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Infantry Fight

So, happy Saturday. NATO planes and warships are finally striking Libya. In the meantime, we thought we’d show you India’s notion for a 21st Century battle uniform. Dubbed the Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System, or F-ISAS, the kit consists of body armor and WMD protection integrated to the uniform, a hand held computer, helmet with a visor displaying critical battlefield information and 5.56mm, 7.62mm, and purportedly 6.8mm “modular weapon system” that can also be equipped with a bolt-on grenade launcher.

The weapons will start to be fielded next year, and the whole system will be in place by 2020, according to Soldier Systems.

The whole point being to turn the next generation of Indian infantryman into a fully networked “a self-contained fighting machine.” Oh, and the system’s developers, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, also want to reduce the weight carried by each soldier by 50 percent.

Happy Friday, everyone! To start the weekend with a bang (sorry, couldn’t resist), check out this video of ATK’s GPS guidance kit for mortars. The kit, developed under a program called the Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative, is designed to give each round a 10 meter CEP accuracy at a ranges of up to 11 miles.

In a simply phenominal piece today in the New York Times, James Dao perfectly distills the essence of junior command — the pressures and weight of decisions that have to be made — and the outsized influence those decisions have on national policy (and personal development).

I’ve spent at least half of my decade in military journalism chronicling the intricate path officers take from their first days on the parade deck to their seat at company command and staff jobs. I’ve listened to young lieutenants who experienced unspeakable violence and death in Iraq and listened to them explain how the weight of the responsibility for those deaths impacted them. As I looked into the fresh eyes of these men ten years my junior, I always thought there was some injustice to rob them of their innocence so early.

Today’s New York Times piece is a fresh look at the “strategic Captian and Lieutenant” and the pressures under which these extremely young and inexperienced Soldiers live — and how well they do under those pressures.

As commander of Alpha Company, First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Captain Bonenberger was in charge not just of ensuring the safety of 150 soldiers, but also of securing the district of Imam Sahib, a volatile mix of insurgent enclaves and peaceful farming villages along the Tajikistan border.

In his first three months of command, he had led soldiers in bruising firefights, witnessed the aftermath of a devastating car bomb, nominated soldiers for valor awards and disciplined others for insubordination. He had put in countless 18-hour days writing reports, accounting for $30 million in equipment and planning missions, at least one of which he had to abandon when his Afghan partners, the local police, unexpectedly declined to participate.

Captain Bonenberger, a graduate of Yale who protested the invasion of Iraq before he joined the Army, had deployed to Afghanistan once before, as a lieutenant in 2007, but had not commanded a combat unit. Now he had the prospect, terrifying but also thrilling, of shouldering greater responsibility than he had ever known.

“You have the ability, and the responsibility, to imagine and implement the strategy that will turn your districts from red to yellow to green,” he said. “Taking command of Alpha Company was one of the crowning achievements in my life.”

I highly encourage Defense Tech readers to take some time to read the entire expansive piece either now or bookmark the URL and read it over the holidays. And when you’re done, be sure to watch Sebastian Junger’s equally amazing film Restrepo (available for rental or download on Netflix) on the 173rd’s deployment to the Korengal last year.

With these two items in hand, the men who are fighting the war in Afghanistan will be much more personal than they ever have been before…consider it a mini-embed…

– Christian

Our man who was just in Farnborough, Glenn Anderson, shot some great footage of BAE’s new ultra-lightweight howitzer that uses titanium on the trails to shave off some serious pounds. The M777 weighs about half what a typical 155mm howitzer weighs. Check out the BAE rep pick up the howitzer’s titanium trail with one hand.

– Greg Grant

We’ve written a number of posts about the debate surrounding the infantry’s standard small arms, the ubiquitous M-4 and M-16 rifles, and whether or not they can effectively engage the enemy in Afghanistan where most firefights occur past 300 meters.

For those looking for a great read on the subject check out this paper by Army Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, Increasing Small Arms Lethality in Afghanistan: Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer (.pdf). In Afghanistan, the infantryman’s “weapons, doctrine, and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal fire capability to 500 meters and are therefore inappropriate,” Ehrhart writes.

Christian Lowe, over at Kit Up, writes that special operators in Afghanistan have shown a marked preference for the 7.62mm Mk-17 version of the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) over the 5.56mm Mk-16 version. In fact SOCOM has stopped buying 5.56mm Mk16s and is telling troopers to return them to the armory but continues to buy the Mk-17.

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