Though a lot of the weapons used by US troops today chart their lineage to decades-old designs, they’ve changed a lot since they were first introduced. The M16, for instance, has gone from having iron sights to using holographic optics. The M1A2 SEP v3 is a much deadlier tank than the original M1.
The M270 MLRS is another prime example of increasing lethality and firepower over the years. When it entered service in 1982, it was designed for the purpose of removing a grid square with 12 M26 rockets, each carrying 644 M77 submunitions that it could fire at targets up to 20 miles away. In essence, it was like dropping a bunch of cluster bombs without help from the Air Force.
During Desert Storm, the MLRS performed well, often using the baseline M26 rocket. But longer-range rockets were developed that could reach out to 28 miles, and they still carried the M77 cluster munition.
Then the M77 warheads were replaced with the newer M85s, which pack the same punch, but which reduced the dud rate from about 5 percent to 1 percent. Then, the M30 gave this ground-launched cluster bomb precision guidance.
Today, though, the state of the art is the M31 guided unitary rocket. According to a Lockheed Martin e-brochure, this rocket replaced the M85 bomblets with a 200-pound high-explosive warhead. This rocket has GPS and inertial guidance systems, enabling it to hit within 30 feet of its target – and it can fire its rockets from as far as 44 miles away.
In essence, this makes the MLRS a sniper with a 44-mile reach.
Lockheed is also offering a “GMLRS Alternative Warhead” which could potentially replace the ones that are essentially cluster bombs. One thing for sure, the MLRS will be around for a long time, so who knows what other rockets will be developed.
You may be familiar with the term “designated survivor” from the ABC television series, Designated Survivor, in which — and this is a real thing — one member of the President’s Cabinet is required to be physically far away from a gathering of the President, VP, and Cabinet leaders during certain events in case of some unforeseen catastrophe.
You may not have known that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, was the designated survivor during President Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address. You also may not have known that the human race has its own designated survivor program.
In 2008, game developer Richard Garriot developed the “Immortality Drive,” a sort of digital time capsule on the International Space Station that contains the DNA and genetic codes of a handful of humans. Think of it as a kind of backup disk in case of worldwide calamity. If humans were to be wiped out, this drive exists as a source code for rebooting humanity.
“The Immortality Drive is a digital archive of mankind’s greatest achievements and a snapshot of humanity itself,” Garriot says. “This archive will be stored on the International Space Station to serve as a remote “offsite backup” of humanity, should we suffer a disastrous fate.”
Now, obviously, Stephen Hawking isn’t going to be held on the International Space Station forever. But just because he died doesn’t mean he can’t be a blueprint for the next iteration of life on Earth. His genetic code will live forever, along with a few others, as one of humanity’s designated survivors.
Comedian Stephen Colbert, legendary television writer Melvyn B. Sherer, Businessmen Kevin Rose and Tim Draper, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, athlete Lance Armstrong, and Playboy model Jo Garcia join a lot of sci-fi/fantasy and TV writers in the Immortality Drive.
At this point, you might be worried that Hawking will be overlooked by potential alien reboots in favor of making a species of WWE Superstars, adult models, or Dungeons and Dragons writers.
But, for a few reasons, there’s no cause for concern. First and foremost, you’ll be dead. Secondly, if superintelligent aliens do come to Earth, find the Immortality Drive, and reboot the human race, Hawking himself believed their first instinct would be to simply enslave us.
And finally, as the series Life After People predicts, the International Space Station will come crashing into Earth within three years of the end of life on Earth. So, either hope the DNA lands in some kind of primordial ooze or that aliens make our fantasy-fun-world full of TV writers as soon as possible.
Capt. Zoe “SiS” Kotnik is the new commander of the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team (VDT).
On Jan. 29, 2019, Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, certified the new F-16 Viper Demonstration Team pilot and commander ahead of the 2019 season, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. The final certification by the ACC Commander follows extensive training including four certifications, off-station training flights and more than 30 practice missions.
With over 1,000 flying hours in her eight years of military service “SiS”, originally assigned to the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, is the Air Force’s first female single-ship aerial demonstration pilot.
She will lead the team in about 20 locations across the world during the upcoming airshow season.
“What I’m looking forward to most is the potential to have an influence on younger generations,” said Kotnik in a public release. “I know firsthand how impactful airshows can be and what a difference it makes to young people to see just one example of what they too can do and who they can become. I hope to be a source of inspiration and motivation they can draw from to apply in their own lives.”
The F-16 VDT performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.
“These shows allow us to demonstrate the capabilities of the F-16 to a world-wide audience while highlighting the work of the airmen who keep the Viper flying,” said Master Sgt. Chris Schneider, F-16 VDT superintendent. “It’s not every day people get the chance to hear the sound of freedom roaring over their heads or watch a team of maintainers working together to make it happen.”
If you are interested in learning a bit more about her, here’s an interview “Sis” gave to LiveAirshowTV in fall 2018:
While France, at times, has been the butt of many jokes when it comes to military prowess, we must not forget one historical fact: The French Navy arguably won the battle that secured American independence by defeating the Royal Navy’s effort to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, at the time, was a rare setback for the Royal Navy – it was like the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game.
It’s a reminder that the French Navy is no joke, even if it has left a lot of the heavy lifting in the World Wars to the Royal Navy. In fact, France has one of the more modern air-defense destroyer classes in the world. They didn’t design this vessel on their own, however.
In 1992, the French Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy began development of what they called the Common New Generation Frigate. The goal was to come up with a common design that would help cut costs for the three countries. The British planned to buy 12 vessels, France four, and the Italians four. However, increasing expenses and disagreements lead to the British dropping and instead building six Type 45 destroyers.
France and Italy ended up building a grand total of four ships, two for each country. The French vessels were named Horizon-class frigates and the Italian vessels were labeled Orizzonte class frigates.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the French Horizon-class vessels are armed with eight MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 48-cell Sylver A50 vertical-launch system, two 76mm guns, and two 20mm guns. They can also carry a NH-90 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare or to mount additional Excoet anti-ship missiles.
Learn more about this destroyer in the video below.
But there’s a new ‘Carl’ coming – and the troops will likely love this one.
According to Saab Aerospace, a new version of the defense firm’s Carl Gustav recoilless rifle is about to hit the field.
The M4 Gustav is even lighter and smaller than the previous M3 version, coming in at less than 16 pounds and measuring at less than 39 inches. By comparison, the M3 came in at almost 42 inches long, and weighed just over 22 pounds.
That alone will make the grunt assigned to carry this system happy. Indeed, the Carl gunners will be celebrating a roughly 33 percent reduction in how much the system weighs. Seven pounds may not sound like much to you, but when troops are carrying over a hundred pounds of gear and ammo, it makes a difference.
And what can this FNG named Carl shoot? Well, there are four anti-tank rounds, four multi-role rounds, three anti-personnel rounds, and two “support” rounds (one smoke, one illumination). Plus, there are four training round options, two sub-caliber, two full-size. That’s 17 options. Plus, rounds from the old Carls can be used in the new Carl.
The new Carl also can be aimed with a variety of sights. The traditional open sights are an option, as is a telescopic sight. But the new Carl can also be used with red dot sights and “intelligent” sights that include features like a laser range-finder. The new Carl also features a built-in round counter.
In short, this is one Carl that the grunts will be happy to have around.
I’m not a scientist, but I feel confident about this statement: Humans require oxygen to live. The thing is, we don’t necessarily need the oxygen to come from air, though that is how our lungs are designed to receive it.
When submerging underwater for extended periods of time, humans have devised ways to bring oxygen with us so we don’t drown and stuff, but there’s a problem. Breathing air while under the enormous pressure of deep water makes nitrogen in our bodies dissolve, creating air pockets in the blood and organs and causing decompression sickness.
Retired heart and lung surgeon and inventor Arnold Lange has a solution: liquid breathing.
This isn’t a new concept. In the medical field, liquid ventilation is used for premature infants, whose lungs haven’t developed to safely transition from the liquid environment of the womb.
Navy SEALs reportedly experimented with liquid ventilation in the 1980s, and the need for safe evacuations from submarines has been a high priority ever since men submerged ships. Today, the U.S. Navy recruits deep sea divers for search and rescue missions, diving salvage operations, and even performing ship maintenance.
Liquid breathing is by no means a perfected science (and not just because in order to dispose of the CO2 humans normally exhale, deep water liquid breathing requires an artificial gill in the femoral artery *shudder*), but its medical — and military — applications urge scientists on.
In January 2015, Logos announced that the company was issued a second grant to develop a prototype in partnership with Alta. The Logos-Alta team named their concept dirt bike SilentHawk and plan to have an operational prototype in 18 months. Here’s a concept rendering of what it looks like:
According to War Is Boring, the SilentHawk runs on a hybrid-electric drone engine and can use three different fuels – gasoline, diesel, and JP-8, a type of jet fuel. Since the combustion side isn’t silent, operators will have to switch to the electric battery when they want to be stealthy.
DARPA has been interested in silenced motorcycles as stealthy, quick, insertion and extraction vehicles for quite some time. According to Defense Industry Daily, Air Force teams have been shoving dirt bikes out of planes since 2010, and the Marine Corps has been training troops on third party vendors since 2012.
Zero Motorcycles toyed with the idea and developed the Zero MMX, but it didn’t work out. DARPA pulled their funding because the battery only lasted two hours.
As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.
China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.
Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)
DARPA’s Gremlins Program
The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.
In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.
The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.
The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier
The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.
Boeing AAC design sketch
Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.
Sketch of a micro-fighter inside the 747 fuselage.
The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.
This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)
Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.
Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)
Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.
Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.
The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier
The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.
The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.
The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.
Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The B-36 Peacemaker
This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.
The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.
The YRF-84F flying underneath its B-36 carrier aircraft. FICON modifications included installing a hook in front of the cockpit and turning down the horizontal tail so it could partially fit into the B-36 bomb bay. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.
View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.
USS Macon (ZRS-5) Flying over New York Harbor, circa Summer 1933. (U.S. Navy)
Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers
Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.
However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.
The USS Akron in flight, November 1931 (U.S. Navy)
The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.
USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)
The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.
Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)
After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.
American special operators are known to have exacting standards for their weapons, vehicles, and other gear. When it comes to tactical motorcycles, elite troops across the Pentagon have settled on one very specific type.
In July, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing approved a plan to buy more than 50 Christini Technologies all-wheel drive 450cc motorcycles for special tactics personnel. These air commandos work with other special operators to coordinate air drops and parachute jumps, help secure drop zones and call in air strikes.
“The Christini Technologies, Inc. AWD Motorcycle is the only AWD tactical motorcycle on the market,” the flying branch’s contracting officers explained in a so-called “justification for other than full and open competition” document. “There are no other tactical motorcycles on the market that provide the AWD function needed by Air Force Special Tactics.”
Government agencies need to submit one of these reviews any time they want to give a contract to a specific company and avoid a lengthy bidding process. To back up their argument, the Air Force pointed out that Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces troops, and the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command were all using the Christini bikes.
To the casual observer, the AWD 450 probably looks like any other high-end dirt bike. At a glance, the vehicle appears is something you might expect to see at the X Games or a Motocross rally.
Despite being derived from a Honda CRF 250, the motorcycle is far more rugged than its commercial competitors. The Christini model has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on roads and a range of approximately 90 miles without needing to stop for gas.
The bikes feature rugged suspension and a modified seat for long missions rather than laps around a track. An enlarged, bullet resistant radiator helps keep the cycles working in extreme weather conditions. On top of that, they have run-flat tires and a headlight that can be switched to shine infrared light.
Most importantly, the engine powers both wheels. Since 1995, Christini has been cooking up and building patented all-wheel drive setups for both mountain bikes and motorcycles. The feature provides extra power in rough terrain and makes it easier for the rider to handle a tactical motorcycle.
“We’ve … done testing that that shows our AWD bike is 30 percent less fatiguing than a standard bike,” Steve Christini, the company’s founder, told We Are The Mighty in an email. “You just don’t get stuck … in anything.”
Coupled with an anti-stall clutch, the AWD 450s can come to a sudden, complete stop and then get going again without the rider having to restart the motor. Even if the transmission system breaks, the motorcycle’s rear wheel won’t stop running. It’s these elements that have made Christini’s product the go-to choice for American special operations forces.
Troops around the world have used tactical motorcycles as long as the vehicles have been in existence. In World War I, American soldiers started running messages between command posts on early Harley-Davidsons instead of horses.
Over the next century, soldiers, Marines, and airmen continually experimented with new roles for bikes. Relatively stock commercial types were the standard.
During the first Gulf War, American and British special operators hunted for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in the Iraqi desert in light trucks and on motorcycles. Some versions of the Desert Mobility Vehicle – a special Humvee Army Special Forces came up with – were set up to carry Desert Operations Motorcycles on the back. The “DOM” was a single-wheel drive Kawasaki KL type.
With the lighter, more discreet vehicles, commandos could scout ahead to survey targets or possible areas to establish a temporary camp, according to one 1999 Army manual. The bikes could carry troops or small amounts of gear to and from forward bases and listening posts and ambush positions.
Weighing more than 350 pounds and able to make 60 miles per hour on roads, the Kawasakis served their purpose well enough. Unfortunately, as time went on, it became clear that these cycles were simply not tough enough the missions at hand.
When American special operations forces went to Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, they brought their Kawasaki KLXs with them. Less than two years later, commandos took the vehicles to Iraq as an international coalition toppled Hussein regime. We don’t know for sure, but elite troops have likely used the motorcycles during other counter-terrorism missions, too.
“The Kawasaki KLX 250cc tactical motorcycle proved to be marginally fit for the high-altitude, rugged terrain of Afghanistan,” the Air Force pointed out in their justification. After nearly a decade of continuous combat operations, Army Special Forces were ready for a change.
In January 2010, the Army’s Special Operations Research Support Element looked into the Christini design. The evaluators were thrilled with the bike.
“The AWD motorcycle is far superior to a conventional single wheel drive motorcycle,” the office wrote in an unclassified review of the tests. “Increase in traction stabilizes the bike, reducing the fatigue on the operator while negotiating rough terrain and enables the bike to go places a standard motorcycle would not be able to go (eg: deep sand and steep inclines).”
“This vehicle enables the … operator, both motorcycle savvy and non-motorcyclist alike, to navigate off-road over difficult terrain,” the Special Forces soldiers added.
As of July, Christini had been working with America’s elite forces for more than four years, including sending 25 bikes to the SEALs, according to Christini. His company has also supplied tactical motorcycles to special operators and regular troops in the U.K., Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol are getting their own batches.
The North Carolina bike maker has partnered with Tactical Mobility Training, another private training company also located in the state. Together with the Army’s unique Asymmetric Warfare Group, Tactical Mobility Training helped developed a new concept of operations for motorcycle-mounted commandos specifically based around the AWD 450.
The special operations missions still focus largely on scouting ahead of larger formations and providing extra situational awareness of the battlefield and possible chokepoints. But commandos are now prepared to chase down or cut off fleeing terrorists and militants – nicknamed “squirt control” – during attacks on compounds or other sites, according to the Army’s review.
But regardless of the actual operation, if you happen to spot a special operator on a motorcycle these days, chances are good it’s a Christini.
While attending Sig Sauer Range Day, a camera attached to a spotting scope at the 500 yard range set aside for the Sig Cross caught our eye.
It was a Tactacam, a company who originally got involved with producing cameras and mounts for bow hunting.
Their first scope related product was the FTS, Film Through Scope for $139. This allows a Tactacam camera ($199-$429) to be attached to a scope while still being able to use the scope in a traditional fashion. Or it’s sold as a complete package with an MSRP of $569.
Now, we’ve seen and used similar products before, such as the Phone Skope Skoped Vision Pro, which uses your cellphone as a camera, as well as the Torrey Pines Eagle Eye for which you need to supply your own GoPro.
However, the star Tactacam was showing off was their new system which has an integral 4k camera system and attaches to a spotting scope.
The camera features an articulati USB-C, accepts a Micro SD card, and has a micro-HDMI out.
While there are a number of products which allow to record spotting scope footage, many of them are a pain to setup and can ultimately be kind of janky (we have several ourselves). Mounting was accomplished with a simple clamp mount and a twist; the locking turrets on the camera are integrated into the body.
Tactacam also has an app to connect your camera to your phone for hands-free viewing, but our preference would be to use the micro-HDMI out with a portable field monitor. When a camera is mounted, the less you have to touch the spotting scope, the better, as the magnification level exponential amplifies any itinerant movement.
MSRP for this setup Tactacam is not yet set, but we’re told the entire system will go for in-between 9 and 9–not too shabby for a system that includes a dedicated 4k camera. In the meantime, you can visit Tactacam online here.
The sniper is a lethal combination of patience, discipline, and accuracy. They wait, still and silent, for the perfect moment to strike from afar, eliminating key targets and providing invaluable information to troops on the ground.
While a few snipers in history have had their names enshrined in fame (or infamy, depending on which side of their scope your allegiances lay), the marksman that holds the record for longest-distance confirmed kill is one you’ve never heard of.
In 2017, a sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 (their equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6) shattered the distance record once held by British sniper Craig Harrison. The Canadian deadeye, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, managed to down an IS militant from a staggering 3,540 meters away. For those metrically challenged among us, that’s 11,614 feet — or nearly 2.2 miles — or over 32 football fields, end-to-end, including end zones. The target was so far away that the bullet traveled for a full 10 seconds (at 792mph) before reaching its target.
Yes, we counted.
As if this incredible feat of marksmanship wasn’t impressive enough, according to MilitaryTimes, this kill helped prevent an ongoing ISIS assault on Iraqi Security Forces. This shot exemplifies the importance of the sniper — instead of using bombs or other weaponry that may result in collateral losses, the Canadian weapons specialist was able to lodge a single bullet into just the right spot to stop an assault in its tracks.
So, how’d he do it? Let’s take a look at a few key elements involved.
First, the equipment. It’s reported that the sharpshooter was using a McMillan TAC-50, a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. According to the manufacturer, this rifle has an effective range of 1,800 meters — just over half the distance of the kill. According to reports, the rifle was loaded with 750-grain Hornady rounds, which must be incredibly efficient rounds to keep from wobbling off course at such an immense distance.
Canadian Forces MacMillan Tac-50
More impressive than the equipment, however, is the technique demonstrated by both shooter and spotter. In order to make an accurate shot over that gigantic stretch of land, they had to keep in mind several key factors, including how much the bullet might “drop” over its trip, how much wind might push it off course, and even the speed of the earth’s rotation at the given latitude. To further complicate things, you need to think about atmospheric conditions at the time of shoot — barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can all affect the bullet’s course. Even the tiniest change can have drastic effects over such a great distance.
At the end of the day, this amazing feat was the junction between incredible mathematics, impeccable coordination between spotter and shooter, and a steady, well-trained hand. We’d like to render a crisp hand salute to you Canadian BAMFs (but not while outside the wire, because you never know who’s watching).
For more marksmanship action, be sure to watch Sniper: Assassin’s End, the eighth installment in the epic Sniper series, available now on Blu-Ray and digital formats!
Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16
We’ve slammed the Russian defense industry for their failures before, but those mostly the result of bureaucratic missteps, when the Russian Ministry of Defense overreaches on requirements and underfunds budgets. Russian weapons designers are, however, perfectly capable and they can come up with some gems when given the money and time.
Here are seven weapons to watch out for if a new war kicks off:
The S-400 launch vehicle needs to be combined with a radar and a command vehicle to get the job done, but it’s absolutely lethal.
(Vitaly Ragulin, CC BY-SA 3.0)
S-400/S-300 surface-to-air missile systems
The S-300 was a game-changer in the Cold War, allowing the Soviets to drive a few trucks that could detect enemy planes, track multiple targets, and guide multiple missiles to multiple targets at once. They can carry two types of missiles at once, a long-range missile and a short range one — it’s like having anti-aircraft rifles and shotguns in one package. Decades of upgrades have kept the system fully capable.
But while the S-300 is still potent, its descendant, the S-400, is better. It retains all of the S-300’s power while being capable of carrying four missile types. To continue the comparison above, it adds a submachine gun and a SAW to the mix as it targets American jets. And while it isn’t certain that it can detect and track F-22s or F-35s, it is possible. Upcoming missiles could extend its range out to 250 miles.
In a war, things could turn into a quick-draw competition between jets and air defense crews to find and kill each other first, but Russia can build and export missiles faster and more effectively than we can make jets.
The Saint Petersburg, a Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine in 2011.
(Mike1979 Russia, CC BY-SA 3.0)
It’s generally accepted that top-of-the-line diesel submarines are quieter than their nuclear counterparts, and Russia has the best. While diesel’s drawbacks in range make them a poor choice for offensive warfare, their greater stealth is valuable when you’re defending your own waters.
The Kirov-class nuclear-powered Frunze underway in the 1980s. These ships were specifically designed to down American aircraft carrier.
(Defense Intelligence Agency)
The Kirov Class is a nuclear-powered Cold War weapon that doesn’t get discussed as often as it should. While there are only four of them and they are aged, they were specifically designed to take out American aircraft carriers while defending themselves with anti-aircraft missiles — and they are still capable of that today.
The Kirov-Class ships can find U.S. targets with satellite feeds, an onboard helicopter, or their own systems, and then can engage them with 20 supersonic missiles carrying 1,653-pound warheads up to 300 miles. And, sure, American jets can fly further than that, but the Kirovs carry the same anti-air missiles as are on the S-300 as well as shorter range anti-air, making attacks against them risky.
Russia’s Krasukha-4 is a potent electronic warfare platform.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
It may seem odd to see an electronics warfare platform on a list like this, but cutting the enemy’s lines of communications is always valuable, especially in modern warfare. It gives you the ability to blind ISR platforms and cutoff forces in the field from their headquarters and other assets.
Since the Army hasn’t had armored anti-air defense since the Linebacker was retired, that means it would have to rely on Patriot and Stinger missiles to defend formations. A less-than-ideal solution against enemy attack helicopters.
2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152mm self propelled tracked howitzer Russia Russian army rehearsal Victory Day
The Koalitsiya 152mm self-propelled howitzer is a powerful weapon that, like the T-14 Armata, Russia won’t be able to buy in significant numbers as long as sanctions and mid-range oil prices remain the norm. But it does boast a huge range — 43 miles compared to America’s Paladin firing 18 miles and Britain’s Braveheart, which only fires 24.
Its automated turret can pump out rounds, reportedly firing up to 15-20 per minute. Paladins top out at 8 rounds per minute and have to drop to one round per three minutes during a sustained fight. That gives the Koalitsiya a massive advantage in a battery vs. battery duel.
If any of them do become operational, they’re game-changers, flying so fast that many anti-missile defenses can’t hit them, and punching with enough power that even missiles with small warheads can do insane damage. But successful deployments of the missiles are likely years away.
The T-72 main battle tank has been the butt of a lot of jokes. The reason behind most of those jokes is obvious: In Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom it had “performance issues,” to put it lightly. We’re talking firing at an Abrams from 400 yards and having the round bounce off. Or to put it bluntly, the T-72 sucked.
Nonetheless, the Soviet Union foisted the T-72 on many European client states who were coerced into joining the Warsaw Pact. It also was purchased by a lot of folks, predominately in the Middle East, before the design’s issues became as obvious as a turret being blown high into the air in 1991. As a result, many who had them needed to find a way to make the best of the junk they had.
The Czech Republic was one of those who had the unenviable task of dealing with these rolling disasters. Thankfully, then-Czechoslovakia was smart enough to get a license to build the T-72 themselves and not depend on Russian manufacturing.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Czech Republic began looking at upgrading their T-72s. Ultimately, the Czechs adapated an Italian fire-control system to enable the tank to fire on the move and hit its target, an American transmission, and a British power pack. The Czechs called this the T-72M4.
The problem was that the Czech Republic soon had little budgetary room. All in all, out of plans to originally modernize 340 T-72 tanks, only 35 got the upgrade — barely enough for a battalion. Still, the Czechs do deserve credit for making one of the biggest pieces of crap in the world of battle tanks somewhat functional.
Learn more about this makeshift tank by watching the video below.