Skip to comments.Iraqi Army to Ditch AK-47s for M-16s
Posted on 03/06/2008 10:27:33 AM PST by gandalftb
In a move that could be the most enduring imprint of U.S. influence in the Arab world, American military officials in Baghdad have begun a crash program to outfit the entire Iraqi army with M-16 rifles.
The initiative marks a sharp break for a culture steeped in the traditions of the Soviet-era AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a symbol of revolutionary zeal and third-world simplicity that is ubiquitous among the militaries of the Middle East.
"We in the U.S. know that the M-16 is superior to the AK ... it's more durable," said Army Col. Stephen Scott, who's in charge of helping the Iraqi army get all the equipment it needs to outfit its forces.
"The Iraqis have embraced that ... and the fact that it is U.S. manufactured and supplied. They are very big on U.S.-produced [foreign military sales] materials," he said in an interview with military bloggers this month.
So far, the U.S. military has helped the Iraqi army purchase 43,000 rifles - a mix of full-stock M-16A2s and compact M-4 carbines. Another 50,000 rifles are currently on order, and the objective is to outfit the entire Iraqi army with 165,000 American rifles in a one-for-one replacement of the AK-47.
"Our goal is to give every Iraqi soldier an M-16A2 or an M-4," Scott said. "And as the Iraqi army grows, we will adjust."
Scott added the mass of AK-47s from various manufacturers floating through the Iraqi army's inventory could cause maintenance and reliability problems. Getting both U.S. and Iraqi forces on the same page when it comes to basic weaponry is part of the argument for M-16 outfitting.
"I'm also a fan of AKs," Scott said. "But keep in mind most of these AKs have been sitting around in bunkers or whatnot for 30 or 40 years [and] are in various stages of disrepair."
A variety of U.S. troops, including SEALs, Marines and Soldiers - and even civilian contractors - are training Iraqis on the M-16 and M-4 throughout the country. One civilian trainer told Military.com during a brief interview in Iraq that the Iraqi soldiers are a little behind the average American trooper when it comes to learning the various parts and breakdown of the M-16, but they're enthusiastic and quick learners on the range.
After seeing some of the firing range training himself, Scott added that he "asked the Iraqis how they liked the weapon and they said it was far superior, it was more accurate ... and more reliable."
"I think the transition is almost transparent from those older AKs," he said.
A system that registers each rifle with the individual who receives it using biometric data such as thumb prints and eye scans is meant to address concerns over U.S. weapons winding up in enemy hands. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office report concluded that as many as 190,000 weapons delivered to the Iraqi army were not accounted for and could've wound up in terrorist caches.
That's something Scott isn't going to allow on his watch.
"These Iraqi soldiers know that this weapon becomes part of their person," he said. "And they also know that they are responsible and accountable for that weapon."
And from the looks of it, Iraqi soldiers aren't willing to hand them over to the bad guys.
"Most of the soldiers think they will be just like the Americans, and that is making them very happy," said Capt. Rafaat Mejal Ahmed, the Iraqi 1st Division weapons and ammunition officer, in a Marine Corps release. "They think the modern technology will make them more powerful."
The Muj don't like M-16s, little access to ammo, parts or armorers. This will also make it easier to spot the friendlies.
Would not want to meet the Muj with them, however.
This is good. Very symbolic. The good guys always carry M-16s.
Why don’t they make M-16s in 7.62?
the AK for upclose....an M-14 for medium long range and to shoot through stuff, a Bolt action for super long range sniping ...and put the Mattel out to pasture....
The good guys always carry M-16s... until they’re captured by or sold to the bad guys.
How much is this going to cost us the taxpayers?
(snicker) right, more durable.
Over here in most parts of the US the 16 is the way to go. But over their? NO. They need somthing else. The average American can keep a 16 running under those conditions but folks that grew up with AKs will tire of the constant attention required
Hey, I’d like a couple M-16s please. I’m partially paying for them after all!
Given the choice, I would take a 308!!!
Then they'd have to call them M-21s.
I know we spent a bundle on new AK’s a while back, but in retrospect, this is a good move and shows how much both military cultures have learned from each other.
We are better off setting up supply chains on our weapons that are harder to corrupt. They are better assuming our weapons and tactics to build themselves into a powerful, regional nation.
I’m certain the press will soon be running articles on how we are flooding the market in used AK’s in the region now./s
Then it would be an M-14..............
I bet a bunch of those young internet savy kids next door in Iran would love one of those surplus AK’s!
Do they have Ramadan stockings?
We will have a lot of M-16’s available when they are replaced in most TOE’s in the not too distant future.
“Why dont they make M-16s in 7.62?”
Ammunition supply train issues. 308 is bigger and heavier than 223. A soldier can carry more 223 ammo.
Personally I prefer the 308 but I don’t have to carry a battle load.
Put it on the tab. It's $3 trillion so what's a few $ billion.
My quibble with the M-16 is the round. The AK-47 has the larger ammunition. Isn’t that important? Put a 7.62 in the M-16 and I have no problem with it at all.
I note others have mentioned this as well.