So I reached out to Maj. Thomas Ehrhart, the author of the so-called "Infantry Half Klik," who's doing the good work in Afghanistan right now and he wrote me back with some updates to his thinking on the gear and tactics mismatch for Soldiers in Afghanistan.
My colleague Greg Grant at Defense Tech will likely ponder other aspects of Ehrhart's note to us, but I thought I'd share with you some of his updated thoughts. Keep in mind that Ehrhart did three years in the Reserve as an 11B before graduating from Penn State as an infantry officer. He's done one tour in Iraq during the invasion with the 101st and was in the 3 shop at NTC for a hitch.
In regards to developments since my paper has been published, there are several areas I would explore more. The new MK318 round seems to offer better performance and extended lethality range for the M4/M16.It bears more study, but based on [ballistics expert] Gary Roberts feedback and his recommendation, if I could get my hands on it, it is what I would be carrying right now. I would like to see more study of the 6.5 Grendel because it is certainly more effective beyond 400m than 6.8.
There's been a lot of buzz around the Mk318 or "Special Operations Science and Technology" round. I ran across an interesting paper that described the launch of efforts from the Naval Sea Systems Center to develop the SOST round. The bullet, which is reportedly being fielded to Marines in Afghanistan, is an open tip round that incorporates a solid a copper backing that enhances penetration of barriers. Tests show that the Mk318/SOST has comparable performance to the M855 round in terms of accuracy and performs better on targets behind glass and walls. But I understand that the Army is reluctant to field the SOST to its general purpose forces, preferring its M855 "Green Tip" round with a lead free core. As my colleague in the biz likes to say "The Army would rather be environmentally friendly than more effective."
And Ehrhart opens the whole 6.5 vs 6.8 can of worms. The readers at Defense Tech went back and forth on this when I posted my 6.8 story last year, and I'll let you all dive into that boiling oil if you want. But Ehrhart seems to come down on the side of the 6.5 since it has better effect than the 6.8 beyond 400 meters.
Ehrhart also brings up an interesting point when it comes to the beloved M-14:
In regards to the M14 EBR's, it's a good interim fix, but the institutional knowledge and supply system for the M14 is almost non-existent.It is a different manual of arms, it is heavy, and makes the soldier look different from his squad mates and therefore a high priority target for the enemy. The M110 is in the system, has a similar manual of arms, looks like an M16 and we have to maintain it anyway, so why duplicate systems. I would gladly take one until I could get the M110s and at least they recognize that we need the capability in the squad.
Now look, I know that love for the M-14 is cult-like. And don't get me wrong, I love shooting that bad boy in 30-06 .308. But I can't sing the praises enough of the M110. That thing is so bad to the bone, I can't even say it. I've shot it in Iraq and back here at Aberdeen both supressed and unsupressed and it just rocks. Ehrhart is right. Why insert the M-14 into the supply system when the M110 is already there? Why equip Joes with a weapon that clearly distinguishes him in a fight? Does anything make the EBR-14 any better than the M110? I honestly don't know.
Thanks again to Maj. Ehrhart for taking time out of his busy day in Iraq to chat with us. We're lucky to have such a smart, officer in the Army ranks who is willing to buck the system and reveal some truths that are hard for a lot of the service to swallow.