Saturday, March 19, 2011

Musings on Weapons of War

Today's initiation of attacks on the forces of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya made me think about all the wars in which the U.S. has been involved in my lifetime. First, there's the Korean War (you can call it a "police action" but it is a war) which is still on-going despite the truce. Then, you had the "Cold" War, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, the Gulf War, the Yugoslavic war(s), the Global War on Terror, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and, now, the Libyan war. As I sit and think, we've not really been at "peace" in my lifetime even though there's plenty of "anti"-war protesters (who are actually agents of all our enemies and at war with the U.S.). Heck, even the current President who campaigned against "the" war has continued and even escalated the war in Afghanistan and started this war with Libya.

But what interests me for the moment and what I want to talk about here is the changes in weaponry that have occurred over that time period. Some call them improvements but...

First, there's the pistols. We've gone from the 1911A1 to the Beretta M9 (or is it M9A1?), from .45 cal to 9mm because you can carry the same ammo as our enemies and more of it (but you don't really) and because the leadership thinks close combat isn't influenced by how quickly your enemy hits the dirt and that you don't.

Second, we've had like improvements in rifles, switching from the M1 Garand .30-06 rifle to the M14 7.62mm NATO to the M16 and its derivatives in 5.56mm NATO. That was so much of an improvement that there are efforts within and without the military to modify the 5.56mm cartridge to come closer to equal-lying the old .30 caliber rounds in terminal ballistic performance.

Grenades and other individual explosive devices haven't changed that much except in shape and size with some improvement in quality or uniformity of fragmentation. We have had improvements with grenade launching moving to the M79 then M203 systems for the individual soldier and the Mk19Mod3 40mm grenade launching machine gun.

Likewise we've seen some improvements in light and general purpose machine guns with the M249 and M240 being fielded replacing the M60 and older M1919A4 guns. Some soldiers would disagree, but their just grousing as soldiers do, right?

The biggest changes have been in targeting systems for munitions delivered by artillery and  aircraft.  Those big changes are in Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and with the remote controlled aircraft for targeting both stand-off distances and accuracy are greatly enhanced protecting the lives of American servicemen and women.  For those instances where targets are moving operators can light them up with a laser and ordnance can be flown directly into the target. These systems have been revolutionary and are THE reason that the U.S. has been militarily pre-eminent. How long this might last is in question, but for now...

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