Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Arms: Big Pain

The U.S. military has been engaged in Afghanistan for ten years and for eight years in Iraq. It seems to be a little late in the game for the Army and Marine Corps to still be working through issues with their rifles and other small arms.  I do not want to hear any excuses about lack of money - both services field multi-million dollar weapons systems from UAVs to tanks, helicopters and planes.  But Somehow the infantry's small arms, in this case grenade launchers, continue to get short shrift.

The Army is field testing the XM25, a dedicated grenade launcher the fires a programmable 25mm airburst round.  The Marines say it is too expensive for them to replace their 40mm rifle-slung grenade launchers with.  Why isn't the XM25 a joint program with Army and Marines?  Why is the XM25 using 25mm rounds when Marines and others believe the 40mm round would be better?  An infantry weapons officer with the Marines said,"if you have an air-burst capability on a multi-shot grenade launcher, you would be wrecking people."  Shouldn't every infantry platoon, Army and Marines, have at least one such weapon by now?

  Perhaps if the Corps finally admitted its traditionally amphibious assault role is behind them, they could free up their budget for things like a multi-shot grenade launcher with airburst rounds. Amphibious assault vehicles, hovercrafts and assault ships that carry them are expensive to build and field.  The Marines of the 21st century  launch assaults via troop transport helicopter and tilt rotors.  These could be launched from modified carriers instead of separate ships.  Storming the beaches died with the proliferation of cruise missiles and tactical rocket batteries. It is time Marine Corps doctrine, organization, training and procurement should reflect this.

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