In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

This is a discussion on In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; AP FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2006 file photo, U.S. Army Staff Sgt Ruben Romero, from Fort Benning, Ga., demonstrates By RICHARD ...

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  1. #1
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    Exclamation In 2008 Afghanistan firefight, US weapons failed

    AP FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2006 file photo, U.S. Army Staff Sgt Ruben Romero, from Fort Benning, Ga., demonstrates

    By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer 9 mins ago
    WASHINGTON It was chaos during the early morning assault last year on a remote U.S. outpost in Afghanistan and Staff Sgt. Erich Phillips' M4 carbine had quit firing as militant forces surrounded the base. The machine gun he grabbed after tossing the rifle aside didn't work either.

    When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.

    Which raises the question: Eight years into the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, do U.S. armed forces have the best guns money can buy?

    Despite the military's insistence that they do, a small but vocal number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has complained that the standard-issue M4 rifles need too much maintenance and jam at the worst possible times.

    A week ago, eight U.S. troops were killed at a base near Kamdesh, a town near Wanat. There's no immediate evidence of weapons failures at Kamdesh on Oct. 3, but the circumstances were eerily similar to the Wanat battle: insurgents stormed an isolated stronghold manned by American forces stretched thin by the demands of war.

    Army Col. Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman in Afghanistan, said a review of the battle at Kamdesh is under way. "It is too early to make any assumptions regarding what did or didn't work correctly," he said.

    Complaints about the weapons the troops carry, especially the M4, aren't new. Army officials say that when properly cleaned and maintained, the M4 is a quality weapon that can pump out more than 3,000 rounds before any failures occur.

    The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16, which made its debut during the Vietnam war. Roughly 500,000 M4s are in service, making it the rifle troops on the front lines trust with their lives.

    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a leading critic of the M4, said Thursday the Army needs to move quickly to acquire a combat rifle suited for the extreme conditions U.S. troops are fighting in.

    U.S. special operations forces, with their own acquisition budget and the latitude to buy gear the other military branches can't, already are replacing their M4s with a new rifle.

    "The M4 has served us well but it's not as good as it needs to be," Coburn said.

    Battlefield surveys show that nearly 90 percent of soldiers are satisfied with their M4s, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of the Army office that buys soldier gear. Still, the rifle is continually being improved to make it even more reliable and lethal. Fuller said he's received no official reports of flawed weapons performance at Wanat. "Until it showed up in the news, I was surprised to hear about all this," he said.

    The study by Douglas Cubbison of the Army Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., hasn't been publicly released. Copies of the study have been leaked to news organizations and are circulating on the Internet. Cubbison's study is based on an earlier Army investigation and interviews with soldiers who survived the attack at Wanat. He describes a well-coordinated attack by a potent enemy that unleashed a withering barrage with AK-47 automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

    The soldiers said their weapons were meticulously cared for and routinely inspected by commanders. But still the weapons had breakdowns, especially when the rifles were on full automatic, which allows hundreds of bullets to be fired a minute.

    Cubbison acknowledges the high rates of fire during the two-hour battle may have led to the failures. But he says numerous problems occurred relatively early in the engagement. He also said the enemy forces were "experienced, numerically powerful, highly skilled, adequately equipped (and) tactically accomplished."

    The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

    Cpl. Jonathan Ayers and Spc. Chris McKaig were firing their M4s from a position the soldiers called the "Crow's Nest." The pair would pop up together from cover, fire half a dozen rounds and then drop back down. On one of these trips up, Ayers was killed instantly by an enemy round. McKaig soon had problems with his M4, which carries a 30-round magazine.

    "My weapon was overheating," McKaig said, according to Cubbison's report. "I had shot about 12 magazines by this point already and it had only been about a half hour or so into the fight. I couldn't charge my weapon and put another round in because it was too hot, so I got mad and threw my weapon down."

    The soldiers also had trouble with their M249 machine guns, a larger weapon than the M4 that can shoot up to 750 rounds per minute.
    Cpl. Jason Bogar fired approximately 600 rounds from his M-249 before the weapon overheated and jammed the weapon. Bogar was killed during the firefight, but no one saw how he died, according to the report.
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    It wouldn't be the first time that a machine gun was shot to the point of failure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExSoldier View Post
    When the battle in the small village of Wanat ended, nine U.S. soldiers lay dead and 27 more were wounded. A detailed study of the attack by a military historian found that weapons failed repeatedly at a "critical moment" during the firefight on July 13, 2008, putting the outnumbered American troops at risk of being overrun by nearly 200 insurgents.
    We're given this little nugget, in an article that does not describe the nature of the failures, that also describes the failures across multiple weapon systems and not just the M4, but still has room to slide in a hard-working politician's efforts?

    I'm told that most inspections, for the SAWs especially, require a clean weapon usually sans lube. The SAW and M4 are known for being lube-dependent weapons...


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    Senior Member Array dnowell's Avatar
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    The real problem is that those guys were put in a position where they were guaranteed to find trouble and then inadequately supported. The firearm issue is a red herring. Yes, it would be great if they had rifles that worked perfectly -- would help a lot. But it would have helped a lot more if there was some sort of backup available. What're the planners thinking -- putting a tiny group way out in the middle of enemy territory and then not making available serious backup?

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    I have mixed feelings about this report; for one thing, if I know the Iraqi's, they are trying to fire 30 year old ammunition manufactured in some third world country in their weapons. So I personally would disregard any complaints from those sources.

    As for the jammed weapons from the recent fire fight our guys were in; one solder stated that he had fired around 12 magazines through his M-4 in around 20 minutes, when it jammed from the heat. That's a lot of rounds fired through a short barreled weapon; especially one that has been modified with a quad rail system in place of the heat dissipating hand guards. The popular quad rail systems tend to block cooling air from reaching the barrel as effectively as the open style hand guards. Add in hot ambient temperatures and you had better keep you fire fights short.

    The M-4 rifle is a damned good rifle, but it has been designed for more of a close quarter, house to house type of environment, than it's older brother, the M-16, which was made for fighting at a greater distance and the M-16's fwd hand guards would dissipate a lot more heat, being longer and not having rail systems blocking the cooling air to the barrel.

    As for the M249 over heating on them and jamming; I have no experience with one and maybe somebody else in here that has, will chime in here on it. But it sounds to me like this is just a case of our guys getting over ran by a superior number, of an organized enemy; if that's the case, it's not uncommon to see weapons fail due to over heating.

    It's easy for us to sit back here in the safety of our own homes and quarterback these incidents, but all the footage I've seen, someone made a real poor decision on where to put this outpost. Looking at the footage, the base was surrounded by high ground; I for one would not have slept well there, if at all.

    You know this all times in perfectly with the fact that, the US Army just bought all rights to the M-4, from Colt a couple of months ago. This is a step usually seen when the military is about to seek a contract for a new weapon system. From what I understand, there is still a contract of close to 500,000 M-4's left to fill; this leaves some time to run a few weapons through the development and testing process.

    There are a lot of people that have a lot to gain from winning a contract to manufacture a new weapon for the military and I see this report as the first poke from one of many congressmen that would like to possibly bring the business to their state.

    I'm not against looking for a better weapon system to deploy with our troops, but having served 24 years myself, I find myself very skeptical of the selection process, which is driven by politics as much as necessity.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/militar...-gunwars_N.htm

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    Wink This goes beyond the mechanical to the POLITICAL...

    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    It wouldn't be the first time that a machine gun was shot to the point of failure.
    Agreed. There is an old saying in the infantry: When the going gets tough; the tough go CYCLIC. Under those conditions (cyclic firing) a barrel would melt fast! Yet this story mentioned jams from an M4 due to high weapon heat.

    This is where the SF guys are deviating to another and far superior version of the M4: The H&K 416. Piston operated and the chamber stays clean and the barrel stays cool. This is a far superior weapon in every way, yet not only does the DoD refuse to open new battle rifle tests for the aging M4, but the DoD also chastises SOCOM for going "off the reservation" in procuring the 416 AND they also shut down the tests to find a new sidearm for the services.

    Can anybody say political pressure from companies eager to protect market share? If that's the case (& IMHO it IS) then it is reprehensible to sacrifice the lives of American military personnel in the name of the almighty dollar! And this wouldn't be the FIRST time, either! The so called Military Industrial Complex has quite a storied history in this. It was the case when the M16 first came out and was the case for years after that first iteration. It was the case in the failed procurement of the Bradley IFV. They even made a movie out of that debacle.
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    Lightbulb Yeah...BUT

    Quote Originally Posted by John Luttrel View Post
    I have mixed feelings about this report; for one thing, if I know the Iraqi's, they are trying to fire 30 year old ammunition manufactured in some third world country in their weapons. So I personally would disregard any complaints from those sources.

    Except that THIS story originates from Afghanistan, and is far more recent than the heavy fighting in Iraq.

    As for the jammed weapons from the recent fire fight our guys were in; one solder stated that he had fired around 12 magazines through his M-4 in around 20 minutes, when it jammed from the heat. That's a lot of rounds fired through a short barreled weapon; especially one that has been modified with a quad rail system in place of the heat dissipating hand guards. The popular quad rail systems tend to block cooling air from reaching the barrel as effectively as the open style hand guards. Add in hot ambient temperatures and you had better keep you fire fights short.

    Agreed, there needs to be a lot of fire discipline instilled in the troops. Spray-n-pray ain't gonna do the job here.

    The M-4 rifle is a damned good rifle, but it has been designed for more of a close quarter, house to house type of environment, than it's older brother, the M-16, which was made for fighting at a greater distance and the M-16's fwd hand guards would dissipate a lot more heat, being longer and not having rail systems blocking the cooling air to the barrel.

    I think (IMHO) the 5.56mm cartridge leaves a lot to be desired. A couple of SF "Operators" came up with a replacement in the 6.8 which can be fired from the M4 platform.

    As for the M249 over heating on them and jamming; I have no experience with one and maybe somebody else in here that has, will chime in here on it. But it sounds to me like this is just a case of our guys getting over ran by a superior number, of an organized enemy; if that's the case, it's not uncommon to see weapons fail due to over heating.

    I dunno, in MY day we still had just the M60 as the platoon full auto platform. Those had heat issues too, even though the cyclic rate is demonstrably slower than the current M249 SAW. The '60s have to be kept clean but the spare barrel kit was often needed under sustained fire and it was no accident that a fireproof glove was issued to every AG. (Assistant Gunner).

    It's easy for us to sit back here in the safety of our own homes and quarterback these incidents, but all the footage I've seen, someone made a real poor decision on where to put this outpost. Looking at the footage, the base was surrounded by high ground; I for one would not have slept well there, if at all.

    The exigencies of military planning are as old as war itself. Sometimes we don't get to choose our battleground.

    You know this all times in perfectly with the fact that, the US Army just bought all rights to the M-4, from Colt a couple of months ago. This is a step usually seen when the military is about to seek a contract for a new weapon system. From what I understand, there is still a contract of close to 500,000 M-4's left to fill; this leaves some time to run a few weapons through the development and testing process.

    I hope you're right.

    There are a lot of people that have a lot to gain from winning a contract to manufacture a new weapon for the military and I see this report as the first poke from one of many congressmen that would like to possibly bring the business to their state.

    Again there is waaaay too much moola involved to let this be just a process where the best weapon wins and that is what is so nauseating to me.

    I'm not against looking for a better weapon system to deploy with our troops, but having served 24 years myself, I find myself very skeptical of the selection process, which is driven by politics as much as necessity.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/militar...-gunwars_N.htm

    - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times
    The final paragraph in your post says it ALL. The selection process should be made by the folks who will USE it most. Leave the senior officers (anybody with one or MORE stars) and contractors out of this. I think the sniper weapon should be selected by the US Army and USMC sniper schools. The infantry battle weapons should be chosen by the INFANTRY School at Fort Benning (US Army) or the Basic School at Quantico (USMC). SOCOM should make their own choices.

    The only thing that should be universal (I was a logistics guy as my secondary) is the caliber and that has go to be heavier than the 5.56mm. I vote either the 6.8 or some version of the 7.62 x 51 (.308). However, that didn't work so well on full auto in the M14, so I really dunno.
    Former Army Infantry Captain; 25 yrs as an NRA Certified Instructor; Avid practitioner of the martial art: KLIK-PAO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExSoldier View Post
    This is where the SF guys are deviating to another and far superior version of the M4: The H&K 416. Piston operated and the chamber stays clean and the barrel stays cool.
    Physics be damned.

    This is a far superior weapon in every way, yet not only does the DoD refuse to open new battle rifle tests for the aging M4, but the DoD also chastises SOCOM for going "off the reservation" in procuring the 416 AND they also shut down the tests to find a new sidearm for the services.
    SOCCOM didn't get chastised for their 416s. The weapon has a NSN and is part of Army's official procurement system. It's just only approved for some groups.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ExSoldier View Post
    Agreed. There is an old saying in the infantry: When the going gets tough; the tough go CYCLIC. Under those conditions (cyclic firing) a barrel would melt fast! Yet this story mentioned jams from an M4 due to high weapon heat.

    This is where the SF guys are deviating to another and far superior version of the M4: The H&K 416. Piston operated and the chamber stays clean and the barrel stays cool. This is a far superior weapon in every way, yet not only does the DoD refuse to open new battle rifle tests for the aging M4, but the DoD also chastises SOCOM for going "off the reservation" in procuring the 416 AND they also shut down the tests to find a new sidearm for the services.

    Can anybody say political pressure from companies eager to protect market share? If that's the case (& IMHO it IS) then it is reprehensible to sacrifice the lives of American military personnel in the name of the almighty dollar! And this wouldn't be the FIRST time, either! The so called Military Industrial Complex has quite a storied history in this. It was the case when the M16 first came out and was the case for years after that first iteration. It was the case in the failed procurement of the Bradley IFV. They even made a movie out of that debacle.
    I can't believe that anyone would suggest that politics or the military industrial congressional complex would come into play when it came to our troops and what they are able to use in the field.

    I believe that the Isrealis had an effective anti missle system for vehicles they were willing to let us pick up on, but the pentagon decided that we would take several years to develop our own, so that our defense contractors would get the big bucks.

    Heck if the gov can spend the money on the sights and all the other gadgets they have added to the battle rifle since I was using an M-16 20+ years ago, they can surely fork out whatever money they need to to purchase the best rifle available for the soldier. I am certain there are some third world allies that would be willing to purchase our current weapons.

    Oh, and the movie about the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was Pentagon Wars. Very, very funny if there wasn't such truth to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by farronwolf View Post
    Oh, and the movie about the Bradley Fighting Vehicle was Pentagon Wars. Very, very funny if there wasn't such truth to it.
    Actually, Pentagon Wars was based on a true story. As a retired Air Force veteran that was in involved in the Aqcuisition and testing process, I would have to say that it is very accurate. I was assigned to the Air Force Operational test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC), and when I was taking AFOTEC 101 at Kirtland AFB in 2006, the movie Pentagon Wars was played as an example of the importance of the service OTAs (Operational test Agencies) and how the experience of the M-16 and Bradley Fighting vehicle has shaped the way we test and evaluate weapons. Since then, laws have been enacted to help shore up the test and evaluation process.

    Each service has it's OTA, and for the Army it's the Army test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), the Navy has it's Operational test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR), and the Marines has its Marine Corps test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA) who conduct the Operational test and Evaluation (OT&E). Google those.

    During the acquisition process, the service that wants to purchase the system is called the Program Office/Program Manager, who oversees the program from the beginning, from the Analaysis of Alternatives (AoA) through each production milestone with the milestone decision authority (MDA), through each phase (Discovery, Low Rate Initial Production to Full Rate Production).

    The service OTAs can be at odds with the service program office, which is why since the earlier acquisition debacles, the service OTAs are now separate commands, reporting directly to each service chief of staff. This was done to maintain the independence and objectivity of the OTA so that the program office cannot try and twist the arms of the OTAs to influence the outcomes of tests like in the movie The Pentagon Wars. There are now laws that specifically govern live fire testing as well.

    Depending upon the program, it will have congressional oversight as well, usually the high dollar weapons programs as well as the highly publicized ones. The service OTAs are the ones giving periodic updates on each of those programs, which is why you hear on the news about congress deciding if they want to continue or kill a program. During my time in my OTA, it is not uncommon for the producer or the program office to try and put some pressure, but as n OTA, we were told to hold our ground and report it how it is, because the lives of the warfighter depend on it.

    There have been instances where the service OTA has given the thumbs down on a program through the OT&E testing process, but congress and the milestone decision authority has opted to proceed into FRP for whatever reasons.

    The Air Force Colonel in the movie sacrificed his career to stand up for what was right and to tell the truth, and he was help up in class as an example, and how important our job was as an OTA.

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    VIP Member Array automatic slim's Avatar
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    I have never understood why we abandoned the M1 and M14. Both rifles functioned well under the worst conditions. They fired a more potent cartridge which insured far more lethal first round hits.
    I guess the armed forces never heard the slogan, "If it's not broken, don't fix it".
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    I've never been in military combat or training so I can only imagine how difficult it could be to place aimed fire against a full auto and RPG assault. I can see giving in to a hunkered down full auto response, or in the case of these weapons, I believe it's sustained 3 round bursts.

    It's terrible that these troops have to fight a David v Goliath battle against the Taliban. I'm a full supporter of our military, so they should go in all the way! No reason to not have a massive response available to avoid this type of situation. Maybe it was accepted in times past but when we have UAVs, Tomahawks, IR guidance, helicopter gunships, fast movers, MOABs, robots, etc. it's simply unacceptable.
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    Military small arms is the other thing I do for a living. Have taught and fired all the current service weapons used by NATO coutries as well as those of the former Soviet Bloc. If the barrel of your gun gets white hot it is going to quit soon no matter where it was made.


    Weapons Fail During Critical US Firefight - National News Story - WJXT Jacksonville

    The platoon-sized unit of U.S. soldiers and about two dozen Afghan troops was shooting back with such intensity the barrels on their weapons turned white hot. The high rate of fire appears to have put a number of weapons out of commission, even though the guns are tested and built to operate in extreme conditions.

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    Just remember the weapon is made by the lowest bidder. this just happened again. close to the same area. if you get the stars and stripes they are talking about it. another raid close to this base in the same area. i think the count was 6-8 us soldiers this time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by automatic slim View Post
    I have never understood why we abandoned the M1 and M14. Both rifles functioned well under the worst conditions. They fired a more potent cartridge which insured far more lethal first round hits.
    I guess the armed forces never heard the slogan, "If it's not broken, don't fix it".
    Serious questions: do you believe that if our fighting forces were currently armed with M1s and M14s that we would see none of these problems? Do you care to look up how many survivors of those "more potent" calibers that "insured far more lethal first round hits" there were in WWI and WWII? Can you compare those numbers to now for an accurate description of how well, or poorly, current and former issue calibers performed?

    Quote Originally Posted by russ1986 View Post
    Just remember the weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
    This is a myth that needs to die. Those weapons are made by someone contracted to make to the government(.mil)'s TDP. The TDP outlines a set of standards very strictly adhered to by both Colt and FN Herstal. It is neither Colt or FN's fault that most of the weapons being issued are already at the end of their usable service life because of poor or nonexistent maintenance schedules. If you want to lay blame then do it to poor .mil SOP regarding how to take care of these weapons.


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