Thursday, 4 December 2008

Mumbai and OODA

Am I the first to mention this?

It appears to me that the terrorists managed to get inside the OODA loop of the Indian security forces, which is a nasty thing to do. It was probably doing that, more than anything else, which allowed them to run around for so long.

Killing the local commanders early on was a big start towards getting inside the OODA loop. I'm not sure how good the communication system of the local security forces was, but if their arms and other equipment was any guide, it was not very good. It would not surprise me at all if we find out later that the terrorists had very good comms.

Ooo, guess what:

The attackers navigated their way to Mumbai by sea from Karachi with GPS equipment. They carried BlackBerrys, CDs holding high-resolution satellite images, like those used for Google Earth maps, and mobile phones with switchable SIM cards that were hard to track, reports said. They also used satellite phones.
I would like to make one comment on their weapons.

Most of the police involved were carrying .303s or self-loading rifles like those adopted by the British army in the 1950s.

Some officers said they had inadequate weapons training because of a shortage of ammunition and shooting ranges. In theory, all officers shoot 50 rounds a year in training. In practice, senior officers get their full quota with small arms.

I noticed early on from TV footage that the Indians were using Lee-Enfield rifles and SLRs.

The Taleban used those same Lee-Enfield rifles against the Russians in Afghanistan until they took delivery of lots of AK-47s. I don't remember them complaining about their ineffectiveness against the Russkis who were armed with AK-47s.

And the SLR's? Yes, they came out in the 1950's, but the Australian Army used them in Vietnam (I'll let 1735099 comment on what he thought of them) and both sides used them in the Falklands War. We still had them as late as 1992, when they were finally phased out. Although I bet there are still thousands packed away in warehouses somewhere - if the poo hits the fan, we might be using them again one day. Last I heard, buffalo shooters up in the NT are still using them (when Big T was knocking rocks up there, he went blatting from a chopper with them one day and had a go with one).

I've read that the modern thinking is that the SLR is too long for urban combat - I read the same thing about jungle combat too - hence the move to a much shorter rifle. One that is easy to poke around corners or up stairs.

Apart from that, it is easy for commentators to blame the equipment, rather than blaming inadequate training. As 1735099 commented yesterday, if you allow people to run around with weapons that they really don't know how to use, you risk killing a lot more civilians. It's starting to sound like it was the Police that were in that position. Firing less than 50 rounds a year on a static range is not a good primer on urban combat. Might I humbly suggest that a civilian who has their own weapon, and invests their own time and money in practicing with it might be a better asset in these circumstances? There are clubs that are based around doing combat shooting of one form or another - there is a Sydney one that works out of the Mallabar ranges. A civilian that goes to the range once a month and fires off 50 or 100 rounds in a "combat" environment may be in a much better off than Mr Plod who fires 20 rounds a year on a static range. (Especially when that "civilian" is likely to be ex-military, and is interested in keeping some skills after they have taken off their green head for good).

A civilian with no training is just a menace though.

Then we have the gunmen firing from the hip:

The pair, armed with AK47 rifles and grenades and carrying backpacks stuffed with ammunition, targeted a popular family cafe inside the station.

As a hail of bullets bursts through the cafe, terrified diners cover their ears and dive behind counters for cover. Staff scramble in panic towards a rear entrance.

The footage underscores how Mumbai's police force was hopelessly outgunned and overwhelmed from the attack's earliest moments.

Two policemen are seen sheltering in an alcove inside the station as the two heavily armed militants stalk an empty concourse that moments before had been crowded with travellers.

One policemen appears to try to take a shot at the terrorists with his Lee Enfield-type bolt-action rifle. He is forced to cower as one of the gunmen fires from the hip in his direction and a bullet slams into a pillar close to the policeman's head.

I looked at the photos. Some media types said that the gunmen looked "very professional" because they were firing from the hip. Balls. They were firing from the hip because they were carrying two backpacks each, and one was slung over one shoulder. That made it next to impossible for them to raise that arm and allow them to bring the rifle butt to their shoulder. They had to fire from the hip because they were encumbered by their "baggage". Firing a rifle from the standing position when you are carrying one backpack is hard enough - you need to have built up really strong shoulder muscles to do it. Doing it with two backpacks, laden with grenades and ammunition, would be a big ask.

One last comment on people fleeing in panic:

The pair, armed with AK47 rifles and grenades and carrying backpacks stuffed with ammunition, targeted a popular family café inside the station. As a hail of bullets burst through the eatery, terrified diners cover their ears and dive behind counters to search for cover.

Staff scramble towards a rear entrance in panic.

I watched that same footage and did not see much fleeing going on. In many cases, people seemed to have no idea what was going on, and they had their heads up like meerkats, trying to find the action. Some looked like bemused spectators - until the lead started flying in their direction. Even then, you don't see people sprinting and pushing each other out of the way. If that was me, I'd be running at full tilt, not ambling or jogging as some are doing.

If this was in a place where everyone had a modern mobile phone, I reckon the footage would have shown many people standing there taking photos or videos on their phones, rather than running for cover. I think many of them could not believe what was going on, and could not concieve of an attack like this - so when it happened, they did not react as you might expect. Curiosity, or rubber-necking, can get the better of people in even the most dire circumstances.


bruce said...

Senior Indian police appear to be brave to the point of recklessness. One in Delhi was already killed in an encounter with terrorists in September:

A rethink of operational procedures seems to be in order.

The elite swat team took 8-10 hrs to get to Mumbai via Chandigarh because they were busy guarding Delhi VIP's. That's what everyone in India is angry about.

Bombay would be about the most corrupt city in India. I would not put my faith in that city at any level, except perhaps in transit as short as possible. I'm angry at tour operators who promote it as a holiday destination. But then the way tourists were treated in Thailand recently, who knows what's best? India's Gurkhas and old Sikh regiments are very reliable. If you see an old Sikh officer in charge, as when I went thru Delhi in 2002, you know you are in good hands.

bruce said...

I once took a slow train down the east coast of India, Calcutta to Madras. Took 2 days. Fantastic. Probably can't do it now.

Sitting opposite was a Nepalese Gurkha family. All day and all night the old Gurkha sat smoking, watching.

My Brahmin travel companion told me he got up in the night and asked the old man 'Why don't you sleep?'. 'If I sleep who will watch', he said.

1735099 said...

I'm reluctant to comment on weapons in general, because I hate the bloody things. I've never been able to develop enthusiasm for firearms because I've seen what they can do.
Having said that, I carried an SLR in SVN, and was trained on M16 (Armalite), M60 and M79 grenade launcher. I also go to fire a few captured AK47s.
Whilst the SLR was heavy, and cumbersome in the scrub, it was very reliable and accurate and packed a punch. The M16 was effective because it was light and could get off a burst of high velocity rounds in a hurry which did fearful damage at close quarters as they tumbled after striking vegetation. After being on the receiving end of an M60 in a friendly fire incident, I can assure you that this was also effective, although not designed to be accurate - great for suppressive fire. They were buggers of things to carry.
The pick of them AFAIC, was the AK47. It was short, light, powerful (7.62mm short) and could be dropped in the mud and continue to work.
Some diggers (illegally) filed the trigger seers down on their SLRs allowing them to fire bursts on full auto. This turned them into a very effective weapon with similar punch to an M60 (7.62 NATO long), but much easier to carry.

Boy on a bike said...

The closest I have been to an AK was one mounted on the wall in our boozer - a souvenier brought back by one of your compadres.

As for fiddling with the sear on an SLR - we had a couple of idiots who did the old matchstick trick on them. One came undone on the range when they fired a 5 round burst from their SLR instead of the expected single BOOM. Not a smart thing to do when the RSM is standing behind you. Charged before the echoes had died away.

Pedro the Ignorant said...

I'm not reluctant to comment on weapons, because I love the smell of cordite in the morning (and the afternoon etc) and have carried one in a couple of uniforms for the best part of thirty years.
17nasho nails it pretty well about the SLR, a good ol' reliable and solid weapon. Easy to operate, but hard to obtain a good skill level in accurate shooting, crappy iron sights and a *ahem* variable trigger pressure. Like a good hammer, there when you need it, and did an outstanding job on the two way range in VN.
The M16 suffers from a dud reputation from those who only used its early versions, but is a highly developed and sophisticated weapon these days, especially since the adoption of the steel core SS109 ammunition. Higher velocity, flatter trajectory and harder hitting than the old 7.62.
Disadvantage is the shorter effective range, but that's overcome by the higher rate of fire.
The AK47 (7.62 version) was (and is) a piece of shit. Barely able to group 6 inches at 100 metres, stamped out parts, tolerances like a broomstick in a rubbish tin, weak springs, ill fitting magazines, bore like a sewer pipe, trigger like a rat trap.
Having said that, the everlasting beauty of the old AK is that any half trained savage from any number of third world shithole countries could pick one up and after about 15 minutes of instruction from some Cuban "advisor" could wreak havoc as long as nothing broke or stopped and the ammo held out.
Millions of "freedom fighters" will attest to these wonderful attributes of the AK.
Modern Western military weapons have the advantage of versatility and the ability to adapt to any theatre of war.
Optics, night vision sights, high tech materials construction, ergonomics, "add ons" like grenade launchers, lasers, and a whole suite of additional stuff available for the Picatinny rail versions of the Steyr and M16/M4 make the modern Infantry rifle a fearsome weapon indeed.

A fanatic with a two bob weapon can kill any number of civilians with relative impunity, but when the professionals, armed with state of the art weapons, are finally called in, the fanatic's life span will be measured in minutes.

Boy on a bike said...


Don't ask me how, but my eyes really adapted to the old post and thingy sight on the SLR. I ended up representing my chocko Regiment on an inter-regimental shoot because of that. Amongst the various ranges we shot on, that involved the almost impossible task of hitting those low silhoutte targets at 500 metres (not the figure 11 ones - the whatchamacallits of a bloke lying prone). At that range, the old post completely covered the target, but I could still hit them. Totally amazed myself.

Of course I wear glasses now, and couldn't hit the Opera House if I was standing on the roof taking a piss.

I found a lot of people were scared of the recoil of the SLR, leading them to jerk the trigger and so on. A slow squeeze always gave superior results.

My biggest beef is that we were hardly taught how to hit targets on the move. We did one shoot of about 7 rounds per year at figure 11's that went running across the butts. Who the hell stands still in a firefight?

In the best traditions of the Army, they gave one of the best shots in the regiment an M60 to carry. But that is another story.

Pedro the Ignorant said...


The requirement for Infantry with the SLR used to be to consistently hit a Fig 11 (standing man) target at 300 metres from a supported fire position, the nominated maximum effective range of the rifle.
Not hard, and with some time on the range, most diggers could easily achieve this.
The Fig 15 (prone man) target measured around 24 inches and to hit one of those at 500 metres is well above average shooting. Extrapolate a 6 inch group at 100 metres, add in wind, light etc, and that's pretty good with iron sights.
Not so easy was the requirement to engage moving targets using "target width leads" at different ranges and speeds, High levels of skill and many hundreds (+) of rounds required.
Contrast this to the Steyr with 4x optics. No heavyweight sighting skills or perfect vision required (focus on the foresight, centre seen mass etc.) No trigger control. (first pressure, etc.) just the ability to put an aiming mark on the target and pull the trigger. Figure 15 at 500 metres is easy meat for today's young trained soldier.
Add in night vision sights, laser range finders, graduated optics, optimal weapon designed ammunition, low recoil, ergonomic design, and you are looking at an order of magnitude of ability of today's Infantryman's ability to engage a target over and above the old 303, SLR, and F88 Steyr, all the 20th century issue rifles.
All old soldiers love the rifle they trained with and used when in the green/mottled baggy suit. It is axiomatic that an Infantryman's best friend is his rifle, it has been this way for hundreds of years, and it will continue to be so as long as there are Infantrymen.

I have knocked the eyebrows off a fly with the "state of the art" weaponry, but I retain my greatest admiration for the skills displayed by the old timers who shoot old blackpowder muzzle loaders and get groups I would be happy see with the SLR.

Interesting commentary, BOAB. "I shall return" :-)