Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


This is coolbert:

The use and utility of smoke as a weapon of war is "obvious to even the most casual of observers" - - Howard Cossell.

Perhaps the most obvious use of smoke is as an obscurant. A smoke screen used to hide troops and shield troops from enemy observation.

"obscure - - 1 : to make dark, dim, or indistinct 2 : to conceal or hide by or as if by covering

Almost all self-respecting main battle tanks of the world powers, and even those of lesser powers, are all equipped with built-in smoke dispensers. Grenade launchers that "pop" smoke to conceal the tank from enemy observation. The thought is simple. If the enemy cannot see you, they cannot kill you.

The use of smoke for obfuscation is most important in the age of precision guided weapons [PGM] such as the Maverick [laser guided], or the Dragon [ultra-violet beam] variety of anti-tank-guided-missile [ATGM].

"ob·fus·cate - - 1 a : DARKEN b : to make obscure 2 : CONFUSE

The smoke of course, not only conceals the target, but dissipates and diffuses the guiding laser or ultra-violet beam in such a manner that the missile being guided goes "off course".

You may ask, "well, to what extent does smoke degrade the effectiveness of enemy fire??"

It has been determined that by putting smoke on YOURSELF, you reduce the effectiveness of enemy fire by 1/4 [25 %].

By putting smoke on the ENEMY, you reduce the effective of enemy fire 3/4 [75 %].

Historically, smoke has been employed sometimes on a basis that can only be referred to as "Biblical proportions".

Just prior to attempting the crossing of the Oder river in 1945, enroute to attacking the German positions at Seelowe, the Soviet General Zhukov employed fast moving fighter aircraft to lay a dense smoke screen along a THREE HUNDRED MILE FRONT, AND DID SO IN MINUTES!!

[this must have been done by injecting oil into the carburetor of the fighter planes. The oil, when burned, creates smoke!!]

When marching south from Manchuria to attack United Nations forces in Korea [1950], the initial advance of 400,000 Communist Chinese troops was screened by smoke from massive forest fires deliberately set to obscure observation from American aerial surveillance and photographic reconnaissance. This method DID work. The entire Chicom force was able to move south without detection!!

It can be suggested from some quarters that forward-looking-infra-red [FLIR] optical detectors [goggles, cameras, viewers, etc.] have negated the concealment capability of smoke.

FLIR is amazingly effective and impressive. Allows the user to "see" through the smoke and detect the target.

HOW effective and impressive??

It is reputed that during the Gulf War ONE, an Abrams tank was able, using FLIR, to "see" an Iraqi T-72 tank THROUGH A SAND DUNE, AIM, AND FIRE A SABOT ROUND THROUGH THE SAND DUNE, DESTROYING THE IRAQI TANK!!

[the heat from the engine of the T-72 must have given it away!!]

Keep in mind that FLIR, like other devices that allow the user to "see" in the dark, are now available, cheaply too, to almost anyone in the world that wants one. Even nations that have only an elementary industrial capability can possess and use FLIR!

Strangely enough, U.S. forces currently have a capability to defeat enemy use of FLIR. This can be categorized as "smart smoke". Smoke with vaporized oil particulats or graphite flakes CAN defeat existing FLIR. American forces already have this in THEIR inventory. Credit is to be given to the innovators that thought of "smart smoke" [that is what I call it!!.

I am wondering if the current U.S. military HAS the capability to lay down a smoke screen ala' Zhukov at the Oder crossing?

U.S. ground forces certainly can "lay down" a smoke screen, but NOT on the scale of say an Oder operation? Both the current Hummvee and APC M113 can be configured for a smoke capability. But smoke can be used only on a limited basis. I guess that is considered to be adequate. The use of smoke on a monumental basis is just not required in the minds of U.S. planners.

I know that UH-1 [Huey] helicopters DID have such a capability. Does a smoke screen capability still exist with say the Blackhawk helicopter?? I just don't know.

I am unsure about the Air Force. Perhaps such a capability has not been appreciated or even thought of. Being able to "lay down" a smoke screen using fast mover aircraft I hope is a consideration that is available to American forces. My inclination tells me otherwise.



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