More on Newsweek’s Cover Story about Iraq – Pete Wehner – The Corner on National Review Online

From The Corner at NRO, Peter Wehner:

Following up on my post from yesterday, I wanted to return to the Newsweek cover story on Iraq, which declared that “something that looks mighty like democracy is emerging in Iraq. And while it may not be a beacon of inspiration to the region, it most certainly is a watershed event that could come to represent a whole new era in the history of the massively undemocratic Middle East.”

Read the whole thing

More on Newsweek’s Cover Story about Iraq – Pete Wehner – The Corner on National Review Online.


Almost every day, we get hits from people looking for information on Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs (well, we get hits for RPG, maybe they’re looking for Role Playing Games?).

We’ve discussed briefly the evolution of handheld anti-tank weapons in US service, and we’ve talked about some of the challenges light armor faces in defeating RPGs.  What we haven’t really discussed is the RPGs themselves.

The Russian experience with handheld anti-tank weapons up through WWII was much like our own.  But after the war, where our Army progressed toward a disposable weapon that every troop could carry, they persisted with a reusable weapon employed by a two man team of gunner and ammo bearer. The first iteration of these post-war RPGs was the RPG-2, which was also known as the B-40. It was an incredibly simple weapon- pretty much just a tube with a trigger.

The round itself was an 82mm HEAT warhead. The rocket motor burned completely before the round even left the tube. It then coasted to the target.


The problem was, this meant the weapon had a very short effective range, only 150m for a stationary target, and less than 100m for a moving target.

The Soviets addressed this shortcoming in their next production model, the RPG-7.

Entering service with the Soviets in 1961, the RPG-7 was an evolution of the RPG-2 concept. It had a somewhat more refined launcher, to include optical sights. It also had a two-stage motor, with a first stage that boosted the grenade out of the launcher, then a sustainer motor that drove it to the target. This gave it a much better effective range, though it was still better to keep the range as short as possible.  The warhead was significantly larger as well, being 105mm in diameter (the effective penetration of a HEAT warhead is a function of its diameter; generally, penetration is 6x the diameter of the warhead).


The RPG-7, in many different variants, has been produced or used by many nations (there’s even a US company that makes it!) and has been used in virtually all wars and insurgencies since its introduction. It is still in use in the Soviet Army, and is still in production. And of course, it has frequently been used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is in use by our allies in the Iraqi Army and the Afghan National Army. It is pretty much ubiquitous.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the RPG-7 is hard pressed to defeat a Bradley or an Abrams, and are hardly a sure thing against a Stryker. But against a Humvee, they are a very dangerous threat. You just can’t armor up a Humvee enough to defeat one.

Nor have the Russians been content to rest on their laurels. While an updated RPG-7 with various warheads is still the standard Russian hand-held anti-tank weapon, they’ve continued development of newer, more potent PRGs. They’ve adopted the RPG-18 and its successors, which is a disposable weapon based very closely on the US M72 LAW. They’ve also deployed the RPG-29, a reusable weapon with updated warheads to defeat modern armor. Hezbollah used the RPG-29 to great effect against Israeli armor in the 2006 war.

The latest in the RPG family is the RPG-32, which is designed with an export market in mind. It has been selected for service by Brazil, Jordan, Mexico and Argentina.


Is the 5.56mm too small for Afghanistan?

There’s an interesting article over at Defense Tech about the problems grunts are having with long range engagements in Afghanistan. Unlike Vietnam, with its dense jungles, or Iraq, with its urban terrain, many parts of Afghanistan have long vistas. Quite often, our troops find themselves in fights at ranges from 300 to 500 meters. As an added bonus, they almost always find that the enemy has the high ground. The M4 carbine, which is the standard rifle for our troops, just isn’t designed to shoot that far.

MAJ Thomas Erhart, as a student at the School of Advanced Military Studies at the Army’s Command and General Staff School, has written a monograph that addresses the concerns, and offers some solutions.

I don’t really agree with all his conclusions. He raises valid concerns about the lethality of the current M855 5.56mm x 45 round. But just because it probably isn’t immediately incapacitating at 500 meters doesn’t mean that a hit on a Taliban is worthless. Would the Army be better off with a 6.5mm or 6.8mm round? Almost certainly. But the Army isn’t going to go there. So the real question becomes, what can we do with what we have?

First, he minimizes the influence of SAWs. The M249 is quite accurate for a machine gun, and can easily reach out 800m or more.  Second, while the M4 is hardly the optimum weapon for ranges past 300 meters, it can place effective fires out to 500 meters. It just takes a lot of training.

And training is the heart of the issue. The Army just doesn’t train troops to shoot past 300 meters. And there’s no real good reason why they shouldn’t. MAJ Erhart addresses some of the reasons why, mostly as a holdover from the days of conscription. And frankly, the current marksmanship training is probably good enough for non-combat arms troops. But there is no reason why infantry troops shouldn’t be held to a higher level of marksmanship.

The Marines have long trained at ranges of 500 meters (though this marksmanship training isn’t terribly realistic, any training at that range is better than nothing).  The Army could quickly and easily address the training concerns, without major changes to doctrine or equipment. They can, and should.


You know Kirsten Dunst from the Spiderman series of movies. And maybe Bring it On. And while she’s cute as a button, as the pics below show, the real reason she’s this week’s hottie is the video below.

Click each pic to embiggen.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Cosplay, but Kirsten is doing her best to change my mind.

(slightly NSFW due to some anime boobage)


Looks like I’m not the only one asking what the Air Force should be…

Look, despite the title of a recent post, I don’t seriously advocate dismantling the Air Force. But there are real questions about where the service is, and where it is heading.

It is the job of Schwartz, the Air Force’s top general and a onetime cargo pilot, to mediate between the old and new pilot tribes. In August 2008, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tapped him to lead the service, the first chief of staff in Air Force history without a fighter or bomber pedigree, reflecting Gates’s frustration with the service’s old guard.

A quiet and introspective leader, Schwartz has turned his attention to dismantling the Air Force’s rigid class system. At the top of the traditional hierarchy are fighter pilots. Beneath them are bomber, tanker and cargo pilots. At the bottom are the officers who keep aircraft flying and satellites orbiting in space.

Schwartz has also pushed to broaden the Air Force’s definition of its core missions beyond strategic bombing and control of the skies. New on his list: providing surveillance imagery to ground troops waging counterinsurgencies. Today, the Air Force is flying 40 round-the-clock patrols each day with its Predator and Reaper unmanned planes, an eightfold increase over 2004.

“This is our year to look up and out . . . to ask big questions,” Schwartz said in an interview. “Who are we? What are we doing for the nation’s defense? . . . Where is this grand institution headed?”

There is also certainly a tension between two competing issues. Fighting the current wars, versus making sure we have tools and training to fight the next war.

Secretary of Defense Gates fired the last Secretary of the Air Force, and the last Chief of Staff of the Air Force because he didn’t think they were focusing enough on providing what the ground forces need in this fight, namely Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)- usually through unmanned aircraft like the Predator and the Reaper.  Gates has also pushed the Air Force to buy a light combat aircraft suitable to low-intensity conflict, based most likely on a turbo-prop trainer aircraft. It makes little sense to wear out a $40 million dollar jet droning around in circles at $10,000 an hour on the off chance someone will need air support.  Gates’ thinking is that in the long run, it is cheaper to buy a small number of low-end planes to handle missions like this, and leave the fast-movers to missions that only they can fill.

But there’s a real worry that the Air Force might go “whole hog” on the force structure best suited for a permissive environment just as several potential adversaries are increasing the capabilities of both their air forces and their ground based air defense systems.

Of course, all this is taking place in an environment of fiscal austerity (does Bagram AB even have a golf course?) and in an environment where a program as trivial as the Air Force’s next Search & Rescue helicopter is bogged down in multiple lawsuits.