If you’ve been a grunt, then you probably have a love-hate relationship with body armor. You love having it in a firefight — it can save your life by stopping or slowing bullets and fragments — but you hate how heavy it is — it’s often around 25 pounds for the armor and outer tactical vest (more if you add the plate inserts to stop up to 7.62mm rounds). It’s bulky — and you really can’t move as well in it. In fact, in one firefight, a medic removed his body armor to reach wounded allies, earning a Distinguished Service Cross.
“Previously, when we tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene, we would apply pressure and feel a very soft film. But when the graphite film was exactly two-layers thick, all of a sudden we realized that the material under pressure was becoming extremely hard and as stiff, or stiffer, than bulk diamond,” lead researcher Elisa Riedo, a physics professor at CUNY said in the release.
This could have profound implications for personal protection and for creating protective coatings to reduce wear on essential components, like tires. While the new armor is still years away, troops can look forward to a lighter load, thanks to graphene, at some point in the future. That will be a huge weight off their minds — and bodies.
If you’ve been on the internet, you probably at some point have seen pitches for retirement in Latin America. Believe it or not, those advertisements probably would have been just as applicable to many classic war planes in addition to people.
Argentina called F-86 Sabers back into service during the Falklands War.
(Photo by Aeroprints.com)
In some ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. But why did Latin America become a way for some classic planes to avoid the scrapyard or become a target drone?
Five decades after it first flew, the F-5A was still serving with Venezuela.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)
Well, drug cartel violence aside, there isn’t a lot of risk for a major conflict in Latin America. The last major war involving a Latin American country was the Falklands War in 1982. Before that, there was the Soccer War. The drug cartels and guerrilla movements haven’t been able to get their own air forces.
Mustangs had their best days in the 1940s, but they were all the Dominican Republic could afford to operate through the 1980s.
(Photo by Chipo)
In short, most of those countries have no need for the latest and greatest fighters, which are not only expensive to buy but also expensive to operate. Here’s the sad truth about those countries: Their economic situation doesn’t exactly allow for them to really buy the latest planes. Older, simpler classics have been the way to go, until they get replaced by other classics.
Today, four decades after blasting commies in Vietnam, the A-37 is still going strong in Latin America.
(Photo by Chris Lofting)
Today, Latin America is a place where the A-37 Dragonfly, best known for its service in Vietnam, is still going strong. Other classics, like the F-5 Tiger, are also sticking around in small numbers. In short, these planes will protect Central and South America for a long time — even after their glory days.
Remember that scene in Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose that he’ll “hit the brakes” and the instructor pursuing him in an A-4 Skyhawk will just fly right by? Braking sharply, while in-flight, is indeed a tactic that can be utilized by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat, but no aircraft could ever do it quite as well as the venerable Harrier jumpjet. The technique was known as “VIFF”.
The Harrier, originally developed by Hawker Siddeley, and later, British Aerospace Systems (BAe), could achieve vertical flight by vectoring four large nozzles straight down towards the ground. The nozzles would vent exhaust at full thrust from the Harrier’s powerful main Pegasus engine, allowing the aircraft to hover, lift off the ground and land like a helicopter.
This carved out a brand new niche for the Harrier that wasn’t really challenged at all until the recent F-35B Lightning II: it could literally fly and land anywhere and everywhere. The Harrier could be launched from highways and unimproved fields and grass strips, or could be deployed to sea aboard small aircraft carriers, or even re-purposed cargo vessels.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, which operated the navalized version of the jumpjet – the Sea Harrier – was enthusiastic about using the aircraft on deployments aboard light aircraft carriers, especially the HMS Invincible (R05). The problem with the Harrier/Sea Harrier was the fact that the aircraft was almost entirely geared towards the strike mission (i.e. flying air-to-ground attacks) while the air-to-air role was more of an afterthought that wasn’t really accounted for. The Royal Air Force’s land-based Harrier, the GR.3, would typically require a flight of more capable air superiority fighters to fly top cover, or to clear the airspace ahead of them, lest they be engaged and taken out of the fight. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, took a different approach.
The Sea Harrier, more commonly known as the “Shar”, was revamped to allow for it to assume both the ground attack, reconnaissance and fighter roles, giving the air wings assigned to the Invincible (and later, the HMS Hermes) a more diverse spread of available capabilities while in-theater (i.e. in the area of operation). The Shar could fly with AIM-9 Sidewiders short-range air-to-air missiles on under-wing pylons, and was equipped with ADEN 30mm cannons to be used for strafing land-based targets or attacking enemy fighters in the air. The Fleet Air Arm’s pilots needed to first develop the tactics required to help the Shar’s future pilots fight and win against enemy fighters that were likely more suited towards aerial combat than the high-wing strike jumpjet.
On the other side of the pond, the United States Marine Corps was busy beefing up its air-to-ground capabilities with the AV-8A Harrier. This new strike jet would give them a versatile fast attack option that could potentially be deployed really anywhere around the world, especially aboard aircraft carriers which would serve as forward-operating staging platforms. In 1976, Marines began taking the Harrier to sea, first aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Midway-class aircraft carrier. On the FDR, the Marine contingent would test out the Harrier’s ability to operate in adverse weather conditions, as well as pit it in air-to-air mock dogfights against the ship’s complement of F-4 Phantom IIs. Marine pilots quickly came to the conclusion that in a close-in fight, they could actually use the aircraft’s thrust vectoring to their advantage.
The Marine Corps put in a request with Rolls Royce, the designer and builder of the Harrier’s Pegasus engine, as to whether or not this technique would put unnecessary and unwanted stresses on the engine, or if it would outright spoil the engine’s functionality. They still carried on with testing before Rolls Royce got back to them with the “all-clear”! Thrust vectoring while in flight could prove to be the key maneuver they needed for closer air-to-air combat. Ultimately, what resulted was known as Vectoring in Forward Flight (VIFF for short).
VIFF basically involved pilots rotating the nozzles forward from the usual in-flight horizontal position. In doing so, pilots could quickly deplete their airspeed and bleed energy, causing their surprised pursuer(s) to overshoot, suddenly finding their windscreen devoid of any prey they might have previously been chasing. After dropping altitude as a result of VIFFing, the Harrier would now be free to turn the tables on the predator, making the hunter the hunted. In a turning fight, this was an immense advantage for the Harrier’s pilot. But as soon as the pilot VIFFed his opponent, he had to have had a plan for dealing with the bandit, or else he would be in for a world of hurt; that wasn’t a trick any combat pilot would fall for twice.
Among VIFF’s disadvantages was the fact that it could only really be used effectively in turning fights. If the pursuing aircraft was flying with a wingman, or as part of a larger attack flight, the odds would be stacked fairly high against the Harrier. Additionally, after VIFFing, any other enemy fighters that weren’t engaged in the melee between the Harrier and the first jet were placed in a prime position to take a shot at the jumpjet, which took time to rebuild energy from the very-taxing VIFF maneuver (i.e. regain airspeed).
During the Falklands War, in the early 1980s, British Harrier pilots might have attempted putting VIFFing to use against Argentinian Mirage fighters, which were decidedly more suited towards the air-to-air role than the Harrier. In fact, no conclusive evidence exists to prove that VIFFing was indeed the deciding factor in any engagement involving the Harrier. However, even with the Mirage being built for air combat, it still proved to be ineffective against the superior training of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force pilots and technology (i.e. the AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile), who did not lose a single Harrier or Sea Harrier in air-to-air combat during the entire conflict, while inflicting losses on the Argentinian air force. RAF and Fleet Air Arm pilots were able to employ the tactics they developed like never before, proving that a Harrier, in the right hands, is truly a deadly and highly capable machine.
Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.
Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.
In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.
(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)
RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.
That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.
In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.
Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.
(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)
The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.
Researchers at the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center successfully fired the first 3-D printed grenade launcher. This demonstration shows that additive manufacturing (commonly known as 3-D printing) has a potential future in weapon prototype development, which could allow engineers to provide munitions to Soldiers more quickly.
The printed grenade launcher, named RAMBO (Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance), was the culmination of six months of collaborative effort by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, the U.S. Army Manufacturing Technology Program and America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing.
RAMBO is a tangible testament to the utility and maturation of additive manufacturing. It epitomizes a new era of rapidly developed, testable prototypes that will accelerate the rate at which researchers’ advancements are incorporated into fieldable weapons that further enable our warfighters. Additive manufacturing is an enabling technology that builds successive layers of materials to create a three-dimensional object.
Every component in the M203A1 grenade launcher, except springs and fasteners, was produced using AM techniques and processes. The barrel and receiver were fabricated in aluminum using a direct metal laser sintering process. This process uses high-powered precision lasers to heat the particles of powder below their melting point, essentially welding the fine metal powder layer by layer until a finished object is formed. Other components, like the trigger and firing pin, were printed in 4340 alloy steel, which matches the material of the traditional production parts.
The purpose of this project was to demonstrate the utility of AM for the design and production of armament systems. A 40 mm grenade launcher (M203A1) and munitions (M781) were selected as candidate systems. The technology demonstrator did not aim to illustrate whether the grenade launcher and munition could be made cheaper, lighter or better than traditional mass-production methods. Instead, researchers sought to determine whether AM technologies were mature enough to build an entire weapon system and the materials’ properties robust enough to create a properly functioning armament.
To be able to additively manufacture a one-off working testable prototype of something as complex as an armament system would radically accelerate the speed and efficiency with which modifications and fixes are delivered to the warfighter. AM doesn’t require expensive and time-intensive tooling. Researchers would be able to manufacture multiple variations of a design during a single printing build in a matter of hours or days. This would expedite researchers’ advancements and system improvements: Instead of waiting months for a prototype, researchers would be able to print a multitude of different prototypes that could be tested in a matter of days.
Depending on a part’s complexity, there can be numerous steps involved before it is ready for use. For instance, in the case of RAMBO, the printed aluminum receiver and barrel required some machining and tumbling. After printing, the components were cut from the build plate, and then support material was removed from the receiver.
The barrel was printed vertically with the rifling. After it was removed from the build plate, two tangs were broken off and the barrel was tumbled in an abrasive rock bath to polish the surface. The receiver required more post-process machining to meet the tighter dimensional requirements. Once post-processing was complete, the barrel and receiver underwent Type III hard-coat anodizing, a coating process that’s also used for conventionally manufactured components of the M203A1. Anodizing creates an extremely hard, abrasion-resistant outer layer on the exposed surface of the aluminum.
The barrel and receiver took about 70 hours to print and required around five hours of post-process machining. The cost for powdered metals varies but is in the realm of $100 a pound. This may sound like a lot of time and expensive material costs, but given that the machine prints unmanned and there is no scrap material, the time and cost savings that can be gained through AM are staggering. The tooling and set-up needed to make such intricate parts through conventional methods would take months and tens of thousands of dollars, and would require a machinist who has the esoteric machining expertise to manufacture things like the rifling on the barrel.
Beyond AM fabrication of the weapon system, ManTech also requested that a munition be printed. Two RDECOM research and development centers, the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), participated in this phase of the project to demonstrate RDECOM’s cross-organizational capabilities and teaming. An integrated product team selected the M781 40 mm training round because it is simple and does not involve any energetics—explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics are still awaiting approval for use in 3-D printing.
The M781 consists of four main parts: the windshield, the projectile body, the cartridge case and a .38-caliber cartridge case. The windshield and cartridge case are traditionally made by injection molding glass-filled nylon. Using multiple AM systems at multiple locations helped emphasize manufacturing readiness and the Army’s capability to design, fabricate, integrate and test components while meeting tolerances, requirements and design rules. ARL and ECBC used selective laser sintering and other AM processes to print glass-filled nylon cartridge cases and windshields for the rounds.
The .38-caliber cartridge case was the only component of the M781 that was not printed. The .38-caliber cartridge case was purchased and pressed into the additively manufactured cartridge case. Research and development is underway at ARDEC to print energetics and propellants.
In current production, the M781 projectile body is made of zinc. Zinc is used because it’s easy to mass-produce through die-casting, it’s a dense material and it’s relatively soft. The hardness of the projectile body is critical, because the rifling of the barrel has to cut into the softer obturating ring of the projectile body. The rifling imparts spin on the round as it travels down the barrel, which improves the round’s aerodynamic stability and accuracy once it exits the barrel. Currently, 3-D printing of zinc is not feasible within the Army. Part of the beauty of AM is that changes can be made quickly and there is no need for retooling, so four alternative approaches were taken to overcome this capability gap:
The first approach was to print the projectile body in aluminum as an alternative material. The problem with that approach is that aluminum is less dense than zinc; therefore, when fired, the projectile achieves higher speeds than system design specifications call for. Interestingly, even though the barrel and projectile body were printed from the same aluminum material, because the printed barrel was hard-coat anodized, it allowed for proper rifling engagement with the softer untreated printed aluminum projectile body.
The second approach was to print the projectile body in steel, which better meets the weight requirements, and then mold a urethane obdurating ring onto it. The obturating ring is required to ensure proper engagement and rifling in the aluminum barrel. We couldn’t keep the obturating ring as steel, like we did with the first approach, because steel is a lot harder than aluminum, and even with the hard-coat anodization it would have destroyed the grenade launcher’s barrel. So for this approach, the projectile body’s design was modified to take advantage of design for AM. The original projectile body designs did not consider AM fabrication and processing. For this AM technology demonstrator, the design was modified to take advantage of AM design rules to reduce the amount of post-machining required. This approach also used 3-D printing to fabricate a “negative” mold and then create a silicone positive mold to produce an obturating ring onto the printed munition bodies.
The third approach also utilized a groove and obturating ring, but instead of overmolding, the plastic was printed directly onto the steel projectile body using a printer with a rotary axis.
The fourth approach used a wax printer to 3D-print projectile bodies. Using the lost-wax casting process, plaster was poured around the wax bodies and allowed to set. Once set, the hardened plaster mold was heated and the wax melted away. Molten zinc was then poured into the plaster mold to cast the zinc projectile bodies.
ARDEC researchers used modeling and simulation throughout the project to verify whether the printed materials would have sufficient structural integrity to function properly. Live-fire testing was used to further validate the designs and fabrication. The printed grenade launcher and printed training rounds were live-fire tested for the first time on Oct. 12, 2016, at the Armament Technology Facility at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
Testing included live firing at indoor ranges and outdoor test facilities. The system was remotely fired for safety reasons, and the tests were filmed on high-speed video. The testing included 15 test shots with no signs of degradation. All the printed rounds were successfully fired, and the printed launcher performed as expected. There was no wear from the barrel, all the systems held together and the rounds met muzzle velocities within 5 percent of a production M781 fired from a production-grade grenade launcher.
The variation in velocities were a result of the cartridge case cracking, and the issue was quickly rectified with a slight design change and additional 3-D printing. This demonstrates a major advantage using AM, since the design was modified and quickly fabricated without the need for new tooling and manufacturing modifications that conventional production would require. More in-depth analysis of material properties and certification is underway. The RAMBO system and associated components and rounds are undergoing further testing to evaluate reliability, survivability, failure rates and mechanisms.
Before the live-fire testing, the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center gathered warfighter input from the 2-504 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. The regiment was consulted on features and capabilities it would like to have available on the M203A1 grenade launcher. Using that feedback, NSRDEC created the standalone kit for RAMBO. The M203 grenade launcher is typically mounted under other soldier weapons.
NSRDEC researchers took advantage of AM and rapidly created prototypes and kits that included custom handgrips based on warfighter requests and specifications—customization made possible because of the design freedoms and rapid turnaround afforded by AM.
The concept and funding for this project initially came from ManTech and ARDEC. ARDEC managed and executed the project with collaboration from other RDECOM AM community of practice and associated member organizations. Some of that collaboration was ad hoc and need-based—the need to find certain printing capabilities that ARDEC lacked, for example—and other collaborative efforts represented a concerted effort to leverage the experience and expertise of the community of practice.
Key organizations included ARDEC, Army ManTech, ARL, ECBC, NSRDEC, America Makes, DOD laboratories and several small businesses. ARL worked with ECBC for development of printed glass-filled nylon cartridge cases, and with NSRDEC for designs and fabrication of the printed standalone kits with Soldier-requested variations.
The Army Special Services Division at Fort Meade, Maryland, expeditiously printed aluminum barrels and receivers to complement ARDEC’s capabilities for additive manufacturing of metals. America Makes developed and printed finely tuned AM barrels and receivers. The project also included services from several small businesses and service houses for AM. The cross-organization teaming between government and industry illustrated the current state of the art for AM and the robustness and manufacturing readiness of AM as an enabling technology for current and future U.S. production.
The 40 mm AM-produced grenade launcher and components were a highlighted project at the 2016 Defense Manufacturing Conference. Although there are still many challenges to be addressed before Armywide adoption of AM, demonstrations like this one show the technology’s advances. Successfully firing an AM-produced weapon system validates AM maturation and applicability in armament production.
By using AM, researchers and developers will be able to build and test their prototypes in a matter of days rather than months. Designs and parts previously unachievable can now be realized. Complex designs that lighten, simplify and optimize armaments are now feasible and manufacturable. These advancements will improve products and facilitate faster and more efficient transition from the labs to the field, further enabling our warfighters.
Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.
An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.
Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”
Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.
Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.
Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)
Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.
Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)
Marine Corps Systems Command recently collaborated with fleet Marines and other organizations to review the successful performance of several 3D-printed impellers used on M1A1 Abrams tanks at Twentynine Palms, California.
The Corps plans to use 3D-printed impellers when the original part wears or becomes inoperable and a new part cannot be received in a timely fashion.
“Call it a spare tire or a stop-gap solution,” said Joseph Burns, technical lead for MCSC’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell. “This can get you through a mission, through your training exercise or whatever may be critical at the time.”
An impeller expels dust from the tank engine to keep the filters clean. When an impeller experiences wear and tear, the part may not pull enough air to function properly, which could degrade mission effectiveness.
A few years ago, the Marine Corps and the Army ordered a large batch of impellers. As a result, the Defense Logistics Agency — the agency responsible for providing parts for military vehicles — did not have enough parts to satisfy all orders.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Charles Matte, a machinist with 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, mills an impeller fan on a computer numerically controlled lathe machine aboard Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Sorci)
“At certain times, logistical issues can occur,” said Tony Delgado, research and development program manager for additive manufacturing at DLA. “Sometimes the part is not available right away or something happens with a vendor and a part cannot be provided immediately. This was one of those times where the part wasn’t available.”
DLA can award a contract to a company, let that manufacturer set up a production line and then order a large sum of parts. However, it can take from six to 10 months for the Marines to receive a part. Waiting months for an order can reduce readiness or effectiveness on the battlefield.
Consequentially, MCSC had to find an alternative solution.
“Around that time, the Marine Corps had been provided with 3D printing additive manufacturing tools,” said Burns. “And Marines were being encouraged to be innovative and develop prototype solutions to real-world problems. A young Marine identified the impeller and began exploring ways to 3D print this part.”
Building on this early success, MCSC collaborated with Johns Hopkins University – Applied Physics Laboratory and DLA to formally qualify the performance of the 3D printed impeller and document the design in a technical data package.
The exercise conducted at Twentynine Palms in December and January was the culmination of formal qualification testing and was intended to confirm the performance of a 3D-printed version of an impeller in an operationally relevant environment.
MCSC is in the process of creating a 100-page technical data package for the 3D-printed impeller. The AMOC has reviewed two drafts of the TDP and plans to finalize the first version by the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 2019.
Once the TDP is finalized, the 3D-printed impeller will be fully qualified, tested and certified by the Marine Corps for use in the Abrams tank.
Although a more expensive alternative, a 3D-printed impeller can be produced and ready for use in less than a week, said Burns. Once the TDP is certified, a manufacturer, depot or Marine unit with the right equipment can 3D print an impeller for use. The expedited delivery can improve readiness on the battlefield.
“The 3D-printed impeller also gives the tank commander another option,” said Delgado. “It’s important to have an alternative option.”
The organizations and agencies that helped develop the 3D-impeller and its TDP include DLA, Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Tank Battalion, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Delgado emphasized the importance of all parties involved in the creation of the 3D-printed impeller.
“We’ve involved engineers from Marine Corps Systems Command and the Army, and we’ve even had lawyers in some meetings to ensure there’s no intellectual property infringement,” explained Delgado. “In terms of collaboration, this has been a great project.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.
These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.
“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”
The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).
“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”
Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)
The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.
“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”
The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.
More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.
The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.
Apple’s biggest smartphone competitor also makes tanks, self-propelled howitzers, and jet engines.
Billed as promoting peace and stability, Samsung Techwin is the South Korean manufacturer’s defense branch. It makes surveillance, aeronautics, automation, and weapons technology. Since its launch into the defense industry in 1983, Samsung Techwin has developed and produced artillery systems like the 155mm self-propelled Howitzer M109A2, K9 Thunder, K10 ammunition resupply vehicle, fire directions center vehicles, amphibious assault vehicles and other weapons, according to Samsung.
Samsung Techwin’s flagship K9 is currently used by Poland, Turkey, and South Korea. Watch its impressive agility at 3:40 in the video below. The K9 becomes even more impressive when combined with the K10 ammunition resupply vehicle (5:00). The K10 pulls up behind the K9 and automatically feeds more ammunition into the K9, eliminating the need of resupplying the vehicle by hand, which minimizes the risk of troop exposure. Together they create an automated weapons system for the field.
Samsung Techwin is just one subsidiary of the 80 businesses Samsung is involved in.
Here’s a video of Samsung Techwin’s defense program:
‘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 the person of leisure (POL):
~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~
Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.
Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.
Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.
And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.
But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.
Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.
Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.
Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.
Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”
With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”
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.
We know the key facts of what happened on April 18, 1943. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed when his Mitsubishi G4M Betty attack bomber was shot down by a Lockheed P-38 Lightning flown by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., marking the “Zero Dark Thirty” moment of World War II.
But it took a bit more training to get the most out of the P-38.
Lockheed helped out in this regard by making a training film, using expertise from their production pilots. The takeoff procedure was different, mostly in not using flaps. The plane also was very hard to stall.
The plane did have limitations: A pilot needed to have a lot of air under him, due to both the compressibility that early models suffered, and the speed the P-38 could pick up in a dive. The pilot couldn’t stay inverted for more than 10 seconds, either.
The film also showed some P-38s modified as trainers. The film shows one trainee being shown how to deal with propellers running wild. The pilots were also trained to feather props.
The P-38 was surprising easy to fly as a single-engine plane. The film shows Tony LeVier, a noted test pilot, simulating an engine failure during takeoff.
The P-38 was a superb fighter, even if the Mustang, Hellfire, and Thunderbolt got most of the press. Put it this way, America’s top two aces of all time, Maj. Richard Bong and Maj. Thomas McGuire, flew the P-38 plane in World War II and combined for 78 confirmed kills.
The training film is below. Now you have a sense of what it was like to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.
Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.
So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.
At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.
The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.
Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.
The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.
The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.
Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”
“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.
In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.
The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.
(U.S. Army photo)
But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.
“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”
In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.
Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.
America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.
Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.
The killer robots debate
Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.
“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.
As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”
(U.S. Army photo)
“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”
Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.
In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.
In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.
Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.
“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.
Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.