Category Archives: War on Terror

Mk 7 Helmet

In June 2009 the British Army introduced a new combat helmet as an urgent operational requirement. This was the Mk 7 and it replaced the older Mk 6 and Mk 6A design, the shape of the helmet being updated in light of combat experience. Users of the older patterns of helmet had found it difficult to take up a prone position as the helmet dug into their body armour, tipped forward over their eyes and prevented them from firing easily. A new helmet was developed that had the same ballistic properties as the Mk 6A, but with a revised shape that allowed it to be used with body armour. The Mk 7 was a pound lighter than its predecessor and was produced in tan rather than green or black:imageThe helmet has an upgraded liner that features a mesh top section and padded panels around the head:imageThe chin strap was also upgraded with a three point suspicion system. The chin straps start at the back of the helmet:imageThey then run forward to two adjusting straps, one on either side:imageA leather chin cup is provided to hold the helmet in place:imageThis is fastened by passing the end strap through a metal loop and folding the tab back on itself. Two press studs secure it and prevent it coming undone:imageSome troops upgraded their helmets by replacing the press studs with a quick release buckle. Other changes made by troops included adding a loop to the rear of the helmet straps to allow it to be secured to body armour with a carabineer.

The manufacturer’s labels for these helmets are particularly inaccessible, being fixed under the rear of the liner. They contain details of the NSN number, a code for the manufacturer and a date, here 2011:imageJust one firm made the Mk 7 helmet, NP Aerospace Ltd who traded as Morgan Advanced Materials. The Daily Mail reported on the introduction of the Mk7 helmet back in 2009:

New helmets designed to help British troops to target the enemy are being rushed out to Afghanistan this weekend.

The Ministry of Defence is issuing the lighter headgear following soldiers’ complaints that the current helmet is unsuitable for firefights with the Taliban.

Five thousand Mark 7 helmets, along with new Osprey Assault body armour, are being sent to Afghanistan for the troops of 11 Brigade who are starting a six-month operational tour.

The new British-made Mark 7 helmet is the first major change for 20 years – and looks more like an American helmet than the current pudding basin style. It is shaped to allow a soldier to lie flat and shoot straight, without the rear rim digging into his body armour and tipping the front rim over his eyes.

British soldiers are frequently having to fight the Taliban crawling along the ground for cover. Many have complained that when they have to fire  while lying down, they struggle to aim quickly at what may be only a fleeting target…

The MoD’s Urgent Operational Requirement order for new helmets was accelerated by the introduction of US-made Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOG) that sit higher on the soldiers’ SA80 rifles.

Lt Col Matthew Tresidder, chief of staff of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency, said 10,000 new helmets and body armour kits have been bought by the Ministry of Defence for £16million. The first 5,000 sets are going to infantry soldiers, engineers, drivers, medics, dog handlers and anyone who regularly goes ‘outside the wire’ of protected bases.

The remainder of the 9,000 servicemen in Afghanistan will continue to use the current protective kit.Royal Marine from 40 Cdo in Sangin, AfghanistanWhilst designed to make it easier for troops to shoot from a prone position, this was not to be the case in reality and just four years later the same newspaper reported that specialist troops, especially snipers, were having to remove the helmets in combat to make shots:

British Army snipers’ lives are being put at risk because they are forced to remove ill-fitting protective helmets before they shoot at the enemy.

Crack marksmen have complained that it is ‘near impossible’ to adopt a correct firing position when targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan because of unsuitable kit.

Problems have arisen on the frontline when the back of the standard-issue helmets rub against the top of the ballistic plates in the cutting-edge Osprey body armour

The friction means elite UK sharpshooters are struggling to get ‘beads on’ insurgents laying deadly IEDs or planning ambushes because they cannot properly line up the target in their rifle’s cross-hairs.

 To overcome the issue, some troops have taken the drastic step of removing their helmets before taking a shot – running the risk that they themselves could receive a fatal bullet to the head.

A senior officer has admitted that the ‘problem’ is affecting specialist soldiers in the warzone.

He confirmed a major review of helmets was now underway after safety fears were highlighted…

A serviceman has written anonymously to the magazine, which is published with MoD approval, flagging up concerns.

He said: ‘Snipers throughout the Army are struggling to adopt a correct fire position whilst wearing a Mark 6, 6A or 7 helmet – especially when combined with the Osprey.

‘Firing from low-profile positions such as the prone are near impossible.

‘Most service personnel go as far as to remove their helmets, especially when a more difficult shot is required, causing obvious safety concerns.

The Mk7 helmet is now being replaced with Virtus equipment and has slowly been trickling onto the collectors’ market for a few years now (despite many reservist units still using the older Mk 6 and Mk6A helmets). Its service life was brief and apparently much of the army’s stock was sent to the Ukraine when withdrawn from front line duties, proving to be a popular choice amongst troops fighting the Russians there.

MTP Ammunition Bag

The Desert camouflage version of the grab bag was a popular piece of ancillary load bearing equipment and we looked at an example here. As with many items of equipment, when the new MTP camouflage was introduced an updated version of the grab bag was issued in the new pattern:imageThis bag is identical to the DDPM version and features the same external pouches. We have one large single pouch for a smoke grenade:imageTwo smaller pouches for fragmentation grenades:imageAnd three pouches across the front for rifle magazines:imageEach of these opens up to allow access to the interior, a piece of elastic helps hold the magazines in place until ready to be withdrawn:imageThe lid of the pouch features a velcroed easy access flap, the opening being surrounded by elastic to ensure it is easy to access the contents of the bag but there is no danger of anything falling out:imageThis particular bag has been issued and the original owner has written his name and number on the underside of this elastic portion:imageThe shoulder strap has a seperate MTP slider on it:imageThis has a rough fabric finish on the inside to prevent the bag from slipping as easily from the wearer’s shoulder:imageA standard label is sewn into the inside, with a different NSN number compared to the DPM version:imageOne user of the grab bag says:

I think the idea behind it being a grab bag is that you grab it an scarper.
It hold 9 mags which with the 6 or so you carry on your osprey, that’s your OP ammo sorted. Not many people wear vests over Osprey, just a few pouches for bullets on the front. A daysack with the grab bag under the lid = pouches to keep the ammo in one place. If you’re down 6/7 mags, you’re in the poopoo anyway. And maps, water, GPS, Leatherman NVG can all be stashed in there no dramas.

The Rifles Beret

In 2007 under a regimental restructure a number of infantry, light infantry and rifle regiments were merged together to form a single, seven battalion regiment (Five regular and two TA battalions) called ‘The Rifles’ this regiment was formed from:

  • 1st Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, and the 1st Battalion Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment)
  • 2nd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
  • 3rd Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Light Infantry)
  • 4th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets)
  • 5th Battalion The Rifles (formed from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry)
  • 6th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Rifle Volunteers)
  • 7th Battalion (TA) The Rifles (formed from the Royal Rifle Volunteers minus the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Company but with the surviving two Companies (F and G) of 4th (V) and 5th (V) Battalions of the Royal Green Jackets within The London Regiment)

The regiment adopted the rifle green beret as its headgear and tonight we are looking at an example:imageThis beret is made from a dark green wool, with a leather sweatband. This is adjustable using a drawstring. Once the beret has been correctly adjusted, these are tied off and tucked inside the sweatband to make a neat appearance:imageThe Rifles adopted a traditional light infantry/rifles bugle as their cap badge, here topped by the Queen’s St Edward’s Crown:imageSurprisingly the cap badge is of white metal, but it is not anodized aluminium stay-brite, however this seems to be the case for all of the regiments cap badges and must have been a conscious decision of the regiment when it was formed:CaptureThe label inside indicates that this beret was specially made for the regiment, and is of very recent manufacture, dating back just a few years to 2015:imageWhat is really nice is that this beret has clearly been issued and used as it has the rifleman’s number and name written inside on the label:imageThe rifles have had an eventful time over the last decade since they were formed, seeing regular deployment on active service. The 2nd Battalion, the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Battalion were all deployed in Basra in Iraq during some of the worst fighting of the Iraq War including the withdrawal from Basra Palace in September 2007.

The 1st Battalion undertook a tour in Afghanistan between October 2008 and April 2009 mentoring the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province. The 5th Battalion was one of the last British Army units to leave Iraq in May 2009. The 4th Battalion provided reinforcement cover for the elections in Afghanistan and to take part in Operation Panther’s Claw in Summer 2009. At the same time the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Sangin and was relieved in due course by the 3rd Battalion. The 2nd and 5th battalions of the Rifles returned for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan serving in the Nahri Saraj District in October 2011. In March 2018 the 2nd Battalion returned home after a six-month operational deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Shader.

Osprey Helmet Bag

Part of the Osprey Mk II and Mk III body armour set included a pouch holding a helmet bag. The helmet bag is designed to give a soldier a safe place to stow his helmet when it is not needed, somewhere it will be secure, out of the way but easy to access if it needs to be quickly donned. A lot of troops issued with the PLCE sets used a climbers carabineer usually attached to one of the shoulder straps or the waist which was used to clip the Mk 6 helmet to. The Osprey system gave troops a dedicated bag for this and although I do not have the pouch it is stowed in, I do have the mesh bag:imageThe bag is designed to be large enough to fit a Mk 6 helmet in reasonably snuggly so that it doesn’t rattle around:imageThe neck of the back has a drawstring and an adjustable strap allows it to be attached to the Osprey system:imageAs well as the drawstring, two large Velcro panels are also provided to help secure the neck:imageI am not sure how popular this helmet bag was in service as I have struggled to find much information on it, one thing I did find referenced was its use as a dump pouch for used magazines. In combat there often isn’t time to carefully stow used magazines away, but equally a soldier does not want to just drop them on the ground where they might get damaged, lost or stolen by the enemy. A dump bag is just an open bag that used magazines can be dropped into until there is a lull in combat when they can be put back into pouches. This large open mesh bag would probably be well suited to this role and would obviously not be needed for its primary purpose when contact with the enemy had been made.

My thanks got to Michael Whittaker for kindly letting me have this piece.

Osprey Mk IVa Side Armour Carrier

It has been quite a while since I last covered the Osprey Mk IV set on the blog, we ran a major series of posts last year covering a lot of the different components. One item we did not look at then were the side armour panels and it is one of these we are considering tonight. These are a pair of add on panels that are used to fit extra hard plate side armour to the Osprey set to protect a soldiers flank. Each side panel consists of a flat piece of MTP cordua-nylon:imageThe front is covered with a set of PALS loops to attach pouches to:imageThe main feature of the side plate carrier is a large pocket that a ballistic plate can be slid into:imageThis is secured by a Velcroed flap. The rear of the panel has a set of straps to attach it to the rest of the vest:imageA small label indicates stores details:imageInterestingly the Osprey manual does not list these side plate carriers at all, instead just showing the larger cummerbunds that wrap entirely around the wearer’s body. This is a smaller and lighter alternative that just adds the plates to the side and was introduced as part of a mid life upgrade of the Osprey Mk IV to Mk IVA standard and allows the front ops panel to be retained whilst flank armour is worn.

Current Issue Halal Ration Pack

Over the years this blog has covered a wide variety of ration packs, from the 1980s examples with individual tins, through the early 1990s and the first boil in a bag meals through to the early 2000s and those used on the early operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sustained operations revealed a number of problems with the ration packs in service, with only ten meals to choose form people were quickly getting fed up of the same food as ration packs were used continuously for six months. Other items were also problematic, chocolate melting in the heat of Afghanistan. An officer from the Royal Navy was tasked with coming up with a new selection of ration packs and he explained:

Before Iraq and Afghanistan my predecessors were making meals for people who were going on exercise for two weeks. I have customers who eat these for prolonged periods and can get menu fatigue. Ten alternatives were not enough to sustain interest for six months. We were very determined to make changes. The pack did not reflect the fact that soldiers coming from Generation Y are used to global food. I wanted them to be able to pick up their rations and find something they would order on a Friday night from a takeaway. We said, tell us what your Mum is sending over or what you are taking on exercise. We can’t promise to include it but we can promise to try.

The new range that was developed consisted of 38 different menus, 20 normal ration packs and 18 to cover vegetarian, halal, Sikh and Hindu tastes. Tonight we have an example of a halal ration pack to look at. These were produced in large quantities as they could be issued to members of the Afghan National Army serving alongside the British in Helmand.

As ever, the rations come packed in a small cardboard carton:imageThese are packaged in larger boxes of ten. One end of the box has a large union flag emblazoned on it to show that this is a British ration pack, and a white circular sticker indicates the ration pack contents. In this case it is ‘H10’ which is one of the halal menu options:imageSome basic nutritional information is printed on the opposite end of the box:imageAnd some general information about the menus and feedback is marked on the side:imageThe lid, as well as indicating the rations are owned by the MOD, gives advice on the safe burning of waste in theatre:imageThe base contains the familiar range card design that dates back at least as far as the 1980s:imageThe contents of the box include a selection of boil in the bag meals, drinks, nuts, biscuits, toilet paper and a small bottle of hot sauce:imageThe sundries are included in a large ziplock clear plastic bag:imageThese include non-alcoholic hand wipes (the alcohol can cause skin to crack in hot conditions), a range of tea, coffee, creamer and sugar, chewing gum and matches:imageThe disposable spoon is an idea taken form the Americans and promotes hygiene as the spoon can be thrown away at the end of the day rather than festering bacteria in a soldiers pocket. Items that made mess tins dirty like powdered soups were also discarded, the developers explaining:

They want to eat something that doesn’t get their mess tins dirty. It is a duty of care. If they go down with food poisoning it could compromise the mission and put people’s lives in danger

The full list of contents for this box is included on a feedback sheet that is included with each meal:imageThis particular menu seems very tomato and bean heavy! It is also interesting that for a Halal ration pack, this is essentially vegetarian. The form allows the user to be entered for a prize draw:imageThese forms were seen as very helpful by the manufacturer:

Each ration box includes a feedback form and these, together with visits to troops in theatre, debriefs of detachments as they return to the UK and individual letters provide the Defence Food Services team with constant user impressions. To date, the feedback has been extremely positive and constructive allowing constant fine tuning – such as a reduction in the number of fish dishes provided and an increase the number of snacking items and drink flavourings that are included.

SA80 Polymer Magazine

In 2011 the British Army started to upgrade the magazines soldiers were issued with for use with the SA80 rifle. Until this point the H&K steel magazine had been in service and was generally well regarded (see here). The only problem with the magazine was the materials used in its construction. Steel is heavy and new polymers were available that allowed a robust magazine to be produced with a lighter weight:imageThe government at the time sent out a press release explaining the benefits of the new magazine:

The 30-round Magpul EMAG magazine is around half the weight of a standard metal magazine and helps reduce the weight that soldiers have to carry in their kit.

Made from a polymer, the EMAG weighs 130g compared to its metal equivalent of 249g. Troops carry up to 12 magazines, so this change means each carries around one kilogramme less weight in total than before. imageAlthough it is lighter than others, the EMAG is robust; it’s durability is enhanced by an easily detachable cover to help protect against dust and sand while being carried – meaning fewer need replacing. imageA clear window in the magazine allows troops to easily monitor how much ammunition they have left, helping them ensure they have sufficient levels at critical points in battle. imageThese magazines were produced in the US for the British Army and are brand named ‘EMAG’, which is molded into the body of the magazine:imageDetails of the rounds to be used in the magazine and the manufacturers details are also included:imageThe rounds of 5.56 are fed into the top, where two feed lips ensure they are presented into the breach of the rifle correctly:imageThe plastic dustcover snaps over this to keep out dirt and debris:imageThe base plate of the magazine is removable allowing the spring and follower to be removed for cleaning:imageThe response from troops was positive:

The new magazines are a great bit of kit. The little window lets me see how many rounds I have left at a glance and it’s a lighter and more robust design. The dust cap is a useful addition in the dusty Afghan conditions as it helps keep ammo clean.image