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Mission 28 - Weapons
Ramadi Convoy Exercise

 Friendly Forces
M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) light machine gun
M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) light machine gun
The SAW is a lightweight, gas-operated machine gun fed by a magazine or metallic link-belt that disintegrates. It is man-portable and designed to combine a high volume of fire with accuracy almost equal to a rifle. [show more...]
The SAW entered the field in the mid-1980ís to fill in the gap caused by the retirement of the Browning Automatic Rifle 30 years earlier.

Primary function: 5.56 mm light machine gun for use in infantry squads
Weight: With bipod and tools, 15.16 pounds (6.88 kilograms); 200-round box magazine adds 6.92 pounds (3.14 kilograms); 30-round magazine adds 1.07 pounds (0.49 kilograms)
Maximum effective range: 3,281 feet (1,000 meters)
Rate of fire: cyclic, 725 rounds per minute; sustained, 85 rounds per minute

5.56-millimeter M4 carbine with M203 grenade launcher
This weapon was designed as a shorter, lightweight alternative to the M16A2 rifle, to give soldiers the ability to engage the enemy with accurate, lethal fire at close quarters. [show more...]
Gas operated, and air-cooled, it has a collapsible stock and can be fitted with rubber bullets for crowd control. The M4A1, the version made for Special Operations Forces, has a full automatic mode. But the tradeoff for making a shorter, handier version of the M16 has been in penetration, velocity and accuracy over longer ranges.

Primary function: 5.56 mm rifle for close-quarters battle
Weight: 7.92 pounds (3.6 kilograms)
Maximum effective range: area target, 2,624.8 feet (800 meters); point target, 1,650 feet (500 meters)
Rate of fire: 45 rounds per minute, semiautomatic
Other features: Can be fitted with M203 grenade launcher
Used by: Marine Expeditionary Units and U.S. Army units

RPK-74 Machine Gun
After the new AK-74 assault rifle entered service, the RPK-74 light machine gun was developed from the rifle. [show more...]
The RPK is essentially a variant of the AKM assault rifle with a longer, heavier barrel and is fed either by a 40-round curved box magazine or a 75-round drum magazine.

It can also use the AKM's 30-round box magazine. The RPKS-74 version with folding butt was intended for airborne paratroops. These machine guns differ from the AK-74 assault rifle in barrel length and weight, sight windage mechanism, butt shape, dimensions weight and the design of the recoil compensator.

Primary function: 7.62 mm squad machine gun
Weight: Up to 15 pounds (7 kg) depending on magazine
Rate of fire: 150 rounds per minute in automatic mode
Maximum effective range: 2,640 feet (800 meters)

M16A2 Assault rifle
M16A2 Assault rifle
The M16A2 is the standard issue for the US Army. With a heavier, firmer barrel than its predecessor, the M16A1, the A2 allows for the firing of NATO standard SS 109 type (M855) ammunition, also used with M249 Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWs). [show more...]
The rifle cartridge range is farther and more effective than ever before. The M16A2 can also fire all NATO standard 5.56mm ammunition and, equipped with the M203 Grenade Launcher, can fire 40mm missiles.

Lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, the M16A2 can be fired from the shoulder or the hip. A selector level allows the soldier to shoot in modes of automatic fire, in 3-round bursts, or single-shot semiautomatic fire. A muzzle compensator improves the control and accuracy of the M16A2, and a fully adjustable rear sight has been enhanced for wind and range changes.

Factoid: The M16A2 has a modified upper receiver that changes the way cartridges are ejected. They used to hit left-handed shooters in the face.

Effective range: 550 meters
Reload time: 4.9 seconds
Cyclic rate of fire: 800 rpm
Maximum range: 3,600 meters
Weight (loaded): 8.79 lbs
Length: 39.63 inches

.50 caliber machine gun
At 550 rounds per minute, the .50 caliber can be placed on ground mounts and on most vehicles for use as an anti-personnel and anti-aircraft weapon. [show more...]
This automatic has a maximum range of 4.22 miles, and ammunition may be fed from the left or right side.

Factoid: The .50 caliber was used as a sniper weapon by US forces during the Vietnam War.

Length: 61.42 inches (156 centimeters)
Gun: 84 pounds (38 kilograms)
M3 Tripod (Complete): 44 pounds (19.98 kilograms)
Total: 128 pounds (58 kilograms)
Bore diameter: .50 inches (12.7mm)
Maximum effective range: 2000 meters with tripod mount
Maximum range: 4.22 miles (6.8 kilometers)

IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)
Improvised Explosive Devices
They are the most simplistic and lethal weapon to date. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have become the most effective instrument of death to coalition soldiers, killing and maiming more US service members than any other weapon in Iraq. For both the Army and the Marines, every second soldier who dies in combat will have fallen victim to an IED attack. [show more...]

For all the technology and weaponry of the armed forces, it is a debilitating tactic. Even the toughest soldiers and the brightest engineers have difficulty combating the impact of hidden tape and electrical wire, 9-volt batteries, and old artillery casings. Remotely detonated with the ring of a cell phone or the ding of a doorbell, the IED kills and wounds troops and diverts funds and manpower from humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Deploying Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialists to disarm the weaponry, survey the sites, and research materials used in the IEDs has come with a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

So far, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians have destroyed 3.1 million pieces of artillery and 7.5 million pounds of explosives. But there are a staggering amount of IEDs still laying in wait. For every IED or car bomb that detonates, there are at least 20 others found by US troops that must be defused. And still, the Pentagon estimates 6 in 10 IEDs will go unnoticed before it is too late.

The IED detonation is sometimes followed by small arms attacks, but rebel forces are realizing IEDs alone may be the most effective weapon against convoys. Many of Iraq's roads are paved, four to eight lane highways that US forces use for high-speed movement. But the coalition traffic pattern is consistent, so enemies can easily predict the convoys' flow. Litter-strewn medians divide the lanes and provide the perfect cover for IEDs.

IEDs have been found in soda cans and ready-to-eat meal boxes as well as inside manholes, tunnels, and broken curbs, on telephone poles, and inside dead dogs and cows. They are crude, but IEDs are the insurgents' most efficient way to neutralize the battlefield from a distance, much like American forces use air power. To date, 40 to 60 percent of insurgent attacks involve an IED.

The supply of 155mm artillery shells is seemingly endless, even though weapons ammunition dumps are under surveillance. Most recently, analysts are concerned some of the 350 metric tons of high explosives reported missing from an Iraqi base may be used to make an untold number of IEDs.

In an effort to maximize the devastating blasts from IEDs, insurgents have begun packing the bombs with ball bearings, bolts, or any readily available shrapnel. Jammed with enough loose metal, the IED can shred the armor plating on a HMMWV. Using a daisy-chain, IEDs can be strung together to create multiple, simultaneous bombs a dozen yards long, creating an inescapable kill zone for coalition soldiers.

US military units have discovered IEDs containing mustard gas which, luckily, were improperly stored, rendering the poison ineffective. And just six months ago, a US convoy discovered a 155-millimeter artillery round converted to an IED. It looked like a typical makeshift bomb, but this one contained the nerve agent sarin.

As the means to kill increase, so do insurgent rewards. With stockpiles of cash, senior Ba'athists have offered to rebel fighters as much as $1,500 per dead soldier, and anyone who kills a bomb-squad technician gets $5,000, an amount it would take an Iraqi laborer 33 years to earn.

AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle

Durable and widely available, the AK-47 is a Russian 7.62mm assault rifle. The AK fires 100 rounds per minute even through extreme conditions such as low temperatures, from moving vehicles, and after being dunked in water, mud, or sand.

One drawback is low muzzle velocity, which makes the relatively heavy round arc at long ranges. Other drawbacks are the jams, dents, and overheated barrels that can make the weapon tough to handle. But the downsides pale in comparison to what the AK-47 offers a fighter: an easy-to-maintain gun that can deliver a high volume of fire. This is why the AK-47 has been one of the most used assault rifles in the world since the early 1950s. [show more...]

Factoid: The AK-47ís inventor never earned a single ruble for the 100 million AKs in the world today. He didnít patent it.

Primary function: 7.62-mm assault rifle
Weight: 9.4 pounds (4.3 kilograms) with 30-round curved box magazine
Rate of fire: 100 rounds per minute/cyclic 600 rounds per minute
Effective range: 990 feet (300 meters)

RPG-7 Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher
A shoulder-fired, muzzle-loaded, grenade launcher, the RPG-7 fires a variety of grenades from a 40-mm launch tube. It's light enough to be fired by one person, but an assistant usually stands to the left of the gunner for protection.

The launcher first ejects the grenade out 10 meters, and then the grenade's internal motor ignites and speeds it toward the target with fins that cause it to rotate slowly. Crosswinds can cut accuracy down by 50% for the gunner's first shot, but the shaped charge in the grenade can punch through all known armored vehicles. [show more...]

Factoid: In the Mogadishu ambush, it was an RPG the Somalis used to down the Blackhawk.

Primary function: Shoulder fired anti-tank weapon
Weight: 15.2 pounds (6.9 kilograms)
Effective range: 1,640 feet (500 meters)
Rate of fire: Four to six rounds per minute
Ammunition: 85 mm grenade
Other features: Can penetrate 260 mm armor

An acronym for High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Humvee is a four-wheel drive, diesel-powered automatic. Designed to run over any terrain and in all weather conditions, models can be armed with mounted machine guns, TOW or stinger missiles. [show more...]
Humvees are droppable from a variety of aircraft, and its high power-to-weight ratio, four-wheel drive and high ground clearance combine to give it outstanding cross-country mobility.

Length: 15 ft
Width: 7.08 ft
Height: 6.00 feet reducible to 4.5 feet
Weight: 5,200 lbs
Engine: V8, 6.2 litre displacement, fuel injected diesel, liquid cooled, compression ignition
Horsepower: 150 at 3,600 RPM
Transmission: 3 speed, automatic
Transfer Case: 2 speed, locking, chain driven
Electrical System: 24 volt, negative ground, 60 amps
Brakes: Hydraulic, 4-wheeled disc
Max Speed: 65 mph

Factoid: The Humvee has a snorkel kit which allows it to ford 60" of water.

Gun Trucks
The development of the convoy gun truck dates back to 1967 when the Army's 8th Transportation Group headquartered at Qui Nhon, Vietnam suffered a relentless series of ambushes. The unit removed several 2-ton cargo trucks from regular convoy service and outfitted them with two M-60 machine guns in the cargo bay of each truck. [show more...]

Eventually, the more powerful 5-ton cargo trucks were converted into gun trucks. The new ammunition included .50-caliber machine guns and a 7.62-millimeter mini-cannon. Likewise, today's gun trucks are typically modified 5-ton cargo trucks boasting .50-caliber machine guns. But gun trucks in Iraq have typically been up-armored with a quarter-inch of steel on the doors, the sides, and the fabricated turret to protect the trucks and personnel from RPG fire and IED explosions.

The imperative duty of the gun truck is to protect the unarmored or lightly armored transportation vehicle convoys which are easy and valuable targets for insurgents. Gun trucks will run with the convoys and intercept any immediate threat to insure the delivery of weaponry, food supplies, or fuel needed at military bases.

Factoid: After Vietnam, every original gun truck was scrapped or dismantled and returned to regular cargo duties except one. "Eve of Destruction" is on permanent display at the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Transportation vehicles
The vehicles used to transport weaponry and food supplies to military bases include 5-ton trucks and medium tactical trucks such as the M931, the commanding M872 Heavy Equipment Trailer, and 915-series tractor-trailers. [show more...]

Last year, Army soldiers in Iraq began modifying some basic transportation vehicles like the M872 to carry additional weapons, usually the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun, the M-249 SAW, and the MK-19 automatic grenade launcher. By adding extra ammunition, soldiers hope to counter the ongoing threat of ambushes convoys face by surprising insurgents who might not suspect a counter-attack from a historically soft target. The tactic was used successfully in Vietnam where jeeps and trucks were also equipped with extra weaponry.

In the face of RPG, mortar attacks, and the remarkable number of improvised explosive devices, nearly 3,000 medium-weight trucks and at least 1,600 heavyweight vehicles are awaiting government-issued armor kits.

Factoid: The stunning success of IED attacks in Iraq prompted units to add sandbags to the floors of transport vehicles and sheets of steel to the truck bodies. The result is dubbed "hillbilly armor."