While the United States Navy has not used the flying boat in a long time, other countries have kept these planes around. After all, they do have some advantages in a military setting. You can’t exactly ground them by bombing a runway, it’s easy to re-deploy them to a new forward base, and flying boats are versatile assets – just look at the PBY Catalina.
One of the countries that is keeping the flying boat alive is China. This country operated the Harbin SH-5 flying boat as a maritime patrol and search-and-rescue asset. It has a top speed of 345 miles per hour and a range of just under 3,000 miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com. It can carry 13,000 pounds of bombs, missiles, or torpedoes. The Chinese only built seven of these planes, and FlightGlobal.com notes that three are still in service.
China has not stopped with the SH-5. According to a report by CNBC.com, the AG600, a four-engine flying boat roughly the size of the 737 has just made its first flight. Officially, the aircraft is intended to carry out firefighting and search-and-rescue missions. MilitaryFactory.com reports that has a top speed of 311 miles per hour and a range of just over 2,700 miles. So far, at least 17 airframes have been ordered.
Some Chinese media outlets are reporting the AG600 – or a variant – could be useful for military operations in the South China Sea. China has been building “unsinkable aircraft carriers” in the maritime flashpoint, enabling the People’s Liberation Army Navy and People’s Liberation Army Air Force to operate fighters in the area. This sort of development prompted the United States military to retire its flying boats.
China’s continued pursuit of flying boats could be seen as a hedge against the United States being able to disable the island bases in the South China Sea. The AG600 does have the capability to haul cargo and specialists to either repair a base, or to maintain a presence until a base can be fixed.
The U.S. Air Force for months has been working to redesign gear and flight suits used by female pilots after many years of ill-fitting equipment.
But why stop there? It’s also updating current flight suit and gear designs to improve comfort and ease of wear, according to officials working on the project. At the same time, officials want to streamline and expedite the process of shipping these uniforms and support gear anywhere across the world to meet a unit’s requirement.
Since his tenure in the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved, better-fitting uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety.
“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and can be [worn] for hours on end,” Goldfein told reporters at a Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. last year.
Capt. Lauren Kram, assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, poses for a portrait on Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Officials have been eager to create and field uniforms and flight equipment with better fit and performance, and make them more readily available for female aircrew, said Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the human systems program office.
The problem for decades has been limited sizes, which has resulted in female airmen tailoring their own flight suits, or just wearing a suit too tight or too loose.
Rodriguez and her team have been tasked to “specifically … look at how the female body is shaped,” with a goal of “tailoring that flight suit to be able to accommodate the female shape,” she said in an interview with Military.com Thursday.
The project was launched within the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, with Rodriguez focused on the female perspective for better-fitted uniforms and gear.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said. That includes everything from flight vests; G-suits, which prevents the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and intricate gear such as bladder relief apparatus.
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop demonstrate the issues women face with the current survival vests at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Beyond female flight equipment, the office is gearing up for improved uniforms and devices for all.
“We’re going to be adding on what’s called the ‘combat-ready airman,'” Rodriguez said, “which is going to look at more roles than just aircrew members to ensure that those airmen, men and women, are being outfitted in standardized uniforms as well, that suit their need to be able to properly do their duties they’re assigned.”
Officials are still defining what a ‘combat-ready airman’ is, but the term eventually will “encompass the larger Air Force” beyond aviators, she said. As an example, work has begun on better-fitting vests for female security forces airmen.
“It all comes down to making sure that airmen have gear that they can use and … perform their missions,” Rodriguez said.
Getting uniforms Amazon-quick
On the shipment management side, leaders are using the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, or BARS, a central equipment hub that sorts various gear and can ship the clothing directly to airmen across the globe.
An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, flies during training on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Kevin Tanenbaum)
“BARS is a cloud-based software program … with [an additional] inventory control,” Depoy told Military.com. The program has been around a little over a year, he added.
The internal system, created and hosted by Amazon, gives individuals the authority to head to a computer and mark what they need and have it shipped over — with the proper military approvals, Depoy said.
“There is a checkpoint, but if they need something, they can go in and order it, and those items are on the shelf,” he said.
The items are stored and managed by the Air Force at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.
Unlike in years past where it could take months to get gear overseas, it now takes between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the location, Depoy said.
The goal now is to speed up the existing process for men’s gear, and implement a similar one for female flight suits.
“BARS is an existing system, but I’m currently adding our ACC female aviators into the system,” said Shaunn Hummel, the aircrew flight equipment program analyst at Air Combat Command’s A3TO training and operations office.
Lately, Hummel has been working to add female flight suits, jackets, boots and glove to the list of available gear in the system. His job is to work with the Defense Logistics Agency to appropriately stock facilities so airmen can access items via BARS.
In September 2018, ACC made a bulk buy of roughly id=”listicle-2635292502″ million worth of these items, Hummel said.
Capt. Christine Durham (left), Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, gives a briefing to her students prior to a training mission at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Austin, Texas, Feb. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
“We’re working with DLA to try and decrease the lead time and increase productivity for the manufacturing of these suits,” Hummel said April 16, 2019. Female flight suits “are not manufactured all the time until there is a consistent demand of them.”
Hummel explained there are 110 different flight suits — between the “women” category, for curvier women, and the “misses” category, for those with slimmer builds — and they also have different zipper configurations.
Zippers have been a problem for men as well as women. Very tall or very short airmen may find their zippers ill-placed to relieve themselves conveniently, the service said in a recent release.
“We’re making sure we’re using data … to assess what are the sizes we need to get women outfitted” by cross-referencing stockpiles through the various offices, Rodriguez added.
Right now, the teams are working together to get more feedback on how the programs are working, and what else could be done to improve standard gear to keep pilots and aircrew safe in flight.
The service has held several collaborative “Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” the release said.
Rodriguez said it wants more airmen speaking up.
“We have an effort underway looking at how we can streamline feedback from the user … so that we can use it when we’re looking for improvements in the future,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal went to medical one day in June 2017, complaining of breathing issues. The Army doctors at Fort Bragg told him it was a case of pneumonia. Just a few months later, still having trouble breathing, he went to a civilian doctor – who found what the Army called “pneumonia” was actually a tumor, which had doubled in size and spread to other parts of his body.
Stayskal’s cancer was now stage four. He was terminal, and the father of two was given just a year or so to live. Stayskal’s lawyers say the mistake was critical, and Stayskal’s outcome would have been different if Army doctors had not missed what an “inexperienced resident would have seen.”
The Special Forces operator is well aware of just how fragile life can be. In Iraq’s Anbar Province, he was hit by a sniper in 2004. The bullet pierced one of his lungs and nearly killed him then. Stayskal, now 37 years old, kept the bullet to remember how close anyone can come to the edge. He would have done whatever it took to fight his cancer before it reached this stage.
Stayskal wants to sue the Army for medical malpractice – but he can’t. A 1950 Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States, prohibits lawsuits from active-duty troops when they are injured or killed due to medical mistakes in military hospitals. He’s been lobbying Congressional representatives and even President Trump ever since. His campaign is finally starting to pick up some steam.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal testifying in Congress.
The Feres Doctrine, as it has come to be called, is a Supreme Court decision based on three cases of negligence from the Army. Feres himself died in a barracks fire in New York State, and his estate wanted to sue the Army for not providing an adequate fire watch and for housing troops in a building known to have a defective furnace. Two other complaints accompanied Feres, including that of a plaintiff named Jefferson. Jefferson had undergone surgery in an Army hospital and later underwent surgery again – this time to remove a 30-inch towel marked “Medical Department U.S. Army” from his abdomen.
The Supreme Court found that even though the Army was negligent in the cases that made up Feres, it maintained that Active Duty troops were not protected by the Tort Claims Act because the incidents were related to their service and that families of the deceased are compensated under terms of their service without litigation.
The Supreme Court has already refused to hear a challenge to Feres in 2019, so it’s up to Congress to change the law.
The new law is called the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, and it has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, but the Pentagon is warning Congress against the Act. Military spouses, family members, and retirees are already able to sue the military, and did so to the tune of million in fiscal year 2018. The Defense Department estimates that opening up the Pentagon to lawsuits from troops could cost as much as 0 million over the next decade.
“It’s not going to cost that much money. If we get competent medical providers, I guess it wouldn’t be a problem,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, an Armed Services subcommittee chairwoman and lead sponsor of the bill.
China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.
According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.
One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”
Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.
The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.
China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.
Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.
Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.
Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.
“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”
With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.
“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”
For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.
“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”
Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.
U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”
Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.
“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”
When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.
“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.
The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.
“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”
Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.
The brand new Integrated Augmented Vision System goggles are a game changer for infantry. The Army looks to purchase upwards of 40,000 for its soldiers at the end of 2021.
Made by Microsoft, the new goggles have been going through rigorous testing by soldiers over the past year. This is the Army’s way of providing a true heads-up display or HUD, something which wasn’t accomplished in previous technological goggle attempts. Currently, soldiers must stop what they are doing to consult with a handheld device or paper to get information. No longer, these new goggles will project the vital information in real time as they wear them.
It’s a technology Army leadership committed to as a part of their 2018 defense strategy.
Not only will IAVS provide vital HUD, but infantrymen will be able to see through the walls of their combat vehicles. It will also come with night vision, heat sensories, threat detection and aids for target acquisition.
In April of 2020, its developers also adjusted the design to take the wearer’s temperature and vital signs, something especially important as the world continues to battle COVID-19. By October of 2020, Army Special Forces, Rangers, and soldiers with 25th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division and 82nd Airborne Division and members of the Marine Corps had tested the device.
“This changes how we operate honestly,” said Sergeant Philip Bartel in an interview with the Army. “Now guys aren’t hanging out of vehicles in dangerous situations trying to get views on what’s going on. Leadership will be able to maneuver their elements and get view-on-target without having to leave the safety of their armored vehicles. Maneuvering elements with that kind of information will minimize casualties and will overall drastically change how we operate and increase our effectiveness on the battlefield.”
Forbes likened the new technology to video game Call of Duty, which has constant access to vital information as players navigate imagined combat situations. For soldiers on the ground living through the real call of duty, this advanced technology isn’t just a technological advancement. It’s life or death.
Major Kevin Smith has been heading up the research, development and integration of the technology. In an interview with the Army he stated “It’s futuristic technology that we’ve all talked about and seen in movies and video games, but it’s something that we never imagined we would have the chance to fight with. It’s definitely technology that we are really excited to use as soon as they can get it to us.”
Although IAVS is still in the prototype phase, the results are impressive. It’s reported that as many as 40,000 goggles will be ordered for soldiers once the technology is fully approved. Operational tests are scheduled to begin in July 2021 and if all goes as planned, the Army will be making a big purchase. Writing the check for these life-saving goggles will be well worth the cost.
The United States military has relied on drone aircraft for years, but to date, few other automated platforms have made their way into America’s warfighting apparatus — that is, until recently anyway. After achieving a number of successes with their new 132-foot submarine-hunting robot warship the Sea Hunter, the Navy is ready to pony up some serious cash for a full-sized drone warship, and the concept could turn the idea of Naval warfare on its head.
Earlier this month, the Navy called on the shipbuilding industry to offer up its best takes on their Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) ship concept, and they mean business. According to Navy officials, they want to have ten of these drone warships sailing within the next five years. The premise behind the concept is a simple one: by developing drone ships that can do what the Navy refers to as “3-D” work (the stuff that’s Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous) they’ll be freeing up manned vessels for more complex tasks.
The Navy expects these ships to be between 200 and 300 feet long with about 2,000 tons of water displacement, making them around half to two-thirds the size of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, potentially landing in the light frigate classification. To that end, the Navy has already requested $400 million in the 2020 budget for construction of the first two vessels for the purposes of research and development.
The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)
US Navy Photo
In order to manage a variety of tasks, the Navy wants its robot warship to be modular, making it easier to add or remove mission-specific equipment for different sets of circumstances.
“The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force,” The Navy wrote in their solicitation.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
The Navy also requires that the vessel be capable of operating with a crew on board for certain missions. That capability, in conjunction with a modular design, would allow the Navy to use LUSV’s in more complex missions that require direct human supervision simply by installing the necessary components and providing the vessel with a crew.
The solicitation included no requests for weapons systems, but that doesn’t mean the LUSV would be worthless in a fight. The modular design would allow the Navy to equip the vessel with different weapons systems for different operations, or leave them off entirely during missions that don’t require any offensive or defensive capabilities.
Swapping drone ships in for monotonous work could free up the Navy’s fleet of manned vessels for more important tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate)
By equipping these ships with modular vertical launch systems, for instance, a fleet of LUSVs could enhance the Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and cruisers in a number of combat operations, and eventually, they could even be equipped with the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, allowing them to bolster or even replace destroyers currently tasked with steaming around in defensive patterns amid concerns about North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attack.
Like the Sea Hunter, the LUSV represents little more than the Navy dipping its toe in the proverbial drone waters, but if successful, it could revolutionize how the Navy approaches warfare. Manning a ship remains one of the largest expenses associated with maintaining a combatant fleet. Capable drone ships could allow the Navy to bolster its numbers with minimal cost, tasking automated vessels with the monotonous or dangerous work and leaving the manned ships to the more complex tasks.
“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.
The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.
The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.
A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.
To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.
A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.
Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.
Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.
“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”
Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).
This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.
US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.
“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.
Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.
US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.
“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The replacement of the Colt M1911A1 with the Beretta 92F as the primary sidearm of the U.S. military in 1985 was a controversial move. Not only was the military dropping from the hard-hitting .45acp to the smaller 9x19mm, but the adoption of an Italian pistol over an all-American Colt just seemed plain wrong. On top of this, the 92F, later designated the M9, was actually beat out by its competitor, the SIG Sauer P226, in the competition for the government contract. It was the 92F’s lower price point that ultimately won Beretta the coveted contract. In 2017, the Army announced the winner of its Modular Handgun System competition and replacement for the M9 to be the SIG Sauer P320. Designated the M17 and M18, the new SIGs are making their way into the armories and holsters of service members across the military as other branches followed the Army’s lead in adopting the new handguns to replace the M9. As the old Beretta is phased out, let’s take a look at why many troops won’t be mourning its departure.
1. Size and Weight
The M9 is a full-size combat handgun made mostly of metal. Weighing in at 34.2oz unloaded, you certainly notice it strapped to your thigh or on your hip. A product of its time, many troops find the M9 to be unnecessarily heavy for a piece of kit that few of them will ever actually draw in combat. By comparison, the M17 and M18 weigh 29.4oz and 26oz respectively. While this may not seem like a huge difference, the old infantry adage comes to mind: ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Additionally, the new SIG platform offers a more compact and modular weapon system to serve more suitably in a wider array of duty roles.
A weapon can perform exceptionally, but if it’s difficult to use, then it loses its effectivenes. Just look at SOCOM’s Mk23. The handgun exceeded the stringent requirements put forth by America’s elite operators, but it was large, heavy, and cumbersome. As a result, it goes largely unused. The M9 suffers from this problem too. In addition to the size and weight previously mentioned, the M9 has a large grip that troops with smaller hands can find difficult to hold in a solid shooting grip. It also makes it difficult to eject the magazine one-handed. Furthermore, the M9 has a safety/decocker on the slide rather than on the frame. This makes it difficult to operate even for troops with medium-sized hands. On top of that, the safety/decocker sits high on the slide and sweeps down 90-degrees from the muzzle. This means that it’s possible, and common, for the user to decock the M9 and engage the safety depending on how they rack the slide.
Let me preface this by saying that the Beretta 92F is a very reliable firearm. During its testing, the handgun survived temperatures of −40 and 140 °F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud, and snow. The 92F also boasted an impressive 35,000 mean rounds before failure during the tests. Its large ejection port and near-straight blowback design also make it less prone to jamming. However, the M9 suffered heavily as a result of government cost-saving. Although Beretta won the contract for the M9, the contract for the M9’s magazines was given to Check-Mate Industries. The original Beretta magazines were made by Mec-Gar, an industry leader famed for producing reliable and high-quality magazines. Combined with the fine sand of the Middle East, the lower-quality Check-Mate magazines led to feeding issues in the M9. Airtronic eventually took over the magazine contract and patterned its magazines after the OEM Mec-Gars. Additionally, after years of heavy use in adverse environments, the military’s stock of M9s are prone to failure in their locking blocks.
4. Double-Action Trigger
The M9 features a double-action trigger. This means that the weapon can be fired by a long trigger pull which cycles the hammer back before releasing it. It can also be fired single-action with the hammer back. Generally, a double-action trigger acts as a safety mechanism. With the hammer in the down position, significantly more force is required to pull the trigger and fire the weapon compared to a single-action shot from the cocked position. As a result, many shooters argue that the inclusion of a manual safety is redundant. Because of this, troops have to disengage the safety (which can be difficult, see 2) and overcome a heavy first-shot trigger pull in order to engage a target. Although the new M17 and M18 also feature manual safeties, their striker-fired actions provide an easier trigger pull that is consistent with every shot.
5. Stopping Power
The military’s adoption of the 9x19mm cartridge was met with much concern. Although troops were able to carry more of the smaller rounds, the 9mm lacks the punch of the larger .45acp. “If you’re using an M9 in a firefight, be sure to punch it forward with each shot. It makes the bullets go faster,” one Army sniper sarcastically commented. The argument over capacity versus stopping power isn’t likely to end any time soon, and the M17 and M18 are still chambered in 9mm. However, in 2019, the Army introduced a new hollow-point 9mm round for its new pistols. Designated as the XM1156, the new round is described as “barrier blind”. This means that it can penetrate certain types of cover like windows and doors without expanding and losing much of its stopping power. Like other barrier blind ammo, the XM1156 is able to punch through obstacles and retain enough inertia to expand within its target and cause maximum trauma, thereby increasing the round’s lethality.
Every generation has concerns about the apocalypse. From doomsday prophets to Y2K bugs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an era of humanity that didn’t include some portion of the population that sincerely believed they were living in the end times. My generation is different, however.
We may be the first generation that seems to be hoping for it.
Between popular blockbusters depicting the end of the world, popular TV shows dramatizing post-apocalyptic survival, and seemingly ever-rising tensions between very real global powers on the world’s stage, my generation didn’t grow up with the specter of nuclear war quite like our parents did. Instead, we grew up in the cynical aftermath: wedged somewhere between the Baby Boomers in power and the young millennials clamoring for it. Those of us in the middle have grown up with a romanticized idea of the end times, if only as a refuge from the problems of today.
There’s a big difference between fantasizing about the end of the world and surviving it
Many of us like to be “prepared” for a bad situation. Maybe that’s because people my age are all old enough to have already lived through one or two. But some take that drive to be prepared a few steps further, intent on not just being ready for the end of the world, but genuinely hoping to thrive once it comes about. Of course, some others settle for wistfully talking about what they’d do if the zombies descended on their house: head to Walmart to stock up, load up on firearms at the local gun store, and then swing by the National Guard armory for a Humvee, right?
No credit scores. No social obligations. No debts, bosses, or reason to get up early. Just you, your survival ride, and hordes of the undead to roll over. There’s just one problem with that idea: your dream survival rides would all get you killed.
Whether you hope to take to the streets in a muscle car like Mad Max or Will Smith in I am Legend, or you plan to drive over your problems in an armored military vehicle, you’re screwed either way.
Armored and specialized survival rides aren’t maintainable
Sure, cruising through the apocalypse in an up-armored humvee or MRAP sounds like your best bet, but those planning on raiding the Motor T lot of their local National Guard center seem to forget that in order to operate all those armored vehicles, the United States employs a veritable army of maintainers, mechanics, and service technicians each with specialized skills and a fair amount of training.
You can’t service these massive vehicles with the floor jack out of your Honda Accord either, and that’s why those pesky diesel mechanics usually have their own building chock-full of heavy lifts and power tools. Ever changed the tire on a Humvee? Even with the right tools on hand, it can be a real pain in the ass. I’d imagine that only gets worse when the old Motor T guys are trying to eat your brains while you’re at it.
Big, specialized vehicles aren’t just hard to work on; they’re hard to find parts for. Specialty vehicles need specialty dealers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find some other Mercedes 6×6 trucks to cannibalize parts from in a jam. You’re better off on a Vespa that runs than you are in a Mercedes that doesn’t.
Sports cars and muscle cars won’t go anywhere
Maybe you’ve got a less pragmatic approach to survival and after a world-ending cataclysm your first priority would be getting your hands on the keys to a brand new mid-engine Corvette, or that ’68 Charger you’ve always dreamed of. After all, with all the current owners dead or zombified, what’s to stop you? Well, the roads for one thing.
Despite the number of potholes on my street, we do tend to enjoy fairly well maintained and clear roads here in the United States. That stops immediately when all the hard-working folks responsible for that start eating each other. That means your super-low sports car will have trouble making it anywhere at all, let alone at the speeds it was designed to achieve.
And then, of course, we get back to that first problem with finding parts and having the know-how required to repair or maintain your vehicle. In many newer performance cars, repairs are as much a digital effort as they are a physical one, and unless you have the specialized equipment you need to communicate with a car’s ECU (or other form of on-board computer), you’re going to be sh*t out of luck when it comes time to throw some wrenches at a problem.
But you know what no other known living thing can do? Use their minds to create machinery to do an otherwise extremely arduous and dangerous task in about a half an hour, all while kicking back in a very comfy chair. And that’s exactly what French fighter pilot Didier Delsalle did when he conquered Everest in a product of human ingenuity — the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter. Humans: 1, Animal Kingdom: 0.
Although Delsalle is the first and so far only person in history to land a helicopter on the summit of the world’s highest peak, likeminded daredevils and pilots have been trying to do exactly that since at least the early 1970s. One of the most notable of these individuals is Jean Boulet who still holds the record for highest altitude reached by a helicopter at 40,820 ft (12,442 meters), at which point his engine died, though he did manage to land safely. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t just drop like a rock when the engine dies, and they are relatively safe in this condition. In fact, you have a better chance of surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane where the same happens.)
Like Boulet before him, Delsalle broached the subject of landing a helicopter on Everest with the company he flew helicopters for (in this case Eurocopter) and was similarly stonewalled by killjoy executives who didn’t want to deal with the negative PR if he crashed.
Delsalle didn’t let the subject drop and repeatedly badgered higher ups within the company, using the better-than-expected results from the test of a new engine in 2004 to convince Eurocopter that landing their Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter on Everest was entirely possible. The company executives finally relented and gave Delsalle some time (and a helicopter) to test his hypothesis. After all, while a failed attempt would create a lot of negative press, a successful one would be a fantastic marketing move, with their helicopter doing something no other had ever done.
Or as Delsalle himself would state,
The idea was to prove to our customers all the margins they have while they’re using the helicopter in the normal certified envelope, compared to what the helicopter is capable of during the flight test.
Delsalle then took the helicopter and flew it to 29,500 feet, about 6,500 feet above the helicopter’s listed maximum operating altitude and around 500 feet higher than the peak of Everest.
After a number of additional tests proved that the helicopter would in theory have no trouble landing on Everest’s peak, Delsalle and his trusty helicopter headed to Nepal.
Once there, while conducting recon on the mountain, Delsalle cemented his reputation as an all round awesome guy by taking the time to rescue two stranded Japanese climbers. When he wasn’t saving lives, he could be found jogging around the hanger in an attempt to drop every gram possible from his body weight. Likewise, he lightened the helicopter slightly be removing the passenger seats- the point of all this was to be able to extend flight time slightly. However, as part of the purpose of this publicity stunt was to show off what the Ecureuil AS350 B3 could do, other than this marginal lightening of its load, no other modifications were made.
And so it was that on the morning of May 14, 2005, Delsalle slipped on two pairs of thermal underwear under his flight suit and took off. As for his choice of under attire, this was needed as he flew the entire distance with his window open… He did this rather than keep things more climate controlled as he was concerned his windows would have iced up in the -31 F (-35 C) temperatures had he not kept the temperatures equalized on both sides of the glass.
As for the ascent, this was not quite as easy as simply rising to the necessary altitude — Delsalle had to deal with some pretty remarkable up and down drafts, which is one of the reasons even today helicopter rescues at extreme altitudes on Everest are a rarity. As he stated,
On one side of the mountain, on the updraft side, I wasn’t able to approach the mountain because even taking out all of the power of the aircraft, I was still climbing. But of course on the other side you had the downdraft side, and on this side even with maybe 60 knots on the airspeed indicator I was going backward . . . and the helicopter at full power was not powerful enough to counteract that.
“Landing”, or more aptly touching down, also wasn’t an easy task.
When you reach the summit you reach the updraft point, and of course the updraft winds have enough force to throw you away as soon as you put the collective down. I had to stick my skids on the summit and push into the mountain to stay on the summit. Another big problem there is that you have no visual of the summit, and you have no specific cues, because you are on the highest point. You are in free air in fact, and you have to try to find where is the summit exactly.
After keeping the skids pressed against the tiny area of land that is the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle decided it was time to go, which turned out to be quite simple thanks to the strong updraft: “I had just to pull a little bit on the collective and I went to flying very easily.”
Amusingly, nobody climbing the mountain that day had any idea that Delsalle was planning on doing this and reports later flooded in to Nepalese authorities about a random helicopter seen flying around the summit.
But when Delsalle landed and went to check the recordings documenting his amazing accomplishment, the computer showed zero files where the recordings should have been. Yes, he had no hard evidence he had actually done this, invalidating his record attempt.
Rather than waiting to see if the data could be recovered (and presumably not wanting to endure doubters for any longer than absolutely necessary), Delsalle instead opted to just do it all over again the very next day, this time making sure the recording equipment was functioning. (It should also be noted here that some of the urgency was because no one was summiting on the day in question, but were after. For safety reasons, he could not attempt the touch down if anyone was climbing around the summit.)
If at this point you’re now doubting his story actually happened, we should probably mention that they were later able to recover the first day’s logs and video, proving he had done what he said.
Of course, doubters will persist no matter if you slap them in the face with video evidence, data logs, several Everest climber accounts of spotting the helicopter flying around the summit, his helicopter skid marks that for a time existed in the snow at that hallowed peak, etc. But as for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and a few other such official bodies, as his evidence of the two touch downs on the summit was incontrovertible, they officially ratified his remarkable achievement, much to the chagrin of many an Everest climber, who almost universally lamented the accomplishment owing to the supposed ease at which summiting the mountain was achieved.
But here again, we feel compelled to point out that humans compiling the knowledge and expertise needed to design/construct a machine that was then extremely skillfully landed on this hallowed, tiny patch of snow covered land isn’t actually easy at all when you think about it. (And don’t even get us started on what it took to compile the knowledge and expertise to make the tools that made the parts for the machine in question… or the tools that made the parts for the more advanced tools, such as mind boggling complex computers used along the whole process…)
One might even posit that summiting Everest in the more traditional way is orders of magnitude easier than the way Delsalle did it, when looking at the big picture.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has been a very dominant plane for the United States. Combining high performance, effective stealth, and lethal weapons, the 183 Raptors currently in the U.S. fleet have been international game-changers. But on the road to dominating the skies, the Raptor first had to beat out a spider.
The YF-23 “Black Widow II” was McDonnell-Douglas and Northrop’s entry into the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The plane was named in honor of the P-61 Black Widow, a night fighter that served in World War II, and competed with the Raptor for a place in the U.S. Air Force.
The two YF-23 prototypes were handed over to NASA after the F-22 was chosen as America’s fifth-generation fighter.
Only two YF-23s were ever produced — and each had a different set of engines. The ATF program wasn’t just a competition to decide which fighter the Air Force would buy, it also was to decide which engine, the Pratt and Whitney YF119 or the General Electric YF120, would be used.
The YF-23 had a top speed of 1,451 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,796 miles, a ceiling of just under 65,000 feet, and could carry air-to-air missiles, like the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and the AIM-9 Sidewinder. It also has a M61 20mm cannon. The F-22, by comparison, has a top speed of 1,599 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,000 miles, and a ceiling of 50,000 feet.
A YF-23 fills up on gas from a tanker. The YF-23 had a maximum range of almost 2,800 miles.
On paper, the two fighters are fairly comparable. One’s faster, but the other can go higher and further. So, what gave the Raptor the edge? Agility. To put it succinctly, the Raptor a better dogfighter than the Black Widow II. In an Air Force where many senior leaders were around during the Vietnam War, that made all the difference.
The two YF-23s have ended up in museums. Today, they serve as a reminder of what might have been.
Learn more about this lethal spider in the video below!
There has been a lot of talk at WATM about JDAMs, cluster bombs, Paragon, Scalpel, and other cool new weapon systems emerging for the United States and close allies. But what about some of the stuff already in service, like the Paveway II laser-guided bombs? Have they been forgotten?
The good news is that they haven’t. Believe it or not, the old, reliable, laser-guided bomb that has been around for decades is getting upgrades. This shouldn’t be a surprise; many weapon systems get upgrades over their careers. Just compare the M1 Abrams that entered service in 1980 to the M1 of today. Two completely different tanks on the inside.
A GBU-10 Paveway II laser-guided bomb.
According to material acquired from Lockheed during the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, the Paveway II is getting an upgrade to the Paveway II Plus standard. This is part of the laser-guided bomb family that includes the Scalpel and the Paragon. The Paveway II Plus looks like the Paveway II on the outside. What is different here is the Paveway II Plus has a new… “brain.”
Designation-Systems.net notes that the basic Paveway II used the MAU-169 computer control group, or CCG, from Raytheon. In the 2000s, Lockheed developed the MAU-209, a more advanced system. The bombs were still called Paveway II, though. But the latest iteration of the MAU-209, known as the MAU-209C/B, is a whole new CCG.
A F-35B drops a GBU-12 during a test flight. The Paveway II Plus kit can be used on the GBU-12.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Layne Laughter)
The MAU-209C makes the Paveway II more accurate and reliable though a new guidance package that can be re-programmed in the field. The better accuracy means that fewer sorties will have to be flown. But the field re-programming is also a big deal, since it means that new capabilities can be added without having to ship the bombs to rear areas.
The Paveway II Plus can be used on any U.S. Navy or U.S. Air Force aircraft, whether manned or unmanned. In short, this old bomb has been taught a few new tricks.