The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
The M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System is one of the most impressive pieces of gear in the U.S. military arsenal. It’s made our list of possible Zords and it’s become an awesome sniper, capable of whacking a target 44 miles away. But let’s face it, the MLRS has a couple of drawbacks.
What drawbacks, you might wonder, could a weapon capable of putting 12 rockets, armed with either unitary warheads or submunitions, on a target possibly have? They’ve been called “grid square removal service” for how much area the cluster-munition variants can cover.
There’s just one problem with the MLRS: the weight.
The M270 comes in at 31 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com, and it’s bulky. It’s not the most deployable asset by plane — you’d probably need a C-5 Galaxy or C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes to move it, both of which are in limited supply. They come in batteries of nine and you need to bring along reloads as well, meaning a light unit, like the 82nd Airborne Division, has to decide between massive firepower and deployability.
Oftentimes, the answer to this decision is the M142 HIMARS. It may have only half the firepower of the M270, but it’s based on a medium truck. It comes in at 12 tons, making it deployable on C-130s.
HIMARS can fire any rocket or missile that the MLRS can fire. This means it, too, is a sniper capable of knocking out a target 44 miles away with improved rockets, or it can send an ATACMS way downrange. Check out the video below to see a Marine Corps HIMARS going off in support of Steel Knight.
It’s no secret that there are solid arguments against the American M4 rifle. Its “varmint” caliber chambering and fouling-prone gas impingement operating system have formed the foundation of complaints against the platform for decades.
In fact, U.S. Special Operations Command responded to those concerns in the early 2000s with the SOCOM Combat Assault Rifle program, which sought to replace aging M4 carbines with something more powerful and reliable. The one that was ultimately fielded turned out to be the Mk-17 SCAR Heavy battle rifle.
Chambered in 7.62×51 and feeding from detachable box-type magazines, the SCAR-H took the world-class ergonomics of the M4 and married them to a harder-hitting round and a more reliable operating method — a short-stroke, piston-driven action. The SCAR is an awesome weapon; literally every unit fielded with it raves about its performance, reliability, and incredibly-light recoil.
Plus, the short-stroke piston system is adjustable, so shooters can crank the gas to high if their SCAR becomes too dirty or fouled up in a prolonged firefight. This same system makes the platform more modular as well, since unlike the M4 it doesn’t require a different buffer or spring with different barrel lengths.
With all the inherent advantages of the SCAR, it’s hard not to wonder how someone didn’t invent something like it before.
Except they did. In fact, the same company responsible for the SCAR’s production and development designed a rifle with many of the same features more than 70 years ago – the FN FAL.
For the uninitiated, the FAL or Fusil Automatique Leger (light automatic rifle), isn’t some unknown prototype that never saw action. It was fielded by more than 90 countries, many of which belonged to NATO, earning it the nickname, “The Right Arm of the Free World.”
Having seen more than 60 years of combat use, the FAL also holds the distinction of being one of the few rifles to be fielded by two opposing armies, including during the Falklands War where Argentine and British forces both wielded FALs. Hell, the FAL has been fired in anger on nearly every continent on Earth, cementing its reputation as a die-hard reliable battle rifle.
Given that much of America’s war on terror groups takes place in the Middle East, it’s important to note that Israel’s armed forces, the IDF, equipped its soldiers with the FAL before replacing it with American-donated M-16 rifles.
In all fairness, some in the IDF claimed issues with the FAL in dusty and sandy conditions led to its replacement by the M-16. This claim should be viewed with heavy skepticism for several reasons, the largest being that no politician wants to be seen as the impetus behind equipping their military with, ‘cheaper’ equipment. Plus, the FAL served all over Africa without similar concerns emerging.
In fact, many believe the FAL should have been the rifle America adopted as its DMR for use in both the plains of Europe, and the Middle East.
Truth be told, the FAL isn’t perfectly suited for the role as it ships from the factory. If it were to see even a small fraction of the developmental evolution of the M16, it would have been a world-class fighting rifle in no time.
For instance, as it arrives from the factory, the FAL lacks an optics rail, and the available solutions aren’t suited to hard, combat use. However, the receiver itself could easily be modified by a competent engineer to incorporate a full-length, integral optics rail — much like the A3 version of the M4.
Just like the SCAR-H, the FAL features an adjustable gas block, similar heavy-duty box-type magazines and a robust, piston-driven action. The biggest difference between the FAL and the SCAR-H is the FAL’s lack of a railed receiver and its weight.
The SCAR utilizes extruded aluminum to reduce both cost and overall weight. The FAL, however, uses steel stampings and a milled receiver. The FAL’s use of all-steel components makes it very durable but also vastly heavier than the SCAR. Still, the mothballed M-14s that were pressed back into service post-9/11 were even heavier (especially with some of the accurizing chassis that were attached to them later).
Another advantage of the FAL over the M14 is its ability to retain proper zero under harsh conditions. The M14 and its civilian counterpart, the M1A, both have a bad reputation for losing battle zero if the upper handguard is disturbed. Plus, since the rifle uses a hunting-style stock, the action needs to be bedded (essentially a fancy term for glued) into the stock to ensure it doesn’t shift inside it.
Overall, the FAL is objectively a superior combat arm than the M14; one designed for harder use, while offering similar performance. The FAL isn’t an ideal designated marksman rifle in its current form. But it could have been an incredible asset to infantry dealing with distant treats and priority targets.
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
The Australian Army has found a fairly ingenious way of helping machine gunners hold their weapons steady while firing from the standing position. The Reaper weapon support system is a backpack that redistributes some of the machine guns’s to the shooter’s back.
Holding weapons steady in the standing firing position can get challenging for troops who have already rucked around the battlefield all day. The Reaper should let them get more rounds on target and reduce how far their barrels wander due to flagging arm strength.
It also looks pretty sweet sticking over their back like a scorpion’s tail. See the video below to learn more about it:
The M1 Abrams tank has a reputation for being very hard to kill.
According to Tom Clancy’s book “Armored Cav,” in one instance an Abrams got stuck in the mud during Operation Desert Storm and was attacked by three T-72s tanks.
The Iraqi rounds bounced off – including one fired from less than 500 yards away. After the crew evacuated, a platoon of Abrams tanks then fired a bunch of rounds with one detonating the on-board ammo.
The blow-out panels worked and it turned out that the only damage was that the gun’s sights were just out of alignment. The tank was back in service with a new turret very quickly. The old turret went back to be studied.
An Abrams tank doesn’t get much tougher to kill than that, right? You’d be wrong, especially when the Army equips it with an active defense system. According to a report by DefenseTech.org, three systems are in contention, with the Trophy Active Protection System by Rafael being the front-runner.
Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett, who is in charge of the Army’s programs in the area of ground combat systems, said that he was hoping to make a quick decision on an active protection syste, for the Abrams.
“I’m not interested in developing, I’m interested in delivering,” he said, noting that the Army is looking to upgrade the bulks of its inventory of armored vehicles. Only the M113 armored personnel carriers are being replaced by the BAE Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
The Trophy system works by using four radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming rockets, missiles, and rounds. When a threat is detected, one of two launchers on the sides of the Abrams would then fire a shotgun-type blast to kill the threat. Similar systems are on the Israeli Merkava 4 main battle tank and Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank.
T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Some reports claim that Russia has developed a weapon capable of beating an active-defense system like Trophy. The RPG-30 reportedly used a smaller rocket in front of its main rocket to try to trigger the system.
But still, the Trophy can attack rockets and grenades at a distance, before the warhead even reaches the Abrams’ skin.
“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.
So don’t be so quick to judge.
Napoleon at Austerlitz
In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.
As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.
When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.
As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.
The army led by a zombie
Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.
Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.
Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.
Island-hopping to fight another day
In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.
That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.
(Laughs in Mongol)
Mongols think differently
For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.
There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.
The US has three bombers — the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress — to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.
Some form of the B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B took its first flight in 1974, and the B-2 celebrated its 30th year in the skies in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details about it are scarce.
The US Air Force has been conducting missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s in order to project dominance against Russia and train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet has faced problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air Force Times reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.
Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet.
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Oct. 11, 2017.
(US Air Force)
The Air Force’s B-1B Lancer has had problems with mission readiness this year.
The Lancer is a long-range, multi-role heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52.
The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking at ways to expand that payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.
The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet, and can hit speeds up to Mach 1.2, according to the Air Force. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea, Jan. 9, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)
The B-1B was considered nuclear-capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear arms was disabled in accordance with the START treaty.
The B-1B is not scheduled to retire until 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 “broke” the fleet.
Service officials and policymakers are now considering whether the Lancer can be kept flying missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.
B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.
(US Air Force)
The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.
The Air Force’s longest-serving bomber came into service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.
It has flown missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.
The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a 70,000 pound payload, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.
The Stratofortress is expected to be in service through 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, a new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.
A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.
(Edwards Air Force Base)
As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in use with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.
Two B-52s have returned to service from 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard,” where retired or mothballed aircraft are stored.
One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy,” in May.
“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana to be refurbished, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the aircraft, “a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror” and instructing the AMARG to “take good care of her … until we need her again.”
The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere.
The B-2 was developed in a shroud of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently has 20 of them.
A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has an intercontinental range.
The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying out of RAF Fairford in the UK.
From Fairford, the B-2 has completed several firsts this year — the first time training with non-US F-35s, its first visit to Iceland, and its first extended flight over the Arctic.
(US Air Force)
Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.
What we do know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.
Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named for Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who flew a daring bomb raid on Japan just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Air Force said last year that B-21s would go to three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as soon as December 2021.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” according to Air Force Magazine.
The B-21 also loomed over the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and first flew.
Company officials have said work on the B-2 is informing the B-21’s development, and recently constructed buildings at Northrop’s Site 7 are thought to be linked to the B-21.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There’s an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it’s time to go back to school — or does it?
Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo in Maryland, we got a chance to see the glasses that just might change the face of training for sailors — and, eventually, all other military personnel.
Sailors remove a steam-powered catapult chamber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Augmented reality could help train sailors to perform such maintenance tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Jahnke)
A demo program showed how (in real-time) to disassemble a diesel engine. All nineteen steps were shown on the glasses, which rested (a bit heavily) on the nose. The smart glasses in use were Microsoft HoloLens, which work with Windows 10. As the operator worked on the engine, they used voice commands to cycle through the steps displayed, easily allowing trainees to learn as they work.
This new technology, known as Augmented Reality Training, could go far beyond just training sailors on maintenance tasks. Having a few pairs of goggles available while doing maintenance, however, will help keep every single step of a complicated process fresh in the mind of the technician. Anyone who’s dealt with assembling IKEA furniture can relate — wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to drop everything to reference the manual every step? Cheap furniture is one thing, but forgetting a step when doing work on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in the middle of the Indian Ocean can lead to disaster.
Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Jordan Urie, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, performs corrective maintenance on the aft transmission system of Landing Craft, Air Cushion 31. Imagine if he could see how to disassemble and re-assemble the system while working.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Brock)
With Augmented Reality Training, the classroom can be taken out to sea. Even though most ships have the manuals nearby, this technology is a huge step forward in blending theoretical and practical education.
In short, technology could very well make it easier not only to train sailors before they go out to sea, but it may also help them keep their skills fresh at sea. That is a very good thing.
Kyle Lamb has lived a life most couldn’t even dream of. He grew up in a small town in South Dakota, but by the age of 24 he had been selected into the most elite special operations unit in the military. He went on to serve in “The Unit” for the next 15 years with deployments to Somalia, Bosnia, and Iraq on multiple occasions (among many others).
Since Lamb’s retirement from the U.S. Army, he has authored two books on topics ranging from marksmanship to leadership and founded Viking Tactics, Inc., which specializes in tactical training and equipment. You may have even seen some of his articles in Guns & Ammo magazine or his face on the Outdoor Channel.
Coffee, or Die Magazine recently caught up with the retired sergeant major to talk about everything from combat in Mogadishu to his passion for history. Check it out:
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
You spent the vast majority of your career as a member of the military’s premiere special missions unit. There’s a lot of mystique that (rightfully) surrounds that world, but what is the one thing that would surprise most people about what it’s like to live that life?
Probably how normal those guys are. Not everyone there is like that, but there are a lot of really normal husbands and dads. They go to work in street clothes, then put on their commando costume and go do crazy stuff. Everyone expects those guys to look and act a certain way, but a lot of them aren’t like that at all. Their neighbors don’t even know what they do. It’s just a different world.
Looking back, what was the scariest “oh-shit” moment in your career?
I think probably the one that stands out the most was being in Somalia in a big gun fight and thinking, We’re done, we’re not gonna make it out of this. I said a prayer and decided to just do the best I can and not be a coward. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the pucker factor though. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you know how you’re gonna act in that sort of situation.
Once you get to a certain level in your training, and once I became a troop sergeant major, my biggest scare then was when we were getting ready to go out. I didn’t want anything to happen to my guys. Not so concerned about myself — I knew I was with the best group of guys, best medics, best equipment — I just didn’t want anyone to get jacked up on the mission.
Lamb performing shooting drills at a range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
What was your plan when you retired from the military?
I was scared to death but what helped me was that I had prepared myself pretty well before I got out. I already had 42 weeks of range classes booked before I got out. So I knew the first year I was gonna be working, making decent money, and I just hoped I would survive after that.
Well, the first year was difficult, but not because of work — I mean, I worked my butt off — it was because of separation anxiety and not having a mission. Luckily, I was around a lot of law enforcement and military guys though, which helped.
You seem to be a student of history. With the U.S. on its 17th straight year at war, how do you think this era will be viewed in future history books?
I’m a diehard history reader, studier, listener — whatever I can do. I haven’t always been that way though. I had a guy on my team named Earl Fillmore who died in Somalia. He would ask me questions about the Civil War, and I didn’t know the answers. He would say, “Man, you’re dumb.” So he gave me this book about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I read this book and thought, This is awesome, and it’s a true story.
So that really got me going with all history. I think being military guys, we definitely need to be students of history so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if you don’t like to read books, then listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
Lamb while serving overseas.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
I think the war is one thing, but what we do at home during that war is the important thing. We’ve always had good warriors out doing good things, but now we have good warriors that are a smaller percentage of the population. And we said we’re gonna do this, and we went out and did this stuff for God and country, and I think the people who read history will say we had the greatest army in the world.
Yet we have more problems at home than a lot of other countries. I feel like we are so separated right now. It’s gonna read one of two ways: “Wow, they had the greatest army,” or “They ruined it with social experiments.” Where are we gonna be at? I just don’t know.
Finally, if you’re an American and you don’t feel that America should be No. 1, how can you call yourself an American?
Lamb with an elk he felled on a hunting trip.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb)
Was coffee a part of your daily routine while in the military? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever enjoyed a cup?
My love of coffee comes from the Army. That’s when I really got into coffee. When I went to Bosnia, I had some really good coffee there. It was really strong, kind of jacked me up. But it was smooth, had the smell, the aftertaste. When I would deploy, I would take an espresso machine with me, a small basic one and a grinder, too. I would take whole beans with me and grind ’em up. I would brew it, and guys would look at me like a I was a weirdo. But by my fifth trip to Iraq, half my troop was bringing an espresso machine with them.
Everything’s relative though. Normal to me is strange to you. Probably the best places I like it is at a high altitude while hunting elk. Water boils at a lower temperature, which makes a difference with your coffee. I enjoy the coffee with that vantage point, that sun coming up.
You’ve written a few books, including one on leadership. During your tenure, you led specially selected, elite humans performing at the pinnacle of their profession. Do you think your leadership philosophy is better or worse because of that?
Leading smart people is more challenging than leading stupid people. I was leading a lot of intelligent guys who were physically fit; top performers. People like that you can’t just bully them into following you.
Watching how some people lead in the civilian world, I feel bad for them. They try to bully and don’t define their mission. They are so politically correct that they’re ineffective. I want the truth, even if it hurts. Our guys were super honest because we wanted to be the best; we wanted our unit to be the best. If you have thin skin, you’ll get eaten alive. You want performers on the team, not people who believe in status or entitlement.
You need to look at all the people you are working with or for and figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Build on their weaknesses and utilize their strengths. People who aren’t out of control but are pushing the envelope.
Lamb working with a student on a pistol range.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamb/Viking Tactics, Inc.)
Many guys who serve in special operations and then go on to live public lives face criticism from their military peers for stepping out of the shadows of the “quiet professional.” Have you faced those criticisms, and if so, how have you dealt with it?
The difference is that I haven’t let any secrets out of the bag. The other difference is that I had my books approved by the unit. Any redactions that they asked for, I did it. I did have one TV show that I did — I never said anything about the unit, but one guy wanted to string me up for that. What that really did for me, at that point in my career as a washed-up military dude doing my thing, is upset me for a while. I was like, Why did I do that? Then I got mad. So, I called up the unit commander and said, “Hey man, what’s going on? This dude’s trying to throw me under the bus.” He said nothing’s wrong, don’t worry about it.
But here’s the deal: Eventually you’re going to get out of the military, and you’re allowed to use the term “Delta.” They tell you that when you get out, but I never used it. I’m glad that happened though because it was a real learning and growing experience. I’m just not gonna sweat it anymore, but I’ll still abide by all the rules. When you get that one dude out of a thousand who attacks you, it just shows he was never your friend to begin with.
Most guys coming out of the military are much better with a rifle than a pistol. If you had to narrow it down, what’s the one thing that will improve a pistol shot more than anything else?
You need to train. There’s not one specific little task that you can perform, it’s a total package. You gotta draw safely, present the weapon, squeeze the trigger straight to the rear, follow through on the shot, and repeat as necessary. One mag, one kill. Get out and train on your own, and once you hit that plateau, go seek professional training from someone who is a better shooter than you. Then take it to the next level. If you were in the military, you might be familiar with weapons or comfortable with them, but you may not be the best shot so get out and train. The pistol is much more difficult to shoot than the rifle for most military people.
Many a Union officer fell victim to a .451-caliber bullet designed for this English-built rifle. A muzzle-loaded, single-shot rifle, the Whitworth was the first of its kind and changed warfare for the next century and more. It was the world’s first sniper rifle, and Confederate sharpshooters loved it.
Two of the highest-ranking Federal officers killed during the war were taken down by the polygon-barreled, scoped musket. It was built to make shots at impossibly long distances, sometimes up to 2,000 yards or more – four times as far as the standard musket of the day.
Look out, artillery crews, here come the sharpshooters.
The rifle was first engineered by Sir Joseph Whitworth, a Crimean War veteran who noticed that the British standard-issue rifle wasn’t really performing all that well, but the cannons used by the British in Crimea were much more accurate than previous field pieces. He believed those cannons and their hexagonal rifling could be scaled down to be used by a one-man long gun. Whitworth’s gun would get the chance to perform against the Enfield rifle he sought to replace – and it wasn’t even close. Whitworth’s rifle was superior by far.
Except the British didn’t buy into the rifle. It was far more expensive than the Enfield Rifle. But Whitworth was able to sell his weapons to both the French and the Confederate armies.
Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a Whitworth rifle while telling his men they couldn’t be killed at 1,000 yards.
The Whitworth was more lightweight than other long-range rifles of the time and used a more compact bullet, which contributed to the weapon’s accuracy. The Confederates put the rifle to good use, arming their best sharpshooters with it and deploying them with infantry units to target officers and Union artillery crews. The sharpshooters and their trademark weapon became so ubiquitous that southern sharpshooters soon took on the name of their rifle, becoming known as Whitworth Sharpshooters.
They quickly became feared among Union troops for their signature high-pitched whistle while in flight. Confederate snipers took out General-grade officers at Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg.
This year Troy didn’t focus on a firearm at the Big 3 East Media Shoot, instead they featured some pretty rad accessories. Of course, they had plenty of firearms on hand for us to enjoy, but the enhancements were the highlight of Troy’s lineup this year.
The one accessory that caught our attention was surprisingly a new sling dubbed the Troy T-Sling. The T-Sling is made from what was described as ballistic nylon in both a padded and non-padded version in black, OD Green, MultiCam, and Coyote. While a padded sling is nice, the convenience of the non-padded version with the included elastic sling keeper makes a ton of sense if you aren’t going to be carrying the rifle all day and will be storing it in tight spaces like a cruiser, truck, or gun safe.
The new non-padded Troy T-Sling on a Troy SOCC pistol with a Law Tactical folder.
Troy also had their 45-degree offset Battle Sights on display mounted to just about every gun in the Troy booth. While Troy does offer the 45-degree sights in several variations, they thankfully had most of the rifles outfitted with the HK style variant. If that isn’t your thing Troy also offers them with an M4 style front and a diamond rear aperture or a variant with the Delta 1 system.
While the author doesn’t spend a ton of time shooting offset sights of any type, the 45-degree Battle Sights combined with the SOCC Carbine came together as an easy-to-shoot package. We were triple tapping a C zone-sized steel plate at 50 to 60 yards pretty damned fast several times with only one pulled shot out of the 20 round string.
We were able to track the sights during recoil with the HK style sights consistently and with ease.
Troy also showcased their Precision Rifle Mount mated to a Primary Arms LPVO. We are told that the mounts are machined from a single block of 7075 aluminum and then the rings and dovetail are cut using wire EDM. The mount is available in 30mm, 34mm, and 35mm ring sizes with either a zero MOA or 20 MOA of elevation built into the mount.
The Troy Precision Rifle Mount starts at an MSRP of 5, add another if you want the coyote color instead of the black shown here.