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.
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.
Let me guess - you haven't fought at one of the firsbases in the high mountains of north eastern Afghanistan.
OUr troops have been forced to build tiny,open firebases in the fishbowl bottoms of valleys - surrounded by tree studded hills and mountains.
The Taliban have the advantage of shooting DOWN - which means the bullets WILL land on the firsbase.
I'll leave it there = but you might want to talk with a soldier who's been there. Nothing trumps boots on the ground knowledge.
M1 Garands with 30’06 black tips have that power. I’ve got one or two and I wouldn’t want to hit from one...
“And there are still M-14s in inventory in some obscure warehouse somewhere, Im sure.”
Not many (Clinton destroyed or sold a bunch) and the supplies and spares are no longer in the system. Plus... the M110 looks like an M16. Make the user less of a target than an M14 does.
Mass on target when it gets there....
(( ping ))
Some amazing information here.
(( ping ))
“I have one and they are the same as the M-14 to the point that my M-1A came from Springfield with a military M-14 tear down manual.”
SA Inc’s quality is spotty.
Now this is the proper way to gripe...Continue Pvt. Jackson!
The 62 grain 5.56 bullet has a muzzle energy of 1323 ft/lbs, but at 500 yards that has shrunk to 368.
The 147 grain 7.62 NATO starts out at 2582 at 500 yards still has 1071 ft/lbs at 500 yards.
We need to dispense with the "one size fits all" mentality (and also with the ridiculous rules of engagement). US troops should be trained to be proficient with both 5.56 and 7.62 NATO.
Actually, you could build a 40 for less than $6,000 with a little shopping. But you’re right, a 700 with a real good scope is about all you need.
“Ive been saying for years they need to ditch brass cases and upgrade to high strength aluminum alloy cases and then boost up chamber pressures.”
You really want to hit us reloaders where it hurts?
“Little more accuracy, little more velocity...thats all thats needed.”
Accuracy is fine. A heavier bullet is all that’s needed. Mk 262 Mod 1 has limited availability, but it’s very accurate to 600 yards. Chamber pressures already are above SAAMI maximums.
“BTW, 556 shoots further than 762. This article is not entirely honest.”
False, provided the “7.62” is 7.62x51 NATO.
It has served me well consistently.
I'm going to compare it to my latest yet to be tried acquisition, an APA-4 LR 308 tomorrow.
“I thought Springfield Armory still produced new M-14s for the DoD?”
No. The company going under the name “Springfield Armory” never manufactured M14s and has no relation whatsoever with the former government armory.
The earlier M1As were far superior - fewer cast, foreign, parts.
And has resulted in a doubling of losses every month for the last year - double since the first year.
And yet the press is silent.
no air cover
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/world/asia/03battle.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1 LIVE LINK NEXT POST
Records show that some 1,380,358 M14 rifles were made. The M16 was ordered as a replacement for the brand new M14 by direction of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara starting in 1966. By 1970 the barley used weapon had been largely replaced in active duty. The National Guard discontinued using the weapon by 1980. No less than 479,367 M14 rifles were destroyed in 1993-94 and an unknown number were de-milled (cut with a blowtorch and welded shut) then transferred to JROTC units as drill weapons. Over 321,905 surplus arms were exported to foreign militaries under the Excess Defense Articles program and others.
That's an excerpt, but I don't know how true it is. I vaguely remember the ATF getting worried about it because a converter kit can make it full auto with little trouble, sales by the Department of Civilian Marksmanship were halted and that The Bent One ordered a bunch destroyed.
Live links per previous post
NO air cover - might hurt a civilian - EVEN thought there were none
in a fish bowl - no time/equipment to dig in
Thanks for the links.
I call BS.
The “problem” with a .223 is an ammunition problem. Expanding rounds > non-expanding rounds. The question that needs to be asked is, why aren’t we using the most effective ammunition?
Also at range, mortars always > rifles.
Another question to ask is, if resupply is not an issue why not equip with the heaviest, most accurate, most lethal round available? And it’s not a .223.
Seems like an article designed to build momentum to transition to the 6.8 SPC. Just my opinion.
An outstanding idea. Just so long as they start in Beirut and work their way east to Kabul.
His new ROE are calibrated to protect the Taliban - his friends - over our troops.
They even had the audacity to admit that the new ROE would increase losses on OUR side - but that it would be "worth it in the long run."
Nobody asked "Worth it to who?"
How about the M1917 BAR? WW !, Heavy, crew served, but deadly.How about the M1917 BMG?
There is a distinct lack of enemy combatants who are coming forward and saying that the 5.56 does not hurt.
As far as being able to hit a target at 500 meters, with open sites, a human sized target at five hundred meters is going to be roughly half the size of the front site post and that is standing still with full frontal profile.
Those targets rarely present themselves to shooters outside a range.
It might be worthwhile to explore issuing more optics and match grade bullets rather than trashing an entire platform that has been in the US arsenal for 50 years now.
Ffrthur but with less retained energy. The article is honest in it stated more hits less kills.
Actually, it’s more the shooter than the weapon. They are just not taught the marksmanship skills that Americans have had since the revolution. There was one unit from Virginia that in order to qualify to be in it, you had to hit a head size target at 250 yds on the first shot. This was in 1775 with flintlocks! Anyway, the Appleseed Project has already traind two military units, one NG and one RA. Here are the links http://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?topic=10060.0 and http://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?topic=12337.0 There is also a good video dated from WW2 on how the US used to train riflemen. http://www.archive.org/details/Rifle_Marksmanship_with_M1_Rifle_Part_1 Here is how the army currently trains advanced marksmen (not everybody gets this http://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?topic=12315.0
The 7.62x39 round is pretty much the same as a 30-30.
At 500 yards 5.56 has less energy than 9mm muzzle energy, and has severe bullet drop, necessitating very accurate estimation of range in order to have your bullets not hit the ground in front of your target or sail overhead.
Yes, better optics, but also bigger, higher velocity ammo for long-range engagements.
I remember the M-14 as being full auto. You just need a 'key.'
Back in 1983-85, when I was an Armored Cavalry Squadron S-2, each of our Cav platoon’s had an M-14 for the soldier who was trained as a sniper.
“The question that needs to be asked is, why arent we using the most effective ammunition?”
At the kind of ranges encountered in Afghanistan, the 5.56 bullet will be much more suseptible to wind, as well as the loss of velocity and bullet drop. I have been saying for over forty years that the M-16/M-4 is a popgun. Please check out the experiences of the Marines in Fallujah when engaging insurgents doped up with a cocktail of cocaine and adrenolin. The Philipine insurrection of 1902 all over again.
“At 500 yards 5.56 has less energy than 9mm muzzle energy, and has severe bullet drop,”
Elevation changes in MOA at 600 yards are about the same as 7.62 NATO. 17 minutes up from a 100 yard zero.
Thanks for the ping Lancey. Everybody in my immediate family shoot .270s. Love that caliber. Hit a Taliban baddy in the guts with a Nosler 130 grain boattail Ballistic Tip bullet and he’s going to really wish you hadn’t. For about 2.3 seconds. :-)
“At the kind of ranges encountered in Afghanistan, the 5.56 bullet will be much more suseptible to wind, as well as the loss of velocity and bullet drop”
Then issue the Mk 262 Mod 1.
Yep, the ballistic coefficient is almost the same for both rounds.
It appears that the Army still has an adequate supply of M14 rifles.They have been accurizing them at a frantic rate and shipping them out to the troops.
The issues with the .223(5.56) is that each bullet just doesnt have enough mass to give decent stopping power. The 7.62, on the other hand, starts falling out of the sky at a couple hundred yards. I am surprised that you were the first I saw to mention the 6.8SPC... From what I’ve seen its one of the best compromises between the .223’s flat trajectory, and the 7.62’s stopping power.
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