A Bomb That Drops Spools of Wire?

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May 3 1999 4:43 PM

A Bomb That Drops Spools of Wire?

NATO warplanes knocked out most of Belgrade's electrical power this weekend, using carbon filament bombs. Carbon filament? What kind of a bomb is this?

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Early versions of this bomb disabled Baghdad's power plants during the Gulf War. Cruise missiles loaded with spools of ultra-thin carbon wire were exploded just over electrical plants, and the unfurled wires landed on the outdoor circuitry, causing the plants to short circuit. The United States uses this technology when it wishes to minimize long-term damage to civilian infrastructure: The plants become operational again when the wires are cleared away, which can take just a few days. The bombs also minimize casualties at power plants.

In 1995, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported that the Pentagon had refined the weapon. Today, the bomb floats tiny carbon filament fibers down over the target in a dense, slow-moving cloud. These fibers are drawn into air ducts in buildings and vehicles, short-circuiting any electronic devices that are inside. The only known danger to humans is that the fibers can cause severe itching.

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