White phosphorus shells/munitions
Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations and GS-III Defence and security
Context: Russian forces were recently accused of launching phosphorus bomb attacks in the eastern region of Lugansk.
- International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in heavily populated civilian areas, but allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.
White phosphorus munitions
- White phosphorus munitions are weapons that use one of the common allotropes of the chemical element phosphorus.
- White phosphorus is:
- pyrophoric (it is ignited by contact with air);
- burns fiercely;
- can ignite cloth, fuel, ammunition, and other combustibles.
- White phosphorus is a highly efficient smoke-producing agent, reacting with air to produce an immediate blanket of phosphorus pentoxide vapor.
- Smoke-producing white phosphorus munitions are very common, particularly as smoke grenades for infantry.
- These create smoke screens to mask friendly forces’ movement, position, infrared signatures, and shooting positions.
Historical record of phosphorus use
- Phosphorus ammunitions have been used throughout history and in modern wars such as Iraq war, Arab-Israeli conflict as well.
- Two events are listed below:
- There have been White phosphorus is believed to have been first used by Fenian (Irish nationalist) arsonists in the 19th century.
- The British Army introduced the first factory-built white phosphorus grenades in late 1916 during the First World War.
News Source: TH