The US Army is looking to update the M8 smoke grenade.
There are two types of smoke grenades in the inventory. The M18 series produces colored smoke (red, yellow, green and violet) and is used for signaling. For instance, if you see red smoke on a training range in the US, you know that a real-world medical emergency is happening.
The M8 grenade, on the other hand, is an obscurant. That is, it produces a thick cloud of grey/white smoke that can be used as a screen from observation.
The problem is, the HC compound used in the M8 is somewhat toxic. Exposure to it in open spaces doesn’t produce immediate respiratory distress, but it is still an icky chemical mixture, and breathing it in isn’t healthy in the long term.
The U.S. Army wants to replace the smoke screen the service has been using since World War II.
The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, which is leading the effort, has pared down its list of candidates to replace the HC Screening Smoke Grenade down to four, according to an Army release.
The grenade the Army chooses must also “have applications in short-range mortars, and long-range artillery shells,” according to the Army.
Making smoke is easy. Making a dense, effective smoke that isn’t highly toxic, well, that’s a little harder.
Smoke screens are still an important tool in warfare. From the rifle squad throwing a smoke grenade to screen its movement across a city street, to a smoke generator platoon obscuring the movement of an entire brigade, denying the enemy the ability to observe is still a widely used tactic. Indeed, every battalion in our Army has a Chemical Officer on staff and planning for smoke missions is a key responsibility of his.
Smoke can be provided by grenades, mortars, artillery, special high volume fog oil generators or by injecting fuel oil into the exhaust manifolds of combat vehicles.