The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

The Homeland Security Appropriations Act draft that emerged from the House of Representatives in July 2018 lacked the $750 million that the Homeland Security Department requested to design and build the Coast Guard’s first new heavy polar icebreaker in over 40 years — and Democratic lawmakers are pushing back.

In a letter addressed to Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Rep. Kevin Yoder, chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee, House Democrats criticized the bill’s exclusion of the $750 million icebreaker request and of funding requested for the Coast Guard’s 12th national-security cutter, as well as a $10 million cut to the service’s research and development budget.


The bill excludes those funds “while wasting a staggering .9 billion on a border wall and increasing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget by 8 million,” according to the letter, composed by Rep. John Garamendi and signed by seven other Democratic lawmakers.

“We urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider this misallocation of resources,” which would undermine the Coast Guard’s mission and “place our nation at a distinct economic, geopolitical, and national security disadvantage for decades to come,” the letter adds.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star plows through ice in the Antarctic.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

The Coast Guard’s underwhelming icebreaker fleet has been a point of contention for some time. The service currently has one medium polar icebreaker, the Healy, and one heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star. Another heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Sea, is out of service and is used for parts to keep the Polar Star running.

The 42-year-old Polar Star, which was refurbished in 2012, is well past its 30-year service life but remains the only ship the Coast Guard has to support year-round access to the Antarctic and Arctic regions — during a trip to McMurdo Station in Antarctica in early 2018, the Star’s crew battled engine failures and flooding .

Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star is ” literally on life support .”

Efforts to add to the Guard’s icebreaker fleet have been underway for some time. The National Defense Authorization Act called for up to six more polar-class icebreakers. In late 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy released a joint draft request for proposal to deliver the next heavy polar icebreaker by 2023, with an option to construct two more of them.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

Russian icebreaker Yamal during the removal of manned drifting station North Pole 36, August 2009.

A number of US officials, including the Democratic representatives who signed Garamendi’s letter, have said a small Coast Guard fleet puts the US at a disadvantage in the Arctic, where receding ice is opening new areas for shipping and resource exploration, attracting the interest of rival powers like Russia and China .

“We are woefully unprepared for the reality of rising global temperatures and melting sea ice,” the letter says, noting that Russia has 41 icebreakers that are “far superior in capability and technology.”

The Congressional Research Service has reported that Russia has 46 total icebreakers — including four operational heavy polar icebreakers and 16 medium polar icebreakers, five of which are for use in the Baltic Sea.

The US’s five total icebreakers are also outstripped by Finland, which has 10 total icebreakers, and by Canada and Sweden, both of which have seven.

China has fewer total icebreakers than the US, and the ones it has are not heavy icebreakers. But those ships have successfully traversed the existing Arctic passages, and Beijing recently started the bidding process to build a nuclear-powered icebreaker — the first nuclear-powered surface ship in its inventory.

Garamendi and his colleagues are not the only legislators who have emphasized the emerging significance of the Arctic.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

US Coast Guard cutter Healy breaks ice to support of scientific research in the Arctic Ocean.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter said at a hearing in June 2018 that it seemed ” really myopic and shortsighted ” for the Defense Department to exclude the Arctic from its latest National Defense Strategy report. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “talked about everywhere on Earth basically except for the Arctic,” Hunter said.

Some have argued that diminishing sea ice will reduce the need for icebreakers to open sea lanes, particularly as newer cargo ships with sturdier hulls take sail. Others have said the greater threat posed by Russia comes from its navy , particularly its Northern Fleet, which is growing in both size and sophistication.

Other experts have said that the US’s focus on other threats, like North Korea and Iran, have drawn both attention and resources away from the space that has opened in the Arctic in recent years put the US at a disadvantage.

“The emergence of a new ocean did not fit into the budget,” Heather Conley, an Arctic expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Examiner in June 2018. “Now we’re behind.”

“In our national-security strategy we call Russia and China our great-power competitors,” Conley added. “Well, they are very invested in the Arctic and growing.”

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

Articles

P-47 Thunderbolt versus P-51 Mustang: Which legend wins?

The P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang fought side-by-side with the Allies in World War II. They even divided the job of kicking Axis ass between them by the end of the war. The Mustang became known as an escort fighter, while the Thunderbolt took more of a role as a fighter-bomber.


That said, how would they have fared in a head-to-head fight? It might not be as fantastical as everyone thinks.

The Nazis captured several P-51s during World War II, usually by repairing planes that crash-landed. They also captured some P-47s. This means there was a chance (albeit small) that a P-47 and P-51 could have ended up fighting each other.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic
The P-51 and P-47 sit side-by-side. (Photo by Alan Wilson via WikiMedia Commons)

Each plane has its strengths and weaknesses, of course. The P-51 had long range (especially with drop tanks), and its six M2 .50-caliber machine guns could take down just about any opposing fighter.

In fact, the P-51 was credited with 4,950 air-to-air kills in the European theater alone. During the Korean War, the P-51 also proved to be a decent ground-attack plane.

That said, the secret to the P-51’s success, the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, was also, in a sense, the plane’s greatest weakness. The liquid-cooled engine was far more vulnerable to damage; furthermore the P-51 itself was also somewhat fragile.

By contrast, the P-47 Thunderbolt was known for being very tough. In one sense, it was the A-10 of World War II, being able to carry a good payload, take a lot of damage, and make it home (it even shares its name with the A-10 Thunderbolt II).

In one incident on June 26, 1943, a P-47 flown by Robert S. Johnson was hit by hundreds of rounds of German fire, and still returned home. The P-47 carried eight M2 .50-caliber machine guns, arguably the most powerful armament on an American single-engine fighter.

The “Jug” shot down over 3700 enemy aircraft during World War II, proving itself a capable dogfighter.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

Which plane would come out on top in a dogfight? The P-51’s superior speed, range, and maneuverability might help in a dogfight, but the P-47 survived hits from weapons far more powerful than the M2 Browning — notably the 20mm and 30mm cannon on German fighters like the FW-190 or Me-109.

What is most likely to happen is that the P-51 would empty its guns into the P-47, but fail to score a fatal hit.

Worse, a mistake by the P-51 pilot would put it in the sights of the P-47’s guns, and the Mustang would likely be unable to survive that pounding.

All in all, we love ’em both, but we’d put money down on the Thunderbolt.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The top Marine officer thinks the Corps needs to be more unpredictable and that it needs the ‘Lightning carrier’ to do it

The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.


“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.

“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”

Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.

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Thirteen US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aboard the USS America.

US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Chad Swysgood

What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.

That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.

“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”

“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.

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The USS Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration.

US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook

‘A force multiplier’

The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.

In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.

The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.

In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.

The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.

In October, then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer touted the concept as a way to augment the fleet at a time when the Navy is pondering the future of its own carriers.

“You might see us do that in the near future,” Spencer said. “We might just launch it out once, just to try it out, put it in a couple of exercises and know that we have it up our sleeve.”

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The USS Wasp in the South China Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

More ships, more deterrence

Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.

“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.

“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.

“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.

When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.

Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.

“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.

“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.

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The USS Wasp.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.

The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.

The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.

That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”

In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”

“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this part of a missile silo is important

America’s force of inter-continental ballistic missiles, also known as ICBMs, has long been a component of the nuclear triad. The 450 LGM-30 Minuteman IV missiles split between F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana provide a very responsive retaliatory option – capable of hitting a target in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered.

These missiles are kept in silos at those three bases. The silos protect the missiles from the elements – and thus, a lot of work goes into making sure that the missiles are protected, but can be quickly launched. These silos also provide protection from nuclear strikes by the enemy trying to take them out (America, it seems, never got into road-mobile or rail-mobile ICBMs). How do they balance the need for a quick response with protecting the missiles?

The key to this is the door of the missile silo.


This is one of the little secrets about ICBMs. For a very powerful weapon (each LGM-30 carries a single W87 warhead with a yield of 300 kilotons – about 20 times as powerful as the 15-kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima), they are very delicate instruments. As in: “Fragile, handle with care.”

In other words: “Use these and it’s the end of the world.”

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

Even “routine” maintenance of a LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile is a high-stakes affair.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

For instance, according to a report by Time magazine, a dropped tool destroyed an Air Force LGM-25 Titan II missile, and its silo, in 1980. This fatal incident (one airman died) shows just how little it can take for things to go wrong with an ICBM.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

A dropped socket wrench destroyed a Titan missile, like this one.

(Photo by Mathew Brooks)

Now, when nukes are involved, the stakes are high. This is also true when using them. Things have to work, and they have to work the first time. If the roof on your convertible is stuck in the down position, you can get it fixed and the car detailed. That’s just a major inconvenience.

An ICBM silo door getting stuck – that can be devastating.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

Thankfully, this Minuteman launch was only a test. If this had been for real, we’d be seeing lots of mushroom clouds.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Fortunately, there has never been a need to use ICBMs against an enemy. But the effort is always made to ensure the systems are reliable – because one can never know. You can see the testing of an ICBM silo door in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNnrThhV7kU

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Lynx might be the most versatile helicopter ever

Some helicopters are loved because they carry a lot of firepower, like the AH-64 Apache. Others, like the CH-47 Chinook, are loved for their ability to haul troops and gear. Some helicopters, like the UH-1 Iroquois, are beloved icons from a past war. The AgustaWestland Lynx, however, is none of these things, but it has been a valuable asset for the Royal Navy and British Army for nearly three decades.


The typical Lynx has a crew of two, a top speed of 158mph, and a maximum range of 426mi, but it’s this chopper’s versatility that makes it stand out. Here’s a look at the Lynx in its various roles.

Troop carrier

As a troop carrier, the Lynx holds eight infantrymen. This is a small payload compared to the UH-1 (which is capable of holding 13 troops), but eight troops is the size of a British section (their term for a squad-sized unit). In this role, the Lynx usually packs two guns, either 7.62mm general-purpose types or .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic
A Lynx AH.7 in utility helicopter mode, where it can haul eight troops. (DOD photo)

Anti-tank gunship

In this role, a Lynx packs eight BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missiles. The TOW, as you might recall, has been a mainstay for the United States and a number of its allies since the Vietnam War. The Lynx also can carry 70mm rockets in pods, giving it more options for ground targets.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic
The Lynx is also a potent tank-killer with the BGM-71 TOW missile. It also can carry 70mm rockets. (Royal Navy photo)

Maritime operations

The Lynx is used by a number of navies, from the Royal Navy and French Navy (the two original customers) to the South Korean and Royal Thai navies. The primary weapons of the Lynx are Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Sea Skua anti-ship missiles. The Lynx saw some use as an anti-sub chopper in the Falklands War, but in an actual engagement with an Argentinean sub, it used its Sea Skuas – not the weapon you’d expect.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic
The Lynx HMA.8 served with the Royal Navy until its retirement last year, being replaced by the AW159 Wildcat. (DOD photo)

The Westland Lynx family of helicopters, in its various roles, will be around for a long time – especially with the development of the AW159 Wildcat, a souped-up, anti-submarine variant of the Lynx.

Articles

Video shows just how operator AF Keanu Reeves can be

Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.


Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.

An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.

His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.

You’ve just got to see it to believe it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Could laser drones be the new riot stopper?

Riot police in the U.S. have long combated the challenge of containing large crowds by non-lethal means. Typically, these means are some assortment of rubber bullets, tear gas, riot shields, batons, and others. However, with the advent and rapid advancement of unmanned technology in the military—the new future of riot containment may be laser drones.


The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

LAPD National Guard practices firing tear gas—is this soon to be a thing of the past?

That’s right—laser drones, and no, this isn’t some sci-fi renegade episode of Black Mirror or an excerpt from a long forgotten Arthur Clarke novel, this could genuinely be the next phase of riot control. The implication may seem like a scary one, but removing the human element in these situations may be a step in the right direction.

The tendency for riot situations to escalate leads the (sometimes undertrained and inexperienced) riot crews to make rash errors out of a flight or fight response. They may rely on more lethal attacks, as their non-lethal weapons could seem ineffective. However, if a robot is the one operating the non-lethal weapon, it has no regard for its own safety (and a lowered chance of human error), and it could safely utilize non-lethal means consistently, and more effectively, thus making riot situations safer for all involved.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

A sneaky civilian drone

Enter: the ever-popular drone. But not just any drone, a drone equipped with an incapacitating laser and a stun gun. The drone is set to make a public debut on June 25 at the International Military-Techincal Forum (aka “Army Expo”) in Moscow, Russia. The Russian Scientific and Production Association of Special Materials Corporation will be unveiling the drone.

The unmanned drone features a laser that causes temporary blindness when directed toward a crowd. This turns the drone into a flying machine dropping less-severe flashbangs, dispersing crowds without doing any long-lasting physical harm. This is also mandatory for all laser weapons created after the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. The protocol dictates that laser weapons can only do permanent harm to vehicles, weapons, or sensors but not damage to humans.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa

(1st Lt. Danielle Dixon/ USMC)

There are additional attributes that make this drone a potential game-changing riot stopper. According to Samuel Bendett, an advisor at the Center for Naval Analysis, “This drone can be a disruptor without the need to employ larger technology like crowd-control trucks and maybe even without the need to utilize soldiers or police to disperse people — that is why this UAV can also be equipped with a loudspeaker, a siren, and a thermal imager…”

This, of course, would make it the perfect vessel for domestic riots. In addition, this type of unmanned aircraft could also have use in a military sense, as it could damage enemy sensors and jam some weapons without putting boots on the ground.

As of now, the minimum safety distance for the temporary blinding laser is 13 feet. Whether or not a human could operate the drone around that distance and still be precise and efficient is yet to be seen. However, even with that limitation, the idea of a drone that could safely disperse a crowd is an interesting notion that continues to inch closer to reality.

MIGHTY SPORTS

NFL helmet makers will upgrade US troops with the same tech

Bullets and shrapnel are no longer the biggest threat to U.S. troops. In fact, it’s not even on the battlefields where most of the damage is done to our troops. Eighty percent of traumatic brain injuries in the military are caused by blunt impact sustained during training and in other non-deployed settings. The National Institute of Health estimates chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury caused by repeated blows to the head, is the result of these constant impacts.

If “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the condition many retired NFL players struggle with in later years: CTE. Now that roads between the U.S. Military and the National Football League intersect, the NFL’s helmet producer is stepping up to tackle the problem.


Every year, more and more deceased NFL players are found to have struggled with CTE. Meanwhile, four out of five U.S. military personnel who experienced post-traumatic stress are also found to suffer from CTE. That might be what prompted the medical staff at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to reach out to NFL helmet maker, VICIS, to see how they could team up.

The Coast Guard looks at another budget cut in the Arctic

(NFL)

“The main thing is the current combat helmets are … not optimized for blunt impact protection and that’s what football helmets are designed to do, protect against blunt impact,” VICIS CEO and co-founder Dave Marver told the Associated Press. “And so what we’re doing, rather than working to replace the shell of the combat helmet, which is good at ballistic protection, we’re actually replacing the inner padding, which is currently just foam.”

The U.S. Army and VICIS are using experimental technology, the same used by the Seattle Seahawks, to put what they learned working with the NFL to use for American troops.

“Most startup companies you have to stay focused and get your initial product out,” says Marver, “but we felt so strongly about the need to better protect warfighters.”

VICIS and the Army announced this initiative in the Spring of 2018 and estimate the new helmet should be tested and in the hands (and on the heads) of American troops within two years. VICIS’ Zero1 football helmet ranks consistently high in player protection and laboratory test. That’s the kind of technology the company will send to the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in its experimental models.

The focus on helmet safety in the NFL is the result of a rise of reported cases of CTE in deceased and retired NFL players. In response, the National Football League increased its investment in concussion research, tightened the rules surrounding concussed players on the field, and, along with the NFL Players Association, reviewed all the helmets used by NFL teams to reject designs that don’t actually protect the wearer.

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It starts with its padding system.

(VICIS)

According to VICIS, the current helmets are designed to defend against ballistic weapons, but most of the military’s head trauma is a result of blunt force impact during training. VICIS military helmets are able to cut the force inflicted on the wearer by half when compared to some of the helmets currently in use.

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(VICIS)

The current cost of a VICIS football helmet is id=”listicle-2611426115″,500.00 while the U.S. military’s current helmet carries a smaller price tag of 2.00. Still, it’s a small price to pay when compared to the cost of the VA caring for TBI-injured veterans over the course of a lifetime — an estimated .2 billion over ten years.

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Army test fires 3-D printed grenade launcher called RAMBO

Researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center successfully fired the first 3-D printed grenade launcher. This demonstration shows that additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3-D printing) has a potential future in weapon prototype development, which could allow engineers to provide munitions to Soldiers more quickly.


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Designed with soldier input, this modified M203 grenade launcher was made mostly from 3D printed parts. (Photo: US Army)

The printed grenade launcher, named RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was the culmination of six months of collaborative effort by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.

RAMBO is a tangible testament to the utility and maturation of additive manufacturing. It epitomizes a new era of rapidly developed, testable prototypes that will accelerate the rate at which researchers’ advancements are incorporated into fieldable weapons that further enable our warfighters. Additive manufacturing is an enabling technology that builds successive layers of materials to create a three-dimensional object.

Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed. Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.

The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the utility of AM for the design and production of armament systems. A 40 mm grenade launcher (M203A1) and munitions (M781) were selected as candidate systems. The technology demonstrator did not aim to illustrate whether the grenade launcher and munition could be made cheaper, lighter or better than traditional mass-production methods. Instead, researchers sought to determine whether AM technologies were mature enough to build an entire weapon system and the materials’ properties robust enough to create a properly functioning armament.

To be able to additively manufacture a one-off working testable prototype of something as complex as an armament system would radically accelerate the speed and efficiency with which modifications and fixes are delivered to the warfighter. AM doesn’t require expensive and time-intensive tooling. Researchers would be able to manufacture multiple variations of a design during a single printing build in a matter of hours or days. This would expedite researchers’ advancements and system improvements: Instead of waiting months for a prototype, researchers would be able to print a multitude of different prototypes that could be tested in a matter of days.

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Parts for an M203 grenade launcher printed on a 3D printing machine. (Photo: US Army)

Depending on a part’s complexity, there can be numerous steps involved before it is ready for use. For instance, in the case of RAMBO, the printed aluminum receiver and barrel required some machining and tumbling. After printing, the components were cut from the build plate, and then support material was removed from the receiver.

The barrel was printed vertically with the rifling. After it was removed from the build plate, two tangs were broken off and the barrel was tumbled in an abrasive rock bath to polish the surface. The receiver required more post-process machining to meet the tighter dimensional requirements. Once post-processing was complete, the barrel and receiver underwent Type III hard-coat anodizing, a coating process that’s also used for conventionally manufactured components of the M203A1. Anodizing creates an extremely hard, abrasion-resistant outer layer on the exposed surface of the aluminum.

The barrel and receiver took about 70 hours to print and required around five hours of post-process machining. The cost for powdered metals varies but is in the realm of $100 a pound. This may sound like a lot of time and expensive material costs, but given that the machine prints unmanned and there is no scrap material, the time and cost savings that can be gained through AM are staggering. The tooling and set-up needed to make such intricate parts through conventional methods would take months and tens of thousands of dollars, and would require a machinist who has the esoteric machining expertise to manufacture things like the rifling on the barrel.

Beyond AM fabrication of the weapon system, ManTech also requested that a munition be printed. Two RDECOM research and development centers, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), participated in this phase of the project to demonstrate RDECOM’s cross-organizational capabilities and teaming. An integrated product team selected the M781 40 mm training round because it is simple and does not involve any energetics—explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics are still awaiting approval for use in 3-D printing.

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A comparison of a 3D printed grenade launcher and one made with standard manufacturing processes. (Photo: US Army)

The M781 consists of four main parts: the windshield, the projectile body, the cartridge case and a .38-caliber cartridge case. The windshield and cartridge case are traditionally made by injection molding glass-filled nylon. Using multiple AM systems at multiple locations helped emphasize manufacturing readiness and the Army’s capability to design, fabricate, integrate and test components while meeting tolerances, requirements and design rules. ARL and ECBC used selective laser sintering and other AM processes to print glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields for the rounds.

The .38-caliber cartridge case was the only component of the M781 that was not printed. The .38-caliber cartridge case was purchased and pressed into the additively manufactured cartridge case. Research and development is underway at ARDEC to print energetics and propellants.

In current production, the M781 projectile body is made of zinc. Zinc is used because it’s easy to mass-produce through die-casting, it’s a dense material and it’s relatively soft. The hardness of the projectile body is critical, because the rifling of the barrel has to cut into the softer obturating ring of the projectile body. The rifling imparts spin on the round as it travels down the barrel, which improves the round’s aerodynamic stability and accuracy once it exits the barrel. Currently, 3-D printing of zinc is not feasible within the Army. Part of the beauty of AM is that changes can be made quickly and there is no need for retooling, so four alternative approaches were taken to overcome this capability gap:

  • The first approach was to print the projectile body in aluminum as an alternative material. The problem with that approach is that aluminum is less dense than zinc; therefore, when fired, the projectile achieves higher speeds than system design specifications call for. Interestingly, even though the barrel and projectile body were printed from the same aluminum material, because the printed barrel was hard-coat anodized, it allowed for proper rifling engagement with the softer untreated printed aluminum projectile body.
  • The second approach was to print the projectile body in steel, which better meets the weight requirements, and then mold a urethane obdurating ring onto it. The obturating ring is required to ensure proper engagement and rifling in the aluminum barrel. We couldn’t keep the obturating ring as steel, like we did with the first approach, because steel is a lot harder than aluminum, and even with the hard-coat anodization it would have destroyed the grenade launcher’s barrel. So for this approach, the projectile body’s design was modified to take advantage of design for AM. The original projectile body designs did not consider AM fabrication and processing. For this AM technology demonstrator, the design was modified to take advantage of AM design rules to reduce the amount of post-machining required. This approach also used 3-D printing to fabricate a “negative” mold and then create a silicone positive mold to produce an obturating ring onto the printed munition bodies.
  • The third approach also utilized a groove and obturating ring, but instead of overmolding, the plastic was printed directly onto the steel projectile body using a printer with a rotary axis.
  • The fourth approach used a wax printer to 3D-print projectile bodies. Using the lost-wax casting process, plaster was poured around the wax bodies and allowed to set. Once set, the hardened plaster mold was heated and the wax melted away. Molten zinc was then poured into the plaster mold to cast the zinc projectile bodies.

ARDEC researchers used modeling and simulation throughout the project to verify whether the printed materials would have sufficient structural integrity to function properly. Live-fire testing was used to further validate the designs and fabrication. The printed grenade launcher and printed training rounds were live-fire tested for the first time on Oct. 12, 2016, at the Armament Technology Facility at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

Testing included live firing at indoor ranges and outdoor test facilities. The system was remotely fired for safety reasons, and the tests were filmed on high-speed video. The testing included 15 test shots with no signs of degradation. All the printed rounds were successfully fired, and the printed launcher performed as expected. There was no wear from the barrel, all the systems held together and the rounds met muzzle velocities within 5 percent of a production M781 fired from a production-grade grenade launcher.

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Grenade launcher practice rounds made using a variety of non-standard manufacturing techniques. (Photo: US Army)

The variation in velocities were a result of the cartridge case cracking, and the issue was quickly rectified with a slight design change and additional 3-D printing. This demonstrates a major advantage using AM, since the design was modified and quickly fabricated without the need for new tooling and manufacturing modifications that conventional production would require. More in-depth analysis of material properties and certification is underway. The RAMBO system and associated components and rounds are undergoing further testing to evaluate reliability, survivability, failure rates and mechanisms.

Before the live-fire testing, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center gathered warfighter input from the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. The regiment was consulted on features and capabilities it would like to have available on the M203A1 grenade launcher. Using that feedback, NSRDEC created the standalone kit for RAMBO. The M203 grenade launcher is typically mounted under other soldier weapons.

NSRDEC researchers took advantage of AM and rapidly created prototypes and kits that included custom handgrips based on warfighter requests and specifications—customization made possible because of the design freedoms and rapid turnaround afforded by AM.

The concept and funding for this project initially came from ManTech and ARDEC. ARDEC managed and executed the project with collaboration from other RDECOM AM community of practice and associated member organizations. Some of that collaboration was ad hoc and need-based—the need to find certain printing capabilities that ARDEC lacked, for example—and other collaborative efforts represented a concerted effort to leverage the experience and expertise of the community of practice.

Key organizations included ARDEC, Army ManTech, ARL, ECBC, ­NSRDEC, America Makes, DOD laboratories and several small businesses. ARL worked with ECBC for development of printed glass-filled nylon cartridge cases, and with NSRDEC for designs and fabrication of the printed standalone kits with Soldier-requested variations.

The Army Special Services Division at Fort Meade, Maryland, expeditiously printed aluminum barrels and receivers to complement ARDEC’s capabilities for additive manufacturing of metals. America Makes developed and printed finely tuned AM barrels and receivers. The project also included services from several small businesses and service houses for AM. The cross-organization teaming between government and industry illustrated the current state of the art for AM and the robustness and manufacturing readiness of AM as an enabling technology for current and future U.S. production.

The 40 mm AM-produced grenade launcher and components were a highlighted project at the 2016 Defense Manufacturing Conference. Although there are still many challenges to be addressed before Armywide adoption of AM, demonstrations like this one show the technology’s advances. Successfully firing an AM-produced weapon system validates AM maturation and applicability in armament production.

By using AM, researchers and developers will be able to build and test their prototypes in a matter of days rather than months. Designs and parts previously unachievable can now be realized. Complex designs that lighten, simplify and optimize armaments are now feasible and manufacturable. These advancements will improve products and facilitate faster and more efficient transition from the labs to the field, further enabling our warfighters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US troops demolish ISIS leader’s compound to keep it from becoming a shrine

US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerous news reports.

Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.


US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.

Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.

Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.

Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation

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In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.

Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

President Trump’s new nuclear weapon is now in production

The most powerful missile in the United States nuclear arsenal is about to get a new warhead. A $65 million low-yield nuclear weapon design touted by the Trump Administration since 2018 just went into production in the home of American weapons: Texas.


New designs were tasked by the administration after the 2018 nuclear posture review found that the National Nuclear Security Agency could not update or maintain its stock of nuclear weapons with the budget it had. The $65 million design was appropriated from the Department of Energy, the parent agency of the National Nuclear Security Agency. It will be based on the current design of the Navy’s W76-1 warhead, which is currently on the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and is intended to be fired via submarine.

“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said.

Two factors allow for the warhead’s quick production time: first, it’s based on the current warhead for the Trident II D5 and second, the nuclear weapon is smaller than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which would be today considered a yield nuclear weapon. The two had a yield of 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. By today’s standard, a low-yield nuke could be upwards of 50-100 kilotons.

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The result of a “low-yield” nuclear weapon.

The U.S. military has roughly 1,000 low-yield nukes in its 4,400-plus nuclear arsenal. Activists worry that an increase in new, low-yield weapons will only increase the likelihood of one of them being used in a tactical move, as some consider the weapons a “less powerful nuclear option.”

A big issue with having two levels of nuclear force is that the target of the potentially low-yield nuclear strike doesn’t know if the attack is low-yield or high-yield until it’s too late – and will likely just respond in kind. Trident II D5 missiles are the most powerful in the nuclear triad and also the most reliable weapon system ever built. More than that, it can deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which means any Trident launch will likely be seen as an all-out attack on multiple targets, prompting an all-out nuclear response.

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Which your mom might be able to teach you to survive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how a mortar system works

The mortar is an indirect fire weapon that rains freedom down from high angles onto an enemy within a (relatively) short range. But the compact and mobile mortar systems we have today are the result of a long history of indirect fire systems in the American military. Decades of effectively marking, lighting, and destroying targets has earned the mortar many friends — and many more enemies — on the battlefield. In short, a well-trained mortar team often means the difference between victory and defeat for infantry troops in contact.

When nature creates a successful apex predator, she rarely deviates from her original design. Warfare evolves in a similar fashion — the most successful systems are tweaked and perfected to guarantee effectiveness, preserving our way of life.

This is an ode to the mortar, and all of its beautifully complex inner-workings.


Preparation and Firing Stokes Mortars 1 Min 12 Sec

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A noble bloodline

The mortar was born in the fires of conquest at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. In that engagement, the new weapon proved just how effective firing explosives over short distances across an extremely high arc could be. Since that day, more than 500 years and countless wars ago, the general concept hasn’t changed.

One of the biggest evolutions in the mortar design was put forth by the British in World War I: the Stokes Mortar. It had 3 sections: a 51-inch tube, a base plate, and a bi-pod. This new type of mortar system fired twenty-two 10-pound pieces of ordinance a maximum of 1,000 yards. Mortars today still use the bi-pod and base-plate improvements that were first deployed in the trenches of the Western Front.

COMBAT FOOTAGE Marines in firefight beat Taliban ambush with 60mm Mortar Fire

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Where the metal meets the meat

A mortar crew consists of at least three members: the squad leader, gunner, and the assistant gunner. More members could be attached depending on manpower available.

The mortar system has a large tube closed at the the bottom and attached to a base plate. Within the barrel of the tube is a firing pin used to ignite a mortar shell’s primer. Some models have a moving firing pin that can be fired via a trigger mechanism.

The controlled explosion fills the chamber with gas and propels the shell out of the tube. A set of bi-pods add stability and allow on-the-fly adjustments. It can be fired from defilade (a fighting position that does not expose the crew to direct fire weapons) onto entrenched enemy not protected from overhead fire.

Sometimes referred to as a ‘bomb’, the shell and its components consist of the impact fuse, high explosive filler, a primary charge, fins, and augmenting charges. Illumination and smoke rounds differ depending on the model of the weapon system. Augmentation charges on the outside ‘neck’ near the fin can be added or removed to manipulate firing range as needed.

The gun is aimed, the round is half loaded until the ‘fire’ command is given and freedom rings.

Steel drizzle vs steel rain

The differences between artillery and mortars are night and day. Artillery fires on a horizontal trajectory, at faster speeds, and at longer ranges. The cost of these advantages are sacrificed in mobility.

Mortars, however, are light enough that they can be carried across difficult terrain and quickly assembled to take control of the battle space. Ammunition can be dispersed to individual troops to carry and then dropped off at the gun crew rally point.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This speedy missile gave bombers a lot of punch

In the late 1960s, the cancellation of the B-70 Valkyrie program and the retirement of the B-58 Hustler meant that the United States Air Force was likely to struggle with bypassing Soviet defenses. The FB-111 Switchblade was coming online to help address this gap in capabilities, but the plane’s production run was cut down to 76 airframes (from an originally planned 263) in 1969.

The US Air Force needed an answer — a fast one.


That answer came in the form of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile, or SRAM. The “short range” bit in the name, in this case, was relative. The AGM-69 SRAM had a maximum range of 100 miles. That’s considered “short” when compared with something like the AGM-28 Hound Dog (which had a 700-mile range). In theory, this weapon allowed B-52s or FB-111s to take on enemy air-defense sites.

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A training version of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile is loaded onto a B-1B Lancer. The B-1 could carry two dozen of these missiles.

(USAF photo by Technical Sgt. Kit Thompson)

Any air-defense site that drew the ire of a B-52 or FB-111 enough to require the use of a SRAM was in for some hurt. The SRAM packed a W69 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 200 kilotons. A single AGM-69 sounds painful enough — the FB-111 could carry as many as six of these missiles. The B-52 could carry an even 20. By comparison, the legendary BUFF could only carry two AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missiles.

The AGM-69 entered service in 1972 and was widely deployed among Strategic Air Command units. This missile had a top speed of Mach 3 and weighed just under 2,300 pounds. The missile was 14-feet long and 17-and-a-half inches wide. Over 1,500 SRAMs were built.

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The AGM-69 could be carried in a rotary launcher inside the bomb bay of bombers like the B-52, or on pylons on the wings.

(USAF)

The missile served until 1990. It was retired after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The planned successor, the AGM-131 SRAM II, which would have had longer range (250 miles) and smaller size (under ten-and-a-half feet long and a little more than 15 inches across) was cancelled the following year.

Learn more about this essential, Cold War-era missile in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUfEYhODsjg

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