Flare (pyrotechnic)

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A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signaling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications. Flares may be ground pyrotechnics, projectile pyrotechnics, or parachute-suspended to provide maximum illumination time over a large area. Projectile pyrotechnics may be dropped from aircraft, fired from rocket or artillery, or deployed by flare guns or handheld percussive tubes.

Flares produce their light through the combustion of a pyrotechnic composition. The ingredients are varied, but often based on strontium nitrate, potassium nitrate, or potassium perchlorate and mixed with a fuel such as charcoal, sulfur, sawdust, aluminum, magnesium, or a suitable polymeric resin.[1] Flares may be colored by the inclusion of pyrotechnic colorants. Calcium flares are used underwater to illuminate submerged objects.


Civilian use

In the civilian world, flares are commonly used as signals, and may be ignited on the ground or fired as an aerial signal from a pistol-like flare gun. Flare guns are commonly found in marine survival kits.

Maritime distress signal

A "rocket parachute flare or a hand flare showing a red light"..."indicates distress and need of assistance" at sea is one type of maritime distress signals. "The use or exhibition of any of the foregoing signals [as a hand flare showing a red light or rockets or shells, throwing red stars] except for the purpose of indicating distress and need of assistance and the use of other signals which may be confused with any of the above signals is prohibited." from the COLREGS ANNEX IV - Distress signals 1. (c), (i).

Other usage

Flares are routinely used in countries around Europe and South America, during football games, in order to aid the build-up of the atmosphere within the stadium. Hardcore supporter groups known as Ultras, often light flares at the beginning of games, when their team has scored, or at the end of a game, if their team has won.

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