This is where the drones came in

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Before the war, on a tactical level the Armenian army was superior to the Azeri army:

It had better officers, more motivated soldiers, and a more agile leadership. In all previous wars with Azerbaijan, this proved to be decisive. But Azerbaijan found a way to work around it. This is where the drones came in: they allowed the Azeris to reconnoitre first the Armenian position and then the placement of reserves. Armenian positions then could be extensively shelled with conventional artillery, weakening their defences. Drones then guided the onslaught towards the Armenian reserves, bringing in artillery, multiple-rocket systems with cluster munitions, their own missiles, or using Israeli-made LORA ballistic missiles to destroy bridges or roads linking the reserves with the front. Once the Armenian side was incapable of sending reserves into battle, the Azeri army could move in any number it wished to overwhelm the isolated Armenian positions. This procedure was repeated day after day, chipping one Armenian position away each day and resupplying artillery during the night.

This tactic also worked well in mountainous territory the Armenians thought would be easy to defend. In the mountains, there is only one road connecting the front to the rear, which made it even easier for drones to spot targets. When the battle over Shusha demonstrated that the Armenians would not stand a chance even in this territory, the Armenian army started to disintegrate and Yerevan had no choice than to agree a ceasefire on adverse terms.

They waited until a companion was hit

Sunday, November 29th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachT. R. Fehrenbach shares an anecdote (in This Kind of War) that I heard first heard about Russians on the eastern front:

Mount saw that some attacking Chinese had no rifles; as they advanced, they waited until a companion was hit, then took his weapon.

Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

One of the military lessons from Nagorno-Karabakh is that computers and networks matter:

Like in Syria and Libya, Russian air-defence systems proved to be ineffective against small and slow drones. This has inspired a debate in the West about whether Russian air-defence systems are generally overrated. But this verdict would be premature.

Armenia’s most ‘modern’ air-defence systems, the S-300PT and PS series and the 9K37M Buk-M1, were both developed in the 1980s. While the missiles are still potent, their sensors are designed to detect, identifiy and track fast-moving fighters, and their moving-target indicators disregard small, slow drones. Like many 1980s systems, a lot of computing is predetermined by hardware layout, and reprogramming requires an extensive refit of the entire system, which the Armenians had not done. These systems are also incapable of plot-fusion: accumulating and combining raw radar echoes from different radars into one aggregated situation report. Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft. None of the export versions of Russia’s air-defence systems that it has sold to Syria, Turkey, North Korea, and Iran are capable of plot-fusion. (In the latter two cases, these are disguised as ‘indigenous’ systems like the Raad or Bavar 373.) There is therefore a huge difference in performance between Russian air-defence systems protecting Russian bases in Armenia and Syria and those Russian air-defence systems exported to Armenia and Syria.

Azerbaijan’s drones roamed free because Armenia had no jammer able to interrupt the signals linking the drones to their guidance stations. Only in the last days of the war did Russia use the Krasukha electronic warfare system based at the Armenian city of Gyumri to interdict Azeri deep reconnaissance in Armenia proper. Still, the Azeris also used the Israeli Harop loitering munition, which was able to work under adverse conditions (although at reduced effectiveness) as it does not, unlike drones. require a guidance link. Hence among armies that are likely to prepare to fight wars in the future – not only the US, China, Russia but regional powers such as Turkey, Israel, and South Africa – this experience will certainly prompt further research into artificial intelligence and autonomous lethal weapons systems. Rather than banning this class of ammunition by a prohibitive arms control treaty, as envisioned by Europe, they will experiment with how to make use of the new technologies and best integrate autonomous lethal weapons systems into their combined-arms manoeuvre forces, thereby increasing their operational tempo and effectiveness.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of Iran’s top military nuclear scientists has been killed:

Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror.”

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

It was not a popular ruling, but it saved lives

Friday, November 27th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachIn the bitter cold of the Korean winter, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), sentries were having trouble staying alert:

It was cold enough to keep a man’s teeth chattering all night long — but Pritchard had learned a lesson earlier in the campaign. At first, every man had been issued a sleeping bag — and this had proved a mistake, fatal for a lot of Americans who could not resist the temptation to crawl in the bag, even on guard, and fall asleep.

The Chinese had learned the expensiveness of bugling and tootling their way into American lines. Now they came quietly, padding on rubber-soled feet. The only way for the outposts to have a chance was to issue only one arctic sleeping bag to each two men. This way, one man would be too miserable to go to sleep, and he would damn well see to it that his buddy didn’t sleep too long.

It was not a popular ruling, but it saved lives.

I don’t discuss Thanksgiving nearly as much as Halloween

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

I don’t discuss Thanksgiving nearly as much as Halloween:

Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Europe should look carefully at the military lessons of the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war;

The course of every war is influenced by the specific political circumstances that trigger it — and this war was no exception. Azerbaijan and Turkey were confident in the success of their offensive action, as Russia had from the onset of the war indicated that it had no intention of assisting the Armenians outside of their recognised borders. Russia also saw Azeri military pressure as a tool to weaken the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, who headed the 2018 revolution that removed the old regime. Azeri action would, moreover, be likely to lead Armenia accept previously negotiated “peace plans” that would strengthen Moscow’s geopolitical position. This adverse political situation directly translated into military disadvantages on the battlefield for the Armenians.

Knowing Moscow’s tacit acceptance of a military intervention, Turkey based several F-16 fighters in Azerbaijan in October 2020 as a general deterrent. These were later used to sweep the sky of any Armenian ground-attack aircraft that tried to engage in combat. For its part, Armenia had just received eight Su-30 interceptors from Russia this summer, but did not even try to use them to contest the Azeri drones and F-16. The main reason for this was that Russia wanted Armenia not to enter into a direct confrontation with Turkey proper, and so it kept its aircraft on the ground. Russia effectively served air superiority on a diplomatic silver platter to Azerbaijan and Turkey. This proved decisive.

And there was always the haunting fear that a bigger war might start, elsewhere

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe problem that worried Washington was not what was happening in the frozen wastes of North Korea, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but what was happening in the chancelleries of Communist nations:

“Sir,” [a young lieutenant] asked the briefing officer, “but what do we figure the Communists will do?”

The briefing officer touched his pointer to the floor, looked down. Then he met the lieutenant’s eyes and smiled wryly.

“Son, I don’t have a living clue.”

In Washington, General of the Army Omar Bradley could have said the same. He was certain of only one thing: That a war with the Chinese, on the mainland of Asia, was the wrong war, at the wrong time, with the wrong enemy. The more important men in government tended to agree with him.


Harry Truman had not altered his basic belief that the United States might engage in general war with the Communist bloc, but it had no reasonable hope of forcing its will over the vast expanse of immense humanity of Eurasia.


In the last days of November 1950, MacArthur wired Washington: We face an entirely new war … this command has done everything humanly possible within its capabilities but is now faced with conditions beyond its control and strength. MacArthur now wanted to accept Chiang Kai-shek’s offer of Nationalist Chinese troops, but Washington told him such a move would have to be cleared with the U.N. — which was obviously hostile to the idea.

Now, at Christmastime, a new wave of apprehension swept over the American people, for unlike the old wars on the frontier, this one was reported daily by electronic means.


It must be emphasized that the decision to withdraw from North Korea was a strategic one. Once contact had been broken both in east and west, American and ROK forces were under no immediate pressure forcing them backward. But the stance in the mountains of North Korea was exceedingly perilous with unknown numbers of Chinese in the war. The supply situation had never been good, and the transportation network was completely incapable of standing up under the needs of a large-scale campaign. MacArthur wanted to pull back.

And there was always the haunting fear that a bigger war might start, elsewhere. If the Russians came in, fully, all the men in Korea might be cut off as Russian submarines and air interdicted their lifeline; and forgotten in the general chaos, they might be slaughtered at leisure.

Traffic fatality rates increased during the pandemic

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

There were fewer cars on the road last spring during the height of the pandemic, but traffic fatality rates increased 30% in the second quarter as evidence suggests drivers engaged in more risky behavior:

Total traffic volume fell 16% during the first half of 2020, NHTSA said in a release, while traffic deaths fell just 3%.

The fatality rate during the second quarter was 1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, sharply higher than the first quarter rate of 1.10, which was in line with historical trends.

A second NHTSA study of trauma centers found seriously injured or fatal crash victims took risks during the pandemic that included speeding, driving impaired, and not using their seat belts.

For example, the study revealed a higher prevalence of alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids in crash victims during the quarter compared to the months prior to the pandemic.

American casualties did not come to half one week’s total in the Ardennes campaign

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe action on the Ch’ongch’on and at the reservoir, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), was described as the greatest defeat in American history:

To place the defeat in North Korea in perspective, American casualties during the entire time of action did not come to half one week’s total in the Ardennes campaign, when Germans killed or wounded 27,000 Americans in one seven-day period.

Southern and Western politicians deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Is the country more divided than ever before? The answer is no, Michael Lind explains:

The social and economic divides among white Northerners and white Southerners, Blacks and whites, Catholics and Protestants and Jews were much more intense in 1920 than they are today in 2020. What has happened is that the formerly unified, mostly Northern mainline Protestant American establishment has—perhaps temporarily—broken down, allowing the actual diversity of interests and opinions in the United States to be expressed rather than suppressed. If the emerging woke national establishment has its way, however, that diversity of viewpoints and values will soon be suppressed once again, in favor of an intolerant and exclusive doctrine that greatly resembles the old-time Social Gospel from which it is derived.

With the exceptions of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, every American president between 1861 and 1933 was a Republican mainline Protestant from the North or Midwest. The Republican Party, still the Lincoln coalition of Northern industrialists and Yankee Protestants, dominated Congress in the same era. Industry and finance were in the hands of a small number of Northeastern financiers, many of them old-stock Northeastern Protestants like J.P. Morgan. While there were some important Jewish financiers, Jews along with Catholics were kept out of many snobbish Wall Street firms until well after World War II.

The New Deal revolution of the 1930s is badly misunderstood, both politically and culturally, when it is treated as a left-wing rebellion against right-wing capitalism. Fundamentally it represented the partial overthrow of Yankee Protestant hegemony in American society by a coalition of outsiders, chiefly provincial Southern and Western whites and European-American immigrants in the North, many of them Catholic.

The Democratic Party that dominated the United States between the 1930s and the 1980s had a few Yankee progressive members, but it was essentially the old Jacksonian alliance of white Southerners and non-British “white ethnics” in the North. If Harry Truman is understood correctly as a cultural Southerner from Missouri, then with one exception every Democratic president between Roosevelt and Obama was a white Southerner—Truman, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. The one exception was John F. Kennedy, from the other wing of the Jacksonian anti-Yankee alliance of Southerners and Irish Americans. Meanwhile, the Solid South combined with the seniority system ensured that Southerners, many of them segregationists, dominated Congress and the Senate throughout the New Deal era.

Most New Deal Democratic politicians were not anti-capitalist or opposed to industry. They often represented socially conservative local business elites who resented the fact that Northern bankers often would only finance infrastructure projects in the South and West that locked those regions into their assigned roles as resource colonies for factories in the Midwest and Northeast.

To break this neocolonial pattern of Northeastern economic domination, New Deal Democrats used federal state capitalism to industrialize and modernize the Southern and Western periphery, by means of rural electrification cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other hydropower projects, defense production plants assigned to the South and West during World War II, and the interstate highway system (a favorite project of FDR which was only enacted under Eisenhower). In short, Southern and Western politicians and their Northern white ethnic allies who dominated the federal government in the New Deal era deployed federal state capitalism to do an end run around unsympathetic Yankee capitalists, not to advance toward socialism or social democracy.

The sky above the American troops was black with friendly aircraft

Friday, November 20th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe Marines at Yudam-ni were ordered to retreat, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War), but it would be called an attack to the south:

At Yudam-ni only the wounded and those who could not walk were placed aboard vehicles; many men who were hurt had to walk. Then, the infantry battalions leading the way, the regiments came out through Toktong Pass.

They came out intact, with their jeeps, guns, tractors, and trucks. Strapped to the fenders and hoods of vehicles lay bloody, half-frozen Marines. Others lay across gun barrels, or were carried in ox-drawn sleds taken from Koreans. It was not a motor march. It was a tactical battle most of the way, against Chinese who held the hills in depth. But the Marines came out, for three reasons:

One, Davis’ and Taplett’s men were able to climb the encircling mountains, knock the enemy off the ridges, drive them across the high timber. Moving by night, attacking cross-country in savage terrain and savage weather, these Marines took the Chinese in the flank, and by surprise. In the face of incredible hardship, the Marines were able to mount offensive action — and Barber’s Fox Company, 7th Marines, had been able to hold off two enemy regiments for six days, preventing the Chinese from closing their ring. If Barber had not held, the way would have been much more difficult.

Two, Marine air from the 1st Air Wing near Hamhung, carrier pilots from Philippine Sea and Leyte, and Air Force supply planes flew constantly over the column. Marine aircraft strafed, bombed, and napalmed as close as fifty yards from the leading elements. Marine air, flying so low as to touch the mountains, knocked out roadblock after roadblock, as fast as the Chinese assembled them. Marine pilots volunteered to fly night missions in the dangerous mountains.

Hour after hour, the sky above the American troops was black with friendly aircraft, and without them, in spite of their courage, in spite of all else, the ground troops would never have come out.

Third, General Sung Shih-lun had gambled. In the horrendous terrain, he had never been able to bring his full manpower to bear on the embattled Marines, outnumbered though they were. By pushing his men across the mountains from the Yalu in fourteen days, he had had to leave most of his supply and artillery behind — and as the battle continued day after day, stinging night after night, even Sung Shih-lun’s sturdy peasants neared collapse.

The Chinese had come into Korea well fed and well clothed, but they were without supply, depending on the countryside for future livelihood. Near-starvation and dysentery hit them, too. The hardy Chinese peasant, while brought up to hardship, was no superman. As the Marines neared Hagaru, weary CCF units deserted their peaks under air attack. The Marines found some who had thrown away their arms and who lay huddled together in the snow, freezing and apathetic, trying only to stay alive.

The information war has been just as fierce as the actual war

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

The information war has been just as fierce as the actual war in Nagorno-Karabakh, with both sides posting daily combat footage to proclaim victories:

Disinformation and propaganda, spread through official and unofficial accounts, have made it difficult to objectively assess the course of combat thus far. Furthermore, the relative accessibility of combat footage — whether from drones, cellphones, or cameras — paints a stylized picture of the battlefield for any analyst. They are official propaganda, and it is worth noting that on the modern battlefield, some systems have cameras or live video feeds, while many do not, distorting perceptions on combat effectiveness. A social media feed composed largely of drone video footage could lead one to believe in the dominance of such systems, even in a conflict where many casualties are still inflicted by armor, artillery, and multiple launch rocket systems. This tactical footage has led to familiar debates on the utility of tanks, the prowess of drones on the battlefield, or the proliferation of sensors.

There is a thirst for drawing lessons from contemporary conflicts that feature modern weapon systems. However, the result is often generalizing from a few cases, and at times, learning things that are not true. What can be discerned from this war is hardly revelatory. Remotely operated systems offer the utility of tactical aviation, close air support, and precision guided weapons to small nations, and to even relatively poor countries, for a cheap price. They saturate the battlefield with disposable sensors, shooters, and sensor-shooter packages in the form of loitering munitions. Notably, they enable precision artillery and strike systems to engage fixed positions, as has been seen across modern conflicts from Ukraine to Syria. Furthermore, tanks are vulnerable to counters, as they always have been, but it is unclear what other vehicles offer a better combination of firepower, protection, and maneuverability on the battlefield.

The war illustrates that in an offensive, or counter-offensive, the only thing worse than being in a heavily armored vehicle is being outside of one. If anything, the tank appears to be the most survivable vehicle, given the small warheads on drone carried munitions. These munitions often disable or mission kill the vehicle, but the crew can still survive anything other than a direct hit. Much of the hand-wringing in Western circles that comes from watching these conflicts stems from the epiphany that there is no way to avoid casualties on the modern battlefield, especially among an expensive force, replete with boutique capabilities that cannot be lost in large quantities. Furthermore, the ratios of support to maneuver units are important. Compared to forces like the Russian military, Western ground units feature poor availability of air defense and electronic warfare, and the expectations that existing air defenses or tactical aviation may be easily adapted to counter unmanned systems are probably unfounded. Armenia’s performance illustrates this problem. Drones are relatively cheap, and this military technology is diffusing much faster than cost-effective air defense or electronic warfare suitable to countering them.

That said, Azerbaijan’s unmanned air force has been operating against an opponent with incredibly dated short-range air defenses which are neither suitable nor effectively employed to defend against drones. Armenia does not have layered air defense, effective electronic warfare, or a large amount of tactical aviation. It has situated its air defense systems in relatively exposed fixed positions, in a mountainous region where air defense is even more difficult by virtue of the terrain. In truth, both sides are demonstrating tactical deficiency in their offensive and defensive tactics. While attaining some kills using optical sights, Armenia’s modernized Soviet systems (essentially technology that dates back to the early 1970s) were never meant to engage combinations of small drones, loitering munitions, precision artillery, or unmanned combat aerial vehicle systems. More advanced air defense capabilities like Tor-M2s are few, and have been intentionally held in reserve, although Azerbaijan has been reticent to use its fixed wing or rotary aviation. Armenia’s older S-300PS systems appear to have had no role in the conflict, and some launchers may have been destroyed early on, having never even been deployed.

The lessons from this conflict are consistent with those of other wars in the latter 20th century: It is much better to have a smaller ground force that is well defended from the air, than a vast armored force that is completely exposed to sensors and airpower from above. Well prepared defenses, if insufficiently protected or camouflaged from the air — which is increasingly difficult — are naturally vulnerable. The diffusion of remotely operated systems will outpace that of air defenses or specialized counter-drone systems, rendering older generations of air defense largely obsolete. Drones and loitering munitions will be, for some time, cheaper to acquire than the requisite defenses. And one can distribute forces, but they should be concentrated for assaults. There is no way getting around canalizing terrain, at least not until the battlefield features hover tanks. That tanks are vulnerable to anti-tank weapons should come as no surprise, but other vehicles, which trade survivability for maneuverability, seem to fare no better against anti-tank guided missiles. Vulnerable or not, it is unclear what other vehicle can achieve the tank’s mission on the battlefield.

Reality had caught up with the Marines

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachThe Marines paused to consolidate after each move forward along the Main Supply Route, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

The terrain made it impossible for the division to remain intact, but at each successive plateau along the MSR, units were consolidated at regimental or battalion strength, with supporting artillery able to fire in any direction.


This consolidation, and the fact that most Marine officers had had experience with Oriental warfare, learning the importance of keeping tight, steelringed perimeters by night whatever happened in the rear, did much to save the division.


The moon came up, huge and swollen, rising clear and bright over the swirling ground mists. It came up behind Easy Company, silhouetting the company positions for the enemy, but not throwing enough light along the dark corridors to reveal the lurking Chinese. On the hill, the temperature had dropped to twenty below.

Easy’s men heard monstrous shuffling sounds through the dark, as of thousands of boots stamping in the snow. They heard sounds, but they could see only ghostly moon shadows.

Yancey asked Ball, on the mortars, to fire star shells.

Ball had little 81 ammo, but he tried. The flares wouldn’t work — lifted from crates stamped “1942,” they fizzled miserably.


The enemy mortars fell first, bursting with pinpoint precision among the foxholes on the forward slope of Hill 1282. Then, in the moonlit hills, bugles racketed; purple flares soared high, and popped. The shadows suddenly became men, running at Marine lines.

The Chinese did not scream or shout, like North Koreans. They did not come in one overwhelming mass. They came in squads, yards apart, firing, hurling grenades, flailing at the thin line across the hill, probing for a weak spot across which they could pour down into the valley beyond.

Again and again they were stopped; again and again Chinese bugles plaintively noised the recall. The icy slopes were now littered with sprawled figures in long white snow capes.

Again and again, while the Marines’ guns grew hot, they came back to flail at the hill. Looking down into the shadowy valley, John Yancey could see hundreds of orange pinpoints of light, as the enemy sprayed his hill with lead.

The night seemed endless. A grenade exploded close to Yancey, driving metal fragments through his face to lodge behind his nose. Many of his men were hit. Those who could stand continued fighting; those badly hurt were dragged some twenty yards behind the company position, where a hospital corpsman worked over them in the snow.

There was no shouting or crying. Now and then a man gasped, “Oh, Jesus, I’m hit!” or, “Mother of God!” and fell down.

The attacks whipped the hill. By the early hours of morning, most of Easy’s men had frozen noses or frozen feet in addition to their combat wounds. Yancey’s blood froze to his moustache, dried across his stubbled face. Snorting for breath through his damaged nose, he had trouble breathing.


The platoon, all Easy Company was in desperate straits. Captain Phillips, who had carried ammunition to Yancey’s platoon during the night, and who had said again and again, “You’re doing okay, men; you’re doing okay!” took a bayoneted rifle, and ran out to the front of Yancey’s line.

“This is Easy Company!” Walt Phillips said. “Easy Company holds here!” He thrust the bayonet deep into the snowy ground; the rifle butt swayed back and forth in the cold wind, a marker of defiance, a flag to stand by.


John Yancey realized that some sort of counteraction had to be taken to push them out. He ran back of the hill, found half a dozen able men coming up as replacements. “Come with me!”

With the new men, he charged the breach in Easy’s line. His own carbine would fire only one shot at a time; the weapons of two of the replacements froze. The other four dropped with bullets in their heads—the Chinese aimed high.

Beside the CP, Lieutenant Ball, the exec, sat cross-legged in the snow, firing a rifle. Several Chinese rushed him. Ball died.

Now Yancey could find only seven men in his platoon. Reeling from exhaustion and shock, he tried to form a countercharge. As he led the survivors against the broken line, a forty-five caliber Thompson machine-gun slug tore his mouth and lodged in the back of his skull. Metal sliced his right cheek, as a hand grenade knocked him down.

On his hands and knees, he found he was blind.

He heard Walt Phillips shouting, “Yancey! Yancey!”

Somebody he never saw helped Yancey off the hill, led him back down the rear slope. He collapsed, and woke up later in the sick bay at Yudam-ni, where his sight returned.

Behind him, on 1282, Captain Walt Phillips stood beside his standard until he died. Late in the afternoon, a new company relieved Easy; of its 180 men only twenty-three came off.

But they held the hill.


Reality had caught up with the Marines, as with all men, but they had faced it well. Everywhere, the Marines had held.

The football shape was not considered practical for further development

Monday, November 16th, 2020

It always seemed to me that a hand grenade should be the size and weight of a baseball, since most (American) soldiers have — or used to have — a lot of experience throwing baseballs, but I assumed the size and weight wouldn’t work. A baseball weighs 5 to 5.25 ounces (142 to 149 g). The classic pineapple grenade weighs 1 lb. 5 oz. (595 g). But they did try to make a baseball grenade in World War 2:

During World War II, the service, together with the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency, had experimented with fragmentation grenades that were the exact same size and weight as regulation baseballs…. Those grenades, designated the T-13 and nicknamed the “Beano,” never entered service owing to their use of a dangerously sensitive impact fuze that killed two people and injured 44 others in the course of testing.

The other form factor that made sense to me was, of course, a football grenade, which, apparently, the Army considered for an anti-tank grenade, well after World War 2:

Test on the football shape indicated it also had a low tendency of nose-on impact. In addition, both the spring wire and soft aluminum placed on the nose to cause the “football” to rotate upon impact, so the nose would be perpendicular to the tank surface, did not work as envisioned. The “football” would bounce away before the nose rotated any significant amount. In addition, the “football” never attained a stable trajectory. This was apparently caused by the mass of the grenade type “football” being near the longitudinal axis while a real football has all its weight in the “skin.” The football shape was not considered practical for further development.

The modern M67 grenade has a “spheroidal” shape and weighs 14 oz (400 g).