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Various chemical and biological weapons

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Various chemical and biological weapons

chemical weapons

A chemical weapon is any toxic chemical that can cause death, injury, incapacitation, and sensory irritation, deployed via a delivery system, such as an artillery shell, rocket, or ballistic missile. Chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction and their use in armed conflict is a violation of international law.  Primary forms of chemical weapons include nerve agents, blister agents, choking agents, and blood agents. These agents are categorized based on how they affect the human body.

Nerve agents. Generally considered the most deadly of the different categories of chemical weapons, nerve agents – in liquid or gas form – can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Nerve agents inhibit the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular capability by causing severe damage to the central nervous system, and can result in death. The most common nerve agents include Sarin, Soman, and VX.

Blister agents

Blister agents can come in forms of gas, aerosol, or liquid and cause severe burns and blistering of the skin. They can also cause complications to the respiratory system if inhaled and digestive tract if ingested. Common forms of blister agents include Sulfur Mustard, Nitrogen Mustard, Lewisite and Phosgene Oximine.

Choking agents.

Choking agents are chemical toxins that directly attack the body’s respiratory system when inhaled and cause respiratory failure. Common forms of choking agents include phosgene, chlorine, and chloropicrin.

Blood agents.

Blood agents interfere with the body’s ability to use and transfer oxygen through the blood stream. Blood agents are generally inhaled and then absorbed into the blood stream. Common forms of blood agents include Hydrogen Chloride and Cyanogen Chloride.

Riot control agents

such as tear gas, are considered chemical weapons if used as a method of warfare. States can legitimately possess riot control agents and use them for domestic law enforcement purposes, but states that are members of the Chemical Weapons Convention must declare what type of riot agents they possess.

Delivery of chemical weapons

A chemical weapon attack occurs in two phases: delivery and dissemination. The delivery phase refers to the launching of the rocket, bomb, or artillery shell. The dissemination phase involves the dispersal of the chemical agent from the weapon.

Chemical weapons can be delivered via a variety of mechanisms including but not limited to; ballistic missiles, air dropped gravity bombs, rockets, artillery shells, aerosol canisters, land mines, and mortars.

Air delivered systems: can be deployed via gravity bombs, spray tank, or rockets. Ground detonated and airburst gravity bombs are generally delivered through fixed wing aircraft, while helicopters have been traditionally deployed with spray tanks and rockets.

Ballistic missiles: carrying chemical weapons – via a fill tank or sub munitions – utilize an airburst to disperse chemical agents over a broad area.  The use of sub munitions increases the area in which chemical agents can be dispersed. Compared to other delivery systems, ballistic missiles expand the range of targets that combatants can target with chemical weapons. However, the use of explosives to disperse the chemical agent reduces the potency of the weapon in combat situations.

Cruise missiles: Unlike ballistic missiles, which utilize explosives to discharge the agent, cruise missiles can disperse chemical agents in a gradual and controlled fashion.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles :or UAVs are another platform that combatants may utilize to disperse chemical agents. Like cruise missiles, UAVs are ideal platforms for slower dissemination due to controllable speeds, and dispersal over a wide area. UAVs can fly below radar detection and change directions, allowing them to be retargeted during flight.

Biological weapons

Biological weapon, also called germ weapon, any of a number of disease-producing agents—such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents—that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals, or plants.

The direct use of infectious agents and poisons against enemy personnel is an ancient practice in warfare. Indeed, in many conflicts, diseases have been responsible for more deaths than all the employed combat arms combined, even when they have not consciously been used as weapons.

Biological weapons, like chemical weapons, radiological weapons, and nuclear weapons, are commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction, although the term is not truly appropriate in the case of biological armaments. Lethal biological weapons may be capable of causing mass deaths, but they are incapable of mass destruction of infrastructure, buildings, or equipment. Nevertheless, because of the indiscriminate nature of these weapons—as well as the potential for starting widespread pandemics, the difficulty of controlling disease effects, and the simple fear that they inspire—most countries have agreed to ban the entire class.

As of 2013 a total of 180 states and Taiwan had signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and 170 of those states and Taiwan had signed and ratified the treaty, which was opened for signature in 1972. Under the terms of the BWC, member states are prohibited from using biological weapons in warfare and from developing, testing, producing, stockpiling, or deploying them. However, a number of states have continued to pursue biological warfare capabilities, seeking a cheaper but still deadly strategic weapon rather than following the more difficult and expensive path to nuclear weapons. In addition, the threat that some deranged individual or terrorist organization will manufacture or steal biological weapons is a growing security concern.

Some noticeable biological weapons are as follows:

Bacteria: single-cell organisms that cause diseases such as anthrax, brucellosis, tularemia, and plague.

Rickettsiae: microorganisms that resemble bacteria but differ in that they are intracellular parasites that reproduce inside cells. Typhus and Q fever are examples of diseases caused by rickettsia organisms.

Viruses: intracellular parasites, about 1/100 the size of bacteria, that can be weaponized to cause diseases such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis.

Fungi: pathogens that can be weaponized for use against crops to cause such diseases as rice blast, cereal rust, wheat smut, and potato blight.

Toxins: poisons that can be weaponized after extraction from snakes, insects, spiders, marine organisms, plants, bacteria, fungi, and animals. An example of a toxin is ricin, which is derived from the seed of the castor bean.

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