F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

For more than forty years, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has served as the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s fighter fleet, but one year before the first F-16 entered service, the team behind its development had already developed a better F-16, in the F-16XL. The fighter was so capable, in fact, that it went from being nothing more than a technology demonstrator to serving as legitimate competition for the venerable F-15E in the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program. Ultimately, it would lose out to the F-15E based on production cost and redundancy of systems, but many still contend that the F-16XL was actually the better platform.

While that assertion may be subject to debate, there’s little debate as to whether the F-16XL could have been one of the most capable 4th generation fighters on the planet.

SCAMP: The Supersonic Cruise And Maneuver Prototype

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Model 400 design team, starting left: Harry Hillaker, Andrew Lewis, Kenny Barnes, Jim Gordon (WikiMedia Commons)

In 1977, some three years after the first F-16 took to the skies and one year before it would enter service, its designer began work on what would come to be called the F-16 SCAMP, or the Supersonic Cruise And Maneuver Prototype. The effort wasn’t about fielding another production fighter–General Dynamics had no intention of trying to sell SCAMP once it was complete. Instead, the entire premise behind the program was to quickly (and cheaply) field a platform they could use to test the concept behind supersonic cruising, or as we’ve come to call it today, “supercruising.”

While that may sound like a capability found only on Transformers or Harleys so expensive only lawyers can buy them, the idea behind supercruising was simple, even if its execution was complex. Modern fighters like the F-16 all come equipped with afterburners they can use to dramatically increase the amount of thrust their engine produces, but it comes at a serious cost. Using the afterburner to break the sound barrier and then sustain that speed depletes an aircraft’s fuel very quickly, but if a jet could kill the afterburner at supersonic speeds and still maintain them, it would mean covering more ground at high speed, while still having enough fuel left over for a fight and the return trip home.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Like literally riding an explosion. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“I remember flying in an F-16 in afterburner while supersonic over the Yellow Sea and looking down to see a fuel-flow rate of over 50,000 lbs per hour,” F-16 and F-35 pilot Justin “Hasard” Lee explained in a piece for Sandboxx News.

“To put that into perspective, that’s similar to a fire-hose operating fully open—and that’s just a single engine. A twin-engine jet such as the F-15 or F-22 can double that. The problem is, topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of fuel which was enough for me to fly at that fuel-setting for less than 10 minutes.”

In order to accomplish their goal, the F-16 design would require a pretty thorough revamp. First, the wings were modified to incorporate a cranked-arrow wing shape, creating 25% more lift while allowing for effective control at both high and low speeds. Working in conjunction with NASA (and using the company’s own funds), engineer Harry Hillaker, the same man responsible for the original F-16 design, experimented repeatedly with slightly different iterations of the wings until they came to a version they referred to as Model 400.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
(WikiMedia Commons)

This new wing design, which saw a 50-degree angle near the root of the wing for supersonic performance and a 70-degree angle where the wings extended for subsonic handling, offered more than double the surface area of the F-16’s wings. Incredibly, Hillaker and his team were able to manage that without any increase in drag on the airframe–thanks to more than 3,600 hours of wind tunnel testing.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
An F-16 SCAMP model at 4% scale being tested in the NASA Basic Aerodynamics Research Tunnel (Facility 1214) at the Langley Research Center. (WikiMedia Commons)

This new design wasn’t necessarily practical, with all-moving wingtips and an all-moving vertical tail meant for control that performed poorly at low speeds. The wing design also didn’t allow for any hardpoints to mount bombs or missiles.

However, impractical as it may have been for a tactical fighter, the new wing design led to a significant increase in fuel range–and that increase could be further bolstered by leveraging the massive amount of internal space these new wings offered.

The F-16 SCAMP becomes the F-16XL

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
An F-16XL (top) flies alongside a conventional F-16 (WikiMedia Commons)

Citing the promising results of the F-16 SCAMP effort, the U.S. Air Force chose to buy into the idea of an even-more capable version of the F-16. They provided Hillaker with two early F-16 airframes for conversion into a SCAMP-like design they dubbed the F-16XL. Although this new jet would be largely based on the existing F-16, the changes were dramatic, including two fuselage sections added near the front and back of the aircraft, increasing its length by some 56 inches. The cranked-arrow wings that had proven so effective in SCAMP were also added, along with a new form of wing skin made using carbon fiber that saved some 600 pounds in the design.

Those massive wings, now fully realized, gave the F-16XL a nearly doubled fuel capacity, and the additional lift coupled with 633 square feet of underwing space to leverage allowed for the addition of an astonishing 27 hardpoints for ordnance. Remarkably, the F-16XL seemed to outperform its smaller predecessor in nearly every way, prompting the Air Force to take an interest in the idea of actually building this new iteration fighter.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
An air to air left underside view of an F-16XL aircraft. The aircraft is armed with two wing tip mounted AIM-9 Sidewinder and four fuselage mounted AIM-7 Sparrow missiles along with 12 500-pound bombs. (WikiMedia Commons)

“To say that Hillaker’s design team achieved its objectives is an understatement,” wrote F. Clifton Berry Jr. in 1983. Berry was an Air Force veteran and the editor-in-chief of Air Force Magazine at the time.

As Berry pointed out, an F-16XL conducting an air-to-surface mission could carry twice the payload of the standard F-16 and still fly as much as 44% further–all without external fuel tanks and while carrying a full suite of air-to-air weapons (four AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders) for the fighter to defend itself. If you were to equip the F-16XL with the exact same payload as an F-16A on such a mission, the F-16XL could fly nearly twice as far as its predecessor.

But it wasn’t just about extended range and added payload. The F-16XL was capable of supersonic speeds at high or low altitudes, all while carrying its mighty payload, and had no trouble climbing quickly with bombs underwing. And even despite the added wing, fuel, and ordnance loads, the aircraft still somehow managed to fly 83 knots faster than the F-16 using military power at sea level, and more than 300 knots faster on afterburner at high altitudes, even while carrying a full bomb load.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
The two F-16XL prototypes carrying different weapon loadouts. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“With the heavy bomb load aboard, the F-16XL is cleared for maneuvers up to +7.2 Gs, compared with 5.58 Gs in the F-16A,” Berry wrote. “This demonstrates how the designers were able to increase the aircraft weight while maintaining structural integrity and mission performance.”

All that time in the wind tunnel clearly paid off for the F-16XL design.

The F-16XL takes on the F-15E

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
(U.S. Air Force photo)

General Dynamics ultimately built two prototype F-16XLs for testing, but as testing progressed, it was clear that this new iteration of the F-16 design was worth more than simply demonstrating technology. In search of a useful place to put the new jet’s capabilities, the Air Force decided to enter it into the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, which aimed to field a capable replacement for the F-111 Aardvark.

“The F-16XL flight-test program has conclusively demonstrated that the XL performs as predicted. This performance level represents a significant increase in mission capability for USAF,” D. Randall Kent, Vice President and Program Director for the General Dynamics F-16XL program, said at the time.

“Coupling this with the affordability and low risk of the F-16XL presents USAF with a viable way to increase mission capability while simultaneously growing to a forty-wing TAC force structure.”

Soon, the ETF program changed names to the Dual-Role Fighter program–but despite the shift in titles, the goal was the same: To field an aircraft capable of penetrating deep into enemy airspace for interdiction missions without the need for fighter escorts. The F-16XL, with its significant fuel range, good performance, and hardpoints for 27 weapons, seemed like a perfect fit for the job… But it wasn’t the only aircraft competing for the contract. Standing between the F-16XL and operational service was another highly capable platform: The F-15E Strike Eagle.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
The second TF-15A, AF Ser. No. 71-0291, used as an F-15E demonstrator (WikiMedia Commons)

Like the F-16XL, the Strike Eagle was a modified version of an existing fighter: The F-15 Eagle. The Eagle represented America’s top-of-the-line air superiority fighter, boasting an undefeated record in dogfights that holds to this very day. Unlike the F-16XL, however, the F-15E shared the vast majority of its design with the two-seater F-15D that was already in production.

There was no doubt that the F-16XL would likely be the more expensive option, thanks to its significant design departure from the F-16 it was based on. But it also offered a great deal of capability. Its massive wings made it more stable than the F-16 it was based on, while its wind-tunnel-tested design made all that wing area serve no detriment to the fighter’s handling.

“We climbed at more than 20,000 feet per minute, leaping from 4,000 to 27,000 feet in sixty-seven seconds. Jim eased the power back while turning into the supersonic corridor and getting cleared by Edwards Control to begin a supersonic run,” F. Clifton Berry wrote after riding in the F-16XL.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
General Dynamics F-16XL (S/N 75-0749) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Jim applied afterburner and the aircraft accelerated smoothly from Mach 0.95 through 1.0 and to 1.2 in seconds. Even with the heavy bomb load aboard, the aircraft went supersonic without a tremble. Handling characteristics at mach 1.2 with the heavy ordnance load were remarkably similar to those of the standard F-16 without bombs.”

The F-15E, on the other hand, offered only 15 hardpoints–which it’s important to note, is still a lot. The F-15E also delivered a higher top speed (Mach 2.5 versus 2.05) and a higher service ceiling at 60,000 feet (compared to the F-16XL’s 50,000). Most importantly, however, the F-15E leveraged not one, but two engines. Because these aircraft were intended to fly deep into enemy airspace without much support, the Air Force believed it was likely that these planes would see a great deal of anti-aircraft fire. Having two engines meant one could be damaged by enemy fire, but the aircraft could still limp home on the other.

The F-16XL may have been one of the most capable fighters to never make it into production

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
(WikiMedia Commons)

It was likely the perceived survivability of two engines, in conjunction with the lower cost of development, that saw the F-15E win the contract. But many within the Air Force saw the F-15E’s win as bittersweet. The Strike Eagle was indeed an incredibly capable platform, but the F-16XL’s fans felt as though the fighter wasn’t meant to compete with the Strike Eagle, so much as support it–much like the F-16 and F-15 support one another today. Like the YF-23 that lost to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, the F-16XL has since been remembered as an aircraft that might have been better than the jet we ultimately got… with concerns about dollars and cents making the decision, rather than maximum capability.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, that may not be an entirely fair assessment. The F-16XL was indeed a capable aircraft, but the F-15E has since proven itself in combat time and time again. The Strike Eagle was clearly not a bad choice, but with the F-16XL’s incredible chops in mind, there could be little doubt that the Air Force would have been better off with both of these capable fighters in their stable… if only money truly were no object.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
The F-16XL flying under NASA (NASA photo)

Instead of fighting alongside the Strike Eagle as many hoped, the F-16XL program found its way to NASA, where both prototypes participated in a number of aeronautical research projects. In fact, some of the tests conducted using the F-16XL would go on to play a role in developing the supercruise capability for America’s top-tier air superiority fighter of today, the F-22 Raptor.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 steps to avoid becoming an easy target for hackers

It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll be the victim of a cyberattack, but you can drastically reduce the odds of one in a few simple steps.

The vast majority of people whose accounts are hacked don’t take basic precautions to protect them, making them “low-hanging fruit,” according to Alex Heid, chief research and development officer at cybersecurity firm SecurityScorecard.

“If you’re not thinking about these things, you have a nice car and you’re leaving it unlocked in a bad neighborhood. And the internet is the worst neighborhood there is, in my opinion,” Heid told Business Insider.

Follow these expert-recommended steps to avoid the pitfalls that can expose your accounts and sensitive information to hackers.


F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(Photo by Ilya Pavlov)

1. Change your passwords frequently.

According to Heid, hackers accumulate millions of login credentials and passwords in online databases garnered from previous data breaches. Even with just one set of login credentials, hackers commonly try to log into other sites using the same email and password, assuming that users will have the same password across platforms. Using different passwords from site to site will thwart this strategy.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(Photo by Courtney Clayton)

2. Don’t use the same security questions across different sites.

Following the same principle, if one site you use is compromised in a data breach, hackers might gain access to the security question and answer you set up in order to reset your password. If you use the same question across sites, it’s incredibly easy for hackers to subsequently reset your password on every one of your accounts.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(Photo by Tyler Franta)

3. Use bogus information for security questions to throw hackers off.

Password-reset questions typically ask for personal information like your mother’s maiden name or the street you grew up on. Rather than filling this out truthfully, use false information or an inside joke that hackers wouldn’t be able to guess. This tactic may seem counterintuitive, but can be effective, according to Heid.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(Photo by William Iven)

4. Start using a password manager.

“I always recommend using a password manager solution like Keypass or something like that to handle all the different passwords,” Heid said.

Password managers can generate long, difficult-to-guess passwords and automatically save them across websites, making it easy to keep your passwords diverse and hard to crack.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

5. Don’t leave a public trail of personal information via social media.

Be mindful of information that hackers could glean from your public social media accounts — especially if you’re using that information for a password reset question.

“Pets’ names, kids birthdays, spots you went to for your honeymoon, all of those are common password reset answers that can be obtained from social media. Even stuff like the street you grew up on, that can be found in public records,” Heid said.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(Photo by Marvin Meyer)

6. Use multifactor authentication whenever possible.

One of the most surefire ways to thwart hackers is to use multifactor authentication, or logins that verify your identity by sending an SMS code to your phone or an app notification.

“It’s an easy way for people to make sure they aren’t easy targets,” Heid said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army’s new helmet protects against blunt force impact

It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.

Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.


“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.

During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.

“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”

Equipment return

On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”

Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”

Soldier protection system

After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.

The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.

The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.

“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.

The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.

In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.

Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.

Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.

“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.

Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.

Articles

These are the 10 deadliest self-propelled howitzers

A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.


But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
An ARCHER Artillery System. (Wikimedia Commons)

For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.

Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Night falls at Fort Riley, Kan., as an M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, fires a 155 mm shell during 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s combined arms live-fire exercise Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Portela/released)

The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.

This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
2S19 Msta self-propelled howitzer. (Wikimedia Commons)

Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
A PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer belonging to the Dutch Army fires on the Taliban in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.

You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Navy needed Spruance-class destroyers

In the 1970s, the United States faced a problem. Many of the World War II-era destroyers of the Gearing and Allen M. Sumner classes were finally showing their age. Not only were these ships entering the tail-ends of their primes, they were also very numerous — the U.S. had built 98 Gearing-class ships and 58 Sumner-class vessels. In fact, if World War II hadn’t ended when it did, we’d likely had even more of these hulls!

Many of these ships were passed on to American allies, where they went on to enjoy long careers. But selling ships off doesn’t eliminate the need for a new destroyer. The Navy was hard at work building a lot of guided-missile destroyers for anti-air action (the Coontz and Charles F. Adams classes), but the Soviets had a lot of subs, and the U.S. needed a vessel highly capable of protecting aircraft carriers and merchant ships from this burgeoning, sub-surface threat.


F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Six Spruance-class destroyers in the process of fitting out. All 31 vessels of the Spruance-class entered service between 1975 and 1983.

(U.S. Navy)

The answer was the Spruance-class destroyer. These ships were fast, notching a top speed of 32.5 knots, and packed two five-inch guns, an eight-cell Mk 29 launcher for the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and an eight-cell Mk 16 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket. The ships also carried two triple-mounted 324mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a pair of Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon Systems, and two anti-submarine helicopters.

The United States built 31 of these ships — but passed on creating a variant capable of carrying four helicopters. Two dozen of these ships were later upgraded with a 61-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that later replaced the ASROC launcher.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

USS Hayler, showing the upgrades to the Spruance design – including a Mk 41 vertical launch system.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Amy DelaTorres)

The ship proved so capable that the hull design was later reused for another 31 ships with advanced anti-air capability. Four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers and 27 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers were built using the hull design of the Spruance.

Watch the introduction of the Spruance in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44X_JuPiVHc

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Special Operations Command now wants its own light attack aircraft fleet

The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.


According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.

“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.

If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.

The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.

In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.

The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.

The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.

He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”

But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.

The service first held a series of light attack experimental fly-offs and maneuvers at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in 2017 in a two-phase approach. The experiment involved four aircraft: The AirTractor and L3’s AT-802L Longsword; Sierra Nevada and Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucano; and Textron and AirLand LLC’s Scorpion, as well as their AT-6B Wolverine. The second phase of the experiment was canceled following a fatal crash in June 2018.

A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.

The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.

Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.

“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.

“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 military technology breakthroughs to look for in 2019

2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.

Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:


F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)

Augmented reality headsets

The Army signed a contract for 100,000 HoloLens headsets from Microsoft for 9 million in late 2018 and they should start reaching combat units within the next year or so, once the Army figures out exactly how to use them. The idea is to give infantrymen and other troops true heads-up displays. Tankers could even see through their armor to better track enemy vehicles.

The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.

(DARPA)

Robots joining human squads

Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.

Test runs have begun, and Lockheed Martin and CACI are each providing capabilities. The system brings in capabilities from all sorts of robots and drones already on the market. The Marines were able to use the robots to detect enemies and plan their assault before the simulated enemy even knew the Marines were there.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.

(DARPA graphic)

U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable 

Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.

But DARPA is working to change that with a call for new materials that can withstand the forces at Mach 5, especially the extreme heat from friction with the air. That would be a huge breakthrough for the U.S., and it might allow America to leapfrog its rivals.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky)

The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes

The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.

Bell Helicopters, meanwhile, is promising that their tilt-rotor offering, the V-280 Valor, still has a lot more skills to show off, and it’s already hit over 120 mph in forward flight and shown off its agility in hover mode. If Bell Helicopters wins the competition, the Army’s first order will likely be the largest tilt-rotor sale in military history.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.

(British Ministry of Defence)

Light tank prototypes will be unveiled

Over the next 14 months, BAE and General Dynamics will produce 12 examples of their light tanks, a modified Griffin and an updated version of the M8 Buford. Once the final prototypes roll off the line, the Army will test them side-by-side in exercises and trials, and then choose one design to purchase.

It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.

US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight

www.youtube.com

More autonomous aircraft, especially Army helicopters

It seems like the civilian market rolls out a new drone every weeks, and drone designs come around every few months. But the Army is trying to get a kit made that would actually change military aviation: a software and hardware suite that could make every Black Hawk — and other helicopters — into an optionally piloted drone.

The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How an F15-E shot down an Iraqi gunship with a bomb

America’s F-15 Eagle has long since secured a position in the pantheon of the world’s greatest fighters. With an incredible air combat record of 104 wins and zero losses, the fourth generation powerhouse we call the F-15 remains America’s fastest air superiority fighter, beating out even the venerable F-22 Raptor. But the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-15’s multi-role sibling, was never really intended to serve as a dedicated air-to-air platform. Instead, the F-15E’s goal was to leverage the speed and payload capabilities of an F-15 for ground attack missions — making it one of the most capable multi-role fighters of its generation.

In 1993, Air Force Capt. Tim Bennett was serving as a flight leader for the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Al Kharj AB in central Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Desert Storm. He and his F-15E would fly a total of 58 combat missions through the deployment, but one stands out as particularly exceptional: The time Bennett and his weapons officer, Capt. Dan Bakke, managed to shoot down an Iraqi helicopter using a 2,000 pound laser guided bomb.


F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(USAF photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

February 14, 1993: Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day of 1993, Bennett and Bakke were conducting an early morning Scud combat air patrol — flying around northwest Iraq looking for mobile Scud missile platforms that could pose a threat to American forces. They were flying above the cloud cover, waiting to receive targeting coordinates from a nearby AWAC, when they received a different kind of call: An American Special Forces team had been operating secretly more than 300 miles from the border identifying Scud launchers for engagement, and they’d been discovered by the Iraqi military.

As the AWAC relayed that there were five Iraqi helicopters closing with the Green Beret’s position, Bennett diverted toward the special operators. He and his weapons officer called back in to the AWAC as they spotted the helicopters on their radar, traveling west to east.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

“We don’t have any friendlies in the area. Any helicopters you find, you are cleared to shoot,” Bennett was told over the radio.

As Bennett closed with the helicopters, he and Bakke noticed that they were flying and stopping at regular intervals, and it seemed as though they were dropping off ground troops to continue engaging the Special Forces team. In effect, the helicopter and ground troops were coordinating to herd the American Green Berets into an unwindable engagement.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)

“By this time, we were screaming over the ground, doing about 600 knots–almost 700 mph. The AAA [Anti-Aircraft Fire] was still coming up pretty thick. Our course took us right over the top of the Iraqi troops to the east of the team. We didn’t know exactly where our team was, but it was looking to us like things were getting pretty hairy for the Special Forces guys,” Bennett later recalled.

Bennett decided to engage the lead helicopter, but not with his Aim-9 Sidewinders which were designed for air-to-air engagements. Instead, he planned to lob a 2,000 pound bomb in its direction. Chances were good, he knew, that it wouldn’t hit the helicopters, but it would kill the troops on the ground and likely startle the Hind pilots, allowing his wingman to get a clear shot with a Sidewinder.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)

Because they were moving so quickly, the unpowered bomb actually had a greater range than the Sidewinder missile. Bennett released the bomb 4 miles out from the Hind-24 Bakke was carefully keeping his laser sighted on.

“There’s no chance the bomb will get him now,” Bennett thought as the Hind-24 lifted off the ground and began to accelerate.
“I got a good lock with my missile and was about to pickle off a Sidewinder when the bomb flew into my field of view on the targeting IR screen.”
“There was a big flash, and I could see pieces flying in different directions. It blew the helicopter to hell, damn near vaporized it.”

Of course, scoring the F-15E’s first air-to-air victory might be a point of pride for Bennett and Bakke, but they still had a job to do. They moved on to engage a mobile Scud on a nearby launchpad before heading home.

“The Special Forces team got out OK and went back to Central Air Forces headquarters to say thanks and confirm our kill for us. They saw the helicopter go down. When the helos had bugged out, the team moved back to the west and was extracted.”

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


Articles

4 reasons why Doug Masters is a better fighter pilot than Maverick

Okay, with the news that a “Top Gun” sequel is in the works, it looks like Pete Mitchell is gonna be back on screen. With three kills, he may think he’s all that, but is he?


Well, Doug Masters, the hero of “Iron Eagle”, may have a few things to say about why he’s a better fighter pilot than Maverick.

Here is a piece of trivia: “Iron Eagle” actually came out four months before “Top Gun” did. It had Louis Gossett Jr. in the role of Colonel “Chappy” Sinclair, and Robbie Rist (notorious as Cousin Oliver in the original “Brady Bunch” series, and “Doctor Zee” in the original Battlestar Galactica) in a small supporting role.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Maverick may have gotten Jester, but Doug Masters would be far more challenging. (Paramount)

1. Doug Masters is a multi-threat pilot

Let’s face it, when their movies came out, the F-14 Tomcat did one thing – air-to-air combat – and has one of the best suites for that, including the AIM-54 Phoenix missile, the AWG-9 radar, and a lot of maneuverability and performance.

On the other hand, Doug Masters didn’t just handle the air-to-air threats. He also killed ground targets. In the movie, he and Chappy Sinclair combined to shoot up two airfields, four anti-aircraft guns, a pair of SAM launchers, and an oil refinery.

Heck, he even fired an AGM-65 Maverick missile while still on the ground to complete the rescue of his dad.

Sorry, Mav, but Doug wins this one.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
A tower goes up during the attack on Il Kareem in Iron Eagle. (Youtube screenshot)

2. Doug rigged a cool sound system for his jet

Doug Masters also figure out a way to play some tunes while flying his jet. So when he and Chappy Sinclair blew that first airfield out of commission, they did it to the tune of Queen’s “One Vision.” Then, he shoots up another airfield to “Gimme Some Lovin’.”

C’mon, at a minimum, Doug gets style points, right?

3. Doug used his cannon

In the last dogfight of “Top Gun,” Maverick forgot that his Tomcat was equipped with a M61 Vulcan cannon. Note, this could have been very useful at some points of the engagement – like when Iceman had that MiG on his tail.

Doug Masters, on the other hand, was a dead-eye with his cannon. We all know that gun kills are the best kills, right?

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
U.S. Navy sailors load a M61A1 20mm Cannon Gatling Gun in a Grumman F-14B “Tomcat,” assigned to the “Jolly Rogers” of Fighter Squadron 103 (VF-103). Maverick didn’t even use his cannon during his dogfight. (U.S. Navy photo)

4. Doug had the higher air-to-air score

Maverick has three confirmed “Mig-28” kills. Not bad, especially since he used four missile shots to get that.

Here is what Doug Masters shot down: Four MiGs and two choppers. Add to that the multiple SAM launchers and ack-ack guns. Don’t forget the other ground targets as well, even if he shared the first airfield with Chappy Sinclair.

So, Maverick loses this fight. It also means that Doug Masters is the one who gets to buzz the tower in celebration.
Articles

Here are 6 things you may not have known about the US president’s personal jet

It’s the most famous aircraft in the world, a highly-visible symbol of the United States wherever it travels.


Known as Air Force One, and popularly nicknamed ‘the Flying White House’, this massive jumbo jet, decked out in a special blue, white and silver livery, ferries U.S. presidents, their families, members of the press and various staffers and Secret Service protective agents across the globe on official trips to foreign and domestic destinations.

While Air Force One itself is incredibly famous, it turns out that not a heck of a lot about this unique aircraft seems to be known in public circles. So the next time you find yourself at a party and you feel like impressing a few folks with Air Force One facts they probably didn’t know, today’s your lucky day! Here are 6 things about the President’s personal aircraft that you more than likely didn’t know:

1. “Air Force One” is technically a callsign and not the aircraft’s actual designation.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Columbine II, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s official transport and the first presidential plane to use the Air Force One callsign (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

“Air Force One” is the callsign attached to any USAF aircraft the president is physically present on. The famous Boeing 747 decked out in the presidential scheme is officially designated “VC-25.” The Air Force One callsign originated in 1953 after air traffic controllers mistakenly put an aircraft carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the same airspace as a civilian airliner over New York City, after confusing the presidential transport’s name and code for a commercial flight.

Ever since, every military vehicle carrying America’s head honcho is temporarily relabeled with the name of the service the vehicle belongs to, followed by “One” (e.g. Marine One).

2. Each VC-25 has its own medical suite aboard the aircraft.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Pres. George W. Bush in the Presidential office aboard Air Force One in 2008 (Photo White House)

You read that correctly; whenever the president is aboard, Air Force One carries a qualified military surgeon/physician along for the ride. A small medical center aboard the aircraft, fully stocked and equipped, can be converted into an operating room should the need arise. While no sitting president has had to avail of the on-board doctor’s abilities and talents, it’s still helpful to always have one nearby, just in case.

3. Both VC-25s are equipped with extensive countermeasures and defensive systems.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
A Secret Service protective agent stands vigilant over Air Force One as it refuels at Ramstein Air Base in Germany (Photo US Air Force)

On any given day, the threats to the president’s life number in the hundreds, though the Secret Service does everything it can to make sure the risks are largely negligible.

The Air Force also does its part by outfitting each VC-25 with the very best in defensive systems available at the moment.  It’s unknown what exactly these systems consist of, but it could be safely assumed that the VC-25 comes standard with missile jammers, flare dispensers and more. On top of that, each Air Force One flight carries a small army of well-armed Secret Service agents and Air Force security specialists to provide security for the President and the aircraft on the ground.

4. It is one of the most expensive aircraft the US Air Force has ever operated.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
A VC-25 arrives at Andrews AFB with the casket of deceased Pres. Gerald Ford (Photo US Air Force)

Not only is the VC-25 one of the largest jets flown by the USAF, it’s also one of the most expensive the service has ever flown in its entire history. At an operating cost of approximately $200,000 per hour, Air Force One flights dwarf the expenses incurred by every other military-crewed and flown aircraft like the E-4B Nightwatch, the C-5 Galaxy and the B-2 Spirit. The security measures, passenger support (for members of the press, Secret Service and White House Staff), and communications systems operations all come together to account for this sky high figure.

5. The President can seamlessly interface with the military and government while airborne.

Each VC-25 possesses a highly integrated communications suite, staffed by a team of Air Force communication systems operators. These CSOs constantly monitor the aircraft’s satellite data-links, intranets and phone lines, ensuring that all incoming and outgoing calls on each flight are secured and highly encrypted.

In the event of national emergencies, the President can interact with military units from the aircraft, or direct the government and stay appraised of the situation at hand, thanks to the communications center and its CSOs.

6. It always parks with its left side facing the crowds gathered to see its arrivals.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
President Trump during a welcome ceremony at Brussels Int’l Airport. Note that the VC-25 is parked with its left side facing the crowd (Photo White House)

Though it seems almost arbitrary, Air Force One does indeed park with its left side facing onlookers crowding behind the security cordon at airports. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, as both sides of the aircraft seem identical, it could be reasonably assumed that this is done for security purposes and practicality.

Positioning the big jet in such a way masks the President’s office from sight on the right side, while it also enables the use of air stairs built into the aircraft on the left side should an external stair unit be unavailable. Air Force One never parks at an airport terminal, nor does it accept a jet bridge connection.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army went old school and named this Stryker the ‘Dragoon’

The M1126 and M1127 Strykers have provided good service to the Army in the wars since 9/11, where they provided an excellent balance of mobility, protection, and firepower for troops.


However, when you’re potentially facing a fight with Russia, you need a bigger gun. They now will have one.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: courtesy of Program Executive OfficeGround Combat Systems)

 

The United States Army rolled out the “Dragoon” in response to feedback from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently based in Europe, and likely to be on the front lines if the Russian hordes come. According to an Army release, the Dragoon is officially the XM1296 Infantry Combat Vehicle, and features a Mk 44 Bushmaster II, a 30mm version of the M242 25mm chain gun used on the M2/M3 Bradley, the LAV-25, and a number of United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels.

The baseline M1126 Stryker usually had either a M2 .50-caliber machine gun or a 40mm Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. Both systems are great for dealing with light enemy forces whose best vehicles may be the “technical” — a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun mounted on it. Against a BMP or BTR – never mind a T-80 main battle tank — the firepower comes up short, placing the nine Joes in the back and the Stryker’s two-man crew in more danger.

Some Strykers have more firepower, like the M1128 Mobile Gun System (which uses a 105mm gun) and the M1134 Anti-Tank Vehicle (armed with the BGM-71 TOW missile). The grunts inside the Stryker can also carry and use the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.

The Stryker is not the only vehicle getting a bigger gun. The Army is testing a lightweight version of the M230 cannon used on the AH-64 Apache on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

The Army plans to give the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment 81 of the XM1296s. Other purchases may likely follow, as there are potential conflicts across the globe. While those units could face long odds in some of those conflicts, those odds won’t be so long with the XM1296 backing the troops up.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to send a hero a letter without picking up a pen

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For your pal in the army:

~ Don’t send a salami; send them an actual letter. (There’s an app for that) ~

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Sandboxx: a digital solution to the analog problem of military morale.

It’s weird.

If you served in the military, then there’s a truth you hold to be self-evident:

There is nothing — nothing — better than getting mail.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Shake this one, Gene. I smell salami… (Image via Smithsonian Institution)

Nowhere on earth — outside of elderly care facilities and summer camps — is snail mail so coveted and mail call so anticipated as it is at the boot camps, bases, and outposts of the U.S. military.

But staying in the loop while you’re downrange gets trickier every year as smartphones divorce almost everyone you know from the memory of their own handwriting. And how are they supposed to send you photos? Go out and get them printed? Stop.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Its just so… quaint.

Somebody with military experience and a knack for tech entrepreneurship had to come along and fix this problem.

That somebody is Sam Meek, an Idahoan and former U.S. Marine Corps Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Defense Specialist, who found that in the civilian sector, the problem-solving mentality instilled in him by the Corps is a very valuable and leverageable asset indeed.

“I found it really fascinating that I was beating out kids… that had college degrees and… could actually articulate a cover letter for a resume. I realized that the experience that we garner in the military brings so much more… to a company than sitting in class for four years.”

–Sam Meek, Cigars and Sea Stories Podcast

 

Working first as Director of Development for a Wall Street hedge fund and then taking a mentor’s Marine Family Readiness platform concept and pivoting it toward present-day Sandboxx, Meek perfected the twin arts of making one’s own opportunities and capitalizing on those that arise from the heat of action.

Though Sandboxx has evolved to serve a number of important networking and communications functions for the modern military — see Units and Travel — its marquee offering is still getting letters to deployed troops.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
Now there’s an idea…

The app allows friends and family at home to tap out a message on a smartphone, upload a photo, and then have that digital missive converted to physical letter form and sent to their loved ones, wherever in the world they might be deployed. Sandboxx even includes a postage-paid return envelope to make it easy to reply from the field.

It’s military morale made simple and intuitive. It honors a rich American history of supporting our troops, one personally penned and postmarked message at a time.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how some tanks, APCs, and IFVs get upgraded on the cheap

Imagine you’re in a country that tends to pinch pennies when it comes to the defense budget. Now imagine that you’re looking to upgrade your armored fighting vehicles (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers), but you’ve just been told you can’t buy new ones — even second-hand vehicles aren’t an option. Sounds like you’re stuck with obsolete vehicles, right?

Not necessarily. Believe it or not, those old tanks can be given new life, and the process is actually very simple and relatively cheap. More often than not, your real problem isn’t the armored fighting vehicle itself, it’s what goes on top: the turret.


This is where the firepower of your typical armored fighting vehicle resides. Thankfully, the great thing about turrets is that they can be replaced quite easily if you have the proper facilities and trained maintenance personnel. If you have a perfectly good hull, swapping out the turret is a great way to buy time and extend the service life of an otherwise-outdated and outmatched system.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

The baseline BTR-80 has a KPV 14.5mm machine gun, but a new turret can make this a BTR-80A with a 30mm auto-cannon.

(DOD)

Russia is doing just this with their BTR-80 and BTR-82 armored personnel carriers. The baseline versions had a manned turret with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun. However, the Russians replaced the initial turret with one that houses a 2A72 30mm auto-cannon — similar to the 2A42 auto-cannon used on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter — thus creating the BTR-80A and the BTR-82A. According to some reports, Russia may make another turret switch for the latter vehicle, giving the BTR-82A a 57mm gun.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

During Reforger 82, when this photo was taken, the M60A1 tank was still in widespread service, even as the M1 Abrams was starting to replace it.

(DOD)

Tanks also benefit from this upgrade treatment. For example, Turkey was able to extend the life of 170 M60 Patton tanks by going with the Israeli Sabra upgrade, which essentially puts a Merkava III turret on the Patton’s hull (a few other upgrades were made while they were at it). Egypt is also looking to do this with its fleet of M60 main battle tanks.

F-16XL: The F-16 with hardpoints for 27 weapons

The centerpiece of the M60T in Turkish Army service is a new turret like that on Israeli Merkava tanks.

(Photo by Natan Flayer)

The fact is, if you have an older armored vehicle, just junking it or passing it on may not be the best option. You might find that the better bargain is in getting a new turret instead.

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