Home » Weapons » Ammo and Munitions » Natick Touts ‘Ironman’ Milestone

Natick Touts ‘Ironman’ Milestone

by Ward Carroll on February 26, 2013

Military​.com just posted an item in the Army news section that highlights the results of Natick’s forward operational assessment of the Large Capacity Ammunition Carriage System, also known as “Ironman.”

The article states that Ironman began during a discussion between members of the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, about how three-man, crew-served weapons teams struggled to stay together during engagements with the enemy while negotiating difficult terrain. Wouldn’t it be nice, someone said, if they had a one-man weapon system like the one actor Jesse Venture had brandished in the movie “Predator”?
The Guardsmen built their own prototype using discarded ammo cans welded together and strapped to an old ALICE frame. They handed over the prototype to Natick’s Quick Reaction Cell.

To date, approximately 100 of the Ironman prototypes have been sent to Afghanistan for use with the M240B machine gun.

The system has been around for awhile; in fact, DT’s sister site Kit Up! covered some of the early controversy around it a couple of years ago.  (That post can be seen here.)

Just goes to show that everything’s relative in the world of military acquisitions, including the meaning of the word “rapid.”

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{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance February 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I do like it. Awesome backpack/ammo carrier. But way things are going solder will have to buy them themselves.


joe February 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

give me a break. the us military has been lighting cigars with $100 dollar bills since 2001.

They have more bat man kit than they know what to do with.

All other things being equal, the side with the simplest uniforms wins.


John moore February 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

"DT’s sister site Kit Up! covered some of the early controversy around it a couple of years ago."

Sounds about right for DT standards only afew years behind


Pave Low John February 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

So, Ironman + body armor + M240 + other assorted gear will weigh a grand total of, what, 90+ pounds? Hell, make it a nice round 100 pounds. Is weighing down the guys in the field even more than they already are really the smart thing to do? And where is that guy's rucksack? Someone else going to carry his pack?

But don't worry, we're bringing women into the infantry. They can carry the M240 and 500 rounds of 7.62, since they're so gung-ho to go out there and embrace the suck. Idiots….


James February 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Some of the women I've met so far are stronger and more talented than many of men I've served with.


Big-Dean February 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

why aren't those "strong and talented" women humping these Ironman packs + M240 + personal gear then???


Tiger February 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm
crackedlenses February 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm

And they are in a minority; for every story I hear about women outdoing men I hear two more about women in the military missing the bar and forcing men to pick up the slack.


tiger February 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

War is not a bench press competition. There is more to than the ability to carry stuff. Back to topic. Neat idea, but the mini gun was cooler to chop down jungle with.


majr0d February 26, 2013 at 6:11 pm

James – Were you an Infantryman?


jeff m February 26, 2013 at 9:40 pm
majr0d February 27, 2013 at 3:55 am

Really? The SAW is a third of the weight of an M240.

What was that about not knowing what I'm talking about?

BTW, there's a difference between sitting in a vehicle and hauling a SAW on a dismounted patrol. Done both.

paperpushermj February 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm

How are their Knees ? It seems the Achilles Heel for the ladies is up their leg to their knees.


D.W. February 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I don't see how your personal sexism is related to your genuinely good point on overloading soldiers…


Belesari February 26, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Then your not thinking. Women have less bone and muscle density than men. They also have a slew of other problems which have lead to to alot of problems and making them-for some jobs- entirely unsuited and a problem in their own right.

This ignores the problems that are so obvious like infertility or problems with infections in places we dont talk about…….never mind we talk about womens privates contantly on TV now.

But then i wonder if women are told of that????


Ronaldo February 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

They weren't told of the likelyhood of rape by their officers either.


D.W. February 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

Bit of a shame he didn't say "load reduction is all the more pressing due to the introduction of female soldiers, who have, on average, less bone and muscle density and will be all the more vulnerable to (e.g.) stress injuries." Treating female soldiers like soldiers, rather than a reply that seemed more like he was making fun of them for wanting to defend their country. Could just be me.


Papi1960R February 26, 2013 at 8:46 pm

So with women in combat arms, who is going to hump this thing when they are on rear detachment for 9 months of a pregnancy and 3 months of maternity leave? And 50% will get knocked up hanging out with Infantry men, 95% if they get put with Cav Scouts. And you wont be able to hold them back on order of merit lists for schools or promotions with Feinstein, Boxer, Hagel and Obama on the case.


Woody February 26, 2013 at 11:03 pm

There was these 3 women in the FOB I was at that were so fired to show the guys in their unit just how they could "hack it"….we had to build the perimeter, for the first 3 days they did well, after that they got slower and slower and after awhile all they did was bitch and finally were only standing in the shade and on the 6th day,,,totally quit, even the weakest guys (and there were many) never quit…..no effing way women will never "hack it" over the length of a tour….NO WAY!!….


oblat February 27, 2013 at 6:07 am

And we send these Neanderthals to fight an insurgency – no wonder we always lose.


Benjamin February 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

The person who sends a women in to do a man's job is truely a neanderthal. Women need to be sent to jobs in the military where the average female will do as well as the average male in which there are many.

The average guy is going to have a hard time carrying all that ammo that is in the Ironman pack.


Rob C February 27, 2013 at 4:02 pm

You'd think that they would employ one those exo-skeletons which designed help soldiers lug something this heavy.


majr0d February 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Batteries are hard to charge in the bush…


HGW February 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm

35lbs of ammo.


riicky February 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Can't they just strap on the Hulc system, and have that on the back?


tiger February 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

So when do we get a man portable nuclear RPG like in Starship Troopers? I want to kill some bugs for the Federation……….


scott March 4, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Well, we have something pretty darn close.


mpower6428 February 26, 2013 at 5:11 pm

im a civi , never served. so im go out on a limb here and say… any man who's been shot at more then twice on patrol will be leaving this thing at the FOB.

to be pigeon holed as the "fire power" man sounds like too much running and oh by the way, who's carrying the rest of his stuff…?

it just looks like the elimination of versatility (options).

again, im just a schmuck.


tiger February 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

On the other hand, it beat changing mags on a BAR every 20 rounds. Try doing the same job in Korea in 1950?


blight_ February 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Or playing with teaser clips and M60s in Vietnam.

Let the troops decide. Then again, how easy is it to reload a box when you drain it? Is it faster to just pick up a new backpack and swap out an empty?


mpower6428 February 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm

what year is this again…?

again im just a schmuch but, im not gonna be the guy carrying the "other stuff" of a dude who wants to rock and roll for 10 minutes ( without a barrel change…?) in a 40 minute fire fight, watch him become a rifleman with a clip and a half left and then keep carrying his stuff because there's nowhere to put it.

I AINT CARRYING HIS SHIT. dats all im saying.


Eric March 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I would carry HIM if he could lay down enough firepower to keep the enemy from shooting me back.

IronV February 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Wow. Saw this same concept illustrated in the 50s. For some reason I think it was in association with the development of the AR/M16 rifle…


J. J. June 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Iron V is correct. Way back in the late 50s, when the Armalite M-16 came on the scene, and the military was trying to decide if they wanted it to replace the M-1 Garand, the Armalite company was tinkering with the possibility of the dogface carrying several hundred rounds (300-400) in a backpack; the ammo would feed thru a plastic tube to the firearm. The idea was discarded.


Nathan February 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm

The concept is to pin down the enemy by unloading 35lbs of 7.62mm at them while your more unencumbered colleagues outflank them and tag them.

Seriously, 35lbs is 500 rounds of uninterupted (without jamming) machine-gun fire. It would make for a serious argument against breaking cover.

And we all know the type of military men whom would wear the burden, they're more than capable of doing it. We also know that the entire reason behind squad-based combat is to share the load of equipment across the squad to perform multiple tasks and enable these types of weapon systems to become a force multiplyer.

Good idea, good system.


majr0d February 26, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Not mentioned in the article. Loaded with 500rnds the pack weighs 40lbs. Add body armor and the 28lb M240. Not for the weak hearted!!!


Papi1960R February 26, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Get that Soldier's Platoon Sgt, Platoon Leader, 1sgt, and Co right away. I wanna know why he doesn't have a High-Visibility, Blaze Orange reflextive vest on right now? It dangerous out there!


Hunter76 February 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I'm not a fan of trying to maximize the weight a soldier can carry. Better to continue the development of carrier systems.


jake February 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Until women can be drafted just like men they have no right to be in front line combat. Giving 99% of females a get out of combat free card is just plain stupid! If you want women in combat Obama then go all in! None of the special treatment BS.
Btw, the Israelis found out the hard way in one of their wars in the late 60s that it was a terrible idea to have females in front line combat. They don't allow females in front line combat anymore. Guess America will have to learn this lesson the hard way as usual.


majr0d February 27, 2013 at 3:57 am

It was the '48 war.


ben February 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Ironically the main reason the Israeli's keep the female units as support is because the MEN couldn't get their shit together.

Guys were taking stupid risks every time there were female casualties which ended up causing even more casualties


crackedlenses March 5, 2013 at 12:20 am

What you are describing is men's wiring and better half kicking in. The last thing you want are men that can treat women like they do other men……


blight_ March 5, 2013 at 10:22 am


Apparently they have a small test unit. That said,

"women [...] have no right to be in front line combat. Giving 99% of females a get out of combat free card is just plain stupid!"

Huh? Sentence one suggests women have no right to be in combat. Sentence two suggests giving women a "get out of combat free card" is stupid. You don't get a get-out-of-combat card, the enemy finds you and shoots you and you shoot back.

The whole phraseology "X in combat" is no longer clear. In the age of The-Enemy-is-Everywhere, everyone will have to fight and shoot. More accurately, it will be difficult to find women in the more physically demanding MOS'; independent of "combat" or "non-combat" status. It's one thing to be an MP guarding a convoy, and another to be an infantryman. Both will get shot at or die.


Tad February 26, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Imagine if this had gone through the entire acquisitions process, including bids and awards and the whole nine yards. It would have taken years to build and would have been over-engineered (but not necessarily well-engineered) and extremely expensive.


BlackOwl18E February 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Some grunt some where is going to put that on his back and say: "Ain't got time to bleed."


EW3 February 27, 2013 at 1:14 am

Be interested in the possibility of a M249 with 5.56MM ammo.
The ammo weighs 1/3 that of the 7.62.

Be nice to have 1000 rounds to support your friends.


So? February 27, 2013 at 4:37 am

Caseless ammo FTW!


Infidel4LIFE March 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm

YES!! Hell why not? This can and will work.


split February 27, 2013 at 6:20 am

The natural course of action will be:

A) Test it with units whom think it's a great idea
B) See that it doesn't fit the mission (aka budget)
C) So Try To Turn The Idea Into A Robot
D) Scrap it
E) Return to A


Jayson February 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Clone Jesse Ventura and assign them the Ironman? Apparently he can handle it better than the average soldier as I'm reading through.


Will Leach February 27, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Someone already mentioned 5.56, and thats a great idea for this kind of thing, but 7.62x.39 might be perfect for dropping weight a bit and still having some range, especially for suppression.

Also, maybe a top loading bull pup machine gun could employ an irom man type system, I think that would be much less cumbersome, although that might impede vision too much on the periphery.


Will Leach February 27, 2013 at 3:51 pm
@TerrantheEmpire February 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Bullpup and belt fed or high cap never really work the magazine would be under your arm prevening you from moving it in any other position. As for Comments about not wanting too lug the other guys pack with this thing the Gunner is carriering the ammo of what two guys and that three assistents so why not just have the two assistents split his persinal gear well he moves up as the gunner. they can pack a few traditonal ammo belts well he moves up with the large cap.


Will Leach February 27, 2013 at 7:10 pm
@TerrantheEmpire March 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Still Would not Work. the belt would block sighting the weapon in the prone. the in the case of A Ironman The belt would also be beating you upside the head in the case of a weapon mounted carrier the ammo box you would ether be eating the Ammo carrier or the carrier would be blocking your vision. Ammo box would prevent movement, Not too mention the weight would be beyond back heavy. Only way I could figure it working would be a Chest mounted ammo box feeding over the top and ambi side feed feeding and either ejecting across or downward but issues of movement would still be there with but that would still have lots of issues To be frank the problems out weight the benefits. The Closest a belt fed MG could ever be too a bullpup would be the M60 series. Where in the Ammo feed is over the trigger and pistol grip. every other Attempt too make a bull MG has ended on a Infantry Auto Rifle that is used for a time then the maker either licences or designs there own belt feed MG.


TOPGUN88 March 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm



Speedy March 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Hmm, looks like the ammo feed for a Games Workshop ™ Space Marine ™ with a Heavy Bolter ™.

Hope they don't sue the Yanks for stealing their idea.

Also, why not put it on a lightweight drag trolley (Like the suitcases you see being towed through airports etc.) The wheels could be made to work on sand etc, and the operator could tow it along until it is likely to be needed, then put on his back?


William Elliott March 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

You know, the original films for the AR10 showed a system similar to this…with a much lighter rifle in the same caliber using the same linked system, and the capability of using magazines once the belt feed mech was removed. Just sayin…
Its on Youtube. Just look up AR10 Promotional Material or something like that.


miami culinary schools April 17, 2013 at 1:28 am
SFP May 23, 2013 at 2:25 am

How dare the Army design something themselves instead of hiring a contractor to do it. Somewhere there is a defense contractor’s CEO that won’t make over $10 million dollars this year because he didn’t have that contract to milk for hundreds of millions of dollars per year, dragging it out for at least a decade before deciding that it couldn’t be done in a cost effective manner.


Brian B Mulholland July 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm

The weight of that setup certainly does make a nice argument for the M240B, doesn't it?
But everyone who is talking about HULC or similar systems has a point.


Staffmastergunnerysargeant August 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm
Surefire1 October 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Ok this is a great idea. I know it dosen't seem like it but the SAW gunner normally carries 500 round of belts by him self in his ruck sack already. Then the assistant carries some and their m4 and mags of their own and a ruck sack.this makes it better no need for assist besides carry ammo. This makes more lead flying down range, less reloading, and if he's not caring a ruck it would be easier to menuver around the field because the weapon itself weights I believe 36 pounds in front of you and 35 ammo pack behind you equals the load out I would love to be a SAW operator with this setup.


tiger February 27, 2013 at 2:24 am

My experience is naval. Sorry, for the cheap shot but there seems to be a attitude that even among the rest of the Army that somehow the other branches don't matter. That all that matters is your Infantry branch. Yes, I know about the mini gun & the weight issues on the M240.


majr0d February 27, 2013 at 3:51 am

I didn't see a comment dinging other branches or claiming the superiority of the Infantry but one chiding the wisdom of allowing women hauling an M240 and gear.

Frankly I'm tired of those that have NEVER humped a 90lb ruck along with weapon and personal kit a dozen miles let alone lived in the field for weeks doing it tell me how "some" women can do it.


majr0d February 27, 2013 at 3:59 am

FYI a very common SOP is for the gunner to haul the M240 and 500 rounds. His asistant has 800-1000 rounds, the tripod and a spare barrel.


majr0d February 27, 2013 at 4:59 pm

That pack is filled with the battery it takes to run the thing for a couple of hours.


Warfighter February 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm

The concept is in the works, I assure you.

It has the potential to change the paradigm.

There are still technical issues to be sorted, but very smart people are figuring this one out. It is only a matter of time.


majr0d February 28, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Appreciate you chiming in. You bring much to the debate. Unfortunately since you don't understand how we do business it doesn't help and in fact has done us a dis service.

"The real issue is about setting a single standard, regardless of gender, for combat trades."

Let me tell you about the American experience.

We have NEVER had the same standards for women though we talk a good talk. Besides the different PT standards we have a history of adjusting standards when women are allowed in a course for instance when the Airborne Course was opened women had a lower number of repetitions of pull ups. BTW pullups simulate pulling on the straps of chute to steer the chute to avoid other jumpers and hazards. Do women have a need to steer less? Since then pullups have been eliminated from the course. The requirement to steer is still there but graduating numbers is even a higher precedence.

I can also share the experience of an indoor obstacle course at the Academy. When women entered they were given a much higher time to complete like the enemy doesn’t shoot slower female smaller soldiers. That “tweak” was found to not be enough. Since then a whole obstacle is authorized to be “skipped” (an elevated shelf requiring upper body strength to negotiate) by female cadets again in an effort to level the playing field.

Right now there is an ongoing discussion at Ranger school of eliminating pull ups again to allow women to succeed. Of course the discussion is camouflaged with are pullups really necessary for the leadership course.

Plainly put our approach to the integration of women into the military is to establish different standards, lower standards for all and finally eliminate tasks to achieve the goal. We are also 10 times the size of the Canadian military which serves to reinforce the problem as our bureaucracy has embraced this approach because the greater size allows for men to pick up the slack in those organizations that have had women integrated in them. I’d also point to our equal opportunity and sexual harassment issues that have further eroded leaders to question decisions because they will suffer complaints of sexual harassment.

Your numbers are small. Ours are not and while a limited number of women enter Canadian infantry units who must accomplish the same standard that is not how we will achieve “equality”. We will lower the standard across the board as our repeated history has demonstrated and so ALL will suffer lowered standards and the problem will never be reported. I point to the fact that when the army is asked how many women are returned from theatre due to pregnancy our Army says with a straight face “we don’t keep those statistics”. When Gen Cucculo of the 3rd ID said women who get pregnant in theatre and their fathers will be punished because it’s against the reg and hurts combat strength had to rescind the policy within a week as “too stringent”.

So let me tell you as a former US Infantryman, “Thanks for nothing”. Your comments will be latched on by those with an agenda to say it can be done ignoring your same standards fine print and our bureaucracy will ensure it happens with lower standards and at whatever cost. I hope we can return the favor sometime.

BTW, if your recon wasn't done dismounted your whole argument and experience is moot to the discussion.


majr0d March 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Were your dismounted ops across hellacious terrain conducted with women carrying the SAME kit?


majr0d March 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I’m confused. Understand women were not with you in that hellacious terrain you mentioned. Why did you mention it? Then, are you currently in a mounted or dismounted recce unit?

Second, you miss my point. It’s not the floodgates that are an issue. It’s the fact we don’t do same standards. We never have. We have over sixty years of examples. When we integrate, we lower or remove standards for the WHOLE organization.

Then we NEVER admit mistakes have been made and actually cover them up or say ridiculous things like we don’t keep track of how many women get pregnant in theatre. I’m not exaggerating. The Cucculo directive and the fact we don’t keep pregnancy stats is open record.

Large organizations can do this because they are large enough to keep incidents contained from the rest of the organization and the public. They also are large enough to devote resources from within or from other units to make up shortages especially when not involved in high OPTEMP conflicts.


blight_ March 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Cost. Because grenades are dirt cheap and UAV's aren't. And a UAV with the explosive power of a grenade is probably a little more expensive than the cheapest UAV.


crackedlenses March 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

What you are saying does not line up with anything else I am seeing coming from our soldiers, our military, and even reports I see coming from your military. I still can't believe it.


Matt March 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Sure, there are a few Amazonian Lumberjack Women here and there, but by and large, women are smaller in frame, weaker, averse to physical activity and conflict.


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