Retired from the Navy in 2014, the EA-6B Prowler – one of the United States’ oldest warplanes – is finding new life in the fight against The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by scrambling enemy radios and cell phones.
“We were the first USMC aircraft in Syria on the first wave of strikes, and have continued to support strike packages, air drops, and other electronic warfare requirements as directed by the Combined Force Air Component Commander, ” said Lt. Col. David Mueller, VMAQ’-4’s commanding officer in an interview with Marine Times.
The mission against ISIL may be the military’s final use for the Prowler, since it’s scheduled for retirement from the Marine Corps in 2019.
“It is capable, but the platform itself is aging,” Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer, told Marine Times. “It’s capabilities are still relevant … but the airplane itself can only have so many flight hours on the airframe.”
Introduced in 1971, the Prowler was made to protect friendly assets from enemy detection by providing an electronic cloak. It’s instruments jam enemy radar signals necessary for launching attacks while allowing friendly signals to pass through. It also detects the location of enemy radar, which it could use to hone in and destroy. Put simply, the Prowler blinds the enemy.
Apart from scrambling ISIL radio and cell phone signals, the Prowler can also block anti-aircraft weapons and devices used to set off roadside bombs. It can even block propaganda broadcasts used to recruit more followers by jamming the Internet and radio airwaves.
This 1970’s video shows the Prowler’s capabilities, minus its current technology:
Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.
That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.
Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.
There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.
So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.
Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.
When the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates (FFGs) retired in 2015, the littoral combat ship (LCS) was expected to pick up the slack. Well, between mechanical failures and the fact that the LCS is under-armed, that hasn’t happened.
The French Aquitane-class frigate Provence during Joint Warrior 17-2.
(Photo by Mark Harkin)
FREMM stands for “Frégate européenne multi-mission,” which is French for “European multi-mission frigate.” France has 11 of these vessels either in service or under construction, while Italy has 10. Morocco and Egypt have also acquired or ordered vessels of this class.
The FREMM comes in three varieties: One is optimized for anti-submarine warfare, the second is a general-purpose warship, the third is an anti-air destroyer called FREDA (or, Frégate de defense aeriennes). All of these vessels carry the ASTER 15 surface-to-air missile (the FREDA also carries the ASTER 30). The French FREMMs, called the Aquitaine-class, can also fire the SCALP cruise missile (and did so during the recent retaliation against Syria’s use of chemical weapons), while Italian vessels pack the Teseo surface-to-surface missile and Milas anti-submarine missile and a five-inch gun equipped with the Vulcano round.
An Italian FREMM sails alongside an Italian Horizon-class air-defense destroyer.
(Photo by ItalianLarry)
French and Italian FREMMs also have 76mm OTO Melara guns, torpedo tubes for the MU-90 anti-submarine torpedo, and can operate an NH-90 helicopter. The FREMM variant proposed for the FFG(X) competition will displace 6,500 tons, reach a top speed of over 26 knots, and use a hybrid-electric drive for greater range. The vessels will have a crew of 133.
Could the French and Italians have already solved America’s need for a new frigate? That remains to be seen. The Navy plans to buy 20 vessels from this program and will announce the winner in 2020.
The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.
“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.
The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.
McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”
“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.
Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.
Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.
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What do snipers think about before they pull the trigger? There are dozens of possible considerations that go into a sniper’s shot, everything from wind to an escape plan should things suddenly go sideways, current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider.
A sniper must be able to put accurate and effective fire on targets that may be moving at distances far beyond the range of regular infantry, which are trained to shoot at targets out to a few hundred meters. Snipers are trained to shoot targets possibly thousands of meters away.
To shoot at those greater distances, which sometimes requires pushing a weapon beyond its limits, snipers have to consider things like target selection and priority, size, distance to target, whether or not the bullet is lethal at that range, and, if the target is moving, target speed and direction.
‘We know what a bullet does’
There are also the ballistics — anything that affects the flight path of the bullet that could cause the sniper to miss.
Extensive ballistics knowledge is one of several key differentiators between snipers — expert marksmen — and other troops who are simply good shots, according to a former instructor.
There are both internal and external ballistics, he said.
Internal is everything happening inside the rifle and includes things like bullet size and weight, which affect to what degree a bullet will be impacted by the various external factors, and the barrel twist, which affects the spin drift of the round at greater distances.
External ballistics are everything happening to the bullet once it exits the barrel. Among the external factors that can affect the bullet’s flight path are atmospherics like wind, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and air density.
Wind speed and direction, which can change suddenly and inexplicably, are particularly important because they account for most missed shots, US Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter told Insider.
Snipers need to know wind at not only their position, but also at various points along the bullet’s path and at the target. To get a wind reading for the distant points, the sniper looks for makeshift wind indicators like trash, clothes on a clothesline, smoke, or really anything that might be blowing in the wind.
Snipers have to take most, if not all, of these factors into account and correct before they fire a shot to hit a distant target — with the knowledge that their first shot is likely to be their best chance at striking it.
There are electronic tools that snipers can use to simplify the process to determine things like range, gather atmospheric data, and generate a firing solution. Snipers try not to rely on these though, but if they do use them, they verify the data.
The much more important tool snipers have is their collection data on previous engagements, which contains detailed information on how the sniper, the rifle, and the bullet performed in certain conditions in the real, not digital, world.
“At the end of the day, the bullet is not going to lie to you,” US Army sniper instructor Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Jones told Insider.
“We really don’t need a lot of technology to be able to operate,” he said, explaining that “given a weapon system with an optic and data on previous engagements, we are pretty effective at doing our job as far as engaging targets goes.”
‘That is when you want to fire the weapon’
There are also marksmanship fundamentals like shooting position, trigger control, and breathing that the sniper has to take into consideration. Through training, many of these things will become second nature for a sniper.
“Out in the real world, you’re shooting over a Humvee, shooting out of a window, on a rooftop, on a knee, standing, standing while moving,” he said. “There are so many alternate shooting techniques we run through because of the realities of the battlefield.”
A proper shooting position improves recoil management, preventing the explosion that violently forces the bullet out of the rifle from disturbing the sight picture and complicating follow-on shots.
For similar reasons, it is also important that snipers have good control of the trigger, applying pressure smoothly when firing, and have relaxed, natural breathing.
“You want to breathe as natural as possible,” Jones said, explaining that snipers wait for a “natural pause” in ther breathing. “That is when you want to fire the weapon,” he said.
Snipers also have to think about mission-specific considerations such as muzzle flash, lens glare on the scope if the sniper is shooting into the sun, and barrel blast that can blow out vegetation or kick up dust. Any of these things can affect concealment and give away a shooter’s position.
Stealth and concealment, though they are crucial sniper skills, are not necessarily required for every mission, but when they are, snipers have to be prepared for the possibility that their position is compromised by their shot.
It is critical that snipers have an escape plan, “a tenable egress route and sourced contingency assets and fire support agencies in the event their position is compromised post-shot,” Coulter said.
‘Somebody that can get the job done’
“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” an Army sniper previously told Insider. That said, when it comes to the shot process, “everybody is going to have their checklist” that they run through, Jones said.
And in many, but not necessarily all, cases, there is also planning before the mission.
Coulter said that ideally a sniper’s “ability to conduct a mission analysis prior to crossing the line of departure or taking the shot will allow them to occupy a brief position of advantage when relatively compared to the enemy, the terrain and current weather.”
Doing so increases “the odds of mission success,” he said.
And with practice comes experience, reducing the time it takes to run through the process. A trained sniper can put accurate fire on at least 10 targets in about 10 minutes. It is actually something Army snipers have to do to graduate from the program.
For the extreme long-range shots, the shot process can still take some time, as well as some math. A Marine Corps sniper previously told Insider about a shot he took in training that involved putting a bullet in a target 2,300 meters away. It took him roughly 20 to 25 minutes to plan the shot.
Although shooting is a very important part of what snipers do, it is only a part. Snipers also gather intelligence and provide overwatch on the battlefield. The role requires professionalism, reliability, capability, and maturity.
“Just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you can be a sniper,” Walding said, adding that “You’ve got to have somebody that can get the job done, and not every marksman can.”
The Slow Mo Guys — a YouTube channel dedicated to filming action shots in super slow motion — released a cringeworthy video of one of their cameramen getting bare body tazed.
The video starts with a couple of incredible slow motion shots of the Taser being deployed: one side shot followed by a frontal.
Dan Hafen, the volunteer for this experiment, is introduced at 1:50 of the video and soon takes off his shirt to capture the full prong penetration. OUCH.
Watch his muscles contract from the point of impact to the rest of his back like a water rippling in a pond after a stone is tossed in.
His face says it all.
Here’s the barbed prong being pulled out of his skin.
Service members authorized to carry Tasers have to pass a written test and be able to effectively engage a target with a minimum of two Taser cartridges before they can carry a Taser. Once they complete training, they have the option to get tazed, according to the Air Force.
The US Army is preparing to field new night vision goggles and an integrated weapons sight that will change the way US ground forces go to war.
The new Enhanced Night Vision Goggles – Binocular (ENVG-B) and the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I) will make US soldiers and Marines deadlier in the dark by offering improved depth perception for better mobility and increased situational awareness at night, as well as the ability to accurately shoot around corners and from the hip.
The Army will begin fielding this capability late September 2019 at Fort Riley in Kansas, where this new technology will be delivered to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The night vision goggles offer higher-resolution imagery, as well as improved thermal capabilities, giving ground troops the ability to see through dust, fog, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular.
(US Army photo)
The goggles wirelessly connect to the weapon sight, delivering Rapid Target Acquisition capability. With a picture-in-picture setup, soldiers can see not only what is in front of them, but also whatever their weapon is aimed at, allowing them to shoot from the hip or point their weapon around a corner.
“This capability “enables soldiers to detect, recognize and engage targets accurately from any carry position and with significantly reduced exposure to enemy fire,” according to the Army.
This system was tested with US soldiers, special operators, Marines, and National Guard personnel.
Sgt. First Class Will Roth, a member of the Army Futures Command Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, was skeptical when he first learned about this technology, he told the Army in a statement. “I couldn’t envision a time when soldiers would accept this product and trust it in the field,” he said.
His mind changed after he saw a Marine lie down on his back and fire over his shoulder at targets 50 to 100 meters away, relying solely on the goggles paired wirelessly to the optics on the Marine’s rifle. “He hit five out of seven. It gave me chill bumps,” Roth said.
“I decided this was an insane game changer,” he added. “I’m a believer, one hundred percent. Nothing else offers these kinds of capabilities.”
Senior Army officials are optimistic about the capabilities of this new technology.
“It is better than anything I’ve experienced in my Army career,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, told Congress earlier this year, adding that Rangers had “gone from marksman to expert” with the help of the new optics.
Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told reporters in October 2018 that he “can’t imagine, right now, any future sighting system that will not have that kind of capability.”
The ENVG-B and FWS-I mark the first deliverables of the US Army’s one-year-old four-star command, Army Futures Command, which is dedicated to the development of next-generation weapons and warfighting systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The guys over at World of Tanks and Google have made a 360-degree video of a World War II combat reenactment. Of course, World of Tanks made sure there were plenty of tanks in the video.
There are also infantrymen moving through trenches to shoot at the enemy and howitzers firing across the battlefield.
Check it out below. Click and drag the screen with your mouse cursor to look in any direction you like. Try watching it a few times and looking in different angles. We found new stuff our first few times watching it.
China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.
The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.
And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.
The DF-26 warhead revealed.
(CCTV / YouTube)
What we know about the missile
The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.
With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.
First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.
Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.
Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.
Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.
Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.
If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.
That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.
When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.
The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.
While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.
That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.
Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.
But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.
In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.
The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?
The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.
The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”
This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.
The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System has made its mark. You can see why in this video, where a slight hiccup with the main gun is overcome, and the gun goes off. However, does it truly match up with the M551 Sheridan light tank?
Well, technically, the Sheridan was an Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle that was first introduced in 1966. Its main gun was the M81, a 152mm gun that could also fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh missile.
The Shillelagh had a range of 3,000 meters. It didn’t work that well, and is only combat experience was being used against bunkers during Operation Desert Storm. A Sheridan could carry nine Shillelaghs and twenty “normal” rounds for the M81 gun.
The Sheridan did see a lot of combat in Vietnam, where it was both loved and hated. Its gun was very good at providing fire support, but it had a much slower rate of fire than the M48 Patton. Still, the Army bought over 1,600 Sheridans. The Sheridan was also the only armored vehicle that could be dropped in with the 82nd Airborne.
Now, let’s look at the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. Like the rest of the Stryker family, it is an eight-by-eight wheeled vehicle. It fired the same M68 gun used on the M60 Patton and early versions of the M1 Abrams tank. It holds 18 rounds.
The gun is also mounted on an external weapons station with an autoloader. The M1128 can’t be air-dropped, though, but it can be flown in on a C-130.
Both vehicles have a .50-caliber machine gun and a 7.62mm machine gun to handle infantry threats. Neither are capable of resisting anything more powerful than a 14.5mm machine gun, although the Stryker can take additional armor (at the cost of mobility).
Both gave the Army’s lighter forces some extra firepower. But the Sheridan had some clear advantages over the Stryker, while the Stryker offers some improvements over the Sheridan.
Really, though, the best of both worlds was probably the XM8 Armored Gun System. This was a light tank that had a XM35 105mm gun, and could hold 30 rounds for its main gun (plus the .50-caliber and 7.62mm machine guns). The system was also able to take add-on armor to protect it against a number of battlefield threats. Sadly, it was cancelled in 1997.
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video: