Courage Under Fire
Courage Under Fire is a 1996 Gulf War film starring Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Serling, a former tank commander during Desert Storm who now is assigned to the Medal of Honor review for Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), a US Army medevac pilot killed in action while rescuing crash survivors. Serling discovers that the incidents surrounding her sacrifice are remembered differently by the helicopter crew and soldiers who were there and could put into question whether her actions would warrant the Medal of Honor. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory), this movie was one of the first to depict the Gulf War in a feature film.
The following weapons were used in the film Courage Under Fire:
One of the central weapons in the film is the M16A2 rifle. Its usage in the incident that led to the death of Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) is the chief debate for determining whether the Captain would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. M16A2 rifles can also be seen in the hands of other US Army soldiers during the film. The M16A2 in the film is also shown firing in sustained automatic bursts like an M16A3 because, like many movie M16A2s, it consists of an A2 upper receiver mated to a full-auto A1 lower.
Norinco Type 56
During the scenes set in Iraq, Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers can be seen armed mostly with Norinco Type 56-series rifles, both the standard Type 56 and the folding-stock Type 56-1. It should be noted that the Iraqi armed forces during Operation Desert Storm used Chinese-made Type 56 rifles alongside the more prevalent Soviet-made AKM rifles and the Romanian-made AIM rifles.
In a couple scenes, soldiers can be seen marching and drilling using ceremonial M1903A3 Springfield rifles fitted with white slings and having the metal parts chromed.
In the opening scenes depicting the invasion, a formation of US M1 Abrams tanks under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) engages an Iraqi Republican Guard tank unit in a night battle at Al-Bathra during Operation Desert Storm. LTC Serling at one point opens up on a group of Iraqi troops with the Browning M2HB heavy machine gun mounted on his M1A1 Abrams (in reality a mocked-up former Australian Army Centurion tank). One notable goof is that he fires the weapon manually despite all versions of the Abrams except the M1A2 (which wasn't in service during Desert Storm) having the .50 cal rigged to be fired from inside the turret. He also fails to use correct terminology when he engages the weapon, opening fire without saying anything instead of saying "Troops, caliber fifty!" and then firing.
Another prominent weapon in the film is an an early-version FN Minimi, fitted with a heat shield to resemble the M249 SAW. It can be identified as an early Minimi by the fixed 90-degree carrying handle and open front sight compared to the folding carrying handle and enclosed front sight on the M249 and late model Minimi. The Minimi is used by Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips), who comes along on Captain Walden's medivac helicopter as a door gunner (despite regulations stating that medivac vehicles and aircraft are forbidden to carry weaponry).
During the battle at Al-Bathra, some Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers can be seen armed with RPDs.
The Iraqi T-54 tanks in the film can be seen fitted with DShK heavy machine guns mounted atop the turret. Upon closer inspection, these machine guns are in reality Browning M2HBs mocked up to resemble the DShK. These can be evidenced as mockups by the addition on the top cover and the M2 charging handle.
During the battle at Al-Bathra, Col. Serling's tanks can be seen fitted with M60D machine guns (identifiable by the muzzle brake and front sight) at the Loader's hatch, standing in for the M240D machine guns mounted on real Abrams tanks.
During a training sequence, soldiers are shown low-crawling under barbed wire while a standard M60 machine gun is fired over their heads.
Several U.S. Army soldiers including Captain Walden (Meg Ryan) can be seen carrying Beretta 92FS pistols throughout the film. Serling's fellow tank commander CPT Boylar (Tim Ransom) is seen with a Beretta in his holster at the beginning of the film. Captain Walden uses hers during a standoff with Staff Sergeant Monfriez and Specialist Ilario (Matt Damon) is also seen with the Beretta during various re-tellings of the events.
Heckler & Koch P2A1 Flare Pistol
At one point in the film, CPT Walden orders the chopper's auxiliary fuel bladder be dropped on an Iraqi tank and used as a makeshift firebomb, SSG Monfriez using a Heckler & Koch P2A1 flare pistol to set off the bladder once it hits the tank.
General Dynamics M197 Vulcan
The three-barreled version of the M61 Vulcan, the General Dynamics M197 Vulcan, is seen chin-mounted on the AH-1 Cobras in the film. In reality, these are mockups as the helicopters were civilian-owned conversions.
M18 Smoke Grenade
When friendly forces arrive to rescue the crash survivors, an M18 smoke grenade is used to mark their location. In most of the survivors' accounts of the events, the grenade is thrown by Sergeant Steven Altemeyer (Seth Gilliam), but in Specialist Ilario (Matt Damon)'s account, he's the one who throws it.
The RPG-7 is briefly seen with Iraqi soldiers.
"Faux" M1A1 Abrams
Unable to secure cooperation from the US Department of Defense to utilize their tanks, the production made the decision to create their own M1A1 Abrams tanks for the Desert Storm sequences. The "Abrams" were decomissioned British-designed Centurion Mark V tanks formerly of the Australian Army, with their hulls, turrets and guns visually modified to resemble the American tank. These "Abrams" were also later used in Cradle 2 the Grave.
The Cobra attack helicopters seen in the film were actually retired AH-1 helicopters owned by civilians. As these obviously had the original armaments stripped before sale, these helicopters were retrofitted with faux TOW missiles and a faux chin-mounted cannon for the production. Similar helicopters would be used in Zwick's 1998 film The Siege as well in Hulk, The Rock, and the series JAG and NCIS.