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Arseny Antonov
Arseny Antonov

Weapons Warfare


Its contributors and editors included Bill Gunston (aviation), Ian V. Hogg (land weapons), John Batchelor (illustrations) and editor Bernard Fitzsimons. The quality of these lead contributors ensured high quality and accuracy in the finished product.




Weapons Warfare


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The modern use of chemical weapons began with World War I, when both sides to the conflict used poisonous gas to inflict agonizing suffering and to cause significant battlefield casualties. Such weapons basically consisted of well known commercial chemicals put into standard munitions such as grenades and artillery shells. Chlorine, phosgene (a choking agent) and mustard gas (which inflicts painful burns on the skin) were among the chemicals used. The results were indiscriminate and often devastating. Nearly 100,000 deaths resulted. Since World War I, chemical weapons have caused more than one million casualties globally.


As a result of public outrage, the Geneva Protocol, which prohibited the use of chemical weapons in warfare, was signed in 1925. While a welcome step, the Protocol had a number of significant shortcomings, including the fact that it did not prohibit the development, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons. Also problematic was the fact that many States that ratified the Protocol reserved the right to use prohibited weapons against States that were not party to the Protocol or as retaliation in kind if chemical weapons were used against them. Poison gasses were used during World War II in Nazi concentration camps and in Asia, although chemical weapons were not used on European battlefields.


The Cold War period saw significant development, manufacture and stockpiling of chemical weapons. By the 1970s and 80s, an estimated 25 States were developing chemical weapons capabilities. But since the end of World War II, chemical weapons have reportedly been used in only a few cases, notably by Iraq in the 1980s against the Islamic Republic of Iran.


After 12 years of negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992. The CWC allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties. The CWC opened for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993 and entered into force on 29 April 1997. The CWC is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control.


The OPCW Technical Secretariat is located in The Hague, the Netherlands. Currently, 189 nations, representing about 98% of the global population, have joined the CWC. The OPCW mission is to implement the provisions of the CWC and to ensure a credible, transparent regime to verify the destruction of chemical weapons; to prevent their re-emergence in any member State; to provide protection and assistance against chemical weapons; to encourage international cooperation in the peaceful uses of chemistry; and to achieve universal membership of the OPCW. The cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is regulated by the relationship agreement between both organisations adopted by the General Assembly in September 2001.


Microbiological, biological, and chemical toxins have been employed in warfare and in terrorist attacks. In this era, it is imperative that health care providers are familiar with illnesses caused by these agents. Botulinum toxin produces a descending flaccid paralysis. Staphylococcal enterotoxin B produces a syndrome of fever, nausea, and diarrhea and may produce a pulmonary syndrome if aerosolized. Clostridium perfringens epsilon-toxin could possibly be aerosolized to produce acute pulmonary edema. Ricin intoxication can manifest as gastrointestinal hemorrhage after ingestion, severe muscle necrosis after intramuscular injection, and acute pulmonary disease after inhalation. Nerve agents inhibit acetylcholinesterase and thus produce symptoms of increased cholinergic activity. Ammonia, chlorine, vinyl chloride, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, tear gas, and zinc chloride primarily injure the upper respiratory tract and the lungs. Sulfur mustard (and nitrogen mustard) are vesicant and alkylating agents. Cyanide poisoning ranges from sudden-onset headache and drowsiness to severe hypoxemia, cardiovascular collapse, and death. Health care providers should be familiar with the medical consequences of toxin exposure, and understand the pathophysiology and management of resulting illness.


Viking sword, spearheads and battle-axe, found in the London area Laws of the late Viking period show that all free men were expected to own weapons, and magnates were expected to provide them for their men. The main offensive weapons were the spear, sword and battle-axe, although bows and arrows and other missiles were also used. Weapons were carried not just for battle, but also as symbols of their owners' status and wealth. They were therefore often finely decorated with inlays, twisted wire and other adornments in silver, copper and bronze.


Swordsmen in berserk stance, biting the rims of their shields; warders from the Isle of Lewis chess-set. The Vikings had no professional standing army, and tactics and discipline seem to have been fairly rudimentary. They did not fight in regular formations, although the bonds of loyalty between men and their lords would have given their armies some cohesion. Weapons training began in youth in hunting, sports and raiding. Aspiring warriors sought armed service in the retinues of the famous, for which they hoped to be rewarded with weapons and fame of their own. A leader therefore needed to wage war frequently in order to keep his following and maintain power against rivals.


Nuclear weapons, the means of producing them, and their potential use play significant roles in international relations and homeland security. Throughout its history, RAND has provided detailed analyses and recommendations for defense planners and helped policymakers make informed national security decisions with regard to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the nuclear activities of India, Pakistan, China, North Korea, Iran, and other nations.


In North America, it was not the government but a dedicated individual who initiated a bioweapons research programme. Sir Frederick Banting, the Nobel-Prize-winning discoverer of insulin, created what could be called the first private biological weapon research centre in 1940, with the help of corporate sponsors (Avery, 1999; Regis, 1999). Soon afterwards, the US government was also pressed to perform such research by their British allies who, along with the French, feared a German attack with biological weapons (Moon, 1999, Regis, 1999), even though the Nazis apparently never seriously considered using biological weapons (Geissler, 1999). However, the Japanese embarked on a largescale programme to develop biological weapons during the Second World War (Harris, 1992, 1999, 2002) and eventually used them in their conquest of China. Indeed, alarm bells should have rung as early as 1939, when the Japanese legally, and then illegally, attempted to obtain yellow fever virus from the Rockefeller Institute in New York (Harris, 2002).


The father of the Japanese biological weapons programme, the radical nationalist Shiro Ishii, thought that such weapons would constitute formidable tools to further Japan's imperialistic plans. He started his research in 1930 at the Tokyo Army Medical School and later became head of Japan's bioweapon programme during the Second World War (Harris, 1992, 1999, 2002). At its height, the programme employed more than 5,000 people, and killed as many as 600 prisoners a year in human experiments in just one of its 26 centres. The Japanese tested at least 25 different disease-causing agents on prisoners and unsuspecting civilians. During the war, the Japanese army poisoned more than 1,000 water wells in Chinese villages to study cholera and typhus outbreaks. Japanese planes dropped plague-infested fleas over Chinese cities or distributed them by means of saboteurs in rice fields and along roads. Some of the epidemics they caused persisted for years and continued to kill more than 30,000 people in 1947, long after the Japanese had surrendered (Harris, 1992, 2002). Ishii's troops also used some of their agents against the Soviet army, but it is unclear as to whether the casualties on both sides were caused by this deliberate spread of disease or by natural infections (Harris, 1999). After the war, the Soviets convicted some of the Japanese biowarfare researchers for war crimes, but the USA granted freedom to all researchers in exchange for information on their human experiments. In this way, war criminals once more became respected citizens, and some went on to found pharmaceutical companies. Ishii's successor, Masaji Kitano, even published postwar research articles on human experiments, replacing 'human' with 'monkey' when referring to the experiments in wartime China (Harris, 1992, 2002).


Although some US scientists thought the Japanese information insightful, it is now largely assumed that it was of no real help to the US biological warfare programme projects. These started in 1941 on a small scale, but increased during the war to include more than 5,000 people by 1945. The main effort focused on developing capabilities to counter a Japanese attack with biological weapons, but documents indicate that the US government also discussed the offensive use of anti-crop weapons (Bernstein, 1987). Soon after the war, the US military started open-air tests, exposing test animals, human volunteers and unsuspecting civilians to both pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes (Cole, 1988; Regis, 1999). A release of bacteria from naval vessels off


Even though they had just signed the BTWC, the Soviet Union established Biopreparat, a gigantic biowarfare project that, at its height, employed more than 50,000 people in various research and production centres (Alibek & Handelman, 1999). The size and scope of the Soviet Union's efforts were truly staggering: they produced and stockpiled tons of anthrax bacilli and smallpox virus, some for use in intercontinental ballistic missiles, and engineered multidrug-resistant bacteria, including plague. They worked on haemorrhagic fever viruses, some of the deadliest pathogens that humankind has encountered. When virologist Nikolai Ustinov died after injecting himself with the deadly Marburg virus, his colleagues, with the mad logic and enthusiasm of bioweapon developers, re-isolated the virus from his body and found that it had mutated into a more virulent form than the one that Ustinov had used. And few took any notice, even when accidents happened. In 1971, smallpox broke out in the Kazakh city of Aralsk and killed three of the ten people that were infected. It is speculated that they were infected from a bioweapons research centre on a small island in the Aral Sea (Enserink, 2002). In the same area, on other occasions, several fishermen and a researcher died from plague and glanders, respectively (Miller et al., 2002). In 1979, the Soviet secret police orchestrated a large cover-up to explain an outbreak of anthrax in Sverdlovsk, now Ekaterinburg, Russia, with poisoned meat from anthrax-contaminated animals sold on the black market. It was eventually revealed to have been due to an accident in a bioweapons factory, where a clogged air filter was removed but not replaced between shifts (Fig. 1) (Meselson et al., 1994; Alibek & Handelman, 1999). 041b061a72


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