A time bomb (or a timebomb, time-bomb) is a bomb whose detonation is triggered by a timer. The use (or attempted use) of time bombs has been for various purposes including insurance fraud, terrorism, assassination, sabotage and warfare. They are a popular feature in fictional thriller and action films as they offer a way of imparting a dramatic sense of urgency.
The explosive charge is the main component of any bomb, and makes up most of the size and weight of it. It is the damaging element of the bomb (along with any fragments or shrapnel the deflagration might produce with its container or neighboring objects). The explosive charge is detonated by a detonator.
A time bomb's timing mechanism may be professionally manufactured, either separately or as part of the device, or it may be improvised from an ordinary household timer such as a wind-up alarm clock, wrist watch, digital kitchen timer, or notebook computer. The timer can be programmed to count up or count down (usually the latter; as the bomb detonates when the time runs out).
Types of time bombs include:
- Delay-action bomb (bombs dropped by aircraft with a delay to increase damage/disruption)
- Improvised explosive device ("home-made" bombs with a delay to allow the person placing the bomb to escape)
- Limpet mine (attached to enemy ships by naval divers)
List of some notable incidents involving time bombs
|1864||Confederate sabotage of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters||City Point, Virginia||John Maxwell of the Confederate Secret Service||43 to 300||125||Maxwell called his device a "clockwork torpedo"; placed on an ammunition barge, it detonated 30,000 artillery shells|
|1875||Attack on the Mosel (ship)||Bremerhaven||Alexander Keith, Jr.||80 or 83||200||Bomb set for insurance fraud purposes; detonated prematurely|
|1880||Winter Palace bombing||Saint Petersburg||Narodnaya Volya||11||30||Attempted assassination of Tsar Alexander II|
|1881-1885||Fenian dynamite campaign||Great Britain||Fenians||3 (bombers who died when bomb went off early)||100||Irish nationalist campaign led by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa|
|1910||Los Angeles Times bombing||Los Angeles||John J. McNamara and James B. McNamara||21||100||Union-related action|
|1915||Muenter Attack Spree||Washington DC, New York City||German nationalist Eric Muenter||0||1||Set time bombs in United States Capitol, SS Minnehaha, and shot J. P. Morgan, Jr. against selling arms to Germany's enemies|
|1916||Preparedness Day Bombing||San Francisco||Labor leaders||10||40||Isolationist political action|
|1920||Wall Street bombing||New York City||Anarchists (suspected)||38||400||Followed other bombings in 1919|
|1939||Bürgerbräukeller||Munich||Georg Elser||7||63||Assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler|
|1942||St Nazaire Raid||St Nazaire, France (wartime)||Royal Navy, British Commandos||590||unkn.||To damage port facilities being used by enemy forces|
|1944||July Plot||Wolf's Lair, Poland (wartime)||German Resistance||4||?||Failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler|
|1955||United Airlines Flight 629||over Longmont, Colorado, USA||Jack Gilbert Graham||44||0||Murder; insurance fraud|
|1956||Milk Bar, Place Bugeaud,
Cafeteria, Rue Michelet,
Air France office (failed to detonate)
|Algiers, French Algeria||Djamila Bouhired
|3||50||Reprisal bombings at start of the Algerian War, September 30, 1956 Part of the so-called Café Wars|
|1963-1971||FLQ bombings||Canada||Front de libération du Québec||None||1 (Army officer Walter Leja)||Series of politically motivated bombings (timed and non-timed devices) and other activities|
|1969-1976||Weatherman bombings||United States||Weather Underground||1 unconfirmed; 3 bombers (premature)||3 confirmed; 1 unconfirmed||Series of politically motivated bombings (timed and non-timed devices) and other activities including jailbreaks and riots|
|1972||Aldershot Bombing||Aldershot, UK||IRA||7||18||A 280 lb time bomb in a car|
|1974||M62 Coach Bombing||West Yorkshire||IRA||12||38||Continuing anti-British campaign|
|1974||Birmingham pub bombings||Birmingham, UK||IRA (suspected)||21||182||Continuing anti-British campaign|
|1974||Guildford pub bombings||Guildford, UK||IRA||5||65||Targeted against Army personnel|
|1977||Lucona sinking||Indian Ocean||Udo Proksch||6||0||Attempted insurance fraud|
|1984||Brighton hotel bombing||Brighton, UK||IRA||5||31||Attempt to assassinate PM Margaret Thatcher|
|1985||Air India Flight 182 and 1985 Narita International Airport bombing||Atlantic Ocean, Tokyo Narita Airport||Babbar Khalsa Khalistan separatists||331||4||Bombing of two 747 flights with alarm clock and dynamite hidden in radio tuner|
|1987||Korean Air Flight 858||Andaman Sea||North Korea||115 (all)||0||State terrorism against South Korea|
|1987||Remembrance Day bombing||Enniskillen, Northern Ireland||IRA||12||63||Continuing anti-British campaign|
|1988||Pan Am flight 103||Above Lockerbie, Scotland||Libya||270||0||Reprisal against UK & US|
|1989||Deal barracks bombing||Deal, Kent, UK||IRA||11||21||Targeted against military personnel|
|1993||World Trade Center bombing||New York City||Ramzi Yousef||6||1,042||Truck bomb used 20 ft fuse for twelve-minute delay, intended to collapse both towers.|
|1994||Philippine Airlines Flight 434||Between Cebu and Tokyo||Ramzi Yousef||1||10||Blast missed fuel tank, killed one passenger and damaged control systems but pilot was able to land. Yousef bombed World Trade Center in 1993|
|1996||Centennial Olympic Park bombing||Atlanta, Georgia, USA||Eric Rudolph||1||111||Politically motivated anti-abortionist; occurred during 1996 Summer Olympics.|
|1998||Omagh bombing||Omagh, Northern Ireland||IRA||29||220||Worst single incident loss of life during the anti-British campaign.|
|1999||Columbine High School massacre||Columbine, Colorado||Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold||15||24||deadliest mass shooting was originally planned as a bombing including timed bombs |
|1999||Russian apartment bombings||Buynaksk
|unkn.||293||651||4 bombs over 4 days; purpose unknown.|
|2006||Moscow market bombing||Moscow||Racialist organization||13||46||Racially motivated attack|
Time bombs in fiction
Time bombs are common plot devices used in action/thriller TV series, cartoons, films and video games, where the hero often escapes the blast area or defuses the bomb at the last second. Many fictional time bombs are improvised, and usually involve a beeping sound with a large prominent countdown timer (on rare occasions, the timer will count up).
Such fictional appearances include:
- Kojak, Knight Rider, MacGyver, Get Smart, Men in Black: The Series, 24, Sonic X, Hogan's Heroes, VR Troopers, and Walker, Texas Ranger on television;
- Goldfinger, Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Hindenburg, The Mask, The Peacemaker, 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, Battle Royale, Battle Royale 2: Requiem, and New Police Story in film;
- Counter-Strike, Sonic Adventure 2, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Red Faction, Halo, F-Zero GX, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Trauma Center: Under The Knife, Trauma Center Second Opinion, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in video games.
- Music artists including The Old 97's, Dave Matthews Band, Chumbawamba, Godsmack, The Format, Rancid, Buckcherry, The Dismemberment Plan, Faber Drive, Beck, and Kylie Minogue have songs titled "Time bomb" or "Timebomb".
- The popular Super NES video game Chrono Trigger takes its name from the timer-detonator assembly of a time bomb, although the game itself has nothing to do with time bombs but with time travel instead.
- Bomb disposal
- Fuse (explosives)
- Ticking time bomb scenario (hypothetical justification of torture)
- Software time bomb
- Grady, John (August 15, 2014). "The Confederate Torpedo". New York Times. New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Gannon, James (2008). Military occupations in the age of self-determination: The history neocons neglected (PDF). Westport CT: Praeger Security International,. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-313-35382-6. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- "10 years later, the real story behind Columbine". April 14, 2009.
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