Based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN humanoid robot, ATLAS will most likely go through an I, Robot puberty stage before reaching Terminator adulthood. The robot is being developed with some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world through DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. The competition’s goal is to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, according to DARPA.
Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a robot like ATLAS could mitigate future accidents by sending in a machine where it would otherwise be hazardous to humans. Like in I, Robot, these humanoids should be capable of opening doors, move debris, turn valves, and perform other human tasks.
The fact these robots are being developed to provide relief has done little to mollify the concerns over the threat of killer robots. “At the end of the day people need to remember what the D in DARPA stands for. It stands for Defense,” said Peter Singer, in an interview with NPR. Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century:
Singer argues that if researchers build a robot that can drive cars, climb a ladder and operate a jackhammer that they can also be used for war. “That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47,” Singer told NPR.
The challenge finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California where robots will be judged on their ability to perform semi-autonomous tasks. The winning team will receive a $2 million prize; runner-up will be awarded $1 million and $500,000 for third place.
Here’s a short of video of the robot’s current capabilities:
At age 18, Cpl. Andrew Richardson was serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. His squad maintained a perimeter around a medical sanctuary where local civilians could get treatment. Doing so gave Richardson an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and value.
Returning to civilian life, Richardson struggled to find that same sense of value. For five years he floated from job to job, doing construction and working as a roadie and security guard, among other gigs.
Today, he enjoys a fulfilling career in the tech industry, working at Microsoft, and has discovered a passion for programming — all thanks to a chance encounter while tending bar and an intensive 18-week technical training and career-development program.
Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.
But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.
During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.
An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.
Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.
When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”
This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.
The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)
How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.
Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”
During the Cold War, the French often opted to pursue their own military designs instead of buying American or Soviet assets. Part of this was due to, well, the French being French. Another reason was they pulled out of the NATO command structure in 1966, though they stayed in the alliance, because Charles de Gaulle felt the French must maintain independence.
As a consequence, France built up a very potent arms industry. The Mirage series of fighters helped Israel win the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Exocet anti-ship missile proved itself a fearsome armament in the Falklands. Another French product, a chopper, which later saw substantial export use, was the Aérospatiale Gazelle.
The Gazelle entered service in 1973 and was quickly purchased by France, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries. Among those other countries were Syria and Iraq, which used the helicopters in combat.
The Gazelle was retired by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, but remains in widespread service — notably as a scout helicopter that works alongside the Eurocopter Tiger helicopter gunship in French service. French Gazelles have seen a lot of action in Africa, used during the 1980s conflict between Libya and Chad, as well as during small-scale wars in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, and Djibouti.
Aérospatiale eventually developed other versions of this little helicopter, including training variants, anti-air helicopters equipped with the Mistral anti-aircraft missile, and a light-support version that carries a 20mm cannon. The Gazelle has a crew of two, can carry three passengers, has a top speed of 165 miles per hour, a range of 441 miles, and can carry missiles, rockets, and gun pods.
Learn more about this versatile, international chopper in the video below:
The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.
If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.
There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.
Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.
Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”
Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.
“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.
While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.
Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
The CAB Motorworks’ Eagle electric bike was designed to maintain efficiency while reducing noise and pollution. Designed to move over any terrain, these bikes come standard with an inverted 8-inch front fork and tuned 9.5-inch rear downhill inspired suspension. The Eagle has the highest power to weight motor on the market but is still able to reach speeds of 50 mph with the use of proprietary cooling techniques. The bike also has over 160 ft-lbs of torque which boosts acceleration. With its state-of-the-art battery technology, the Eagle can go about 100 miles with no pedaling when ridden conservatively at about 20 mph on flat ground. An integrated active braking system, DOT motorcycle wheels and tires, and a comprehensive heat control system are just a few of the other features you will find on the Eagle electric bike.
Mike Glover of FieldCraft Survival put the CAB Motorworks’ Eagle electric bike through the paces in some of Southern California’s hilly terrain. Utilizing trails meant for jeeps and trucks, Glover set out with nothing but a bug out bag and some water. Without even using the pedals, Glover immediately noticed the bike’s ample speed and acceleration. After 45 minutes of hard riding, he put the bike in front of the thermals to see if it displayed an increased thermal signature. Most of the bike showed up as cold compared to the environment, with the hottest spots on the bike being the front brake rotors and the rear hub motor. After about 20 minutes of hard riding, Glover took the bike onto a more aggressive trail with no issues.
In the end, Glover walked away impressed with its capabilities. From the torque to the low noise signature, and handling steep and aggressive terrain with ease, this bike crosses off a lot of boxes from recreation to survival purposes.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
DARPA created a device that hijacks an insect’s brain and body turning it into a miniature drone.
Through a DARPA-funded program, scientists at the University of California invented a tiny rig that connects to an insect’s brain and flight muscles. Once implanted, the device takes over the insect’s body, turning it into a remote control cyborg capable of receiving flight commands wirelessly from a nearby laptop.
Engineers at CRASAR developed small robots to aid in search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, but nothing they’ve made has come close to the size and capabilities of an insect. Rather than creating such a robot, the University of California scientists decided to take a shortcut. “Insects are just amazing fliers compared to anything we can build at that scale,” said lead engineer Michel Maharbiz in and interview with WIRED.
This is not the first time scientists used technology to control insects, according WIRED:
Researches have created remote-controlled crawling insects before, forcing a bug’s legs to move by electrically stimulating its muscles. It’s simple enough that you can even buy your own kit to commandeer a cockroach at home. But flying bugs are harder to hijack.
This video shows the University of California scientists controlling a beetle cyborg:
In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.
But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.
Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.
The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.
More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.
When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.
The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.
In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.
Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.
A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.
January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.
The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.
In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.
The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.
The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.
The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.
You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
The story of the M1014 is fascinating. The Marine Corps rarely gets to be the lead on a joint service project. The small size and limited resources of the Marine Corps often make them second to the Army when it comes to searching out new small arms. However, in 1998 the USMC got their opportunity, and as the Marine Corps tends to do, they charged forward, ready to deliver the best possible option.
The U.S. Army Armaments Research, Developments, and Engineering Center, aka ARDEC, put out the solicitation for a new semi-automatic combat shotgun. The Marine Corps was tapped to lead the project and quickly developed a set of requirements. Benelli, an Italian shotgun firm well known for its shotguns, submitted their newly developed M4 shotgun.
The USMC put the gun through the wringer, and the M4 proved successful. The M1014 killed it and won the competition. Subsequently, the Marines order 20,000 of them.
Enter The M1014
The Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. Shotguns in the military were traditionally manually operated designs. With these other shotguns, troops have to manually operate a pump-action between shots. The Benelli M1014 changed the game by being a semi-auto design.
Like the rifles issued to troops, the weapon fired once per trigger pull and did not require a manual action between shots. The M1014 did not fully replace pump-action shotguns in military inventories but augmented it. A pump-action shotgun can handle less-lethal loads due to the manual operation. These less lethal shells are not powerful enough to cycle the semi-automatic M1014.
The M1014 is a pure combat shotgun designed for fighting in close quarter’s situations. Benelli built the M1014 from the ground up to meet the Marine Corps requirements. Marines wanted a shotgun that could reliably function and work with various optics and attachments. Benelli’s previous shotguns, the M1, M2, and M3, were inertia-operated.
Inertia-based guns are fascinating and are very capable weapons. Inertia-based guns fail when users start adding weight in the form of optics, accessories, and so forth and so on. Gas-based guns, like the M1014, are not affected by the addition of weight.
Gas-based shotguns existed before the M1014, but and Benelli did things differently. Benelli invented the ARGO gas system for the M4 series guns. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas system. As the name implies, the ARGO system automatically adjusts to varying power levels and lengths.
Gas drives two stainless steel pistons to operate the action. These pistons drive the bolt rearward and eject the fired shell, cock the hammer, and loads the next round.
Trial By Fire
The M1014 hit the fleet in 1999, and two short years later, the Global War on Terror kicked off. Marines deployed with a wide variety of weapons, and the M1014 was one of them. Pictures from the GWOT started showing the M1014 in action. Shotguns rule close-range fighting, so they are somewhat niche.
Troops often carry a rifle and shotgun, something I did when issued a Mossberg 590A1. In the Battle of Fallujah, shotguns cleared rooms, breached doors, and worked checkpoints.
The United States isn’t the only user of the M4 shotgun. The SAS also issue the weapon, and famously the gun eliminated five ISIS insurgents in mere seconds. The SAS partnered with MI6, and Iraqi Special Operation pulled off an early morning raid on a bomb-making factory. The pointman entered and quickly took down five armed insurgents.
Shotguns in close quarters absolutely dominate. Semi-automatic shotguns dominate close-quarters combat, and while that role is small, it’s important. The Benelli design has proven to be extremely popular and more than capable in that role.
How It Handles
As a Marine, I only handled the M1014 as a familiarization exercise. The Corps gave me a Mossberg 590A1, and the M1014 was a pipe dream. However, I’m a free man and a gun nerd, so I did the American thing and purchased one.
You can read all about a piece of gear, but until you experience it’s tough to grasp. That’s especially true with the Benelli M4/M1014. Once you handle the gun you know why the USMC chose it.
Firing a shotgun means getting a beating most of the time. However, the gas-operated design reduces recoil significantly. Firing accurate and fast follow-up shots is boringly simple. That’s critical for close quarter’s battle scenarios that rely on speed and decisive action.
The ARGO system allows for reliable operation that’s not ammo picky and does require constant cleaning. It can take a real beating and not be fouled by dust, carbon, and whatever else the world throws at it. Semi-auto shotguns are ammo picky and often unreliable in harsh conditions. The M1014 changed that perception and became the king of combat shotguns.
The M1014 has been successful now for more than two decades. Deployment of the M1014 is rare, but when it’s needed, there is no better option. The Marines do most things well, and the M1014 exemplifies that.
The head of Ukraine’s top rocket-making company on August 15 rejected claims that its technologies might have been shipped to North Korea, helping the pariah nation achieve a quantum leap in its missile program.
KB Yuzhnoye chief Alexander Degtyarev voiced confidence that employees haven’t been leaking know-how to Pyongyang, according to remarks published August 15 by the online site Strana.ua.
While denying any illicit technology transfers from the plant in the city of Dnipro, Degtyarev conceded the possibility that the plant’s products could have been copied.
“Our engines have been highly appraised and used around the world,” he said. “Maybe they have managed to build some copies somewhere.”
The New York Times reported August 14 that North Korea’s rapid progress in making ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines, probably from KB Yuzhnoye’s plant. Ukrainian officials angrily rejected the claim.
Pyongyang had displayed a keen interest in the plant before.
Degtyarev mentioned a 2011 incident, in which two North Koreans posing as trade representatives tried to steal technologies from the plant, but were arrested. In 2012, they were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison each.
KB Yuzhnoye and its Yuzhmash plant in Dnipro has been a leading maker of intercontinental ballistic missiles since the 1950s and produced some of the most formidable weapons in the Soviet inventory.
Its designs included the heavy R-36M, code-named Satan in the West, which is still the most powerful ICBM in the Russian nuclear arsenal.
After Ukraine shipped all Soviet-era nuclear weapons to Russia after the Soviet collapse under agreements brokered by the United States, the plant in Dnipro has relied on cooperation with Russia’s space program to stay afloat.
But the collaboration ended as the two ex-Soviet neighbors plunged into a bitter conflict. Moscow responded to the ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president in 2014 by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
The termination of ties with Moscow has left the Dnipro plant struggling to secure orders.
Earlier this summer, a report in Popular Mechanics alleged that the Chinese expressed interest in a propulsion module designed by KB Yuzhnoye for the Soviet lunar program.
KB Yuzhnoye angrily dismissed the claim, insisting that it hasn’t transferred any rocket technologies to China.
Despite official denials, Ukraine’s past record with the illicit transfer of sensitive technologies have raised concerns.
Shortly before the 2003 war in Iraq, the United States accused the Ukrainian government of selling sophisticated Kolchuga military radars to Saddam Hussein’s military.
Ukrainian officials acknowledged in 2005 that six Kh-55 Soviet-built cruise missiles were transferred to China in 2000 while another six were shipped to Iran in 2001.
On the heels of a widely praised 2015 decision to issue the more maneuverable M4 carbine in lieu of the M16A4 to Marines in infantry battalions, the Marine Corps may be on the cusp of another major weapons decision.
The Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, the California-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, has been conducting pre-deployment exercises with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to evaluate it as the new service rifle for infantry battalions, the commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue told Military.com Thursday.
The battalion is set to deploy aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this spring. As part of its workup and deployment, it has been charged with testing and evaluating a host of technologies and concepts ranging from teaming operations with unmanned systems and robotics to experiments with differently sized squads.
“When they take the IAR and they’re training out there with all the ranges we do with the M4, they’re going to look at the tactics of it. They’ll look at the firepower, and they’ll do every bit of training, and then they’ll deploy with that weapon, and we’ll take the feedback to the Marine Corps to judge,” O’Donohue said.
Marines in 3/5 used the IAR as their service rifle during the 28-day Integrated Training Exercise held this month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California. The exercise, also known as ITX, is the largest pre-deployment workup for deploying battalions, and typically one of the last exercises they’ll complete. O’Donohue said the ubiquity of ITX would give evaluators ample data as they contrasted results with the different weapons.
“All you have to do is compare this battalion to the other battalions going through ITX,” he said.
The M4 carbine and the M27 IAR handle very similarly as they share a number of features. However, the M27 has a slightly longer effective range — 550 meters compared to the M4’s 500 — and elements that allow for more accurate targeting. It has a free-floating barrel, which keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory. It also has a proprietary gas piston system that makes the weapon more reliable and reduces wear and tear.
And the the IAR can fire in fully automatic mode, while the standard M4 has single shot, semi-automatic and three-round burst options.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with a single IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“I think the fundamental is the accuracy of the weapon, the idea that you’re going to use it for suppressive fires. And at first contact you have the overwhelming superiority of fire from which all the tactics evolve,” O’Donohue said. “So it starts with the fire team and the squad, if you give them a better weapon with better fire superiority, you’ll just put that vicious harmony of violence on the enemy.”
But officials do see some potential drawbacks to equipping every infantry Marine with the weapon.
“One of the things we’re looking at is the rate of fire,” O’Donohue said. “You can burn off too much ammo, potentially, with the IAR. We have a selector, a regulator [showing] how many rounds the Marines shoot. So that’s one area we’re examining with experimentation.”
Another variable is cost.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.
“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.
O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, O’Donohue said.
If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.
Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.
(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)
That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).
Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”
Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.
Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.
Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.
A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.
(U.S. Air Force)
They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.
With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.
A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.
(U.S. Navy video screenshot)
They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.
So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.
Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.