Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.
The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.
The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.
While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.
The Belgian company FN Herstal is a heavyweight manufacturer in the firearms industry. They’ve made machine guns like the FN Minimi and MAG, better known as the M249 SAW and M240 machine guns respectively. They’ve also manufactured the standard-issue M4 Carbine and the Special Operations Forces Carbine Assault Rifle, better known as the SCAR. On May 6, 2021, FN held a press conference they called “A New Chapter Begins.”
At the pre-recorded online press conference, FN unveiled the brand new FN EVOLYS Ultralight Machine Gun. The standard machine gun features are present: gas operated, open bolt, short stroke piston design. What makes the EVOLYS unique is its extreme light weight. FN claims that it fires like a machine gun, but handles like an assault rifle thanks to its light weight and ergonomics. It was even shown with a carbon fiber bipod.
FN highlighted the use of Polymers and Additive Manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, as a major contributor to the light weight of the EVOLYS. One interview shown during the press conference was conducted in front of a 3D printing machine.
Another notable feature is the inclusion of a semi-auto on the fire selector, similar to the SIG Sauer LMG-6.8. “The ambidextrous fire selector has a semi-auto position to engage point targets as with a rifle while the full auto position allows suppressive fire as with a machine gun,” FN said. Also similar to the SIG, the FN’s fire selector is very similar to the ultra-familiar AR/M4/M16 selector switch.
FN claims that all actions can be completed with just one hand, including engaging the belt. This action can also be done with either the left or right hand. Additionally, cartridges are automatically repositioned if the belt is not placed correctly on the feed tray when the feed tray cover is closed, preventing first round failure to feed. When the last round in the belt is fired, the last link is ejected, making clearing faster for the next reload.
Those familiar with FN products will also recognize the stock on the EVOLYS. Known in gun circles as the “Tactical UGG Boot” for obvious reasons, the stock appears to be taken directly off of the FN SCAR. The stock folds to the right side of the gun, extends and retracts, and features an adjustable cheek riser. “Whatever his size, or the equipment he is wearing, the user can always find a comfortable shooting position,” FN said.
The press conference showed plenty of firing demonstrations too. Despite the weapon’s light weight, recoil appeared to be very mild. This is due in large part to the EVOLYS’ hydraulic buffer. Demonstrations included shooting the EVOLYS standing, kneeling, prone, and on the move. The gun’s light weight will be a welcome feature to any machine gunner who has to carry it on patrol and make bounding movements with it.
The EVOLYS appears to do a good job of directing its gasses away from the shooter. This prevents noxious fumes and toxins from affecting the shooter. The EVOLYS is also designed to work suppressed.
FN is marketing the EVOLYS in both 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO. The former weighs in at 5.5 kilograms unloaded while the former weighs just .5 kilograms more. For comparison, the M249 SAW weighs 7.5 kilograms unloaded.
Although the U.S. Army is moving to the 6.8mm caliber with the Next Generation Squad Weapon system, FN has plenty of potential NATO customers who look to be keeping 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO weapons in their armories for the foreseeable future.
After America dropped the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it became clear that warfare had changed. America stopped building some conventional weapons of war, including tanks, relying on the new weapons to guarantee peace. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union was working on two new, important weapons of war: their own atomic bombs and tanks that can protect a crew through the blast.
The T-54 had a massive gun that surprised its contemporaries in the 1950s, but it predicted the rise of the modern main battle tank.
(ShinePhantom, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Soviet Union didn’t have the resources to compete with America tank for tank and bomb for bomb worldwide, but they did hope to control as much of Eurasia as possible, and they knew this would result in a clash along the borders of the Warsaw Pact and Western Europe.
The Soviet military leadership wanted to know that, even if a tactical nuclear exchange went down, they would be able to fight through the aftermath. That meant that their tank crews needed to be lethal, protected from anti-tank weapons, but also isolated from nuclear fallout.
The T-54B was already an impressive tank, first rolling off the line in 1949. It was simple to operate, relatively cheap for a main battle tank, and well-balanced. The Soviets and the partnered nations that would go on to buy export version of the tank saw it as a successor to the T-34, the most produced tank of World War II.
But the tank was more accurately a descendant of the T-44, a tank with a gun so big that firing it would wear down the transmission. The increased firepower in the T-44 and, later, the T-54, would be necessary in tank-on-tank combat on any Cold War battlefield.
But the early production T-54s still had plenty of faults, and tank designers improved the platform throughout the 1950s. The T-54A and T-54B introduced upgrades like wading snorkels, fume extractors, and an upgraded gun called the D-10TG. The T-55 was designed with all the knowledge and upgrades from the T-54’s development. The T-55 would be lethal right off the starting block. But being a lethal medium tank isn’t enough to survive nuclear war.
A Slovenian M-55, a highly modified T-55 medium tank.
(MORS, CC BY 3.0)
Believe it or not, the primary systems of a tank in the 1950s were about as survivable as they could be from the bomb. Obviously, no tank could survive at ground zero of a nuclear bomb, but it would be possible for a tank to survive the blast near the borders of the area affected. After all, the armor is designed to survive a direct hit from a fast-flying, armor penetrating round at any given point. An atomic bomb’s blast is more powerful, but it’s spread out over the entire hull and turret.
And so the designers figured out how to overpressure the tank, creating higher pressure within the tank so that all of the little leaks in the armor were pushing air out instead of allowing it in. And the crew compartment was covered in an anti-radiation lining that would reduce radiation traveling through the hull. Finally, a filtration system cleared incoming air of debris and then pumped it into the crew cabin, allowing the crew to breathe and making the overpressure system work.
Again, none of this would make the crew immune from the effects of a bomb. The blast wave could still crush the hull and burst blood vessels in the brains of the crew. The heat wave could still ignite fuel and fry the people inside. Worst of all, plenty of radiation could get through and doom the combatants to deaths of cancer.
But the crew would likely survive to keep fighting, and had some chance of a decent life after the war if they made it. For a few years, at least.
The T-54 and T-55 went on to become the most-produced tanks in world history, but luckily the T-55 adaptations were never actually tested in combat. It and the British Centurion would undergo testing for nuclear blasts. They survived, but you really didn’t want to be inside when the blast hit.
The Object 279 heavy tank was designed for nuclear warfare, but it never went into production due to its high weight.
But it wasn’t to be. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev thought it was time to relegate heavy tanks to the dustbin of history, and he won out. Object 279 and most other heavy tank designs were cast out, leaving the path open for the lighter T-55 medium tank.
The sniper is a lethal combination of patience, discipline, and accuracy. They wait, still and silent, for the perfect moment to strike from afar, eliminating key targets and providing invaluable information to troops on the ground.
While a few snipers in history have had their names enshrined in fame (or infamy, depending on which side of their scope your allegiances lay), the marksman that holds the record for longest-distance confirmed kill is one you’ve never heard of.
In 2017, a sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 (their equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6) shattered the distance record once held by British sniper Craig Harrison. The Canadian deadeye, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, managed to down an IS militant from a staggering 3,540 meters away. For those metrically challenged among us, that’s 11,614 feet — or nearly 2.2 miles — or over 32 football fields, end-to-end, including end zones. The target was so far away that the bullet traveled for a full 10 seconds (at 792mph) before reaching its target.
Yes, we counted.
As if this incredible feat of marksmanship wasn’t impressive enough, according to MilitaryTimes, this kill helped prevent an ongoing ISIS assault on Iraqi Security Forces. This shot exemplifies the importance of the sniper — instead of using bombs or other weaponry that may result in collateral losses, the Canadian weapons specialist was able to lodge a single bullet into just the right spot to stop an assault in its tracks.
So, how’d he do it? Let’s take a look at a few key elements involved.
First, the equipment. It’s reported that the sharpshooter was using a McMillan TAC-50, a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. According to the manufacturer, this rifle has an effective range of 1,800 meters — just over half the distance of the kill. According to reports, the rifle was loaded with 750-grain Hornady rounds, which must be incredibly efficient rounds to keep from wobbling off course at such an immense distance.
Canadian Forces MacMillan Tac-50
More impressive than the equipment, however, is the technique demonstrated by both shooter and spotter. In order to make an accurate shot over that gigantic stretch of land, they had to keep in mind several key factors, including how much the bullet might “drop” over its trip, how much wind might push it off course, and even the speed of the earth’s rotation at the given latitude. To further complicate things, you need to think about atmospheric conditions at the time of shoot — barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can all affect the bullet’s course. Even the tiniest change can have drastic effects over such a great distance.
At the end of the day, this amazing feat was the junction between incredible mathematics, impeccable coordination between spotter and shooter, and a steady, well-trained hand. We’d like to render a crisp hand salute to you Canadian BAMFs (but not while outside the wire, because you never know who’s watching).
For more marksmanship action, be sure to watch Sniper: Assassin’s End, the eighth installment in the epic Sniper series, available now on Blu-Ray and digital formats!
Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16
Modern drones, like the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, or even the quadcopters you can buy at your local electronics store have changed how we think about unmanned vehicles. But drones have been around a lot longer than you might think. One of the most versatile unmanned vehicles entered service in 1952 (the same year the B-52 first flew) and is still around today.
That is the BGM-34 Firebee. First built by Teledyne, Northrop Grumman now operates this versatile and venerable drone. The BGM-34C has a top speed of 472 miles per hour, a maximum range of 875 miles, and can operate as high as 50,000 feet.
The Firebee could be launched from ground, sea, or air. The C-130 is carrying two Firebees to give the crew of USS Chosin (CG 65) some practice.
(USAF photo by TSGT Michael Haggerty)
The Firebee was initially intended to serve as an aerial target. Yes, there are old fighters that serve in this role, but when you have to have enough pilots for the 1,983 tactical jets on inventory with the Air Force alone (per FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2018), something has to fill the gap. Many Firebees made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that missiles worked and pilots knew how to use them.
Fortunately, many of drones can be recovered via parachute and are re-used. This saved money for the times in which pilots missed or when tests didn’t involve blowing something out of the sky. But the Firebee hasn’t always been a turbojet-powered clay pigeon.
While some Firebees were blown up as target drones, others were recovered and used again.
(USAF photo by TSGT Frank Garzelnick)
During the Vietnam War, some were modified for use as reconnaissance drones. Outfitted with cameras and datalinks, these drones were able to provide real-time intelligence. If they were shot down, there was no need to send in a CSAR chopper to get a pilot out. Versions were also developed for electronic warfare, and they even considered making it an anti-ship missile. The Firebee even saw use during Operation Iraqi Freedom in laying down chaff to cover modern strike aircraft.
Learn more about this versatile and venerable drone in the video below!
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
Ground combat is the US Army’s main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.
That’s why the Army’s plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.
As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.
Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.
“The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.
In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defense, decided the Army Reserve would divest “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget.
Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.
Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, center, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 6, 2019.
(Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support Brigade)
The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure” — nearly 80% of its force.
The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army’s roughly 130 watercraft were halted.
Before the auction was taken down, a id=”listicle-2640238370″ million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost million to construct.
Army mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.
(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.
US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.
(US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.
The C-17 Globemaster III is arguably the most capable transport in the Air Force inventory. This is understandable – according to an Air Force fact sheet, it can carry up to 171,000 tons of cargo, or 85.5 tons. It has a range of 2,400 nautical miles without aerial refueling, but it still has a receptacle for a boom from a tanker like the KC-46, KC-10, or KC-135. It has a top speed of 450 knots, almost three-fourths the speed of sound.
Not a bad plane at all. If you have $202.3 million, you can buy one from Boeing. But suppose you only had about $120 million. Well, you’re in luck, because Kawasaki has built a mini-C-17.
This is known as the Kawasaki C-2, and according to the Kawasaki web site, it’s equipped with a host of new systems. A handout distributed at Kawasaki’s booth at the AirSpaceCyber expo held at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor Maryland noted that the C-2 is able to carry 66,000 pounds, has a range of 3,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling while carrying its maximum payload, and can cruise at Mach .8, or 529 knots.
Its cargo hold is 51.5 feet long, roughly 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. While it is not able to carry main battle tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, it could carry JLTVs, HMMWVs, or other lighter vehicles. It is also capable of moving a H-60 series helicopter.
You can see a video of this plane’s first flight below.
The Department of Defense is conducting trials for a new general-purpose 6.8mm round, something that I think is long overdue. Anytime a new caliber comes up, we see much gnashing of teeth from two separate camps. On the one side is the “good enough for grandpappy at Khe San” crew, who will deride the waste of tax money and preach shot placement.
And on the other will be the “I knew 5.56 was an underpowered poodle shooter round, we should all have 300 Winchester Magnum carbines.” Often accompanied by stories of shooting a bad guy 50 times, but he still ran off with the guidon. But just for a moment, let’s get our underwear out of a bunch, and take a critical look at 5.56 as a caliber.
The first thing we need to understand is how we got here. Most people already know the story of how the M-16, and its new 5.56 bullet, were first adopted by the Air Force for security forces at airfields. Painful as it is to admit, the Air Force is often smarter than the rest of us. The Army and Marine Corps were having none of it, sticking to the traditional obsession with a .30 caliber bullet. The M1 Garand, chambered in 30.06, won WW2.
New technology in the 1950’s allowed the development of .308 Winchester (aka 7.62×51), which in layman’s terms is ballistically identical to 30.06, in a shorter case. Add to that the idea of a detachable magazine, and you get the M-14.
The resemblance of an M-14 to an M1 Garand isn’t coincidental. John Garand designed the M1, and actually started working on its perceived shortcomings in 1944. Eventually, the M-14 would emerge, which is essentially a .308 caliber, magazine-fed, M1 Garand.
It was everything the Army and Marine Corps ever wanted, while notably, allies such as NATO did not. (The British were pushing hard for a .280, which we will address further in a bit.) In 1957 it was announced the M-14 would replace the M1. And this is what set the stage for the great 7.62 vs. 5.56 showdown.
Though it is not the iconic weapon of the war, the M-14 was the standard service rifle when Vietnam started. The Air Force was fielding the M-16 in 1962, but everyone else had some good old wood and steel. But the jungle is an entirely different environment. Special Forces, with those abnormal acquisition channels and mustaches, saw the M-16 as solving multiple problems and became early adopters.
The M-16, fully loaded, was two pounds lighter than a loaded M14. Per hundred rounds, 5.56 also weighs around half as much as .308. This matters for a couple of reasons. First, in Special Forces terms, it made sense for our allies. One of the principle jobs of Special Forces in Vietnam was training and fighting with South Vietnamese and Montagnard soldiers. Both of whom, on average, are far smaller in stature than the average American. The Montagnard’s, in particular, would be nicknamed “the little people.” The M-16 was much easier for them to handle, and became very popular with these brothers in arms.
Second, the same weight per bullet made sense for everyone. While Vietnam has a wide variety of geography, a lot of it is jungle. Fighting in dense jungle vegetation presents unique problems. While I am much too young to have been in Vietnam, I have spent some time in other jungles. And I distinctly remember how claustrophobic it feels when you are new to it. You often can’t see ten feet in front of you, which may be the case when a firefight breaks out. Jungle foliage is also notoriously thin, which means bullets zip right through it.
A lot of people are shocked to find out US troops fired around 50,000 bullets per enemy killed during Vietnam. That, in my opinion, is not a reflection on “poor marksmanship” of U.S. forces at the time. Far from it. But it is likely a reflection of how the terrain influences how you fight.
Imagine, for a moment, you are in the middle of a patrol in that same jungle. (Some of you reading this may actually have been. Give us young bucks a minute to catch up.)
You know where your guys are, because you know the direction of march. You can likely see the man in front of you, and the one behind, but that is all. All of a sudden, automatic weapons fire is shredding the jungle around you. Leaves and vines are falling like rain, dirt is kicking up all around you, and you spot the tell-tale muzzle flash of an AK-47 through the veil of green. It isn’t steady, but it gives you a vague idea of where the enemy is.
Are you going to carefully line up your irons sights, and wait for a distinct helmet (actually camouflaged perfectly with foliage, and quite possibly dug in) to appear while you slowly squeeze the trigger like you learned on the range? Or are you going to dump a magazine and hope for the best? Me too. I’ve been in a couple of gunfights where I am absolutely positive I shot at nothing, and I don’t regret it a bit.
So while early M-16’s had some teething problems with reliability, Vietnam showed the value of having lots of lightweight bullets. The lethality out of a 20-inch barrel was fantastic, and 5.56 would gain popularity around the world as a military caliber.
While some diehards would still never accept 5.56 because it isn’t .30 caliber, it did do pretty well in the original design. But when we started chopping the barrel down to 14.5 inches for the M-4, and 10.5 inches for some Special Operations variants, we started running into trouble.
As far back as the Battle of Mogadishu, if you look carefully enough, you can find reports of 5.56 being unreliable in lethality terms from the short barrels. (SFC Randy Shughart, one of the men posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from that battle, was notably carrying an M-14.)
5.56 does most of its damage through spalling, kind of a happy accident of design. Above a certain velocity threshold, the bullet positively comes apart in tissue. Even the much maligned “green tip” M855 steel penetrator round shatters into three pieces. This is well known, and backed up by research from giants such as Dr. Martin Fackler, founder and head of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory. But, velocity threshold is the key point here. And 5.56 sheds velocity at every inch of barrel below 20.
Now, as a GWOT era soldier, don’t think I am completely negating the 5.56 round. In the last 20 years, ballistics have done a lot for improving the round. While it isn’t ideal out of something like a 10-inch barrel, it is still much improved over even the bullets used Oct 3, 1993. Since 9/11, it has put a lot of bad guys in the ground.
And even among troops that have options about what to carry, the debate still rages of 5.56 vs. 7.62. I’ve used both, and both have merits. But so do a monster truck and Prius. My point isn’t that one is better, or both aren’t good in certain roles. My point is that both are old, and maybe it is time to evolve.
6.8 as a caliber was first tried at the beginning of the GWOT. A special project between the Army and commercial manufactures yielded the 6.8 SPC round back in 2002. It wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but did catch on with the civilian market. Remember the British .280 caliber bullet from way back at the top of this article? 6.8 SPC is remarkably similar.
While we don’t know exactly the new bullet parameters the DOD has specified, we do know it has to be 6.8mm. And therefore, 6.8 SPC at least gives us a starting point for understanding. How would, in a hypothetical shoot off, commercial 6.8 SPC fair against 7.62×51 and 5.56×45?
Overall, it would seem to be a pretty good compromise. With barrel, bolt, and magazine changes, it fits in the standard M-4. While it does get crushed at long range compared to 7.62×51, it is also significantly lighter. While it does weigh slightly more than 5.56, it delivers more energy on target at 100-300 meters, and leaves a bigger hole, if we are counting on that.
While on paper, a specialized 5.56 round like Mk262 77 grain will outperform it at longer ranges, that 77 grain bullet is still behind in terms of energy. From shorter barrels designed for CQB, 6.8 SPC will absolutely stomp on 5.56, and at a minimally increased amount of recoil.
So will our troops soon be outfitted with some variant of 6.8 mm rifles? Only time will tell. We spent 12 years and three tests to decide on a new pistol. But at least we are looking. Currently, SIG SAUER, Textron Systems, and General Dynamics are still in the running. Little is known about how things are going, though clues do occasionally pop up.
And some of what we see is borderline science fiction. General Dynamics entry uses a proprietary polymer case design, that would be a huge weight savings. Textron Systems is said to be fielding a cased telescoped round, which wouldn’t look out of place in the HALO franchise. And SIG has won so many DOD contracts as of late that only a fool would count them out.
All in all, this is going to be exciting to watch. Weapons evolve, whether we like it or not. If we always settled for good enough, we would still be using musket balls and cannons. Our guys deserve the best option available, whatever the price. If we can afford F-22 Raptors, we can certainly afford new rifles for the ground pounders. Get out the popcorn; it is going to be an interesting year.
A single man earned the nickname “wilderness ninja” after he successfully evaded more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, helicopters, and vehicles in Pennsylvania – not unlike the character of John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Unlike Rambo, however, Eric Frein wasn’t just minding his own business. He’s a convicted terrorist and murderer who killed a state trooper and wounded another before he was apprehended.
Frein was a war re-enactor who loved the Balkan Conflict.
There’s no mistaken identity in this case. In 2017, Eric Frein was convicted of murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper while wounding another. He was sentenced to die in a decision that was upheld three times. Frein was an avid war re-enactor, self-taught survivalist, and expert marksman who had extensive firsthand knowledge of the Poconos, where he eluded law enforcement officers. He even managed to avoid being tracked with heat-sensitive cameras. The war gamer was driven by his beef with law enforcement, who called in every available agent to assist in the hunt.
U.S. Marshals, the ATF, FBI, and state and local police scoured county after county for the man they say spent years planning the murder of police officers as well as his escape into the forests and hills. Many survival specialists told the media that Rein seemed to be an expert-level survivalist who was likely hiding in caves and below dense underbrush to hide his movement.
U.S. Marshals injured Frein’s face during his apprehension.
But Frein was no genius. On Sept. 12, 2014, he opened up on the Pennsylvania State Troopers Barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa. with a .308-caliber rifle, killing Cpl. Byron Dickson III and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. He was living in his parents’ home at this time and driving his parents’ Jeep. While speeding away from the scene, he lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a nearby swamp. He escaped and walked home, leaving his Social Security Card and shell casings from the incident inside the Jeep. It was discovered by a man walking his dog three days later.
By then, Frein was long gone.
The shooter escaped into the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania for nearly two full months, evading capture, leaving booby traps and pipe bombs, and using the terrain to his advantage. He was almost caught on a few occasions, including a visit to his old high school. He managed to stay free until Oct. 30, 2014, when U.S. Marshals chased him down in a field near an abandoned airport.
Frein was arrested with the handcuffs of Byron Dickson, the officer he killed.
Eric Frein, of course, pled not guilty to all the charges slapped on him, including first-degree murder and attempted murder. It didn’t matter though, but after some legal wrangling, Frein was convicted of all charges, including two counts of weapons of mass destruction in April 2017. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection and awaits his sentence to this day.
The 60th Maintenance Squadron is the first field unit in the Air Force to be certified with an industrial-sized 3D printer that is authorized to produce nonstructural aircraft parts.
The Stratasys F900 3D printer, which is capable of printing plastic parts up to 36-by-24-by-36 inches, uses a material called Ultem 9085 that is more flexible, dense and stronger than typical plastic.
The printer, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center, offers new opportunities to create needed parts while saving time and money.
“It brings us a capability that we’ve never had before,” said Master Sgt. John Higgs, 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section chief. “There’s so many possibilities available to us right now. We’re just scratching the surface.”
Technicians are able to download blueprints from an online database that the University of Dayton Research Institute has approved.
A Stratasys F900 3D printer prints aircraft parts, Aug. 15, 2019, Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“The Joint Engineering Data Management Information Control System is where we go to download already approved blueprints,” Higgs said. “Now, the University of Dayton Research Institute is working with the engineers to get those parts they developed into JEDMICS.”
The first approved project was printed on the Stratasys F900 Aug. 12, 2019, and will replace latrine covers on the C-5M Super Galaxy. Typically, parts that don’t keep the aircraft from performing their mission don’t have as high as a priority for replacement.
“The latrine covers we just printed usually take about a year from the time they’ve been ordered to the time they’ve been delivered,” Higgs said. “We printed two of the covers in 73 hours.”
Getting the printer operational was no easy task. It took eight months to get the system fully operational.
“There were facility requirements that had to be met, and then installation and certification processes to complete,” Higgs said. “After, we needed to decide who could operate the printer, then have a UDRI instructor certify them.”
Three members from the 60th MXS were chosen to be the first technicians trained in the Air Force for the initial certification. One of them, Tech. Sgt. Rogelio Lopez, 60th MXS assistant aircraft metals technology section chief, has been with the project since its inception.
Latrine covers, the first aircraft parts authorized for use after being printed on the Stratasys F900 3D printer are on display Aug. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“UDRI has not trained or certified anyone else at the field level except the three of us here at Travis Air Force Base,” Lopez said. “Now that we’re signed off on our training records, we’re the only ones who can operate, maintain and print on the Stratasys F900.”
Now with parts in production, all the hard work is paying off. There’s a new sense of urgency within the organization.
“It’s exciting because the Air Force is implementing new technology at the field level,” Lopez said. “The Air Force continues to encourage airmen to be innovative by finding new ways to streamline processes and save resources.”
And since Travis AFB is the only field unit that is currently operational, requests from outside the organization are already coming in.
“We already have a list from the Air Force level to help them print and to backfill some supplies,” Higgs said. “This will ensure other bases can replace items sooner than expected with our help.”
Ultimately, the maintenance shop wants to use the printer for more than just aircraft parts.
“We have the capability to print parts on a production scale for a lot more customers,” Higgs said. “The overall goal is to generate products for every organization to support whatever needs they may have.”
The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.
The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.
“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”
Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.
The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.
“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”
IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.
“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water. The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”
The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.
While Americans are familiar with the M1126 Stryker infantry combat vehicle and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, they may not know that the latter was designed to counter a type of Russian vehicle that had been around for decades.
In the 1980s, when the Bradley was coming online, its counterpart was entering service for the Soviets and Warsaw Pact nations. That counterpart was the BMP-2. BMP is short for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty. It first became operational in 1982, and was much improved over the original vehicle in the series, the groundbreaking BMP-1.
While the BMP-1’s main weapon was a 73mm gun backed by an AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile, the BMP-2 replaced that with a 30mm autocannon with an AT-5 Spandrel. Combat experience gained in Arab-Israeli wars had shown that the 73mm gun wasn’t very accurate. Worse, the AT-3’s guidance method required the operator to remain exposed. The change in armaments addressed both of those issues.
The BMP-2 also made major adjustments to the internal arrangements. Turns out that some of the design elements of the BMP-1 made driving a Ford Pinto seem safe. Notably, infantrymen sat back-to-back with the fuel tank between them. Ammo for the main gun was stored about the BMP-1 and exposed. The grunts liked the firepower, and the 73mm gun could help keep enemies’ heads down, but these drawbacks were killers.
The BMP-2 saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet-Afghan War, Desert Storm, the Russo-Georgia War, the fighting in Chechnya, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, among others. During Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, it came out second-best when rated against the Bradley. In response, the Russians began development of the BMP-3, which replaced the wire-guided missiles with a 100mm gun.
Learn more about this vehicle in the video below. Which BMP do you think is best?