by David Crane
defrev at gmail.com
As if mines/IEDs, EFPs and RPGs aren’t enough, now there’s armor-piercing grenades a.k.a. armor-penetrating grenades. According to a recent CBS News article, this is the latest lethal threat (explosives threat) to U.S. troops in Iraq. The grenades, being employed/deployed by Al Qaeda forces (specifically they’re self-named "Thermal Brigade" force), look like the old stick grenades of WWII and Vietnam fame, are Russian-made (or at least of Russian origin–big surprise), and are thrown by hand–making them armor-piercing hand grenades.
Once an armor-piercing grenade is thrown, it…
utilizes a parachute to orient the grenade and allow it to make a controlled descent onto the top of the target (i.e. armored vehicle). Once it makes contact, the grenade uses a shaped charge to penetrate the vehicle’s roof or hood. CBS News is reporting that the grenade also uses a slow-burning explosive charge to enhance the lethal effect when the shaped charge penetrates into the interior of the vehicle. So, the grenade is more accurately described as a hand-thrown shaped-charge grenade.
In order to employ this new weapon, the thrower has to get pretty close to the target vehicle, and the target vehicle either must be stationary or moving fairly slowly for the thrower to hit the vehicle properly/accurately. Even with the parachute deployed, the grenade descends very quickly onto the target. There’s just enough parachute to orient the grenade properly, rather than slow it down.
If Coalition troops stay sharp and can see an enemy insurgent or terrorist throwing the grenade, they should be able to engage and neutralize the attacker/thrower fairly easily with small arms fire (preferably a vehicle-mounted FN M240 GPMG or M249 SAW/LMG, U.S. Ordnance M6E4/MK43 Mod1 LMG/SAW, etc.) as he/she is attacking. If the enemy makes the throw before the gunner can cut them down, the driver should ideally have already started moving (if the vehicle was stationary) or accelerating (if the vehicle was already moving) to avoid the grenade hitting/landing on the vehicle. Of course, this all depends on the gunner, driver, and the rest of the vehicle’s occupants staying sharp, and being completely aware of all individuals around the vehicle at all times–and being ready to act immediately if/when the enemy attacks. This is, of course, much easier said (or written) than done.
The problem is literally any Iraqi civilian (or someone posing as one) standing around or walking past your vehicle could all of a sudden pull one of these things out and throw it at you’re vehicle, which doesn’t give you much time to react, even if you catch the action early. The CBS News article states that "the soldiers say it’s impossible to know when ordinary-looking civilians at the side of the road will suddenly launch their deadly weapons – and that makes attacks like this just about impossible to stop."