Is the USA about to force the rest of NATO to change calibres again?

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Two new US new small arms research programs suggest that this may be the case.

Since the beginning of the new millennium, US future small arms development has been focused on two separate programs: the Improved Individual Carbine Competition (IICC) and the Lightweight Small Arms Technology (LSAT) programs. At the beginning of this year, it became apparent that both initiatives were unlikely to lead to a new system being adopted. In fact, they have now been superseded by two new programs that will commence in early 2014 – the Combat Lightweight Automatic Weapon System (CLAWS) and the Lightweight Dismounted Automatic Machine-gun (LDAM).

These are likely to impact the UK and other NATO armies, so it may be worth assessing what they propose to achieve.

Before doing so, a review existing initiatives seeks to provide an understanding of the context and thinking behind the USA’s small arms strategy and the drivers of future technology in this area.

The Improved Individual Carbine Competition (IICC)

The US Army’s M16 / M4 assault rifle family has been in service for 50 years, longer than any other service rifle. In 2010, the US Army announced a new small arms initiative called the Improved Individual Carbine (IC) Competition

The aim of this program was to select a new weapon to replace the US Army’s existing M4 carbine. The key requirements were improved accuracy, reliability and durability; the capability to fire semi-automatic single shots and fully automatic bursts (instead of 3-round bursts); an integrated rail system to accept MIL-STD-1913 accessories; and fully ambidextrous controls. Costs were also a factor.

While the competition was open to any calibre, any manufacturer who submitted a candidate weapon that was not chambered for 5.56×45mm NATO and / or 7.62×51mm NATO was required to provide 500,000 rounds of test ammunition.

The extra financial burden this would have imposed essentially discouraged entrants from proposing a new calibre, even though two promising options already existed: the 6.8x43mm Remington SPC and the 6.5x39mm Grendel.

In terms of process, an initial familiarisation period was to be followed by a three-phase test and evaluation.

Phase I evaluated the ability of each weapon to mount optics, suppressors and other accessories.

Phase II involved firing the weapons to determine accuracy, reliability and durability with the contenders being whittled down to a shortlist of three. As it was, five weapons were selected for on-going evaluation: Colt’s Enhanced M4, the Heckler & Koch HK416A5, the FN SCAR, the Remington ACR, the ADCOR Defense BEAR Elite, and, a late entrant, the Beretta ARX-160.

Improved Individual Carbine from Colt
Improved Individual Carbine from Colt

 

Phase III, if it had gone ahead, would have included with soldier evaluation and contract negotiations.

The winner of the competition had to deliver a “measurable improvement” over the legacy M4 carbine to replace it. One of the many requirements was defined as the ability to fire 3,592 rounds between failures.

In 1990, the requirement for the original M4 had been only 600 rounds, while the current M4A1 achieves 1,600 rounds.

The Army stated that if no IC contender met the requirement it would resort to using an enhanced version of the current M4.

In other words, there was no guarantee that the winner of the IC competition would be adopted.

Since Colt was already developing an improved M4A1 carbine in parallel with the IC competition (and incorporating what it had learned from competitors’ designs along the way) and which, in any event, would be purchased through 2018, the IC competition began to look like a somewhat pointless exercise.

In May 2013, the US Army announced it was considering cancelling the Individual Carbine competition before Phase III commenced.

This angered the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, who even considered passing a bill to force the Army to complete the competition. But in June 2013, the US Army announced that it was not cancelling but “concluding” the IC competition on the grounds none of the submitted weapons met the minimum performance requirements needed to continue to the next stage of the evaluation.

This avoided congressional interference. Moreover, it also dodged the real issue behind the cancellation: the failure of the US Army’s new 5.56 mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) ammunition.

After complaints about the US Army’s existing 5.56 mm M855 NATO standard ammunition, a refined version was developed.

To deliver increased velocity, energy and improved terminal effectiveness, it had a much higher chamber pressure (62,000 psi versus 55,000 psi).

However, this caused increased barrel wear and premature failure of the bolt and other components. What was astonishing about the M855A1 EPR program was that it introduced a new ammunition into service without properly evaluating how it would work with the M4.

Everyone simply assumed that the new ammunition work in existing weapons, simply because it was physically similar to the round it replaced. As the IC competition proceeded, an alarming number of weapon failures began to derail it. The US Army realised that it couldn’t select a new carbine until it had perfected the ammunition it would fire.

It isn’t clear what will happen with the M855A1 round now, but unless the US Army is happy for it to negatively impact the durability of its entire M4 inventory, it will either have to develop a new round, return to using the previous M855 ammunition type or switch to something completely different.

In September 2013, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Department published an audit of the Individual Carbine competition.

It concluded that the US Army had wasted $14 million failing to select a new rifle it did not need. Cancelling the program prior to Phase III saved $40 million. But it would have cost $2.52 billion to buy the 501,289 carbines the Army planned to procure over a 20-year cycle.

The Army’s own analysis suggested the procurement could have been delayed for a decade with no impact on combat readiness.

Lightweight Small Arms Technology

The Lightweight Small Arms Technologies (LSAT) program was funded by the US Joint Service Small Arms Program (JSSAP), with the goal of significantly reducing the weight of small arms and ammunition. Feedback from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the accumulated insight from previous research programs, suggested that lightening the infantryman’s combat load burden was essential to increasing combat effectiveness and survivability on the modern battlefield.

LSAT ammunition varieties. On the left standard 5.56 mm NATO. Centre: Caseless 5.56 mm ammunition. Right: Cased-telescoped 5.56 mm ammunition
LSAT ammunition varieties. On the left standard 5.56 mm NATO. Centre: Caseless 5.56 mm ammunition. Right: Cased-telescoped 5.56 mm ammunition

 

Following a series of unsuccessful previous programs to investigate potential technologies (including SPIW, the Future Rifle Program, ACR, and OICW), it was hoped that the LSAT program would finally provide a viable future technology to replace legacy small arms.

LSAT was initiated in 2004 with the development team comprising of a consortium of companies led by AAI Corporation.

Two weight saving ammunition types were proposed: plastic cased-telescoped ammunition (CTA), and caseless ammunition (CLA) based on Dynamit Nobel’s HITP propellant which was moulded to form a cartridge around the projectile.

This solution had previously been chosen for Germany’s ambitious 4.7 mm G11project.

The technology was never perfected and development was ultimately abandoned, bankrupting Heckler & Koch in the process.

In addition to the two lightweight ammunition varieties, the other area of focus for LSAT was to produce a light machine gun capable of replacing the M249 5.56 mm SAW. The LSAT LMG prototype was to serve as a test-bed and technology demonstrator.

To minimise risk, the program prioritised the development of the polymer cased-telescoped ammunition variant ahead of the caseless ammunition variety.

Prototype LSAT 5.56 mm LMG - it weighs 11.1 lb. compared to 17.6 lb. for a standard M249 SAW.
Prototype LSAT 5.56 mm LMG – it weighs 11.1 lb. compared to 17.6 lb. for a standard M249 SAW.

By 2008, the program had produced working prototypes for both ammunition types and for the LMG weapon designed to fire them.

Despite encouraging early tests, the US Army was reluctant to commit additional funding to the LSAT program. This hesitation may have something to do with various routine development issues. In particular, LSAT weapons have a more complex operating mechanism than legacy weapons. Problems included feed system functioning and reliability, component durability, premature barrel wear and throat erosion.

There were also concerns that making the weapon soldier proof would increase weapon weight resulting in only a marginal weight saving versus the M249.

LSAT 5.56 mm Carbine based on same technology as LSAT LMG, but with little or no weight saving versus legacy M4A1 Carbine.
LSAT 5.56 mm Carbine based on same technology as LSAT LMG, but with little or no weight saving versus legacy M4A1 Carbine.

So, the only real advantage lay in the reduction of ammunition weight, with CTA ammunition contributing to a 30% reduction and CLA ammunition, to a 40% reduction.

Meanwhile, polymer cased versions of existing brass cartridge technology were now beginning to deliver similar weight benefits in legacy weapons.

While there was no doubt that LSAT had significant potential, it would require a completely new infrastructure to manufacture the ammunition and a huge effort to train soldiers to use a completely new weapon type.

Budget estimates suggested that the costs of changing would be massive.

So, despite the program’s attraction, the risks seemed to outweigh the benefits.

Typically, when US military research programs reach a certain level of maturity, they must be demonstrated to the program sponsor to evaluate progress. The program sponsor must then issue a requirement for further research to proceed (and be funded).

Technology Readiness Levels
Technology Readiness Levels

US Technology Readiness Levels (TRLS) are used by the US DoD to measure used to assess the maturity of new technologies during its development and in some cases during early operations. At TRL 7, a prototype system reached near or actual readiness to be deployed as an operational system.

When LSAT reached required level of development, TRL7 status, it was duly shown to the US Army top brass, but no requirement was forthcoming.

LSAT LMG
LSAT LMG

The LSAT LMG is supposed to save 20-30% weapon weight versus M249 SAW. In reality, making LSAT durable and soldier-proof could make the final weight saving marginal.

Despite this, AAI managed to secure on-going funding for LSAT in August 2013.

This was in clear contradiction to the US DoD’s policy on technical research.

However, AAI has received less than $3 million of additional funding – a drop in the ocean compared to the IC competition budget.

So, it is reasonable to assume that this is another US small arms program that will be consigned to history.

Where to next?

With the failure of the IC competition and uncertainty hanging over LSAT, the US Army has no future small arms in its development pipeline.

This is surprising, because feedback from recent combat deployments suggests that the need to reduce weight burdens remains paramount.

More important, there is a clear requirement to be able to engage targets beyond the 300 metres range limit of 5.56 mm NATO ammunition.

As noted previously, 5.56 mm remains a controversial ammunition type. Five separate issues with this calibre have been identified:

  • Lack of effective range (it was always assumed that 5.56 mm NATO would be effective to 500 metres; indeed on ranges, experienced shooters have shown that they can hit targets at 800 metres – in reality, accurate shot placement in combat at long ranges is difficult to achieve)
  • Susceptibility to wind drift (a lack of range has a lot to do with the ease with which a light breeze can deflect the light 5.56 mm bullet off target)
  • Poor barrier penetration (the energy of a 5.56 mm round can easily be absorbed or depleted by any barrier it has to pass thorough en route to a target, including light cover, trees, car doors, thick clothing, sandbags, etc.)
  • Inconsistent lethality (clearly small arms lethality depends on shot placement, but the number of UK, US, and other soldiers, who report having needed to use multiple rounds to incapacitate an enemy, suggests that 5.56 mm may not be able to transfer its kinetic energy into targets as effectively as it was designed to do; this has to do with the bullet’s ability to yaw (tumble) consistently when it penetrates a target)
  • Insufficient suppressive effect (The sound and impact signature of 5.56 mm ammunition striking nearby does not always force enemies to react – often they will simply ignore it)

There has been much debate about the extent and true impact of perceived 5.56 mm ammunition deficiencies.

Whether concerns are real or imagined, it is probably fair to say that 5.56 mm is effective within its range envelope, i.e. under 300 metres.

With a clear need for dismounted infantry to engage targets with rifles to 600 metres and with machine guns to 800-1,000 metres, a number of armies have re-issued larger calibre 7.62 mm weapons to provide additional long-range firepower at section and platoon level.

These range requirements were standard British Army doctrine until we adopted 5.56 mm NATO ammunition.

The thinking behind a small calibre, high velocity calibre was that 90% of combat engagements would shown to occur at ranges under 300 metres. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to suppress enemies with small arms has required a capability to engage at ranges out to one kilometre.

Moreover, the adoption of x4 combat gun sights has made it much easier for soldiers to effectively engage targets at long distance.

The other reason why 5.56 mm ammunition was adopted was because 7.62 mm rounds were perceived to be too big and powerful for general purpose use.

With infantry units re-adopting 7.62 mm weapons, this has re-introduced a number of previous disadvantages:

  • Heavy weight (7.62 mm cartridges weigh twice as much as 5.56 mm ones)
  • Excessive recoil (a kick of 16 Joules for 7.62 mm versus 4 Joules for 5.56 mm)
  • Inefficient bullet design (a 7.62 mm projectile loses energy very quickly due to its stubby aerodynamic shape; therefore, it needs more energy to achieve long-range performance, thus it has greater recoil)
  • Over-penetration at short range (a 7.62 mm has so much energy that in CQB situations it can pass through several walls potentially causing collateral damage, or, where it hits a solid object, the risk of ricochet poses a danger to troops using it)
  • Reduced hit probability (put simply, the heavier a round is, the fewer you can carry. Troops equipped with 5.56 mm can carry double the amount of ammunition versus those equipped with 7.62 mm, therefore have a greater chance of hitting any given target)

The drawbacks of both ammunition types mean that neither can fully replace the other.

So NATO armies have generally adopted a dual calibre approach with 5.56 mm ammunition used in assault rifles and 7.62 mm ammunition used in machine guns.

The US Army’s 5.56 mm M855A1 EPR was meant to address many of the exiting issues with this calibre.

M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round
M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round

One problem it hasn’t solved is the need for longer range.

With the drawdown from Afghanistan proceeding more or less on schedule, there has been little pressure to change the status quo of the dual calibre small arms system that most NATO armies have now adopted.

This changed last year when the US discovered that various potential enemies have been quietly enhancing their own small arms capabilities and are on the verge of achieving overmatch.

There has been no specific information on what the evolved threat is, but it appears that the Chinese and Russians are about to field improved ranges of weapons and ammunition.

Given problems with the M855A1 EPR, the US Army needs a fix not only in the short-term, but also for the long-term.

More fundamentally, briefings at the recent NDIA event in New Jersey last week, suggest that both users and small arms weapon designers believe that 5.56 mm has reached the end of its development potential.

The confluence of these factors has forced the US Army to reconsider its future small arms needs. We therefore appear to have reached a major inflection point where NATO may once again consider a completely new and different small arms solution.

The 2014 CLAWS and LDAM programs

In early November 2013, at the US National Defence Industry Association (NDIA) symposium, held at Picatinny Arsenal, the US Army announced that it had initiated a new ‘Caliber Configuration Study’ to support two new programs:

CLAWS – Combat Lightweight Automatic Weapon System

This is envisioned to replace legacy weapons with a modular small arms system including a carbine, assault rifle, SDM/ DMR rifle and SAW / LMG.

Tt may also include a subcompact weapon. The requirement mandates that weapons should reconfigurable by the operator with interchangeable barrels, stocks, accessories, etc. All must be designed ‘within the art of the possible’, i.e. they should incorporate evolutionary technology, not revolutionary Star Wars technology.

The calibre is TBD from the pending CCS study.

LDAM – Lightweight Dismounted Automatic Machine-gun

Envisioned to replace the Medium Machine Gun and possibly the HMG (.50 BMG). This will be a weapon similar to the GD .338 Norma MMG, but calibre is again open and will be TBD from the CCS study.

The Caliber Configuration Study will consider exactly what calibre, velocity, mass of projectile, and projectile construction characteristics are required to achieve reliable performance across a range of combat scenarios, engagement types and ranges. It will build on the US ARDEC calibre evaluation study that was conducted prior to the IC competition.

This new initiative means we will see a proper industry-developed, army-endorsed and government-funded effort to produce an intermediate calibre military general purpose cartridge and portable heavy machine cartridge. Based on recent developments, we can expect the following calibres will be evaluated for CLAWS:

  • 6.35 / .250”
  • 6.5 / .260”
  • 6.86 / .270”
  • 7.0 / .280”

All projectiles will be lead free. All cartridge options will be convertible to polymer case options.

For LDAM, the requirement is less well-defined at this stage, but is expected to look at larger calibres along the following lines:

  • .338” / 8.59x70mm Lapua
  • .338” / 8.59x64mm Norma
  • .354” / 9x90mm MEN
  • .416 / 10.6x83mm Barrett

A range of ammunition types will be evaluated including AP, anti-personnel and incendiary. All cartridge options will be convertible to polymer case options.

The most important potential outcome is that the US may again unilaterally adopt a new and different cartridge to the rest of NATO. If it does, a standardisation competition would more than likely be held to align usage of the new calibre among non-US alliance members, just as we did with 5.56x45mm in 1979.

We don’t know the exact timeline, largely because it hasn’t been decided yet; however, the CLAWS program represents a clear admission that 5.56 mm has reached the limit of its development possibilities, that M855A1 is untenable, and that a longer range requirement is needed – something that the rest of NATO has refused to admit.

To overcome potential negative criticisms about M855A1, the USA will be keen to expedite selection and procurement of a replacement.

As things stand, the armies of the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, and France are all now on a critical path to replace their small arms between 2020 and 2025. In procurement terms this is tomorrow.

US Army estimates suggest that it will take 18-24 months to select a calibre and a further 60 months to develop, test and validate prototypes, leading to a final recommendation. Needless to say that industry is already working in support of this by developing a range of potential intermediate calibre proposals.

The 6.8x43mm Remington SPC was recently adopted by Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which between them have bought 40,000 guns.

LWRC Six8 Carbine in 6.8x43mm Remington SPC, recently acquired by Saudi Arabia and Jordan
LWRC Six8 Carbine in 6.8x43mm Remington SPC, recently acquired by Saudi Arabia and Jordan

They gave Federal ATK $20 million to perfect the ammunition and $100 million contract to LWRC to build an M4 clone in 6.8mm. While the 6.8×43 Remington SPC has been seen by many as potential replacement for 5.56 mm NATO, it offers good terminal effectiveness (lethality) but is still only a 300 metres calibre.

Another recent intermediate calibre that has also drawn much attention is the 6.5x39mm Grendel.

This offers excellent long-range performance that comes close to matching 7.62mm NATO thanks to a long aerodynamic bullet that retains energy better than any existing military design.

But since it has not yet been optimised for military use against human targets, the projectile does not yet provide reliable terminal effectiveness at short range. With a slightly longer cartridge providing increased power, there is no reason why this round couldn’t provide the performance characteristics the US Army is looking for.

Ammunition types (left to right) 7.62x51mm NATO, 6.5x43mm intermediate calibre prototype, 6.5x39mm Grendel, 6.8x43mm Remington SPC, and 5.56x45mm NATO
Ammunition types (left to right) 7.62x51mm NATO, 6.5x43mm intermediate calibre prototype, 6.5x39mm Grendel, 6.8x43mm Remington SPC, and 5.56x45mm NATO

Both 6.5mm Grendel and 6.8mm Remington SPC rounds are designed to fit within the action length of 5.56 mm weapons (58 mm). This limits their long range performance.

For example, you could not fit the necessary amount of propellant and a tracer projectile in a Grendel case.

In short, neither round is suitable for military applications without further development, but both are a good start point.

Four weapon types should result from the CLAWs program as follows:

  1. Carbine with 12-13″ barrel
  2. Assault rifle with 16″ barrel
  3. DMR /LSW with 20″ barrel and bipod
  4. Belt-fed LMG with 20-24″ barrel and bipod

If this seems similar to XM8, it’s because a key system requirement is modularity. A sub-carbine could be a separate PDW in a different calibre. The squad-level machine gun would obviously be able to be mounted on vehicles to replace 7.62 mm machines, which is why a belt-feed mechanism is preferred, but this probably won’t happen initially.

In terms of LDAM, it is worth mentioning that a polymer .338 round weighs close to brass case 7.62 mm round. The GD .338 Norma MMG weighs close to an M240.

So you could get a man-portable heavy machine gun that matches .50 Cal in a package close to the weight of legacy GPMGs. That has to be good news for dismounted infantry operating on foot in difficult terrain. This weapon would most likely become a standard vehicle-mounted and co-axial machine gun on AFVs.

In essence then, CLAWS is a program to replace 5.56 mm NATO and LDAM is a program to replace 7.62 mm NATO. It isn’t clear where this leaves .50 Cal.

Given the excellent performance of .338 as a sniper calibre in Afghanistan, it seems the best option to become the new HMG calibre, but that doesn’t mean that .50 Cal will be retired any time soon – certainly not before a general purpose .388 round optimised for use in machine guns has proved itself in combat.

And it isn’t clear whether the form factor will be Norma or Lapua.

Given that the installed base of .338 Lapua is greater than that of Norma, NATO might prefer to standardise on the Lapua round’s dimensions. But if the USA deems the Norma round to be preferable, the UK may have to change its L115A3 .338 sniper rifles, since it wouldn’t make sense to have two different types of .338 round in service.

In addition to .338 machine guns and bolt-action sniper rifles, we are also likely to see semi-automatic .338 designated marksman rifles make an appearance.

Noreen .338 Lapua semi-automatic DMR weighs 11.2 lbs. / 5 kg

Any .338 weapons that are selected are likely to be held at company- or platoon- level, not at squad level. Squads are likely to standardise around a single CLAWS calibre, whatever is selected. This should result in a single family of weapons, simplifying procurement, training and battlefield re-supply. Spare parts and fleet maintenance costs should also be reduced. Most important of all, all squad members will be able to engage enemy targets at both short- and long-range.

Rifleman are likely to carry a standard assault rifle configuration with something like a 16.5” barrel. Special Forces, radio operators and grenadiers are likely to carry a carbine version with 12-14” barrel.

Summary

It makes no sense to replace our small arms inventories now – not unless we foresee ourselves becoming embroiled in a major international conflict within the next five years.

The controversial nature of Iraq and Afghanistan means that we’re likely to avoid getting involved in a situation unless we absolutely have to. The UK parliament’s reluctance to commit UK forces to the Syrian situation illustrates our new found foreign policy conservatism.

Given that so many other governments are also looking for cost savings, armies will be encouraged to postpone major new programmes for as long as possible. By 2020, however, the global economy should be back on track.

The time between now and then can be usefully employed to consider and develop exactly what we need for the next generation.

The UK’s SA80 weapon system will be 40 years old and extremely worn out. If we can align ourselves with what the US Army is doing, we should be able to adopt an ideal range of infantry small arms that give us a range of flexible capabilities across a wide range of deployment types.

As things stand, it looks very likely that the USA will ‘encourage’ more than force the rest of NATO to change small arms calibres. While few NATO allies will wish to admit their concerns with existing ammunition types, they will welcome any solution that provides clear advantages over legacy weapons.

And, if America is developing an ideal small arms system that its allies can use, it will have saved them the development costs.

 

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Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel

“And, if America is developing an ideal small arms system that its allies can use, it will have saved them the development costs.”

That’s a hell of a caveat – and if the history of post-war cartridge procurement has taught us anything it’s that the Americans are not to be trusted to select a good one.

My bet is that nothing comes of these programs since they, officially at least, won’t provide a large enough measure of increase in effectiveness over the dual 5.56 / 7.62 combination we have now.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

We could just buy the new Russian and Chinese “super” cartridge of course.

Snafu
Snafu

The US military isn’t going to switch to a new round. no money.

The US isn’t going to push caliber change even if it found the cash. Other higher priorities are gobbling up defense dollars.

The US military will not force a caliber change on Europeans. Europeans will do it so they can remain interoperable with US forces. Europeans will do it so that they can have the illusion of relevancy.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

I’m not sure about this bit:

“But if the USA deems the Norma round to be preferable, the UK may have to change its L115A3 .338 sniper rifles, since it wouldn’t make sense to have two different types of .338 round in service.”

I don’t see a problem. The stuff for MMGs is linked and the stuff for rifles isn’t. You’re hardly going to mix the two up.

Observer
Observer

I think people are a bit confused over the problems with the round vs the problems with the platform. A 5.56 in area target mode is effective to more than 1.2km, the problem is hitting at that range. At ranges 400m-1.2km, you “walk” your fire onto the target by adjusting for the fall of shot, which means that you need a decent amount of rounds, making it a less than ideal AR tactic, but a valid one for a SAW.

So the problem isn’t 5.56 vs 7.62 vs 0.5, the real problem is AR capabilities vs SAW capabilities.

Jeremy M H

The amount of ink and intellectually energy routinely expended on this topic continues to baffle me.

First, switching caliber would be more of a pain in the ass logistically (for a while) than it really would be an expense. Guns wear out all the time and ammunition has to be replaced. It is not a major budgetary item for the most part so if you wanted to get something like this done you could.

Second, it is just not that important in the end. Small arms certainly matter on the battlefield but I don’t think that wars are going to be won or lost based on the caliber of someones assault rifles and machine guns.

Finally, whatever setup is picked, pretty much everyone is going to bitch about it anyway. There is no perfect round and depending on the situation it will either be too heavy or not heavy enough. However I chuckle at the idea that there is a need, or ability, by most troops to engage targets at 1KM.

Joe88
Joe88

Is CASELESS small arms ammunition still on the horizon/still on the agenda????

Will the Royal Marine Commandos get a 7.62mm CQB type, which they’re saying they really need???? They need “punch”.

I can’t see GPMGs and Mini-guns and automated turret providers around the world, switching and being switched until a long way off into the future.

BTW 7.62 and 12.7mm naval automated turrets, has the Royal Navy and the design teams looked at these for the future, for our future vessel types, for addition to the fleet? The Royal Norweigian Navy just the other day, ordered Kongsberg 7.62mm turrets, to be placed on the BRIDGE WINGS of their Fritdjof Nansen Aegis frigate class?

So, the RN and 7.62 and/or 12.7mm naval turrets???? They equate to real safety for one thing. The Dutch Navy also now use the Otomelara 7.62mm auto turret.

martin

I think the USA and NATO have dozens of requirements that need funded before we even think of new small arms or ammunition. The 5.56 round was chosen over the 7.62 for good reason and those reasons are still valid today. Obviously every fight is going to be different and you will never have the exact right round for every situation but I can’t really see the advantage of an intermediate round vs the current set up of different rounds for rifles vs SAW. Manufacturers can claim the round is at the end of its development but I can’t see how a slightly larger round changes that. The fact is that bullets compared to every other military system have evolved very little in a century.

The round a squaddie puts into his SA80 today is virtually identical to the round a Tommy put into his enfield 100 years ago. Compare that to the artillery of the what was being dropped by the Royal Flying Corps to today.

In terms of replacing the SA80 I also don’t see the point. While the old version was a f**king joke I have heard nothing but praise for the A2 especially when engaging at ranges out to 600m where the M4 is not as capable. Yes its a heavy gun if you have to lug it around but that’s always going to be part of the trade off. Plenty more things for the MOD to be spending its money on.

Also troops have bitched about every piece of equipment they have ever been issued with since Roman times only to then suddenly look back on it with nostalgia when its taken away and I have no doubt if we get rid of the 5.56 for a larger round we will hear decades of bitching about the weight of the new rounds and how they miss the 5.56.

M&S
M&S

It’s not just the hit but the energy delivery, the next big step in infantry systems is not the future KE weapon but the armor and possibly power augments that allow routine defeat of same without completely overloading the infantryman.

.338 NM at 1,000m put 1,900ftlbs on the target, it will defeat any Level 3/3a armor here.

7.62mm has more energy at 300m than 5.56 does at the muzzle.

6.5 and 6.8 fire 7.62 bullet shapes (which may be ‘tubby’ but are less prone to sideforces than a long, slender, tipster round like the 5.56) using 5.56 equivalent case sizes (which automatically implies lower energies unless you up the thermodynamics of the propellant).

For myself, recoil mitigation counts for a lot in accuracy which is the difference between a Marine unit being investigated for taking too many headshots on gopher targets popping up above a roofline or ridge crest and ‘suppressing’. Improve the soldier’s accuracy and it doesn’t matter as much how much he carries because the threat is scared silly of our close in SUW capabilities and prefers desultory _ranged combat_ as is. When you no longer have a functional range limit to how far you can counterfire an ambush, even the harrassing attack will fade from use.

If you want to show something that is really effective out to 2,000m, show me a round that has the same carriage envelope and placement tactics as a Claymore and fires an Estes type rocket with a simple sight plugin that says: “Tilt where the sight compass is pointing and pick up the laser sparkle.” Alternatively, put a seeker on board and steer it to impact like a Spike.

_Especially_ when the threat has conveniently sighted itself higher than you on the ridge with a 200ft down-then-up valley inbetween, the ability to score indirect hits on belly-down, planview, targets from above with limited round expenditures that force the threat to displace after their lead shooters go hair, teeth and eyeballs to an explosive impact is more useful than LOS fires.

Because LOS is about stochastic distributions of a bullet passing through the same space as a body and the longer you keep the firefight going the more attritional logic favors the lucky hit. Even from across a valley.

It is ignorant to assume that the U.S. will be in a financial position to be able to do much in the way of development, the ‘return to normalcy’ in 2020 will happen only if the USD ceases to be a massively overextended world base currency and interest rates begin to climb out of the basement.

If that happens with some 220 billion dollars in U.S. debt, simply instituting Obamacare as a second slush fund to make up the 12% difference in existing ‘won’t call it a tax but it is’ debt payments will be like a piss in a river.

Having said that, 2.52 billion, even if it is tripled thanks to U.S. corruption, is still pennies to the pound on systems like GCV, ACV or the JSF.

IMO, the time is ripe for a small arms state of play change but the reasons are wrong. You _do not_ want to execute a small arms change simply to match the Jonesky’s on terminal effects (though certainly removing interceptor would ‘lighten the load’ in combat). Rather, you want to create a condition where, to keep up with the state of play, requires a massive investment which leads the threat down the road to technical obsolescences as bankruptcy, again.

In this, the obvious factors are going to remain getting point selective hits on targets and assuring dominant first minute contact engagements and the obvious answer for this is the laser not the KE kill. Laser gives you (PIKL) a 2km kill capability with a quarter sized impact hit that couples enough thermal energy to the target to blow a layered vest to pieces. It also gives you dazzle and incapacitance (nociceptor induction) options which negate threat tactics of walking out behind a wall of women among other things.

If a 2lb magazine gives you 30 shots and a 4lb battery gives you 90, go with the battery.

This state of play change up will have other advantages too. The human biometric frame is just about played out in terms of residual loadbearing capacity for ‘new cool’ capabilities improvements. It’s literally a ‘Like to have it but just can’t hump anymore weight.’ restrictive condition. This -could- change with the introduction of exoskeletal augments but the reality is that minor improvements to kinetics in the platoon+ level weapons systems like the MMG will just take the overmatch factor right back. Thermals are another story.

With the ability to match KE effects at range in infantry portable system envelopes and a ‘zero miss’ factored shot count leverage at close quarters, two things will happen:

1. You will see a shift in emphasis on protective barrier mechanisms to thermal protection, particularly for the head and face (which means guerillas will have to walk around with motorcycle helmets and be rather obvious in doing so).

2. You will see a tech cost exclusion function for those, ‘full intensity’, warfighters unable to foot the bill on KE -and- Laser protection systems. Which essentially means that you will see armies shrink. Because the types who, even with augments, can lift the weight will be few and far between (no women, no men below the 10th percentile, 200lb SOF types as ‘Stormtroopers’) and the cost to kit them out will be prohibitive.

Lasers will have other values too, particularly as we field more and more robotics systems. If you induce a plasma field by thermally ablating a target surface and then ‘shock it’ with an in-beam modulation that causes the plasma to explode, you multiply thermal transfer so fast that it gains a kinetic effect. There have been demos of this whether the air itself can be made to flash and pop as a crowd control measure but PEP technology is primarily a hardkill effects multiplier.

Just as importantly, plasma detonation generates a weak but measurable EMP. If you are trying to take out robotic systems which have electronic actuation and multiple aperture visionics systems (to include hardened MMW arrays), you can either spend a day hacking down a redwood with a spoon (as KE protection on wheeled vehicles especially will be much thicker and better sloped) or you can make multiple point attacks to flashweld actuator joints and disable driver electronics,

If you want to keep man on the battlefield, which I would be the first to admit may not be a good idea, then you need to do two things:

A. Keep his range overlap with crew served weapons relevant to the battlespace you intend to dominate. This means both hyperextended distances of 1km+ and sub-100m fights.
B. Create a system of systems leveraging synergy by which a ‘compleks’ forces the threat to do more than match or beat a single point performance factor to regain balanced combatant leveraging.

A weapons system which significantly outranged all light small arms and required very highly specialized ‘aim here, measure the crosswinds with a laser interferometer, adjust aimpoint and fire!’ sight mechanisms to match with heavier calibers is one way to get this.

Forcing new considerations in body armor to create thermal as well as ballistic protection is another.

Essentially what I am suggesting then is that a small force be reequipped to a new standard, copying the Dushmen in their ‘range for lethality’ effects trade on protective garments and allowing the shift to heavy kinetics to be supplemented by discrete optical weapons with similar range overlap but entirely different thermal and electric effects to make target hardening have to deal with both methods.

Ultrashort Pulse Effects
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/09/pulsed-laser-fi/

PIKL Brief (see the plasma det effects)
http://servv89pn0aj.sn.sourcedns.com/~gbpprorg/mil/mindcontrol/Moore.pdf

El Hombre de PHASR
http://www.cuantarazon.com/crs/2012/11/CR_750243_rifle_phasr.jpg

Radish293
Radish293

Big problem with the SA80 by all accounts is that its worn out. The Heavy use in Iraq and Afganistan has worn it quicker than expected. Its not been made for years a repacement is due soon.
knowing who slow procurment projects are and how the decision making gets delayed and delayed. We need to get on with it.

I cant help but thik the MARS project is a way of dipping or toes in the water with a limited number of weapons, see how they perform for specialist forces then make a big buy.
MARS is due to deliver in April 2014 thats not long now. There is so little information who the contenders are or how the project is progressing. What gets selected is anyones guess.
http://www.government-online.net/supply-of-modular-assault-rifle-system/

Fedaykin

Well it is not an entirely crazy idea retaining the L85, HK have been supplying brand new L85A2 upper bodies to the British army. It did cause some confusion on the internets as those upper bodies were marked L85A3. There has also been trials work with new barrels along with various weight reduction measures, there is no reason why HK couldn’t supply all up new L85 but it would be a bit dodgy not going to competitive trials properly and it wouldn’t really deal with the weight problem.

The cynic in me feels the US won’t change from the M4 or 5.56/7.62 combination any time soon, there is just too much inertia in their system.

My gut feeling is there will be a staggered replacement program for the L85 with the more fighty deployable units getting a new rifle and the rest retaining the L85 with bits like new uppers or lowers (maybe even new barrels) coming from HK. The best least worn out examples of L85 being retained up through to 2030 and the MOD avoiding the big bang cost of introducing a new rifle quickly.

Whatever rifle is chosen as an L85 replacement will be very much driven by whoever can deliver the best package deal at the lowest cost.

Bob
Bob

No the US is not going to introduce another calibre. What you see here are a series of R&D programmes that were part of the Iraq/Afghanistan largesse- none of them will go anywhere.

The small arms lesson from the long war is not that a new calibre is needed, it is that we need to keep all the calibres and platforms (remember different barrel lengths- US Army experience is heavily coloured by its widespread adoption of 14.5 inch barrels) we have. Each has a role which is why it is being used, and that role changes with the combat zone.

Frankly I agree with Jeremy M H; why are so many keyboards being worn out with furiously written rants about this (non) topic?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Excellent post Monty. Good summary of the “Great calibre debate” and interesting news on US developments.

I have long liked the idea of a common “universal” round to replace 5.56 and 7.62 – pretty much all tests going back to Ancient Rome (OK, slight exaggeration) say a round between 6 to 7mm can perform the job. However, if the idea is to replace the two current rounds with two new ones where’s the commonality saving? If the .50 cal isn’t fully replaced you will still end up with three different calibres with any future GPMG type weapon pushed down to the section using different ammo?

Think Defence

Great post Monty

As I mentioned before, if you concentrate on performance I think the argument for a calibre change is good but as many others have said, not compelling in a world of competing draws on the defence Pound or Dollar, or Euro 

Where I think the argument becomes a lot more interesting is in reducing weight across the platoon as a whole or individual soldier specifically (given the load for support weapons is often distributed across individuals in addition to their own ammunition weight)

On top of that is the potential for logistics commonality; storage, transport, purchasing and fuel used per round fired (or more importantly, effects on target) because as we know, the logistics effort to get stuff forward is significant

So tie the three things together, performance, overall weight reduction and logistics and I think you have a much more interesting and potentially compelling proposition.

As for exoskeletons, not sure we will be seeing infantry wearing them for a long time, and certainly some time after the logistics and engineering trades.

Does common sense mean that if you are going to change your small arms before the way forward on calibre is clear you make sure your small arms can be changed relatively easily?

Jeremy M H

@Monty

I have no doubt there are needs for specialized troops and weapons that can engage over that distance. But the majority of the rest of the squad/platoon really don’t need and can’t effectively utilize that capability. I have no doubt there are “better” solutions out there to the current tactical issues. But I don’t see any as being worth running up a large bill working on. If it can be done as part of the usual replacement and ammo budgets then have at I guess.

But I think in a list of 1,000 things that are important to the various military forces around the world the marginal gains in switching caliber are really pretty low on that list.

Phil

Big problem with the SA80 by all accounts is that its worn out.

Can’t see that – they’re like Triggers broom. They get new bits and bobs all the time. Often poor maintenance and care is looking like being worn out. For example the TMH and the upper receiver can get loose and wobble a bit – its a 1 minute armourer job to fix it.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Monty,

“Moreover, it also dodged the real issue behind the cancellation: the failure of the US Army’s new 5.56 mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) ammunition… It isn’t clear what will happen with the M855A1 round now”
— I’m interested to know why you think the M855A1 “failed”? What evidence do you have for this, given that it has improved performance in pretty much every regard over the previous round, and between 2010-2012 saw deliveries of over 350 million rounds, with production ramped up since then? The new round is here to stay. As for the concerns over wear, the US army was unable to find any evidence of issues regarding higher rates of wear from soldiers in Afghanistan. There was supposedly some issues with some primers, but that’s since been dealt with.

“More important, there is a clear requirement to be able to engage targets beyond the 300 metres range limit of 5.56 mm NATO ammunition”
— Luckily 5.56 is pretty accurate out to about 600m and as Observer pointed out on a different thread, can carry even further than that. The problem is – and has been since the dawn of rifled weapons – that human beings struggle to engage targets at that range without a lot of training and specialist kit.

This links with your points about wind drift. Wind drift effects all rounds. In order to consistently make a shot on a torso sized target at 600 yards+ you’re going to need a well trained bod, a bipod, a decent scope, an anemometer, a range table, a calculator and ideally a spotter. That’s true regardless of what round you’re shooting.

“the energy of a 5.56 mm round can easily be absorbed or depleted by any barrier it has to pass thorough en route to a target, including light cover, trees, car doors, thick clothing, sandbags, etc.”
— Except that the new rounds have demonstrated 3/8″ steel plate penetration at around 400 yards. And any round is going to struggle at long ranges with many of those types of cover you mention.

“clearly small arms lethality depends on shot placement… … suggests that 5.56 mm may not be able to transfer its kinetic energy into targets as effectively as it was designed to do”
— These two statements are inconsistent, hopefully for obvious reasons. Forget about kinetic energy. Stop talking about it. It’s basically irrelevant as far as “lethality” is concerned.

“The sound and impact signature of 5.56 mm ammunition striking nearby does not always force enemies to react – often they will simply ignore it”
— This has been brought up a couple of times, but I’m yet to see where the evidence for it comes from. Did someone run over to the Taliban and ask them if they felt suppressed? How do people know that the supersonic crack is what is causing the enemy to be suppressed? Did the Taliban write that in their diaries? By comparison, there are plenty of videos of ISAF forces coming under contact; the supersonic crack overhead normally draws copious amounts of return fire. In the meantime, what we know from British/US forces engaged by small arms and other weapons since about WW2 is that the accuracy and quantity of fire has the major impact. Indeed, quantity can generate an accuracy all of its own, to bastardise a phrase by some Russian bloke.

“With a clear need for dismounted infantry to engage targets with rifles to 600 metres and with machine guns to 800-1,000 metres, a number of armies have re-issued larger calibre 7.62 mm weapons to provide additional long-range firepower at section and platoon level”
— Problem solved then.

“In Iraq and Afghanistan, the need to suppress enemies with small arms has required a capability to engage at ranges out to one kilometre.”
— Which represents the absolute marginal end of the engagement envelope. And for which we have medium and heavy machine guns, dedicated snipers, and mortars. And artillery. And attack helicopters. And air support.

Jed

Hey Everybody

Monty is reporting on new U.S. programs, I would not think they have the cash either, not with sequestration etc, but if new projects / programmes of small arms work have been launched, perhaps there is a good reason ?

I did laugh at this miss-spelling thought matey: “the heavier a round is, the fear you can carry.” – Yep you heard it here folks, the heavier the round you carry the more fear you instill !

By the way, I am pretty sure you will find that .338 Lapua will not feed / will not work in a belt fed config hence GD using Norma.

Phil

“The sound and impact signature of 5.56 mm ammunition striking nearby does not always force enemies to react – often they will simply ignore it”

I’ve heard 5.56 going over my head (from friendlies and from simply sitting in some old butts in Penally training camp in Pembrokeshite. I’ve also heard 7.62 go over my head etc. I never notice a huge difference I have got to be honest the cracks from both are bloody sharp to the ears.

Also, 7.62 does not always force the Talibans enemy to react – it has been known to be ignored!

Also the strike from 7.62 is not that bigger if noticeably at all, than a 5.56 strike.

Weight of fire and accurate fire keeps the heads of the enemy down. Combine the two and nobody is getting up and going anywhere. To keep it going you need bags of ammo though.

7.62 strike in front of a Danish soldier – it is not massive.



Grant Mitchell nearly spanking in, watch the tiny splash and you can tell just listening that those rounds were close!



wf
wf

@Phil: I suspect the percieved difference between 7.62 and 5.56 is due to the former staying supersonic to longer ranges. There’s a large difference between the suppressive effect of a crack and a whizz :-)

Phil

Depends on who you’re fighting. A whizz is perfectly audible and will likely kill you just as well.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

Alexander Arms makes what looks like a large AR, but is chambered in .338 Lapua, a semiautomatic with a 10 round magazine.
One round not mentioned is the 6×47, closely related to the 5.56×45. The 5.56 can launch a 70 grain bullet at 2700 fps, while the 6×47 launches an 85 grain bullet at 2800 fps. Not a huge change, but a step in the right direction. Close enough for the rounds carried to be the same for both calibres.

TrT
TrT

““The sound and impact signature of 5.56 mm ammunition striking nearby does not always force enemies to react – often they will simply ignore it”
– This has been brought up a couple of times, but I’m yet to see where the evidence for it comes from. Did someone run over to the Taliban and ask them if they felt suppressed? How do people know that the supersonic crack is what is causing the enemy to be suppressed? Did the Taliban write that in their diaries? By comparison, there are plenty of videos of ISAF forces coming under contact;”

Most ANA/ANP footage I’ve seen shows them stood in the open, completely ignoring the incoming 7.62 fire from the Taliban. Usually returning fire one handed, from the hip….

Peter
Peter

“The US Army’s M16 / M4 assault rifle family has been in service for 50 years, longer than any other service rifle.”

This is just ever so slightly historically revisionist and can’t stand unchallenged.

The Lee Metford came into service in 1888, with the move to smokeless powders and pressures this generated a new rifling system by Enfield was required and applied in 1895, at which point the rifle became the fabled Lee Enfield Rifle which carried the British army through until 1957. Even only looking at the British army gives the Enfield 62 years of use as the Lee Enfield, or 69 including the MLM.

Or if you include the fact that it’s still a reserve arm in countries like India or a main issued weapon in Nepal then one could argue quite legitimately that it’s not out of service yet which gives it a service life over double the M16 family at present.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Have the Indian police replace all their LE’s yet? I don’t think they are all 2a1’s either….

Brian Black
Brian Black

Peter, the British Army also used the L42A1 up until the late ’80s.

Nick
Nick

Back to the Future, a history lesson.

The Wehrmacht had developed the first assault rifle in response to the overwhelming number of Soviet troops they were facing, their standard round was the 7.92 x 57mm which was uncontrollable in full automatic due to the excessive recoil so they went for the 7.92 x 33mm Kurz (short), a cut down lower capacity version of the standard round to make automatic fire possible with the StG44 rifle, 426 thousand were manufactured by end of WWII. The Soviets copied with the 7.62 x 39mm, later made famous with the AK47. Both rounds were quick and dirty expedients to allow use of existing case production and barrel machinery to get weapons into the hands of troops quickly.

Post WW11 the British army thought it about time the .303 based on the original black powder case was pensioned off and a more modern cartridge was designed, and established a small arms committee under a chairmanship of Dr Beeching PhD, who had worked on armaments during the war years to see if they could come up with something better than the German 7.92 Kurz and the Soviet 7.62 x 39.

A 270 and 280 were designed together in 1947, the 270 had a steel cored bullet diameter of 0.279 in. and weight of 100 grain with a MV of 2,750 -2,800 fps, rim diameter 0.445 in./11.3 mm, case length 1.81 in./46mm, OAL 2.45 in / 62mm, submitted June 1947 and dropped in favour of the 280 in 1948. Note the smaller the diameter of the round the more that can be held in the magazine.

Designed January 1947 with a rim diameter 0.4580 in. /11.63 mm a loading of 30.1 grains and a mild steel 130 grain bullet 0.284 in diameter at 2,450 fps (the same MV as the .303 Mk VII ball). The 280 calibre was slightly larger than originally intended but was selected to meet US desire for long range performance, (ballistic coefficient, therefore range, peaks with .284/7mm diameter bullets).

The ADE re-engineered the 280 to the 280/30 in April 1948 to offer the same rim dimensions as the US 30-06 & T65 (destined to become 7.62 NATO), rim 0.473 in/12.01 mm, case length 1.71 in/43.43mm, OAL 2.54 in/64.52mm with the eye on the possibilty of being standardised by NATO.

By November 1948 attention switched to a heavier 140 grain bullet to obtain the US requirement for steel helmet penetration at 2,000 yards, muzzle velocity was 2,415 fps with 24.5 in barrel (the long length a result of EM-2 bullpup assault rifle design), 30.5 grain charge and 21.5 tons/square inch pressure (48,000 psi).

In 1949 the UK cooperated with Belgium/FN, whose engineers suggested use of the 7mm Mauser bullet type S12 with a CNCS envelope and a lead core 140 grain.

The NATO trials were held in 1950 at Fort Benning US, the 280/30/EM-2 was pitted against the original T65 (7.62×47)/T25 rifle, the EM-2 fired 57,000 rounds, with the M1 Garand as control. The Trials Board reported “The T65 Cal. .30 is not satisfactory because of its excessive recoil, blast,flash and smoke, the Cal. 280 is not satisfactory because of its relatively high trajectory.That of the two basic types of rounds submitted for the test the British calibre .280 is preferred.” The result was rejected by the US Army Chief of Staff who would accept nothing but a 30 calibre bullet. the 7.62 NATO being a cut down 30-06 as a general had noticed at a US ammunition plant they did not fill the case to its capacity with propellant.

The 280/30 charge was increased to (?grains) 2,550 fps with the 140 grain bullet and adopted in 1951 as the 7mm Mk 1Z (Z stands for nitocellulose powder). Recoil energy was 7.4 ft-lbf/10.0 J with EM-2 rifle, for comparison the .303 recoil energy was 11 ft-lbf with No.4 rifle and the 30-06 14.4 ft-lbf with the MI Garand.

The UK Secretary of State for War Manny Shinwell unilaterally adopted the EM-2 rifle and it was classified it as ‘Rifle,Automatic, Calibre .280 No.9 Mk1’ and the 280/30 cartridge 25th. April 1951. After the change in government Churchill agreed to recind Shinwell’s decision in the name of unity within NATO (the US) in early 1952.

The US Army only issued the M14 rifle to use the 7.62 NATO in 1959 they had imposed.

The US Airforce adopted the M16/5.56×45 in 1962 to replace the anemic M1 30 Carbine, then war in Vietnam started and the US Army grabbed at the M16 in 1964 as it was only option to combat the AK47, no more M14’s were bought after 1965 or any other rifle in 7.62 excepting specials e.g. sniper rifles.

The US Army has been hamstrung by the small size of the M16 bolt dimension with a maximum cartridge OAL of 2.26 in. and the resultant limited stopping power. The US Special Forces developed the Remington 6.8mmSPC round with a heavier and more effective 115 grain bullet though the ballistics are poor specifically for the M4 Carbine.The US Army spent a small fortune in trying to make the 5.56mm round more effective with the recent 2010 M855A1 62grain bullet with a copper core and 19 grain steel tip. The ballistics of the 5.56 take a big hit with the short M4 370mm/14.5in. barrel.

The great advantage of the British/FN 280/30 round was that it was controllable in an assault rifle, had more than adequate ‘knockdown power’ and that it had the 7mm 140 grain bullet ballistics were effective at 800 / 900 metres, doing away with the need for two separate rounds as currently used, the 5.56mm and the 7.62mm

Brian Black
Brian Black

Poor barrier penetration and lethality of 5.56 has been mentioned. There is a 7.62x35mm option, which like the often raised 6-point-something candidates can be used with the lower receiver and magazines of US rifles. Improved, more certain penetration than the lightweight 5.56, and increased tumbling inside the body.

The 7.62-short addresses those perceived issues up to about 400m, but still requires the 7.62-long machine gun and marksman rifle (keeping ChrisB happy) as the 7.62×35 loses too much energy over distance.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

oh my… Just found a carbine version of the EM-2 = “Short”

http://www.forgottenweapons.com/photos-of-1950s-light-rifle-prototypes/

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Thinking about it I believe the EM-2 in the video above is the short version…

Also found this Aussie bullpup:

http://www.nvtech.com.au/ProjPast/GP_Inf_Rifle/GPIR.html

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Swimming Trunks

Can’t see if you have posted a link to the video……

dave haine
dave haine

I rather liked the EM-2. And weren’t the .270 and .280 rounds so-called ‘intermediate’ rounds that everyone seems to be disliking.

Makes me wonder what would have happened if we’d middle-fingered the septics and ran off laughing with our own assault bundook.

Oh well….just another might have been on Britain’s grand military progress (as arsed-about by various personalities and egos)

mr.fred
mr.fred

The EM2, in terms of handling one goes, was quite a nice weapon. Not very heavy, well balanced, excellent optical sight. It also saw active service, albeit in prototype form – I have the report somewhere that I downloaded from t’internet about the use of the No.9 rifle in Malaya. It was reasonably well received

Fedaykin

@mr.fred

The EM2 did have a particularly scary feature IMHO, with the bolt locked back if you inserted a fresh magazine it automatically chambered a round. An ND waiting to happen but what do I know ;-)

wf
wf

@Fedaykin: sounds like a great feature, if you have just returned from WW2 and prioritise combat effectiveness over all else :-)

dave haine
dave haine

@ Fedaykin

S’easy init, If you’re on the range, you release the working parts before you change the magazine.

If you’re in action anything that minimises the non-blatting time is, I believe, considered a very good thing.

Still think the EM-2 with the .270 or .280 round, was the answer to the question we’re all asking now.

What foresight these chaps had, or more importantly, they’d learnt the lessons and listened to them in the know.

@monty

What’s your view on the EM-2, and associated .270/.280 round?

Jeremy M H

@Monty

I don’t think anyone is not prioritizing it but I have zero faith that anyone can really put out a round that actually pleases everyone. Whatever is issued people are going to bitch about it. Again, I have said twice in this discussion if you want to change caliber as part of the normal replacement process for small arms and ammunition I guess have at it.

Is it an issue? Sure.

Is it the most important thing even for the infantry? No, not really.

It is really just an appeal to emotions to say that the infantry should be equipped in the best manner possible. In theory that is very correct. But in practice that quite often does not happen. Decisions are made on a cost-effectiveness basis. I am sure every soldier in a fire fight would love the absolute highest tech, lightest body armor they could have regardless of cost. But it may not be cost effective to provide that. It sounds harsh but that is reality.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

Monty,

1) The switch to 5.56 was first made, because it represents the round that is most useful to them across the widest range of scenarios that they face. As for your sums. That’s just the weapons. Now add the magazines, the new tooling, the new armoury updates, all the new training, adjustments to the supply line, and of course the increased cost of all the ammunition. It’s not as simple as that.

If you’re that worried about the frontline, why are you advocating spending on new guns instead of issuing each chap with a decent pair of binoculars and one of those laser rangefinders that hunters use, which would probably be more useful?

2) A problem was raised by some manufacturers with the M855A1, which was related to fouling. That problem was traced back to the primer and has been corrected. As for the cost, and you think a brand new 6-7mm round is going to be cheaper?

3) That round has been shot accurately out to 600m. There was some fella (you can look his name up) who went to a number of military shooting competitions and recorded perfect scores using it. So yes, contrary to your assertion, it can easily reach 600m with accuracy. As long as the person behind the rifle can pull it off. Just like most rifle calibre rounds.

4) They didn’t look at suppressing long range targets because that wasn’t the remit. The remit for all these sorts of studies is to look at personal small arms. Why? Because suppression out to 800-1000m has always been the realm of machine guns. Why? Because you need a machine gun to have any hope of suppressing a group of people at that range.

5) Funny, because US special forces not long ago publicly dumped any thoughts of using 6.x type rounds because of the logistics and expense. You’d have though if they were the super weapons you seem to think they are that they would have simply written a blank cheque for them.

6) People issued with that weapon, last time I checked, were still sent off to do an additional course in marksmanship (perhaps Phil or someone knows the name). Why? Because it doesn’t matter what gun you’re holding, beyond a certain point a number of significant issues come into play, such as wind, temperature, humidity etc.

7) Interesting, where did that come from? Any links?

mr.fred
mr.fred

Chris B.

1) The 5.56mm round has no such justification. It was available at the time and the US bought it to supplement the other failed round, the 7.62mm. Any claims to the contrary are liable to be rationalisation after the fact.

If the calibre change is made in a weapon designed from the outset to accommodate a range of calibres, then the drill, training, maintenance, armoury tools*, bracketry and stowage remain the same. Maybe the magazines change but they are consumables anyway. Let those stocks dwindle as you draw down that calibre.

2) AIUI, the M855A1 also operates with a much higher chamber pressure, which means greater bolt thrust, forces on the operating system and wear in the barrel.

3) Military shooting professionals repeatedly define 5.56mm as a short range round, usually to 300-400m, and 7.62mm as a long range round out to 600-800m. Both from infantry rifles with average operators.

5) SF have funny requirements. Part of it is deniability. If you find a pile of 6.8 SPC cases then you know exactly who was there. If it is 5.56mm brass, then all you can say with certainty is that it was probably a western military force. If the whole military used 6.8 SPC (for the sake of example) then you would probably find that SF use it too.

6) Marksmanship, perhaps, but they are not snipers.

I’ve read a few studies myself, all of which concur that the ideal calibre for an infantry rifle is somewhere in the 6 to 7mm calibre range.

Apart from anything else, cost wise, you go from at least two rifles and two machine guns, four different ammunition types for logistics to deal with and all the training necessary to deal with those, to one rifle, one MG, two ammunition types.

Monty,

A little Mrs Lovejoy, isn’t it? “Won’t somebody please think of the infantry!”

The objective is a good, cost- and weight-effective small arm with wide applicability across a variety of combat situations. Not the very best available. Going for that means that you do get the very best available, but two guys in your section don’t get a weapon or you can only have twenty rounds each, because you cannot afford it.

*Maybe some go/no-go gauges and chamber and bore-specific tools

Phil

There’s two competing schools of thought here. They were very well evidenced by the US Marine Corps and the US Army.

The US Marine Corps had, probably still does have, a massive hard-on for marksmanship in its traditional sense of iron sighted, long-range, tightly grouped shots. Every Marine was a precision weapon akin to a hunter.

This hard-on for traditional musketry as it were, was evidenced by their attachment to the M14 and their issuing of the long-barrelled M16A4 with no sights.

Then there was the US Army, very happy to consider the infantryman as a component of a wider weapon system and whose role was more often than not suppression and they placed less emphasis on the culture of the marksman. Hence why they issued carbines and were more generous with their sights.

You don’t see many Marines with M16A4s with iron sights anymore after a decade of combat…

steve taylor
steve taylor

How was 7.62 a failure?

Observer
Observer

mr fred, rounds and bigger magazines mean bigger magazine WELLS and bigger extractor bores and bigger and stronger feed springs and a larger extractor lug to push the round in from the magazine. It’s all interlinked, by the time you finished, you might have to end up redesigning a new weapon.

If you are starting a new army from scratch, I’m all for it, but you are working within a pre-existing system. Hell, if you are so worried about marksmanship, have you considered that changing the round and its characteristics will cause MORE misses as the ballistics are now different from what your soldiers have trained on before? I experienced this with the new 5.56 rounds, they seem to drop less, so I kept missing high.

Monty, 250 million pounds. Isn’t that like 150 Warthogs? How many mechanised battalions could you arm with 150 Warthogs?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ mr. fred,

1) Only the numerous studies, tests + combat experience that all came to the same conclusion; that a smaller, less powerful round would be better. It had plenty of justification. I understand though, a) that would counter your argument and b) that would require you to go off and do some research the subject, so you’re never going to acknowledge that fact.

2) The reported problems were being caused by fouling, which was traced to the primer and corrected. That’s it, that’s the only problem for which there is any evidence of and even that was a small group of complaints, which have been addressed. You can’t just pluck issues out of your arse.

3) Monty was saying it couldn’t be shot accurately to 600 yards. It can. It’s been proven. End of story.

5) Put that Tom Clancy book down and step away from the coffee table. And the coffee.

6) And? All I ever said was marksman. Then someone confused that with me saying “snipers” and you’ve since jumped on that. That’s your problem, not mine.

Summary; The adoption of 5.56 was the result of extensive study, testing and ultimately experience in the forge of battle. These are facts, which means that you can’t get away from them just by sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending its all untrue. The 5.56 is not the only acceptable solution to me, it just happens to be the best solution we have right now. The 6-7mm rounds offer no advantage in the majority of circumstances in which our soldiers find themselves. Indeed, in these scenarios the 6-7mm rounds are a detriment. If a better solution can be found in the future then great, lets see the evidence for it.

That’s the difference mr. fred. All the evidence is telling me that 5.56 is a better solution than 6-7mm right now. If you want to institute a wholesale calibre change the onus is on you and Monty etc to prove their is an advantage to doing so. So far you’ve generated precisely 0 facts, 0 evidence, and 0 rationale for doing so. In the meantime you continue to pretend that existing factual data is not relevant because……. it disagrees with your pre-selected position? You’ve provided no other reason why you consider this existing factual data to be irrelevant.

As for the studies you talked about with 6-7mm, I’ve seen many of these myself. You’re confusing the conclusions though for the ones you want. The conclusion of most such studies are that 6-7mm rounds offer slightly flatter trajectories and have higher terminal velocities, e.g. superior technical performance. That’s not the same as saying they are the ideal round for infantry, because factors like weight and recoil become important. Studies that include these important elements generally favour the 5.56, because it better meets the practical demands that soldiers face, instead of just being the super round on paper.

But I don’t for a second believe that either you or Monty will take any of this on board because none of these important things agree with your position that 6-7mm is “da ultra infantry killa”.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Observer,

150 vehicles would be about three battalions, probably two to account for training and reserves. Or half a FRES demonstrator programme.

The 5.56mm Armalite can support a number of different calibres without vast changes. It’s a bit too short in the mag well to support a round that could fulfil both a 7.62mm role as well. It’s not optimal but there are plenty of rifles that are not optimal even with a single calibre to design for.

Money is still expended if we do nothing. Spares and replacement parts, training of new personnel, wastage and usage of ammunition stock. Additional and/or replacement rifles in 7.62mm to cover the longer range, modified ammunition etc.

Changes in ballistics of the service rifle may be more of an issue if your armed forces have a large reserve component.

x,
The 7.62mm round failed as a general purpose infantry round by being too heavy and too powerful. That it has a poor bullet design is icing on a cake. Evidencing this failure is the adoption of a lighter round for infantry rifles and machine guns by pretty much everyone. The Ex-Soviet block kept their equivalent for marksman’s rifles and crew-served machine guns, issuing a rifle and automatic weapon in a smaller cartridge, since reducing the calibre to copy the Western block.
Vague rumours about regarding development of an intermediate round in Russia. One early proposal for a western intermediate cartridge was the 6.5 Grendel, derived from a soviet bloc cartridge.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Chris B.,

“Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer” Major Thomas P. Ehrhart, Nov 2009.
From the conclusion:
“The ability of the infantryman to deliver precise fire that incapacitates targets beyond 200 meters is limited by current equipment, training and doctrine.”
“The M855 cartridge has limited effectiveness beyond 200 meters
and therefore requires either an improved cartridge within caliber or the adoption of an improved intermediate power cartridge, which can be adapted to a modified upper receiver group.”
“Ballistics testing since World War I has repeatedly affirmed that an intermediate cartridge between 6.5 and 7-mm is most appropriate for a standard issue rifle.”

Hatcher’s Notebook, Maj. Gen. Julian Hatcher, published 1957, notes that cartridges in the 6-7mm range came very close to adoption in a number of locations before senior officers or wartime demands forced retention or adoption of a 0.3in calibre.
Just for giggles, here is a quote from an official statement, dated 1951:
“The Army is firmly opposed to the adoption of any less effective smaller caliber cartridge for use in either its present rifle or in the new weapons being developed, Any new rifle cartridge must have wound-ing power, penetration performance, and ballistics at least equal to those in use today, Battle experience has proven beyond question the effectiveness of the present rifle and ammunition, and there have been no
changes in comhat tactics that would justify a reduction of rifle caliber and power.”

“A Methodology for Selecting Small Arms Rounds to Meet Military Requirements” Vernon N. Behrns, 1976
“Much competent opinion and considerable evidence indicate that the .224-caliber (5.56mm) round is deficient in energy at “longer ranges,” while the .308-caliber (7.62mm) round has too high a recoil impulse to serve as a common round for the individual rifle and the machine gun.”
It also suggests that the ideal solution lies in the region of between .244 and .273.

Those are the only papers I have on my hard disk. It’s probably worth checking Tony Williams’ page (www.quarry.nildram.co.uk) or his recent post on tank-net (http://www.tank-net.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=38564&p=1050695)
DTIC probably has more, but I thought that those I had already downloaded might carry a little more weight while taking a little less time to review.

Observer
Observer

mr fred, the Soviet intermediate cartridge is the 5.45, an even smaller calibre than the 5.56. It’s used for their new AK-74s.

Fedaykin

Well if you call nearly forty years old new, AK-74 designed 1974 and adopted into service 1978.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Is this what you mean?

““6mm unified” program commenced as an attempt to replace more than a century-old 7,62x54R rifle / machine gun cartridge with more modern round of ammunition, which would provide longer effective range, less weight and recoil, and simpler design of the guns, due to its rimless case design. After significant research, developers at TSNII TochMash produced a 6×49 ‘Unified’ cartridge, which had rimless bottlenecked cartridge made of steel, and was loaded with pointed bullet weighting 5 gram. This cartridge was rather hot-loaded, delivering muzzle velocities in 1100-1150 m/s range (3,600 – 3,770 fps). Weapons, designed for this round, included at least two new sniper rifles and one machine gun, which is described below. It is believed that several 6mm Unified machine guns were built by TSNII TochMash before financial issues, caused by dissolution of the Soviet Union, put the whole “6 mm Unified” program to an end during mid-1990s. According to the manufacturer, the 6mm Unified MG had effective range of up to 1,500 meters and was almost twice as accurate, compared to standard Kalashnikov PKM machine gun.”

http://world.guns.ru/machine/rus/unified-caliber-machine-gun-6-mm-e.html

steve taylor
steve taylor

AKM not AK

Observer
Observer

Fedaykin, so I’m old, sue me. :P

More familiar with their AK-47 series, so the 74 is the “new” one to me.

Jeremy M H

@Mr. Fred

“Going for that means that you do get the very best available, but two guys in your section don’t get a weapon or you can only have twenty rounds each, because you cannot afford it.”

The Type 52 Infantry Man is equipped for but not with a rifle. It is the wave of the future.

Fedaykin

@Observer

Sorry couldn’t resist, I am a bit of an AK spotter and can tell the difference between an AK-47 and a TypeII AK-49. AK-47 are actually incredibly rare and a bit of an AK collectors holy grail. I also regard Kalashnikov as a bit of a fraud and regard his boss Vasilii F. Lyutyi as the true developer of the AK-47 along with a team including the designer Zaitsev. Lyutyi was a very good small arms designer but his job as head of the trials team for TTT3131 meant he was prevented from entering a design, instead he persuaded his prodigy Kalashnikov. The AK-46 submitted for trials was a poorly implemented rip off of the STG44. The picture below shows how unrelated it is to the AK-47, I also include an STG-44 picture as well to show where the influence is:

http://i1012.photobucket.com/albums/af242/novocaine1010/post/ak46disassembled.jpg

http://i1012.photobucket.com/albums/af242/novocaine1010/post/mp44.jpg

The AK-46 failed the trials but Kalashnikov appealed and he was allowed back into Phase 2. There was no way that the AK-46 could be adapted. Instead Lyutyi took the designs for the promising Tula developed Bulkin AB-46 and got the Kalashnikov team with his supervision to redevelop it.

The picture below is of the Bulkin AB-46 that was selected to go onto 2nd phase trials of TTT3131, this is the gun that went up against the AK-46 which technically was rejected:

http://i1012.photobucket.com/albums/af242/novocaine1010/post/2032194.jpg

The AB-46 look familiar to anybody ;-) Remember this is what went up against the AK-46 which is very much derived from the German designed STG44. Now lets have a look at the prototype AK-47, anybody smelling a fish?

http://i1012.photobucket.com/albums/af242/novocaine1010/post/ak47disassembled.jpg

Now both rifles were rejected in Phase II, but then the head of the trials unit made his recommendations for which design had more promise for further development. Now considering the head of the trials unit was Lyutyi and he supervised the rather rapid development of the AK-47 what happened next is no surprise. He appeared before the Scientific technical council in session and stated the AK-47 had more promise for further development over the AB-46.

Whilst the AK and all its derivatives have proven to be superb rifles the deification of Kalashnikov rather grates when you look at the development history of the rifle itself.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@ Mr. fred,

Ahh yes, Ehrharts “Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer”. A lot of the stuff written about Afghanistan and the the 5.56 vs 6-7mm stems from this paper, including a lot of the stuff written by Williams. Before we even get into the nitty gritty of it though, read the title again. “Half Kilometer”. Or in other words, 500 metres and less. Not boding well for the 6-7 crew already. I should also point out that this isn’t a test study, which is what we were looking for, it’s merely a graduate thesis. The Major didn’t actually do any testing to prove or disprove his theories.

Now, we’ve discussed in the past on other threads that rule one, the golden rule of all papers, is? Read the methodology first, because it gives us the most insight into the nature of the paper. Unfortunately Ehrhart doesn’t include his methodology but what he did include were footnotes, as you’d expect. Which is interesting because he mentions “interviews with soldiers” in the paper.

These appear to be the only two sources that back up all the assertions about massive numbers of firefights taking place at 400+ metres.

He then walks into trouble shortly after with; “The incapacitation mechanism of small caliber bullets, such as the 5.56-mm, comes primarily from bullet fragmentation”. Now we’ve been through this sort of thing in the past, but just to reiterate; that statment is incorrect.

If anything there is some evidence to suggest that fragmentation may be detrimental to “lethality”.

This is non-negotiable.

The human body is what it is, and medical science is just that; science. It has no room for opinion or supposition. It’s either true or it’s not, and we know that ‘lethality’ does not work the way that Mr. Ehrhart thinks it does. It is this argument that leads Ehrhart to make the assertion that the 5.56 is only lethal out to 200 metres, because he believes that beyond this the round will not yaw and fragment.

So what we have learnt is that thus far the entire premise of his entire paper is based around opinion and junk science. What makes it more amusing for me those is that one of the other papers he cites as support for his theory about long range engagements and the failures of the 5.56 actually had this to say; “The current M4 is capable of meeting the DM [designated marksman] needs as long as the shooter has the proper skill set.” That source also goes on to stress the immense value that could be derived not from a new weapon system, but simply by issuing soldiers a decent pair of 8x binoculars.

That source goes further though; “It is far less expensive to teach a skill set than to equip shooters with a system they are unable to effectively use because they can’t properly point the rifle and fire it without movement”. The training theme being echoed heavily both throughout the source and Ehrharts own work, something which Phil, Observer and I have been banging on about for a while now.

Ehrhart does do something useful for us though, as he explains away your quote from Hatchers notebook dated 1951; “Despite these reports, the Ordnance Department insisted on a .30 caliber cartridge. They cited the requirement for specialized ammunition such as armor piercing, incendiary and tracer and claimed that these types of rounds would be ineffective in a smaller caliber”

Shortly after this statement he goes on to mention Project SALVO (the one that recommended a 5.56 round), which seems odd given the other statement you quoted; “Ballistics testing since World War I has repeatedly affirmed that an intermediate cartridge between 6.5 and 7-mm is most appropriate for a standard issue rifle”. Perhaps he just forgot about SALVO?

For some reason Ehrhart sees no problem with the fact that the combat tested sources he quoted earlier on completely disagree with most of his repeated assertions. His complete obliviousness (is that a word? Perhaps Ignorance?) of how the human body works and as such how human wounds work is staggering.

For example; “A soldier in the author’s battalion had a negligent discharge with an M249 squad automatic weapon, during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, in a closed space of a building. Poorly instructed, he disassembled the weapon before unloading it and the weapon fired at the cyclic rate, firing approximately 100 rounds. From a distance of three meters, four soldiers where hit in the extremities and none sustained life threatening wounds”

Well, thats because they were hit in the extremities!

Perhaps the best example of this was the Fort Hood shooting in late 2009. The shooter only used his FN Five-Seven pistol, with which he managed to kill 13 and wound 32. Of the thirteen dead, 11 were shot roughly centre in the chest, including two who tried to charge him and were “stopped” with just a few rounds before being pumped on the ground. One other was shot in the stomach and another in the head.

Of the 32 wounded, the bulk were shot in the limbs. There were a few shot in the torso, but mostly these shots were in the edges of the torso and away from vital organs. This result is – fuck me – entirely consistent with everything we already knew about the “lethality” of firearms. Even the shooter himself was eventually shot five times at close range with 9mm rounds, but didn’t go down until he was hit in the spine (he’s now a paraplegic).

dave haine
dave haine

Well…thats that, then

What shall we talk about now?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom

Looking at calibre’s from a non-soldier POV I see the idea behind a single calibre as the best logistical option, but do the compromises, of amount of ammo carried and reduced range/lethality of this middle ground calibre, actually provide a better option to the current 2 calibre setup in terms of logistics.

Stolen from wiki, an infantry section now consists of:

Charlie Fireteam:
Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
Rifleman, armed with an L110A1 5.56mm light machine gun.
Rifleman, armed with an L86A2 5.56mm light support weapon.

Delta Fireteam:
Lance Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
Rifleman, armed with an L110A1 5.56mm light machine gun.
Rifleman, armed with an L86A2 5.56mm light support weapon.

I would change this too:

Charlie Fireteam:
Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
Rifleman, armed with an Mk48 7.62mm light machine gun.
Rifleman, armed with an L129A1 7.62mm marksmen rifle.

Delta Fireteam:
Lance Corporal, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle.
Rifleman, armed with an L85A2 5.56mm rifle with 40mm underslung grenade launcher.
Rifleman, armed with an Mk48 7.62mm light machine gun.
Rifleman, armed with an L129A1 7.62mm marksmen rifle.

This split in calibres will allow each fireteam to both engage at long and short ranges.

wf
wf

@Chris.B

I don’t think anyone is going to contend that 5.56 is somehow better or equivalent than say 6.5 Grendel past 300. The discussion was actually centering as to whether such combat was common enough to justify issuing weapons suitable more generally. Given the we and the US are merrily issuing 7.62 weapons and in the latter case upping chamber pressures suggests that they are not happy with 5.56 as it stands. Why not discuss the options?

mr.fred
mr.fred

Engineer Tom,
Your objective fire team is pretty much what is used in Afghanistan, although with an L110 LMG and an L7 GPMG instead of the two Mk48s. AFAIK.

With the half-and-half setup, the overall ammunition load is about the same as if they were all armed with an intermediate cartridge and three quarters that of an all 5.56mm arrangement.

Chris B.

OK, let’s take a closer look at SALVO:

From “Salvo 1 Rifle Field Experiment” from the ORO, June 1959:

“Earlier ORO study indicated that combat rifles fire would be more effective if hits were increased by causing each trigger pull to fire several bullets (salvo principle). Ammunition designed to fire in this fashion had been fabricated. ”

The tests feature .30 calibre rounds, .224 rounds and a variety of relatively exotic multi-projectile loads.
The summarised findings (i’m typing as I read) are that number of projectiles is key and that fire should be given in automatic over single shot out to 300 yards. This is not really something we see being taught in military small arms usage today, even though the report is quite unequivocal that it is superior.

The description of the firing test is quite amusing. The shooters were subjected to all sort of distractions, including 5000v shocks

The T48 rifle gets a mention (FN FAL) but it’s a little squiffy about what cartridge this is. It ought to be 7.62, and some tables seem to confirm it, but others imply a smaller calibre, and there are outright statements that it is .22 calibre

I’m not entirely sure I agree with the conclusions, given the data. The semi-automatic fire seems to do far better for aimed fire, but is compromised by the conditions and tests where the random element favours the higher number of bullets (spray and pray)

The conclusions are very much in favour of duplex and triplex rounds. We don’t see many of those these days.

Phil

Given the we and the US are merrily issuing 7.62 weapons and in the latter case upping chamber pressures suggests that they are not happy with 5.56 as it stand

No that’s a massive leap. What it means is that we have provided a specialist tool over and above the general purpose weapon for use at the margins, margins made larger by the manner in which we operated in Afghanistan.

There’s a massive difference between issuing specialist tools (nobody has argued 5.56 is perfect, the point is it is a reasonable general purpose round for general purpose infantry who generally fight within the ranges it is effective in) and saying because you issue specialist tools the original tool is shit.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Phil,

But you might issue specialist tools because the original* tool isn’t doing what it should.
It’s of particular concern when the specialist tools are so similar in form and function to what they are replacing/augmenting.

For a parallel, acquiring all the specialist vehicles over the past doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicles they replaced were sh1t, but I don’t think that you would find too many people leaping at the chance to go back to Snatch and Saxon.

* it gets a bit recursive here, because 5.56mm replaced 7.62mm in section as the latter was too large and too heavy to do the job. When we finally get into some serious infantry combat, the 7.62mm comes back as the 5.56mm is too small and light to do the work.

Nick
Nick

The 5.56mm and the 7.62mm rounds have had no testing or development in any rational military sense, they are just accidents of US Army panic and predudice.

The 5.56 is a minor variation of the .222 varmint cartridge for shooting rabbits and foxes introduced in the post war US boom of 1950 by Remington along with the their new rifle Model 721 both designed by Mike Walker to capitalise the demand for a more accurate rifle for shooting varmints than the surplus ex-military rifles available at that time for the homecoming troops. Eugene Stoner developed the AR-15 (later the M16) and he choose to use the .223 Remington, a minor variation of the .222, which became the 5.56. The M16 was chosen by the US Airforce and then Vietnam happened and US Army were caught in a bind as they were being outgunned by the Vietcong in fire fights with the automatic Soviet AK47s firing the intermediate 7.62 x 39mm round, they were stuck with the M14 rifle using the semi- automatic 7.62 x 51mm a full powered round and uncontrollable on full automatic. Understandable panic set in and they grabbed in effect the only option available to them, the fully automatic M16 and the 5.56, as they say the rest is history.

The 7.62 x 51mm round is a shorter version of 30-06 Springfield (7.62 x 63mm) the 06 is signifies the year 1906, a minor variation of the 30-03, developed for the bolt actioned Springfield rifle a US semi-copy of the 1898 Mauser (on which they had to pay royalties to Mauser). Post WW1 the US Army developed the semi-automatic Garand with a .276 round, but such was the mystique the 30-06 Springfield garnered in WW1 the high command insisted on using the 30-06, but it was such a powerful round they had to download it for use in the Garand. A general visiting an ammunition plant noticed the 30-06 being loaded with a lot of fresh air over the propellant and voila the case was shortened from 63 to 51mm and we have the NATO 7.62.

I relate in an earlier post above Back to the Future how post WW11 the US Army had the chance to go with the British/Belgium intermediate round that allows full automatic fire with rifles and effective out to 900 metres, the .280, but as before the US high command insisted nothing but a full powered .30 calibre (7.62×51) would do. So 65 years later US Army high command might be changing their minds and we end up with a doppelganger of the 280 replacing both the 5.56 and the 7.62.

Phil

But you might issue specialist tools because the original* tool isn’t doing what it should.

But it does. The main arguments deployed against it are that it doesn’t have range or stopping power. The stopping power is complete bollocks so that’s 50% of the argument down.

For range, it is useful, as has been argued, within the ranges of the vast majority of fire-fights the average rifleman has been fighting and will participate in in the future. Further out the vast majority of people can’t hit shit with any calibre weapon.

Firing beyond 300-400 metres is a specialist role. It requires either an MG which can produce a beaten zone, or a precision shot weapon with suitably trained specialist personnel because those personnel need to be accurate.

You want to take a specialist tool and make it general issue to general average ability infantry at great cost with regard to mission effectiveness.

Snatch and Saxon were shit though. They were shit because they were used in contexts they were not designed for and were shown to be lemons in that environment. 5.56 has not been shown to be a lemon.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Brass Fetcher’s videos are good for helping to understand what happens when the bullet hits……..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55CkeT7qdtM

mr.fred
mr.fred

Phil,
If the 5.56mm round has the necessary properties to be effective above 300m, then why are the precision rifles and machine guns not also in 5.56mm?
Furthermore, will the 5.56mm round still have the reach that they do now in the next rifle procured by the British Army?

If I wan’t anything in particular with this one, I want to make the general issue tool available to general average infantry sufficiently capable that a specialist tool that does almost, but not quite, exactly the same thing is not necessary. At the very least it ought to be possible to make the specialist tools lighter.

Aaaand onto Salvo 2 field experiments:
Much the same as the first set, the conventional rounds are either .22 or .30. It isn’t clear what the .22 ‘simplex’ actually is other than it fits into an M1 Garand and it was of very poor quality.

An concept occurs in that the duplex and triplex (the latter especially) tend to be longer than the standard round. If you could stand the logistical confusion the intermediate cartridges, with their tendency towards longer bullets, would be able to fit either a long range, high ballistic coefficient, long bullet, or a duplex or triplex load for short ranges where over penetration is a risk but precision is not so much of a requirement.

Phil

These include three gentlemen who needed to fire more than 3 rounds into the chest of an enemy at short range to put them down. It is now routine procedure for many UK and American units to fire 3-5 rounds at an enemy target with 5.56 mm, negating any weight advantage this calibre is supposed to offer.

But that is based on unrealistic expectations of how quick people die. Unless you hit something important, aggressive men just don’t die very fast. It takes a number of seconds for the brain to stop being perfused even if the injury destroys a major blood vessel. It’s basically the same mechanism as fainting, just permanent. They’d have found the same with 7.62mm I’d bet the farm on it.

And it doesn’t negate the weight advantage since as you must know, most ammunition is fired for suppressive effect to allow you to get close enough to kill the enemy who is often ensconced somewhere relatively safe like a trench, ditch or bunker.

I just know that wheat we have now is not an optimal tool.

But it ticks every box. It is effective out to the ranges most fire-fights occur at and out as far as most infantry can reliably shoot. It is light enough so that more can be carried and so it increases the infantry’s effectiveness at suppressing the enemy and thus being able to manoeuvre to kill them or pin them down for HE to smash them. And it is in widespread and common use thus minimising logistical pressures.

Fact is however, even if every infantryman had an uber-rifle or M41A Pulse Rifle, it won’t matter diddly squat unless the remainder of the combined arms and CSS can effectively keep the force in the field and generate and sustain mass. So that alone tells me that spending lots of money on something that is already good enough is a missappropriation of resources in favour of some “hunter-killer’, ‘operator’model of infantry ops.

Phil

Those ballistic gellatine tests are bollocks. Watch a rugby player getting tackled in slow mo and it will look fucked up and wobbly too.

Phil

Then why are the precision rifles and machine guns not also in 5.56mm?

Because there is a requirement to fire further! You know that and nobody has argued there is no such requirement. We have just argued it is not a requirement every infantryman needs to meet because it comes at a cost of weight for no gain. The requirement for a precision weapon at ranges beyond 400 metres is marginal.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Phil

Never said they were definitive. I would venture, using the Monty Counterpunch by Proxy, that such tests are carried out and valued by those who have perhaps greater depth of understanding of the topic than you. And using the Reverse Monty Counterpunch I know you have served and I know your role, still doesn’t make you the ultimate authority on this website who shall not be questioned. I have seen lots of wound tracks in animals and other materials. A good number before you had even touched let alone fired a firearm. We all know the 5.56 is a compromise, we all know in these financially straightened and relatively secure times there is likely to be a change, and we all know if there is changed it will lead by the US. None of that is news. If all we discussed here was the status quo there wouldn’t be much to discuss. TD is currently talking of projects that if implemented would cost far more than replacing every long arm and side arm in UK and refitting Radway Green too. Why do you go post in one of those threads and say TD is wasting his time because it isn’t real? Why don’t you go over to ARRSE and discuss this stuff with the professionals if we civilians are so unworthy?

Phil

Why don’t you go over to ARRSE and discuss this stuff with the professionals if we civilians are so unworthy?

Pleased to see those chips are still on your shoulders x and the butt hurt passive aggressiveness is still going strong too.

I would venture, using the Monty Counterpunch by Proxy, that such tests are carried out and valued by those who have perhaps greater depth of understanding of the topic than you.

I’m sure they have expert knowledge about what bullets do to ballistic gelatine. But I don’t see any blood vessels, I don’t see any cavities and I am yet to meet a man made of ballistic gelatine. And whilst I may not have treated everyone in the world who has been shot I have worked extensively with and absorbed the knowledge of people who have seen between them hundreds if not thousands of GSWs and trauma cases. So I gotstta bit of an idea about how the human body responds to trauma.

That their methods and findings might not be generalisable to another context is a problem across all research.

We all know the 5.56 is a compromise

That’s precisely, 100% the damn point.

mr.fred
mr.fred

More stuff relating to SALVO:
“A Comparison of Proposed Small Arms Systems” Report 1139, Ballistics Research Laboratories, April 1958.
Interestingly, it describes a Modified T48 rifle firing .22 sierra ammunition, which may be the same rifle used in the Salvo 1 trials.

It also details a 50 grain 5.56mm bullet being suitable by means of readily tumbling and penetrating a helmet at 500 yards, provided it was fired with a muzzle velocity of 3300fps (the 20 inch barrel M16 achieves 3100fps, the 14.5 inch barrel M4 achieves 2900fps, although this will be with heavier bullets as well)

Again, only .22 and .30 calibres are considered.

Looking at ORO-T-160, which I think may be the study that kicked off Project SALVO, It is claiming that effective fire from the M1 rifle is within 100 yards only and that the ability to see the enemy is restricted to 300 yards. I do wonder how the prevalence of magnifying optics, rifle sights and electro-optics in the modern army alters this.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

OK this relates to handguns, but I read a report in the late 80s by an American cop, who got his PhD on handgun/bullet/calibre effectiveness. He had done a favour for a coroner, so was allowed to sit in on shooting autopsies + he got to read all the police reports. Over 100+ shootings, he came to the conclusion, that to survive a gunfight, the most important factor was bullet placement, then the will to survive, then third was the calibre/bullet type. So yes, agreed that calibre is number three on the list, but that does not mean it counts for nothing.
Britain was broke in the 1950s. We had vast numbers of .303 rifles/LMG/machineguns from two world wars, yet we still found the money to (slowly) change to 7.62, even though the .303 & 7.62 are pretty close in power.

Observer
Observer

mr fred, there ARE 5.56 DMRs and MGs that use 5.56. Operationally, they are employed differently from the assault rifle norm, but that is not the point. The real point is that the 5.56 IS effective past 400m IF you use the right platform and tactics (walking beaten zones on SAWs). This would mean that the round IS effective and that it is the platform that is the deciding factor for the equation. You can use a 7.62 NATO with iron sights, I’ll bet it’s not effective past 400m too, not because the round is bad, but because the rifle and visual acuity cannot support accurate fire at that range (eg the old FN FAL). Slap a scope on a 5.56 or 7.62, and accuracy goes way up, hence effective range goes up too.

It’s not “All the bullet’s fault”, look at the platform as well. If the round can deliver lethal effect at that range, it can kill. The 5.56’s lethal at 1.6km max though your firing angle is going to be insanely high. You just have to hit at that range, which means a very very steady hand and an insane scope or an MG’s beaten zone. It’s been a long time, but think it was the (First Clip/Last Brush) concept?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.

@wf,

”That and the purchase of all those M110/L129′s I suppose”

Designed to fill a small niche, hence why only limited numbers were issued. We issue 40mm launchers to our forces, but I don’t see anyone suggesting we should dump all our hand grenades or get rid of all the mortars. See the retention of the 0.5” machine guns alongside GPMG as well for other examples.

”Actually, no, it recommended a flechette firing rifle with an attached grenade launcher.”

What it recommended was the ability to fire multiple rounds in quick succession (see mr. freds post later) but early testing of flechettes proved to be less than spectacular. 5.56 was a test protocol that filled the requirements near perfectly.

”But that and the discussion about Fort Hood all relate to ranges well under 300m, let alone longer than that, so I’m not sure how this is relevant.”

Because it demonstrates the primary types of wounds that lead to fatal casualties, alongside those that don’t. Which is consistent with the decades of practical, scientific data that we possess on fatal wounding characteristics.

”Given the we and the US are merrily issuing 7.62 weapons and in the latter case upping chamber pressures suggests that they are not happy with 5.56 as it stands.”

If they had replaced the entire inventory of 5.56 weapons with 7.62 weapons then you might have been right. As it is, all that shows is that there is a niche that needs filling.

@ mr. fred,

”This is not really something we see being taught in military small arms usage today”

Can’t speak for what is or isn’t taught, but that would highlight a problem with training then, not the weapon system. On the other hand, if you watch some of the helmet cams from Afghanistan many of the soldiers blat away in semi-auto with an effect that must come close to full auto.

”The description of the firing test is quite amusing. The shooters were subjected to all sort of distractions, including 5000v shocks”

I can only surmise that the plan was to recover the cost of the tests by selling the footage to Japan as a game show.

“The semi-automatic fire seems to do far better for aimed fire, but is compromised by the conditions and tests where the random element favours the higher number of bullets (spray and pray)”

Which is exactly what soldiers have been facing in the real world for the last seven decades or more. If you only had one shot, one bullet to make it count, and that was all that mattered, then you’d want the biggest and best performing (ballistically speaking) bullet that you could get your hands on. But the real world and a host of practical concerns intrudes. People are tired, they’re afraid, they’re pumped with adrenaline, they see fleeting targets behind a hedgerow etc.

@ Nick,

”The 5.56mm and the 7.62mm rounds have had no testing or development in any rational military sense, they are just accidents of US Army panic and prejudice.”

So how do you explain the Russians then? What was there excuse for taking on the 5.45?

@ Monty,

”I have had more than 20 people say to my face that they have experienced lethality issues with 5.56 mm ammunition.”

What, just out of interest, was their frame of reference for this? What I mean is, anyone that has had the misfortune of driving a Vauxhall Astra will know that the acceleration is awful, but that only becomes apparent if you’ve driven other cars to compare against. They say they’ve experienced “lethality issues”, what comparator did they judge that against? How many of them have fatally shot someone with another gun/round, which they could compare against?

”These include three gentlemen who needed to fire more than 3 rounds into the chest of an enemy at short range to put them down”

Which is actually fairly routine and mundane in the recorded history of gunfights. There are plenty of people throughout history who would trade you those three shots for their own experiences. The simple fact is that shooting small chunks of lead at a human is not an especially efficient way to kill them.

Now were any of the bodies subject to pathological study? Causing someone to bleed out takes time and it’s entirely possible the first shot was actually fatal. And are you suggesting a 7.62 would have produced a significantly different scenario? If you hit someone in the shoulder with that round it’s really no more likely to deliver an immediately incapacitating blow.

”It is now routine procedure for many UK and American units to fire 3-5 rounds at an enemy target with 5.56 mm, negating any weight advantage this calibre is supposed to offer”

Except that you of all people should know that is a massive misrepresentation of the weight argument.

”Not one soldier I have spoken to has defended 5.56 mm the way you have”

If you look around there are plenty enough people who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan and seem perfectly happy with the round, or at the very least ambivalent. You also appear to be over looking our very own Phil, who last time I checked was defending the 5.56 as being sufficient for what it is.

”Even they admit that 5.56 mm is most effective below 300 metres”

That’s because it is. That’s the general idea behind the round.

”So, your assertion that it can easily be fired to 600 metres is quite frankly baffling, if not downright ridiculous”

Why, because you personally don’t believe it? Well I’m sorry but your opinion is irrelevant. The fact that civilian and military shooters alike have been firing 5.56 out to that distance for years makes it so. As I said earlier, Rob Harbison (had to look up his name) went to a 2012 NRA championship and put up a perfect score in a 600 yard stage firing an M-16 with M855a1 ammo (http://www.pica.army.mil/picatinnypublic/highlights/archive/2012/09-07-12.asp)

Or regarding the same round you have Chief Warrant Officer Daigle of the 101st Airborne who said that; “After being issued the round, testing it on ranges and finally taking it into combat, not a single negative review has followed. I have spoken to TF Bastogne snipers that say they have killed enemy combatants at 700m with this new round. I have personally hit targets on known distance ranges at 600m”.

But if that’s still not enough then I guess you know what they say, seeing is believing. So on that note, an M4 with a 10.5” barrel at @ 600 yards. If you stick with it he switches to a closer camera focus so you can see the target better;

But hey, why stop there? Same gun, same barrel, except now out to 773 yards (that’s a little over 700 metres). Again includes a closer camera angle later on;

”I made the point that when a bullet hits the head or central nervous system, it will usually cause immediate incapacitation.”

Erm, I’m sorry but I (and Phil) have been saying this for a long time now but you have to accept arguments about CNS hits or blood loss.

”The larger that channel is, the more likely it is to cause rapid loss of blood”

Yes and no. In theory, yes. In practice it depends heavily on where you hit. The difference in circumference between a 5.56 channel and a 7.62 channel (assuming a perfect channel shaped like the bullet) is just a few millimetres. The difference in blood loss would be quite marginal.

”Which is why we get a higher instance of ‘through-and-through’ wounds – a bullet passing straight through a target like a syringe causing little tissue damage.”

Again, it’s highly dependent on location. A ‘through and through’ wound that passes right through the Kidney is a very serious wound. Meanwhile a round that hits a rib and fragments (and largely stops) before hitting anything vital is a negative compared to a round with deeper penetration. Later after your post John H made a point about a cop who spent a lot of time hanging around Pathologists. If he’s thinking of the same guy I’m thinking off, that guy actually advocated against hollow points on the basis that penetration in humans is a lot less than it is in ballistic gelatin, and having a round that stays whole and can pass deep into the body is preferable to one that fragments and stops.

”Ask any wound ballistics expert and they’ll tell you the size of the wound channel is important, because it will aid rapid loss of blood”

Only after they’ve informed you about the need to actually hit the target in the first place and then emphasised heavily the importance of location, location, location. The difference in thickness of the wound channel between a 5.56 and a 7.62 is almost irrelevant. Now if you want to talk about the difference between a 5.56 and a 12.5, then we’re going somewhere.

”If it hits an extremity, it may simply pass through muscle tissue without the slightest effect.”

Which is what will happen with any round, until you start getting into the serious sized calibres.

”With 7.62 mm (which also doesn’t yaw reliably) makes an appreciably larger hole, so more often than not will inflict greater danger / cause more rapid loss of blood and so on”

Not appreciably, no. And as I said before, the rate of blood loss increase would be marginal. Two things that might be of interest to you though 1) a wound channel is better than no wound channel, so hitting with a small round is infinitely more effective than missing with a large one, 2) two or three 5.56 channels definitely would cause more rapid blood loss than just one.

”This what people who study wound ballistics for a living say”

It’s funny, because most serious studies focus on location, and have done for a very long time.

Probably the best example of this is knife wounds. Slashing wounds (cutting across the surface, but with little penetration) are nowhere near as problematic as thrusting wounds. Slashing wounds look horrific, blood everywhere, but generally speaking are a long way from being fatal, as the rate of blood loss once the flesh is cut is not really that high, it just looks awful. Thrusting wounds on the other hand pose a much greater risk because they can hit vital organs or slash arteries.

Anyone telling you that the marginal difference between 5 and 6 mm rounds is a huge issue versus location, needs to go back to medical school.

“The US Army is now recognising this”

Accept that nowhere outside of the internet is there this massive debate raging. The US army seems entirely happy with its weapons and rounds.

”I just know that wheat we have now is not an optimal tool”

It’s not supposed to be an optimal tool. Every round will be a compromise. The 5.56 is a compromise towards the shorter ranges where the majority of the engagements take place and where the outcomes are more lethal. The 6-7mm would not be an optimal tool either. Except that now you would be compromising towards the end of the scale where less of the engagements take place and where the outcomes are less lethal.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Looking back at small arms, if the requirement is only effective fire to 300m (dedicated infantry rifle cartridge) with a dedicated machine gun and marksman’s cartridge then you could do both roles with less weight than the current incumbent cartridges through sensible projectile design. The NATO rounds are a little inefficient.

There is an interesting piece by W. F. Owen, published by RUSI in June 2007 where use of modern sub machine guns (FN P90 and H&K MP7) could be substituted in place of the SA80 at a saving of about 3.5kg per man. Would it be a significant loss in capability?

Phil

The NATO rounds are a little inefficient.

But Mr Fred what you have to understand is that battle is not like a business where every drop of efficiency, optimisation and tolerance is beneficial.

All combat is conducted in dramatically sub-optimal circumstances at individual, group and organisational level. Squeezing a little bit of extra efficiency from a cartridge actually results in next to no overall increase in effectiveness because soldiers are just not operating in a context where they can take advantage of it.

It’s a false economy to try and forever optimise infantry combat tools. Average blokes, with average training, shit scared, tired as fuck, filthy, piss wet through, blowing out of their hoop and on their belt buckles trying to find an enemy whose rounds are cracking around his head is not going to be in a position to take advantage of all that money spent to slightly increase the efficiency of his cartridges.

Infantry operate as a system – and the individual rifleman and his personal weapon are ironically one of the least important and easily replaceable assets of war. It makes no sense to spend lots of $$$ to marginally increase efficiency when it won’t be possible for the user to take advantage of it.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Will our average blokes appreciate less weight for his ammunition?
Will it improve logistics if 200 round liners weigh 6kg rather than 8kg?

Various governments spend money on such things as polymer cased ammunition, polymer links, lighter rifles etc.
The UK has spent a fair bit on new optical sights of late. Are they really so much better than the SUSAT?

As for all that money, it’s fairly trivial in the grand scheme of things. If we are recapitalising rifles and if the US are looking at alternative calibres, then it might be sensible to accept that there might be a different calibre in the near future and adopt a rifle that can accommodate it, even if we end up with 5.56mm for the time being.

Phil

Are they really so much better than the SUSAT?

Yes. They have a better aiming reticule and have a wider FOV and you don’t need to adjust the sights for distance. Plus the SUSATs are simply getting old and are radioactive which is a ball-ache.

As I have said, if lighter ammunition can be produced go for it. But otherwise there’s no point.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

“Average blokes, with average training, shit scared, tired as fuck, filthy, piss wet through, blowing out of their hoop and on their belt buckles trying to find an enemy whose rounds are cracking around his head is not going to be in a position to take advantage of all that money spent to slightly increase the efficiency of his cartridges.”

Sure isn’t, because once your infantry is in that situation you have basically lost the fight and are just waiting to be rescued by air power or artillery .

“Infantry operate as a system – and the individual rifleman and his personal weapon are ironically one of the least important and easily replaceable assets of war.”

Depends on the fight I suppose. You might want to think about Goose Green, Tumbledown, Wireless Ridge etc.. The skills, drills and determination of the individual infantrymen won those battles not a system. When it comes to grenade and bayonet range the individual rifleman and his personal weapon is the only factor that matters and are not at all replaceable assets. You could also look at less obvious war-fighting scenarios, say Al-Amarah in Iraq in 2004, squaddies with their personal weapons (including the 2 inch mortar) was all there was.

It is the eternal job of line infantry in war to take and to hold ground. Other arms and weapons systems may act in support and, sometimes, as enablers but when a push comes to a shove it is the squaddie, with his personal weapon, that has to do the job.

Phil

Sure isn’t, because once your infantry is in that situation you have basically lost the fight and are just waiting to be rescued by air power or artillery .

Disagree. That’s the reality of coming under effective enemy fire and if you lost a battle everytime you came under effective enemy fire the Army would have never won a single battle. On ops you’re tired from stagging on and you’re often piss wet through. When you get shot at you get down on your belt buckle. And when you’re attacking you’re hanging out of your hoop the entire time. And most people are scared in that situation. It’s reality. Not losing.

The skills, drills and determination of the individual infantrymen won those battles not a system.

Don’t know why we bothered sending the Para’s and the RMs and a sophisticated task force down there then – by your account we could have just landed some Zulu’s and then sailed back home while they got on with it.

When it comes to grenade and bayonet range the individual rifleman and his personal weapon is the only factor that matters and are not at all replaceable assets.

But combat takes place in a wider context and it’s the big hitters like artillery, logistics, command and control and supporting arms that enable victory. Any other conclusion is just glorification. And infantry are the most replaceable since it takes 6 months to knock out an infantryman good enough to fight yet it takes 12-18 months to train most other arms and services in their basic duties, even in war time.

It is the eternal job of line infantry in war to take and to hold ground. Other arms and weapons systems may act in support and, sometimes, as enablers but when a push comes to a shove it is the squaddie, with his personal weapon, that has to do the job.

That’s like saying an “engine enables a car to move, but when push comes to shove the driver is the one driving the car”. Infantry don’t get anywhere, they don’t even get into theatre with anything more than the clothes on their backs without a logistical tail and they don’t win battles without supporting arms. Infantry operate in a combined arms battlefield.

You could also look at less obvious war-fighting scenarios, say Al-Amarah in Iraq in 2004, squaddies with their personal weapons (including the 2 inch mortar) was all there was.

That’s a very micro-view. The strength of the Romans was not the fighting prowess of their legionnaires. It was the fact that if they lost and their forces in the field were destroyed, they could raise another, and another, and another, and another and keep going on and on. And they could support that force in a manner that made it combat effective for effectively an indefinite time. Their individual combat prowess was more of an offshoot from the way they built and sustained their army (permanent embodiement and the ability to achieve that will result in more professionalism and increased individual skill) than an institutional desire for every legionnaire to be an amazing swordsman.

That’s the reality of war. We are all cogs, the cogs are replaceable at differing levels of availability and are unimportant, you win wars by either destroying all the cogs or ripping apart the system and turning those cogs into ineffective individual or smaller groups of cogs.

steve taylor
steve taylor

mr fred asked “Are they really so much better than the SUSAT?”

Yes. We have gone from rather super to OMG amazing. :)

If only the bit between the sight and the bayonet had been as good as those two components then SA80 would have been altogether OMG amazing. It wasn’t. :(

Observer
Observer

Hurst, it’s not losing. Cold, wet, miserable is a summary of the infantryman’s life. Don’t believe me? Just take a wiff of them after a day’s patrol. You don’t smell your own stink because your nose is numbed on patrol, but once some arsehole takes a shower, your nose wakes up and you start to realise how bad you stink. :)

Phil, was the SUSAT that bad? It’s what 6x zoom? I know you lose peripheral vision with a telescopic and near target focus is impossible, but I thought the magnification was impressive. How did they adjust it so that you don’t have to account for droppage?

As for ammo weight, I often find that the problem isn’t usually weight, it’s ergonomics. If a load is well balanced and resting on your shoulders (spine), it’s rather easy to carry, but once you end up lopsided, it’s very hard to move in and very irritatingly uncomfortable. With all these new idiotic bells and whistles, my last fullpack weighed in at about 50-60kg (conservative estimate). Walking with it was OK. Just don’t sit or lie down, you’ll have a fine time getting up, and once you lose your balancing point with such a heavy load, it’s hard to get it back. In contrast, a 2-3 kg increase in weight around my webbing would hardly be noticeable. Think along the lines of Middle Eastern ladies carrying water in a jug on their heads. As long as the spine is carrying the load, it’s ok. Tilt your head and get a neck kink.

Phil

Phil, was the SUSAT that bad? It’s what 6x zoom? I know you lose peripheral vision with a telescopic and near target focus is impossible, but I thought the magnification was impressive. How did they adjust it so that you don’t have to account for droppage?

SUSAT is awesome – until you look through an ACOG.

The ACOG gives you a wider field of view (you trade less magnification for it but there we go) and the aiming reticule is clear and instinctive (with the red strip thing working) and the elevation graticules are marked on it so you just aim higher or lower. On SUSAT you have to set a drum at the rear of the sight to account for range and the aiming reticule is much more intrusive. As a telescopic sight it works well, but it is a product of its time and the being radioactive thing causes headaches.

Your point about erganomics is another I agree with but I wasn’t going to go there. Infantry carrying magazine fed weapons will still bulk out with lighter rounds – there’s only so many places you can carry magazines and bandoleers and still have freedom of movement.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

@Phil

In the fights I mentioned the “big hitters” as you call them did their bit but it was the infantry that had to go in and actually do the job; with bullet, grenade and, at times, bayonet. There wasn’t another arm of the services that could have replaced the squaddie and got the job done. So, please, don;t lets have any more of the individual infantryman and his personal weapon being the least important and most easily replaceable schtick. What are you going to replace him with?

mr.fred
mr.fred

Phil,

You do know that the ACOG has a tritium element as well? Headaches may be an artefact of the optic design.
SUSAT and ACOG* are both 4 times magnification, but ACOG has a larger field of view.
Of course ACOG isn’t what is going forward – it’s something from Elcan (as was – Raytheon now?) so made in Canada and not subject to annoying export restrictions.

Observer
Observer

Hurst, an army typically has about 200 MBTs/AFVs, and an air force about the same number of planes as compared to a 80,000 man army that the UK is going to. Even assuming only 1/4 of the number is combat vocation soldiers, that is still 100x the amount of other stuff that is used. It’s a very unfortunate truth that it is much much easier to replace an infantryman than a tank or aircraft. Not to say that each life isn’t precious, just that it really is easier to replace a single man in an army than a high end vehicle.

This is also a bit beyond the point of the topic. The infantryman really is not underequipped or issued with defective weapons or ammo (at least not for now), the 5.56 is really an average round with an all across the board average in performance and weight, the “Goldilocks” round as it were, neither too hot nor too cold. Ideal? No way. A decent compromise? Yes. The problem comes when people expect it to be ideal.

As an interesting comparison, how well does the 5.56 compare to the 7.62×36 in lethality? The 7.62S carries 25% energy in a larger round than the 5.56 and even exceeds the 6.5 and 6.8 in energy. Do their lethality effects show an improvement? Or are they the same, which implies that all the theory on energy transfer and calibre size might be barking up the wrong tree? From what I can find, it faces the same problem of “through and through” wounds as the 5.56, so it implies that the 6.5 and 6.8 is going to face the same problem.

Phil

No, it is not boys own stuff. In the fights I mentioned the “big hitters” as you call them did their bit but it was the infantry that had to go in and actually do the job; with bullet, grenade and, at times, bayonet

Who argued that they didn’t? You place them as the most important element – I don’t – all are necessary or nobody would go to the expense of maintaining other arms and services. And they are the most easily replaceable. Sorry but its fact. You cite Goose Green – I guess you mean that attack that was barely supported and which actually was stalled in front of the enemy with victory coming in an Isandlwahna moment when the Argies just threw in the towel.

What about the later attacks around PS that were properly supported with artillery, air support, NGFS, mortars, Milan and CVRT and where there was the time available to build up some level of ammunition reserves?

What are you going to replace him with?

Err, BCRs…

Phil

@Mr Fred

Yes it seems it does. The sight picture through the ACOG was definitely better.

Yes there’s another sight but I can’t comment I’ve never used it.

Think Defence

OK Chaps, just a quick note

1. Can everyone just chill the fuck out

2. I know this is a subject that often gets heated, not sure why, but it does

3. TD has to be open and friendly, I like the fact that all sorts can pop in with a question or comment, handbags at dawn puts people off

4. Will be going back through the comments and moderating them, its not something I do lightly because to be frank, I have better things to do, but having a read through on this one, I think we can all agree. it needs it

EDITED TO ADD

After spending half an hour going through this comment thread and removing all the unpleasantness what I see now if a bloody great thread with clearly knowledgeable people indulging in a spot of intellectual cut and thrust

Hat doffed chaps

Elm Creek Smith
Elm Creek Smith

John C. Garand’s T1E2 rifle in .276 Pedersen was the close to the same weight and about the same size as the M1903 Springfield rifles and held 10 rounds in the “en bloc” clip. He also developed a .30-’06 version that was a 2 pounds heavier and only held 8 rounds in the “en bloc” clip. There is no reason to believe that the smaller caliber rifle wouldn’t have been a great success if it had been adopted. Unfortunately, the Ordnance Department which had sponsored the tests that Garand’s .276 Pedersen rifle won hadn’t counted on the Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur who in 1932 ordered that the .276 Pedersen caliber be abandoned because the United States Army was working through about 2,000,000,000 rounds of .30 M1906 ammo left over from the Great War with growing stocks of .30 M1 Ball ammo, and he wasn’t going to change calibers over a little thing like the weight of an infantry rifle. What kind of man would quibble over a lousy two pounds plus the added weight of the larger ammunition?

Alistair
Alistair

What about the 6.25mm round that was in a necked-down .280 case? It was seen as the ‘optimum solution’ in the caliber tests during the 70s and could maintain similar penetrating power out to 600 meters as the 7.62.

Kent
Kent

I just think it’s a shame that the poor American infantrymen that hit the beaches in Normandy on June 6, 1944, were so poorly armed with their M1 Garands, Browning BARs, and M1919 LMGs in .30-06 Gov’t, their M1 Carbines in .30 Car, their submachine guns and pistols in .45 ACP. How they managed to carry all that heavy, overpowered/underpowered ammunition with those clunky, useless firearms and fight is just remarkable, isn’t it? It’s just a wonder that we won the war… End sarcasm.

I wonder how the Taliban would rate against an experienced World War 2 infantry battalion like, say, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, XVIIIth Airborne Corps?

Chuck
Chuck

If anything shows how little has changed. .30-06 is pretty comparable ballisticly to modern NATO 7.62×51 and .30 car to modern Russian 7.62×39.

Terry vs 2nd Batt? If they had to hold all of Helmand like a roughly equivalent number of British troops did they’d get mullered to the point they’d ask to go back to France. If somehow you force a WW2 pitched fight then they’d win handily. Would be my assessment.

Observer
Observer

Kent, my gut call would be not much different from current situation. The problem was not with equipment, it is with the long range hit and run tactics, IEDs and ambushes and the inability to differentiate a hostile from a civy until he whips out a weapon.

Kent
Kent

@Chuck, @Observer – Shows what happens when there is no national will to win a fight. Same thing happened in Vietnam when higher became obsessed with “body count” and not with securing and holding the ground.

mr.fred
mr.fred

Kent,
I wonder what your point is.?
Should we revert to the weapons we fought the second world war with, because that’s the last time the US army was successful? ;)
I rather suspect that, given freedom of operation on either side, the Taliban would wipe the Paras out, simply by outnumbering them rather handily.

Kent
Kent

@mr.fred – During my 20+ years in the US Army, I kept hearing about making weapons and ammo lighter to “lessen the infantryman’s load,” while they kept increasing all the crap that they were supposed to carry. And, after making weapons and ammo lighter, some of the troops complained about the “ineffectiveness” of the new weapons/ammo “system.” Inertia is a terrible mistress. I’ve pointed out earlier that the M-1Garand was originally designed to be a 10-shot .276 Pedersen instead of an 8-shot .30-06 but was issued as the latter because there were billions of rounds of .30-06 ammo in the inventory.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Kent, that was a good point (to remind us all) and ordered by no lesser a man than marshall Marshall
… I guess he was busily trying to cobble together an army that could fight a war – or two, if you take the American perspective. Asia-PAC and Europe. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But we are not in that situation now? Except for the”pivot” but that really does not affect the infantryman level of thinking, (about kit).

Phil

I rather suspect that, given freedom of operation on either side, the Taliban would wipe the Paras out, simply by outnumbering them rather handily.

Then you operate under a misunderstanding about how big the “insurgency” in Afghanistan was / is. There were never large numbers of the insurgent – just a constant flow.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Phil,

I agree. The big question is who paid for them to be kept supplied, not just the wages.

Of course the answer is not circulated much, because that money is too much a merry-goround for political convenience.

Kent
Kent

@ACC – General Douglas MacArthur was the Army Chief of Staff that made the M1 Garand decision in 1932. :D

mr.fred
mr.fred

Phil,
By my count, if one tenth of one percent of the population of Helmand were insurgents, they would outnumber a single US parachute battalion by more than two to one. (1400 vs.just shy of 600 for a 1944 parachute battalion at full strength)

Of course if we let that single battalion have support units, air support, or only assigned them to a relatively small area, it would be different.

If you want to break it down to a Garand to an M4 in Afghanistan I suspect many soldiers would probably favour an Garand. I would imagine that many servicemen would prefer an M249 to a BAR in the squad.

However, old weapons wear out and need to be replaced. When you replace them you might as well look at the calibre, as those stocks that seem to get in the way do seem to run out fairly quickly, so it isn’t really a valid reason not to. The advantage you would get from a different cartridge would never be huge, but it’s all about playing the percentages and leveraging what you can get.

One thing that you do seem to see with the modern lightweight cartridges is the sort of fire discipline (or lack thereof) that would stun a WW2 soldier.

Phil

By my count, if one tenth of one percent of the population of Helmand were insurgents, they would outnumber a single US parachute battalion by more than two to one. (1400 vs.just shy of 600 for a 1944 parachute battalion at full strength)

They weren’t though. At least not at one time.

You’d be surprised how much trouble quite small bands of blokes were causing, especially when they were being replaced steadily.

Not to mention you’d need at least 3:1 to even begin to think about over-running even an isolated WWII battalion in defensive positions.

I suspect many soldiers would probably favour an Garand

Until the novelty wore off or until they ran out of ammunition.

Ask yourself this: would WWII have turned out any differently at all if one of the main belligerents had adopted a lighter or heavier cartridge for their small arms?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Now I can understand the decision better:
“MacArthur was the Army Chief of Staff that made the M1 Garand decision in 1932.”

mr.fred
mr.fred

Phil,
Would WW2 have turned out differently if one of the armies had chosen a different cartridge? It’s possible, but difficult, if not impossible, to predict.
While it seems like small fry to the ebb and flow of the much larger conflict, turning points can be based on very small happenstance. A section has enough ammunition rather than running out and being forced back, a unit can engage the enemy at slightly longer range, or suffer fewer losses clearing a town and so resist the counter-attack. All these sort of things can depend on such small factors.
Then there is the strategic side – savings in strategic materials or material costs can result in using smaller rounds, using larger rounds might make an intermediate class of weapons unnecessary, or force the opposition into an impractical design loop.

You ask me why, I ask why not?

Kent
Kent

@Phil – “I suspect many soldiers would probably favour an Garand (mr.fred)

Until the novelty wore off or until they ran out of ammunition.”

There were Marines in Vietnam that resisted the M16 and refused to turn in their M14s. M14s that were withdrawn and placed in storage were pulled out of storage and issued to Marine, SF, and regular infantry units as DMRs/EMRs (M39) once the need was established in Iraq and Afghanistan with many restocked using the SAGE system. Seems those Marines were just ahead of their time.

Observer
Observer

Kent, how would being more gung ho in Afghanistan “win” you the “war”? You can hold all the ground you want, your enemy is living within your zone of control, so what is the point? The problem was always about target ID, not area domination, you can hold a town, but your enemy looks like a normal civilian, so he can simply walk around your “occupied” town provided he doesn’t do anything too obvious. If the Taliban were so kind as to wear uniforms and form up into units and armies for you to shoot at, it would be a slam dunk. Problem is that they are not so kind, so even if you gave your men hand held automatic grenade launchers capable of mincing whole squads, they still can’t use all that firepower because they can’t tell the enemy from the civilians.

BTW, the M-14 wasn’t the only 7.62 system, there was also the FN FAL, so a proper appreciation of the whole class might require a comparison in operational characteristics of both the FN FAL and the M-14 vs other 5.56 systems.

Chuck
Chuck

RE: being ‘gung ho’;

There’s plenty of Afghan villagers who never met a single NATO soldier or did only once. Many thought and still do that the forces they saw occasionally in the distance or overhead were Russians, which should tell you everything you need to know about our penetration into and control of the land.

Entire provinces were ignored for years on end.

Holding towns proved highly effective when it was done, though most towns that were captured were usually ceded due to lack of forces. PID becomes much easier once you recognise the locals, pattern of life and so on.

Most engagements ended in NATO retreat, mainly due to poor/over extended logistics and at many points ROE was not to pursue due to IED threat.

The borders were never secured, not even close.

The Taliban maintained full freedom of movement for the duration.

When the Taliban were at their lowest ebb, we started a whole other war and gave them time to recover.

The Taliban’s cash flow the poppy was never targeted.

The thought that the Taliban were a small band is nonsense. Fighting strength is regularly estimated over 50k nowadays and claimed much higher. Not to mention, tens of thousands of available mercenaries, non combat support and many ten’s thousands more fighters from IMU, AQ, the Haqqani network, Chechen’s and miscellaneous local warlords/dealers. An honest accounting of all hostile elements would lead quickly to the conclusion that NATO rarely held any significant numerical advantage in Afghanistan and certainly does not today.

They maintain this after over 50k killed.

The Taliban had widespread Pakistani governmental support, including Pakistani military in leadership and advice roles. Along with further support from the Persian Gulf region, neither was effectively targeted for political reasons.

This is just what I can think of off the top of my head before 6 in the morning. Overall, The thing to understand. The Taliban are not a small scale insurgency but a large scale military force intent on taking and holding ground. Yes they used asymmetric tactics to good effect but when they succeeded they set up local governments with clearly marked local HQ’s, signs, flag’s and all. They might be continually diminutized by the western media and NATO but this is propaganda not reality.

Admission of this reality in the west would cost elections and force an escalation that is entirely politically untenable. The best evidence of this is the fact that the current plan is to withdraw with minimal casualties and negotiate peace, not prosecute the war to conclusion, by the end of this year this will likely be concluded with only minimal forces left behind as ‘advisor’s’. Give it a few more and the Taliban will have retaken most of what they have lost. It will take them longer to retake Kabul and may they choose to do so politically rather than militarily, but retake it they will.

As much as it pains me to say it. We have been defeated.

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