May 29, 2010

Afghans refuse to destroy old, dangerous ammo

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 28, 2010
Afghanistan’s defense ministry is refusing to destroy more than 6,300 metric tons of old ammunition that is taking up valuable, climate-controlled bunker space needed for new U.S.-funded Afghan security force ordnance, Army Col. Ronald Green said Friday.
Green, the U.S. officer who has worked on the destruction effort over the past 12 months, said he also worries that the Afghan-guarded ammunition — as well as a stockpile of 1.3 million pounds of degraded commercial-grade ammonite in Herat — could be used to fashion roadside bombs if it fell into the wrong hands. And the old ordnance also poses a threat simply resting in place, he said.
“Once propellant becomes old and unstable, it can just cook off by itself,” said Green, who is completing a 12-month tour as director of logistics for Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.
The continued storage of the ammo places Afghan military and civilians as well as coalition forces at risk, Green told reporters during a conference call from Camp Eggers in Kabul.
The Afghan defense ministry also remains out of compliance with a 2006 compact signed in London in which Afghanistan agreed to destroy “all unsafe, unserviceable and surplus” ammunition by the end of 2010 — a task that Green said is physically impossible given the time remaining in the year.
Green said the Afghans simply want to hold onto the ammo, much of it old Soviet stock that includes 35-year-old rocket-propelled grenades and ordnance for obsolete weapons such as the World War II-era T-34 tank.
This is despite repeated entreaties — 75 engagements over the past three years — by senior U.S. military and civilian officials to their Afghan counterparts, including Abdul Rahim Wardak, who heads the defense ministry, and members of the Afghan parliament.
“I just cannot get my head wrapped around this cultural affinity for hoarding,” Green said. “The [defense ministry] believes that this ammunition is good — if it looks good, it is good.
“This is a national treasure in their eyes.”
In an effort to influence the legislators, Green said several members of parliament were recently taken to bunkers in two locations, where they were shown stacks of both old and new ammunition.
During an inventory, the old ordnance had been stacked up “very nicely,” Green said. “The parliamentarians said, ‘This looks very nice.’ ”
Green said he has no evidence that any of the ammunition, stored in bunkers scattered around country, has fallen into enemy hands. But that is a major concern, he added.
“I don’t know if there’s pilferage,” he said. “It’s a situation I would rather not be in.”
Much of the ordnance, he said, is 14.5mm or larger — “prime candidates” for the roadside bombs that have killed 275 U.S. troops in 2009 and 114 so far this year, according to
Green said the U.S. recently has spent more than $1.2 billion on new NATO-compatible ammunition for the Afghan forces, but has no good place to store it.
“Because the old ammo is in bunkers, we’re forced to store the new ammo in substandard storage areas — meaning the climate is not controlled,” he said.
As a result, he said, “the brand-new ammo that we’re buying for them is now degrading faster than it should.”
New bunkers are being built, Green said — $50 million in U.S. funding has been allocated to the task — but it takes 15 to 18 months to build each one.
In addition, record-keeping — critical to tracking the stability and usability of ordnance — is nonexistent, he said.
The U.S., he said, can’t simply act unilaterally to reduce the degraded inventory. “We cannot destroy one ounce of ammo,” he said. “It is all the [defense ministry].”
Two organizations, the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the British nongovernmental war debris disposal organization Halo Trust, have identified at least 25 percent of the Afghan stocks that they say should be destroyed. The groups also have the funding to do so, Green said.
Some of the stocks have been destroyed, he said, but it’s a “very, very small amount.” At the current rate, he said, “we’re looking at around 40 years of destruction time.” If the Afghans would agree to destroy the ammunition according to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact ammunition standards for ordnance service life, the destruction of all 6,325 metric tons could be accomplished in 19 months. “And it wouldn’t cost them a cent,” Green said.
“I have spent many, many an hour trying to get this done,” he said. “And the problem is, there’s people that are in danger.”
Much of his disappointment, he said, lies in his desire to help make the Afghan army more professional.
Professional armies, he said, store ammunition — an army’s “lifeblood,” he called it — using a proper methodology and criteria.
“I’m leaving here frustrated that I haven’t been able to accomplish this,” Green said. “We’ve invested large amounts of energy, time, effort, money and resources, and we just need to make it right.”

May 26, 2010

13 officers fired in cheating scandal

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 25, 2010
Thirteen junior officers were kicked out of the Marine Corps last week after officials uncovered widespread cheating on a land navigation exam.
All 13 were students at The Basic School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., a six-month training course for newly commissioned officers. Eight men — including two former football players from the Naval Academy — and five women were administratively discharged May 20 for allegedly using cheat sheets last fall to help them locate boxes stashed in the woods aboard the base, Marine officials said. Two of the 13 officers were prior enlisted Marines.
The scandal came to light in September after instructors at the school, which teaches new officers how to lead infantry platoons, compared current answer sheets to those used on previous tests. They discovered that several of the Marines’ wrong answers matched correct answers from the old test, Col. George W. Smith Jr., TBS commander, told Marine Corps Times.
The instructors alerted Smith to their findings, and the command launched an investigation days later. Officials determined the Marines had received an answer sheet from a previous exam, although it’s not clear how it was distributed, Smith said.
Smith recommended that all 13 Marines tied to the scam be administratively discharged. That decision, he said, was approved by the commanding generals of Training and Education Command and Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Commandant Gen. James Conway and by Juan Garcia, assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
“The commandant has made it clear that we can tolerate many things, but not integrity violations,” said Lt. Col. Matthew McLaughlin, a Marine spokesman based at the Pentagon. “Personal integrity is the heart of Marine Corps leadership.”
While at TBS, newly commissioned officers learn how to lead an infantry platoon. The curriculum includes 9½ hours of classroom study, where students develop “timeless fundamental skills” such as how to use a protractor and a map to track coordinates, and how to use terrain association to keep from getting lost, said Maj. Jeffrey Landis, a spokesman for TBS.
They then complete 41 hours in the field, which concludes with a final practical examination in which students have seven hours to make their way through 14 square miles of complicated, wooded terrain where they must locate 10 boxes, or ammunition cans. Smith said instructors regularly switch the location of those boxes with hopes of preventing the junior officers from cheating.
Officials declined to release the names of the Marines who were discharged, but former Naval Academy fullback 2nd Lt. Adam Ballard told Marine Corps Times that he is one of the 13. He said the problem is more widespread than the Corps wants people to believe, but that officials found only one answer key, so they didn’t have enough evidence to separate other lieutenants.
Although Ballard plans to fight the ruling, he also admitted he has been talking to the NFL about going pro.
“Everyone has character flaws. I’m not saying what I did was right or should go without punishment,” Ballard said. “I did have a moment of weakness, but I guess I’m facing the consequences of that.”
A source with knowledge of academics at the academy said the former star player finished his four years despite several failed classes and at least one honor code violation — claims Ballard does not deny. He says he sometimes struggled to balance the rigors of academy academics against the demanding schedule of a varsity athlete, adding that the honor code violation was later dropped.
It’s unclear who the second football player is, or what his academic standing was at the academy, but as academy graduates who do not fulfill their service commitments, both will be billed for the cost of their education.
Smith said he is unaware of prior ethical violations among the officers tied to the scandal, saying that did not play into his decision.
“While proficiency with a Lensatic compass is important, their moral compass is of utmost importance to our Corps. Their moral compass must unerringly point to do the right thing at all times. Without that, in my strongest opinion, they don’t have the foundation to continue to serve as Marine leaders,” he said.

Why bother?
Smith said at least one of the lieutenants investigated told officials he didn’t understand the need to learn land navigation skills when technology, such as GPS, could do the work for them.
Apparently, he’s not alone.
The command began checking current answer sheets against older master sheets a few years ago after similar allegations surfaced against a group of warrant officers attending their four-month training course at TBS. Even though there wasn’t enough evidence to support the claims, officials took the allegations seriously.
Sixteen officers were busted in yet another land nav cheating scam in 1995. All 16 received some form of nonjudicial punishment, with nine officers facing formal boards of inquiry because of their level of participation in the scam.
Smith cautioned Marines about taking technology for granted and said land navigation is a vital part of Marine leadership.
“Technology is not infallible,” he said. “At the point of friction, you may not have a GPS signal, yet you are still required as a unit commander to know where your Marines are at all times and to be able to get them to safety.”
Staff writer Philip Ewing contributed to this report.

May 25, 2010

U.S., S. Korea Plan Joint Exercises

By Anne Flaherty - The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday announced plans for two major military exercises off the Korean peninsula in a show of force aimed at North Korea, which has been blamed by investigators for a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship.
The White House called U.S. support for South Korea “unequivocal” and said in a statement that President Obama had directed military commanders to work with the South “to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression.”
North Korean leaders have denied responsibility and warned against any retaliation, but Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday blamed the North for the crisis.
“We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation,” Clinton told reporters in Beijing, where she was to press China to support diplomatic action against its neighbor and ally, North Korea. “This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region.”
U.S. officials hope a united international response, coupled with a display of military might, will deter North Korea’s neo-Stalinist regime from ratcheting up tensions.
An international team of investigators last week blamed the North for the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette, the Cheonan. Forty-six South Koreans died aboard the ship, which investigators say was ripped in two by a torpedo.
The sinking was South Korea’s worst military disaster since the Korean War, which started 60 years ago and ended in a cease-fire in 1953. But no formal peace treaty was ever signed, and more than 28,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in the south, a critical regional ally.
Until Monday, the Obama administration had been intentionally vague on how it might respond to the report blaming North Korea for the attack, out of a reluctance to stoke tensions.
But on Tuesday, the Obama administration shifted gears, taking its cue from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who announced Monday that he would cut all trade with the impoverished North.
A Defense Department spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said the joint U.S.-South Korean exercises would take place in the “near future” and would focus on detecting submarines and monitoring illicit activities.
The Pentagon confirmed the planned exercises are directly tied to the torpedo attack two months ago.
Jeff Breslau, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the U.S. and South Korea conduct more than a dozen military exercises a year. Several typically involve anti-submarine operations and maritime security, he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called the evidence against North Korea “overwhelming and deeply troubling,” and called on the U.N. Security Council to take action.
“I am confident that the council ... will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation,” he said.
But any measure reprimanding North Korea will have to win the approval of all five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, including China. So far, China has sought to maintain a neutral stance and has questioned the evidence against Pyongyang.
But Clinton, in Beijing for trade and strategic talks, said she has discussed the Korean crisis with Chinese officials and China recognizes “the gravity of the situation we face.”
“The Chinese understand the reaction by the South Koreans, and they also understand our unique responsibility for the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” she said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, speaking as the Beijing talks opened, did not mention North Korea by name. But he said the U.S. and China share responsibility for “managing regional hotspots” and “safeguarding world peace and security.”
Speaking later, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, said China hoped “all the relevant parties will exercise restraint and remain coolheaded, appropriately handle issues of concern and prevent escalation of the event.”

Associated Press Writers Matthew Lee and John Heilprin contributed to this report.

May 24, 2010

New 5.56 ammo used sparingly in combat

Deadlier open-tip round slow to be fielded 
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer

CAMP HANSON, Afghanistan — The Marine Corps has fielded its new, enhanced 5.56mm rifle round in Afghanistan, and it’s just beginning to reach thousands of grunts here.
The two North Carolina-based battalions involved in the initial assault on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah — 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines — were among the first units to receive a large shipment of Special Operations Science and Technology ammunition, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Smith, battalion gunner for 3/6, headquartered here in Marjah. Each battalion received 75,000 rounds, but neither used it during the assault.
“As soon as I got it, I pushed it out to the companies and basically did a one-for-one swap,” Smith said.
The companies field the new SOST rounds as they see fit, Smith said, and may be using their existing supplies of standard 5.56mm ammo first. Grunts with India Company, 3/6, expected to receive large quantities of the round May 14.
First Battalion, 3rd Marines, currently deployed in the Nawa district of Helmand province, recently received its supply of SOST rounds, and other units in Afghanistan that have not received it are expected to get it soon.
The round uses an open-tip match-round design common in sniper ammunition, and is considered “barrier blind,” meaning its aim stays truer through windshields, walls and other barriers. Initially, it was considered as a way to increase the lethality of Marines carrying the M4 carbine, which has less stopping power than the M16A4 because of its shorter barrel, but was approved for use in January with both rifles.
Only one major Marine 5.56mm weapon system will not use SOST rounds, officials said: the M249 squad automatic weapon. The new ammo fits the SAW but is not currently produced in the linked fashion commonly employed with the light machine gun.
Infantrymen with 3/6 who have seen SOST ammo said they haven’t used it enough to determine whether it performs better than standard 5.56mm rounds.
“I got mine from a [military policeman] attached to the company, but I haven’t shot them yet,” said a lance corporal who serves as a fire team leader for India Company 3/6. He is one of the few Marines interviewed by Marine Corps Times in Afghanistan who was in possession of the ammunition, and he had only 20 rounds.
Initial studies conducted by 1/6’s gunner, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Harris, showed that Taliban insurgents hit by the new round suffered larger exit wounds, but information has been limited, Smith said. Attempts to reach Harris were unsuccessful.
Smith said Taliban tactics play a role in the limited amount of information the Marines have been able to collect.
“The Taliban usually doesn’t leave behind bodies or wounded,” he said.

Deadlier ammo

Three fast facts about the new Special Operations Science and Technology round being used by Marines in Afghanistan:
1. It’s “barrier blind”: That means the SOST round stays on target better than the Corps’ existing 5.56mm round after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.
2. It has more stopping power. The SOST round also stays on target longer in open air and has increased stopping power through “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants,” according to Navy Department documents.
3. It was designed with hunters in mind. At 62 grains, the new ammo weighs about the same as most NATO rounds. It has a typical lead core with a solid-copper shank and is considered a variation of Federal Cartridge’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.

May 23, 2010

Insurgents Attack Afghanistan Base

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday May 22, 2010

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Coalition forces repelled an insurgent attack on this airfield on Saturday evening that wounded a small number of personnel, a Coalition spokeswoman said.
The attack began at about 8 p.m. local time when insurgents launched a barrage of five rockets at the air field, said Navy Cmdr. Amanda Peterseim, spokeswoman for Regional Command-South, which is headquartered at the air field. One of those rockets hit near the boardwalk, the collection of stores and coffee shops which forms the social hub at the air field, and is often crowded in the evenings. That rocket wounded "a few" personnel, but did not kill any, Peterseim said.
"Shortly after, the rockets landed, we started hearing the announcement that we were under ground attack," Peterseim said. That ground attack involved "just a few insurgents" attacking a guard tower on the airfield’s north side and was "repelled" with no casualties on the Coalition side, she said. "There's been no breach of the perimeter," she said.
Peterseim said she did not know the status of the insurgents who attacked the base.
The attack prompted non-stop sirens and loudspeaker announcements on the base, which is the second largest Coalition installation. "KAF is under ground attack! Seek shelter in place!" was the message broadcast repeated over the loudspeakers for at least three hours following the first rockets landing.

Soldiers with 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade, keep their eyes in the direction of two Taliban fighters near Kandahar Air Field. The base was attacked Saturday at 8 p.m.

 Peterseim said she believed that the attack had shut the air field down. Asked whether the air field was on lock down, she replied: "We've been asked to take shelter in place.
The attack comes fewer than four days after an insurgent attack against Bagram air field, the Coalition's largest base in Afghanistan. That attack also combined rocket attacks with a ground assault, but Peterseim said that the attack on Kandahar air field "was not of the intensity" of the attack on Bagram.
As of 11 p.m. loudspeakers here were still announcing that the air field was "under ground attack."

May 21, 2010

M4 not Suited to Warfare in Afghan Hills

By Slobodan Lekic - The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military’s workhorse rifle — used in battle for the last 40 years — is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban’s more primitive but longer range weapons.
As a result, the U.S. is re-evaluating the performance of its standard M4 rifle and considering a switch to weapons that fire a larger round largely discarded in the 1960s.
The M4 is an updated version of the M16, which was designed for close quarters combat in Vietnam. It worked well in Iraq, where much of the fighting was in cities such as Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah.
But an Army study found that the 5.56mm bullets fired from M4s don’t retain enough velocity at distances greater than 1,000 feet to kill an adversary. In hilly regions of Afghanistan, NATO and insurgent forces are often 2,000 to 2,500 feet apart.
Afghans have a tradition of long-range ambushes against foreign forces. During the 1832-1842 British-Afghan war, the British found that their Brown Bess muskets could not reach insurgent sharpshooters firing higher-caliber Jezzail flintlocks.
Soviet soldiers in the 1980s found that their AK47 rifles could not match the World War II-era bolt-action Lee-Enfield and Mauser rifles used by Mujaheddin rebels.
“These are important considerations in Afghanistan, where NATO forces are frequently attacked by insurgents using ... sharpshooter’s rifles, which are all chambered for a full-powered cartridge which dates back to the 1890s,” said Paul Cornish, curator of firearms at the Imperial War Museum in London.

The heavier bullets enable Taliban militants to shoot at U.S. and NATO soldiers from positions well beyond the effective range of the coalition’s rifles.
To counter these tactics, the U.S. military is designating nine soldiers in each infantry company to serve as sharpshooters, according to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, who wrote the Army study. They are equipped with the new M110 sniper rifle, which fires a larger 7.62mm round and is accurate to at least 2,500 feet.
At the heart of the debate is whether a soldier is better off with the more-rapid firepower of the 5.56mm bullets or with the longer range of the 7.62 mm bullets.
“The reason we employ the M4 is because it’s a close-in weapon, since we anticipate house-to-house fighting in many situations,” said Lt. Col. Denis J. Riel, a NATO spokesman.
He added that each squad also has light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers for the long-range engagements common in Afghanistan.
In the early years of the Vietnam War, the Army’s standard rifle was the M14, which fired a 7.62 mm bullet. The gun had too much recoil to be controllable during automatic firing and was considered too unwieldy for close-quarter jungle warfare. The M-16 replaced it in the mid-1960s.
Lighter bullets also meant soldiers could carry more ammunition on lengthy jungle patrols.
The M16 started a general trend toward smaller cartridges. Other weapons such as the French FAMAS and the British L85A1 adopted them, and the round became standardized as the “5.56mm NATO.”
The Soviet Union, whose AK47 already used a shorter 7.62mm bullet that was less powerful but more controllable, created a smaller 5.45mm round for its replacement AK74s.
“The 5.56 mm caliber is more lethal since it can put more rounds on target,” said Col. Douglas Tamilio, program manager for U.S. Army firearms at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. “But at 500-600 meters (1,600-2,000 feet), the round doesn’t have stopping power, since the weapon system was never designed for that.”
The arsenal, which is the Army’s center for small-arms development, is trying to find a solution.
A possible compromise would be an interim-caliber round combining the best characteristics of the 5.56mm and 7.62mm cartridges, Tamilio said.
The challenge is compounded by the fact that in flat areas of Afghanistan, most firefights take place at shorter ranges of up to 1,000 feet, where the M4 performs well.
U.S. soldiers in militant-infested Zhari district in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province said they haven’t experienced problems with the range of their M4 rifles.
Lt. Scott Doyle, a platoon commander in Zhari, said his troops are usually facing Taliban AK47s.
“When the Taliban get past 300 meters (1,000 feet) with an AK47, they are just spraying and praying,” he said.
Martin Fackler, a ballistics expert, also defended the 5.56mm round, blaming the M4s inadequate performance on its short barrel, which makes it easier for soldiers to scramble out of modern armored vehicles.
“Unfortunately weapon engineers shortened the M16’s barrel to irrational lengths,” Fackler said. “It was meant for a 20-inch barrel. What they’ve done by cutting the barrel to 14.5 inches is that they’ve lost a lot of velocity.”
Associated Press correspondent Sebastian Abbot in Lako Khel, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

May 20, 2010

Entire 101st set for major Afghan tour

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. 20 May 2010 — The 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell is in the final stages of deploying to Afghanistan this summer to take over military operations in the country's eastern region. It is the division's fourth deployment since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began.
The division will case the colors during a ceremony Wednesday. This deployment will be the first time that the entire division of about 20,000 soldiers will be deployed in Afghanistan at the same time.
Most of the soldiers will be working in Afghanistan's eastern provinces along the Pakistan border. The division's leaders will take command in Bagram from the 82nd Airborne Division.

May 19, 2010

Army Recalls 44,000 ACH Helmets

AF officials: Helmet recall affects thousands

By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 19, 2010 
The Air Force is recalling the combat helmet issued to thousands of deploying airmen because it was improperly made with defective materials.
ArmorSource LLC, formerly Rabintex USA LLC, manufactures the Advanced Combat Helmet, or ACH.
Air Force officials are still determining how many airmen have the helmet, according to spokesman Gary Strasburg, but the number is at least in the thousands based on figures from the Army, the service that fielded the helmet and uncovered the problems.
The Defense Logistics Agency distributed 24,000 of the helmets to the Air Force and Navy, and the Army ordered a recall for its 20,000 helmets — 2 percent of 1 million — in a servicewide message released last Friday. Soldiers were told to exchange their helmets through unit central issue operations.
“There is evidence that ArmorSource and Rabintex ACHs were produced using unauthorized manufacturing practices, defective materials and improper quality procedures which could potentially reduce ballistic and fragmentation protection,” the message read.
The exact risk to airmen, soldiers and sailors wearing the helmets is still being determined, but sample testing from a quarantined inventory showed it did not meet Army specifications.
The Army could not say where all the helmets are but suspect some of them are in the war zones, spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.
“No one has gotten hurt that we know of,” Cummings said. “We have sufficient numbers of helmets by other manufacturers in the Army’s inventory, and they are being issued to soldiers worldwide and units that are in possession of the recalled helmets.”
The Army would not comment on how it found out about the helmets and is unsure how long the helmets have been in the inventory.
The Army, Air Force and Navy adopted the helmet in 2002 to replace the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops helmet. The ACH weighs about 3 pounds in size medium and is designed to protect airmen from fragmentation and 9mm ammunition.
Three other companies manufacture the ACH — Gentex Corp., BAE Systems and MSA.
ArmorSource is based in Hebron, Ohio.
The manufacturer’s label is on the inside of the helmet and may be covered up by pads that can be removed.
If the label is unreadable, airmen should identify the manufacturer using the retention system hardware, the Army said.
“If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the ACH operator’s manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in,” according to the message.
Last year, the Army recalled 34,218 ACHs made by Gentex Corp. because the company told the Army it believed the four screws attaching the chinstrap and related parts did not conform to contract specifications.
The screws failed the ballistics tests at temperatures of 60 degrees below Fahrenheit and 160 degrees above Fahrenheit. In those extreme conditions, rounds were fired directly at the screw heads. Gentex alleged a subcontractor had falsified certificates of compliance related to the type of steel screws it furnished.

Army recalls 44,000 helmets

By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 18, 2010

The Army is recalling 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets amid concerns that they offer substandard ballistic protection.
Only 20,000 of those helmets have been issued to soldiers. The other 24,000 faulty ACHs were issued to the Navy and Air Force. All the helmets are made by ArmorSource LLC, formerly Rabintex USA LLC.
“There is evidence that ArmorSource and Rabintex ACHs were produced using unauthorized manufacturing practices, defective materials and improper quality procedures which could potentially reduce ballistic and fragmentation protection,” according to an All Army Activities message released May 14.
The Army-wide message orders an immediate inspection of all ACHs and the “immediate direct exchange of those ACHs manufactured by ArmorSource and Rabintex” through unit central issue facilities.
The exact risk to soldiers wearing the recalled helmets is still being determined, the Army said.
However, sample testing from a quarantined inventory revealed that the helmets did not meet Army specifications.
The matter is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the Army.
Army officials could not say where all the faulty helmets are, but it’s likely that some of them are in the war zone, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said.
“No one has gotten hurt that we know of,” Cummings said. “We have sufficient numbers of helmets by other manufacturers in the Army’s inventory, and they are being issued to soldiers worldwide and units that are in possession of the recalled helmets.”
The Army recall constitutes 4 percent of 1.6 million ACHs in the Army’s inventory. The 44,000 helmets from ArmorSource are part of a 2006 contract for 102,000 helmets. The company had delivered 99,000 of the helmets when the Army complained of chipped paint. While only cosmetic, the Army considered the chipped paint a breach of contract and terminated the deal with the company in February.
Of the 99,000 ACHs, 44,000 were fielded and 55,000 are in storage. The Army is working with the Air Force and Navy to recall the 24,000 ACHs the two services received, Army officials said.
The service adopted the ACH in 2002 to replace the Personal Armor System for Ground Troops helmet. The ACH weighs about 3 pounds in size medium and is designed to protect soldiers from fragmentation and 9mm ammunition.
Currently, three other companies manufacture the ACH — Gentex Corporation, BAE Systems and MSA.
ArmorSource is based in Hebron, Ohio.
The manufacturer’s label is located on the inside of the helmet. Soldiers may have to remove one or more of the ACH pads to expose the label.
“If the manufacturer’s label is unreadable, the retention system hardware will be used to identify the manufacture,” the message states. “If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the ACH operator’s manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in.”
The Army recalled 34,218 ACHs in May 2009. The company that manufactured the recalled helmets, Gentex Corp., told the Army it believed the four screws which attach the chinstrap and related parts to the helmet did not conform to Army contract specifications.
The screws failed the ballistics tests at temperatures of minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit and at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In those extreme conditions, rounds were fired directly at the screw heads. Gentex alleged a subcontractor had falsified certificates of compliance related to the type of steel screws it furnished.
Army and the Marine Corps are working on the Enhanced Combat Helmet, a new generation of helmet made of a high-tech plastic rather than Kevlar.
But the program, which relies on “ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene” instead of ballistic fibers such as Kevlar and Twaron, suffered a setback in January when all five of the test helmet models, made by four companies, failed in either ballistic or non-ballistic testing. The non-ballistic tests examined the impact of blunt force trauma to the helmets from blast waves, rolled-over vehicles and fragmentation.
The Marine Corps-led ECH effort began in 2007 when the industry presented samples of the highly durable, lightweight ballistic materials capable of stopping rifle rounds.
The Army’s initial requirement for combat brigades is 200,000 ECHs, but ultimately the service wants to issue one to every soldier.


Here’s how to see if your helmet is included in the recall. If the manufacturer’s label is unreadable, retention system hardware will be used to identify the manufacturer, according to the Army’s recall message.
If the hardware matches figure 13, WP 0002-14 of the Advanced Combat Helmet operator’s manual, the helmet is an ArmorSource or Rabintex and must be turned in, the message states.



PEO Soldier fielded the Advanced Combat Helmet beginning in 2003 because it was lighter than the traditional Kevlar helmet, fit better and did not disrupt hearing.
Sizes: Small, medium, large, X-large and XX-large
Weight: 2.93 pounds to 3.77 pounds
Material: The helmet shell is made of Aramid fabric. The edge is finished with a rubber trim.
• Cotton/polyester chin straps and webbing. The chin strap has a four-point design allowing for quick adjustment.
• Polyurethane foam pads on a suspension system designed to protect the soldier from blunt-force trauma.
• Neck Ballistic Protective Pad adds protection between the bottom of the helmet shell and the top of the Interceptor Body Armor collar.

Robots to rove Marine firing ranges

Corps to test autonomous targets

The Marine Corps will begin testing a humanoid target in July that can zip through ranges and mimic the behavior of insurgents, foreign fighters and civilians in a combat zone.
Dubbed “Rover” by its maker — Australian-based Marathon Robotics — the autonomous targets can run in packs, providing Marines with real-world scenarios that require them to track and engage multiple “fighters.”
It could be some time before Marines have them in their sights, but foreign militaries have already deemed the device useful.
The Rover’s greatest strength as a training tool comes from its random, but “intelligent” behavior, according to its makers. Using sensors, it can change direction to avoid objects and scatters for cover when fired at.
“This provides mobile targets that move in realistic ways,” said Alex Brooks, CEO of Marathon Robotics. “It forces people to concentrate in ways that you don’t have to with static targets.”
Rover stands at nearly 6 feet and consists of a torso mannequin perched atop a carriage produced by Segway — maker of the two-wheeled vehicle preferred by mall cops everywhere. Rovers can scurry at almost 8 mph and operate in heavy rain and temperatures between 32-120 degrees.
With its critical components armored to withstand repeated beatings from 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammo, it weighs in at a hefty 330 pounds. The replaceable torso target can take hundreds of shots before being changed.
Rover’s on-board sensors can also distinguish between kill shots to the spine or brain and a nonlethal hit. This forces troops to develop quick, but accurate, fire.
The robots, designated “Robotic Moving Target Systems” by the Marine Corps, were first authorized for testing in late 2009 by the Defense Department’s Foreign Comparative Test Program. Marine Corps Systems Command will begin testing eight “Rovers” this summer, using $2.5 million already allotted for the program. A training range has yet to be designated.
About seven years ago, Brooks said, the Australian Defense Force approached his company looking for a better target. Marathon Robotics built one on a Segway platform because it was widely used and had already proven itself durable.
In 2008, the ADF procured a number of the robots for use at a sniper training range in Western Australia and has used them ever since.
Rover, unlike target systems that use tracks or cables to move, can be added to existing urban terrain trainers on Marine installations without any modifications to the facility. Because the robots can roll just about anywhere, they can simply be turned on and let loose.
“If demonstrated effective, I believe every Marine could be afforded the opportunity to engage this system,” wrote Capt. Geraldine Carey, a Marine Corps Systems Command spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

Team of SOCom E-8s wins Best Ranger

A pair of Special Forces soldiers took top honors May 9 at the Army’s grueling Best Ranger competition at Fort Benning, Ga. Master Sgts. Eric Turk and Eric Ross, representing Special Operations Command, raised their hands in celebration as they crossed the finish line.
“It feels pretty doggone good to be able to walk out with the trophy today,” Turk said.
The three-day Best Ranger competition is among the more difficult challenges in the Army. Reaching the end is an accomplishment; nearly half of the two-man Ranger teams washed out on the first day.
“It’s kind of like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Daytona 500 and the World Cup for the Army and the Ranger community,” Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Smith, Ranger Training Brigade command sergeant major, said in an Army news release. “Just to finish it is saying a lot. These competitors are the best of the best.”
The competition started with a four-mile buddy run, a 250-meter swim and another three-mile run to the first obstacle course.
After the urban obstacle course, teams went to firing ranges for weapons skills events. Next up was another buddy run. The first day ended with a spot jump and a 13-mile road march.
Only 26 teams began the second day’s events of completing Ranger skills stations that included rappelling, rope climbs, first aid, hand grenades and additional weapons skills challenges. The day ended with an overnight orienteering course.
On day three, competitors tackled a mile-long obstacle course, then constructed rafts and dropped with their rafts from a helicopter into a pond. They swam to shore to finish the event. They wrapped up the day with a water confidence test, canoe race and then a run to the finish line.
Twenty-five of the more than 40 teams finished.

“It sucks, I’m not going to lie,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Bach, representing 3rd Infantry Division.
Capt. John Vickery, project officer for Best Ranger, said the Rangers who completed the competition had earned bragging rights.
“Over the past three days, the competitors covered more than 60 miles on foot for over 60 hours without sleep, and very little food intake,” he said in the Army news release. “All those teams that completed the competition are really, really good teams.”

May 11, 2010

Barrett Firearms REC7 rifle

Under the familiar exterior lies an evolutionary design that few can match. REC7 rifles are made for those who value quality, dependability and performance . . . and for those who don’t have the option to fail. The REC7’s operating system was designed to be soldier-proof, the highest accolade as to which a firearm design can aspire. A minimal number of parts and a clean-running piston system add up to a low-maintenance design with increased reliability. The piston operated system keeps heat and fouling out of the receiver, which means less time cleaning and more time putting bullets where they need to go. Cooler parts last longer, cooler guns run longer. REC7 was made to run hard. The 17-4 stainless piston transferring energy to the bolt carrier is the most robust in the industry. Its hardened one piece piston is superior to multi-component designs. The bolt carrier, machined from a monolithic block of 8620 steel features an integral piston strike face — no separate gas key to shoot loose and another industry first.The REC7 gas block and gas regulator are chrome-lined for added durability, with a 1913 rail machined into the hardened billet gas block. Operators can configure the REC7 with iron sights or run slick for use with optics. The gas regulator position is firmly held in place with a substantial detent that cannot get knocked out of position with hard use.The REC7’s forged 7075 aluminum upper and lower receivers are Type 3 hardcoat anodized. The mil-spec lower receiver houses an ultra-dependable single stage trigger. The upper receiver supports a free-floated, 16-inch, chrome-lined barrel with M4 feed ramps. The A2 style flash hider reduces muzzle flash and acts as a standard interface for accessories and support gear.

No matter what your mission, the REC7 can get the job done. Whether that mission means putting venison on the table, taking home a trophy at the local rifle match, serving a high-risk warrant, or jumping out of a C-130 at zero dark thirty — REC7 has you covered.

FNH SOF Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) receives approval from USSOCOM

(McLean, VA) —FNH USA, LLC received notification from the USSOCOM Program Executive Office—SOF Warrior (PEO—SW) that the SCAR Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) was approved and signed on April 14, 2010, moving this FN Herstal (FN) program into the Milestone C phase. This decision authorizes the production and deployment of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) MK 16 and MK 17, as well as the Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM) MK 13.

Following a worldwide solicitation to the military firearms industry, nine vendors submitted a dozen different designs for a new modular, multi-caliber weapons system. The FN SCAR submission was the only weapons system to pass all of the Go/No-Go criteria and was unanimously chosen in November 2004 by the selection board composed of senior operators from every SOF component. The SCAR is the first new assault rifle procured by the U.S. Military through a full and open competition since the M16 trials were held in the mid-1960s. Tests in reliability, accuracy, safety and ergonomics were administered from August 2005 to September 2008 and were conducted in a variety of environments including urban, maritime, jungle and winter/mountain operational test scenarios. The SCAR weapons system successfully endured more than two million rounds of ammunition during these trials, therein making it one of the most heavily tested weapons in the history of small arms.

“The SCAR is one of the most tested small arms in our military’s history and is currently being employed in the fight to defend freedom,” said United States Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Products of excellence, like the SCAR, represent the continuation of a long and proud tradition of defense manufacturing in South Carolina. I look forward to the continued use of this weapons system.”

The FN SCAR system consists of two highly adaptable modular rifle platforms and a grenade launcher. Type-designated as the MK 16 MOD 0 5.56mm Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle and the MK 17 MOD 0 7.62mm Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, both weapons are available with three different barrel lengths optimized for conducting operations in close-quarters combat, standard infantry and longer-range precision fire roles. All SCAR barrels can be easily interchanged by the operator in just minutes to instantly meet the requirements of virtually any mission. The MK 13 MOD 0 40mm Enhanced Grenade Launcher Module (EGLM) quickly mounts under the barrel of either SCAR platform, providing additional capability to the individual warfighter’s firepower, and can be easily configured for use as a stand-alone weapon as well. Because of the SCAR system’s modular design, ergonomic commonality (100%) and parts commonality (greater than 80%), it represents a significant reduction in training costs and life-cycle support. The weapon system’s open architecture is designed to support future advancements in operational requirements including ammunition, aiming devices, sighting systems and other mission critical equipment.

“The SCAR weapons system is a major USSOCOM program whose success is a direct result of the effort, commitment and teamwork provided by FN and the U.S. Government. We are extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to work with such a strong team in achieving the Milestone C decision,” said Mark Cherpes, Vice President of Military Operations for FNH USA. “This milestone signifies that our products are operationally effective and suitable for mass fielding. We believe that the SCAR is the most flexible, reliable and cost-effective small arms weapons system ever offered to America’s servicemen and women, and that it will give them a significant operational advantage in both present and future conflicts.”

FN firearms manufactured in the United States are produced by FN Manufacturing in Columbia, SC. The Herstal Group is represented by FNH USA, FN Manufacturing and Browning within the United States and directly employs more than 1,000 individuals. U.S. operations are located in Virginia, South Carolina, Utah and Missouri. FNH USA is the sales and marketing arm of FN. Its corporate mission is to expand the company’s global leadership position in defense, law enforcement and commercial markets by delivering superior products and the finest in training and logistical support. For more information, or to view the entire line of FN products, visit FNH USA, LLC, P.O. Box 697, McLean, VA 22101 USA. 

May 9, 2010

Bushmaster A-TACS M4 Type Carbine

A leap forward in camouflage technology smartly breaks up the silhouette of America’s most popular M4-Type Carbine. The Bushmmaster M-4-Type Carbine in A-TACS is now available. For more information check out
  • 16″ 4150 Chrome-Moly Vanadium barrel is chrome-lined in both bore and chamber
  • Features A2 “Birdcage” type suppressor to control muzzle flash
  • A-TACS® coated Upper/Lower Receivers, Stock, Pistol Grip, Delta Ring and Hand Guards
  • Six-position Telestock for light weight and quick handling
  • Receiver Length Picatinny Optics Rail
  • A.R.M.S.® #40L Low Profile Flip-Up Rear Sight
  • Shipped in a Lockable Hard Case with Operator’s Safety Manual, 30 Round Magazine, Yellow Safety Block and Black Web Sling
  • One Year Bushmaster Warranty
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