Top 7 Flamethrowers of History

Top 7 Flamethrowers of History

     Flamethrowers have played a significant role in military history, from the trenches of World War I to the jungles of Korea. These weapons have evolved over the years to become more effective and portable, with some even garnering attention from the general public. In this article, we will explore the history of eight notable flamethrowers, detailing their inventors, where they were used, what made them unique, and various operational aspects.

M2 Flamethrower (1943-1953)

The M2 Flamethrower, developed by the United States military during World War II, was an improvement on the earlier M1 model. The M2 was known for its reliability, effectiveness, and range of up to 40 meters. Approximately 7,000 M2 Flamethrowers were manufactured and used in both World War II and the Korean War. Its primary use was for clearing bunkers, trenches, and other fortifications. The M2 typically used a mixture of napalm and gasoline as fuel, pressurized with nitrogen. It required only one soldier to operate, but the fuel's weight and the weapon's backfire risk were some of the main drawbacks for the user.

Flammenwerfer 35 (1935-1945)

The FmW 35 was a German flamethrower invented by Richard Fiedler and used during World War II. With a range of about 25 meters, the FmW 35 was primarily employed for clearing out enemy fortifications. Its compact design and ease of use made it a popular choice among German troops. The FmW 35 used a mixture of oil and tar as fuel, pressurized with nitrogen. One soldier could operate the weapon, but the risks of fuel leaks and enemy fire made it dangerous for the user. Prior to the FmW 35, the Flammenwerfer M.16 served as its predecessor during World War I, laying the groundwork for the improved design and functionality of the FmW 35.

ROKS-3 (1943-1945)

The ROKS-3 was a Soviet-era backpack-style flamethrower used during World War II. It was designed to be more portable and easier to use than its predecessor, the ROKS-2. The ROKS-3 was employed in various theaters of the war, including the Eastern Front and the Pacific, where it was used to clear out Japanese defenses. It used a mixture of gasoline and thickening agents as fuel, pressurized with air. Although one soldier could operate the ROKS-3, the weight and bulk of the backpack made it challenging to maneuver in tight spaces.

LPO-50 (1953-1970s)

The LPO-50 was a Soviet-era flamethrower used by the Russian military. It featured three barrels for improved reliability and effectiveness. Developed in 1953, the LPO-50 saw service in various conflicts during the Cold War, including the Vietnam War and the Soviet-Afghan War. The LPO-50 used a napalm-like fuel called “thickened gasoline,” pressurized with nitrogen. It required one soldier to operate, but the weapon’s weight, complexity, and vulnerability to enemy fire made it a challenging device for the user.

Riverine Monitors

Riverine Monitors in the Vietnam War: The United States utilized riverine monitors from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s during the Vietnam War, specifically designed for operations in the Mekong Delta and other shallow-water environments. These small, heavily armed patrol boats played a crucial role in providing close-range fire support in the dense jungles where enemy forces hid. Some of these riverine monitors, such as the M132 “Zippo” and the M10-8, were equipped with flamethrowers that could shoot up to 200 meters. This allowed them to effectively clear enemy bunkers, trenches, and other fortifications along the riverbanks. The riverine monitors were part of the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF), which was a joint effort between the US Navy and the US Army to patrol and secure the vast waterways of South Vietnam.

Churchill Crocodile (1944-1945)

The Churchill Crocodile was a British tank-mounted flamethrower used during World War II. It was a variant of the Churchill tank with a flamethrower replacing the hull machine gun. Developed by engineer Charles Percy Hobart, the Crocodile was used in various campaigns, including the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge. Its ability to project flame over 100 meters and the psychological impact on enemy troops made it an effective weapon. The Crocodile used a napalm-like fuel and was pressurized with compressed air. As a tank-mounted flamethrower, it required a crew of six to operate the tank and the flamethrower system, but its armor provided better protection for the users.

Sherman Zippo (1943-1953)

The Sherman Zippo was an American tank-mounted flamethrower used during World War II and the Korean War. It was a variant of the M4 Sherman tank with a flamethrower replacing the main gun or mounted alongside it. The Sherman Zippo was particularly effective in the Pacific theater against Japanese fortifications, as well as during the Korean War for clearing enemy bunkers. The Zippo used a napalm-like fuel and was pressurized with nitrogen. Similar to the Churchill Crocodile, the Sherman Zippo required a crew to operate both the tank and the flamethrower system, with the tank’s armor providing better protection for the users.

Historical Early Flamethrower Use

Honorable Mention

Greek fire, one of the earliest known weapons for shooting flames at enemies, was a highly effective and dangerous incendiary weapon developed by the Byzantines in the 7th century. Later used by the Turks and Western Europeans, this combustible liquid was composed of various ingredients such as sulfur, oil, and petroleum. Greek fire could be shot from siphons or catapults, igniting upon impact and creating a devastating effect on enemy forces. The exact composition of Greek fire remains debated, but its ability to burn on water made it a potent weapon in naval warfare. As the recipe for Greek fire evolved over time, it paved the way for more advanced flame-based weapons and eventually led to the development of gunpowder.

Modern Days​

You may not be able to easily purchase one of the tank flamethrowers listed above, but you can buy a flamethrower just as epic. Here are a few examples: Claiming the top spot, the Throwflames XL18 boasts a range that surpasses 110 feet and delivers an extraordinary half-gallon fuel output per second, ensuring a bright night. Elon Musk’s “Not a Flamethrower” takes the crown for the most popular “flamethrower,” having found 20,000 homes in just a few days. But under the hood of that sleek exterior? Nothing more than a butane torch. When seeking a handheld flamethrower that surpasses Musk’s and delivers a 30ft range, Throwflames ARC flamethrower should be your first choice. Its design is streamlined for efficiency like fast charging and includes a backpack-style tank for additional fuel storage. You can also enjoy the Picatinny rails ability to mount to anything like the picture above.

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