In the military it seems we can be restricted or limited in offensive grenades training and employment. When I say ‘offensive’ use, I’m talking about both fragment and concussion types and usage by both friendly and enemy sides. I think our own training needs to include more than just the ‘Pull the pin, Throw at bad guys training I so often see. What I’d like to see more of is enemy grenade usage and TTPs, remembering that these guys don’t play by our rules, they will and have placed some nasty booby-traps to hit us on their turf. I want to briefly cover some of the offensive grenades in use on both sides of modern conflict and cover some less talked about topics.
The use of hand grenades in combat goes as far back as the Roman Empire. I don’t think I need to cover much history as it’s a pretty basic concept. Put some explosive in something and throw it at the enemy. The majority of modern grenades are the same in construction and employment. You have a body filled with a primary explosive and the body typically either contains or is the shrapnel producing piece. Many modern grenades contain a internally pre-fragmented body to produce a more even spread of shrapnel. The next component is the fuse, which is typically a pyrotechnic delay or impact device. Some are a combination. The fuse is normally topped with a ‘spoon’ or handle which is designed to be released from the body when thrown which in turn activates the fuse. Lastly, we have the safety pin and on some, an additional spoon safety clip. The safety devices are to prevent inadvertent activation during combat conditions, which would obviously make a bad day for all involved.
In WWII the US grenade of the day was the classic ‘pineapple’ type Mk 2 Fragment Grenade. There are still a large number of these and copies overseas, many were hidden in caches and pulled back out in recent conflicts. After WWII we introduced the M26 and M61 grenades, which appear as two small joined cups with a smooth exterior and nick-named ‘Lemon’. The M26 differed from the Mk 2 in using internal coiled wire fragments instead of the grenade body itself, and the M61 was a further improvement with a internally pre-cut fragmenting shell. These grenades saw conflict in Korea and Vietnam. Like the Mk 2, it and copies are widespread and can still be found throughout the world.
The current US issue grenade is the ‘baseball’ M67 Fragment Grenade. It is 14 oz in weight, containing 6.5 oz of Comp B explosive and using a pre-segmented body to produce an even and lethal spread of shrapnel. The fuse is designed for 4 seconds, +/- 1 sec. The stated kill radius is 5 meters, and wounding at 15 meters which can be confusing to those expecting a 100% result at those ranges. The 5/15 meter figure is actually rated as a 50% chance of. Don’t have it in your head that if you or a hostile are in those windows that it’s automatically lights out. Grenades aren’t a guarantee kill anymore than bullets are. Always assume the bad guy is still able to fight! The shrapnel spread from the M67 is very even, so the chances of an enemy coming out completely unscathed are low.
Also at our disposal is the Mk3A2 Concussion Grenade, which in my experience was superior to fragment grenades for urban operations. The main killing action here is an intense overpressure shockwave, which is magnified inside buildings. The filler here is 8 oz of TNT. In appearance, it somewhat resembles a smoke grenade, a canister shape painted black that may have a yellow band in the middle. In demolition training, we learn about shockwave propagation and how those waves can reflect against walls. It’s an important consideration so that any blast is safe for your team. The blast from a Mk3A2 inside a room can quickly end the fight without the fear of shrapnel coming through the walls hitting friendlies. The Navy employs these as anti-swimmer grenades because blast propagates further and stronger through liquid than air. Air can be compressed, liquid can not. The Mk3 series is being phased out of use unfortunately since the main user, the Navy, has developed a specific anti-swimmer grenade.
The next big thing coming on-line is the Anti-Structure Hand Grenade (ASM-HG). Essentially, it is a thermobaric hand-grenade designed for blast much like the Mk3A2. The blast pressure in the ASM lasts for a longer duration than standard explosives, as well as having increased thermal output. We have had other thermobaric effect weapons, from 40mm XM1060 rounds, up to MAAWS Rockets and Fuel-Air Explosive Bombs. The explosive is an aluminized, RDX-based explosive, PBXN-109 that when detonated creates intense heat and prolonged blast impulse, often blowing out walls and collapsing structures such as buildings and bunkers. The intense heat generated can also have the effect of consuming remaining oxygen in the case of caves.
In our typical training, we discuss proper throwing techniques and accuracy, the kill/wound radius, and safe handling techniques. We often remove the spoon safety clip and insert a tape pull tab onto the ring and then wrap it around the fuse head (taping is not actually authorized). I often saw guys bend one side of the safety pin to make it easier to pull out quickly, but that should be discouraged. A factory-set pin should take up to 35 pounds of pressure to pull. That shit in the movies of pulling it with your teeth? Good luck, try harder! The biggest mistake I see with our guys is how they hold the grenade. The ‘spoon’ should always be in the palm of your hand instead of the fingers, because under stress, you may let the spoon slip. There is no putting the pin back in at that point, and Mr. Grenade is no longer our friend.
Another employment topic is grenade ‘cooking’ which is intentionally releasing the spoon prior to throwing so there is less a delay before detonation. Cooking a grenade is used to get an airburst or short ground detonation. It’s best avoided without training or with unfamiliar grenades since there are timing differences in fuzes, but situations come up where getting a grenade tossed back would be bad. I ‘ll tell a story of a Army Ranger who once attempted to cook a grenade, but instead the striker popping the fuse startled him into dropping it at his feet. He managed to kick it and duck the corner for cover, but professed he would never try that again. There’s a potential for bad there…
A more personal gripe of mine hails from Hollywood depictions of grenades as almost ‘mini-nukes’ in detonation size. I hate seeing that in movies. In real life, when a grenade goes off it is just a loud pop. Concussion grenades are a good deal louder than frag’s as well, so if you should use one, be prepared! The flash is hard to see in daylight, but is just a small sphere of fire at night lasting a few microseconds. You’ll know it if one goes off for sure, and they’re much more impressive in sand where you can see the shockwave expand, but they aren’t single-handedly destroying factories or whole floors of buildings like so many movies depict with snarling fire chasing the hero out a window or vent shaft. Hollywood…
As said before, the gist of a modern grenade is mostly the same around the world, body, fuze, spoon, and safety. So I bring up the Russian variety because like ours, they are copied and found everywhere in the hands of people we’d rather not have breathing and who wish us the same. The majority of foreign grenades will be the F1 type or RGD-5 variety with insurgencies. It should be noted that the RGN and RGO grenades have a further lethality radius, 10 and 20 meters respectively when compared to our M67′s 5 meters. The only grenade out of Russia that really grabbed my interest was the RKG-3 which I’ll touch on a little more than the others.
The RGN/RGO Grenades (top right) are interesting in having a much more complex fusing system designed to ensure the detonation of the grenade. It is both impact and time fused in that once thrown, it detonates on contact and if that fails, it still has a pyrotechnic delay fuse. The RKG-3 (bottom) grenade is a shape-charge anit-tank grenade that has been used against coalition forces in Iraq. As designed, when thrown, a drogue parachute deploys and ensures the charge lands facing downward prior to detonation. In Iraq it was often modified to remove the parachute so that it could be thrown against the sides of HMMWV and MRAP vehicles. Like all shape-charge weapons, it’s made to punch holes in armor, 6.7″-8.6″ of Rolled Homogenous Armor (RHA), and kill vehicle occupants. It also has a fragment lethality of up to 20 meters. The RKG-3 was a high threat grenade for convoy’s right after Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) and other IED’s.
Foreign fighters will engage with grenades in hit and run attacks, or will use them just like we would in regular engagements. Where our forces need to exercise caution is in enemy forces using grenades as booby-traps. The places to set grenade traps is limited only by imagination. A common use trap would be setting a grenade to trip on opening a door. The classic example is the grenade armed in a can, when it’s pulled out by line, the spoon is released. A grenade can be rigged under a desk to release when a drawer is opened. Grenades can be attached to stakes and rigged with trip-wire to act like a land-mine. Insurgents were known to plant grenades on bodies, so that the grenade detonates when the body is disturbed. In any area where there has been Home Born IED (HB-IED) attacks, exercise caution against grenade traps as well. Sometimes such traps would be marked with paint or a hand-print to signal to locals to stay away. Enemy forces have no hesitation in laying traps against US and Coalition forces and it takes vigilance and awareness to spot such traps before becoming a casualty.
As seen above, we have to stay vigilant, one careless push or pull is all it takes in some cases. If you deploy downrange take care of yourselves and buddies. Contacting EOD JIEEDO for information about your operational area can give you a good idea of what to expect in your area. They have a site up called JKnIFE (CAC Access Only) to help get information out. Stay safe out there!
Bravo One, Out.