By lex, on April 15th, 2008
When I was a student going through TOPGUN back in 1992, a Marine Corps aviator who had flown as an exchange pilot with the USAF during the ’91 scrape was invited to speak at our “MiG Killer Debrief.” His name was Capt Sly MaGill if I remember correctly, and he’d been leading a four-ship of Eagles on an offensive counter-air mission south of Baghdad early in the air war – this is before Saddam’s air force gave up trying to defend his airspace and started bugging to Iran in full grunt right after take-off.
On 17 January 1991, a two-ship of Iraqi MiG-29′s lifted out of Muthena AB near Baghdad, and the opposing forces clashed just over Lake Razzaza near Karbala. MaGill got a good look at his target just before the AIM-7 Sparrow missile found its home, and remembered thinking to himself what a beautiful piece of machinery it was. The pilot’s skill was not commensurate, however, and in our debrief he used the compelling, if crude simile of a “pig wearing a Rolex.” It’s a nice watch, and everything, but he doesn’t seem to get much use out of it.
Which was the admittedly uncharitable image that came to my mind when I read this article:
(New) recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA) are being asked to swap their beloved Kalashnikov AK47, probably the most famous weapon in the world, for the American M16.
To judge from the bewildered and disapproving faces of the Afghan soldiers yesterday at Camp Tombstone, the training facility in the middle of Helmand province where the Americans and British train the ANA, the decision to scrap the AK47s for the M16 was not going down too well.
There’s no doubt that the Kalashnikov is a near-perfect weapon for insurgents. It requires very little training to use, parts are ubiquitous and it can take a great deal of field abuse while remaining reliable. But, at the risk of metaphor overload, it is to the M16 as a truncheon is to a scalpel. Both can be effective, but only one is used by a professional.
Traditionally, the Afghan will fire his Kalashnikov from the hip as he advances, spraying the enemy in all directions on automatic mode until every bullet has been expended.
But that is not the way of the British or American soldier who uses his ammunition stocks with greater husbandry and fires to kill, rather than to deluge the enemy with a wall of bullets.
I’m all for helping the Afghan Army secure their country from the Taliban goons and Qaedist butchers, but if it’s to be one band of happy-go-luckies spraying and praying versus the other until the rounds run out, we’ll never be out of that hole.