Tag Archives: tanks

Scenes from a Gunnery

Ah, the culmination of a couple of weeks downrange. Pics and commentary courtesy LTC Esli Pitts,  AR, USA, 3/8 CAV

Formerly a lost art, with the end of the war in Iraq and drawdown of heavy forces in Afghanistan, heavy brigades are getting back to tank and Bradley gunnery. It was a rough start, given that many of the tankers had never fired gunnery, or certainly not in their current positions. Having shot our second gunnery within the year, we saw some pretty good results.

Even with the Texas heat, there are few things more satisfying than taking an M1A2 through its paces on a live-fire range. Sure, it is blindingly hot, but face it; there is something cool about things that go boom. The idea that I can put the reticle on a moving plywood target 2200 meters (yeah that is 1.4 miles) away and kill it about a second later is mind-boggling. And fun.

A unit goes to the field for about 2-3 weeks, and at the end, they are lethal tankers. It’s hard work and long hours, but in the end, it is fun. I like to say that we get paid year-round, but the only time we actually earn the check is on the range.

Before you can fire, there are prerequisites. They include a certain level of proficiency in the Advanced Gunnery Training System (AGTS) (way better than the old UCOFT). Additionally, you have to pass Gun Table I and the Gunner’s Skill Test, which include hands-on testing in loading and firing machine guns, loading the main gun (seven seconds to pass, but the real standard is under four seconds), conducting mis-fire procedures, rollover drills, boresighting the tank, etc. There are also a lot of maintenance checks required to get the tanks ready.

Once you meet the pre-reqs, you go to the field and fire the following day and night tables:
-Screening: a lot like zeroing the tank, this is a test to make sure that the tank hits where the computer says it is supposed to hit.
-Gun Table II: Crew Proficiency: This is a dry (or sub-caliber training device) run to make sure the crew can perform their crew duties properly
-Gun Table III / IV: Basic Machine Gun and main gun tables combined.
-GT V: Practice crew qualification. Usually with smaller targets and longer ranges, this is a hard table.
-GT VI: Crew Qualification. (For all of you old guys, yes, this used to be Tank Table VIII, but the HBCT gunnery manual published in 2009 revised all of them.)
Generally every other gunnery, you will progress to tactical tables including:
-GT IX: Section Qualification (two tanks)
-GT XII: Platoon Qualification (four tanks under the control of a Platoon Leader. I generally make GT XII a 72-hour event with tactical tasks as well as gunnery. These are fun, but high-stress for the PL.)

During GT II through GT VI, the crew fires ten engagements, each of which requires the crew to perform different tasks (called Minimum Proficiency Levels) from an offensive or defensive tank during either day or night. Some examples:
-Tank Commander’s engagement with main gun
-“Simo” including TC’s .50 cal, the loader’s M240 and the gunner’s coaxial M240.
-Change of ammunition: Tank target with sabot, then light armor with HEAT
-Change of weapons-system: tank target with main gun then troops with coax machine gun
-Use the Gunner’s Auxiliary Sight
-NBC conditions.

Target ranges vary, with machine gun targets up to 800 meters, and main gun targets out to about 2200 meters (training ammunition is not ballistically matched to service ammunition, so is not accurate much farther than this). The hardest target on my last gunnery was the commander’s engagement of a flank moving tank (about 10 mph) at 2200 meters.

A target is presented for 50 seconds. The crew is scored on how quickly it can kill that target. In the defense, the time to kill does not start until the tank pulls up to fire (i.e. could be hit by the enemy). For example, a target could be exposed for 40 seconds before the tank comes up in the battle position and kills it. If your tank was only up for 5 seconds or so, it would be 100 points. On the other hand, if the target came up and the tank crew immediately came up to fire, but did not fire for 10-15 seconds, the crew loses points with every second they are exposed to the enemy’s fire. In the offense, when you are already exposed, time starts immediately and you must be quick. In 50 seconds, you may have two targets. A third may be presented on a 15 or 20 second delay. This might seem like a long time, but sometimes it takes a lot of time just to find the targets. It takes 70 points to qualify each engagement.

If a crew qualifies seven of ten engagements and scores 700 points or greater, than he is “qualified” as Q1. If he qualifies eight of ten engagements with a score of 800 points or more, than he qualified with a “Superior” rating. And for those that qualify nine (or ten) engagements and score 900 points or more, they have qualified with a “Distinguished” rating. A crew that fails to qualify “Q1” will re-fire engagements until he has qualified 7 of them with 70 points, and is qualified as a “Q2.” This is not good. But it happens.

A change with the M1A2, which is hard for older tankers to get used to, is the extremely abbreviated nature of fire commands now which literally saves seconds with each engagement.

There are lots of traditions associated with tank gunnery. Some good. Some not so good.
-Not changing whatever worked. One former PSG shot every gunnery wearing the same red long underwear regardless of temperatures, and always included his stuffed teddy bear, even after his angry wife once ripped its arm off. I’ve shot every gunnery but my most recent with the same pair of gloves.
-Blessing the tanks. Some units used to to put the tanks on line and have the chaplain bless them.
-No peaches are allowed on the tanks. No one knows why, but that is good enough reason.
-Firing a HEAT round with a roll of toilet paper soaked in flammable fluids placed over the spike. Frowned upon but spectacular.
-Loading a lieutenant’s hat in the breech and firing it. Dumb. Having witnessed this result in a sabot round stuck in the chamber and hours spent freeing it, this is not worth it by any means.
-The earning of the right to wear tanker boots after qualifying.
-Steak and eggs on the range after qualifying.
-Kill rings on the main gun of the tank. One ring for a Q1, two rings for Superior, and 3 rings for Distinguished. Tan tanks get black rings; green tanks get white rings. The top tank gets gold rings.

On the way!

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This is the office on my home-away-from home…

…..

That’s brand new track on the tank. Considering my tank rolls more and farther than any other in the BN, we deserve it! Yes, the fender is damaged from taking the tank into a wooded environment for crew training. Hey, that’s why they are cheap.

New paint job on the CIPs panels: 8th CAV crests. WARHORSE!!!

My crew after I had the distinct honor and privilege of pinning Army Achievement Medals on them for shooting Distinguished. Then, into the tents behind for steak and eggs, and watch some of “The Beast.” Great night.

Just hanging out after the final night run AAR. The paint is barely dry on the crests.

Showing off the kill rings the next morning. Three means we qualified Distinguished. Gold rings would be for the top tank. We weren’t even close to D34 with a 1000 point run.

I am looking at a job in art one day; all of the new artwork was mine… Kill rings and 8th CAV crests.

Gunnery was always a lot of hard work and late nights (and early mornings, as always) but it was also a lot of fun. And shooting stuff was the whole point of being in the combat arms.

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The Challenge of Airborne Armor

Craig’s recent posts on the SPAT and the Ontos build on an earlier post I did on the M551 Sheridan armored vehicle. All these vehicles had a common heritage. They tried to find a practical combination of mobility, firepower, and protection that could give light and airborne forces greater firepower on the battlefield, while still being small enough to be delivered by air.

Weight is always a critical issue for the designers of armored vehicles. But when you need to be able to drop those vehicles by parachute, it is even more critical. There’s a very finite limit on the amount of lifties an airplane can generate, and trying to get a C-130 to lift more than that will only lead to disaster. And there are so few other airlifters in our fleet, designing an armored vehicle that can only be lifted by C-5s or C-17s severely limits its air-drop utility.

This isn’t a new problem. Almost from the very first days of airborne operations, planners have struggled to match the strategic and operational mobility of airborne forces to firepower that was strong enough to keep them from being swept off the battlefield by conventional forces. The very first airborne units in our Army were limited to small arms, machine guns, and some light mortars. They were superbly trained, but would not have lasted long against determined enemy opposition. By D-Day, US Airborne Divisions had some light artillery and some light anti-tank guns, but no real armor. They were restricted by the lifting capacity of the C-47, which was suitable only for troops and bundled cargo, and the gliders of the time, the Waco CG-4 and the British built Horsa. The British also designed the Hamilcar glider to carry a light tank designed specifically for airborne forces, the M22 Locust. The Locust never saw combat with American forces, and only the slightest service with British forces. It was not considered a success.

But the problem of armored firepower for airborne and light forces had not disappeared. It continued to plague planners in the post-war years.

The British 1st Airborne Division had learned the hard way that lightly armed airborne troops could not attack into the face of armored formations. US planners had learned from that, and sought a way to bolster the strength of airborne forces. The results were mixed at best.

Craig did an admirable job of describing the M56 Scorpion which offered good firepower and mobility, but no protection. And he also described the M50 Ontos, which also struggled to find a balance between firepower, mobility and protection. Next in line was the M551 Sheridan. Like the other vehicles mentioned, it was not entirely successful. It wasn’t a complete failure, mind you. But it suffered from the compromises that had to be made to meet very stringent weight requirements.

So it stood for a long time that the Sheridan was the only armor for the airborne forces. Eventually, old age took its toll on the fleet, and the Sheridans were due for a well earned retirement. The question became, what to replace the with? At the same time, the Army was looking to increase its strategic mobility by converting one of its two active cavalry regiments to a lighter formation that could be moved primarily by air. The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment traded in its tanks and Bradleys for lightly armored (and lightly armed) Humvees. This made the unit easier to move, but again, it was pretty light on staying power. The Army took another crack at coming up with an air transportable armored vehicle.

Eventually, after running through a couple different acronyms and the usual program shenanigans, the contractor presented to the Army the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System. It it one of the few vehicles that could honestly be described as a light tank. It was fully tracked, had a 105mm main gun, and was actually fairly small. And it was light enough to be transported and airdropped from C-130 aircraft.

Now, as always, there is the pressure of weight constraints to be balanced against the vehicles vulnerability to anti-armor weapons.  In order to get the M8 weight down to a level that would fit onto a C-130, they had to accept very thin armor, barely enough to stop small arms fire and some artillery fragments. That meant the M8 would be very, very vulnerable to any anti-tank weapons. The solution to that problem was bolt on armor. Normally, any armor on a vehicle actually forms an integral part of the hull, and is part of the load bearing structure. But for the M8, the contractor came up with two additional levels of armor that could be bolted on in the field with simple hand tools, and increase the protection of the vehicles.  For instance, the 82nd might be forced to drop in someplace unpleasant, and to drop, would have to accept the risk of going in with just the lightest armor. But as soon as possible, the additional kits of armor could be flown in and applied. The M8 would never have the level of protection that an M1 Abrams would have, but it would be a good deal better armored than either an M551 or any Humvee.

The development of the M8 was actually fairly smooth (compared to a lot of programs, at least) and the vehicle had just been accepted for service and was just about to be placed in series production when the entire program was cancelled. What happened you ask?

Well, in 1996, the President and the Secretary of Defense told the Army they were going to cut end-strength another 20,000 troops for the Army. The Army was aghast at the cuts, and asked if they could keep some of those troops if they found other savings. And one of the easiest ways to save money was to NOT spend a billion or so on buying the M8. The deal was made.  Eventually, the Sheridans were withdrawn, and the 82nd was without any armor.

With the advent of the Stryker brigade, we’ve seen (and written about) the Stryker MGS or Mobile Gun System. It fulfills much the same role as the M8, but has less armor capability. Nor is the Stryker expected to be airdropped. It is, however, expected to be moved by air, in addition to surface shipping. The same challenges of balancing protection, mobility, and firepower are still with us.

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TUSK

For over 50 years, the US Army had a simple doctrine for using tanks in urban combat-Don’t.

Oh, sure the manuals listed ways to use tanks in cities if you had to, but the emphasis was on avoiding towns and cities. Tanks bring three big assets to a fight- mobility, survivability, and firepower. Fighting in the close terrain of a city sacrifices mobility. And to a certain extent, survivability. Because ranges are so short in cities, and there is a lot of “high ground” readily available on rooftops, and potential ambush points from alleyways and such, tanks can become vulnerable to a lot of short range, man portable anti-tank systems such as RPGs. Reducing two of the three biggest assets of a tank is really changes the risk/reward calculation.

Also, during the Cold War, while the Army focused so much of its intellectual energy on a possible fight in Western Europe, they had a curious inability to honestly address urban warfare. There are few places on earth with as many cities, towns and villages as Western Europe. Yet the Army seemed to think all the fighting would take place outside of town. This in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. After all, the Army had to fight in all those very same cities and town when they defeated Germany in WWII.

In Desert Storm, you could hardly have designed a battlefield that was more suited to the way the Army hoped to fight. No cities,  very few civilians running around, and a mechanized, force on force fight. It’s no surprise the Army was happy to operate in the open desert, and leave the assault on Kuwait City to the Marines and our allies.

But the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent war there were another matter. By necessity, the Army wound up fighting in cities. The learning curve was steep. And city fighting is an infantry intensive form of warfare. Armor was no longer the “Arm of Decision” but another source of supporting fires, much like artillery and close air support.

After a couple years of fighting in cities, tankers started screaming about some of the upgrades their tanks needed to both do their job better, and protect their crews, and reduce the vehicle’s vulnerabilities. Enter the TUSK or Tank Urban Survival Kit.

m1-a2-tusk-kit

Most of these are pretty minor modifications. The tank itself can still perform its regular hot-war mission of blasting other tanks at long range, and running around like crazy in the enemy’s back yard.

The tank/infantry phone is great because the team leader on the ground can tell the tank exactly what he needs. M1s never had it before, because it never made a lot of sense when the Army envisioned battalions of tanks and Bradleys charging across the field at 40 miles an hour. Again, they  didn’t want to hear anybody saying anything heretical like “tanks will find themselves creeping along at 3mph in a city.”

The loader’s shield didn’t make a lot of sense in Western Europe either. You want to keep the profile of a tank as low as reasonably possible. And in a tank battle, the loader is not likely to come under small arms fire very much. Indeed, his weapon was added almost as an afterthought. But in city fighting, having that machine gun is very handy. And since it is, and the ranges are so short, having a shield makes a great deal of sense, even if it does raise the profile somewhat.

Some other components, like the thermal site for the loader’s weapon, and the remote weapon station for the commander, weren’t really practical earlier, or anywhere near cost effective. Now that they are, they’re being added.

The additional armor on the sides and the slat armor on the engine compartment? Well, an RPG is unlikely to destroy an M1 on the side, but it could damage the running gear, and leave it immobile. This solves that problem. And the slat armor addresses the same issue.

Any tankers our there wanna add something?

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The Second Siege of Sadr City: The US Military Vs. Sadr’s Militia

Nothing like a little ‘splodey to start the day.

Sadr  City is one of the infamous slums of Baghdad. Back in my day, the Army had no realistic doctrine for fighting in cities. We paid a little lip service to it, but in reality, tried very hard to avoid it.  Heavy units- mech infantry, and armor, especially tried hard to avoid combat in close terrain like cities. In 7 years in mech units, I never once trained in a built up area.

Reality, however, has a tendency to intrude upon fantasy. The fact is, much of the terrain worth fighting for in large parts of the world in in the cities. American forces fighting in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities quickly learned to adapt the barebones doctrine that existed to the reality on the ground. They used the massive firepower available to them to minimize exposure to enemy fires. They quickly learned how to minimize exposure to enemy anti-armor weapons. And they learned how to integrate the fires of heavy weapons and air support with the agility of dismounted troops.

There’s a huge pool of US troops that are extremely well versed in this most difficult of fighting- city fighting.

**some NSFW langueage**

 

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RPG

Almost every day, we get hits from people looking for information on Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs (well, we get hits for RPG, maybe they’re looking for Role Playing Games?).

We’ve discussed briefly the evolution of handheld anti-tank weapons in US service, and we’ve talked about some of the challenges light armor faces in defeating RPGs.  What we haven’t really discussed is the RPGs themselves.

The Russian experience with handheld anti-tank weapons up through WWII was much like our own.  But after the war, where our Army progressed toward a disposable weapon that every troop could carry, they persisted with a reusable weapon employed by a two man team of gunner and ammo bearer. The first iteration of these post-war RPGs was the RPG-2, which was also known as the B-40. It was an incredibly simple weapon- pretty much just a tube with a trigger.

The round itself was an 82mm HEAT warhead. The rocket motor burned completely before the round even left the tube. It then coasted to the target.

The problem was, this meant the weapon had a very short effective range, only 150m for a stationary target, and less than 100m for a moving target.

The Soviets addressed this shortcoming in their next production model, the RPG-7.

Entering service with the Soviets in 1961, the RPG-7 was an evolution of the RPG-2 concept. It had a somewhat more refined launcher, to include optical sights. It also had a two-stage motor, with a first stage that boosted the grenade out of the launcher, then a sustainer motor that drove it to the target. This gave it a much better effective range, though it was still better to keep the range as short as possible.  The warhead was significantly larger as well, being 105mm in diameter (the effective penetration of a HEAT warhead is a function of its diameter; generally, penetration is 6x the diameter of the warhead).

The RPG-7, in many different variants, has been produced or used by many nations (there’s even a US company that makes it!) and has been used in virtually all wars and insurgencies since its introduction. It is still in use in the Soviet Army, and is still in production. And of course, it has frequently been used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is in use by our allies in the Iraqi Army and the Afghan National Army. It is pretty much ubiquitous.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the RPG-7 is hard pressed to defeat a Bradley or an Abrams, and are hardly a sure thing against a Stryker. But against a Humvee, they are a very dangerous threat. You just can’t armor up a Humvee enough to defeat one.

Nor have the Russians been content to rest on their laurels. While an updated RPG-7 with various warheads is still the standard Russian hand-held anti-tank weapon, they’ve continued development of newer, more potent PRGs. They’ve adopted the RPG-18 and its successors, which is a disposable weapon based very closely on the US M72 LAW. They’ve also deployed the RPG-29, a reusable weapon with updated warheads to defeat modern armor. Hezbollah used the RPG-29 to great effect against Israeli armor in the 2006 war.

The latest in the RPG family is the RPG-32, which is designed with an export market in mind. It has been selected for service by Brazil, Jordan, Mexico and Argentina.

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Filed under Afghanistan, armor, army, guns, infantry, war

ABV

You’ve seen the news about the Battle of Marjah in southern Afghanistan. And you’ve heard that one of the major challenges facing the Marines are mines and IEDs slowing their advance.  Well, one part of the toolkit for the Marines is a vehicle adapted from the M-1 Abrams tank especially to clear minefields. Behold, the Assault Breacher Vehicle, or ABV.

That “comb” on the front of the ABV is a plow to dislodge any landmines or IEDs buried along the ABV’s path. Now, ABVs don’t have a monopoly on plows. Often, one tank in each Abrams platoon (of 4 tanks) will have a plow.

The big boxes on the back of the ABV contain Mine Clearing Line Charges, or MICLICs. The MICLIC consists of a rocket that drags a tube of high explosives through the air then lays them along the intended path, across any suspected minefields. After the charge is emplaced, it is detonated, and the blast pressure from the explosion causes any mines nearby to sympathetically explode.

The Marines like their ABVs, and the Army, which has let its engineering vehicle capability slide, may purchase some as well.

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Bushmaster 30mm Cannon

For about 20 years, the Marines have been working on a replacement for their AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicle.  On the cusp of being put into production is the EFV, or Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

Main armament of the EFV is a 30mm Bushmaster cannon. This is a souped up version of the 25mm M242 Bushmaster on Bradleys.

Ironically, just as the Marines have solved most of the problems they have faced in developing the EFV, it is likely to be cancelled after the latest Quadrennial Defense Review as a cost saving measure.

H/T: MCPO Airdale at the H2.

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South Korean Armor

We are hardly an expert on South Korea, having never been stationed there, and only visiting for a month for Exercise Team Spirit ’87, the annual joint US/South Korean wargames. Still, we found it a fascinating place, and a country that faces some interesting challenges, from a defense standpoint.

South Korea is on a peninsula. It’s only shared border is with its antagonistic neighbor, North Korea. North Korea invaded South Korea in July of 1950. After some truly harrowing fighting, US forces, rushed to the scene, managed to stem the tide, defeat the North Korean People’s Army, and regain lost ground. Disaster struck once again when massive Chinese forces entered the fight on the side of North Korea. Eventually, the lines were stabilized roughly along the 38th Parallel, the original border between North and South. In effect, we were right where we started. US forces have been present on South Korean soil ever since. Still, the South Koreans understand that, ultimately, their security rests on their shoulders. They have made enormous strides in becoming  a democratic nation, and a highly industrialized one at that. A large part of that effort has been devoted to their defense industry.

From a strategic and operational standpoint, S. Korea faces a couple challenges. One, N. Korea has a massive army. It may not be particularly well equipped, but it is huge. And that army has a huge number of tanks and armored personnel carriers. Second, S. Korea isn’t that large a country. There isn’t a hell of a lot of room to maneuver on the strategic or operational scale (as contrasted to the tactical level, say, division and below).  For instance, the capitol, Seoul, is very near the border, in fact, within artillery range of N. Korea.  And being on a narrow peninsula, while it narrows the front you have to defend, and reduces the chances of flanking movements, it also allows the enemy to concentrate, and denies you the opportunity to use flanking movements in the counterattack.

One other thing. Korea is very mountainous. Like, really, really. So if you operate armored vehicles in that terrain, they better have a high horsepower to weight ratio, so they can make it up hills. There’s two ways to increase that ratio- increase the horsepower, or decrease the vehicles weight. Better yet, do both.

The Republic of Korea Army (or ROK Army) is organized along lines roughly similar to the US Army. For many years, it was equipped mostly with US weapons, but S. Korea has long worked at building its own defense industry, both to support its own army, and supply weapons to the international market. Most weapons, while not directly based on US systems, were roughly analogous. For instance, they built the K1 and K1A1 tanks, that bore a familiarity to the US M1 and M1A1 tanks.

As for armored personnel carriers, the ROK army has used a design based on the M113 since the 1980s. It is long been due for replacement. Finally, the Koreans have begun to field a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle, known as the K21 KNIFV (Korean Next-generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle).

One of the most interesting things about the K21 is how they saved weight. The K21 weighs about 26 tons.  In contrast, a Bradley weighs about 33 tons. They are similar size vehicles. How did they save the weight? Well, for one thing, they make the chassis out of fiberglass.  Yeah, fiberglass. Used in conjunction with ceramics and other materials, they can achieve good levels of protection for less weight. It will be interesting to see how it holds up to the stress of service.

As for armament, they’ve gone with a much larger weapon than a Bradley has. Instead of a 25mm autocannon, they’ve gone with a 40mm cannon. This provides a couple options that the 25mm doesn’t. First, most of the tanks it will face are older Soviet designs such as the T-55 and T-62. The APFSDS round of the 40mm can actually penetrate the side armor of these older tanks. Of course, it is fully capable of defeating armored personnel carriers. Also, with 40mm gun, you can have what are called “programmable rounds” where as the round leaves the muzzle the fire control computer sets the fuze of the round to either burst on impact, after a delay, or at a set distance from the muzzle. This is excellent for troops in the open, or for anti-aircraft fire.

The K21 also has a two-round anti-tank missile launcher, similar to the TOW launcher on a Bradley, but firing a domestically produced missile.

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Behind the Iron Curtain

A lot of attention has been paid to the threat IEDs and EFPs pose to Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heavier armor, jamming of cell phone signals, the CROWS weapons mount and “Rhino” countermeasures have all worked to make Humvees more survivable in an IED environment.  Also, moving from Humvees to MRAPs for some missions has increased troop survivability.

Still, IEDs aren’t the only threat Humvees and similar vehicles face. One of the most common weapons on the battlefield is the RPG, or Rocket Propelled Grenade.  An RPG is a pretty simple weapon. It’s basically a HEAT warhead with  a rocket motor to push it along, all fired from a simple tube. Our guys use a similar weapon,  the AT-4, which is a disposable, one shot weapon. The RPG is reloadable.

RPG-7

The RPG is a real threat to light vehicles like Humvees, MRAPs, and even Strykers and Bradleys. Its HEAT warhead can penetrate the armor of just about any armored vehicle short of a main battle tank like the M-1. An RPG hit on a Humvee will often result in death or injury to the entire crew and a catastrophic loss of the vehicle.

So how do you defend a vehicle like the Humvee from RPGs? They are too small to carry explosive reactive armor or an anti-RPG cage. You can’t keep adding additional armor. The chassis just won’t take that much weight.

Well, for a couple decades, the armies of the world have been exploring “active defense” against RPGs (and similar HEAT warheads). Using a radar sensor to detect an incoming round, the active defense would instantly and automatically react to fire a projectile to impact with the warhead.  Two big problems have always existed with this. One, the sensors and controls just haven’t been practical until the recent improvements in electronics. Secondly, having a vehicle that routinely has troops (and innocent bystanders) nearby suddenly start shooting off explosives is kinda unsafe.  Recently, Artis LLC, in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) came up with a system called Iron Curtain that uses a combination of advanced sensors, downward firing countermeasures, and special explosives and projectiles to field a system that can defeat RPG rounds without posing a great risk to dismounted personnel.

The system probably won’t be ready for service for another year or so, but can potentially be a great aid in saving the lives of troops.

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I’m looking forward to this…

Sunday night on the History Channel.

Our Dad missed WWII by about a year, but other family members fought the whole war through (one uncle was at Pearl Harbor) and as a history buff, you just can’t avoid being interested in the war. I’ve seen a goodly amount of the clips in the trailer, but over the course of 10 hours, there’s sure to be plenty of footage that is new to me.

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The Bradley IFV

We love posting YouTube videos. Mostly because it is easier than writing, but also because the truth about a picture being worth a thousand words.

By far the funnest, and most rewarding job I had in the Army was as a Bradley Commander. While life wasn’t exactly like the video (somehow, the videos don’t spend a lot of time showing Brads on the washrack in the winter…), it had its moments. I had a couple pleasant flashbacks to fun on the range and out in the boonies.

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Road Trip

We’ll be out of town the next day or two, so no posting. Sorry.

In the interim, here’s a little something to tide you over. Our best tour in the Army was in the 4th Infantry Division, rising to the position of a section leader for a section of two Bradleys. In garrison, we were responsible for the crews, training, and maintenance of both vehicles. In the field, the Platoon Leader took command of the other Bradley, and we worked as his wingman.  Here’s a good look at some of the firepower and mobility of a Bradley. Lots of nice shots of the 25mm and the TOW missile system.

There’s some obvious Iraq footage, and some from operational units, but a lot of the footage seems to come from the 29th Infantry at Ft. Benning. The 29th is the demonstration unit at the Infantry School. They provide the vehicles for basic training for infantrymen, and troops for young infantry officers at school to practice with. They also periodically provide firepower demonstrations to VIPs to show what the taxpayers are getting for their money.

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Combat Engineering, Marine Corps style

We haven’t given the Engineers much love here, and that’s an unacceptable oversight on our part. Traditionally, Engineers have had three main roles on the battlefield: 1. Mobility; 2. Countermobility; and 3. Force Protection.

Mobility refers to removing or reducing any obstacles the enemy may have placed in the intended path of movement for our forces.  The obvious example would be minefields, though other obstacles may include wire obstacles, anti-tank ditches or abatis, or more frequently, a combination of these.

Countermobility, is of course, just the opposite, placing obstacles to the enemy’s mobility in his path, either to deny a route to him, turn him to a different route, delay him (both for buying time and to make him an easier target) or to channelize him into  terrain that can serve as a kill zone. The same techniques are used.

Force Protection refers to building and improving fighting positions, either for vehicles or for dismounted troops. As a rule of thumb, most units actually had to provide their own positions. I’ve spent many an hour digging a two-man fighting position. But sometimes you get lucky and the engineers were able to help out. As for vehicles, some tanks had a dozer blade, or the unit recovery vehicle had a dozer blade, and could at least start a fighting position for the vehicles. But the best positions are dug by real, honest to goodness bulldozers. There’s always a shortage of bulldozers, and never enough time, so you do what you can. Other force protection measures might include building berms, or filling Hesco barriers to provide protection from small arms fire and artillery and mortar fragments.

Engineers also have the capability to fight as infantry when needed. Normally, this is avoided except in emergencies, as there are always plenty of engineering tasks to do. And there’s damn near always a shortage of engineers to do them. In the Army, typically, engineers in heavy units ride in either M113 APCs or in Stryker vehicles in Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. In the Marines, Engineers are mounted in AAV-7 amphibious vehicles.

That’s fine for most tasks, but sometimes, there’s a need for a more specialized vehicle. In the Marines, one of the specialized vehicles will soon be the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Based on the M-1 Abrams tank, the ABV is designed to breach minefields using the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) and its plow, and to breach roadblocks either with the plow or a dozer blade.

The MICLIC is a string of high explosives dragged in front of the vehicle and across a minefield by means of a modified 5″ rocket. Once in place, the charges are detonated and the blast overpressure detonates any mines in the path. After that, the ABV plows the ground to push aside any mines that were missed by the charge.

There’s a pretty awesome video below the fold showing some of the testing of the ABV, showing the MCLIC in action, how the ABV integrates with the Navy’s amphibious warfare ships the Marines operate from, and just how handy the dozer blade can be clearing a roadblock.  If you ask me, it looks like a lot of the testing was pretty fun.

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Whoa!

Somehow, I don’t think they planned it to go this way….

By the way, kids- Don’t try this at home.

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Here’s a little more “Boom” for you.

It’s a mashup of some footage from Iraq. Most of this looks to be from 2004 or early 2005. There’s some small arms, Bradleys, TOWs, Javelins, AT-4s and 500lb bombs. Interestingly, there’s a brief bit of Blackwater MD530 helicopters.

H/T: Military Videos.

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Bob Gates and the future Army.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came out last month with his proposed cuts in various acquisition programs throughout the DoD. The biggest impact this had on the Army was cutting the vehicle procurement portion of the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) and moving to put most of the networking portion of it on the back burner.

The FCS program was originally designed with two major goals in mind:

First,  to both bring all of the army’s combat brigades into network-centric warfare, where using networks to link all combat elements would speed the flow of information, enhance the mental agility of units, reduce the fog of war, and allow our units to out think and outfight enemies large and small.

The second goal was to replace the Army’s legacy fleet of heavy armored vehicles, such as the M1 Abrams, the M2 Bradley and the M109 howitzer, with fleets of much lighter vehicles that would be easier to transport to the theater of operations, and more agile on the battlefield. An overriding goal of this part of the program was to use a single common set of components for all the vehicles in the fleet.

There are a couple problems with this holistic approach to re-equipping the Army. One, it is technologically very ambitious. Any part of the program that lags behind the anticipated timeline causes almost the whole program to be delayed. And in a program like this, time isn’t just money. It’s a LOT of money.  Second, when the FCS program was started, the Army had one vision of what future missions would likely look like. The primary outlook was one of short duration operations against nation/state actors such as Iraq. To say Desert Storm was the model they were working from would be an oversimplification, but it certainly had a large influence. But events since then have shown some of the limitations of that outlook. The vulnerability of lighter armored vehicles to IED attack took the Army somewhat by surprise. Not totally, mind you, but somewhat. In a war of maneuver against a state level enemy, you might expect to lose some forces to mines and other demolitions, but maneuver would mostly allow you to avoid mines, and your agility on the battlefield would prevent the enemy from having enough advance notice of your movements to emplace very many ambushes. That obviously isn’t the case in a counter-insurgency such as Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan.  When you have to drive through the same neighborhoods on a regular basis, even a fairly dim enemy can figure out where to put mines and IEDs. And given that the FCS goal was for no vehicle heavier than 27 tons,  there was no way to provide enough protection against any but the smallest mines and IEDs.

As a means of testing this concept of a happy middle ground between the heavy Abrams/Bradley force, and light infantry/artillery team, the Army conceived the Interim Brigade Combat Teams.  These are better known as Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, since they are mounted on Stryker vehicles.  The Stryker is a modified version of  a Canadian designed Light Armored Vehicle, but a key part of the vehicle and brigade design is the integration of its networking capabilities.  And it has been quite successful in Iraq. It isn’t invulnerable to IEDs or mines, but the crew survivability is pretty good, and combination of speed, armor and firepower is pretty close to what the Army had hoped for. But even supported by the Mobile Gun System, the Stryker Brigade is a little too light to go on the offense against an armored enemy.

But the attempt to force several different types of vehicles, from tanks to artillery, to infantry carriers to share a common basis has not been successful. The challenges, from keeping weight down, to providing enough armor, to finding a powerful, but lightweight engine, are just too much to form a successful program.

With the demise of the common family of vehicles from the FCS program, the Army will have to stretch the life of its core fleet of Abrams and Bradley vehicles. They are already somewhat old, most of them having been bought in the 1980s, but with proper funding to reset/upgrade their mechanical components and continued improvement of their sensors and networking capabilities, there’s probably enough life left in them to stave off mass obsolescence. And several parts of the FCS program will be integrated into the Army in the future, such as its great emphasis on UAVs, unmanned ground sensors, and perhaps even unmanned ground vehicles.  Certainly, the demand for much greater bandwidth at the tactical level isn’t going to go away, in spite of mounting challenges there (there is only so much of the radio spectrum available). Some technologies, such as the Non-Line of Sight- Launch System are well on their way to being fielded with the Army (and the Navy’s LCS ships will use it as well).

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Even more Dragon Gunnery…

We’ve talked about  the old M47 Dragon anti-tank missile system before, once or twice.  For technology that entered service in 1973, it was pretty impressive. But by the time I fired my first live Dragon in 1991, it was clearly obsolescent.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Dragon had a fairly short range, 1000 meters, which meant that every vehicle with a machine gun had a fair chance of zapping you if you shot at them. And merely breathing heavy could be enough to make you miss the shot. And anyone who’s running around the battlefield is pretty durn likely to be breathing heavy.

Still, in the old M-113 equipped units, it was pretty much the only anti-tank weapon in the company, so you made the best of it that you could. It made somewhat less sense in the M2 Bradley equipped units, since each Bradley has a built in 2-round TOW missile launcher. Even then, each squad had a Dragon sight as part of its equipment. There is missile stowage for spare TOW rounds onboard the Bradley, but you can swap out TOWs for Dragons on a one-for-one basis. Or you can cheat and do like we did in Desert Storm, and load the full load of TOWs and strap a Dragon to the base of the turret basket.

We managed to get through the 4 days of ground combat without having to shoot any Dragons in my company. Normally, we would have turned in excess ammo for storage until the next war. Some, like the small arms ammo, it was easier to just shoot the stuff we had uncrated than to turn it in. But missiles like the TOW are somewhat more expensive than a 5.56mm round. On the other hand, the safety regulations for shipping ammunition, usually by merchant ship, are very stringent. We had tossed all the packaging the missiles all came in. So the word came down that we were authorized to expend them. By that time, almost all my company had actually left southern Iraq and was waiting in Saudi Arabia for a flight home (which would take almost a month).  We had just enough people to move the company’s vehicles, with a couple of us as spares to drive captured Iraqi vehicles. And I was the only qualified Dragon gunner in the bunch.

As a result, after countless “dry-fires” using the simulator, I finally got to fire a live Dragon. And as a bonus, I got to fire it at a real Soviet made armored vehicle (an old MTLB). And I didn’t get to fire just one. I fired all 14 Dragons we had in the company.  By the time I was done, the MTLB looked like Swiss cheeese…

I fired one more live Dragon, a few years later in Colorado. That was fun as well, but I only got to kill a plywood target with that.

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Old School Ordinance.

You know, when I can’t think of anything to write about, or more likely, just don’t feel like writing, I do what every good milblogger does. I steal stuff from John at The Castle.

Interestingly, with the exception of the M2 .50cal, all these weapons have passed from the inventory, but either a direct replacement or an analogous type weapon can still be found in the infantry (for instance, the 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns are long gone, but their role is filled today by the Javelin and TOW missiles.

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HEAT Rounds and Sabots redux

I don’t know why I spent all that time typing about HEAT rounds and sabots when National Geo covered pretty much all the high points in just over two minutes.

H/T: From my position…

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Stupid is as stupid does

Boredom, even in a combat zone, is a real problem in the service. In fact, especially in a combat zone. And while the Army and the rest of our services are highly trained and very competent, they are still mostly a collection of young men and women, who, not surprisingly, act like young men and women. I’m a little hesitant about posting this video, because some of the accidents are real, and people really were hurt, but the bad comes with the good. Not all the incidents are our troops. There’s a few from our allies, and even some showing our adversaries.

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SRAW

We don’t spend a lot of time here talking about the Marines. God knows they do enough of that…

Anyway, there are a couple weapons in the inventory that only the Marines use. One of them is the SRAW, or Short Range Assault Weapon. Originally conceived as a bridge between the AT-4 rocket launcher and the Javelin/TOW anti-tank missile systems, the SRAW has now been modified as a bunker buster. It is relatively light, and yet has a significant warhead size. It also has the great advantage of being safe to fire from inside a builing. You may have noticed that our troops have been doing a lot of fighting in an urban environment lately. One othe advantage is that it has a very short minimum range. Firing from one building to the one across the street is by no means unheard of, so a short minimum range is important.

The video shows both the anti-armor version and the MPV. Because the Marines aren’t facing a lot of tanks these days, all the anti-armor versions have been converted to MPV and foreseeable future production will be the MPV.

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Why? Because we love things that go “BOOM”

H/T: Theo

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The Army and Amphibious Warfare

When you mention the words “amphibious warfare” most people think immediately of the US Marines, and rightly so. But during WWII, the Army invested huge resources into the ability to land on a hostile shore and conduct operations.

There are two general types of amphibious operations: ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore. Ship to shore operations are those in which the landing force is transported to the objective in large, ocean going vessels, then landed via small craft onto the shore. Shore to shore operations take place over relatively short distances, and generally the troops are carried in smaller craft, rather than large transports. Obviously, the anticipated objectives will dictate which approach is taken.

In the late 1930s, with war clouds clearly on the horizon, both the Army and the Marines came to the conclusion that they would need to develop a serious amphibious capability, but they reached different conclusions because of very different assumptions about what type  of war they would be fighting.

For 20 years, the Navy had forseen war with Japan in the Pacific. And the cornerstone of the Navy’s strategy to defeat Japan was to defeat the Japanese fleet in a battle, likely somewhere near the Philipines. Since it would be impractical for the fleet to steam all the way from San Diego or Pearl Harbor and fight in those waters, the need for advanced bases was clear. And the Marines understood that as a consequence of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, any islands that could serve as an advance base would almost certainly be held by the Japanese. That meant the Marines had to be ready to travel the huge distances of the Pacific, land on remote islands, and seize relatively small objectives. For the Marines, this was a raison de etre.

The Army faced a different challenge. The Army had no desire to get into the amphibious warfare business. But watching the rise of Nazi German power, the Army leadership was convinced that sooner or later, they’d have to go fight in Western Europe again. And, unlike 1918, they weren’t at all sure the French ports would be available to land the huge armies planned. After the fall of France in June of 1940, the cold realization came that just to get  the Army to the fight would mean sooner or later, landing somewhere in Western Europe, under the guns of the enemy. And not only would the Army have to land there, they would have to build up their forces and simultaneously supply them over the beaches until a suitable port could be seized. Fortunately for the Army, England was still available as an advance base.

The Army didn’t completely ignore the ship to shore model of amphibious warfare, mostly because they couldn’t. When it became apparent that no cross-Channel operation to invade Europe would be possible in 1942 (mostly because of a lack of landing craft) President Roosevelt made the decision that a front in the Atlantic theater would be opened in North Africa. A combined British and American force would be landed in the French occupied territories of North Africa, then drive east to engage the German forces in  Tunisia. Due to the distances involved, this could only be a ship to shore movement. Many forces sailed from England, but a significant portion sailed all the way from ports on the East Coast of the US. Even against only fitful French and German resistance, the invasion fleet lost five large transports. One of the lessons the Army learned was that transports waiting to discharge their troops and cargoes were extremely vulnerable. In response, the Army wanted to make sure as many ships as possible had the ability to beach themselves to unload, minimizing the reliance on small craft such as the Higgins boat, LCVP, and the LCM.

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

These craft were carried near the objective by transports, and lowered over the side by booms or davits. That took time, time during which the transports, only 5-10 miles offshore, were vulnerable to submarines, airplanes and even coastal artillery.  While they were fairly good for getting the first units of lightly armed troops ashore, they were less efficient at getting ashore the huge numbers of follow-on troops needed, and importantly, the massive numbers of vehicles the troops would need to break out from any beachhead. Further, they just weren’t capable of bringing ashore the cargoes of supplies, fuel and ammunition the troops would need.  Something bigger was needed. And the first of these bigger craft was known as the LCT, or Landing Craft Tank. An LCM3 could carry one tank, barely. An LCT was a much bigger craft and could carry from 3 to 5 tanks. Five was an optimum number, as that was the number of tanks in a platoon, and keeping tactical units together on a landing greatly assisted in the assualt. As you can see from the picture, the LCT was essentially a self-propelled barge with a bow-ramp.

2lctmk5pageThe LCT could easily sail from England to France, or from Mediterranean ports in North Africa to Sicily and Italy. And while it could carry real numbers of tanks, something even better was in the works- the Landing Ship Tank, or LST. Early in the war, espcially as the Allies were first gearing up  for the invasion of North Africa, the Army (and especially the British) realized they had no way of shipping tanks overseas and landing them across beaches in any numbers. The LCT couldn’t handle the voyage, and loading LCMs over the side of a transport was problematic in anything but a flat calm. Worse, tanks kept getting heavier and heavier, faster than the booms on transport ships could grow to handle them. The idea arose of converting vessels originally built to carry rail cars from Florida to Panama as tank carriers. But while they could drive the tanks on at the embarkation point, the problem of discharging them remained. To unload them, the Army would need to seize a port. Indeed, this limitation was precisley why Casablanca was a target of the invasion. Enter the British. They had built a series of very shallow draft tankers to serve the waters around Venezuala. The reasoned that the design could quickly be adapted to build a large vessel that could safely beach itself, unload tanks held in what had formerly been the holds via a ramp in the bow, and then retract itself from the beach. Unlike an LCT, the LST might be ungainly and slow, but it was a real seagoing vessel.

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

While the LST was very valuable in bringing tanks, up to 20 at a time, it turns out the real value was in trucks. The Army in WWII was by far the most mechanized and motorized army in the world. And that meant trucks. Lots of trucks- to move people, supplies, tow guns, you name it. And the LST could carry a lot of trucks, already loaded, both on its tank deck, and on the topsides. And unlike the hassle of unloading a regular transport, all they had to do was drive down a ramp. After making an initial assault, as soon as an LST had discharged its tanks, it would turn around, go back to England (or where ever) and load up on trucks to build up the forces on the beachhead. To say the LST was a success would be a bit of an understatement. The US built roughly 1100 of them during the war for our Navy and the British.

While the LST was great for carrying tanks and trucks, it didn’t do so well at carrying people. One thing the Army really wanted was a small ship that could carry a rifle company from England and land them on the shores of France, non-stop and as a unit. The trick was getting the size just right. It had to be small enough to be built in large numbers, but big enough to cross the Atlantic on its own. It wouldn’t be expected to carry troops across the Atlantic. Those would come across on troopships. But any vessel large enough to do the job would be too large to carry aboard a transport. Pretty soon, the Navy designed and built the Landing Craft Infantry, or LCI. This was a vessel designed almost entirely with the invasion of Normandy in mind. It carried about 200 troops, roughly a reinforced rifle company, for up to 48 hours, which is about the time it took to load and transport them from ports in the Southwest of England and discharge them over the beaches of Normandy.

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

The Army had one other great tool for bringing supplies across the beach. In the days before the LST was available, the only method of getting trucks ashore across the beach was to winch them over the side of  a transport into an LCM. Someone at GM had the bright idea of doing away with the LCM part, and making the truck amphibious. That way, the truck could swim ashore, then drive inland to the supply dumps.  The result was basically a boat hull grafted onto a 2-1/2 ton truck, known as the DUKW, and commonly called a “duck.” Thousands of DUKWs, almost all manned by African American soldiers, brought wave after wave of critical supplies ashore across the beaches of Normandy and at other beaches the Army invaded. Unlike most landing craft, these were bought by, and operated by the Army, not the Navy.

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

Finally, in the Pacific, when you speak of amphibious warfare, again, you rightly think of the Marines. But in fact, the Army had a huge presence there as well. Indeed, it was always a larger prescence than the Marines. The Army made over 100 amphibious assualts in the Pacific theater, many in the Southwest Pacific in and around New Guinea. In conjunction with the US Seventh Fleet, MacArthur’s forces in the Southwest Pacific became masters at the art of amphibious warfare, striking where the Japanese least expected them, and routinely conducting sweeping flanking movements that left Japanese garrisons cut off and useless. Dan Barbey, the Commander of 7th Fleet became known as “Uncle Dan The Amphibious Man.” All this with a fleet mostly composed of tiny LCTs, a few LSTs and LCIs.

The Army also fought alongside the Marine Corps in some of their most storied battles, such as the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa. Indeed, if the atomic bomb attacks had not lead to the early surrender of Japan, the invasion of the home islands would have been mostly  an Army affair. Largely as a result of the Army’s preocupation with the European theater, these magnificent efforts have received little attention from the public at large.

After WWII, the Army’s focus again turned to Europe and the Cold War. For several reasons, including the vulnerability of shipping to nuclear weapons, amphibious operations fell out of favor with the Army. The Marines of course, continued to maintain that unique capabilty. Currently, the Army has no capability to conduct a landing against opposition. Current doctrine does still provide for limited ability to sustain forces by what is known as LOTS or “Logistics Over The Shore” and for the rapid deployment of troop units to hot spots via Afloat Prepositioning Squadrons. Basically, sets of unit equipment are mainained aboard large ships just days sailing from their possible objectives. If needed, they can sail to a friendly port or harbor, and unload their cargoes to meet up with troops flown in by either commercial aircraft or military transport planes. Alternatively, they can serve as a follow-on force to reinforce a beach seized by Marine amphibious assault.

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Pimp my ride

We’ve talked before about how the Humvee isn’t really meant to be a fighting vehicle, even in its up-armored state.  The next obvious question would be, “What does a vehicle designed for fighting look like?” Well, we’ve all heard about the MRAP. But MRAPs have their own problems. They cost a fortune, and are big and heavy, limiting their mobility on the goat trails of Afghanistan, and the narrow alleys in Iraq.

In the 80′s, Army doctrine for a linear battlefield had heavy combat units securing the front line. Units in the rear area were responsible for their own local defense, but the lines of communication were (and supposedly still are) the responsibility of the Military Police. MPs may function as law-enforcement in peacetime, but in a combat situation, their primary focus is on three missions- POW handling, traffic control, and rear area security. The MP Corps wanted a vehicle heavier than the existing Humvee weapons carrier for some situations that needed a little more protection. They looked to the past, found the Cadillac Cage V-100 Commando armored car and had it updated into the M1117  Armored Security Vehicle or ASV.

m1117_armored_security_vehicle

The MP Corps bought about 50 of these in the late 80′s before procurement was switched to up-armored Humvees. Most of the decision to switch was based on cost. An up-armored Humvee only cost about $140,000 while an ASV ran about $700,000. That’s five times the cost. It wasn’t until the IED threat in Iraq became clear that the MPs started to rethink the decision to switch.

But there were still problems. At that price tag, the Army might be able to afford enough ASVs for the MPs, but not for the whole force. Secondly, right about the time the Army decided to restart production, the factory was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. They have finally rebuilt the factory, and are currently looking at buying  just over 2000 ASV’s.

Each ASV carries a three man crew- driver, gunner/commander, and a rear gunner. There’s also space for a 4th passenger. Thus each ASV can carry 4 men, versus 5 in an up-armored Humvee.  The ASV has a small turret carrying a 40mm Mk-19 machine gun and a M2 .50cal machine gun. There’s also a mount for an M249 SAW for the rear gunner.

By using angled armor, applique ceramic plates on the exterior and a kevlar spall liner in the interior, the ASV is designed to withstand fires from .50 cal machine guns and bursts from 155mm artillery shells at 15 meters. They aren’t proofed against RPGs, but most ASVs in Iraq that have been hit with PRGs have come through with few if any casualties to the crew.

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Japanese Armor Bleg

Courtesy of our correspondent in Saipan, here’s a picture of the hulk of a Japanese armored vehicle on the island. My knowledge of WWII Japanese armor would fit into a thimble, so if any of you out there have any insight into the type or history of the vehicle, please let me know. In fact, any insight into armor fighting on Saipan would be welcome.

image001

Little remembered today in most circles, the invasion of Saipan was a huge battle. It was a huge fight against the Japanese, and it led to a battle between the Marines and the Army as well. Suffice for now to say that there were distinct differences in the way the two services approached fighting, and more than one ego was involved. After acrimony involved with the fighting there, it was no surprise that the Army insisted that Okinawa be fought under Army command, not Marine.

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