View Full Version : Equipment performance in Iraq

15 Jan 04,, 21:00

The following units were interviewed:

• HHC/1-187 IN, 101st ABN (5 MAY)
• 2d BCT, 82d ABN (6-7 and 10 MAY)
o 3-325 PIR (7 MAY)
o 2-325 PIR (7 MAY)
o 3-7 CAV (8 MAY)
o FSB (8 MAY)
• 1st BCT, 3 ID (9 MAY)
o 3-69 AR (9 MAY)

9mm: There was general dissatisfaction with this weapon. First and foremost, soldiers do not feel it possesses sufficient stopping power. They desire a modification to allow for more accurate firing during limited visibility – tritium on the sight posts was a specific recommendation. The 9mm magazine performed very poorly. Soldiers were stretching the spring in order to provide sufficient force to feed rounds into the chamber. Soldiers were not satisfied with the guidance from higher to not stretch the spring and only load 10 rounds in the 15 round magazine.

M4: Soldiers were very satisfied with this weapon. It performed well in a demanding environment especially given the rail system and accompanying sensors and optics. As one Brigade Commander said “The M4 with PEQ and PAC provided overmatch over our threat equipped with AK47s and RPGs.” The general consensus is that every rifleman wants the M4 vice the M16A2.

The most significant negative comment was reference the M4’s range. In the desert, there were times were soldiers needed to assault a building that may be 500 + meters distant across open terrain. They did not feel the M4 provided effective fire at that range. The 82d Airborne soldiers wished they had deployed with M14’s at the squad level as the 101st did.

There is also a significant safety issue that bears further investigation. Apparently when the M4 selector is in the “Safe” position and the bolt is allowed to ride forward, the firing pin still makes contact with the bullet primer. A CSM in the 101st related a story of a soldier who had an accidental discharge while his weapon was in the safe position – the CSM personally witnessed this incident. Numerous soldiers showed us bullets in their magazines that had small dents in the primer. There may be a “Safety of Use” message out on this issue but it is not well known at the battalion-and-below level.

M203: Again, very positive comments on this weapon. Many soldiers felt this was the weapon of choice for combat. Unfortunately, we are not able to realize the benefits of this capability in training. Soldiers did feel, however, that the safety is too unreliable to carry a round in the chamber. Some mentioned the need for a buckshot-type round.

M249 SAW: Overall positive comments on this weapon. It provided the requisite firepower at the squad level as intended. The short barrel and forward pistol grip allowed for very effective use of the SAW in urban terrain. Soldiers requested a better stowage position for the bipod legs. The legs interfered with the attachment of the forward pistol grip. If a pistol grip was attached and the legs were down, the legs made movement in the restrictive urban terrain difficult. Additionally, the soft ammo pouches are great improvements over the plastic ammo canister. However, the 100-round pouch performed much better than the 200-round pouch. There is a design flaw that allows the ammo to get tangled in the 200-round pouch.

M240B: Soldiers have great confidence in this weapon. Again, the vast majority of comments were positive. Most negative comments were relative to the AG’s load. Soldiers recommended fabricating the tripod out of a lighter material. The AG bag is not integrated into the remainder of the MOLLE and, therefore, is not easily carried. Additionally, the nylon bag melts when it comes in contact with a hot barrel. Other suggestions included adding collapsible bipod legs like the SAW, wiring down the heat shields and an ammunition carrying system to carry 300-400 linked rounds.

Shotgun: This was a very useful addition to the MTOE. The shotguns were used mainly as ballistic breachers. Therefore, soldiers felt the length could be greatly shortened. They removed the stock and local purchased pistol grips and would have preferred a “sawed-off” configuration.

XM107: The Barrett 50 cal Sniper Rifle may have been the most useful piece of equipment for the urban fight – especially for our light fighters. The XM107 was used to engage both vehicular and personnel targets out to 1400 meters. Soldiers not only appreciated the range and accuracy but also the target effect. Leaders and scouts viewed the effect of the 50 cal round as a combat multiplier due to the psychological impact on other combatants that viewed the destruction of the target. The most pervasive negative comment was that snipers felt the Leopold Sight was inadequate for the weapon – that it was not ballistically matched. It the sight was zeroed for 500, 1000 and 1500 meters, soldiers did not feel confident in their ability to engage targets at the “between” distances (e.g. 1300 m). Snipers felt there were better sights available for this weapon such as the Swarovski. Sniper team spotters felt the tripod for the Leopold Spotter Scope could be better designed. COL Bray, Commander, 2d BCT, 82d Airborne Division supported an Operational Needs Statement for a Sniper Sight that would allow the sniper to identify targets as combatants or non-combatants out to 2000m.

M2: The M2 50 cal still receives great praise. It performed exceptionally well in this harsh environment. Soldiers did mention that the vehicular mount had too much play for accurate fire and that the large ammo box made it difficult to effectively manipulate the weapon.

Close Combat Optic: Soldiers appreciate this equipment also. Many commented that the new design/battery was a vast improvement over the previous CCO. Negative comments were on the honeycomb attachment which was difficult to clean and its ability to hold a zero. A suggested design change was to fix the CCO about its axis within the half-moon spacer. Currently the CCO can rotate within the mount. This does not effect the accuracy of the sight but, if the CCO is not oriented properly when the soldier zeroes, his left-right and up-down adjustments will be on a cant. A simple tongue and groove design modification would fix the CCO from rotating. Bore sighting the weapon’s sensors and optics has been fully accepted. We heard anecdotal evidence of soldiers hitting 40/40 day and 32/40 at night with optics in training. Soldiers are purchasing Bullet Boresights from AccuSite. The borelight fits in the chamber of the weapon. This eliminates the steps required to boresight the borelight to the weapon.

ACOG: Many soldiers expressed a preference for the ACOG over the CCO because of its magnification and no need for batteries.

Lubricant: Soldiers provided consistent comments that CLP was not a good choice for weapon’s maintenance in this environment. The sand is a fine as talcum powder here. The CLP attracted the sand to the weapon. Soldiers considered a product called MiliTec to be a much better solution for lubricating individual and crew-served weapons.

Interceptor Body Armor: Soldiers have great confidence in their body armor. As one battalion commander stated “soldiers felt comfortable ‘trolling for contact’ because they felt their body armor provided sufficient protection.” There were numerous comments about comfort and weight but, in general, comments were positive. The comfort comments dealt mainly with maneuverability. Soldiers indicated that it was difficult to maintain a good prone firing position while wearing the IBA with plates. Their Kevlar interfered with the back of the vest and it was difficult to keep your head up while prone. Also, the plates made it difficult to seat the stock of the weapon into the shoulder as soldiers are trained. The foam impact pad in the airborne soldier’s Kevlar further exacerbated the problem of contact between Kevlar and vest. Most importantly however, is the performance demonstrated by the IBA during the operation. There were numerous examples of impacts that could have been fatal that resulted in minor or no injury to the soldier. Other soldiers in A/3-69 AR made fun of the loader above because he wore an IBA inside the turret of an M1 until he was hit in the chest and survived. Vehicle crewman expressed a desire for similar protection. Some of the soldiers we interviewed said IBA was suitable for the turret. Others said it was not. Due to the nature of the threat, M1 and M2 crews spent a significant amount of time exposed in the hatches, engaging dismounted enemy around their vehicles, as they pushed through. Vehicle crewmen took it upon themselves to modify their issued Spall Vest to increase the protection. One crewman in 3-7 CAV took the protective pads from three different spall vests and put them into one. The soldiers in 3-69 AR found they could put IBA SAPI plates into the spall vest.

Combat Identification: Commanders expressed a need for thermal and IR recognition features for the uniform. The “bat wing” configuration for the helmet worked well because it was less prone to fall off. All soldiers had a small patch of Velcro on their left sleeve for glint tape – we should consider adding this feature to future combat uniforms. Another suggestion was to embed the recognition tape into the fabric of the helmet cover and uniform sleeve.

AN/PVS-14: We received mainly positive comments about these NVGs for units that had them. In general, soldiers agree that they are a vast improvement both in terms of comfort and performance over the PVS-7 variants. The negative comments revolved around the helmet mount and the battery compartment. The swing arm and the detent button on the mount were frequent points of failure. Soldiers recommended constructing these components of a sturdier material. The battery compartment cover fails frequently and requires the entire sight to be turned in. Soldiers recommended a separate battery case possibly to reduce the cost of repair.

Squad Communications: Based on the feedback, I believe this is the area that requires the greatest attention by the Acquisition community. Soldiers have no confidence in the ICOM radios. The range was unsatisfactory. Everyone had a Motorola-type hand-held radio that had vastly better range and power performance. Soldiers purchased handsets and longer antennas for their ICOM radios. Whether mechanized or light, communications at the squad level is problematic. Mechanized leaders told us they needed a way for squads to communicate back to the platforms and with each other once they dismounted. Light leaders had the same concern with communicating with geographically separated squads operating independently in urban terrain. Soldiers had MBITR radios at company and platoon level. They feel the MBITR is a good solution for the squad but could be lighter/smaller.

Boots: Soldiers were generally dissatisfied with the performance of the Desert Combat Boot. The soles were too soft and were easily damaged by the terrain.

Camelback: Everyone agrees that the camelback-type hydration system is the way to go. Soldiers stopped even using their 1 qt canteens once the NBC threat subsided. However, the camelback variant that we distributed to the 82d was not rugged enough. The most common comment was that bladders ruptured easily with no way to exchange them. Soldiers’ personal experience with camelbacks they’ve purchased is much better. It seems either we purchased a lower quality version or we received a bad lot. Camelback also offers an NBC variant now that should be considered for future purchases.

Magazines: Soldiers carried as many as 15 magazines with them for this operation. They local purchased two items to facilitate their ability to manage this amount of ammunition. They purchased several commercial variants of devices to allow for quick magazine changes such as the Readymag product pictured below. They also purchased commercial bandoleers for wear of additional magazines on the chest and upper leg.

Multi-Tool: Unanimously positive comments about the Gerber multi-tool (leatherman) provided with the rapid fielding initiative. The multi-tool may be the new bayonet. Very few soldiers carried a bayonet unless required to by unit SOP.

Neck Gator: Many light soldiers told us that this was the single best piece of gear for the desert environment. Unfortunately, it is not flame retardant so the vehicle crewman cannot use it.

MOLLE: Overall, the soldiers appreciate the design and intent of the MOLLE system and view it as a vast improvement over its predecessors. In general, soldiers are attaching pouches directly to the IBA and not using the FLC. The exception to this rule is with the M203 and SAW gunners. If these soldiers are taken out of action for some reason, it is not reasonable to transfer their ammunition to another soldier given the different sizes of the IBAs. In order to keep the key weapons systems manned, the vest is transferred to another soldier. Soldiers asked that the surface of the IBA have as many loops as possible. They even said an x-large IBA should have more loops than a small to take advantage of the greater surface area. According to the soldiers the strengths of the MOLLE system are its flexibility, the sustainment pouches, the repair kit and, in general, the comfort. The soldiers identified several areas for improvement. First, there is general dislike of snaps. They thought Velcro in combination with fast tech-type connectors were better. There is also a connector by a commercial company, Tactical Tailor that soldiers preferred. The 82d did not bring the MOLLE ruck because they have not certified it for airborne operations yet. Soldiers noted that the straps on the Alice ruck, when worn in combination with the IBA, tended to ride out on their shoulders and cut off the circulation to their arms. The MOLLE grenade pouch only accommodates frag grenades. Flash-bang grenades and smoke grenades will not fit. There is also not a pouch for their PVS-14s. They use the corpsman pouch, SAW pouch or MBITR pouch for their NVGs. The assault ruck received many positive comments but many soldiers found it too small and insufficiently durable. They were attempting to carry 60 pounds in the assault ruck. To cope with this they either added sustainment pouches and butt packs to their assault pack or purchased commercial rucks. I personally saw a very large number of Blackhawk black rucksacks used by RTOs and others in lieu of the assault ruck. The message I received was that the need for a sturdy, stand-alone ruck for the assault outweighed the need for a modular component of the MOLLE system. Interestingly, we received no comments on the fact that the MOLLE was woodland green and many soldiers did not have the desert camouflage covers. I assume the paucity of comment was due to the lack of a need for stealth for this operation. However, we need to continue to pursue a common camouflage pattern or field sufficient quantities of camouflage covers.

Top Performers:
• Lethality: The soldiers that employed the XM107 and their leaders had nothing but praise for the accuracy, target effect and tactical advantage provided by this weapon.
• Survivability: A tie between JSLIST and IBA. Clearly both of these systems are on the right design path.
• Mobility: It would be very difficult to get the units to return to the days before the M-Gator…and I wouldn’t want to be the one who tries to take it away.
• Situational Awareness: Our suite of optics and sensors provide an overwhelming tactical advantage against the quality of threat encountered in Iraq.
• Sustainment: The Camelback-type hydration system is clearly what the soldiers desire – just need to emphasize durability.

Top Areas for Improvement:
• Lethality: The pistol system requires greater stopping power, improved magazines and a better holster.
• Survivability: Combat identification still relies on methods and technologies used 10 years ago. Our army is extremely lethal – we rely too greatly on the discipline and skill of our soldiers.
• Mobility: Soldiers can get pretty passionate about boots and socks. Recommend a down-select for boots similar to the one conducted for socks.
• Situational Awareness: Communications at squad and below. The squad radio is currently not a PEO Soldier item but one we can help fix with the Land Warrior program.
• Sustainment: Soldiers still spend too much of their own money to purchase the quality packs, pouches, belts, underwear, socks and gloves they believe they need for mission success and comfort.

17 Jan 04,, 14:15
Problem with the M16 ... Too long, hard getting in/out of things. M4 would be my choice there.

17 Jan 04,, 17:41
Boots: Soldiers were generally dissatisfied with the performance of the Desert Combat Boot. The soles were too soft and were easily damaged by the terrain.
This should be made a #1 priority. Boots have an impact on soldiers morale. If their feet are aching and their boots are falling apart, they're going to be thinking about that while out on patrol.

17 Jan 04,, 21:16
I'd think food is #1.

17 Jan 04,, 21:19
True, but the #1 priority on the list Snipe posted.

17 Jan 04,, 22:12
Ah. I dunno. Knowing your weapon works should the shit hit the fan is also imprtant

18 Jan 04,, 01:25
All weapons on the thread got good reviews except for the 9mm pistol.

18 Jan 04,, 02:21
What we need is more M14's!

18 Jan 04,, 02:23
More M4's :ar15

There are extremely popular. I've read a few stories about the M-16 being to bulky to be used in vehicles such as the Humvee, thus contributing to deaths and injuries that would not have otherwise occurred.

The M4 is 10 inches shorter than the M16A2 and would be an optimal weapon for use in Humvees.