The Chinese Army Has a Weapon For Fighting Murder Hornets: Flamethrowers

A World War I weapon makes a comeback.

China Military Network
  • Recent pictures out of China indicate the People’s Liberation Army still uses the flamethrower.
  • Invented more than a century ago, most armies have removed flamethrowers from their inventories.
  • The PLA is also known to use its flamethrowers to kill murder hornet nests, which could help with America’s latest invasive species.

    A new series of propaganda pictures out of China suggests that the People’s Liberation Army Ground Forces—otherwise known as the Chinese Arm—is still using tried and true flamethrowers. An invention dating back to World War I, the PLA is one of the world’s few holdouts, though their use against China’s own “murder hornet” population might prompt the U.S. Army to break out its own flame projectors.

    According to China Defense Blog, the Chinese Army is keeping its flamethrowers just as it is modernizing its force structure. Flamethrowers are still part of the table of organization and equipment for the combat engineering companies of the army’s new combined arms brigades. Like the U.S. Army and other armies, the PLA is moving from larger divisions to smaller, more agile brigades.

    Flamethrowers were invented by the German Army in World War I and quickly copied by most of the industrialized powers. Flamethrowers are typically used by combat engineers to inject a jet of flame through the bunker’s narrow opening, incinerating anyone inside. The U.S. and Soviet armies fielded flamethrowers during the early years of the Cold War, but the weapons had been removed from service by the 1970s. Flamethrowers rarely have a range greater than 150 feet, and the widespread adoption of fully automatic weapons makes it very difficult for flamethrower carriers to get their weapons within range of a bunker or other target.

    China’s service flamethrower is the Type 74, itself originally based on the Soviet LPO-50. The flamethrower consists of two tanks of thickened gasoline, giving a total firing time of 2-3 seconds, with an effective range of 40 to 50 meters (131 to 164 feet). The gasoline is ignited by a starter system that uses blank gun cartridges.

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    Recent developments may force the U.S. Army to change its position on flamethrowers. As almost everyone is aware, entomologists recently discovered colonies of the deadly V. mandarinia, otherwise known as the “murder hornet," in Canada and the United States. In 2013, the Chinese Army used a flamethrower to destroy a five-foot-wide murder hornet nest resting 100 feet in the air. Hornets from the nest had reportedly already killed one person and the locals refused to take any more chances.

    Exactly how the U.S. Army—or National Guard—would respond to a murder hornet destruction request is not clear.

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