The US Army
By Robert Bruce

The US Army has the distinction of being the largest branch of the American Armed Forces operating in Iraq and neighboring states.

Major combatant units in the first wave of the liberation of Iraq included elite troops of the famous 82nd and 101st Airborne, 1st Armored and 3rd Infantry Divisions. These and other formations had the heavy equipment and firepower necessary to steamroll over Saddam Hussein’s forces with a coordinated ground and air assault.

An enormous logistical network supported them with everything needed to press the tactical and strategic advantage enjoyed from the very beginning. Precious fuel, ammunition, food, water, and more rolled forward with the assault - often literally in the dust kicked up by the first line of tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.

Army units also provided the bulk of essential services such as forward-deployed medical trauma centers, highly sophisticated communications facilities, as well as maintenance and repair of weapons, vehicles and aircraft.

Army Special Forces, along with their counterparts from other US and allied services, were already operating deep inside Iraq. The contributions of all these “quiet professionals” will not likely be fully revealed anytime soon but they were instrumental in the relative ease by which Saddam’s defenses crumbled.

Early combat photos show the front line soldiers in hot and bulky chemical warfare protective suits, significantly hampering their efforts in the assault. This handicap should be irrefutable proof to all critics that the best available intelligence information at the time indicated a high probability that Saddam’s fanatical Republican Guard would use gas and germ weapons.

Thankfully, they did not and since then the cumbersome suits have been set aside in favor of the latest in body armor and related gear.

What military professionals call “asymmetric warfare” has followed the end of major conventional combat in Iraq and the beginning of efforts to stabilize the country and bring Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to justice. Die-hard regime loyalists and bloodthirsty anti-Americans of all types have mounted a guerrilla/terrorist war against the Coalition with widespread sniping, ambushes and bombings.

The US Army is at the forefront of efforts to combat these cowardly attacks by conducting coordinated raids to capture enemy leaders, seize their weapons and ammunition stockpiles, and demonstrate to all that armed resistance is a very, very bad lifestyle choice.

Combat camera images over the last six months of “stabilization” operations show GIs increasingly well equipped with police SWAT type gear. Truly bulletproof body armor is the most dramatic development for saving lives in building raids and convoy ambushes. Night vision devices and infrared laser weapon pointers are in good supply, as are the protective knee and elbow pads that are so necessary when the battlefield is concrete and asphalt.

While Coalition leaders speak optimistically of the prospects for political stability and a return to the rule of law, GIs know they and their comrades will have to be in Iraq for a very long time. A large scale unit rotation program is well under way as Combined Joint Task Force 7, the largest allied command in Iraq, gets fresh troops and combat-weary units can finally go back home.

The latest information about ongoing stabilization operations in Iraq and neighboring countries may be found on United States Central Command’s website: www.centcom.mil.

US M16A2 Rifle and M203 Grenade Launcher

Rifle caliber: 5.56 x 45mm (SS109 type M855 green tip NATO standard ball)
Launcher caliber: 40mm
Rifle weight loaded: 9.5 lbs/4.33 kg
Launcher weight loaded: 3.6 lbs/1.63 kg
Combined weight loaded: 13.11 lbs/5.96 kg
Overall length (rifle w/launcher): 39 in/1000mm
Rifle barrel length: 21 in/533mm w/suppressor
Rifle firing modes: Semi and 3 round burst
Launcher: Single shot
Burst cyclic rate: Approx. 800 rpm
Operation: (Rifle) gas, (Launcher) manually operated sliding barrel
Rifle locking: Multi-lug rotary bolt in carrier
Rifle feed: 30 round detachable box mag (NATO standard)

UK SA80A2 Individual Weapon

Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm (SS109 type NATO Standard)
Loaded weight w/optical sight: 11.46 lbs/5.2 kg
Overall length: 30.4 in./780mm
Barrel length: 20.2 in./518mm
Firing modes: Semi and full automatic
Cyclic rate: Approx. 700 rpm
Operation/locking: Gas, multi-lug rotary bolt in carrier
Feed: 30 round detachable box mag (M16 type NATO Standard)
Notes: No provision for attached grenade launcher. Uses muzzle-launched grenades instead. Basic receiver equipped with heavy barrel and bipod is designated SA80A2 Light Support Weapon.

Kalashnikov System AKM

Caliber: 7.62 x 39mm
Weight: 8.9 lbs./3.3 kg
Length: 34.3 in./880 mm
Barrel length: 16.3 in./415 mm
Firing modes: Semi and full auto
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm
Operation/locking: Gas, rotating bolt
Feed: 30 round detachable box magazine
Notes: Produced throughout the former Soviet Union and satellite/client states

UK L96A1 Sniper Rifle

Caliber: 7.62 x 51mm NATO (newest versions in .338 Lapua)
Weight: 14.3 lbs/6.5 kg
Overall length: 45.3 in/1163 mm
Barrel length: 25.5 in/655mm
Operation: Bolt action
Locking: Three front locking lugs on bolt plus safety lug at handle
Feed: 10 round detachable box magazine
Sight: Schmidt & Bender 6 x 42 telescopic. Night Vision sights optional.

Australian F-88 Rifle (Austrian AUG)

Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm (SS109 type NATO Standard)
Weight: 7.9 lbs./3.6 kg:
Length: 31 in./790 mm
Barrel length: 20 in./508 mm
Firing modes: Semi and full auto
Cyclic rate: 650 rpm
Operation/locking: Gas, rotating bolt
Feed: 30 round detachable box magazine
Notes: Produced under Steyr license at Lithgow Small Arms Factory

US M249 Squad Auto Weapon (Belgian FN MINIMI)

Caliber: 5.56 x 45mm (SS109/M855 type NATO standard)
Weight: 15.2 lbs/6.9 kg
Length: 40.6 in/1040 mm
Barrel length: 18.2 in/466 mm
Firing mode: Full auto
Cyclic rate: Approx. 850 rpm
Operation/Locking: Gas with front lug rotating bolt
Feed: Metallic link belts or M16 style magazines

US M240G and UK L7A1 Medium Machine Gun

Caliber: 7.62 x 51mm NATO
Weight: 24 lbs/10.9 kg
Overall length: 48 in/1232mm
Barrel length: 26.5 in/679mm w/flash hider
Firing modes: Automatic only
Cyclic rate: Variable 750-1000 rpm
Operation: Gas
Locking: Dropping locking lever
Feed: Metallic link belt

US M2HB and UK L1A1 Heavy Machine Gun

Caliber: .50 in/12.7 x 99mm
Weight: 86 lbs/39.1 kg
Overall length: 65 in/1652 mm
Barrel length: 28 in/712 mm
Firing modes: Full automatic only
Cyclic rate: Approx. 500 rpm
Operation: Recoil
Locking: Projecting lug
Feed: Metallic link belts
Note: John M. Browning’s 80 year old combat classic. Some guns in UK and Australian service feature FN’s QCB (Quick Change Barrel)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N2 (November 2004)
and was posted online on July 5, 2013


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