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Big Wind: the most powerful firetruck ever built

3 min read

What to you get if you combine an old Soviet tank with two Soviet jet engines and a lot of water?
The Big Wind, a fire truck capable of stopping oil well fires all by itself!

It was February 1991, near the end of the Gulf War, when the retreating Iraqi army set over 700 Kuwaiti oil wells on fire, thus creating the desert into an almost apocalyptic landscape.
Up to six million barrels of oil burned every day for 30 weeks, sending flames as high as 90 meters into the air and covering the sky with thick, black smoke.
Moreover, the fires reached temperatures of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, and even the air around them was 650 degrees but, even if anyone managed to get close enough, putting out the fires was a nearly impossible task.
Except to Big Wind.
Inspired by a Russian idea, Big Wind consisted of T-34 Soviet tank dating back to World War 2, with its gun turret replaced by two MiG-21 fighter-plane engines and six water nozzles.
As a result, the Soviets had managed to blow out gas and oil well fires and cleared airfields of snow by using a single MiG-15 jet engine bolted onto the bed of a large truck.
Inspired by this idea, Hungarian company MB Drilling developed an improved version that uses two powerful jet engines strapped to a more solid base, an old tank, that they named Big Wind.
The impressive firetruck was supposed to put out oil well fires in Hungary, but in early 1991 it was flown into Kuwait to help put out the devastating fires.
And it managed to do it at the nine wells where it was used.

But Big Wind is not your average fire truck, and actually It couldn’t be used in any regular house fire. That’s because its two jet engines can produce a whopping 12,246 kg of thrust, blowing out 130 cubic meters of air at around 1239 km/h.
And that’s enough to blow the windows and doors, (maybe even the walls) of a house right off.
And in fact this incredibly powerful firetruck was specifically designed to put out oil well fires: the powerful air currents pumped out by the two jet engines, mixed with the water coming out through the six nozzles above the engines, are enough to sever the oil stream that come out of the ground, essentially depriving the flames above of fuel.
Apparently, the first 5 to 10 meters of oil coming out of the well doesn’t burn, because it travels too fast for oxygen to mix with it and ignite.
It’s this stream of oil that Big Wind targets with its powerful combination of air and water, as cutting through the oil stream kills the fire, and the water also cools the air around the site, thus preventing its reignition.

Surely Big Wind made history during the Gulf War, managing to put out nine fires and recap the wells, with only a crew of three middle-aged firemen operating it.
But It’s unclear if the beast is still being used today, or if a newer, improved version exists.
It seems, according to a post by Hungarian petroleum giant MOL Group, that it is still in service as the company’s “fire extinguisher”.
In any case, Big Wind still regarded as the most powerful firetruck in human history.

Images from web – Google Research

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