In a strict sense, a suicide weapon is a weapon specially designed for a suicide attack, typically based on explosives. On average the use of suicide weapons is connected with some form of fanaticism, usually nationalistic or religious.
Suicide weapons have been used both in conventional warfare, as well as in terrorism. The Pacific War of World War II bore witness to the Japanese Kamikaze suicide attack pilots. Late in the war, as the tide turned against Japan, Kamikaze pilots were deployed to attempt to crash their aircraft into American ships in the Pacific. The Japanese even developed specialized aircraft for the tactic, such as the Yokosuka Ohka flying bomb. A successful Kamikaze attack would both kill the plane's pilot and sink the target ship. Related tactics included the Kaiten suicide minisub, a human torpedo which a single Japanese pilot would steer into an Allied ship.
Certain aircraft built or projected for the Luftwaffe during the time of the Allied bombing before the surrender of Nazi Germany in World War II, such as the Bachem Ba 349, Fliegende Panzerfaust, Sombold So 344, Zeppelin Rammer or the Blohm & Voss BV 40 are sometimes listed as suicide weapons. However, they were not intended as such, even though the chances of survival would have been very limited for the pilots of such dangerous artifacts. In those dire years Nazi authorities even considered to use selbstopfer (suicide) planes such as the Messerschmitt Me 328 and the Fieseler 103.
Political groups using suicide weapons in the post-Cold War era include mainly outfits affiliated to Islamic terrorism, among which even children have been used in order to escape detection when carrying out suicide attacks. However, non-Islamic groups, such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also have been prone to use suicide weapons. Today, the most common suicide weapons used to carry out terrorist attacks are car bombs or truck bombs, as well as antipersonnel bombs carried by a single person. Suicide bombers strap explosives, often covered with nails, screws, or other items intended to act as fragments, to their bodies or otherwise carry them into populated areas and detonate them. The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka are known for having made high-profile use of this method in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Similar methods have been also used by Palestinian terrorist groups in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among others.
Kamikaze attacks were mimicked in the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which a group of mostly Saudi terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and part of The Pentagon by flying hijacked civilian aircraft into them. It was the first time in history that civil airliners filled with fuel were used as a weapon against civilian targets of such magnitude.
- Suicide bombs
- Kamikaze air attacks by Japan in WWII
- Kaiten human-steered torpedo, used by Japan in WWII
- Maxwell Taylor & Helen Ryan, Terrorism, Volume 11, Issue 2, 1988. DOI:10.1080/10576108808435703
- Francillon, Ph.D., René J. "Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" and Ohka Bomb" Aircraft in Profile, Vol. 9. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1971. ISBN 0-85383-018-5.
- World War II in the Pacific - Japanese Suicide Attacks at Sea
- German Suicidal Aircraft
- Sombold So 344. Das "Rammschussjäger" Projekt22. Januar 1944
- Ulrich Albrecht: Artefakte des Fanatismus; Technik und nationalsozialistische Ideologie in der Endphase des Dritten Reiches
- Explaining Suicide Terrorism: A Review Essay
- Child Bombers Terror's Newest Weapon
- Tamil Tigers: Suicide Bombing Innovators
- Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
- Media related to Suicide weapons at Wikimedia Commons
- Japanese suicide weapon：Human torpedo Kaiten and Human Bomb Ohoka(Japanese)