For ground troops, the improvised explosive device threat is considered one of the deadliest defensive components ever to hit the battlefield. Enemy forces have placed countless IEDs anywhere, including alleyways, open terrain landscapes, and along transportation routes.
With all the different mine-defeating technologies allied forces have available, many homemade explosives still manage to still go undetected at times.
Enter the Assault Breacher Vehicle.
Crammed with 7,000 pounds of explosives, this mode of transportation can destroy nearly any hazard the enemy might plant.
The ABV uses its weaponry to destroy a preselected area of enemy terrain within seconds — much faster than foot patrol.
“The ABV can clear a route faster than dismounted patrols because it doesn’t actually have to find the IED,” Lance Cpl. Jonathan Murray stated.
The vehicle is tailor-made to find and destroy IEDs that protect the enemy’s stronghold. Along with its superior armor, the ABV fires a mine-clearing line charge known as an MICLIC.
The MICLIC is as a 350-foot-long “sausage link” that contains nearly one-ton of C-4 explosives that can clear a surface area of a football field in a single blast. Once a MICLIC is fired off by the operator, they will send out an electrical charge that will completely detonate the line and everything in its path.
The massive explosion that follows will set off any IED with the surrounding sector 45-feet wide, making it safer for troops and local nationals to walk. As the ABV maneuvers through the enemies’ backyard, the vehicle can also detonate the IEDs with a plow system mounted in the front.
The plow has the ability to dig up the lethal mines before our brave service members have a chance to step on it — saving lives.
Check out American Heroes Channel‘s video below to watch this beast of a vehicle clear a massive area of IED threats.
A nasty dust storm is wrapping around Mars, and visibility in some regions is so poor that the skies look like night during the middle of the day.
It’s a dire moment for NASA’s Opportunity rover, which uses solar power to explore the red planet. The 15-year-old rover fell asleep on June 10, 2018, to conserve power in hopes of waiting out the storm until sunlight can reach its panels.
“This is the worst storm Opportunity has ever seen, and we’re doing what we can, crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best,” Steve Squyres, a planetary scientist at Cornell University and leader of the rover mission, told A.J.S. Rayl for a recent Planetary Society blog post.
Scientists think the storm may last weeks. If Opportunity’s energy reserves run too low to keep its aging electronic circuits warm, blisteringly cold Martian temperatures could disable them.
But halfway around the planet, dust storm conditions aren’t as dangerous for Curiosity — a car-size, nuclear-powered rover that NASA landed on Mars in 2012. Curiosity uses plutonium-238 instead of solar cells to power its exploration of the red planet, so the darkness isn’t a problem either.
In fact, Curiosity photographed itself on Friday during the dust storm.
Curiosity’s latest selfie
The image comes from an instrument called the Mars Hand Lens Imager. The camera sits on the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm and can function like a multi-million-dollar selfie stick.
Because the camera can’t capture all of Curiosity in one shot, it has to take a series of photos — more than 200 in this case. So on June 16, 2018, Kevin M. Gill, a NASA software engineer who processes spacecraft photos as a hobby, stitched them all together into a single panorama.
The full panoramic selfie also shows the rover’s surroundings, including a rock with a drill hole in it and a small pile of orange dust:
Curiosity’s drill was taken offline line in December 2016 after suffering a mechanical problem.
However, NASA eventually figured out a way to work around the problem and tested the drill in May 2018. Curiosity bored a two-inch-deep hole, then dropped some fresh Martian grit on the ground during a subsequent test (to see how much dirt the drill could collect for sampling).
The perfect storm for science
Scientists hope to gain more clues as to how such massive dust storms arise and dissipate on Mars by using Opportunity, Curiosity, and three satellites in orbit around the planet.
The last dust storm to enshroud Mars happened in 2007, but there weren’t as many spacecraft there at the time. So, while NASA is concerned about the future of its Opportunity rover, scientists have waited more than a decade for a dust storm of this magnitude to brew and study.
“This is the ideal storm for Mars science,” Jim Watzin, the director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said in a press release. “We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the red planet. Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave — knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”
The last time NASA updated the public about Curiosity, it was sitting on the edge of the growing dust storm, which had grown to the size of North America and Russia combined. A space agency representative could not immediately update Business Insider on the storm or the rovers’ statuses.
Future missions to Mars
NASA recently launched its InSight Mars lander, which should touch down on November 26, 2018. Next up is the Mars 2020 rover, which is almost identical to Curiosity, though it may be better equipped to detect signs of past alien life and prepare a sample for return to Earth.
NASA is also working on its giant Space Launch System, and one of the planned versions might send a small crew to the red planet. In addition, private companies hope to explore Mars. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, aims to send people to the red planet in the mid-2020s with its upcoming Big Falcon Rocket system. Blue Origin, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, is designing a New Glenn rocket that may be Mars-capable.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the Pentagon — led by the Army — is looking for a new handgun to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9.
The latest from the program office is that the Army is still in “source selection,” which means program managers are still trying to decide which companies will be finalists for a pistol that’s supposed to fit a wide range of troops, be convertible between a compact, subcompact, and full-size combat pistol, and be more accurate and maintenance-free than the existing M9.
While the specs for the so-called XM17 Modular Handgun System program have been on the streets for some time, the Army has just released an outline of how that pistol should be carried when attached to a trooper’s hip or anywhere else on his or her body.
According to a solicitation distributed to industry, the Army is looking for a holster that can be attached to a variety of items, including body armor, a utility belt or a trooper’s waistband, can work with a suppressed pistol or without, can fit a handgun with a laser sight and keep the handgun secure during combat operations.
In short, the Army’s looking for a holster that can do just about everything.
“Compact variant users may need to carry their handguns in an overt/tactical method in the course of their duties and it would be necessary for the full-size holster to accommodate the compact variant,” the Army notice says. “In the event a new handgun is needed, the existing holster will need to holster or adapt to holster the new weapon to ensure soldiers have a holster system available for use.”
Program officials suggest what they’ve dubbed the “Army Modular Tactical Holster system” could use a single attachment point and hold different shells to fit different-sized pistols or ones designed to for accessories like suppressors or flashlights. Shooting with pistol suppressors often requires pistols to be fitted with slightly longer barrels and higher sights in order for the shooter to properly zero in on his target, and a flashlight adds significant bulk to the slide.
Interestingly, the Army called for a retention system that did not have to be “activated” by the soldier like some holsters used by law enforcement where a lever is flipped over the handgun’s hammer or slide.
“Soldiers require the ability to draw handguns from holsters and re-holster with one hand reliably when transitioning from another weapon system, or when presented with a lethal force engagement with little or no warning when only armed with a handgun,” the notice says. “This requires that Soldiers be capable of drawing the weapon quickly with one fluid motion, attain a proper firing grip from the holster, engage enemy targets, holster the weapon and potentially repeat the process during the same engagement or in successive engagements. … Soldiers must be able to conduct draw and re-holster with one hand and without looking or glancing away from their near-target environment.”
All of this is to avoid the problem experienced with the popular Blackhawk! Serpa holster that many claim contributes to negligent discharges.
“No retention buttons, switches, levers, etc. will use the soldier’s trigger finger to release the handgun,” the Army says.
The Army also wants the AMTH to work both outside and inside the waistband for concealed carry environments.
That’s surely an ambitious list of specs for a do-all holster. And to top it off, the Army wants the base holster (without any accessory shells or attachments) to cost less than $100.
And industry has until early October to tell the Army what it’s got that can meet the AMTH’s lofty goals.
In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.
1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment
Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.
Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.
The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.
One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.
But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.
The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.
3. It sets the army apart
Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.
“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”
Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?
Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.
“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.
In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.
The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.
But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.
On September 14, 2020, the German Armed Forces selected the Haenel MK 556 to replace the Heckler & Koch G36 as its standard-issue rifle. Over 100,000 rifles will be delivered by 2026. The Haenel is the first service rifle used by the Bundeswehr to be produced by a company other than Heckler & Koch. It is a fully-automatic version of the civilian Haenel CR 223 rifle which has been in use with German law enforcement agencies since 2017. In January 2021, the Swiss firearm company B&T announced that it will import the CR 223 for sale in the United States as the B&T-15.
Haenel is no stranger to the firearm industry. In fact, the company produced what is widely considered to be the first modern assault rifle, the StG 44. Also known as the MP 43 and MP 44, the late-WWII rifle featured the first widespread use of an intermediate cartridge. In January 2019, Haenel’s MK 556 was shortlisted alongside the H&K HK416 and HK433 as a candidate to replace the Bundeswehr’s G36 service rifle.
The G36 replaced the H&K G3 service rifle in 1997. Since then, it has also seen use with elite units like the German GSG9, the French GIGN, and the British SAS. Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, the G36 uses a short-stroke piston gas system and has been adapted into both carbine and squad automatic weapon variants. While the MK 556 retains the short-stroke gas system of the G36, it is currently only offered in a standard rifle configuration.
With the AR-15 market expanding rapidly in the United States, B&T made the decision to import the Haenel CR 223 and market it to American shooters. The weapon’s high-precision German engineering and selection by the military make it a highly desirable product to the discerning customer. Named the B&T-15, it features a short barrel and will be imported and sold in the United States as a pistol. Customers will need to equip it with a pistol brace or file a Form 1 with the ATF and classify it as a short-barrelled rifle.
Though it is marked 223, the rifle is chambered in 5.56mm and can accept both cartridges. It features a chromed bolt carrier group and ambidextrous controls like its European counterparts. The quick-detach handguard is M-LOK compatible rather than the KeyMod or picatinny configurations that are sold in Europe. This is likely due to the fact that M-LOK is regulated by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and is restricted for sale outside of the United States. Another European feature is that the rifle can be placed on safe even after the hammer has been dropped.
The B&T-15 is 100% German-made and is as close to the new German Army rifle as the American market will get. Coupled with the fact that it’s a European import, the B&T-15 will have an MSRP of $3,000. This is consistent with the prices of other German military-grade firearms like the H&K MR556, the civilian version of the HK416. B&T says the new weapon will be available in the United States by mid-2021.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
~ Modern Day Charm Jewelry from the Sisters of the Tactical Pants* ~
The Dellavalle sisters, whose origin story is pleasingly similar to that of another of our favorite vetrepreneur sister acts, founded Stella Valle together after Paige graduated from West Point and Ashley finished her five year stint in the Army. They hold it down for the feminine in both military and business affairs.
Though neither had any experience in jewelry design or manufacturing, much less the business of fashion, they bootstrapped their own line of charms and accessories, eventually scoring successful trunk shows at Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel. In 2013, on the strength of their early sales (and their Army-forged determination), they took their act to Shark Tank, walking away from that encounter with a joint deal with Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner.
At the heart of the Stella Valle aesthetic is the push-pull between warrior values and womanhood. There’s is a very feminine version of a soldier’s civilian transition story. They strive to make jewelry that honors what they accomplished in the military, even as it allows them reclaim the feminine freedom their service helped to protect. Their stackable charm bracelets are designed to help you spell out your own individual story and wear it proudly.
You have, by some miracle, managed to secure the ongoing attentions of a woman who is both cooler than you in every way and is willing, saint-like, to put up with your foolishness. And yes, if you read that and thoughtwe must be talking about your mother, that means we are talking about your mother. Stack some Stella Valle charm bracelets and use them to send her a communique about how you feel about the light she brings to your life.
Because any woman who loves you has to be a warrior.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
The Arleigh Burke class of guided-missile destroyers is huge – and they are some of the most powerful ships in the world.
These 9,000-ton ships are armed with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems (with 90 to 96 cells), two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, and a 20mm Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System. Some even carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
But sometimes, the firepower ain’t the solution. Far from it, in some cases. Say the Iranians are up to their usual… antics. That is when the destroyer will need to move.
The ship can go fast – over 30 knots, thanks to her gas turbine propulsion. She also can turn – and for a ship this big, she turns on a dime.
Do those turns matter? You bet they can. The fast turn can help avoid one of those “fast attack craft” the Iranians use. If a torpedo is fired, the turn can also buy time once the ship’s AN/SLQ-25 Nixie goes off.
Torpedo seekers do not have a long range, so the turn at high speed can allow the ship to escape an attack.
You can see the destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) make one of these high-speed turns in this video below. Making such a turn does take practice – mostly because if the gear ain’t stowed right, there is likely to be one hell of a mess. But a mess to clean up is much better than a torpedo hit.
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
Army equipment officials have issued a reminder to soldiers that the service’s authorized protective eyewear list is being updated regularly with high-tech options like lenses that adjust to changing light in the blink of an eye.
The Transition Combat Eye Protection lens features sensors with much greater sensitivity than commercial transitional lenses because they are designed to respond to visible light instead of UV rays, according to a recent Army press release.
“It’s a one-second button,” Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of Head Protection at Program Executive Office Soldier, said in the release. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic.”
The authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL, is updated about every two years and offers a wide range of brands and styles of protective sunglasses and goggles which feature the APEL logo. All of the 27 types of eyewear on the list have been through rigorous ballistic and non-ballistic testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, according to the release.
(U.S. Army photo)
Soldiers who chose to buy non-authorized eyewear run the risk of suffering irreversible injuries, Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said in the release.
“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” Whitehead said.
Facial injuries will still occur with authorized eyewear, but there is a chance the soldier’s eyes will be protected, she said in the release.
“The soldier’s face is all chewed up,” Whitehead said. “But when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”
Soldiers can check out the Army’s APEL online and buy approved eyewear at most Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.
The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.
The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.
Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.
The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.
Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”
Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.
Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.
But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.
In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.
Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.
A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.
Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.
The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.
A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)
The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.
The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.
Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.
The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.
The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)
A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.
The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.
“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But it nearly made a comeback with the United States Air Force – long after it was retired and sold off after the Korean War. Not for the air superiority role it held in World War II, but as a counter-insurgency plane.
But in the years after World War II, the Mustang underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the P-51 line was sold by North American to a company known as Cavalier Aircraft Corporation. That company turned the one-time air-superiority fighter into a fighter-bomber, giving the plane eight hardpoints, with a usual warload of six five-inch rockets and two 1,000-pound bombs.
But the design could be pushed further, and Cavalier soon sold the Mustang to Piper Aviation. That company decided to try putting a turboprop engine in the Mustang airframe. That and other modifications lead to the PA-48 Enforcer. By the time they were done, the Enforcer had some Mustang lineage, but was ready for modern counter-insurgency work. It had GPU-5 gun pods – in essence, the Mustang would have two guns delivering BRRRRRT!
The Air Force kicked the tires around the Vietnam War, but didn’t buy any. Not that you could blame ’em – there were plenty of A-1 Skyraiders around.
But in 1981, Congress pushed the Air Force into ordering two prototypes. After some testing in 1983, the Air Force decided to pass. One Enforcer found its way to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB. The other is at Edwards Air Force Base.
The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”