This Desert Storm gun is a favorite for special ops units - We Are The Mighty
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This Desert Storm gun is a favorite for special ops units

Believe it or not, there is one gun very notable for having been taken by the United States Air Force to other planets. That said, it was only on TV.


The “Stargate” TV franchise — based on the 1994 movie featuring Kurt Russell — starred Richard Dean Anderson of “MacGyver” for its first eight seasons. The series was notable in having two separate Air Force Chiefs of Staff cameo as themselves, Gen. Michael Ryan in “Prodigy” and Gen. John Jumper in “Lost City, Part Two.”

Pew pew.

The central premise around the series was that the Air Force had acquired a “stargate” that was set up in Cheyenne Mountain. The team led by Anderson’s character, SG-1, was pretty much carrying out a mission similar to of the Army Special Forces: building alliances with native populations.

The adventures eventually took SG-1 all the way across the galaxy and beyond, where they not only faced off against hostile nations, but also made contact with friendly aliens and acquired new technology.

And as is the case with special operations forces, SG-1 had gear that average grunts didn’t get their hands on — usually. In addition to all the alien tech, they did get some earth weapons, too. Notable among them was the P90 personal defense weapon from FN Herstal.

FN P90 with accessories. (Wikimedia Commons)

The P90 is a select-fire weapon that fires the 5.7x28m cartridge. It is a compact weapon with a 50-round magazine. The gun made its combat debut during Operation Desert Storm with Belgian special operations troops.

You can see a video about this PDW that has gone to other worlds below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy says it’s finally ready to test railgun

The US Navy is planning to finally test the electromagnetic railgun it has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing aboard a warship, according to new documents detailing the service’s testing and training plans.

Unlike conventional guns, a railgun uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther and at six or seven times the speed of sound.

“The kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets,” the Navy’s 1,800-page Northwest Training and Testing Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment revealed.


The Seattle Times, followed by Task Purpose, was the first to report the Navy’s latest testing plans and the possibility of a milestone achievement for the railgun program.

Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The Navy, which has spent more than a decade and at least 0 million trying to build a working railgun, was initially expected to conduct a sea test of this new weapon aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Trenton at Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range in the summer of 2016.

That test never took place. Instead, the Navy chose to continue testing the weapon on land. If the Navy’s new testing and training plans are approved, sea trials for the railgun could take place as early as next year. It’s unclear what type of test platform might be involved.

Should the Navy test its railgun at sea, it will be a major achievement for a program that has struggled for quite some time now. When asked about the program earlier this year, the best answer Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

The US is not the only country chasing this technology. Another clear competitor is China, which has already managed to arm a warship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — with a railgun. The weapon is believed to have been put through some preliminary sea trials.

Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Jan. 31, 2008.

(U.S. Navy)

It is unclear how far along the Chinese railgun program is, but the competition is on. Chinese media proudly boasted in January that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”

The railgun is a curious weapon, one that some naval affairs experts feel offers prestige to the innovator but little military advantage to the warfighter, no matter who gets their first.

“It’s not useful military technology,” Bryan Clark, an expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former US Navy officer, previously told Business Insider, arguing that it is a poor replacement for a missile. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”

So far, the most impressive thing to come out of the US Navy’s railgun research is the hypervelocity projectile, which the Navy has tested using the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.

The Army is also looking at the HVP for its 155 mm howitzers.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 rejected X-rated military Valentine’s Day articles

There’s a running bit in the We Are The Mighty office that if all else fails we could always make porn.

I like to bring it up during dry brainstorming sessions. I was feeling particularly amused by inappropriate humor last week during a meeting and, much to my utter delight, Army vet and WATM writer extraordinaire Logan Nye was too. He started listing off military-related Valentine’s Day articles that we should would never (because we’re classy like that I guess…) publish, and I told him that it was just too selfish to keep his creative genius from the world.

It derailed the meeting, but it was worth it.

So, my patriotic friends, I give you our list of rejected Valentine’s Day articles. Share with your right hand special someone and enjoy.


Pro-tip: Leave the battle rattle on.

We’re two inches from where you think we are.

How to show a lost LT his way to your G-spot

Also read: 7 things Jodie will do with your girlfriend this Valentine’s Day

Please worry about it.

This popped up when I googled “DARPA robot” and I am howling.

“Precision insertion requires a dedicated boom operator in order to extend loiter time on station.”

More like Chesty Pull-her, amiright?

9 most bone-able military leaders from history

More reading: 5 tips that will make her grateful to be your Valentine

Real footage from Okinawa.

Articles

This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.


Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.

Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.

Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.

“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.

Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.

“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.

As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.

Also Read: This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns ‘Vietnam War’ documentary series

Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.

Then, it happened. Boom!

An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.

After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Medal of Honor Recipient John F. Baker, Jr. at his ceremony.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Baker’s story firsthand for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
Articles

9 examples of the military’s dark humor

It’s not unusual for troops to have a nonchalant or comical attitude about the worst of humanity. Sometimes comedy is all they have to make it through hardships that are unimaginable to most, and those who have deployed to remote locations and hot zones know this all too well.


It’s a mechanism to keep their sanity in the midst of snipers, ambushes, and IEDs, according to an article in Esquire. Sometimes the worse a situation gets, the more they laugh. One thing is for sure, troops go to comical heights to cope with the hand they’re dealt.

Here are nine examples of dark humor in the military:

1. Santa Visit to the Korengal Valley 07

YouTube, TheFightingMarines

2. Marine uses megaphone to call out insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

LiveLeak video

3. “Shoot him.”

Photo: Pinterest

4. Wait for the flash.

Photo: Pinterest

5. Getting shot at by single shot Freddy.

YouTube, RestrepoTheMovie

6. Troops pretending to be insurgents. (live leak videos may not appear on all devices)

Liveleak video

7. Here’s how EOD technicians prank each other.

Photo: Pinterest

8. Robots driving an APC.

Photo: Pinterest

9. This bored Marine wants to play with insurgents.

YouTube, danr9595

Articles

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.


FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.

The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.

The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.

Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.

“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”

The Limited Edition versions include many of the accessories troops are issued alongside their rifle. (Photo credit FN America)

Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.

The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.

The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.

The FN America M249S SAW is about as awesome as it can get. (Photo credit FN America)

The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.

For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.

The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.

While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.

Articles

Oliver Stone thinks Edward Snowden is a hero

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowdon in Oliver Stone’s new movie coming out in September. (Photo: Open Road Films)


In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.

 

The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.

All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 3 Air Force bases will get the new B-21 bomber

The Air Force said on May 2, 2018, that the new B-21 Raider bomber will go to three bases in the US when it starts arriving in the mid-2020s.

The service picked Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber.


The Air Force said using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs.

“Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in a release. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota has said Ellsworth is a candidate to be the first to get the new, next-generation bomber.

Airmen perform preflight checks on a B-2 Spirit and signal to the mission commander that he is clear and free to move to the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, April 24, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

The B-21 will eventually replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit at those bases, as well — though the Air Force doesn’t plan to start retiring those bombers until it has enough B-21s to replace them.

Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress, the workhorse bomber that was first introduced in 1952 and is expected to remain in service until the 2050s.

A final basing decision is expected in 2019 after compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulations.

“We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in the release.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, said in March that the B-21 will head to Edwards Air Force Base in California for testing “in the near future.” His announcement appeared to confirm that the Raider would undergo operational testing sooner than expected.

Aircrew members perform preflight checks on a B-1B Lancer as part of a standoff-weapons-integration exercise at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, August 13, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada)

The B-21 is being engineered to have next-generation stealth capability to allow it to elude the most advanced air defenses in the world, and it has been developed under a high level of secrecy.

There are no known photographs of the bomber, and few details about it have been released. A report in November 2017, suggested the Air Force could have been preparing Area 51 to host the bomber for testing.

The name “Raider” was selected from suggestions submitted by airmen in a contest in early 2016. The name refers to the daring Doolittle raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

The raid was the first US strike on Japan in World War II, and it boosted morale in the US and led the Japanese military to divert resources for defense of its homeland. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was Lt. Col. James Doolittle’s copilot and the last surviving member of the raid, announced the new name in September 2016.

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

Articles

Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

Tech Sgt. John Chapman, USAF, in Afghanistan in 2002. (Photo: USAF)


Operation Anaconda was in progress on March 4, 2002. A number of special operations personnel (Army Rangers, Green Berets, SEALs, Air Force Special Tactics) joined by elements of the 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Air Assault Division, as well as components from various allied forces, took on the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The fight was a tough one – and things went wrong for the Americans.

Operation Anaconda is best known as the fight where Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts fell from a helicopter and fought the enemy for a while. A rescue team of SEALs along with Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went after Roberts. According to a recent report by The New York Times, during the fighting, Chapman was knocked out – believed to be dead by SEALs, who were forced to fall back during the fighting. Their plan was to hammer the enemy with air strikes and then go back to retrieve Chapman’s body.

Footage from a RQ-1 Predator and AC-130 Spectre gunship, though, told a different story. Chapman was not only alive, he was fighting. In fact, in a cruel twist of irony, Chapman was apparently killed providing cover fire for the helicopter carrying a quick-response force.

Takur Ghar after the battle between Special Operations forces and Al Qaeda in March 2002. (Photo: DoD)

In 2003, Chapman received an Air Force Cross posthumously. Now, after a review of the seven Air Force Crosses awarded since 9/11, he is up for the Medal of Honor. The key evidence that could determine if Chapman’s award is upgraded could very well come from the video footage from the Predator and Spectre. If so, it would be the first Medal of Honor bestowed based on evidence from technology as opposed to eyewitnesses.

Articles

The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.


The Air Force originally planned to integrate nuclear weapons in the F-35 between 2020-2022, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus told Defensetech.org that “it would definitely be possible,” to hasten the deployment of B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on the F-35 should the need for it arise.

Also read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

As it stands, the B-61’s “military utility is practically nil,” wrote General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012. The B-61s “do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance,” Cartwright continued.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Currently among fighter jets, only the F-15E and F-16C carry the B-61. Neither of these planes can penetrate contested enemy airspace, so they could only drop the gravity bomb on an area unprotected by air defenses.

The F-35, a polarizing defense project in its own right, could change that with its stealth capabilities. However, President-elect Trump has voiced concerns about the F-35 project while simultaneously stressing that the US needs to “expand its nuclear capability.”

Immediately this lead to talk of a new nuclear arms race, much to the horror of nuclear experts and non-proliferation advocates. The fact is that Russia and the US already have more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet their strategic needs.

Additionally, nuclear modernization is due to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, and around a trillion dollars in total.

Image courtesy of Armscontrol.org

But not only do experts find nuclear expansion costly and unnecessary, they also find it dangerous.

The US has 180 B-61 nuclear bombs stationed in five bases throughout Europe. Russian intelligence services monitor deployments of fighter jets across Europe, and the fact that the F-15E and F-16C regularly deploy to these bases could lead to a catastrophic misinterpretation.

Kingston Reif, the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that the US “should be seeking to strengthen the dividing line between nuclear and conventional weapons, not blur that line.”

F-35s, with their excellent stealth attributes, taking off from European bases that may or may not house the B-61s (it would be extremely difficult for Russia to know) and flying near Russia’s borders could put Moscow on high alert. This could even potentially spook the Kremlin into launching an attack on the US.

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart at Barksdale Air Force Base. | Department of Defense photo by SSGT Phil Schmitten

Furthermore, the B-61s are low-yield bombs, meaning they don’t pack much of a punch. In the event of an actual nuclear conflict, “the likely hood is that we’re going to use the big bombs, and not the little bombs,”Laicie Heely of the nonpartisan Stimpson Center think tank points out.

So while the F-35 may provide a stealthy, sleek new delivery method for nuclear bombs, they may destabilize already fraught relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.

“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations,” Reif said of US-Russian relations.

Articles

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.


(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).

That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.

It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).

Also Read: The Marines want robotic boats and mortars for beach assaults

“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”

Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.

Assault amphibious vehicles with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.

“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”

“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”

So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.

The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:

Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”

Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.

Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.

Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.

Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.

Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.

Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.

Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.

“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.

“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.

“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”

Articles

How a deadly insurgent sniper in Iraq taunted his pursuers

It was a huge morale boost for the battle-weary soldiers living at Patrol Base Murray the morning they got a visit from the Army’s top general. They couldn’t have imagined that anyone of that importance would come to their dusty, dangerous slice of the combat zone.


It felt good, but less than an hour after he and his entourage went wheels up, five of their fellow soldiers would be dead, the victims of a cunning sniper who sucked them into his web with ruthlessly primitive tactics.

Also read: This is what goes through a sniper’s mind before the shot

The first victim was Spc. William Edwards. On a patrol outside the wire during the four-star general’s visit, he cautiously popped his Bradley’s driver hatch open three-quarters of the way to peer outside, and was shot high on his back squarely between the shoulders.

A soldier scans the terrain through the hatch of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. It was on a vehicle like this one that Spc. William Edwards was targeted by a deadly insurgent sniper. (Photo from Department of Defense)

“It was a great sniper shot,” then-Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, said of the clean hit, which Edwards’ platoon immediately knew had come from a three-story house about 200 meters away.

As the medics and docs in the aid station worked to save Edwards’ life, the rest of his buddies from Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon went into reaction mode and headed straight for the house to find the sniper.

The battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was on mission in the region of Arab Jabour about six miles southeast of the Baghdad, a lush agrarian area where magnificent houses that once belonged to the ruling Sunni elite grace the banks of the Tigris River.

It was now teeming with al-Qaeda operatives and their hired help. The troops called it “IED Alley” — aptly named as the division’s tally of men lost after a year in combat was more than 150, mostly to buried bombs. But the sniper threat was a constant.

The presumed sniper house was on a ribbon of land between a one-lane hardball road and the river less than a mile south of Patrol Base Murray, and 2nd Platoon had surrounded it within 15 minutes of the incident with Edwards.

Four soldiers – Sgt. Scott Kirkpatrick, Spc. Justin Penrod, Sgt. Andrew Lancaster and Staff Sgt. William Scates – went into the house to clear it. They entered through the back door.

It was in a house much like this on in Arab Jabour that the soldiers pursuing Spc. Edwards’ killer met their grim fate. (DOD photo)

“There was a trip wire deep in the house at the end of the hallway going into the living room. A pressure sensitive wire, something under the carpet,” Adgie said.

Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the house was booby trapped with as many as four 155 mm artillery rounds enhanced with homemade explosives and when the first soldier stepped on the trigger, it tripped a circuit and detonated the charge, blowing everyone up in a fiery explosion.

The soldiers were killed, a heavy toll that raised to five the number of soldiers the battalion lost that day, all within 30 minutes.

“The explosion was huge,” Adgie said. “Structurally the house stood, but it caught fire then burned for six hours. We had to wait for it to go out and the Navy EOD guys to go in and make sure it was safe before we could get one of the bodies out.”

Early that evening, with the scope of the tragedy barely having sunk in yet, the company commander and platoon leader went back to the house with an interpreter and climbed an inside stairway to the third floor to see if they could find a clue about the sniper.

On the wall, in Arabic, was a hateful taunt from the sniper himself, a message that read, roughly, “This is where the sniper got your guys.”

But the sniper was long gone and had left nothing behind but the note.

Infuriated by the deadly “gotcha” they had found, the unit’s human intelligence collection team went to work immediately, plying every source in every corner of their battle space to find out who the sniper was.

One of their best resources was a small team of Iraqis the battalion called their “Bird Dogs,” three men – former insurgents – who lived with the unit at Patrol Base Murray and ran a cell phone operation to reach out to a network of sympathetic friends in Arab Jabour.

The sniper, it turns out, was already famous in the Al Qaeda-friendly area for his highly successful and prominent ambush and a short 48 hours later, the U.S. soldiers, with the help of the Bird Dogs, had a name and a description.

He was Mohamed Uthman, a 5-foot, 2-inch tall foot soldier for Al Qaeda who had a reputation for being a murderous criminal. And, no surprise, he was already known as a “high value target” on a list the Americans had of their most wanted.

When Army units identified the name of the sniper who killed five soldiers in one day, they launched an operation to fix and destroy the sharpshooter who taunted them. (DOD photo)

“Word on the street was, this is the guy who did it, and he kept on working after that. He was a cold blooded killer and he killed more Iraqis than he did Americans,” Adgie said.

The mean little sniper eluded capture for months, until one night when he made the decision to go out and kill people with the wrong insurgent mortar team.

It was December 11, 2007, four months to the day he had snuffed out the lives of the five soldiers, and Adgie cleared an Air Force F-16 hot to drop a bomb on the mortar team, unaware that Uthman was one of the teammates.

They found out after a site exploitation team identified one of the dead as the diminutive sniper.

Soldier targeted the taunting sniper with a bomb dropped from coalition aircraft. (DOD video via GifBrewery)

“When Adgie lost those soldiers in that house borne IED, I flew in and we were on our knees praying and crying like babies,” said then-Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd ID. “We learned, but we learned the hard way. If something looked like it might be rigged with explosives, we just blew it up. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to go in there again because we’d already lost four.”

The tiny killer was gone, but insurgent snipers continued to bedevil the troops, said Lynch, who recalled the death of a soldier in an Abrams M1A1 tank, who, like Edwards in the Bradley, opened his hatch while the tank was on the move and was shot by a sniper from a range they estimated at about 1,000 meters.

“He’s a thinking, adaptive enemy,” Lynch said. “They watched our movements and based on their training they could pace their engagement on the rate of movement of the vehicle.”

Lynch pointed out that the division’s brigade and battalion commanders under his command had all been to Iraq at least once before and had come to know the value of having well trained and equipped sniper teams.

After crawling through grass and brush toward their target, a sniper team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, set their sights on their target during a two-week training school where U.S. Soldiers trained Iraqi army special forces at the Al Kindi Iraqi army base in Mosul, Iraq.

In Arab Jabour the sniper teams were used consistently to overwatch IED hot spots and other things like long range cameras placed on elevated platforms. The cameras provided overwatch as well, but the snipers came into play and could shoot from concealed locations if anyone messed with those cameras.

“There’s clearly a continuing role for our snipers. They found their niche on the battlefield,” Lynch said.

Gina Cavallaro is the author of Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.