Watch this video carefully. I considered not mentioning it at all due to OPSEC however this video makes it clear that their is none. The enemy is well aware of how to defeat our systems so if their is any operational security then it exists to keep the public and soldiers themselves from knowing that their high tech armored vehicles are far from invulnerable. The enemy constantly changes tactics based on what they see on the ground in real time and what they see on the internet in nearly real time. The US military is so obsessed with centralization that it is impossible for us to respond in kind.
As the war changed, politics changed with it. America’s outrage over 9/11 lasted six months or so before being forgotten so politicians had to justify why so many men and women were dieing overseas. Various measures were taken, one was to put so much bureaucracy in front of the troops that it became difficult or impossible to launch effective combat operations and so fewer casualties. Aside the hiding soldiers behind the walls of their FOBs they were bundled behind layers of armor (vehicle and body) if they did have to go outside the wire. As a matter of for instance, this is the type of vehicle we used during my first deployment:
This is a GMV outfitted for combat, the picture is not mine but one I pulled off the net. Usually, you would roll with the doors taken off but these guys probably left them on to help keep the afghan dust off their radios and other sensitive equipment. Assaulters can sit in the back and easily jump off when you reach the objective. While moving they can return fire with M240 and M249 machine guns mounted to pedestals on the various pivot mounts. The .50 gunner has a clear field of fire and is unencumbered by crap stuck all around the gun ring. Both the driver and the commander have clear fields of view. As IED’s became more prevalent we were driving these by my second deployment:
This is a picture from my personal collection with faces and the Stryker’s tail number blacked out. Notice the slat armor around the vehicle. This was to defeat RPG rockets which can also be done with a chain link fence. Supposedly the piezoelectric fuse in the PG-7 anti-tank rocket gets detached when it slams into the fence (or this type of armor) about 80% of the time. While assaulters are bottled up inside the vehicle at least there is a good amount of room in the back for personnel and equipment. While in transit they can pop out of the air guard hatch and man machine guns on pivot mounts like on the GMV. The TC hatch allowed the tactical commander to sit high for good observation. Notice the Remote Weapon System (RWS) on top. While they are accurate they also reduce the gunner to playing a real life video game on a screen down inside the vehicle. My third deployment looked more like this:
Another from my collection. As you can see even the Iraqis are now driving up-armored humvees and are scared to ride in GMV’s or other non-armored vehicles. Historical note: Iraqi humvees are the only model that comes with custom made ashtrays for smoking while in transit with all armor plated windows slid up. Almost all American forces by this point were driving this abomination:
Now everyone is completely locked up inside a missile/IED magnet. The gunner sits inside manning the RWS and if you run out of ammo in that thing you are basically screwed. The gunner has to 1: unbuckle his seat belt 2: get out of his seat and open the top hatch 3: squeeze through the hatch (which is virtually impossible while wearing your body armor and yes, you wear that while in transit inside this thing) 4: retrieve a fresh ammo can(s) from the roof of the vehicle from racks troops have had to weld in place since no one had to foresight to think of ammunition storage when they built the MRAP 5: dump ammo into the RWS can and load the roads into the feed tray 6: squeeze back down into the vehicle 7: get back in the gunner’s seat and use the controls to chamber the first round 8: pray you don’t have a mis-feed 9: do all of this while the vehicle is driving 60mph.
Stuck inside the MRAP passengers are generally forbidden from sticking out of the air guard hatches in the back (somebody might get killed) so everyone just sits in their seats and falls asleep while in transit. Why, not? It’s not like you are in a position to effect anything if something happens anyway. Arriving on an objective you have to use a switch to operate a air powered piston to open the 500 pound rear door. The MRAP became mandatory for use by any and every commander afraid of taking casualties. The MRAP has it’s purpose, as I said yesterday, it’s great for swivel chair generals to tour the “battle space” and get their tax free pay for the month but that is about it. For Special Operations, Infantry, or any other troops who actually participate in combat rather then drive around at 30 mph in hundred vehicle convoys waiting to hit a IED the MRAP is a massive waste of time and money.
As you can see from the video in the beginning of this post the MRAP and other armor packages for humvees have done something, but not a lot to prevent casualties. Terrorists introduce new weapons and tactics. IED’s are built larger and larger. If you want to cut down on attacks and prevent IED’s you have to conduct offensive operations against the enemy, not hide behind the fortress walls of your Forward Operating Base with it’s Cinabon, Burger King, and massage parlor (yes, they had one in Bagram airfield) or inside a armored tin can of a vehicle.
The most important element of maneuver warfare is…that’s right, maneuver and you can’t do that weighted down with 80 pounds of body armor and equipment on your person or from the inside of a heavily armored vehicle where you have no situational awareness.
4 responses to “The insurgent answer to American technology”
Interesting. I just wiki’ed the RKG-3. Talk about simple but effective. It’s the “lawn dart” version of a light anti-tank rocket. And even if it doesn’t come down and impact correctly, it looks like any halfway solid impact sets off the charge, which means you’ve got about a pound of explosive and some fragmenting casing detonating on your windshield / wheel / rooftop / gun turret. At the very least, that’s going to give you one hell of an earache. At worst, you get a shaped charge plasma jet through the crew compartment / ammo bin / fuel tank…
Hey JE, just updated this post with much more information. The RKG-3 is another low tech answer to our high tech equipment. We’ve always thought we could leverage our technology against our enemies. This really isn’t the case. We need to decentralize how the military does business. I barely scraped the surface of this in my post.
Great article, and you point out the worst problem with vehicles like that – yes, you’re “buttoned up” in a tough tin can, but the more you tuck yourself in, the less likely you are to see the guy with the really big can opener coming along…
I’m currently reading an adventure novel set in 1985, and the main character, currently operating in Bali, refuses to get into a Saracen armored car because they attract so much fire – he’d rather ride in one of the Ferret scout cars where he can keep his head on a swivel and be able to bail out and counter-attack the moment they get ambushed.
Which of course reminds me – the military teaches that the best way to break an ambush is to assault the ambushers; how do you do that when you’re buttoned up behind a powered, armored hatch?
Sounds pretty cool, what is the name of the novel? I’m reading a Stonyman book right now, “Splintered Sky” which is pretty good so far.
You bring up a good point. Back in the day, driving around in GMV’s, units would counter attack pretty much every time they got ambushed. It got to the point when the bad guys recognized vehicles belonging to certain units and they wouldn’t attack because they knew what the result would be: overwhelming machine gun fire and squads bounding towards their positions. This never happens today and how could it with your only offensive capability being the RWS with a field of view the size of a postage stamp.
I’ll make another post later on about possible solutions. In chapter four of “Reflexive Fire” I have the protagonist shopping at a arms expo where he finds what I would like to use for mobility in combat zones. Some of the other themes in this post (situational awareness, centralization, high-tech vs. low-tech) are talked about and demonstrated in chapters five and six which take place in Afghanistan.