After the Cold War, the United States discarded a number of weapon systems. Politicians sought to cash in a “peace dividend” to placate voters who were happy to see the fall of the Soviet Union. With “the end of history,” we could afford those cuts, right? Less than ten years after the Soviet Union dissolved, we were proven wrong on 9/11. Our troops arguably paid the price for those cuts.
One of the systems that was retired very hastily was the OV-10 Bronco. It looks kind of funky – not attractive in the traditional sense – especially with that tail arrangement and the over-sized cockpit that looks a little bit like a greenhouse. But it was used as a platform for American forward air controllers from 1969 to 1995. The plane is still in service in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Venezuela. The Bronco can carry up to 3,600 pounds of bombs, rockets, and missiles, and originally came with four 7.62mm M60C machine guns. With a top speed of 288 miles per hour and a range of almost 1,400 miles, an OV-10D can stick around for a long time.
That upgrade is probably one of the biggest unanswered questions surrounding the current wars. While the Department of Defense gained a lot of plaudits for the way the MC-12 was developed and deployed to Iraq, suppose the DOD instead had kept enough Broncos around? The Philippines, who are in no great shakes militarily, have adapted their OV-10s to carry smart bombs.
The Bronco could very well make its comeback. SOCOM tested two OV-10G+ versions under the COMBAT DRAGON II program in recent years, actually conducting a few strikes against Taliban targets using SEAL Team 6 personnel. Those airframes were formerly Marine Corps birds that were briefly operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Proposals for an OV-10X have surfaced as well. Among the proposed upgrades are replacing the M60 machine guns with M3s, faster-firing versions of Ma Deuce, as well as giving it the ability to carry a dozen Hellfires.
Last year, two Broncos were pulled from service with NASA and the State Department and sent to Iraq to fight ISIS. They flew 82 sorties, and reports about their performance were very favorable. (And to think that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wanted to pull the plug on the COMBAT DRAGON II program.)
Now military experts are wondering if the decision in the 1990s to retire them from the Marine Corps and Air Force was short-sighted, saying that having a plane with the MC-12’s surveillance abilities with some GBU-12 or GBU-38 smart bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles would have been very effective in supporting our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Taxes, the season you love to hate depending on how you filed. But if you’re getting a refund this year, it’s time you think tactical and upgrade your gear.
With so many options to choose from, what is necessary and what is arguably a waste of money? What is tactical versus ‘tacticool?’ Military service is the one job where relying on equipment or gear can be the difference between pain or performing above pace. Knowing the difference is what we are here for.
Here are seven tactical upgrades to spend your refund on:
Metal frame rucksacks
The butt buffer before slamming into the earth like a meteor while executing a textbook parachute landing fall absorbs a fair amount of energy, taking a bit of a beating. Loading under fire into vehicles or unloading out of helicopters into the landing zone requires gear you can count on. Standard issue rucksacks come with plastic frames and underwhelming comfort, support, and space. Upgrading to a metal frame with ample padding and pocket space is the best money you’ll spend to ensure your gear holds up in any scenario.
Commercial made boots
Whether you are a door-kicking infantryman or supply, all soldiers spend an enormous amount of time each day on their feet. Standard issue footwear leaves much to be desired in terms of comfort and quality. Investing in the commercial counterparts might just save you from the bad back and bum knees every salty Staff Sergeant you know complains of.
If for no other reason, someone needs to help the Lieutenant find his way. Jokes aside, upgrading to a multipurpose, high-quality watch improves your overall performance as a soldier. Keep an accurate pace in your running group, self-pace during the PT test or maneuver your platoon with accuracy. Knowing exactly where you are is a part of the job.
Standard issue magazines are made of thin metal and temperamental inner springs. Two or twenty minutes into a firefight and the last thing you want to worry about is your magazine malfunctioning. Polymer magazines offer more durability when slamming your body or weapon unexpectedly down on the ground for cover. The peer through window option is a nice touch, giving the shooter a quick round count.
If you plan on hearing anything when you’re eighty or have ever tried communicating with standard-issue earplugs in, you’ll know why this made the list. Optional noise cancellation with radio capability means you won’t hear the bullets but will hear relayed commands. The alternative would mean switching between earplugs and radio handsets, tying up focus and lessening your reactiveness.
It’s not technically tactical, but considering your body is your paycheck in the military, taking care of your feet is critical. Running is a stressful activity for any body in general when practiced daily for years on end, it takes a toll. Generally speaking, shoe price is directly related to the quality and lifespan of a sneaker. Understanding the width and arch of your feet and seeking the correct support will provide the longevity your paychecks depend on.
If you’re wondering why your grandpa was issued the same style flashlight as you just received from basic, it’s because they haven’t changed. During night missions, rucks, or walking in general, having two hands instead of one is obviously beneficial. The range of headlamps outshines that of standard-issue flashlights, are lighter weight and have multiple one-touch color options. Your next land navigation score will thank you.
Before blowing your taxes on activities frowned upon by command, try investing in gear that will give back to you instead. Look the part with gear that makes the cut.
The United States Navy is about to offer experience SEAL officers up to $25,000 a year on top of their pay and allowances to stay in the Navy for up to five years.
According to an All Navy administrative message released last month, the service is offering this Naval Special Warfare Officer Retention Bonus to any active duty officer with at least 15 years of active-duty commissioned service, and who has screened positive for an XO tour will get as much as $25,000 a year if they sign an agreement to stay in the Navy for five years.
For signing a three-year agreement, officers will get up to $15,000 per year. Active-duty officers who successfully screen for a CO tour will get $25,000 a year for three years. Reserve officers who screen successfully for an XO tour will get $20,000 a year for signing a five-year contract and $10,000 a year for a three-year deal.
The reason for this was outlined by Lt. Cdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, who told WATM, “Top talent is tough to draw in and even tougher to keep. We are seeing some fraying around the edges in terms of SEAL Officer retention, as our control grade officers (O4/O5) in the Navy SEAL community are currently undermanned.”
“This program seeks to retain more Naval Special Warfare Officers with vital military skills that cannot be easily or quickly replaced,” Christensen added. “These officers are highly trained leaders and their unique skill sets are in high demand within military and civilian sectors. We believe this helps reduces this potential loss of that talent and experience.”
Ward Carroll, the President of Military One Click and a former Naval Flight Officer who served as a radar intercept officer on F-14 Tomcats, noted that this is not an unusual approach, saying, “Bonuses like this have been around for years.” Carroll added that similar bonuses were paid out to Naval Aviators and NFOs back in the late 1980s.
Echoing this when asked for comment was Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who now serves as a Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, who noted, “Our special operations people are great patriots and the best of our fighters but they are also human.”
“Those I know suffer from deployment fatigue and especially the baggage like broken families,” Maginnis said. “This comes to a head at the 10 to 12-year point.”
“I’d argue a Special Operations CD-R or XO is perhaps one of the most valuable personnel in the entire armed forces,” he added. “They are skilled, experienced and have the respect of likeminded warriors.”
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness blamed the White House for the shortage, saying that Navy Sec. Ray Mabus focused too much on social change within the service rather than helping sailors who are fighting worldwide every day.
“I would add, however, that the Navy has not improved the situation by relentlessly pursuing social agendas that will make SEAL life more difficult and dangerous,” she said, adding the Navy ignored surveys expressing opposition to women serving in special operations assignments and empirical data that she felt warranted a request for an exemption.
“$25,000 retention bonuses may help to retain SEAL warriors, but breakdowns in vertical cohesion, meaning trust between commanders and the troops they lead, may be even more costly,” Donnelly concluded.
The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.
House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.
The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.
The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.
“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”
Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.
“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”
Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.
“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.
This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.
“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.
“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.
The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.
“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”
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The US Army is testing new warheads on some rockets to move away from of cluster bombs, War is Boring reports.
The Department of Defense defines cluster munitions as “munitions composed of a non reusable canister or delivery body containing multiple, conventional explosive submunitions.”
In other words, they are bombs that disperse smaller bomblets over a wide area.
Groups like the Cluster Munitions Coalition strongly oppose cluster munitions because they kill indiscriminately, are difficult to control, and can leave undetonated bomblets lingering in battlefields long after conflicts pass, which could later kill civilians.
The DoD contests that cluster munitions “are legitimate weapons with clear military utility. They are effective weapons, provide distinct advantages against a range of targets and can result in less collateral damage than unitary weapons.”
But the Army will nonetheless phase out these controversial weapons by the end of 2019.
The Army currently relies on cluster munitions in their 227-millimeter M-30 rockets to neutralize targets and ensure the safety of their troops. But they need a round that won’t leave behind dud bomblets that could harm civilians in already war-torn areas.
The Solution is the GMLRS Alternative Warhead, which was presented at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Precision Strike Annual Review.
The GLMRS explosive trades submunitions for shrapnel. The GLMRS is designed to erupt into a hail of shrapnel that shreds targets with the same destructive force as a cluster munition, but without leaving behind dud bomblets for unwitting civilians to discover underfoot.
War is Boring notes that “these shrapnel warheads fit onto existing rocket motors and work with the GPS guidance kits the Army already uses.” The Army hopes to start producing GLMRS by the end of next year.
The video below shows in striking detail just how these new and improved rounds work:
One of the Allies’ most heroic spies was an amputee turned down by the State Department because of her leg amputation who served with both the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, coordinating resistance attacks and other operations in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Virginia Hall lost her left leg in a hunting accident while serving in the American embassy in Turkey. She ordered a wooden a prosthetic that she named “Cuthbert.” and practiced with it to ensure she could do nearly everything with it that she had done with two legs.
Despite her efforts, the State Department turned Hall down when she requested to take the oral exam needed for her to become a diplomat.
She then returned to France and, when Germany invaded Poland, joined the French Army as an ambulance driver and learned how the Nazis were treating Jewish people in Poland. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she escaped to London and was quickly recruited into the SOE.
The SOE sent her to France as its first female operative in the country. Hall worked from the city of Lyon as a spy posing as a writer for an American newspaper. While in Southern France, she helped establish safe drop zones for the insertion of British agents and supplies for resistance fighters.
The Gestapo began focusing on the region and had orders to hunt “La Dame Qui Boite,” the “Limping Lady.” Hall and her co-conspirators fled in 1942 over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. When she reported to the SOE that “Cuthbert” was giving her trouble in the mountains, headquarters told her, “If Cuthbert is giving you difficulty, have him eliminated.”
What was she supposed to do? Shoot her leg again?
Hall was arrested in Spain because she lacked papers, but a letter smuggled to the American consul there got her released six weeks later. She continued working for the SOE in Madrid but thought she was being coddled in such a safe mission.
She wrote to the headquarters, “I am living pleasantly and wasting time. It isn’t worthwhile and after all, my neck is my own. If I am willing to get a crick in it, I think that’s my prerogative.”
But in early 1944, Hall learned that America had stood up its own spy agency, the Office of Strategic Services. She immediately volunteered for OSS service in occupied France.
The Americans got her a ride into France on a British torpedo boat and she went undercover as an elderly milkmaid. She was probably the only elderly milkmaid in the country who coordinated parachute drops, reported German troop movements, and snuck across the country while transmitting Nazi military secrets via a suitcase radio.
Using supplies inserted into the drop zones she had selected, Hall trained and armed three battalions of French resistance fighters and prepared them for D-Day. When the Allies launched Operation Overlord and came across the channel, her forces launched a series of attacks to disrupt the Germans and help the liberators.
Fighters operating under Hall’s direction derailed trains, sabotaged bridges, destroyed rail and telephone lines, and killed and captured hundreds of Germans.
As the war in Europe wound to a close, Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS approved the award of a Distinguished Service Cross to Hall and suggested to President Harry Truman that he pin it on her personally. Instead, Hall requested that the ceremony be kept private so that she could continue work in the clandestine service.
The administration agreed and Gen. Bill Donovan, head of the OSS, pinned the medal on her in September 1945. She was the first civilian and only American woman to receive the award in World War II.
Hall continued to serve in the OSS and then the Central Intelligence Agency until her mandatory retirement at the age of 60 in 1966.
The M2 heavy machine gun is an iconic weapon. When it entered service over eight decades ago, the gun quickly made its mark – and a deadly reputation.
It still serves today, with some modifications to make it easier to change the barrel.
But sometimes, you need more than the 550 rounds per minute that a Ma Deuce can send downrange. The problem is, you can’t exactly put a meat chopper on a HMMWV. That said there is an option – and a cool one at that.
According to General Dynamics, the solution lies in a three-barreled Gatling gun that fires the .50 BMG cartridge — dubbed the GAU-19/B. Let’s take a look at this major piece of machinery that is just perfect for putting bad guys down for good.
GlobalSecurity.org notes that Ma Deuce plus a tripod comes to 128 pounds, 84 of which are the gun. The GAU-19 comes in at 106 pounds – so your vehicle’s adding 22 pounds. But here is what you get for those extra 22 pounds. Nearly 1,300 rounds per minute of hate, that’s what. We’re talking 236 percent more lead down range than the Ma Deuce.
Furthermore, the GAU-19 can be used on many different platforms. Need extra firepower on your Humvees? The GAU-19’s got that. Got a ship that needs a ballistic boost? This gun works on ships, too. Even aircraft can use the GAU-19 to send hundreds of rounds of death and destruction at the enemy in a matter of seconds.
What kind of rounds? Well, if the Ma Deuce can fire it, so can the GAU-19. We’re talking incendiary, armor-piercing, armor-piercing incendiary, full metal jacket, saboted light armor penetrator, and even tracer rounds.
In short, this gun can do everything Ma Deuce can, just at a higher rate of fire. And that will ruin the day of just about any bad guy.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, is now a year and a half old and has cost $6.2 billion. The Pentagon is asking for another $7.5 billion to continue the fight. The cost of the war against ISIS is relatively cheap (s0 far) when compared to the Iraq War, which came to almost $2 trillion over the eight years it was fought.
The war against ISIS isn’t going to get any cheaper, especially especially in light of the fact that it’s spreading to other countries like Libya and Afghanistan. Combating their forces on the ground will require more air power and more special operations units backed up by all the necessary logistics commands.
As of March 9, 2016, U.S. and coalition aircraft launched a total of 10,870 air strikes, with nearly twice as many in Iraq than in Syria. The strikes have hit a total of 21,501 targets, mostly buildings and ISIS fighting positions.
The average daily cost of the operation is $11.5 million. The most expensive ops belong to the U.S. Air Force, a whopping 69 percent of the total cost.
An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.
Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.
His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.
“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.
Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.
But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.
The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”
Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.
Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.
“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.
The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.
“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”
“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.
“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”
In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.
The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.
In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
Let’s face it, the military has a lot of rules and regulations that they expect everyone to follow to the letter. For the most part, service members abide by the guidelines their commands set for them, though there are some that push the boundaries any chance they get.
Even the most squared away troop has violated a military statute at one time or another because many of them are bull sh*t less important to the mission than others.
Check out our list of regulations that service members violate every day.
1. Hands in pockets
As crazy as it sounds, having your hands stuffed inside your warm pockets on a cold day isn’t allowed; it’s the military way — but we still do it.
A consensual adult relationship between officers and enlisted members totally violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but it’s a lot of fun to brag about after you get out.
Sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse is just a d*ck move. But just because it’s not cool doesn’t mean it never happens.
4. Wearing white socks
Although they’re more comfortable than wearing black socks with combat boots, don’t let the higher ups see you sporting the out-of-reg look.
Most service members prefer the term “hardcore training” — but for those enduring the tough discipline, it’s seen it as a negative thing.
The Army’s new “Vision” for future war calls for a fast-moving emphasis on long-range precision fire to include missiles, hypersonic weapons and extended-range artillery — to counter Russian threats on the European continent, service officials explain.
While discussing the Army Vision, an integral component of the service’s recently competed Modernization Strategy, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper cited long-range precision fire as a “number one modernization priority” for the Army.
Senior Army officials cite concerns that Russian weapons and troop build-ups present a particular threat to the US and NATO in Europe, given Russia’s aggressive force posture and arsenal of accurate short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles.
“The US-NATO military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for example, is in the range fan of Russian assets. That is how far things can shoot. You do not have sanctuary status in that area,” a senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Russian SS-21 Scarab
The senior Army weapons developer said the service intends to engineer an integrated series of assets to address the priorities outlined by Esper; these include the now-in-development Long Range Precision Fires missile, Army hypersonic weapons programs and newly configured long-range artillery able to double the 30-km range of existing 155m rounds. The Army is now exploring a longer-range artillery weapon called “Extended Range Cannon,” using a longer cannon, ramjet propulsion technology and newer metals to pinpoint targets much farther away.
Army leaders have of course been tracking Russian threats in Europe for quite some time. The Russian use of combined arms, drones, precision fires, and electronic warfare in Ukraine has naturally received much attention at the Pentagon.
Also, the Russian violations of the INF Treaty, using medium-range ballistic missiles, continues to inform the US European force posture. Russia’s INF Treaty violation, in fact, was specifically cited in recent months by Defense Secretary James Mattis as part of the rationale informing the current Pentagon push for new low-yield nuclear weapons.
The Arms Control Association’s (ACA) “Worldwide Inventory of Ballistic Missiles” cites several currently operational short, medium and long-range Russian missiles which could factor into the threat equation outlined by US leaders. The Russian arsenal includes shorter range weapons such as the mobile OTR-21 missile launch system, designated by NATO as the SS-21 Scarab C, which is able to hit ranges out to 185km, according to ACA.
Russian medium-range theater ballistic missiles, such as the RS-26 Rubezh, have demonstrated an ability to hit targets at ranges up to 5,800km. Finally, many Russian long-range ICBMs, are cited to be able to destroy targets as far away as 11,000km – these weapons, the ACA specifies, include the RT-2PM2 Topol-M missile, called SS-27 by NATO.
It is not merely the range of these missiles which could, potentially, pose a threat to forward-positioned or stationary US and NATO assets in Europe — it is the advent of newer long-range sensors, guidance and targeting technology enabling a much higher level of precision and an ability to track moving targets. GPS technology, inertial navigation systems, long-range high-resolution sensors, and networked digital radar systems able to operate on a wide range of frequencies continue to quickly change the ability of forces to maneuver, operate and attack.
While discussing the Army Vision, Esper specified the importance of “out-ranging” an enemy during a recent event at the Brookings Institution.
“We think that for a number of reasons we need to make sure we have overmatch and indirect fires, not just for a ground campaign, but also, we need to have the ability to support our sister services,” Esper told Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon, according to a transcript of the event.
The Army’s emerging Long-Range Precision Fires(LRPF), slated to be operational by 2027, draws upon next generation guidance technology and weapons construction to build a weapon able to destroy targets as far as 500km away.
LRPF is part of an effort to engineer a sleek, high-speed, first-of-its-kind long-range ground launched attack missile able to pinpoint and destroy enemy bunkers, helicopter staging areas, troop concentrations, air defenses and other fixed-location targets from as much as three times the range of existing weapons, service officials said.
Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia – a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.
Esper specifically referred to this kind of scenario when discussing “cross-domain” fires at the Brookings event; the Army Vision places a heavy premium on integrated high-end threats, potential attacks which will require a joint or inter-service combat ability, he said. In this respect, long range precision fires could potentially use reach and precision to destroy enemy air defenses, allowing Air Force assets a better attack window.
“This is why long-range precision fires is number one for the Army. So, if I need to, for example, suppress enemy air defenses using long-range artillery, I have the means to do that, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear. What that does, if I can suppress enemy air defenses, either the guns, missiles, radars…ect.. it helps clear the way for the Air Force to do what they do — and do well,” Esper said.
Army Secretary Mark Esper
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
In addition, there may also be some instances where a long-range cruise missile — such as a submarine or ship-fired Tomahawk — may not be available; in this instance, LRPF could fill a potential tactical gap in attack plans.
Raytheon and Lockheed recently won a potential 6 million deal to develop the LRPF weapon through a technological maturation and risk reduction phase, Army and industry officials said.
Service weapons developers tell Warrior a “shoot-off” of several LRPF prototypes is currently planned for 2020 as a key step toward achieving operational status.
Esper also highlighted the potential “cross-domain” significance of how Army-Navy combat integration could be better enabled by long-range fires.
“If we’re at a coast line and we can help using long-range weapons … I’m talking about multi-hundred-mile range rockets, artillery, et cetera, to help suppress enemies and open up the door, if you will, so that the Navy can gain access to a certain theater,” Esper explained.
While Long-Range Precision Fires is specified as the number one priority, the Army Vision spells out a total of six key focus areas: Long-Range Precision Fires; Next-Generation Combat Vehicle; Future Vertical Life; Army Network; Air and Missile Defense; Soldier Lethality.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.