Design and Violence

FLECHETTES

Various

Medieval weaponry in modern use

These small metal darts, known as flechettes, have been used in various forms since World War I, though as sharp metal projectiles, they could easily come from much earlier eras. Flechettes were used in the Vietnam War by the US, packed into explosive clusters known as ‘beehive rounds’ for the whistling noise the darts made as they flew through the air. They are effective at penetrating dense vegetation and targeting infantry. Contemporary use of flechettes is controversial — their use by Israel in Palestine and Lebanon has been criticised by human rights groups for the indiscriminate nature of their effect, having injured and killed civilians. Often fired from a tank round, thousands of flechettes fly outward in a cone up to 300 metres long and 90 metres wide. They bear a striking similarity to improvised ‘nail bombs’, raising questions around how we might attach differing legitimacy or condemnation to weaponry according to how they are presented.