Armed Forces in Sweden attempt to stop wildfire with a bomb

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Sweden stop fire with bomb
Soldiers attaching the bomb to the aircraft. Photo: Jerry Lindbergh/Swedish Armed Forces

One of the numerous wildfires in Sweden happens to be in a military practice range that contains unexploded shells. Firefighters can’t enter the area so the Armed Forces decided that the best way to stop the fire was to drop bombs on it.

Below is an excerpt from an article at

At noon on Wednesday the Armed Forces dispatched two Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets to drop a bomb on the flames as a last resort, with the hope that the pressure from the blast would help contain the blaze.

“The oxygen from the fire can be removed with the help of a bomb and in this case it was possible to try it, because the fire is at a firing range,” said fire and rescue team leader Johan Szymanski in a statement.

“Our preliminary assessment right now is that this had a good effect.”

The bomb, model GBU-49 according to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, was dropped from 3,000 metres reaching speeds of 550 km/h before hitting its target with metre precision.

It managed to extinguish fires up to 100 metres from the target, according to initial reports.

If you look carefully at the video below you will see the bomb leaving the fighter jet. And then in the distance as the bomb hits the ground, a growing plume of dust or smoke.

The Swedes are not the first to come up with the idea of using bombs to stop a fire. In 2010 we wrote about Bazalt, a Russian manufacturer of  aircraft bombs, that designed one intended to put out a forest fire. It can detonate either on the ground or above it, dispensing a liquid over 1,000 square meters, about 1/4 acre. Bazalt says one aircraft could carry up to 100 of these fire extinguisher bombs.

And in 2014 an Australian researcher experimented with explosives in New Mexico, hoping the result would be a directional blast that could put out a forest fire, or at least a portion of one.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Armed Forces in Sweden attempt to stop wildfire with a bomb”

  1. The idea of bombing or using some sort of explosive device to fight wildland fire seems to be put down a lot but I don’t see many other new solutions being proposed. Why couldn’t we remove firefighter from the area being bombed and have them return for mop up? Don’t we want as many people out of harm’s way? Why have line cutters and dozer operators rushing around in a chaotic environment when we could bomb the hell out of an area and have crews come back when things are less chaotic. I understand this depends on air quality/visibility for flights and a good system for alerting all in the area that they better get to safety before bombing starts. I’m a regular citizen living in a WUI, don’t know much more than I see from the fires that have burned in my area in the past few years. I’m expecting to get some flak for this comment so lay it on folks! Educate me on why bombing cant work.

  2. If this technology could be adapted to be launched from a trailer mounted system and was available to trained people in fire prone areas it could be used to attack fires before firefighters were on the site. Especially if it was deemed unsafe to attack the fire in any other manner such as where the land is too steep and rugged for firefighters which often seems to be the case.

  3. Well I guess they just had to try it. A fire on a bombing range, just let it burn and contain it around the edges. This is where a airtanker works well. No risk to people. Explosives correctly used on oil rig fires will blow out the fire allowing the well to be capped and shut off but his requires some very skilled and experienced people with the right equipment and involves a high degree of risk. . I ran across burning or exposed to fire propane tanks or mystery drums of stuff occasionally and we just backed off to a safe distance and let them burn out and then called a hazmat team.

    1. Uhm… no, not really. It’s been tried before. It turns out that bombs are way more expensive than water and even retardant. Laser guided bombs such as the one used in this example are SUPER expensive, They could have carried out this experiment a lot more cheaply. They launched two $60M fighters to drop a $200K bomb for an experiment that’s already been conducted numerous times.

      The oxygen starvation effect produced by the explosion is fleeting at best, all but the lightest fuels will retain enough heat to reignite once the air flows back in.

      Even if bombing was effective in both results and cost, where would you use it? Not near firefighters, not in the WUI, not in wilderness areas and then just like the bombing range mentioned in the article you’d have the problem of unexploded ordinance. This is still one for the “lame ass ideas” bin.


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