This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems - We Are The Mighty
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This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

For nearly two decades, the Picatinny/NATO Accessory Rail Interface System handguards have adorned U.S. military rifles. These rails allow troops to attach accessories like lights, lasers, and grips to the fore-end of their weapon. However, although the omnipresent rails allow the end user to easily configure their accessories to suit their needs, the fully railed handguard is a large block of metal at the front of a weapon. Any unused rail estate is simply dead weight. The solution is new modular rail systems like the KeyMod and M-Lok weapon accessory attachment systems. These systems allow the end user to attach rail segments to their handguard as needed or attach accessories directly to the slick handguard. Since their introduction, the KeyMod vs. M-Lok war has been waged in gun stores, armories, and internet forums. However, like the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war, there can only be one winner.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
NSWC Crane tested three examples of six different handguards (U.S. Navy)

In 2016, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division conducted testing for USSOCOM to determine the best modular rail system. NSWC Crane evaluated handguards from manufacturers Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, and Seekins. Three KeyMod and three M-Lok handguards were tested from each manufacturer for a total of 18 handguards. They were tested for repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop testing, and static failure load.

Although a resilient handguard is not entirely necessary for the mounting of grips and lights, it is vital for mounting lasers aiming devices. Under night vision, it can be difficult for a rifleman to aim through their optic. An infrared laser mounted to the handguard allows the end user to shoot accurately without needing a proper sight picture, especially in close quarters. However, this method of aiming only works if the laser is properly zeroed. Because bullets are affected by gravity, unlike lasers, shooters must know where there rounds will fall relative to their laser based on the distance they are shooting. If the handguard bends or the laser is knocked and shifts even a few millimeters, a 200 meter shot could be completely off. Clip-on thermal scopes mounted to the top of the handguard also need to be mounted without risk of shifting. A good rail attachment system has to not only be secure, but strong.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
SOCOM’s Suppressed Upper Receiver Group is based on SIG Sauer’s MCX and uses M-LOK (SIG Sauer)

During NSWC Crane’s testing, all handguards passed the full-auto fire endurance and rough handling testing. However, the repeatability, drop test, and failure load tests yielded distinct performance differences. Repeatability testing showed that “M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA (minute of angle), as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.” Drop testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.” Finally, failure load testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested.” The study went on to note that the test equipment mounted to the M-Lok rails “repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system.” Overall, the failure load of M-Lok was over three times that of KeyMod.

Released in 2017, the results of the study were a clear win for M-Lok. As a result, NSWC Crane recommended the M-Lok rail system over any other to USSOCOM. In turn, USSOCOM incorporated M-Lok handguards into new acquisitions like the Upper Receiver Group – Improved, Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, and the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The study has also influenced the civilian market which has seen a marked increase in the popularity of M-Lok handguards and accessories over KeyMod. As with most Special Forces acquisitions, the M-Lok system is likely to trickle down to regular troops too.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
The Army’s new M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System uses M-Lok (U.S. Army)

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jenkins

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These are the 11 most game-changing aircraft of the 21st century

Today’s most sophisticated aircraft are like something out of science fiction.


In a few years, drones that can fit in the palm of a person’s hand and 117-foot-wingspan behemoths capable of launching satellites into space will both be a reality.

At the same time, drone and advanced-fighter technologies will spread beyond the US and Europe, and countries including China, Russia, and Iran will have even more highly advanced aerial capabilities.

Here’s our look at the most game-changing aircraft of the past few years — and the next few to come.

F-35 Lightning II

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 program may cost as much as $1.5 trillion over its lifetime. But the fifth-generation fighter jet is also supposed to be the most fearsome military aircraft ever built, a plane that can dogfight, provide close air support, and carry out bombing runs, all with stealth capabilities, a high degree of maneuverability, and the ability to take off and land on aircraft carriers.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way so far, and problems with everything from the plane’s software system to its engines has both delayed its deployment and contributed to its astronomical price tag. And it isn’t nearly as effective in some of its roles as existing aircraft. For instance, the F-35 is notably worse at close air support than the A-10, which is slated for retirement.

But the US has more than 1,700 F-35s on order. Like it or not, the F-35 will be the US’ workhorse warplane for decades to come.

F-22 Raptor

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/USAF

The predecessor to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is the single-seat, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, currently the most advanced combat-ready jet on earth.

The US is the only country in the world that flies the F-22s thanks to a federal law that prohibits the jet from being exported. Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22s before the last one was delivered to the US Air Force in May 2012.

Despite the program’s cost and the jet’s advanced features, it saw combat for the first time relatively recently, during the opening phase of the bombing campaign against the Islamic State in late 2014.

T-50

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

Russia’s Su-50, also known under the prototype name of the T-50 PAK-FA, is the Kremlin’s fifth-generation fighter and Russia’s response to the F-35.

Though still in prototype, Moscow thinks the Su-50 will ultimately be able to outperform the F-35 on key metrics including speed and maneuverability. The stealth capabilities of the Su-50, however, are believed to be below those of the F-22 and the F-35.

The Kremlin plans to introduce the Su-50 into service by 2016. Once the plane is combat-ready, it will serve as a base model for the construction of further variants intended for export. India is already co-designing an Su-50 variant with Russia, and Iran and South Korea are possible candidates to buy future models of the plane.

Chengdu J-20

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Alexandr Chechin/en.wikipedia.org

The Chengdu J-20, which is currently in development, is China’s second fifth-generation fighter and a potential strategic game changer in East Asia.

The J-20 bears striking resemblance to the F-35 because of Chinese reverse engineering and extensive theft of F-35-related data. Once completed, the J-20 will possess stealth capability along with the range needed to reach targets within Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam after taking off from mainland China.

As of January 2015, Beijing had developed six functional prototypes of the aircraft, with new prototypes being released at an increasingly quick pace. Production of the aircraft reportedly began in late 2015, and the final iteration of the aircraft is expected to be released and combat-ready sometime around 2018.

Eurofighter Typhoon

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Peter Gronemann/Flickr

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine multirole fighter that was originally developed to be the Europe and NATO’s primary warplane.

The fighter jet is Europe’s largest military program and was started by Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK.

In 2011 the Eurofighter was deployed to its first combat mission, to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya during the NATO bombing campaign in the country. There are 402 Eurofighter jets designed for the Austrian, Italian, German, Spanish, UK, Omani, and Saudi Air Forces.

The Eurofighter has been called Europe’s version of America’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35 Lightning II.

MG-X Silent Hawk

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Imagined model of the MH-X Silent Hawk from the set of Zero Dark Thirty. (Image: Zero Dark Thirty/Universal Pictures)

The military’s secret MH-X Silent Hawk program was publicly disclosed only after one of the helicopters crashed during the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.

It is unclear when the US Army Operations Security’s top-secret helicopter program began and how many of these stealthy aircraft are in service.

While the Silent Hawk appears to be a highly modified version of the widely known UH-60 Black Hawk, there are few unclassified details out there about this secret helicopter.

X-47B

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Northrop Grumman

The Navy’s X-47B is a strike-fighter-size unmanned aircraft with the potential to change aerial warfare.

Northrop Grumman’s drone is capable of aerial refueling, 360-degree rolls, and offensive weapons deployment. It carried out the first autonomous aerial refueling in aviation history and has taken off from and landed on an aircraft carrier.

It cruises at half the speed of sound and has a wingspan of 62 feet — as well as a range of at least 2,400 miles, more than twice that of the Reaper drone.

Stratolaunch

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: Stratolaunch Systems

The Stratolaunch will be one of the most astounding planes ever built.

Now in construction, the plane will serve as a midair launch platform for vehicles that is capable of carrying satellites into orbit. The aircraft, whose 117-foot wingspan will be the largest of any plane ever built, will fly to an altitude of 30,000 feet and then angle upward before blasting its payload into space.

The plane would be a relatively cheap and reusable launch vehicle for satellites and has the potential to revolutionize how hardware and possibly even human beings can access orbital space. It could fly as early as 2016, although the project has faced some setbacks over the past year.

Here’s a video of how it’ll all work:.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh29Pm1Rrc0

X-37B

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Wikimedia Commons

The Air Force’s secretive space drone returned from a two-year mission in October of 2014. It wasn’t clear exactly what the X-37B was doing up there, but it was relaunched on May 20, 2015 for another extended stint in orbit.

With the X-37B, the Air Force essentially has a reusable satellite that it can control and call back to earth. The ability to re-equip an orbital platform for specific mission types gives the US military unprecedented flexibility in how it can use outer space — and its long periods in orbit and reusability are also just impressive engineering feats.

Nano Hummingbird

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Photo: Youtube

These tiny Darpa-developed surveillance drones could become future military staples. Small enough to evade enemy detection or fire, the Nano Hummingbird can fit in the palm of your hand and relay images and intelligence from the air.

Most surveillance drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, are large aircraft that fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet. Drones such as the Nano Hummingbird, which is light, stealthy, and easy to launch, could be a routine part of a future soldier’s inventory.

Watch it in action here:

Iran’s drones

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Image: IRNA

Iran has been under sanctions and a Western arms embargo for much of the past 30 years, something that has denied Tehran the chance to obtain high-quality European or American arms. But it has forced Iran to build its own domestic capabilities, and in 2013 Iran debuted an armed drone eerily similar to the US’ Reaper, called the Fotros.

It’s unclear whether the Fotros is battle-ready, but Iran and Hezbollah, Tehran’s proxy militia in Lebanon — along with the Sudanese military — already fly Iran’s Ababil-3 surveillance drone.

Iran’s drones aren’t game changers because of their high quality but because of what they represent: Even countries chafing under international sanctions can develop their own drone technology with enough patience and technological expertise. The Fotros and Ababil-3 suggest that an era of widespread drone proliferation is just around the corner.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army looks at new ways to retain these field experts

Senior warrant officers from around the Army congregated to discuss talent management on day two of the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Englen of the Army Talent Management Task Force served on a panel of five distinguished senior warrant officers to discuss a series of personnel reforms designed to help acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent among Army warrant officers. Warrant officers are subject-matter experts in their field, serving in diverse roles across the Army from flying helicopters to conducting offensive cyber operations.

Every community within the Army has its own unique talent management challenges. The warrant officer community, in particular, has struggled to retain the most experienced warrant officers.


“In 1991, we had 1,500 warrant officers with over twenty years of warrant officer experience. Today, that number is just 350, even though we still have the same number of warrant officers,” said Englen.

Since arriving to the task force over one year ago, Englen has helped the Army begin to address talent management issues specifically impacting warrant officers.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

“When an active duty warrant officer retires, he or she is placed on the regular Army retired list, unlike commissioned officers, who are placed on the reserve Army list,” said Englen.

“Title 37 of the U.S. Code prevents dual compensation of retirement and reserve pay,” said Englen, “But by offering our retiring warrant officers Selective Reserve (SELRES) status, we can allow them to serve in the Reserve component following their retirement from active duty without causing them to lose their retirement pay.”

Doing so would help the Army address at least part of its manning shortfalls in the Army Reserve, which is currently short approximately 4,000 warrant officers.

The warrant officer community is also incredibly diverse. Each career field, said Englen, requires its own unique approach to talent management.

Aviators, for instance, can require over a year’s worth of training before they can be assigned to their units. Under the current system, many warrant officers are promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2) either during or shortly after flight school. The task force is drafting a new policy to “reset” a warrant officer’s date of rank once they complete flight school, allowing time to develop them as a warrant officer (WO1) for two years before being promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2).

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

Other communities, such as Special Forces and air defense, do not require extensive warrant officer training timelines, as they draw from their respective communities.

Instead, Englen noted, these communities are working to directly commission senior non-commissioned officers in the grades of sergeant first class through first sergeant to the rank of chief warrant officer two (CW2).

The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps. Some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

These talent management initiatives aimed at the warrant officer community are expected to begin early 2020.

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

Articles

5 epic military movie mistakes

For decades, Hollywood has been making military-based films that have touched Americans with great characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a high budget, but it’s the attention to detail that veterans respect when their branch is accurately represented on the big screen.


But still, some filmmakers get it wrong. So here’s a simple list of flaws that can be easily avoided when making your next epic war movie.

1. Screwing Up Rank 

In 2005’s “Jarhead” based on the book by former Marine Sniper Anthony Swofford, Dave Fowler is labeled as a private first class, or Pfc., who’s wearing the rank insignia of a lance corporal. The majority of the population overlooks details like this, but those who are familiar with Marine Corps rank probably did a double take.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
(Universal)

2.  Empty Weapons That Will Shoot

If 1997’s G.I. Jane wasn’t a stretch in reality then neither was seeing this gunship with empty rocket pods heading into battle. Next time, just film the inbound attack helicopters from the side. The note behind the note: we notice when movie weapons are handled incorrectly.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
(Buena Vista)

3.  Uncover… 2!

Sure, Hollywood is familiar with military uniforms and how to wear them. The unwritten rule once was to not advertise how to properly decorate and wear service and dress uniforms in case the knowledge falls into the wrong hands.

But that’s not the case today. And with uniform regs fully available online, filmmakers have no excuse when they get it wrong.

According to Marine Corps dress regulation, the dress blue uniform hardcover should be snug fitting and be worn parallel to the deck. Lastly, don’t forget to shave. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world, but not on your face.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
(WB)

4. Poppin’ An Epic Hand Salute

Steven Seagal plays Chief Casey Ryback, a decorated Navy SEAL who specializes in explosives, weapons, and counter-terrorism turned culinary specialist but finds it challenging to render a proper salute. Takes notes:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Snap your salute up and stop once your fingertips touch the outside edge of your eyebrow, keeping your fingers straight.
  3. Position your forearm at a 45-degree angle and upper arm parallel to the deck.
  4. Angle your hand inward towards your body.
  5. Refrain from looking constipated.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
(WB)

5. Questionable Tactics

Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 war epic “Full Metal Jacket” is one of our all-time faves, but not for its accuracy in combat maneuvering. You don’t have to be a veteran to notice how dangerous running out in front of a barrage of cyclic gunfire can be and unrealistic.

Known for his attention to detail, Kubrick dropped the ball on getting the detail right in this shot as Doc Jay (played by Jon Stafford) crosses from left to right in front of a potentially bad friendly fire situation to save his comrade.

Articles

Ride service’s military hiring program hits 50,000 drivers

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
(Photo courtesy of Uber)


In 2014 the ride service Uber launched “Uber Military,” a veteran hiring initiative designed to get transitioning service members interested in becoming a “partner,” as the company calls its drivers. Since that time Uber has signed up more than 50,000 veterans as drivers.

As a result of the milestone, Uber just announced that they are donating $1 million dollars to a host of veteran charities including the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Homes for our Troops.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve crisscrossed the country to hear the stories of servicemembers and veterans,” Uber’s Emil Michael wrote in a company blog post. “Everywhere we go, they tell us that they want opportunities to make money on their own terms and set their own schedules. We’re thrilled to be able to give more servicemembers and veterans the on-demand work opportunities they’ve been asking for.”

The charities were picked by the Uber Military Advisory Board, an impressive collection of veterans that includes former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (who’s also on WATM’s Board of Directors).

There are other elements to the Uber Military initiative beyond a big donation to military charities. Uber has incentivized drivers to begin or end a ride on military installations by paying higher rates for those trips. The company has also partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create awareness about the perils of driving while intoxicated, particularly in military communities that tend to be spread out and require the use of cars to get around.

The Uber Military promotional campaigns are currently centered around the big military populations in California, Texas, and Florida, but the company wants to encourage veterans nationwide to sign up to be drivers.

Kia Hamel is a Navy vet as well as a Navy spouse. Her husband is stationed in Hampton Roads as the executive officer of an amphibious ship, and she has remained in the DC Metro region to keep working as a paralegal while she pursues her master’s degree. Kia has a 4th-grader at home and a son nearby who’s attending college. She first heard about Uber through an email from a third-party employment company, and almost on a whim she clicked on the company’s site link.

“The first thing I noticed was that the drivers didn’t fit the classic cabbie profile,” Hamel says. “I filled out the forms and two weeks later I downloaded the partner app and I was an Uber driver.”

Before Hamel got her part-time job with the law firm, she was driving more than 40 hours a week. “You can make a living wage,” she says. Now she drives when her schedule allows — in the morning during rush hour or on weekends. “For me it’s all about the flexibility.”

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Thank You | UberMILITARYTo the veterans and military family members who have chosen to hit the road with us—thank you. ubr.to/50k

Posted by Uber on Thursday, April 7, 2016

 

Todd Bowers, Marine veteran and Uber’s director of military outreach, points out that Uber’s military vet drivers have driven in 175 cities in all 50 states and that their combined trip distance to date adds up to 78,309,082 miles.

As Bowers travels around the country trying to create awareness in military communities and with veterans everywhere, he’s always amazed at the wide range of profiles of those driving with Uber. “I went to an MBA program a couple of days ago and asked if any of them had driven for Uber, and five officers in the classroom raised their hands,” Bowers says.

“We understand our utility in the veteran employment timeline,” Bowers says. “We’re probably not anyone’s ‘forever’ job, but we’re a great way for vets to earn income when they’re in transition or in need of a part-time job that has max flexibility.”

Here’s some more at-a-glance data:

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

If you’re a military veteran or active duty servicemember who wants to know more about how to get started as an Uber driver go here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How problems on Navy’s new supercarrier helped it build the next one

Days after the first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sailed out of a “challenging” post-shakedown work period that was extended three months because of maintenance problems, the dry dock holding the second Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, was flooded, launching the carrier three months early.

The Kennedy’s builders and crew have gotten a boost from the Ford, according to the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Todd Marzano.

“We are definitely benefiting from being the second aircraft carrier in the class,” Marzano told Business Insider last week. “We’re leveraging their lessons learned, which has helped not only from the construction side but from our sailor training.”


This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

Capt. Todd Marzano, the Kennedy’s commanding officer.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

A graduate of Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun, Marzano has gone to sea aboard Kitty Hawk-, Nimitz-, and Ford-class carriers, serving as a fighter squadron commander as well as executive officer and commanding officer of the carrier itself.

At a ceremony in May, Marzano recalled driving past the Ford as construction began in late 2015 and thinking that “some lucky captain” would get to be its first skipper. In a mast-stepping ceremony after that speech, he put his first set of gold aviator’s wings under the 650-ton island as it was lowered onto the flight deck.

That “signified my commitment as the CO of the ship to ensure … that I’m going make sure that the crew is ready to do their job and operate the ship when we take it out to sea,” Marzano said. “So it meant a lot to me. This is definitely a pinnacle tour in my career.”

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The Kennedy.

(US Navy photo by MCS3 Class Adam Ferrero)

Marzano assumed command of the Kennedy, designated CVN-79, on October 1, at a ceremony attended by the carrier’s first 43 sailors, who were handpicked for the assignment.

“We officially stood up the command on October 1, and as of today we have just over 150 crew members on board, and that number just continues to grow daily,” Marzano said on Nov. 19, 2019. “The current focus since they’ve shown up is to create a solid foundation, which means getting our programs, our procedures established. We’re also focusing on a lot of training and, most importantly, developing a healthy culture throughout all levels of the command.”

Marzano added that “some of the sailors on the Ford have now been transferred over to our ship, so we can benefit from their knowledge … gained on their tour.”

The Ford-class carriers — the Ford, the Kennedy, the Enterprise, and the unnamed CVN-81 — are or will be equipped with new technology the Navy believes will keep them effective for decades to come. The Ford’s first sailors, with months or even years of hands-on experience with that tech, were creating “basically instructions on how to operate this ship with its systems and its new design,” as one sailor put it.

“Now we’re going to benefit from that, and they can help train our new sailors,” Marzano said.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The island of the Kennedy is placed on the flight deck during a mast-stepping ceremony in Newport News, Virginia, on May 29, 2019.

In addition to changing or excluding some features, the Navy and the carrier’s builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries, have made changes to the Kennedy’s build strategy to control costs and stay on schedule.

The Ford was being built as it was being designed, according to Mike Butler, Huntington Ingalls’ program manager for the Kennedy. But the Kennedy had a complete model, saving time.

“Every piece of pipe, every cable, every other piece of equipment was loaded in a three-dimensional product model, and that gave us the ability, for example, [to do] hole cuts, where you have a bulkhead or a deck and you have to cut a hole in it for a pipe to go through or an electrical cable,” Butler told Business Insider on Nov. 29, 2019.

On Nimitz-class carriers, “prior to the product model,” Butler said, “we probably cut 75% of those holes on ship once we ran the pipe and saw where it went through the bulkhead.”

There was “much less” cutting on ship on the Ford because of the product model, Butler said. But on the Kennedy, “with the complete product model, I virtually cut 100% of all of those hole cuts in the ship.”

“While the shop was still fabricating the deck plates and bulkhead panels, they could go in and robotically locate and cut all of those holes in those structural members while it was still in the shop environment, which is a big deal because there are probably close to 100,000 holes that go through decks and bulkheads that have to be cut,” Butler added.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The upper bow unit of the Kennedy is fitted to the primary structure of the ship on July 10, 2019.

(US Navy/Huntington Ingalls Industries/Matt Hildreth)

The design and planning documents for the Kennedy were updated as work continued on the Ford. But the biggest change was in how the second Ford-class carrier was actually put together, Butler said.

About 1,100 structural boxes are built to assemble the carrier, each outfitted with components like wiring. Those boxes are put together into larger sections called super lifts, which are outfitted further. The carrier is then assembled from those super lifts — “sort of like a Lego build,” Butler said.

On the Kennedy, “particularly early in the program, we did a lot more outfitting,” Butler said. “We built larger boxes in our steel fabrication division. We brought those to our final assembly plant. We built larger super lifts than we did on [the Ford] in some areas, and we put more outfitting in a lot of those super lifts, particularly early in the program.

“So we ended up with less lifts into the dock and many cases of larger super lifts that had more outfitting … which drives your cost down as well,” Butler added.

“We’re definitely aggressively seeking the lessons learned and then applying them to the Kennedy, and we’re already seeing benefits of that. Construction progress has gone much more efficiently,” Marzano said. “So both on the construction and the level-of-knowledge side for the sailors, that’s paying off. Being the second in class is definitely easier in that regard for sure.”

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer on Jan. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The Ford’s marquee features have been among the most troublesome, particularly the advanced weapons elevators, drawing congressional scrutiny and the ire of former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who excoriated Huntington Ingalls, saying last month that the shipbuilder had “no idea” what it was doing.

Those electromagnetically powered elevators are supposed to carry more ordnance faster — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute over Nimitz-class elevators’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute — from storage magazines deep in the hull. But just four of the Ford’s 11 elevators have been certified and turned over to the crew.

Those new elevators have new electrical and mechanical technology and are “a lot more complex than traditional weapons elevators,” with “a lot tighter tolerances because of that,” Butler said.

Work on the Kennedy’s elevators was delayed to incorporate lessons from the Ford, Butler added.

“A lot of the areas where they’ve had issues that they’ve had to resolve we’ve been able to hold back, get those issues resolved, change the design, change the work documents,” Butler said. “That allows us now to go in and do that work the first time with those lessons learned already.”

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

Sailors review safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator in the Ford’s weapons department on Jan. 16, 2019.

Those pauses didn’t affect work on the hull and parts of the ship exposed to seawater, allowing it to be launched ahead of schedule in October 2019, Butler said.

In addition to being ahead of schedule, the Kennedy was also 5% more complete than the Ford at the time of its launch, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s acquisitions chief.

Like Marzano’s crew, Butler’s team has also benefitted from an influx of personnel from the Ford.

Butler said that “working through all those different technical issues” on the Ford, they had “developed a set of industry experts at the shipyard, and our design, manufacturing, construction, and testing of those elevators.”

“Now that expert team is beginning to migrate to my ship, bringing those people and those lessons learned, working with my team,” Butler added, “so that we’ve got people on the deck plate who’ve been through these elevators, helping us modify our build plan to improve that process.”

Butler declined to comment on Spencer’s criticisms, saying he was “laser-focused” the Kennedy.

“Morale is great. We know we’ve worked through a lot of the first-in-class problems,” Butler added. “We are building this ship cheaper; we’re building the ship faster. And to us that is showing that first-of-class-to-second-of-class improvement is exactly what we thought it would be.”

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

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Robo-mule canned for being louder than real mule

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Sgt. Michael Walters | U.S. Marine Corps


After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.

The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.

In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.

The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.

But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.

With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.

But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.

“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”

For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.

While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.

“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”

Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.

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7 military-related websites you need to bookmark immediately

Current servicemembers and veterans are some of the most remarkable individuals representing the best of our country.


The beauty of the people who serve in the military is that they hail from all across the nation, have diverse backgrounds and interesting stories about their time in service. Many of these individuals are not just warriors, but they are also storytellers.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Want to find leadership inspiration, stretch your mind around military strategy or just get a laugh? Then bookmark these vet-run websites and grow (blow) your mind! (Photo from U.S. Army)

For many military members, writing is a powerful tool. This generation’s men and women in uniform have a lot to share and writing about their service gives them the ability to discuss many subjects, display their knowledge and express ideas on current military affairs and strategies that can spark a dialogue.

Writing allows a space for people to illustrate unique perspectives and opinions on topics such as leadership, military books and history, movies and of course personal “war stories.”

Whether you are a young service member who just enlisted or a retired veteran, here are seven websites or blogs that you should definitely bookmark and follow on social media.

1. Angry Staff Officer

Writing under the persona “Angry Staff Officer,” the site’s author focuses on several topics in his blog.  From historical events and foreign policy to personal experiences and an examination of current Army doctrine, Angry Staff Officer’s writing is both fun and snarky — but ultimately insightful. Along with running his own site, Angry Staff Officer serves as a contributor to several other outlets, sharing his unique view on several themes. Visit his site and you’ll get a good look at what he’s all about, but his sense of humor really shines on Twitter, so make sure to follow him @pptsapper.

2. Bourbon and Battles

If you are looking for a site that offers lessons on life, current military affairs, history and of course reviews on great bourbon, then Bourbon and Battles is for you. Hosted by U.S. Army officer Johnathon Parker, Bourbon and Battles offers readers firsthand advice on writing, his life as a graduate student, military leadership, and offers new writers a platform to have their work featured. This site is perfect for new military writers to build their prosaic chops. You can also follow Bourbon Battles on Twitter @BourbonBattles and on Facebook.

3. From the Green Notebook

The ubiquitous military green notebook has become the stuff of legend. For Army Maj. Joe Byerly, it is also a source of inspiration for his personal blog called From the Green Notebook. The site serves as a means for the combat arms officer to share his perspective about his time in service and as a way to help develop young military leaders in the digital age.  The author dives into a variety of topics such as history, military leadership, and professional development that gives military personnel sound advice on how to to make it in the service. You can also follow him on Twitter @jbyerly81.

4. The Military Leader

Hosted by an Army Infantry officer, The Military Leader is a website that offers resources for both military and civilians to guide their development as leaders and help grow their organizations. From simple articles about helpful tips to help start conversations with subordinates to complex topics such as toxic leadership, the page offers great insight for people of all levels. Be sure to also follow the Military Leader on Twitter @mil_LEADER and on Facebook.

5. Military Writers Guild

A collective of writers lend their years of experience and expertise as a means to share ideas and start a dialogue. The purpose of the Military Writers Guild is to “advocate, collaborate and promote” the current crop of military thinkers. The site features writing and podcasts from brilliant military minds. The individuals who are a part of the Military Writers Guild are so smart, in high school they probably sat at the nerd table in the cafeteria. All kidding aside, this is a fantastic group of people writing about the national security space. You can also follow them on Twitter @MilWritersGuild.

6. War on the Rocks

War on the Rocks is medium for in-depth analysis, commentary, and content on geo-politics and national security. The page features articles and podcasts from a number of collaborators with years of expertise in warfare. If you want to put your thinking cap on and see where U.S. military strategy and organization should go in the next 10 or 20 years, sit back and get smarter.

7. Your Stories, Your Wall

Serving as the official blog if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this site features personal stories of those who served in the Vietnam conflict. The blog has great aspects of storytelling and compelling imagery that really conveys the hardships of the men and women who served as well as the family members who were affected by the death of a loved one in that war. Many of these stories on the blog are also centered on the Vietnam memorial itself. This site reminds all of us about the sacrifices of our Vietnam era servicememebrs. Check it out here: https://vvmf.wordpress.com/

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how Beretta ended up as the US military’s sidearm for three decades

This article is not meant to disparage Beretta’s products. The 500-plus-year-old company has supplied arms to every major European war since 1650, and the results are just what a weapons manufacturer intends their products to do. When it came to replacing the legendary M1911 as the U.S. military’s trusty sidearm, no one expected the Italian company to carry the day, but cost was the final factor for the Air Force. From there, it spread to all the branches.

The Army was not pleased.


This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The M1911 was a workhorse.

From 1911 to 1986, the Colt M1911 was the pistol weapon of choice for the U.S. military. These days, most military personnel don’t require or train on a pistol, but in the days of the 1911, most absolutely did. The American-built weapon was a trusted, durable weapon for decades and many, many wars – and still hasn’t been entirely replaced. But ultimately, the 1911 was replaced because of capacity.

World War III was supposed to be fought in the forests and fields of Europe, where American and NATO troops would face an onslaught of Soviet men who may be fighting in human wave attacks. Planners wanted to give Western fighting men as many rounds as possible to fight their way out, so it seemed natural that decreasing the size of a round while increasing capacity allowed the average G.I. Joe to carry and load more bullets. The M9 would allow for twice as many rounds per load.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The Italian-owned company Beretta submitted its Model 92S handgun to the U.S. Air Force-led Joint Services Small Arms Program in 1978. The Air Force was tasked with finding a sidearm that was suitable for all branches of the military. Beretta went up against other heavyweights of the firearms industry, including Heckler Koch, Colt, and Smith Wesson, to name a few. To everyone’s surprise, the Air Force declared Beretta, the clear winner.

It was not a welcome surprise for the Army. The Army declared the Air Force tests invalid due to what they called testing discrepancies. So they conducted the trials again under Army supervision. While all this hoopla over the test results was happening, the U.S. Navy purchased the Beretta with features demanded by the JSSAP.

The Army went ahead with a third trial anyway, set for 1984. In this trial, Beretta submitted an improved Model 92 up against SIG Sauer’s P226 model, both vying to be the U.S. military’s M9. While both performed admirably, Beretta’s lower overall cost won it the day, and the Army declared the Italian-made pistol its new sidearm of choice.

Since being declared the M9, there have been more than 600,000 Berettas ordered by the U.S. military. American arms manufacturers were incredulous, leveling any number of charges against Beretta, including accusing the Italian company of having access to SIG Sauer’s initial bid to the Pentagon.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

The M9 was a workhorse in its own right.

But the Beretta did not last as long as the M1911 did in the U.S. arsenal. After 30 years (no small feat), SIG Sauer finally usurped the Italian gunmaker to become the U.S. sidearm maker for the U.S. Armed Forces Modular Handgun System, finally issued in 2018 with its P320 model.

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Russia has threatened to nuke Norway

A senior member of Russia’s defense and security committee told Russian TV that Norway has been added to the list of potential targets for a nuclear strike after Norway agreed to host 330 U.S. Marines for a rotational training deployment.


Norway has allowed other NATO militaries to use its country for cold weather training for years.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A U.S. Marine trains in the snow in Norway. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Immanuel Johnson Fmall)

The Marines rotating into Norway are expected to stay at Værnes, an area 600 miles from the border with Russia.

A deputy chairman of Russia’s defense and security committee made the threats, saying, “How should we react to this? We have never before had Norway on the list of targets for our strategic weapons. But if this develops, Norway’s population will suffer.”

He later said, “Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.”

It’s not clear how the Marines provide a definitive military threat to Russia. While significant U.S. hardware is cached within Norway, the 330 Marines would have to invade through famously neutral Sweden to use a 700-mile route. Going around would add on hundreds of miles of travel distance and logistics problems.

And even Marines would struggle if they took on the Russian military in such small numbers.

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A U.S. Marine drifts a tank on ice during training in Norway. (Photo: YouTube/Marines)

Meanwhile, the U.S. already has troops permanently stationed in Germany, which is about the same distance from Russia, as well as service members on training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine — all of which share a border with Russia.

The Air Force, meanwhile, has forces permanently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, which is also much closer to Russia than Værnes.

So it’s doubtful that Russia’s bluster is really about countering a valid military threat. More likely, this is Russia protesting what it sees as its continuing isolation as more and more countries deepen their ties with NATO.

Norway, for its part, insists that the Russian reaction to a training rotation of Marines is ridiculous.

The country’s defense minister told journalists, “There is no objective reason for the Russians to react to this. But the Russians are reacting at the moment in the same way toward almost everything the NATO countries are doing.”

Tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise, partially due to conflicting agendas in Syria where the U.S. and Russia are both conducting air strikes. But the dispute also comes from disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatening actions, such as the Russian abduction and jailing of an Estonian intelligence officer.

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This is how the Growler disables an enemy’s air defense system

In modern air warfare, having the biggest caliber machine guns or the best heat-seeking missiles around may not be the only reason a pilot wins a dogfight.


When a mission requires the opponent’s air defense system to be rendered useless so allied forces can get into enemy territory undetected, the EA-18G Growler gets called up.

Related: Here’s how the EA-6B Prowler rules the skies

The Growler is a key factor in every attack squadron because of its ability to shut down ground radar with electronic jamming.

It’s equipped with receivers built on to each wing tip which search for radar signals to locate the enemy’s surface-to-air missile systems.

Inside the cockpit, the Weapon Systems Officer monitors the computer system that scans, analyzes and decides whether the signals it picks up are either friend or foe.

If a threat is detected, the Growler activates one of three jamming pods stored underneath the jet’s centerline that overwhelms the ground radar by sending out electronic noise allowing coalition aircraft to sneak by undetected.

Also Read: This bomber made the B-52 look puny

But it doesn’t just jam the enemy’s radar, it also has the capability of delivering physical destruction as well.

The Growler comes equipped with an attack missile called “HARM” which stands for “high-speed anti-radiation missile.” Once this rocket is launched, it locks in on the ground radar’s electronic signal and explodes directly over its intended target.

The Growler’s impressive systems can locate, jam, and destroy enemy radar in under a minute.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see the EA-18G Growler work for yourself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

1. E-4 Nightwatch

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems


Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.

2. B-2 Spirit

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., refuels a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber from Whiteman AFB, Mo., during a refueling training mission (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-2 literally costs more than its weight in gold. The Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers run along a similar price tag: $130,159 per hour.

3. C-5 Galaxy

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Ground crews unload a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.

4. OC-135 Open Skies

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Kindig, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Riley Neads, right, operate air cannons from deicing trucks to blow snow off of an OC-135 Open Skies (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.

5. E-8C Joint STARS

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
An E-8C Joint STARS from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., pulls away, May 1, 2012 after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 459th Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

6. B-52 Stratofortress

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairdford, England from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., prepares to air refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.

7. F-35A Lightning II

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)

8. CV-22 Osprey

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey receives fuel from a 522 SOS, MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft, over the skies of New Mexico.

The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.

9. B-1B Lancer

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft banks away after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, not shown, during a mission over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released)

The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.

10. F-22 Raptor

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The “best combat plane in the world” only cost $58,059 an hour to fly. Small price to pay for the best.

Honorable Mention: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”)

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo byAirman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

The BRRRRRT costs a measly (by comparison, anyway) $19,051.

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Russia will deploy a division of troops about 50 miles from the US

This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems
Google maps


At a recent event, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a division of troops would be stationed in Chukotka, Russia’s far-east region, just slightly more than 50 miles from Alaska.

“There are plans to form a coastal defense division in 2018 on the Chukotka operational direction,” said Shoigu.

He said that the deployment was “to ensure control of the closed sea zones of the Kuril Islands and the Bering Strait, cover the routes of Pacific Fleet forces’ deployment in the Far Eastern and Northern sea zones, and increase the combat viability of naval strategic nuclear forces.”

Japan and Russia dispute ownership of the northern Kuril Islands, where Russia plans to deploy missile-defense batteries. The Bering Strait is the narrow waterway that separates Alaska from Russia.

Broadly, Russia has taken the lead in militarizing and exploring the Arctic region, as melting ice caps open up new shipping lanes between the East and West. In that context, the deployment of a division to the sparsely populated Chukotka region makes sense.

In the past, Russia has bemoaned NATO and US troop deployments near to its borders. How the US will respond to this deployment remains to be seen.

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