Monday, May 14, 2018

The Simple, Right Thing is Often the Most Difficult Thing

It's a simple fundamental.

Everything a military does - every branch - is for one thing; to create conditions for a young person to stand on a street corner and state; this is ours. It is not yours.

So many billions of dollars are spent for the sexy and sparkly support equipment for others to enable that man there, and yet over and over again we nickle and dime the kit he is issued.

The fact we do this with his primary weapon is a crime.

As I may have mentioned here before, the real "1st appearance" of "CDR Salamander" was circa 1982 when in a high school ethics class (yes, I went to such a high school). I wrote my term paper about the horrible decisions that brought the M-16/5.56mm in to service roughly the year I was born.

Even though much has been done in the last half-century to correct some of the problems - its inadequacies are well known and still show up on the battlefield, unnecessarily resulting in the death of those who carry it.

The green-eyeshade argument has only become more callous with age and is another datapoint showing that - regardless of what their self-esteem workshops may tell them - those resisting change are blinkered and close-minded in understanding their jobs compared to those who came before.

Let's look at how other generations responded to better technology and calibers to give their soldiers. With the exception of the 30-06, each change in caliber corresponded with a new weapon.

1866 - 50-70 Sharps; 7-yrs
1873 - 45-70 Govt; 19-yrs
1892 - 30-40 Krag; 14-yrs
1906 - 30-06 Springfield; 48-yrs
1954 - 7.62x51mm NATO; 8-yrs (NB: still a "NATO caliber" and in use, but largely replaced by 5.56mm in front-line use).
1962 - 5.56×45mm NATO; 56-yrs and counting.

Don't listen to me on this, there are plenty of smarter people on my side;
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Bob Scales was a keynote speaker at the annual National Defense Industry Association Armament Systems forum here, and he didn’t waste any time launching into a takedown of key components that equip the close combat infantryman.

Scales recounted how he’d spoken at the conference three years ago, pushing industry and government procurement officials to create an intermediate caliber rifle with a piston action, polymer ammunition casing, a suppressor and digital fire controls.

“Now, in 2018, does any of that sound familiar?” he asked.
The rifle he described in his opening remarks is handled under the Next Generation Squad Weapon project, headed by the Army.

But there, too, are problems, he noted.

The NGSW program was aimed at making a rifle or carbine to replace the flawed M16/M4 system, which Scales has railed against since his own experience with early versions of the M16 in Vietnam.
You would think we would start there, but ...
But an incredulous Scales told the audience that developers on the NGSW are now prioritizing the light machine gun in a program called the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle to replace the Squad Automatic Weapon, with the rifle or carbine to come later.

“It’s the Next Generation rifle or carbine, damn it,” Scales said.
For those who have studied the history, government entities had been a problem and not a solution in getting modern weapons in the hands of those on the frontline for a long time. More often than not, it is an outside force that brings the infantryman what they need;
The change in focus means that under current schedules, the rifle/carbine won’t be ready until 2024.

That is not acceptable, Scales said. To either him or his boss.

“Let me tell you something, folks. It’s not working,” Scales said. “Make the rifle by 2020. My God, folks, it’s a nine-pound piece of steel. The cost isn’t as much as a lug nut on a B-1 bomber.”
He's right. This is already late;
Snipers with Special Operations Command will see a barrel swap on their 7.62 mm rifles as early as next year to a commercially available 6.5 mm caliber.

“The SecDef said before he leaves office in 2020, if [President Donald] Trump is not re-elected, he’s going out to a range somewhere to shoot that rifle,” Scales said. “If you don’t get something in the field by then, you’ve failed.”

He pointed to lives lost due to small arms and other infantry equipment holes from Vietnam to Afghanistan to last year’s deaths of special operations soldiers in Niger.

“If you’d listened to me three years ago, those soldiers in Niger would have had this rifle in their hands,” Scales said. “So, take that to bed tonight.”
Read it all. I'd gladly exchange a F-35C or two for all this to take place on an accelerated timeline.

A century ago, we almost went .270 (6.8mm), but the green-eyeshade of their day killed it. Maybe this century we'll get it right.

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