The definitive guide to US special ops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The definitive guide to US special ops

You’ve heard about the men who come in the night, the badasses, the snake eaters. These are the rough and tumble soldiers who spill out of helicopters and kick in doors, neutralizing a high-value target and egressing before locals get a clue. These are the gritty recon Marines who stalk through the underbrush before taking down a terrorist camp. But special ops isn’t one thing; it’s a bunch of different things. Operators from different units conduct missions in very different ways.


Check out this handy WATM guide that covers the basics of special ops:

Army

Delta Force

Along with SEAL Team 6, Delta Force is one of the most famous and capable anti-terrorism teams in the world. It’s members are pulled from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, primarily from the Army’s Special Forces and Rangers (more on them in a minute). As an anti-terrorism task force, Delta is tasked with hunting down some of America’s worst threats- the most intense special ops around. They were sent after Osama bin Laden in 2001 and more recently killed Abu Sayyaf, a key figure in ISIS. They specialize in “direct action.”

Special Forces (The Green Berets)

Special Forces soldiers focus on supporting foreign allies by training with and fighting beside their military and police forces. Special Forces also engage in reconnaissance and direct action missions. The multi-tool of special ops, SF soldiers are sometimes tasked with peacekeeping, combat search and rescue, humanitarian, and counter narcotic missions.

Rangers

 

The definitive guide to US special ops
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire off a Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle at a range on Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 26, 2014. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Rashene Mincy)

The modern 75th Ranger Regiment was established with three Ranger battalions in 1986, though it has roots dating back to World War II. The Rangers form three infantry battalions that focus on moving fast and striking hard. They are deployable to anywhere in the world within 18 hours. Rangers are primarily a direct action force, entering an area forcibly and engaging whatever enemies they find.

The Night Stalkers (160th Special Operations Air Regiment)

The definitive guide to US special ops
An MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops. (Photo: Department of Defense)

 

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) flies helicopters in support of other special ops units, especially the Army units discussed above. They fly modified Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters as well as the MH/AH-6M Little Bird. The Night Stalkers can drop off combatants on a battlefield and provide air support to fighters already on the ground.

Navy

SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU)

 

The definitive guide to US special ops
Navy SEALs practice desert fighting techniques during an exercise. SEAL Team 6 specializes in anti-terrorism operations and are perhaps best known for the successful raid into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden. (Photo: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon)

Like Delta, SEAL Team 6 is a top-tier anti-terrorism force. Officially named United States Special Warfare Development Group and sometimes called DevGru, SEAL Team 6 specializes in arriving violently and killing bad guys. They recruit their members from the Navy SEAL community (discussed below). Though they train to operate anywhere in the world, they specialize in fighting on the waters and the coast.

MORE: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

SEALs

The definitive guide to US special ops
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SEALs are named for their ability to fight in the sea, air, and on land. Though designed to conduct operations that begin and end in the water, modern teams routinely operate far from water. They primarily conduct reconnaissance and perform direct attack missions but are capable of training with and fighting beside foreign militaries like U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers do. They are also the operators most known for working with the CIA’s Special Activities Division.

Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen


www.youtube.com

SWCC, pronounced “swick,” provide covert insertions in coastal areas, most notably for the Navy SEALS. They operate small boats which they can use to drop off operators as well as provide heavy weapons support when necessary. They can drop their boats from planes or helicopters and can be picked up with a helicopter extraction. Additionally, SWCC teams have their own medics who provide care for special operators when evacuating patients, and they get at least 12 weeks of language training.

Marine Corps

Marine Special Operations Regiment (Raiders)

Similarly to the Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders specialize in training, advising, and assisting friendly foreign forces. They can also conduct direct action missions: Kicking down doors and targeting the bad guys. They receive more training in maritime operations as well as fighting on oil and gas platforms than their Army counterparts.

Recon

Some of the world’s best reconnaissance troops, Recon Marines primarily support other Marine units, though they can provide intelligence to other branches. They move forward of other troops, getting near or behind enemy lines, where they survey the area and report back to commanders. They can also engage in assaults when ordered, though that mission has been transferred in part to the Marine Special Operations Regiment discussed above.

Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company

The definitive guide to US special ops
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Brown

This Marine Corps ANGLICO’s primary mission is to link up with friendly units and direct fires assets from different branches. That means they have to be able to tell helicopters, jets, cannons, and rockets which targets to hit and when during large firefights. They support other U.S. military branches as well as foreign militaries, so they have to train for many different operations and be able to keep up with everyone from Army Special Forces to British Commandoes to the Iraqi Army.

Air Force

Combat Controllers

The definitive guide to US special ops
Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Combat controllers, like ANGLICO Marines, support all the other branches and so have to be able to keep up with all special operators. They deploy forward, whether in support of another mission or on their own, and take over control of air traffic in an area. They direct flight paths for different classes of planes and helicopters to ensure all aircraft attacking an objective can fly safely. They also target artillery and rocket attacks. In peacetime missions, they can set up air traffic control in areas where it’s needed.

The day after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, combat controllers began directing air traffic control from a card table with hand radios. They directed the landing of over 2,500 flights and 4 million pounds of supplies with no incidents.

Pararescuemen (PJ)

Pararescumen are some of the world’s best search and rescue experts. They move forward into areas a plane has crashed or there is a risk of planes being shot down. Once a plane has hit the ground, they search for the pilots and crew and attempt to recover them. In addition, they perform medical evacuations of injured personnel and civilians. To reach downed crews, they train extensively in deploying from helicopters and planes. In order to save injured personnel after recovery, they become medical experts, especially in trauma care.

Coast Guard

Maritime Security Response Team

The definitive guide to US special ops

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team from Virginia participates trains on tactical boardings-at-sea, active shooter scenarios, and detection of radiological material in a 2015 exercise. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

The MSRT focuses on counter-terrorism and law enforcement against well-armed adversaries. They are like a SWAT team that can also deal with chemical, biological, and nuclear threats on the open water.

Though this list focused on operators who engage in combat with the enemy, there are members of the special operations community who provide support in other ways.

The Army has military information-support operations which seek to spread propaganda and demoralize the enemy and civil affairs soldiers who serve as liaisons between the Army and friendly governments. The Air Force has special operations weather technicians who deploy into enemy environments to conduct weather analysis in support of other military operations. The Marine Corps has the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force which responds to possible attacks by chemical, biological, or nuclear means.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 things you might use everyday that were actually invented for the military

You might be surprised to learn that a lot of the products used in our day to day lives were actually invented for the military. Here’s a brief rundown of a few.


The definitive guide to US special ops

(Intropin via WikiMedia Commons)

EpiPens

As a parent of a child with allergies, I am forever grateful for this one. The auto-injector apparatus was first invented for the military in the early 70’s, as a means to deliver a temporary reprieve from side effects of nerve gas exposure, during a time when the threat of chemical warfare seemed imminent.

At the request of the Pentagon, Sheldon Kaplan, a scientist with Survival Technology Inc., is credited with developing the Nerve Agent Antidote Kit, which works similarly to the EpiPen we use now, and was specifically designed to be easy to use with little training. Shortly after its effectiveness and importance in the military was discovered, Kaplan then went on to make it something that would aid the civilian world as well, by turning it into the lifesaving tools used by many with anaphylactic allergies today.

The definitive guide to US special ops

GPS

Mainstream technology has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. I remember going on family vacations and having to pull off to the side of the road so my dad could put out the map to make sure we were going the right way (and then take another 20 minutes to fold it back up again).

These days, you can get directions to virtually anywhere in the world in less than 30 seconds, all from your phone. GPS devices went from being an expensive luxury to being a built in facet of people’s lives.

While the military use of satellites and tracking goes back to the time of Sputnik, the more recognizable version of GPS was launched by the military in 1978, and was known as the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellite. Taking a note from Navy scientists, this system proved to be the start of the type of navigation system the DoD was looking for in an effort to improve military intelligence.

The definitive guide to US special ops

(USAF Photo)

The definitive guide to US special ops

(alangraham999 on Flickr)

Microwaves

The savior of 2 a.m. leftovers, microwaves were actually the product of accidental science. This one wasn’t necessarily invented FOR the military, but it was discovered thanks to already existing military technology.

In 1945, scientist Percy Spencer had been experimenting with and testing U.S. Army radar transmitters, when he discovered that due to the heat they produced, a candy bar in his pocket had melted. From there, the first patent on the microwave was filed within the year, and no one ever had to worry about accidentally microwaving their Hershey bars ever again.

The definitive guide to US special ops

(Santeri Viinamäki via WikiMedia Commons)

Duct tape

Duct tape was born out of wartime need and a mother’s ingenuity. In 1943, Vesta Stoudt was the mother of 2 sons in the U.S. Navy, and was also employed by the Green River Ordinance Plant, where she was responsible for inspecting and packing ammunition and other tactical gear.

It was here that she noticed discrepancies and potentially dangerous issues with the ways that ammunition boxes were being packed and sealed. Originally, they were sealed with paper tape and then dipped in wax in order to ensure they were waterproof. The problem came from the tabs meant to open the boxes, which were made from the same paper tape used to seal the boxes.

In instances of trying to open these boxes while under fire, it became apparent that this not only wasted time (as the paper tabs ripped prior to opening the box) but it put service members at risk and in a vulnerable position. Stoudt came up with the idea of using waterproof cloth tape, instead of paper, making duct tape a solution that was literally invented for military purposes.

After receiving little to no feedback from those she was employed by, she decided to write to the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not only did the letter include her thoughts on the current problem, she also provided her outline for a solution and detailed diagrams. The idea was passed on to Johnson Johnson, who manufactured the first version of the tape we all know, love and use today.

The definitive guide to US special ops

Wristwatches

There are a few different stories as to how and why wristwatches came to be so popular, but they all have roots within the military.

By most accounts, wristwatches, or at least the idea of them, predate the mainstream and military usage of them, but on a very small scale. It’s said that Elizabeth I was the first of her kind to keep a small clock strapped to her wrist, while men prior to WWI still relied on pocket watches to tell time. Unsurprisingly, pocket watches did not make for the most effective tools to use in a combat setting, and since timing is such an important aspect of military strategizing, service members needed an easier way to keep track of it.

The prevalence of more user friendly time pieces skyrocketed and became commonplace. The first version, called trench watches, combined the best of both the pocket watch and wristwatch worlds, and advancement of the look, features and versatility of them still serve military members to this day.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

A Special Operator’s top unwritten rules of close-quarters combat

This series of articles isn’t meant to offer concrete, hard-and-fast rules about close-quarters combat (CQB). Like anything in life, there are dozens of paths to a destination, and efficiency and safety make the difference. This article series will just present some things that many forget or are simply not aware of.

The reality of today is that the majority of tactical approaches for CQB have not been validated via scientific research. A loth of them have been adopted following one dude hearing from another dude who heard from a third dude. Some of the techniques work well on paper targets or deliver successful feedback to the team or to the viewer on the catwalk with a timer. But they aren’t actually human-behavior compliant, or in other words, they aren’t going to work when bullets are being exchanged. The purpose of this article is to highlight certain known or commonly performed errors that are not human-behavior compliant and work against our human instincts but are still taught around the globe as a standard.


Sight fixation

Let’s begin with a small, very raw experiment. Stretch your arm while thumbing up. Now, look at the thumb. It appears in great detail, but to its right and left, your vision is more blurry. Your vision acutely drops by 50 percent to each side of the thumb. Long story short, precision sight is limited by angle due to the unique structure of the human eye. The conclusion is that:

  • While on your sights, only a narrow field of precision information can be processed. In low-light situations, you can imagine how fragile that becomes.
  • A wider field of peripheral (not in-depth) vision can be triggered by OR (observation response, aka movement that attracts the eyes)

Focused vision (aka Foveal field of vision) is only 1.5 inches in diameter at six feet and 2.5 inches at 10 feet. The central visual field is 12.7 inches in diameter at six feet and 21.1 inches at 10 feet. The peripheral visual field has no ability to detect precision focus. In other words, anything the green circle below covers has no sharp detail/precision sight coverage.

The definitive guide to US special ops

This image is a rough estimation and might be few inches off. Our Photoshop skills suck. (SOFREP)

Now that you are aware of these limitations I can present my case. One of the biggest problems that I encounter with both experienced and non-experienced students in CQB is that they move into rooms with their eyes buried into optics or slightly above. To my observations, this is one of the most consistent errors I see even in professional circles. I believe that its source is inexperienced instructors receiving implicit knowledge from movies or from someone who heard that reticle + target = success. Not always.

I’ll state the obvious: The average distance for CQB engagement is less than 10 meters and commonly ends up at three meters away from a threat. Things happen quickly and up close. There are two major factors that have a huge effect on human performance in CQB and should be considered: a lack of time and a limited field of view, both of which impact our intake of critical data and our target discrimination.

Viewing the world through a toilet paper roll will result not only in missing vital visual information — such as that extra door behind a closet or an innocent-looking tango secretly holding a folding knife — but will also result in accidents, such as a wingman shooting the shoulder or elbows of the point man because he could not get that visual data while under acute stress response (see the video above). While using pistols, this is even more apparent. From what I’ve seen with police officers, the wingman or the guy in the back will often experience target fixation and will flag the shit out of his partner’s head or body due to the sight fixation effect. Additionally, a shooter may trip over furniture, debris, kids, or other obstacles that are quite low and won’t be visible when you reduce your field of view to a toilet paper roll.

I have also recognized that reaction time seems to diminish until the individual receives a physical stimulus indicating there is, in fact, a threat in front of him. You are probably asking why. Well, it is simple: The shooter missed the critical vision information necessary to indicate the presence of a threat or a human being. In other words, the individual’s eyes were not receiving enough sensory data to process. Instead, his eyes were fixed on a reticle and linear perspective.

To summarize, sight fixation — moving with eyes locked on sights — is something that belongs in the movies. Sadly, the idea of clearing rooms while looking through optics is very common nowadays. Let’s be honest: Why do you need to aim down your Aimpoint at three meters, anyway? The only answer would be when precision shots (read, in hostage situations) are a must.

Flashlights are a force multiplier

For many people, flashlights are associated with crickets, dark rooms, or night operations. In reality, flashlights could and should be used as a standard, even in illuminated rooms, as soon as you encounter a non-compliant person or a threat.

Assuming your flashlight is powerful enough (which it should be), it can act as a non-lethal weapon that will disorient or divide attention, impairing a threat’s attempt to OODA himself or become proactive, since any kind of sensory stimulation moves them closer to a sympathetic response. For no-light/low-light situations, there are several nice techniques that can significantly reduce the threat’s capability to anticipate the moment of entry.

How can a flashlight be of help?

  • It’s a great disorientation tool. A flashlight’s beam pointed in the eyes can confuse and disorient a threat while giving you the threat’s specific location inside a room.
  • It divides attention. Flashlights are the ultimate tool of deception and manipulation. Especially since in low-light conditions, the world looks like a framed picture without details, contrast, or colors. You get to fill that picture; to manipulate it to fit your needs. It also causes a threat to fixate on the light, soaking up their attention and keeping it off your partners, who are ideally triangulating the threat.
  • It’s silent. The flashlight has no sound or signature, and will not compromise you during daylight.
  • It increases reaction time. Simply put, being able to see clearly increases your reaction time when determining threats versus hostages or obstacles.

During daylight room clearing, we instruct our students at Project Gecko to use flashlights almost as default (this also depends on law enforcement or military context) upon encountering a human presence in close proximity. A beam of 500 lumens can save your life. It will surely buy you more time and control, and in some cases — assuming your training is solid — it can even provide concealment. (We will get to this later in this article series.)

Acknowledge the potential of your flashlight. And don’t be cheap — carry two. One mounted and another handheld.

This article was written by Eli Feildboy, founder and CEO of Project Gecko and former Israeli commando. It was originally published in 2019.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the M113 APC will be around for a long time

To put it bluntly, the M113 armored personnel carrier looks like a big box on tracks. It’s equipped with a primary weapon that’s over 75 years old that isn’t particularly effective against its modern contemporaries. And yet it’s served with the United States Army for nearly sixty years and, even when it’s retired, it’ll stick around for a long time.

When it entered operational service in 1960, it was intended to haul 11 troops into battle. It had a crew of two: A driver and a vehicle commander who handled the vehicle’s primary weapon, the M2 “Ma Deuce” heavy machine gun.


The definitive guide to US special ops

M113s lead the way for troops in South Vietnam.

(US Army)

The M113 saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War, where it proved very versatile. Some versions were equipped with the M61 Vulcan, a 20mm Gatling gun, and were used as effective anti-aircraft vehicles. Others were outfitted with launchers for the BGM-71 TOW missile.

The definitive guide to US special ops

Some M113s were modified to carry mortars, like this one with a M120 120mm mortar.

(U.S. Army photo by SPC Joshua E. Powell)

Other variants quickly emerged, including a command vehicle, a smoke generator, an ambulance, and a cargo carrier. Two mortar carriers, the M106 (which carried a 107mm mortar) and the M125 (packing an 81mm mortar) also served, paving the way for the introduction of the M1064 (equipped with a 120mm mortar). The M113 chassis also carried the MIM-72 Chapparal surface-to-air missile and the MGM-72 Lance ballistic missile.

The definitive guide to US special ops

The M113 could carry 11 troops — two more than the M1126 Stryker.

(US Army)

Versions of this vehicle have served with nations across the world, including Canada, Norway, Egypt, and Italy. Over 80,000 M113s of all variants have been produced, which means it’ll be around for years with one nation or anything long after the U.S. retired it.

Learn more about this senior citizen of armored vehicles in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KZjpOZQabM

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America is selling anti-tank missiles to people fighting the Russians

Last month, the news that Ukraine would receive FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States generated headlines. It’s not surprising that the move got attention from the public, given the fact that Russia and Ukraine have been fighting a low-level war since 2014. But Ukraine is not the only neighbor who has received weapons from the U.S. under the Trump Administration.


The definitive guide to US special ops
The javelin antitank missile training system, stowed in its container, that was issued to Marine Corps Base (MCBH), Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on August 31st, 2000. 410 of these missiles were sold to Georgia. (USMC photo)

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Republic of Georgia will be receiving 72 launchers and 410 FGM-148 Javelin missiles. Why might this be a big deal? Well, in 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost the war and Russia seized the territory. Russia claims that the disputed territories are now independent nations, but if you believe that… well, then we’ve got some lovely beachfront property in North Dakota to sell you.

The definitive guide to US special ops
A Russian Army T-80. The FGM-148 Javelin gives Georgia a fighting chance against a horde of these tanks. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

So, how does the Javelin change things for Georgia? Well, most of Georgia’s current anti-tank missiles are older Russian models, like the AT-4 Spigot, AT-7 Spriggan, and the AT-13 Saxhorn 2. These missiles are generally wire-guided and, as a consequence, aren’t entirely safe. This is because most anti-tank missiles have a huge backblast that reveals their position. Worse, when you have a wire-guided system, you have to direct the launch until the missile reaches its target. If the bad guys can hit your position in the meantime, you’re likely finished.

The definitive guide to US special ops
The AT-13 Saxhorn-2 was among the anti-tank missiles Georgia had in service when they bought 410 FGM-148 Javelin missiles. (Polish Ministry of Defense photo)

The Javelin, on the other hand, is a fire-and-forget system with a range of roughly one and a half miles. That means that once you fire the missile, it hunts its target with on-board seekers (the Javelin uses an imaging infra-red seeker). This is much safer for anti-tank teams since they can relocate to a new firing position immediately. In essence, Georgia has just seen a substantial uptick in its capabilities against the horde of Russian tanks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the Army is replacing the Hummer

The famous HMMWV’s days are numbered. The Army has made its fifth order for the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, officially coming in four versions: the M1278 Heavy Guns Carrier, the M1279 Utility, the M1280 General Purpose, and the M1281 Close Combat Weapons Carrier.


According to a release by OshKosh Defense, this order consists of 748 vehicles and over 2,350 installed kits. The vehicle is currently in Low-Rate Initial Production, and the first units are expected to be equipped with the vehicle by the middle of Fiscal Year 2019,with a planned Initial Operating Capability by the end of 2020.

The definitive guide to US special ops
Computer image of a JLTV rolling out. (Youtube Screenshot)

The HMMWV has served for over 30 years, but like the Jeep it replaced in the 1980s, it was proving to be incapable of meeting the demands of a modern battlefield. For the Jeep, the problem was keeping up with armored fighting vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank and the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

During the War on Terror, the HMMWV proved it could keep up with vehicles, but it was also very vulnerable to a favored tactics of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan: the improvised explosive device. Up-armored HMMWVs were developed, but they still proved vulnerable and eventually the military bought Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, including the M-ATV from OshKosh, for use on many missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The definitive guide to US special ops
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. | US Army photo by Gary Sheftick

OshKosh notes that the JLTV is 33 percent smaller and 33 percent lighter than the M-ATV. The company stated that the program remains on time and “on budget” in the release. A decision on full-rate production is reportedly pending.

It will still take a long time for the JLTV to replace the HMMWV: Over 281,000 Humvees have been built since it entered service in 1985. This order represents less than one half of one percent of the total Humvee built.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This soldier calls the Ma Deuce machine gun ‘one sexy weapon’

John Browning got it right when he designed the .50 caliber machine gun in 1918. Nicknamed “Ma Deuce,” the .50 cal is considered the mother of all machine guns. Nearly nine decades after its introduction, the weapon is still getting positive reviews.


Related: The Army found an M2 .50 caliber machine-gun still shooting perfectly after 90 years of service

“It’s just a sexy weapon,” said SPC Sterling Jones in the video clip below from Sebastian Junger’s 2010 war documentary, “Restrepo.” “It’s the ultimate machine gun. That thing fires at an incredible rate, it’s not hard to maintain, it’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty reliable. Guys run and wrestle for the .50 cause it’s just the most fun to shoot.”

Add its effectiveness and reliability, and it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style anytime soon. The Ma Deuce is just too good.

Watch the full review:

Articles

The French military is ditching its rifle for an American design

Chalk up yet another win for Yankee rifle designs.


It turns out the culturally protective French military is set to ditch its iconic FAMAS rifle for a German-made M4 variant that’s a favorite among U.S. special operations forces and is based on the popular Stoner design American troops have used since the Vietnam War.

It’s easy to ID French troops using their unique, French-made FAMAS rifle. With its distinctive carry handguard, top-mounted charging handle, integral bipod, and bullpup action the FAMAS has become as Gallic as the Citroen automobile. But that’s about to change as its military is set to outfit troops with the Heckler Koch 416.

The definitive guide to US special ops
A Marine with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and French Army soldiers with 92nd Infantry Regiment practice close quarters battles during a French Armed Forces Nautical Commando Course at Quartier Gribeauval, New Caledonia, August 15, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

The FAMAS came in two versions: The original version, the FAMAS F1, fired the 5.56x45mm NATO round. Its proprietary 25-round magazine was mounted to the rear of the bolt, which allowed the rifle to be more compact but still have the ballistic advantage of a rifle-length barrel.

The FAMAS weighs just under 8 pounds, and had options for safe, single-shots, three-round burst, or full-auto (“Rock and roll”). It also came with an integral bipod. In the 1990s, the FAMAS was upgraded to the G2 standard. The biggest improvement was replacing the proprietary 25-round magazine with a NATO standard 30-round one. This made the French rifle interoperable with other NATO allies. The G2 was about eight ounces heavier than the F1.

The FAMAS had some export success, notably to the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti, but it also has seen service with the Tunisian Presidential Guard, Indonesian special operations forces, and the Philippine National Police. Over 700,000 FAMAS rifles were built.

But few militaries use the so-called “bullpup” design, most notably the U.K. and Australia with their L85 and Styer AUG rifles and the Israeli Defence Force with its Tavor.

The rifle replacing the FAMAS in French service will be the HK 416. This firearm is best known for being what members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), formerly known as SEAL Team Six, carried on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The Army’s Delta Force (now known as the Combat Applications Group, or CAG) also is said to prefer this rifle for most of its operations.

The HK-416 is a conventional M4-style rifle design, featuring an adjustable stock with a standard rifle action in front of the grip and trigger. The rifle fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round, has a 30-shot mag, and weighs about 7 pounds. The advantage of the HK 416 as compared to the M4, for example, is that it uses a piston operating system, making it less susceptible to fouling and cooler running.

The HK-416 has been more widely exported. American units aside from DEVGRU and CAG that use versions of this rifle include the U.S. Border Patrol and the Marine Corps, which replaced some M249 Squad Automatic Weapons with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles.

The German rifle is also used by French Air Force commandos, the Norwegian military, and many special operations units across the globe, including Germany’s GSG9 and KSK, the Army Ranger Wing of the Irish Defense Forces, and the Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei of the Italian Navy.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researching new artillery that can fire 40 miles

The Army is starting formal production of a new self-propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension, and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.

The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons..


As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.

Senior Army weapons developers have explained that the current 80s-era 39 calibre Howitzer is outgunned by its Russian equivalent — a scenario the service plans to change.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

The definitive guide to US special ops

The M777 A2 is a towed 155mm artillery piece that fires GPS guided Excalibur rounds.

(Photo by Capt. Jesse Platz)

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance.

Former Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch (Rasch is now the PEO) told Warrior in a previous interview that the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.

Building a higher-tech, more lethal Paladin

Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of on-board power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives and projectile ramming systems.

Army developers say the A7 has a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.

“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” a senior Army weapons developer said.

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Soldiers of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division prepare to dry fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during exercise Combined Resolve II at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, May 20, 2014.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brian Chaney)

Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle and service extension — all aimed to improve logistics — the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Improved on-board power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve — such as lasers or advanced ammunition.

The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.

One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.

The Army has also been working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers, and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet,” a senior Pentagon weapons developer told reporters during prior testing of the HVP.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

France had a Stryker MGS decades before America did

The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System has been in service since 2002. Equipped with a 105mm main gun, an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun, it can bring the hurt. But despite the lethality and practicality of this vehicle, the Americans were actually late to the game. France had a similar vehicle — and it was in service for two decades before the Stryker arrived.


Meet the AMX-10RC. Like the Stryker, it is a wheeled vehicle with a 105mm main gun. It has six wheels — instead of eight — and was designed to fill a reconnaissance role. That may sound like heavy armament for recon, but if it were discovered by an enemy scout vehicle, like Russia’s BRDM-2, the AMX-10RC’s will stick around to tell the tale — the BRDM’s crew won’t be talking.

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An AMX-10RC moving — it can reach speeds of up to 53 miles per hour. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sgaze)

The AMX-10RC entered service in 1981 with the French Army and French Foreign Legion. It packed 38 rounds for its 105mm main gun – compared to the 18 of the M1128. The vehicle is also equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun and can add a .50-caliber machine gun for additional firepower against planes and infantry when needed.

While the M1128 Stryker has a three-man crew, thanks to an auto-loader, the AMX-10RC requires four. The AMX-10RC has a top speed of 53 miles per hour and can go just under 560 miles on a single tank of fuel. It weighs roughly 33,000 pounds.

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While the AMX-10RC can go almost 560 miles on a tank of fuel, it sometimes needs to be hauled on a trailer. (Wikimedia Commons photo by David Monniaux)

The AMX-10RC saw action in Desert Storm, Chad, the Balkans, and in the Ivory Coast with French forces. This armored car was also exported to Morocco and Qatar. While production stopped after 540 of these vehicles were built, those in service are being upgraded with modern systems to serve until the ERBC Jaguar is ready for deployment.

Learn more about this French mobile gun system in the video below.

 

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

Russia’s really cool new robot tank probably doesn’t work

A new robotic tank with a disastrous performance history has reportedly entered service with the Russian army, according to multiple reports citing Russian state media.

Armed with anti-tank missiles, a 7.62 mm machine gun, and a 30 mm automatic cannon, the Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle was designed for advanced fire support and reconnaissance missions over a 2-mile range.


But as of summer 2018, the revolutionary new weapon was still a very long way from being combat ready, according to Defence Blog, an online military magazine.

In June 2018, a leaked internal report from a senior researcher with the 3rd Central Research Institute of the Russian Defense Ministry surfaced online, revealing that the elite new unmanned system had performed poorly during combat trials in Syria.

The actual operational range is estimated to be closer to 300 to 500 meters, a fraction of what was initially promised.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiwBXXUPWE0
Кадры испытаний не имеющего аналогов в мире комплекса «Уран-9»

www.youtube.com

Furthermore, operators lost control of the vehicles repeatedly, 17 times for up to a minute and twice for 1 1/2 hours. Control problems tended to become more severe in urban environments where buildings interfered with the signal, potentially undermining a key practical purpose.

The main cannon experienced firing failures and delays. The internal targeting systems were unstable, and the machine components tended to break down, according to Task Purpose.

The senior research officer Andrei Anisimov concluded that the “modern Russian combat Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) are not able to perform the assigned tasks in the classical types of combat operations,” adding that it would be 10 to 15 years before the technology was ready, The National Interest reported.

Defence Blog reports that the Uran-9 also failed state tests after its blunders in Syria.

Yet, the Russian military has reportedly adopted the platform, which could mean that the problems have been addressed or that the robot will simply serve as a test bed for future developments.

“We are currently completing the production of the first series lot,” Vladimir Dmitriev, the head of Kalashnikov Concern, the manufacturer of the new vehicles, told the Russian media. “The Uran have a good scientific and technological potential for developing further products.”

Dmitriev said the testing in Syria led to improvements in the technology.

The US has been researching and developing unmanned fighting systems for more than a decade. The Army even had a prototype for a robotic tank known as the “Black Knight” back in 2007. The newly established Army Futures Command is looking at optionally manned fighting vehicles as a part of the new next-generation combat-vehicle program.

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

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F-35 fighter pilot says he can take on any stealth fighter in the world

An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.


An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.

“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.

Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.

Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft.

While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter.

This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.

While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.

Related: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Chinese and Russian air defenses

“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.

In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.

“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.

Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.

In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.

An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of last year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.

Chinese 5th-Generation

From the Report:  Original AIN Online Report HERE

“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.

In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.

The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.

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Chinese stealth fighter. (Photo: YouTube)

In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”

Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”

Russian 5th-Generation

The Following is a report on the T-50 PAK FA from Business Insider, also from this year’s Singapore Air Show….Business Insider Report HERE

“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”

This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.

And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.

RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”

F-35 Sensor Fusion

Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.

For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.

The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.

“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.

The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.

For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.

Also Read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the F-22 and F-35

In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.

“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.

F-35 and F-22

At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.

“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”

During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.

“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”

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F-35 in flight. (Photo: F-35 Joint Program Office)

“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.

The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.

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The F-35. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.

Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.

Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.

OODA Loop

The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.

The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.

Mission Data Files

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.

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6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.


1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters

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USCGC Castle Rock (WHEC 383) during her service. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.

While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.

The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.

The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.

2. HU-16 Albatross

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A HU-16E Albatross during the 1970s. The Coast Guard kept this plane in service until 1983! (USCG photo)

Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.

The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.

In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.

It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!

3. HH-52 Seaguard

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U.S. astronaut Frank Borman, Gemini 7 prime crew command pilot, is hoisted out of the water by a U.S. Coast Guard recovery team from a Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter during water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA photo)

This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.

Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.

According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.

4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress

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A U.S. Coast Guard Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress search and rescue plane in flight. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.

The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.

5. MH-68A Stingray

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A Coast Guard MH-68 Sting Ray helicopter crew prepares to take off for a patrol of the Savannah River to provide security during the G8 Summit while Air Force One sits in the background. USCG photo by PA3 Ryan Doss

The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.

With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.

6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships

This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.

The lead ship, USCGC Sea Hawk (WSES 2), and her two sisters, USCGC Shearwater (WSES 3) and USCGC Petrel (WSES 4) were commissioned in the 1980s and cost $5 million each. While they primarily focused on drug interdiction, they proved very capable assets in search-and-rescue missions as well.

They all left service in 1994.

But in an era where drug smugglers have “go fast” boats, they might be useful now.