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Artillery: Mobile Gun Sauna
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February 8, 2008: The U.S. Army sent the first of its Stryker Mobile Gun Systems to Iraq last year. This is a Stryker armed with 105mm gun. There is a three man crew, mainly because the gun has an automatic loader. The gun is stabilized, and can be fired on the move. Once in Iraq, the gun performed well. There were some problems, however. In order to get all the gear needed for a 105mm gun into a Stryker vehicle, there was no room for air conditioning. In summertime Iraq, this presents a problem. The three man crew had to be equipped with something that would prevent heat stroke. The solution was the "air conditioned suit" of legend, and science fiction. Back in 2003, after three years of development, the U.S. Army put into service the "Air Warrior Microclimate Cooling System." It's a vest full of tiny tubes that carry cooled water (with some non-toxic antifreeze added). Worn under the flak jacket, it keeps the trunk of the wearer cool, thus greatly reducing the "heat load" and potential for heat stroke or heat fatigue. It was originally meant to be used by pilots in smaller (un-air-conditioned) helicopters or door gunners of larger choppers.


Helicopter crews, especially the crew chiefs who man a machine-gun mounted on an open door, have always had a problem with the weather. Few military helicopters have air conditioning, even for the pilots, and the crew chief on the UH-60 Blackhawk has to stay on his feet, and alert, for up to three hours at a time. In tropical areas, be they Vietnam four decades ago, or Iraq today, that can be a real chore. The crew chief wears a fire-resistant jumpsuit, flak jacket and helmet. Flying low to the ground, the heat is often over 100 degrees. Often there's not much breeze, for the chopper frequently hovers or  moves slowly (under fifty kilometers an hour.) So the crew chief has to fight the heat while staying alert to any potential threats below. When the helicopter lands, the crew chief has to help with loading or unloading personnel or cargo, and maybe run around the chopper to check for any damage.


The cooling vest can only be used in vehicles, because the entire unit consists of the vest, a 13 pound cooling unit and an umbilical cord that attached to the vest. The cooling unit is plugged into the vehicle electrical system. Those first  vests cost about $7,000 each, but the price has come down a bit as more were manufactured. Some of the vests had already been used in armored vehicles, usually for the turret gunner, who had his chest and head out in the heat for hours at a time.


Before getting the vests, the Mobile Gun System crews tried other solutions, one being an intravenous drip (water going into their body via a needle). This was awkward, especially if you had to get out of the vehicle in a hurry. That, in turn, revealed another problem with the Mobile Gun System; the hatches were  too small for larger troops, wearing the cooling vest and their protective vest, to quickly exit the vehicle. Moreover, two of the hatches are blocked by the overhang from the turret. The crews were rather amazed that all these design flaws could have occurred in the first place, and then remained through years of development. The real problem was that a lot of senior officers and civilians wanted the Mobile Gun System really, really bad. They were less concerned with crew survival.

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Julius II       2/8/2008 11:02:27 AM
I do not recall having air conditioning on my M-60A1 at Fort Hood in the summer either. 
The MGS is designed to fill the role as an infantry support tank (i.e assault gun).
The Army wanted the vehicle be air-transportable, so unlike the German assault guns of WWII fame (i.e. StG III), it has little or no armor.  The motorized Stryker Brigade, that this weapon was designed to support, is intended to be air-transportable, so this is probably reasonable.  The reason the vehicle has a 105mm and not a 57mm, 76mm or 90mm, is that the Army required that the main gun be able to breech a wall (put a hole in it big enough for an infantryman to jump through) with one shot.  A 76mm of 90mm would have made the auto loader a lot simpler. 
Speaking of autoloaders, the Army wanted an autoloader to cut down on crew size and logistical footprint. Each man deployed overseas requires 8 or so support people.  Autoloaders are fairly complicated devices, break down a lot, and have a slow rate of fire.  The Russian never got their T-62 auto-loaders to work right.   
The real issue is that when you take M-1 tank crews, put them in MGSs and assign them to an infantry battalion, they are going to complain, just like when they took the Cavs M-48s away and gave them Sheridans during Vietnam. 
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MSickle       2/9/2008 12:36:06 AM
Agree.  Those guys are lucky to have 105 's, and any whining to the contrary misses the point.  American firepower = peace.  No firepower, then the terrorists don't die.  A few heat-stroke victims is not a problem for a country of our resources and power.  I don't mean to be insensitive - just an observation.

Sure, there is probably a better design.  But that is not the point.  The taxpayers can't be spending big bucks for every Tom, Dick and Harry if the basic gear works.  We can (of course) afford air-conditioned M-1 tanks for everyone, but is that a smart way to spend?  There are a lot of CIA operations to fund, my friends.  Many facets to this looong war.  We cannot neglect the AF fighters either...  Even if they cost 10x-50x the cost of MRAPS and tanks.  If someone ever learns to use missiles again (like N. Vietnam) thenwe will lose planes by the dozen.  So - yes I am sure that if each Stryker cost $30MM then it would be the ultimate fighting machine.  But it isn't, and it does work for what it costs.

As an aside, the one thing I like about McCain - he is willing to stay the course and take on any comers.  If Iran or Syria (or even Pakistan) get froggy, you know he will send in a few brigades.  He talks about "100 years in Iraq..." and that is just a base of operations.  I think the US should push until that whole oil-region is under our control.  No flip-flopping now.  This is the time to press forward.  McCain will do that.  He was a pilot in the first real destructive assaults on N. Vietnam.  (When he was shot down.)  I think he knows a thing or two about taking the fight to the enemy.  And what is more Truly Conservative© than being willing to stomp on the Islamo-Fascists for 100 years?

And as far es everyone crying over Romney...  Man - that dude was a hedge-fund manager.  Please.  As if he would know jack from shit.

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mgscommander14    mobile gun system   2/10/2008 3:36:02 PM
I am a mgs platoon sergeant in A 1-38 inf, one of the first of 3 units to take the MGS to combat here in iraq. let me just clear up a few things. we did not have AC in the vehicle just like all the strykers before us and i did not have a major heat issue. was it hot ..hell yea it was hot it sucked but we drank ice cold water from a cooler full of ice. now what individual from 2-23 inf or 4-9 inf that drove down the road with an IV in their arms deserved to feel awkward. i hope it hurt like hell. AC is a luxury. do we stop to take ac breaks during ruckmarches or pt in the blazing heat of ft stewart or ft hood, no. do we base missions on operational AC, no. would i like to have ac yes, who doesn't. AC is not a requirement to be a soldier. i dont know what hatches are blocked from overhang but i might want to look at my vehicle again because i have not found those yet. the hatches are a tight fit, however there is enough room if you just wear the vest and not all the pouches on it. you can not wear a complete dismount kit like the grunts and fit in the mgs. why would you need to, your a crewman on a MGS. well what if you get hit and have to dismount? well if you get hit your probably sucking anyhow or in pieces so i don't feel it really matters. in my unit there is always another stryker near you that you can go to. i don't know about the other units be MGS's in my unit have a wingman. i know 4-9's MGS's were hit with major ied blasts and at this time all of the crews are still alive thank god but none the less the vehicle is just as safe as any other stryker. all of the tankers who have died were dismounted acting as rto's with the exception of SFC Cooper god rest his soul. The burden of crew survival should not always be placed on the vehicle alone but the crew as well. a weak crew is just as responsible. There is no vehicle that can withstand the IED that has been proven. every vehicle has had a casualty from an IED. every single ground vehicle in iraq. in my experience on the MGS it is currently the most lethal vehicle on the ground when you add up all of its abilities than any other vehicle in iraq. yes i know tanks are great i am a tanker i love tanks but in an urban enviroment the mgs is just a better platform.
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ArtyEngineer       2/11/2008 11:21:51 PM
Ummm....why is an article about the MGS in the Artillery section?  AFAIK the MGS has ZERO indirect fire capabilities.
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