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Posted: 12/29/2003 4:55:12 PM EDT
Looking at the news reports from both Iraq and Afghanistan (and remember I have not been there)has got me thinking. US Army rifle platoon organizations of all types have two or three 7.62 GPMGs in a support section. And traditionally have had a MMG/GPMG going back to WWII. They have been very popular with platoon leaders.

But in both Afganistan and Iraq we have been faced with things that make me wonder about the types real effectiveness, and maybe that there could be something better we could issue in their place that would make better use of the manpower and weight they take up. Like the M3 Carl Gustav RCLR and the M224 mortar in its handheld mode- or buying some of the even smaller and lighter Soltam M576 "Commando" mortars.

In Afghanistan, we often have been facing Mujahadeen lobbing RPGs at us from ridgelines and hilltops hiding behind boulders and rock sangars engaging from ranges of near a kilometer. When the Taliban have not been doing that, they have been hiding in buildings and behind walled compounds made from stone or heavy mud brick. Now, what good does 7.62mm MG fire do against rocks and brick? Yeah if you can concentrate on the windows and aperatures or beat along the top of brestworks. That will maybe keep there heads down and allow you to move, but requiring a lot of ammo- and a lot of times just allowing the enemy to go out the back door and move to another positon or escape entirely.

In Iraq we have again, lots of buildings and walls people shoot at us from behind or through windows out of. The ranges are usually farely short. But GPMG fire again mostly splatters off of walls or passes harmlessly overhead. And when sombody does stick their head out and expose themselves they are not any less dead if shot with a 5.56mm at that range than a 7.62.

I propose that it might be a better use for the 4-9 men assigned as heavy weapons crews in a rifle platoon to be given the M3 Carl Gustav or a M224 60mm mortar. Both, when carried with a round chambered, weigh roughly the same as a empty M240B at 23-24 pounds. The M3's HEAT round will easily penetrate a meter of concrete or brick or several feet of stacked rock. Its has a HE frag round that can be set to explode in the center of a room if you can get it through a window or who are just hiding in slit trenches or ditches.

The 60mm mortar has its M972 VT fuze round that will also sweep open trenches and rooftops. And its impact/delay round is not ineffective against rock bunkers or penetration of wooden roofs, though not perhaps as good as the Carl Gustav. And against infantry in the open, would rapid 60mm fire with airburst rounds not be as or more effective than the grazing fire of a GPMG-remembering that even without the GPMGs a rifle platton still has six belt fed MGs, just that they are in 5.56mm and have a bit shorter range.

Both the Carl Gustav and the mortar have a longer effective range than the GPMG and can match or surpass the range of the RPGs being lobbed at us in Afghanistan.

What do you think. Do I have a idea here?
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:11:08 PM EDT
well, as an arm chair commando, I think it's a decent idea
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:26:37 PM EDT
A GPMG's job is to pin down the enemy!!!!  This in turn allows one to lob mortar and arty fire to great effect on the pinned down zipperheads.  By keeping their heads down also cuts down on their ability to accurately shoot at you.  This is what Combined Arms is all about.  Each system compliments the other and in turn waste the enemy while keeping your own casualties down.

Just remember that mortars and Carl Gustav's aren't the best weapons when the enemy is right up on you as you can frag your own troops as you will be in the  blast radius of thier HE warheads.

I am sure some of the Infantry guys on the board can point out even better than I.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:29:13 PM EDT
You articulated a good argument, however I cannot agree. Simply put the weapons you listed cannot provide several necessities.

Where is your base of fire during an attack on a fixed position?

How do you provide grazing fire in the defense? I know you covered this, but nothing stops an assault like properly sited grazing fire.

Maybe we could find a way to augment our fire teams/squads with additional weapons as you've described, but replacing them would be inappropiate IMHO.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:40:05 PM EDT
Alot of what you described can be covered by the M203/M79 system...

As for Iraq, rocket launchers & mortars aren't a very good idea in a place where you may NOT want to kill a whole building... And at those ranges, the M203 does the same job...

As for the rigeline scenario, they generally use artillery & air support... I believe mortars are still in the US inventory, as is the AT-4 rocket launcher (i.e. Gustav)...
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:42:27 PM EDT
Mortars and Recoilless Rifles have their place, but so do machine guns.  Both are normally Company assets are tasked down to the Plts or squads as needed.  Most Platoon have a hard time supporting just ammo for their machine guns, let alone heavier weapons.  Also the mortars get into the issue of clearance of fires and control of territory, if you give them a weapon that can shoot way outside of their AOR than your asking for trouble.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:49:16 PM EDT
Yes, 60mm are normally company mortars for light units (2 in the army 3 in the Marines) and 81s and/or 120s at the Battalion level (light units in the army can have either the 81s, 120s or a mix and the heavy units 120s, Marines right now have 8 81s but are starting experiments with 120s).
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 5:52:28 PM EDT
I'll give him the M224 can outrange the M240 but the M3 (Karl Gustav) have a much shorter range than the M240.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 6:38:55 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/29/2003 6:51:47 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
[url]http://www.strategypage.com/fyeo/howtomakewar/default.asp?target=htarm.htm&base=htarm&Prev=0&BeginCnt=31[/url]
The Army has discovered that the disposeable M136 and M141 launchers are too heavy- they weigh only about 4 pounds less than the CG does when its empty. They do not allow for variety in ammunition. And as you ask for heavier, longer ranged warheads the disposables have to get heavier tubes, which makes them nearly as heavy as a non disposable like the CG.

I don't know about the M240 outranging the CG by much. The HEAT/RAP round is listed as having a range of 700m against VHEICLES. How much longer for stationary and area targets(I haven't been able to find this on the internet)? The HE round is 500m against point targets (apertures) and 1000m against buildings and troops in the open. On the mortar side in hand held mode the max range for a M224 is only 1300m. Now that is more than the M240 but not by a lot. But more importantly both rounds are going to do more damage- they are more likely do destroy the enemy soldier, weapon, or position outright rather than just wound him or force him to move.

Alot of what you described can be covered by the M203/M79 system...
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Yes a lot can, the 40mm grenade was invented specificly to cover the gap between minimum mortar range and hand grenade range, and do it better than spigot rifle grenades. But you cannot breech with 40mm grenades in the streets, and 300m's range was not enough especially in the high winds, for reaching sangars in Afghanistan unless you crawled a long way under fire.

How do you provide grazing fire in the defense? I know you covered this, but nothing stops an assault like properly sited grazing fire.
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You still have 6 M249 in each platoon. Also at either the company or at battalion you have .50cal MGs that are much better at this, espcally when fitted with a AN/PAS-13 Thermal Imager, than the GPMG would be. On defense their weight is not a big deal. Also, IS grazing MG fire really better than airbursting fragmentation rounds? This was the basis behind the OICW and OCSW, and though both projects appear headed for the dumpster their failings were in the inability to produce HE rounds of effective power to execute this, I have seen no descision on the matter being reached.

As for the rigeline scenario, they generally use artillery & air support... I believe mortars are still in the US inventory, as is the AT-4 rocket launcher (i.e. Gustav)...
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Only 2 60mm per company. And 10th Mountain Division found that that wasn't enough during Anaconda. Also the AT-4 isn't the Charlie G. It has a reduced powder charge, otherwise it would be even heavier, and it uses the older pattern Charlie G HEAT round for its warhead, not the newer rocket assisted FFV551 round. Its effective range is about half the M3's against point targets when using the HEAT/RAP round. If they increased the powder charge or switched to the HEAT/RAP projectile the tube would have to be made longer and heavier, and the result would be a disposable that weighed as much as the reuseable M3. You simply can carry more rounds, more easily with the M3 than using the disposable launchers now.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 6:49:52 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/29/2003 6:52:51 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
I wouldn't suggest replacing the 7.62 outright if I could help it but its a matter of weight. If you give them the weapons that are better for offensive tasks against the fortifications and buildings we are encountering, something just has to go, they cannot carry GPMGs, Mortars, and RCLRs all at the same time. They can I think get away with two of the three.

About the problems with fire clearences when issuing mortars that far forward- the IDF and the British Army have always had small mortars that far forward and they don't seem to of had much problem with firing on each other.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 6:58:25 PM EDT
The max range for a 240G in the direct fire mode is 1800 meters, in the indirect fire mode (even with out the indirect fire sights) is around the 3600 meters.  
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 7:09:56 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/29/2003 7:19:05 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
Originally Posted By STLRN:
The max range for a 240G in the direct fire mode is 1800 meters, in the indirect fire mode (even with out the indirect fire sights) is around the 3600 meters.  
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How effective is it at that range? 1800m is on the long side for .50 cal sniper rifles.

And why were the RPG gunners in Afghanistan not deterred by this? Both 10th Mountian and the Rangers had trouble getting fire superiority and silencing enemy positions with GPMGs as their primary suppressive fire weapon.

Again, it would be a compromise, and one that would shift the platoons balance more toward offensive operations and less to defense. Though I think a platoon with a pair of 60mm mortars could generate quite a bit of defensive fire.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 7:20:27 PM EDT
It's pretty damn effective against troops, remember your shooting 7-10 round burst off a M122 and flex mount.  The biggest problem with "effectiveness" at longer range is not ability to kill but the ability to hit.  

Marine tankers were able to get some really good long range hits with their COAX M240s at some pretty damn long ranges while moving because of the optics, laser range finder, fire control computer and stabilization.

I am not sure why they had problem in Op Anaconda, other than a company only has 6 machine guns on its TO/E and limited amounts (as much as the men can carry) ammo, the people we have been fighting often have allot more guns and caches of ammo to shoot out of.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 7:23:01 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/29/2003 7:24:25 PM EDT by Carbine_Man]
How about the [url=http://www.army-technology.com/projects/javelin/]Javelin[/url]

My son is/was a Javelin gunner in the 101st (now in Mosul) and there are a lot of indications that this was a huge success in Iraq.  There was a firefight captured by one of the network news cameras that showed on in action near the Baghdad Airport.

Although its listed as anti-armor it saw a lot of action in bunker busting.

Just a thought.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 7:32:49 PM EDT
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 8:19:03 PM EDT
What Troy said.

Give up the GPMG's and the massed infantry/mounted infantry attacks will come back to haunt us.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 8:33:45 PM EDT
Troy, with all due respect, the RPG's effectiveness is vastly over rated.  First of all, it is range limited and while it can be an intimidating weapon against massed troops, it lacks accuracy consistent with its blast/frag zone for any area type targets past 500 meters.  

And its major drawback would be its huge signature when fired.  If you don't get them on the first shot, chances are the return fire will get you.  Not a survivable system for OUR doctrine.  Use it in a feyadeen-style campaign where martyrdom is a valued end, and its a different story.  

Training is the key.  And technology like fire finding RADAR will make hostile indirect fire a one-shot use option, not something likely to be an issue in future combat.
Link Posted: 12/29/2003 8:49:39 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/29/2003 9:20:19 PM EDT by ArmdLbrl]
I am not sure why they had problem in Op Anaconda, other than a company only has 6 machine guns on its TO/E and limited amounts (as much as the men can carry) ammo, the people we have been fighting often have allot more guns and caches of ammo to shoot out of.
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My hypothesis is that they were just hiding behind so much rock and were so well dug in that you needed artillery to get through to them. And there wasn't enough, untill we called in the bombers.

The Soviets already figured out what we need: the RPG
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What does the RPG offer, really, other than its easier for just one man to load if needed? On the other hand the Carl G is more accurate, has a longer range, and because it is a breech loaded tube we can build a Cannister round for it if we want.

Javelin is both too expensive and its a little too heavy per round.

Give up the GPMG's and the massed infantry/mounted infantry attacks will come back to haunt us.
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How? You don't think the six M249's per platoon and attached M2's from higher eschalons cant do the job? Also all the VT fused 60mm bombs, the VT rounds and potentally cannister rounds from the 84mms.

Really, can we quantify how much damage the GPMGs are doing for the amount of people and logistics they take up? Can the 84mm and 60mm either alone or in combination cover for them? Because the 60mm and 84mm appear to be much better for the assault than

Also, you are aware I am only talking about removing GPMGs from rifle platoons, not from tanks, Bradleys, cavalry Humvees that dont have .50's or Mk19's. Not removing them from the whole inventory. I just want to make this clear.

Even if we went back to the jungle, sometime in the future, in a situation more like Vietnam. Remember we didn't have a SAW in that war. We used M60's en mass, but a lot of them were used as SAWs, the engagement ranges would be easily covered by the M249. And other countries, like Britain, Austrailia, and Japan, fought in the jungle with lots of little 2in/50mm class mortars well up front.

Edited to add this for the M240B :
[img]http://155.217.58.58/cgi-bin/atdl.dll/fm/3-22.68/t3_1.jpg[/img]

To compare with this for the M249:
[img]http://155.217.58.58/cgi-bin/atdl.dll/fm/3-22.68/t1_1.jpg[/img]
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 3:57:30 AM EDT
All you have to do to answer this question is look back in history.

We had the M14, M79, M60 and the 90mm RCLR.  As time went on, the small arms were replaced with the M4/M16, M203, and M240.  The 90mm was replaced by the Dragon, then that by the Javelin.  The old Bazooka was replaced with the LAW, then the AT-4.

The M240's are a valuable weapon.  They do represent a great deal MORE firepower than anything the squad has (including the M249) because it shoots bigger bullets.  Grazing fire means that the round doesn't travel above the height of a man out to that range, so a grazing fire of, say, 600m would allow you to hit and kill everyone within 600m from the end of the barrel without any adjustments.  You can't do that with any sort of mortar or rocket launcher.  Yes, that mortar can go a long way, but what would equate to the "beaten zone" is all that would be effected.  Any targets along the way would not be.

The GPMG also provides longer range and better penetration than the M249.  Think of things like cars, trees, brush, walls, etc. all of which are common in urban terrain, all of which get penetrated far better by 7.62mm than 5.56mm.  

You're approaching this from the wrong angle.  The Ranger Battalions currently use the Carly G (replacing the 90mm's they used to have), and the M240 because it makes sense to have both weapons.  They didn't replace one with the other, because they are two VERY different animals.

The best place to look to putting the Carly G or an equivelent multi-purpose rocket launcher is in the Javelin gunner's hands.  If you figure on tackling tanks, take the Javelin.  If you're going up against insurgents in Baghdad, then he carries the rocket launcher.  

A Javelin will do a pretty good number on a bunker, and a RCLR will do a pretty good number on a tank close up, so the overlap is good.  Here you are replacing one weapon with another of a similar nature, but with different characteristics more suited to whatever the task at hand is.  

An alternative would be to make a multi-purpose round for the Javelin.  It wouldn't be cheap, but what in our military is, and a guided round with that kinda range offers some serious potential.  

Another alternative (which IS currently being looked at) is to ditch the AT-4 and have a couple guys hump Carly G's and everyone carry rounds for it instead of the disposibles.

The USMC SMAW is an American version of the Israeli version of the RPG.  So if you were to go the RPG route, it seems more logical to just issue the Army the one that's already in the system.  Even though the USMC uses a version of the RPG, they still seem to find a need for the M240, so again, it's not that replacing the M240 is a great idea as much as just adding the SMAW.

If the 10th didn't have enough mortars, the answer is to get more mortars in the mortar sections, not push them farther down into the squad.  Mortars are indirect fire weapons, and are much more effective en masse, and used with fire control and coordination.  Sorta like, yeah, you can direct fire a 105mm, but it's more effective to have a battery of them firing coordinated fires.

Ross
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 5:44:20 AM EDT
you cannot replace the GPMG, once dialed in a range-carded the GPMG can be an area denial weapon by raking a beaten zone, it can engage point targets, it can provide defensive grazing fire, but most importantly it can be deployed and redeployed VERY rapidly. try that with a mortar.
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 2:50:37 PM EDT
Originally Posted By DvlDog:
you cannot replace the GPMG, once dialed in a range-carded the GPMG can be an area denial weapon by raking a beaten zone, it can engage point targets, it can provide defensive grazing fire, but most importantly it can be deployed and redeployed VERY rapidly. try that with a mortar.
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You are obviously thinking about a different mortar than I am, because it takes no time at all to move a hand held M224. And how can beating a area with 60mm airburst rounds be ineffective? And you are also only focusing on defensive fire tasks, which we have not had a lot of. We have been doing a lot more assaulting of buildings and rock fortifications that a 7.62mm is just going to splatter against.

The GPMG also provides longer range and better penetration than the M249. Think of things like cars, trees, brush, walls, etc. all of which are common in urban terrain, all of which get penetrated far better by 7.62mm than 5.56mm.
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On paper the 7.62 penetrates some barrier materials better than 5.56. But useage of those penetratable barrier materials in the places we are fighting now are rare. But if you need to penetrate a barrier or destroy a vheicle, why not blow it up or breech it with a 84mm round? Then the problem is gone and you can go move on to the next target. If collateral damage is a concern I doubt seriously they are going to let you use a 7.62mm MG either, the job will be turned over to snipers.

I think a lot of the arguments for the GPMG based on the "by the book" instructions are simply because we are always used to them being there. There there so we use them, not because there might be something better available.

What I see again is.
In Iraq:
Engagements are always in effective range of 5.56mm weapons.
Often, if not always, involve people hiding behind rock, concrete block, poured concrete or heavy mud brick walls that 7.62 won't penetrate.
Anyone who exposes themselves enough to be hit by 7.62 is just as likely to be hit and killed by 5.56.
60mm can go over walls and rake rooftops. Set for airburst it will not bring down the house. But people hiding behind walls, in courtyards and on roofs that are trying to shoot at us will be vunerable to the vertical fire. And it can also lay down smoke
84mm will breech walls, still probably small enough to not collapse the house (unlike 120mm from the M1's). One airburst HE-frag into the center of a room will probably take out everyone even if they barricade themseleves in the center of a room, like we teach. In those cases you can shoot a lot of 40mm grenades before you acheve the same effect.
And if its ok to destroy the house a WP round will guarentee no one will use that room to shoot at you again.

In Afghanistan:
Either we are raiding villages and rural compounds built like the compounds in Iraq, with lots of stone and mud brick walls that nothing less than .50 cal will make a impression in. Or we are in open country where the ranges are on the ragged edge of 7.62 effective range and the bad guys are still hiding behind rock fortified positions, natural or man made, the small arms fire is never going to penetrate. The ranges are well beyond 40mm and disposable launcher range.

60mm mortars, even in hand held mode, can make the range and can drop their rounds over and behind obsticals. The 84mm can simply dismantle the rock structures, and turn them into extra shrapnel to flay those inside.

Only hits count. Why bounce bullets off of rocks and trust that they are intimidated by the sound and the odd lucky hit when you can destroy their positions, and kill them outright? Even if you have the ammo, how much time to you waste with that approach?
Link Posted: 12/30/2003 3:09:26 PM EDT
What I think would be good, and I think it may be happening, is that all Army infantry other than Rangers and Bradley Mech battalions are going to go to a organization similar to the Stryker company. Maybe without the extra 7 vheicle crewmen per platoon, but they might get lucky and get the full 47 men that a Stryker platoon has.

I would suggest a infantry platoon with 3 usual 9 man rifle squads, and then two 7 man weapons squads. One with 3 M3 Carl Gustavs and one with two 60mm M224's in handheld mode. And then a weapons platoon in the company (tanking the place of the Strykers AGS and mortar sections) consisting of a 3 tube M224 mortar section with complete equipment (heavy baseplate, bipod, sight, computer) with 10 men and 3 ATVs, and another 10 man section with 3 .50 cal MGs and 3 ATVs to help carry them.

That would make a company with 9 60mm mortars, 9 84mm RCLRs, 18 M249's and 3 M2 .50cal HMGs with AN/PAS-13. Plus 9 Javelin CLUs for dealing with tanks. Now you could also give each company 9 M240's to be kept as needed, just like the 9 Javelin launchers, but they should be given lower priority to the Carl Gustavs and Mortars. If you are going to have trouble with hauling enough ammo for the Charlie Gs and mortars then they should be told to leave the GPMGS at home especally if they are going to be conducting a assault or agressive patrolling. Just like the heavy Javelins shouldn't be brought unless you are going to face MBTs.
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