Digging in is Useless Against New Army Rifle

Digging in is Useless Against New Army Rifle
Posted by FoM on January 08, 2000 at 17:23:29 PT
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
Source: Startribune
Ever since the Vietnam War, the American infantryman's most valued tool and trusted friend has been the M-16, a lightweight but lethal rifle that can spew out devastating torrents of high-speed fire.Soon the Army will be giving the foot soldier a new battlefield companion, a high-tech weapon designed to revolutionize the timeless tactics of combat by giving U.S. troops the ability, in effect, to shoot around corners.
The new weapon, which looks like a steroid-fed prop from a sci-fi movie, uses lasers to guide smart shells that explode in the air above concealed enemy soldiers, spraying them with metal fragments. The air-burst shells effectively eliminate the protection provided by the boulders, trenches and walls that have hidden soldiers for centuries.It "leaves no place to hide," said Vernon Shisler, a manager of the Army's development program at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.The rifle, being built by Alliant Techsystems of Hopkins, Minn., is to be issued to some units in 2007.The Objective Individual Combat Weapon will give U.S. light infantry and Special Forces the kind of decisive, high-tech edge that already has been built into U.S. tanks, aircraft and artillery, according to its advocates. They say that the weapon will be especially well-suited for the urban battlefields of the future, in places like Somalia and Chechnya.Yet big challenges remain: The rifle is a heavy 18.6 pounds, vs. 8.5 pounds for the M-16. It is not clear whether its complex, miniature works can stand up to weather, dirt and battlefield handling. And the price is steep: an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 per weapon, vs. about $586 for the M-16.Moreover, ordinary foot soldiers must undergo more training to operate the rifle. Soldiers who conducted the first field test of the weapon trained for 30 days, and at least a few said that they still had problems mastering the laser aiming device.Simple and Reliable: The trade-off between simplicity and sophistication reflects one of the biggest challenges facing U.S. military planners. High-tech weapon systems can give U.S. forces a decisive edge but only if they are simple enough and reliable enough to work when they are needed most. And at a time when recruiting quality personnel is becoming increasingly difficult, the complexity of modern weaponry mandates ever-smarter and better-trained soldiers.The new firearm is, in effect, two weapons in one. It has one barrel that shoots a 5.56-millimeter shell and is intended to be used like an M-16 for close-range fighting. Sitting atop that barrel is a second that fires 20-millimeter air-burst shells. The larger shells function like small grenades, spraying deadly shrapnel for several feet in every direction.The weapon's most revolutionary feature is the way it uses a laser and computer to get at enemies who are concealed up to 3,280 feet away. That's nearly two-thirds of a mile and about twice the effective range of the M-16.The rifle has been designed to use sensors that intensify low light and others that track heat so it can be used at night. Based on preliminary tests, the Army believes that the rifle will give soldiers about five times the ability to incapacitate the enemy that they have now with the closest equivalent weapon, an M-16 mounted with an M-203 grenade launcher.The rifle has been in development since the mid-1980s, when planning was begun by a team headed by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who is now director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He then was assistant commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga.A 100-man infantry company may fire 50,000 rounds of ammunition during the first few hours of a battle. But most of that will be expended as suppressive fire, just "to keep people under cover," McCaffrey said. With its ability to accurately get at hidden troops, the new weapon "really represents revolutionary change."The basic laser and computer technology in the new weapon has been around for years in larger weapons, such as the M-1 tank. In the Persian Gulf War, U.S. tanks used such targeting systems to blow away the Soviet-built Iraqi tanks before enemy tank crews knew they were nearby.But cramming this technology into the small space of a "personal" infantry weapon is difficult. Miniaturization is actually the big technical advance, according to its developers.To Be Published: January 9, 2000 Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 08, 2000 at 18:39:19 PT
Gov't planning at its' finest
The great sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein once wrote that an elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.It would seem that MISTER McCaffrey got his training in government boondoggles very early on, long before he became head of the biggest boongoggle of them all. This should come as no surprise that he headed up the project of this new rifle - it fits his style perfectly. Blast b******t in the general direction of your opposition in the hope that if you keep enough of it in the air, it will overwhelm your opponent. Problem with that is that sooner or later, just like that rifle of his will, you'll run out of BS. And someone armed with a simpler weapon - like the truth - will take careful aim and take you out.
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