WARNING: This post contains spoilers from Season 2 Episode 19.
This week, SEAL Team tackled one of the most dangerous threats to military veterans: suicide.
U.S. veterans have a higher suicide rate than civilians — and the number is staggeringly higher among female veterans. According to a 2016 study by the Department of Veterans Affairs, on average 20.8 service members commit suicide every day; of those, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active duty, guardsmen, or reservists.
Since 2001, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan is 6,995.
There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.
It’s a critical threat, one that must be acknowledged and addressed — which is why it’s important that shows like SEAL Team tell their stories.
According to ‘former frogman’ and SEAL Team writer Mark Semos, the suicide in the episode ‘Medicate and Isolate’ was inspired by the death of a real U.S. Navy SEAL.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwr-5VXnzA3/ expand=1]Mark Semos on Instagram: “For those of you who tuned into last night’s episode of @sealteamcbs: Brett Swann’s character was based on Ryan Larkin, a former SEAL who…”
In the episode, Brett Swann (played perfectly by Tony Curran) struggles with many issues that are common among veterans — and he’s lucky enough to have a buddy helping him navigate the labyrinth of the VA system: long waits, over-taxed doctors, and confusing procedures are among the basics of what can be expected.
Swann is certain he has an undiagnosed TBI (traumatic brain injury) but the VA doctor is unable to treat it because there’s no proof that it is service-connected. A 45-minute episode isn’t long enough to get into the details of Swann’s options, so the writers deftly cut to the finish: Swann wasn’t going to get the treatment he desperately needed. Certainly not right away.
I can’t communicate strongly enough how disorienting and discouraging it is to finally seek help only to be turned away, especially for veterans, who were trained by the military to “suck it up.”
Some get lucky and find advocates (I highly recommend the DAV, a non-profit that, among other initiatives, helps veterans with disability claims), some patiently wade through the murky system, but others…
…well, it’s becoming painfully clear that others give up hope.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwp5pE8n0L0/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “It’s hard to promote tonight’s episode as it’s about a subject that is sadly more truth than fiction. Rather than entertain I hope that it…”
I have seen a trend where veterans are coming together to support each other, to maintain the strong community we had during service. As more and more veterans lose friends, the fear of talking about suicide is diminishing.
There is a crisis hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (or anyone in need can send a text message to 838255)
There are organizations like 22KILL, which raises awareness and combats suicide by empowering veterans, first responders, and their families through traditional and non-traditional therapies.
And there are shows and films depicting these stories, raising awareness, and removing the stigma of unseen injuries and mental health.
There are many who are wary of sending the message that veterans are all traumatized or unstable; if anything, this episode is further proof of the opposite. SEAL Team employs a lot of veterans who are professionals in the entertainment industry.
Who better to tell the story of those among us who need our help?
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
President Joe Biden has renewed President Barack Obama’s pledge to draw down the number of detainees currently being held at a secure facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are now nine detainees set to be released out of the 40 still held there after 20 years.
According to the New York Times, the United States is set to release 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, 54-year-old Abdul Rabbani and 40-year-old Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman. Uthman is a citizen of Yemen. The other two detainees are from Pakistan.
None of the men have ever been charged with a crime. When releasing “Gitmo” detainees, the U.S. usually asks the receiving country to place special security precautions and travel restrictions on them, but the United States isn’t sure where to send the recent list of soon-to-be-freed prisoners. A total of nine are set to be transferred to other countries.
Some of the previously cleared prisoners have waited for more than a decade for some other country to take them in. The other 31 prisoners have either been charged with war crimes, are considered too dangerous for release or have been convicted on charges.
Paracha, Rabbani, and Uthman were approved for release in a joint decision from the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security. These offices maintain seats on the Periodic Review Secretariat, a kind of parole board that reviews the records of detained persons in the camp.
A total of 775 detainees were brought to the U.S. Navy installation on Cuba in the years following the September 11 attacks. Most of these prisoners were released without charges, after being held for years on end. The last time a prisoner was transferred out of the camp prison was 2008, when one of the former detainees was returned to Pakistan.
After 20 years of detention, the stigma of being held in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and the ailing health of Saifullah Paracha, it’s unlikely for them to find a new home anytime soon.
In 2003, Paracha flew from his home in Karachi, Pakistan to Thailand by FBI agents who believed he helped the September 11th plotters make financial transactions in the wake of the attacks. He admitted he held money for them, but denied knowing who they were or what the money was for.
Rabbani was captured by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in a 2002 raid along with his brother. Both were accused of being members of al-Qaeda, of staying in al-Qaeda safehouses, undergoing military training in Afghanistan, and becoming an al-Qaeda operative.
The two brothers were held by the CIA for more than 500 days before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were also held at the CIA black site code named “Cobalt” – also known as “The Salt Pit” – and may have endured the torture experienced by many of the site’s detainees.
Uthman was brought to Camp X-Ray in 2002, captured and held on charges of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s many bodyguards.
None of the men have any future plans for how they can support themselves once released, and no country has stepped forward to take them in.
The Periodic Review Secretariat published its rationale for releases, security assurances, and recommendations for future resettlement for all released detainees on its public website.
If you’ve seen any submarine-themed movie, whether it’s Hunt for Red October, the classic Operation Pacific, or Crimson Tide, you understand the severity of an incoming torpedo. Anyone who knows naval history knows that torpedoes are lethal to ships – just look at what they did to the liner Lusitania, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7), and a host of other ships.
Back through World War II, the primary way torpedoes did their damage was with a direct hit. The impact of the torpedo on a ship’s hull would drive a firing pin that sets off a warhead. The hope here is that the blast punches a hole in a ship, allowing water to flood in, causing the ship to list to one side or the other and, eventually, capsize. Generally, this approach worked well, but it could take many direct hits to do damage enough to sink a vessel. The Japanese battleship Musashi, for example, took over twenty hits from Mk 13 air-dropped torpedoes before she went down.
This was a problem — as defensive anti-aircraft capability developed, planes launching torpedoes needed to do so from higher altitudes, at faster speeds, and from further away in order to survive. This was not conducive to scoring the many hits you needed to sink the enemy ship.
In fact, with rare exceptions, the only vessels that use heavy anti-ship torpedoes today are submarines. The torpedoes used by planes and ships are often less than 13 inches wide and hold warheads packed with less than 100 pounds of high explosive. They’re not that good against surface ships, but you don’t need much to sink a sub that’s a few hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.
The heavy torpedoes themselves have also evolved, and not just in tracking capabilities.
During World War II, the United States Navy fielded torpedoes equipped with magnetic exploders. However, they didn’t quite work right. With bigger fish to fry and a war to fight, the U.S. Navy simply disabled them and went on fielding functional, contact exploders. These torpedoes helped force Japan’s surrender.
But the magnetic exploder concept wasn’t forgotten after the war — and for good reason: Hitting the hull does some damage, but if you want to really kill a ship, it’s best to break it in two. The best way to do that is to set off the explosion just below a ship. That will damage the ship’s keel in a process called “breaking its back.” Modern torpedoes with magnetic exploders are designed to do exactly that.
You can see what that does to the former USNS Concord (ex-AFS 5) in the video below.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet to celebrate the 245th Navy Birthday.
Below is the text of his message:
Shipmates, this year we are celebrating our 245th Birthday virtually, around the world, together.
Although this birthday is different than in past years, what has not changed is how proud we can be of two and a half centuries of tradition, as well as our Sailors and civilians who continue to build our legacy with family members and loved ones at their side.
Today, Sailors stand the watch from the Western Atlantic to the South China Sea, and from the High North to the South Pacific. Your Navy enables prosperity 24/7/365 – at home and abroad – by helping keep the maritime commons free and open. And I promise you that our allies and partners – as well as your fellow Americans – all sleep better because you are there.
Our birthday is an important occasion because we celebrate our rich past, recognize the accomplishments of our shipmates today, and look to our bright future ahead.
The Navy needs you to be the best that you can be. Serve others. Be courageous. And always remember that America has a great Navy.
Happy 245th Birthday Navy Family. See you in the Fleet, Shipmates.
On January 7, 1970, Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff flew his Sidewinder A7A Corsair off the USS Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. After completing a strafing run near the city of Sepone, he came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire and went down. An observer reported seeing a flash, which may have been the ejection seat leaving the aircraft, but search teams located neither a parachute nor a survivor.
Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff was pronounced MIA that same day, promoted to commander while missing, and, sadly, was declared dead on November 16, 1978. His grieving wife, Mary Hoff, wanted the world to know that he and every other troop captured or declared missing in action would not be forgotten.
Who says randomly cold-calling the right people to get what you want never works?
Soon afterward, Mary Hoff joined the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization founded by two wives of POW/MIA troops, Karen Butler and Sybil Stockdale. The group was quickly gaining traction in Washington, fighting for the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of returning troops listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.
As the group grew larger, Mary noticed that they were missing a symbol — something easily identified and immediately understood. She had an idea: a flag. Instead of going through the proper channels, she simply cold-called Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest flag-making corporation in the United States.
As prominent as the flag is in military culture, it only took two revisions from the original to get the version we know today.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
The vice president of sales at Annin, Norm Rivkees, had no clue who the League of Families were at the time. During the phone call, Hoff explained everything, from who they were to what the flag should look like. Rivkees was impressed by her dedication and brought it up to the president of the company who immediately gave the idea the green light.
Rivkees contracted the job of designing the flag to Hayden Advertising who gave the task to graphic artist Newton F. Heisley. Heisley was an Army Air Corps veteran himself who flew a C-46 twin-engine transport during World War II. He drafted several designs, all in black and white, of a man’s profile with guards behind him.
His son, Jeffery Heisley, was serving in the Marine Corps and had recently returned home on leave. The younger Heisley had unfortunately been struck with hepatitis and was looking very sickly. The elder Heisley turned the misfortune into a positive as his son would make the perfect model for his design. The frail male profile that adorns today’s flag is that of Jeffery Heisley.
Newton, as a pilot, remembered his own fears from his flying days. He added the famous words, “You are not forgotten,” to the flag, to offer the reassurance he wished he had while serving. The design was then ready for approval.
That also makes the POW/MIA flag the only non-national flag to ever fly over a nation’s capitol building.
(Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Mary Hoff and the League of Families loved the design and adopted it in 1972. Keep in mind that at this point, the flag was only intended to be used for the organization. Its prominence quickly grew within the military community throughout the 1970s and, by 1982, it was flown over Ronald Reagan’s White House.
The flag became an official national symbol through the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which requires that the flag be flown outside most major government buildings, all VA medical centers, and all national cemeteries on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.
This famous logo first came to life during the early 1960s when there was an urgent need to identify the rescue and law enforcement service to other boaters and military craft, air and sea. During WWII, Coast Guard Cutters were painted like other warships but carried the letter “W” in front of their hull number to distinguish from the US Navy. The iconography as we know it was ordered and adopted by President John F. Kennedy, and the service has never looked back.
The icon of the US Coast Guard is emulated by other similar organizations and agencies around the globe in some fashion, especially the diagonal design of the stripes.
There is a profound difference in the color scheme of the two logos, even including the additional wording, “Auxiliary.” Both logos embody the same mindset and core mission values. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is an integral part of operations for the service, providing tremendous benefit to the public in areas of boating safety, inspections, and training.
Where did the Auxiliary get its start? Congress passed a law on June 19, 1941 that restructured the Coast Guard Reserve. From then on, the service was directed to operate two reserve forces. The already-existing civilian reserve organization was renamed the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. The newly structured US Coast Guard Reserve was to function on a military basis, providing an important resource of wartime capabilities, very similar to the duties of the other armed services.
The next time you see one of these dedicated professionals at a boat show, at a marina, on patrol, at a training seminars, or performing safety inspections, please remember: without them, the waterways we enjoy for recreational boating would be much different and complex.
Coupled with the Power Squadron, other boating safety organizations, and license training institutions, they expertly provide essential, and sometimes under-appreciated, assistance. Boating safety is not complete with a one-time educational event, but is a full-time endeavor.
The California National Guard posted a video on Facebook on July 28, 2018, from the cockpit of a C-130 as the aircraft dropped flame retardant on the Carr Fire raging in California .
The video gives a first-person perspective from the C-130 cockpit as the plane slowly approaches part of the blaze concentrated on a hilltop, eventually sweeping around the side before you can hear the retardant being released.
The Carr Fire broke out on July 23, 2018, near a small California community called Shasta. By July 26, 2018, the blaze had grown to 28,000 acres. By July 30, 2018, it had grown to over 95,000 acres, and is currently only 17% contained.
Six civilians, including two firefighters, have thus far have been killed, and according to CNN, seven more civilians are missing.
More than 3,000 firefighters have been dispatched to the scene, and about 39,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.
The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.
The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”
The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.
See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:
It’s 1987, I’m four years old and watching Predator. It was the 80s, so yeah, I lived on the edge. Arnold Schwarzenegger is yelling, “Get to the chopper!” and using mud to hide his thermal signature from a nasty, invisible alien. As I watch and re-watch Predator, awed as Arnold plays Major “Dutch” Schaefer, a Green Beret leading a covert, rescue mission, an idea pops into my mind: “I should be in Special Forces.”
Twenty-five years later, I don my Green Beret and earn my tab. Today, there’s still no question in my mind that Hollywood movies had a lasting impact on my decision to serve, and I’m not alone — you know it’s true.
Thirty years later, Arnold continues to inspire the next generation of military movies — even if he’s not hunting aliens or a robot sent from the future. Anyone who’s served knows the age-old saying, “attention to detail” and today, Arnold’s team at the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy is committed to helping Hollywood storytellers get the details right about military life. The Schwarzenegger Center recently hosted a workshop that combined the best of the Hollywood world with some of the best military leaders from across the globe, many of whom will become Generals/Air Chief Marshall (gotta love the foreign ranks). Regardless of what flag was Velcroed to their flight suit, the mission for those in the room was clear: build relationships that can extend into an idea, a script, and even a movie.
Arnold told We Are the Mighty,
“Hollywood wouldn’t be the same without the stories of our military’s heroism that have inspired Americans and taught the world our values. I’m proud the Institute can support this important collaboration by bringing together top military and entertainment talent.”
Heroism, unshakable values, and collaboration brought the best of the best together. Participants in the discussion included Jerry Zucker (Director of Airplane!), Sarah Watson (Creator/EP of The Bold Type), Jon Turteltaub (Director of National TreasureThe Meg), and actor Jamie G Hyder (True Blood, Call of Duty), along with pilots from the Air War College International fellow program, which included officers from 20 nations, as well as representatives from the U.S Navy’s Hollywood liaison office. This pairing of two seemingly different worlds couldn’t come at a better time. All branches of the military continue to work tirelessly each year to meet their recruiting, retention, and readiness goals, while Hollywood has continued to push mega-movies with a military spin, like the freshly released Captain Marvel, and create new platforms for military storytelling, like Netflix, Hulu, and We Are The Mighty (yeah, yeah… shameless plug).
L-R: Jerry Zucker, Sarah Watson, Jon Turteltaub, Katie Johnson discuss their roles as storytellers
Both sides discussed the various similarities and challenges in their respective fields. The pilots in the room, who almost unanimously admitted that they earned their wings as a result of Top Gun (unfortunately not a Schwarzenegger movie), asked the writers and directors how to best share their own stories, to which Director Jon Turteltaub fired back, “Hang out with us. Even just a personal story can spark an idea.”
In addition, many of the writers expressed how participating in a short visit with the military changed their entire view of military stories. Writer and showrunner Sarah Watson recounted how impressed she was with the female sailors she met on an aircraft carrier visit. As a result, Sarah has dedicated herself to creating a female military character in her next project.
The respect was mutual. Col Ken Callahan, Associate Dean, USAF Air War College, added,
“The opportunity to interact with the entertainment industry at the Schwarzenegger Institute event was priceless. Helping future Air Chiefs from allied and partner nations better understand the role Hollywood plays in expressing American values globally is exactly what we are trying to achieve. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Schwarzenegger, his staff, the team at USC, and all of the amazing and talented individuals that took time out to help forge new partnerships with our group.“
Lt. Col Andreas Wachowitz, German AF (left), chats with writer Will Staples
The discussions throughout the day included deep dives into how various successful collaborations between the US military and Hollywood, such as The Last Ship and Transformers, can shape public affairs, recruiting, and soft power diplomacy. Basically, the military leaders asked if movies can make the world safer, and the answer was a resounding yes (especially if we are one-day attacked by Predator aliens).
The real question of the day came from Norman Todd, EVP of Johnny Depp’s company, Infinitum Nihil, who asked, “Who is the greatest Hollywood Actor?”
“We love Arnold,” Capt. Russell Coons, director of the Navy Office of Information West responded immediately. Even an Army guy can agree with that answer. We’ll continue to keep you updated as Arnold, both a great actor and leader, continues his effort to bring the military and Hollywood closer together.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
In the eyes of the Islamic Republic of Iran, any troop wearing the U.S. flag might as well be ISIS. In an apparent response to the Trump Administration’s designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, the government in Tehran passed legislation declaring the United States a sponsor of terror and U.S. troops as terrorists themselves.
Terrorists from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division distribute food and water to an Iraqi village outside of Baghdad on June 26, 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger)
Unlike the very specific set of laws and regulations triggered by the United States’ labeling the elite Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist group, the effects of the Iranian legislation aren’t immediately clear. After signing the legislation, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered his country’s military and intelligence apparatus to enforce the law. Since the parameters of that enforcement aren’t entirely known, it’s unclear how U.S. troops on the ground will likely respond. The law specifically referred to the U.S. Central Command.
“These two forces (Guards and CENTCOM) that are designated as terrorist groups reciprocally might confront (each other) in the Persian Gulf or any other region. The United States will surely be responsible for such a situation,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.
Terrorists assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Regiment unload humanitarian aid for distribution to the town of Rajan Kala, Afghanistan Dec. 5, 2009.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Francisco V. Govea II)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards aren’t just a single unit or branch on their own, they also control religious paramilitary groups, the Iranian missile programs, and the ultra-elite Quds Force, designed to operate outside of Iran’s borders and keep Iranian conflicts away from Iran itself.
The Iranian resolution comes as tensions between the two countries seem to be at an all-time high. After Trump designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group, the United States ended exemptions for importers of Iranian oil, ones implemented after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 Iranian Nuclear Agreement.