Air burst
An air burst is the detonation of an explosive device
Explosive device
An explosive device is device that relies on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy. Explosive devices have applications as demolition devices and as weapons in the military....

 such as an anti-personnel artillery shell or a nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 in the air instead of on contact with the ground or target or a delayed armor piercing explosion
An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. An explosion creates a shock wave. If the shock wave is a supersonic detonation, then the source of the blast is called a "high explosive"...

Aerial bursts may also arise from the explosion, above the ground, of incoming self-detonating meteoroid
A meteoroid is a sand- to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar System. The visible path of a meteoroid that enters Earth's atmosphere is called a meteor, or colloquially a shooting star or falling star. If a meteoroid reaches the ground and survives impact, then it is called a meteorite...

s as some postulate happened in the Tunguska event
Tunguska event
The Tunguska event, or Tunguska blast or Tunguska explosion, was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at about 7:14 a.m...


The principal military advantage of an air burst over a ground burst
Ground burst
A groundburst is the detonation of an explosive device such as an artillery shell, nuclear weapon or air-dropped bomb that explodes upon hitting the ground...

 is that the energy from the explosion (as well as any shell fragments) is distributed more evenly over a wider area; however, the peak energy is lower.


Air burst artillery has a long history. The shrapnel shell, invented by Henry Shrapnel
Henry Shrapnel
Henry Shrapnel was a British Army officer and inventor, most famously, of the "shrapnel shell".Henry Shrapnel was born in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, England....

 of the British army in about 1780, was widely used by the time of the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 and stayed in use until it was superseded during the First World War. The original shell was a hollow sphere filled with musket balls and a charge of gun powder. A burning fuse caused the charge to explode, bursting the shell and spraying the enemy with lead musket balls. The shell was subsequently improved and made in the cylindrical, pointed shape of normal artillery shells. Mechanical and chemical time fuses caused the detonation of the powder charge which launched the musket balls out the front of the cylindrical shell. Shrapnel shells have had various names including spherical case shot, the original name. The name shrapnel was a nickname given to the shell to honour the inventor. The common use of the term "shrapnel" to describe modern artillery shells is technically not correct. Modern shells produce fragments and splinters, not shrapnel.

Air bursts were used in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 to shower enemy positions and men with shrapnel balls to kill the largest possible number of them with a single burst, assuming that the burst was directly in front of the trench
A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground. Trenches are generally defined by being deeper than they are wide , and by being narrow compared to their length ....

 in which the men were positioned.

When infantry moved into deep trenches, shrapnel shells were rendered useless and high-explosive shells were used to attack field fortifications and troops in the open. The time fuses for the shells could be set to function on contact or in the air. During the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a Variable Time Fuse was developed. This fuse could not be set by the gun detachment but was controlled by a doppler radar device which caused the shell to explode when near the target.

During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, air bursting shells were used to great effect to defend US Army bases. This tactic was known as Killer Junior
Killer Junior
Killer Junior and Killer Senior are techniques of employing artillery direct fire air bursts, first developed during the Vietnam War. The technique involves a howitzer or gun firing a high explosive shell fuzed with a mechanical time-super quick artillery fuse set to function causing an airburst...

 when referring to 105 mm or 155 mm shells, and 'Killer Senior' when employed with larger howitzers.

Some anti-personnel land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s such as the "Bouncing Betty
The German S-mine , also known as the "Bouncing Betty," is the best-known version of a class of mines known as bounding mines. When triggered, these mines launch into the air and then detonate at about . The explosion projects a lethal spray of steel balls and fragments in all directions...

" fire a grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

 into the air which detonates at approximately two foot eleven inches, causing the fragments to fly out at waist level, severely maiming limbs and genitalia of anyone within a fifteen foot radius
In classical geometry, a radius of a circle or sphere is any line segment from its center to its perimeter. By extension, the radius of a circle or sphere is the length of any such segment, which is half the diameter. If the object does not have an obvious center, the term may refer to its...


Nuclear weapons

The air burst is usually several hundred to a few thousand feet in the air to allow the shockwave
Shock wave
A shock wave is a type of propagating disturbance. Like an ordinary wave, it carries energy and can propagate through a medium or in some cases in the absence of a material medium, through a field such as the electromagnetic field...

 of the fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 or fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 driven explosion to destroy the largest possible number of buildings, military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 units or vehicles, etc. This also minimizes the generation of irradiated soil and other debris (fallout
Nuclear fallout
Fallout is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes...

) by keeping the fireball from touching the ground, limiting the amount of additional debris that is vaporized and drawn up in the radioactive debris cloud. For the Hiroshima bomb an air burst 1800 to 2000 feet (550 to 610m) above the ground was chosen "to achieve maximum blast effects, and to minimize residual radiation on the ground as it was hoped our [i.e., U.S.] troops would soon occupy the city".


Air bursts are used primarily against infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

in the open or unarmored targets, as the resulting fragments cover a large area but will not penetrate armor, entrenchments, or fortifications.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.