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Combat Troops Have Been Complaining About The M4 And M16 For Years. Now The Pentagon Is Doing Something About It
For decades, troops have been complaining about the limitations of the M16 rifle and M4 carbine, both of which are hindered by the same flawed operating system that makes the weapons jam easily. But after years of ignoring small arms in favor of expensive aircraft and warships, the Pentagon is taking a long, hard look at how to give the Army 11 Bang Bangs and Marine grunts a better weapon.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered the creation of a task force to make American small arms more lethal to give infantry soldiers and Marines an extra advantage in the close fight, Pentagon personnel chief Robert Wilkie said. It has been decades since the Pentagon last looked at the combat effectiveness of small units.
“We don’t want any more fair fights,” Wilkie told Task & Purpose on Wednesday. “We want to overmatch any adversary out there.”
Close combat, in which opposing troops are no more than 600 meters from each other, accounts for up to 90 percent of U.S. casualties, Wilkie said, and America’s adversaries have made advances in this type of fighting in recent years.
The Israelis had planned to destroy Hezbollah using airpower in 2006, but they found themselves in close combat with a conventionally trained force that lured Israeli tanks and infantry into kill zones.
“The bottom line for us is we don’t want that to happen,” Wilkie said.
To ensure that U.S. troops can annihilate any enemy in the close fight, the new task force will look at how to update troops’ training and equipment based on lessons learned from special operations forces, he said. One aspect of the review is whether infantry soldiers and Marines need a new rifle, he said.
When asked if the Task Force’s work could result in the Army and Marine Corps fielding a new rifle, Wilkie said: “It could. We just haven’t gotten to that point yet.
But Wilkie stressed that the task force’s focus is to make sure that infantry troops have the training to be dominant in the close fight, adding that discussions about how soldiers and Marines are equipped “will flow from that.”
Mattis has said that he wants U.S. troops to experience 25 simulated battles before they get their first actual combat experience, Wilkie said. To accomplish that, the task force will look at expanding the use of simulators that are currently in the works at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Camp Pendleton, California, he said.
Over the last 70 years, small infantry units have done most of the fighting and dying in America’s wars, but a Pentagon Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation review recently determined that infantry troops get less than 1 percent of the Defense Department’s resources for training and equipment, said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who was an advisor to the CAPE review.
Meanwhile, any U.S. casualties can have strategic implications, Scales told Task & Purpose on Feb. 23. For example, the deaths of four soldiers in Niger in October 2017 has led the U.S. military to rethink its entire posture in Africa, he said.
“We’re very, very sensitive to casualties,” Scales said. “So, it make sense to me that the nation should do more to keep alive who are most likely to die.”
While small arms and other infantry equipment cost far less than the Defense Department’s modernization programs, they have not been a top Pentagon acquisition priority.
For decades, expensive weapons programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carrier have eaten up a large part of the Pentagon’s budget, but Wilkie said the task force will now look at whether the Defense Department needs to spend more money on grunts.
“The focus for this secretary will be on the point of the spear where the most of the casualties occur,” Wilkie said. “We are going to determine whether or not we have devoted sufficient resources to that fight. My view is, yes, we will be spending more money on that.”
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?