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MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

TEL AVIV — At the end of the day, Israel’s greatest weapon to fight its enemies is people who serve in the Israel Defense Forces. This tiny country had to fight for its survival against all its neighbors on three separate occasions.


But even when they fought for independence using a patchwork force of militias and prayer, they still needed weapons.

Nowadays, Hezbollah; Hamas; Islamic Jihad; and the 9,482* other groups bent on Israel’s destruction aren’t held back with prayer.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Ok, so they use prayer, but also weapons.

 

Related: That time a handful of Israeli airmen led by a former US Marine attacked 10,000 Egyptians – and won

Maintaining Israel’s security is a unique strategic challenge that has forced the Jewish state to adopt the technology of others, while also innovating some of its own solutions to keep the peace — and fight when needed.

*estimated with zero evidence. But there are a lot of them. Trust me.

1. The F-16I “Sufa”

There’s nothing new about an F-16 Fighting Falcon, especially considering it’s been the workhorse of the free world since long before Communism fell. While the world oohs and ahhs at the F-35’s ultra-expensive helmet, the F-16I’s (I for Israel) helmet uses and integrated radar and helmet system that allows the pilot to fire the fighter’s weapons just by looking at its target.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

 

2.  Sa’ar 5 Corvette

Israel has coastline only in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, but the nautical border shared with many of its traditional enemies makes it vitally important for Israel to have effective Naval force. Enter the Sa’ar 5.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
A Barak-8 missile fired from a Sa’ar 5 Corvette. (IDF Blog)

 

The Sa’ar 5 packs a wallop for a ship of its size and class. It features two 324-mm torpedo tubes, eight Harpoon missiles, 16 Barak-8 and 32 Barak-1 surface-to-air missiles. And let’s not forget the mighty Phalanx CIWS to protect it from surprises, like Hezbollah’s radar-guided missiles.

3. Protector Drones

The Israel Defense Forces are the first to field armed seaborne drones for surveillance missions in and around Israeli territory. It’s remotely controlled by two operators and uses a Typhoon remote weapons system attached to a machine gun and grenade launcher.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
(IDF Blog)

Variants of the protector can even be fitted with a SPIKE “fire-and-forget” missile system.

4. Tavor-21 Assault Rifle

The Israeli military uses a number of small arms developed by various countries, including the U.S.-designed M4 carbine. Their homegrown weapons are the ones for which they’re most proud, especially the Tavor-21 rifle and all its variants.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Nahal’s Special Forces conducted a firing drill in southern Israel with a range of different weapons. The firing course was part of their advanced training where they learn to specialize in a certain firearm. (IDF Blog photo)

 

The Tavor is more compact and easier to maintain than the M4A1 carbine. The “bullpup” design maintains a shorter overall length while still using a standard-length barrel for better ballistics. The Tavor fires NATO 5.56 ammunition. It is set to replace the M4A1 as the standard issue rifle for the IDF as early as 2018.

5. Merkava IV

The Merkava has a number of tank innovations for the Israel Defense Forces’ unique needs. Its weapons include a 124-mm cannon that can fire Lahat anti-tank missiles. Other weapons include three heavy machine guns, smoke launchers, and a 60-mm mortar.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The Merkava IV. (IDF Blog)

 

Its fire control system also allows for defense against enemy attack helicopters. None of that is as awesome for the crew as the Merkava’s…

6. Trophy Tank Defense System

Guided anti-tank missiles weren’t something the developers of WWII-era armor had to worry about. These days, anti-tank missiles are cheap and plentiful — especially for Hezbollah. For anyone who’s ever wanted to order “Star Trek’s” Enterprise crew to raise shields, you can do that in the IDF.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
No, really. (IDF Blog)

 

The Trophy Active Tank Defense System creates a full sensor shield to detect incoming missiles and then launches its own missile to intercept the incoming anti-tank missile. Which is almost as cool as…

7. The Iron Dome

When your most persistent and determined enemy’s biggest tactic is to randomly fire missiles into your territory and hope it hits something important, you need a way to mitigate that threat because Hamas might actually achieve that some day. The Iron Dome is how Israel has been doing it since 2011.

 

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The Iron Dome at work during Operation Protective Edge, 2011.

The Iron Dome uses radar stations to detect rockets as soon as they’re fired. Once detected, the rocket’s trajectory is analyzed from the ground. If the analysis reveals the potential for hitting a target, two Tamir high-explosive missile are launched to intercept.

Israel says the Iron Dome’s success rate is an incredible 90 percent.

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4 of the coolest planes that might have been

The jet age ushered in an era of intense competition for military aircraft that pushed the envelope of design and pitted some of the country’s top engineers against the toughest problems the Pentagon could come up with.


In the end, only one could be chosen, which begs the question whether the fight would have been different had the losing designs won.

The YA-9, the YF-23, the YF-17, the X-32 — these are all planes that came up just short in competition for top-dollar military contracts.

But would they have been better choices, looking back over the years?

Let’s take a good look and see.

1. Northrop A-9

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The Northrop YA-9 during the fly-off. (USAF photo)

Beaten out by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”), the Northrop YA-9 did offer a higher top speed than the tank buster the Air Force eventually adopted.

The Soviets built a knock off of this plane in the Su-25 Frogfoot. GlobalSecurity.org noted that the plane’s YF102 engines were specially designed for the plane.

Ultimately, that was one big factor in the A-10’s victory – Fairchild’s designers had used off-the-shelf systems and locked the design down.

The fact is you have to look at the results the aircraft that was ultimately delivered. The A-10 has been a legend in its ability to not only deliver ordnance on target, but to come back after being shot up.

In this case, the right call was the A-10.

2. Northrop YF-17

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
An air-to-air right side view of a YF-16 aircraft and a YF-17 aircraft, side-by-side, armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (USAF photo)

The F-16 has been one of the most-produced combat aircraft in recent years – over 4,500 have been built, and some orders are still coming in. There’s even controversy over handing the production line over to India.

Yet it could have been a different plane. Northrop’s YF-17 was the other candidate in what was becoming a big contest as NATO allies sought to replace their F-104 Starfighters, and Congress told the Navy that they’d be getting the winner as well.

But the YF-17 was not to be – as the Air Force went with the F-16. Aviation writer Joe Baugher notes that the difference-maker in the decision was the F-16’s proven engine, even though the YF-17 was better in some areas.

The Navy and Marine Corps would eventually modify the YF-17 into the F/A-18 Hornet, which has proven itself as a mainstay of carrier air wings since the 1990s.

Could the YF-17 have been the Joint Strike Fighter about 35 years ago? That is a very intriguing question. Still, you can’t argue with the F-16’s success, and so the F-16 was probably the right call to make.

3. Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The two Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23 prototypes in flight. The aircraft on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the darker one on the right. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wow… Northrop’s being mentioned a lot in this piece, isn’t it? The YF-23 is yet another plane that came just short of the production nod.

Northrop named the plane the Black Widow II (as an interesting piece of trivia, Lockheed’s choice for the F-22’s name was Lightning II, now the namesake of the F-35).

According to an Air Force Museum fact sheet, Northrop made the decision to maximize the YF-23’s stealth capabilities and speed, figuring that making the plane harder to see would help it win fights.

Lockheed, on the other hand, chose to add thrust vectoring to make its design a better dogfighter. The Air Force chose Lockheed’s design.

But the YF-23 nearly made a comeback when the Air Force was seeking an interim bomber, according to a 2004 report by Flight International.

We don’t have much combat experience to tell us how well the F-22 performs (they did carry out some strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), but the YF-23 might have made an excellent replacement for the F-4G Wild Weasel aircraft that retired in 1996.

4. Boeing X-32

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The X-32 takes off for Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, from Little Rock AFB in 2001. The X-32 was one of two experimental aircraft involved in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The program is intended to provide a universal air attack platform for all branches of the American armed services. (DOD photo)

We talked about this bird before. The fact of the matter is that the Boeing X-32 just missed out, arguably because of the Lockheed demonstrator’s lift-fan performance.

In this case, playing it safe potentially cost Boeing what could be the largest fighter contract in history.

That being said, the X-32B’s use of the more-proven thrust-vectoring to acquire its V/STOL capability might have cut down on the RD time – and costs – enough to get to the Marines sooner.

With Hornets falling out of the skies (a recent Hornet crash off Okinawa was fatal for the pilot), that may have been very important – even if the plane had the nickname “Monica.”

Articles

Dutch police testing eagles, hawks as small drone hunter-killers

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Dutch police are testing the use of hawks and eagles to take down small drones.


Dutch police are going retro in their approach to taking out small drones — by using birds.

The use of trained birds of prey for hunting dates back more than two millennium. But back then, the prey was usually smaller birds.

Now, it’s drones.

A video released Netherlands police shows a small quadcopter drone — a hobbyist model capable of carrying small payloads — rising into the air, only to be quickly snared and brought down by a trained hawk.

Though much of the world’s attention is routinely focused on the large military drones flying combat missions at medium- and high-altitudes, domestic security and law enforcement agencies have their own concerns over smaller recreational models.

In January 2015, for example, a drone too small to be detected by White House radar crashed into a tree on the south lawn in the middle of the night. Secret Service immediately recognized it had a new kind of problem.

Only days earlier, during a Department of Homeland Security conference on the dangers posed by small drones, one official warned that the remotely piloted devices could be mounted with chemical or biological agents.

“Guard from Above,” the company Dutch police are using for its anti-drone efforts, says some drone operators may also mount cameras on the machines to look where they have no business looking.

“Our GFA-trained birds and GFA-trained Birdhandlers are stationed at high risk locations,” the company says on its site. “We also train staff of Police, Defense forces, Prison and correctional officers and security companies to handle GFA-trained birds.”

If the anti-drone hawks and eagles prove successful in The Netherlands, perhaps the U.S. military branches will come up with a new occupational specialty for base security: falconry.

Articles

These high-tech Long Johns could protect you from a mustard gas attack

With threats of a mustard gas attack on U.S. troops re-emerging in ISIS-infested Iraq, a leading clothing technology company has developed an ingenious way to protect troops from the horrors of chem-bio warfare.


Known more for its waterproof and breathable coating for rainwear and other outdoor equipment, W.L. Gore — the folks who make Gore-Tex — has developed a next-to-skin clothing system that protects against both chemical and biological warfare agents with just a thin layer of its so-called “Chempak” material.

So, say goodbye to that hot, bulky, carbon-impregnated MOPP suit.

“The big thing you think about with chem-bio suits is the thermal burden,” said Gore’s Mike Merrick. “You want to make sure you’re keeping that user as effective as possible which means you have to relieve heat stress and reduce that mobility restriction. That’s how we’ve designed this garment — to address that mobility restriction and range of motion and thermal burden.”

The new Chemical/Biological Protective Clothing System developed by Gore is light, stretchy and thin, so it allows the operator unrestricted movement when things go kinetic. Gore also claims it 20 percent cooler than the current chem-bio suit.

The best part is most observers would have no idea a soldier is wearing it, so for public events where security is worried about a potential terrorist attacks, the crowd won’t freak out seeing troops or police wearing bulky chem-bio space suits.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The two-piece chem-bio protection system developed by Gore gives troops a high level of protection from attack while remaining covert. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefits of this is it’s very concealable you could be wearing it under your clothes right now and I’d have no idea,” Merrick said during an interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Think of something like the Olympics where you don’t want to alert a stadium full of people that their could be a threat — you don’t want to walk around there in a big chem-bio suit,” he added. “But in the event something happens, you have a backpack, you pull a mask on you put gloves on and you’re good to go.”

Another advantage of the Chempak material, Merrick says, is that it protects against both vapor-based chemical warfare agents as well as liquid-based biological weapons which the current MOPP suit does a poor job repelling.

Gore has also developed a more robust system that includes a one-piece Union-Suit-like undergarment and a thin coverall. The advantage with this option is that it can be doffed and donned over a trooper’s uniform and can be configured for different missions depending on the environment. The inner protective layer can be worn under a coverall that matches the camo pattern of the service or agency, for example, rather than forcing units to buy entire suits in one color or pattern.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The CPSU-2 developed by Gore allows operators to tailor their outer garment to a specific mission while delivering both chemical and biological protection at a fraction of the bulk and heat of today’s MOPP suit. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefit is that it’s got this removable outer shell. So that’s good for tailorability to the unit,” Merrick said. “If they want to change that outer garment for a jungle uniform or you’re Coast Guard and you’re doing a drug interdiction mission — its’ one chem-bio suit with two different outer garment coveralls, so the logistics burden is reduced and you don’t have to carry two different chem-bio suits.”

American special operations units are already wearing the two-piece chem-bio undergarment on some missions, but Gore is gunning for the Pentagon’s replacement for the dreaded MOPP suit.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what we know about China’s dangerous ‘carrier killer’ missile

China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.

The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.


And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.

Analysts who spoke with the South China Morning Post about the video concluded that the video sought to strike fear into the US by showing a fully functional, confident Chinese rocket brigade loading and firing the missile that the country said can sink US Navy ships as far away as Guam.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZMvtqtHVf4
Tension High: China Tests DF 26 Carrier-Killer Missile, Shoulde Navy Be Worrie

www.youtube.com

China has increasing its threats against the US Navy for sailing in international waters near its territory, with a rear admiral even calling for China to sink US aircraft carriers.

Many in the US dismissed the Chinese naval academic’s talk as bluster, but China went through with deploying the missiles and showed them off in the video.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

The DF-26 warhead revealed.

(CCTV / YouTube)

What we know about the missile

The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.

With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.

First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.

Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.

Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.

Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.

Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.

If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This missile system is Russia’s answer to American stealth fighters

When you mention the term “Growler,” most people will think of the Boeing EA-18G, the electronic-warfare version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet that replaced the Grumman EA-6B Prowler on the Navy’s carrier decks and in Marine Corps service. But there is another Growler, this one from Russia, that hunts the planes that the American Growler is intended to protect.


The Russians actually call this system the S-400 Triumf. NATO, though, calls it the SA-21 Growler. This system is evolved from the SA-10 Grumble, a surface-to-air system comparable to the MIM-104 Patriot. The SA-10, known as the S-300, was known as one of Russia’s best systems in the 1990s and was the keystone of their tactical/operational area defense units.

The problem was, thanks to America developing stealth technology, it was easily neutralized.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn)

The SA-10/S-300 entered service with the Soviet Union in 1978. A combination of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Operation Desert Storm, and the NATO interventions in the Balkans soon indicated that the SA-10 wasn’t nearly good enough for Russia’s air defense needs. So development of the SA-21/S-400 began.

The system entered service in 2007, and Russia is using it to supplement the SA-10s in operational service. MilitaryFactory.com notes that there are three possible missiles that the SA-21 can fire. The first is the 9M96, with a range of just under 75 miles. The second is the 48N6 with a range of 155 miles. The third is the 40N6, with a range of just under 250 miles.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1990s, Russia had no problem exporting the SA-10 to just about anyone with hard currency. The end of history came with one of the most…well, let’s just say loads of firepower was available for dirt-cheap prices – the ultimate yard sale.

You can see a video about the SA-21 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG1pCjlG2zs
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new electronic messenger delivers like the god it was named for

The stuff that goes boom on an enemy target is very important. But that is just the payoff at the end of a long and what used to be a dangerous process. You see, the first thing you had to do was find the thing you want to want to make go away. That can be hard in and of itself, but let’s assume that the scouts do their job and find the target.


That is only half the work… you see, once the scouts have FOUND the target, you gotta tell the folks dropping the bombs that location. In the old days, the scouts would try to get back – and sometimes, they didn’t make it. And we all know that dead men tell no tales. Furthermore, there was always a time-lapse aspect. Technology has helped in this regard – first with radios, but in recent years, something newer has emerged.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

The RQ-4 Global Hawk can help find targets, but Radiant Mercury allows the information to be passed to shooters very quickly.

(USAF photo)

According to material obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that something newer is called Radiant Mercury, and it takes passing information to a new level. The methods range from old-school data using old-school ASCII text files to the latest technology, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. This is a huge game-changer.

How so? Because with all the options, the scouting elements, be they special operators or a drone, can send the information securely to the shooters – and do so very quickly. This is known as shortening the kill chain. The only way to make it better is if the scout actually carried the weapons.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

A shooter like the F-15E Strike Eagle can act on information passed on to it via Radiant Mercury.

(USAF photo)

Radiant Mercury is one of those programs that will not make big headlines or draw much attention. Yet being able to pass on information between scouts and shooters is one of the most important things in warfare. With Radiant Mercury, the United States gets an edge in doing that.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US wants sea life to help hunt enemy submarines

The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.

Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.

If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.


“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”

She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.

In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

(US Navy photo)

“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.

“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”

As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.

There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.

The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s new standard issue infantry rifle

The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.

The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.


The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”

The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.

Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.

See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:

Articles

DARPA used bribes, games and beer to track the Taliban

A new book by a longtime defense journalist tells the story of how the Pentagon used creative methods involving technologically-savvy humanitarians to collect data on Afghanistan.


The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World,” tells the story of how the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) collaborated with a loosely associated group of “humanitarians, hacktivists, and technophiles” to collect crowd-sourced data in 2009, when the Taliban was taking power.

Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.

“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.

The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.

DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.

What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.

DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.

The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”

The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”

The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The airsoft gun so good the Coast Guard is buying it

The U.S. Coast Guard recently selected an airsoft pistol as its new training pistol.

The service will acquire the SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol — a high-end airsoft pistol designed to be an exact replica in look, weight, balance and handling characteristics of the Coast Guard’s Sig Sauer P229 service pistol, according to a Nov. 2, 2018, company news release.

The Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has long used the Sig P229 .40 caliber pistol as its duty sidearm.


The service is expected to join the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps in fielding the Army‘s new Modular Handgun System.

But the Coast Guard will use the SIG AIR Pro Force P229 for simulated training, according to the release. The Sig airsoft pistol uses a semi-automatic firing mode with a gas blowback to mimic traditional firearm shots with a functional slide lock. It has a muzzle velocity of 280 to 340 feet per second and a range of 50 to 80 feet, the release states.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces

The SIG AIR Pro Force P229.

(Sig Sauer photo)

“The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol is engineered and manufactured to meet the SIG standards for precision, quality, accuracy and reliability,” Joe Huston, vice president and general manager of SIG AIR, said in the release. “The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol gives the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cadets and Guardsmen the ability to practice gun handling, conduct target practice in various environments, and train in realistic force-on-force scenarios with a pistol that has the same look and feel of their issued P229 sidearm.”

There was no mention how much the Coast Guard spent on the deal, but the contract was awarded to Tidewater Tactical in Virginia Beach, Virginia, through a small business set-aside, according to the release.

The SIG AIR Pro Force P229 airsoft pistol comes equipped with a SIG rail and one 25-round magazine. It will be available for commercial sale in 2019, the release adds.

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

Articles

That time Egypt pulled a perfect ‘MacGyver’ move to defend its ships from air attack

When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.


According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The Mistral-class amphibious assault ship Anwar el-Sadat, prior to being handed over to the Egyptian navy. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
A helicopter comes in for a landing on an Egyptian Mistral-class amphibious assault ship. An AN.TWQ-1 Avenger is secured to the fight deck in the background. (Youtube screenshot)

Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
An Avenger missile system is capable of firing eight Stinger missiles at low-flying enemy airplanes and helicopters. (Photo: US Army Sgt. Anthony Hewitt)

The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The Simbad missile system that fires the Mistral man-portable SAM. (Wikimedia Commons)

You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is South Korea’s supersonic training aircraft

South Korea is in the news for hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in the mountain town of Pyeongchang. However, these Olympics are not the only area where South Korea is showcasing its remarkable progress as a country. The nation’s military aviation is making radical progress, demonstrated by their latest, potentially game-changing trainer.


That trainer is the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50, and it’s arguably a frontrunner for the United States Air Force’s T-X competition. In showing how South Korea has been able to develop a world-class air force, this plane is arguably the centerpiece.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
The KAI T-50 as part of the Black Eagles demonstration team. This plane has taken a lot of flight hours from F-16s. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Adrian)

As reported by MilitaryFactory.com, this plane was developed when South Korea was seeking to replace earlier trainers. However, in the process, South Korea developed a plane that was so good at training fighter pilots that it became a light multi-role fighter itself — a poor man’s Gripen.

How good is it for training pilots? According to the Lockheed website, a Republic of Korea Air Force trainee now needs only nine sorties in the KF-16 (the South Korean-produced F-16 Fighting Falcon) to fully qualify. This greatly reduces the number of flight hours put on F-16s – meaning those hours can be used for other missions, like combat training or keeping current pilots up to speed.

7 powerful weapons used by the Israel Defense Forces
Two of the FA 50 Golden Eagle jets that are part of PAF’s modernization effort during the Aquino administration escort the Philippine president’s aircraft. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Gil Nartea/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

In fact, the T-50 is, in some ways, a hybrid between the T-38 Talon, the F-16, and the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. It has a single F404 engine, like the Tigershark. Its cockpit and canopy are much like the F-16’s and it is a two-seat trainer that goes supersonic, like the T-38. The FA-50 version is a true multi-role fighter that carries advanced radar and other electronic systems. The plane currently serves with Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.

The T-50/FA-50 has a top speed of 990 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,150 miles, and can carry a wide variety of missiles, bombs, and rockets. It also has a three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun.

To see more about this plane, watch the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgG0XeKAGgM
(Dung Tran | YouTube)