6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Whenever it comes time for troops to head out to the field, their leaders should always issue a mandated packing list. These lists cover the necessities, like three sets of uniforms, sleeping gear, personal hygiene kits, an e-tool, and a poncho. Occasionally, it includes weather gear, despite the fact that it’s the off-season (think winter thermals in July), or a gas mask so the lieutenant can say they did “familiarization training.” But what you really need is useful gear. We’ve got the list for you.


Most younger troops will just follow that list to a T — exactly what the packing list requires and not a single ounce more. So, you want to earn the bragging rights of “enduring the field like a grunt?” If so, snivel gear and junk food are nice — but not useful.

These items, however, aren’t on the list, and you’re going to get laughed at for not having them.

1. Extra under-layer clothing

Three days in the field? One pair of socks per day sounds logical — and then you step in a puddle and have to wear tomorrow’s socks. Suddenly, you’re out of socks for the last day.

If the list says bring three, bring five. If it says bring ten, bring fifteen.

 

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Learn the art of rolling clothes to save space. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin, 19th Public Affairs Detachment)

2. Sewing kit

If you split open the crotch on your uniform, you’ll need to toss them — unless you have a sewing kit and know how to use it.

Rips don’t even need to be fixed perfectly — just enough to get you through the field.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
It’s really not that hard to learn and it’ll save you a ton of money. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

3. Some way to mark your stuff

One downside of issuing a standard uniform to an entire unit is that, if you lose track of your green duffle bag, you’ll need to open each one to find yours. When you’re hiking through the backwoods of your installation, remembering which bag in a sea of green duffle bags is yours is non-trivial.

Make it easier for yourself and mark your stuff. You don’t need to make it fancy or elaborate. Many units spray paint the bottoms of their bags with troop’s information on it. Even a simple piece of cloth tied to a handle will make your stuff stand out.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Quick: Which one is yours? (Image via Flickr)

4. Your own toilet paper

There’s an old joke in the Army about military-issued toilet paper. We call it, “Sergeant Major’s toilet paper.” It’s rough as hell and takes sh*t from no man.

If you’re in the forests of Fort Benning, fine — pretend like you’re a badass and use some leaves. If you’re in the deserts of Fort Irwin, well — you’ll need it.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Not all of us get porta-johns for a field op. (Courtesy photo)

5. A watch

It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll still need to be able to tell time in the field. Super useful gear. Unless you’re in a super POG unit that has power outlets available in-tent, your cell phone won’t have enough charge to constantly tell you the time.

Grab a cheapo watch before you head out — nothing fancy, nothing special and preferably with a cloth wristband.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A good wristwatch can last forever. Good doesn’t mean expensive. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

6. Waterproofing bags

It doesn’t matter what time of the year you go to Fort Irwin’s NTC. Whenever you get there, it’ll pour the entirety of its five inches of yearly average rain the moment you arrive.

Grab a few plastic storage bags for socks and toilet paper and maybe a trash bag to cover your uniforms. If you need it, awesome. If it doesn’t rain, it’s not like the weight of a trash bag and knowing you have useful gear is going to burden you. 

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Alternatively, you can also use the trash bag as, you know… a trash bag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

*Bonus* If you smoke, extra cigarettes

If you are a smoker, you should know how many you go through in an average day. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be in the field — then double it.

Don’t be that guy who bugs the same person for a cigarette time and time again. You only get like two or three tops before you owe that dude another pack when you’re out of the field. If you’re the only one to remember this rule, everyone will owe you big time.

READ MORE: 7 THINGS YOU ACTUALLY MISS FROM DEPLOYMENT

MIGHTY TACTICAL

An interview with Gravity Jet Suit Inventor Richard Browning

My guest today is Richard Browning, the British inventor dubbed the “real life Iron Man.” He’s the founder of Gravity, launched in 2017 with a dream to reimagine an entirely new form of human flight. Using 6 small jet engines, he’s built a suit that has set multiple world records. In just 2 years he’s given 5 TED talk and executed 96 public demonstrations of his technology across 30 countries.


You can see Richard Browning in action in this video!

In our conversation we talk about the hurdles he had to overcome to build a jet suit, how to maintain resilience in the face of adversity, and how his next step is to build retractable wings into the suit.

Sign up for my newsletter for a few useful and insightful things that have helped me over the last month. You can sign up here.

LinkedIn– Justin Hasard Lee
Instagram– @justinfighterpilot
Facebook–@justinfighterpilot

This episode was edited by Trevor Cabler

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

10 commercial satellites were just launched from California

Ten commercial Earth-imaging satellites have been launched into space from California.


An Orbital ATK Minotaur C rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 2:37 p.m. Oct. 31.

Deployment was to occur about 12 minutes later during a communications blackout period. Confirmation of deployment was expected about an hour and a half after launch, according to the Orbital ATK webcast.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A map of currently tracked satellite objects. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The six SkySat satellites and four miniature Dove satellites — each about the size of a loaf of bread — were bound for orbits 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth to join dozens of other satellites that provide streams of data to San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc.

The satellites are designed to gather medium- and high-resolution multispectral images of Earth for businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

The replacement of the Colt M1911A1 with the Beretta 92F as the primary sidearm of the U.S. military in 1985 was a controversial move. Not only was the military dropping from the hard-hitting .45acp to the smaller 9x19mm, but the adoption of an Italian pistol over an all-American Colt just seemed plain wrong. On top of this, the 92F, later designated the M9, was actually beat out by its competitor, the SIG Sauer P226, in the competition for the government contract. It was the 92F’s lower price point that ultimately won Beretta the coveted contract. In 2017, the Army announced the winner of its Modular Handgun System competition and replacement for the M9 to be the SIG Sauer P320. Designated the M17 and M18, the new SIGs are making their way into the armories and holsters of service members across the military as other branches followed the Army’s lead in adopting the new handguns to replace the M9. As the old Beretta is phased out, let’s take a look at why many troops won’t be mourning its departure.

1. Size and Weight

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
(U.S. Marine Corps)

The M9 is a full-size combat handgun made mostly of metal. Weighing in at 34.2oz unloaded, you certainly notice it strapped to your thigh or on your hip. A product of its time, many troops find the M9 to be unnecessarily heavy for a piece of kit that few of them will ever actually draw in combat. By comparison, the M17 and M18 weigh 29.4oz and 26oz respectively. While this may not seem like a huge difference, the old infantry adage comes to mind: ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Additionally, the new SIG platform offers a more compact and modular weapon system to serve more suitably in a wider array of duty roles.

2. Ergonomics

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
The safety actuates in the opposite direction of most pistol safeties because it is also a decocker (U.S. Army)

A weapon can perform exceptionally, but if it’s difficult to use, then it loses its effectivenes. Just look at SOCOM’s Mk23. The handgun exceeded the stringent requirements put forth by America’s elite operators, but it was large, heavy, and cumbersome. As a result, it goes largely unused. The M9 suffers from this problem too. In addition to the size and weight previously mentioned, the M9 has a large grip that troops with smaller hands can find difficult to hold in a solid shooting grip. It also makes it difficult to eject the magazine one-handed. Furthermore, the M9 has a safety/decocker on the slide rather than on the frame. This makes it difficult to operate even for troops with medium-sized hands. On top of that, the safety/decocker sits high on the slide and sweeps down 90-degrees from the muzzle. This means that it’s possible, and common, for the user to decock the M9 and engage the safety depending on how they rack the slide.

3. Reliability

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A soldier qualifies with an M9 (U.S. Army)

Let me preface this by saying that the Beretta 92F is a very reliable firearm. During its testing, the handgun survived temperatures of −40 and 140 °F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud, and snow. The 92F also boasted an impressive 35,000 mean rounds before failure during the tests. Its large ejection port and near-straight blowback design also make it less prone to jamming. However, the M9 suffered heavily as a result of government cost-saving. Although Beretta won the contract for the M9, the contract for the M9’s magazines was given to Check-Mate Industries. The original Beretta magazines were made by Mec-Gar, an industry leader famed for producing reliable and high-quality magazines. Combined with the fine sand of the Middle East, the lower-quality Check-Mate magazines led to feeding issues in the M9. Airtronic eventually took over the magazine contract and patterned its magazines after the OEM Mec-Gars. Additionally, after years of heavy use in adverse environments, the military’s stock of M9s are prone to failure in their locking blocks.

4. Double-Action Trigger

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A double-action trigger requires more pressure and can accurate first shots difficult

The M9 features a double-action trigger. This means that the weapon can be fired by a long trigger pull which cycles the hammer back before releasing it. It can also be fired single-action with the hammer back. Generally, a double-action trigger acts as a safety mechanism. With the hammer in the down position, significantly more force is required to pull the trigger and fire the weapon compared to a single-action shot from the cocked position. As a result, many shooters argue that the inclusion of a manual safety is redundant. Because of this, troops have to disengage the safety (which can be difficult, see 2) and overcome a heavy first-shot trigger pull in order to engage a target. Although the new M17 and M18 also feature manual safeties, their striker-fired actions provide an easier trigger pull that is consistent with every shot.

5. Stopping Power

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
M17/M18 magazines loaded with hollow-point ammunition (U.S. Army)

The military’s adoption of the 9x19mm cartridge was met with much concern. Although troops were able to carry more of the smaller rounds, the 9mm lacks the punch of the larger .45acp. “If you’re using an M9 in a firefight, be sure to punch it forward with each shot. It makes the bullets go faster,” one Army sniper sarcastically commented. The argument over capacity versus stopping power isn’t likely to end any time soon, and the M17 and M18 are still chambered in 9mm. However, in 2019, the Army introduced a new hollow-point 9mm round for its new pistols. Designated as the XM1156, the new round is described as “barrier blind”. This means that it can penetrate certain types of cover like windows and doors without expanding and losing much of its stopping power. Like other barrier blind ammo, the XM1156 is able to punch through obstacles and retain enough inertia to expand within its target and cause maximum trauma, thereby increasing the round’s lethality.

Articles

This bridge is one of the most underrated engineering feats of WWII

Throughout history, bridges have been one of the most targeted structures on the battlefield, as opposing forces do everything in their power to blow them up and cut off incoming supply lines.


After a bridge is destroyed, a new one needs to be established, or occupying forces can risk losing their resupply sources permanently.

In World War II, Japanese, Italians, and German armies used explosive motorboats as a technique to take down allied bridges. Enemy troops in scuba gear would point these motorboats in the direction of the bridge’s supporting structures and bail out right before the vessel strikes and detonates.

The explosive motorboats in action. (Images via Giphy)Because of the effectiveness of the explosive motorboats, allied forces needed to create a portable bridge that could be quickly set up and could handle the massive stress of getting blown up.

The resolution came from an unlikely source — the mind of a British civil servant named Donald Bailey.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Donald Bailey carefully examines one of his bridge designs. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

While returning home after working at an experimental bridge, an idea popped into Bailey’s mind. He began sketching out the new architectural idea on the back of an envelope — something that later became the “Bailey Bridge.”

This new creation could support large armored tanks across 200 feet of water and set up quickly just by using some wrenches and a few engineers.

“The Bailey bridge is a very fabricated bridge, and it can be broken down into parts, trucked to a site, and then reassembled in a big hurry,” military historian William Atwater explains.

Also Read: This forgotten soldier survived 4-months in Dunkirk by himself

After being successfully set up under fire during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reportedly claimed the bridge was one of the pieces of equipment that most contributed to the victory in Europe.

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video below to see how this quickly fabricated bridge helped change the course of the war.

YouTube, LightningWar1941
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new ‘360 Invictus’ attack helicopter

Bell has unveiled its proposed single-rotor design for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a cutting-edge helicopter that may be optionally manned.

The ‘360 Invictus’ helicopter will be loaded with a 20 mm cannon and integrated munitions launcher able to carry Hellfire missiles or rockets. It will be able to adapt for future weapons integration in order to fight in urban environments, according to Bell.

Bell showcased its design to reporters at its facilities in Arlington, Virginia on Oct. 1, 2019.


“The Army realized that they absolutely do need a smaller aircraft that’s … able to operate in urban canyons as well as out in mixed terrain,” said Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Bell ‘360 Invictus’ rendering.

(Bell)

Schloesser said the 360 Invictus has high-cruise speeds, long-range capabilities and advanced maneuverability, all intended to help it dominate a future battlespace.

“We have a solution that can accomplish those missions, but it’s also the lowest-risk, and therefore probably the lowest-cost aircraft, to be able to accomplish [that],” Schloesser said.

Keith Flail, vice president of advanced vertical lift systems, said the agile helicopter’s first flight is expected in the fall of 2022. It should be able to fly at speeds greater than 180 knots true airspeed, or more than 200 miles per hour; the aircraft will also have a supplemental power unit that can boost the aircraft’s speed in flight.

Loosely based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system, the fly-by-wire computer flight control helicopter will be made in partnership with Collins Aerospace which will deliver a new avionics hardware and software suite. “[Collins] also has the ability to integrate capabilities with the MOSA, or modular open system architecture, onto the aircraft,” Flail said.

Some observers at Oct. 1, 2019’s event remarked how the streamlined, lightweight fuselage design of the 360 Invictus resembled the body of a shark, particularly the vertical canted ducted tail rotor, designed for optimized lift and propulsion.

“As we’re in the wind tunnel, as we’re looking at performance, as we’re looking at drag, everything on the aircraft, we’re very confident that we have a good story on … that design target,” Flail said.

In April 2019, the Army awarded Bell, a subsidiary of Textron, the contract to begin prototype and design work; but the company must compete against four other firms before the service downselects its options to move forward with its future helicopter.

They are: AVX Aircraft Co. partnered with L3Harris Technologies; Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky; and Karem Aircraft.

Currently, the Army is developing FARA and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) along with other airframes as part of its larger Future Vertical Lift initiative, or FVL.

FVL, the Army’s third modernization priority, is intended to field a new generation of helicopters before 2030.

Flail said that Bell will have a full-scale model of its FARA design, which fits inside a C-17 Globemaster III for transport as well as a 40-foot CONEX box, at the annual Association of the U.S. Army show later this month.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Russian special forces learned from their US counterparts

Russian special forces is often seen as a bit backward compared to NATO allies and the U.S. — with dated equipment, low budgets and ships that can’t sail.


But one force Moscow has clearly placed a lot of emphasis on are its special operations units. Like the U.S., the Russian military clearly sees how a small number of these specially-trained and-equipped troops can have an outsized influence on the battlefield — particularly against poorly organized, commanded and equipped terrorist forces like ISIS.

On May 10, 2017, the Russian military bestowed high honors on 13 members of a special forces unit that reportedly killed 300 ISIS fighters in Syria — that’s an average of 23 EKIA per man.

And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, Moscow’s commandos have taken a few pages out of Washington’s playbook. From their thumb-over-bore rifle handling, to their Multicam uniforms to their OpsCore helmets and red-dot optics, the Russian special operators have clearly learned the lessons of America’s anti-terrorism experience and applied it to their best trained troops.

“We had a good advantage in terms of armament and equipment, including thermal imaging sights,” one Russian commander said of his troops’ experience in Syria. “All this added to our success.”

Not only do the Russians have the latest weapons technology and gear, they’re also using top-end electronic systems for targeting and surveillance, the video shows. And they’ve clearly come a long way from their ham-fisted anti-terrorist operations in the Chechnya of the 1990s, with high-speed direct action and snipers taking the place of tank shells and dumb bombs.

“Training is constantly being improved, and the current special operations forces are touted as highly professional and elite troops,” independent Russian security expert Igor Nikolaychuk told Sputnik News.

And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, he’s not far off.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the USS Jimmy Carter isn’t an aircraft carrier

The Navy’s tradition of honoring past American Presidents by naming aircraft carrier after them is alive and well. The USS Ronald Reagan, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Gerald Ford are all symbols of the projection of American naval power all over the world. There’s just one exception, one that goes unnoticed by many, mainly because it’s supposed to.

The USS Jimmy Carter is named after the 39th President of the United States, but it’s a nuclear submarine. And there’s a great reason for it.


6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Carter dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy even as a three-year-old.

Like many 20th Century Presidents before him, Carter was a Navy veteran. Unlike Nixon, Bush 41, or President Ford, Carter’s contributions to the Navy didn’t happen primarily in wartime, however, it happened after the Second World War. Carter, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, was immediately appointed as an officer aboard a Navy submarine, the USS Pomfret. He served aboard a number of submarines, mostly electric-diesel submarines, until it was time to upgrade them. All of them.

While the United States was embroiled in the Korean War, Carter the engineering officer, was sent to work with the Atomic Energy Commission and later Union College in Upstate New York, where he became well-versed in the physics of nuclear energy and nuclear power plants. He would use that knowledge to serve under Admiral Hyman Rickover, helping develop the nuclear Navy. Carter would have to leave the active Navy in 1953 when his father died and left the family peanut farm without an owner. In less than a year after Carter’s departure, Rickover’s team would launch the USS Nautilus, the world’s first-ever nuclear-powered submarine and the first ship in a long line of nuclear ships.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

The USS Nautilus

According to President Carter, Rickover was of the biggest influences on the young peanut farmer’s life. Carter’s 1976 campaign biography was even called Why Not The Best? – after a question Rickover asked the young naval officer while interviewing to join the nuclear submarine program.

Rickover asked Carter what his standing was in his graduating class at Annapolis and when Carter replied, Rickover asked him if he did his best.

“I started to say, ‘Yes sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several times I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No sir, I didn’t always do my best.”

“Why not?” asked Rickover. It was the last thing the Admiral said during the interview.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Rickover (far right) with then-President Carter and his wife Rosalyn, touring a U.S. nuclear submarine.

Later, of course, Carter would become Hyman Rickover’s Commander-in-Chief, having taken in everything he learned from Rickover about nuclear energy and the U.S. Navy. The nuclear sub would become one of the pillars of American national security.

As President, Carter would restrict the building of supercarriers due to their massive costs, instead favoring medium-sized aircraft carriers, much to the consternation of the Navy and defense contractors. It would make little sense to have Carter’s name on a weapons program he discouraged as President – kind of like having Andrew Jackson’s face on American currency even though the 12th President was opposed to central banking.

But the Navy had to do something for the only Annapolis graduate to ascend to the nation’s highest office and serve as the Leader of the Free World. So naming the third Seawolf-class submarine after the former submarine officer and onetime nuclear engineer made perfect sense. The USS Jimmy Carter is the most secret nuclear submarine on the planet, moving alone and silently on missions that are never disclosed to the greater American public.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Typhoon can bring a high-explosive storm on the enemy

In the late 1980s, the Pavania Tornado was entering widespread service with the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, Royal Saudi Air Force, and Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force). Despite this, the British, Germans, and Italians were seeking to create the next-generation tactical jet. Sure, the Tornado was good, but it wasn’t quite what they wanted.


The Tornado proved capable in both air-to-air and air-to-surface roles, but the same airframe couldn’t do both. Some Tornados were configured as fighters — mostly within the Royal Air Force and a few within the Royal Saudi Air Force — but most were tuned for attacking ground targets or ships. A few were configured primarily for hunting enemy air defenses, too, but switching between those roles wasn’t easy.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Two Panavia Tornados take off. In front is the GR.1; the F.2 behind it. These were single-mission aircraft, despite sharing many common parts.

(USAF)

And so began the mission to design a plane with greater versatility. Like the Tornado, this new plane was to be a twin-engine tactical jet. Unlike the Tornado, this plane had room only for a single a pilot and it could handle air-to-air and air-to-ground missions on the same airframe.

That plane is the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Typhoon has a top speed of 1,550 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 1,802 miles. It carries a wide variety of air-to-air armaments and it first flew in 1994. It took nine years of test flights to work out the bugs but, in 2003, Germany and Spain brought the plane into service. Italy and the United Kingdom soon followed suit.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

The multirole capabilities of the Typhoon are evident in this photo.

(Photo by Ronnie Macdonald)

To date, the Typhoon has been a bigger success on the export market than the Tornado. Saudi Arabia (which bought the air-to-air and ground-attack versions of the Tornado) bought Typhoons, but so has Kuwait, Austria, Oman, and Qatar, with other countries considering this lethal multirole fighter.

Learn more about this fast, agile, and versatile combat jet in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-lW-cc120k

www.youtube.com

Articles

The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China to combine railguns and rockets for high-altitude warfare

Chinese officials have touted their progress with a new type of rocket propulsion that they say could give them an advantage in a potential conflict around the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan mountains.

The project reportedly intends to add electromagnetic force to the launch of traditional rocket artillery, which is typically cheaper than missiles and can be fired in larger quantities.


Han Junli, lead researcher on the project, told the state-run Science and Technology Daily that an electromagnetic launch “can give the rocket a very high initial speed on its launching state.”

Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that an electromagnetic catapult “may also be able to help stabilize the rocket during launch and improve its accuracy.”

Han, who researches the use of China’s ground forces, called the project the first of its kind and said work on it had been progressing steadily “with great breakthroughs.”

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

Chinese Type PHZ-89 122 mm 40-tube self-propelled multiple rocket launchers assigned to an army artillery regiment during a live-fire exercise in Jiangxi Province, Aug. 21, 2016.

(Wang Liang/Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China)

Han’s work has reportedly involved gathering data from the Tibetan Plateau, which has an altitude of about 13,000 to 15,000 feet and is surrounded by mountains that reach higher.

Han told Science and Technology Daily that the greater range of electromagnetically launched rockets would mean they don’t need to deploy to the front lines — a challenging task in the region’s rough terrain.

Thinner air at higher elections, which may hinder traditional rockets, would also not be as big an obstacle for electromagnetically launched rockets. Reduced friction from thinner air may also allow such rockets to hit higher speeds, though thinner air may mean less precision.

“Conventional artillery that uses powder may suffer from lack of oxygen on plateaus,” Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the state-run Global Times in early August 2018.

Electromagnetically launched rockets — which Song said could reach distances of 200 kilometers, or roughly 125 miles — would not face that issue, which “makes [them] very valuable in warfare on plateaus.”

“The plateau covers 26 per cent of China’s entire land territory,” Han was quoted as saying. “Rockets deployed in the field can cause severe damage to any invader in hundreds of square kilometres.”

“It is like in boxing,” he reportedly said. “The person who has longer arms and harder fists enjoys the advantage.”

Details about electromagnetic rocket artillery, like its range and how far along work on it is, remain unclear, but it is not the only potential venue for such technology.

Electromagnetic force is used in rail guns to fire projectiles with more precision and greater range that typical propulsion systems, and China’s military may include electromagnetic catapults on its next aircraft carrier.

China’s progress may be overstated, however.

While the rail gun appeared to be undergoing testing on a Chinese navy ship, sources told the Post that the vessel was a landing ship repurposed to hold the bulky electrical equipment needed to power the expensive-to-use weapon and that the new destroyers on which the rail gun is supposed to be deployed are not well suited for it.

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list

A possible rail gun mounted on the Chinese Navy Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan.

(@xinfengcao/Twitter)

Electromagnetic catapults for aircraft, which China is said to be considering for its next aircraft carrier, may not yet be viable either.

The US Navy — which has struggled with its own rail-gun research — has an electromagnetic catapult aboard its newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, but a Pentagon report released in early 2018 called into question that system’s ability “to conduct the type of high-intensity flight operations expected during wartime.”

A ‘win’ over a ‘bullying neighbor’

Han told Science and Technology Daily in early August 2018 that the necessity of rocket artillery was illustrated by a “military incident” that took place in a border region on a plateau in southwest China.

He did not specify what he was referring to, though he may have meant the 73-day border standoff between China and India in summer 2017 in the Doklam region where China, India, and Bhutan’s borders meet. After that incident, Han reportedly started making plans to target an unnamed opponent’s military installations in the area.

Chinese and Indian forces both backed away in late August that year, though troops from both sides have remained in the area and are believed to be reinforcing their positions, including upgrades to Chinese airbases in Lhasa and Shigatse and increased deployments to Indian airbases at Siliguri Bagdogra and Hasimara.

India has also moved forward with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, which is designed to intercept targets at greater distances and altitudes.

In the year since, Beijing and New Dehli have worked to mend relations, including the Chinese defense minister’s first visit since the standoff, during which he hailed their friendship as one dating to ancient times.

The two sides also agreed to “expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions” and to implement “confidence-building measures” along their border, including a hotline between armed forces there.

But China is reportedly still smarting from the incident. In the months since, Indian commentary has described the incident as a “win” for Dehli over a “bullying neighbor.” Comments this spring by India’s ambassador to China that attributed the standoff to Chinese actions drew a rebuke from Beijing.

“I imagine the Chinese are not pleased with how events unfolded last year, and there are some who felt like they were somewhat embarrassed by India,” Jeff Smith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said in an August 2018 interview. “So I’m sure they’re redoubling their efforts down there to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again.”

Featured image: Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 41st Fires Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, fire rockets during a live fire at the Udairi Range Complex, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 13, 2014.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle

The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record — not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.


After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.

But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Read more about why we love the Bradley here.

Articles

Whether it’s used in space or in Afghanistan, the Makarov pistol is out of this world

6 useful pieces of gear rarely on your packing list
A Russian Makarov PM pistol with its 9×18 mm ammunition, a common sidearm anywhere in the world where the Soviet Union had influence. Public domain photo.


If you are a Russian cosmonaut, you’ve got more than a space suit to protect you.

The Russians have been packing heat in low Earth orbit for decades.

Along with fishing gear and a first aid kit, the Granat-6 survival kit in every Soyuz spacecraft has a Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol and plenty of ammunition.

Presumably available to hunt game or provide a self-defense option, the pistol is just one more tool for the space-faring Russian to use if things go wrong.

But the Makarov PM – for Пистолет Макарова, or pistolet Makarova in honor of its chief designer Nikolay Makarov – has plenty of down-to-Earth uses.

Concealable and compact, it fires the Russian 9 x 18mm Makarov round, which is slightly shorter and fatter than the 9-mm NATO pistol round used throughout the rest of the world. It has a double-action mechanism – if a round is already chambered the pistol can be fired by pulling the trigger without manually cocking the hammer.

Even though it is heavy for its size and has a stiff trigger pull, it’s a natural for police work and covert operations. The designer even copied features from the Walther PP (police pistol) designed in 1929, including its size and the shape of the pistol’s frame.

Not surprisingly, since its introduction in 1951 the Makarov was frequently the handgun brandished by state security agents in the U.S.S.R. or the old Eastern Bloc when they said, “Comrade, come with us.”

Even in the age of polymer-frame pistols, the Makarov has its adherents.

Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) team members often carried the Makarov as their sidearm, particularly team commanders, deputy commanders, and radiomen. They sometimes carried a suppressed version of the weapon for so-called “wet works” – kidnappings and assassinations where stealth, surprise, and silence were necessary for mission success as well as personal survival.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, many Makarovs flooded the market and eventually ended up in the hands of shooters in the United States.

“The Makarov is more reliable than most of the more expensive small pistols, is well made of good material, and is surprisingly accurate,” writes Matthew Campbell, author of 21st-Century Stopping Power: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. “This makes the Makarov a superior choice to most of the double action first-shot .380 ACP pistols in this size and weight class.”

Despite the fact it was officially phased out in 2003 by the Russian Ministry of Defense, thousands of the pistols remain in service with police officers, soldiers, and intelligence personnel. It is frequently in the hands of combatants fighting the Russia-Ukraine War, serving as the sidearm for both sides.

And like many weapons, the Makarov has a “bad boy reputation.”

Noted terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez  (a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal) carried a Makarov. During the Vietnam War, many senior ranking North Vietnamese Army officers and Communist Party officials carried the pistol – special operators from the U.S. military or the CIA often found the weapon when they searched live prisoners or dead bodies.

To this day, Makarovs frequently appear on the battlefield in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – a testament to the staying power of a rugged, Soviet-era pistol with few frills but incredible reliability.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information