I thought the Septics were good with guns?

A US Airforce base in Suffolk suffered a major security breach when a driver forced his way through the main security checkpoint.

American military guards opened fire as the car travelled a significant way inside RAF Mildenhall after passing through a hail of bullets – stopping just metres short of a military aircraft, The Telegraph understands.

Suffolk Police confirmed a 44-year-old British man forced his way onto the airfield at RAF Mildenhall on Monday afternoon, having initially entered into a dispute at the base’s entrance.

The incident triggered a security lockdown. Suffolk Police confirmed the incident was not terrorist-related and a 44-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass.

A spokesman said: “Shots were fired by American service personnel and a man has been detained with cuts and bruises and taken into custody.”

45 comments on “I thought the Septics were good with guns?

  1. Did you see the said guards in the photo? They couldn’t guard a baked alaska. Crack special forces they are not….

  2. Oh, and can I suggest that they quite successfully shot up his car / van, and his cuts and bruises were sustained as a result of an “interesting” emergency stop (or a collision with one of their barriers?

    Just guessing …

  3. I was down at CTCRM Lympstone recently and was somewhat surprised to see the sole security guard was a GS4 bloke in his fifties wearing a hi-viz vest. It appears the days of having two bootnecks stagging on at the gate with rifles are gone. When I came to leave I just hollered “I’m a civvy!” and he waved me through.

  4. @David,

    I guess even the US army and air force have worked out that you use crack special forces types for crack special forces jobs, and not crack special forces types for checking IDs on the gate.

  5. I think I saw a story from the US recently about some police men trying to get a totally innocent man out of his car. They shot the living hell out of the car. Including, I think from memory, at least one policeman who reloaded five times.

    All of them missed him.

    Which is comforting in a way.

    Still, given what happened to the entirely innocent Lee Clegg, I wouldn’t aim to kill anyone. In fact I might be tempted to point any suspect car bomber towards the press pool.

  6. I was down at CTCRM Lympstone recently and was somewhat surprised to see the sole security guard was a GS4 bloke in his fifties wearing a hi-viz vest.

    That’s somewhat of a surprise to me as well.

    Most Army bases (I’ve not been to a Naval or Air Force base in the UK for a while) are now guarded either by the troops or, if the Commander is lucky, a bunch of ex-Ghurkas, retired and now in the Military Provost Guard Corps (which I thought had pan-UK responsibilities, not just for the Army).

  7. You have a very real talent for stating the obvious Biggie while at the very same time failing to recognise irony/humour even when it is obvious.

    Are you sure you are not really German?

    Also –on a practical point–it doesn’t need the SAS to guard a gate but they might a least avoid having security handled by some FUB–esp a FUB in G4S fancy dress.

  8. This was covered on the local (East Anglian) news last night. Officially it’s an RAF base and under UK law. As there aren’t actually any UK service personnel there (maybe one liaison officer 9-5), the Yanks are supposed to obey UK *civilian* law. The local plod have said they can only fire warning shots unless there’s immediate risk to life.

    This is, of course, a convenient fiction, but not worth breaking for some random nutter.

  9. Let’s not castigate the marksmanship of our Yankee cousins too much. Remember that the crack units of our armed plod failed to properly deal with the savages who slaughtered Fusilier Lee Rigby in the street like a halal sacrifice.

    Which has meant he’s free to strain our resources and spread havoc in jail.

  10. The Americans are odd about guns. I’m astonished at the amount of bullshit I’ve seen from them about the demanding skills of shooting, the essential nature of lots of training, and so on.

    Bollocks: if all you want to do is lie on your belly and shoot in daylight at a stationary target across level ground it’s a piece of piss. The vital safety skills consist of checking that the breech is clear, keeping the magazine in your pocket until it’s time to load, keeping the safety on until it’s time to fire, and not pointing the bloody thing at people. It’s not remotely a test of your manliness, however much the small-cocked brigade insist that it is.

    Being a soldier is different, I’d imagine. You’re tired, hungry, wet and cold, the enemy has got you under fire, and you’re not sure where he is or, indeed, you or your mates are. And everyone might be in motion, in the dark. Quite different.

  11. dearieme – “Being a soldier is different, I’d imagine. You’re tired, hungry, wet and cold, the enemy has got you under fire, and you’re not sure where he is or, indeed, you or your mates are.”

    Western Armies make a great deal of accurate shooting. The US Marines especially. A lot of books on WW1 will proudly note the fire discipline of the British long-service Army.

    Which is fine as far as it goes. I am sure these are great skills to have. In reality, of course, Armies don’t bother with that when it comes to actual fighting. The point, then, is to fire as many bullets as possible in the general direction of the enemy. Spray and pray it is some times called. Although the Armies of the world tend to have other names for it. The Americans called it Recon by Fire in Vietnam. Or suppressive fire.

    So in English-speaking Armies they usually give peacetime soldiers something shiny, long, and heavy which does not fire very many bullets. The US Army has even tried to take away the automatic fire option. But in wartime they give them something cheap, nasty that fires a lot of bullets without too much regard for accuracy. The Grease Gun in WW2 or the Sterling.

    None of which is very useful for policing functions.

  12. “Western Armies make a great deal of accurate shooting. ”

    Neither the US nor British armies do any more. You don’t need to shoot very well at all to qualify, and aside from the unit shooting teams it’s entirely possible that the only shooting an infantryman post-basic will do in a year is a spot of practice right before doing his annual personal weapons test.

    Part of the problem is 3 separate systems which don’t always work together and are required to get bods, wpns, ammunition and ranges to occupy the same time-space, which means that UK MoD ranges are 90% booked but only 10% utilised, being cancelled at the last minute. The advance notice for booking is longer than the late-cancellation limit, so you can see why. There’s some Wiltshire-based officer on Arrse who bemoans this state of affairs, and would like to have his chaps on the range regularly but can’t for these bureaucratic reasons.

    As for the US, an anecdote from a friend. A mfg managed to get army cooperation for a rifle development project, including a large number of infantry bods. So they get to the range and start testing, and it is rapidly discovered that not one of them could shoot adequately enough for the purposes of the test. So the civvy mfg had to spend a lot of time and money getting them up to speed on basic marksmanship so as to be able to attain the modicum of accuracy required to get workable results out of the test.

    And that’s rifles. I presume that the guards were armed only with pistols, which are much harder to use effectively.

  13. Obscurantism and bratwurst-fingered attempts at humour are not a replacement for irony Biggie.

    And I would have thought nothing less than an American Express Plutonium card would be found at home in your bulging wallet.

  14. Abacab,

    It’s an old problem, and was sharply demonstrated in the 1980s with the US Army’s “Advanced Combat Rifle” trials: various space-age contenders firing hypervelocity flechettes, caseless ammunition, and/or “duplex bullets”, with the intent of doubling the “typical soldier’s” probability of hitting the target per shot (plus, this being a well-run trial, bog-standard issue M16A2s as control weapons)

    After extensive, well-instrumented trials, it turned out that the one reliable way to get soldiers to hit what they aimed at more often, was practice, and none of the technological terrors produced a significant improvement over the boring M16 if you gave them the same number of rounds, the same targets and the same level of coaching and feedback.

    The one thing that made a useful difference (on any of the weapons) was a basic optical sight because “put red dot / pointer / crosshair on target” is quicker than “look through back sight, focus on front sight, try to put front sight on blurry target, realise your eyesight isn’t as 20/20 as it used to be, aim a little high for range, swear because target’s now hidden by the front sight post…” and that’s been widely adopted.

    True dit, and I can probably find the War Office OR paper – by 1944 the British Army was seriously looking at issuing most infantrymen with Sten guns (selected decent shots still would get rifles for longer-range fire, and the Bren Gun still the section’s main firepower) because the average firer had a better chance of hitting an enemy at 200 yards with a Sten Gun than with a rifle…

  15. That’s somewhat of a surprise to me as well.

    What was doubly amusing was we pulled up in a car having already given our names and the registration number in advance. My mate was driving and he’s from Northern Ireland: thirty years ago he’d have been trying to bomb the place, if he’d been old enough. The sentiment would have been there for sure, way back then. Anyway, he gives his name in his thick terrorist accent and the guy waves us both through, tells us to just follow the road ’round to the officers’ mess. He never even asked me my name.

    Then again, it was a Saturday afternoon. From what I’ve seen, military bases empty of servicemen and turn into sort of bed and breakfasts or venues for weddings and other functions on weekends.

  16. Western Armies make a great deal of accurate shooting.

    This is anecdotal, but the praise I’ve heard about marksmanship in modern theatres (i.e. post 9/11) have all been in relation to machine-gunners, particularly SAW gunners. My pal who did mercenary work in Iraq found it more beneficial to work on his accuracy with a SAW than a rifle, and the book Generation Kill praises a young machine-gunner for his accuracy. In addition, that book goes into the phenomenon of how, even in WWI and Vietnam, historically a lot of soldiers have simply refrained from or refused to fire their weapons in combat, particularly during their first time. By contrast, the author noticed the young bunch he was embedded with lit up their first contact with everything they had, as if it were a video game. Hence the name of the book. It’s worth reading, and the TV series is excellent too.

  17. @Jason, can you find me that War Office paper please? That would be something awesome to do for my youtube channel 🙂

  18. Also @Jason – I’ve left the 2-position flip on my No.4, to see what working with it is like. And it’s totally adequate for a conscript boom stick. I bet very few were ever flipped to the 600 yd setting on a two-way-range.

  19. The Daily Mail Defence reporter has just advised, on Twitter, that the ‘attacker’ had a teddy bear strapped to his chest.

    So, an elaborate attempt at suicide by cop?

  20. Abacab,

    Apologies if the text-only mangles the formatting – there’s some hidden coding in there I can’t get rid of… try pasting it into Notepad to get the spacing back.

    WO 291/476 Comparison of rifle, Bren and Sten.
    This paper investigates four theories about small-arms effectiveness:
    1. Rifle and Bren shooting is generally so poor that the real accuracy of these weapons is never used;
    2. Rifles and Brens are rarely used at long ranges except by snipers;
    3. For semi-skilled troops, automatic weapons are disproportionately better than single shot;
    4. The advantage of automatic over single-shot is increased by battle conditions.

    Trials conducted at the School of Infantry confirm 1, 2 and 4.

    “It is admitted that all the above trials have been on a small scale and that and that the sample of men was probably not representative of the Infantry as a whole; but it is expected that the trends shown will hold for all except possibly the first class shot.”

    The Bren and Sten were fired at 100, 200 and 300 yards, and the equivalent 90% zones, in inches, calculated at 25 yards.

    Single shot Automatic
    Bren Sten Bren Sten
    100 yds 2.4 4.3 3.8 4.6
    200 yds 2.0 5.2 4.4 5.0
    300 yds 2.0 5.4 3.8 5.6
    Mean 2.2 5.0 4.1 5.0

    Shooting was done lying with weapon rested; an improvised backsight was fitted to the Sten for shooting at 300 yards. An extra trial to confirm the lethality of Sten bullets at 300 yards was performed with ¾” deal targets covered in two thicknesses of webbing. All hits were “throughs”.

    Another set of trials, each of 20 rounds, was shot on a 30 yard range, and the following results obtained. It was noted that “the average firer has a higher overall chance of hitting an enemy at 200 yards with a Sten than with a rifle.”

    Weapon Fire type 90% zone % chance of a hit on a man at 200 yds
    (inches at 25 yds) single shot 4-rd burst
    Rifle (unrested) 3.1 57
    Bren single 2.9 60
    burst 4.0 90
    Sten (unrested) single 5.6 31
    burst 10.4 40
    Sten (rested) single 4.6 40
    burst 6.7 68

    A trial was performed on moving targets at 17 yards. The targets were 4ft tall and 1ft wide, covering a 50 ft run, exposed for 5 seconds.

    Weapon Runs Shots/run Hits/run Hits/shot
    Rifle 6 2 1.3 0.67
    Bren (single) 5 4 1.4 0.35
    Bren (bursts) 6 6.8 1.2 0.17
    Sten III (single) 10 5.6 2.0 0.36
    Sten III (bursts) 35 12.1 4.4 0.38

    “An analysis of the hits in each burst for 27 Sten runs showed that the most common number of hits per burst is about 1, thus disproving the suggestion that a high score in “bursts” is due to all the shots in one burst hitting.”

  21. Car busts through barricade and you just shoot the fuck out of it to get it to stop. Then surround with armed personnel. I doubt they’re aiming for the driver.

  22. Tim Newman – “In addition, that book goes into the phenomenon of how, even in WWI and Vietnam, historically a lot of soldiers have simply refrained from or refused to fire their weapons in combat, particularly during their first time.”

    That is the result of a famous study in WW2. However a reasonable number of people have cast doubt on his findings. Certainly by the time of Vietnam it shouldn’t have been a big problem because the US military made special efforts to desensitise soldiers. However you can find TV footage of battles like Hue with soldiers visibly not firing.

    abacab

    You might be interested in the Sterling.

    The Sterling submachine gun is a British submachine gun. It was tested with the British Army in 1944–1945 as a replacement for the Sten but it did not start to replace it until 1953. It remained in use until 1994, when it was phased out as the L85A1 assault rifle was phased in.

    The British Army seems to have used it everywhere. With both sides using it in the Falklands. Even the Libyans managed to use one to shoot PC Yvonne Fletcher.

    If the Army had been paying attention they would have noticed the Germans went into both World Wars with this type of weapon. As did the Soviets in WW2. Lots of them.

  23. SMFS,

    The British Army did notice the potential virtues of the submachine gun, and tried to make arrangements to acquire some. Trials and comparisons concluded that the best-of-breed available at the end of the 1930s was the (excellent) Suomi KP31 from Finland: unfortunately, they became a little busy with the Soviets and were unable to sell us any, and while it was excellent it was also a rather precise piece of machinery, where what was needed was something that could be turned out in quantity on basic tooling and not displace other war production.

    The German MP28 was copied as the Lanchester, which was good (if heavy and expensive) and lasted a long time in RAF and RN service: Thompsons were bought from the US but were heavy and very expensive; and a serviceable, affordable answer was found to be the Sten gun.

    It’s easy, though, to overdo the prevalence of submachine guns in other nations. The US had none in 1939 other than a few Thompsons (to be fair they had a smaller army than Venezuela in 1939), and produced monstrosities like the Riesing 50 and the UD42 before settling on the M3 “Grease Gun” and its even simpler derivative the M3A1 (where the fragile cocking crank was replaced by a hole in the bolt: just stick your finger in it and pull back…). The US never fully bought into the SMG anyway (despite war movies), with six million each of the M1 rifle and M1 carbine produced as opposed to only 300,000 or so M3s and M3A1s.

    Soviets likewise had a bare handful of SMGs in 1939 and it was FIWAF (fighting in woods and forests) experience with the Finns that pushed them towards adopting the iconic PPSh-41 (the clue’s in the number); and the catastrophic need for many, many weapons that meant they were sawing old Moisin-Nagant barrels in half so one rifle could become two SMGs (since they were both “three line” bores, or three-tenths of an inch).

    Even the invincible Germans only adopted the MP38 in… 1938, and had to redesign and simplify it for wartime production as the MP40. (And in WW1 they only fielded the MP18 in, wait for it, 1918). The Japanese did design a SMG, but never seemed convinced by it and a relative handful were built.

    The British military in 1938 was too busy sorting out its section automatic weapon, arguably the most important infantry weapon below battalion level (and the Bren’s history suggests they got that one right), trying to get tank design and production restarted after fifteen years of Ten-Year-Rule-inspired neglect (hence why our tank machine gun fired German ammunition: the BESA found best for the job, fired 7.92mm Mauser, and it was judged more expedient to accept the additional ammunition nature for the Armoured Corps than to risk rechambering it for .303″), and building decent air defences (the world’s first working Integrated Air Defence System)… compared to that lot, the detail of a short-range weapon for the section 2IC (as typically deployed, even by Germans, at the outbreak of war) was perhaps a lower priority in 1938.

    However, we did turn out four times as many SMGs as the Germans (and indeed, nearly as many as the Soviets) over the course of the war: suggesting that if it was a useful weapon, we built up a decent stock of them.

  24. A WW2 US infantry company (193 personnel all-in) officially had a slack handful of SMG’s (6 to be precise), allocated to the company HQ (the CO could dish them out as he saw fit).

    Contrary to Hollywood.

    Also, there’s a massively strong belief that every US infantryman in WW2 got a M1911 pistol as a side-arm. Or at least all officers did.

    Nope. 10 per company. Allocated to mortar and machine gun crews.

    http://www.militaryresearch.org/7-17%2026Feb44.pdf

  25. There’s a US Korean War lessons learned doc regarding infantry wpns and equipment – doesn’t mention pistols at all. Largely cos a) they were few and far between, b) they were hardly used.

  26. Thompsons were bought from the US but were heavy and very expensive

    Thompsons were highly sought-after by GIs during the Korean War. The US had supplied a load of them to the Chinese nationalists in their fight against the Communists, then they ended up in the hands of the Reds who carried them into battle during the Korean War against the Americans.

  27. I rather liked Bill Slim’s refusal to authorise revolvers for one of the Very Special Forces units being proposed for some job or other, pointing out that throughout the war he’d only seen or heard of about a dozen people shot with revolvers: eleven had shot themselves, mostly by accident, and the twelfth had been accidentally shot by a comrade…

    More specifically, a friend’s father was a medical orderly at Kohima, “who was issued with a S&W revolver chambered in .38 British in 1943, at Imphal… Before that they wouldn’t let him have a firearm as he was a nurse.

    I have to add that he dumped it for something more effective as soon as possible, and was issued a Sten by early 1944.”

    Mind you, I’ve always thought Slim was one of our best and most underrated commanders, including for his opinion that there was limited need for “special forces” to do the work that any competent infantry battalion should be able to sort out from its own resources and talent (as he put it, once you establish the Arboreal Ascent Corps, they’ll insist nobody else is allowed to climb a tree…)

  28. Mind you, I’ve always thought Slim was one of our best and most underrated commanders, including for his opinion that there was limited need for “special forces” to do the work that any competent infantry battalion should be able to sort out from its own resources and talent

    A massively common complaint in the post-9/11 theatres has been governments and generals getting a big hard-on for special forces units and getting them to do what could easily be done by a standard infantry unit.

  29. My father was a tank man: he sometimes had a pistol, sometimes a Sten; maybe even both at the same time.

    The point of those weapons was to dissuade Germans from following brewed-up tank crews too closely while they scurried back to collect a new tank.

  30. All branches of the U.S. military have suffered from the various ineptitudes of the Bush and Obama administrations. It just so happens that the Air Force, in no small measure due a remarkable degree of incompetence (and corruption) within its own senior officer corps, seems to have suffered the most.

  31. Car busts through barricade and you just shoot the fuck out of it to get it to stop. Then surround with armed personnel. I doubt they’re aiming for the driver.

    Don’t spoil Tom’s snark with the obvious. That said, the troubling aspect of the incident was the fact that the car wasn’t riddled with bullets before it hit the barricade.

  32. My father was issued a Thompson as a perimeter sentry in the Middle East. He only used it once, to warn off some cheeky jundy who’d been trying to slip under the wire to pinch something. He doubted he hit him. They hated Stens because of their tendency to go off if dropped.

    I managed to get a 3″ group at 300m with a No.4 Lee-Enfield using the aperture sights. No-one was shooting at me at the time, though.

  33. dearieme – “The point of those weapons was to dissuade Germans from following brewed-up tank crews too closely while they scurried back to collect a new tank.”

    Tanks have a dead ground – an area where the chaps inside can’t see or hit the chaps outside. So they are often given pistols. The early German tanks even had pistol ports in the side of the tank so they could shoot out.

    An enemy crew running back seems a perfect target for something heavier than a pistol. Tanks are usually provided with a forward pointing machine gun. I assume it is for this purpose.

  34. “Tanks are usually provided with a forward pointing machine gun. I assume it is for this purpose.” It’s for shooting up infantry, artillery crew, and thin-skinned vehicles, or at least it was in my father’s time. Tanks often spent time on fighting that wasn’t simply tank-to-tank battles.

    On the other hand a busy tank might leave mopping up retreating enemy crews to the infantry.

    I’d know more if it had been easier to get the old boy to talk about it more. He wasn’t usually keen to.

  35. My great-grandfather survived four years of WW1 random bullet hails, and was only taken out by a sniper a few weeks from the end.

  36. Tanks don’t operate alone (if they want to remain operational, anyway).

    The Germans liked the concept of “pistol ports” in the turret side – you can see them on some of the specimens at the Tank Museum at Bovington – until the reality of having a bullet or three come in through them and ricochet around inside sank in, together with the way they were weak spots prone to being blown in by hits from artillery or antitank guns, at which point they were removed from existing production and no longer featured on new designs.

    The better approach was for your accompanying infantry to cover your flanks and rear, so that no sneaky foes could get close with Panzerfausts, satchel charges or other nastiness. If things got very lively, British Centurions and Comets in Korea developed the tactic of “delousing” where a tank being swarmed by enemy troops would be brassed off by its troopmates with machine-gun fire and, occasionally, a 20pdr canister round or two: hard on any of the crew’s gear stowed externally, but harder still on the hostile passengers.

    In the classic battlefield game of rock-paper-scissors, tanks are best used against other arms rather than flung head-to-head into an armour battle: the Soviets got particularly good at this, using mines, artillery and anti-tank guns as their main weapons against German tanks, while their own armour (with “tank rider” infantry hanging on for dear life) concentrated on breaking through the front line and generating “shock” as they rampaged through headquarters, artillery batteries, supply dumps…. a concept they kept until the 1980s with the dreaded “Operational Manoeuvre Groups”.

  37. Oh, and the bow machine gun in 1930s/1940s tanks comes from the need for an assistant driver/radio operator: since he’s sat there in the hull front, giving him a machine gun means he’s got something to do when not otherwise busy.

    The bow gun was always the least useful on the tank (limited traverse, and no sights: the gunner basically just did spray-and-pray, with tracer to help correct). The US tank destroyers had neither bow guns nor coaxial machine guns, just a .50″ on the roof, the Valentine – the most-produced British tank of WW2 – never had one, and the Sherman Firefly got rid of it and the assistant driver to store more of the (mahoosive) rounds for its 17pdr gun.

    The last British tank to have a bow MG was the Comet, with the Centurion getting rid of the fifth crewman and the weak spot in the armour left by the machine-gun mount; the US and USSR followed suit a few years later (M47 and T-54 had them, M48 and T-55 got rid)

  38. Jason Lynch – “Oh, and the bow machine gun in 1930s/1940s tanks comes from the need for an assistant driver/radio operator”

    I don’t think people are talking about the bow machine gun but the coaxial turret-mounted machine gun. Which everyone I can think of offhand continues to have. The Leopard 2 for instance has the Rheinmetal MG 3 in the German versions at least. The American M1 has three.

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