Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.
Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.
Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:
“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”
The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.
“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.
In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.
Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.
It’s not often that the Big Army follows the lead of the nation’s smallest fighting force, but the Corps’ recent moves to outfit its infantry grunts with high-technology small arms has gotten the attention of the Army’s top general.
At a recent meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers he was seriously considering outfitting front-line soldiers with a new rifle just adopted by the Corps for all its infantry troops.
In 2010, the Marine Corps shocked the services by providing an alternative to the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun with what was essentially a souped up M4 carbine. The new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle was made by German firearms manufacturer Heckler Koch — dubbed the “HK416” — and featured a better, longer barrel, a gas-piston operating system and an automatic fire capability.
It is a rifle very similar to ones fielded to SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.
The Corps argued that precise fire was more effective at suppression than area fire, so the SAW gunner on some missions carried the new M27 instead of the SAW. Fast forward seven years, and the Corps has decided to outfit all its infantrymen with the Gucci rifle.
Now the Army is taking a hard look at the M27 and its advantages of reliability, accuracy and function as a potential near-term replacement for the M4 — which is gas operated and features a 14.5-inch barrel.
“We’re taking a hard look at that and probably going to go in that direction as well,” Milley told lawmakers. He also added that the service is developing a 7.62 round that can penetrate new body armor manufactured by Russia.
The revelation comes as the Army is set to release a years-long study on whether to replace the 5.56 round with a new one in the face of a growing threat from enemy weapons the fire a Russian-made round that can reach nearly double the range of the current M4 chambered in the 1950s-era caliber.
Sources say the Army is also inching toward issuing an “Urgent Needs” request to field more than 6,000 rifles chambered in the heavier, longer-range 7.62 NATO round for troops deployed to battlefields like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The analogy is simple. There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The vast majority of people are sheep — nothing wrong with that. They move about their day carelessly, are loving and compassionate beasts, and only rarely, accidentally hurt each other. The wolves want to devour the sheep. They’ll cause as much harm as they can with little remorse. These are the terrorists, despots, dictators, and other types of villains in this world.
Which brings us to the sheepdog, the guardian of the sheep against the wolves. Their capacity for violence is frowned on by the sheep. Their capacity for love is frowned on by the wolves. The sheepdog is bound by duty in that middle ground. They are the troops, first-responders, and anyone willing to take a stand against the evils of this world.
The quote gained much traction after the release of American Sniper, during which these different types are explained to a young Chris Kyle. While the phrase doesn’t appear in his memoirs, it was used by his friends-and-family-run Twitter account. The actual source of the speech comes from Lt. Col. David Grossman’s book, On Combat. In it, he credits the analogy to an old war veteran.
Many people misattribute the “sheepdog” as a badge of honor that proves they’re better than sheep. Thinking a sheepdog is defined by their capacity for violence while waving a good-guy banner, however, is as counter-productive as it is flat-out wrong. Yeah, a gun-toting sheepdog might make a great t-shirt, but it goes against the rest of Grossman’s book, which largely covers coping strategies for the physiological and psychological effects of violence on people who have had to end enemy lives in the line of duty.
The goal of the sheepdog is to prevent violence and keep the blissful sheep safe. The sheepdog isn’t actively seeking to harm others — that’s the work of a wolf. The sheepdog is defined not by his hatred of wolves, desire for violence, or any similarity that blur the line between wolf and sheepdog. They are not defined by the reasons why they’re not sheep.
It’s the love and compassion for those who cannot defend themselves that truly defines a sheepdog. It’s what makes us different from the wolves.
After a little more than a year of research and more than 20 attempts to get the right materials, an Air Force Academy cadet and professor have developed a kind of goo that can be used to enhance existing types of body armor.
As part of a chemistry class project in 2014, Cadet 1st Class Hayley Weir was assigned epoxy, Kevlar, and carbon fiber to use to create a material that could stop a bullet.
The project grabbed Weir’s interest.
“Like Under Armour, for real,” she said.
The materials reminded her of Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid — which thickens when force is applied — made of cornstarch and water and named after a substance from a Dr. Seuss book, and she became interested in producing a material that would stop bullets without shattering. An adviser suggested swapping a thickening fluid for the epoxy, which hardened when it dried.
“Up to that point, it was the coolest thing I’d done as a cadet,” Weir, set to graduate this spring, told Air Force Times.
But soon after, she had to switch majors from materials chemistry to military strategies. That presented a challenge in continuing the research, but she teamed up with Ryan Burke, a military and strategic studies professor at the academy.
Burke, a former Marine, was familiar with the cumbersome nature of current body armor, and he was enthused about Weir’s project.
“When she came to me with this idea, I said, ‘Let’s do it,'” he said. “Even if it is a miserable failure, I was interested in trying.”
The science behind the material is not new, and Burke expected that the vast defense industry had pursued such a substance already. But a search of studies found no such work, and researchers and chemists at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center said the idea was worth looking into.
They began work during the latter half of 2016 using the academy’s firing range, weapons, and a high-speed camera. Burke got in touch with Marine Corps contacts who provided testing materials.
In the lab, Weir would make the substance using a KitchenAid mixer and plastic utensils. It was then placed in vacuum-sealed bags, flattened into quarter-inch layers, and inserted into a swatch of Kevlar.
At first, during tests with a 9 mm pistol, they made little headway.
“Bullets kept going straight through the material with little sign of stopping,” Weir told Air Force Times. After revisiting their work and redoing the layering pattern, they returned to the firing range on December 9.
Apprehensive, Weir fired on the material.
“Hayley, I think it stopped it,” Burke said after reviewing the video. It was the first time their material had stopped a bullet.
This year, they traveled to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to present their work and up the ante on their tests.
Weir’s material was able to stop a 9 mm round, a .40 Smith Wesson round, and a .44 Magnum round — all fired at close range.
During the tests, 9 mm rounds went through most of the material’s layers before getting caught in the fiber backing. The .40 caliber round was stopped by the third layer, while the .44 Magnum round was stopped by the first layer.
The round from the .44 Magnum, which has been used to hunt elephants, is “a gigantic bullet,” Weir told Air Force Times. “This is the highest-caliber we have stopped so far.”
Because it could stop that round, the material could be certified as type 3 body armor, which is usually worn by Air Force security personnel.
The harder the bullet’s impact, the more the molecules in the material responded, yielding better resistance. “The greater the force, the greater the hardening or thickening effect,” Burke said.
“We’re very pleased,” said Jeff Owens, a senior research chemist with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s requirements, research, and development division. “We now understand more about what the important variables are, so now we’re going to go back and pick all the variables apart, optimize each one, and see if we can get up to a higher level of protection.”
The model Weir and Burke created uses 75% less fabric than standard military-style body armor.
It also has the potential for use as a protective lining on vehicles and aircraft and in tents to protect their occupants from shrapnel or gunfire.
“It’s going to make a difference for Marines in the field,” Burke said.
On the civilian side, the material could aid emergency responders in active-shooter situations.
“I don’t think it has actually set in how big this can get,” Weir said in early May. “I think this is going to take off and it’s going to be really awesome.”
While the ultimate use of the material is unclear, the US Army and Marine Corps are reportedly looking for ways lighten the body armor their personnel use.
A study by the Government Accountability Office, cited by Army Times, highlighted joint efforts to lower the weight of current body armor, which is 27 pounds on average. Including body armor, the average total weight carried by Marines is 117 pounds, while soldiers are saddled with 119 pounds, according to the report.
The Army and Marines have looked into several ways to redistribute the weight soldiers and Marines carry, including new ways to transport their gear on and around the battlefield. The GAO report also said each branch had updated its soft armor, in some cases cutting 6 to 7 pounds.
Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Cats were said to bring good luck on ships and prevent bad weather. While nobody can prove or discredit myths like that, what cats actually did was successfully catch rodents. In killing diseased-ridden rats, cats helped make for a safer, healthier journey, thus further fueling superstitions.
Historical evidence dates the link between cats and sailors as far back as their domestication in Ancient Egypt and through the Viking golden age — but why? For starters, cats have a natural reaction to barometric pressure changes.
So, if you come to know the habits of an on-board cat very well, once they start to take an unusual liking to shelter, you can intuit a storm is incoming. This, plus the fact that every ship needs a mascot made cats very welcome among sailors.
(Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)
Ships’ cats were very well taken care of during their service. They would receive rations like any other sailor, were given bunks and living spaces like any other sailor, and they got plenty of love and attention like any other sailor.
Sailors would generally leave the cats alone to hunt any rodents that sneaked aboard while docked. And, during the lonely months at sea, cats were big morale boosters when solemn sailors needed a friend.
(Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)
One of the most well-known naval cats was Unsinkable Sam of WWII. As the story goes, he survived the sinking of three ships before retiring. He was first aboard the German battleship Bismark as a kitten (originally named Oscar). When it sank in May 1941, he was found adrift by the HMS Cossack, the ship that destroyed the Bismarck.
When the HMS Cossack sank in October 1941, Sam was with the picked up with the surviving crew and taken to Gibraltar and served as the ship’s cat for the HMS Ark Royal, which then sank in November 1941. Because he still had six lives to go, the Royal Navy saw fit to grant him shore duty as mouse-catcher at the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office.
(Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker)
Edward Snowden won’t see any of the proceeds from his new memoir — instead, the US government is entitled to seize the profits, a federal judge ruled Dec. 17, 2019.
Snowden’s memoir, “Permanent Record,” describes his work as a contractor for the National Security Administration and his 2013 decision to leak government secrets, including the fact that the NSA was secretly collecting citizens’ phone records. Snowden has lived in Moscow since 2013, where he has been granted asylum.
The US sued Snowden on the day his memoir was published in September, alleging that he violated contracts with the NSA by writing about his work there without pre-clearance.
Judge Liam O’Grady made a summary judgement in favor of the US government on Dec. 17, 2019, rejecting requests from Snowden’s lawyers to move the case forward into the discovery stage. O’Grady ruled that Snowden violated his contracts, both with the publication of the memoir and through other public speaking engagements in which he discussed his work for the NSA.
Edward Snowden Speaks Ahead of Memoir Release | NowThis
“Snowden admits that the speeches themselves purport to discuss intelligence-related activities,” O’Grady wrote in his decision, adding that Snowden “breached the CIA and NSA Secrecy agreements.”
In recent years, Snowden has maintained his criticisms of US surveillance while also turning his attention to big tech companies. In November, he decried the practice of aggregating personal data, arguing that Facebook, Google, and Amazon “are engaged in abuse.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The three-gun turrets on an Iowa-class battleship are perhaps some of the best-known (and most-loved) naval guns. When they are fired, there is a sense of immense power — and they have a reputation for being able to take out just about anything.
It’s a well-deserved reputation. During Operation Desert Storm, a bunch of Iraqi troops saw the RQ-2 Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle circling overhead. Knowing that a lot of powerful shells were going to come soon, the Iraqis decided not to wait to get hit and surrendered to the drone.
So, how do these three-gun turrets work?
Now, this is a key distinction to keep in mind. A triple turret raises and lowers all three guns at the same time. A three-gun turret can raise and lower each of the guns separately. Don’t call ’em a triple turret — that could end up getting you in almost as much trouble as getting on the clip/magazine thing wrong.
The Iowa-class battleships have served off and on since World War II. Two of them, USS Missouri (BB 63) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) saw action during Operation Desert Storm. All four were reactivated in the 1980s and equipped with BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems.
The Iowa-class fast battleships (they had a top speed of 35 knots) displaced 45,000 tons, and their main armament was nine 16-inch guns in three three-gun turrets. When built, they had twenty five-inch guns in ten two-gun turrets. Six were ordered, but only four were commissioned. Two ships, USS Illinois (BB 65) and USS Kentucky (BB 66) were scrapped after World War II.
Take a look at this 1955 training film about the big guns on the Iowa-class battleships. Then think about how they no longer sail the seas, and mourn.
It’s easy to look at different eras of veterans and write them off as coming a different time, a different place, a different war. The truth is, the old Vietnam vet you met at the Legion while trying to get cheap drinks isn’t all that different from our men and women fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Toss a drink or two his way and share some stories. Life sucks in the sandbox, but things in the jungle weren’t any better.
Whether you’re out to avoid the same pitfalls of their generation, find out that your struggles aren’t unique, or even joke about the military across eras — pick their brain. We could all learn a thing or two from them. Here’s what you might learn:
5. Things could always get worse.
Back in Afghanistan, I thought the worst conditions imaginable were summer heat, sandstorm season, and the wash out from the week of rain. Boy, just doing a Google search of weather conditions in Vietnam put my heart at ease.
Comparing one person’s hell to another isn’t always appropriate or beneficial, but I’ll admit full-heartedly that damn-near everything from the country to living conditions to the enemy to contacting folks back home was much, much worse for our older brothers.
4. Cleanliness regardless.
If there’s one clear trait shared among nearly all Vietnam vets, it’s cleanliness. This isn’t just a “different military back then” kind of a thing. Nearly everything from the clothes they wear to the house they live in and the weapons they take to the range: Spotless.
In war, constantly changing socks and uniforms kept them healthy, living areas needed to be spotless to keep vermin out, and their trusty rifle needed to be cleaned constantly to stay trustworthy.
3. Winning hearts and minds is tricky.
In both wars, troops are out in the middle of some foreign country, fighting an enemy they can’t easily identify. Our wars weren’t as simple as looking at an enemy dressed in a clearly distinguishable uniform fighting under a clearly identifiable flag. Winning hearts and minds isn’t so easy when you’re focusing on who’s the good guy and who’s not.
The famous counter-insurgency tactic of winning over the hearts and minds of the locals wasn’t the brainchild of modern Generals trying to get a warm and fuzzy about the war. In fact, President John. F. Kennedy started it and President Lyndon B. Johnson repeated exact phrase on record 28 times during the Vietnam War.
2. The fight against burn pits will be a rough one.
Getting recognition for health concerns over the dispersal of deadly chemicals in the air because of the negligent decisions of corner-cutting big wigs is the heart of the fight against burn pits. There’s a reason saying there is nothing wrong withburning literal trenches filled with garbage and human sh*t just feet away from the tents troops live in for twelve monthsis called the “Agent Orange of our generation.”
With the actual Agent Orange, it wasn’t until 1984, eleven years after the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, that a class action lawsuit against the government for using the substance first came out. To this day, Vietnam vets are still fighting for recognition of health concerns related to Agent Orange exposure.
1. Not everyone will thank you for your service.
Not to call anyone out or pass judgement, not having year-round veteran discounts isn’t the most disrespectful thing ever done to a returning veteran, so maybe don’t raise hell at some minimum-wage retail worker about it.
Our older brothers came home to a country that shifted cultures drastically after they were, in some cases, drafted into the fight. Until you’ve had a former childhood friend abandon you for serving, paying full price for a damn coffee shouldn’t even be on your radar.
After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.
Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.
The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.
According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.
“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.
Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.
“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.
Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.
Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.
The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.
The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.
The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.
A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.
(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)
While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.
Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.
The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.
A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)
Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”
While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.
The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.
In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.
The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.
Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.
“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea plans to destroy a nuclear test site in front of a handful of foreign journalists on May 22, 2018 — a move that lets it shape a narrative of cooperating with the US without actually removing its nuclear capabilities.
Foreign journalists from the US, China, and Russia arrived in North Korea on May 22, 2018, to report on the destruction of an underground site that Pyongyang has repeatedly rocked with nuclear detonation tests.
At the same time, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are meeting behind the scenes to discuss what to make of Kim Jong Un’s new, aggressive tone.
The planned destruction of the test site, in Wonsan, represents denuclearization North Korea’s way, meaning it isn’t permanent, verifiable, irreversible, or complete.
North Korea intends to make a big show of dismantling its test site by collapsing access tunnels, but it can always build more tunnels, dig the tunnels back out again, or test somewhere else.
Additionally, if North Korea truly has completed its nuclear program, as it says it has, then it no longer needs an active test site anyway. The US has maintained nuclear weapons without testing them for decades.
While the world watches North Korea’s staged show of denuclearization, Trump and Moon will meet at the White House to discuss Trump’s coming summit with Kim as well as North Korea’s recent harsh words.
The Army began issuing the M17 handgun, the newest addition to its soldiers’ gear, in late November 2017, distributing them among members of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
The new sidearm is only the third handgun the Army has fielded widely in the past century. It will replace the M9 pistol and will be distributed to a broader segment of the force than previous sidearms, which were mainly carried by officers and soldiers in special roles.
Wider distribution of the sidearm comes after 16 years of combat operations in which U.S. troops often found themselves in close-quarters engagements, and it’s the Defense Department’s first step toward better preparing and training soldiers for the demands of combat operations in the future — whether that means fighting in dangerous, close-in situations or meeting with local leaders.
The decision to arm the 101st’s team leaders with sidearms in addition to their main weapons stemmed directly from feedback from soldiers’ battlefield experiences, an Army official told Army Times, and commanders will have the option to put the pistol in the hands of soldiers at even lower levels.
“It just improves our lethality as a force to have more soldiers armed with this weapon,” 2nd. Lt. Connor Maloney told Army Times. Maloney’s company in the 101st Airborne Division now has 46 M17s, rather than just nine M9s.
But a review of Pentagon programs in fiscal year 2017 conducted by the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation found that the M17, and its counterpart, the more compact M18, both exhibited persistent problems during testing.
The DOTE report was compiled from April through September 2017, but the problems it documented were not revealed until the report was issued in January 2018.
During drop-testing the weapons accidentally discharged — a problem that appeared in the another version of the Sig Sauer-made pistol. The manufacturer introduced safety upgrades for the problem, though the fix may have contributed to the splintering of two triggers during testing, the DOTE report states.
Both versions of the pistol also “experienced double-ejections where an unspent ball round was ejected along with a spent round,” the report found. The Army established a root-cause analysis team to find the reason for double ejections, but, the report notes, “As of this report, this analysis is still ongoing.”
Both the M17 and M18 experienced a higher number of stoppages — a deficiency that keeps the pistol from operating as intended, but can be fixed through immediate action — when firing with ball ammunition than they did when firing special-purpose ammunition. Both failed the mean rounds between stoppage reliability requirement when firing with ball ammunition.
Officials from the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, which oversees the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons, and from Sig Sauer, which won the 10-year, $580 million Modular Handgun System contract to provid M17s and M18s in January 2017, have both downplayed the concerns raised in the DOTE report.
A Soldier with C Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) fires the new M17 or Modular Handgun System at the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) indoor range, Nov. 28. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs)
A Sig Sauer spokesman said many of the problems outlined by the report were from the weapon’s early testing period and that the company stood by the thousands of M17 and M18s it has shipped so far.
Army PEO Soldier spokeswoman Debra Dawson told Army Times that all of the MHS weapons currently field meet all safety and operation requirements. Even though the weapon fell short of reliability requirements for ball ammunition, it was still safe to use with that type of round, the spokeswoman said.
The drop-test problems had been publicly addressed, Dawson said, noting that the weapon had passed the Army’s drop test. She added that the trigger-splintering incidents only happened to two of some 10,000 purchased weapons and were not related to design flaws or manufacturing issues.
While it doesn’t appear the root cause of double-ejection issue has been found, Dawson said it may be related to the magazine and could potentially be resolved with minor adjustments.
Slide stoppages led to 50% of the M17 stoppages and 75% of the M18 stoppages, the DOET report said.
The predominant cause of such stoppages was the slide failing to lock after firing the last round in a magazine, which is meant to tell the shooter when to reload.
The report noted that the stoppages appeared to stem largely from the use of a high pistol grip and cited Army marksmanship experts who called it an “insignificant problem” that could be resolved with more training and experience with the weapon.
PEO-Soldier officials told Army Times the “anomaly” would be addressed by modifying marksmanship training.
Despite the issues raised by the DOTE report, the M17 had been well received by the troops who have gotten it.
“It is easier to fire and simpler to operate,” Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh, a member of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said at the end of November 2017. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my soldiers.”
“It handled really well, very reliable,” Cpl. Jory Herrman, a team leader in the 101st Airborne, told Military.com at the time. “We slung a lot of rounds down range today had little to no problems out of them… I think it is going to be a great sidearm.”
The Army and the Air Force are launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service, cross-domain combat doctrine.
The concept of cross-domain fires, something inspiring fast-growing attention at the Pentagon, is grounded in the premise that future war challenges will require air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace synergies to a much greater extent than may have been envisioned years ago.
Operating within this concept, Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perking and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenants informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China. In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology, and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
These considerations are at the heart of the Army-Air Force initiative. A recent article in the National Defense University Press, authored by Holmes and Perkins, defines the parameters of this emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain initiative.
“The rate and speed of current and future world events will not allow us the time to synchronize federated solutions. In order to present the enemy with multiple dilemmas, we must converge and integrate our solutions and approaches before the battle starts. We must also become sensor-shooter agnostic in all our platforms, and we must develop a common operating picture,” the article in the National Defense University Press states.
While the particulars of any new doctrine have yet to be determined, based in large measure upon what is learned through these upcoming war games, the U.S. military services are already moving forward testing and advancing the broad parameters of cross-domain fires.
At exercises such as Northern Edge, fighter aircraft have been used in close coordination with Army ground weapons and surface ships to identify and attack targets together in a coordinated fashion. One senior Army official, speaking at length to Warrior Maven, explained that many current mobile ground-attack systems, such as artillery, can be used and adapted for attacks on air and sea enemy targets.
To cite an example, the senior official said an Army Self-Propelled Paladin Howitzer could be used in strategically vital areas, such as the South China Sea, to hold enemy aircraft or enemy ships at-risk.
The Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, as part of this strategic effort, is currently pursuing software upgrades to the ATACMS missile to better enable the weapon to hit targets at sea. These concepts, which seek to envision roles and dynamics not initially envisioned for a ground-to-ground weapon, comprise the conceptual epicenter of cross-domain fires.
The notion of Cross-Domain fires is woven into the recognition that new sensor technologies, faster computer processing and things like artificial intelligence increasingly enable attack platforms to function as sensors – nodes on a larger, joint, integrated combat enterprise.
A uniquely modern element of this hinges upon the rapid evolution of networking technologies connecting domains in real-time to shorten sensor-to-shooter time and respond to the widest possible range of threats in combat.
The Army’s emerging Integrated Battle Command System is engineered for the purpose of networking nodes within a broader combat apparatus, able to detect threats and relay information across domains. For instance, a land-based sentinel radar could cue a Patriot missile battery or air-attack platform.
Operating through modern command and control systems, aerial ISR nodes could identify targets and relay coordinates to surface ships or ground weapons using next-generation datalinks.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improv data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that cross-domain operations are currently figuring prominently in the ongoing Red Flag exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
“Exercises, such as Red Flag, ensure we and our allies are ready to respond to contingencies by providing realistic, advanced, multi-domain combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment employing assets in air, space and cyberspace,” Maj. Christina Sukach, Public Affairs Chief, 99 Air Base Wing, told Warrior Maven.
The Red Flag combat exercises, while not discussed in detail by Air Force officials, did assess the challenge of cross-domain connectivity in a GPS-denied environment. This scenario, wherein satellites are attacked or disabled by enemy weapons, speaks to the importance and challenge of cross-domain fires.
Both the Army and the Air Force are currently exploring a wide range of high-bandwidth frequencies and other communications technologies able generate what the military calls “Positioning, Navigation and Timing,” in the absence of GPS.
These moves are of great relevance to the emerging Army-Air Force cross-domain effort because both services currently rely heavily upon GPS for combat systems. The Army’s Blue Force Tracker and handheld navigation systems, coupled with Air Force JDAMS air-ground coordination are all, at the moment, reliant upon GPS. Any new cross-domain doctrine, it therefore stands to reason, would need extend these efforts to specifically incorporate Army-Air Force combat connectivity in a war without GPS.
A recently-released investigation by the Department of Justice reveals that a company using prison labor to make life-saving equipment for the Pentagon sold more than 125,000 defective helmets to the services, some that even failed to stop bullets in ballistic tests.
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said a public-private venture between the government-run Federal Prison Industries and the civilian company ArmorSource LLC produced Advanced Combat Helmets and Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets that were “not manufactured in accordance with contract specifications.”
“The investigations found that the ACH and LMCH had numerous defects, including serious ballistic failures, blisters and improper mounting hole placement and dimensions, as well as helmets being repressed,” the report said. “Helmets were manufactured with degraded or unauthorized ballistic materials, used expired paint and unauthorized manufacturing methods.”
The Justice report said ArmorSource failed to properly oversee the production of the helmets by federal prisoners and was forced to pay $3 million in restitution, while the Federal Prison Industries facility that manufactured the helmets beginning in 2008 was closed and the staff transferred.
In all, the report says 126,052 helmets were recalled costing the government over $19 million.
The Federal Prison Industries is a government-owned corporation formed in 1934 to give job opportunities and income to federal inmates. The products made by FPI are sold only to the U.S. government and it does not compete with private companies.
From 2006 through 2009, Ohio-based ArmorSource produced the helmets for the Department of Defense. ArmorSource was paid more than $30 million, then subcontracted production of the ACH and the LMCH to FPI in 2008.
The ACH is a personal protective equipment system designed to provide ballistic and impact protection U.S. troops. It’s also designed to mount existing night vision, communication, and nuclear, biological, and chemical defense equipment.
When FPI produced 23,000 LMCHs from its facility in Texas, the first 3,000 shipped in 2008 were found to be defective. Eventually, the Army’s Office of Inspector General found FPI-produced ACHs were also defective.
The Army’s IG investigations found “endemic manufacturing problems” at FPI. The facility in Beaumont, Texas, was not making the helmets according to specifications and both helmet types were full of defects, including:
Finished ACH helmet shells were pried apart and scrap Kevlar and Kevlar dust was added to the ear sections, and the helmet shells repressed
Helmets were repressed to remove blisters and bubbles in violation of contract specifications
LMCH and ACH had edging and paint adhesion failures, respectively
FPI did not obtain approval from the DOD before it changed the manufacturing process
LMCH Certificates of Conformance were prepared by inmates at the direction of FPI staff and signed by FPI staff months after the LMCH helmets were delivered falsely certifying that the helmets were manufactured according to contract specifications and had the requisite material traceability
LMCH helmet serial numbers were switched or altered
The helmets were sold to DoD anyway, and FPI used pre-selected helmets for inspection, against the DoD specification that random items be inspected. ArmorSource did not provide oversight of the helmets’ construction and did not ensure proper inspection of the product, the report says.
A surprise inspection of the Beaumont, Texas-based FPI facility found the inmates using a variety of improvised tools to build the helmets. This put the lives of those overseeing their work (as well as fellow inmates) at significant risk, the report says.
The Justice Department claims no casualties are known to have occurred because of the defective helmets.