strength and most important –they are practically immune to our slug throwers! The only hope is their weakness, they are very combustible. Naturally the militaries of Earth turn back to the flamethrower and spice it up with some new technologies.

Current & near future

Better materials
Some of the weight issue could be tackled using modern materials like composite for the pressure tanks, reducing their weight but maintain or improved their capability to store high pressure gas.

Underslung grenade launcher
It’s a bit tragedy of history that flamethrowers left the field in the same time when grenade launchers enter. For applying the 'wet shot' tactics one can design upperslung grenade launcher above the flamer nuzzle, the incendiary grenade be use to lit up the target after the flamer spray it with fuel. The arched trajectory of the grenade be similar to that of the fuel stream meaning the operator don't need to change the orientation of the gun after wetting the target and before igniting it.    
Far future

Power armors & exo-suits
Similar to idea of mount the heavy flamethrower on a vehicle, future infantry could use power armors & exo-suits to carry the weight of the flamer and a great deal more fuel. A flamethrower operator using power armor will also be protected from any flaming droplets from its own flamer, and be better protected from incoming fire. Powered armor is often paired with flamethrowers, as seen in Warhammer 40k, Starcraft, and Starship Troopers. 

Electric batteries & pumps
When and if there will be electric batteries powerful enough to power Railgun or Gaussgun then such batteries could replace the pressure tanks of future flamers, the battery will power electric pump for pumping the fuel out.

Flamethrower and Science Fiction
Flamethrowers and SF goes hand in hand and while in the real world they are not relevant no more the movie writers manage to invent numerous reasons and justifications to have them:

Foes vulnerable to fire
The most obvious reason for arm yourself with flamer is that your enemy, be it alien, moleman or mutant, are immune to regular bullets and fire is their only kryptonite. Fire would also have an universal fear response. Even the simplest of animals knows about the dangers of fire and since fires occur naturally in the environment, pyrophobia could be a galactic constant. This was seen in the ALIENS universe, when Ripley points her M240 at the eggs.

In those horror movies where the helpless victims are civilian and not military men there aren’t any dissents weapons around and those poor suckers have to use what little they have. Unlike slug throwers, flamers are can be easily construct out of common hardware in the starship or Antarctic station workshop and their 'ammunition' could be the kitchen gas stove's tank or the generator diesel fuel.

Acid for blood!
Sometimes you don't really want to 'prick the bubble', when the bubble is a 7 foot xenomorph with blood corrosive enough to cut thru your ship hall you better ask the colonial chef to make your xeno-steak well-done rather than rare…  

Psychological effect
In our world animals often afraid of fire so who said space monsters aren't afraid too?
Fire had been used from the time of the cavemen to deter wild animals or driven them out to some planed ambush.  

Contagious targets and Anti-material
Sometimes the use of flamethrower isn't to kill, its targets may be contagious/infected human/alien corpses and burning them is way to stop pandemic.
Other use is clearing the way, remove obstacles like: flora, webs of giant spiders etc.

Multiple small targets
Flamers can also be affective against swarms of small creatures like ants, hornets etc.


The Rigged Flamethrower from ALIEN (1979)
When the Chestburster burst out of Kane and get lose onboard of the Nostromo the remaining crew tries to implement ash's plan – giving the Facehugger corrosive blood it will be unwise to try to kill the Chestburster but instead the idea is to use fire to terrify the little monster and push it toward the airlock and from there… to the infinity and beyond!Of course, Ash (and maybe captain Dallas too?) didn’t want to throw such profitable organism to the cold mercy of outer space and their goal was to merely capture it for further study by the company.Either way, Dennis Parker, the ship's Chief Engineer, constructs several rigged flamethrowers for the job.

The Colonial Marines  M240 Incinerator Unit from ALIENS (1986)
Unlike the M41 Pulse Rifle, the M240 Incinerator Unit was never quite seen on-screen clearly. I could never make out the details of this Colonial Marine flame unit, and wasn't until the Colonial Marines Technical Manual that we gained some insight into this weapon. To me, the M240 always had an AR15 look to it, more specifically, the M16A2 with an203 heatshield handguard attached. In-universe, the M240 was issued to off-world Colonial Marine units during culling operations (bug hunts), where Colonial Marine assets were tasked with suppressing local hostile lifeforms.
This carbine-sized flamethrower was fitted with a larger fuel tank that housed a thick fuel called napthal that can allow the M240 to flame triggers up to 30 meters. The droplets of napthal can burn up to thirty seconds.  The tank itself had enough fuel for a full 20 second burn. The film, the prop was one of the few military-grade flamerthrowers ever seen on-film. This created problems, like when the flames lit the APC set on fire, and filled the interior with toxi plastic smoke. As you could guess, the M240 was constructed out of M16 and M203 parts. The M240 would be seen in several video games based in the ALIENS universe. It is unknown if the M240 will be seen in the new ALIENS film.

The M2A1-7 Flamethrower from The Thing (1982)
What a nostalgic film! To kill a highly Regeneration alien, simply called the 'THING', the members of American Antarctic research station use military grade M2A1-7 flamethrowers.Why Antarctic research stations have flamethrowers at the first place?! Well it turns out that prior to John F Kennedy inauguration speech at 1961 the streets of Washington DC were blocked with snow so the US army engineering corp. used flamethrowers to remove the snow out of the roads! So those flamers might have legit purpose at the research station, clear snow and ice I guess…

The M7057 Defoliant Projector from the HALO Universe
Given the connection to ALIENS and the presence of the Flood, it is easy to see how and why an flamethrower belongs in the HALO universe. It was not until the 3rd game (and ODST) that we would see the inclusion of a badass heavy flamethrowers to burn Floodforms. Originally, HALO: Combat Evolved  was to include the M7057 DP. however it was cut. It would reappear in the PC version of the game, and that was only in the multiplayer mode. In HALO 3 and HALO 3: ODST, the improved version of the original UNSC flamethrower would be included into the story model as well as the multiplayer. This became a fan favorite and a cool way to deal with Floodforms, but it does have its limitations. It quickly overheats, and it requires distance after you flame an target. Before the flaming target dies, it can and does pose a risk to you. In-universe, the M7057 DP was originally designed of use in off-world construction, by helping to clear foliage.  In that use, the flamethrower was mounted to a cart.

The Stationary Refinery Gate Flamethrowers from Mad Max 2 AKA The Road Warrior (1981)
In a world where petroleum is rare Flamethrower is very expensive toy. The small group of survivors who operates the oil pump mounted and uses a powerful stationary flamer to defend the gate in their perimeter wall.

The Bush Boss FD-3 and FD-11 Flamethrowers from AVATAR (2009)
The RDA SpecOps on Pandora use two flamethrowers for flora clearing and for fauna terrorize and deter. There are two variants: the FD-3 is a man-held flamer and the heavy and larger FD-11 is carried by AMP suits. Often, the FD-11 is used with AMP suits in support of larger clearing operations. Both FD flamethrower variants were seen on-screen in the 2009 film.

The M.I. Handheld Flamethrower from Starship Troopers Novel (1959) 
Been one of the first MSF novels ever its featuring one of the first representation of flamethrowers ever…The soldiers of the Mobile Infantry of the 23th century don't use any slug-throwers, according to private Rico's narrating those 20th century's automatic rifles were inefficient, taxing 20th century's military organizations spending tons of ammunition for a single kill. Their replacement - hand held flamethrowers carried by power armored MI for close range bug grilling.  The flamethrower was seen in the 1988 anime and the M2A 5-2 flamethrower was seen attached to one of the arms of the Marauder armored power suits from the 2009 film.

The Arachnid "Tanker Bug" from Starship Troopers (1997)
Now I know that 1997 SST the movie was kicking in the groin to all SST fans out there, but the issue with flamers was too much! In the movie the MI do carry automatic rifles and the use them like a bunch of Yahoos, spray & pray tactics and such. Who get the flamethrowers? The damn bugs! One of many species of bugs the MI encounter is the Tanker, an armored behemoth which spray flammable liquid out of a nozzle in the top of the head. The coolest element about this bug is that a second before it fires it produce electric spark between its two antennas to ignite the liquid.

The Archimedes flamethrower from The Watchmen (2009) 
The New Night Owl has its own Batmoblie - the Archimedes. This flying craft is loaded up with all sorts of weapons, one of them is a flamethrower. While the flamethrower not seen firing during the climax of any battle it did fired in the climax of…. well… how can I explain that?  You watch the movie and know what I meant!

The MUN Population Control Team from District 9 (2009)
In order to control and block the Prawns population explosion, the MNU applies 'abortion' units to exterminate Prawns eggs and their incubators facilities using flamethrowers. I guess the MNU don't have 'Pro-Life' bumper stickers on their white raid trucks… And did Wikus have to be such a haughty smiley dick?

The MK-One Ironman Suit Flamethrower From Iron Man (2008) 
When Tony Stark captured and held by a group of terrorists who demand him to build them weapons, Tony build them something they didn’t expect- an arc reactor powered armor with twin flamethrowers, one in each hand. With this power armor Tony breaks free while burn the terrorists camp to the ground.

The Brotherhood of Nod Flame tank from the Command and Conquer Video Game Series
Throughout the four Tiberium Wars, the Brotherhood of Nod develop and deployed many fearsome and terrified weapons but by far their love story with flamethrowers is something special. While any new war Nod's flamethrowers tanks change their concept remains – two massive flamers facing forward located on both side of cockpit like driver canopy.

The First Order Flametrooper from the Star Wars Universe
In the upcoming Episode VII, we will finally see stormtroopers using flamethrowers! While used by Boba and Jango Fett, the use of flamethrowers by the Imperials was limited to artwork, but now it seems that the First Order Flametrooper are going to be front-and-center in the new film and in the toyline. Little is known about the flamer and the Flametrooper at the moment, I am digging the look of these specialized troopers.

The Flamer Weapons of the Warhammer 40K Universe
How could there be badass super-soldier space marines encased in badass powered armor without an badass flamethrower? Inconvenience! In the WH40K universe, the use of flamethrowers by Space Marines is full authorized and proved. Flamers are just used by the Imperium forces, but also by the Tau, the Oaks, Chaos, and others. There are even vehicle mounted heavy flamer units, like the Sisters of Battle Immolator tank that mounts a twin heavy flamer, or the Inferno cannon mounted on the Hellhound Chimera variant armored vehicle. Even the iconic Terminator CLASS-II heavy Powered armor gets flamer, a double flamer, that is. This is prefect for space hulk culling operations. Flamethrowers in the Warhammer 40,000 universe are often featured in most art pieces, and there seems to be no shortage of flamers in this universe, and are front and center in most battles.
The Enhanced Soldiers Flamethrowers from Soldier (1998)

Soldier is one of those missed opportunities in military sci-fi and could have been a great BLADE RUNNER side-sequel, but it wasn't, and the movie is mostly crap. During the climax, the government sends in the version 2.0 of the super-soldiers to clear out Arcadia 234 illegal squatters as a live-fire training exercise. One of the weapons used by the Enhanced soldiers is an nicely designed flamethrower, and coupled with the near-Sardaukar outfit, makes for most memorable visuals.

Next time on FWS Armory...The Wet Front
For the next time on FWS Armory blog article, we'll take a deep breath and explore the future battle field of the underwater. Why divers need to bear arms? What weapons the frogmen of today are using? What the aquanauts will use tomorrow? How free dive divers kill a Great White Shark in one blow?  All of that and more in the next armory article!

Next Time on FWS...
It has been the a long time since FWS posted a MSF Oddity blogpost, and I finally decided to write about one of the oddest ghosts of military science fiction's past: The 1994 Battletech Animated Series. This is a series that I remember clearly and even own a few of the toys.


  1. Wow. Good job Yoel!

  2. Nice job man, but I wouldn't say no military uses flamethrowers anymore. I heard that I. The beslan school siege that flamethrowers were used to flush out some terrorists in the buildings.and some reports in Chechnya that they're used by our good friends in Russia. Don't know if true but if it is I feel real sorry for those Chechen terrorist, poor bastards.

  3. One video game flamethrower in particular I feel is worth mentioning is the one from dead space. It was originally used for melting ice buildup during asteroid mining operations, and later repurposed for barbecuing necromophs. Contrary to many video game flamethrowers, which just kind of spit out a short ranged wall of flame, this one, as I recall, actually fired a stream of fuel in an arc, and wasn't worthless at medium range. However that splash of realism in its performance was ruined by nearly every technical detail surrounding the weapons lore. It used hypergolic fuel (spontaneously combusts when exposed to oxygen) yet features a pilot light to ignite the stream. Also in the first game it could not be used in vacuum due to the lack of oxygen, when in reality it's fuel, hydrazine, can easily be made to burn in vacuum. Hydrazine is a volatile and dangerous substance, unlikely to be issued to any idiot asteroid miner when, by this tech level, other options will have presented themselves. They already use plasma based weapons and tools, why not a plasma projector that simply ionizes compressed inert gas? Or it could use a pump, or electromagnetically propel the gas after ionization. I guess the design they chose to go with was simply more familiar to the audience than anything else.

    Personally I feel that should flamethrowers ever make a return to use in military arsenals, they would need a makeover to make them safer and more effective. Higher ignition temperature fluids would be a start, as well as ditching the pressurized tank. If you had the electrical energy you could use either a high speed pump or a built in compressor that uses atmospheric gasses for fluid propulsion. Instead of a pilot light, they could use an electric arc that activates whenever the trigger is pulled, or be temporarily deactivated for cold shots. Being compact enough for use with a secondary weapon would also make them more practical and appealing.

    Another thing that could be interesting is a thermobaric mode, that sprays a cloud of fuel and ignites it a moment later. Of course the cloud would have to be far enough from the shooter so that it didn't catch him in the blast, but it's still something I think is worth considering.

  4. Yeah after thinking long and hard, Flamethrowers where one of those weapons that I found there was no practical way to employ in my setting. Personal energy shields, Armored vehicles and Combat Robots are all very common in my setting, and even though a practical underslung flamethrower is fully possible in my setting, I cant imagine them being very useful against robots and shielded infantry. Plus my setting, ground warfare is a high mobility affair, static fortifications aren't that common, mobility with armored vehicles and mechanized and airborne infantry is. So i juat cant imagine even underslung flamethrowers being that useful, unless they can be made to be useful against robotic drones and shielded targets.

  5. "Currently, the flamethrower is a thing of the past; no military around the world using it anymore and there is any reason to think that could change in the foreseen future."
    In front line use Correct. However the PLA has and does use them primarily for Anti Chemical warfare units.

    1. Tell that to the Russians. And there's a use for flamethrowers in the modern world it's just that in the western world showing soldiers flushing out Taliban out of a cave in a flamethrower on the 6:00 news isn't a really good for the hearts and minds part.

  6. I just watched my first Rambo: Rambo 2, and i'm not happy. Because there was no flamennwerfer in it D:

  7. Plasma flamethrower can be interesting, infinite ammo to burn jungles

  8. Thank you for the information. I need to prepare an essay about war. I think i can use this information. I don't know whether it is enough to prepare an essay. Other wise i need to depend some top essay writing service that available online. Nice job. Good luck.

  9. Excellent article, as a science fiction, war geek, I appreciate the time to explain the origins, history, practical usage, tropes and how future scenarios might employ them.