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Iraqi Gun Show and Swap Meet.

The Arsenal of Argghhh!'s Bushmaster O.R.C.

So, reading through DoD Blogger's Roundtable stuff I see the interview with Colonel Scott where he talks about the Iraqi's intent to replace their aging AK-47's for M16's, via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The same program we're planning to use to go to the Ukraine to purchase BTR's for the Iraqis until they think their way through how they want to organize their mechanized forces.

They want an initial total of 165,000 M4/M16A2s. The plan appears to be officers get M4's, NCOs and troops get M16's. On this side of the pond, I've noticed raised eyebrows, especially from the gun guys who believe the AK-47 is simply about the best weapon out there.

Why the hell would the Iraqis want to trade away what is pretty much acknowledged as the perfect weapon for crappy, ill-disciplined soldiers who like to "spray and pray" in combat? For a weapon many experts (to include combat experienced US troops) think is a piece of crap, the M4?

Bob Owens, of Confederate Yankee, sees a possible corruption/influence issue, with the orotund Representative Murtha lurking in the shadows, meeting with the bag men. Or not.

Personally, I can think of a lot of reasons. Especially if they're going to get subsidized help in buying them.

1. Iraq's current stock of AK's is pretty old and beat up - if you are going to start replacing rifles, now is the time to make a switch.

2. The same thing that make AK's attractive to third world armies -cheap and robust - work against them. They aren't that accurate at longer combat ranges, especially when not maintained well. The ballistics of the AK round aren't all that great. There's a reason the Russians went to a different round - and it wasn't just that we did.

3. Rationalizing the supply chain (and tying it into NATO) is a plus for us. There is potential goodness there, too - which Matt lays out at Blackfive.

4. Combat ID - until the majis collect a significant number of M16s, guys carrying AKs are bad guys (or, admittedly, locals who have been allowed to keep their weapons for personal defense - better not wander around in a firefight unless you're a participant).

4. Corruption-reduction. If we/they maintain decent accountability for the rifles, then when they show up in maji hands, you've got a place to start looking for where they leaked out of the system. Doesn't make corruption go away, just makes it harder, which will slow it down, if they've the gumption to really pursue it.

5. Since we're trying to rebuild the Iraqi army into a more westernized Arab army, part and parcel of that is professionalizing them to the point where they can master the marksmanship and the discipline of maintenance.

6. The M16/M4 series of weapons are lighter to start and far more versatile in terms of the useful extras you can load onto them, especially the M4, and keep the weight down.

7. And don't underestimate the power of example. Every time the Iraqis have faced an M16-armed army, they've had their collective butt handed to them.

The Arsenal contains a competently built, stamped-receiver AK clone made in Romania. There is also a Bushmaster-built M4 clone. I've shot M16's from the three-prong-suppressor M16 through the A1 and A2. I hadn't shot the M4 until I bought one.

I've shot a lot of AK's - military ones, commercial ones, milled receivers, stamped receivers. 7.62, 5.45 and 5.56.

With the AK, I've experienced pedestrian accuracy, bleah ergonomics, mediocre weapon sights, and the attachments, like the very nice scopes, don't hold their value as keeping a zero on them is a pain - and that's without carrying them around flexing that stamped receiver doing combat stuff, and let's face it - the Picatinny rail system is nice.

The M4? For me, it points like it's a part of me. I actually snap-shot a rebar in half. Hitting it that square is luck seasoned with experience - but I've never had that kind of accuracy with any AK I've shot.

AKs are popular - especially among shooters here in the US, where you can generally get them for about half the price of an M4, and scads of cheap ammo. But every time I spend an afternoon shooting both - I realize it's money well spent, that I spent on the M4.

And if I had a choice to hook into US/NATO logisitics, and trade up on my rifle (and I consider it a trade up, even though some will disagree), and as a side benny, have to make my troops better troops in order to use it - hey, if I've got that luxury, I think I'd take it up, too.

The question is - can they keep up the requisite level of professionalization, and what happens starting in late February of next year.

The Arsenal of Argghhh!'s Romak

5 Comments

I would never underestimate the power of brand differentiation and brand identification. The new Iraqi army will be new, it won't look like the old Iraqi army or arab armies in general. Good Things. I think the psychology of this is more inportant than people realize. Why do kids wear the same brand shoes Shaq does? Right, to identify with Shaq. This maneuver is one more step to wean the Iraqis away from Soviet era thinking and supply chains. Russian influence goes along with Russian weapons. It's important that influence goes away. I am way past tolerance for people who see a herd of ponies and think, "There must be a pile of manure somewhere among those ponies."
 
... now if only we can wean the Iraqis away from that ridiculous, Monty Python-esque Russian goose-step they favor...
 
I'm with Fred - by upgrading them to AR platform weapons they get to be a 'real Army - just like the Americans'. The fact that their weapons will show whether or not they're capable of performing at that level is a plus. From everything I'm hearing we are succeeding in building the new Iraqi Army as a professional Army - unlike pretty much every other Arab military.
 
If their tactical doctrine supports having two heavy riflemen in a squad, what are they going to carry? RPKs? FN-FALs? a Vorgrimmler weapon? If you define marksmanship as the ability of a troop to deliver accurate, lethal fire at 300 meters, either the AR or the AK can do it, when both weapons are maintained properly. The key is depot-level maintenance of the weapons. If we don't leave good armorers behind, nothing we give them will last or improve the lethality of their army, no matter what you call it or what it wears for a cover. If there IS good depot-level maintenance, then any standard assault carbine out there will fill the role. For my money, in 5.56 NATO, that would be the Steyr AUG and follow-ons, NOT the M16/M4 or AKM.
 
FMS... Hmmm, that's a funny business, init? This is really a lot simpler than all the discussion above makes it sound: the Iraqis simply have no [sensible] choice. The issue is not the quality of the weapon or its usefulness to the soldier or any of that stuff. The issues are 1) who's paying for the new weapons, and 2) how many can Iraq get. Number 1 matters more than number 2. Simply put, regardless of whether the U.S. is getting paid for its support (in cash, promissory notes, or oil futures), the U.S. *is* funding the up-armyization of Iraq, and there is just no way the U.S. is going to pay for AKs (or for any other weapon not produced by the U.S. or one of its economic partners). I can even envision a deal where the U.S. gives Iraq a grant (FMS-nonrepayable) to be used to buy the weapons, but insists Iraq buy the ammunition from U.S. companies, perhaps starting in 2010. Same basic deal as what HP offers because the money is in the ink, not the printers, and the U.S. is about nothing if its not about the money. All of which is not say I see anything wrong with this. So what if some congressman pushed for this--that's his job. And so what if it benefits the U.S.? It's not like we're screwing the Iraqis by selling them the same weapons *we* use. More to the point, so what if the AK hits harder, is sturdier, or any of that stuff. All those AK's didn't help the Iraqis (or anyone else for that matter) kick American a$$, did they? The fact is, American rifles are the weapons of the strongest army on Earth right now, and they are plentiful, and they come with support and promises of more, and they are assuredly cheap. And even more important, for all their flaws, a soldier can carry far more 5.56 bullets than 7.62 bullets, and that means the odds of actually hitting something are even greater. Shoot enough of those little buzzballs, and you're bound to hit *something.* And of course, all of this helps the U.S. in a number of ways, which is what the war is really all about, init?