For over a century, machine guns have had a major effect on ground combat. Their efficacy against infantry prompted the invention of the tank in World War I, for instance. They’ve changed the way wars are fought and have played a huge role in forging history.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not all machine guns are the same, and getting the nomenclature right is important. While this isn’t as hotly contested as the debate between “magazine” and “clip”, it can get touchy. We’re talking about some cool machine guns here, we want to make sure we’re using the right terms as we imagine letting loose on a range with them.
There are several types of machine guns. Let’s take a look:
Original HMG – Heavy Machine Guns
As originally understood, this term applies to water-cooled guns intended to provide a sustained volume of fire, like Germany’s Maxim machine guns that were used in World War I or the Browning M1917. HMGs are typically heavy, stationary weapons. They might not be very mobile, but as a grunt, you don’t wanna have to charge them.
MMG – Medium Machine Guns
These guns emerged in World War II as a more mobile option for sustained fire. The M1919A4 is a prime example. MMGs don’t provide as much sustained fire as water-cooled guns, but their versatility and firepower have proved to be very lethal.
AR – Automatic Rifle
The automatic rifle emerged in World War I. The earliest issued rifles, namely the French Chauchat, were pieces of crap, but later offerings, like the Browning Automatic Rifle, were mainstays of World War II. Today, the Marines field the M27.
LMG – Light Machine Gun
The light machine gun was another strike at finding that sweet spot between firepower and mobility. Like an automatic rifle, it uses a box magazine and you can fire it from your shoulder. However, using the bipod is highly recommended for accuracy. When you think LMG, think Bren or Lewis.
GPMG – General Purpose Machine Gun
After World War II, some engineers took a look at all the machine gun options and realized that they could come up with something that balances all available capabilities. Germany’s MG34 and MG42 were the first GPMGs to emerge. Today, just about every country uses these.
SAW – Squad Automatic Weapons
Also known as LSWs, or Light Support Weapons, these weapons emerged as a problem was discovered with the GPMGs. GPMGs typically used ammunition of a different caliber than ARs and LMGs. SAWs use the same type of ammo as the rifle squad, making it an efficient, potent choice. A modern example is the M249 SAW.
HMG (Modern) – Heavy Machine Guns
The modern heavy machine gun packs huge amounts of stopping power with .50-caliber rounds. For examples of the modern HMG, think Ma Deuce or the Russian DShK.
For more details on how to tell which type of machine gun you’re admiring, watch the video below:
John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.
It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.
Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.
In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.
While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.
In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.
Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.
As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.
Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.
Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.
As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.
There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.
If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.
Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.
Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.
The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.
The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.
You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.
Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.
That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.
A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)
Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.
The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.
According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.
FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.
Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.
The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.
Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.
Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.
Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.
When it comes to military history, the Guinness Book of World Records – like the rest of the public – only knows what it’s allowed to know. For the longest time the Guinness Book gave the award for the longest continuously submerged patrol to the HMS Warspite – one of the Royal Navy’s storied names.
While there have been longer patrols the mission of the Warspite happened at the height of the Cold War, prowling the waters around the Falkland Islands after the end of the UK’s war with Argentina.
This Warspite was the eighth vessel to carry the name.
The Warspite had a number of innovations that made it perfect for its 1983 submerged mission. It was the first Royal Navy vessel navigated entirely by gyroscope. Its nuclear-powered engines, along with air conditioning, purification systems and electrolytic gills allowed it to be submerged for weeks at a time. The longest time below the waves wasn’t even its first record. During a 6,000-mile journey in the far east, the submarine did the entire run submerged, earning the then-record for longest distance submerged. But breaking records wasn’t the Royal Navy’s mission, it was countering the Soviet Union.
No naval force on Earth was better at penetrating the USSR’s maritime boundaries than the Royal Navy. Warspite was specially suited for spy missions in the cold waters of the Arctic. Its ability to sneak into the areas undetected allowed them to watch the Soviet Navy at work and listen to their uncoded communications. But its record-breaking underwater patrol didn’t come against the USSR, it came while watching Argentina.
The now-decommissioned HMS Warspite.
The ship had just completed a complete, three-year refit after a massive fire nearly caused the captain to scuttle the ship. It was finished just in time for the United Kingdom to go to war with Argentina over the latter country’s invasion of the Falkland Islands. In a rush to get into the action, the crew of the Warspite shrugged off the six-month trial period and dashed for the war.
She didn’t see much action in the war, but its patrol afterward was the stuff of legend at the time. The ship and its crew spent more than 112 days aboard ship and underwater, keeping the Argentine Navy at bay.
Naval mine countermeasures have not gotten a lot of attention in the press, which is strange considering that the job is crucial. Of the last four US Navy ships damaged by hostile action, three were by mines — the other was an Oct. 2000 terrorist attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67).
In 1988, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) suffered severe damage from an Iranian mine, which put the vessel out of action for over a year. During Operation Desert Storm, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LPH 10) were both damaged by mines.
So, what keeps today’s Navy safe from deadly mines?
USS Scout (MCM 8), an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, in Los Angeles for Fleet Week.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Harkins)
11 Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships
The Navy built 14 of these vessels, starting with USS Avenger (MCM 1), which was commissioned in 1987. Prior to that, the bulk of the Navy’s minesweeper force consisted primarily of World War II-era vessels. The other 13 Avenger-class vessels entered service within the following seven years. Eleven of these ships are still in service. USS Avenger and USS Defender (MCM 2) have been decommissioned, and one vessel, USS Guardian (MCM 5), ran aground and was a total loss.
These vessels have a top speed of 14 knots and a crew of 84 officers and enlisted. Their primary systems for mine warfare are remote operated vehicles that can descend hundreds of feet below the ocean to neutralize mines.
A MH-53 Sea Dragon lowers its mine-hunting sonar.
(US Navy photo by MCSN William Carlisle)
30 MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters
The Navy operates 30 of these heavy-lift helicopters that were acquired in the 1980s. While they bear a superficial resemblance to the CH-53E Super Stallion, there are some big differences. Most notable is the fact that they have larger sponsons to hold more fuel. They can also carry additional fuel tanks in the cargo compartment.
The MH-53E has a maximum range of 885 miles and a top speed of 172 miles per hour. These helicopters tow a mine-sweeping sled and can operate from any aircraft carrier or amphibious assault ship. These helicopters are slated to retire in 2025.
A MH-60S Seahawk helicopter hovers while a technician drops down to handle a mine.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Devin Wray)
256 MH-60S Seahawk multirole helicopters
This helicopter will assume the airborne mine-countermeasures role among the many other missions it carries out when the Sea Dragons retire. This versatile helicopter is responsible for vertical replenishment, combat search-and-rescue missions, anti-surface warfare, medical evacuation, and supporting special operations forces. They can operate from any carrier, amphibious vessel, or surface combatant.
This helicopter has a top speed of 180 knots and a maximum range of 245 nautical miles. While the 256 MH-60S helicopters purchased by the Navy offer a lot of versatility, the range and endurance are a significant step down from the Sea Dragon.
USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, is intended to help replace the Avenger mine countermeasures ships.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kaleb R. Staples)
12 Littoral Combat Ships
So far, the Navy has commissioned 12 littoral combat ships. These ships were primarily intended to replace the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, but also being given double duty in also replacing the Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessels. Their mine-clearing capability is based on a mission package that is centered around the use of MH-60S helicopters and remote-operated vehicles.
The littoral combat ship has been controversial due to numerous breakdowns and a smattering of other issues, and the production run is being cut short in favor of new guided-missile frigates.
A sign hanging above the doors to the gas chamber reads, “Even the brave cry here.” A dozen at a time, Marines are ushered into a small, dark, brick room. A thick haze of o-Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile, more commonly known as CS gas, fills the air.
Marines with Deployment Processing Command, Reserve Support Unit-East (DPC/RSU) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted gas chamber training Nov. 8, 2019, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“During qualification, which can take about four to five hours, Marines are taught nuclear biological and chemical (NBC) threats, reactions to NBC attacks, how to take care of and use a gas mask, how to don Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear, the process for decontamination, and other facts relating to NBC warfare,” said Cpl. Skyanne Gilmore, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialist with the 26th MEU.
Cpl. Samual Parsons and Cpl. Isais Martinez Garza, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, suit to Marines for gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
“The gas chamber training teaches Marines how to employ gas masks in toxic environments, and to instill confidence with their gear during CBRN training. Training in the gas chamber is essential because a service member can never know when they could be attacked,” Gilmore said.
According to Gunnery Sgt. James Kibler, Alpha Company operations chief with DPC/RSU, the unit conducts gas chamber training once a month due to the rotation of service members preparing for deployment.
The 26th MEU was training to complete Marine Corps Bulletin 1500, a biennial requirement for active-duty Marines.
A US Marine clears his gas mask during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
A US Marine performs a canister swap on another Marine during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
During the training, CBRN Marines monitor individuals who may be struggling in the gas chamber.
“We calmly talk to them, and we take them step by step of what to do,” Gilmore said. “If they’re freaking out, we have them look at us and breathe. If we have to, we pull them out of the gas chamber and let them take their mask off and get a few more breathes before we send them back in there so they can calm down and realize they’re breathing normally.”
A US Marine breaks the gas mask seal as instructed during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
Having confidence in one’s gear and checking it over twice before going inside helps individuals from losing their composure in the gas chamber.
“Check the seal on your mask and the filters before going inside,” said Gilmore. “When you feel like freaking out, take a breath and realize that you’re not breathing in any CS gas. You should have confidence in yourself and your gear.”
US Marines perform a canister swap during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
Due to the rise in chemical attacks, proper training in the gas chamber could save a service member’s life.
“Throughout Iraq, there have been pockets of mustard gas and a couple other CBRN-type gases that have been found, especially within underground systems,” Kibler said.
“I know that when I was there in 2008, a platoon got hit with mustard gas when they opened up a Conex box. The entire platoon was able to don their masks. Gas attacks are out there; it might not be bombs, but it’s out there somewhere.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian ships are often the butt of a joke. The aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov, for instance, has had a long history of problems. That said, during the Cold War, we didn’t know what we know now about these Soviet designs. Mysterious submarines lurked beneath the water and, to many Americans, these ships were quite scary.
One such vessel was the Soviet Navy-designed counter to American and British nuclear-powered submarines, the Udaloy-class destroyer. The need for this ship was evident – the Soviets had to protect Kiev-class carriers and Kirov-class battlecruisers from subs, which have sunk capital ships in the past. Don’t take my word for it; take a look at what happened to the JDS Kongo or the IJN Shinano.
To avoid such disasters, the Soviets designed a ship that could find and kill NATO subs. The Udaloy-class destroyer was born. This vessel had some capabilities that could give an American sub commander nightmares. It weighed in at 6,700 tons, had a top speed of 29 knots, and it carried two Kamov Ka-27 “Helix” anti-submarine helicopters, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
The most noticeable feature on this vessel are the two quad launchers, fit for the SS-N-14 Silex missile. This weapon has a range of just over 34 miles, which was very crucial, as it out-ranged the torpedoes on NATO subs. These vessels could screen a Kirov or Kiev, thus ensuring that a prowling American sub couldn’t get close enough to hit the high-value hull. Udaloy-class destroyers were also equipped with two 100mm guns, eight eight-round launchers loaded with SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” missiles, a point-defense surface-to-air missile, and two CADS-N-1 close-in defense systems with 30mm cannon and eight SA-N-11 “Grison” missiles.
The Soviets built 12 of these ships, plus a modified version, the Admiral Chebanenko, outfitted with different weaponry. Only eight Udaloys are in service today, but they still give Russia a capable anti-submarine platform.
America’s most expensive weapon — Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter — is still struggling with a number of serious problems, such as destructive chain reactions triggered by a flat tire, a weird green glow on the helmet display that makes it difficult to land on aircraft carriers, and a loss of stealth at supersonic speeds.
Documents obtained by Defense News indicate that the US military’s fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters continue to suffer from more than a dozen issues that could potentially put pilots at risk or jeopardize a mission.
The F-35 program managed to cut the number of category 1 deficiencies down from 111 at the start of last year to 64 in May 2018 to just 13 as the aircraft headed into operational testing last fall. But some of the remaining issues are very problematic.
For instance, in cold weather conditions, the F-35 may falsely report that a battery has failed, a problem that has resulted in aborted missions.
When its hot out, older engines on the short takeoff/vertical landing variant sometimes have trouble producing the necessary thrust to keep the fighter in the air, leading to an unplanned a hard landing.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
There have also been issues with unusual spikes in cabin pressure in the cockpit causing pain in the ears and sinuses, Defense News reports.
One particular problem that really stood out to a retired fighter pilot was that in some cases, after completing certain maneuvers, F-35B and F-35C pilots have lost the ability to fully control the fighter’s pitch, roll, and yaw.
The F-35 program, by the US military’s own admission, has been “troubled,” suffering from production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program, the cost of which recently grew by tens of billions of dollars, as “f—ed up.”
U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
News of the F-35s problems comes as the Pentagon and Lockheed discuss ramping up to full-rate production, increasing annual delivery from 91 to 160 jets within the next few years. The F-35 Joint Program Office told Defense News that not all of the problems will be addressed before the full-rate production decision.
While the problems reported by Defense News sound alarming, defense officials who spoke to the outlet downplayed their seriousness, with one explaining that the current category 1 deficiencies affecting the F-35 are ones “that have a mission impact with a current workaround that’s acceptable to the war fighter with the knowledge that we will be able to correct that deficiency at some future time.”
A naval aviator told the outlet that the current problems are “growing pains” that are to be expected.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.
Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox
(reddit user /u/harriharris)
These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.
This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.
A previous generation of the “instanteye”
The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.
This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.
Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.
US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…
Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.
Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.
As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).
Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.
The World War I-era U.S. Army was unprepared for fighting a global confrontation in the 20th Century. Hell, it was unprepared for any modern confrontation at the turn of the century. As America prepared to enter the Great War, the War Department called on its military minds to develop a lightweight, short-range, trench-clearing game changer. The result was the Thompson submachine gun.
The “Tommy Gun,” as it came to be called, used the Colt M1911 grip and its dependable .45-caliber ammunition. By 1919, the fully-automatic weapon was perfected, and it was capable of using a 20-round block magazine or a 50- to 100-round drum magazine. But the war was over and the surplus was sold on the civilian market to anyone who could afford one – including notorious gangsters.
It was the outlaws and gangsters who made the Tommy Gun iconic.
Legendary gangster John Dillinger with Tommy Gun.
In nearly every photo of the era, the gangsters can be seen using the drum magazines, which provided them more ammunition for the weapon’s high rate of fire. It makes sense for an outlaw to use more ammo when trying to make a quick, clean getaway from the fuzz. Shouldn’t it make sense for U.S. troops to do the same when advancing in World War II?
The answer is no, and not just because a 100-round magazine will help deplete ammunition much faster than having to conserve 20- or 30-round box mags. It turns out, the Thompson was really bulky and not so easy to carry while slung with a drum magazine. More than just being unwieldy, the rounds tended to rattle inside the drum magazine and produced a lot of unwanted noise, noise that could get an entire unit killed in combat.
But the most important reason was reloading.
Yeah, gangsters look cool and all, but have you ever seen Marines fighting to take Okinawa?
Switching between a drum magazine and a box magazine required an extra set of tools. To load a drum magazine also required the user to have a special tool that would lock the bolt back to the rear. And, unlike spring-loaded box mags that were already under tension, reloading a drum magazine required a tool to rotate the spring in the magazine enough to put the rounds under the necessary tension.
Worst of all, if you lost any of the tools needed to reload the weapon, you would be hard-pressed to actually be able to do it without assistance. Drum mags also weighed more and took up more space in a very limited kit. Whereas the box magazine could be loaded and dropped from the rifle in seconds, shared with a buddy, and reloaded just as fast.
The difference between 30 second and 3 seconds under fire in World War II could have been the difference between life and death. In gangland Chicago, all you needed was time for your V8 Packard to speed away before the Untouchables swooped in.
Before the development of the F-22 Raptor, the F-15 Eagle ruled the skies. It replaced the vaunted F-111 as the U.S. military’s primary fighter bomber and, for much of its life, it was the fast-moving air superiority fighter, king of all air superiority fighters. In much of the world, it still rules — and there are many, many reasons why.
The F-15 was designed to fly fast and deep into the heart of enemy territory to clear the skies of pesky enemy plane. After Vietnam proved the need for a maneuverable airframe that could evade surface-to-air missiles and engage enemy fighters, the F-15 was developed with radar, missiles, and – most importantly – a gun.
Those are just a few of its features. The highlights of its career are what makes the airframe a legend.
1. It is fast.
Boy, is the F-15 fast. Imagine being about 43 years old and getting laid off and replaced in favor of a younger employee who is barely of age. Welcome to the world of the F-15, whose top speed is above 1,800 mph. Its replacement, the F-22, tops out at just above 1,400. With its weight and speed, once it achieves lift in takeoff, it can shoot up at an almost 90-degree angle.
Too bad sight is the first to go. That’s the primary advantage of the F-22 and F-35, who are both slower by far. The F-15’s cruising speed is just below the speed of sound. The bird is so fast, some analysts think it’s more than a match for Russia’s fifth-generation fighters.
2. It could take out satellites in space.
When the United States wanted to include destroying Russian satellites as part of its war plans, it had to take into account the fact that the Russians could detect a ground-to-orbit missile launch. So the U.S. developed an antisatellite missile designed to be fired by an F-15.
The system was successfully tested by Air Force Maj. Wilbert D. “Doug” Pearson, who is still the only pilot with an air-to-orbit kill.
If you’re looking for an all-weather, maneuverable, super-fast airframe that can carry a LOT of missiles, ground bombs, avionics, more fuel, advanced radar, and probably more, you might want to consider the F-15 and its five variants. Though two are designed to be trainers, the others are design for air superiority and fulfillment of a dual fighter role, supporting troops on the ground.
But even the F-15E Strike Eagle can handle some air-to-air combat, as it proved during Desert Storm.
Hell, the plane is so well-built, it can even fly with significant stability after losing a wing.
4. It kills.
The F-15 was one of the first airframes that could track multiple enemy targets simultaneously from ranges of more than 100 miles away. Once closed in, the fighter can pop off enemies with its six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired M-61 vulcan cannon, along with its impressive array of missiles and ground munitions.
5. Its impressive kill record.
By all substantiated accounts, the F-15’s record in combat is a whopping 104 to zero. While some enemy combatants claim F-15 kills, none have ever been able to provide actual evidence. The F-15 and its variants were used to great effect by Israel against Syria and Lebanon, the United States against Iraq, and the Saudis against Iran. The F-15 was also the airframe Israel used to destroy an Iraqi nuclear facility during Operation Opera.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. perform an aerial refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron from March ARB, Calif., May 14, 2013 off the coast of Northwest Florida. The 33rd Fighter Wing is a joint graduate flying and maintenance training wing that trains Air Force, Marine, Navy and international partner operators and maintainers of the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released).
In 2020, unpredictable times bore a new normal without advanced warning. Countries and businesses were forced to ‘pause’ with frontline healthcare providers and essential workers supporting citizens’ everyday lives. For the F-35 Lightning II, the most lethal aircraft in the Department of Defense (DOD) air combat arsenal, production and worldwide operations continued during the global pandemic. The F-35 Enterprise rose to the challenge, ensuring Warfighters remained combat-ready, deployable, and lethal when called into action.
The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), its industry partners, and international allies have addressed many COVID-19-related obstacles, with a sharp focus on the safe and effective delivery of the complex weapons system to its customers. The F-35 Enterprise saw key programmatic and operational milestones in the months following the pandemic’s onset, despite increasing barriers.
The year 2020 saw 123 F-35s delivered to customers around the world to meet their missions and maintain their military edge. The 123rd aircraft built at the Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy, was delivered to the Italian Air Force. Also during this year, the 500th aircraft was delivered to the Burlington Air National Guard, and the 600th to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Additionally, records were set when the F-35 Production Delivery Operations Team managed the delivery of 13 aircraft over 45,000 miles in less than five days; with all of the aircraft landing “Code 1” at the customers’ destination.
The overall 2020 Mission Capable (MC) Rate for the F-35 increased to 68.4 percent (through November), an improvement of 5.3 percent from 2019, while flying 85,967 hours (10,352 more hours than 2019). In January, the F-35 European Regional Warehouse declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC), providing a critical Global Support Solution capability.
First Aircraft Arrivals were achieved at eight bases/units, most notably Korea and Japan, and USS Makin Island was certified for deployment. In April, the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska received its first two F-35As and became the Pacific Air Forces’ first base to house the F-35. The base is scheduled to receive 54 F-35As, making Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded, fifth-generation fighter aircraft. In December, the 355th Fighter Squadron ‘Fighting Falcons’ was reactivated to become the second F-35A squadron within the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson. The Vermont Air National Guard welcomed their final F-35A to complete the 134th Fighter Squadron’s initial stand-up, and completed their 500th flight.
Operationally, there were eight global operational deployments, comprising of 70 total aircraft. The United States Air Force deployed F-35 teams for 18 consecutive months from April 2019 until October 2020 in the Central Command Area of Responsibility with hundreds of weapons employments in support of the U.S. and our allies. Several hundred personnel from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines aboard USS America (LHA 6) are currently deployed to the Pacific with a team of F-35Bs to heed the call if needed. The F-35Bs with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted operations aboard USS America with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Akebono (DD 108). America and Akebono conducted a series of bilateral exercises – improving readiness while underway in early April. Additionally, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) departed San Diego in September to execute flight operations with U.S. Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 147 ‘Argonauts’ (VFA-147), the Navy’s first F-35C operational squadron. It completed several certifications, including flight deck and carrier air traffic control center certifications, to keep on schedule for the historic 2021 F-35C mission.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, the F-35 Integrated Test Force flew 547 sorties and logged 1,162 flight hours. The test teams implemented innovative solutions across the enterprise to operate at near-full capacity during the pandemic. Split teams, remote testing, cross-training personnel, and military air transport were several methods the test team utilized to ensure mission-essential work was completed.
The JPO team also completed Dual-Capable Aircraft (DCA) environmental, loads, and separations testing, in a restricted environment to ensure the JPO and U.S. Air Force’s top priority remained on track to certification.
Success would not be as great if it were not for the F-35 Program’s International Cooperative Partners and Foreign Military Sales Customers. In April, May, and June 2020, at the height of the pandemic, these key entities achieved several feats. The U.S. Air Force and Israeli Air Force completed the ‘Enduring Lightning’ exercise in southern Israel with numerous protocols to maintain health standards. The Royal Norwegian Air Force also completed their first NATO patrol and deployed to Iceland in 2020. In July, Italian F-35s took over the NATO mission in the North. During one historic mission, they were scrambled in response to Russian military aircraft operating in the North Atlantic again. The alert scramble marked the first time an F-35A of any partner nation was scrambled under NATO command for a real-world mission from Iceland.
The strong ties between the United States and the United Kingdom were demonstrated in September and October as HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked on a historic deployment with its F-35Bs. The U.S. Marines’ F-35Bs accompanied the 617 Squadron in exercises over the North Sea. The carrier sea training aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth enhanced F-35B integration within the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group. These same aircraft will sail this year in 2021 with the ship on her maiden Global Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment. To end the successful year for the United Kingdom, they declared Initial Operational Capability (Maritime), (IOC-M); while Australia also declared IOC for their F-35A fleet to close out the year.
F-35 system developments brought further accomplishments in 2020. The Australia, Canada, and United Kingdom Reprogramming Laboratory (ACURL), team at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., achieved IOC in February, a significant milestone for the F-35 Enterprise. The ACURL team specialists compile and test Mission Data File Sets that allow the F-35 to assess threats and command the battlespace. This past summer, the F-35 program also demonstrated a new level of interoperability, aimed at improving future combat data sharing among the U.S. Services, Cooperative Partner nations, and FMS customers. This was achieved when operational test pilots from Edwards and Luke Air Force Bases validated the new concept’s feasibility and effectiveness by executing a series of flights using two U.S. and two Netherlands F-35As operating with the same mission data file. Coalition Mission Data provides a common operating picture across a large multi-national force, affording commanders the ability to operate a mixture of F-35s regardless of variant or nationality.
In this daily-changing environment, the global F-35 fleet continued to enhance and mature sustainment and readiness performance. On Sept. 29, 2020, personnel at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., completed the loading of a single squadron of F-35Bs on newly modernized Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN) hardware. ODIN, a U.S.-led government program, is fielded with the current Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) release 220.127.116.11 software and supported two weeks of live flight test operations with superb supportability evaluation results. Later that same day, the Marines flew the first flight supported by the new hardware. These successful operations at MCAS Yuma validate the next-generation servers as a viable successor to the ALIS system and provide a significant performance upgrade to F-35 units.
The F-35 Enterprise closed out 2020 exactly how it began: Delivering game-changing air power to our Warfighters through the persistence of the talented workforce that continues to keep the aircraft soaring – and will continue to do so for decades to come.
The F-35 JPO is comprised of more than 2,000 uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel, distributed across more than 40 locations around the world. The program provides Fifth Generation weapons system technology in support of air combat missions for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, seven F-35 cooperative partner nations, and a growing number of foreign military sales (FMS) customers. The F-35 JPO has delivered the F-35 aircraft in partnership with industry partners Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, and a diverse team of subordinate suppliers. As of 31 December 2020, more than 600 F-35s have been delivered, over 355,000 safe flying hours have been accumulated, and over 1,255 pilots and 10,030 maintainers have been trained.
For more of the latest military news stories, visit DVIDS here.