The key qualities of operator footwear - We Are The Mighty
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The key qualities of operator footwear

This article was sponsored by Altama.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the field, then you likely understand the importance of having quality gear. It can make your life easier and more comfortable, and that alone is worth its weight in gold. One of the most crucial pieces of gear (and often uncelebrated) is a good pair of boots. Not only do you need a pair that will provide protection, support, and comfort; durability, affordability, moisture management, and longevity are other important traits to consider.

While there are a number of brands and styles to choose from, few companies have a reputation, credibility, and legacy like Altama, who has been providing footwear for the military for over 50 years. In fact, Altama is the largest footwear manufacturer for the Department of Defense. They even employ a team of military and civilian volunteers to put their boots through their paces to ensure they perform in real-life scenarios.


But no matter which boots you strap into, here are a few things you should consider when choosing your next pair.

1. Comfort

While this might seem like the most obvious reason to purchase a good pair of boots, this wasn’t always a primary consideration. In fact, way back in the day, before the Civil War, many boots issued to troops didn’t even have a specific left or right boot. Each troop was expected to break in each pair through extended wear. As you can imagine, this made the shoe less expensive to produce, but also extremely uncomfortable, often resulting in blisters and soreness.

Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. Now, the top manufacturers make use of lightweight, durable materials, like knit and mesh, to improve comfort. Technical additions, like a full shank (a load bearing insert made of Nylon or other hard material), help the wearer by diminishing the load on his/her calves, arches, and knees. This has been particularly important as our service men and women find themselves carrying heavy loads on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The key qualities of operator footwear

2. Sole Toughness

A durable, non-slip sole is a must-have for operators. Operating in different topographies, such as deserts, mountains, jungles, forests, and urban environments, demands a versatile sole that can handle all surfaces and situations. Altama footwear has incorporated a high-abrasion, rubber sticky outsole into their Urban Assault shoe, which draws its inspiration from rock climbing shoes. This sole also happens to comply with OSHA standards regarding slip resistance and features a zero-drop sole which is believed to promote more of a midfoot landing, reducing wear and tear on the knees. This feature also promotes increased stability, as it offers greater contact with the floor.

The key qualities of operator footwear

3. Moisture Management

Whether you are operating in water, or simply in a hot, sweat-inducing environment, having footwear that’s suited for the task is key. Boots that keep your feet wet for prolonged periods of time can lead to problems with blisters and, in extreme cases, trench foot.

So, how do you know which shoe is right for you? Altama’s Urban Assault shoe, for example, incorporates air mesh linings that help to quickly wick sweat and moisture away from your foot. This, coupled with a chunky knit vent, promotes airflow around your foot. And, most importantly (at least to your battle buddies) it also includes an anti-microbial PU foam insole, which helps manage nasty odor.

Altama’s Maritime Assault shoe, on the other hand, features a fin-friendly fit and free-flow side drainage vents that allow water to exit the shoe for amphibious missions. The fast-dry lining also eliminates the need for a sock that’s susceptible to sogginess.

Altama has been designing footwear for over 50 years with our law enforcement and military members in mind. Check out their full line of tactical boots and shoes. Discounts are available for active duty, veteran, and law enforcement members.

This article was sponsored by Altama.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why troops love and hate aluminum vehicles

Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.


The key qualities of operator footwear

Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)

Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.

As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.

Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.

But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.

Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.

But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.

The key qualities of operator footwear

An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.

(Amr Farouq Mohammed, CC BY-SA 2.0)

So why don’t troops love the stuff? It has a reputation for burning, for one. It’s not fair to the material. Aluminum actually doesn’t burn in combat conditions, needing temperatures of over 3300 Fahrenheit to burn and lots of surface area exposed to keep the reaction going.

(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)

But that hasn’t stopped detractors from blaming the metal for all sorts of vehicles that were lost. The Royal Navy lost nine ships in the Falklands War, and three of them had aluminum superstructures. Aluminum detractors at the time claimed it was because the ships’ aluminum hulls burned in the extreme heat after being hit, even though the ships had steel hulls and aluminum does not burn outside of very certain conditions.

The key qualities of operator footwear

U.S. Army armored vehicles leave Samarra, Iraq, after conducting an assault on Oct. 1, 2004.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

All these reports of burning aluminum were spurred on in the ’80s and ’90s by a very public fight between Army Col. James G. Burton, a man who didn’t like the M113 in Vietnam and hated the M2 Bradley while it was under development. He repeatedly claimed that the Army was rigging tests in the Bradley’s favor, tests that he said would prove that the vehicles would burn and kill the crew in combat.

In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.

But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.

The key qualities of operator footwear

The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.

(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)

But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.

And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russian nuclear sub fires intercontinental missile for first time

Russia’s Defense Ministry says it has test-launched a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from its most advanced nuclear-powered submarine for the first time, striking a target thousands of kilometers away.

The ministry said on Oct. 30, 2019, that the missile was fired from an upgraded Borei-class nuclear submarine that was submerged in the White Sea near Arkhangelsk on Russia’s northern coast.

It said the missile carried a dummy payload that reached a test site in Russia’s Far East region of Kamchatka.


Vice Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev said the upgraded model of the Borei-class submarine is scheduled to enter service with Russia’s Northern Fleet at the end of 2019 once it has completed trials that include weapons tests.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGegAIvyrEc
Meet Russia’s latest nuclear-powered Borei-class intercontinental ballistic missile submarine

www.youtube.com

The test comes amid tensions between Moscow and Washington following the demise of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty that has sparked fears of a growing arms race.

Global arms controls set up during the Cold War to keep Washington and Moscow in check have come under strain since the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which banned the deployment of short- and intermediate-range missiles.

In August 2019, the United States pulled out of the accord.

Washington said Moscow has openly disregarded the conditions of the treaty, a charge that Russia has denied.

The last major nuclear arms control treaty between Russia and the United States, known as the New START treaty, is due to expire in 2021.

Signed in 2010, the New START treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the United States and Russia are allowed to deploy.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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Take a look at these historic French military weapons

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.


In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Seventeenth century armor from both France and Germany is on display. Much of the museum’s Medieval collection is in the open, outside of glass cases. (All photos by Kenda Lenseigne, Recoil Magazine)

The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.

It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.

The key qualities of operator footwear
French cuisine is rightly famous worldwide. A couple of meat tenderizers illustrate why.

Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Carbide-powered sporting rifle from the 19th century.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Exquisitely engraved sporting rifle from the golden age of French gunsmithing.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Gallic Buntline Special. Revolving carbines were developed around the same time on both sides of the Atlantic.

Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Early breech-loading percussion pistol.

While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.

Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Chamelot-Delvigne, 1887.

The key qualities of operator footwear
An 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne cutaway next to its replacement, the Model of 1887.

Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.

The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.

Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.

At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.

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Eighty years of French service rifles: MAS-36, MAS-49/56, and FAMAS.

As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.

While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.

The key qualities of operator footwear
Case showing the progressive development of the French service revolver. They were replaced in general service in 1935 by the forerunner to the SIG P210.

The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.

As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is proposing a revolutionary catamaran carrier

Russia — the country that’s failed to build its super carrier and any meaningful amount of its newest jets or tanks — is now claiming that it’s going to build the world’s first catamaran aircraft carrier, a vessel that would carry an air wing while suffering less drag and costing less than other carriers.

While this effort will likely suffer from the same problems that prevented the construction of the super carrier, it’s still a revolutionary design that’s generating a lot of buzz.


The key qualities of operator footwear

The U.S. has purchased and leased some catamaran ships, but nothing nearly the size of the proposed Russian aircraft carrier. The HSV 2 in the photo has a displacement of less than 5 percent the size of the Russian design.

(U.S. Navy)

So, first, let’s explore the highlights. Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels with the hulls in parallel. If you’re unfamiliar, that basically means that if you look at the vessel from the front, you can see a gap right down the middle of the hull near the waterline. The Russian vessel would be a semi-catamaran, so there would be a gap, but it would be beneath the waterline.

This greatly reduces drag and makes the vessel more stable while turning, but also reduces the amount of space below the waterline for aircraft storage, living spaces, and so forth.

The proposed design would be a 40,000 to 45,000-ton displacement ship, similar to American Landing Helicopter Assault ships, vessels that would’ve been called escort carriers in World War II. This puts it at a fraction of the size of America’s Ford-class carriers, which displace nearly 100,000 tons.

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Russia’s only current carrier is the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it’s less than impressive.

(U.S. Defense Department)

But it would still carry a healthy complement of aircraft, up to 46, including early warning aircraft and helicopters. That’s a far cry from the Ford’s 75 aircraft, but a pretty nice upgrade over the LHAs’ 30+ aircraft.

The catamaran would have an 8,000-mile endurance, anti-torpedo and anti-aircraft defenses, electronic warfare systems, and four bomb launchers.

All-in-all, that could make for an effective and affordable aircraft carrier. So, will Russia be able to crank this ship out, maybe clone it a couple of times, and become the effective master of the seas?

Russia: Mistral replacement? Storm Supercarrier model unveiled in St Petersburg

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Well, no. Almost certainly not. First, Russia has the same spending problem it had when it threw a hissy fit after France cancelled the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Russia responded with designs for the Storm Supercarrier, a ship larger than America’s Ford-class.

Most defense experts at the time weren’t very worried, and we shouldn’t be now. Russia has few personnel with experience building ships of this size. That’s actually why they wanted to buy the Mistral class in the first place — and the Mistral is half the size of this proposed catamaran.

The Soviet Union constructed the bulk of its ships in areas that broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many were built in Ukraine, which now has a troubled relationship with Russia (to put it mildly). Russia lacks the facilities and personnel for such construction.

The key qualities of operator footwear

The PAK-FA/Su-57 is seemingly a capable fighter despite issues with its engines and other developmental hangups, but Russia simply can’t afford to buy them, or to buy a catamaran carrier.

Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com

And then there’s the money. Russia designed a reasonably modern and well-received tank in the T-14 and a good fighter in the PAK-FA, but they couldn’t build many of them because oil, currently, is way too cheap. Russia’s economy is relatively small — actually smaller than that of Texas or California — and it’s heavily reliant on oil sales.

And then there are the glaring flaws of the design. While the catamaran has the advantages mentioned above, it would have serious trouble moving in rough seas, as catamarans have a tendency to dig their bows into waves in rough conditions — and taking waves from the side would likely be even worse.

Someone may build a catamaran carrier one day, but it won’t be Russia. So, for now, just check out the model and think about how cool it is. But don’t expect to see this thing at sea. Russia will have to just keep making due with the leaky, poop-filled, unreliable Admiral Kuznetsov.

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Watch this huge guided missile destroyer turn on a dime

The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.


These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

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USS Gonzalez at a more sedate pace. (US Navy photo)

But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.

The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.

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USS Farragut (DDG 99) comes out of a high-speed turn. (US Navy photo)

Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.

Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.

The key qualities of operator footwear
What can happen when a torpedo hits: South Korean and American officers walk past what os left the ROK Navy corvette ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772). A non-contact homing torpedo or sea-mine exploded near the ship March 26, 2010, sinking it, resulting in the death of 46 ROK Navy sailors. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jared Apollo Burgamy)

You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.


Feature image: screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the latest version of the M9 service pistol

While the M17/M18 pistols are entering service with the United States Army, let’s face it, the M9 will still be around for quite a while. After all, since the M9 entered service in the 1980s, over 600,000 were produced. Also, the dirty little secret is that even though the M1911 was supposed to be replaced by the M9, it still hangs on as the MEU(SOC).


So, what is to be done while the M17 and M18 reach the troops? Beretta has an answer: An improved version of the M9 that the troops are using. According to a handout available at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C., the world’s oldest firearms manufacturer has made a number of improvements to your father’s (or mother’s) M9.

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A look at the muzzle end of the M9A3. (Photo from Beretta)

While the M9A3 is still a 9mm pistol, it is very different from the first M9 to enter service. For one thing, its magazine holds 17 rounds as opposed to 15. The pistol also has an earth tone finish, a larger magazine release button, and a over-center safety lever. The biggest bonus: The troops already know how to use this pistol, and thus, no re-training is necessary.

The pistol also provides little burden on logistics, since all of its major components and over three-quarters of all individual parts, are compatible with the legacy M9s. Furthermore, this pistol could come in cheaper than the current M9. The magazine has also been improved to increase its resistance to sand.

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A side view of the M9A3, showing, among other things, the new magazine release and providing a good look at the Flat Dark Earth finish. (Photo from Beretta)

The M9 was featured in an iconic photo of the Iraq War, when First Sergeant Bradley Kasal was gripping it while being assisted out of a building where he’d protected a fellow Marine from insurgents. With the M9A3, the M9 could be sticking around with some units for a long time to come, just like the pistol it replaced in the 1980s.

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This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


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GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

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The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

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The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is one ‘Carl’ the troops are actually going to love

The name Carl tends to really annoy a lot of grunts — and oh have we counted the many ways. Other times, Carl could give very bad advice.


But there’s a new ‘Carl’ coming – and the troops will likely love this one.

According to Saab Aerospace, a new version of the defense firm’s Carl Gustav recoilless rifle is about to hit the field.

The M4 Gustav is even lighter and smaller than the previous M3 version, coming in at less than 16 pounds and measuring at less than 39 inches. By comparison, the M3 came in at almost 42 inches long, and weighed just over 22 pounds.

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The new Carl Gustav M4 has 13 varieties of live ammo it can fire. (Photo from Saab)

That alone will make the grunt assigned to carry this system happy. Indeed, the Carl gunners will be celebrating a roughly 33 percent reduction in how much the system weighs. Seven pounds may not sound like much to you, but when troops are carrying over a hundred pounds of gear and ammo, it makes a difference.

And what can this FNG named Carl shoot? Well, there are four anti-tank rounds, four multi-role rounds, three anti-personnel rounds, and two “support” rounds (one smoke, one illumination). Plus, there are four training round options, two sub-caliber, two full-size. That’s 17 options. Plus, rounds from the old Carls can be used in the new Carl.

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The Carl Gustav M4 is roughly 39 inches long, and roughly 15 pounds, a much lighter load than past iterations. (Photo from Saab)

The new Carl also can be aimed with a variety of sights. The traditional open sights are an option, as is a telescopic sight. But the new Carl can also be used with red dot sights and “intelligent” sights that include features like a laser range-finder. The new Carl also features a built-in round counter.

In short, this is one Carl that the grunts will be happy to have around.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army’s new helmet protects against blunt force impact

It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.

Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.


“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

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Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.

During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.

“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.

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Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.

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Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”

Equipment return

On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.

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Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”

Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”

Soldier protection system

After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.

The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.

The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.

“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.

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The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.

The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.

In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.

Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.

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Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.

Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.

“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.

Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force C-130 pilots get new gas mask

With the help of the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base C-130J Super Hercules aircrews are always ready for potential chemical and biological threats.

By using the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection Equipment, aircrews can safely fly and execute their mission under any real-world chemical scenario.


The current mask, the Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), is nearing the end of its lifespan and has been found to have many faults during its service. Its successor, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask, or JSAM, Strategic, is scheduled to be available for Yokota AB’s C-130Js in 2021.

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Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, puts on a M50 gas mask, allowing communication during a flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

The standard issue M50 gas mask, a newer, more portable option for chemical protection, can be modified for use in-flight by adding communication-enabled wiring. With these modifications, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen can use the M50 gas mask as a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap during the transition.

Yokota AB Airmen are now leading the way, reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units across the Air Force on the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrew.

Learning how the M50 gas mask works alongside other Air Force assets is a top priority for 374th OG Airmen.

“We’re making sure the equipment is flight-worthy, there are no difficulties flying and seeing how well it integrates with our other AFE equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. David Showers, 374th OSS AFE lead trainer. “We want know what can we keep and what we can make better. By reducing the components and the kits we’ll be giving back time to our people, our training and our mission.”

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Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, connects a M50 gas mask during a training flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)

By making this integration possible, 374th OG Airmen are saving the Air Force time and money.

Maintenance on the older, more complicated MBU-19/P could take anywhere from three to four hours to a full day depending on the inspection and what kind of fixes the technician needs to make. With the introduction to the M50 gas mask on flights, inspection and maintenance times could be cut to approximately 30 minutes per mask freeing up valuable time to complete other tasks.

“By switching to the M50 gas mask we’ll increase our workflow and mission flow,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Wilson, 374th OSS AFE technician. “With this switch we’ll avoid a lot of maintenance hours and we could have our aircrews running missions more effectively.”

Articles

These full-bird colonels are amped about vertical lift aircraft

The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious drive to develop leap-ahead capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that will provide greater range, speed, lethality, and survivability, but also have the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce cost and enhance sustainability.


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A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The three colonels managing that complex effort say they believe they can do a better job of maximizing commonality and limiting cost than the tri-service F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, program that continues to struggle with technology challenges, cost growth, and fractured schedules.

Appearing at a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum on future vertical lift (FVL) on Dec. 9, the three officers stated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.

The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling air lift and air assault missions currently performed by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future vertical lift program manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Col. David Phillips, program executive for rotary wing requirements at SOCOM.

Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the utility mission,” which includes aerial medical evacuation and air assault, or “the ability to assault light forces and their equipment.”

SOCOM’s air lift missions tend to be long-range covert insertion and extraction of special operations units.

Marine Col. John Barranco, the rotary requirements branch head, expressed a need for both troop transport and attack capabilities as successors to the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, which already has speed and range far greater than those two.

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U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

But all three emphasized the primary focus of their FVL effort was more speed, range, power, and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They emphasized that those enhanced capabilities were needed to overcome the emerging anti-access, area-denial defensive capabilities being fielded by “near-peer competitors,” which usually refers to Russia and China.

Bentley said greater “reach, speed, and power” would enable the Army to “conduct strategic deployment” from outside the combat theater, and immediately go into tactical operations on arrival.

Greater speed and reach, combined with additional protective systems, enhances survivability and “coupled with light-weight sensor systems, increases the lethality of Army aviation,” he said.

Barranco, noted that the Marines are fielding the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter, while their vertical lift aircraft, with the exception of the Osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. But, due to “the threat picture, the anti-access, area-denial, from a variety of near peer competitors,” he said, “there is a need across the joint force to leverage technology to develop a new, more capable aircraft.”

Phillips said the improved capabilities, and the open architecture systems were essential to “stay ahead of the environment,” which was his term for the threat.

The CSIS moderator, Andrew Hunter, challenged the officers on how they could achieve the high commonality for their different missions in light of the record of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been “challenged” and has had “less commonality than expected.”

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The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the FVL effort is under the established Army program office. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

All three emphasized the time they have spent on confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of those requirements was “trade space” that would allow each service to take from one capability to enhance another.

Barranco agreed, saying “every requirement is in a range of capabilitie,” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Marine also stressed how they all needed the high commonality to enable them to get what they need within “the fiscally constrained environment,” which he predicted would not change.

In addition to reducing the procurement costs, commonality also would enhance sustainability by allowing common supply of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance, they said.

Although the individual platforms may be different, Barranco cited the example of the Marines’ new H-1s, which have 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems, despite the significant difference in airframe and missions. 

Commonality also would be easier with open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to modify some performances, they said.

As the program lead, Bentley said the goal was to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin full rate production in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft were due to retire.

Articles

Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

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An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs:

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