Chalk up yet another win for Yankee rifle designs.
It turns out the culturally protective French military is set to ditch its iconic FAMAS rifle for a German-made M4 variant that’s a favorite among U.S. special operations forces and is based on the popular Stoner design American troops have used since the Vietnam War.
It’s easy to ID French troops using their unique, French-made FAMAS rifle. With its distinctive carry handguard, top-mounted charging handle, integral bipod, and bullpup action the FAMAS has become as Gallic as the Citroen automobile. But that’s about to change as its military is set to outfit troops with the Heckler Koch 416.
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and French Army soldiers with 92nd Infantry Regiment practice close quarters battles during a French Armed Forces Nautical Commando Course at Quartier Gribeauval, New Caledonia, August 15, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)
The FAMAS came in two versions: The original version, the FAMAS F1, fired the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Its proprietary 25-round magazine was mounted to the rear of the bolt, which allowed the rifle to be more compact but still have the ballistic advantage of a rifle-length barrel.
The FAMAS weighs just under 8 pounds, and had options for safe, single-shots, three-round burst, or full-auto (“Rock and roll”). It also came with an integral bipod. In the 1990s, the FAMAS was upgraded to the G2 standard. The biggest improvement was replacing the proprietary 25-round magazine with a NATO standard 30-round one. This made the French rifle interoperable with other NATO allies. The G2 was about eight ounces heavier than the F1.
The FAMAS had some export success, notably to the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti, but it also has seen service with the Tunisian Presidential Guard, Indonesian special operations forces, and the Philippine National Police. Over 700,000 FAMAS rifles were built.
But few militaries use the so-called “bullpup” design, most notably the U.K. and Australia with their L85 and Styer AUG rifles and the Israeli Defence Force with its Tavor.
The rifle replacing the FAMAS in French service will be the HK 416. This firearm is best known for being what members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), formerly known as SEAL Team Six, carried on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The Army’s Delta Force (now known as the Combat Applications Group, or CAG) also is said to prefer this rifle for most of its operations.
The HK-416 is a conventional M4-style rifle design, featuring an adjustable stock with a standard rifle action in front of the grip and trigger. The rifle fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, has a 30-shot mag, and weighs about 7 pounds. The advantage of the HK 416 as compared to the M4, for example, is that it uses a piston operating system, making it less susceptible to fouling and cooler running.
The HK-416 has been more widely exported. American units aside from DEVGRU and CAG that use versions of this rifle include the U.S. Border Patrol and the Marine Corps, which replaced some M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles.
The German rifle is also used by French Air Force commandos, the Norwegian military, and many special operations units across the globe, including Germany’s GSG9 and KSK, the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish Defense Forces, and the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei of the Italian Navy.
A Navy warship is getting a laser five times stronger than the one the service has tested in the past, and officials say it could lead the way for more vessels to head to sea with similar weapons.
The amphibious transport dock ship Portland is being outfitted with a 150-kilowatt laser system. That’s a big power leap from the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that the service field-tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce about five years ago.
“Big things” are expected from the Portland’s new laser, Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said here at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.
“They’re just putting it on the ship now,” he said. “… And this may be the beginning of seeing a lot more lasers coming onto different ships.”
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.
The laser will give the Portland the firepower to take out drones and small boats, Rivers said. It’s also equipped with a camera that brings new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he added.
When the LaWS was tested in 2012, a Navy video showed how it could target small aircraft or boats without using bullets.
A video of a demonstration of the 30-kilowatt system being tested on the guided-missile destroyer Dewey showed the laser closing in on an unmanned aircraft off the coast of San Diego. That drone quickly caught fire and slammed into the ocean.
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Sailors and Marines could find themselves needing to fight their way to shore in the Pacific and other theaters. Crews aboard amphibious ships that carry Marines could also need to fight as they sustain forces on the ground and as they head back out to sea, said Frank DiGiovanni, deputy director of expeditionary warfare.
That’s what has some Navy officials talking about arming amphibious ships with offensive capabilities, Rivers said. Typically, the focus has been on defensive capabilities and survivability.
But looking at ways to arm them in the future “is not off the table,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A training camp used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, was destroyed by a pair of stealth bombers today.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, two B-2A Spirit bombers attacked the training camp about 30 miles from Sirte. At least 85 members of the terrorist group are believed to have been killed in the mission, which involved the bombers dropping a total of 108 500-pound bombs. Unmanned aerial vehicles also took part in the attack, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to kill surviving terrorists.
FoxNews.com noted that the bombers were refueled five times as they flew to and from Whiteman Air Force Base.
“This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement released after the attack. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”
The use of B-2 bombers might come as a surprise as F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base had been used in the past. The Navy had the guided missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the region as well. Last year, Marine Cobras from a Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in operations against ISIS in the country.
FoxNews.com reported that this was the first action the B-2s had seen since 2011. One possible reason was the presence of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier reportedly hosted a Libyan warlord who the Russians are backing to run the war-torn country. The carrier and its escorts, including a Kirov-class battlecruiser, have substantial air-defense assets, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29K fighters, and SA-N-6 surface-to-air missiles.
Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.
But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:
1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly
2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire
3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire
4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation
5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations
A 120mm mortar shell airbursts. Mortars can be set to detonate a certain distance from the ground, after a certain time of flight, upon hitting the surface, or a certain amount of time after hitting the surface. It all depends on what fuzes are equipped and how they are set. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Gustavo Olgiati)
6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat
7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)
8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point
The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.
“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”
Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”
When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.
“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”
The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.
Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.
And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.
Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.
The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.
Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.
But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.
“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”
The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Three F-86 Sabres and an F-22 Raptor fly in formation during the 2016 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., March 6, 2016. Established in 1997, the course certifies civilian pilots of historic military aircraft and Air Force pilots to fly in formation together during the upcoming air show season.
Airmen from the 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II for a simulated combat sortie in support of exercise Beverly Midnight 16-01 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, March 9, 2016. A-10s are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles and when using night vision goggles, A-10 pilots can conduct their missions in darkness.
A paratrooper, assigned to 982nd Combat Camera Company (Airborne), conducts airborne operations during Operation Glück ab! at Fort Gordon, Ga., March 4, 2016.
A soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, navigates his Stryker Combat Vehicle during a range at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 3, 2016.
WATERS TO THE SOUTH OF JAPAN (March 8, 2016) – The guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) receives fuel from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a refueling-at-sea. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
Combat Cargo Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 13 hook a pallet to be transported by an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 23, during a vertical replenishment aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD4). More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) team are currently transiting the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations during a scheduled deployment.
Norwegian soldiers, U.S. Marines, Dutch and U.K. Royal Commandos conduct helicopter insertion during Exercise Cold Response 16, March 3, 2016, around the city of Namsos, Norway. The exercise is a Norwegian invitational comprised of 13 NATO partners and allies working together to strengthen partnerships and crisis response capabilities.
Marines with 2nd Marine Division set up a defense position during Exercise Cold Response 16 at Spravo, Norway, March 6. The climate and environment of Norway challenges the integration of air, land and sea capabilities from 13 NATO allies and partners while improving their collective capacity to respond and operate as a team.
Conducting hoist training with US Coast Guard Academy cadets.
US Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City was first opened in 1998.
Army Apaches are using a new technology in Afghanistan which enables the attack helicopter crews to view real-time video feeds from nearby drones, control the drones’ flight path and therefore more effectively destroy enemy targets, service officials told Scout Warrior.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming, or MUM-T, gives AH-64E Apache attack helicopters an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of Army Shadow and Gray Eagle drones. Army officials say the combination of the Apache’s lethal weapons and the drones’ sensors enable helicopter crews to find and go after dynamic or fast-moving targets from further ranges.
For instance, looking at real-time Electro-Optical/Infra-red images from drone cameras in the Apache cockpit gives crews an increased ability to, for instance, more effectively destroy groups of enemy fighters on the move in pick-up trucks or attack insurgents hiding near a known U.S. Army convoy route planning to launch an ambush.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming was recently used with great success in Afghanistan by the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Army officials said.
“Now before the unit even deploys out of the Forward Arming Refueling Point, or FARP, they can actually bring up the UAS (drone) feed, look through the sensors and see the target they are going to attack up to 50 or 60 miles away,” Apache Program Manager Col. Jeff Hager told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Hager also explained that maintaining drone sensors on targets which can move and change gives the Apache crew an opportunity to make adjustments while en-route to a target location.
“They have full situational awareness on that target as they fly inbound and do not lose any data on that target on the way,” Hager added. “They don’t go into a situation where they are surprised.”
Apache pilots in Afghanistan are now flying upgraded AH-64E-model helicopters which give the platform increased speed and performance. In development for many years and now part of the operational force, the AH-64E models use a stronger 701D helicopter engine, composite rotor blades and next-generation communications technology and avionics.
“The additional power and capability that the aircraft brings actually changes the face of the battlefield. Now they can close, maintain and assume contact activities with the enemy at a much faster rate. The enemy could time the amount of time it was going to take the Delta (“D” model Apache) models to get to them. We completely threw that out the window and they (the “E” model Apache crews) can get there much faster,” Hager explained.
The ‘E” model is able to transport a larger amount of ammunitions and fuel in what is described as “high-hot” conditions at altitudes of 6,000 feet and temperatures of 95-degrees or above. The innovations built into the “E” model give the helicopter all of the technological advantages of its predecessor “D” model – yet at a lighter weight making it more maneuverable and effective.
The AH-64E Apache is also 20 knots faster than the previous model and can reach speeds of 164 knots.
The current “D” model Longbow Apache is heavier than the original “A” model helicopter; it carries the Longbow radar and significantly improved targeting and sensing technologies, however it lacks the transmission-to-power ratio and hard-landing ability of the initial “A” model. The AH-64E is engineered such that an advanced, high-tech aircraft the weight of the previous “D” model can have the power, performance and landing abilities of an original “A” model with a much lighter weight.
“One of the biggest values of the aircraft (“E” model) itself is the increased performance that we put back into the airframes, specifically from the composite rotor blades. We increased the power of the engines and improved the transmission. That gives the aircraft and Alpha (“A”-model”)-like performance that we have not seen in years,” Hager explained. “The aircraft is faster and more lethal.”
In total, the Army plans to acquire 690 AH-64Es by 2025. The helicopters can carry 16 Hellfire missiles, 70 2.75mm rockets and 1,200 30mm chain gun rounds, service officials said.
“We are getting super feedback from what they were doing over in combat. MUM-T has really changed the state of the battlefield,” Hager added.
The AH-64E is highly mobile, lethal and can destroy armor, personnel and material targets in an obscured battlefield conditions at ranges out to 8-kilometers, an Army statement said.
The “E” model also keep the millimeter wave fire control, radar frequency interferometer and targeting sensors engineered into previous Apache version, the statement continued.
The AH-64E, which is manufactured by Boeing, was also praised by Boeing officials who report hearing favorable feedback from Army pilots who flew the helicopter in combat.
“Its performance in ‘high-hot’ conditions made it able to go from point to point to the target where it was going, as opposed to having to go longer and down into a valley or up into a higher peak” said Kim Smith, Vice President of Attack Helicopters, Boeing.
Smith also said that Apache crews say the composite rotor blades make for a smoother flight.
Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.
South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.
Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.
The United States has some of the most powerful, most advanced weapons in the world. That also means the United States has some of the most expensive, most difficult to maintain weapons in the world. And some of those weapons systems are old. Very, very old.
But the oldest ones aren’t necessarily at the top of the list of weapons systems the Department of Defense might cut altogether. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and policy groups want the Pentagon to cut $80 billion from the defense budget and they sent a letter to Congress outlining a list of potential cuts that could be made.
“Well researched analysis from experts across the ideological spectrum show that the Pentagon can dramatically reduce its spending, meet today’s national security challenges, and continue supporting our troops and their families,” the groups wrote in a March 2021 letter to leaders of military oversight committees.
Democrats may run Congress, but Republicans may still cross the party line when it comes to cutting government spending, so the list could get traction in the coming days. Here’s what was at the top of the list.
1. The F-35 Lightning II
The F-35 entered service in 2015, but its development was a long time coming. At an acquisition cost of $406 billion, a projected lifetime price tag of $1.7 trillion, and a flight time cost of $36,000 per hour, the F-35 Lightning II is the most expensive weapon system ever designed for the U.S. military. As advanced as it is, it’s also very buggy and maintenance heavy.
But does the usefulness and effectiveness of the F-35 outweigh the cost of the program? The United States already plans for getting more than 2,000 of them. But it’s the first weapon on the list sent to Congress by the budget hawks. They project the budget could save $11.4 billion if they “stop throwing money down that particular rat hole.”
2. The B-1 Bomber
The supersonic B-1 Lancer was supposed to be the ultimate nuclear deterrent and nuclear warhead dealer. But almost as soon as the plane went into service, an arms control agreement with Russia made it illegal for the B-1 to carry a nuclear payload. It’s also a 46-year old weapon, first entering service in 1986. So what is the point?
The letter to Congress also notes that the Lancer’s current mission could be fulfilled by other aircraft at a savings of $1.7 billion dollars. The Air Force tried to get rid of the A-10 because its mission was suddenly obsolete, so why not the B-1?
3. The Space Force
Libertarian Think Tank the Cato Institute suggests that continuing to pursue the creation of the Space Force might do more harm than good. Its analysis says it “lacks a strong institutional basis, an identifiable organizational culture, and an established foundation of strategic theory. In the short run, it runs the risk of disrupting existing procedures and relationships that enable the U.S. military to function. In the long term, it runs the risk of distorting the procurement and force structure of U.S. space capabilities.”
4. The Nuclear Triad
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the nuclear triad – what the Pentagon calls “the Backbone of America’s National Security” – could be reduced to just eight submarines, 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 1,000 nuclear warhead would save the United States more than $4.3 billion through 2025.
Currently the triad consists of more than 400 ICBMs, 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarines carrying 20 ballistic missiles each, and more than 3,800 active nuclear warheads.
5. The B-21 Raider
Since the United States already has a fleet of long-range, nuclear-capable bombers that are allegedly working just fine, delaying production of the Air Force’s newest bomber fleet until the 2030s could save the military $18.2 billion through fiscal year 2025.
Note that the airframe wouldn’t be cancelled, just deferred for a decade as the B-2 Spirit Bomber and the aging B-52 Stratofortress continue to outlive their expected life cycles.
When you think about the best attack helicopters out there, the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Westland Lynx, the Mil Mi-24 Hind, and the Kamov Ka-50/52 Hokum all come to mind. But one of the world’s best attack helicopters comes from a surprising place: Italy.
Yep, that’s right, the land of pasta, romance, and Roman legions is also the birthplace of one of the world’s best tank-killing helicopters. That helicopter is the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Italian for ‘mongoose’). The project was ambitious, but would never reach its full potential thanks to the end of the Cold War.
This was a very capable attack helicopter. It had a top speed of 174 miles per hour, a maximum range of 317 miles, and a crew of two. The firepower it could bring was impressive: A M197 20mm Gatling gun (that gave it a bite just like the AH-1 Cobra’s), eight BGM-71 TOW or AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, not to mention rocket pods and gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns. Yeah, this chopper would definitely ruin some armored column’s day.
Italy planned to build 100 of these helicopters. It first flew in 1983, but the research and development process took a while, and West Germany eventually bailed on the program, leaving Italy to for ahead alone. The first production examples didn’t arrive until 1990. The planned purchase of 100 was then slashed to 60. Another version of this chopper capable of hauling eight troops in addition to the firepower, the A139, never got off the ground.
Still, the A129 has served Italy well. In fact, the Italians are converting two dozen of their existing choppers into armed reconnaissance helicopters to join two dozen newly build helicopters. Plus, Turkey has acquired a production license to build a local version of this lethal helicopter.
Learn more about Italy’s deadly helicopter in the video below.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks’ ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August 2019.
They’ll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They’ll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
Sgt. Dalyss Reed, a rifleman with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, maneuvers through a breach hole while conducting an urban platoon assault.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
With tensions heating up with Iran, China and Russia, it’s likely Marines could face a far more sophisticated enemy than the insurgent groups they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just this week, Iran shot down a massive U.S. Navy drone capable of flying at high altitudes that collects loads of surveillance data. President Donald Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes just minutes before the operations were slated to kick off.
Less than two weeks prior, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy warship in the Philippine Sea. These are just some of the examples of close calls that could have left Marines and other U.S. troops facing off against near-peer militaries equipped with high-tech equipment in highly populated areas.
At the same time, the Marine Corps’ Operating Concept, a document published in 2016, found the service isn’t manned, trained or equipped to fight in urban centers, Maj. Edward Leslie, lead planner for Dense Urban Operations at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“The enemy has changed,” Leslie said. “… They obviously have more access to drones. I think the enemy’s sensing capabilities have increased, they have the ability to see in the night just as well as we can, and they have capabilities that can exploit our technology or disrupt our technology.”
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
The Marine Corps isn’t alone in grappling with these new challenges. The Army is spending half a billion dollars to train soldiers to fight underground, and has begun sending small-units to its massive training center in California where leaders are challenged with more complex warfighting scenarios.
The Army also found that young sergeants in most infantry and close combat units don’t know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com reported this spring.
Those are skills Marines must continue to hone, Leslie said, since so many advantages they’re used to having on the battlefield are leveling off. It’s not just room-clearing Marines need to be good at, he said, but overall urban operations — things like figuring out ways to penetrate a building without destroying it since it’s right next to a school or hospital.
“I think that’s the value we’re going to get [with Project Metropolis],” he said.
A next-gen fight
The training center Marines and British Royal Marines will use this summer is a sprawling 1,000-acre site that houses dozens of buildings, some with up to seven stories and basements. The complex also has more than a mile’s worth of underground tunnels and active farmland.
The urban center has been used not just to train troops, but to help government leaders prepare for pandemic responses or natural disasters as well.
Kilo Company will complete four phases during the month they spend there, Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, who recently served as the Warfighting Lab’s commanding general, told reporters May 2019. It will culminate with a five-day force-on-force simulated battle in which the Kilo Company Marines, equipped with new high-tech gear, face off against a like-minded enemy force with its own sophisticated equipment.
The concept was introduced by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last summer to help Marines better prepare to fight a near-peer enemy. The British Royal Marines participating in the exercise will either join Kilo Company’s efforts against the aggressor, or act as another force operating in the same region, Leslie said.
Project Metropolis will build on years of experimentation the Marine Corps has conducted as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 concept. Leslie said the grunts picking up the next leg of experimentation in Indiana will be further challenged to use some of the new technology Marines have been testing in a more complex urban setting, similar to what they’re likely to face in a future warzone.
Marines have been experimenting with different infantry squad sizes to incorporate drone operators. Now, Leslie said, they’ll look at how to organize teams operating a new tactical self-driving vehicle called the Expeditionary Monitor Autonomous Vehicle, which will carry a .50-caliber machine gun.
“That’s going to be a major thing,” he said. “We’re looking to see, what’s the table of organization look like to work with that, and is it any different if it’s an urban vehicle?”
Marines practice Military Operations on Urban Terrain at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 23, 2012. The Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy R. Childers)
Rifle squads will continue experimenting with unmanned aerial systems, Leslie added, to spot enemy positions without sending someone into a danger zone. They’ll use ground robots that have the ability to map the insides of buildings, and will test Marines’ decision-making when they’re overwhelmed with information.
“Really want we want to see is how the tech integrates and also how it operates in a dense urban environment,” he said.
Kilo Company will also work with nonlethal systems, Wortman said, which they can turn to if they’re in an area where there could be civilian casualties. They’ll have access to kamikaze drones and “more sophisticated tools for delivering lethal fires,” he added.
It’s vital that they see that Marines are able to put these new tools to use quickly and easily, Wortman said, as they don’t want them to be fumbling with new systems in the middle of combat situations.
Building on the past
Marines aren’t new to urban fights.
Leathernecks saw some of the bloodiest urban battles since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in Fallujah, Iraq. About 12,000 U.S. troops fought in the second leg of the 2004 battle to turn that city back over to the Iraqi government. In the fierce battle, which involved going house-to-house in search of insurgents, 82 U.S. troops were killed and about another 600 hurt.
The Marines learned during those battles, Leslie said. But a lot has changed in the last 15 years, he added. With adversaries having access to cheap surveillance drones, night vision and other technology, military leaders making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield must adjust.
The goal, Wortman said, is to keep Marines armed with and proficient in to keep their edge on the battlefield.
Every city has a different character, too, Leslie added, so what Marines saw in Fallujah is not going to be the same as what they can expect in a new fight.
There has also been a great deal of turnover in the Marine Corps since combat operations slowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leslie said. Today’s generation of Marines is also incredibly tech-savvy, Wortman said, and they’re likely to find ways to use some of the new gear they’re handing to them during this experiment and come up with innovative new ways to employ it.
“We have the expectation that these sailors and Marines are going to teach us about the possibilities with this technology because they’ll apply it in creative … ways the tech developers didn’t fully anticipate.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy got a shocking view of the future of warfare in 1944 when, as they were moving supplies from ships to the shore, a jet-powered, Nazi bomber ripped past at approximately 460 mph.
The Arado Ar 234 was the first operational jet bomber and flew at up to 540 miles per hour, so quick that no Allied fighter could match it without going into a dive.
For the air crews assigned to protect the American forces landing supplies in Normandy in August 1944, attacking the Arado was essentially impossible. Loaded with reconnaissance gear, it flew over the beaches at 460 mph while taking a photo every 11 seconds.
At that speed, it could fly over all five original D-Day beaches in less than eight minutes. By the time that fighter aircraft made it into the air to hunt the Arado down, it would already be long gone.
That didn’t quite make the Arado invincible, though. Like the slightly slower British de Havilland Mosquito, a prop-driven British bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that go its speed from its light weight, the Ar 234 was left vulnerable when it was forced to maneuver or slow down for bombing runs.
The P-51 is one of the only aircraft to shoot down an Arado Ar 234 in flight. It did so thanks to a group of P-47 Thunderbolts that forced the jet-powered bomber into a speed-bleeding turn. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant)
One of the only Ar 234s ever shot down was caught because it was forced into a sharp turn while coming out of a bombing run.
A group of German jets were bombing Allied bridges on the Rhine when a group of American P-47s came at them. The German jets took a tight turn to avoid the P-47s, losing so much speed that they were left vulnerable. American Capt. Don Bryan was in a P-51 nearby and was able to position himself so that the turning German planes had to fly just underneath him.
Adolf Hitler considered the Ar 234 one of his wonder weapons that would save Germany, but it suffered from a number of shortcomings. First, the fragile engines needed an overhaul after every ten hours of flight and were replaced after 25. The jet also needed long runways and large amounts of fuel, two things that were hard for a Luftwaffe on the retreat to provide with regularity.
In the end, the jets were sent on just a few operational missions. The Normandy reconnaissance was the first, and they also did duty over the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge and in the final defense of Germany, flying first against the bridges over the Rhine and later against Soviet troop concentrations.