Germany has developed a lot of powerful guns and tanks over the years, but one of its most lethal anti-aircraft systems has never seen combat. Despite that, Germany keeps them around — and hands them down to NATO allies.
The system in question is known as the Flakpanzer Gepard (Flakpanzer is translated as “anti-aircraft tank,” but the technical term is “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun,” or SPAAG). In a sense, it’s a product of the Cold War. Today, the United States and its allies have become used to fighting under friendly skies, but in the Cold War, air superiority wasn’t a given. In fact, NATO forces were outnumbered.
Sure, the planes belonging to NATO allies could win in a one-on-one fight, no problem. The problem was, however, the fight wouldn’t be one-on-one. Instead, it would look more like six F-15s facing roughly eight MiG-23 Flogger fighters escorting a dozen Su-22 Fitter attack planes. If these forces were to collide, the Floggers and six to eight Fitters might be shot down, but that would still leave a half dozen attack places en route to NATO ground forces. Considering that each Fitter carries about five and a half tons of bombs, that NATO ground unit could be in for a world of hurt.
The Flakpanzer Gepard was Germany’s answer to making sure those surviving Fitters enjoyed a hot reception and were either shot down or forced to abort their attack. To do that, it has a pair of 35mm autocannons that are radar-guided. In terms of mobility, the Gepard has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go 342 miles on a tank of gas.
Germany, Belgium, and Chile acquired and retired the Gepard. The Netherlands acquired several as well, and they’re still ready for use. Romania, Poland, Brazil, and Jordan have all acquired second-hand versions of this vehicle.
When Eugene Stoner first introduced his aluminum and plastic Armalite rifle that would later become the basis for the M16 and M4, he scarcely could have imagined his little black rifle would still be in the hands of infantrymen more than 50 years later. Yet, after dozens of conflicts, Stoner’s lightweight automatic rifle persists — though it’s been modernized along the way.
The M16 evolved into the M16A1 all the way through M16A4 before being retired to non-frontline units. But along the way a shorter, handier carbine version was introduced. The earliest version of the M4 that featured most of the telltale aspects of the design was the CAR-15 SMG. Despite being labeled a submachine gun, the CAR-15 SMG still used the 5.56mm cartridge.
The SMG featured an overly-complex (yet functional) collapsible stock, shortened barrel and fixed carry handle. The biggest difference between early versions of the M16 and modern variations is modularity. Older models needed either modification, or special components to attach accessories like tac lights, lasers or optics. Yet underneath the anodized aluminum shell of every M4, lies the original M16.
Why does this matter? Because it shows that the M4 (in one form or another) is here to stay. It may evolve and grow, but the rifle itself will likely only leave U.S. service when something truly revolutionary emerges. Not a different rifle, nor a different caliber, but a different method of launching projectiles than smokeless powder altogether.
Imagine the cost and logistical nightmare of replacing all M4 rifles in service with all branches of the military. The price would be staggering. And that’s largely why the Army balked at replacing the M4 several years ago — too expensive, and not enough of a “leap” in technology to justify the cost.
The only way Congress would green light a true replacement weapon system is if something arrived that instantly made all modern firearms obsolete.
What would that weapon be? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what that might look like, but it’s reasonably simple to determine what it wouldn’t do – launch solid projectiles.
First on the chopping block – solid or liquid-fueled rockets. Sounds obvious, but inventor Robert Mainhardt successfully built a series guns that fired small rockets known as microjets back in the late 1950s. While the rifles (really launchers) had many issues, the core problem that could never be solved is the lack of velocity close to the muzzle.
Whereas gunpowder-propelled bullets are at their peak velocity at the muzzle of the barrel, rockets accelerate much more slowly. So at close range the rounds would be ineffective. Add to this the complex nature of the round’s construction and the limited magazine capacity due to projectile size, and any weapon utilizing these rounds is objectively inferior to the M4.
What about magnets? The concept of a railgun isn’t new and has been around since the World War I, and the German air force even designed anti-aircraft batteries of railguns in WWII – but these never even reached prototype status. The biggest issue has been power supply, the large magnets required to launch projectiles at hypersonic speeds consume insane amounts of energy.
One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego. The railguns are being displayed in San Diego as part of the Electromagnetic Launch Symposium, which brought together representatives from the U.S. and allied navies, industry and academia to discuss directed energy technologies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop/Released)
Modern physicists and engineers have successfully developed methods of magnetic propulsion that don’t require as much power, and have made railguns feasible. So feasible that railguns are currently being developed by the US Navy with one slated to deploy on a vessel this year.
For the uninitiated, the advantage of these guns over traditional cannons or guided missiles has to do with the incredible velocities of the projectiles themselves. When the Army worked alongside the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Electromagnetics, they found that railguns could fire a 4-pound tungsten rod at nearly two miles per second, or 6,840 mph. At this velocity, the round not only defeats the armor of a main battle tank like the M1 Abrams, it passes clean through both sides.
Sounds great, but currently the technology isn’t capable of being scaled down for use by individual soldiers. Also, the amount of power required still isn’t man-portable with current battery technology. Though even if it were, railguns are currently single-shot weapons, making them inferior to the M4 in close combat or urban fighting.
So what is the likely replacement for the M4? As crazy as it sounds, a directed energy weapon. Think more Star Trek than Star Wars – weaponized lasers would offer an enormous advantages over solid projectile firearms and cannons.
One of the largest benefits of a laser weapon would be velocity. With your beam traveling at the speed of sound and being relatively unaffected by gravity. So hitting a distant target wouldn’t require adjusting for wind or drop. But that’s impossible, right?
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)
Actually, the United States and Israel have been developing and deploying a Tactical High Energy Laser for more than a decade. Israel’s IDF even used the THEL to shoot down 28 incoming Katyusha rockets in 2000. Like the railgun, the THEL is currently far too massive and consumes too much power to be man-portable. But, the same thing was said about computers only a few decades ago. Who knows, maybe the M5A2 laser carbine is only a decade away.
Until then, the US military is stuck with upgrading, tweaking and tuning the M4 carbine. It might not be bleeding edge tech, but the old warhorse still accurately slings lead further than most soldiers can see, and it doesn’t weigh a ton.
The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.
Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely “forward firing” weapons.
“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement — we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.
“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.
All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.
“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.
The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.
Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.
Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.
Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.
Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.
Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.
For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.
New Osprey Intelligence System – Sustainment to 2060
Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.
“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Burns said.
While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.
Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.
The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.
As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability (DI). This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.
In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.
“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.
Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.
Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.
(Marine Corps Photo By: Pfc. Alvin Pujols)
Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems, and targeting technologies.
Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.
While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.
Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.
The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.
At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.
Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.
“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope and operational tempo.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
More than 400 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters are operating from 17 bases worldwide. From the near-Arctic region of Ørland, Norway, to a recent deployment in the Middle East, the fifth-generation jet is expanding its reach.
But a recent news report shows that weather conditions have some effect on the Pentagon’s stealthy fifth-gen fighter, raising concerns about its performance in extreme climate locations.
In a recent Defense News report series, the outlet obtained documents showing that cold weather triggered a battery sensor in an F-35 Lightning II in Alaska. While the battery was not affected, the weather “overwhelm[ed] the battery heater blanket” that protects it, prompting the sensor to issue a warning and causing the pilot to abort his mission and land immediately, Defense News said.
“We have already developed an update to the software and the battery’s heater control system to resolve this issue, and this updated software is available for users today to load on their aircraft in the event they will be conducting extreme cold weather operations,” Greg Ulmer, vice president of Lockheed’s F-35 aircraft production business, said in an interview with Military.com at the Paris Air Show, adding the update will be in new planes by 2021.
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II takes off during pre-Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
The U.S. military anticipated taking the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 around the world, with partners and allies flying the plane in both hot and cold regions, including some that are changing.
“The [F-22 Raptor] and plenty of other aircraft have flown out [to Alaska] just fine for decades,” Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research told Defense News. Grant is a former director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies at the Air Force Association. “The F-35 should have had all that sorted out in the climatic lab.”
Ulmer, however, said all necessary steps were taken in lab testing, and the issue identified was a normal part of the design and development process.
“You do the best you can relative to the engineering, understanding of the environment, to design the part. And then you actually perform, and [you realize] your model was off a little bit, so you have to tweak the design … to account for it,” Ulmer said. An F-35A from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was on static display here during the show.
“We’re confident in the F-35s performance in all weather conditions,” he said.
The battery issue was first discovered during extreme cold weather testing at -30 degrees and below at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in February 2018, he added.
Ulmer explained there are various tests points done before the plane heads to the McKinley Lab at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for robust experiments. The lab is responsible for high-range weather testing of military and commercial aircraft, munitions and weapons.
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III)
The lab’s refrigeration chamber can go as low as -70 degrees, lab chief Dwayne Bell told Military.com during a visit to the facility in 2017. He said at the time that the F-35 program had been one of the most expensive programs tested in the lab to date. There’s a wide range of testing costs, but they average roughly ,000 a day, he said.
It cost about million to test the Marine Corps’ B-model from the Patuxent River Integrated Test Force, Maryland, over a six-month period, Bell said.
The Lightning II was put through major weather testing — the lab can do everything but lightning strikes and tornadoes — such as wind, solar radiation, fog, humidity, rain intrusion/ingestion, freezing rain, icing cloud, icing build-up, vortex icing and snow. It handled temperatures ranging from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees, officials said in 2017.
But even testing at McKinley is limiting, Ulmer said.
“What doesn’t happen is that they don’t stay there a long time, so once we released [Block] 3F [software] capability, now the operational fleet can actually” test new extremes, he said, referring to both speed and temperature changes.
Defense News also found that supersonic speeds caused “bubbling and blistering” on the JSF’s low-observable stealth coating, and that hot environments impeded sufficient engine thrust to vertically land the Marine variant.
“So they take it” to new environments “and they expose it more than flight test exposed the airplane. I’m an old flight test guy. You expect to learn in the operational environment more than you do in the [developmental test] environment because you don’t necessarily fly the airplane [in that environment] all the time,” Ulmer said.
“So we learned a little bit, and you refine the design, and you solve it,” he said, adding that the design and maintenance tweaks are ongoing. “The probability of the issue reoccurring on aircraft in the operational fleet is very low and with minimal impact to safety of flight or operational performance.”
Two U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II 5th-generation fighters sit on the flight line during pre-initial Operational Testing and Evaluation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
Thirteen Category 1 deficiencies were found and reported by operators, according to the for-official-use-only documents Defense News obtained. Cat 1 is a label for problems that would directly impact safety or the mission. Those ranged from coating fixes; pressure anomalies in the cockpit that gave pilots ear and sinus pain; and washed-out imagery in the helmet-mounted display, among others.
The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps each fly a variant of the aircraft designed for different scenarios, from landing on conventional runways on land, to catching arresting cables on aircraft carriers, to landing like a helicopter on amphibious assault ships.
Responding to the Defense News article series, Lockheed Martin said each deficiency “is well understood, already resolved or on a near-term path to resolution.”
“We’ve worked collaboratively with our customers, and we are fully confident in the F-35’s performance and the solutions in place to address each of the items identified,” the company said in a statement June 12, 2019.
Growing pains with new planes and weapons programs are common. But the F-35 program has been under scrutiny since its inception, mainly for cost-effectiveness and functionality. A new estimate suggests that operating and supporting fighters for the next 60-plus years will cost the government id=”listicle-2638937142″.196 trillion.
The older F-22 Raptor has had similar issues, especially with its stealth coating, which officials have said is more cumbersome to fix than the F-35, which was built with a more functional and durable coating in mind.
“The [low-observable] system has significantly improved on the F-35 when compared to the F-22,” Ulmer said June 18, 2019. “That’s all lessons learned from F-22, applied to F-35.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Navy has had a change of heart about the new expeditionary floating base sailing to the Fifth Fleet. The vessel USNS Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (T ESB 3) will become USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), becoming a commissioned warship.
No matter the designation, in essence, the Kevin Costner box-office bomb “Waterworld” — where people were living on supertankers because ocean levels rose and covered almost all the land — partially become reality.
The Puller is a 78,000-ton vessel capable of operating up to four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. It has a crew of 145 and will be commanded by a Navy captain. It can also accommodate up to 298 additional personnel. Unlike the Exxon Valdez from “Waterworld,” the Puller is propelled by diesel-electric engines that give her a top speed of 15 knots.
It’s part of an ongoing program within the Navy and Marine Corps to create offshore bases for troops to execute raids and amphibious operations where countries are reluctant to base U.S. troops. Think of them as floating versions of the Chinese artificial islands cropping up in the South China Sea.
According to a report by USNI News, the decision to make the Puller a commissioned warship is due to requirements of the law of armed conflict. The current afloat base in the region, the Austin-class amphibious ship USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), is a commissioned warship that has supported mine countermeasures and special operations forces.
“Without going into specific details on missions USS Ponce carried out, warship status for ESB will greatly enhance the combatant commander’s flexibility in using the ship to respond to emergent situations,” Navy Lt. Seth Clarke told USNI News. “Without this status, there would be significant limitations on ESB’s ability to support airborne mine countermeasure and special operations missions.”
The Lewis B. Puller will operate alongside the Ponce for a while, until Ponce returns to Norfolk for a 2018 decommissioning. While some assets will be transferred during that time, one item that won’t be is the prototype Laser Weapon System on board the Ponce.
When you think of the Gulfstream, you probably think of a jet that’s used by A-list celebrities and corporate CEOs – all of whom are living the high life.
Well, that is true. In fact, the Pentagon has a fleet of Gulfstream 550s dubbed the “C-37B” for the VIP transport role, including for President Trump (who owns a 757 of his own).
But if all you see is a cushy transport for execs, you’re missing the potential of the Gulfstream, company officials say.
In fact, the plane could do a whole lot more than fly high-rollers in comfort. The company is using the G550 as a platform for multiple missions, including for missile range instrumentation, a multi-mission version, and even for command and control. Some of these variants were being shown off by Gulfstream at a display at the 2017 SeaAirSpace Expo in National Harbor, Maryland.
The G550 has a lot going for it. It has long range, over 6,750 nautical miles, or about 12 hours of endurance. It is also reliable – the Gulfstream website notes its 99.9 percent mission-ready rate means that this plane misses one flight every five years.
This bird could very well become a larger part of the DOD inventory – proving that airframes can do much more than you might think they can at first glance.
The M107 self-propelled howitzer hasn’t gotten much attention. The M109 series of 155mm howitzers, on the other hand, is reaching its 55th year in operational service with the United States Army. Meanwhile, the M107 is fading into obscurity. Despite its (lack of) reputation, this howitzer was crucial for both the United States and Israel, among other nations.
The M107 and M110 shared the same chassis, but both were equipped with different guns — the M107 packed a 175mm gun and the M110 used an eight-inch cannon. Sharing a chassis was a boon in terms of both maintenance and logistics, since it meant the supply clerks had fewer categories of parts to handle.
A M107 self-propelled gun reaches out to touch the enemy during a fire mission in South Vietnam.
That also meant the guns were swappable — a M107 could become a M110 and vice versa depending on the mission. Want to deliver a particularly big punch? The M110 was your choice. Need to reach out and touch someone up to 25 miles away? The M107 is your choice for that.
The M107 entered operational service with the United States Army in 1962. By 1979, it had been retired, but it served for a while in a number of other militaries. Its most notable service was with Israel, which pushed its maximum range to 30 miles thanks to the efforts of Dr. Gerald Bull. M107s shelled Damascus during the Yom Kippur War, destroyed at least 15 surface-to-air missile sites, and are still held in reserve by the Israeli military.
The Israelis were able to use M107 to hit targets up to 30 miles away.
The M107 also saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, where it was used by Iranian forces. The M107 was first replaced by the M110A2, a longer-range eight-inch gun, and, ultimately, by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
You can see how the Army introduced this long-range gun to America in the video below!
Izumo (foreground) sails with USS Ronald Reagan during a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea in 2019 (U.S. Navy photo)
At the Japan Maritime United Isogo shipyard in Yokohama, JS Izumo DDH-183 has entered into the process of being converted to a genuine aircraft carrier. Currently designated as a helicopter destroyer, Izumo does not have the capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from her deck. In the first of two main stages of her conversion, coinciding with her regular 5-year refit and overhaul programs, Izumo will receive upgrades to accommodate Japan’s new F-35B Lightning II fighter jets.
Following the surrender of the Japanese Empire in WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy had only three aircraft carriers left in its fleet: Hōshō survived the war as a training carrier, Junyō had been damaged during the Battle of the Philippine Sea and was awaiting repairs, and Katsuragi could not be equipped with enough fuel, aircraft, or pilots by the time she was completed in late 1944. Hōshō and Katsuragi would ferry Japanese servicemen back to Japan until 1947 when all three surviving carriers, along with three unfinished carriers, were scrapped.
Article 9 of Japan’s post-war 1947 Constitution renounced war as “a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” As a result, a Japanese Navy could not be formed as a military branch for power projection. Rather, Japan created the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as a branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954. Though the JMSDF is tasked with the naval defense of the Japanese islands, Japan’s partnership with Western countries during the Cold War led its focus on anti-submarine warfare to combat the Soviet Navy.
In 2007, Japan launched two Hyūga-class helicopter destroyers. With their flat-top decks, the Hyūgas were often called Japan’s first aircraft carriers since WWII. However, they were only capable of operating rotary-wing aircraft from their decks and had no launch or recovery capabilities for even VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Doctrinally, the Hyūgas were used as flagships for anti-submarine operations.
Launched in 2013, Izumo is the lead ship in her class and the replacement for the Hyūgas. Displacing 27,000 long tons fully loaded, Izumo and her sister ship, Kaga DDH-184, are the largest surface combatants in the JMSDF. Like the Hyūgas before, Izumo is a helicopter destroyer that carries rotary-wing aircraft and is tasked with anti-submarine operations. However, in December 2018, the Japanese government announced that Izumo would be converted to operate fixed-wing aircraft in accordance with new defense guidelines.
Japan’s updated defense policy called for a more cohesive, flexible, and multidimensional force in response to growing Chinese aggression in the South China Sea and the completion of the Shandong, China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier.
Estimated at million, the modifications to Izumo include a cleared and reinforced flight deck to support additional weight, added aircraft guidance lights, and heat-resistant deck sections to allow for vertical landings by F-35Bs. At this time, no specifications have been released regarding a ski-jump, angled flight deck, or catapults.
The first stage of modifications will be evaluated in a series of tests and sea trials following completion. Final modifications in stage two of the ship’s conversion are expected to take place in FY 2025 during the next overhaul and further evaluation. Izumo‘s sister ship, Kaga, will also be converted to an aircraft carrier, though no timeline has been released for her modifications.
The conversion to accept fixed-wing aircraft will provide Izumo and Kaga increased interoperability with allies. As aircraft carriers, they would be able to support not only Japanese F-35Bs, but also American F-35Bs and V-22 Ospreys. During a meeting on March 26, 2019 with General Robert Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, the Japanese government asked for guidance and advice on how to best operate F-35Bs from the decks of the future carriers; General Neller said that he would, “help as much as possible.”
On the creation of the new carriers and their joint capabilities, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is quoted as saying, “The Izumo-class aircraft carrier role is to strengthen the air defense in the Pacific Ocean and to ensure the safety of the Self-Defense Force pilots. There may be no runway available for the US aircraft in an emergency.”
The conversion of the helicopter destroyers into aircraft carriers has received some opposition both domestically in Japan and abroad. Some people fear that the new capabilities will be a catalyst for future Japanese military expansion and aggression. Already, the JMSDF is the fourth largest world naval power by tonnage, behind only China, Russia, and the United States. However, the Japanese government remains adamant that the modernization efforts are only meant to bolster the country’s self-defense capability against growing threats from China.
With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.
Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.
According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.
It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.
Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.
Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.
The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.
“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”
During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.
“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”
Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.
“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”
ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.
Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.
“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”
Defense industry giant Raytheon unveiled its newest weapon, the Peregrine air-to-air missile, Sept. 16, 2019.
The weapon, designed for use on fourth-and fifth-generation fighter aircraft — anything from an F-16 to an F-35 — is about 150 pounds and 6 feet long, making “the most efficient use of the real estate on a fighter aircraft,” according to Mark Noyes, business development executive at Raytheon.
“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Thomas Bussing, the vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said in a statement.
The new missile will combat a number of airborne threats, including other missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and other aircraft, while saving space. The AMRAAM missile, for example, is 335 pounds and 12 feet long.
Mockup of the Peregrine air-to-air missile.
“With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development,” Bussing said.
The missile’s guidance and sensor systems allow it to “detect and track moving or stationary targets at any time of day and in challenging weather conditions,” according to the release.
The Peregrine combines “the autonomy of AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile]” with the maneuverability of the 9X Sidewinder missile, Noyes told Insider. The three weapons together, he said, provide warfighters with “just an incredibly potent and catastrophic capability against the enemy.”
The Peregrine incorporates already available materials, military off-the-shelf components, and additive manufacturing processes, making it a low-cost option for militaries facing increased air threats, particularly missiles and UAVs.
Noyes praised the Peregrine’s ability to “autonomously track and destroy a target,” saying, “The ability of this new seeker is just incredible for all weather, day and night.”
The Peregrine’s small size, combined with its high-performance propulsion system, allows airfighters to fire more rounds, faster, as well — enabling it to “overwhelm the enemy with affordable mass.”
As Defense News points out, the Peregrine announcement dovetails with a Raytheon executive’s comments about the proliferation of counter-drone technology, indicating that the company’s focus on defeating drones won’t stop any time soon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?
I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:
1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”
2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.
I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?
Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.
(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)
His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:
“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”
“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”
Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.
What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.
(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)
Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.
It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!
Laser-guided bombs have been a mainstay of the United States military for almost 50 years, but they’re not without their downsides. Yes, they provide great accuracy, but you need to keep the target painted for maximum effect and bad weather makes laser-guidance less reliable.
Additionally, many laser-guided bombs currently in use, like the Paveway II, have a relatively short range and must be used at high altitude, meaning the plane can’t hide from radar. With improved defense systems out there, like the Russian Pantsir, keeping a target painted at close range may spell disaster for a pilot.
The GBU-12, like other Paveway II systems, has relatively short range — not a good thing when advanced air defense systems can reach out and touch a plane.
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)
The Paveway III system was designed to address those shortcomings. It has a longer range and can be used from lower altitudes, but the United States only bought the GBU-24, which is based off 2,000-pound bombs like the Mark 84 and BLU-109. They make a big bang, but as we’ve learned, a big bang isn’t always the best solution.
So, to bridge that gap in capabilities, Lockheed has developed Paragon, which is based off the GBU-12, a 500-pound bomb. Paragon essentially takes a laser-guided bomb and adds a combination of an internal navigation systems and global positioning system guidance, extending range and allowing for more flexibility in how a plane approaches its target.
Lockheed-Martin’s New Paragon direct attack bomb
The Paragon has a larger “launch acceptable region” than many legacy systems. This is, in essence, the area of the sky above a target within which a pilot can drop the munition and hit their target. Older laser-guided bombs have a narrow acceptable region, making it easier to predict a plane’s approach path and fire off defense systems. The Paragon, which is capable of hitting targets on land or sea, allows for more dynamic approaches.
Of course, Paragon is also easy to integrate into the stuff professionals think about: Logistics. It uses the same test gear as JDAMs and laser-guided bombs. Integration costs, therefore, are minimized, and it is a good way to improve operational flexibility on a budget. The Paragon may prove to be a paragon of lethality.