Flechette: Wikis


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A flechette is a pointed steel projectile, with a vaned tail for stable flight. The name comes from French fléchette, ‘little arrow’ or ‘dart’, and sometimes retains the acute accent in English. Standard pronunciation is /flɛˈʃɛt/ fle-SHET.


Bulk and artillery use

World War I flechettes procured by the Swiss Air Force.

Flechettes were first used as an air-dropped weapon in World War I by combatants on both sides. These were about four inches long (10 cm) and weighed a couple of ounces (60 g). Dropped from airplanes or Zeppelins over enemy trenches or airfields, these gravity missiles were capable of penetrating a helmet and the wearer's skull. Similar weapons were 'Lazy Dogs' (or 'Devil Dogs'), used by the U.S. in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. These 1 3/4" length (4.5 cm) bomblets were air-dropped at height in canisters by aircraft or scattered from buckets by helicopter crews, reaching high sub-sonic speeds as they fell. Targeted at enemy personnel and unarmored vehicles, the flechette hit the targets with the force of a bullet.

Smaller flechettes were used in special artillery shells called "beehive" rounds (so named for the very distinctive whistling buzz made by thousands of flechettes flying downrange at supersonic speeds) and intended for use against troops in the open - a ballistic shell packed with flechettes was fired and set off by pressure-sensitive detonators, scattering flechettes and shrapnel in all directions. They were used in the Vietnam War by artillery gunners to defend their positions against infantry attacks.

The CBU-107 Passive Attack Weapon is an air-dropped guided bomb containing 3,700 non-explosive steel and tungsten penetrator rods of various sizes. It was designed to attack targets where an explosive effect may be undesirable, such as fuel storage tanks in civilian areas.[1]

During the latest Russia-Georgia war, both countries claimed that the other was using flechette shells against urban targets, resulting in civilian casualties. While those claims are still to be investigated, it is known that several civilians (including at least one news reporter) were injured by flechette-type ammunition..

Small arms ammunition

Examples of various small arms flechettes. (Scale in inches.)

Small arms makers are also attracted by the exterior ballistic performance and armor piercing potential of flechette, and a number of attempts have been made to field flechette firing small arms.

The United States may be the only country to have used a small bore flechette weapon in combat. During the Vietnam War, 12 gauge combat shotguns were used with flechette loads, consisting of around 20 flechette per shell.[2][3]

A number of prototype flechette firing weapons were developed as part of the long running Special Purpose Individual Weapon, or SPIW, project. Some of these showed up as entries in the Advanced Combat Rifle project as well.

An interesting variation of the flechette that addresses its difficulties is the SCMITR, developed as part of the Close Assault Weapon System, or CAWS, project. This project involved selective fire, flechette firing shotguns. The SCIMTR was designed to retain the exterior ballistics and penetration of the standard flechette, but increase wounding ability by providing a wider wound path.


  1. ^ CBU-107 Passive Attack Weapon (WCMD) - Global Security
  2. ^ Franklin D. Margiotta (1996). Brassey's Encyclopedia of Land Forces and Warfare. Brassey's.  
  3. ^ Frank Barnaby, Ronald Huisken, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2nd Ed. (1975). Arms Uncontrolled. Harvard University Press. p. 109. ISBN 0674046552.  

External links

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