DARPA isn’t the only organization that’s giving soldiers sci-fi weaponry. Engineers for the U.S. Army have designed a night vision/weapons system that will give soldiers the ability to run up to the corner of a building at night, poke their weapon around the wall, and engage an enemy obscured by smoke and dust.
Two new tools work together for this. First, the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III mounts to a soldier’s helmet. The ENVG III has both night vision and thermal capabilities. Troops can switch modes. There is even a combined mode where the soldier sees standard night vision but red outlines highlight thermal energy sources like people or vehicles. The thermal sights can see through most smoke and dust.
In addition, the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, or FWS-I, mounts on the weapon and communicates with the ENVG III. The FWS-I has its own sensors that can see details up to a kilometer away and magnify images for the soldier to aid in target acquisition. At any range, it can provide a targeting reticle on the ENVG III, so the soldier always knows where a proper trigger squeeze would put a round at any moment.
The FWS-I can also be mounted on multiple weapon systems including the Army’s carbines, rifles, light machine guns, and recoilless rifles. New versions are in development for use on heavy machine guns like the .50-cal, grenade launchers like the Mk. 19, and sniper rifles.
Soldiers have provided positive feedback on test versions of the technology and earlier models of the ENVG have already been fielded. The ENVG III is expected to reach troops in 2017 and the FWS-I is slated for 2019.
Check out the video below for an idea what the soldier will see during engagements.
The U.S. Army hasn’t really flown fixed-wing combat aircraft since the Army Air Forces became the Air Force in 1947. An agreement on U.S. military policy written in Key West in 1948 divvied up the roles of aircraft used by the United States for air defense, interdiction of enemy land forces, intelligence, mine-laying, airlift, and pretty much anything else aircraft might have a role in doing.
Ever since, the Air Force is solely expected to provide close-air support, resupply, airborne operations, and pretty much everything else the Army might need fixed-wing aircraft for. Now one lawmaker wants to upend all that.
The top leadership of the world’s new superpower came together after World War II to form this gentleman’s agreement on whose air forces would perform what tasks because it was better than leaving it to Congress to codify it. Solving the problem before it became one also gives the Pentagon more flexibility in the future to control how it fights war, rather than forcing Congress to change legislation so it could get on with the business of defending America.
Seeing as how the Pentagon – and the Army in particular – need the tools required to execute that mission, one lawmaker is getting impatient with Air Force foot-dragging over a new close-air support attack aircraft. He’s ready to give the contract and the money to the Army if the project doesn’t get a move on.
Florida Rep. Michael Waltz is promoting his legislation to allow the U.S. Special Operations Command to get its own light attack aircraft, separate from the U.S. Air Force fleet. The House has already given the idea the green light (but not the money yet), and Waltz wants to extend that same courtesy to the Army. The reason is that the Air Force has been too slow in rolling out new, prop-driven attack planes for land interdiction.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said.
The Air Force has been working on the plane for the past 12 years, unsure if it really wants the platform over the A-10 or the newest F-35 fighters. The argument for the prop planes is that they provide better CAS coverage while costing much, much less than flying an F-35 for hours on end, all while carrying the same armaments. There’s only one problem – prop planes are really easy to shoot down.
The A-26 Super Tocano is just one of the types of light attack craft tested by the Air Force.
Waltz is a former U.S. Army Special Forces operator who believes low-intensity conflict will not go away in the coming years but rather will likely increase. He also believes the U.S. military’s main mission shouldn’t stray too far from its counterterrorism role.
“Whether it’s Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South America, we are going to be engaged with our local partners on the ground in low-intensity conflict…” he said. “If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority.”
The Air Force is looking to produce six A-29 Super Tocanos or six AT-6 Wolverines for training and advisory missions overseas and here at home. While the Air Force program has no set date for rollout, the legislation to give the Army the authority to roll out its own is part of the House version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The P-51 may have been the plane that won the skies over Europe, and the Me-262 and Gloster Meteor may have been the first operational jet fighters on the sides of the Axis and Allies.
But those planes weren’t the fastest. That honor goes to the Me 163 “Komet.”
The Me 163 was short (about 19.5 feet long), with a wingspan of about 30 feet and looks like a miniature version of the B-2 Spirit. It was armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannon intended to rip apart Allied planes and it had a top speed of almost 600 miles per hour.
So, why isn’t it more well-known? Well, for starters, the way the plane got its speed — by using a rocket engine — tended to burn up a lot of fuel. That gave it a little over seven minutes of powered flight. The short flight time meant the Me 163 really didn’t have much range — about 25 miles.
After the fuel ran out, the Me 163 was an armed, fast glider. When it landed, it had to be towed. That meant it was a sitting duck until help arrived, and Allied pilots would just wait for the plane to start gliding down before putting a burst into it.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, despite operating for about 10 months, the Me 163 just didn’t get a lot of kills – anywhere from nine to 16, depending on the estimate. That’s less than one pera month. Furthermore, only one fighter group ever operated the plane, which was also hobbled by a shortage of rocket fuel.
AcePilots.com notes that the Me 163 was also dangerous to fly. The rocket fuel ingredients were very nasty – and when they leaked through the suit, it did bad things to the pilot. It wasn’t unheard of for Me 163s to just explode on landing as residual amounts of fuel would mix.
For all intents and purposes, the Me 163 was a manned, reusable surface-to-air missile that could make two attacks. Eventually, the Nazis decided to just use an expendable rocket instead of a manned plane for these types of missions.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.
The US Navy is planning to finally test the electromagnetic railgun it has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing aboard a warship, according to new documents detailing the service’s testing and training plans.
Unlike conventional guns, a railgun uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther and at six or seven times the speed of sound.
“The kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets,” the Navy’s 1,800-page Northwest Training and Testing Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment revealed.
The Seattle Times, followed by Task Purpose, was the first to report the Navy’s latest testing plans and the possibility of a milestone achievement for the railgun program.
Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
The Navy, which has spent more than a decade and at least 0 million trying to build a working railgun, was initially expected to conduct a sea test of this new weapon aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Trenton at Eglin Air Force Base’s maritime test range in the summer of 2016.
That test never took place. Instead, the Navy chose to continue testing the weapon on land. If the Navy’s new testing and training plans are approved, sea trials for the railgun could take place as early as next year. It’s unclear what type of test platform might be involved.
Should the Navy test its railgun at sea, it will be a major achievement for a program that has struggled for quite some time now. When asked about the program earlier this year, the best answer Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
The US is not the only country chasing this technology. Another clear competitor is China, which has already managed to arm a warship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — with a railgun. The weapon is believed to have been put through some preliminary sea trials.
Photograph taken from a high-speed video camera during a record-setting firing of an electromagnetic railgun at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., on Jan. 31, 2008.
It is unclear how far along the Chinese railgun program is, but the competition is on. Chinese media proudly boasted in January that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”
The railgun is a curious weapon, one that some naval affairs experts feel offers prestige to the innovator but little military advantage to the warfighter, no matter who gets their first.
“It’s not useful military technology,” Bryan Clark, an expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former US Navy officer, previously told Business Insider, arguing that it is a poor replacement for a missile. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”
So far, the most impressive thing to come out of the US Navy’s railgun research is the hypervelocity projectile, which the Navy has tested using the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers.
The Army is also looking at the HVP for its 155 mm howitzers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.
During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.
Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.
Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.
US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.
As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.
In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.
ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.
The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.
Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.
While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.
The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.
Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.
A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.
This past weekend marked the 71st anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day landing at Normandy, France, which ultimately led to the liberation of France from Nazi control.
But what if the Allies had never launched their seaborne invasion, leaving Europe in the hands of Hitler and Nazi Germany?
Amazon Studios provides the answer with “The Man In The High Castle,” a new original series that was recently greenlit by Amazon for a full season after becoming the most watched show since Amazon’s original-series development program began. The show is smart, fun, and polished, and it sports a five-star user rating.
Produced by Ridley Scott, the show is based on a 1962 Philip K. Dick novel about a world in which the Nazis and the Japanese won World War II. Of all of Dick’s classics, it was the only one to win science fiction’s preeminent Hugo Award. Scott, who directed another Dick adaptation in “Blade Runner,” started developing in 2010 what would surprisingly be the book’s first screen adaptation.
It takes place in 1962 in a conquered America that has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich, from the Atlantic to the Rockies, and the Japanese Pacific States, on the Pacific Coast.
The opening scene shows a propaganda film about life in America, which chillingly demonstrates how Americans might come to accept Nazi overlords.
“It’s a new day,” the narrator says. “The sun rises in the east. Across our land men and women go to work in factories and farms providing for their families. Everyone has a job. Everyone knows the part they play keeping our country strong and safe. So today we give thanks to our brave leaders, knowing we are stronger and prouder and better.”
Only the end of the film explicitly references the Nazi takeover:
“Yes, it’s a new day in our proud land, but our greatest days may lie ahead. Sieg heil!”
Here’s a look at Nazi Times Square:
Here’s Japanese San Francisco:
As the propaganda film suggests, aspects of life in Nazi/Japanese America are not bad, even as the overlords brutally repress all resistance. The winners of the war — particularly the Germans, who in the show’s alternate history developed the first atomic bomb — are living in a technological and economic boom as great as anything America saw in the real postwar era.
Given this rosy portrayal, it’s all the more shocking when there’s a reminder of how inhuman the Axis powers could be. In one scene, a volunteer for the resistance is driving through the middle of the country for the first time. He is talking with a Nazi police officer, who helped him change a flat tire, when ashes began falling like snow.
“Oh, it’s the hospital,” the cop says. “Tuesdays, they burn cripples, the terminally ill — drag on the state.”
Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.
“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”
In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.
Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.
“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”
After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.
Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.
After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.
“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”
The U.S. military’s HMMWV, or “Humvee,” was the backbone of U.S. mobile military might for thirty years. Over that time it became as iconic as its predecessor, the Jeep. That kind of legacy is hard to replicate.
Enter the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.
The JLTV program demanded “a flexible vehicle that balances the payload, performance, and protection critical in the operating environments of today and tomorrow.” The program awarded the contract to Oshkosh Defense’s Light Combat All-Terrain Vehicle (L-ATV).
The L-ATV combines the protection of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles used in Iraq and the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) used in Afghanistan, but it’s much lighter. It’s maximum weight of just over 15,600 pounds allows the vehicle to be transported by helicopter, reach speeds of over 100 mph, and cover rugged terrain 70 percent faster than the M-ATV.
The new vehicle comes in a four-door model combat vehicle or two-seater combat support vehicle. It also has the armor protection of the MRAP and a Crew 1080 protection system like those equipped in racing vehicles that allow drivers to walk away from horrific crashes.
The vehicle reportedly drives like a modern pickup truck. It runs on a GM Duramax 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel engine and features a TAK-4i independent suspension and an optional hybrid electric-diesel drivetrain.
Here are some other program requirements that the L-ATV has to meet:
It must comply with U.S. Army’s Long Term Armor Strategy (LTAS)
It has to be able to be transported by their current and planned systems. In April 2009, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway warned that the Marines “will not buy a vehicle that’s 20,000 lb.”
Passengers must be able to easily escape after the vehicle has taken damage
It needs an automatic fire extinguishing system
The crew compartment temperature has to be able to go from minus 40 to 65 degrees in one hour
Conversely, the crew compartment temperature has to be able to drop from 120 to 90 degrees within 40 minutes
It must have a diagnostic monitoring system that will electronically alert the operator of equipment failures so that they can be fixed. The electronic monitoring will observe the fuel, air intake, engine, cooling, transmission, energy storage, power generation and vehicle speed as well as other systems
It needs a trailer capable of carrying the same payload as its prime mover over the same speeds and mission profile
The Army is set to introduce L-ATVs to the force around 2018, and the Marines are getting theirs in 2022.
DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
“Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy,” Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. “For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.”
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented “High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle,” design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
“Our engine has no vibration at all and it’s a lot quieter,” Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston’s smallest engine. “It should be a much nicer user experience all around.”
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.
On September 14, 2020, the German Armed Forces selected the Haenel MK 556 to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 as its standard-issue rifle. Over 100,000 rifles will be delivered by 2026. The Haenel is the first service rifle used by the Bundeswehr to be produced by a company other than Heckler & Koch. It is a fully-automatic version of the civilian Haenel CR 223 rifle which has been in use with German law enforcement agencies since 2017. In January 2021, the Swiss firearm company B&T announced that it will import the CR 223 for sale in the United States as the B&T-15.
Haenel is no stranger to the firearm industry. In fact, the company produced what is widely considered to be the first modern assault rifle, the StG 44. Also known as the MP 43 and MP 44, the late-WWII rifle featured the first widespread use of an intermediate cartridge. In January 2019, Haenel’s MK 556 was shortlisted alongside the H&K HK416 and HK433 as a candidate to replace the Bundeswehr’s G36 service rifle.
The G36 replaced the H&K G3 service rifle in 1997. Since then, it has also seen use with elite units like the German GSG9, the French GIGN, and the British SAS. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, the G36 uses a short-stroke piston gas system and has been adapted into both carbine and squad automatic weapon variants. While the MK 556 retains the short-stroke gas system of the G36, it is currently only offered in a standard rifle configuration.
With the AR-15 market expanding rapidly in the United States, B&T made the decision to import the Haenel CR 223 and market it to American shooters. The weapon’s high-precision German engineering and selection by the military make it a highly desirable product to the discerning customer. Named the B&T-15, it features a short barrel and will be imported and sold in the United States as a pistol. Customers will need to equip it with a pistol brace or file a Form 1 with the ATF and classify it as a short-barrelled rifle.
Though it is marked 223, the rifle is chambered in 5.56mm and can accept both cartridges. It features a chromed bolt carrier group and ambidextrous controls like its European counterparts. The quick-detach handguard is M-LOK compatible rather than the KeyMod or picatinny configurations that are sold in Europe. This is likely due to the fact that M-LOK is regulated by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and is restricted for sale outside of the United States. Another European feature is that the rifle can be placed on safe even after the hammer has been dropped.
The B&T-15 is 100% German-made and is as close to the new German Army rifle as the American market will get. Coupled with the fact that it’s a European import, the B&T-15 will have an MSRP of $3,000. This is consistent with the prices of other German military-grade firearms like the H&K MR556, the civilian version of the HK416. B&T says the new weapon will be available in the United States by mid-2021.
To address the potential Russian threat, the Army will start rotating Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe, starting next year.
According to a report by the Army Times, the first unit to handle a rotation will come from the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. The European rotation will join Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in South Korea and Kuwait.
The Army also announced that a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be converted from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team.
An Armored Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Armored Division will also be moved from training duties to the active rotation. The deployments to Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait are for nine months.
At present, there are only nine Armored Brigade Combat Teams in the Active Army, with five more in the National Guard. The conversion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s brigade will make it ten active Armored Brigade Combat Teams.
The only U.S. Army unit permanently deployed to Europe is the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker unit. Earlier this year, the Army received the first M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker modified with the Mk 46 Bushmaster II 30mm chain gun.
An Armored Brigade Combat Team has three battalions, each with two companies of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and two companied of mechanized infantry that each have 14 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.
The brigade also has a reconnaissance squadron with three troops of 12 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles each.
The Army had to withdraw its Armored Brigade Combat Teams from Europe five years ago due to budget cuts caused by sequestration. A 2015 Army Times report outlined that the cuts reduced the number of brigade combat teams from 45 in 2012 to 30.