I attended the Maneuver Conference at Ft. Benning about a week ago and wanted to share some of the highlights. Sadly sequestration is having an impact on the joint Infantry/ Armor Conference at Ft. Benning. Many of the government organizations that attend these events weren’t present. Most notable was Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, the Army organization responsible for fielding individual soldier equipment and PEO Ammo who I wanted to quiz about the M855A1 round.
Most of the equipment and programs present at last year’s event were present again with few notable updates besides the ones noted below.
Textron and the Army are showing continued interest and development in telescoping ammo. Late year I reported on the LSAT, a developmental twist on the SAW that shaves 60% of the weight of the system and ammo. Textron is waiting for the Army to provide a written requirement to move forward with the LSAT. As a proof of concept, Textron has produced and fired 200 7.62 rounds and is in the process of building a 7.62 version of the LSAT. This development might hold more promise than the 5.56 LSAT since its ammo isn’t compatible with the M16 family. 5.56 LSAT adoption would require another ammo type to be carried by the Infantry platoon but replacing the M240 with an LSAT type of solution would just replace the 7.62 basic load already carried and deliver a greater weight savings since 7.62 ammo is almost twice the weight of 5.56.
I’ve written about the Army and Air Force Modular Handgun System (MHS) program on GruntsandCo . A pistol vendor little bird told me an external safety is part of the requirement and Glock will be entering a Glock equipped with an external safety. (I can already hear Glock disciples gathering wood to burn someone at the stake) No word on what caliber(s) though there’s supposed to be an announcement about something new at January’s shot show. It could be a Glock with an external safety (HERESY!) or a single stack 9mm. The single stack won’t require a call to the Vegas fire department.
On the vehicle side, Polaris was showing its MRZR of which 500 have been fielded to SOF. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take pictures of their candidate to the ULCV program (a subject previously addressed on GruntsandCo) the DAGOR but the flyer put out by corporate can fill in the blanks. It has some super slim lines with a HMMWV feel. The vehicle will fit in a Chinook and be slung underneath a Blackhawk. The problem though is the vehicle carries a max of nine troops which means the infantry squad has to leave at least one man back with the vehicle, two if you man the machine gun. I’m not a fan of that approach as I lay out in my article on the ULCV. Ideally the ULCV should have an 11 man capacity. That way a transportation company can man each vehicle with two men and chop to an Infantry BN for a mission. The Infantry fights as it trains with a nine man squad and is not burdened with manning/maintaining the trucks.
The second development on the vehicle side of the house is the move of the experimental turret placed on a Stryker test bed last year to a Bradley this year. The Advanced Lethality and Accuracy System for Medium Caliber (ALAS-MC) systems focus is on lethality, (the turret houses a 30mm) the unmanned turret does increase space inside the Bradley with the potential of increasing the number of troops it can carry. That was a major requirement of the cancelled GCV program that was supposed to replace the Bradley.
The final vehicle of note was the MUTT program by General Dynamics. It featured a remote control platform that could be configured as a wheeled or tracked system. The wheeled version is amphibious and comes in at 750 lbs. with a 600 lb. payload (half that for amphibious ops). The Mutt was also displayed with a 7.62 machine gun. It has a max speed of 8 mph, 15 mile unrefueled range or 24-75 hours of operation with a fuel cell. Personally I think it’ll be limited by its ability to negotiate difficult terrain. As most programs at the conference the program lacks funding.
I saved the best from last and it’s from the comparatively small Raine Inc. Raine has always produced quality kit at a great price. Their initial focus was on pouches but has expanded their offerings exponentially through the years. I was especially impressed by their minimalist Vector Large Chest Rig. It cuts the weight of a chest platform 25% but still provides you plenty of room to mount kit. It appeared sturdy and am looking forward to procuring one and putting it through its paces. Besides the minimalist approach I was impressed by its capability of mounting directly to a plate carrier or body armor with quick connect release buckles. Seems like the perfect fit for a day at the range or the apocalypse. This chest rig was selected for the SOF LCS. It is available in multicam, foliage green and my favorite coyote. Raine also offers a smaller rig suitable for patrol or more covert function.