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30 March 2009


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when a loose cannon country w/ the track record of Israel possesses deliverable nukes, is not the national security of the United States at risk?

the question is unavoidable!

Remember the Alamo? how about the U.S.S. Liberty. Maybe Bibi & Barak can be captured after failing to post lookouts & identified by their silk underpants. See Battle of San Jacinto.



Those aren't illumination rounds, they are smoke rounds designed for creating smoke screens. Google "M825A1" and you'll find some additional information on the munition. The light gray rounds in this photo are M825A1 rounds. As you can see, there are a lot of them, and pretty much every picture I've seen of Israeli artillery during Cast Lead shows pallets of these rounds nearby.


I seriously doubt these M825A1 rounds were used for incendiary effect. These munitions are, by design, not very effective for incendiary purposes. In an urban environment like Gaza, where most structures are concrete, the incendiary effects are further minimized. Additionally, Isreali employment was not consistent with an incendiary purpose.

The only case I can find where the M825A1 started a serious fire was at a UN storage compound. Wooden pallets containing food aid stored in the open caught fire which spread to fuel trucks, causing a major and very destructive conflagration.

Hundreds, if not thousands of these rounds were fired during the conflict. In comparison to the numbers of munitions employed, the casualties and damage they caused do not appear to be extensive. Israel could have employed the munitions differently in order to cause more fires and more casualties. This does not appear to be the case. For example, fuzing for point detonation and firing the rounds into structures would greatly increase the probability of spreading the WP-impregnated felt wedges into highly flammable interior spaces. Israel also could have similarly fired them at low angles into high-rise buildings for a similar effect. All the videos and photographs I've seen appear to be high-angle airbursts, which is how they are employed for creating smokescreens.

Undoubtedly some of the munitions were used for screening and other clearly legitimate purposes. The Israelis employed a strategy designed to minimize their own casualties and smokescreens in an urban environment are a legitimate method to accomplish that. However, I don't think screening alone can explain the large number of rounds fired, nor some other inconsistencies. Although I don't have any verifiable evidence, I think it's likely they were also used for psychological effect and possibly for area denial.

There has probably been more said about Israel's use of these WP smoke rounds during Cast Lead than most other aspects of the conflict. At the end of the day, the vast majority of Palestinian casualties (both Hamas and civilian) were caused by deadlier and less dramatic weapons: High explosives and kinetic projectiles. While the debate on the use of these phosphorus munitions is important, I think it's critical we don't lose sight of that fact, nor the fact that so many died for a completely pointless and ineffective military operation.

Howard C. Berkowitz

Just a technical note; there's a widespread misconception that WP burns under water. I've worked with it as a chemist, and even assisted in the ER after a colleague had gotten fragments in his skin from a small lab explosion. In labs, WP is stored under water. http://www.msdshazcom.com/IPCSNENG/neng0628.htm

To deal with an active fire, wet sand is better than water spray, but, as long as there is enough water mass so the heat won't boil it away, water extinguishes WP. Water will not extinguish magnesium, thermite, or alkali metals such as sodium and potassium.

In the ER, as the surgeon pulled out the fragments, they smoked or burned: I dropped them into trays of water and they went out.

One note of caution on the MSDS link I gave: yes, cupric sulfate solution will inert WP and make it more visible for removal, but that's generally bad practice if removing it from skin; copper phosphide is more toxic than WP. Copper sulfate could make sense for decontaminating objects.

I'd want to double-check, but I believe most modern illuminating rounds use zirconium or a zirconium-magnesium alloy; less smoke and more light than WP.


Mo: These rounds are not Illumination rounds per se.

Illumination rounds deploy a parachute which has a illuminating substance (as the colonel said), that could have WP compound. Since it falls slowly to earth, and is wind driven, it is not thought of as an offensive weapon.

The picture on the thread shows a WP "smoke projectile" after initial separation, initiated by a MTSQ fuze (machine timed, super Quick), where the time (when the canister deploys sub-munitions (felt sections, above and away from the intended detonation point)),has been set by an ordnance tech. The US fuzes generally have a .05 to 199.5 second window of adjustment.

I have way more on this, but I am putting a compare and contrast to Andy's piece together. I won't have more until the morrow.

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