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Marine Corps getting new ammo

Discussion in 'General Firearm Discussion' started by Cougfan2, Feb 16, 2010.

  1. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Hillsboro, OR Well-Known Member

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    I took this from another forum. A pretty interesting read.

    Corps to use more lethal ammo in Afghanistan

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    http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news..._ammo_021510w/

    Corps to use more lethal ammo in Afghanistan

    By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
    Posted : Tuesday Feb 16, 2010 9:29:10 EST

    The Marine Corps is dropping its conventional 5.56mm ammunition in Afghanistan in favor of new deadlier, more accurate rifle rounds, and could field them at any time.

    The open-tipped rounds until now have been available only to Special Operations Command troops. The first 200,000 5.56mm Special Operations Science and Technology rounds are already downrange with Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command. Commonly known as “SOST” rounds, they were legally cleared for Marine use by the Pentagon in late January, according to Navy Department documents obtained by Marine Corps Times.

    SOCom developed the new rounds for use with the Special Operations Force Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, which needed a more accurate bullet because its short barrel, at 13.8 inches, is less than an inch shorter than the M4 carbine’s. Using an open-tip match round design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to be “barrier blind,” meaning they stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.

    Compared to the M855, SOST rounds also stay on target longer in open air and have increased stopping power through “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants,” according to Navy Department documents. At 62 grains, they weigh about the same as most NATO rounds, have a typical lead core with a solid copper shank and are considered a variation of Federal Cartridge Co.’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.

    The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million-round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan, Brogan said. Navy Department documents say the Pentagon will launch a competition worth up to $400 million this spring for more SOST ammunition.

    “This round was really intended to be used in a weapon with a shorter barrel, their SCAR carbines,” Brogan said. “But because of its blind-to-barrier performance, its accuracy improvements and its reduced muzzle flash, those are attractive things that make it also useful to general purpose forces like the Marine Corps and Army.”

    M855 problems
    The standard Marine round, the M855, was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, however, it has been the subject of widespread criticism from troops, who question whether it has enough punch to stop oncoming enemies.

    In 2002, shortcomings in the M855’s performance were detailed in a report by Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind., according to Navy Department documents. Additional testing in 2005 showed shortcomings. The Pentagon issued a request to industry for improved ammunition the following year. Federal Cartridge was the only company to respond.

    Brogan said the Corps has no plans to remove the M855 from the service’s inventory at this time. However, the service has determined it “does not meet USMC performance requirements” in an operational environment in which insurgents often lack personal body armor, but engage troops through “intermediate barriers” such as windshields and car doors at security checkpoints, according to a Jan. 25 Navy Department document clearing Marines to use the SOST round.

    The document, signed by J.R. Crisfield, director of the Navy Department International and Operational Law Division, is clear on the recommended course of action for the 5.56mm SOST round, formally known as MK318 MOD 0 enhanced 5.56mm ammunition.

    “Based on the significantly improved performance of the MK318 MOD 0 over the M855 against virtually every anticipated target array in Afghanistan and similar combat environments where increased accuracy, better effects behind automobile glass and doors, consistent terminal performance and reduced muzzle flash are critical to mission accomplishment, USMC would treat the MK318 MOD 0 as its new 5.56mm standard issue cartridge,” Crisfield wrote.

    The original plan called for the SOST round to be used specifically within the M4 carbine, which has a 14½-inch barrel and is used by tens of thousands of Marines in military occupational specialties such as motor vehicle operator where the M16A4’s longer barrel can be cumbersome. Given its benefits, however, Marine officials decided also to adopt SOST for the M16A4, which has a 20-inch barrel and is used by most of the infantry.

    Incorporating SOST
    In addition to operational benefits, SOST rounds have similar ballistics to the M855 round, meaning Marines will not have to adjust to using the new ammo, even though it is more accurate.

    “It does not require us to change our training,” Brogan said. “We don’t have to change our aim points or modify our training curriculum. We can train just as we have always trained with the 855 round, so right now, there is no plan to completely remove the 855 from inventory.”

    Marine officials in Afghanistan could not be reached for comment, but Brogan said commanders with MEB-A are authorized to issue SOST ammo to any subordinate command. Only one major Marine 5.56mm weapon system downrange will not use SOST: the M249 squad automatic weapon. Though the new rounds fit the SAW, they are not currently produced in the linked fashion commonly employed with the light machine gun, Brogan said.

    SOCom first fielded the SOST round in April, said Air Force Maj. Wesley Ticer, a spokesman for the command. It also fielded a cousin — MK319 MOD 0 enhanced 7.62mm SOST ammo — designed for use with the SCAR-Heavy, a powerful 7.62mm battle rifle. SOCom uses both kinds of ammunition in all of its geographic combatant commands, Ticer said.

    The Corps has no plans to buy 7.62mm SOST ammunition, but that could change if operational commanders or infantry requirements officers call for it in the future, Brogan said.

    It is uncertain how long the Corps will field the SOST round. Marine officials said last summer that they took interest in it after the M855A1 lead-free slug in development by the Army experienced problems during testing, but Brogan said the service is still interested in the environmentally friendly round if it is effective. Marine officials also want to see if the price of the SOST round drops once in mass production. The price of an individual round was not available, but Brogan said SOST ammo is more expensive than current M855 rounds.

    “We have to wait and see what happens with the Army’s 855LFS round,” he said. “We also have to get very good cost estimates of where these [SOST] rounds end up in full-rate, or serial production. Because if it truly is going to remain more expensive, then we would not want to buy that round for all of our training applications.”

    Legal concerns
    Before the SOST round could be fielded by the Corps, it had to clear a legal hurdle: approval that it met international law of war standards.

    The process is standard for new weapons and weapons systems, but it took on added significance because of the bullet’s design. Open-tip bullets have been approved for use by U.S. forces for decades, but are sometimes confused with hollow-point rounds, which expand in human tissue after impact, causing unnecessary suffering, according to widely accepted international treaties signed following the Hague peace conventions held in the Netherlands in 1899 and 1907.

    “We need to be very clear in drawing this distinction: This is not a hollow-point round, which is not permitted,” Brogan said. “It has been through law of land warfare review and has passed that review so that it meets the criteria of not causing unnecessary pain and suffering.”

    The open-tip/hollow-point dilemma has been addressed several times by the military, including in 1990, when the chief of the Judge Advocate General International Law Branch, now-retired Marine Col. W. Hays Parks, advised that the open-tip M852 Sierra MatchKing round preferred by snipers met international law requirements. The round was kept in the field.

    In a 3,000-word memorandum to Army Special Operations Command, Parks said “unnecessary suffering” and “superfluous injury” have not been formally defined, leaving the U.S. with a “balancing test” it must conduct to assess whether the usage of each kind of rifle round is justified.

    “The test is not easily applied,” Parks said. “For this reason, the degree of ‘superfluous injury’ must … outweigh substantially the military necessity for the weapon system or projectile.”

    John Cerone, an expert in the law of armed conflict and professor at the New England School of Law, said the military’s interpretation of international law is widely accepted. It is understood that weapons cause pain in war, and as long as there is a strategic military reason for their employment, they typically meet international guidelines, he said.

    “In order to fall within the prohibition, a weapon has to be designed to cause unnecessary suffering,” he said.

    Sixteen years after Parks issued his memo, an Army unit in Iraq temporarily banned the open-tip M118 long-range used by snipers after a JAG officer mistook it for hollow-tip ammunition, according to a 2006 Washington Times report. The decision was overturned when other Army officials were alerted.
     
  2. ogre

    ogre Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    Good read, good post: thanks!
     
  3. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    What they really need is a new caliber.;)
     
  4. jordanvraptor

    jordanvraptor Oregon City, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    What they really need is a new CinC...:(

    I would like to see some gelatin results on this new round or even the 77 grain OTM round that Special Forces were using. Our guys were given some of the 77 gr rounds before a drug raid by SF and they said it felt the same as M855. So if its not significantly more powerful and only slightly heavier, why is it used? Does it tumble and break apart better and at lower velocities? I want to see some Jello murdered before or some chronograph readings and average groupings. Inquiring minds want to know...
     
  5. Taurus 617 CCW

    Taurus 617 CCW Northern Idaho Member

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    I always thought that a high destructive round like the Nosler ballistic tip would be ideal for them. I have gotten some very impressive results out of my 165 gr .308 BT's on larger pests. The .223 BT's would be no exception.
     
  6. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    It seems to me that the bottom line is that the new bullet has better accuracy, better barrier penetration, and better ultimate fragmentation without violating the rules on soft point or hollow point ammo. (Stupid rules - why did we agree to that? Our enemies never follow rules; see IED's.)

    I need to do some research and testing and find out if the 62 gr bullet is accurate in my 1:9 twist 16" barrels. Right now I use 55 gr. If the 62 gr stabilizes and gives good groups, I'm going to switch to Sierra MatchKing bullets for reloading.
     
  7. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    We never signed the Hague Convention of 1899, the one that contains Declaration III which "bans" hollow points in conflicts "between signatories" but we observe its conventions against EVERYONE for some reason. We could be zapping both Iraqi and Afghani irregulars with hollow point ammo without issue even under the Convention, as it is very unlikely the opposition are signatories, but for some reason, (probably negative PR) we do not.
     
  8. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    My bad. Yes, it was the Hague Convention, but we follow it.

    I'm not sure how hollow points do for barrier penetration anyway, and in this war where much of it is urban and we have the PC rules of engagement, we often have to wait until we are shot at from cover before we even know who the BG is.

    I do have a couple of thousand rounds of Hornady 55 gr pointed soft point hunting bullets loaded up and ready to go. So far all I've done is 55 gr. I need to get some MatchKing 62 gr's and do some testing since they are reported above to penetrate and fragment well. That's pushing the upper limits of a 16" 1:9 twist and I have several of those so we'll have to see.

    There is something to be said for a 55 gr bullet @ 3150 fps or better. Being shorter than the 62 gr, it tends to tumble inside the target.

    I'll start a thread when I get some data. I need to develop a fast and accurate 62 gr MatchKing load, and then blow up some milk jugs. :) I'll buy a junked and bent up car door and do some tests.
     
  9. Silver Fox

    Silver Fox Puyallup, WA Well-Known Member

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    We never learn.

    Russians had the same problem. Read the book "Operation Stumbling Bear" written by a British SAS Major who was on the ground at the time as an observer. It is out of print now but you can still find used copies floating around. The Mujahideen were taking 600+ meter shots with WW I era rifles and ammo.

    SF-
     
  10. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I always thought of my 5.56's of being VERY accurate to at least 600 yards... ??

    Surely "man sized target" accurate. ??
     
  11. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Does the Taliban have 7.62x51 routinely, or at all? I see AK's on the news. Ballistically they are more like a 30-30, aren't they? Are they also very accurate? At distance I think I'd be more afraid of a Mosin in 54r.

    As for the 5.56 being like a weak 22 at range, the 5.56 has more velocity at 600 yards than a 22lr has at the muzzle. (about 1700 fps at 600 yds for the 5.56 vs about 1250 for "high velocity" .22lr at the muzzle.) It also weighs much more (40 gr 22lr vs 62 gr 5.56)

    I won't argue that a larger caliber would be more effective at long range. My experience is that the 5.56 is accurate enough and still has punch at 600 yards. (about 400 ft lbs of energy @ about 1700 fps for the 62 gr.)

    Heck, I don't know for sure... :)
     
  12. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    But since we're talking about distance issues in Afghan, is an AK any good at all at 600 yrds? Heck, I don't know, I've never tried it. I don't even own one but what I read says they aren't real accurate and that they aren't made for distance. The Mosin in 54r is another story...

    I can vouch for my AR's at 600 yards. They are still MOA and completely useful. I agree they wouldn't have much barrier penetrating ability at that distance. The 7.62x51 is the answer there, or how about
    a .50 BMG? :D
     
  13. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    Having an elevation advantage can never be underestimated in any form of combat. Throwing lead downhill is tons easier than throwing it uphill.

    Ancient or modern, a service caliber bolt rifle with a decent marksman behind it is still a formidable weapon, as both infantry services are well aware.

    I recall how the Muhajadeen taking on the Soviets were outranging the Bear's small arms in the 80s with a mix of Mosins, Mausers and Enfields. They could certainly acquire AKs that way.:D

    However, even the "inaccurate" AK is a bigger distance threat downhill than it is on the valley floor. Volley fire is a lost/obsolete art in western forces outside of artillery and naval gunnery, but the Taliban likely achieve something quite like the concept with massed AK fire raining down from a ridge onto a convoy. "Effective range" takes on a few hundred more meters when firing for effect at a general area and the rear sight of the AK will adjust up to an aspirational full kilometer of elevation.

    The great unknown is how much the Afghans actually aim.;) One would think the ones running around with bolt guns take their sights a lot more seriously than the run of the mill bangers do.
     
  14. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    My personal belief is that drones are going to shape the battle space forever going forward and that they have been already.

    The problems the Army and Marines face in Afghanistan are not unfamiliar.

    Foremost, there is a cultural barrier that limits our influence and trust. Try as one might, he is always on some level the interloper. They blend and we don't.

    Second is a geographical disadvantage. The Taliban have institutional knowledge of where they fight while we are forever trying to pick up on it. We also have fixed bases and civilian assets to protect against attack, which ties down some fraction of our effort.

    We have divided command and its attendant bureaucracy. A smart native commander is going to exploit jurisdictional/command & control authority differences/confusion/squabbling at the boundaries of US and NATO sectors of responsibility, and the smarter ones have in fact done that.

    Back to drones. As drones are increasing in sophistication and capability they are changing the game. Armed attacks from drones have taken out high priority targets that would have been pipe dream efforts in 2002. The revolution in the battle space will come when one of the services manages to come up with a drone mix that enables 24/7/365 on station coverage of an area. Hook up this raw data to computer and human analysis and then patterns of movements can be traced to common points for strike decisions.

    Say that a drone on a dirigible can hover over a sector all night. It records a two man team possibly implanting a roadside IED. It can alert a countermeasures unit to investigate the suspicious activity, but more importantly, if an IED is found on site, the recording can track back not only where the bombers came from, but where they escaped to when they left. Then those locations can both be put under surveillance and other patterns of movement discerned from that until possibly an entire network could be uprooted at once in a mega raid rather than in the piecemeal fashion of the past. Such robotic "omniscience" could be very disruptive to classical "cell based" terrorism/insurgency efforts.

    Even in Vietnam, there were early and futile efforts to build such intelligence. We used to bomb the Ho Chi Mihn trail with listening devices to try and detect movement. Imagine a 24/7 all weather surveillance of that trail today, complete with drone airstrikes that are minutes rather than upwards of an hour or more away. It will become much more difficult for an OPFOR to move furtively under cover of darkness, from cave to cave or building to building, train anywhere openly, amass forces in any formidable numbers, stockpile supplies that look out of place, or even communicate without possible interception by a localized version of a spy in the sky. It's one thing to fool a satellite, and quite another to fool an eye that never blinks.

    Once the on station ability of drones rises to round the clock saturation coverage levels, evading elite troops going on snatch and grabs is going to become tremendously difficult. Electronic observation that never leaves, dumping raw info into a bank of computerized pattern analysis, combined with HUMINT on the ground, is going to become a net with a very tight weave. It's already tightening now.
     
  15. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    We'll always need boots on the ground to do the nasty business. The revolution is in not wasting the troopers' efforts and lives on blind hunches, "recon by fire," and getting blasted by IED planters working out of view.
     
  16. Cougfan2

    Cougfan2 Hillsboro, OR Well-Known Member

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    Excellent post Boats, were you or are you in the military?
     
  17. Spad

    Spad Kennewick,WA, the desert side Active Member

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    Drones will be shot down. You can bet our opponents in the world are working on portable fire systems to take down drones and what a way to test them. Back to the dally over rifle rounds, we have a great opportunity to test a variety of cartridge types now. American bullet makers have extensive varietys of stuff that should be tested. Tell the bean counters to hide in the closet for awhile with the JAG people. Nuff said. Spad
     
  18. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    I'll bet our opponents are also working on getting predator drones, too.

    As I understand it, the Predator can see the heat signature of, and kill a single human from 10,000 feet AGL. I also understand that this is far above the altitude at which any current hand carried rockets are effective.

    That's not to say that better rockets won't be developed.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.
     
  19. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    Was a Boatswain's Mate in the Navy before going to the Persian Gulf was something everyone did. Got out and eventually wound up doing some defense analyst work during graduate school. I knew more than anyone ever wanted to know about Turkmenistan, including a rather boring trip to Ashgabat.

    Not a military expert, just spotting obvious trends. When every branch is working on ground based and airborne drones, robotics and an attempt at constant battlefield surveillance is a direction they are all going to go. The Navy worked on this on the grand scale submarine hunting with satellites, sonobuoy networks, and SEAL espionage during the Cold War. The effort now is to bring that style of tracking to the street level.
     
  20. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    You're not wrong, but what we're going to see going forward is going to make the current Predator and Global Hawk drones look like the model T and the Model A.

    Drones are diverging into separate classes already. In a few generations of machinery you're going to see multi-level drone strategies. Up top, where only an organized OPFOR air force or SAM site could reach them will be heavy hitters rolling slow on orbital flight tracks, capable of in air refueling, on call for "instant" air strikes.

    The next level down will be low radar/IR signature "eyes in the sky." These will act like local satellite intelligence, capable of taking real time photos, intercepting satellite phone calls and cellular signals, even listening broad spectrum for field radios.

    Above the street level, it won't be long before something largely indistinguishable from a soaring bird or a large insect, and just as hard to hit,
    simply watch areas of interest with high resolution cameras just recording the comings and goings of people, their cars, delivery trucks, whatever. The feeds from the first two levels will be constantly churned for signals intelligence and facial mapping will continue to develop to exploit increased field views from a cloud of drones.

    This is to say nothing of the drones that platoons will soon be able to deploy to see the next block over from the eye level, or scout the surrounding wadis or canyons for the telltales of an ambush.

    Of course countermeasures will be thought up and some will prove successful, but just being able to create an absolute air of paranoia, like Israel sometimes achieves against Hamas when a leader's cellphone suddenly blows off his head and kills everyone else in his car, degrades the operational effectiveness of such groups as they concentrate on self-preservation.

    The great weakness of these nihilistic Islamic terrorist organizations is that the leaders are not really "prepared to be martyred." They want the cannon fodder to die for Allah. Their captured signals and papers make this abundantly clear. By putting them in constant fear for their own lives, by denying them their families for prospect of getting the entire brood wiped out by a drone, you reshape their operational possibilities. They don't really become less dangerous, but their tempo falls precipitously.

    AND we should be zapping the bad guys with a better intermediate round, hopefully sometime soon. We've been messing with the concept since the Garand was prototyped in .276 Pedersen.