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aerial bomb[′e·rē·əl ′bäm]
one of the types of aviation munitions dropped from an airplane or other flying vehicle to strike land, sea, or air targets. Aerial bombs of special design are used to set up smoke screens, to illuminate areas, or to fulfill other auxiliary tasks.
The aerial bomb consists of a casing, bomb loading, suspension lugs, stabilizing fin, and ballistic ring. The fin and the ballistic ring ensure stable flight of the bomb through the air after it is dropped. The bombs to be dropped from low heights have braking devices (such as parachutes), which slow down the flight speed of the bombs so that they lag behind the bomber at a safe distance. Bombs are armed for military operations by installation of one or several fuses, which prime the explosive charge or pyrotechnic composition (incendiary, flare, and so on). Impact fuses cause aerial bombs to explode at the instant of impact upon an obstacle or after a certain time lapse—from fractions of a second to several hours or even days. Time fuses activate bombs in midair within a certain period after they are dropped, and noncontact fuses activate the bomb at a specified height above ground.
High-explosive aerial bombs are the most common type of bomb; these bombs bring high-explosive action to bear on their targets. They are used to destroy military and industrial installations, warehouses, airfields, bridges, railway junctions, and other objectives; they range in mass from 50 kg to 10 tons. High-explosive aerial bombs with thick-walled casings are known as semi-armor-piercing bombs in the USA army.
Fragmentation aerial bombs have a massive casing, from which a large number of fragments are created when the explosion occurs. These bombs are used as antipersonnel weapons to strike artillery emplacements, trucks and vehicles, airplanes parked on runways, and other targets. They range in mass from 1 kg to 100 kg. In the war in Vietnam, USA aviation made use of small fragmentation bombs of spherical shape with prepared fragments in the form of steel pellets to be expelled by the explosion. Special clusters and containers, either expendable or reusable, are used when small fragmentation bombs and other similar types of bombs are dropped. High-explosive fragmentation aerial bombs are used to hit various targets with both fragments and high explosives.
Armor-piercing aerial bombs are used to hit armored ships and “hard” targets with sturdy concrete and reinforced-concrete shielding. The damage they inflict is caused by the piercing action and subsequent explosion touched off inside the target. In order to enhance their penetrating power, armor-piercing bombs may be boosted by a jet engine, which increases their speed upon impact.
Antitank aerial bombs are designed to disable tanks and other land-based armored equipment. The explosive charge has a charge hollow with a metal cone forming a shaped jet in the explosion, which penetrates the armor and ignites fuel fumes. Antitank aerial bombs were first used in Soviet aviation during the Great Patriotic War in the battle of Kursk in 1943. These bombs were dropped from airplanes in clusters. With masses of 2.5–5 kg, they are capable of piercing armor as thick as 100–200 mm.
Antisubmarine aerial bombs are used in strikes against submarines. Small bombs designed for direct hits on a submarine are used, as well as large-caliber bombs capable of damaging a submarine by exploding in the water.
Incendiary aerial bombs are used for starting fires to destroy equipment, and as antipersonnel weapons on the battlefield and at staging areas. Their mass ranges from 1 to 500 kg. These bombs are armed with solid pyrotechnical compositions and organic fuel materials (gasoline, kerosene, and the like), and special thickening compositions. Napalm is a thickener widely used in incendiary bombs manufactured in the USA. The USA air force has bombed the civilian population in the Korean and Vietnam wars with napalm bombs. High-explosive incendiary aerial bombs are used in strikes against industrial installations, oil tanks, urban-type structures, and the like, with combined incendiary and high-explosive action.
Chemical aerial bombs are equipped with chemical warfare agents.
Auxiliary aerial bombs are used for such purposes as laying down smoke screens in order to camouflage movements of friendly troops or disorient the enemy, disseminating propaganda leaflets, lighting up the target area in nighttime bombing and aerial photo reconnaissance, and designating airplane flight routes and airborne assault landing sites.
At the end of World War II, guided aerial bombs and atomic bombs were used for the first time. Guided aerial bombs have wings, flight control vanes, and remote- and self-guiding systems. The remote control bomb can be homed in on any target, if it is monitored with the aid of an optical or radar bombsight. Self-homing aerial bombs are used only against targets presenting distinctive contrast, such as radar contrast or heat contrast.