Jun 28, 2010

Ospreys leave new belly gun in the dust

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 28, 2010

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — In answer to criticism calling the Osprey vulnerable to enemy attack and lacking fire power, the Marine Corps shipped a handful of 7.62mm belly guns to Afghanistan last winter.
But the remotely operated turret guns, designed to give the aircraft a more effective way to neutralize enemy threats, has gone widely unused because Marines and their leaders believe its drawbacks frequently outweigh its benefits.
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., has five belly gun systems with it downrange, but it is seen as heavy and difficult to use. A Marine crew chief, frequently a gunnery sergeant, operates the system from the inside using a controller and can rotate the gun 360 degrees. He acquires targets using a monitor that is fed color images from a forward-looking infrared sensor.
Marines, however, acknowledged that operating the belly gun system can cause nausea for the crew chief using it, since he must stare at the screen while the aircraft maneuvers.
Another major drawback is that the belly gun is heavy, weighing in at 800 pounds. That dramatically affects how much cargo or troops an MV-22 can carry. The Osprey can carry about 12,000 pounds of fuel, personnel and equipment in 70-degree weather, but when the temperature exceeds 107 degrees — as the summer weather in southern Afghanistan does regularly — the Osprey’s capacity drops to between 8,000 and 8,500 pounds, Woods said.
Lt. Col. Ivan Thomas, VMM-261’s commander, has told the media that the rules of engagement pose another challenge. Last summer, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, issued new guidelines directing commanders to restrict air-to-ground munitions and direct fire against residences. Thomas has said the risk of civilian casualties often is just too great to use the weapon system.
The belly gun was pushed out quickly based on an urgent need from the field for an all-quadrant defensive weapon system, but the mission-based system was never meant to be a permanent solution, Welding said.
Despite its drawbacks, pilots with VMM-261 say the 7.62mm weapon, formally known as the Interim Defense Weapon System, has impressed them with its accuracy and ability to lock onto targets while Ospreys are in flight. They are more comfortable though, using the Osprey’s tilt-rotor design to zip in and out of combat situations quickly.
“They gave it to us to work with, and it’s a phenomenal weapon,” said Capt. Brandon Woods, who has flown the Osprey since 2006. “But from our standpoint, it’s still easier to transition the aircraft to airplane and use our speed.”
The Ospreys in Afghanistan are also equipped with either a 7.62mm M240 machine gun or a .50-caliber machine gun on the rear door. Marines pick a weapon based on the perceived threat for each mission they undertake.
“The IDWS … is not intended to be carried on every flight,” said Maj. Brian McAvoy, the MV-22 plans and policies officer at the Pentagon. “In most instances during day-to-day assault support operations, the primary mission is to carry troops and cargo from place to place, and in these instances, the ramp gun provides adequate defensive fire suppression. What the IDWS does provide, when the commander needs it or wants it, is a crew-served, all-aspect, enhanced defensive suppressive fire capability that can be used in concert with the ramp gun.”
Navy and Marine Corps officials are working with BAE to monitor data gathered from the field, which will be used to determine what the long-term solution will be, Welding said.
The aircraft has been used frequently to ferry troops around Helmand province. It also has been used to insert troops during combat operations as well as longer missions to near the Pakistani border to the south and the Iranian border to the west.

A 7.62mm belly-mounted turret gun, known as the Interim Defense Weapon System.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Danny L. Herrman, a flight line crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-263, test fires a 240 Gulf heavy machine gun on the back of a MV-22B Osprey while flying on a mission over the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sheila M. Brooks (Released)

PASGT and ACH Helmets

A How to Wear properly guide for PASGT and ACH military helmets with "correct" and "incorrect" photos.


Jun 25, 2010

Gun Statistics

Some interesting statistics. 
Click picture to enlarge

Jun 24, 2010

Army begins shipping improved 5.56mm cartridge

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (June 23, 2010) - The Army announced today it has begun shipping its new 5.56mm cartridge, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, to support war-fighters in Afghanistan.

The new M855A1 round is sometimes referred to as "green ammo."

The new round replaces the current M855 5.56mm cartridge that has been used by U.S. troops since the early 1980s.

The M855A1 resulted in a number of significant enhancements not found in the current round, officials said. They explained these include improved hard-target capability, more dependable, consistent performance at all distances, improved accuracy, reduced muzzle flash and a higher velocity.

During testing, the M855A1 performed better than current 7.62mm ball ammunition against certain types of targets, blurring the performance differences that previously separated the two rounds.

The projectile incorporates these improvements without adding weight or requiring additional training.

According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey K. Woods, the program's product manager, the projectile is "the best general purpose 5.56mm round ever produced."

Woods said its fielding represents the most significant advancement in general purpose small caliber ammunition in decades.

The Enhanced Performance Round contains an environmentally friendly projectile that eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead from the manufacturing process each year in direct support of Army commitment to environmental stewardship.

Woods said the effort is a clear example of how "greening" a previously hazardous material can also provide extremely beneficial performance improvements.

Picatinny Arsenal's Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems manages the M855A1 program.

Project Manager Chris Grassano called the fielding "the culmination of an Army enterprise effort by a number of organizations, particularly the Army Research Laboratory, Armament Research Development and Engineering Center, Program Executive Office for Ammunition and the Joint Munitions Command.

"The Army utilized advanced science, modeling and analysis to produce the best 5.56mm round possible for the war-fighter," he said.

The M855A1 is tailored for use in the M4 weapon system but also improves the performance of the M16 and M249 families of weapons.

A true general purpose round, the M855A1 exceeds the performance of the current M855 against the many different types of targets likely to be encountered in combat.

Prior to initial production, the EPR underwent vigorous testing. Official qualification of the round consisted of a series of side-by-side tests with the current M855.

Overall, the Army fired more than 1 million rounds to ensure the new cartridge met or exceeded all expectations. The M855A1 is without question the most thoroughly tested small caliber round ever fielded, Woods said.

The Army has recently completed the Limited Rate Initial Production phase for the M855A1 and is beginning the follow-on full rate production phase where plans are to procure more than 200 millions rounds over the next 12-15 months.

The M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round is the first environmentally friendly bullet resulting from a larger "greening" effort across the Army's Small Caliber Ammunition programs. Other greening efforts include 5.56mm tracer, 7.62mm ball and green primers.

Soldiers in Afghanistan will begin using the new, improved round this summer.


Jun 17, 2010

Army moving back to buttons from Velcro.

The Army is ripping space-age Velcro from its uniforms and replacing it with the humble button, which turns out to be tailor-made for the rigors of Afghanistan.
Hook-and-pile tape — the generic term for Velcro— strains to keep jam-packed cargo pants pockets closed. And when the Taliban attacks, the last thing soldiers need to worry about is spilling their gear.
Soldiers told superiors that Velcro didn’t suit their needs, and the Army began testing alternatives last year, said Debi Dawson, an Army spokeswoman. In August, the Army will begin issuing new pants to soldiers heading to Afghanistan.
“When concerns surfaced in surveys that the hook-and-pile tape was not holding under the weight of full pocket loads, the Army evaluated several solutions,” Dawson said. Velcro has been part of the latest Army combat uniform since it was introduced in 2004.
Dirt and rocks also clog the pile portion of the fastener. That requires soldiers to clean it regularly. An Army website offers this helpful hint: a soldier’s small weapons cleaning brush has been “working very well” in removing dirt and sand.
“This is the latest proof that dust and debris are the biggest enemy for the U.S. military,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute and a consultant to defense contractors. “Taliban attacks come and go, but dust is constant in Afghanistan. Dust will impede the function of anything.”
Sgt. Kenny Hatten cut to the heart of the matter in this posting on an Army website, urging the military to go back to the future:
“Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons,” Hatten wrote. “Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering.”
Source: Tom Vanden Brook for USA Today.

Jun 16, 2010

82nd commander returns from Afghanistan tour

The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 15, 2010

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division has returned to his North Carolina base after 14 months in eastern Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti and about 20 paratroopers from the 82nd arrived Tuesday morning at Pope Air Force Base. Scaparrotti commanded the coalition task force in charge of 14 provinces near the Afghan border with Pakistan. The task force was made up of 30,000 service members from 13 different countries.
Hundreds of paratroopers from the headquarters returned to Fort Bragg last week. The 82nd deployed to Afghanistan in June 2009. The unit's deployment was extended about 50 days to allow soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division Headquarters a full year at home.

Ground Soldier System renamed for MoH recipient

By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 15, 2010

The Army’s Ground Soldier System is no more. In commemoration of the service’s 235th birthday, the computerized command and control ensemble will now be known as Nett Warrior.
The system is named in honor of Col. Robert B. Nett who was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading a major assault in the Philippines in 1944 during World War II.
The high-tech system is designed to connect soldiers with the Army’s tactical network, but program officials say they chose to name the system after Nett because, “We wanted it to be named after a maneuver leader,” said Col. William Riggins, head of Program Manager Soldier Warrior.
“This is a system for leaders, to make them more effective than they have ever been before,” he said at a ceremony at the Pentagon on June 14.
Nett, who retired as a colonel in 1973, was a young lieutenant leading E Company, 305th Infantry Regiment on Dec. 14, 1944. While leading an assault on the island of Leyte, he killed seven Japanese soldiers with his rifle and bayonet. He was wounded three separate times but refused to relinquish his command until the unit had captured the objective.
Nett died at the age of 87 on Oct. 14, 2008.
Nett Warrior is the next generation of Land Warrior, a controversial program that made history in the spring of 2007, when 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, decided to take it to combat in Iraq after Army budget officials earlier that year cut $300 million from Land Warrior earlier that year, essentially killing the program.
The system is still not perfect, but its performance in Iraq prompted Army leaders to allow the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team to take it Afghanistan. Land Warrior allows combat leaders to track the locations of their men and view maps and other tactical information through a tiny, helmet-mounted computer screen. The system features a microcomputer processor for storing maps, mission-specific imagery and graphics. The navigation system allows a leader to track his subordinate leaders’ positions, which appear as icons on a digital map. The digital voice and text radio lets leaders send e-mails and talk to anyone wearing the system.
Nett Warrior is scheduled to be ready for fielding to an infantry brigade combat team by 2012. The next step will be a limited-user test scheduled for this fall when infantry units will evaluate three separate prototypes made by General Dynamics, Raytheon and Rockwell Collins.

Jun 14, 2010

Standardized tourniquet, new bandages for IFAK

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 14, 2010

The Marine Corps is following the Army’s example by including two new items in the individual first aid kit carried by every Marine downrange: A CAT II tourniquet and a blood-clotting bandage.
“In the battlefield where we are with the Army constantly and we’re also with NATO, it helps us be able to use one standard piece of gear everyone’s comfortable with, everyone’s familiar with,” said Navy Lt. Kathleen Dagher, health services requirements and capabilities officer for the Marine Corps.
The CAT II — combat application tourniquet — is a one-handed tourniquet that uses the cylindrical crank handle that provides pressure and locks into place. It replaces the TK-4 tourniquet, an elastic latex band with a steel S hook at each end. Each tourniquet is equally effective, Dagher said, but Marines showed a preference for the CAT II and started buying it on their own.
New gauze is also part of the updated package. The IFAK now has QuickClot Combat Gauze instead of the powder which sometimes burns surrounding skin and can make the removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue difficult.
Combat Gauze comes in a small package that contains four yards of 3-inch flexible, roll-up gauze infused with kaolin, an inorganic mineral that triggers blood clotting. The gauze is easier to pack into different types of wounds.
To help Marines adapt to the new items, the first aid field manual, Marine Corps Reference Publication 3-02G, has been updated with new training and usage guidelines. It will be distributed to units through the S-1 shop.
But despite the additions, the other items in the IFAK — water purification, iodine tablets, antibiotic ointment, adhesive strips, triangular bandages, gauze rolls, duct tape and pressure bandages — will remain unchanged for now.

MultiCam costs more than ACU

Staff report
Posted : Monday Jun 14, 2010

MultiCam camouflage uniforms for Afghanistan will be more expensive to produce than the Army Combat Uniform, following a multiyear trend of rising uniform costs, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The May 28 report — “War-fighter Support: Observations on DoD’s Ground Combat Uniforms” — shows that uniform costs for all services have increased from “about $223 million in fiscal 2005 to about $422 million in fiscal year 2009.”
Most of the cost increases are because of the need for fire-resistant fabrics to protect troops from burns and permethrin insect-repellent treatment, the report states.
Flame resistant, permethrin-treated uniforms in MultiCam will cost about $174 per set, the study states. The equivalent set of ACUs costs about $152, the study states.
Production and procurement costs make up about 95 percent of the cost of camouflage uniforms, the report states.
“The Army indicated that there currently is only one printer licensed by the MultiCam supplier resulting in potentially higher printing costs than expected,” the report states. “An Army official recently stated that the MultiCam supplier is in the process of increasing the number of manufacturers licensed to print the camouflage pattern.”
Officials expect the uniform price to decrease once there are more manufacturers, according to the report.

Jun 13, 2010

JLTV prototypes roll out on Army testing sites

By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Jun 12, 2010

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Both the Army and Marine Corps intend to begin fielding the JLTV in 2015 as a replacement for the venerable Humvee in combat operations.
The services plan to spend $175 million on the program over the next two years.
The Army plans to field 60,000 of the new vehicles, which are designed to provide soldiers with increased mobility and reliability over the Humvee while offering protection on a par with the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle.
Program officials have begun the technology demonstration phase of the effort, which involves prototypes from BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and General Tactical Vehicle, a dual venture between AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems. Each company delivered prototypes across three weight classes in early May.
Over the next 12 months, the prototypes will undergo testing at Aberdeen Test Center and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. The results will help complete program requirements in preparation for a full and open competition scheduled to begin next summer.
“We’ll say, ‘OK did we get it right or did we ask for a bridge too far in requirements?’ ” Army Lt. Col. Wolfgang Petermann, product manager for the Army’s JLTV program, told reporters at a June 3 prototype demonstration.
Reporters had a chance to ride in two different styles of prototypes.
The prototypes, from each of the three companies, rolled over the hills, dips and bumps on the dirt test track with ease.
The four-seat Category A vehicles are the lightest of the prototypes so they can be loaded into a C-130 aircraft as well as sling-loaded from CH-47 and CH-53 helicopters. They have a payload of about 3,500 pounds.
The Cat A’s will “support those early-entry requirements, so units have that combat capability, so they can hit the ground and get moving right away,” Petermann said.
There will also be a Category A Enhanced Protection variant, which will provide more armor protection when needed.
The Category B vehicles will have six seats, more armor protection and a payload of up to 4,500 pounds. Category C vehicles will be designed for the support role and have payloads of up to 5,100 pounds.

All the JLTV prototypes are designed to provide “MRAP-like protection” to passengers from the powerful, homemade bombs that have become commonplace on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Dean Johnson, deputy program manager for the Marine Corps JLTV program.
They have a base armor package, but have suspensions and attachment points to handle additional armor packages capable of stopping sophisticated explosively formed penetrator bombs known as EFPs. The hulls are either V-shaped or an inverted U-shape on the Lockheed prototypes to redirect the force of bomb blasts away from the vehicle.
All the seats are designed to be attached from the walls to better protect passengers. Seats attached to floor of the vehicle, like those on the Humvee, transfer the blast energy to the passengers.
The windows and windshields on the JLTV are smaller and positioned closer to the ceiling than on the Humvee to provide better protection. All the prototypes are designed to offer improved rollover protection over the Humvee.
In addition to protection, all the prototypes are equipped with the option to have a turret gunner or the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWS, which lets the soldier track and kill targets from a computer monitor inside the safety of the vehicle.
The prototypes seem to offer a smoother ride than the Humvee, and the high-tech suspension systems can be adjusted for varying terrain.
“The ride quality is significantly better ... so the soldier is not as beat up when he gets where he is going,” Petermann said.
All the JLTV vehicles and the accompanying trailers are equipped with adjustable suspension so they can be raised or lowered to fit inside the tight confines of transport ships and aircraft cargo holds.
Once the technology demonstration is complete, program officials will finish the requirements for JLTV and issue a request for proposal in June 2011.
The plan is to award two contracts in December 2011 for prototypes that will enter the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development phase.
The Army plans to begin fielding the final versions of the JLTV in mid-2015.
In addition to improved performance, the JLTV is being designed to be more reliable with 4,400 to 6,600 miles between failures — that’s three times less than the failure rate experienced in the current fleet, Petermann said.
Once completed, the JLTV will be “as fast, as off-road mobile, as nimble as a Humvee; it has a better ride and it’s survivable,” Johnson said.

A new ride

Here is a look at three makers’ prototypes for the lightest class of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, called Category A JLTV:

BAE Systems

• Curb weight: 13,200 pounds.
• Combat weight: 20,850 pounds.
• Range: 364 miles.
• Payload: 3,500 pounds.
• Top speed: 82 mph.

General Tactical Vehicle

• Curb weight: 13,400 pounds.
• Combat weight: 20,400 pounds.
• Range: 300 miles.
• Payload: 3,500 pounds.
• Top speed: 76 mph.

Lockheed Martin

• Curb weight: 12,600 pounds.
• Combat weight: 20,400 pounds.
• Range: 400 miles.
• Payload: 3,500 pounds.
• Top speed: 74 mph.

Note: Prototypes for the JLTV program remain under development and specifications may change.

Jun 10, 2010

Better armor, helmets expected soon

By Amy McCullough - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 9, 2010

Marines downrange could be wearing tougher, better fitting helmets and body armor by Spring 2011, a top acquisitions officer told members of the defense industry outside Washington on May 25.
The Enhanced Combat Helmet, which officials say will be capable of stopping a rifle round, should enter its next testing phase in the coming weeks, said Lt. Col. A.J. Pasagian, head of Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. All five test models — made by four companies — failed to provide adequate protection from bullets, blunt force or both during initial tests conducted in September, but Pasagian said he is “cautiously optimistic” that upgraded models will prove more successful.
The new helmet, which will be fielded by the Army as well as the Corps, will provide at least 35 percent more protection against fragmentation and small-arms fire than existing Kevlar helmets, Pasagian said. With enemy snipers rivaling IEDs as the chief threat facing U.S. troops in combat, officials have said they want this new head gear to stop a 7.62mm round, the caliber of ammunition used in AK47 assault rifles favored by insurgents.
Marines in Afghanistan report that although enemy snipers usually work solo, “Taliban fire teams” have been known to ambush them, often with three insurgents firing simultaneously from different positions.
The Marine-led effort to develop the ECH has locked onto the possibilities of a durable, lightweight plastic known as ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, Pasagian said last summer. The material is used commercially in everything from artificial hip replacements to police body armor, he said.
For nearly three decades, Marines and soldiers have worn helmets made of DuPont’s Kevlar.
The new helmet’s shape will more closely resemble the Army Combat Helmet, offering less overall coverage to Marines but allowing for more situational awareness. The “majority of Marines” endorsed the change during testing because they said it allowed them to shoot, move and communicate more efficiently, Pasagian said.
Initial plans called for the Corps to purchase 38,500 new helmets early this year, but the test failures pushed that timeline back. Pasagian has said that all four companies — Mine Safety Appliances of Pittsburgh; Gentex Corp .of Carbondale, Pa.; BAE Systems Aerospace and Defense Group Inc. of Rockville, Md.; and Ceradyne Inc. of Costa Mesa, Calif. — had to make significant design improvements, but he declined to elaborate.
At least one of those companies will be ready to begin its second round of testing in the next month, Pasagain said. It’s unclear where the other companies stand.
If these developmental tests are successful, the Corps will conduct another round of user evaluations followed by one more set of tests to ensure the helmet is compatible with Marines’ other gear, such as helmet-mounted night-vision goggles.

Improved vests

At the same time, SysCom officials are working to field the Improved Modular Tactical Vest, a lighter and more comfortable alternative to their existing body armor. Production is slated to begin by the end of September, officials said, but it’s unclear exactly when they will end up downrange.
Marines have said for years that they want body armor that protects them from sniper fire and IEDs but isn’t so bulky it slows them down on the battlefield. Officials say the IMTV will meet those criteria.
The new vests will feature a larger opening at the neck and an improved cummerbund to prevent chaffing, Pasagian said, which has been a long-standing complaint from the field.
It also is expected to weigh less than the 32-pound Modular Tactical Vest, first introduced in 2006, although Pasagian declined to say what the difference will be.
“We’ve taken the best industry has to offer with the MTV. The IMTV comes with irrefutable knowledge, which we learned the hard way in a nine-year protracted war,” Pasagian said. “So when I say I’m confidant we’ve found the solution, I mean exactly that.”
Marines deploying to Afghanistan next year will be issued the IMTV and the lighter Scalable Plate Carrier. Commanders on the ground tailor body-armor requirements to threat levels in a specific area.

Jun 9, 2010

Army tests training rounds for shoulder-launched weapon AT4

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The Maneuver Battle Lab spent four days evaluating a pair of sub-caliber training rounds for a shoulder-launched weapon used to engage armored vehicles from confined or enclosed positions to identify which one best prepares Soldiers to fire the real thing.

Fourteen Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, fired 9 and 20mm rounds in the AT4 Confined Space launcher and compared their effectiveness and suitability to the 84mm live version. The experiment took place May 24-27 at Duke Range.
The AT4CS is a lightweight, disposable weapon designed for single use, said Steve Howard, a project officer for the Maneuver Battle Lab's Soldier team.
"It is safely and effectively fired from confined space to defeat various military targets, including light-armored vehicles, at both near and extended ranges," he said. "(But) currently, there is not a sub-caliber training round for the AT4CS."

A standard AT4 produces a large back blast. The CS model, however, features a counter mass that could allow troops to fire safely and effectively within buildings in an urban environment.
Justin Strayer, a close combat systems analyst for the Soldier Requirements Division, said the AT4CS can be fired from a 12-by-15-foot room that has a 7-foot ceiling - without triggering any blast overpressure or back-blast hazards.
The Directorate of Training and Doctrine established the requirement for a sub-caliber training round to replicate the actual system's launch effects and trajectory when fired, Howard said.
"This could provide Soldiers with a more realistic training system," Strayer said.
The 9mm training round even includes a back-blast charge for added simulation to the live weapon.
"The sub-caliber trainers give Soldiers a duplicate of a live round without having to fire a live round," said Styles Underwood, a DOTD shoulder-launched munitions training developer. "That's just going to help the Soldier in combat."

Staff Sgt. Cesar Diaz, of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, fires an 84 mm tactical round out of an AT4 Confined Space launcher May 25 during the Maneuver Battle Lab experiment at Duke Range on Fort Benning, Ga.

It could mean considerable savings for the Army, too.

The cost of firing an 84mm tactical round is about $4,500, at least 100 times more than the two trainers, which are $40 to $50 each, said Anthony Sacco, a project officer with Project Manager Close Combat Systems who was among the observers from Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
Soldiers in the evaluation said it's tough distinguishing between the live round and sub-caliber trainers.
"The amount of kick both of them had was about identical," said Sgt. Paul Baummer. "It would provide close simulation in training. The only difference was the point of impact with the live round."
Staff Sgt. Aleksandr Kulik said the 20mm round could be highly beneficial if used in basic training, where only a few Soldiers get picked to fire an 84 mm projectile from the AT4.
"After shooting a 20mm, I expected a bigger kick from the live one, but it was pretty accurate," he said. "If privates get to shoot this, it will give them an idea of what it's like to shoot a real 84 ... The practice 20mm has the reality of the kick and back blast, and it's just as loud as the live one."
Project managers and training developers will use the experiment's results to help decide which sub-caliber training round gets selected, but they said it would be at least two years before either is fielded.

Jun 7, 2010

Heavy packs cause injuries among Marines

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 6, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Navy researchers are preparing to launch a study aimed at preventing injuries suffered by Marines who carry heavy rucksacks into combat.
“The intent is to see if we can identify indicators of imminent injury ... or the fact that you have reached the tolerance point for load carriage,” said James Hodgdon, a research physiologist at Naval Health Research Center in San Diego. Navy medical officials and researchers are finalizing details of the two-year study and expect it will begin in a couple of months, Hodgdon said.
The study likely will include two groups of Marines: students at the School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and members of an infantry company preparing for deployment.
Some troops carry packs and weapons in combat that weigh 135 pounds or more. All that weight can injure even the most physically fit. Back strains, stress fractures, muscle sprains, herniated discs and other injuries occur with some frequency.
Researchers intend to study men only at this point. “The current focus is on infantry because they are the ones that will directly carry loads,” Hodgdon said.

Large study group
By following several groups of infantrymen, researchers hope to track any physiological changes to their bodies that may manifest, such as inflammation or a breakdown of connective tissues. Once they identify any “useful indicators,” Hodgdon said, research teams will conduct lab experiments to determine safe and tolerable weights.
“If we can show what the load carriage limits are, to establish points of strain, then we can use that to guide any physical training programs that are developed” to address the issue, he said. Preventing these injuries may be as simple as introducing new conditioning programs.
The Corps’ quest to replace its Individual Load Bearing Equipment pack began late last year. Approved in 2004, before the proliferation of roadside bombs prompted the development of beefier body armor, ILBE has been criticized for its many shortcomings. Marines surveyed by the Corps in 2009 said the pack doesn’t work well with their armor, noting also that it causes chafing and pain in their knees, backs and shoulders. Ultimately, the Marines surveyed graded it “completely unacceptable.”
Key to the Navy study’s data collection efforts will be a vertical MRI machine. Unlike standard MRI machines, which take images of the body while the person lies on his back, vertical machines provide images of the spine as it’s aligned under the effects of gravity. That will show researchers how a combat load affects compression on the spinal disks, Hodgdon said.
Researchers hope to capture these MRI images while the Marines are wearing combat packs. But that may be tricky because some packs and their attachments may contain metal, which cannot be placed in an MRI machine. Packs that use aluminum frames could be a viable alternative, Hodgdon said.

U.K. joins Army, Corps in hunt for new bullet

By Andrew Chuter - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 6, 2010

LONDON — Britain has joined a search for a better-performing 5.56mm bullet, contracting with supplier BAE Systems, which intends to deliver 1 million rounds of a new ammunition to the Ministry of Defence for testing by year’s end.
The high-performance ammunition offers better range and lethality, and has the bonus of being lead-free, making it environmentally friendly for use during training exercises.
The British are following in the footsteps of the Pentagon, which is now starting to field deadlier ammunition amid concerns that the NATO-standard SS109 bullet — known as the M855 in U.S. military service — is not effective against adversaries such as the Taliban at anything but short range.
In March, Army Times reported U.S. troops’ complaints that the M855 was ineffective against “barriers such as car windshields and often travels right through unarmored insurgents with less than lethal effects.”
British troops use the 5.56mm rounds in SA80A2 assault rifles and light machine guns.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence purchased more than 400 7.62mm rifles from U.S. company Law Enforcement International as an urgent operational requirement to allow troops to fight Taliban insurgents at longer ranges than the standard 5.56mm weapon.
Yet both BAE and MoD spokesmen denied that their work on a new round is related to the current war.
A BAE spokesman said the development of its new round is not related to “operations in Afghanistan, although it does make progression of development at a good speed more desirable.”
A company executive said the round will offer “improved lethality against unprotected targets and improved effectiveness against light vehicle targets.”
One industry executive said the standard round would likely become increasingly ineffective if used against conventional troops wearing body armor.
An MoD spokesman said the BAE work was nothing to do with Afghanistan and was part of a continuous ongoing development program for small-arms ammunition.
“We work closely with industry to ensure there is a continuous process of improving and upgrading our equipment. Our troops in Afghanistan are provided with a range of weapons they can use when fighting the Taliban.”
The MoD is having the new ammunition subjected to detailed independent analysis by defense research company QinetiQ.
BAE, which has a 15-year contract with the MoD to supply the bulk of its munitions requirements under a deal known as the Munitions Acquisition Supply Solution, is spending 83 million pounds ($121 million) to expand and modernize its Radway Green, England, small-arms ammunition plant. The refurbished plant will be able to produce more than 300 million rounds of small-arms ammunition a year.
Current annual production is around 200 million rounds split roughly 70-30 in favor of 5.56mm over 7.62mm. The company says it will switch all of its 5.56mm production over to the new round if the high-performance ammunition is adopted by the armed forces here.
The new technology replaces the traditional steel tip and lead core with a single steel core, while retaining the gilding metal envelope.
Work is currently being undertaken by BAE to produce the new round. A low-rate production batch of 1 million rounds is scheduled for delivery to the MoD around the end of the year.
The spokesman said that if development of the new 5.56mm round is successful, the company would consider undertaking similar work for its 7.62mm ammunition.
In the meantime, the new development closes the performance gap between the two calibers while retaining the benefits of the smaller, lighter 5.56mm weapon, he said.

Brass give guidance on camo paint for firearms

By David Larter - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Jun 6, 2010

The Army has OK’d painting your weapon; now it’s time to learn how to do it right.
As might be reasonably expected, the Army has produced a primer on painting M4 carbines and M16 rifles in the war zone.
Approval to paint came in March, soon after the switch to the MultiCam camouflage pattern for Afghanistan. It took several weeks for the rules to be issued.
Col. Doug Tamilio, the head of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, said the Army reversed the ban on painting weapons in part because “the soldiers, of course, are doing it anyway.”
“Traditionally, painting weapons has been prohibited because of the risk painting could pose to the operation of the weapon,” Tamilio told Army Times on May 27.
Guidance on the proper way to spray camouflage paint on their rifles, providing much-needed concealment without inhibiting the weapon’s performance, was published in a message from the Army. The message was followed by a “cheat sheet” prepared by Tamilio’s group, complete with photos and suggestions of the most efficient — and effective — way to paint the rifle.
The Army has acknowledged for years that black stands out on a battlefield because it rarely occurs in nature, except in shadows, and is among the easiest colors to see in movement. That fact renders even the best camo relatively ineffective if a black weapon is visible; neither the Universal Camouflage Pattern nor MultiCam has black in the pattern.
The advice comes from TACOM Life Cycle Management Command in the form of Maintenance Information Message 10-040, which acknowledges that black is highly reflective through infrared viewing devices and “provides a high degree of visual contrast when carried by camouflaged ... war-fighters.”
“Warfighters must be able to conduct tactical operations while reducing/limiting detection by the threat,” the message reads. “Camouflage paints provide for reduced visual detection and enhanced war-fighter survivability via neutral, non-reflective, and predominantly non-black colors.”
Of course, none of this was lost on soldiers, who have been painting their weapons since the outset of the war, despite an Army policy that had prohibited the practice.
“However, the new TACOM instructions provide specific guidance that truly protects the functionality of the weapon system, which in turn protects the soldier,” Tamilio said.
The instructions are not a blanket authorization for soldiers to paint their weapons. Rather, individual commanders must approve the painting.
“The new policy gives commanders in the field options in deciding how to address war fighter needs to limit detection by enemy forces,” Tamilio said.
Program Executive Office Soldier issued a mid-May advisory outlining TACOM’s instructions on painting and giving soldiers tips on how to effectively conceal their weapon.
“Remember, ‘pretty’ is not the objective of good camouflage,” it reads. “The goal is to break up the visual signature of the weapon system by blending your weapon in with your environment and uniform.”
The regulations will not eliminate all black on the weapon. To keep the weapon firing and accurate, certain components shouldn’t be painted. The safety selector, magazine release, magazine catch, trigger and forward assist are all off-limits.
Additionally, TACOM said not to paint the barrel and front sight assembly because the heat from multiple discharges will burn the paint off anyway.
Officials are giving soldiers a good deal of creative freedom over how they wish to paint their weapon, a practice PEO Soldier said it expects will “soon be elevated to a fine art.” But soldiers are reminded to pick colors best suited to blend with the terrain where they are operating.
No matter how pretty a weapon looks, it is more important that it work, officials say.
“The bottom line ... is that it’s more important that a weapon be functional than invisible,” the advisory reads.

Jun 4, 2010

M2 Machine Gun Safety Message

The US Forces – Afghanistan Safety Office published a Safety Bulletin last monthdue to a mishap involving an M2, an M93 Gun Mount, and a loose .50 round. The results are tragic. 


First woman picked to lead carrier air wing

By Lance M. Bacon - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jun 3, 2010

Cmdr. Sara Joyner, who was selected for promotion to captain, is the first women selected to head a Carrier Air Wing, according to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead
Roughead made the announcement Thursday at the 23rd annual Women’s Leadership Symposium in Washington.
The specific wing and date of assignment has not been announced.
Joyner, a Naval Academy graduate, joined naval aviation in 1991 — two years before Congress changed the rules to allow women in combat roles.
Being one of the first women warriors who served amid the change was difficult, Joyner said in a 2008 Navy release.
“Recognition and respect grew each year as we proved that women could be valuable members of the Navy. ... We didn't attempt to lessen the Navy's demands, but instead worked as part of the team to excel as equals,” she said.

Today, there are 317 female pilots, representing 4.2 percent of the Navy’s total, and 228 naval flight officers, which is 6.9 percent of that field.
Joyner has more than 3,300 flight hours and 600 traps. She has flown the A-4 Skyhawk with two composite squadrons and the F/A-18 Hornet with three fighter squadrons.

Notably, she was the first woman to command an operational fighter squadron, the VFA 105 Gunslingers. She took the stick in March 2007 and led the Gunslingers during a seven-month combat deployment aboard the carrier Harry S. Truman. The squadron flew more than 1,880 combat missions and delivered more than 35,000 pounds of ordnance in support of coalition ground troops in Iraq, according to Navy records.
In 2008, Joyner joined the staff of the director, Air Warfare Division at the Pentagon.

Jun 3, 2010

Marine Corps fielding new gas mask

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jun 2, 2010

The Marine Corps is in the midst of fielding a new gas mask that will replace the 1980s-era M40 Field Protective Mask. Designated the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, it has a similar fit and feel to the M40, but offers more protection and capabilities, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.
The mask, reminiscent of Darth Vader’s, is billed as compact, lighter, more comfortable and more effective by the Defense Department’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.
Chief among its advantages is a wider field of view, afforded by a single lens that spans the width of the mask’s face. The M40 has two smaller lenses.
The new mask can withstand exposure up to 24 hours — about twice as long as its predecessor — and it uses two small filters instead of one large one. This allows Marines to more easily replace them while in a contaminated environment. A new life-span indicator shows when filters are spent.
Other improvements include lower breathing resistance, meaning wearers are less likely to get winded during strenuous activity, and a carrying pouch that integrates with existing load-bearing equipment.
The Marine Corps has procured more than 129,000 masks and is distributing them. In October, III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa, Japan, became the first MEF to receive the M50, and immediately put it to use in the gas chamber. The mask also is being distributed in Hawaii.
As early as June, II MEF will be the next to distribute the mask, according to a SysCom spokeswoman. Marines under I MEF will get their hands on the mask late this summer.
The Corps also is fielding the M51, which is essentially an M50 outfitted with an array of accessories for use in vehicle-borne operations. Accessories can include a fire-retardant hood and a microphone adapter that makes radio communications clearer — especially important for ground commanders and air-traffic controllers.
Nearly all Marines can expect to at least train with the M50. But it isn’t just for Marines. It was developed for all services and other users include Special Forces, the Navy, the Air Force, the Army and the Coast Guard, according to the JPEO-CBD’s website.
Most Marines probably will use the mask only during training. But just because chemical, biological and radiological attacks haven’t played a role in current conflicts, Marine leadership has emphasized the need to remain equipped to deal with those threats.

Pentagon considers sending carrier to Korea

By Anne Flaherty and Pauline Jelinek - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 2, 2010 
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is considering dispatching the aircraft carrier CVN 73 George Washington to the waters where North Korea allegedly sank a South Korean warship, defense officials said Wednesday.
The deployment of the nuclear-powered carrier, one of the world’s largest warships, would represent a major show of force by the U.S., which has vowed to protect South Korea and is seeking to blunt aggression from North Korea.
An international investigation last month blamed North Korea for torpedoing a South Korean navy vessel, the Cheonan, in March, killing 46 sailors.
Two U.S. defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been made, said that a decision on deployment was likely by week’s end.
Last week, the Pentagon announced that it was planning two major military exercises with South Korea to take place in the “near future.” The exercises were to focus in part on anti-submarine operations.
The officials said the George Washington’s deployment would be separate from the upcoming exercises.

The latest plans to bolster military cooperation in the Yellow Sea was aimed specifically at sending a message to North Korea that the U.S. would help defend South Korea if necessary.
The deployment of the aircraft carrier would be seen as a particularly aggressive move by the United States because of its sheer size. According to a Navy website, the carrier is 244 feet high from keel to mast and can accommodate some 6,250 crew members.
Built in the 1980s, the carrier uses two nuclear reactors that would allow it to steam almost 18 years before needing to refuel.
The sinking of the Cheonan was South Korea’s worst military disaster since the Korean War, which started 60 years ago and ended in a cease-fire in 1953. No formal peace treaty was ever signed, and more than 28,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in the south, a critical regional ally.

Jun 2, 2010

Glitch shows how much military relies on GPS

By Dan Elliott - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Jun 1, 2010

DENVER — A problem that rendered as many as 10,000 U.S. military GPS receivers useless for days is a warning to safeguard a system that enemies would love to disrupt, a defense expert says.
The Air Force has not said how many weapons, planes or other systems were affected or whether any were in use in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the problem, blamed on incompatible software, highlights the military's reliance on the Global Positioning System and the need to protect technology that has become essential for protecting troops, tracking vehicles and targeting weapons.
"Everything that moves uses it," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, which tracks military and homeland security news. "It is so central to the American style of war that you just couldn't leave home without it."
The problem occurred when new software was installed in ground control systems for GPS satellites on Jan. 11, the Air Force said.
Officials said between 8,000 at 10,000 receivers could have been affected, out of more than 800,000 in use across the military.
In a series of e-mails to the Associated Press, the Air Force initially blamed a contractor for defective software in the affected receivers but later said it was a compatibility issue rather than a defect. The Air Force didn't immediately respond to a request for clarification.
The Air Force said it hadn't tested the affected receivers before installing the new software in the ground control system.
One program still in development was interrupted but no weapon systems already in use were grounded as a result of the problem, the Air Force said. The Air Force said some applications with the balky receivers suffered no problems from the temporary GPS loss.
An Air Force document said the Navy's X-47B, a jet-powered, carrier-based drone under development, was interrupted by the glitch. Air Force officials would not comment beyond that on what systems were affected.
Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove confirmed the X-47B's receivers were affected but said it caused no program delays.
At least 100 U.S. defense systems rely on GPS, including aircraft, ships, armored vehicles, bombs and artillery shells.
Because GPS makes weapons more accurate, the military needs fewer warheads and fewer personnel to take out targets. But a leaner, GPS-dependent military becomes dangerously vulnerable if the technology is knocked out.
James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the glitch was a warning "in the context where people are every day trying to figure out how to disrupt GPS."
The Air Force said it took less than two weeks for the military to identify the cause and begin devising and installing a temporary fix. It did not say how long it took to install the temporary fix everywhere it was needed, but said a permanent fix is being distributed.
All the affected receivers were manufactured by a division of Trimble Navigation Limited of Sunnyvale, Calif., according to the Air Force. The military said it ran tests on some types of receivers before it upgraded ground control systems with the new software in January, but the tests didn't include the receivers that had problems.
The Air Force said it traced the problem to the Trimble receivers' software. Trimble said it had no problems when it tested the receivers, using Air Force specifications, before the ground-control system software was updated.
Civilian receivers use different signals and had no problems.
Defense industry consultant James Hasik said it's not shocking some receivers weren't tested. GPS started as a military system in the 1970s but has exploded into a huge commercial market, and that's where most innovation takes place.
"It's hard to track everything," said Hasik, co-author of "The Precision Revolution: GPS and the Future of Aerial Warfare."
The Air Force said it's acquiring more test receivers for a broader sample of military and civilian models and developing longer and more thorough tests for military receivers to avoid a repeat of the January problem.
The Air Force said the software upgrade was to accommodate a new generation of GPS satellites, called Block IIF. The first of the 12 new satellites was launched from a Delta 4 rocket Thursday after several delays.
In addition to various GPS guided weapons systems, the Army often issues GPS units to squads of soldiers on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some cases a team of two or three soldiers is issued a receiver so they can track their location using signals from a constellation of 24 satellites.

System called safe

Space and Missile Systems Center spokesman Joe Davidson said in an e-mail to the Associated Press that the system is safe from hackers or enemy attack.
"We are extremely confident in the safety and security of the GPS system from enemy attack," he said, noting that control rooms are on secure military bases and communications are heavily encrypted.
"Since GPS' inception, there has never been a breach of GPS," Davidson said. He added that Air Force is developing a new generation of encrypted military receivers for stronger protection.
The military also has tried to limit the potential for human error by making the GPS control system highly automated, Davidson said.
GPS satellites orbit about 12,000 miles above Earth, making them hard to reach with space weapons, said Hasik, the defense industry consultant. And if the GPS master control station at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., were knocked out, a backup station at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., could step in.
Iraq tried jamming GPS signals during the 2003 U.S. invasion, but the U.S. took out the jammer with a GPS-guided bomb, Hasik said.
The technology needed to jam GPS signals is beyond the reach of groups like the Taliban and most Third World nations, Hasik said. Jamming is difficult over anything but a small area.
"The harder you try to mess with it, the more energy you need. And the more energy you use, the easier it is for me to find your jammer," Hasik said.
More worrisome, Hasik said, is the potential for an accident within U.S. ranks that can produce anything from an errant bomb to sending troops or weaponry on the wrong course.
In 2001, a GPS-guided bomb dropped by a Navy F-18 missed its target by a mile and landed in a residential neighborhood of Kabul, possibly killing four people. The military said wrong coordinates had been entered into the targeting system.

Jun 1, 2010

Engine, door-handle problems plague M-ATVs

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 1, 2010

MARJAH, Afghanistan — Problems persist with the Corps’ new mine-resistant vehicle involving its engine wiring and door latches.
The Corps has been aware of the engine problem in the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV, for several months, Marines here say. Wires running from the vehicle’s computer system are prone to overheating, shrinking and disconnecting from the engine, said Cpl. Michael Bird, a motor transport mechanic with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. When this occurs, a flashing light appears on the dashboard suggesting the vehicle’s engine communication has been lost.
“When wires heat up, they shrink down,” Bird said. “There’s not enough slack …, and they’re close enough to the rest of the engine where they get hot.”
In January, the vehicle’s manufacturer, Oshkosh, sent an employee downrange to conduct a class for motor transport mechanics at Camp Dwyer in Helmand province, Bird said. Mechanics with 3/6’s weapons company have become so proficient since then that they can fix the problem on most vehicles in about 10 minutes.
The Corps still is researching the wiring issue, said Barbara Hamby, a spokeswoman with Marine Corps Systems Command. She urged Marines who have seen the problem to report it.
The Corps first acknowledged the door-latch problem in March, after troops in Afghanistan spoke with Marine Corps Times about it. It has persisted ever since, with Marines and soldiers who use M-ATVs struggling to open the vehicle’s doors from the outside, possibly because of the door’s weight. When the problem occurs, they will access the vehicle through another door, then crawl over the seats and use the inside handle to open the one that’s stuck.
Marine mechanics said they can temporarily fix the problem by popping off a plate covering the latch on the inside of each door and tightening some of the pieces, Bird said. They have found also that lubricating the door hinges with the same CLP lube used on smallarms often helps it open and close more easily, though the problem with the sticking latch is likely to happen again.
Hamby said the door-latch problem prevents the handles from freely returning to their idle position. Some doors also were reported to be sagging.
“The Joint Program Office identified several root causes, which have been and are being resolved through modifications at the manufacturer’s production line, and by field service representatives supporting our troops in theater,” she said.
Oshkosh won a $1 billion contract last summer to produce up to 10,000 M-ATVs, pronounced “Matvees” by many Marines downrange. Ultimately, the Corps plans to field 1,454 of the vehicles. As of May 6, 993 had been fielded, Hamby said.

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