Big badaboom

(Those of you who remember the movie ‘The Fifth Element‘ will recognize the post title.)

Students of military history will be familiar with the old-fashioned spigot mortar, used in such classic weapons as the Hedgehog anti-submarine projector of World War II.  Interestingly, that design lends itself to rough-and-ready home-brewed artillery such as that constructed in many amateur workshops around the world during irregular conflicts.  It can be built to much less precise standards than conventional mortars or artillery, yet still be accurate and powerful enough to deliver a devastating punch.  (There have also been interesting variations on the theme;  see, for example, the Davidka or ‘Little David’ produced in Israel’s War of Independence, a hybrid conventional/spigot mortar design.  It was spectacularly inaccurate but ear-shatteringly loud, and had a definite psychological impact on those within range.)

Syrian resistance fighters deploy a home-made spigot mortar in the video clip below, complete with home-brewed propellant – white powder in plastic bags!.  They use it to take out a Syrian government missile emplacement on the roof of a building.  It’s rather impressive. I recommend watching it in full-screen mode.

I’m not sure I’d want to stand too close to that spigot mortar when they fire it . . . but I know I don’t want to be in the blast radius of its projectile when it lands!



  1. Potassium chlorate & powdered sugar propellant? What I'd like to know is; what the hell they used for the HE bursting charge, as that was a massive blast for a home made weapon. —Ray

  2. @Ray:

    1. I suspect the HE charge was steamed out of an unexploded aircraft bomb or artillery shell. It's a time-honored way of getting explosives for your own infernal devices (and I think that mortar qualifies as such!). It can be lethally dangerous to the one doing the steaming, but life is cheap in that part of the world.

    2. The 'massive blast' might have been dual; the warhead of the mortar bomb, and one or more of the missiles that they hit (reportedly Russian Kornets). That would also explain the burning wreckage that comes curling off the roof. It might have been a missile launcher, with the propellant on fire.

    For more information on the Kornet, see:

  3. Sorry Peter,

    Given the source and the jump cut,
    accepting that the impact shown is
    that to the shell fired is a bit…

  4. @TGreen: Looking at the slo-mo of the projectile landing, it does bear at least a passing resemblance to that loaded into the spigot mortar.

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