Manual Improvised Munitions Combined with Standards in Weapons Training

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The reason for these general prohibitions is rooted in a tactic shrouded in secrecy: The United States has been seeding battlefields with improvised exploding ammunition, part of a large-scale project intended to undermine the Taliban that can have grisly unintended effects. Such ammunition was introduced by the United States to Afghanistan with hopes that it would explode inside the weapons of its foes. But ammunition tends to move fluidly through and around conflict zones.


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And once loose, booby-trapped ammunition does not distinguish between a weapon held by a Talib, a weapon held by an American soldier or a weapon held by anyone else. Such tactics have been widely used by the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency in both Afghanistan and Iraq, just as they were used by a previous generation of American soldiers and intelligence operatives in Vietnam, according to many people involved in the distribution of the spiked ordnance.

Rebels describe an effort run by the Syrian government that assembles rifle and machine-gun cartridges in which the standard propellant has been replaced with a high-explosive powder that detonates when a shooter tries to fire a weapon, shattering the rifle or machine gun and often wounding the shooter. These rounds are then mixed with clean ammunition and channeled into black markets or left behind at government positions when the army withdraws. The rebels also described booby-trapped mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenade projectiles.

Chivers, a New York Times correspondent, reports from Syria on government attempts to seed the black market with altered ammunition to maim and kill rebel soldiers.

Middle Eastern wars are not neat, and borders are not firm. And so there is the persistent wrinkle to this kind of tactic, which American officers and veterans of Special Operations units acknowledge.

Some of the booby-trapped ordnance now in Syria might be the legacy of American seedings in Iraq, from where smugglers and arms dealers are moving large amounts of ammunition and weapons to the latest fight. The effects of these programs are, in the end, all but impossible to contain.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In the process of reporting out that article, The Times and At War accumulated more information than could fit in it. The article generated considerable e-mail flow, so today, in the interest of sharing more information for readers and follow-on researchers, this blog will provide a fuller sketch. Please keep in mind that this is necessarily a sketch. This means that the available records are spotty. Many details are gathered in the field.

First things first: Ammunition booby-trapping is not solely an American or Syrian affair. The practice of spiking rifle cartridges and leaving them about spans the 20th century, and has involved many militaries. One source credibly describes if in passing British efforts to salt the rifle ammunition supplies of the Irish Republican Army in the Black and Tan War, circa Nicholas Marsh, a research fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, compiled a list of books referring to the practice, including in Malaya, the Philippines, Burma, North Africa, Kenya and elsewhere.

He added a caveat: His search for references had been in English, which could lead to a bias in the list toward American or British actions. Another reader wrote to say that the Soviet Union long engaged in similar projects, dating from at least the s, in its campaign to suppress an Islamic uprising in Central Asia.

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Careful reviews of the literature might find doctored-ordnance seedings in any number of other times or places, including against terrorists, guerrilla organizations or drug rings in South or Central America, or the Tamil Tigers or Maoist rebels in South Asia, to name a few conflicts where much of the public discourse and history is not in English. Certainly empires and superpowers were not sole practitioners of this form of lethal deception. Gravett is an artist as well as a bomb disposal tech. His poster, linked at the top of this post, provides a view of some of the methods behind doctoring cartridges.

When the United States first started such programs is not immediately clear. American Rifleman, a publication of the National Rifle Association, published an article in describing Project Eldest Son, a doctored-ammunition program run by the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency in Vietnam. The article credited Col. John Singlaub with prodding to life that particular chapter in the spiked-ammunition story.

An excerpt is below:. After that success began a month of tedious bullet pulling to manually disassemble thousands of 7. In this process, some bullets suffered tiny scrapes, but when reloaded these marks seated out of sight below the case mouth. Rounds were inspected to ensure they showed no signs of tampering.

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Several memoirs by American veterans of the war in Vietnam shared similar details. John Steinbeck, who covered the war for Newsweek in and , came across the practice as well. Steinbeck appeared to approve. That is not much different from the situation today, although the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have produced a large enough pool of veterans that more candor about these programs is available now than what Mr.

Steinbeck could turn up during his travels in Vietnam. Veterans and officers interviewed recently also said that the programs were of large enough scale, and of such duration, that the insurgents have long been aware of them. Sample of an Operation Order. Coordination Checklists C Confirmation Brief C References and Related Resources. Command and Control.

DPKO and ODA brief UN staff on the Effective Weapons and Ammunition Management handbook

Units and Organizations. Intelligence Operations and Reporting Dissemination. Mission Development. Lightarmored reconnaissance.

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Joint Fires Observer Integration V Night Movements Vehicle Unloading Battle Drill. Assaulting a Building ObserverController Duties Weapons Effects Adjudication The mission planning folder is prepared to aid the ground reconnaissance TL as he plans. Maneuver warfare. Definitions Glossary4. Figure Example vehicle load configuration