Iraqi Army Trading AK-47 for M-16
The Iraqi military is trading in its AK-47s for shiny new M-16s.
In a move that could be the most enduring imprint of U.S. influence in the Arab world, American military officials in Baghdad have begun a crash program to outfit the entire Iraqi army with M-16 rifles. The initiative marks a sharp break for a culture steeped in the traditions of the Soviet-era AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, a symbol of revolutionary zeal and third-world simplicity that is ubiquitous among the militaries of the Middle East.
“We in the U.S. know that the M-16 is superior to the AK … it’s more durable,” said Army Col. Stephen Scott, who’s in charge of helping the Iraqi army get all the equipment it needs to outfit its forces. “The Iraqis have embraced that … and the fact that it is U.S. manufactured and supplied. They are very big on U.S.-produced [foreign military sales] materials,” he said in an interview with military bloggers this month.
So far, the U.S. military has helped the Iraqi army purchase 43,000 rifles – a mix of full-stock M-16A2s and compact M-4 carbines. Another 50,000 rifles are currently on order, and the objective is to outfit the entire Iraqi army with 165,000 American rifles in a one-for-one replacement of the AK-47. “Our goal is to give every Iraqi soldier an M-16A2 or an M-4,” Scott said. “And as the Iraqi army grows, we will adjust.”
Scott added the mass of AK-47s from various manufacturers floating through the Iraqi army’s inventory could cause maintenance and reliability problems. Getting both U.S. and Iraqi forces on the same page when it comes to basic weaponry is part of the argument for M-16 outfitting. “I’m also a fan of AKs,” Scott said. “But keep in mind most of these AKs have been sitting around in bunkers or whatnot for 30 or 40 years [and] are in various stages of disrepair.”
“Most of the soldiers think they will be just like the Americans, and that is making them very happy,” said Capt. Rafaat Mejal Ahmed, the Iraqi 1st Division weapons and ammunition officer, in a Marine Corps release. “They think the modern technology will make them more powerful.”
Interesting. There’s not much doubt that the M-16 is a more accurate weapon, especially compared to decades-old AKs. On the other hand, it’s incredibly hard to keep clean in a desert environment — and much less forgiving of being dirty than that Soviet counterpart.
The cultural thing works both ways. On the one hand, it could be seen as a symbol of American imperialism. On the other, it’s also a symbol of a transformation into a more modern military force and a break with the bad old days of Saddam.
via Defense Tech
UPDATE: Matt Sanchez describes the AK as “a rattling weapon that is inaccurate and clunky” and got mixed reaction when he discussed the change with soldiers in Anbar province.