A trial currently taking place in the Australian Army is attracting an enormous amount of online criticism. The testing and evaluation of the Advanced Accuracy Solutions Reaper weapon-support system is being trialled by frontline infantry battalions over the next six months to assess its overall suitability. A recent video posted by the Australian Army’s official Facebook page of this system being used at the range has attracted tens of thousands of shares and comments which appear to be overwhelmingly negative.
The over-the-shoulder system is actually a modified camera stabilizer such as those manufactured by Easyrig. A bar goes up and over the head and attaches to the weapon system just in front of the light support weapon’s (LSW) optic sight. The weight of the weapon is thus distributed to the body through the harness, minimising the load toll on the user’s arms and shoulders. This allows the user to engage targets with the LSW from a standing position more accurately and from greater distances with less physical exertion.
Right. So let’s be honest and cut straight to the chase: The device is absolutely ridiculous and has no place in the military whatsoever. Outside of wanting to dump a hundred rounds from the standing position for range theatrics, there is literally zero application for this thing operationally or even in training.
The bar itself sits about a foot above the operator’s head, creating hang-up issues that are the stuff of nightmares. Most people who have worked on the ground in Afghanistan and walked through compound doors could easily assume that the country was built by gnomes. Maneuvering through such tight spaces and doorways wearing minimalist assault gear is difficult enough, but wearing this device would render some doorways impassable due to size restrictions.
Getting in and out of vehicles and aircraft would also prove problematic. The Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle was one of the most utilised vehicles in the war in Afghanistan, and will continue to play a key role in Australian Defence Force (ADF) operations. Entry into this vehicle was either through the rear door or top hatch. Both were a decent-enough size, however getting in and moving around the vehicle with the Reaper system would be nearly impossible.
I also couldn’t imagine that firing and moving with the Reaper is going to be an easy feat. Firing and moving with a machine gun is always going to be more physically exerting than with an M4 or equivalent, but having the weapon tethered to a pole fixed above the user’s head would almost certainly make this already difficult task even more difficult. Nearly every operating environment apart from open countryside would also prove problematic, with complex urban or jungle terrain providing more obstacles ready to clothesline a gunner than one could imagine.
Another point consistently raised on the feedback was how people believed the Reaper was only being tested because women are now allowed to be employed within combat roles. January 2016 saw all restrictions on women entering combat roles in the Australian Defence Force removed, paving the way for full-scale mixed-gender teams in roles such as the infantry. A continuous point raised on social media was in relation to how this device could have only made it to the trial phase it’s currently in due to the fact that women are now allowed to serve as infantrymen. Never before has carrying the LSW been cause for the introduction of a mobile crane, so people were naturally drawing conclusions that it was the gender-neutral status the ADF has now adopted that is the reason it is being looked at.
Whatever the case, I personally don’t believe that the Reaper will be introduced into service. Besides its gross unsuitability, no man (or woman) with any dignity, serving as a gunner, would actually volunteer to use it. Those currently being trialled will most likely end up being thrown in a Q-store after the six months is up, never to see the light of day again.