Stryker armored vehicles spotted rolling into Syria - We Are The Mighty
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Stryker armored vehicles spotted rolling into Syria

In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.


Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.

The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.

The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”

Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.

The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.

A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.

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This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”


Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.

After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.

TMR has performed and hosted numerous live shows from Los Angeles to San Diego. (Source: The Marine Rapper)

Related: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Since then, TMR’s music has been featured on the Range 15 Movie Soundtrack, the Oscar Mike TV series on Go90 network, and Apple Music.

“Star-Spangled Banger has many meanings,” TMR tells WATM. “It is a new Star-Spangled Banner, it is my moniker and a way of saying veterans made a banger.”

TMR’s music recounts personal war stories over hip-hop and rock inspired beats. He strives to motivate others and to use his rhythmic talents to immortalize his fallen brothers and sisters through music.

Check out The Marine Rapper‘s music video to watch “Star-Spangled Bangar” for yourself.

(YouTube, The Marine Rapper)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Viper attack helicopters pack a huge Hellfire punch

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 received three upgraded AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2017.


The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.

“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”

An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). This upgraded version of the Cobra is not yet available to the fleet. The helicopter features a larger engine and has two more blades than the Cobra’s original two, giving it more power and maneuverability. Wasp is conducting test flight operations and was chosen as the platform to evaluate the Limits and capabilities of newer models of Aircraft. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

More Firepower

The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.

“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”

Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Also Read: This is why the H-1 Huey has a special place in US military history

“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”

The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.

“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”

Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/USMC

Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.

“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”

Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.

“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s powerful new weapons could be sending a message

China ran report after report on Chinese military developments, leading some observers to suspect that the country is trying to send a message to its rivals and citizens at a time of heightened tensions with the US.

China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment said in mid-January 2019. The Chinese media seems determined to let the world, especially the US, know it’s developing powerful new weapons.

The Chinese military is reportedly working on everything from railguns and knife guns to “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles. Here are seven of the weapons China’s been showing off.


A record firing of an electromagnetic railgun, or EMRG, at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia.

(US Navy photo)

1. Electromagnetic railgun

Photos of an old tank-landing ship carrying a railgun prototype surfaced online in 2018, and Chinese state media said January 2019 that Chinese warships will “soon” be equipped with naval railguns capable of hitting targets at great distances.

“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made,” China’s Global Times reported, citing state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). Chinese media said “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”

While it appears that China is making progress, railguns are militarily useless compared with existing alternatives, experts have told Business Insider.

“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, said.

China has suggested that the technology could be used to develop electromagnetic catapults for China’s future aircraft carriers.

China’s “Mother of All Bombs.”

(Youtube screenshot)

2. China’s version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs’

China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, a major Chinese defense-industry corporation, has, according to Chinese media, developed a massive conventional weapon for China’s bombers known as the “Chinese version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs.'”

The weapon is China’s largest nonnuclear bomb, the Global Times said, citing the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Although China is using the same nickname for its bomb, the Chinese weapon is smaller and lighter than its American counterpart, a 21,600-pound bomb that the US dropped on Islamic State targets in Afghanistan in 2017.

The weapon would likely be carried by the Chinese Xi’an H-6K bombers. The American version is so large that it has to be carried by a C-130.

DF-26 ballistic missile.

(Youtube screenshot)

3. ‘Carrier-killer’ missiles

The DF-26 ballistic missile is not a new weapon, but China recently released, for the first time, video footage of a recent exercise involving the weapon, which is reportedly able to carry conventional and nuclear warheads for strikes against land and sea targets.

The DF-26 is commonly referred to as a “carrier killer.” The video revealed certain features suggesting the missile is a capable anti-ship weapon with the ability to take out a US aircraft carrier. These missiles are also known as “Guam-killer” missiles because they are believed to be capable of ranging US military installations in the Pacific.

Analysts said China released the video of its DF-26 ballistic missiles to send a message to the US.

The exercise sent “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, told the South China Morning Post.

Chinese soldier with a “corner-shot pistol.”

(CCTV/Youtube Screenshot)

4. Super-soldiers armed with guns that shoot around corners

Chinese state media said January 2019 that the Chinese military is arming its special forces with “sci-fi” weapons — “futuristic individual combat weapons like grenade-launching assault rifles, corner shot pistols and knife guns.”

Citing a Beijing military expert, the Global Times said China was developing “super” soldiers who will be able to take on 10 enemy combatants at one time.

CCTV said these weapons highlight the People’s Liberation Army’s modernization, according to Chinese state media. The Chinese military is undergoing a massive overhaul with the goal of creating a world-class fighting force.

Stealth drone “Sky Hawk.”

(CCTV Screenshot)

5. Stealth drones

CCTV aired a video showcasing China’s stealth drone “Sky Hawk” taking flight for the first time in January 2019.

The drone, which made an appearance at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018, was shown taking off and landing at an undisclosed location, the Global Times reported. Experts suggested that the unmanned aircraft could be launched from China’s future aircraft carriers.

Another Chinese stealth drone in the works, according to Chinese media, includes the CH-7, which was also on display at the event in Zhuhai.

Chinese military experts said the US maintains an edge in this area, having developed the X-47B carrier-based drone, but both China and Russia are both rushing to develop stealth drones for future missions.

J-20 stealth fighter.

6. Upgraded stealth fighter

China is considering the development of a twin-seat variant of the J-20 stealth fighter, which would be a first for fifth-generation aircraft, the Global Times reported January 2019, citing CCTV.

Chinese media said the aircraft would be capable of tactical bombing missions or electronic warfare, not just air superiority.

Having aircraft variations “that other countries do not possess will greatly expand the Chinese military’s capability in an asymmetric warfare,” the Global Times said, citing Chinese analysts.

China has also, according to Chinese media, been looking at the possibility of creating a twin-seat variant of the carrier-based J-15s to expand the combat capability of the fighters, which are considered problematic and are expected to eventually be replaced.

In a related report, China’s Global Times said the advanced J-16 strike fighters now possess “near stealth capability” thanks to a new paint job. Detection may be more of a challenge, but it is unlikely the aircraft could be considered stealthy.

A DF-5B missile is displayed in a military parade.

7. Underground bunkers and intercontinental-ballistic-missile strikes

Chinese troops have reportedly been conducting simulated intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) strike exercises from underground bunkers, the Global Times reported January 2019, citing CCTV.

The nuclear-attack exercises, which are aimed at simulated enemies, are designed to improve China’s counterattack (second-strike) capability in the event a war breaks out, Chinese media explained. The strategic bunkers where the drills were staged are referred to as China’s “underground Great Wall” by Qian Qihu, the man who designed them.

The drill was “about signaling China’s modernizing nuclear deterrence. It is about telling the Americans and others that China has a credible second-strike capability and that it is determined to use it if it comes under nuclear attack,” Ni told the South China Morning Post, adding that he believes it is “in part a message from Beijing to the US about the ultimate perils of escalation.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Diver who rescued Thai soccer team needed rescuing himself in Tennessee

Rescuer turned rescuee this week as a British diver involved in saving the trapped Thai soccer team last year needed the help of emergency services himself when he got trapped in a cave in Tennessee, The Guardian reported.

Josh Bratchley was rescued on April 17, 2019, after spending more than a day underground. Bratchley was part of the British cave diving team that helped in the high profile rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave last summer.

He had explored a cave in Jackson County, Tennessee on April 16, 2019, but failed to return to surface with the rest of his group at around 3.00 p.m. His fellow divers alerted 911 at 1.00 a.m. the next morning.


The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency said that specialized divers from Arkansas and Florida had to be flown in to help with the “highly technical issue,” CNN reported.

This NBC News video shows the moment the expert diver was brought to safety that same evening.

Diver Rescued After Being Trapped For 27 Hours In Tennessee Cave | NBC Nightly News

www.youtube.com

The expert diver was awake, alert, and oriented, EMA spokesman Derek Woolbright said a press conference.

“His only request when he got to the surface was that he wanted some pizza,” Woolbright said, according to The Guardian.

Edd Sorenson, a veteran technical cave diver, told journalists that he found Bratchley waiting in the mud with his gear off, NBC reported. The British diver’s expertise likely saved his life, Sorenson said.

“Most of the time on rescues, when I get there, they’re hysterical, they’re panicked, and that makes it very dangerous for me,” he said. “[Bratchley’s] mental state was impeccable. He’s a consummate professional.”

Sorenson said he was expecting the worst because there was limited visibility in the small cave system.

“Putting people in body bags all the time is no fun, and when you get to send one home, it’s an exceptional feeling,” he said.

Lieutenant Brian Krebs, from Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services, also praised Bratchley’s composure, saying: “Most of what happened today here was Josh. His mental state when he came out was excellent.”

The former meteorologist was honored by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, according to The Guardian.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thiisInsider on Twitter.

Articles

These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

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  Nepal, a tiny Himalayan country country bordering India and Chinese Tibet, was one of many countries invaded by the British Empire. But the British were never able to colonize tiny Nepal. The reason the largest Empire in history couldn’t completely subdue a small mountain country? Gurkhas.

Gurkhas have long been known as the world’s fiercest and most skilled warriors, earning the respect (and often fear) of friend and foe alike. Even the British, who decided that trying to fight more Gurkhas wasn’t worth the effort, wanted the Gurkhas on their team, and Nepalese warriors have been fighting for the crown ever since.

1. Afghan Ambush

The Gurkhas have been fighting with the United Kingdom for 200 years. Today’s war in Afghanistan is no exception.

In 2008, a team of Gurkha warriors were crossing an open area when they were ambushed by Taliban fighters. One of their own Yubraj Rai, was shot and wounded. Like many armies, the Gurkhas don’t leave men behind.

In the face of overwhelming enemy fire, Captain Gajendera Angdembe, Rifleman Dhan Gurung, and Manju Gurung carried their buddy across 325 feet of open ground. One of them even used a dual wield with his rifle to return enough fire for the group to get out of there.

Rifleman Dhan Gurung returned fire using two rifles at the same time.

2. WWII Burma

In 1944, Agansing Rai, a Gurkha fighting the Japanese in Burma, came across a ridge as his platoon moved through the countryside.  The ridge was designed to be protected from any combination of armor and infantry. Leading up to the ridge was an open field and on the ridge were dug-in Japanese defenders, hiding in dense Jungle.

Agansing Rai was award the Victoria Cross for his actions and leadership that day.

Rai led his platoon against the heavy machine guns and a number of 37mm anti-tank emplacements, knocking them all out while taking some serious casualties. A ridge designed to stop tanks and infantry couldn’t stop a small Gurkha force.

3. A Commander Joins His Gurkhas

Colonel Peter Jones was fighting in Tunisia with his Gurkha battalion in 1943. As his frenzied men charged the Nazi German-manned machine guns at Enfidaville, Jones started taking out the positions with a Bren gun.

The Gurkhas charged the Nazis with their Kukri knives and fought them in hand-to-hand combat. They killed 44 Nazis, breaking the German lines and causing them to flee before advancing further.

Yeah, I’d flee too.

4.The Cold War Turns Hot in Borneo

Indonesia, supported by Communist China and the Soviet Union, was opposed to the creation of Malaysia by the Western powers, especially the United Kingdom. So Gurkhas patrolling the island jungles were ready for anything the Communists were willing to throw at them — especially the Gurkhas.

Gurkha troops patrolling the dense Borneo jungles circa 1965.

Captain Rambahadur Limbu was in enemy territory when he and his unit met an enemy advance. He repelled them using only grenades, then went back into friendly territory to alert his superiors about the advance.

With one of his friends dead and the other wounded, Limbu went into the enemy-controlled area of the battlefield, back and forth across 100 yards of no man’s land — twice — to pull out the wounded and retrieve his dead friend.

Learn more about these ferocious fighters in the video at the top.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Army rebuilds Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Florence

South Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and each one takes its toll on shorelines and beach communities located across the Atlantic coastal region.

After each significant storm, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel assess erosion impacts, work hand-in-hand with state and local partners to determine mitigation measures for erosion damage to shoreline projects and take authorized measures to rehabilitate effected areas.


According to USACE Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, these efforts are extremely beneficial to both local communities and nationwide efforts to protect the environment and foster economic growth.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

“Our scientists venture out and measure where shoreline erosion has occurred,” said Spellmon. “At Myrtle Beach, it appears the impacts of Hurricane Florence were enough that we’re adding additional quantities of sand to an existing contract underway to address damages from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon (left), discusses beach renourishment operations with Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Work was paused because dredging craft were moved to safe harbor during the storm, but has since resumed.

“We’re deploying high-tech equipment to quantify the losses and then utilizing dredging vessels and ship-to-shore pipelines to rehabilitate the federal project, thus ensuring beaches and dunes are ready to provide their full benefits whenever the next storm may impact the area,” added Spellmon.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C. (lower left), following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Great Lakes Dredge Dock LLC, contracted to complete this project, utilizes hopper dredges to vacuum sand from the sea floor through drag arms from a location approximately three miles from the impacted shoreline.

Chris Promfret, a USACE contractor with the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock LLC, says the sand being pumped to the beach comes from an underwater area about 30 feet below the Atlantic ocean’s surface.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, points out beach renourishment operations to local government officials, USACE personnel and contractors along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 22, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

The renourished shoreline beaches and dunes serve to reduce the impacts of future hurricanes and other coastal storms to communities and infrastructure. With that in mind, USACE partners with state and municipal officials on shoreline restoration initiatives.

A hopper dredge vessel uses a ship-to-shore pipeline to transfer sand from the ocean flood to the shoreline as part of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment operations underway along Myrtle Beach, S.C., following Hurricane Florence, Sept. 27, 2018.

(Photo by Edward Johnson)

Chief of Programs and Civil Project Management for USACE, Charleston District, Brian Williams, says this project covers more than 25 miles of beach shoreline.

“Under normal conditions, we cost-share 65 percent of this work at the federal level,” said Williams. “But in emergency situations like the one following Hurricane Florence, we fully fund all rehabilitation operations, subject to Congressional appropriations, in support of our state and municipal partners.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane story of a Russian aircrew’s daring escape from a Taliban prison

In August, 1995, a series of events occurred that would just seem implausible today. A Taliban MiG fighter intercepted a Russian Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD, forcing it to land at Kandahar International Airport in the middle of a nationwide Civil War. The crew and its passengers were taken prisoner by the Taliban. They were held for a year while the Russian government tried to negotiate their release with the help of a U.S. senator

The 1990s were a crazy time. Even with our post-9/11 goggles off, it seems inconceivable that any number of the above could happen – just try to imagine these crazy things:

  • A Taliban MiG fighter
  • Forcing a Russian plane to land
  • Russian government negotiating
  • A U.S. Senator helping Russia

It’s all true, of course. In 1994, the Taliban exploded out of Kandahar and, by the time of this incident, controlled much of the country south of Kabul. When the Airstan plane was flying over, the Taliban were still deadlocked against the Afghan government of the time, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It must have been an awkward ask for Rabbani, who spent years fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, only to ask them for weapons in trying to keep it away from other Afghans.

TFW you lose Afghanistan and have to ask for help from the people you took it from.

Even Jiffy Lube makes you keep the keys on the dashboard, guys.

The Airstan Ilyushin Il-76TD was carrying a load of 30 tons of weapons from Albania bound for the legitimate Afghan government when it was intercepted by a Taliban MiG-21. It was an old fighter, even in the 1990s, but was still enough to bring down the Ilyushin II.

Upon landing, the crew of seven was taken into custody by the Taliban — but the story doesn’t end there. As negotiations between the Russians and the terrorist group began to stall, American Senator Hank Brown stepped in to facilitate the talks, not only buying the Russians time, but also the crew. It didn’t hurt that the Taliban wanted some of their people freed in exchange for their prisoners.

For over a year, the Russian aircrew prepared for their daring escape. Brown managed to get the Taliban to agree to let the Russian Airstan crew maintain their captured aircraft to ensure it was in working order when the time to take off finally came. Brown visited the crew and let them know they would be maintaining it.

But not only did the crew perform its routine maintenance, they also slowly but surely prepared it for their flight home. They finally got their big chance one day, just over a year after being captured. When half of the Taliban who regularly guarded them left the group to attend evening prayers, the crew tricked the others into leaving their weapons outside the plane.

They overpowered the remaining three guards and started the engines.

By the time the Taliban noticed the plane was getting ready for take off, it was already taxiing down the runway. They tried to block their takeoff using a fire truck, but to no avail, the Russians were airborne well ahead of the truck’s position on the runway. The Taliban missed catching the escaping Russians by a mere three to five seconds.

The crew had done the impossible and the Taliban were not able to scramble intercepting aircraft in time to catch them.


They left Taliban airspace as fast as possible and set course for the UAE. By the time they landed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was waiting by the phone to congratulate them. They made it home to Russia shortly after. The crew is said to celebrate their escape from the terrible event like a second birthday. The Taliban are brutal to prisoners, and the crew of the Airstan Ilyushin Il considered the entire country a prisoner of the terror group.

“My heart really goes out to these people. I’ve seen what a poverty-stricken and miserable standard of living they have. They’re still fighting because they’ve nothing left to lose,” a member of the crew told the BBC.

Their daring escape was the subject of a Russian film, Kandagar, in 2010.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

Articles

The 13 Funniest Military Memes This Week

It’s Saturday, but most of you enlisted fellows blew your paycheck last weekend and are now looking forward to sitting around the barracks this week. To alleviate your boredom, here are 13 military memes that made us laugh.


See, we know about you, privates.

You just have to learn to budget. When you get your paycheck, put away 25% of it for beer for NEXT weekend.

Yay, submarines! A phallic object filled with phallic objects!

Topless submariners have the added bonus of paler skin.

Also See: 27 Incredible Photos of Life On A US Navy Submarine

Look at all that gear. He must be one of Jabba’s elite guards.

No way this guy does nothing all day. Chub like that takes hours and hours of eating every day.

 Security Forces are essentially the Air Force’s infantry …

… an airman once told me with a shockingly straight face.

Conservation of resources is important to Marines.

Mattis doesn’t run out of ammo. He runs out of enemies.

Poor helicopter must have overheated.

Maybe loosen its boots and drag it into the shade for a minute.

Complain all you want; you know the reason.

Because Gunny said so.

 What!? People are stealing valor?

It would be funnier if the photos weren’t pretty close to accurate.

And the Air Force would complain about the pool while the Army would discuss how sweet that new screen door is.

Maybe Army Strong wasn’t a brag but an excuse.

Listen, Wonka, with your shenanigans you wouldn’t have survived in either service. You’d have been a seamen.

Don’t! It’s a trick!

Seriously, the guard and reserve components are like the light at the end of the angler fish in that movie.

It doesn’t stop Air Force, it just delays it.

And the next strike delays it for a few more minutes, then a few more, then a few more. But it’s not stopped; it’s never stopped.

Even foreign allies know what a POG isn’t (Infantry, it isn’t infantry)

POGs do what the infantry does; they just only do it in training and always do it badly.

NOW: More Military Memes

OR: 32 Terms Only Airmen Will Understand 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These body armor breakthroughs will change combat

Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.


Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)

Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.

And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.

So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.

Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.

The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”

That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.

This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.

The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.

One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.

One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

In “Shock Mitigating and Reinforcing Molecular Nanocomposites,” another team is looking at how shockwaves travel through materials, especially nanocomposites, so that blast and ballistic hits to armor won’t kill the soldier wearing it.

The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.

If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.

3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)

If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.

But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.

But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.

Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA postpones 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration events

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the COVID 19 virus, is postponing Vietnam War commemoration events until further notice.


As a commemorative partner to the Department of Defense led 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration program, hundreds of events were planned for late March and early April to coincide with the National Vietnam War Veterans Day observance on March 29.

VA’s event coordinators will retain all commemorative lapel pins and other materials shipped from the Department of Defense to support events in the future. Please visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for more information about the program.

For Veterans with a Facebook account, they can download a frame at www.facebook.com/profilepicframes/?selected_overlay_id=908037382943967 to place a picture and show their pride for serving. The frame ­­­­shows the Vietnam War Veteran day pin and the text “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

For the latest VA updates on coronavirus and common-sense tips on preventing the spread of disease, visit https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/.

For more information about coronavirus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 fighter is way too expensive, and the Pentagon is pissed

The Pentagon is taking a firmer grip of the F-35 budget-cutting controls in an attempt to trim down costs in the billion-dollar joint strike fighter program.


The Pentagon has determined that Lockheed Martin’s internal cost-cutting program — the Blueprint for Affordability — doesn’t go deep enough into the supply chain to smaller companies involved in building the F-35 Lightning II. The new effort to trim costs was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Oct. 9.

As a result, over the summer, the Pentagon’s F-35 program office decided not to agree to a contract extension with Lockheed and then last month simply awarded the company a $60 million contract to pursue additional efficiency measures that also gave the government more oversight, the newspaper reported.

Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office

Using a contract instead of an agreement among the companies “provides the government with greater insights into the cost-saving efforts,” according to a statement from the Pentagon’s F-35 program office.

Often called the most expensive weapons program in US history, the F-35 is being assembled at the company’s sprawling Fort Worth plant. The Pentagon’s actions come after the defense industry giant hired hundreds of workers at big job fairs in Fort Worth this summer to prepare to increased production of the aircraft. Lockheed has said it plans to add 1,800 workers.

Earlier this year, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson told then-President-elect Trump that she was personally committed to drive down the cost of the F-35 program after Trump said it was “out of control.” He pledged to trim billions of dollars on military contracts once he was in office.

Lockheed doesn’t believe the Pentagon’s actions will impact its efforts to cut costs.

CG-1, the ground test article for the Lockheed Martin F-35 carrier variant, is positioned for its final drop test at Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas, Tx. Photo courtesy of Vought Aircraft Industries

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager, told the Wall Street Journal.

Lockheed and its industry partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems announced their plan in 2014 to trim costs by agreeing to invest $170 million over two years on new materials and processes, with Lockheed spending the most.

The Fort Worth plant employs about 14,000 workers, with roughly 8,800 working on the F-35. Hiring of additional workers will stretch out through 2020, company officials said. Last year, Lockheed built about 50 F-35s and plans call for production to increase to about 160 a year by 2019.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.