Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

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.

So the Army is looking to replace it with something less toxic.

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.

3 thoughts on “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

  1. In Vietnam we used colored smoke grenades to indicate a helicopter LZ. The chopper pilot would call in the color he saw for verification. “I have Goofy Grape” “Roger that, come on in.” or “I have Choo Choo Cherry” “Negative! Negative! Break off!” (These were flavors of powdered drinks, much in demand BTW.) In an established compound with no danger of Charles interfering, it was merely to indicate the landing spot.

    One especially hot day we were filling sandbags – we were ALWAYS filling sandbags. How hot was it? The powder temp, needed for accurate targeting of our 105s, was 102 degrees, inside metal canisters under cover below ground. We were all moving very slowly and trying to amuse ourselves by guessing the color of the next grenade in the nearby landing spot. Red? Yellow? Purple?….huh?…White??? Why is the landing guide running away? It was a freaking CS grenade and the downwash was blowing it all into our faces!!! Everyone ran like hell to the other end of the compound where another chopper was landing. Even with tears streaming from my eyes I was able to appreciate the situation, like the other pilot thinking “Why are all those people running toward me?” 🙂

  2. Your post reminded me of the time an MP Unit at Ft. Lewis gassed an elementary school. Well, not intentionally, of course. Combine end of year ammo “blow off” with about 8 smoke pots and a whole ton of CS grenades and capsules and mix in a little wind blowing said mixture right into Spanaway. Somebody’s OER is going to reflect that.

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