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."
They are. The Iraqi Army is paying cash on the barrel head for these rifles.
The M-14 in my opinion is the most accurate semi-automatic ever made. Used to have one, too heavy for deer hunting, geez, getting old. Carry an AR-15 now. Funny we shipped 8,000 M-16s to the Israelis for distribution to the Palestinian Defense Force, first thing they asked for and threw away their AKs.
My Saiga .223 has never failed to chamber, I feed it 5.56 and various .223REM, brass, steel case, surplus whatever I put in it...
Yeah, the ammo angle is interesting...but it stores better than the author admits...and the 3rd world firefights aren’t spraying a lot of ammo from infantry before each soldier dies or retires.
I do, however, like the idea of Iraqi friendlies going to .223 so that local bad guys can’t just steal our guys’ ammo for their AK-47’s.
The better reason, though, for swapping the Iraqis over to M-16’s and the like is that these are more accurate weapons at a distance than AK-47’s and 74’s...and we want friendly Iraqis concentrating on shot placement rather than shot quantity.
Let the bad guys “fire for effect.” Our side should be shooting for kills.
Perhaps true for small caliber automatics, but most certainly *not* accurate to say when thinking in terms of bolt action rifles (or even lever-action weapons such as a Winchester 30-30).
As far as durability comparisons go try this with your Remington 700 or your granddads Winchester.
Pull one of them from underneath the rotting corpse of an enemy soldier who's been laying in a rice paddy for a few days. Hose it off with plain water and toss it in your locker for a month in the SE Asian jungle heat and humidity.
Take it to the range, kick the action open because it's rusted shut. Put 120 rounds through it.
Repeat the toss it in the locker part and the 120 rounds part (without cleaning) once a month or so for 11 months.
Then get back to me about it's 'durability'.
An interesting Discovery Channel video.
I'm sure you more experienced hands and operators may have varying opinions on the selection of Top 10 and the order thereof.
I just had to chuckle at the scene that showed some guy trying to straighten the barrel of an AK by beating on it with an adjustable wrench.
Regards, and Stand Fast!
The men under his command were reconfiguring a firebase and they were using bulldozers to rearrange the berms. One sweep of one of the dozers revealed the body of a Viet Cong, who had been killed in an assault the previous autumn. The body had been entombed in the dirt of the berm for six months. He was still clutching his AK.
Hackworth pulled the weapon off the body, pulled back the charging handle, and fired off a round. After the weapon had been buried in the jungle for six months.
Ammo is not particularly difficult to manufacture from scratch even for a poorly industrialized nation. It isn’t a high tech process.
Less with generic 7.62, but 5.56x45mm NATO is terribly hard to machine and load to the specifications of the M-16. The propellant has to be formulated to rigid specifications and exact amounts, or the machine gun is very prone to misfire and jamming.
It is a fickle weapon at best, and I suspect that it was done precisely to prevent M-16s or their ammo from proliferation.
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