Magazine article National Defense

Forget Whites of His Eyes; Shoot If You Can Hit Him

Magazine article National Defense

Forget Whites of His Eyes; Shoot If You Can Hit Him

Article excerpt

Industry and government researchers are developing new equipment and tactics for troops to carry into the field. They are seeking smarter, more lethal ammunition and more proficient armor for soldiers.

Coincidentally, the Army is rethinking small arms doctrine.

In a career field where they are trained to kill people and break things, soldiers are finding themselves in the drastically different role of peacekeeper. Now they must protect themselves without endangering civilians.

Fewer soldiers are available for these assignments, and the small arms they carry are smarter but not necessarily smaller. Industry and military test facilities are looking for ways to help them improve their chances of survival and accomplish their mission.

Techniques, targets, and optimizing available weapon technology dominated discussions among more than 150 leaders from the international small arms community at the 12th annual European Small Arms Symposium at the Royal Military College of Science in the United Kingdom.

The Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), Fort Halstead, United Kingdom, presented findings from its experiments on measuring the effects of small arms fire. They accurately pinpointed what it means to be the first on today's battlefield with the best resources.

A series of programs looked at the effects of combinations of weapon types, advantages and disadvantages of those combinations, and the amount of time and ammunition it would take to defeat or suppress North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) standard targets.

In part due to the recent emphasis on improved air bursting munitions, DERA is testing the effects of fragments on NATO-standard current and next generation threat targets-identified as protected personnel and lightly armored vehicles.

Based on the mass of ammunition needed to accomplish a given task, DERA tests indicated small arms ammunition is more effective than bursting munitions in short ranges.

Firing on full automatic does not incapacitate at longer ranges, but effectively suppresses opposing forces. Air burst ammunition works best when it is directly over the selected target but is highly dependent on accurate range, line, and elevation to keep the ammunition mass down.

Psych Him Out

Suppressive fire proved to be one logical option for soldiers to use without endangering civilians Its effects are difficult to measure accurately because suppression depends on the psychological effects of weapons fire on the soldier.

Measuring the suppressive effects of different weapons can affect the choice of weapons mix for a given mission. Within given limitations, DERA was able to distinguish good, better, and best suppression effects.

Among their findings researchers decided that while silencers have advantages in close combat, suppression of enemy forces is not one of them. They found noise is a helpful side effect of small arms fire. This led to the conclusion that .50 caliber ammunition can be highly suppressive since it makes more noise than smaller calibers.

They also found that although morale can be affected by high rates of fire, well-placed rounds at low rates of fire are more effective in suppressing enemy forces than indiscriminate high rates of fire.

Conversely, they determined that as accuracy decreased more rounds were needed to achieve the same suppressive effects. In other words, support weapons with accurate shots are better at longer ranges, and snipers are highly suppressive. …

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