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."
Thanks. That’s what I expected.
Taxpayers be damned.
Rumor has it that Murtha put this deal together—he’s real tight with the President of Colt Arms, who has the contract.
THIS contract is going to Colt.
My local dealer cannot get 500 or 1000 round quantities of .223, and what he gets he sells for 50 cents/round!
Factories are 24x7 and still running short.
This is a nice vote of confidence for the Iraqi Army. I hope they treat it that way. It will be interesting if Iraq and Turkey really go at it in the future.
IS the next step selling them Apaches and Blackhawks, or are we already doing that?
Catches then have so much tension that the magazine fails to push past and fully seat. Normally not a problem as the magazine is gripped tightly anyway.
What happens is on three shot burst, the magazine eventually slightly dislodges and a round fails to chamber.
When changing magazines quickly, this is a common problem.
Also, I found out in very dry, dusty climates, solvent clean and allow to fully dry with no residue, then use only a dry lube, like Action Magic. The talcum sand of Iraq won't stick to it.
If you do a good job of setting up your weapon, you can run 500+ rounds without a jam or misfire.
It is critical to keep the ejection port cover closed at all times and the muzzle capped, bag your barrel.
I have minimal misfires and jams and only after excessive use. The M-16 is a terrific weapon, I will choose it in a fight anytime over an AK.
Thanks for all the great info gang! This turned into a great thread.
China is interested in China. All depends on whether we can offer them a better deal than the nasty little revolutionary band that wants to buy the ammo.
Even if they sometimes behave like Ferengi, the Chinese are rarely confused about what side their bread is buttered on.
M4 carbines with M203 grenade launchers and SAW’s are practical choices for any modern army. Add a designated marksman’s scoped flattop heavy barrel with bi-pod and ya have a pretty good general issue in one caliber with 40mm HEDP added as well.
I do love the AK with the BG15 30mm grenade launcher and SVD/FPK series of sniper rifles as well. Yet the modernization of the US primary infantry tools wins IMO.
Hey Dillion !
Please make a smaller M134DT in 5.56mm.......:o)
Wish list ...........make every thing in the 5.56mm caliber into 6.5 grendel including a minigun !
First, we roll into Iraq -- and promptly liberate massive quantities of new AK47s and cases of ammo.
We then make great photo opportunities by laying the rifles out in the road and driving tanks over them, and heaping the ammo up in huge stacks of cases and blowing it up real good.
Then, we spend millions of dollars to replace the rifles and ammo, paying the red Chinese military for more AK47s and ammo: U.S. buys weapons from Poly-Technologies of China. (Curiously, this news used to be widely available, but it seems to have evaporated off the Internet. This is the only extant copy I am still able to find. Even stuff indexed on archive.org comes up with "Failed Connection"!)
Finally, we get rid of those rifles and ammo, and toss even more millions at M16s and ammo.
Did I miss anything?
Nope, didn't think so.
I guess all I really want to know is who is either stupid as hell, or, getting really fat in the ol' wallet off this sequence of "deals"...
Subject: U.S. Troops PREFER AK-47s - >Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2003 20:05:12 -0600 > >Middle East - AP >U.S. Troops Use Confiscated Iraqi AK-47s >Sun Aug 24, 2:15 PM ET > >By ANDREW ENGLAND, Associated Press Writer > >BAQOUBA, Iraq - An American soldier stands at the side of an Iraqi highway, >puts his AK-47 on fully automatic and pulls the trigger. > >Within seconds the assault rifle has blasted out 30 rounds. Puffs of dust >dance in the air as the bullets smack into the scrubland dirt. Test fire >complete. > >U.S. troops in Iraq (news - web sites) may not have found weapons of mass >destruction, but they're certainly getting their hands on the country's >stock of Kalashnikovs - and, they say, they need them. > >"We just do not have enough rifles to equip all of our soldiers. So in >certain circumstances we allow soldiers to have an AK-47. They have to >demonstrate some proficiency with the weapon ... demonstrate an ability to >use it," said Lt. Col. Mark Young, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 67th >Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. > >In Humvees, on tanks - but never openly on base - U.S. soldiers are >carrying the Cold War-era weapon, first developed in the Soviet Union but >now mass produced around the world. > >The AK is favored by many of the world's fighters, from child soldiers in >Africa to rebel movements around the world, because it is light, durable >and known to jam less frequently. > >Now U.S. troops who have picked up AKs on raids or confiscated them at >checkpoints are putting the rifles to use - and they like what they see. > >Some complain that standard U.S. military M16 and M4 rifles jam too easily >in Iraq's dusty environment. Many say the AK has better "knockdown" power >and can kill with fewer shots. > >"The kind of war we are in now ... you want to be able to stop the enemy >quick," said Sgt. 1st Class Tracy S. McCarson of Newport News, Va., an army >scout, who carries an AK in his Humvee. > >Some troops say the AK is easier to maintain and a better close-quarters >weapon. Also, it has "some psychological affect on the enemy when you fire >back on them with their own weapons," McCarson said. > >Most U.S. soldiers agree the M16 and the M4 - a newer, shorter version of >the M16 that has been used by American troops since the 1960s - is better >for long distance, precision shooting. > >Two weeks ago, Sgt. Sam Bailey of Cedar Falls, Iowa, was in a Humvee when a >patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and heavy machine gun fire. It >was dark, the road narrow. On one side, there was a mud wall and palms >trees, on the other a canal surrounded by tall grass. > >Bailey, who couldn't see who was firing, had an AK-47 on his lap and his M4 >up front. The choice was simple. > >"I put the AK on auto and started spraying," Bailey said. > >Some soldiers also say it's easier to get ammo for the AK - they can pick >it up on any raid or from any confiscated weapon. > >"It's plentiful," said Sgt. Eric Harmon, a tanker who has a full 75-round >drum, five 30-round magazines, plus 200-300 rounds in boxes for his AK. He >has about 120 rounds for his M16. > >Young doesn't carry an AK but has fired one. He's considered banning his >troops from carrying AKs, but hasn't yet because "if I take the AK away >from some of the soldiers, then they will not have a rifle to carry with >them." > >Staff Sgt. Michael Perez, a tanker, said he would take anything over his >standard issue 9mm pistol when he's out of his tank. > >And the AK's durability has impressed him. > >"They say you can probably drop this in the water and leave it overnight, >pull it out in the morning, put in a magazine and it will work," Perez >said.
Since I live in California and am therefore not to be trusted with an AK, bringing down the price of ammo would be about the only way this would help me.
I would take it, though.
I think you mean; "The M16 is a great weapon" :-) /s
I never had a serious problem with any M16A1 or M16A2 that I was issued in the 1980s. I own two AR15s and find them to be reliable and accurate.
I have never been in combat, so I can’t say that I have personal experience in the M16’s performance under such conditions.
I have great respect for the AK47. But it too is not perfect. It’s sights are crude and it doesn’t have great inherent accuracy, especially compared to the M16. I suspect that the AK47 is more reliable than the M16, but I believe that there are a lot of myths out there surrounding the AK47, namely that it NEVER jams and hardly ever has to be cleaned or lubricated, just as most of the stories of the M16 being completely unreliable are either urban legends or left over from the days before the M16A1 corrected many flaws in the M16 design and the powder in the 5.56mm round was corrected.
Any weapon that is not properly maintained will eventually fail. It sounds like the Iraqi AK47s were put through hard use over a long period of time with poor maintenance and their examples probably do have reliability problems relative to the newer M4s and M16A4s that the US military has in Iraq.
As for the 5.56mm round, I am not a fan. The 7.62 X 39 round of the AK47 is surely superior, but not decisively so. After all, the Russians switched to the 5.45mm AK74...
I think that the recent problems with stopping power associated with the 5.56mm round stem from the switch from the inherently unstable M193 55gr round to the stabilized M855 62gr round. For increased accuracy and penetration, we lost the tendency of the round to tumble inside the human body, which caused massive wounds.
I believe that the 7.62 X 51 NATO round is superior in most respects to both the 5.56 and 7.62 X 39.
I also disagree that the AK47 was THE premiere military rifle innovation of the 20th Century. I believe that distinction should go to the Garand action, originated in the M1 and then evolved into the M14. That gas operated, rotating bolt action has no weaknesses and the weapons that use it were the best in the world at the time they were fielded. They have tremendous range, accuracy, firepower, reliability and robustness.
In my opinion, it was a shame that the M14 family was not developed and evolved more. To me that is the ultimate rifle for most combat scenarios and the same basic platform can serve as a 1000 yard sniper rifle or a 16-inch barreled carbine for urban combat—and everything in between.
To me, Garand’s design was the most innovative, revolutionary and successful design of the post-WW1 era.
Just one guy’s opinion.
Horse---t! My MAK-90 has never -- NEVER -- failed to function, even when I'm not as good about cleaning it as I should. My experience with the "mouse gun" is that if you don't clean the hell out of it you'll start getting malfunctions even after a couple hundred rounds. I wouldn't want to engage targets beyond about 250 yards with either (even though I qualified Expert on both the 16A1 and A2)...I'll leave that to my L1A1.
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
Good comments, I agree completely with you on the Garand, it won WWII with its rate of fire and 30.06 round, just that nasty ching when the ammo clip popped out. Japanese and Germans never matched us until the Sturmgewehr.
I hear the ATF jokers has stopped all imports of those as well (sigh).
So much for having a Republican President.....
The M-14 was underrated and never got the opportunity to evolve, like the M16 did. Had the M-14 gone through the design evolution that the M16 experienced, who knows what would have transpired. The M-14, incidentally, did away with the M-1 Garand “ping” due to its detachable box magazine.
Something else that never gets mentioned: The Israeli Defense Forces replaced their domestically manufactured Galil, which has the Kalashnivov action, with the M-16. AK fans claim the decision was purely economic, but I remember reading that the IDF put the two rifles through head to head tests and found the M-16 to be more desirable. They had no problem with its reliability evidently.
Incidentally, my admiration for the M-16 does not extend to the M-4 Carbine, which, from all accounts, has reliability problems stemming from its short barrel, which causes the gas system problems. I think the M-4 is a mistake.
Iraq was a high risk, and hopefully high reward (less terrorism, eventually cheaper oil, stability in a volatile region, some financial payback from Iraq to help with the financial treasure lost -->hey, Rome required taxes).
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.