Mechanized Leaders Course at Ft Benning

You get another video, because I can’t really think of anything interesting to post about today.

A couple interesting notes- you get to see troops disassembling the M242 25mm gun, and if you look closely, you’ll get some idea of why they call it a chain gun.

You’ll also see them trying to put the thing back into the turret of an M2A2.  When I went to Ft. Benning for the Master Gunner’s course, the second thing you have to do is pass a Gunnery Skills Test. Now, one of the tests is to put in and take out the M240C coaxially mounted machine gun. No problem, thought I. Well, small problem. All my experience was on the M2A1. I’d never even been in the turret of an M2A2. And the mount for the coax on an M2A2 is completely different. Before I even got on the vehicle, I looked at the test proctor and said, “Sergeant, Can’t I test on the other vehicle? I’ve never even seen the mount on one of these!”

“Why, Sergeant, we’re gonna give you two whole minutes to figure it out!”

Two minutes being the time allotted for the whole task…

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Old Navy Tactic Soars Again – CBS News Video

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60mm Mortar

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Mortars are the infantry commander’s “hip pocket” artillery. Light infantry companies have a pair of 60mm mortars assigned, to provide quick suppressive fires and smoke.

The M224 60mm mortar has been in service since the early 1980’s, replacing the older, heavier and shorter range M2 60mm mortar of WWII vintage.  It is in service with both the Army and the Marines, as well as several allied nations.

Here’s a video of the mortar squad of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines firing a mission with their mortar during the Battle of Fallujah. Notice how close to the action they are. The max range of the 60mm mortar is just over two miles.  Also, notice that all five rounds are fired before the first round impacts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5ddbPir71w&feature=channel]

Other mortars in use with the US include 81mm mortars (at battalion level in light companies) and the 120mm mortar, used in mechanized, Stryker, and armored battalions.

Making a mess of things…

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I don’t know what made this pop into my head, but I was pondering some of the stupid stuff I used to have to put up with in the Army (by no means is the Army the only place where occasional stupidity rears its head!).

Mess kits.

The Army has been field feeding troops off paper plates since the Vietnam war. Yet every new post I went to issued me a mess kit. Not once in all my time did I eat from it. Never even took it to the field. The only purpose I could deduce for the mess kit was to give me something to practice scrubbing and polishing for inspections.

As late as the mid 1990s, the Army was still issuing these. Are they still?

Dragon Lady at war

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Originally designed in the early 1950s to overfly the Soviet Union in an effort to learn about the Soviet’s nuclear weapons programs, the U-2 is still hard at work, now helping to identify IED threats in Afghanistan and listen in to Taliban communications.

Smile... you're on Candid Camera

One of those things, improbably enough, is that even from 13 miles up its sensors can detect small disturbances in the dirt, providing a new way to find makeshift mines that kill many soldiers.

In the weeks leading up to the recent offensive in Marja, military officials said, several of the 32 remaining U-2s found nearly 150 possible mines in roads and helicopter landing areas, enabling the Marines to blow them up before approaching the town.

Marine officers say they relied on photographs from the U-2’s old film cameras, which take panoramic images at such a high resolution they can see insurgent footpaths, while the U-2’s newer digital cameras beamed back frequent updates on 25 spots where the Marines thought they could be vulnerable.

Load HEAT

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This week’s Load HEAT is actually a guest post. Reader and commenter GaigeM asked what I thought of Alessandra Torresani. I said I’d never heard of her, send me a dozen pics, and a youtube.  See how easy that is?

Alessandra looks like she’s about 12, but she’s 22, and is in a pivotal role in the new SyFy series Caprica.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8B_39o8xyQ]

LAARA

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Close Air Support is a valuable tool for our troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the precision guided weapons CAS brings to the fight have doubtless saved many of our troops lives. The Air Force doesn’t really like doing CAS. They do it, and they do it well. But there are other things they’d rather be doing.

And let’s face it, having a $40-80 million dollar fighter stooging around for 6 hours at a pop, burning upwards of 50,000 of jet fuel at $3 a gallon per mission, just in case someone might need a strike (and they usually don’t) is an expensive way to do business. Further, there are only so many flight hours you can put on a jet. Much of the US jet fleet is old and getting older fast. And most of the time, a strike fighter is overkill. Further, at 20,000 feet and 500 knots, the crews of these jets don’t have the situational awareness we might like.

Attack helicopters are great, but they are limited by their relatively short endurance and light weapons. They also have trouble operating at higher altitudes such as those found in Afghanistan.

And while UAVs have come a long way, there’s still a limited number of them. Further, bandwidth constraints put a real upper limit on how many can be used. With their limited sensor field of view, their situational awareness is even worse.

So what to do? Well, the Navy, and to some extent, are looking at buying a converted turboprop trainer or similar aircraft to supplement the “go-fast” planes in the close air support role. Under a program known as “Imminent Fury” the services want to field a Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LAAR) Aircraft.

To a certain extent, this is reinventing the wheel.  Even before the US involvement in Vietnam entailed large numbers of ground troops, modified T-28 trainers were being used as light attack aircraft. And the Air Force’s basic training jet, the Cessna T-37 “Tweet” was modified and built as the highly successful A-37 Dragonfly. This is to say nothing of the highly successful, purpose built OV-10 Bronco, which was used by the Air Force, Navy and Marines, as well as several other nations. But after the Vietnam war ended, the services turned their eyes to what was considered the most critical theater, Western Europe. In an area like that, with highly developed integrated air defenses, no light aircraft could reasonable be expected to survive, and accordingly, almost all the light planes were retired.

Now, 8 years into the war on terror, the institutional side of the services are finally beginning to grasp that they have to be able to support the effort, and cannot do so with the existing force structure.