- This article is about explosive devices. Theo can also refer to water bombs or volcanic bombs. Bomb is also a slang term.
A bomb is an explosive device, usually some kind of container filled with explosive material, designed to cause destruction when set off. The explosion of the bomb has to be triggered, usually by a clock, a remote control, or some kind of sensor, usually pressure (altitude), radar, or contact. The word comes from the Greek βόμβος (bombos), an onomatopoeic term with approximately the same meaning as "boom" in English.
These are first and foremost weapons; the term "bomb" is not usually applied to explosive devices used for civilian purposes (such as construction or mining). Note that many military explosive devices are not called "bombs". The military mostly calls airdropped, unpowered explosive weapons "bombs," and such bombs are usually the provenance of air forces and naval aviation. Other military explosive devices are called grenades (such as hand grenades), shells, depth charges, missiles or mines.
They have been used for centuries in warfare and are a central part of the terrorist's arsenal. They fall into three distinct categories: conventional (filled with chemical explosives), dispersive (filled with submunitions , chemicals or other disruptive agents which are spread on or shortly before impact) or nuclear (relying on nuclear fission or nuclear fusion for their effect).
A distinction is commonly drawn between terrorist and military bombs. The latter are almost always mass-produced weapons, developed and constructed to a standard design out of standard components and intended to be deployed in a standard way each time. By contrast, terrorist bombs are usually custom-made, developed to any number of designs, use a wide range of explosives of varying levels of power and chemical stability, and are used in many different ways. For this reason, they are generally referred to as improvised explosive devices or IEDs.
The most powerful bomb in existence is the hydrogen bomb, a nuclear weapon. The most powerful non-nuclear bomb is the United States Air Force's MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst).
Although a bomb may be delivered by being thrown or may be concealed in a car or truck or by the roadside, the usual method of delivering bombs to their target is by dropping them from an airplane. Modern bombs, precision-guided munition, may be guided after they leave an airplane by remote control or (in the case of atomic weapons) mounted on a guided missile.
Bombing may be directed at military targets such as ships or armament factories or at civilian targets such as office buildings or cities. Bombing of particular targets such as ships, tanks is called tactical bombing; bombing of areas such as military bases or cities is called strategic bombing. Strategic bombing of civilian targets is controversial and considered a war crime by some and a defining characteristic of terrorism by others, see terror bombing. Area or carpet bombing of cities using Incendiary bombs may result in a firestorm and extensive casualties especially when it is windy.
Bombing of civilian targets
During the Second World War there was some bombing of civilian targets, first, during the German invasion of Poland in 1939, then following The Blitz directed at London and other British cities, by the British bombing of German cities such as Dresden. In the Pacific War U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific towards the end of the war, after air defense over Japanese cities became weak, engaged in extensive bombing of Japanese cities such as Tokyo. This campaign culminated in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons at the end of the war. Because of the huge size of the blast, most bombing using hydrogen bombs would necessarily result in massive civilian casualties both from the initial blast and subsequent nuclear fallout.
- BLU = Bomb/mine Live Unit
- GBU = Guided Bomb Unit
- LGB = Laser Guided Bomb
C4 = a type of plastic explosive