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    John D Salt

    It’s the time of year again when, instead of worrying about the timetable for introductory studies as I should be, I attend the Close Combat symposium and get a day on the ranges in exchange for making a presentation. My presentation this year was based on the figures I presented here six months ago in this thread https://www.thewargameswebsite.com/forums/topic/rifles-and-lmgs-accuracy-or-weight-of-fire/ so I do not intend to enlarge on it, you heard it here first.

    There were as always some very interesting presentations on a bunch of close combat related topics.

    Things one can add to Challenger 2 (very cheaply) to make it more useful in FIBUA included some ingeniously simple ideas. A problem infantry have in FIBUA (or OBUA or FISH & CHIPS or whatever you want to call it) is seeing what’s around the corner when you get to a T-junction. Hang a camera pointing each way on the end of the Chally’s gun muzzle, and you can stick the gun out into the street have a good safe gander both ways. The piccies can be seen on a tablet attached to the rear of the tank — a tank tablet rather than a tank telephone, and for infanteers who want to avoid the risk of having the tank reverse over them, they can look at the piccies on their own tablet from several metres away. Hanging more weapons on the turret seemed popular, and as there is no longer any need for the old-tech cooled thermal imager and its bulky cooling equipment, there is space enough in the turret to fit a box with a few Brimstone missiles in its place. The young RTR Captain making the presentation impressed me with his (I think well-founded) belief that MBTs can be very useful in FIBUA, and his enthusiasm (which I share) for 120mm HESH as a quick and efficacious solution to a lot of problems in urban combat.

    I was surprised that the question of weapon cleaning proved so interesting, but of course wargamers think rifles are for shooting, guardsmen think rifles are for drilling with, and the real professionals understand that rifles are for cleaning. I am told by those who know that the SA-80 is a rifle for cleaning par excellence. One of the stands was selling a privately-designed cleaning tool that was designed to do the job the issue kit just isn’t very good at. I remember being issued SLR combination tools with the vital twiddly nipple thing snapped off, and wire brushes that had been squinched into useless shapes. This device doesn’t have bits snap off, and has cunningly designed surfaces to get into all the odd corners that make cleaning rifles such a trial. The designer has put a fabulous amount of his own time, effort and money into the thing, based originally on a graduate project he did for his design engineering degree, and I understand that something like 10% of the British armed forces have bought one of these things with their own money (and the product is continually improved in response to user suggestions). It really should be issue kit IMHO, it’s only £25 a pop. There was also a presentation on the error of continuing to clean weapons using mineral oil, as we have done for the last 200 years, when it does nothing to remove fouling, but merely carries it away when scraped off. There are — and it was claimed the British forces are leading the field in their adoption — much better cleaners that will remove carbon deposits, copper or polymer fouling, quicker and with less damage to the weapon, saving millions when one considers the total amount of effort spent in cleaning and the frightening number of weapons that need repair as a result of poor cleaning practices. I felt somewhat justified in my illicit use of vinegar to clean my SLR back in the old days…

    I was extremely pleased when a chap from the FN stand asked me if I’d read “Brains and Bullets”, and I was able to say yes, I had a copy signed by two of the authors. I also enjoyed using some FN weapons on the range, as a recollection of the good old days. My first order of business was to hunt down the FN SCAR, of which they had the 5.56mm version; when I mentioned my fondness for the old SLR (or FAL, or “Right Arm of the Free World”, or “God’s Own Bang-Stick”), the FN staffer said that the SCAR was its grandson. It fitted comfortably into my shoulder, and the sights lined up naturally. The nice Small Arms School officer let me have 20 rounds in my mag instead of the 10 most people were getting, and after a few aimed singles, I cheekily asked “can I have a short burst”? A swift check with the man running the range and they said yes, so I finished the mag with three short bursts. What fun! Not, I have to say, my idea of totally controllable in burst fire, but nice to know it’s there if you want it.

    The other fine FN weapon I fired was the venerable GPMG, and the example on the stand looked as if it had seen a bit of service. “Are you familiar with the GPMG”? was the first question on the stand, and I said it was a very long time since I’d fired one — 35 years, in fact — but the man said “don’t worry, it never goes away”. The point of this demo was to show a weapon sight that does stuff you would have associated with an advanced MBT gun 35 years ago. In about 2Kg, the sight includes a nice optic — I didn’t ask the enlargement, I guess about x4 — a laser rangefinder, and a ballistic computer. Line up the sights with the black cross on the target, press the black button, and the optic will show a green ellipse that you put over the target. The one slight cavil I had was that I would like to have my no.2 press the black button while I was concentrating on the sight picture, but it would be easy enough to do that if you had a no.2, which we didn’t. I also derived a smug sense of satisfaction from learning that I could still tick off two-round bursts on the GPMG.

    Yet more wonderful was the computing sight on show. This was used in the most impressive demo of the day — watching 0.5s and 40mm grenade launchers and the 600kh payload UGV were all fun too, but this was the most spectacular. A small quadcopter UAV was sent aloft, towing a string of four inflated party ballons. At a slant range of about 150m, three of the four ballons were hit with successive shots, and then the UAV was downed. That’s 4 out of 5 first-shot hits on really quite tiny tagets in motion and in the air. To show it was not a fluke, the audience participation stand used a radio-controlled wheeled vehicle with three balloons on it. This was sent out to about 150m, and driven up and down. After instruction in the use of the sight, users were invited to shoot the ballons, using the sight mounted on what looked to me like a generic M16ish thing, probably Diemaco. Here you put the small box on the optic over the thing you wanted to shoot, pressed the black button, and, as long as the fiercly advanced pattern-recognition software had identified the thing correctly, it would then track it. In order to shoot the thing you were tracking, you pulled the trigger, and kept it back while trying to align the sight on the target. Several people commented on how weird this felt, because it is quite unlike normal shooting; infantrymen do not track targets. It took me two or three goes to get a good track, but, as the bloke on the stand said, if he had ten minutes to train me, I’d be getting a good track every time. And, once you got a good track, you were pretty much looking at a sure hit, or — depending on range and target size — a very high probability of a first round hit. I am quite certain that my long-rusted shooting skills are not up to hitting a moving party balloon first shot at 150m, nor even a static figure 11 at 300m. Yet the rifle did both of these for me. It certainly did feel weird, because the sight decides for itself when the rifle will fire — I got the very strong impression that it was the rifle that had hit the balloon, not me.

    The sceptic in me says that this might not work so well with, say, beige balloons on a beige background, or targets that take cover after three-second dashes, but at the time the experience seemed like black magic.

    And we had a very nice range curry, too. Some days I really do love my job.

    All the best,


    Steve Johnson

    Sounds a good day out and some interesting stuff on show. Thanks for sharing.

    Darkest Star Games

    Really interesting stuff. I would love to have been there for the FIBUA discussion.  Did they also cover tank survivablility mods like the dragon scale, etc?

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."


    Very interesting stuff John.  I note that MBT recce in BUA has become more-and-more of a thing in the last couple of decades, for survivability reasons.

    The track-and-shoot conversion is a real eye-opener. As you suggest I imagine it will put a premium on camo and drills to combat it.  I wonder how it will work in ambushes (when you want everyone to open up at the same time)?



    Thaddeus Blanchette

    Looks like we are another step on the way to the smartgun, then. The cameras on the end of the Challenger’s barrel are a stroke of genius. Whomever came up with that one deserves a bickie and a nice cuppa.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    John D Salt

    Apologies for belated replies…

    Really interesting stuff. I would love to have been there for the FIBUA discussion. Did they also cover tank survivablility mods like the dragon scale, etc?

    No — it was a bit of weird mixture, because projects were being done on the cheap with companies bring their own kit at their own expense. One idea I liked was the little decoy trundlebug UGV that could emit the electronic signature of a CR2, or a troop, or a squadron HQ — radio silence being effectively a thing of the past, the way to deceive enemy ELINT folks is by creating lots of false traffic.

    I wonder how it will work in ambushes (when you want everyone to open up at the same time)?

    I though of this, and I think the answer is to have a couple of designated marksmen open the ambush by shooting a selected pair of ambushees in the face as near simultaneously as they can manage, and have the first of their shots act as the signal to open fire.

    The cameras on the end of the Challenger’s barrel are a stroke of genius. Whomever came up with that one deserves a bickie and a nice cuppa.

    The head of our simulation lab told me that this idea had in fact been tried out in a simulation trial years ago, and it turned out to be a bad idea, because the Blue forces lost tempo when they stopped to peek at every junction, instead of roaring across at top speed. I expect it’s one of those things where tanks supporting infantry should do one thing, and armour acting as armour should do another.

    All the best,


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