Infantry kit "incomparable" with Five Years Ago
An Equipment and Logistics news articlehttp://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/De...veYearsAgo.htm
- 18 Sep 08
Following improvements to the Urgent Operational Requirement system in recent years the personal kit of infantry soldiers has changed dramatically reflecting the needs of fighting counter-insurgencies in hot environments.
Cpl Warner with current desert kit
Today's kit: Cpl Warner, RAF Regiment, wearing the Osprey Body Armour, now used by all troops deploying to desert climates. Cpl Warner is also carrying the A2 rifle incorporating the Underslung Grenade Launcher (UGL) with thermal sight. In the background is a Warrior FV510 with additional protection (WRAP2) INTENSIVE Explosive Reactive Armour (IERA)
[Picture: PO Phot Terry Seward]
The equipment issued to infantry soldiers has needed to develop fast over the last five years as the threat against them has continued to evolve. Urgent Operational Requirements can, in some cases, mean that kit is bought off the shelf rather than being procured and tailor made to order, speeding up the process considerably. In just five years, according to one Royal Marine, the Dismounted Close Combat Capability of the individual soldier has moved forward in "quantum leaps".
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Kearney has served with the Royal Marines for 14 years and deployed to Afghanistan last year and Iraq the year before:
"It's absolutely incomparable what we used five years ago to what we use now," he said. "The problem now is we have so much kit you have to choose what to take out with you each day and tailor what you need."
The most important weapon system in any war is ultimately the infantry; in a modern counter-insurgency their role is even more fundamental and their personal protection an issue of strategic importance.
The Osprey Body Armour is just one of the pieces of individual kit that have been developed in the last five years. It includes a fragmentation jacket with ballistic plates designed to stop armour piercing rounds which covers the entire torso and includes the capability to add side ballistic plates to protect the kidney and side profile. There are now detachable collars and epaulettes to protect the neck, upper arms and armpit area from fragmentation.
Lt Col Kearney said of Osprey:
"Before you had a little plate that covered your vital organs, Osprey fills your whole body and having something as robust as Osprey gives you an awful lot of confidence."
"The boots now are good ... the lads were buying them themselves as they were so good!"
ESS or OAKLEY goggles and glasses have also now replaced plastic goggles and plastic sunglasses, offering much greater fragmentation protection and the Mark 6 Helmet gives far better ballistic protection than the general issue helmet worn in 2003.
Clothing has also improved significantly in the last five years, with lightweight material including Microfibre fast-wicking tee shirts and Microfibre fast-wicking socks which pull water away form the skin. In Afghanistan, explained Lt Col Kearney, troops drink 10 litres of water a day causing a lot of sweating and the possibility of chafing which this clothing prevents.
In 2003 troops were issued with standard issue socks, cotton/ polyester mix tee shirts and 'desertised' standard combat boots:
"The boots now are good," added Lt Col Kearney. "LOWA and MEINDL are the boots of choice and up until a couple of years ago the lads were buying them themselves as they were so good! But it's good to see the system now buying the kit the guys really want."
The weapons systems for infantry soldiers have also improved significantly over the last five years with many more different types of firepower available for an eight man infantry team.
Cpl Hindhaugh with desert kit in use circa 2003
Back then: Cpl Hindhaugh, RAF Regiment, wearing the protective desert gear used up until 2003, incorporating the SA80 which was used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
[Picture: PO Phot Terry Seward]
The challenges of today's operational theatres mean that teamwork has never been more important and the infantry section reflects the variety and skill mix required within any great team.
The idea of a generic infantryman is consigned to history as modern infantrymen each have a specific role within the team. The equipment issued reflects this more modern approach and so, in addition to the generic protection levels, they are issued with the more specific kit mix required to achieve their more specific role. Lt Col Kearney explained further:
"Five years ago everyone had an SA80 Rifle and occasionally a Light Support Weapon. Now we have MIMIMI Light Machine Guns, and Under-Slung Grenade Launchers which give us the ability to pop things over hills rather than fire straight. It's much safer to fire from behind a rock.
"The thing about weapons systems now is they are much safer for us as it allows us to choose the best weapon for every specific situation.
"The UOR process has also upgraded the SA80 A1 Rifle, which had some criticism, to the SA80 A2 which is an excellent weapon, very robust and rarely breaks down."
For Lt Col Kearney though the most impressive change in the last five years for the individual soldier has been the increased capability in Surveillance and Target Acquisition:
"Protection and firepower have increased immeasurably but it is a genuine night fighting capability that takes modern infantrymen to the next level," he said.
"Five years ago everyone had an SA80 Rifle and occasionally a Light Support Weapon. Now we have MIMIMI Light Machine Guns, and Under-Slung Grenade Launchers which give us the ability to pop things over hills rather than fire straight. It's much safer to fire from behind a rock."
Lt Col Paul Kearney
Five years ago individual soldiers were issued with Sight Unit Small Arms Triluxs, Image Intensified Common Weapon Sights and Binoculars. Now they also get Advanced Combat Optical Gun sights, Thermal Imaging Systems, Head Mounted Night Vision Systems, VIPER 2+ Thermal Imaging Weapon Sights, and Target Locating Systems.
"Target Acquisition and night fighting capability. That's the thing that really sets us apart. You can go in at night and they can't see you. Being able to hit the enemy where it is really vulnerable, that saves lives.
"In a low tech counter-insurgency it is technology that gives British soldiers the edge in combat. This ability now means that routine infantry soldiers now have a capability that was previously the exclusive preserve of Special Forces."