The above video arrived via a PR blast from LaserMax. “In advance of the Armed Forces Day weekend, LaserMax official Training Coordinator, SSG Joseph D’Ambrosia, US Army (Ret.), recently conducted an in-depth live-fire training course, Close Quarters Combat: Carbines and Lasers, for a group of active-duty US Army professionals preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.” LaserMax giving back. Got it. Love it. But the video raised a bunch of questions. For example . . .
D’Ambrosia says the enemy now has thermal imaging and lasers on their guns. Scary thought. “True story,” the Army vet told TTAG. “We used to own the night. Not anymore. Now we’ve got to be smarter, faster and tougher.” D’Ambrosia, a man who saw combat in Afghanistan, reckons lasers are a big part of that equation. At least for close-quarter combat.
“Laser sighting systems allow for faster target engagements and transitions in close quarters combat conditions,” D’Ambrosia told me, “especially in urban combat. … During the critical stress of a gunfight, the natural inclination is to focus on the target rather than the front sight. The laser places a threat on the same focal plane as your aiming point.”
D’Ambrosia says that using a visible laser – even without firing a round – has its strategic benefits. “They’re a deterrent tool for use in escalation of force procedures,” he said, using the military-speak so many of our vets adopt, “in many cases preventing lethal shootings.”
Bottom line: lasers are a big deal for a modern soldier.
In the video above, I noticed that the exercise used both the Army’s standard-issue laser system and LaserMax’s commercial unit. I wondered why the soldiers would need extra, outside, free training. I got a little curious about what our troops carry into battle, and how much training they receive in its use. Here’s what I found.
Our soldiers currently deploy with the Insight Technology (L3 Warrior Systems) AN/PEQ-15 Advanced Target Pointer Illuminator Aiming Laser (ATPIAL). (The big-ass tan unit you see on the top of most of the carbines in the video.) The system combines a red visible laser sight, an infrared laser sight and an infrared target illuminator. It’s a robust piece of kit that replaces the even larger AN/PEQ-2A, an infrared laser/infrared illuminator with no visible laser aiming device.
The green visible laser in the video comes from the LaserMax UNI Green rail mount laser. According to D’Ambrosia, it’s a versatile, low profile and stackable rail mount laser projecting a 5mw aiming laser. (Test unit on its way to TTAG.) No infrared. No target illumination. No-brainer.
That’s not something you can say about the AN/PEQ-15, with its three systems and multiple switches. Which is OK, ish, if soldiers are trained in its use, to the point where it becomes instinctive, even under the stress of combat. Here’s what Ambrosia wrote to me about the laser-related expertise of the soldiers in the video.
The soldiers who experienced this training came from a mixed background. A portion of the group was from a reconnaissance platoon, including their sniper section. The recon soldiers and snipers had the most experience behind the issued lasers, having extensive night fire IR training. The remaining bulk of the group came from several different infantry platoons, and their only stated experience with the issued units was night time qualification and familiarization during infantry school.
Of the soldiers I had spoke to, none of the line infantry soldiers had experience using their visible lasers. The reconnaissance soldiers had used their visible lasers on occasion with no formal training.
The unfortunate reality of today’s military training is that many of the combat-experienced leaders have left or are leaving the service as a result of a military draw down, often causing a gap in the knowledge of various equipment/weapons and their applications. Moreover, DoD budget constraints and many other factors limit the available training time for soldiers, forcing leaders to prioritize training on certain weapons, equipment, etc. over others.
That’s a platoon’s worth of not good. Understandable, given the constraints listed, but still a long way from ideal. So it’s a good thing, a wonderful, an admirable thing, that LaserMax is stepping in to help save soldiers’ lives, filling a gap in their close-quarters urban combat training.
Oh, and one more thing. I asked D’Ambrosia about the assertion that laser sights give away its owner’s position. He laughed. “This isn’t about stealth,” he said. “When you’re in close-quarters combat the enemy knows you’re there. They can hear you and they can see you. The laser lets you get on target faster and more accurately in a situation where it’s all about speed, surprise and violence.”
So now you know.