Binary warfare agent

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A binary warfare agent (also binary chemical weapon , rarely binary weapon or two-component warfare agent ) is a special form of chemical weapon in which two or more substances, which are relatively harmless compared to the end product, are stored separately from each other in one projectile. With this weapon, the actual warfare agent is only created after it has been fired, usually by simply mixing the components, sometimes with the aid of a suitable reaction accelerator. In contrast, the older unitary warfare agents are ready for immediate use.

The advantage of this type of chemical weapons is the relatively safe storage and handling of the projectiles, since the chemicals used are usually much less toxic and better storable than the warfare agents themselves, i.e. h., there occurs no degradation of the chemicals or corrosion on the projectile.

Initial research in the field of binary warfare agents was carried out in the USA since 1954. After the USA passed a moratorium on the development of chemical weapons in 1969, development was initially stopped. After the Eastern Bloc had built up a massive preponderance of chemical weapons, research was resumed in 1980 and the binary weapons were brought to series production in the following years.

At the end of the 1980s, the US military recognized that the chemical weapons that had previously been stored for a long time would largely decompose by 1990 at the latest and thus be militarily unusable; therefore, in 1987 , President Ronald Reagan signed a law to destroy the old chemical warfare agents and replace them with binary warfare agents.


Examples of binary warfare agents are the nerve agents Sarin (GB), Soman (GD) and VX .

Sarin and Soman


When used in binary warfare bullets, methylphosphonic acid difluoride and isopropanol react after the grenade has been fired - with the aid of a reaction accelerator - to form sarin; the end product is formed after ten seconds with a seventy percent yield.

Synthesis of sarin part 2b

If 3,3-dimethyl-2-butanol is used instead of isopropanol , the structurally similar soman is produced instead of sarin.


Special “Bigeye bombs” were developed for the use of VX as a binary warfare agent; it contains a cylinder with solid sulfur , which is surrounded by a container with the liquid organophosphorus compound O-ethyl-O-2-diisopropylaminoethylmethyl-phosphonite. Both components are separate; After the bomb has been dropped, the separation is broken and a stirrer motor mixes the two components that react to form the VX. The reaction ends after five seconds.


Individual evidence

  1. a b Entry on binary warfare agents. In: Römpp Online . Georg Thieme Verlag, accessed on September 9, 2013.
  2. ^ Hermann Lampalzer: The current ABC threat picture. In: Federal Army . 2003, accessed July 9, 2018 .
  3. ^ Wiener Blätter zur Friedensforschung: Issues 38–45, 1984, page 34.
  4. Wolfgang Bartels: Old and new poison gas in the Federal Republic. Science and Peace , 1989-4: The 1990s: New Horizons.
  5. ^ Entry on Sarin. In: Römpp Online . Georg Thieme Verlag, accessed on September 9, 2013.
  6. Entry on VX. In: Römpp Online . Georg Thieme Verlag, accessed on September 9, 2013.