This folding machine gun hides in plain sight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight

The Magpul FMG9 (Folding Machine Gun 9mm) gives a whole new meaning to “concealed weapon.” Unlike a handgun tucked away in a pair of pants or coat, this gun hides in plain sight.


Related: One of the world’s shortest sniper rifles is actually a long rifle in disguise

“This weapon system could be described as a chameleon, it totally disappears,” said the host in the American Heroes Channel video below. “It’s sort of innocuous and then when you snap it out, you have little mini submachine gun.”

You may have seen a similar weapon used by Hob, the drug dealing teenager in RoboCop 2 (1990), played by Gabriel Damon. The weapon in the film is an ARES FMG designed by Francis J. Warin for ARES Inc. Warin made the weapon with personal security in mind after a spree of kidnappings and murders of VIPs and CEOs in South America during the early 1980s.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
RoboCop 2 (1990), Orion Pictures

The FMG9 is the latest weapons system in the folding machine gun class and a nod to the 80s design by ARES Inc. It’s the perfect covert firearm when applied for its intended use, unlike the little violent Hob in RoboCop 2. Simply show up to your operation like an innocent bystander and snap it out when things get hot.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
American Heroes Channel, YouTube

After clearing the room fold it back into place and walk out like nothing ever happened.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Now watch this short (three-minute) feature:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
Articles

This is why the Air Force wants a stealthy new cruise missile

The Air Force is buying a new bomber, dubbed the B-21 Raider, which has generated a lot of headlines and is considered one of the biggest priorities for the service. However, another program may be just as important – even if it doesn’t get the press.


According to an interview that TheCipherBrief.com had with retired Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, who was one of the primary planners of the Desert Storm air campaign, that program is the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO. In plain terms, it is a new cruise missile.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
David Deptula during his service with the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

While the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile is perhaps the most famous – and perhaps the most widely-used cruise missile since Operation Desert Storm – the Air Force has had a pair of cruise missiles it launched from its bombers for about four decades. They were the AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile.

While some might argue that the B-2 and B-21 stealth bombers make cruise missiles unnecessary, Deptula said that was not the case. In fact, they make the stealth bombers more potent.

“The LRSO, when carried by B-21s, will enable simultaneous target attacks against several targets from one aircraft, with multiple cruise missiles making defense against this combination highly problematical,” he said. “This combination strengthens deterrence by presenting an adversary an intractable challenge.”

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

One of the biggest factors in making that challenge intractable is that the bombers are able to attack from just about any point on the compass. In essence, the cruise missiles would enable a B-21 to hit multiple targets from unexpected directions.

Older bombers like the B-52 and B-1B will also be able to use LRSO as well, with Deptula explaining that they would thus “add mass to an attack” against an adversary. The missile is planned to enter service in 2030 according to FlightGlobal.com, and will feature both nuclear and conventional warheads.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NATO invites Russia to observe its massive war games

NATO allies and a handful of partner countries are gearing up for the alliance’s largest joint military exercises in decades.

Ahead of the Trident Juncture exercises, which are expected to include 45,000 troops, 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships, and 150 aircraft from 31 countries training side by side in and around Norway in fall 2018, the alliance is stressing strength and transparency, and just invited Russian observers so they can get the message up close.

The US Navy admiral commanding the exercise hopes Russia will take them up on the offer.


“I fully expect that they’ll want to come. It’s in their interests to come and see what we do,” Admiral James Foggo told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 5, 2018, “They’ll learn things. I want them to be there so they can see how well [NATO allies and partners] work together.”

“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” he said. “They are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight

Soldiers load an M777 howitzer during live-fire training at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Sept. 10, 2018, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 18.

(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

So far, Russia has yet to accept the offer.

The drills, Article 5 (collective defense) exercises, will include land, air, and amphibious assets training to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state. The admiral refused to comment on whether or not the exercise would include a nuclear element, as an earlier Russian drill did.

Although it was previously reported that these exercises are the largest NATO drills since the Cold War, they are actually the biggest since 2002, Foggo clarified at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing. The allied drills come on the heels of massive war games in eastern Russia involving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Russian and Chinese troops preparing for large-scale military operations against an unspecified third country.

The purpose of Trident Juncture, according to handouts presented at Oct. 5, 2018’s briefing, is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”

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

Articles

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.


Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades.  There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.

Also read: Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.

The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
The Marine Corps’ current AAV in Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons

Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.

The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.

Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.

Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.

“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”

Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.

“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.

An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.

Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.

BAE Systems ACV 1.1

The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.

In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.

BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.

“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.

The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.

Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.

Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in amphibious assault vehicles train with smoke grenades. | III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs photo by Pfc. Mark Stroud

Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.

The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.

 The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack

The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.

“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.

However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.

Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.

“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

Amphibious Assault Vehicle “Survivability Upgrade”

The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

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‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
(U.S. Navy)

 

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

 

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

 

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
(Pixnio)

 

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
(PXHere)

 

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between $25 and $50 million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over $1 million.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight

Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

 

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

 

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

This folding machine gun hides in plain sight
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

 

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked $400 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

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Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

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Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

 

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

This article by Alex Hollings originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force planners want to grow future runways from bacteria

The Blue Horizons Program at Air University is an Air Force chief of staff-chartered, future-oriented think tank that creates and tests prototypes of new strategic concepts and capabilities.

Three Blue Horizons fellows, with different technical backgrounds, including a former member of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, were among those who graduated June 3, 2019, as part of this year’s class of 16.

As part of their research, Maj. MacKenzie Birchenough, a developmental engineer, and former deputy chief of the Commander’s Action Group at AFLCMC; Maj. Laura Hunstock, a combat systems officer; and Maj. Kelly Martin, an intelligence officer, formed a team called, “Project Medusa,” to develop a prototype landing strip to ensure continuity of airlift operations at austere locations during future military conflicts.


Fellows spend a year in specialized academics and focus research on a CSAF-directed question. Their research is on developing and testing prototypes of ideas that can help the Air Force meet future threats.

“As the United States turns its focus toward a potential near-peer conflict, the Air Force may no longer have access to its current mature basing structure,” Birchenough said. “In future fights, contingency operations will depend on the ability of mobility platforms to operate out of austere locations and under compressed timelines,” she said in describing the background for Project Medusa.

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Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright pose with graduates of the Center for Strategy and Technology’s Blue Horizons class at Air War College, May 16, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)

Students actually go through an entire prototyping phase so that at the end of the year they can brief the CSAF on the problem they were able to address, what they did about it and then give a recommendation, with the ultimate goal of being able to transition it at the end of their year.

“We started out thinking about the differences between the way we fight today in the Air Force and what tomorrow’s fight might look like,” Hunstock said. “Knowing that we’re going into more of a near-peer competition, one of the things we talked a lot about was how we’re going to have to move away from our centralized basing that we use today and more into a dispersed and agile type of basing.”

The team wanted to narrow the scope of the problem down, so they looked at the issue of not having the availability of runways everywhere that the Air Force might need to go.

“We wanted to try to find a way that we could get into those austere locations to rapidly create landing zones for our aircraft where we don’t already have them,” Hunstock said. “That also means with this type of basing situation, you’re not going to have a month or two to go in and build your normal concrete runways. We need something that’s going to take a lot less time and require less people and less heavy equipment.”

While trying to think completely out of the box, which is what Blue Horizons fellows are asked to do, the team came up with an innovative idea that might seem on the edge of reality.

“The idea that we came to was using biomanufacturing to build runways, which can also be translated into things like ramp space or any hardened surface that you might need. By saying biomanufacturing, what we mean is that we’re applying bacteria to the surface, feeding it and effectively growing a runway. This process could potentially replace the need to bring in cement, heavy equipment and dozens of personnel to create a concrete runway,” Birchenough said.

“While our prototype is a small step toward enabling full runways to be built with something other than concrete, it demonstrates this technology is absolutely feasible outside of the laboratory and could be used to support the warfighter much sooner than expected,” Birchenough said.

They started by testing different protocols with two foot by two-foot boxes, but their final prototype was a 2,500 square foot site to demonstrate the process on a much larger scale. Working with bioMASON, a biomanufacturing company in Durham, North Carolina, the team created the site near there.

The 2,500 square foot prototype turned out great, working exactly how they expected it to, Birchenough said.

“It showed that we could reproduce what we had done in the laboratory and on a larger scale. The really exciting thing about this process is that it utilizes the local soil and requires very little equipment. Basically, you need an agricultural sprayer and some water tanks, so there is very little in materials you need to bring to the site,” Birchenough said.

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The Project Medusa Team members received strong support from bioMASON, the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, and the Air Force Civil Engineering Center.

(James O’Rourke)

“We learned that while biotechnology sounds like it is part of a future science fiction type of idea, it’s actually here and now, and it’s absolutely leverageable for the (Defense Department) and we need to be investing in it at a much higher rate,” she said.

The team was lucky to work with the Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation office as well as the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate on the project, according to Birchenough.

The SDPE office contributed more than 0,000 toward Project Medusa, and made significant contributions across the entire Blue Horizons portfolio this year, Birchenough said.

A follow-on effort will begin this summer between bioMASON, AFRL, and DARPA that will continue to mature the technology and build up different soil samples to see how well the technology functions across different areas of responsibility.

“AFRL is excited to continue the support for the follow-on project,” said Dr. Chia Hung, AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate research biological scientist. “We will continue to work with bioMASON in their optimization of the cementation process and we will also assist to identify unique requirements for different user cases. Based on what is learned from Project Medusa and will be learned from the follow-on, we will be better poised in helping to mature this technology for many users in not just the Air Force, but also other services within DoD.”

The Project Medusa team briefed their recommendation to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein May 16. Six other teams of Blue Horizons fellows also made presentations.

“Our recommendation to CSAF was to invest in biomanufacturing with a faster transition to the user, to continue this effort with both AFRL and SPDE to make sure that this technology will have great use out in the operational Air Force, as well as making sure the feedback of the user is incorporated into it from the get go,” Hunstock said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New Air Force F-35 simulator will take training to a new level

When the U.S. Air Force gets its first F-35 Lightning II distributed mission training simulator system at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, this spring, pilots will have the ability to fly virtually as a group, alongside other aircraft, and practice exchanging information across a network, according to Lockheed Martin officials.

“When the F-35 [deploys to] a fight, we know it’s not going by itself,” said Chauncey McIntosh, vice president of F-35 Training and Logistics for Lockheed. McIntosh spoke during the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) conference in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday.

“So by allowing our … warfighters to really bring in all the other assets in a virtual environment and practice that, to ensure they get high-end training in these dense, immersive environments, [it] is going to be a game changer,” he added.


McIntosh said the distributed mission training simulator, or DMT, has been in testing for months, and is in the final stages of integration before the technology is introduced in the spring.

“It’s not just F-35-to-F-35; it’s F-35 to anything that we can bring in a virtual reality environment to the network … regardless of where it’s located,” he said.

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F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

According to the company, the simulator “creates interoperability across military platforms for continuation training and large force exercise.”

“We expect this capability will be used in Virtual Flag exercises, allowing warfighters to practice complex training scenarios with other platforms virtually for integrated training operations,” Lockheed said in a statement to Military.com.

The Air Force will be the first to use the technology, with the expectation that it will continue to be rolled out “throughout the F-35 enterprise” in the future, Lockheed officials added.

The Defense Department has put an emphasis on group training, with other services attempting their own digital training initiatives.

For example, a priority for the Army has been the synthetic training environment, also known as the STE.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Engineers collect data to reconstruct cities, mountainsides, bunkers etc. to more accurately represent what soldiers will experience in the STE, thus getting a more authentic representation of what they may face in combat.

The plan is for the STE to develop to a point that squads can operate together in training, facing virtual high-end threats.

However, it’s unclear how soon that level of training will be realized.

During the annual Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in October, Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, the STE cross-functional team director, said elements of the STE were in jeopardy given ongoing negotiations between lawmakers over the next fiscal budget.

“Once we see the final number, we’ll understand the impact” on making STE operational, Gervais said at the time.

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

Articles

This is what makes the Mark 48 one of the deadliest torpedoes ever built

The US Navy’s submarine service is easily the most powerful ever fielded in the history of submarine warfare. Consisting of Los Angeles, Seawolf, Virginia and Ohio-class boats, this all-nuclear force is silent and deadly, prowling the world’s waterways without anybody the wiser.


While the unlimited range, the quiet and very stealthy nature of these combat vessels makes them incredibly dangerous, it’s their armament that plays the biggest part in making them the most lethal killing machines traversing the oceans today.

Every American submarine in service today is armed with the Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedo, the latest and greatest in underwater warfare technology. These “fish” are designed to give submarine commanders a flexible tool that can be used to destroy enemy vessels, or serve as remote sensors, extending the operational capabilities of submarines far beyond what they’re inherently able to do while on patrol.

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A Mark 48 being loaded onto the USS Annapolis, a Los Angeles-class submarine (Photo US Navy)

As you can probably tell, these next-level torpedoes have undergone a considerable evolution from their predecessors of decades past. Advanced on-board computers, propulsion systems and explosives combine within the frame of the Mark 48 to make it a highly lethal one-shot-one-kill solution for every American submarine commander serving today.

Like many weapons fielded on modern battlefields the Mark 48 ADCAP is “smart,” meaning that it can function autonomously with a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness, allowing for unparalleled accuracy. When fired in anger, the Mark 48 rushes to its target using a “pumpjet propulsor” that can push the torpedo to speeds estimated to be above 50 mph underwater, though the actual stats are classified.

The high speeds were originally a major requirement to allow American subs to chase down fast-moving Soviet attack submarines, which were also capable of diving deep and out of range, thanks to reinforced titanium pressure hulls.

The Mark 48 is initially guided by the submarine which deploys it through a thin trailing wire connected to the boat’s targeting computers and sensors. Upon acquiring its target, the wire is cut and the torpedo’s internal computers take over, guiding the underwater weapon home with precision.

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US Navy torpedo retrievers secure a Mark 48 to the deck of their boat (Photo US Navy)

In days past, when torpedoes missed their target, they would likely keep swimming on until exhausting their fuel supply, or until they detonated. That’s not the case with the Mark 48, however.

When the Mark 48 misses its target, it doesn’t stop hunting. Instead, it circles around using its onboard computers to reacquire a lock and attempt a second attack.

This time, it probably won’t miss.

When the Mark 48 reaches its target, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Though earlier torpedoes would be programmed to detonate upon impacting or nearing the hull of an enemy vessel, the Mark 48 takes a different path… literally.

When attacking surface vessels, it travels below the keel of the ship, which is generally unprotected, detonating directly underneath. The massive pressure bubble that results from the gigantic explosion doesn’t just slice through the bulk of the target boat – it also literally lifts the ship out of the water and snaps the keel, essentially breaking its back.

When attacking a submarine, it detonates in close proximity to the pressure hull of the enemy boat, corrupting it immediately with a massive shockwave. Once the Mark 48 strikes, it’s game over and the enemy ship’s crew, or at least whoever is left of them, will have just minutes to evacuate before their boat makes its way below the surface to Davy Jones’ locker.

The US Navy is in the process of exploring upgrades to the Mark 48, including diminishing the noise generated by its engine in order to make it nearly undetectable to its targets, and enhancing its in-built detection and targeting systems.

Currently, the Navy fields the Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System variant of the Mark 48 – the 7th major upgrade the torpedo has undergone over its service history.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

The U.S. Army has awarded a $49.7 million contract to Robotic Research LLC for autonomous kits to be tested on large supply vehicles in an effort to one day send unmanned resupply convoys across the battlefield.

The three-year award is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, which is designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to a recent release from Robotic Research.


Army leaders have pledged to make robotics and vehicle autonomy one of the service’s top modernization priorities.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle program will be designed around manned and unmanned combat vehicles, giving commanders the option to send robotic vehicles against the enemy before committing manned combat forces, Army officials said.

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A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the Navy Surface Warfare Centeru00a0Dahlgren test range.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The service plans to build its first Robotic Combat Vehicle technology demonstrator in three years. The early RCVs will help program officials develop future designs of autonomous combat vehicles, officials added.

Army Secretary Mark Esper has stressed that autonomous vehicles have a definite place in what became one of the most deadly mission during the Iraq War — resupply convoy duty.

The Army lost “too many” soldiers to improvised explosive device attacks driving and riding in resupply convoys, he said.

Under the Expedient Leader Follower program, the autonomous kits, made by Robotic Research, will be installed on Army vehicles, such as the Oshkosh PLS A1s. A series of the optionally manned vehicles will autonomously follow the path of the first, manned vehicle, the release states.

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The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

The program follows the “Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), and [Autonomous Ground Resupply] programs to develop unmanned prototype systems that address the needs of the Leader Follower Directed Requirement and Program of Record,” the release states.

The AGR architecture is being developed to “become the de-facto autonomous architecture for all foreseeable ground robotic vehicles,” according to the release.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected to perform this critical work for the U.S. Army,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “The Robotic Research team shares the Army’s commitment to rapidly fielding effective autonomy solutions to our nation’s soldiers.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Dogfighting at 9Gs: Like ‘aiming through a toilet paper roll’

If you have any hope of winning, your strength has to be greater than your opponent’s weakness. As a young second lieutenant in pilot training, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I was flying a Basic Fighter Maneuver Flight, also known as dogfighting. The objective was for me to point at my instructor, who was in his own F-16, and as soon as we passed—with over 1,000 miles per hour of closure—maneuver my jet so I could gun him.


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(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

On the first set I hit the merge at just under the speed of sound and pulled back on the stick. At 50 pounds of force, the stick was fully-aft, yet only moved one inch—a design feature to make the jet as responsive as possible. The big stabilizers on the tail dug in and in less than a second I was at 9G’s.

At 9 times the force of gravity, my body weighed over 2,000 pounds. The crushing force pushed me into my seat as blood drained from my head into my arms and legs. If enough drained out, I would lose consciousness and, more likely than not, impact the ground before I woke up. To counteract this, I performed an anti-G straining maneuver—squeezing my legs and abs, while making short, crisp breaths to keep pressure in my lungs. Even with an effective G-strain, I lost my peripheral vision as the world closed in until it looked like I was watching it through a toilet-paper roll.

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Pilot fitness has a significant effect on performance while dogfighting. (USAF Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

For the next minute or so I struggled to maneuver my jet into a position to gun my instructor. He was able to easily neutralize my game-plan and called “knock it off” so that we could set up the fight again. The next three fights ended the same way. By this point, I was out of breath and exhausted from fighting him and the G’s. We ended up doing two more sets, but instead of just neutralizing the fight, he gunned me on both of them.

In the debrief, after the flight, my labored breathing was evident in the tape. He paused it and said, “How did you ever expect to win today? I have 15 years of experience flying fighters, and granted, you don’t have anywhere near that, but I’m also in better shape than you.”

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(Ben on Flickr)

He was right. Being in my mid-20’s, I should have been in better shape than someone in their early 40’s. Having far more experience than me, there was no way I was going to be tactically superior. But, my fitness, and my poor performance towards the end of the flight was completely in my control. His weakness was greater than my strength which meant there was a zero percent chance of me winning that day.

I’ve reflected that lesson many times since; not only for myself, but also as a package commander in charge of upwards of a hundred aircraft. As the weaker force, you must find an area on the battlefield where your strength is greater than the enemy’s weakness. If you can’t find it, you’re in for a bad day. Likewise, if you are the incumbent, stronger force, it’s important to shore up your weaknesses so that hopefully they are greater than your enemies strength.

Want to learn more about dogfighting, flying, and the most successful professionals in any industry? Make sure to check out F-35 pilot Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Silent killers: These are the invisible, respiratory dangers that put our service members at risk

This post is sponsored by O2 Tactical.

You’ve been trained to recognize threats. You can spot an IED, read an unruly crowd, identify enemy armor from klicks away, and you know a predatory car loan when you see one. But what about those threats that don’t keep you up at night? What about the threats you can’t see?


The operational tempo of the last two decades has exposed military personnel to a myriad of dangers on and off the battlefield. While the conducting of combat operations poses the most obvious direct threat to our service members’ health, the existence of more discreet threats should not be overlooked. Respiratory health risks exist, both on the battlefield and in training environments, and mitigation should be prioritized to ensure both the health and safety of our service members and the combat effectiveness of our nation’s armed forces.

Fortunately, unseen doesn’t mean unidentified. Here are a few examples of the most pervasive invisible threats:

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Lead dust exposure

Exposure to lead is an inevitable byproduct of firearms training. When a weapon is fired, small amounts of lead particles are discharged into the air, posing a risk to shooters and weapons instructors alike. These particles are expelled through the ejection port on the firearm as the spent casing is ejected, as well as from the muzzle as the bullet leaves the barrel. Although invisible to the naked eye, these particles can be inhaled and accumulate on skin and clothing.

Because of the occupational necessity of range training time for military, law enforcement and security personnel, this population may be at risk for higher BLL (Blood Lead Levels). Lead is a heavy metal that has long been associated with a variety of health risks ranging from heart and kidney disease to reduced fertility, memory loss and cancer. Children tend to be more susceptible to lead poisoning and may be exposed second-hand through interaction with personnel in contaminated uniforms. These risks can be mitigated by eliminating food and drink at firing ranges, promptly changing clothes after a range session, and of course, proper ventilation at shooting ranges and facilities.

The threats posed by lead dust exposure are very real, and the Department of Defense has taken notice. As of April 2017, DoD made their lead exposure levels more restrictive than the OSHA standard, in an effort to limit the prolonged exposure of personnel. The Army has also published guidance to their personnel as to ways to reduce the risks to themselves and their families.


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Iraqi Freedom

Burn pits

Burn pits have been used extensively in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste products, and their use has generated a lot of media attention over the last several years, and with good reason. Thousands of veterans were likely exposed to the harmful fumes caused by the burning of waste products, food scraps, trash, tires, plastics, batteries, and a whole host of other items. Since the Veterans Administration established the voluntary burn pit registry to keep track of burn pit exposure, more than 180,000 veterans have registered. While there are several potential causes of respiratory health problems while deployed, ranging from sandstorms to exposure to diesel exhaust, burn pits are suspected of causing a variety of problems. Some of these include asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart conditions, leukemia and lung cancer.

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Asbestos exposure

While less of a concern today, asbestos was a commonly used material for a variety of construction-related purposes from the 1930s to the 1970s. Although the practice of using asbestos ended in the 1970s and the military has made a concerted effort to limit personnel to its exposure, the material remained in buildings for the following decades. The material was used as insulation in walls, floors and pipes, and even in aircraft and vehicle brakes and gaskets. Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, notably the lungs and chest wall. There are many MOS’ that are at higher risk of asbestos exposure to include carpenters, pipefitters, aircraft mechanics, welders, electrician’s mates, and Seabees. For more information regarding asbestos exposure and the benefits available to you, please visit https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/asbestos/

Service in the military is undoubtedly an honorable profession that comes with inherent hazards to both health and safety. Service members should take control of their safety when it is possible to avoid dangers that are both seen and unseen.

Companies like O2 Tactical are at the forefront in addressing these threats. The company, which is comprised of engineers, designers, veterans and industry experts, has developed the TR2 Tactical Respirator II respiratory system with the operator in mind.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wants more hypersonic weapons in growing arms race

The US Air Force is ordering more hypersonic weapons as the competition with Russia and China heats up.

The service awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Monday to develop the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic weapon prototype expected to cost no more than $480 million to design, according to an Air Force press release.


“We are going to go fast and leverage the best technology available to get hypersonic capability to the warfighter as soon as possible,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in an official statement.

The request is the second such request for hypersonic weapons from the Air Force in 2018.

The service awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) in April 2018, just a few weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about some of the hypersonic systems Russia is presently developing, such as the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle expected to be mounted on the country’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.

The latest request from the US Air Force comes about one week after China tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a high-speed strike platform that some expert observers say could evade air and missile defenses to obliterate enemy targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.

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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly travel at six times the speed of sound (Mach 6). The waverider is a type of hypersonic aircraft that rides the shock waves generated during hypersonic flight.

The speed, as well as the unpredictable flight trajectories, of these vehicles make them particularly difficult for existing defense systems to intercept. Chinese military experts suspect that the system is still three to five years away from being weaponized.

Senior leadership from the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force, Navy, and Army all signed a memorandum of agreement in late June to strengthen American hypersonic capabilities.

“The Joint Team requires the right mix of agile capabilities to compete, deter and win across the spectrum of competition and conflict,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in an official statement. “We must push the boundaries of technology and own the high ground in this era of great power competition and beyond.”

While the Air Force is pursuing hypersonic weapons of its own, US Strategic Command and the Missile Defense Agency are trying to figure out how to bolster American defenses to protect the homeland against the growing hypersonic threat.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it,” Missile Defense Agency director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said in March 2018. “We have globally deployed sensors today, but — just look at the globe — there are gaps. What we are looking towards is to move the sensor architecture to space and use that advantage of space, in coordination with our ground assets, to remove the gaps.”

“Why is that important? The hypersonic threat,” he asked and answered.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is proposing a revolutionary catamaran carrier

Russia — the country that’s failed to build its super carrier and any meaningful amount of its newest jets or tanks — is now claiming that it’s going to build the world’s first catamaran aircraft carrier, a vessel that would carry an air wing while suffering less drag and costing less than other carriers.

While this effort will likely suffer from the same problems that prevented the construction of the super carrier, it’s still a revolutionary design that’s generating a lot of buzz.


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The U.S. has purchased and leased some catamaran ships, but nothing nearly the size of the proposed Russian aircraft carrier. The HSV 2 in the photo has a displacement of less than 5 percent the size of the Russian design.

(U.S. Navy)

So, first, let’s explore the highlights. Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels with the hulls in parallel. If you’re unfamiliar, that basically means that if you look at the vessel from the front, you can see a gap right down the middle of the hull near the waterline. The Russian vessel would be a semi-catamaran, so there would be a gap, but it would be beneath the waterline.

This greatly reduces drag and makes the vessel more stable while turning, but also reduces the amount of space below the waterline for aircraft storage, living spaces, and so forth.

The proposed design would be a 40,000 to 45,000-ton displacement ship, similar to American Landing Helicopter Assault ships, vessels that would’ve been called escort carriers in World War II. This puts it at a fraction of the size of America’s Ford-class carriers, which displace nearly 100,000 tons.

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Russia’s only current carrier is the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it’s less than impressive.

(U.S. Defense Department)

But it would still carry a healthy complement of aircraft, up to 46, including early warning aircraft and helicopters. That’s a far cry from the Ford’s 75 aircraft, but a pretty nice upgrade over the LHAs’ 30+ aircraft.

The catamaran would have an 8,000-mile endurance, anti-torpedo and anti-aircraft defenses, electronic warfare systems, and four bomb launchers.

All-in-all, that could make for an effective and affordable aircraft carrier. So, will Russia be able to crank this ship out, maybe clone it a couple of times, and become the effective master of the seas?

Russia: Mistral replacement? Storm Supercarrier model unveiled in St Petersburg

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Well, no. Almost certainly not. First, Russia has the same spending problem it had when it threw a hissy fit after France cancelled the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Russia responded with designs for the Storm Supercarrier, a ship larger than America’s Ford-class.

Most defense experts at the time weren’t very worried, and we shouldn’t be now. Russia has few personnel with experience building ships of this size. That’s actually why they wanted to buy the Mistral class in the first place — and the Mistral is half the size of this proposed catamaran.

The Soviet Union constructed the bulk of its ships in areas that broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many were built in Ukraine, which now has a troubled relationship with Russia (to put it mildly). Russia lacks the facilities and personnel for such construction.

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The PAK-FA/Su-57 is seemingly a capable fighter despite issues with its engines and other developmental hangups, but Russia simply can’t afford to buy them, or to buy a catamaran carrier.

Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com

And then there’s the money. Russia designed a reasonably modern and well-received tank in the T-14 and a good fighter in the PAK-FA, but they couldn’t build many of them because oil, currently, is way too cheap. Russia’s economy is relatively small — actually smaller than that of Texas or California — and it’s heavily reliant on oil sales.

And then there are the glaring flaws of the design. While the catamaran has the advantages mentioned above, it would have serious trouble moving in rough seas, as catamarans have a tendency to dig their bows into waves in rough conditions — and taking waves from the side would likely be even worse.

Someone may build a catamaran carrier one day, but it won’t be Russia. So, for now, just check out the model and think about how cool it is. But don’t expect to see this thing at sea. Russia will have to just keep making due with the leaky, poop-filled, unreliable Admiral Kuznetsov.

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