How is the Military set for Winter Combat?


PDA






Cosmoline
May 7, 2005, 06:11 PM
I've been reading more on the Korean war lately, and it strikes me that our military hasn't done much, if any, winter combat since the battles around the Iron Triangle over half a century ago.

What are the winter performance records for the M16A2 and M9? I know I've seen my roommate's 92FS fail in deep cold. I wouldn't like to try to shoot an M16 in 30 or 40 below temps, given the tight tolerances and the possibility of ice buildup from freezing fog. In addition to metal issues, standard gun oil becomes very sluggish and sticky at those temps. OTOH I've had pretty good luck with a light layer of CLP on my own firearms in the arctic cold.

I also have to wonder if the other equipment has improved much since the 1950's. In extreme cold engines have a much more difficult time operating, and everything has a tendency to break apart.

Obviously, we're not facing cold temps in Iraq, and Afghanistan never gets as cold as Willow. Certainly not to forty or fifty below zero. But what I do wonder about is the prospect of trouble in North Korea again, and in the long term (fifty years) an increased tension with China and a need to protect Alaska. If we forget how to fight in the cold, we could be in for a very nasty surprise. As history has shown over and over again, an army forced to fight in the deep cold without proper preparation or equipment can face amazing losses. I remember the stories of entire Red Army squads found frozen solid around failed campfires during the winter war.

If you enjoyed reading about "How is the Military set for Winter Combat?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
WT
May 7, 2005, 06:38 PM
Why don't you go down the street and ask General Hirai at Ft. Richardson, Alaska? Surely, US Army Alaska has some knowledge of working in the cold.

Other than that the Marines and Army train in cold conditions. I believe the Marines have a 1 month school in the Sierra's and the Army has a mountain school in Vermont-New Hampshire. The 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum, NY is tasked with cold weather operations.

We also train in Norway where we routinely get our a** kicked by the great Norwegian troops.

I gather we do some very high altitude training, above 12000 feet, with the Indian Army.

Jeff White
May 7, 2005, 07:19 PM
Back in the 1980s when there was money in the budget for such things there used to be a recurring series of joint exercises in the interior of Alaska called Jack Frost and then renamed Brim Frost. These exercises brought units from CONUS and even OCONUS on a mock deployment to protect the pipeline. They were always conducted in Jan/Feb and covered vast distances in the interior.

The Army has a long instituional memory of how to fight in the cold. So do the Marines, who routinely deployed to Norway for NATO exercises.

Equipment has greatly improved with the advent of high tech fabrics. However a large deployment into the sub-arctic or arctic would empty war eserves and there would most likely be another scandal on the order of the Interceptor body armor SAPI plate scandal in Iraq. We simply don't buy enough of the newest equipment except to equip a contingency force. So some units would have the latest and newest and most would get the post Korean War vintage stuff that is still in storage.

Small arms perform pretty well in that environment as long as you keep them cold. Taking them in and out of warming tents etc, where they warm up and condensation forms on them is just inviting them to ice up. LAW, lubricant, arctic weather, is good stuff. Use it as called for in the TM and your weapons will function. There are some things you have to remember, like don't pull your hot machine gun barrel and lay it in the snow next to you, it will sink right to the permafrost and the rapid cooling isn't good for it.

Camelbacks worn next to the body, under the parka is a good solution to your canteens freezing. The issue arctic canteen was a bad joke.

Try to find FM 31-70 and 31-71. they are good general outlines of what it takes to operate in the cold.

HTH
Jeff - Brim Frost 83

jefnvk
May 7, 2005, 07:56 PM
Check back in about 8 months. I'll take my AR15 out when it hits 20 below, just to see how it runs.

ID_shooting
May 7, 2005, 08:19 PM
Well, when I was stationed in Korea (1-72 Armor, 2 ID) we had fairly good cold weather snivel gear. Mickey mouse boots, bear suits and the gortex. We even got good cold weather boots and gloves. Did several ranges and FTX's just fine. As for the weaponry, never had trouble with it.

Citadel99
May 8, 2005, 12:51 AM
Army has a lot of recent experience in Afghanistan, Fort Drum, and Alaska. Cold sucks but the Army has some good stuff now--comprable to civilian. SIlkwieght, fleece, gore-tex.

Mark

akviper
May 8, 2005, 01:00 AM
General Hirai is a recent arrival. He may have been posted in Alaska previously but I forgot to ask. I never tried a Berretta, but the M4 will have problems at -40 with just about any kind of lube. Running dry in those conditions provides good function but is probably a bit hard on the gun. Galils and Aks function even if you pour water into them at just about any temp. The Alaska State Troopers managed to freeze up just about every rifle in cold weather testing except for the Ak system and the FNC. An interesting thing occurs when firing in uber preezing weather. The combustion or heat of the round leaves condensation in the action and ejection port. I have yet to have a malfunction due to this but often wondered why. Some ammo / powder combos seem worse than others.

rayra
May 8, 2005, 03:06 AM
Everything I've read in modern military literature says we've got some fantastic mutli-layer gear these days. Some real work has been done to test, design, purchase and field some good stuff.

io333
May 8, 2005, 03:18 AM
Pretty much anything ever designed by the Russians laughs at cold weather.

thorn726
May 8, 2005, 03:39 AM
In extreme cold engines have a much more difficult time operating, and everything has a tendency to break apart.

what? don't you plug in yer cars in Alaska?

this thread makes me laugh a little, i mean don't you use tons and tons of modern tech stuff to fight the cold yourself?

why wouldnt the military have all these things also?

-that Norway training info is neat too , thanks.
undertandable, the Norwegians can help train but
i wonder they don't train like that in Montana also?
not like we don't have extremely cold spots all over America

Cosmoline
May 8, 2005, 04:38 AM
this thread makes me laugh a little, i mean don't you use tons and tons of modern tech stuff to fight the cold yourself?

Oh I'm quite sure the military has a ton of high tech gizmos for cold weather operations. That's what worries me. The first thing I learned up here was how useless "modern high tech stuff" is in the deep cold. Digital equipment refuses to work until you thaw it out. Most analog technology just flat out breaks, as do many mechanical devices. Batteries are sucked dry. As far as plugging in your car--that only works when you've got a block heater and power. if the military is expecting to fight a war up here on grid, that's not a comforting thought. 90% of the state is off grid.

From what I've read about Korea and the Battle of the Bulge, the soldiers on the ground have to re-invent cold weather operations every time--the hard way. I'm sure we have more institutional memory, I'd just like to know how much. Most folks in the lower 48 simply have no clue what life is like in sustained deep cold. It's not like a brief cold snap to 20 below. The weeks on weeks of 40 or 50 below seen in the interior start to change the way the world functions. Liquids become iron-hard solids. The air itself becomes lethal. The chemical liquids that don't freeze turn into something akin to low-grade liquid nitrogen, so getting antifreeze into your truck becomes rather more interesting than usual.

If troops aren't quite prepared in the hot country, it's just a matter of getting more water to them. If they're not quite prepared for the deep cold, it will slow them to a crawl, demoralize them and eventually start to kill them. And in these circumstances a small army that's prepared can destroy a large army that's not. That's what the skiing Finns did to the Red Army in 1939. Am I expecting an army from North Korea to invade? No. But fifty years down the line who knows? Our air and naval supremacy may not be a given anymore. And the one thing I can say for sure is a lot of people will want a piece of us.

Joejojoba111
May 8, 2005, 05:00 AM
I think the US Army has plenty of good cold-weather gear, but I only have 1 piece of evidence to back that up:

I just bought an Army extreme-cold weather sleeping bag off of eBay for less than $20, I think it might have been $15 with $10-15 shipping. I assumed there were so many surplus sleeping bags kicking around because there was new stuff coming in.

Now that I think about it that's not very good evidence at all, lol. Oh well. I don't care I got a $200+ sleeping bag for camping, I'm happy.

RevDisk
May 8, 2005, 05:08 AM
this thread makes me laugh a little, i mean don't you use tons and tons of modern tech stuff to fight the cold yourself?

why wouldnt the military have all these things also?

We do. Matterhorn boots, Gore-Tex everything, etc. The cold still effects other things. Vehicles, equipment, weapons, everything.

Not dying from the cold because you're wearing 15 lbs of cold weather clothing doesn't help you when your weapon is iced up. The Norwegians mostly had some variet of the G3 that I don't recall the specific name, Swedes had the AK5 (basically FN FNC's), and the Finns had the Rk 95's (modified AK design, with some Galil influences). Having the weapon being too cold isn't the problem, ice forming in the weapon is a big problem. Even the AK can develop problems when you have ice in the receiver.

The cold is really hard on vehicles. For artic warfare, we mostly rely on SUS-V's (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/susv.htm) . You can check out the the Army's cold weather testing folks at http://www.crtc.army.mil/

The Corporate Guy
May 8, 2005, 10:39 AM
As I understand the history of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport CA, it was set up in response to the Korean experience. The climate and terrain in the Sierra's is very similar to what one might find in Korea, including cold weather seasons. The Marines maintain a very active winter training schedule where entire units do one month training packages (as one poster mentioned), in additon to several schools for individuals (cold weather survival, sniper packages, etc.). In addition to sending Marines to Bridgeport, the Marine Corps conducts annual training in cold weather environments in places such as Norway (above the artic circle).

As others have mentioned as well, the gear has improved significantly in the past fifty years. Gone are the tent sheets, cotton thermals, and wood snowshoes...replaced by Northface Tents, gortex and poly layers, lighter and more durable equipment, etc.

Even so, cold weather environments remain VERY demanding. There is no other environment where you can find yourself in trouble so quickly. There is also no other environment where you can mess someone else upso quickly if you know what you are doing.

entropy
May 8, 2005, 10:44 AM
Did a couple cold weather FTX's at Camp Ripley, MN. I layered an extra M-65 Field Jacket liner under the BDU shirt, over the wool sweater, and was good to -15 with a Pyle cap over the Ridgeway, ear flaps down. (I cheated and used my civvie ski long johns, never got cold in them.)
As for weapons, we ran 'em dry after trying them with the overgenerous coating of LSA the NG guys we borrowed them from put on. The M16A1's (this was 1981) functioned fine dry, but I made sure my squad broke them apart and did a quick carbon scrubout with the 'toothbrush' every chance we had. (Briefings, lagger, etc. ) The 60's fired fine with light coats of LSA in them. :evil:
the Korea-vintage tents and stoves worked fine, I'd like to think they have replaced them with something better by now, though. :uhoh:

Myself
May 8, 2005, 11:14 AM
"Oh I'm quite sure the military has a ton of high tech gizmos for cold weather operations. That's what worries me. The first thing I learned up here was how useless "modern high tech stuff" is in the deep cold. Digital equipment refuses to work until you thaw it out."

There is a big difference in military vrs. commercial electronics in its ability to operate in very low temperatures. I spent the last 25+ years building military and commercial control panels, display systems, etc. and the operating requirements are very different. Military items are typically spec'ed for operation at -40. Many seals, buttons, displays, etc. found in commercial items will not function at those temperatures.

You pay more for a MIL-Spec item for a reason. The materials and processes used to fabricate defense electronics are different and they are extensively tested (in my expeirence) to verify there function.

rwc
May 8, 2005, 01:19 PM
Not to take anything away from Alaska, but Afghanistan does get quite nippy.

FYI - The standard lapse rate is 6.5* C for every 1000 m. I.e. you drop 6.5*C for every 1000m you ascend. The Tora Bora range is around 4000m. I wouldn't want to be there in winter.

I've no idea what the US standard high altitude gear is these days, but when I was climbing in the Bugaboos (Selkirk range of Eastern BC, CA) a few years back there was an SAS team getting advanced mountaineering training. Their gear was as good as ours with one exception. Their "heat+eat" food pouches were uniformly evil. :)

Bart Noir
May 8, 2005, 05:37 PM
rwc, I am not disbelieving your story, just want to know more. Was this the actual-factual British SAS or a Canandian version? Did they come right out and tell you who they were? I read that this organization is rather low key, not be identified etc.

So you didn't like their Grub, Ready to Eat? That confirms they were military!

Bart Noir

The Corporate Guy
May 8, 2005, 06:49 PM
FYIW, US cold weather MRE's - as I remember them - were actually very good.

RRTX
May 8, 2005, 07:05 PM
My unit in Germany did an exercise in Norway every other winter or so, miltary skiing, snowshoes, the whole bit. All of this in the lovely -30+ temps and incredible amounts of snow, in fact the last time I was there it snowed so much one of the buildings some troops from another country were staying in collapsed and killed a bunch of them. A lot of our winter excursions to Graf and Hoenfels saw temps well below zero also and I can't ever remember any equipment malfunctions due to the cold, plenty of personnel malfunctions from people underestimating the conditions though.

Texian Pistolero
May 8, 2005, 08:30 PM
We did cold weather training in Berlin, back in the mid-70's, training in Bavaria. Not all cold weather is equal. Cold and snow is far better than cold and wet, OR, dry and BITTER COLD! As long as your air mattress stayed up, you were snug as a bug. (Also, don't get drunk and puke in your fart sack, particularly if you have another week to go in the field.)

I don't kid myself that my rather pleasant experience in Bavaria is anything like what those dudes in Korea endured. We basically didn'y go under -20 degrees F, and had plenty of trees to break the wind. (Our own self-generated "winds" were another matter....the horror...the horror...)

The 70's army actually had pretty good gear (even pre-Gore tex) , except that you looked like Joe Shiite the Rag Man. The Mickey Mouse boots were fine, except that they really chapped your ankles if you did a lot of heavy humping, which infantry is prone to do. I used to hump in boots and galoshes, then switch to mickies when we settled down in perimeter.

In another context, we trained with the British in the winter. They looked stylish and froze their butts, we looked like crap (large balls of OD rags) and were comfy. Your choice.

Statistically, black soldiers seemed to find cold weather harder than honkies. Not sure why.

Had a CO who was stationed in Alaska. He said that they had to keep one APC running all night to jump start the others in the AM.

The "cocoon effect" is very real. It is easy to relax in your warm hood and clothing and disassociate from your environment. And VERY dangerous! In wartime, the enemy can easily kill you, in peacetime, you can get run over by a truck.

I think the the army has a LONG institutional memory on cold weather. The question is whether it is a priority for a given unit to train for it at a given time.

P.S., and like the song says, "please don't eat that yellow snow."

thorn726
May 8, 2005, 08:45 PM
There is a big difference in military vrs. commercial electronics in its ability to operate in very low temperatures. I spent the last 25+ years building military and commercial control panels, display systems, etc. and the operating requirements are very different. Military items are typically spec'ed for operation at -40. Many seals, buttons, displays, etc. found in commercial items will not function at those temperatures.

kinda what i thought.

like wouldnt they have some sort of heating system for weapons etc?
i know they have it for cars

i totally hear you guys on the training for the troops though too- all the equipt in the world wont help if guys arent properly ready

RevDisk
May 8, 2005, 11:43 PM
like wouldnt they have some sort of heating system for weapons etc?
i know they have it for cars

Yes. It's called "body heat". Ponder that for a few minutes and you can imagine the quick way of defrosting your weapon's internals.

As for perminent devices, no. Bad idea also. Heat source near live ammo is not a good idea.


i totally hear you guys on the training for the troops though too- all the equipt in the world wont help if guys arent properly ready

Yes, acclaimation is important.

There's a tripod. Will to fight (morale, fighting spirit, whatever, the human aspect), training and equipment. Kick out any one of those, and you've lost even before the war begins. Might take an Army or nation a while to figure it out, but it's nearly impossible to win without all three.

rwc
May 8, 2005, 11:59 PM
Did they actually tell you they were SAS?
Bart,
Their guide told us. It wasn't a hard guess though. Matching green gear, British accents, chain smoking, and lamenting the lack of beer in the hut...
CMH is the company that guides that area and they have (or had) a contract to run them through high altitude mountaineering. They weren't doing anything cutting edge, but a 5.6 up high is plenty hard work and route finding on large mountains, navigating galciers, etc. is an acquired skill.

As for the food, they were all those mylar style pouches that you drop in boiling water. There was some kind of graham type cracker with dark bits of something I hope was raisins in it that wasn't bad. The actual meals were hideous. Having humped all our own gear up and in to the hut (five miles in and one mile up) we were eager to eat anything we hadn't had to hump uphill... until we did.

SIGarmed
May 9, 2005, 02:02 AM
Did a couple cold weather FTX's at Camp Ripley, MN. I layered an extra M-65 Field Jacket liner under the BDU shirt, over the wool sweater, and was good to -15 with a Pyle cap over the Ridgeway, ear flaps down. (I cheated and used my civvie ski long johns, never got cold in them.)

That's hardcore in my book. The M65 sucks.

:D

netrunner20202
May 9, 2005, 03:43 AM
These guys know winter warfare they know how to both fight and play in the arctic. Each Soldier goes through two classes on winter living in Alaska called Alit one and two . These classes teach the propper use of clothing winter tents winter stoves and vehical mantaince. the M-16 and the M-9 and all other fire arms get an oil change sorta speak. the CLP or used normally in the summer and in the lower 48 is replaced with an Artic veriant that does not freeze. the cloths are awsom the gortex sheds snow like water of a ducks back the thermals keep you warm and the boots keep your feet warm the Bunny boots look funny but work great as long as your moving in them. We in the Army have come Along ways in both cloths equipment and tactic of winter warfare since battle of the Bulge or the Cho-son reservor.

Cosmoline
May 9, 2005, 04:51 AM
Netrunner--thanks for that info! It's good to know.

Now, where can I get some of that arctic CLP :D

Langenator
May 9, 2005, 08:07 AM
I remember a former 1SG of mine (who, last I heard, had come back from a stint in Iraq with the first Stryker Bde) about FTXs in Alaska, in the winter, where the Humvees wouldn't shut down for the entire exercise. If they did, the oil would freeze. Even a jumpstart doesn't help then.

Overall, as was stated, the equipment is quite good, and having troops stationed in Alaska since WWII has kept that institutional knowledge base from being lost. I'm sure our boys in AFghanistan have been getting the latest and greatest gear via the Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI).

MillCreek
May 9, 2005, 01:32 PM
Quote:
Did they actually tell you they were SAS?

Bart,
Their guide told us. It wasn't a hard guess though. Matching green gear, British accents, chain smoking, and lamenting the lack of beer in the hut...
CMH is the company that guides that area and they have (or had) a contract to run them through high altitude mountaineering. They weren't doing anything cutting edge, but a 5.6 up high is plenty hard work and route finding on large mountains, navigating galciers, etc. is an acquired skill.

I have also run into various elements of the British Army on training exercises in the Cascades of Washington State, most notably climbing or routefinding in the Mt. Rainier area or in desert combat over by the Yakima Firing Range. Almost always, they were co-training with regular or SF troops from Ft. Lewis, which is close to Mt. Rainier. Probably the most impressive sight was watching a platoon of Gurkhas, in full battle rattle, literally running one hundred yards up a 45 degree forested slope to charge a simulated ambush.

I can attest that the Gurkhas, while in uniform, really do carry those kukri knives, and I watched one trooper slice through a three-inch diameter sapling with one stroke. He then nicked his finger with the kukri before re-sheathing it. The British leftenant in charge of the platoon explained that the more religious Gurkhas believe that if a kukri is re-sheathed without 'tasting blood', bad luck will follow.

Bart Noir
May 9, 2005, 03:33 PM
Millcreek, Gurkhas in my woods??? Now that is cool. I will keep an eye peeled for them the next time I'm anywhere near The Mountain. And Mt St. Helens.

Bart Noir

MillCreek
May 9, 2005, 05:13 PM
Millcreek, Gurkhas in my woods??? Now that is cool. I will keep an eye peeled for them the next time I'm anywhere near The Mountain. And Mt St. Helens.

In earlier years, before the new emphasis on security issues, the Tacoma News Tribune often printed stories about allied troops coming to Ft. Lewis for training and joint exercises. They would sometimes post a number on the base that you could call if you wished to host one of the soldiers in your home for dinner or what not; kind of like the US Navy does when the ships make port call during Seafair. My wife (who spent 20 years in the Navy and remembers what it was like to be young and far from home) and I have hosted a couple of dozen US and allied military personnel in our home over the years, particularly during the holidays.

We once hosted a NCO from one of the UK Highland regiments, who told us that the pipe band of the regiment (as in bagpipers) were also the medium machine gun platoon! And to keep this on thread, his regiment did a lot of winter training in Norway, often with US Marines, as part of their NATO obligation.

warth0g
May 9, 2005, 05:51 PM
As a norwegian native I am glad to see that a lot of folks here thinks highly of the winter training the marines get here.
You can have the best gear ever, but the biggest "problem" with newbees in the cold snow is that they tend too forget a basic rule of operating in the cold.:
when you are moving, take of clothes, your body gets heated for walking and working even in very cold weather. When you get a break put back on clothes, when to start moving, take them off!! this is very very important, if we got caught in our heavy wollen sweaters under a forced march in the norwegian army, we got court martialed, and got a hevay fine for it. Second as many as mentioned, layered clothing. outer layer windproof. Third: drink a lot, keep your cannteen/hydration system under your jacket.
This is the most basic rules.

warthog

scout26
May 9, 2005, 09:00 PM
Stationed in Baumholder Germany '87-91. I still have two Graf jackets (The OD green raincoats with a poncho liner sewn in). MMMMMM.........Toasty !!!!!

Texian Pistolero
May 10, 2005, 05:11 PM
As I recall reading, the Rooskies wore oversized boots, stuffed straw in the toes for insulation, and court martialled any man who got frost bit.

Of course, they probably had a lot of civilian expertise growing up even before Hitler headed east.

If you enjoyed reading about "How is the Military set for Winter Combat?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!