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Weapons of War

Airship Airship

 

 Type: Air

 Nation: Fire Nation

 Description: Reminiscent of the real world zeppelin's of the 1930's1, this flying machine is a much larger adaptation of the war balloon (see "Balloon" entry below). This behemoth is evidently made of metal, flies under the power of several rear propellers, and has a crew of dozens.

The primary difference between an airship, or zeppelin, and a balloon is that an airship is built around a rigid frame and can control both its altitude and its flight path via a series of mechanical controls and fins. The war balloons seen earlier in the series meet that latter criteria, but not the former.

The war balloons use hot air burners to achieve lift, but the exact method the Fire Nation airships use to gain "lighter than air" status is unknown. Other potential substances used to obtain buoyancy besides hot air are helium and hydrogen, the latter of which was used with infamously disastrous results in the case of the Hindenburg upon its arrival in Lakehurst, NJ in 19312.

 Application: The Fire Nation uses these ships to great effect as both bombers and floating weapons platforms.

Each of these airships has enormous bomb bays under its center section. These can be loaded with explosives and discharged by opening the bay doors when above the desired targets3. The destructive power of this type of carpet bombing was seen first hand against the Earth Kingdom submarines in "The Eclipse."

The airships also have series of metal walkways that extend from the base of the ship underneath the center hull section. Each of these walkways is intended for a Fire Nation soldier to use as a small platform to launch firebending attacks during battle.

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Ballista Ballista

 

 Type: Land/Water

 Nation: Fire Nation

 Description: A huge crossbow type weapon that uses torsional force to propel generally smaller and lighter projectiles, for example darts or arrows, much farther and faster than a catapult or similar device.

 Application: The ballista, which first appears in episode 301 of Avatar, "The Awakening", is an enormous device that is mounted on a rotating platform aboard a Fire Navy ship, similar to the catapults and trebuchet seen in earlier episodes. The weapon is mainly used to deliver a metal projectile to the hull of the enemy's vessel at a point below the water line. Once the hull is punctured, the projectile opens up to prevent itself from exiting the vessel.




Balloon Balloon

 

 Type: Air

 Nation: Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation

 Description: War balloons have three main components: the fabric envelope, the basket, and the burner. When filled with heated air by the burner, the envelope inflates. The hot air inside the inflated balloon is less dense than the air outside. This provides buoyancy, or lift, and causes the balloon to rise. The burner is a power source that blows heated air into the envelope through an opening at its bottom called a "throat."

The war balloon seen in "The Northern Air Temple" can control both its altitude and its flight path. The altitude is controlled via a lid on top of the envelope. The lid can be opened from the basket by pulling on a rope attached to the lid. When the lid is opened, hot air escapes and the balloon loses altitude. By manipulating the burner and the lid as needed, the altitude of the balloon can be controlled.

The flight path is controlled through a set of three propellers located on the aft end of the ship. A large fin on the back of the balloon helps direct air flow when in motion. Since the war balloon is capable of powered flight, it is more properly classed as an airship or dirigible.

Although the center of the basket is dominated by the burner, it is nevertheless large enough for several people. It is made mostly of wood or wicker, except for its bottom which appears to be made of metal. The burner is a large, boiler like contraption that has a blower on the top to push hot air into the envelope. The back end of the burner is attached to the three propellers and is probably the source of their power.

 Application: Sokka and the Mechanist used a war balloon against Fire Nation troops in "The Northern Air Temple."1 The war balloon carried four, huge slime bombs. This ordnance was marginally effective against the enemy infantry,]2 but failed to stop the Fire Nation tanks. As the situation became desperate, Sokka and the Mechanist, smelling natural gas below them, threw the burner overboard.3 The burner ignited the natural gas at its source and blew up much of the lower part of the mountain on which the Northern Air Temple rests, forcing the Fire Nation to retreat. Unfortunately, the war balloon was captured by the Fire Nation when Sokka and the Mechanist had to abandon ship. It is clear that the Fire Nation will take advantage of this technology in the future.

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Boomerang Boomerang


 Type: Range

 Nation: Water Tribe (Southern)

 Description: The boomerang is a Water Tribe weapon constructed of an unknown material. It is flat and consists of two wings or arms joined at an acute angle. When thrown the wings create lift, much like a modern airplane.1 The wings are designed, however, so that the lift of each wing is out of balance with the other. This causes the boomerang to fly in a circle as the two forces fruitlessly attempt to reach equilibrium. Sokka's boomerang in particular is designed so that one wing has two holes drilled into it, while the other wing is solid.

 Application: The boomerang can be used either to strike an opponent directly,2 or to disarm an opponent by knocking their weapon away from them.3 A key advantage of the Water Tribe boomerang, unlike those in real life, is the extreme range at which it can be used effectively as a weapon and that it returns to the user even after striking another object.

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Catapult Catapult


 Type: Land

 Nation: Fire Nation

 Description: Catapults are torsional devices used to throw projectiles great distances. These devices work by using a beam to efficiently transfer mechanical energy from torsion built up inside a rope or wire into the projectile.1 Catapults are generally more difficult to build and less accurate than trebuchets, leading most military practitioners to favor the latter over the former.

The design of the Fire Nation catapult revolves around two "Half A" frames, a beam, and a rope or wire to provide the torsional store of energy. The construction material appears to be mostly metal. The beam has a bucket at the launch end to hold the projectile. Its back end is linked to the rope or wire storing the torsional energy. The rope or wire is strung between the crests of the two "Half A" frames.

The device is prepared to fire by twisting the wheels attached to the base of either "Half A" frame. The wheels are attached to the rope or wire so that as the wheels are turned the rope or wire twists. The twisting provides the torsion that is the source of the machine's mechanical energy. The bucket end of the beam is then winched to the ground and the bucket loaded with the projectile. When the beam is released the rope or wire untwists, tilting the beam rapidly upwards and releasing the projectile toward its target.

 Application: Similar to its use of trebuchets, the Fire Nation has adapted the catapult for use at sea. These devices are seen mounted on rotating platforms on the decks of some ironclads, specifically Prince Zuko's ship.2

Small catapults are also used by the Fire Nation cavalry. These devices can be attached to the saddle harness on each side of the rhinoceros used as mounts by the Fire Nation.3The arm of the catapult extends backward behind the animal, leaving the bucket or launch pad far enough way from the beast that it won't get burned when the projectile is lit on fire.

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Cavalry Cavalry

 

 Type: Land

 Nation: Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation

 Description: Cavalry, or mounted troops, are mobile and flexible military units that are often instrumental in flanking manuevers. They can literally run circles around infantry. Heavy cavalry, such as the late Roman cataphracti, are useful as shock troops to break up infantry formations in close combat. Light cavalry is often used for scouting activities or to harass an enemy in retreat.

 Application: The Earth Kingdom uses war ostriches as cavalry mounts.1 These creatures, who seem to be part horse and part ostrich, are able to carry great weight. They are heavily armored, with a metal mask and metal neck, breast and even small side plates. In addition to their armor, they can safely carry two men. It is not known how fast or over what distances war ostriches can operate.

The Fire Nation uses war rhinoceros as their mounts.2 These sturdy beasts have tough skin that acts as natural armor plating. Their three long, sharp horns are built in weapons for them to use in close combat. In certain situations the rhinoceros can be fitted with a pair of small catapults.3 These devices are attached to the saddle harness on each side of the beast. The arm of the catapult extends backward behind the animal, leaving the bucket or launch pad far enough way from the rhinoceros that it won't get burned when the projectile is lit on fire.

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Club Club

 

 Type: One-Hand Blunt

 Nation: Water Tribe (Southern)

 Description: Perhaps the simplest and most ancient of all weapons is the war club. At its most basic the club is just an elongated piece of wood or metal.

The Water Tribe club, however, seems to be a more sophisticated weapon called a composite club. It is divided into three pieces, the handle, the stock and the ball. Each of these pieces appears to be made of different and unknown materials.

 Application: The wielder grips the club on the handle and swings it at the opponent. The intent is to strike the enemy with the ball at the end of the club. The purpose of the ball is to provide a wider surface area than the stock alone could provide over which to deliver the force of the blow.




Drill Drill

 

 Type: Land

 Nation: Fire Nation

 Description: The drill is a massive, steam powered, segmented metal pipe whose head section is shaped like a blunt drill bit.1 The bridge is located on a metal frame tower towards the rear of the machine.2 Although tubular, it apparently can move above ground on relatively flat terrain.

The head section can rotate rapidly, causing it to penetrate the surface in front of it as the drill moves forward.3 The different segments of the drill can separate4 to allow the deployment of support struts that prevent the drill from just sliding backward as it tries to drill.

Designed to move through rock, the action of the drill creates a huge amount of both broken stone and heat friction that would eventually melt the drill head. To solve both problems, the drill head ejects water into the bore. The water and stone mixture (called a slurry) is then collected through scoops at the drill head, passed back through the body of the drill along a series of pipes and then ejected at the back end of the machine.

 Application: The drill was designed by the Fire Nation, probably by or with the assistance of The Mechanist, for one purpose: to penetrate the walls of Ba-Sing-Se. Once a breach was made, the main Fire Nation army would then be able to exploit the breach and pour through.

Convinced of its invulnerability, however, the Fire Nation sent the drill into action supported by only a few tanks. While the drill did penetrate the outer wall of Ba-Sing-Se,5 it was in turn destroyed in situ when Aang and his friends blocked up the slurry effluent system.6

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Explosives Explosives

 

 Type: All

 Nation: Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation

 Description: Explosives come in three forms so far in the show, fireworks, blasting jelly and firebombs. Fireworks are devices that use explosives and other materials in order to produce loud, colorful detonations for entertainment purposes. Blasting jelly is a mixture of nitroglycerine and a small amount of a stablizer such as collodion. It's primary use is in mining and construction, though it is just as easily used for demolition and military purposes. Firebombs are incendiary devices whose military function is to damage opponents and their material by subjecting them to violent explosions and intense flame.

Explosives function by allowing unstable chemicals to combine rapidly and produce a strongly exothermic reaction accompanied by rapid expansion. The rapid expansion, usually produced by the liberation of gases from the reaction, create the explosive shock wave that accompanies detonation.

 Application: Fireworks are set off by a firebomb thrown by Chey at the "Fire Days Festival" witnessed in "The Deserter."1

Jet and his freedom fighters captured several barrels of blasting jelly at the beginning of "Jet." The jelly was then used to blow up the dam protecting the Earth Kingdom village occupied by the Fire Nation.

Firebombs have been used on a few occasions. Chey used them a couple times to help Aang and his friends escape pursuit,2 Colonel Mongke's men used dynamite type bombs in "Avatar Day," and the Mechanist provided them as ammunition for the war balloon and gliders in "The Northern Air Temple." In this latter, however, it must be noted that the firebombs were not strong enough to damage the Fire Nation tanks that led the assault,3 though they were useful against the Fire Nation infantry.

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Fortifications Fortifications


 Type: Land

 Nation: All Nations

 Description: Fortifications are fixed, man made structures designed to facilitate the defense of a location. They may consist of any combination of walls, towers, moats or ditches, trenches, bunkers or stockades. Fortifications have two primary purposes. The first is to give defenders superior position over an invader by making it easier for the defenders to strike their opponents, while making it harder for the invader to do so. The second is to prevent the attacker from coming to close quarters with the defenders.

Fortifications do have significant drawbacks. Since by definition they cannot move, a numerous enough invader can surround the area and lay siege. They are also generally difficult to conceal, especially those protecting cities or other above ground installations. The principal weakness of any wall based fortification system is the gate or any exit, though the Earth Kingdom and Northern Water Tribe have developed an ingenious solution to this problem.

 Application: Although both artillery and explosives exist in Avatar, none of the belligerents have put these inventions together yet to create cannons. In the absence of such weapons, fortifications play a critical role in the military dimension of the story and are used by every nation.

Water Tribes: The Northern Water Tribe City is built into the face of a huge glacier that abuts the arctic ocean. 1 The city is divided into three sections, each protected by a wall of ice. The main city wall has watchtowers on each end atop the glacier and six along the wall itself. It also has no gate. It is opened by waterbending the ice of the wall to make an entry tunnel that is then replaced when authorized travelers have passed through. The interior walls have several watchtowers each and are equipped with portholes through which water flows into moats below. The portholes can act as powerful jets of water when waterbended by defenders.2 While beautiful, ice is not the most suitable material for fortifications and these defenses quickly withered under the Fire Nation assault in "The Siege of the North, Parts I and II."3

Earth Kingdom: The most readily accessible example of Earth Kingdom fortifications is the city of Omashu. The mountainous location and very narrow approach, reminiscent of the ancient Judean fortress of Masada,4 make Omashu difficult to attack even before fortifications are considered. The position of the city on top of a mountain renders its walls a sheer drop to the floor of a canyon or mountain pass below.5 The city's fortifications are impressive, however, with high stone walls 6 and a set of triple, interlocking gates that are opened by earthbending.7 Additionally, the residential section of the city rises well above even its high walls, allowing defenders to shoot downward at any invaders. Mighty as these fortifications are, however, they were not sufficient to prevent the city from falling to the Fire Nation.

Fire Nation: Even though the Fire Nation has focused on mobile warfare to aid their offensive ambitions, they still need fortifications in order to occupy enemy territory. The Fire Nation fortress seen in "The Blue Spirit" is an excellent example.8 Composed of a three tiered wall structure and a huge central keep, this fortress has enough interior room in its courtyards to act as a military base. Fire Nation fortifications also seem to be built mostly of metal in order to preclude earthbender attacks. Other examples of Fire Nation fortifications are the prison rig in "Imprisoned" and the naval bases seen in various episodes.

Air Nomads: The Air Temples' primary defensive power lies in their inaccessibility. The Temples themselves, however, are not heavily fortified.9 Once the Fire Nation solved the access problem their security was compromised.

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Glider Staff Glider Staff


 Type: Two Hand Blunt

 Nation: Air

 Description: The glider staff is a combination long staff and glider used originally by the monks of the airbender temples.

The staff itself is simply a long, hardwood pole and is one of the most ancient weapons used in martial arts.1 The long staff is referred to as a bo in Japan and as a gun or chang bang in China. The length of the staff usually corresponds to the height of the user or a little longer. The staff increases both the reach and leverage of the wielder against an opponent. Although quite versatile, the bo staff is generally regarded as a defensive weapon.

The glider portion of this weapon appears when the user activates a trigger mechanism somewhere on the staff. When activated the staff releases a colored glider sail on a rigid frame. The sail allows airbenders to maximize the lift from airbending the air around them.

 Application: The glider staff is used for many purposes. These can be divided into three categories: flight, fighting and utility.

Flight: Airbenders can use this staff for sustained, powered flight using their bending abilities.2 Depending on their skill, they can also carry passengers either using the glider method3 or, if the staff does not have glider capabilities, the helicopter method.4

Fighting: The staff can be used to block firebending attacks, direct blasts of air at an opponent,5 or at close quarters to block direct attacks or to deliver thrusting or sweeping blows.

Utility: This weapon can be used as a tool for a variety of purposes. These include using it as a lever or pry bar,6 or for carrying loads such as buckets of water.

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Gliders Gliders

 

 Type: Air

 Nation: Earth Kingdom, Air Nomads

 Description: The gliders seen in Avatar are single person, fixed wing aircraft designed for un-powered flight. The glider's pilot hangs suspended from the wooden frame and controls the vehicle's flight either through hand controlled rudders or by shifting one's weight against the hang bar.

Although gliders are un-powered, skilled pilots can still obtain lift if they are able to find rising air masses. These occur naturally in many instances, for example when the sun warms the ground creating columns of rising air, called thermals.

 Application: Gliders were first used by the monks of the Air Temples before their destruction by the Fire Nation a century ago. After the Northern Air Temple was reinhabited by The Mechanist and his people, they began to use the gliders again. Without airbending to provide lift, the Mechanist devised a way to heat the air surrounding the temple so the glider pilots could use the resulting air currents to fly.

Gliders are the tactical bombers of the Avatar universe. Flying in close and low, glider pilots can bomb ground troops with impunity. The Northern Air Temple, with its lower terrace serving as a natural airfield,1 now relies almost exclusively on its air force for protection. When the Fire Nation attacked the temple with tanks and infantry, the gliders were able to repel the infantry with slime, stink and firebombs.2 The heavily armored tanks, however, proved resistant to the glider's weaponry.3

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Jet Ski Jet Ski

 

 Type: Sea

 Nation: Fire Nation

 Description: This Avatar equivalent of the modern jet ski is apparently made of metal and features a curved hull ending in bowed prow. The rider sits on a three cushion seat in the middle of the vehicle and steers by holding onto and turning a set of handle bars mounted up front. The rear of the vehicle houses its engine, though whether it is a steam engine or an internal combustion engine is difficult to ascertain.

 Application: These are one man water vehicles designed for use in rivers, lakes or coastal areas. They are very fast and highly maneuverable. Although intended for one rider, a passenger can be easily accommodated. The Fire Nation generally uses these machines for patrolling waterfront population areas rather than heavy combat.





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