15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

The C-130 is one of the workhorses among American military planes, performing a wide range of missions from humanitarian relief to law enforcement to bombing missions. Here’s a rundown of 15 of them:


1. Close air support

 

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air Force

Let’s get this one out of the way, because the AC-130 is most people’s favorite version. These flying gunships have carried a variety of guns over the years, everything from 7.62mm miniguns to 105mm cannons. One of the most famous was the AC-130U “Spooky” with 25mm, 40mm, and 105mm guns.

2. Anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Graphic: Lockheed Martin

Guns aren’t the only weapon that has been strapped to what was originally a resupply plane. Lockheed Martin has designed, but not sold, the SC-130J Sea Herc. The aircraft is pitched as a cheap, high-endurance, and high-payload maritime patrol and anti-surface/anti-submarine plane.

It’s equipped with sensors to find the enemy ships and subs as well as torpedoes and anti-ship missiles to prosecute them.

3. Bomber

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
This BLU-82 bomb was dropped from a C-130 Photo: US Air Force Capt. Patrick Nichols

Of course, if it can bomb a ship then it can bomb a building. The most precise and imposing C-130 bombers are the Air Force’s Stinger II and the Marine Corps’ Harvest Hawk, both of which fire precision missiles and bombs.

On the other end of the spectrum are the C-130s that took part in improvised bombing missions in Vietnam. Daisy Cutter bombs were carried in C-130s and dropped into the jungle.

4. Firefighting

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards

When the U.S. Forest Service finds itself overwhelmed fighting wildfires, it turns to the Air Force for assistance. C-130s are outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems that can drop 3,000 gallons of repellant in 5 seconds without any major modifications to the aircraft.

5. Airborne

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Staff Sgt. Travis Surber, a native of Franklin County, Va., and a paratrooper with the 173rd Brigade Combat Team’s Battle Company of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, parachutes out of a C-130 into the Ukraine sky.

The C-130 can drop 64 fully-armed paratroopers into combat on a single pass. With additional passes or a long drop zone, they can also drop “door bundles” with ammunition and other supplies ahead of the soldiers.

Some equipment, like Humvees and 105mm cannons, can also be dropped from the back of the plane.

6. Aerial refueling

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Here the C-130 is about to refuel a section of F-35s. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz)

The KC-130J can carry up to 47,903 pounds of fuel to give to other aircraft. The Marine Corps racked up over 20,000 hours of KC-130J flight over Iraq where the birds dispensed jet fuel to bombers supporting troops on the ground.

7. Search and rescue

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

Photo: Wikipedia/João Eduardo Sequeira CC BY 2.5

Both the Air Force and the Coast Guard fly HC-130s modified for search and rescue missions. The planes feature command and control computer suites as well as special sensors that help it find survivors in the water or on land.

The Air Force’s version also packs a refueling capability so that it can bring helicopters with it on long-range missions.

8. Law enforcement

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse

The Coast Guard’s HC-130s can use their sensors to find and track people suspected of crime. The planes can patrol a large area and, if they spot suspicious activity in the water, can track criminals from afar or chase them down.

9. Weather monitoring

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Curt Eddings

The Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flies WC-130Js into tropical storms and hurricanes to collect weather data. The modified C-130s feature external fuel tanks and weather sensors, but are not structurally reinforced. The Herc survives the high winds on its own.

The Coast Guard uses their C-130s to track and monitor icebergs and other threats to shipping.

10. Aeromedical evacuation

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air force Master Sgt. William Greer

There are 31 aeromedical squadrons in the U.S. Air Force. The units fly wounded troops and civilians out of war and disaster zones on C-130s and C-17s filled with special mission pallets and medical equipment. Teams of doctors and nurses accompany the wounded.

11. Transport and resupply

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: flickr/Eli Duke CC BY-SA 2.0

The C-130 was originally a cargo plane, and the transport and resupply mission is its bread and butter. It does get fancy with the work though, dropping armored vehicles and other equipment from its ramp without landing.

12. Flying radio station

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: Aaron Ansarov, Defense Visual Information Center

The EC-130J Commando Solo is used by Military Information Support Operation, more commonly known as PSYOPS, and civil affairs service members to broadcast radio messages to people in disaster and war zones.

13. Airborne command center

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bob Kay

The EC-130E carries the USC-48 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center Capsules which allow commanders to ride to battle in the plane and control their troops from overhead. The high-tech center takes a lot of computer power, but it carries extra fuel and special air conditioning systems to keep all the electronics powered and cool.

14. Electromagnetic warfare

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman

When the Air Force needs to shut down some enemy air defenses, it it can put the EC-130H Compass Call into the game. The plane disrupts enemy communication nodes and jams early warning and acquisition radars, allowing fighters and bombers to slip through enemy lines and wreak havoc.

15. Humanitarian relief

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo: US Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Philip A. Fortnam

The C-130, with the ability to land on dirt strips where jets fear to tread, is one of the heroes of humanitarian relief. After a major disaster, the C-130s form a flying train that rushes medical supplies and food in while ferrying wounded out.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force needs special new bombs for China and Russia

Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.

“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight. Requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions with bigger effects,” Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said recently at the Air Force Association Annual Conference.

While the Air Force is now moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions, exploring 2,000-pound bomb options engineered for larger attack impacts are a key part of the equation.


The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address a fast-changing global threat calculus.

While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.

“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects need to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air attack as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power. To reinforce this point, Wilcox explained that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.

“We will continue to deal with violent extremist organizations,” Wilcox said.

Dialable Effects Munitions

The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.

“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” the report, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) writes.

Specifically, the report explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.

An excerpt from the report:

Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force—the “boom”—is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options

Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.

Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.

“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”

For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.

“Multi-mode energetics”

Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect, and detonation.

This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.

“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)

Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.

He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.

Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.

“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.

The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.

A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.

“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself, which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Sea Raptor: The Navy’s sweep-wing F-22 that wasn’t to be

The U.S. Air Force’s venerable F-22 Raptor is widely seen as the world’s most capable air superiority fighter, but for a short time, it was nearly joined by a sister platform modified specifically for the Navy in the NATF-22.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor came about as a result of the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program that aimed to field an all-new aircraft that could not only compete with advanced Soviet jets like the Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan MiG-29, but dominate them. The Su-27 and MiG-29 had both been developed with America’s F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon squarely in their sights, and although the Soviet Union was on its last leg by the late 1980s, the Air Force remained steadfast in their need for a new generation of fighter.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
An F-16 Fighting Falcon flies in formation with a Polish MiG-29 during exercise Sentry White Falcon (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shaun Kerr)

Ultimately, the F-22 Raptor won out over its (arguably more capable) Northrop YF-23 competition, thanks in no small part to Lockheed’s flair for dramatic presentations and Northrop’s troubled reputation at the time. While the YF-23 boasted better range and stealth, the YF-22 and its operational F-22 successor offered a combination of solid capability and Lockheed Martin’s reputation for delivering highly capable military aircraft. While the YF-22 ultimately won the decision, either aircraft would have gone on to become the world’s first stealth fighter, establishing a new generation of fighters to come. Had the YF-23 won out, it would have been the defacto choice for a Navy fighter variant for consideration.

While some still contend that an F-23 could have been the superior fighter, the F-22 quickly separated itself from its operational competition thanks to a combination of low observability, high speed, and acrobatic performance. The Raptor was not only able to reach and sustain speeds as high as Mach 2.25, it also offered the ability to “supercruise,” or to maintain supersonic speeds without the use of the afterburners on its pair of Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 augmented turbofans. The thrust pouring out of those engines was managed by the aircraft’s Thrust Vector Control surfaces, which allowed the pilot to orient the outflow of the engines independent of the direction the aircraft was pointed. In other words, an F-22 pilot can point its nose (and weapons) down at you while it continues to push forward through the sky.

Related: COULD THE YF-23 HAVE BEEN BETTER THAN THE F-22?

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
F-22 Raptors during testing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22 proved so capable, in fact, that Congress pressed the Navy to consider adopting a sweep-wing version of the new fighter under the NATF (Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter) program that began in 1988. In return for the Navy considering the NATF as a potentially lower-cost alternative to developing their own replacement carrier-based fighter, the U.S. Air Force agreed to evaluate a modified version of the carrier-based stealth bomber being developed under the Navy’s Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program as a replacement for their own aging F-111.

In theory, this agreement would allow the Air Force to leverage Navy R&D for their new bomber, while the Navy leveraged the Air Force’s for their new fighter. This approach to sharing development costs across branches, one could argue, would reach its zenith when multiple combat aircraft programs across the Navy, Air Force, and Marines were merged to create what would go on to become the (incredibly expensive) F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Related: AN F-35 PILOT EXPLAINS WHY THE JET’S BAD PRESS MISSES THE POINT

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
F-35 Joing Strike Fighter (USAF Photo)

In a prelude of things to come, the NATF program, and its associated plans for an NATF-22, were soon seen as prohibitively expensive. By 1990, some seven years before the F-22 would first take to the sky, Admiral Richard Dunleavy, the man responsible for outlining the Navy’s requirements for a new fighter, was quoted as saying that he didn’t see any way the F-22 could be incorporated into an affordable plan for Naval aviation. As a result, the NATF-22 concept was dropped in early 1991.

Had the U.S. Navy opted to pursue a carrier-capable variant of the F-22, there would have been a number of significant technical hurdles to overcome. Aircraft designed for carrier operations have to manage a very different set of take-off and landing challenges than their land-based counterparts. The aircraft fuselage needs to be more physically robust to withstand the incredible forces applied to it during catapult launches and short-distance landings supported by a tailhook at the rear of the aircraft. The NATF-22 would also have to leverage the same sort of variable-sweep wing approach found on the F-14 to grant the aircraft the ability to fly slowly enough to safely land aboard a carrier.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Artist’s rendering of the NATF-22

That variable-sweep wing design itself brought a slew of its own problems engineers would need to solve. First and foremost, the Navy was already dealing with the high cost of maintaining the sweep wing apparatus on the F-14 Tomcat. A new sweep wing design likely wouldn’t alleviate the high operational costs associated with the Tomcat. As the Air Force has gone on to prove, the Navy’s decision was probably right. Even with fixed wings, the F-22 remains one of the most expensive fighter platforms to operate.

It also stands to reason that the variable sweep wing design would compromise some degree of the aircraft’s stealth. If the connecting surfaces of the moveable wings produced a high enough return on radar to secure a weapons grade lock on the aircraft, the value of such a fighter would be fundamentally compromised. The F-22 may be fast and maneuverable, but the Navy’s existing F-14 Tomcats were faster — and despite their high maintenance costs, still significantly cheaper than building a new stealth fighter for the Navy’s flattops, even if it was borrowing heavily from the Air Force’s program.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
The F-14 utilized a variable-sweep wing design to offer it the ability to manage both low and high speed flight effectively. (U.S. Navy photo)

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why the U.S. Navy opted not to pursue the NATF-22. It was complicated, expensive, and may have only offered a slight improvement over the Navy’s existing carrier-based platforms if any at all. But, nonsensical as it may be in practical use, the very concept of a variable-sweep wing F-22 carrying on the legacy of the fan-favorite F-14 Tomcat aboard America’s super carriers is just too cool not to look back on a bit wistfully.

After all, with only 186 F-22 Raptors ever rolling out of Lockheed Martin’s factories, this king of sky combat is destined to have a painfully short reign. One has to wonder… could a Navy variant of the F-22 have been enough to save this program from the budgetary ax?

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

The truth is, probably not — but the pictures sure are cool to look at.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army to upgrade firepower for two brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.

“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.



This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)

Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.

This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s a look at the likely finalists for the new XM17 modular handgun

For over a year, the U.S. military has been looking at options for replacing the decades-old Beretta M9 handgun. As with most DoD programs, the so-called “Modular Handgun System” program is a sprawling, multi-million dollar plan to find a new pistol that takes advantage of innovations in the current firearms market and delivers a sidearm that works well for a variety of missions and troops.


Listen to the WATM podcast to hear the author and our veteran hosts discuss what the XM17 modular handgun program means to the military:

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The M9 is a solid performer and is still popular among many in the U.S. military. But over the last 20 years, handgun technology — especially the use of polymers in handgun construction — has advanced well beyond the all-metal, one-size-fits-all frame of the flagship Beretta sidearm.

Both the Army and Air Force are running the search for an M9 replacement, dubbed the XM17, and have called for a do-all pistol that will fit in the hands of a wide range of troops, be more accurate and reliable than the Beretta and, most importantly, be configurable for different missions.

An ambitious goal to be sure, and some high-ranking officials in the Pentagon have argued it’s one that’ll wind up being too expensive and take too long to field, with the Army estimating it’ll take $17 million and 2 years to test the final version of the XM17.

“We’re not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said in March. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Despite Milley’s frustration, the program is set for a so-called “downselect” next month to three competitor designs to move into field testing. The safe money is that the Army will settle on options from Sig Sauer, Glock and a team composed of General Dynamics and Smith Wesson.

So what do each of these companies bring to the table for a modular handgun?

Glock

By far the most popular handgun among law enforcement, military special operations and a huge swath of civilian shooters, the Glock series of polymer-framed pistols has been considered the gold standard of modern handguns since its introduction in the 1980s.

In fact, the Glock 19 is the standard-issue handgun for Army special operations troops, Air Force special operations Airmen and has recently been chosen to replace Naval Special Warfare Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Sources say the company submitted versions of its G17 (a 5-inch barreled, 9mm handgun) and the G22 (a 4.5-inch barreled, .40 caliber handgun) to the MHS program.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
A Special Forces soldier fires a Glock 19 pistol at a range during joint training with Hungarian special operations forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tyler Placie)

While Glock doesn’t have a so-called “modular” gun, the pistol uses so few parts that swapping a barrel or switching the backstrap of the grip for smaller-handed shooters takes no time. Glock offers several handguns that look and operate the same as the G17 and G22 — namely the G19, G43 and G21 — that are more compact or are optimized for different shooting situations.

Smith Wesson

Long a close second to the Glock family of polymer pistols, Smith Wesson’s MP series of handguns have made serious inroads in the law enforcement and civilian markets.

Check out the utility belt of a local cop or stroll down the shooting bays of your local range, and you’re bound to see a bunch of MP 9s in holsters or on the bench. Similar to the Glock, the MP pistol is simple to operate, has few parts and fits a wide range of shooters with replaceable backstraps on its grip.

Smith  Wesson has teamed with General Dynamics to compete for the Army XM17 Modular Handgun System program. Smith Wesson MP 9. (Photo from Smith Wesson)

And, like Glock, Smith Wesson doesn’t have a truly modular handgun system. But the company makes a longer barrel MP in a variety of calibers and the wildly popular MP Shield for concealed carry. All are based on the same design as the MP 9 and have the same ergonomics — so troops shifting from the 5-inch MP 5-inch CORE on one mission to the MP Shield on another won’t have to deal with a learning curve.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer has been most widely known for its double action handguns (ones that have hammers instead of strikers), and the P226 is perhaps the most famous gun the company makes since it’s been the go-to pistol for Naval Special Warfare’s sailors for years.

That changed this year when the SEAL community let slip that it would be replacing its inventory of P226s with Glock 19s — in line with other special operations units in the U.S. military. In 2014, Sig announced its newest handgun, dubbed the “P320,” which uses a similar polymer frame and striker fire system as the Glock and MP.

But what makes the P320 unique among its closest competitors is that it is truly modular. Buy a stock P320 and a shooter can purchase new frames and barrels in different sizes and calibers; you can literally change the P320 from a 4.7-inch combat handgun into a 3.6-inch subcompact concealed carry gun in about a minute with a new frame, slide and barrel.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
Photo from Sig Sauer

You can even switch out a 9mm to a .40 with ease. The only common part of the Sig P320 is the “fire control group” which includes the trigger and internal safety module.

And it’s this off-the-shelf modularity that leads many to believe the P320 is the odds-on favorite to win the XM17 handgun program.

Will it happen?

The problem is the Army (and other services) don’t have a great track record of making solid decisions on new weapons that take advantage of modern technology.

For several years in the early 2000s, the Army spent a lot of time and money looking into a replacement for the M4 carbine — a rifle that derives from a pre-Vietnam design. Despite test reports that showed other options performed better than the M4, the Army decided it wasn’t enough of an improvement over the existing rifle, and the service shelved the program.

Likewise, the Mk-16 and Mk-17 SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle — or SCAR — program was originally billed as a modular rifle program, one that would eventually see a combat rifle capable of switching from, say, a short-barreled entry gun into a longer-barreled one for more distant engagements. That program was also shelved, with special ops forces mostly using the .308 caliber Mk-17 on some missions as a battle rifle.

It’s still unclear whether the XM17 program will suffer a similar fate. But it’s there’s no argument that the Beretta M9 is facing an age problem and is increasingly causing armorers headaches.

So whether it’s a Glock 19 from Cabela’s or a futuristic, modular pistol, U.S. troops should see some kind of new handgun in their armory within a few years.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best

It’s the mission of all branches of the U.S. military to protect all citizens, defend liberty and uphold the Constitution. Being a good citizen entails giving back to each branch in every way we can.

The Green Berets, founded in 1952 by John F. Kennedy, are celebrating their 68th birthday today. Take a moment to honor some special members of the “warrior-diplomat” ranks as they continue to protect and honor our country.


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Matthew Williams

Look to the heroic acts of Sergeant Matthew Williams, who took heroic action to save the lives of his fellow soldiers in the Battle of Shok Valley, which took place in Afghanistan in 2008.

According to other Berets who had been in Williams’ regimen, Williams helped to evacuate two soldiers who had been shot from the battle. Williams saved the soldiers’ lives and endured minimal casualties.

Williams had been deployed multiple times, serving in Afghanistan and in other areas of need. Trump upgraded Williams’ Silver Star, which he earned in 2008, to a Medal of Honor on October 3, 2019.

Regarding Williams’ actions, Trump noted that, “Matt’s incredible heroism helped ensure that not a single American soldier died in the battle of Shok Valley.” Further, he noted that,””Matt is without question and without reservation one of the bravest soldiers and people I have ever met. He’s a brave guy. And he’s a great guy.”

Williams added, “”I hope I can wear the Medal with honor and distinction and represent something that’s much bigger than myself, which is what it means to be on a team of brothers, and what it means to be an elite Special Forces soldier.”

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Ronald J. Shurer

Additionally, another Special Forces Soldier who fought in the same battle was also awarded a Medal of Honor: Ronald J. Shurer. Shurer, a medic, ran through open fire to aid a soldier who had shrapnel stuck in his neck. In total, Shurer aided four wounded soldiers despite suffering gunshot wounds himself.

The deep moral dedication needed to selflessly aid others in the face of a surprise attack by 200 soldiers is astounding and something to be proud of.

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Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace

The valor of the Green Berets stretches back to their inception. Humbert Roque Versace (nicknamed “Rocky” by his colleagues) joined the Armed Forces in Norfolk in 1937, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bush for his heroic actions as a prisoner of War in Vietnam.

In addition to his prestigious Medal of Honor, Versace was honored in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki.

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Melvin Morris

Like Versace, a number of Green Berets have been awarded a Medal of Honor for heroic action in Vietnam. However, soldier Melvin Morris was awarded a MOH not for heroic action as a prisoner of war, but for retrieving the body of a fallen sergeant after pushing back enemy lines single handedly with a bag of grenades. The Beret even was able to free his battalion from the enemy forces that oppressed it in this crusade.

That’s badass.

Morris was shot three times in the endeavor but survived after being rushed to medical care. He was awarded a MOH by President Obama in 2014 and was later indicted into the Hall of Heroes.

Kyle Daniels

The Green Berets are not only heroes – they are also innovators. 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels was tired of seeing the American Flag burned in times of trial, such as the ones we’re in now, and invented a flag that physically won’t burn. The Firebrand Flag Company now proudly boasts fireproof flags, a symbol of the America we know and love. Fire and oppression won’t bring us down.

Each member of the U.S. Armed Forces, before being indicted to the military, pledges to:

“Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [that I will] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [that I will] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

President Kennedy established the Green Berets with the promise that the elite unit of the military would be, “A symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” The Green Berets are not just capable of their mission, they are excellent in upholding their duty to our country.

Honor any Green Berets you may know, today and any other day. It’s all too easy to forget that the life of an American soldier is dedicated to the well-being of our country, something which, in good conscience, should not be forgotten and honored in every way possible.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Best battle proven tricks to win a ‘sniper duel’

Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”


Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.

We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.

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Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.

“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.

“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.

When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.

“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.

Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.

But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.

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A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)

The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.

“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”

Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.

According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.

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U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

These fights could easily be long and drawn out.

“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.

And, the waiting is tough.

“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”

“It’s a cool story later,” he added.

No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.

“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”

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

Articles

How cutters are sinking the Coast Guard — and what to do about it

The Coast Guard has been on patrol since 1790, and it has often had to do a lot with very little in the way of assets. Now, some of the assets it does have may be relatively useless.


According to a veteran Coast Guard officer who published his concerns in Proceedings magazine, a number of the major cutters (those over 210 feet in length) are “ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.” Furthermore, one 210-foot cutter was in dry dock for six months, with two more months at the pier when it should have deployed, due to “unplanned maintenance.”

Drills for the crew are focused more on damage control than maritime law enforcement.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf. (Photo from U.S. Coast Guard)

“By continuing its over reliance on the cutter—specifically, large cutters measuring 210 feet and longer—the Coast Guard has fallen behind and become a stagnant force in the maritime domain,” write Lt. David Allan Adams, Jr. “This is, of course, not because of a lack of effort by the hardworking Coasties stationed on cutters, but rather because the white hull fleet is well over 50 years old and ill-equipped—and often ill-suited—to handle the challenges and dangers in their areas of operation.”

Even the newest Coast Guard cutters, the Legend-class National Security Cutters that are replacing the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters, have had issues, with a 2016 report from McClatchy news service noting that the new ships suffered four cracked cylinder heads a year.

“Junior officers stationed on cutters can testify to the poor material condition of the cutters and the disillusionment cutter life can instill,” Adams wrote. “The life of a JO is not about conducting law enforcement or conning the cutter — as promised at recruitment — but more about routing and correcting memorandums, being held accountable should an inspection go poorly, and striving to perform in the arena in which the JOs’ future is truly held: the underway wardroom.”

The problem has been widespread. A 2014 NJ.com report noted that 34 cutters and 37 patrol boats were unable to deploy for a combined total of 1,654 days. The Coast Guard has also been very short on icebreakers, with one of its most capable vessels in that mission stuck at the pier.

The Coast Guard, of course, has a substantial job, with a mission to secure America’s maritime borders, which run six times the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and it does so with two-thirds of the personnel of United States Customs and Border Protection.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything
The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (USCG photo)

The Coast Guard is planning to build 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace the aging medium endurance cutters, a deal expected to cost $10.5 billion, roughly $420 million per vessel. By comparison, a Freedom-class littoral combat ship sets taxpayers back $362 million.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia has an anti-tank missile that could devastate NATO tanks

Often lost in the discussion of Russian military hardware are the anti-tank missiles. While Russia has long been known for having a large force of tanks (almost 22,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org), they also deployed capable anti-tank missiles.


In the Cold War, major systems used by the Soviet Union were the AT-4 Spigot, the AT-5 Spandrel, and the AT-7 Saxhorn. These were all wire-guided systems. The AT-4 and AT-7 were generally man-portable systems while the AT-5 was used from vehicles like the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle. The AT-4 had a range of roughly one and a half miles, comparable to the FGM-148 Javelin. The AT-5 had a range of about two and a half miles, while the AT-7 had a range of 1,00 yards.

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Polish troops with the AT-4 Spigot. (DOD photo)

The Soviets hadn’t stopped there. With the development and deployment of new NATO tanks like the M1 Abrams, the British Challenger, and the German Leopard 2, the Soviets developed the AT-13 Saxhorn 2 and the AT-14 Spriggan. The former, an improved version of the AT-7, increases that system’s range to about 2,000 yards. The latter system can reach out to just over six miles, depending on the version.

Russia has widely exported its missile systems. Ironically, the modern AT-13 has been acquire by South Korea, while the AT-14 was acquired in large numbers by Greece and Turkey, NATO members who would be bound by the North Atlantic Treaty to defend Poland or the Baltic states in the event of Russian aggression.

AT-14 Russian troops with the AT-14 Spriggan anti-tank missile. (Wikimedia Commons)

These missiles are somewhat slower than the fire-and-forget Javelin, but they can be guided by troops up to the moment of impact. Russia not only has anti-tank warheads, but also thermobaric systems that can do some serious damage to infantry and light vehicles. To learn more about these missiles, check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGg1Me63VnY
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new SEAL minisub can keep special operators underwater for a full day

When you watch the movies, SEALs usually have inserted into enemy territory via a free-fall jump, often the high-altitude, low-opening method of free-fall parachuting. But SEALs are maritime creatures and thus tend to also be very proficient in entering via sea routes.


The way this is usually done is through the use of the Mk 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. The problem is that this is a “wet” submersible. The SEALs are exposed to the water, and have to be in their wetsuits. It doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? Well, the SEALs are looking to change that through the acquisition of a dry manned submersible. This will allow the SEALs to make their way in without having to be exposed to the elements.

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A SEAL Delivery Vehicle is loaded on USS Dallas (SSN 700).

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen)

Now, this was tried before, with the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, or ASDS. This was a project intended to enter service in the 2000s, capable of carrying 16 SEALs inside. However, the price ballooned bigger and bigger, and it was reduced to a prototype. That prototype was lost in a 2008 fire while re-charging its lithium-ion batteries. Thus, SEALs continued to soldier on with their “wet” submersibles.

But the need for a “dry” submersible remains. According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that company is working with Submergence Group to market “dry” submersibles for a number of applications. Two submersibles are currently available, each able to operate with a crew of two and up to six divers.

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The Advanced SEAL Delivery System showed promise, but the prototype was lost in a 2008 fire.

(U.S. Navy photo)

The S301i comes in at 29,500 pounds fully loaded, can operate for a day, and has a top speed of seven and a half knots. It has a maximum range of 45 nautical miles at three knots. The S302 is 31,000 pounds, and featured a 60 nautical mile range at five knots. It also boasts an endurance in excess of 24 hours. While these submersibles aren’t quite up to the promise of the ASDS, they could still give SEALs a dryer – and more comfortable ride – in as they prepare to go into hostile territory.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army secretary officially nixed daytime PT belts — and it’s about time

He did it. He finally did it. Secretary of the Army Mark Esper has recently signed a memorandum that states the high-visibility belt, better known as the PT belt, isn’t required in the daytime. On top of this, he removed pointless PowerPoint presentations, implemented a fitness test that revolves around a soldier’s combat readiness potential, and has pushed for a return to training focused on military operations as opposed to training for training’s sake.

Madness. This is absolute madness. What’s next? Is walking on grass going to be okay? What about weekly PMCSs where soldiers kick the tires and say they’re good? Will the Army acknowledge that a leader’s evaluation report should also be created with input from randomly-selected direct subordinates to discourage asskissery and brown-nosing, providing an accurate reflection of that leader’s ability? These are indeed dark times, according to the people who say the Old Army died a few years after they ETSed.

Sarcasm aside, the Good-Idea Fairy has finally been questioned and wearing reflective belts during the daytime has been ruled officially useless.


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(Department of Defense photo by Bill Orndorff)

Secretary Esper’s first official statement, issued back in November, 2017, emphasized his goals of promoting readiness, modernization, and reforming the way the Army conducts itself. This reevaluation of the effectiveness of the reflective belt is just one of the many items on the docket.

The Army is also using common sense in how it conducts inventories. As opposed to performing 100% inventories that require countless hours in the motor pool realigning conex boxes, now, if boxes are secure and there’s no evidence of tampering, it’s automatically accounted for, allowing the troops to focus efforts elsewhere.

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

Don’t be that idiot who thinks the PT belt is gone for good. You still want to be seen by cars before sunrise.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Lenzo)

Logically speaking, this makes absolute sense. The PT belt was implemented in the mid-’90s as a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific accident that killed several airmen. Several factors led to this horrible accident, including the driver driving on a designated route for PT, a lack of a traffic light at an intersection, and a lack of street lights in the area. But instead of focusing on the issues that actually led to the deaths of several airmen, reflective belts were implemented across the board.

Reflective belts will still be required in the morning, before the sun comes up, or in low-visibility conditions, like fog. A shiny thing that costs .50 at the PX can save lives, but little things, like ground-guiding a vehicle around the motor pool, don’t require a belt. Also, if soldiers are exercising on an enclosed track in the afternoon, a PT belt is not going to make a difference. Also, this entire memorandum leaves the discretion up to the commanders themselves.

The only thing that’s changing is that young soldiers won’t be getting an ass-chewing for something completely arbitrary.