The F-15 Eagle has proven itself as one of the best air-superiority planes of all time. In fact, unlike some legends of air combat, including the P-51, F-86, and F-4 Phantom, it remains undefeated. This plane is loved for its speed, performance, and sheer dominance in combat.
Despite all that, there are some folks who hate this aerial powerhouse. This, too, is very understandable — and the hate isn’t limited to those who’ve faced it in air-to-air combat (though we’re sure they make the list).
Plenty of folks have reasons to hate the F-15C. These reasons, specifically.
Why it’s easy to make fun of the F-15C
The F-15C Eagle is always flying high — it has its cockpit in the clouds. But it’s not like it can do anything air-to-ground, anyway. It was developed as a strict fighter, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, with some bomb-dropping ability tacked on as an afterthought
So, this is a plane that hasn’t gotten any real action since 1999, when F-15s scored kills a few MiGs over Serbia. Twenty years without any real action — that’s one heck of a dry spell.
Why we should hate the F-15C
Well, what does it do for the grunts? Nothing. As an air-to-air specialist, the grunts don’t get jack from the Eagle. In essence, the pilots are getting flight pay to… what? Bore holes in the sky? To wait for MiGs and Sukhois that never come? To bring their ordnance back to base?
Plus, these birds are getting up there in years — some are even falling apart. These planes need replaced. Restart the F-22 production line, anyone?
Why you ought to love the F-15C
When it comes right down to it, the F-15C is the plane that makes it possible for every other plane to support grunts. Without the Eagle, the enemy could very well achieve air superiority, and that would leave planes like the A-10 and F-16 in a world of hurt.
Instead, historically, it’s been enemy planes that end up getting shot down or being forced to dump ordnance long before they reach their targets. Thanks to the F-15, A-10s and F-16s can drop their bombs, launch their missiles, and fire their guns at the bad guys without having to worry about enemy fighters.
The Air Force has made the F-15 Eagle an icon of air superiority fighters. The Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has its iconic status, thanks in large part to Top Gun and JAG, among other Hollywood productions.
But the Navy could have flown the F-15 off carriers. In fact, McDonnell-Douglas, who had made the iconic F-4 Phantom, which was in service with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, proposed what was known as the F-15N “Sea Eagle.”
There was, though, a problem with the Sea Eagle. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that the design could not carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, which the Navy needed in order to counter Soviet long-range bombers armed with heavy anti-ship missiles.
The track records of both planes are nothing to sneer at. The F-14 proved to be a superb addition — it never had to face the big fight with the Soviet Union, but it nevertheless scored five air-to-air kills in United States Navy service. The F-15 scored 104 air-to-air kills with no losses across all operators, including the United States Air Force and Saudi and Israeli planes.
Here’s a video showing just what might have been, and why it didn’t happen.
Aviadarts is an yearly Russian all-Army competition attended by units of the Aerospace Forces, four military districts and the Northern Fleet (and invited foreign air arms, such as China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force – PLAAF, that took part in the previous editions). During the games, the best aircrews compete on different military specialties and conduct live firing exercises “to reinforce international military and technical military cooperation of the Contest participants; to raise the prestige of military service; to raise the level of training of the Contest participants; to demonstrate combat capabilities (military performance) of modern models of equipment, of weapons and military equipment.”
Physical training: with main and backup crews involved in physical exercises, pull-ups, freestyle swimming etc.
Visual aerial reconnaissance, that also includes formation flying
Combat employment against ground targets: during which combat planes and helicopter engage ground targets while military transport aircraft conduct cargo airdrops.
The All-Army Stage of the Aviadarts 2019 Competition is currently underway in Crimea. From May 24 to June 9, 2019, Aviation crews of the Aerospace Forces, 60 crews flying MiG-29SMT, Su-27SM3, Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-34, Su-24M, Su-25, Tu-22M3, Il-76MD and Mi-24, Mi-35 as well as Ka-52 and Mi-8 helicopters will take part in the drills.
A Russian Air Force MiG-29SMT.
Dealing with the helicopters, crews of Ka-52 Alligator, Mi-8 AMTSH Terminator, Mi-35 and Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters perform ground attacks using 80-mm unguided missiles and firing 30-mm cannons at more than 70 targets (divided into 12 types for various types of weapons) at the Chaud range in Crimea.
The following video, released by the Russian MoD, shows some of the Russian gunships in action during Aviadarts 2019. The gunner seat view is particularly interesting.
Боевое применение авиации на всеармейском этапе конкурса «Авиадартс-2019»
The U.S. Army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team on March 25, 2020 selected the two competitors for the second phase of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program: the Bell 360 Invictus and the Sikorsky Raider X. As you may already know, FARA is intended to fill the capability gap left by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with initial fielding of the new helicopter by 2028.
BREAKING NEWS: @USArmy selects @BellFlight and @Sikorsky (@LockheedMartin) to build and test #FARA Competitive Prototypes @armyfutures #FVL #ArmyModernizationpic.twitter.com/dktlAS25Wc
As noted in the official statement, the program is structured into three phases: preliminary design; detailed design, build, and test; and prototype completion assessment and evaluation for entrance into production phase. The first phase saw the preliminary design of five candidates presented by Bell, Sikorsky, Boeing, AVX Aircraft/L3 Harris and Karem Aircraft. The U.S. Army selected Bell’s and Sikorsky’s proposals after an initial design and risk assessment, granting them contracts for detailed design, build and test of their air vehicle solutions worth respectively $ 700 million and $ 940 million. The two companies will face a final fly-off competition in 2023.
“The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft is the Army’s number one aviation modernization priority and is integral to effectively penetrate and dis-integrate adversaries’ Integrated Air Defense Systems. It will enable combatant commanders with greater tactical, operational and strategic capabilities through significantly increased speed, range, endurance, survivability and lethality”, said Dr. Bruce D. Jette, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
The Bell 360 Invictus, which we covered in greater detail in a previous article here at The Aviationist, uses a simple design with proven technologies to reduce risk and cost, like its main rotor which is a scaled down version of the articulated five-blade rotor designed for the Bell 525 Relentless, a super-medium-lift twin-engine commercial helicopter for the off-shore market.
One aspect that hit the headlines as soon as the Invictus was unveiled is its streamlined design much comparable to the RAH-66 Comanche. Here’s what this Author wrote about this in that occasion:
Another feature that will help the helicopter reach high speeds is its streamlined profile, internal weapon bays, main rotor aerodynamic shroud, retractable landing gear and a ducted tail rotor, which is also slightly canted. This design is highly reminiscent of the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the stealth armed reconnaissance helicopter designed in the 1980s to replace the OH-6 Cayuse and the OH-58 Kiowa and to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The program was canceled in 2004 with only two flying prototypes built.
Stealth, however, is not the reason of the design adopted for the Invictus. “Everything we have done has been focused on how do you keep the lowest drag possible on the aircraft, so we don’t have to add exotic solutions to the aircraft the meet the requirements to get the speeds that you need for the FARA program”, said Flail during the presentation.
The Sikorsky Raider X, on the other hand, features a more complex solution with a coaxial main rotor and a pusher propeller. The Raider X is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, with a side-by-side cockpit to widen the fuselage and increase the payload carried in the internal weapon bays. Speaking about the payload, Lockheed Martin (which acquired Sikorsky in 2015) published a new concept art that shows for the first time the Raider X with its weapon bays open and the turret for the 20 mm cannon in front of the cockpit.
Recently, Bell and Sikorsky were awarded contracts also in the other Future Vertical Lift program, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) that will replace the UH-60 Black Hawk. Like for FARA, the two companies submitted two completely different designs, with Bell proposing the V-280 Valor tiltrotor and Sikorsky (in partnership with Boeing) proposing the SB1 coaxial compound helicopter. This time there were no additional competitors, so Bell and Sikorsky received two-years contracts to refine their already flying prototypes and produce conceptual designs, requirements feasibility, and trade studies for a final, ready to combat, aircraft proposal.
It looks like it was made from mismatched pieces of plumbing.
What’s more, there is nothing “down under” about this Australian weapon’s magazine. The magazine loads into the top of the Owen gun – and spent cartridges eject from the bottom of its receiver.
But despite all its oddball features, despite the fact it was painted with jungle camouflage colors that defy description, the Owen worked astoundingly well.
The Owen is considered one of the most reliable submachine guns of the war, with a track record that not only includes the War in the Pacific but service with Aussies who fought in the Korean War and alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam.
Mind you, that’s a performance record earned during jungle warfare — an environment known for producing the kinds of things that cause weapons to jam at the worst possible moment.
The gun is the namesake brainchild of Lt. Evelyn Owen, a member of the Australian Imperial Forces who loved to tinker with firearms.
In 1938, Owen designed and built a homemade .22-caliber automatic carbine that had a large revolver-style cylinder instead of a magazine and a thumb-operated trigger.
Unfortunately, the contraption interested no one in the military. Owen literally set the gun aside, storing it in a large sugar sack and going about his business as an Army private.
The Australian military brass distrusted submachine guns, putting their faith in the tried and true Lee-Enfield rifle. Besides, they had been promised the Sten gun, a weapon touted by its designers to be more than adequate in battle.
But then came the fall of France in 1940. The British lost thousands of small arms that were destroyed or simply abandoned after the devastating rout at Dunkirk.
Bolt-action rifles from The Great War and hunting guns were often the only firearms available for some units. Terrified generals in Australia knew they did not have enough weapons to repel a Japanese invasion force – and the Sten gun wouldn’t be production until 1941.
However, Owen had a neighbor who managed a large Australian steel products factory. Vincent Wardell found the prototype gun and expressed admiration for the design.
Owen’s father, embarrassed by his son’ carelessness, explained to Wardell how the younger Owen tinkered with weapons. Wardell didn’t care about whether the son picked up after himself – the simplicity of the firearm convinced Wardell that Owen’s skills were wasted as a mere foot soldier.
Wardell convinced the Australian military to transfer Owen from the infantry to the Army Inventions Board, which directed the development of new weapons.
Newly promoted Lt. Owen started to develop additional prototypes in different calibers. Slowly, the Australian government began to take an interest in his ideas.
In 1942, the John Lysaght metalworks factory made three versions of the Owen in 9-millimeter Luger, .38-200 caliber and .45 ACP. All were subjected to stress tests along with a Thompson submachine gun and the Sten gun as benchmark weapons.
The tests included immersing all of the guns in mud and water, then blowing sand at the weapons. The only gun that didn’t jam was the Owen.
In fact, the top-mount magazine proved beneficial. Gravity helped feed bullets into the gun, and the ejection port at the bottom of the receiver meant water and gunk drained out of the chamber more easily.
In short, the Owen Machine Carbine as it was called officially was perfect for jungle warfare.
The government wanted the nine-millimeter version. Eventually, Lysaght produced 45,000 weapons and they were a hit with the Australians soldiers – nicknamed “diggers”—who wielded them.
It only weighed 10 pounds, fired at about 700 rounds a minute from an open bolt, and was easily fired from the prone position.
About its only disadvantage were the offset sights. The top-mounted magazine blocked a normal sight picture, so the sights on the Owen are designed so the shooter looks around the magazine – but it only works for a right-handed shooter.
The Owen routinely out-performed the Sten gun –known as the Austen in its Australian incarnation – and was so well liked that Gen. Douglas MacArthur even considered it for American jungle forces in the Pacific.
During the Korean War, the Owen remained in the Australian arsenal. Even though the Lee-Enfield rifle was the main weapon for the infantryman, Owens found their way into the hands of many soldiers. During the Battle of Kapyong in 1951, any Australian soldier who could get his hands on an Owen used one.
“All hell broke loose as Diggers cut down the surge of attackers, directing into them as much rapid fire as their weapons could produce, the Owen submachine gun being the most effective weapon for this and the dear old single-shot Lee-Enfield the worst,” Maj. Ben O’Dowd, 3 Royal Australian Regiment, Alpha Co., said in an oral history of the battle prepared for the Australian War Memorial.
Helicopter search-and-rescue crews also carried Owens, using them to fend off Chinese Communist and North Korean troops attempting to capture downed airmen.
In addition, infantry scouts and commando units carried Owens during Australian participation in the Vietnam War.
The Australians retired the Owen from mainline service in 1971. However, it still occasionally appears in the hands of special operators when they train fellow soldiers undergoing a weapons familiarization course.
Regrettably, Evelyn Owen’s life was far shorter than the oddball but long-lasting weapon he designed. Owen received £10,000 in royalties – about the equivalent of $728,000 today – but sold the patent rights for the Owen submachine gun to the Australian government.
Owen built a saw mill with the money he received. He continued to tinker with firearms, particularly sports rifles, but he never achieved the same success he had with the Owen gun. In addition, heavy drinking took a toll on his health.
He died of heart failure in 1949 at the age of 33.
The Navy is about to give their Zumwalt-class destroyers some serious ship-killing upgrades. The multi-billion dollar vessels, equipped with a host of advanced technologies, will be given additional weapon systems, primarily for their Mk 57 vertical-launch systems.
According to a report by DefenseNews.com, the upgrades are part of the Defense Department’s effort to counter China’s increasingly capable blue-water Navy. The Zumwalt-class destroyers are already capable of firing the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile, some variants of which are capable of hitting ships.
The truncation of the Zumwalt-class destroyer to three vessels from previously planned purchases of 32, 28, and seven, resulted in the cancellation of the Long-Range Land-Attack Projectile, leaving the vessels’ pair of 155mm Advanced Gun Systems without any ammo. A number of off-the-shelf options are present for the guns, including the Vulcano round (a miniature anti-ship missile), but the former commander of the lead ship of the class, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), said that the Navy had made no decision as to what to equip the guns with – leaving them non-functional for all intents and purposes.
One of the likely systems to be added to the Zumwalt is the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile. This is a version of the canceled RIM-156 Standard SM-2 Block IVA that has been equipped with the seeker from the AIM-120C-7 version of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. In essence, it is primarily a fire-and-forget surface-to-air missile.
The RIM-66 Standard SM-1 and SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, earlier missiles in the Standard series, also had a secondary capability to attack surface ships – with one notable use being during Operation Preying Mantis when they were used by to sink an Iranian Navy Combattante II-class missile boat, the Joshan.
The SM-6 also is capable against ballistic missiles, with one of these missiles scoring a kill against a simulated medium-range ballistic missile during a test last August. The kill is notable, as the SM-6 uses a blast-fragmentation warhead as opposed to the SM-3’s hit-to-kill intercept vehicle.
The bodies of two old helicopters sit uncovered on Bob Fritzler’s property. They tower over him as he walks by them on his way to his large garage.
He had to use a giant trailer to haul them out to his farm with his truck. He imagined it felt a lot like driving a semi. He doesn’t worry much about what the weather might do to the old birds outside. He’s just using them for parts.
Fritzler’s real treasure sits in that large garage on his land near Keenesburg. He’s working to restore a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34 helicopter, which was flown during Operation SHUFLY, a Marine helicopter operation that primarily ferried troops in Vietnam between 1962 and 1965. Fritzler said it was one of the first helicopters built to drop off troops in combat.
Back then, Fritzler said, helicopters were a huge game changer for Marines. Pilots could drop soldiers off anywhere. Before, they relied on ships, which required a coast.
Fritzler, now 82, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He flew the helicopter when he was a pilot. Several other squadrons flew it, too. He hopes to fix it up and eventually put it into the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fritzler went to a Marine reunion a couple years ago. There, he met Gerald Hail from Oklahoma who restored old planes back to flyable conditions. Hail invited him out to fly and Fritzler accepted. While out there, Fritzler noticed the H-34.
“I saw bullet hole patches,” Fritzler said. “I knew I could count over 100 bullet holes.”
The bird had aged, with much of the Marine Green paint had worn down to the aluminum. Fritzler’s old squadron number had been painted over with a different squadron’s number, but he still recognized the helicopter as the one he flew.
“I had a real love affair with it,” Fritzler said.
He asked Hail if he could buy it from him so he could restore it. Hail said he’d think about it. About a month later, Hail called Fritzler and told him he’d donate the helicopter if Fritzler would fix it up.
Fritzler’s been working on the restoration project here and there for a couple years. He has experience fixing up machines. He grew up on a farm in Windsor and spent much of his life making farm equipment run again. He thinks that made him fairly handy.
But it’s a lengthy process. It takes time to track down parts that are no longer in production. He bought an old blue and white Marine helicopter for the parts. The previous owner had it certified for commercial use and used it to lift large air conditioning units. Fritzler bought an old Army helicopter, too.
“Both of these (helicopters) are pretty complete,” Fritzler said. Now he just has to figure out which parts the H-34 needs and which ones to take from the others.
He’s not a teenager anymore, either, Fritzler said, so his energy has a limit.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I bit off more than I could chew,” Fritzler said. “I’ve had some help from other guys.”
He works on it for a couple hours a day, sometimes more. He’s mostly working on deconstructing old pieces and finding the new ones to replace them.
Sometimes when Fritzler looks back on his life as a pilot, he wonders if he really did all the things he remembers. It was a long time ago. He did two tours in Vietnam and did some airline flying, too. But his last flight in the cockpit was more than 20 years ago.
“I still love to fly,” he said.
He might not be able to pilot planes anymore, but this may be the next best thing.
The Marine Corps is leading the way in employing advanced technologies and robotic construction.
In early August 2018, the Additive Manufacturing Team at Marine Corps Systems Command teamed up with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. As a joint effort between the Marine Corps, Army and Navy Seabees, an expeditionary concrete 3D printer was used to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.
The Marine Corps is currently staffing a deliberate urgent needs statement and concept of employment for this technology. The results of the field user evaluation will inform future requirements to give the Corps a concrete construction additive manufacturing program of record.
“This exercise had never been done before,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print.”
Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force learn how to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer as it constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The team started with a computer-aided design model on a 10-year old computer, concrete and a 3D printer. Once they hit print, the concrete was pushed through the print head and layered repeatedly to build the walls. In total, the job took 40 hours because Marines had to monitor progress and continually fill the printer with concrete. However, if there was a robot to do the mixing and pumping, the building could easily be created in one day, Friedell said.
“In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things,” Friedell said.
The ability to build structures and bases while putting fewer Marines in danger would be a significant accomplishment, he said.
“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Friedell. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”
It normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks hut out of wood. With this FUE, the Marine Corps proved four Marines with a concrete printer can build a strong structure in less than two days. Ideally, the Corps’ use of concrete printers will span the full range of military operations, from combat environments to humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions.
The world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in mid-August in Champaign, Illinois.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
As the first military services on site in natural disasters, the Navy and Marine Corps are great at providing food and water, but struggle to provide shelter, Friedell said. In many locations, cement is easier to acquire than wood. During humanitarian or disaster relief missions, Marines could safely and quickly print houses, schools and community buildings to replace those destroyed.
“This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings,” Friedell said. “We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way.”
The AM Team plans to conduct further testing and wants to get the capability into the hands of more Marines to inform future requirements for cutting-edge technology and autonomous systems.
“Our future operating environment is going to be very kinetic and dangerous because we don’t necessarily know what we’re going into,” said Friedell. “The more we can pull Marines out of those potentially dangerous situations — whether it’s active combat or natural disaster — and place robotics there instead, it helps us accomplish the mission more efficiently.”
One of the most magical feelings in the military is that moment you finally get back to the tent or barracks and can finally shed your Kevlar helmet and IOTV. That moment, when you can finally breathe and realize just how sweaty you were, is just plain glorious.
As much of a slight pain in the ass (figuratively speaking, of course. Literally, it’s a pain in the lower back and knees) as today’s armor is, it’s come a long way. Take, for instance, the first effective ballistic armor developed by the United States Army for WWI.
I present you to the unsightly behemoth known as the “Brewster Body Shield.”
When America made its entry into the first World War, it was an eye opener. War had changed drastically in only a few short years. Now, cavalry on horseback were useless against a machine gun nest, poison gas was filling the trenches, and fixed-wing, motor-driven airplanes were being used for war just twelve years after the Wright Brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk.
The Italians had started fielding their own updated version of knights’ armor for use by the Arditi, but it had more of a symbolic meaning than any practical use. The Germans began giving their sappers protective armor that could take a few bullets along with protecting its wearer’s vital organs from the shock of explosives. America thought they could outdo them all with their own, suped-up version.
America wanted some sort of protection for its infantrymen if they ever dared to cross the barrage of bullets that flew across No-Man’s Land and they needed it as fast as they could. The U.S. Government turned to a man who created armor intended for boxing training, Dr. Guy Otis Brewster.
Dr. Brewster began creating a suit of armor that was made out of 0.21 inch chrome nickle steel — enough to withstand .303 British bullets at 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s). It was also given a V-shaped design to minimize the direct impact of any oncoming bullets. The whole thing came in two pieces and weighed a total of 110 lbs.
Then came time for the field test. Dr. Brewster invited Army officers and representatives from the steel mills and rubber companies to come witness. Being the insane scientist that he was, he donned the armor himself and stood in the firing line for the test.
His assistant swung at him with a hammer and a sledgehammer before eventually moving on to being shot by a Springfield rifle. He said that being shot it the suit was “only about one-tenth the shock as being struck by a sledgehammer.”
You can watch the recording below.
Despite its protective capabilities, it was deemed too heavy, too clumsy, and way too large to ever be fielded. Dr. Brewster didn’t take that news lightly and wanted to prove its worth. He tested it again and was reportedly able to withstand a hail of bullets from a Lewis Machine Gun — with him inside the suit, obviously.
In the end, he never managed to get the Body Shield approved by the U.S. government — seeing as it was impossibly immobile and occluded visibility almost entirely. He would, however, later make a steel-scaled waistcoat that resembles more modern flak vests.
The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.
Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.
A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal went to medical one day in June 2017, complaining of breathing issues. The Army doctors at Fort Bragg told him it was a case of pneumonia. Just a few months later, still having trouble breathing, he went to a civilian doctor – who found what the Army called “pneumonia” was actually a tumor, which had doubled in size and spread to other parts of his body.
Stayskal’s cancer was now stage four. He was terminal, and the father of two was given just a year or so to live. Stayskal’s lawyers say the mistake was critical, and Stayskal’s outcome would have been different if Army doctors had not missed what an “inexperienced resident would have seen.”
The Special Forces operator is well aware of just how fragile life can be. In Iraq’s Anbar Province, he was hit by a sniper in 2004. The bullet pierced one of his lungs and nearly killed him then. Stayskal, now 37 years old, kept the bullet to remember how close anyone can come to the edge. He would have done whatever it took to fight his cancer before it reached this stage.
Stayskal wants to sue the Army for medical malpractice – but he can’t. A 1950 Supreme Court case, Feres v. United States, prohibits lawsuits from active-duty troops when they are injured or killed due to medical mistakes in military hospitals. He’s been lobbying Congressional representatives and even President Trump ever since. His campaign is finally starting to pick up some steam.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal testifying in Congress.
The Feres Doctrine, as it has come to be called, is a Supreme Court decision based on three cases of negligence from the Army. Feres himself died in a barracks fire in New York State, and his estate wanted to sue the Army for not providing an adequate fire watch and for housing troops in a building known to have a defective furnace. Two other complaints accompanied Feres, including that of a plaintiff named Jefferson. Jefferson had undergone surgery in an Army hospital and later underwent surgery again – this time to remove a 30-inch towel marked “Medical Department U.S. Army” from his abdomen.
The Supreme Court found that even though the Army was negligent in the cases that made up Feres, it maintained that Active Duty troops were not protected by the Tort Claims Act because the incidents were related to their service and that families of the deceased are compensated under terms of their service without litigation.
The Supreme Court has already refused to hear a challenge to Feres in 2019, so it’s up to Congress to change the law.
The new law is called the Sergeant First Class Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019, and it has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, but the Pentagon is warning Congress against the Act. Military spouses, family members, and retirees are already able to sue the military, and did so to the tune of million in fiscal year 2018. The Defense Department estimates that opening up the Pentagon to lawsuits from troops could cost as much as 0 million over the next decade.
“It’s not going to cost that much money. If we get competent medical providers, I guess it wouldn’t be a problem,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, an Armed Services subcommittee chairwoman and lead sponsor of the bill.
This series of articles isn’t meant to offer concrete, hard-and-fast rules about close-quarters combat (CQB). Like anything in life, there are dozens of paths to a destination, and efficiency and safety make the difference. This article series will just present some things that many forget or are simply not aware of.
The reality of today is that the majority of tactical approaches for CQB have not been validated via scientific research. A loth of them have been adopted following one dude hearing from another dude who heard from a third dude. Some of the techniques work well on paper targets or deliver successful feedback to the team or to the viewer on the catwalk with a timer. But they aren’t actually human-behavior compliant, or in other words, they aren’t going to work when bullets are being exchanged. The purpose of this article is to highlight certain known or commonly performed errors that are not human-behavior compliant and work against our human instincts but are still taught around the globe as a standard.
Let’s begin with a small, very raw experiment. Stretch your arm while thumbing up. Now, look at the thumb. It appears in great detail, but to its right and left, your vision is more blurry. Your vision acutely drops by 50 percent to each side of the thumb. Long story short, precision sight is limited by angle due to the unique structure of the human eye. The conclusion is that:
While on your sights, only a narrow field of precision information can be processed. In low-light situations, you can imagine how fragile that becomes.
A wider field of peripheral (not in-depth) vision can be triggered by OR (observation response, aka movement that attracts the eyes)
Focused vision (aka Foveal field of vision) is only 1.5 inches in diameter at six feet and 2.5 inches at 10 feet. The central visual field is 12.7 inches in diameter at six feet and 21.1 inches at 10 feet. The peripheral visual field has no ability to detect precision focus. In other words, anything the green circle below covers has no sharp detail/precision sight coverage.
This image is a rough estimation and might be few inches off. Our Photoshop skills suck. (SOFREP)
Now that you are aware of these limitations I can present my case. One of the biggest problems that I encounter with both experienced and non-experienced students in CQB is that they move into rooms with their eyes buried into optics or slightly above. To my observations, this is one of the most consistent errors I see even in professional circles. I believe that its source is inexperienced instructors receiving implicit knowledge from movies or from someone who heard that reticle + target = success. Not always.
I’ll state the obvious: The average distance for CQB engagement is less than 10 meters and commonly ends up at three meters away from a threat. Things happen quickly and up close. There are two major factors that have a huge effect on human performance in CQB and should be considered: a lack of time and a limited field of view, both of which impact our intake of critical data and our target discrimination.
Viewing the world through a toilet paper roll will result not only in missing vital visual information — such as that extra door behind a closet or an innocent-looking tango secretly holding a folding knife — but will also result in accidents, such as a wingman shooting the shoulder or elbows of the point man because he could not get that visual data while under acute stress response (see the video above). While using pistols, this is even more apparent. From what I’ve seen with police officers, the wingman or the guy in the back will often experience target fixation and will flag the shit out of his partner’s head or body due to the sight fixation effect. Additionally, a shooter may trip over furniture, debris, kids, or other obstacles that are quite low and won’t be visible when you reduce your field of view to a toilet paper roll.
I have also recognized that reaction time seems to diminish until the individual receives a physical stimulus indicating there is, in fact, a threat in front of him. You are probably asking why. Well, it is simple: The shooter missed the critical vision information necessary to indicate the presence of a threat or a human being. In other words, the individual’s eyes were not receiving enough sensory data to process. Instead, his eyes were fixed on a reticle and linear perspective.
To summarize, sight fixation — moving with eyes locked on sights — is something that belongs in the movies. Sadly, the idea of clearing rooms while looking through optics is very common nowadays. Let’s be honest: Why do you need to aim down your Aimpoint at three meters, anyway? The only answer would be when precision shots (read, in hostage situations) are a must.
Flashlights are a force multiplier
For many people, flashlights are associated with crickets, dark rooms, or night operations. In reality, flashlights could and should be used as a standard, even in illuminated rooms, as soon as you encounter a non-compliant person or a threat.
Assuming your flashlight is powerful enough (which it should be), it can act as a non-lethal weapon that will disorient or divide attention, impairing a threat’s attempt to OODA himself or become proactive, since any kind of sensory stimulation moves them closer to a sympathetic response. For no-light/low-light situations, there are several nice techniques that can significantly reduce the threat’s capability to anticipate the moment of entry.
How can a flashlight be of help?
It’s a great disorientationtool. A flashlight’s beam pointed in the eyes can confuse and disorient a threat while giving you the threat’s specific location inside a room.
It divides attention. Flashlights are the ultimate tool of deception and manipulation. Especially since in low-light conditions, the world looks like a framed picture without details, contrast, or colors. You get to fill that picture; to manipulate it to fit your needs. It also causes a threat to fixate on the light, soaking up their attention and keeping it off your partners, who are ideally triangulating the threat.
It’s silent. The flashlight has no sound or signature, and will not compromise you during daylight.
It increases reaction time. Simply put, being able to see clearly increases your reaction time when determining threats versus hostages or obstacles.
During daylight room clearing, we instruct our students at Project Gecko to use flashlights almost as default (this also depends on law enforcement or military context) upon encountering a human presence in close proximity. A beam of 500 lumens can save your life. It will surely buy you more time and control, and in some cases — assuming your training is solid — it can even provide concealment. (We will get to this later in this article series.)
Acknowledge the potential of your flashlight. And don’t be cheap — carry two. One mounted and another handheld.
This article was written by Eli Feildboy, founder and CEO of Project Gecko and former Israeli commando. It was originally published in 2019.
The FN 5.7x28mm cartridge is a bit of an oddity. Developed from the ground up by FN Herstal of Belgium, the round was designed for use in handguns and personal defense weapons. It is a small-caliber bottlenecked cartridge that bridges the gap between round-nosed pistol cartridges like the NATO 9x19mm Parabellum used in the M9 and intermediate rifle cartridges the NATO 5.56x45mm used in the M4. In February 2021, the 5.7x28mm caliber was recognized and standardized as a NATO caliber.
In the late 1980s, body armor was becoming more sophisticated and common. Technological advances in ceramics and synthetic fibers made personal armor more lightweight and concealable. In order to defeat modern armor, FN Herstal began development of a small-caliber round for use in a PDW with better armor penetrating properties than traditional pistol calibers.
In 1990, FN Herstal introduced the 5.7x28mm cartridge along with the P90 personal defense weapon. The compact and sci-fi looking gun (see Stargate and Hunger Games) was designed around the new cartridge. When fired from the P90, the new bullet could pierce the standard NATO body armor at a range of 200m. A slightly shorter version of the round was developed for use in the FN Five-seven pistol which was introduced in 1998, and became the new ball variant standard. Other variants include a frangible round, a tracer round, and a sub-sonic round for use with a suppressor.
In 2002 and 2003, NATO conducted a series of tests to determine if the 5.7x28mm cartridge should be standardized and replace the 9x19mm cartridge. Despite finding that it was undoubtedly superior to the standard 9x19mm and the new Heckler & Koch 4.6x30mm cartridge used in the MP7, the panel rejected the round’s standardization. Although this slowed 5.7x28mm development, the cartridge and its associated weapons are currently used by military and law enforcement agencies in over 40 nations.
Perhaps one of the most notable users of the 5.7x28mm cartridge is the U.S. Secret Service. Both the P90 and the Five-seven are compact enough to be concealed and possess the armor-penetrating capabilities required for the high-profile protection missions that the agency undertakes. Other notable users include the U.S. Federal Protective Service, the Canadian JTF2 special forces group, and the French GIGN counter-terrorism group.
An arguably greater influence for the popularity of the round, at least in civilian circles, is video games and movies. As previously mentioned, the P90’s distinct sci-fi look lends itself to use in film. Its compact size also makes its easy for actors to manipulate on screen and a popular choice for Hollywood armorers. Video games like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty have featured both the P90 and Five-seven leading to increased interest in the real-life guns.
Because the 5.7x28mm has not been as extensively developed or adopted like the 5.56x45mm or 9x19mm cartridges, its availability and that of the weapons that shoot it on the civilian market remain low. Moreover, the cost of the round and its associated weapons is proportionally high. Still, the PS90 (the civilian version of the P90) and Five-seven can be found and purchased legally by civilians. Additionally, other manufacturers like Kel-Tec and Ruger have released their own guns chambered in the 5.7x28mm cartridge. With the round’s standardization by NATO, its popularity and prevalence is likely to grow in military, police, and civilian use.