The M240 Incinerator Unit, also known as the M240 Flamethrower (or M240 Flame Thrower) and colloquially as the Bake-a-Flake, is a carbine-style flamethrower employed by the United States Colonial Marine Corps. The weapon could be supplied with fuel either through canisters attached to the weapon or a direct main supply.
The M240 Incinerator is designed for use in close combat at the squad and fireteam level. It uses ultra-thickened napthal fuel as a base, stored under pressure and ignited by a nozzle burner as it leaves the weapon's barrel, and is capable of shooting a stream of flame up to 30 meters, although this range can be extended by firing the flame upwards at an angle, causing the stream to arc down onto a target. Fuel is stored in an underslung reservoir tank that can be unscrewed and replaced to reload the weapon relatively quickly. The weapon can also be fuelled from a large-capacity backpack tank worn by the operator, which is connected to the weapon by a hose leading to the reservoir attachment point (the reservoir is removed in this configuration). The weapon itself is 88 cm long and weighs 2.7 kg with a full reservoir. A valve at the rear of the incinerator controls the fuel/air mix being sent through the barrel, allowing the weapon to be adjusted for use in oxygen-poor environments. A thumb switch on the pistol grip ignites the nozzle burner, while the weapon is fired by squeezing the hand grip trigger, and will continue to fire until the trigger is released.
One alternate mode of fire available to the operator is a so-called "wetshot", where the Incinerator is fired with the nozzle burner switched off and a stream of liquid fuel is sprayed at the target. This fuel has a tendency to partially vaporize, and a subsequent shot with the nozzle burner switched back on can ignite this vapor cloud to create an intense fireball. Another option is a blind angle burst, often used in close quarters fighting in an urban environment — the flame burst from the M240 can be 'bounced' off of walls or other solid surfaces to attack enemies out of the line of sight.
The M240 is undoubtedly one of the most fearsome weapons in the Marine inventory, and has proven especially useful in close combat against soft targets. It is also ideal for use against fortifications — flame can be directed through defensive apertures, causing both direct incendiary damage and also burning up the enemy's oxygen supply, causing incapacitation or death by asphyxiation. Its primary limitations, as with all flamethrower weapons, are its limited range. It has also been known for the unit to detonate catastrophically when the fuel reservoir is struck with certain types of incendiary ammunition.
The thickened fuel fired by the M240 has a tendency to stick to targets as it burns, continuing to heat even non-flammable targets after the incinerator itself has ceased firing. The fuel is difficult to extinguish, and as a result a commander must carefully consider the tactical situation before authorizing the use of flame. The amount of kindling and burnable materials and/or debris in the environment must be assessed to prevent unintentional fire hazard. It is especially important to note that naked flames should not be permitted in any pressurized environment with a high oxygen content. This potential for unwanted collateral damage is a serious constraint on the use of incendiary weapons like the M240.
Behind the Scenes
There were a number of different versions of this weapon made for filming, each used for particular requirements on set. Unlike the rest of the film's arsenal, the flamethrower is more of a custom fabricated prop and is not based on any existent military hardware. The props were built by special effects supervisor John Richardson. Much of the weapon is based on parts from the M16 assault rifle — the main body consists of the upper receiver assembly of an M16A1, cut into two and spliced back together, the carrying handle facing forward, and the section with the ejection port turned backwards. The front section of the weapon, meanwhile, is an M203 grenade launcher frame painted in Humbrol Brown Bess (the same color as the film's Pulse Rifles and sentry guns).
Additionally, the small piece on the end of M240 is a brass coupler labeled with "THE HANSEN MFG. CO. CLEVELAND, OHIO U.S.A. * SERIES * 4-HK *" and the vertical ridges on the "funnel" of the flamethrower's tank are believed to be model train tracks.
The functional flamethrowers used in filming were built by senior special effects technician Nick Finlayson. Some of these weapons were actually military-spec liquid-fueled flamethrowers, as opposed to the vastly more common (and far safer) gas-powered models usually seen in films, although some gas-burning models are also used in the movie, usually in scenes with actual actors using the weapons. The liquid fuel flamethrower is most notably seen in the sequence where Ripley incinerates the Hive in the Atmosphere Processing Plant near the end of the film.
"Prop Store" Flamethrower
The "Prop Store" Flamethrower, or the "Colonial Marine Flamethrower" as it is known on the Prop Store's website, is an M240 prop now owned by the Prop Store. The "Prop Store" Flamethrower contained (when it was used during the filming of Aliens) a functioning small blue pilot flame at the muzzle, powered by a gas canister concealed inside the weapon's main housing. It is unknown exactly who used the "Prop Store" Flamethrower in the film, but it was likely carried by Sigourney Weaver in the Hive at the end of the movie, specifically in shots where the weapon is not being fired, as the pilot light was required to be lit throughout this sequence.
- The Flame Thrower (used by the crew of the USCSS Nostromo) and the M240 share the same length (of 88 cm), despite the props used in the films actually being different lengths.
- The use of the M240 in Aliens continued the tradition of flamethrower weaponry featuring in the films of the Alien franchise — Alien prominently featured the Flame Thrower, Alien Resurrection would feature the Draco Double Burner and Prometheus would also feature a flamethrower. Despite not featuring flamethrowers, the prisoners in Alien3 also used fire as a weapon against the Dragon.
- The site Marauderinc.com sells the "Flamethrower Incendiary Weapon" 1:18 scale weapon for 3-3/4 inch action figures in black for $1.79 and "PAINTED" for $3.49 which is based on the M240 Incinerator Unit.
- Similarly, the site used to sell the "'NCM' Rifle" which was based on the M41A Pulse Rifle.
- Aliens: Newt's Tale
- Alien vs Predator (1994 Jaguar game)
- Aliens Online
- Aliens versus Predator 2/Primal Hunt
- Aliens: Infestation
- Aliens: Colonial Marines/Stasis Interrupted (video game)
- Aliens: Armageddon
- Exterminators (mentioned only)
- Deep Background
Behind the scenes
- Flame Thrower (Nostromo) - The flamethrower used by the crew of the USCSS Nostromo.
- Frost's Flamethrower - The M240 used by Ricco Frost during the investigation of Hadley's Hope.
- Ripley's Pulse Rifle - The legendary M240/M41A combination used by Ellen Ripley.
- (Aliens) - M240 Flamethrower - Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
- Prop Store - Aliens - Colonial Marine Flamethrower
- Aliens: Colonial Marines's "PecanGame.upk" datamining
- Weyland-Yutani Commandos and Weyland-Yutani PMC Brutes made use of this weapon in Aliens versus Predator 2 and Stasis Interrupted, respectively.
- Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 22 (2012), Titan Books.
- S. D. Perry. Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, p. 108 (2014), Insight Editions.
- S. D. Perry. Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, p. 109 (2014), Insight Editions.
- Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 23 (2012), Titan Books.
- Paul Taglianetti, Geoff Topping, Bob Gould. Sci-Fi & Fantasy FX #48, p. 39 (2000), Next Millennium Publishing.
- "Prop Store - Colonial Marine Flamethrower". Retrieved on 2013-11-03.
- Gale Anne Hurd, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Stan Winston, John Richardson. Superior Firepower: Making Aliens (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- "The Alien Legacy • View topic - Help ID this Part on The Flame Unit". Retrieved on January 10, 2014.
- "The Alien Legacy • View topic - DIY: making an M240 Flamethrower". Retrieved on August 21, 2014.
- "Trade Cards Online - M240 Flame Thrower". Retrieved on 2013-12-09.
- "The Aliens Legacy • View topic - Reference Screenshots (image intense)". Retrieved on May 16, 2015.