To date, the leading armies of the world have recognized the jet flamethrower hopelessly outdated and abandoned it. The exception is the People’s Liberation Army of China, which is still armed with similar systems. However, these samples differ in respectable age, and no replacement is created for them.
It is known that the first Chinese flamethrower incendiary systems appeared in the XNUMXth century A.D. and then used for several centuries. However, then similar weapon forgotten, and the revival of this class occurred only at the end of the fifties of the XX century.
At that time, the USSR actively shared with young PRC ready-made military products and its production technologies. Among other things, light and heavy infantry flamethrowers LPO-50 and TPO-50, as well as documentation for their release, went to China. These deliveries predetermined the development of Chinese flamethrower weapons for several decades to come - up to our time.
Soviet aid provided for the delivery of several thousand finished products of two types. In addition, the Chinese industry was able to master their independent production, and by the beginning of the sixties in the arsenal of the PLA there were two flamethrowers with the general name "Type 58". Soon, relations between the two countries deteriorated, as a result of which the supply of imported weapons ceased. However, China already had the opportunity to independently provide its army.
The light infantry flamethrower LPO-50 and its Chinese version, Type 58, were a knapsack-type system designed to destroy manpower in open areas or in shelters. The flamethrower appeared in the early fifties and by the middle of the decade took its place in the army; a little later he went to China.
LPO-50 included a knapsack block with three cylinders for the fire mixture and a launching device in the form of a “gun” with a bipod. The flamethrower had three cylinders with a capacity of 3,3 liters, each of which was equipped with its own pyro cartridge-pressure accumulator and was connected to a common pipe system. When you press the trigger, the electrical system ignited the cartridge, and it emitted gases, pushing the flame through the pipes and the starting device. For ignition, there were three separate pyro cartridge in the muzzle of the "gun".
A flamethrower with an equipped mass of 23 kg could make three shots lasting 2-3 seconds. The range of flamethrowing, depending on the type of mixture, is 20-70 m. After using up three cylinders, reloading with filling the flame mixture and installing new cartridges was required.
The heavy TPO-50 was a towed high-explosive system. Three identical trunks were fixed on a common carriage, each of which was made in the form of a cylinder with a head equipped with the necessary devices. A powder chamber was attached to the head, in which a charge was burned with the formation of gases. Gases entered the cylinder and acted on the piston, pushing the mixture through a siphon to the hose.
The weight of the combat-ready TPO-50 was 165 kg, which excluded carrying. It was proposed to move the flamethrower using a tractor or rolling by calculation forces. When firing direct fire, the range of the flame thrower reached 140 m, on the hinged one - up to 200 m. During the shot, the barrel completely consumed its charge, and without reloading the flame thrower could only make three shots.
As far as we know, the Chinese military appreciated the Soviet flamethrowers and introduced them widely enough in infantry and engineering units. In addition, almost immediately, work began on improving designs and finding new options for their application.
The bulk of such work affected only the production of two Type 58 products. Technologies improved and the design was optimized, including with a slight increase in basic characteristics. At the same time, fundamentally new projects were proposed. In particular, self-propelled versions of heavy TPO-50s were developed.
Flamethrower prototype is well known. tank based on the T-34, located in one of the Chinese museums. On the sides of the tower of this vehicle, two swinging armored boxes are installed, each of which holds six trunks from TPO-50 / “Type 58”. Horizontal guidance was carried out by turning the tower, the vertical drive was organized using a gun. However, this application of the flamethrower did not reach the series and mass use in the army.
Light flamethrowers Type 58 / LPO-50 were quite actively used by the PLA until the early seventies, when it was decided to replace them. It was proposed to carry out a deep modernization of the existing model, improving its operational and combat characteristics, as well as using modern technology. The work was completed in 1974, as a result of which the flamethrower entered service under the designation “Type 74”.
In terms of general architecture, principles of operation, etc. “Type 74” is as similar as possible to the previous “Type 58”. The most noticeable external difference is other means of storage of the mixture. The number of cylinders was reduced to two, but their volume increased slightly. This improved ergonomics and increased jet mass, but reduced the number of shots. The starter has lost one of its cartridges for ignition and has undergone some other changes. The chemical industry has developed new gasoline-based flame mixtures. Modern additives and thickeners have improved the range and quality of flamethrowing.
“Type 74” has two cylinders with a capacity of approx. 4 liters each and can make shots lasting up to 3-4 seconds. The total mass of the product is 20 kg. Simplified and accelerated reloading with fluid filling and the installation of new squibs.
Outdated and modern
PLA actively used several types of flamethrowers in infantry and engineering units. Such weapons were intended to defeat enemy manpower in open areas and inside various structures. In general, the Chinese tactics of using infantry flamethrowers were based on Soviet developments and did not undergo any special changes in the future.
Until a certain time, “Types 58” and “Type 74” were used only at training grounds and exercises. The first episodes of their actual combat use relate to the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. Probably, based on the results of these events, conclusions were drawn that influenced the further use of infantry flamethrower incendiary weapons.
According to various sources, it was during that period that two Type 58 products began to be removed from service. The light flamethrower based on LPO-50 was replaced with the modernized “Type 74”, and the heavy TPO-50 / “Type 58” was not replaced - they refused this class of weapons. As a result, only one model of a jet flamethrower remained in service with the PLA ground forces.
In the early eighties, the People's Armed Police of China (internal troops) was formed, whose task was to protect important facilities within the country. A variety of infantry weapons came into service with NVMK, including knapsack jet flamethrowers.
Oddly enough, the "Type 74" to this day remains in service. Such systems are used in the engineering forces of the PLA and in the units of NVMK, and training of flamethrower fighters is still being carried out. From time to time, press services of law enforcement agencies publish photos and videos of training events, and they always attract attention. Particular interest in such materials is shown in foreign countries where jet flame throwers have long been abandoned.
According to known data, so far only one type of jet flamethrower has remained in the arsenal of China. Other developments of this class were either considered obsolete and withdrawn from service, or did not reach the series. Over time, the tactics of the army and internal troops are changing, and the place of flamethrowers in them is reduced.
It can be assumed that in the foreseeable future Type 74 products will follow their predecessors and will also be removed from service due to moral and physical obsolescence. Apparently, a replacement for them is not being created due to the lack of need.
However, the timing of the complete abandonment of the “Type 74” remains unknown. And therefore, China is the last developed country in the arsenal of which there are jet flamethrowers.