5.56 Timeline


Kirk had some things to say about the rol;e of the US M LAW and the soviet RPG in the comments in the post about the LAW yesterday. They are so good its worth sharing here.

The role of the RPG is filled by both the LAW and the 40mm grenade. Not quite as well, mind you, but they are there. You usually issued two-three LAW rockets per soldier, if you thought you were going to need them. Basic load was usually something along the line of six or so per squad, dependent on need.

Now, the void that the lack of the RPG represents? That’s another thing, and a product of the way we fail to look at the squad as a system. We pay lip service to it, but the clear fact is that we badly needed something like the RPG in the squad structure for decades, but never bothered to procure it or even acknowledge the gap in capability. I wanted the Carl Gustav for years, but they didn’t ever get it on general issue until well after I retired. I can’t answer the “why” of it all, any more than I can answer the question of why these idiots-in-charge keep going after these blue-sky solutions to what are very mundane problems. Instead of the XM-25, with its ludicrously tiny little payload, they should have said “Yeah, we’re gonna actually f**k some sh*t up, downrange…” and packaged that rangefinding/fuse solution into much larger direct-fire weapons like the Carl Gustav. You put one of those into the air over an MG crew, and I guarantee you they are not walking away from it. Yet, they kept wanting that itty-bitty little payload package…

Other thing lacking is a decent light tripod for all these weapons. You are not lobbing a CG round into a window at 900m off of someone’s shoulder… The Army badly needs a good light tripod for the support MG and other things like the Carl Gustav, one that can be carried with a moving squad and rapidly set up for delivering fires out past what you can hit off the shoulder. Unfortunately, not one of the people making procurement decisions is really what I’d call “informed” on what the troops actually need.

You have to start thinking of things in terms of downrange effects, and how you most effectively generate them. We don’t think systematically about how our squads are armed and equipped, and it shows. To a degree, I think the Soviets did a better job at it, and that’s why they had the AK, the PKM, the RPG, and the rest of their suite. While we had whatever the fantasists in our lalaland procurement agencies stuck us with… I can’t think of a single f**king thing that was ever asked for that we actually got. Couple weeks ago, Shawn held up a perfect example here: The RAAW.

And, the crap they keep trying to develop? Laughable–There was a deal back during the late Seventies that was just ludicrous on the face of it all: The Infantry schoolhouse guys wanted what amounted to an “instant foxhole digger”, or EXFOD. It was supposed to be this little Claymore mine-size package that would be capable of producing a usable foxhole anywhere in the world, in any soil, instantly. Anyone who has even a little background in explosives work could come up with a half-dozen different reasons something like that was never going to work, but the idiots in procurement kept right on with the program until the mid-1990s. Millions of dollars wasted, and nobody blinked.

To my mind, the way this sort of thing should be thought about is by segregating things into downrange targets and effects. You class your targets by what sort of munition will be most effective against them–Individual weapons (rifles, LMG, grenade launchers) get used against personnel that are close in; Crew-served weapons like the GPMG, mortar, and Carl Gustav (think “direct-fire pocket artillery”) get used against structures, vehicles, and masses of personnel. You need to be able to deal with the categories of targets you are assigned to fight, with some overlap–The Infantry company needs mortars as well as access to the fire support network that is artillery, CAS, and whatever else might be available.

And, we sadly do not break things down like this, or think about how we’re going to engage these targets. The Soviets did, and that’s why they stuck the RPG down in the squads as a multi-purpose support weapon. Although, to be honest, it did kind of evolve by itself–Originally, it was seen as strictly an anti-tank tool.

3 thoughts on “LAW vs RPG”

  1. Huh. I didn’t think it was that good, or even insightful. Mostly a summary of the obvious…

    Ah, well… I’m perhaps not the best judge of these things.

  2. I’m a little fond of the idea of giving the rifle squad a lightweight mortar system as a piece of equipment they could bring with them. Give them the ability to put indirect fire on targets with in a few thousand meters.
    But I would want it to be a true lightweight system, something around or under 20 lbs not including ammunition. I know there is a 12 lbs mortar system. Something like that.

    • The Belgians developed and the French then adopted a trick little captive-piston mortar affair, which they call the Lance-grenade individuel Mle F1 (LGI Mle F1). Trade name for it is “FLY-K”. Damn things are very low-signature, and really versatile. The Belgians had a modular block you plugged the rounds into, and you had a nice little off-route AP mine…

      The Russians have a similar “silent mortar” in the 82mm range.

      These are all systems we ought to be issuing, but… Yeah. Not invented here, and no use requirement coming up from the units…


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