Comanche: America's stealth helicopter that could have been - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The U.S. has long led the world in stealth technologies, and for a time, it looked as though America’s love for all things low-observable would extend all the way into rotorcraft like the RAH-66 Comanche Helicopter.

Despite being only a decade away from ruin, the Soviet Union remained a palpable threat to the security and interests of the United States at the beginning of the 1980s. However, elements of America’s defense apparatus were beginning to look a bit long in the tooth after decades of posturing, deterrence, and the occasional proxy war.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
A left side view of an AH-1 Cobra helicopter, front, and an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter flying in formation (Hawaii Army National Guard photo)

With the Soviet Union was believed to still be funneling a great deal of money into their own advanced military projects, the U.S. Army set to work on finding a viable replacement for their fleets of Vietnam-era light attack and reconnaissance helicopters in its forward-looking Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) program. The program’s intended aim was fairly simple despite the complexity of the effort: To field a single rotorcraft that could replace the UH-1, AH-1, OH-6, and OH-58 helicopters currently parked in Army hangars.

By the end of the decade, the Army announced that two teams, Boeing–Sikorsky and Bell–McDonnell Douglas, had met the requirements for their proposal, and they were given contracts to develop their designs further. In 1991, Boeing–Sikorsky won out over its competition and was awarded $2.8 billion to begin production on six prototype helicopters.

The need for a stealth helicopter

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
An RAH-66 Comanche (bottom) flying in formation with an AH-64 Apache (top). (WikiMedia Commons)

The Boeing–Sikorsky helicopter, dubbed the RAH-66 Comanche, was intended to serve as a reconnaissance and light attack platform. Its mission sets would include flying behind enemy lines in contested airspace to identify targets for more powerful attack helicopters or ground units, but the RAH-66 wouldn’t have to back away from a fight.

In order to meet the Army’s demands, the Comanche would need to be able to engage lightly armored targets as well as identify tougher ones for engagement from more powerful AH-64 Apaches.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
An RAH-66 Comanche (top) flying in formation with an AH-64 Apache (bottom). (WikiMedia Commons)

Most importantly, the RAH-66 needed to be more survivable than the Army’s existing scout helicopters in highly contested airspace, which meant the new Comanche helicopter would need to borrow design elements from existing fixed-wing stealth platforms like the F-117 Nighthawk to defeat air defense systems and missiles fired from other helicopters.

The Boeing–Sikorsky team quickly set about building the program’s first two prototypes, leveraging the sort of angular radar-reflecting surfaces that gave the Nighthawk its enigmatic visual profile. Those surfaces themselves were made out of radar-absorbing composite materials to further reduce the RAH-66’s radar signature. The stealth helicopter also managed engine exhaust by funneling it through its shrouded tail section, reducing its infrared (or heat) signature to further limit detection.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
(Sikorsky Archives)

Its specially designed rotor blades were canted downward to reduce the amount of noise the helicopter made in flight. Finally, a full suite of radar warning systems, electronic warfare systems, and chaff and flare dispensers would help keep the RAH-66’s crew safe while they rode behind Kevlar and graphite armor plating that could withstand direct hits from heavy machine gunfire.

The result of all this technology was a stealth helicopter said to have a radar cross-section that was 250 times smaller than the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter it would replace, along with an infrared signature reduced by a whopping 75%. It wasn’t just tough to spot on radar or hit with heat-seeking missiles either. The Comanche helicopter was also said to produce just half the noise of a traditional helicopter. While the rotorcraft could still be heard as it approached, that reduced signature would mean enemy combatants would have less time to prepare before the Comanche closed in on them.

The RAH-66 was about more than stealth

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
RAH-66 Comanche prototype (WikiMedia Commons)

With the Comanche’s stealth technology spoken for, next came the armament. The stealth helicopter was expected to engage both ground and air targets in a combat zone, and its munitions reflected that goal. Like the stealth fighters to come, the Comanche limited its radar cross-section by carrying its weapons internally, including a retractable 20-millimeter XM301 Gatling cannon and space inside the weapons bays for six Hellfire missiles. If air superiority had been established and stealth was no longer a pressing concern, additional external pylons could carry eight more Hellfires.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Weapons bay extended from the RAH-66 (Sikorsky Archives)

However, if the Comanche was sent out to hunt for other attack and reconnaissance helicopters behind enemy lines, it could wreak havoc with 12 AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles. Again, with air superiority established, an additional 16 Stinger missiles could be mounted on external pylons.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Armament options for the RAH-66 Comanche (Sikorsky Archives)

The pilot and weapons officer onboard would have utilized a combination of cockpit displays and helmet-mounted systems similar to the more advanced heads up and augmented reality displays found in today’s advanced stealth aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

It was equipped with a long-range Forward-Looking Infrared Sensor to help spot targets, as well as an optional Longbow radar that could be mounted above the rotors to allow the pilot to peak just the radar over hills or buildings–giving the crew important situational awareness of the battlefield ahead while limiting exposure of the rotorcraft itself. Once the Comanche spotted a target, a laser could be used to lock on for its onboard weapons systems.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Comanche cockpit (Sikorsky Archives)

The RAH-66 Comanche’s air-to-air credibility was further bolstered by the platform’s speed and agility. With a top speed just shy of 200 miles per hour and enough acrobatic prowess to nearly pull off loop-de-loops, the Comanche was fast, agile, and powerful… but by the time the first two Comanche prototypes were flying, it was also widely seen as unnecessary.

A warrior without a war

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
(WikiMedia Commons)

The first Comanche prototype took to the skies in January of 1996, five years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The stealth helicopter had been envisioned as a necessary weapon amid the constant defense posturing of the Cold War, but without the looming threat of a technologically capable geopolitical boogeyman, the Comanche began to look more like a pile of problems, rather than solutions.

The Comanche was truly forward-reaching in its capabilities, but as is so often the case with first-of-its-kind platforms, that reach came with a long list of cost overruns and technological setbacks. The helicopter had proven to be far heavier than anticipated; So heavy, in fact, that some wondered if the stealth helicopter would even get off the ground with its intended weapons payload. And its weight was just the beginning of the Comanche’s headaches.

Just about every system intended for use aboard the RAH-66 met with setback after setback. Bugs in the software meant to manage the helicopter’s operation proved difficult–and expensive–to root out, the 3-barrel cannon wasn’t as accurate as intended, the target detection system failed to meet expectations, and efforts to both reduce weight and pull more power of the Comanche’s intended T800 turboshaft engines were both slow going.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
(Sikorsky Archives)

Each of these issues could have been resolved with enough time and money, but the U.S. Army was already getting tired of waiting for the Comanche to live up to its hype. Then, September 11, 2001 shifted America’s defense priorities for decades to come. A year after the terror attack that would prompt a shift toward anti-terror campaigns, the Army reduced their order for Comanches by almost half, and just two years later, the program itself was canceled.

After decades of development and nearly $7 billion spent on the Comanche program, it came to a close with just two operational prototypes ever reaching the sky.

The Comanche’s life after death

While originally slated for a production run of 1,213 RAH-66 Comanche helicopters, the U.S. Army only ever took possession of the original two prototypes… but that doesn’t mean the program was a complete loss. In fact, among Defense Department insiders, the RAH-66 Comanche program is still seen in a fairly positive light. The difference in perception of the Comanche’s success or lack thereof could potentially be attributed to elements of other classified programs the American public isn’t privy to.

In 2011, Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley was asked a question by a journalist about the “failed Comanche program.”

“I wouldn’t say Comanche was necessarily a failure of procurement… Comanche was a good program.”

-Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley

similar sentiment was also registered by (now former) Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker:

 “Much of what we’ve gained out of Comanche we can push forward into the tech base for future joint rotor-craft kinds of capabilities.”

-Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker

These assertions make some sense, but are also easily dismissed thanks to the noticeable lack of stealth rotorcraft in America’s arsenal. How could lessons from the Comanche really be used if the premise itself doesn’t carry over into further programs?

One high-profile possibility came in the form of images that emerged following the raid on Osama Bid Laden’s compound that resulted in the death of the terrorist leader… As well as the loss of one highly specialized Blackhawk helicopter. Immediately following the announcement of Bin Laden’s death, images began to surface online of a very unusual tail section that remained intact after American special operators destroyed the downed helicopter to ensure its technology couldn’t fall into enemy hands.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Intact helicopter tail section left at the scene of the Bid Laden raid. (Public Domain)

The tail is clearly not the same as the tail sections of most Blackhawk helicopters, and its angular design certainly suggests that it must have come from a helicopter that was intended to limit its radar return. Eventually, stories about America’s Special Operations Stealth Blackhawks, or Stealth Hawks, started making the rounds on the internet, and recently, the team over at The Warzone even managed to dig up a shot of just such a stealthy Blackhawk–likely a predecessor to the helicopters used in the historic raid.

While these modified stealth helicopters are not Comanches, the modifications these Blackhawks saw were almost certainly informed by lessons learned in the RAH-66 program. Reports from the scene of the raid also indicate how quiet the helicopters were as the American special operations team closed with their target. Clearly, efforts made to reduce the helicopters’ radar cross section, infrared signature, and noise level were all in play during the Bin Laden raid, just as they were within the Comanche prototypes.

And then there’s Sikorsky’s latest light tactical helicopter, the S-97 Raider. Its visual cues are certainly reminiscent of the company’s efforts in developing the RAH-66, and its performance is too. The S-97 Raider has been clocked at speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour–faster even than the proposed Comanche’s top speed–and like the Comanche, the Raider is nimble to boot.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter may have been a bit too forward reaching for its time, but the lessons learned throughout its development and testing have clearly found new life in other advanced programs. With defense officials increasingly touting the value of stealth to increase combat aircraft survivability, it seems certain that we’ll see another stealth helicopter enter service at some point; And when we do, it will almost certainly have benefitted from the failures and successes of the Comanche.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the science behind how submarines dive and resurface

Let’s start with the basics: Ships stay afloat because the weight of the water that it displaces equals the weight of the ship. As gravity pulls down on the ship; water creates an opposite upward force called buoyant force, which prevents the ship from sinking.


Related: 27 incredible photos of life on a US Navy submarine

Submarines use ballast and trim tanks, which are filled with air or water to submerge or raise the ship. When the submarine is floating on the surface, the tanks are filled with air causing its density to be less than the surrounding water. When the submarine dives, the tanks are flooded with water causing its density to be greater than the water causing it to sink.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Science Channel, YouTube

Some submarines use two hulls—one inside of another—instead of ballast tanks. This design allows it to flood the outer hull with water, which causes the vessel to sink, while the crew work and live in the inner one. An example of a double hull design is the Russian Alfa Class submarine considered by many to be the hot rod sub of the Cold War for its incredible speed. Designed during the 1960s, the Alfa Class submarine remains the fastest of its kind till this day, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

As the outer hull fills with water, the submarine dives.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Brit Lab, YouTube

As the water is replaced by air, the submarine resurfaces.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Brit Lab, YouTube

This video shows how American submarines dive and resurface using its ballast tanks:

Science Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army looks at new ways to retain these field experts

Senior warrant officers from around the Army congregated to discuss talent management on day two of the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Doug Englen of the Army Talent Management Task Force served on a panel of five distinguished senior warrant officers to discuss a series of personnel reforms designed to help acquire, develop, employ, and retain the right talent among Army warrant officers. Warrant officers are subject-matter experts in their field, serving in diverse roles across the Army from flying helicopters to conducting offensive cyber operations.

Every community within the Army has its own unique talent management challenges. The warrant officer community, in particular, has struggled to retain the most experienced warrant officers.


“In 1991, we had 1,500 warrant officers with over twenty years of warrant officer experience. Today, that number is just 350, even though we still have the same number of warrant officers,” said Englen.

Since arriving to the task force over one year ago, Englen has helped the Army begin to address talent management issues specifically impacting warrant officers.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

“When an active duty warrant officer retires, he or she is placed on the regular Army retired list, unlike commissioned officers, who are placed on the reserve Army list,” said Englen.

“Title 37 of the U.S. Code prevents dual compensation of retirement and reserve pay,” said Englen, “But by offering our retiring warrant officers Selective Reserve (SELRES) status, we can allow them to serve in the Reserve component following their retirement from active duty without causing them to lose their retirement pay.”

Doing so would help the Army address at least part of its manning shortfalls in the Army Reserve, which is currently short approximately 4,000 warrant officers.

The warrant officer community is also incredibly diverse. Each career field, said Englen, requires its own unique approach to talent management.

Aviators, for instance, can require over a year’s worth of training before they can be assigned to their units. Under the current system, many warrant officers are promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2) either during or shortly after flight school. The task force is drafting a new policy to “reset” a warrant officer’s date of rank once they complete flight school, allowing time to develop them as a warrant officer (WO1) for two years before being promoted to chief warrant officer two (CW2).

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

Senior warrant officers from around the Army discussed talent management at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, DC. The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps; some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

(U.S. Army photo)

Other communities, such as Special Forces and air defense, do not require extensive warrant officer training timelines, as they draw from their respective communities.

Instead, Englen noted, these communities are working to directly commission senior non-commissioned officers in the grades of sergeant first class through first sergeant to the rank of chief warrant officer two (CW2).

The Army has already implemented talent management reforms within the officer corps. Some of these reforms are being expanded to warrant officers and enlisted personnel. These programs are part of a comprehensive series of reforms designed to modernize the Army’s personnel system and transform it to a 21st Century talent management system.

These talent management initiatives aimed at the warrant officer community are expected to begin early 2020.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Air Force wants to get rid of some of its most well-known aircraft — here’s what’s on the chopping block

The $207.2 billion total spending in the Air Force’s 2021 budget request holds even with what the service was allotted in 2020.


The lack of change in dollars contrasts with Air Force officials’ comments about a need for dramatic change to prepare for potential high-end conflict with a power like Russia or China.

“If you have platforms that are not going to play in that 2030 fight, is there a near-term risk, which is real risk, that we need to take as a department to buy our future, to be able to have the connectivity we need to fight at the speeds the future’s going to demand?” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in January.

The 2021 request, released Monday, stopped short of big shakeups, such as ditching entire aircraft inventories or scrapping major procurement programs, according to Defense News.

But the proposed 2021 budget would part with a number of noteworthy aircraft, freeing up .1 billion in the next five-year spending plan and reflecting a belief that “winning in the future will require investing in the right new capabilities now,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.

Below, you can which aircraft the Air Force wants to retire.

17 B-1B Lancer bombers.

The B-1B bomber fleet would drop from 61 aircraft in 2020 to 44 in 2021, all of which are in the active-duty Air Force, according to budget documents.

The Lancer, which is no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons, doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is considered the bomber fleet’s “backbone,” as it can fly the fastest, topping 900 mph, and carries the largest payload, up to 75,000 pounds of guided and unguided weapons.

The service plans to get rid of the oldest of the B-1Bs, which have required more attention from maintainers given the high operational tempo the bomber has faced in recent years.

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Airmen reconfigure weapons on an A-10 Thunderbolt II at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, November 19, 2019.

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton

44 A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft.

The Air Force has flirted with retiring some A-10s for years, and its 2021 proposal would finally cull that fleet, with the Air National Guard losing 39 and the Air Force Reserve losing seven. (The active Air Force would gain two, for a total of 44 A-10s removed from service.)

The Air Force currently has 281 A-10s and recently finished putting new wings on 173 of them. Boeing got a billion-dollar contract in 2019 to finish re-winging the A-10s that needed them.

Once those 44 aircraft are removed from service, the Air Force will proceed with re-winging those that remain, an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.

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A KC-135 refuels an F-16

US National Guard/Master Sgt. Mark A. Moore

16 KC-10 and 13 KC-135 aerial refueling tankers.

The Air Force’s 2021 budget proposes dropping 16 KC-10 tankers from the active fleet and eight and five KC-135s from the active fleet and the Reserve, respectively.

KC-10s date to the 1980s and KC-135s to the 1950s. The Air Force says the ones that would be removed would be the oldest and least capable in the force, according to Air Force Magazine, but the cuts would come as the tanker meant to replace them, the KC-46, is still at least three years away from being able to deploy.

The 2021 budget includes nearly billion for 15 more KC-46 tankers, as well as an additional 0 million for modifications and research, and development, testing, and evaluation.

Air Force officials have said they want to hold on to legacy tankers until the KC-46 is working properly. The head of US Transportation Command, which oversees aerial refueling operations, said in January that KC-46 delays risked causing “a real dip” in the military’s tanker availability.

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A US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft.

US Air Force

24 RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones.

Starting in 2021, the Air Force wants to divest its Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4 surveillance drones, a total of 24, leaving only its 10 Block 40 RQ-4s.

Four of the Block 20s had been converted to Battlefield Airborne Communications Nodes, which allow different battlefield communications systems to talk to each other.

To replace the RQ-4s with the BACN (which makes them EQ-4s), the service will get five E-11A manned aircraft with the BACN system, buying one a year starting next year, an Air Force spokesperson told Defense News.

The RQ-4 often works in conjuction with other space-based and airborne information-gathering aircraft, like the U-2 spy plane, whose future was also put in doubt by the latest budget documents.

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Wyoming Air National Guardsmen prepare a C-130H for a mission out of Cheyenne, February 27, 2019.

US Air Force/Master Sgt. Robert Trubia

24 C-130H Hercules airlifters.

The Air Force also wants to retire 24 C-130H mobility aircraft from the Air National Guard.

The C-130H airlifter, as well as the MC-130H used for special operations operations, are among the oldest in the Air Force and “are experiencing airworthiness, maintainability and operational limitations,” according to budget documents.

In the 2021 proposal, the active force would lose three MC-130Hs and gain four MC-130J, the next model, while the Air National Guard would acquire 19 C-130Js.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This sergeant could get the attention of the whole world

If you’ve been in the Army, Air Force, or Marines, you probably remember that your sergeant could get and hold your attention – especially in a one-on-one setting. Some sergeants can easily get the attention of a squad, a platoon, or even a division when they go off. But one sergeant was capable of getting the attention of the whole world.


Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The MGM-29 Sergeant served for 15 years with the United States Army.

(U.S. Army)

The sergeant in question has been in retirement for over 40 years, according to the United States Army. He can’t exactly sign autographs, either. That’s because this sergeant isn’t a person, it’s a missile. To be precise, it’s the MGM-29 Sergeant missile.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

A MGM-29 Sergeant launches. It had a maximum range of 84 miles,

(U.S. Army)

The MGM-29 started out as the SSM-A-27 and was a replacement for a system known as the Corporal. The Sergeant system entered service in 1962 and proved to be a much safer, solid-fueled rocket. In fact, while it took nine hours for a Corporal to be readied for launch, preparing a Sergeant took less than an hour.

The Sergeant had a maximum range of 84 miles and came with one of two warheads. One was a high-explosive warhead and the other was a 200-kiloton W52 nuclear warhead. That’s about 13 and a third times as powerful as the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II. This is why the Sergeant commanded the world’s attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB_6In8pQ_E

www.youtube.com

West Germany also operated this missile

The Sergeant served with the United States Army until 1977 when it was replaced by the MGM-52 Lance in the same roles. Like other tactical missiles, the Sergeant was also exported to West Germany, where it served until 1979.

Learn more about this missile in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Tim Kennedy and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A collab made in Valhalla

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is the follow-up to the uber-successful third-person shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division. In a recent promo for the game, Tim Kennedy takes us on a stroll through about 5 minutes of absolute carnage that is so downright exciting that, after watching, gun nuts are gonna have to wait for the blood to return to their head before standing.


The Real Endgame Weapons Of The Division 2

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For those of you who don’t know, Tim Kennedy is a Ranger-qualified Special Forces sniper. Oh, and he has a bronze star with V device. Oh, and he was an accomplished UFC fighter. In short, he’s a certified American badass, the kind that the boogeyman checks his closet for before going to bed.

As badass as the whole video is (a cave literally f**king explodes), the part that really lures you in is seeing how emphatically Tim Kennedy talks about guns. You can tell the dude just loves shooting — it’s infectious to watch. I mean, he talks about a bolt action as passionately as Shakespeare talked about love or, like, a Danish kingdom…. And it’s much easier to watch Tim Kennedy blow s**t up for 5 minutes than it is to watch a prince whine about his daddy problems for 3 hours of a 5-act play. But hey, to each their own.

Thank god there’s no VR component yet for The Division 2 because if it got any closer to real life, I don’t think many would last long in a match with a dude who is so metal that he admittedly shoots guns as a way to quiet his mind.

Tim Kennedy showcases three separate weapons: the Macmillan Tac-50 sniper rifle, the M32A1 grenade launcher, and “the crossbow” (which happens to have a bolt with a little surprise attached).

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The Macmillan Tac-50

This rifle was, as Tim Kennedy puts it, “originally made to shoot down enemy airplanes.” In real life, the lethality of one round can reach out to over a mile. In The Division 2, it seems like it could easily pin down an entire team behind cover while your teammates close in to finish them off with some CQB. Or, for all the sniper mains out there, it could be a deadly accurate way to eliminate an unsuspecting enemy from across the map.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The M32A1 grenade launcher

This thing functions as an explosive revolver. It carries 6 high-explosive grenades, and it’s perfect for a demolitionist build. A perfect gun for taking out clumps of enemies who stick in close proximity which, in the first Division, was of great tactical advantage. Maybe not anymore… Oh, and apparently Tim Kennedy makes the same sound we do when fake-firing an explosive weapon, Doogah doogah, doogh dooghhh!”

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

The crossbow

This crossbow isn’t your run-of-the-mill crossbow. Even Tim Kennedy said he wouldn’t ever really bring one of these into a legitimate combat situation. But it’s a video game, and it’s fun, so… Why the hell not? Attached to the end of the bolt (don’t call it an arrow around Sergeant Kennedy) is a high-octane explosive. This weapon seems like the perfect thing to shake things up in a game and lay some destruction from high range — with high accuracy….

Oh, and did we mention Tim Kennedy blows up a van with it?

Get your hands on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 for PS4, Xbox One, or PC on March 15th.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian beast is one of the biggest anti-aircraft missiles ever developed

Many of the most-well known anti-aircraft missiles are relatively small. The American FIM-92 Stinger is small enough to be carried by one person. The Sparrow can be carried by aircraft or launched from ships, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow made the missile more compact while increasing performance.


But one anti-aircraft missile is simply huge. Meet the SA-5 Gammon, one of Russia’s many Cold War efforts to defend itself from Strategic Air Command’s bombers.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, this missile was huge, over 35 feet long. It had nearly 500 pounds of high explosives in its warhead, and came in at a weight of nearly eight tons. By comparison, the F6F Hellcat, the scourge of the Pacific Theater was 33 feet long, and weighted a bit over six tons. That’s right – this missile is larger than a World War II fighter.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
A SA-5 Gammon on its launcher. Was a similar missile the first kill for the Arrow? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

These missiles had a long reach, able to hit targets as far as 250 miles away, and with a top speed of over 5,600 miles per hour. But when it comes to combat, the SA-5’s record has been… spotty. In 1986, these missiles were fired at U.S. Navy jets, and missed.

The batteries didn’t regret their poor marksmanship for long, as A-7 Corsairs used AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs, to put the batteries out of action.

The massive plane-killing missile remains in some countries’ inventory, including Iran, India, Poland, Syria and North Korea. Others, like Ukraine, inherited SA-5s after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of Ukraine’s missiles was responsible for the accidental downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner in 2001, killing 78 people. The SA-5 was also notable for being the first kill of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
Two SA-5s on their single-rail launchers, while a third is on the ground. Their immense size is apparent. (Wikimedia Commons)

With continued upgrades, the SA-5 will stick around for a while. Check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h6l3j_bX5g
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.


That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
A female spider wraps her prey in silk. (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.

There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
A small piece of artificial spider silk produced in a lab. (Wikimedia Commons)

So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.

Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.

Articles

This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Throughout its history, the Marine Corps has been known for rising out of the water and storming enemy beaches. But new technology could allow Leathernecks to emerge from the deep like James Bond.


A new powerboat/submarine hybrid vehicle was part of a new technology demonstration in San Diego in late April that could prove to be the ultimate amphibious assault vehicle.

Defense contractors teamed up with the U.S. military at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Camp Pendleton in California to showcase the new “Hyper-Sub.”

Related: This is why German submarines attacked civilian vessels during World War I

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
The Hyper-Sub on display at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise. (Source: HyperSub)

According to the Florida-based company, the fully-submersible nautical craft has over 30,000 pounds of lift and supports 12 hours of underwater operations. The vessel’s sea-to-shore feature makes secretly transporting troops easy where large amphibious ships can’t deliver — perfect for those classified MARSOC missions.

With similar dimensions compared to the classic rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) — the Hyper-Sub is geared for a cruising speed of  30-mph (26 knots), powered by two 480hp Yanmar 6LY3-ETP diesel engines with V-drives. The craft can handle a diving depth of 1,200 ft, but only with the steel cabin option (the acrylic option dives to 500 ft ).

The Hyper-Sub is much heavier and slower than that its inflatable boat counterpart. But its ability to submerge in a matter of moments makes it the better option for a stealth operations.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
The HyperSub’s cargo area designed to hold up to 6,000 lbs of gear and/or potential troops. (Source: Hyper-Sub)

Also Read: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

Although the possibilities for this craft are virtually endless, these prototypes have no sensors, weapons or real defensive capabilities, but can come with high-tech surveillance as an upgrade.

The Marine Corps is currently looking into future uses and possible adding many modifications to this impressive craft which could change modern amphibious warfare forever.

Check out the promo video by Hyper-Sub Videos below to see this speedboat-submarine in action.

(Hyper-Sub Videos, YouTube)
Articles

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

So it doesn’t seem that the Army or the Marine Corps are in any hurry to explain to Congress why they don’t use a common 5.56mm round.


The final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition for their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines.

The bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate this week before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

This is not the first time Congress has gotten its dander up over this subject. Lawmakers asked both services to explain the same thing last year, but Marine Corps leaders said they need to do more testing of the Army’s M855A1 enhanced 5.56mm round.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers do not use a common 5.56mm round. Congress wants to know why. (Photo: DoD)

I reached out to the Marine Corps yesterday and the Army today to ask about how they planned to deal with the request. I could almost hear the head-scratching as if neither service had heard anything about it.

According to the provision, the report must be submitted within 180 days after the bill, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year, is enacted.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

OK so here is the back story for those you out there who don’t know it.

The Army replaced the Cold-War era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 enhanced performance round, the end result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, Army officials maintain. It penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855.

The Marine Corps had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed.

Since then the Marine Corps has purchased millions of MK 318 rounds.

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo.

The Army quickly replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems in 2010, Army officials said.

The new Army round also weighs 62 grains and has a 19-grain steel penetrator tip, 9 grains heavier than the tip on old M855 ammo. Seated behind the penetrator is a solid copper slug. The M855A1 consistently penetrates battlefield barriers such as windshields more effectively than the M855, Army officials contend.

What is interesting is that the Corps was supposed to run tests on the current M855A1 round back in 2010. In 2015, Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, then commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, told a congressional panel there were plans to test the M855A1 rounds again.

Military.com would really like to know what those tests show. We are going to continue to follow this story with great interest.

Articles

The Army is using this FPS video game to help design its weapons of the future

The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.


Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
(Photo from U.S. Army)

“What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been
A screenshot of the Army’s video game Operation Overmatch. (US Army photo)

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wants new, high-tech helmets for flight crews

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division working with members of the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps or ATAC, one of the center’s premier leadership development programs, are in the early stages of acquiring the next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35.

Recently, with recommendations from ATAC, the Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants via AFWERX Vegas to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019.


The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas, an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors, to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.

Replacing legacy helmets on fixed-wing aircraft has become a priority in part because over time new requirements have added sub-systems, and devices, that the helmets were not originally designed for.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

“It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything — technology — that we are putting on them,” said 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division. “If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment.”

Michael DeRespinis, program manager with the Human Systems Division said that working with AFWERX has been beneficial in that it has helped increase competition to replace the helmet and is facilitating the rapid delivery of prototypes.

DeRespinis also said that the division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by Sept. 2019 for further development activity and future production.

Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.

Comanche: America’s stealth helicopter that could have been

An Airman and an attendee of the AFWERX Helmet Challenge discuss new helmets at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

The ATAC team comprised of a group of competitively selected mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center, are focused not only on supporting the Human Systems Division during this process, but also on figuring out the best way to transition technology.

“Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force,” said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade. “A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process.”

Nicole Barnes, ATAC contract specialist and member said that working with AFWERX, the Human Systems Division and being part of a rapid acquisition process has been rewarding. She added that the ATAC program is an example of leadership’s commitment to the workforce and to positive change.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.