More old weapons in Iraq

Marines test ‘blooper’ against roadside bomb threat

blooper.jpgThe Marines are giving the M79 grenade launcher a tryout in Iraq against IEDs.

Marines with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division tested M-79 grenade launchers as a possible answer to neutralizing improvised explosive devices. The “bloopers,” named for the “bloop” the weapon makes when fired, might be the low-technology response Marines need to counter one of the deadliest threat in Iraq.

“The idea for countering the IEDs has been around, but the problem has been coming up with the correct system,” said CWO 4 Charles F. Colleton, gunner for 1st Marine Division. “Using a weapon system to detonate mines has been around. We’re just finding out if this works.”

Most IED countermeasures have been high-technology answers. Electronic jammers sending out radio waves to either detonate or block signals have been used. Still, not all IEDs are detonated with wireless radio-wave devices. Some are hard-wired.

The M-79 “blooper” gun might be just the answer to allowing the Marines the stand-off distance they need to eliminate the threat and keep roads open for convoys.

“It takes shock to create shock,” Colleton explained. “We have to get the explosion close enough to set it off. We’re trying to see if it works… something that smacks it so hard that it detonates it.”

The M79, used a lot during the Vietnam war, was phased out in the early 1970s as the M203, which can be mounted on a rifle, took its place. The M79 and the M203 fire the same rounds, so fitting the M79 into existing logistics systems wouldn’t be too difficult.

Essentially, the M-79 is the same weapon as the M-203. The fire the same projectile, shoot the same ranges and have about the same accuracy. But having a single, dedicated weapon to handle IEDs allows a “comfort” factor for which Marines are looking for when it comes defeating the explosive threat.

“I think there’s a perception that the ‘203’ is not accurate because it’s mounted below the rifle,” Fiene explained. “Sometimes it feels awkward. This is a little easier to pick up and shoot because it’s a stand-alone weapon.”

This is another example of how all the fancy gear dreamed up during peacetime can sometimes be supplanted by tried-and-true existing equipment when the boots hit the ground. MO has already pointed out (extensively) the use of M14 rifles in both Iraq and Afghanistan as sharpshooter weapons. At a time when the Army is considering switching to the the XM8 from the M16 and using Humvee-mounted lasers against roadside bombs, the fact that these older weapons still have a role to play is quite telling, I think. The Military-Industrial Complex might not like it, but there is a ton of useful equipment sitting around in warehouses (don’t forget the Ark of the Covenant, either) somewhere that might be a thousand-dollar answer to a billion-dollar problem.

Go check out the story for more info and more pics.


  1. Another method is to hit the suspected bomb with an AP round (.50 BMG., .338 LM, and the like). I posted some photos of this technique being used on the ACE blog some months ago. Another low-tech by high-bio solution: You know they are training rats to explore sites hit by bombs. How about training large field rats to sniff out bombs, with remote control explosives on their backs, to be fired remotely? I’d suspect rats could be trained to sniff out explosives simply by providing tasty rewards near them, conditioning the rat to associate explosive material with food. Since the rat would give its life to save soldier’s lives, we could award some kind of medal posthumously, and have a wall for honorary rats. How about if we trained them to sniff out Arabs carrying AK-47s or RPGs? Picture a truckload of armed rats with explosives and tiny cameras being let loose outside Fallujah or Najaf, after we dropped leaflets advising innocent people not to have AK-47s or RPGs on their persons or in their homes? Nah… PETA might object ;-) Sound crazy? Remember the tests with cannister bombs containing cooled bats with incindiary devices attached to them? Bats sleep when cool. When the cannisters opened at a certain altitude and the bats warmed up, they woke up, the flew to cover in buildings which would catch on fire. During the demonstration of this weapon on a post, with lots of brass watching, the bats flew into several nearby barracks and set them on fire. The program was immediately cancelled. Don’t believe it. Do a google search and read about it?

  2. I vouch for the bats. They were one of Bill Donovan’s less succesful ideas. Also they froze when dropped out of planes. RE: Animal medals. Chips the Dogs won a DSC or something similar for attacking an Italian Macine gun nest. Bad press caused the medal to be revoked.

  3. I’ve heard of the bat thing before, but I’ve never been sure if it was for real. I’m taking your words on it, since you are guys I consider pretty well informed. Holy frozen bat-cicle, Batman!

  4. I wish they’d figure out where they’ve stashed that Ark of The Covenant. I’d like to see it melt some nasty Iraqi’s.