18 October 2011

'Ironman' Gunners Invent Ammo-Carrier

A team of Iowa Army National Guard "Red Bull" soldiers was recently credited with inventing a system that allows an individual to carry 500 rounds of belt-fed Mark 48 machine gun ammunition on his back, allowing him to provide sustained and deadly fire while on foot. Without it, a dismounted machine-gunner must be assisted by another soldier, who helps to carry equipment and ammunition, and to feed the weapon belts of bullets.

"When we first arrived in theater in late October [2010], we were issued the Mk 48 7.62 mm machine guns," said Staff Sgt. Vincent Winkowski in a recent Army news article. "This was a new piece of equipment for us, and we struggled to come up with a solution for carrying and employing ammunition for it, due to our small size and the inability to have a designated ammo bearer [...]

"The ammunition sacks that came with it made it too cumbersome and heavy to carry over long, dismounted patrols and especially when climbing mountains. Initially, we came up with using 50-round belts and just reloading constantly, which led to lulls of fire and inefficiency."

Winkowski, Spc. Derick Morgan, and Spc. Aaron McNew got the idea from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie "Predator," in which actor, wrestler, and former Minnesota governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura wields a manpackable Minigun. McNew first employed the system in combat in February 2011.

The design is a mash-up of previously issued equipment: A rucksack frame, a couple of modified ammo cases, and a 27-inch feed-chute assembly (cost: $1,710) borrowed from a Common Remotely Operated Weapons System ("CROWS") vehicle mount. (A CROWS allows soldiers to aim and operate machine guns and other weapons with a videogame-like interface, while seated safely inside an armored vehicle.)

Army fabricators have dubbed the design for a high-capacity ammunition carriage system the "Ironman"--the traditional nickname of the Iowa Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment (1-133rd Inf.). The unit, as part of the larger 2010-2011 deployment of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT), returned to Iowa earlier this summer. Between October 2010 and July 2011, the 1-133rd Inf. operated in Eastern Afghanistan's Laghman and parts of Nuristan provinces.

According to the Army news release, improved prototypes were shipped downrange approximately 48 days after Army technicians inspected the Iowans' work. And, if budgets and manufacturing contracts allow, the Ironman system could be more-widely delivered to troops sometime in 2012.

"We've already gotten e-mail traffic from [one of] our science advisers that everybody in theater wants one of these--and by in theater, he means his specific area of operation, Regional Command East in Afghanistan--because word has spread," said Dave Roy, an operations analyst with Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (N.S.R.D.E.C.). "That [Iowa National Guard] unit [was] not the only unit on [Forward Operating Base Mehtar-Lam]. As they're walking around the FOB with that piece of kit, very senior people are taking a look at it. They recognize it as a game-changer."

News of the Ironman ammo-carrier design was recently published on the Military.com website, as well as Wired's "Danger Room" blog.

1 comment:

  1. American brains overcome any problem. I knew one of the B17 crew chiefs who served in England in WWII who came up with the device to load more 50 cal ammo into the guns...a metal feed.
    Of course his capt took credit for the work the Sgt's did.


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