The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better? - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.


The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)

The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.

The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.

Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.

So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?

In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.

The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.

So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?

The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)

Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.

The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.

Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.

The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.

Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Iran is training to swarm the US Navy with speedboats

Iran has dispatched its elite Islamic Republican Guard Corps navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a massively valuable waterway that Tehran has threatened to close as retaliation against the US — and despite their small size and dated ships, these commandoes could do real damage to the US Navy.

The US Navy stands unmatched on earth in terms of size and ability, but Iran’s IRGC ships are small, fast, deadly, and designed specifically to present an asymmetrical threat to the toughest ships on earth.


The IRGC doesn’t have any interest going toe to toe with the US Navy by building its own destroyers or carriers, instead, it’s formed a “guerrilla army at sea” of vicious speedboats with guns, explosives, and some anti-ship missiles, Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.

“They understand full well that there’s a decisive qualitative disadvantage against the US and its allies,” Lamrani said of the IRGC. “They know they can’t win, so they plan to attack in a very fast way with many, many small ships swarming the US vessels to overwhelm them.”

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency photo)

Currently, that situation is exactly what the IRGC is training for. US officials said that more than 50 small boats are now practicing “swarming” attacks to potentially shut down the strait which sees about 30% of the world’s oil pass through, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson .

For the Iranians, it’s a suicide mission. But in Iran’s struggle to oppose the US at any cost, something it sees as a spiritual matter, they could employ these little ships and irregular warfare to cripple the US Navy.

How the US would fight back

If the US knew a hostile group of IRGC fast attack craft were swarming around the Gulf trying to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there’s no question its destroyers and other aircraft carrying ships could unleash their helicopters to strafe the ships to the bottom of the sea. With enough notice, nearby US Air Force planes like the A-10 Warthog could even step in.

“The biggest weapon [US Navy ships] have against these swarm boats is the helicopter. Helicopters equipped with mini guns have the ability to fire very fast and create standoff distance to engage them,” said Lamrani.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

If some swarming ships did break through, the Navy has automated close-in weapons systems and missiles it can fire to pick the ships off. But, “the problem is, with these swarm boats, there’s only so much they can engage before the vessels get in range and cause damage.”

But Iran holds the first mover advantage

Iran holds the first mover advantage. The US Navy regularly transits the Persian Gulf, and it does so peacefully. The US and Iran are not at war, so when Iranian ships have harassed the US Navy in the past , they’ve come within a hundred yards of the billion-plus dollar ships before being warded off by warning shots .

That means the ideal scenario for the US, where it sees the enemy a ways out and can call in devastating air power, likely won’t happen. Iran knows it can only win with a sneak attack, so Lamrani thinks that’s how they’ll do it.

“If they decide to do this, they’re going to go as fast as possible, in as many numbers as possible before they get wrecked,” said Lamrani.

The US Navy’s lack of training against low-end threats like speedboats further exacerbates the problem. Navy watchers frequently point out the force is stretched thin across a wide spectrum of missions, and that surface warfare, especially against a guerilla force, hasn’t been a priority.

Ultimately, no serious military analyst thinks 50 or so Iranian speedboats could hold off the US Navy for long , but caught unawares, the first round could deal a devastating loss to the US.

“Given the constraints, this is a very, very effective tactic, very cost effective,” said Lamrani. “Even if they lost an entire fleet of speedboats and they managed to sink an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer,” the effect would be devastating.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

During the famed and perilous evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, brave pilots, sailors, and citizens fought tooth and nail to rescue soldiers trapped on the French beach from the German Luftwaffe as it attempted to wipe them out.


One of the pilots, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, was shot down in a Spitfire MK1 N3200 on May 26, 1940, the opening hours of Operation Dynamo. Stephenson spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Germans, eventually staying at the famous Colditz Castle after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

But his aircraft, hit through the radiator and with other damage to the body, was left on the beach near Calais, France. The Spitfire plane became a popular photo destination for German soldiers who would often take small parts of the aircraft with them as souvenirs.

By the time the Allies liberated Calais in 1944, no one was too worried about digging what scrap remained out of the beach. And so the plane continued to sit, slowly becoming more and more buried by the mud and sand on the beach.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
The restored Spitfire Mk. 1A taxis to the runway at an air show in England. (Photo: YouTube/Imperial War Museums)

It wasn’t until 1986, over 40 years after the war ended, that the plane was recovered — and it wasn’t until the new millennium that someone decided to actually restore the old bird.

Thomas Kaplan, an American investor and philanthropist, backed the 14-year restoration project and gifted the plane, now back in flying condition, to the Imperial War Museum.

Now the plane is housed at the same hangar on the same base that it flew from that fateful day in 1940, but it has a much different mission. It serves as a flying history exhibit for the museum, soaring over air shows and allowing visitors to hear what the original Spitfires sounded like in combat.

Learn more about the history of the plane and see it in flight in the video below:

Articles

Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

Articles

If the battle of Thermopylae was fought today with 300 Marines

The legendary defense of the Spartans at the “hot gates” of Thermopylae has gone down in military history as one of the greatest last stands.


But what if 300 Marine infantrymen, along with a couple thousand other fighters, had to repeat what Leonidas, 300 Spartans, and their Greek allies did in 480 B.C. against a modern foe?

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
(Photo: flickr/Guillaume Cattiaux)

First, the battlefield at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. was very friendly to defenders. The mountains pressed close to the sea, leaving only a thin gap of land through which Xerxes could press his army. This gap was further constricted by the Spartans when they repaired a low wall.

For the modern Marines, the gap could instead be narrowed with fighting holes, barbed wire, machine gun positions, and mines. Similarly, the fatal back path that Xerxes marched his “Immortals” through to doom Leonidas and his men could be blocked the same way, forcing an attacker to pay for every yard in blood.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson

Unfortunately for the Marines, their enemy can afford a few bloody engagements. While the Marines would boast 300 infantrymen and 6,000 other combat arms Marines, their enemy would number somewhere around 100,000.

The first thing the Marines would want to do against an enemy attack is copy the advantage that the Spartans used at Thermopylae, greater infantry range and stronger defenses. The Greek Hoplite carried a spear with slightly better range than the Immortal’s swords, and Hoplite armor was constructed of bronze strong enough to protect from Persian arrows.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
The M16 is bulkier than the M4, but boasts greater range. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

The Marines would need to reach back in their armories for a similar range advantage. While the M4 has an effective firing range of 500 meters, the same as the AK-74 and other common infantry weapons, the M16 has a 550-meter range against a point target, a 10 percent boost. And the Marines’ body armor and defensive fortifications would give them an advantage over attackers similar to the Hoplites’ bronze armor.

Unfortunately for the Marines, modern warfare isn’t limited to infantry fighting infantry, and so they would need to reckon with enemy artillery and air assets.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)

While the U.S. faces an artillery range gap in relation to Russia and China, the Marines defending the pass could use the mountains on their west to place their guns at greater altitude. This would give their guns greater range and force the enemy to come within the envelope of the U.S. cannon to try to take out Marine artillery positions.

Air defenders would also need to position themselves up the mountains to provide an effective screen to protect their troops from enemy air attacks.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
(Photo: U.S. Navy Seaman Levingston Lewis)

Luckily for the Marines, the Corps is one of the few military organizations that has invested heavily in short takeoff, vertical landing aircraft — meaning that Ospreys and Super Stallions can deliver supplies to the besieged Marines while F-35s and Harriers provide air support either from small, forward refueling and rearming points near the front or from a nearby ship.

All of this adds up to a Marine force enjoying much of the same successes during the early days of the battle as the Spartans did. Enemy infantry and cavalry would be forced to maneuver into a narrow gap and be cut down by Marine rifles and missiles.

Even better, their artillery could force the enemy guns to fire from afar and break up forces massing for an attack, advantages that the Spartans lacked.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Akeel Austin)

But, like the Spartans before them, the Marines would eventually be overcome by their numerical limitations. Even with approximately 6,000 other Marines, the 300 infantrymen simply could not hold out forever.

Enemy assaults would make it deeper into the pass each time as engineers whittled away at the Marines’ defenses and artillery crews braved American guns to get rounds onto the defenders’ heads.

After a few days, the Marines would have amassed a stunning body count, possibly even as high as the 20,000 Persians credited to Leonidas and his forces, but they would be burned out of Thermopylae.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Giannetti)

But if they could buy enough time, it’s unimaginable that the Navy and Marine Corps would not be able to get follow-on forces to Greece. And, using the Marine Corps’ amphibious capabilities, reinforcements could be rushed to the beaches just south of the battle.

Meanwhile, the Navy could press its jets into the fight, ensuring air superiority and providing a reprieve for the defenders.

Thanks to the mobility of America’s sea services and Thermopylae’s location on a coast, the battle could end much differently for the Marines standing where the Spartans once fell.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This luxury private jet could become a medevac asset

It’s a fact of life; in war, troops sustain injuries — which can range from mild to severe. If the medics and aid stations can’t fully treat a wound on their own, troops are moved back from the front lines to more-equipped facilities to recover. Exactly how far back depends on how long the wounded service member needs to recover before returning to fighting shape.


The military once used the C-9 Nightingale for medical evacuations. This plane was designed based on the DC-9 airliner and is capable of hauling 40 litter patients. A total of 48 of these planes were built and two remain in service with the Marine Corps today. These planes were, in large part, phased out in the 2000s.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

Staff Sgt. Vanessa Potchebski and Staff Sgt. Miguel Rodriguez, both 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medical technicians, unload medical equipment from a C-130 Hercules after a successful mission to pick up sick patients in Iraq.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The current method of aeromedical evacuation involves putting a team of doctors and nurses on whatever cargo plane is available — be it a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster, or C-5 Galaxy. On one hand, this means that medical crews don’t have to wait for a dedicated plane to arrive — they simply load up and go. On the other hand, it may not be a bad idea to have a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft, one that’s carefully set up to provide care for the wounded.

At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, we learned that a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft may be exactly what’s in store, and the potential contender for this role is a jet most associate with the rich and famous: The Gulfstream. Yes, that’s right, the jet that Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, and other Hollywood A-listers take to Cannes could now be hauling wounded American troops.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

The Air Force operates nine C-37s, based on the Gulfstream V business jet.

(USAF photo)

Versions of the Gulfstream have been in service with the U.S. military for a while as the C-20 and C-37, which are designs based off of civilian Gulfstream aircraft. These jets feature a long range (of at least 4,000 miles, if not more) and are capable of reaching high subsonic speeds. This makes them very useful, especially in critical-care cases.

Currently, the Air Force has seven C-20 (Gulfstream III/IV) and nine C-37 (Gulfstream V) jets in service, mostly for VIP transport. The Navy presently operates the C-37 as well. But if the decision is made to press these jets into service for aeromedical evacuation, the military may see more of this celebrity transport.

Articles

The Air Force told PETA it will continue to kill rabbits in survival training

A few months ago the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals found out that Air Force Academy survival school students kill rabbits and chickens as part of their training regimen. So PETA submitted a petition from its membership asking the Air Force to stop.


The Air Force said no.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Nope Nope Nope.

USAFA cadets do, in fact, kill, skin, cook, and eat rabbits in the Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training Program. The “sustenance” portion of the class teaches cadets how to find water as well as skin and cook a wild animal.

Air Force spokesman Zachary Anderson told the Air Force Times in July 2016 the Air Force tries to find the best balance between the humane treatment of animals and properly preparing aircrew cadets for real-world scenarios.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Staff Sgt. Eric Zwoll, instructor at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school, explains to his class how to jump safely with a parachute, everything from leaving the aircraft to overcoming equipment malfunctions and evading forces on the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Connie Bias)

“The Air Force is aware of PETA’s concerns,” Anderson said. “However, the use of animals in Air Force survival training plays a critical role in equipping our airmen with skills needed to stay alive in a combat environment.”

While PETA wants the USAF to get out of the animal business entirely, the animal rights group also alleges the rabbits are sourced from a business that routinely violates the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Citing a FOIA request,  PETA says the academy doesn’t file proper reports to the Department of Agriculture on the number of rabbits and chickens used and that the dealers aren’t even registered with the Agriculture Department.

“We were contacted by an individual who reported that cadets bludgeon docile, domesticated rabbits to death during these training exercises,” PETA Senior Laboratory Methods Specialist Shalin Gala wrote the Colorado Springs Independent. “This person expressed concern that cadets do not actually learn anything from killing tame animals who are used to being handled by humans… USAFA has previously informed the media that cadets are taught to kill animals with a rock or club.”

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A U.S. Air Force Airman Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape candidate adds water to a cooking pot at Camp Bullis, Texas. SERE candidates are encouraged to boil their meals to keep as much nutrition in the food as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm)

The Department of Agriculture did not have an open investigation at the time of the academy’s refusal to give up the practice.

The Air Force Times‘ Stephen Losey found the animals are sourced from Fancy Pants Rabbitry, a Gunnison, Colorado-based supplier. Fancy Pants’ owner Kathy Morgan, vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

“Our rabbits are raised in compliance with USDA standards as far as cage sizes and operations, so we are comfortable our rabbits are raised in the best possible conditions,” Morgan said. “They are treated humanely, and when necessary, they are dispatched humanely. I’m comfortable with the quality of our product and the quality of their lives while they’re with us.”

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A U.S. Air Force Airman Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape candidate eats a grasshopper at Camp Bullis, Texas, Aug. 17, 2015. SERE candidates are taught how to survive on food procured from the environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm)

Fancy Pants sold roughly 300 rabbits per year for the past two years to the USAF Academy. PETA is correct that Morgan’s business is not registered with the USDA. Because it sells rabbits as food and meat, it is registered with the FDA.

There is a precedent for giving up meat in the field. DoD directives require that other means of training besides animals are to be used whenever possible. PETA was instrumental in the animal “sustenance” portion of the Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds survival course and the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center, saying tame chickens and rabbits are unlikely to be found in a combat zone.

The animal rights group wants the academy to switch to book and classroom learning.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to tell what type of machine gun you’re looking at

For over a century, machine guns have had a major effect on ground combat. Their efficacy against infantry prompted the invention of the tank in World War I, for instance. They’ve changed the way wars are fought and have played a huge role in forging history.


That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not all machine guns are the same, and getting the nomenclature right is important. While this isn’t as hotly contested as the debate between “magazine” and “clip”, it can get touchy. We’re talking about some cool machine guns here, we want to make sure we’re using the right terms as we imagine letting loose on a range with them.

There are several types of machine guns. Let’s take a look:

Original HMG – Heavy Machine Guns

As originally understood, this term applies to water-cooled guns intended to provide a sustained volume of fire, like Germany’s Maxim machine guns that were used in World War I or the Browning M1917. HMGs are typically heavy, stationary weapons. They might not be very mobile, but as a grunt, you don’t wanna have to charge them.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
United States Army personnel, including the son of John Moses Browning, fire an M1917 heavy machine gun. (U.S. Army photo)

MMG – Medium Machine Guns

These guns emerged in World War II as a more mobile option for sustained fire. The M1919A4 is a prime example. MMGs don’t provide as much sustained fire as water-cooled guns, but their versatility and firepower have proved to be very lethal.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Marine Pfc. Douglas Lightheart cradles his M1919 30-cal. machinegun as he and his buddy, Pfc. Gerald Churchby, take time out for a cigarette while fighting on Peleliu Island. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. H. H. Clements)

AR – Automatic Rifle

The automatic rifle emerged in World War I. The earliest issued rifles, namely the French Chauchat, were pieces of crap, but later offerings, like the Browning Automatic Rifle, were mainstays of World War II. Today, the Marines field the M27.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

LMG – Light Machine Gun

The light machine gun was another strike at finding that sweet spot between firepower and mobility. Like an automatic rifle, it uses a box magazine and you can fire it from your shoulder. However, using the bipod is highly recommended for accuracy. When you think LMG, think Bren or Lewis.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
British troops take a rest, with a Bren light machine gun visible on the trail. (Photo from Imperial War Museum)

GPMG – General Purpose Machine Gun

After World War II, some engineers took a look at all the machine gun options and realized that they could come up with something that balances all available capabilities. Germany’s MG34 and MG42 were the first GPMGs to emerge. Today, just about every country uses these.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Lance Corporal Kendall S. Boyd (left) and PFC Ryan J. Jones (right), combat engineers, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, hone their machine gunnery skills by firing the M240G medium machine gun in 2004. Note the rivets on the receiver. (USMC photo)

SAW – Squad Automatic Weapons

Also known as LSWs, or Light Support Weapons, these weapons emerged as a problem was discovered with the GPMGs. GPMGs typically used ammunition of a different caliber than ARs and LMGs. SAWs use the same type of ammo as the rifle squad, making it an efficient, potent choice. A modern example is the M249 SAW.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A U.S. Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

HMG (Modern) – Heavy Machine Guns

The modern heavy machine gun packs huge amounts of stopping power with .50-caliber rounds. For examples of the modern HMG, think Ma Deuce or the Russian DShK.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

For more details on how to tell which type of machine gun you’re admiring, watch the video below:

(Forgotten Weapons | YouTube)
Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 14

All the best military memes, distilled down to these 13 funniest.


1. Hey, a lightning strike would probably get you a decent profile for a few days, as well (via The Salty Soldier).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

2. Spraying each other with the hose isn’t funny when the pressure could tear a hole in the MOPP gear (via Military Memes).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
No horseplay during chemical attacks.

3. Why no American allies like American MREs:

(via Australian Warfighters)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Sorry, Australia. That stuff really messes up your down unders.

SEE ALSO: The US Navy strikes back after dodging rebel missiles off of Yemen

4. $15 isn’t bad for custom food in the field (via Military Memes).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
And you could label all your crayons, so no other Marines eat them.

5. “Sir, we’re definitely walking in circles. That guy who keeps turning around ahead of us? That’s our rear security.”

(via Military Memes)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

6. Gotta keep those buoys Semper Paratus:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Buoy tending isn’t glamorous, but someone has to do it.

7. You’ll never escape. There aren’t even any discharge papers in that maze (via Military Memes).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Aint no discharge in the maze, ain’t no discharge on the ground, ain’t no discharge all around.

8. “Wouldn’t it be great if there were an animal patrolling with us whose primary skill is puking hairballs and showing off its butt?”

(via Military Memes)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

9. Everyone’s greatest hope during firewatch is that the drill instructor would talk to the other guard (via Team Non-Rec).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

10. He’s going to spend hours pointing out everything you did wrong (via The Salty Soldier).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Wouldn’t it be great to see this dog discussing an incident with an MP military working dog? Like, I would watch a TV show of an all-dog military just dealing with random, garrison shenanigans.

11. Soldiers will make fun of you for being weak and coddled …

(via The Salty Soldier)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
… while being secretly jealous of how much you are coddled.

12. The best part is that first formation isn’t until 0500 (via The Salty Soldier).

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
And SP is at 0900.

13. Just. Make. It. Stop. (via The Salty Soldier)

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

Articles

These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 Blackbird is the arguably the most popular and easily recognizable airframe ever used by the U.S. Air Force. It maintains the speed record it set back in 1976 (even with a broken engine). The Blackbird’s missile evasion technique is legendary; it simply flew faster than the whatever was chasing it.


Not one SR-71 was ever shot down.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

It could take a full photo of the entire country of North Korea in seven minutes and fly across the entire United States, lengthwise, in just over an hour.

Not bad, but that capability didn’t happen overnight. The Air Force actually developed more than one supersonic plane for its reconnaissance and strike missions.

1. XB-70 Valkyrie

Only 2 of North American Aviation’s B-70 bombers were ever built, and the program only lasted for the five years between 1964 and 1969. The Valkyrie was a six-engine bomber, capable of flying Mach 3, designed to outrun enemy interceptor aircraft with speed and altitude. At the time, interception was the only defense against bombers.

Surface-to-air missiles changed the game.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
The XB-70 is shown climbing out during take-off. Most flights were scheduled during the morning hours to take advantage of the cooler ambient air temperatures for improved propulsion efficiencies. The wing tips are extended straight out to provide a maximum lifting wing surface. The XB-70A, capable of flying three times the speed of sound, was the world’s largest experimental aircraft in the 1960s. (NASA photo, 1965)

The XB-70 was still fast enough to fool radar, but its limited range and expense made the B-52 a more economically efficient choice for production. Though short-lived, the Valkyrie did blaze a trail for the structural dynamics that would be so crucial to the SR-71.

The last XB-70 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

2. Lockheed A-12 “Archangel” or “Oxcart”

Not to be confused with the later naval stealth fighter proposal dubbed the A-12 Avenger II, the A-12 Archangel was a recon aircraft developed by Lockheed for the CIA between 1962 and 1967. The defense giant’s “Skunk Works,” the nickname given to its Advanced Development Programs department, developed the A-12 for the CIA’s Oxcart Operation.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
An A-12 in flight. This aircraft was lost over the South China Sea on June 6, 1968.

Oxcart was the agency’s effort to replace the U-2 spy plane after it became increasingly susceptible to Soviet SAMs. They were wildly successful – the planes boasted a host of new technologies designed just for the program. They were built with titanium to handle hypersonic speeds (strangely obtained from the Soviet Union).

Though designed to fly over Cuba and the USSR, the Lockheed A-12 never executed that mission. It flew over North Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo Crisis.

The North Vietnamese were able to track the A-12 via radar, and routinely launched missiles at it. It never took a direct hit from a SAM but did get debris from an exploding missile lodged in its fuselage.

Since the A-12 was never going to fly over the Soviet Union and the use of satellite photography was on the rise, the program was scrapped almost as soon as it had begun. The A-12s were either stored in Palmdale, California, or sent to museums.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A-12s in storage in Southern California. (CIA photo)

The A-12 could fly higher and faster than the SR-71, but the Blackbird’s side-looking radar and cameras could see enemy territory without penetrating their airspace.

3. M-21 Drone Carrier

The M-21 variant of the A-12 was designed to carry the Lockheed D-12 Drone. This variation had a cockpit for the drone’s launch control officer who released the autonomous drone which was mounted on the back of the M-21 airframe.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Modified A-12 (codename M-21) carrying D-21 drone (Project Tagboard – CIA photo)

The D-21 was launched from the back of the A-12. Once its mission was complete, the drone would eject the data it collected at a preprogrammed point and then self-destruct. The ejected data was caught in mid-air by a C-130.

This program was canceled in 1966 when a drone collided in midair with its launcher. The M-21 crew all bailed out, except for the LCO. From then on, the D-21 would be launched from under the wing of a B-52.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
A B-52 carrying a D-21 reconnaissance drone and rocket booster. This photo was taken by a crewman in the tail of a tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed YF-12

The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the A-12. Designed to be an interceptor, the YF-12 set the speed records that would only be surpassed by the legendary SR-71. It also has the distinction of being a publicly announced aircraft, which had benefits of keeping the A-12 a secret because the public couldn’t tell the difference.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
The YF-12 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The cost of the Vietnam War kept the YF-12 from the Air Force inventory. And by the time the funds were available, the YF-12 wasn’t necessary to defend the mainland U.S., so the program was scrapped.

The aircraft did successfully test the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which was the predecessor to the Phoenix missiles. The YF-12 also tested how AWACS could command bombers in a tactical environment, which later helped the development of the B-1 Bomber.

The YF-12 also tested how engine inlet performance affected airframe for NASA, as well as issues related to propulsion interaction, boundary layer noise, heat transfer under high-mach conditions, and altitude hold at supersonic speeds – all necessary to develop the SR-71, not to mention the Space Shuttle program.

Articles

‘American Sniper’ Is A Must-See Film That Brilliantly Honors The Memory Of Chris Kyle

“American Sniper” opens looking down the barrel of a military sniper rifle. The view moves in close to reveal the bearded face of Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) behind the scope. He watches U.S. Marines below him searching houses before spotting an Iraqi mother and a young boy.


“She’s got an RKG Russian grenade, she’s handing it to the kid,” he says. And with that the audience enters the sniper’s world of split-second decisions. Will he kill a child in order to protect Marines?

Director Clint Eastwood interrupts the opening tension and goes back to Kyle’s childhood in Texas. He grows up, he attends school, he becomes a bull-riding cowboy.

Then he watches news coverage of the twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa. The young Kyle is compelled to do something about it, and he decides to join the Navy to become a SEAL.

Eastwood doesn’t linger on these scenes for long. In short order Kyle finds himself an elite Navy SEAL sniper in Iraq with a his pregnant wife (played by Sienna Miller) waiting for him stateside.

The movie follows the Iraq war from Kyle’s perspective, often behind the scope of his rifle. There are plenty of action sequences, and all come off as accurate and authentic. The technical details of sniper life are meticulously captured.  But where the movie really shines is in the realistic portrayal of Kyle’s post-traumatic stress as it grows over his four tours to Iraq.

Military movies have a tendency to give a cartoonish view of the “damaged veteran” coming home from the war and losing it (“Brothers” comes to mind), but screenwriter Jason Hall and director Eastwood manage to avoid a similar outcome. And Cooper handles both the subtleties and the chaos of the warrior’s mind with a deft touch. No cliches here.

Watch WATM’s exclusive one-on-one interview with “American Sniper” screenwriter Jason Hall:

In “American Sniper,” we see a heroic man who endures terrible trauma in war, and like many, he’s affected by it. He’s distant, doesn’t really want to talk about what he’s done, and has problems connecting with his loved ones. A similar story plays out among real veterans with PTSD.

With the film’s more accurate portrayal of PTSD in Kyle, viewers are allowed to see how specific events — including another time later in the movie where Kyle has to decide whether to shoot and kill a child — end up shaping him as not only the deadliest American sniper, but also a man deeply affected by what he had to do.

Cooper’s brilliant portrayal will serve the uninitiated with a realistic look at post-traumatic stress and its affect on some veterans. Viewers will see that Kyle had problems, but ultimately he was able to manage it and become a better husband and father in the process.

With countless Marines saved by his efforts while watching over them in Iraq, the now-discharged Kyle meets with a Marine he’s trying to help overcome PTSD. And as we know, Kyle’s story doesn’t close on an uplifting note as he is murdered at a Texas gun range in Feb. 2013.

It’s a sad (and perhaps too abrupt) closing to an incredible film, but it serves Kyle’s legacy well. He lived and ultimately died trying to save lives.

Overall “American Sniper” is a very well-done war film, and Bradley Cooper brilliantly captures the essence of Chris Kyle.

Articles

The Ranger the Taliban called ‘the giant’

Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.


But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.

Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.

And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.

Related: This why the national anthem is played before sporting events

Articles

This is why US stealth fighters are still the best in the world

China’s recent military parade included several new weapons systems and a flyover by the J-20, a stealth jet that many think incorporates stealth technology stolen from the US into a design built to destroy weak links in the US Air Force.


Russia has also been testing a stealth jet of its own that integrates thrust-vectoring technology to make it more maneuverable, which no US jet can match.

But the US has decades of experience in making and fielding stealth jets, creating a gap that no amount of Russian or Chinese hacking could bridge.

“As we see Russia bring on stealth fighters and we see China bring on stealth fighters, we have 40 years of learning how to do this,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Barrett told Defense News’ Valerie Insinna at a Mitchell Institute event on August 2.

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20. Wikimedia Commons photo by Alert5.

While China’s J-20 seeks to intercept unarmed US Air Force refueling planes with very-long-range missiles, and Russia’s T-50 looks like a stealthy reboot of its current fleet of fighters, a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for a US defense contractor told Business Insider that other countries still lagged the US in making planes that could hide from radars.

The scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of their work, told Business Insider the J-20 and T-50 were “dirty” fighters, since the countries lack the precision tools necessary to painstakingly shape every millimeter of the planes’ surfaces.

Barrett said of China’s and Russia’s stealth attempts, “There are a lot of stuff hanging outside of these airplanes,” according to Defense News, adding that “all the airplane pictures I’ve seen still have stuff hanging from the wings, and that just kills your stealth.”

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?
USAF photo by Nial Bradshaw

Additionally, the US has stealth-fighter tactics down, while China and Russia would take years to develop a similar playbook.

Meanwhile, the US has overcome the issue of external munitions blowing up a plane’s radar signature by having internal weapons bays and networking with fleets of fourth-generation aircraft.

Because the F-35 and F-22 can communicate with older, non-stealth planes, they can fly cleanly, without weapons hanging off the wings, while tanked-up F/A-18s, F-15s, or F-16s laden with fuel, bombs, and air-to-air missiles follow along.

The F-35s and F-22s can ensure the coast is clear and dominate battles without firing a shot as older planes fire off missiles guided by the fifth-gen fighters.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information