Skip to comments.Army Report: GIs Outgunned in Afghanistan
Posted on 04/03/2010 1:03:04 PM PDT by neverdem
American troops are often outgunned by Afghan insurgents because they lack the precision weapons, deadly rounds, and training needed to kill the enemy in the long-distance firefights common in Afghanistan's rugged terrain, according to an internal Army study.
Unlike in Iraq, where most shooting took place at relatively short range in urban neighborhoods, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are more often attacked from high ground with light machine guns and mortars from well beyond 300 meters (327 yards, or just over three football field lengths). The average range for a small-arms firefight in Afghanistan is about 500 meters, according to the study.
Unless U.S. troops under attack call in artillery or air strikes and risk civilian casualties, the only way they can fight back is with long-distance precision shooting -- a capability currently in short supply among infantry units, according to a study done at the Army's School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., by Maj. Thomas P. Ehrhart.
According to Ehrhart's paper, Army infantrymen do not regularly train and practice shooting at distances of more than 300 meters. The round fired from their M4 carbines and M16 rifles, the 5.56mm bullet, don't carry enough velocity at long distances to kill.
While the Army has moved recently to equip each infantry company of about 200 soldiers with nine designated marksmen to overcome this problem, they don't often carry weapons with sufficient killing power at distance, and there aren't enough of them, Ehrhart reports.
Army spokesmen had no immediate comment on Ehrhart's paper, which was released by SAMS last month and given wider circulation by defensetech.org and the Kit Up! blog on military.com.
Most infantrymen in Afghanistan carry the M4 carbine, a version of the standard M16 rifle, but with a shorter barrel. It was designed to allow soldiers to operate from cramped armored vehicles and in the city neighborhoods of Iraq. But the shorter barrel robs the weapon of the ability to shoot accurately at long distances, because the bullet doesn't acquire as much stabilizing spin when it is fired as it does in a longer barrel.
Soldiers commonly are taught in training to use "suppressive fire,'' in effect returning enemy attacks with sprays of gunfire, which are often ineffective in Afghanistan.
One reason is the ineffectiveness of the most commonly used round, designated the M855. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, was once accidentally shot in the chest with an M855 round from a light machine gun; rather than being killed, he walked out of the hospital several days later.
Ehrhart recalls seeing a soldier shot with a M855 round from a distance of 75 meters in training. Twenty minutes later he was "walking around smoking a cigarette.''
Such incidents may be flukes, but they do illustrate that the rounds can lack killing power. Most infantrymen are equipped to fire the M855 round from their M4 carbine, M16 rifle, or the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon), a light machine gun. When a firefight erupts in Afghanistan, they are unable to fire back accurately at more than 200 or 300 meters, leaving it to soldiers with heavier weapons -- the M240 machine gun, 60-mm mortars or snipers equipped with M14 rifles.
"These [heavier] weapons represent 19 percent of the company's firepower,'' Ehrhart wrote, meaning that "81 percent of the company has little effect on the fight.
"This is unacceptable.''
One quick fix, he suggested, is to equip the designated marksmen within each company with a powerful weapon that can kill at long distances, the M110 sniper weapon, which is effective out to 800 meters.
These rifles are expensive -- about $8,000 apiece. But you could outfit every infantry squad in the Army with two M110 rifles for the price of one U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor supersonic stealthy fighter, Ehrhart noted.
Ironically, American doughboys in World War I were better trained and equipped for Afghanistan-style firefights than today's GIs.
"The U.S. infantry weapon has devolved from the World War I rifle capable of conducting lethal fire out to 1,200 yards, to the current weapon that can hit a target out to 300 meters but probably will not kill it,'' Ehrhart wrote.
The School of Advanced Military Studies, where Ehrhart was a student last year, trains the Army's brightest young officers for senior leadership. His unclassified paper, written last year, does not reflect official Army positions. But the paper has rocketed around in military circles and has been read avidly in some units preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
But even before his report began circulating widely, some Army units were acting on the hard-learned lessons from Afghanistan, where the Army has been fighting for almost nine years.
Several weeks ago I watched an infantry battalion of the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team working on live fire maneuvers in central Wyoming.
One key focus, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Doug Maddi, was to hone soldiers' skills in high-angle and long-distance shooting -- precisely the skills not widely required in regular Army training, according to Ehrhart.
Where normal Army marksmanship training is often conducted on level ground against pop-up targets, Maddi and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Chris Ramsey, had their men shooting up towering ridgelines and down steep inclines, and at distances out to 600 meters.
The battalion's troops, wearing their full battle kit, also were firing live rounds while running, and while running with heavy packs, up and down the steep Wyoming ridges.
"We're here to replicate the environment of Afghanistan," said Ramsey, who brought his battalion to Wyoming from its home base at Fort Polk, La. "We don't get this kind of terrain at home."
Ramsey told me he had not read Ehrhart's paper before his battalion deployed to Wyoming for a month's training in early February. Polishing those skills was "intuitive," he said. But he said the paper now has been read across the battalion.
At a meeting with reporters this week, Army Secretary John McHugh was asked whether he was familiar with the Ehrhart report. McHugh said he was not, but after hearing a brief description, he said he would track down the paper and read it.
.223 varmit round vs .308 mankiller. Not much of a contest.
This is very old info, about 20 years, but I taught with a guy who’d served two hitches as an Lt in 2nd Rangers. He’d regale me with stories about where he’d been and what he’d done. I asked him once about the M14. He loved the weapon and told me that they were being reserved for future use where their positive attributes, long range and that Garand action that fires in peanut butter, would be useful. He specifically mentioned desert and mountain environments. That was 20+ yrs ago so who knows now.
I dropped a mule buck at 250 yards on the buttes of western North Dakota last fall. The tool at hand was a Ruger M77 Hawkeye chambered in .270 (basically a necked down .30-06 round) and Leopold glass. The first round passed under the deer, the second one trashed both lungs and smashed a rib while blowing a hole out the other side.
I'd call the combination cheap and lethal to 300+ yards.
Thanks for the link!
In any case, it points out the classic US Military problem of emphasizing bells and whistles at the expense of basic equipment.
I've got an SKS, whhich shoots the same 7.62X39 mm round as an AK, and as far as accuracy goes, it's good for about 100-150 yards. After that, the bullet loses energy fast and drops like a rock.
I read during the Klinton Admin that he gave 54,000 M-14s to the Balkans. Just what we need to face.
Didn’t Clinton destroy 100,000 M14s or some huge amount?
That's exactly what Carlos Hathcock (RIP) did in Vietnam.
I just saw a picture of the “new” M-14 in full tactical dress that is being issued to SOPs in Afghanistan. There is also a new version of the classic FN-FAL battle rifle in 7.62 NATO that is being built for that theatre by FN. You can buy a good bolt action, 1000+ yard sniper rifle in the .338 Lapua for under $1500 so where is the $4000 figure coming from?
I thought Springfield Armory still produced new M-14s for the DoD?
From the first fight between two factions on earth, the first rule has always been:Control the high ground.
And yet, in Afghanistan, our troops have consistently been made to cobble together tiny firebases at the bottom of fishbowl with the tree studded hills rising 380 around them. They have been rendered fish in a barrel for the Taliban. And they have paid the highest price for it.
if you give a fig about our troops and care enough to bestir yourselves - maybe give up a night of Idol or Survivor, make it a point to see this film: "RESTREPO"
Not a 'memoir". Not a novel. This movie is unique. Gut wrenching, no 'message', no agenda, no Hollywood. Just WAR.
This movie puts YOU, the audience, 'boots on the ground' with a small platoon fighting in Afghanistan in the "most dangerous place on earth" - the mountains and valleys of the high Hindu Kush in north eastern Afghanistan.
You are there, with the now famous Battle Company of the 173rd AIRBORNE, 2-503d, during their 15 months - and over 1,000 firefights - deployment in 2007-08.
War journalist Sebastian Junger (wrote "Perfect Storm", and award winning War videographer, Tim Hetherington, spent a year on the ground with Battle company. They become, essentially, part of the platoon - not just "embeds" who spend a few days with troops and then retreat to safety to tell what it's all about.
Together, they made the movie "Restrepo" - (named after the first soldier lost in that deployment - but far from the last) a tiny, remote outpost in the infamous Korengal Valley - no water, no heat, a two hour hike over treacherous, Taliban, mountain passes from the next nearest forces, this little band of warriors fought and died - and won, over inhuman odds.
To be sure Hollywood would not have any influence over the movie, Junger and Hetherington submitted it the the Sundance Film Festival. Out of over 800 documentary entries, only a handful were selected. Amid rave reviews, "Restrepo" went on to win the top award: Grand Jury Award.
Broadcast rights have been bought by National Geographic - they will air it in Nov. Theatrical rights have been purchased by Nat'l Geo's theater branch and will be shown in theaters across the country this summer. The "stars" are the soldiers, themselves, in real time. No script. You are there when the attacks come. You are there in the midst of the firefights. This is how is goes down - real soldiers, real battles, real tragedy and triumph - as it happens.
This is a movie with no agenda, no politics. "Restrepo" is getting amazed and rave reviews.
If you give a fig about what our troops are going through, if you really want to know what it's about- without it being filtered through the brass, you will not miss this movie. (Junger's companion book, "WAR", comes our mid-May and can be pre-orderd on Amazon."
WAtch for it. Sebastian and Tim
one of many reviews - http://www.movieline.com/2010/01/so-tell-me-about-restrepo-a-movieline-faq.php
Do YOU support our troops? See the movie.
LIVE LINKS NEXT POST - SHOULD ANYONE CARE...
(I realize there's nothing here about OJ or Britany or Tiger - so sorry. If there were, this would garner hundreds of posts - this is just about our troops = and on FR, that means only a few replies. But this is for the handful who care.)
live links per the above post -
the movie trailor
WAtch for it.
Sebastian and Tim
one of many reviews -
Learning about this incident for the first time, I don't know whether my opinion has changed more in now having a greater respect for Gen. Petraeus or a lesser respect for the 5.56x45.
Then there’s the new Rock River Arms 308’s:
The 26” barrel varmint model is $1505, so I’m sure the government would be confortable paying $3000 per gun. There’s a savings of $5000 per gun righ there.
Wish I had one...
The troops carry a lot of useless weight, what ever happened to Solder Selection, the average load of an Infantry man for at least the last 2000 years has been 60 pounds.
1.Kimber 84M LPT, $1315
2.Steyr Arms SS69 PII, $1899
3.Ruger Hawkeye Tactical, $1172
All capable of repetitive less than MOA groups. Steyr hencho in Austria.
All tested this mo in Guntests Magazine.