NY Times: Service Chiefs Say Afghan Battle Will Help Military Get Smarter, Stronger and Faster (Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002)
[Excerpt from NY Times article, Sept. 10, 2002]
By THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT
ASHINGTON, Sept. 9 — America's military is applying the lessons learned in Afghanistan, examining everything from whether the standard rifle cartridge fired by each soldier packs enough punch to whether floating oil platforms can be towed around the globe as secret bases for marines and Navy SEALs.
A number of urgent priorities already have emerged from studying after-action reports from Afghanistan, which could affect how billions in tax dollars are spent.
Some decisions promise to cut large silhouettes, such as determining how best to float a huge, mobile base so Special Operations forces and Marine expeditionary troops can strike targets with speed and secrecy even when no land base is available.
Their ocean-going camp could be an aging aircraft carrier without its jets; it could be a supertanker; it could be a series of oil platforms lashed together and pushed around the globe by barge. For the war in Afghanistan, the carrier Kitty Hawk served as a floating Special Operations base, but the decision took one-twelfth of the Navy's centerpiece battle platforms out of the usual rotation.
Other decisions are small but important, such as the realization that the 5.56 millimeter cartridge fired by the M-4 carbine, the standard assault rifle, may not carry sufficient punch. In Afghanistan, soldiers reported that it routinely took three bullets to drop an adversary. The Army is studying different rounds.
The Air Force is shopping for lighter, longer-life batteries to power the laser rangefinders that combat controllers use to pinpoint targets.
The war plan for Afghanistan may seem like a blueprint for victory, especially since the unexpectedly swift success was secured with just 19 American combat deaths.
While the four service chiefs who must organize, train and equip the military say Afghanistan was a battle laboratory for successful tests of new tactics and weapons, they add that the campaign illuminated weaknesses that must be addressed before the next offensive.
The Army and Air Force chiefs of staff, the chief of naval operations and the Marine Corps commandant all consented to rare, on-the-record interviews to reflect on the anniversary of a day when the Pentagon, their headquarters, became the front line. They discussed lessons learned and described how the past year changed the ways they would prepare for the next stage of combat against terrorism.
The service chiefs pointed to the need to focus on these major changes:
The Navy has to be even more places at once, and its planes will have to attack far beyond the shores to bring persistent, credible combat power around the globe.
The Marines have to think not of amphibious landings, but of expeditionary invasions hundreds of miles inland.
The Air Force will have to shorten the time it takes to identify images of potential targets captured by unmanned aircraft, like Predators and Global Hawk, send that information to command centers and ultimately dispatch attack orders to bombers loitering high above the battlefield.
The Army's light forces have to have some form of armored vehicles when they first arrive at the front, while heavy armor has to be faster to the battle.
In fact, the Army is already acting to meet one of those needs by transforming some units into Stryker Brigades as an interim step between today's tanks and the futuristic weapons of tomorrow. Built around a light armored vehicle called Stryker, the brigades can be flown in C-130 transports, as opposed to the massive C-17 required by tanks. ...
Precision is extraordinarily important to the ability to wage war with a smaller logistical trail when one smart bomb can do the job of dozens of heavy, dumb pieces of ordnance. The Air Force and Navy fired off a substantial percentages of their stocks of precision-guided munitions over Afghanistan, although the arsenals are just weeks away from being fully replenished.
The Army's Apache helicopter, designed to take out heavily armored Soviet tank columns at ground level deep behind enemy lines, was adapted to strafe the high alpine ridgelines of southeastern Afghanistan as troops scoured caves for Taliban and Al Qaeda. It was an unexpected mission that echoed the role of its ancestor, the Cobra gunship, in Southeast Asia.
The Navy's P-3 Orion, a four-propeller aircraft designed to lumber over the high seas for 16 hours at a time searching out enemy submarines with its sophisticated sensors, was just as useful over the scorching Afghan desert. It flew intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the Navy's special warfare teams; SEALs were aboard the P-3s to radio enemy positions to counterparts carrying out missions against targets on the ground.
( Full article is available at www.nytimes.com/2002/09/10/national/10MILI.html?todaysheadlines )
"Other decisions are small but important, such as the realization that the 5.56 millimeter cartridge fired by the M-4 carbine, the standard assault rifle, may not carry sufficient punch. In Afghanistan, soldiers reported that it routinely took three bullets to drop an adversary. The Army is studying different rounds."
Changing to a 1/7 and 62 grain bullets seems to be not that good an idea, especially on the short carbines. I bet if they started putting 16" 1/12 pencil barrels on them M4s, then issued 55 grain ammo, problems would vanish.
I have come full circle on this issue over the years & now agree with you. I’ve gone back to the Colt LW 1/9” (to be compatible with SS109 ammo) 16” barrel using M193 ammo.
Better velocity, less flash, light weight & cheaper ammo.