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Old 11-24-2007   #1
Norfolk
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Default Platoon Weapons

"U.K. Platoon Weapons and the Weight Capability Myth" by William F. Owen (from RUSI Defence Systems June, 2007, Vol. 10, No. 1):

http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets...on_Weapons.pdf

Another intersting article by William F. Owen, this time concerning the weapons of the British Army Infantry Platoon. Owen is looking for ways to reduce the carried load of the British infantryman, but ends up proposing a new Infantry Section organization as well. Owen comes out rather strongly against providing infantrymen with weapons and training for employment beyond 200 m; he contends that beyond that range, infantrymen are typically unable to effectively target the enemy with carefully-aimed individual weapons. According to battle surveys taken over the past decade and a half or so from the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, 80% of all firefights occur within 200 m. Furthermore, that even determined training has failed to enable infantrymen to deal effectively with targets with individual, point-weapons beyond 200 m. He also notes that 5.56 mm ammo is more-or-less ineffective much past 200 m anyway, but interestingly, he does not consider this to be a problem at longer ranges; he points out that the man under fire doesn't care what the calibre of the bullets striking at and around him are, he's going to go to ground anyway.

Instead, he proposes that firefights at ranges of over 200 m be dealt with by machine guns, grenade launchers, rockets, and mortars. He takes the British Army to task (and I very much agree) for removing the 51 mm Light Mortar from the Infantry Platoon HQ (effective range 800 m) as it claims that the 40mm Underslung Grenade Launcher (range 350 m) can replace it in the indirect-fire role (obviously it can't). He does however, approving take notice of the M-32 40 mm Medium Grenade Launcher with its 800 m range. Eventually, Owen proposes an Infantry Section composition of 8 men split into a machine gun team and a medium grenade launcher team.

William F. Owen - Quote:

"It is section weapons and HE projectors that win firefights, not IWs.
Where the performance of IWs is critical is at short range."

-Unquote

Interesting, but I'm not sure that either team is suited for the assault itself, and sadly, discussion of the Infantry Platoon gets waylaid in the course of the article. Although the issue of weight does get fair treatment, I think, and that reducing the typical British infantryman's load from 42 kg (52 kg for Section Commanders due to radio and batteries) to 26 kg is partially faciliated by some of Owen's proposals for Platoon Weapons. He does not sound optimistic that a clear recognition that solutions to the weight problem are readily at hand will in fact occur.
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Old 11-24-2007   #2
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Default Slightly off target?

Odd the reported removal of the 51mm mortar as the recent BBC-TV Panorama programme on Afghanistan showed soldiers using it. They may have had the underslung grenade launcher, but it is not so easy to spot.

Secondly the British Army has traditionally not issued 0.50 calibre machine guns beyond the armoured corps; now they are in wide use in Afghanistan, on Land Rovers and static posts.

From a non-military "armchair".

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Old 11-25-2007   #3
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Owen writes some interesting articles. I'm usually not quite sure how I feel about his proposals after the first reading though.

For instance: at first I liked his idea of re-organizing the infantry platoon into a smaller platoon subdivided into big fire teams (the "fire team group" platoon); after more thought it just seemed like re-arrainging the same old company furniture in the same old company living room just to give a different look.

Owen's articles are something I tend to think about and mull over quite a bit. I'll have to do the same with this one.
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Old 11-26-2007   #4
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Wink Interesting . . .

But it brings up two questions:

1) MOUT - house clearing generally requires machine guns in a support role - covering avenues of approach (streets, hallways, etc.). Mortars are limited, unless we're talking a Stalingrad or Hue situation. Rifles and riflemen will always be needed . . .

2) Why am I still qualifying from the 500?
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Old 11-26-2007   #5
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Oh, I do hate "statistical firefights". Unfortunately, the 20% of the time you need to reach out and touch someone, it'd be "nice" to do so with IWs.

I've done some "cow-patty" shooting at the 600-800 meter range, and was amazed at how easy it was, under certain conditions, to "ID" the target, and then, how relatively easy it was to hit the specific area IVO the target, as well as the target itself. (Cow patties give a relatively spectacular secondary effect, whether wet or dry.)

I was shooting an Ishapore in .308 at the time, with iron sights. The terrain was rolling, with the longest possible shot right at a mile. (No joy at hitting a target at that range, though I might've scared it, should it be a vehicle).

Bottom line, I think there is a place for both 5.56 and .308 rifles in a serious military's arsenal. Machineguns are relatively inflexible, compared to a rifle.
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Old 11-26-2007   #6
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I note that the writer has not touched on the logistics of supplying the various different types of ammunition, which might be a useful addition, even if only to argue that its not an issue.

Off topic, but there was a proposal many many years ago when we were armed with SLR's (FN 7.62) to ditch the sections single 7.62 GPMG and replace it with two Brens per section, recalibered in 7.62 and using a common (prepacked/disposable) magazine that fitted both weapons and infantrymen would carry extra magazines instead of link.

Section Commanders liked the idea (as far as I could tell) because it gave them two identical fire teams and it was felt that the ease of use of the Bren made up for the slightly slower rate of fire caused by Mag changes, it also simplified resupply and "load balancing".....but the proposal was squashed.
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Old 12-13-2007   #7
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Default I am William F. Owen

I was pointed at this board by the guys at Reading University, and having read through what I could, I can see why.

I had no idea anyone actually read my stuff!

Give me some time to chew on this and I will attempt to reply to all points raised.
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Old 12-13-2007   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I was pointed at this board by the guys at Reading University, and having read through what I could, I can see why.

I had no idea anyone actually read my stuff!

Give me some time to chew on this and I will attempt to reply to all points raised.
Welcome to Small Wars Mr. Owen, and thank-you for joining us! Yes, your pieces have indeed been the object of interest and discussion. Now that you're with us, and if you are able to find the time for that as well (or wait until your sabbatical to do so), we would be pleased if you would review our Rifle Squad composition thread at some point. But by all means, treat with this thread and the PBID thread first.

Once again Mr. Owen, welcome and thank-you for joining the SWC.

Best,

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Old 12-13-2007   #9
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Quote:
I had no idea anyone actually read my stuff!
It is at once thrilling and chilling

Welcome to SWC!

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Old 12-14-2007   #10
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The points I was basically trying to make are,

1. Far too much emphasis is put on the IW. We probably do not need ones as capable as those we have. Smaller, more compact and lighter would seem to be useful. The ability of “men under stress” to hit targets is very far short of that performance they demonstrate on the range.
2. What does the killing or creates the effects, are the platoon weapons, such as GPMG/M240B, Javelin, and other HE Projectors.
3. Very little attention is given to the weight and capability of sensors and communications equipment. For example, if you had a fire team of 4 men, could you sensibly trade the weight of their 5.56mm LMG for a thermal weapons sight and an MBITR – PRC-148/JEM. – Or do we just keep loading them up like pack mules?

This brings me to Platoon Organisation and I will address this else where and in more detail on the appropriate thread.

My article had to be cognoscente of its intended audience, the British Army, the majority of whom are not that reflective and open-minded when it comes to infantry doctrine. Therefore the overall basics of the platoon were not up for grabs or how it should operate. Suffice it to say, the platoon should be configured to manoeuvre the most effective weapons and sensors (including people) into the locations where they can break the will of the enemy. If you believe that the primary weapons of the infantry are the grenade and the bayonet, then you will have different ideas than if you believe it is the 7.62mm GPMGs and HE Projectors.
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Old 12-14-2007   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walrus View Post

1. I note that the writer has not touched on the logistics of supplying the various different types of ammunition, which might be a useful addition, even if only to argue that its not an issue.

2. Off topic, but there was a proposal many many years ago when we were armed with SLR's (FN 7.62) to ditch the sections single 7.62 GPMG and replace it with two Brens per section, recalibered in 7.62 and using a common (prepacked/disposable) magazine that fitted both weapons and infantrymen would carry extra magazines instead of link.
1. ... and the writer should have! This does actually concern me and I have a more than a few spread sheets and staff officers hand book tables dedicated to looking at this. Where this does become an issue is when you look at the number pallets A1 Echelon has to hold or how many ammunition natures of a particular sort you can allocate to re-supply loads. The few the types of ammunition held, the better, but remember to a logistician, 7.62mm ball and 7.62mm link are two very different things. If you want to carry an 84mm CG in the platoon, you might be adding up tp 4 different types of ammo nature (Smoke, HEDP, AT, and Illumination). A 51mm or 60mm light mortar adds three (Smoke, HE, and Illumination)

2. I was a section commander when this was done and talked about. This was post Falklands when 2 PARA had allocated two GPMG to each section. Some Royal Marine sections had a 3 man GPMG team and then gave the 5 man rifle group, a BREN LMG. This worked well by all accounts, though 30 round BREN LMG magazines are heavy and bulky, but L4A2/3/4 BRENs worked well with 20 round SLR/L1A1 Mags, and were very accurate. NOTE: You could not mount a Night Sight on a Bren!

- The thinking behind the idea was to validate the IW and LSW concept for the two balanced fire teams in a section - which I now believe to have been a great mistake.

hope this helps
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Old 12-14-2007   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
Bottom line, I think there is a place for both 5.56 and .308 rifles in a serious military's arsenal. Machineguns are relatively inflexible, compared to a rifle.
I agree, so why not allocate 2 x 8.6mm or 7.62mm Long Range/Sniper Rifles to the platoon?
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Old 12-14-2007   #13
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Very interesting points Mr.Owen.

Your recommendations for the Platoon's Weapons layout then, are: Assault Rifles effective out to 200 m or so as well as Underslung Grenade Launchers, and magazine-fed LMGs of the same calibre in the Section, and a pair of Sniper Rifles in the Platoon HQ along with a Light Mortar and a Carl G. How would you organize GPMGs in the Platoon - or would you pool them at a higher level? I remember in The RCR, each Rifle Company HQ and each Rifle Platoon HQ had a Weapons Det with a GPMG, a 60 mm Mortar, and a Carl Gustav, to keep the PLatoon's objective under comprehensive direct-fire, indirect-fire, and AT/bunker-busting fire. I know that the Brit Army briefly used the US Army solution of a pair of GPMGs plus the 51 mm Mortar at Platoon HQ before transitioning to the present composition.

And, in short, with specific reference to the Platoon's Weapons (of course), what would you set as guidelines regarding the weight of such weapons and their attendant ammo and associated kit, etc. At what point does lightening the weight adversely affect the ability of the Platoon to perform its tasks?

And thank-you once again for responding to us.
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Old 12-14-2007   #14
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Wow, this is exercising the old grey matter…

1. Please call me Wilf, not “Mr. Owen” – smacks of unnecessary and unearned deference!
2. I see there as being two things that the platoon needs to do as concerns weapons. First you need Teams (3-5 men?) to conduct reconnaissance so that weapons teams – again 3-5 men – can get weapons into places where they can do the most damage to the enemy. This is as old as the hills and has been around for years. Wigram detailed this in his 1941 “Battlecraft” pamphlet, and then added to it in his post Sicily battle notes.
3. The “Recce” Teams should be lightly loaded so as they can best do their task. The weapons teams would then be optimised to support the weapons they are equipped with.
4. As a straw man and in the absence of any other ideas, I’d have 3-5 “Recce” teams under the platoon commander, and 2-4 weapons teams under the Platoon Sergeant.
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Old 12-16-2007   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I agree, so why not allocate 2 x 8.6mm or 7.62mm Long Range/Sniper Rifles to the platoon?
That sounds good to me.

I agree with you on the importance of machineguns, and the relative unimportance of the IW for recon.

However, 5.56 just stinks against even light barrier material. And I challenge you to maneuver either the GPMG OR the Sniper Rifle in CQB in order to deliver projectiles on a target behind a light to medium barrier. Or to stop an automobile racing toward you with intentions unknown.

Just trying to "stir the pot" a bit. I certainly do like someone who challenges Conventional Wisdom.
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Old 12-17-2007   #16
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However, 5.56 just stinks against even light barrier material. And I challenge you to maneuver either the GPMG OR the Sniper Rifle in CQB in order to deliver projectiles on a target behind a light to medium barrier.
1. The performance of 5.56mm is always up for grabs. I judge SS109 derived rounds to be pretty good, for suppression and engaging targets in the open. If I want to punch up some cover then 7.62mm or HE is a better choice. All very obvious.

2. I wouldn't even try to maneuver a GPMG or Sniper rifle in CQB, except as part of a 3-5 man team and supported by another team doing the recce. EG - Recce team clears the building and then calls up the weapons teams so as they can use their weapons against the enemy in the next building.
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Old 12-17-2007   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
1. The performance of 5.56mm is always up for grabs. I judge SS109 derived rounds to be pretty good, for suppression and engaging targets in the open. If I want to punch up some cover then 7.62mm or HE is a better choice. All very obvious.

2. I wouldn't even try to maneuver a GPMG or Sniper rifle in CQB, except as part of a 3-5 man team and supported by another team doing the recce. EG - Recce team clears the building and then calls up the weapons teams so as they can use their weapons against the enemy in the next building.
I'd think the obvious problem with what you suggest would be the non-linear nature of urban combat. Sooner or later, the "whackamole" pops up where you don't expect him.

To be sure, I'm playing "devil's advocate" here, but I've heard from some folks who've used the admittedly problematic M14 to good effect in towns to punch through barriers using reflexive fire in CQB.
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Old 12-17-2007   #18
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I'd think the obvious problem with what you suggest would be the non-linear nature of urban combat. Sooner or later, the "whackamole" pops up where you don't expect him.

To be sure, I'm playing "devil's advocate" here, but I've heard from some folks who've used the admittedly problematic M14 to good effect in towns to punch through barriers using reflexive fire in CQB.
But the "whackamole" is inherent to warfare. No technique will defeat him, except being generally better at what you do than he is. The "Recce finds places for weapons" is one of the few tactical concepts I see that seems to keep working time and again. It is often misrepresented as fire and manoeuvre.

As concerns the M14, I guess this begs the question, how many 7.62mm 20-inch barrelled semi-automatic rifles do you need in a platoon?
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Old 12-17-2007   #19
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Okay, I finally broke down and read the article. I'm with you, until you advocate the 5.7 x 28mm and other PCOW rounds.

Frankly, those things are worse than worthless. Want your infantry to be effective? Give your enemies plenty of 5.7 x 28mm ammo and the required weapons. I have a police officer friend whose department adopted the FN5.7 pistol, and they have had ZERO luck with actually stopping a bad guy with that particular "tickle gun". Here's a quote: "Stop shooting me with that g-d-mned gun or I'm gonna get pissed off!"

EVERYTHING I've read, seen or discussed with OIF vets indicate the need for more lethal short-ranged ammo. Not more whiz-bang NATO fast-small b.s..

Again, this is more of the same "statistical firefight" stuff. So, by your reckoning, 20% of the time you're SOL???
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Old 12-17-2007   #20
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1. Okay, I finally broke down and read the article.

2. I'm with you, until you advocate the 5.7 x 28mm and other PCOW rounds.

3. Again, this is more of the same "statistical firefight" stuff. So, by your reckoning, 20% of the time you're SOL???
Where to begin?

1. OK, you read the article. Thank you.

2. I advocate making better use of the carried load. Nowhere do I say, "give everyone 5.7 or 4.6 weapons". When I was a young radio operator and Number 1 on the Carl Gustav, I had a Sterling SMG, with 3 x 30 round magazines. 4.6mm and even 5.7mm weapons are generally more effective in terms of measurable criteria (CRISAT performance and PERMANENT wound channel) than 9mm SMGs. Is it better to carry more 7.62mm link for the M-240 and 40mm HE, for the MGL, or carry a Thermal weapons sight than lug 30 round magazines for a 5.56mm weapon, that 90% of soldiers cannot use effectively under pressure.

3. Never heard of a statistical fire fight, but I am pretty up on light weapons operational analysis. If you can't measure it, it can't be improved. (Which is where scaling 6.5mm across the platoon 'seems' to fall down) What is "effective range" etc. What we know from trials is that soldiers under stress perform some 75% less accurately, than when not. No amount of training seems to correct this.

Now I am not coming down on any one side here, but we need to stop saying things like "all PDWs are crap" and start doing real trials and measurements. Some folks have done the work and their conclusions are instructive. The P-90 and MP-7 have both been used in combat. I have talked to folks who are equipped with both weapons and neither seems to have a problem with it, in the role they use it.

...other wise just give everyone M4s chambered with 6.5mm and suck up the extra weight, based on the opinions rather than data.
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