Yet another weapons report from Iraq


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444
September 23, 2003, 08:35 PM
This one from the Army Times:
http://www.armytimes.com/print.php?f=1-292925-2212587.php

September 12, 2003

Iraq campaign exposes flaws in small arms

By Matthew Cox
Times staff writer


Most soldiers in Iraq say their weapons didn’t fail them during the war, but that doesn’t mean the Army’s small arms don’t need improving, according to a recently released study.
A special team of Army weapons experts working for Project Manager, Soldier Weapons released their findings recently after spending nearly a month in Iraq interviewing 1,000 soldiers about the performance of everything from the M9 9mm pistol to the MK19 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

“The bottom line is the weapons, accessories and the ammunition worked reliably in the theater of operations,” said Maj. Roy Manauis, the team leader for the study group, who now is assigned to the Infantry Center’s Dismounted Battlespace Battle Lab.

“There were some issues and some things the soldiers wanted to see improved, but overall everything worked well.”

Despite the overall success of the weapons in theater, there was some dissatisfaction with the M249 squad automatic weapon and the full-size versions of the M16.

Soldiers agree that the M249 is a very effective weapon, but the belt-fed 5.56mm light machine gun proved to be “the most problematic weapon in theater,” the report stated.

There were also problems with the weapon’s 200-round plastic ammunition box. The detachable box “habitually falls off no matter what the movement technique: walking or rushing,” the report says. In addition, the box was “extremely brittle and prone to break.”

Since some of these complaints have arisen in the past, the Army already has developed a new and improved 200-round box, but most of the new boxes did not make it to theater for the war, team members said.

Soldiers, however, praised the 100-round soft Combat Ammunition Pack, a heavy-cloth ammo bag that mounts in the same way as the 200-round box. Gunners said they would rather reload the belt ammo into the soft pack than use the box, the report stated.

The Army is currently developing a 200-round version of this soft ammo pack as an alternative to the box; it will be issued as part of the Rapid Fielding Initiative, said Col. Michael Smith, who runs PM Soldier Weapons. RFI is an effort designed to get deploying units better equipment faster than ever before.

The report also found that versions of the M16 rifle and its more compact cousin, the M4 carbine performed well despite the harsh environment. The major complaint about the full-size M16 rifles was that they were too bulky at times.

“The majority of the force deployed in Iraq was mechanized units and issued the M16A4 [modular-weapon system] which proved cumbersome in the confines of tracked vehicles and during clearing operations in Baghdad,” the report stated.

Similarly, combat service and support soldiers complained that their full-size M16s were too cumbersome to put into action in confines of their vehicles.

“A more compact weapon may be needed,” the report stated.

The smaller M4 is currently issued to special operations and light infantry soldiers and tank crewmen.

The report also found that the harsh, desert environment was hard on many weapons, but the most adversely effected was the M203 grenade launcher that mounts beneath the M16/M4.

The fine powdery sand continually clogged or jammed the safety. Hand guards frequently fell off, a problem likely caused by the extreme heat melting the glued portion of the weapon.

The team worked from June 10 to July 7 talking to both male and female soldiers assigned to the 3rd Infantry, 4th Infantry, 1st Armored and 101st Airborne divisions, as well as the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division; 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 501st Military Police Company.

“We pay attention to the improvements that need to be made,” Smith said, who looked at the report’s findings as an indication of success. In the past, similar studies have been conducted when units return home.

“This time, we did it on the ground.”

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Nightcrawler
September 23, 2003, 09:15 PM
The M4 is, of course, a tradeoff. In losing that 6" of barrel, the ballistics of 5.56mm suffer greatly, but you get a handier weapon. In the relatively short-ranged fighting in Iraq, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

However, I feel that if these shorty carbines are going to become the standard, the fielding of a proper*Designated Marksmans Rifle becomes all the more important, so the infantry squads have better ability to engage those targets that present themselves at 300, 400, 500 meters.




*Nightcrawler's definition of the proper DMR:

-Deployed similarly to the Russian Dragunov; each squad having one, to supplement the machine guns for engaging long ranged targets. I feel the M14-DMR used in Afghanistan is overcomplex and too expensive to be a mass-issue item.
-Chambered for 7.62x51mm round, and with proper barrel weight and rifling twist to be able to handle standard ball, match, and armor-piercing ammunition.
-The rifle should be semiautomatic, feeding from 10-20 round box magazines.
-Barrel length of 20-22", for best long-ranged ballistics.
-Equipped with a well-designed flash hider.
-Good set of M1 or M14 style iron sights.
-Rugged, quick-detach optics mounting system, to be able to handle everything from red-dots to night vision scopes.
-Provisions for both a proper shooting sling and a bipod.
-Solid, reliable gas operation. Piston-driven, like the M14 or FAL.
-The DMR need not be super-match-grade accurate. It need only be minute-of-torso out to 600 meters or so. The accuracy provided by your typical rack-grade M14, G3, or FAL would in all likelyhood suffice. Over-accurizing the weapon tends to make it less reliable when conditions get harsh.

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