If you ever wonder why the littoral combat ship is often seen as a disappointment, one really only has to look at what Denmark has done. This small European country has developed vessels that have much of the same multi-mission flexibility as the American-designed vessels, but with a whole lot more firepower.
Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class guided missile frigates are some incredibly versatile ships. They have quite the firepower, according to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: four eight-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems and two 12-round Mk 56 vertical launch systems that give the ship 32 RIM-66C SM-2 Standard Missiles and 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a 76mm gun, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and two twin 324mm torpedo tubes.
Oh, and they can add a second 76mm gun or a 127mm gun.
But that is not all these ships can do. They are based on the Absalon-class support ships. The Absalon carried a five-inch gun, 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and three 12-round Mk 56 vertical-launch systems for a total of 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. The Absalon also can haul up to 1,700 tons of cargo, including tanks.
The Iver Huitfeldt doesn’t quite have that space. This got more engines to reach a higher top speed than the Absalon, but she still has space for some containers and plenty of extra berthing (officially for flag and staff, but anyone can use a bed). In short, she could carry a platoon of troops, and her helipad can operate a helicopter the size of the Merlin.
In other words, these are vessels that clearly outgun the littoral combat ships, albeit the latter ships can out-run them. You can see more on these modern and versatile ships below.
It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.
After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.
One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.
(Australian War Memorial)
You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.
In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.
(Hemet Police Department)
But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.
The company that makes the Army’s new handgun is in hot water over concerns that the pistol the new M17 is based on has a potentially serious safety flaw.
About a week ago, news trickled out that the Dallas Police Department had banned its officers from carrying the Sig Sauer P320 pistol after one of them had discharged a shot after it was dropped. Other reports disputed that claim, suggesting the department banned the P320 for carry because of a legal disclaimer in the user manual that stated a discharge could happen if the gun is dropped in extreme situations — a legal ass covering common to most handgun user manuals.
A photo taken by Soldier Systems Daily at a recent briefing by Sig officials on the -30 degree drop tests. (Photo linked from SSD)
The P320 is Sig’s first so-called “striker-fired” handgun, which uses an internal firing pin to impact a round rather than an external hammer. Various internal safeties are supposed to keep this type of handgun “drop safe,” making it suitable for duty carry where an officer or service member might accidentally fumble it out of a holster or during a shot.
While at first Sig denied it had a safety problem, later tests showed some of the company’s P320s could discharge a round when dropped at a -30 degree angle from a certain height onto concrete. The company says such a condition is extremely rare and that under typical U.S. government standards, the P320 will not discharge if dropped.
“Recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond US standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge,” Sig said in a statement. “As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance.”
Sig said the version of the P320 that’s being deployed with the Army and other U.S. troops has a new trigger assembly that make discharges from a drop at any height and angle impossible.
That’s why the company is issuing a “voluntary” upgrade of some of its P320s to install the so-called “enhanced trigger” that comes directly from the Army’s new M17 handgun.
“The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, is not affected by the voluntary upgrade,” Sig said.
B-1B functional check flight pilot Maj. Michael Griffin, with the 10th Flight Test Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., evaluates critical aircraft systems, such as upgraded navigation procedures, radar systems and aircraft terrain, Dec. 15, 2015. (U.S. Air Force/Kelly White)
The Air Force just wound up a major upgrade on its B-1B Lancer fleet that took eight years to complete.
The service announced that it finished the Integrated Battle Station, or IBS, modification earlier this month on 60 of the 62 long-range bombers in its inventory. Two aircraft are routinely reserved for testing operations.
To keep the Lancer viable in the future battlespace, the Air Force initiated IBS, likely the largest and most complicated modification the bomber will see in the near term — in 2012. The B-1 fleet is expected to be fully retired by 2036.
Roughly 120 maintainers working in shifts executed 1,050,000 hours of planned work at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base to give “the flight deck a whole new look,” according to a service news release.
“This upgrade drastically improves aircrew situational awareness with color displays, and enhanced navigation and communication systems are projected to significantly enhance B-1B mission readiness,” Lt. Col. James Couch, 10th Flight Test Squadron commander, said in the release.
“All aircraft outfitted with the Integrated Battle Station modification enhancements provide the four members of the aircraft with much greater ‘battlefield’ awareness of surrounding threats, whether those threats are air-to-air or ground-to-air, and provides a much faster capability to execute both defensive and offensive maneuvers needed in any conflict,” Rodney Shepard, 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron director, added in the release.
In 2017, the upgrade was more than half done, with 33 planes converted to the new system.
The modifications targeted three developmental programs for the bomber: the central integrated test system, a fully integrated data link, and the vertical situation display upgrade, according to officials who spoke with Military.com at the time.
The central integrated test system, or CITS, works as a diagnostic and recording system to give crew more information in flight, as well as diagnostic information for maintainers on the ground, Master Sgt. Brian Hudson, a B-1 avionics manager at Air Force Global Strike Command, explained during an interview in 2017.
The plane is already outfitted with the Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol, known as JREAP, which extends tactical data link communications over long-distance networks. But the Fully Integrated Data Link, or FIDL, gives “the addition of Link 16, so really what FIDL [does] is to add Link 16 and integrate with beyond-line-of-site JREAP, and merge those two together and push that information onto the displays inside a cockpit,” added Maj. Jeremy Stover, B-1 program element monitor and instructor weapons systems officer, in 2017.
Link 16 supports digital exchange of imagery and data in near-real time with aircraft, ships and some ground vehicles.
The total program cost for the IBS upgrade is estimated at id=”listicle-2647851209″.1 billion, officials said.
“Big thanks to the team at Tinker for doing a remarkable job retooling the B-1 and getting it back in the fight,” Gen. Tim Ray, the AFGSC commander, said in the release following the completion of the program. “The work the B-1 and our Airmen are doing is a great example of how we’re making a huge impact on Dynamic Force Employment to support the National Defense Strategy. These modifications have revitalized the B-1 for the high-end fight, allowing our precision strike force to remain strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
During the Air Force Association’s virtual Air, Space and Cyber conference earlier this month, Ray said the readiness of the bomber fleet is improving, and its recovery and maintenance are well ahead of schedule, thanks to concentrated resources dedicated to bringing the workhorse airframe out of its previous abysmal state.
“[The Lancer is] probably six or seven months ahead of where we thought it would be,” he said Sept. 16.
“On any given day, I probably can fly well over 20 of the B-1s,” Ray said, referencing the fleet’s mission-capable rate, or the ability to fly at a moment’s notice to conduct operations.
Within the last year, the airframe has endured frequent inspections and time compliance technical orders, or TCTOs, which often mandate modifications, comprehensive equipment inspections or installation of new equipment.
The additional maintenance was necessary after the service overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade; the repeated deployments caused the aircraft to deteriorate more quickly than expected, Ray said last year.
It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.
Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).
However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)
McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.
“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.
A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)
In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.
“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.
In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.
By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.
To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.
“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.
This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.
Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.
In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.
If you’re reading this, it’s time to change all of your passwords.
That’s because there’s a good chance that your login information — or, at least, a past version of it — is circulating among secret networks where hackers trade stolen passwords or sell them for profit.
These secret networks are only growing, according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at SecurityScorecard, a cybersecurity firm.
“Within the hacking underground community, credentials are bought, sold, and traded for free like Pokémon cards,” Heid told Business Insider. “There are dozens of different hacking forums that have terabytes of information going back 10-plus years.”
These forums primarily operate on the darkweb, a network of encrypted sites that don’t show up in search algorithms. Login credentials and passwords that make it to these forums typically come from massive data breaches, which have happened frequently throughout the past year — in one recent example, 4.9 million DoorDash users’ data were stolen just last week.
Hackers are using increasingly sophisticated database software to aggregate “combo lists” of millions of login credentials, according to Heid.
Even if hackers only have one set of credentials — for example, a user’s DoorDash login — they can easily make inroads into the user’s accounts on other sites. Hackers use “checkers,” or programs that can take a user’s email address and quickly determine if it’s being used as a login on other sites. From there, hackers typically try to log into those other sites using the same password, betting that their targets use the same password across platforms. In many cases, they’re successful.
“The people who are getting hit by that are the low-hanging fruit who reuse the same passwords,” Heid said.
With hacking becoming increasingly profitable and hackers’ software becoming more sophisticated, there’s no indication that this trend will slow down any time soon. In the meantime, Heid advises that users change their passwords and ensure that passwords are different across different services.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.
The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.
The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.
1. People sniffers
The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.
So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.
However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.
Gross dog poop. …or is it?
It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.
What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.
An X-ray view of that same “poop.”
The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.
3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes
Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.
A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.
Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.
Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.
A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.
How do you make a 51-foot-long, 35-foot-wide fighter jet, with an engine that generates 43,000 pounds of thrust, vanish?
You don’t. There’s no black magic that exists to make something that big disappear.
The F-35A Lightning II isn’t invisible, but it does have a “cloak,” which makes it very difficult to detect, track, or target by radar with surface to air missiles or enemy aircraft.
The real term used to describe the cloak is “low observable” technology, and it takes skilled airmen to maintain.
“You can’t hit a target if you can’t get to it. And you can’t get to a target if you get shot down,” said Master Sgt. Francis Annett, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight NCOIC. “Because of the LO technology, the F-35A can fly missions most other aircraft cannot. We make sure our airmen understand how important their job is. We teach the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how.'”
Low-observable-aircraft structural maintenance airmen from the 33rd Maintenance Squadron work on an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Aug. 12, 2015.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Andrea Posey)
Several things combine to provide the F-35A’s stealth — the lines and contours of the aircraft’s exterior design, the composite panels and parts that make up the body, and the radar absorbent materiel that coats the entire jet.
All of these contribute to deflecting or absorbing enemy radar and, combined with pilots’ tactics, help the F-35A survive in enemy air space.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on an F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
During flight, the exterior paint or coating of any aircraft can get worn down from friction caused by weather, dust, bugs, and the normal movement of flight surfaces.
The F-35A also has several panels that are frequently removed or opened on the flight line for routine maintenance, and there are more than 5,000 fasteners that keep body panels in place. All of these, when worn, can potentially limit the jets stealth capabilities.
Tech. Sgt. Edmundo Pena, 388th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight, does low observable restoration on a F-35A wing tip at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 3, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
The fabrication flight team inspects and evaluates the jets’ coatings, seams and panels after each flight, looking for anything that could lead to an increased radar signature, recording any damage and prioritizing repairs across the wing’s fleet.
At work in their shop, the LO technicians work in a team, hunched intently over a long table full of composite panels and rubber seals. They wear masks and gloves, and look more like sculptors or painters than fabricators.
The old, heavy equipment used for cutting, pounding, bending and joining sheet metal for F-16 skins, lines the walls behind them, mostly unused. The machines a reminder of the difference between fourth- and fifth-generation technology.
US Air Force Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, suits up for media blasting operations, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Low Observable Corrosion Control Section noncommissioned officer in charge, helps Airman 1st Class Evan Green, 33rd MXS LO aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, dawn a protective helmet, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 21, 2019.
(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Daniella Peña-Pavao)
“I like that its detail oriented,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Ladson, a low observable journeyman. “All the work that you put in really shows. Any mistake you make, every good thing you do, it all shows in the final product.”
The active-duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW are the Air Force’s only combat-capable F-35 units, working side-by-side, maintaining the jets in a Total Force partnership that utilizes the strengths of both components.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It looks like it was made from mismatched pieces of plumbing.
What’s more, there is nothing “down under” about this Australian weapon’s magazine. The magazine loads into the top of the Owen gun – and spent cartridges eject from the bottom of its receiver.
But despite all its oddball features, despite the fact it was painted with jungle camouflage colors that defy description, the Owen worked astoundingly well.
The Owen is considered one of the most reliable submachine guns of the war, with a track record that not only includes the War in the Pacific but service with Aussies who fought in the Korean War and alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam.
Mind you, that’s a performance record earned during jungle warfare — an environment known for producing the kinds of things that cause weapons to jam at the worst possible moment.
The gun is the namesake brainchild of Lt. Evelyn Owen, a member of the Australian Imperial Forces who loved to tinker with firearms.
In 1938, Owen designed and built a homemade .22-caliber automatic carbine that had a large revolver-style cylinder instead of a magazine and a thumb-operated trigger.
Unfortunately, the contraption interested no one in the military. Owen literally set the gun aside, storing it in a large sugar sack and going about his business as an Army private.
The Australian military brass distrusted submachine guns, putting their faith in the tried and true Lee-Enfield rifle. Besides, they had been promised the Sten gun, a weapon touted by its designers to be more than adequate in battle.
But then came the fall of France in 1940. The British lost thousands of small arms that were destroyed or simply abandoned after the devastating rout at Dunkirk.
Bolt-action rifles from The Great War and hunting guns were often the only firearms available for some units. Terrified generals in Australia knew they did not have enough weapons to repel a Japanese invasion force – and the Sten gun wouldn’t be production until 1941.
However, Owen had a neighbor who managed a large Australian steel products factory. Vincent Wardell found the prototype gun and expressed admiration for the design.
Owen’s father, embarrassed by his son’ carelessness, explained to Wardell how the younger Owen tinkered with weapons. Wardell didn’t care about whether the son picked up after himself – the simplicity of the firearm convinced Wardell that Owen’s skills were wasted as a mere foot soldier.
Wardell convinced the Australian military to transfer Owen from the infantry to the Army Inventions Board, which directed the development of new weapons.
Newly promoted Lt. Owen started to develop additional prototypes in different calibers. Slowly, the Australian government began to take an interest in his ideas.
In 1942, the John Lysaght metalworks factory made three versions of the Owen in 9-millimeter Luger, .38-200 caliber and .45 ACP. All were subjected to stress tests along with a Thompson submachine gun and the Sten gun as benchmark weapons.
The tests included immersing all of the guns in mud and water, then blowing sand at the weapons. The only gun that didn’t jam was the Owen.
In fact, the top-mount magazine proved beneficial. Gravity helped feed bullets into the gun, and the ejection port at the bottom of the receiver meant water and gunk drained out of the chamber more easily.
In short, the Owen Machine Carbine as it was called officially was perfect for jungle warfare.
The government wanted the nine-millimeter version. Eventually, Lysaght produced 45,000 weapons and they were a hit with the Australians soldiers – nicknamed “diggers”—who wielded them.
It only weighed 10 pounds, fired at about 700 rounds a minute from an open bolt, and was easily fired from the prone position.
About its only disadvantage were the offset sights. The top-mounted magazine blocked a normal sight picture, so the sights on the Owen are designed so the shooter looks around the magazine – but it only works for a right-handed shooter.
The Owen routinely out-performed the Sten gun –known as the Austen in its Australian incarnation – and was so well liked that Gen. Douglas MacArthur even considered it for American jungle forces in the Pacific.
During the Korean War, the Owen remained in the Australian arsenal. Even though the Lee-Enfield rifle was the main weapon for the infantryman, Owens found their way into the hands of many soldiers. During the Battle of Kapyong in 1951, any Australian soldier who could get his hands on an Owen used one.
“All hell broke loose as Diggers cut down the surge of attackers, directing into them as much rapid fire as their weapons could produce, the Owen submachine gun being the most effective weapon for this and the dear old single-shot Lee-Enfield the worst,” Maj. Ben O’Dowd, 3 Royal Australian Regiment, Alpha Co., said in an oral history of the battle prepared for the Australian War Memorial.
Helicopter search-and-rescue crews also carried Owens, using them to fend off Chinese Communist and North Korean troops attempting to capture downed airmen.
In addition, infantry scouts and commando units carried Owens during Australian participation in the Vietnam War.
The Australians retired the Owen from mainline service in 1971. However, it still occasionally appears in the hands of special operators when they train fellow soldiers undergoing a weapons familiarization course.
Regrettably, Evelyn Owen’s life was far shorter than the oddball but long-lasting weapon he designed. Owen received £10,000 in royalties – about the equivalent of $728,000 today – but sold the patent rights for the Owen submachine gun to the Australian government.
Owen built a saw mill with the money he received. He continued to tinker with firearms, particularly sports rifles, but he never achieved the same success he had with the Owen gun. In addition, heavy drinking took a toll on his health.
He died of heart failure in 1949 at the age of 33.
The U.S. Navy began taking delivery on the first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets for testing last year, and while the jet may look strikingly similar to its predecessor on the outside, a peek inside the cockpit shows just how much this fighter has changed.
The new Block III Super Hornet promises to be as significant a jump in capability as the earlier transition from the Block I Hornet to Block II Super Hornet in the early 2000s. As a result, the new F/A-18 Super Hornet (called the Super “Duper” Hornet by some) will join the Air Force’s new F-15EX Eagle II in serving as among the world’s most advanced non-stealth fighters in operation today. In all, the U.S. Navy intends to purchase some 78 all-new Block III Super Hornets, while also upgrading its existing fleet of 550 or so jets to match.
Originally designed and built by McDonnell Douglas, the first F/A-18 Hornet took to the skies in 1978 and made its way into service as the U.S. Navy’s go-to carrier fighter in 1984. The Hornet design was intended to serve as a replacement for a variety of carrier aircraft, including the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom IIs, while complimenting the dogfighting dynamo of the era, the famed F-14 Tomcat. The Hornet’s broad capability set and impressive performance made it a standout platform for both the Navy and Marine Corps, thanks in no small part to its multi-role focus. Indeed, it’s F/A prefix is indicative of this multi-role skillset, with F standing for Fighter and A standing for Attack.
By 1992, the U.S. Navy was ready to double down on the Hornet, but in order to keep up with the changing times, the aircraft needed a significant facelift. In truth, this new Super Hornet was a largely new aircraft that simply carried over the F/A-18 designation, in part, to convince Congress that the program was a cost-effective derivative effort, rather than a pricey clean-sheet design.
The change from Hornet to Super Hornet, which are also known as the Block I and Block II orders of this aircraft, was dramatic. The Block II Super Hornet, sometimes called the Rhino by pilots, is larger than its predecessor and has some standout design cues that you may not notice at first pass, but become hard to ignore once you’re familiar with these two fighters.
Those changes granted the Super Hornet 33% more internal fuel storage and 15,000 more pounds in maximum weight, allowing for a 41% increase in operational range. The changes inside the cockpit were dramatic too. The old physical keyboard was swapped out in favor of a touchscreen display, as well as the addition of an Engine Fuel Display (EFD) and Reference Standby Display (RSD). Those displays and others throughout the cockpit also went to full color, instead of the previous monochrome.
Other avionics tucked inside the fuselage were upgraded, including onboard radar (the Super Hornet was equipped with a APG-79 radar system that could keep track of more enemy aircraft and spot them from much further distances). In order to support this improved air-to-air capability, additional weapons stations for weapons like the AIM-120 were added, alongside improved radar warning receivers, a ALQ-214 jammer, and more chaff and flares than the Hornet could manage.
The legacy Hornet was still a capable fighter, however, and Marine Hornets remained aboard America’s flattops all the way until February of this year.
The Block III Hornet is flying straight into the 21st century
Last June, the U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its first two Block III Super Hornets for testing; a single-seat E-model and a two-seat F model. Both iterations of the new fighter have undergone significant upgrades and design changes over the Block II version of the jet, broken up into five major design features.
The Super Hornet cockpit has undergone a serious overhaul for Block III, incorporating a single touchscreen design in place of a litany of gauges and readouts.
“The advanced cockpit system (ACS) takes the legacy displays of the Block II and puts them all into one big touchscreen piece of glass that’s almost like an iPad interface for the pilot,” Jennifer Tebo, Boeing director of development for F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, explained.
The intent behind the streamlining of these screens isn’t to reduce the data available to pilots, but rather, to help manage it more effectively. Fighter pilots have to glean information from multiple screens and the world around them and then fuse it all together in their heads to develop a well-rounded concept of the battlespace they’re in. While flying supercomputers like the F-35 makes this process even easier for pilots, the Block III Super Hornet promises to bridge the gap between fourth-generation jets like the Super Hornet and computing powerhouses like the F-35.
“It’s customizable and expandable and you can set it to how you want your displays to show up every time you jump in the cockpit. I’m left-handed so I like my keypad on the left side with fuel and engine information on the right,” an unnamed Navy test pilot told Forbes last year.
Conformal Fuel Tanks
One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. Navy in the 21st century is the lack of fuel range in its carrier-based fighters. Neither the existing Block II Super Hornet nor the advanced F-35C Joint Strike Fighter have the range they’d need to engage Chinese targets without placing their carriers in direct range of China’s hypersonic anti-ship missiles. As such, a slew of efforts are underway to pull more range out of these aircraft, including the development of the MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone for use on America’s flattops.
But in order to address this problem on the aircraft itself, the Block III Super Hornet includes the addition of conformal fuel tanks that add 3,500 pounds of fuel. These additional tanks are called “conformal” because they hug the fuselage of the fighter, limiting added drag. While this won’t be enough to offset the capability gap created by China’s anti-ship missiles, it is an important step in the right direction.
Earlier this year, Aviation Week reported that “technical, structural, and sustainment” issues had risen the anticipated cost of incorporating these conformal fuel tanks, placing their future in jeopardy. However, with the Navy concerned about the range of its existing fighters, it stands to reason that the service will find a way to work out these issues.
The Block III Super Hornet is leaning into the future of data with its Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) mission computer and its Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link. The DTP-N is 17 times more powerful than the existing mission computer aboard the Super Hornet, but more importantly, utilizes an open architecture that will allow for software to be changed or updated without having to actually replace any of the aircraft’s hardware.
All of that computer power will support the rest of the force in the area, not unlike the “quarterback in the sky” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thanks to that TTNT data link.
According to Tebo, the TTNT “will allow all of the information to come into the jet from the battlespace that we need to be processed for decision making as well as pushing it back out to the rest of the air wing so that we can share common pictures of data and get better situational awareness,”
Advanced as these systems are, they are not on par with the F-35’s onboard systems, nor are they compatible, so the Block III Super Hornet will be forced to communicate with F-35s via the longstanding Link-16 tactical data link system.
Tougher to spot on radar
The F/A-18 was never designed to be a stealth fighter, and despite an improved radar cross-section, the Block III Super Hornet isn’t either. However, making it tougher to manage a weapons-grade lock on the new fighter has been a focus among Boeing designers, and although much of what has been done in this effort has been kept secret, reports indicate a serious improvement in minimizing detectability.
The Block III Super Hornet’s reduced radar cross-section won’t make it a “stealth” fighter, but like other less-than-perfect stealth jets, the intent may not be to completely evade detection, so much as delay engagement. Enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile platforms may be able to spot the Block III Super Hornet, but the goal is to impede securing a weapon’s grade lock to buy the aircraft time to escape or evade.
The Block II Super Hornets in operation for the U.S. Navy today are each rated for 6,000 flight hours, so it goes without saying that the past two straight decades of combat operations in the Middle East and elsewhere have wrought havoc on maintenance schedules and aircraft availability. In another one of those significant changes that are tough to spot with the naked eye, the Block III Super Hornet is rated for an additional 4,000 hours, bringing the total up to 10,000.
This is still a far cry from the F-15EX’s reported lifespan of 20,000 hours, but offers a significant jump over both existing F/A-18s and the F-35C, which is also rated for 6,000 hours.
This longer lifespan will make the new Block III Super Hornet a most cost-effective means of delivering air power than ever before, while also offering the Navy itself greater latitude in logistical planning.
Bonus Improvement: Infrared Search Track System
Technically not considered a “Block III” improvement, the addition of a centerline tank-mounted infrared search track system (IRST) in the Block III Super Hornet has been called “integral” for the capability of the fighter by Boeing officials.
This passive detection capability is aimed squarely at fifth-generation competitors like Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 or China’s Chengdu J-20. The IRST can be used to scan the horizon for radar-beating fighters, picking up on the infrared heat released by their jet engines without broadcasting a signal through space to tell others you’re on the hunt. This will give the non-stealth Block III Super Hornet a real fighting chance against stealthy jets, potentially spotting them against the sky backdrop from a hundred miles away.
Army equipment officials have issued a reminder to soldiers that the service’s authorized protective eyewear list is being updated regularly with high-tech options like lenses that adjust to changing light in the blink of an eye.
The Transition Combat Eye Protection lens features sensors with much greater sensitivity than commercial transitional lenses because they are designed to respond to visible light instead of UV rays, according to a recent Army press release.
“It’s a one-second button,” Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of Head Protection at Program Executive Office Soldier, said in the release. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic.”
The authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL, is updated about every two years and offers a wide range of brands and styles of protective sunglasses and goggles which feature the APEL logo. All of the 27 types of eyewear on the list have been through rigorous ballistic and non-ballistic testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, according to the release.
(U.S. Army photo)
Soldiers who chose to buy non-authorized eyewear run the risk of suffering irreversible injuries, Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said in the release.
“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” Whitehead said.
Facial injuries will still occur with authorized eyewear, but there is a chance the soldier’s eyes will be protected, she said in the release.
“The soldier’s face is all chewed up,” Whitehead said. “But when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”
Soldiers can check out the Army’s APEL online and buy approved eyewear at most Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.
Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.
In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.
The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.
With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.