India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

India has the second-largest military in the world with about 1,444,000 active personnel. By comparison, the United States is the third-largest with about 1,400,000. The nation with the largest military in the world, and a not-so-friendly neighbor to India, is China at 2,183,000. In recent years and months, skirmishes along the border with China have prompted modernization efforts throughout India’s military forces.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Indian soldiers equipped with INSAS rifles (Indian Army)

Since 1998, the standard-issue infantry rifle of the Indian Army has been the domestically produced Indian Small Arms System rifle. The INSAS is chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO like the M4/M16 family and includes carbine and light machine gun variants. However, the INSAS received poor reviews from Indian and Nepali soldiers. In battle, the weapon was prone to jams, the magazines were prone to cracking, and the 5.56x45mm NATO round lacked stopping power.

In March 2019, the Indian military announced that the INSAS family would be retired. The light machine gun variants were replaced by the Negev Ng7 produced by Israel Weapon Industries. Conversely, the rifles would be replaced by the domestically-manufactured AK-203. Chambered in the venerable 7.62x39mm and based on the AK-74M, the AK-203 was designed in Russia and produced at the Amethi ordnance factory in India under license.

The same year, India announced a deal with Sig Sauer to purchase 72,400 rifles chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. “We are very proud, and honored that the SIG716 was chosen for use by the fighting forces of the Indian Army, and we are looking forward to developing a strong partnership with India’s Ministry of Defence,” said Ron Cohen, President and CEO of Sig Sauer. The New Hampshire-based company is hot on government contracts as it continues to supply the U.S. military with its new sidearm, the M17/M18 pistol. Sig Sauer also recently won a contract to provide the U.S. Army with a new combat rifle optic.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The SIG716 was designed as a precision rifle with military and law enforcement marksmen in mind (Sig Sauer)

Although, the exact specifications of the Indian SIG716 rifles was not released, the weapon does appear to differ slightly from the off-the-shelf variant. Though the rifle is offered in direct-impingement and short-stroke piston gas systems, the Indian model appears to use the former. Additionally, the Indian model features 1913 rails on the 12 and 6 o’clock of the handguard, a feature not found on commercial variants of the SIG716. The rifle uses standard AR-15 controls like the charging handle, bolt catch/release, and magazine release. It features an ambidextrous selector switch and accepts AR10/SR25-style magazines. The rifles purchased by India also include a full-auto fire mode, although the practicality of an automatic infantry rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO is up for debate.

The first shipments of the SIG716 have already been issued to the troops of the Indian Army’s Northern Command. Moreover, in July 2020, India doubled down on their purchase. “We are going to place an order for 72,000 more of these rifles under the financial powers granted to the armed forces,” Defence sources told Asian News International. The exact reason for the return purchase is unknown. However, slow production of the Russian-licensed AK-203s may be to blame. Whatever the reason, India has seen a need to equip more soldiers with better rifles, and fast.

During his trip to India in February 2020, President Trump addressed a crowd in Ahmedabad at the world’s largest cricket stadium on the economic partnership between India and the United States. “India is now a major market for American exports,” the President said, “and the United States is India’s largest export market.” With over 140,000 rifles on order to India and an indefinite quantity contract with the U.S. military for the M17/M18 pistol, the folks in Sig Sauer’s defense contracting department are surely due for a hefty Christmas bonus this year.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
An Indian soldier takes aim with the new SIG716 (Indian Army)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy could make these support ships just for special ops

Special operations personnel are often assigned missions in places where support is hard to come by. Expeditionary Support Bases, like the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) and sister ships, are, in essence, mobile bases, make it easier to bring support within range of troops in austere environments. However, supplies are limited; the United States Navy has just the Puller, with two sisters under construction.


Furthermore, these ships are large and lightly armed, making them vulnerable. The good news is that there may be an option to give more special ops personnel support — and the answer is a combination of two ships already in Navy service.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

USS Independence (LCS 2), whose trimaran hull is the basis for Austal’s proposed Special Operations Support Vessel.

(U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)

Austal is offering a Special Operations Support Ship. This concept vessel takes the trimaran hull used by Independence-class littoral combat ships and combines it with features from the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, like a stern ramp and the ability to haul vehicles and troops around.

The model showcased at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo at National Harbor, Maryland showed a potent armament suite for this vessel. It included two quad launchers for anti-ship missiles, like the RGM-84 Harpoon or the Kongsberg NSM, as well as a turreted gun forward and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Elements of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports would be incorporated with the Independence-class littoral combat ship’s trimaran hull to make the Special Operations Support Vessel.

(Photo by Austal)

This Special Operations Support vessel also maintains the ability to operate a helicopter at least the size of a MH-60S Seahawk, which would not only allow it to insert special ops troops, but to also fire AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missiles. Even though the Navy is buying large expeditionary support bases, when it comes to supporting special operations forces in the future, deploying several little ships instead of something large may be the answer.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force helps fight American wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.

That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.


The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)

“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”

Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Feds say contractor sold defective combat helmets built with prison labor

A recently-released investigation by the Department of Justice reveals that a company using prison labor to make life-saving equipment for the Pentagon sold more than 125,000 defective helmets to the services, some that even failed to stop bullets in ballistic tests.


The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said a public-private venture between the government-run Federal Prison Industries and the civilian company ArmorSource LLC produced Advanced Combat Helmets and Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets that were “not manufactured in accordance with contract specifications.”

“The investigations found that the ACH and LMCH had numerous defects, including serious ballistic failures, blisters and improper mounting hole placement and dimensions, as well as helmets being repressed,” the report said. “Helmets were manufactured with degraded or unauthorized ballistic materials, used expired paint and unauthorized manufacturing methods.”

The Justice report said ArmorSource failed to properly oversee the production of the helmets by federal prisoners and was forced to pay $3 million in restitution, while the Federal Prison Industries facility that manufactured the helmets beginning in 2008 was closed and the staff transferred.

In all, the report says 126,052 helmets were recalled costing the government over $19 million.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
U.S. Army Spc. Demel Cooper, sights his M16 rifle on Feb. 25, 2016 at a military shooting range in Landsthul, Germany. Specialist Cooper and other soldiers at the range wore Advanced Combat Helmets and other personal protective equipment during the training. (DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Brian Kimball)

The Federal Prison Industries is a government-owned corporation formed in 1934 to give job opportunities and income to federal inmates. The products made by FPI are sold only to the U.S. government and it does not compete with private companies.

From 2006 through 2009, Ohio-based ArmorSource produced the helmets for the Department of Defense. ArmorSource was paid more than $30 million, then subcontracted production of the ACH and the LMCH to FPI in 2008.

The ACH is a personal protective equipment system designed to provide ballistic and impact protection U.S. troops. It’s also designed to mount existing night vision, communication, and nuclear, biological, and chemical defense equipment.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Marines and sailors from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, await extraction after completing a helicopter-borne raid at Basa Air Base on Oct. 15, 2006. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Ricardo Morales)

When FPI produced 23,000 LMCHs from its facility in Texas, the first 3,000 shipped in 2008 were found to be defective. Eventually, the Army’s Office of Inspector General found FPI-produced ACHs were also defective.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

The Army’s IG investigations found “endemic manufacturing problems” at FPI. The facility in Beaumont, Texas, was not making the helmets according to specifications and both helmet types were full of defects, including:

  • Finished ACH helmet shells were pried apart and scrap Kevlar and Kevlar dust was added to the ear sections, and the helmet shells repressed  
  • Helmets were repressed to remove blisters and bubbles in violation of contract specifications
  • LMCH and ACH had edging and paint adhesion failures, respectively
  • FPI did not obtain approval from the DOD before it changed the manufacturing process
  • LMCH Certificates of Conformance were prepared by inmates at the direction of FPI staff and signed by FPI staff months after the LMCH helmets were delivered falsely certifying that the helmets were manufactured according to contract specifications and had the requisite material traceability
  • LMCH helmet serial numbers were switched or altered

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

The helmets were sold to DoD anyway, and FPI used pre-selected helmets for inspection, against the DoD specification that random items be inspected. ArmorSource did not provide oversight of the helmets’ construction and did not ensure proper inspection of the product, the report says.

A surprise inspection of the Beaumont, Texas-based FPI facility found the inmates using a variety of improvised tools to build the helmets. This put the lives of those overseeing their work (as well as fellow inmates) at significant risk, the report says.

The Justice Department claims no casualties are known to have occurred because of the defective helmets.

Articles

Air Force tests bolt-on aircraft laser weapon

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber, C-130 aircraft or fighter jet.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

Related: Here are 5 times bombers beat fighters in aerial combat

Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

Click here to view original article from Warrior Scout.

popular

Who would win a fight between a MiG-29 and a Hornet

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the F/A-18 Hornet had plenty of opportunities to go head-to-head. There was the ever-present possibility of the Cold War turning hot, a potential meeting during Desert Storm, and again, an opportunity to clash over the Balkans. Even today, deployed carriers operate Hornets while several potential adversaries (like Syria, Iran, and North Korea) have Fulcrums in service.

This, of course, begs the question — which plane would win a dogfight? Let’s take a closer look at each.


Let’s start this off with a look at the F/A-18 Hornet. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Navy was looking for a plane to replace the F-4 Phantom and the A-7 Corsair in Navy and Marine Corps service. As a result, they got a very versatile plane – one that could help protect carriers from attacking Backfires, yet still carry out strike missions.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The MiG-29 Fulcrum was designed for the air-superiority role – and was meant to counter the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt Pat Nugent)

 

The baseline F/A-18 Hornets have a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 1,243 miles, and are armed with an M61 Vulcan cannon and a wide variety of air-to-ground weapons. Additionally, Hornets are typically armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. The Hornet is a very versatile plane that has seen action across the globe, from Libya to the War on Terror.

The MiG-29 Fulcrum, on the other hand, was one of two planes designed for fighting NATO planes for control of the air. The Fulcrum entered service in 1982 and was intended to be complemented by the Su-27 Flanker. The plane earned a bit of fame by playing an important role in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The F/A-18 Hornet has advantages that would give it an edge over the MiG-29 in a fight. (U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Shane McCoy)

 

The MiG-29 has a higher top speed of 1,519 miles per hour, but a lower unrefueled range of 889 miles. It has a 30mm cannon, and primarily carries the AA-10 Alamo and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. Over time, the Fulcrum has evolved to carry some air-to-surface weapons, including bombs and missiles.

So, which of these planes would win in combat? The Fulcrum’s speed and the power of the AA-11 Archer would give it an advantage in a close-in dogfight. The problem, though, is getting close enough for that dogfight. The Hornet offers its pilot better situational awareness through hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls and advanced avionics. In a deadly duel where any single mistake can be fatal, being prepared is key.

As always, it depends on which plane’s fight is fought and how good the pilots are.

Articles

This machine gun could replace the legendary M2 .50 cal for ground units

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been a cornerstone of American military firepower for nearly 100 years. Its long range capability coupled with a heavy round combine for a devastating mixture on the battlefield — a weapon powerful enough to destroy a building or shoot down aircraft.


But for troops on the ground, the M2’s advantages come at a severe cost — namely weight. The typical M2 weighs in at a crushing 84 pounds, not to mention the weight of the ammunition itself (which is over 140 pounds for 500 linked rounds). That means despite the M2’s firepower, it’s not a man-portable weapon, requiring a heavy tripod for a mount that makes it more suitable for defensive positions and vehicle-mounted options.

A few years ago General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems proposed an alternative to the M2 and medium M240 chambered in an innovative new caliber. The company argued that its new machine gun came in at nearly 1/4 of the weight of the M2, but delivered a similar knockout punch to bad guys at .50 cal ranges.

Dubbed the “Lightweight Medium Machine Gun,” the new weapon is chambered in .338 Norma Magnum — a favorite of some precision shooters for its ability to reach out to targets at extended ranges while still having enough knockout power to take down the enemy.

While outside experts saw the capability as a game-changer, there really wasn’t any money available to add a major weapons program for ground forces at the time.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The .338 Norma Magnum has a maximum effective range close to the M2 .50 cal at a fraction of the overall weight. (Photo from General Dynamics OTS)

Now, five years later, the Army is in the market for ways to lighten its soldiers’ load and provide increased firepower with a smaller footprint. So there’s a renewed interest in the LWMMG program.

Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the General Dynamics-designed machine gun has a maximum effective range of more than 1,800 yards and can reach out as far as 6,000, according to company documents. The LWMMG in .338 NM has a lot of advantages over the current 7.62mm M240 machine gun as well, the company says.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun delivers a ballistic punch similar to an M2 .50 cal with less weight than the current M240. (Photo from General Dynamics Land Systems briefing documents)

“At 1,000 yards the LWMMG is capable of defeating Level III body armor and incapacitating soft skinned vehicles by delivering more than four times the terminal effects of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge,” General Dynamics documents say.

GD has also developed a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” system that the company says delivers the same recoil as an M240 despite the larger .338 NM round.

Some argue that the increased weight of the .338 round cancels out the LWMMG’s advantages for dismounted troops, since 1,000 rounds of 7.62 weigh about as much as only 500 rounds of .338 NM. But new developments in polymer case technology could combine to make the new machine gun a lighter option overall than the M240 while delivering the killer punch at M2 ranges.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the ENVG goggles are making soldiers more lethal

Advancements in U.S. Army technology can give Soldiers an edge in an ever-changing operational environment, supporting the warfighter.

You may not have a pair of the L3Harris ENVG-B night vision goggles in your team room lockers yet, but they could be coming soon. The L3Harris ENVG-B are currently being fielded at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division. Should the DoD decide that these make the cut, they could be issued Army-wide.

For the past 18 months, L3 Harris and PEO Soldier have conducted 11 events to perfect the goggles.

L3Harris is planning to deliver about 10,000 systems to the Army by the end of the year.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
The ENVG-B

According to its website, the L3Harris ENVG-B arms soldiers with superior abilities to target, engage, and neutralize threats, enhancing mission success and operator safety. “The ENVG-B is a helmet-mounted, dual-waveband goggle with industry-leading [sic], fused white phosphor, and thermal technologies.”

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
White Phosphor view though ENVG-B.

ENVG-B is primary use is as a binocular. Yet, it also offers a monocular option to provide dominant or non-dominant eye relief. A simple rotation of lens into stow position changes monocular to binocular vision. The advanced design includes a low-profile stow position against the helmet. Twin-tube design provides in-field protection from failure or damage.
Soldiers can also attach weapon sight images into their goggles.

This allows soldiers to see around corners without the risk of exposure, and to identify, assess and engage targets with greater accuracy and speed. It provides them with proven clarity even in degraded battlefield conditions.

SFC Brion Baker said that, “The ability to shoot around corners from behind cover without exposing the soldier to any enemy fire is going to be exponential on the battlefield. I will save lives and protect its most valuable assets, its people.”Read Next: US Army’s new night vision goggles can link to rifle sights to fire around corners

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
A U.S. Soldier testing the ENVG-B

Soldiers can keep their eyes on the target without having to look down to read maps or check radios for critical information.

So what this means is that leaders can do map overlays, have their soldiers upload them into their End-User Device (EUD), aka their Samsung phone, and then see the product through their night vision, without ever looking down at their map.

Imagine being able to see a compass, azimuth, waypoint, etc., right there in a heads-up display through your night vision goggles both in daytime and nighttime conditions.

Nearly 20 Maryland Army National Guard soldiers recently tested the ENVG-B to measure the effects of image intensifier tube imbalance for both target identification and depth perception. The tests were conducted at the Army Research Lab – Human Resources and Engineering Directorate facility in Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The ENVG-B enables the Army’s combat forces to observe and maneuver in all weather, through obscurants, during limited visibility, and under all lighting conditions.

Paul Fedele, a physical scientist with the Army Research Laboratory, helped MDARNG Soldiers administer both tests in the dark. The tests established basic operational parameters for the ENVG-B system.

“We’re extremely appreciative of the Maryland National Guard,” said Josh Rubinstein, a senior research psychologist with the DoD’s Data and Analysis Center. “They are helping us test the equipment and providing us with the Soldiers to complete the study. The caliber of effort that I’ve seen with the Maryland National Guard has been exceptional.”

This article was originally published on January 29, 2021.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Army might look to Hollywood to predict future tech

A senior Army modernization official said that the service needs to look to the visionaries of Hollywood for ideas on how future tech could change the Army in 20 years.

“I often tell people ‘hey, if you want look to the future … don’t look toward the people that wear this,'” said Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, pointing to his camouflage uniform.


“Where are you going to look? Hollywood. Think about it. How many things do we have in our hands today, or just right around the corner, that you saw on the movies when you were growing up?”

But it’s up to Ostrowski, and other senior Army leaders, to carry out the service’s ambitious new modernization strategy.

The Army announced its new modernization effort in October 2017 that’s designed to replace its Cold-War era, Big Five combat platforms — the M1Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter and Patriot air defense system.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter

(U.S. navy photo by Clayton Weis)

Speaking at a breakfast, hosted by the Association of the United States Army, Ostrowski explained how the new Army Futures Command — to be based in Austin, Texas — will create a future force capable of operating in the unknowns of 2036.

“What is the battlefield going to look like in 2036?” Ostrowski said. “What are … the tactics, techniques and procedures that we are going to need to have to fight and win in that war, in that battle?

“Where is it going to be conducted?” He continued. “Megacities? What will be our unit of action? Right now we are organized around brigade combat teams. Is that what we are going to need to be organized in the future?”

The futures and concepts group within Army Futures Command will be working on these issues as well as figuring out how future technologies such as quantum computing, high-energy lasers, directed-energy weapon, hypersonics and artificial intelligence will play a role in the future force, Ostrowski said.

“What is going to be capable of being produced and available in 2036? The visionaries of the futures and concepts group have to get after that particular piece,” Ostrowski said.

The Army is actively recruiting talent to work on the technological challenges of the future — Hollywood may be the place to start, Ostrowski said.

“We have to get after those visionaries to help us get after that fight and what it is going to look like in 2036,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the top shooting tips according to a sniper

Hidden, the sniper peers through his scope. Watching from the shadows, he sets his sights on his target. He thinks through his shot. Holding his breath, he fires. The enemy never sees it coming. Target down.

When you hear the word “sniper,” the image that likely pops into your head is that of a concealed sharpshooter armed with a powerful rifle preparing to fire a kill shot from hundreds of yards away. There’s a good reason for that.

Snipers are defined, at least in part, by their unique ability to eliminate targets at a distance, taking out threats without letting the enemy know that they are coming. It’s a difficult job. Snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters, and occasionally take an enemy out from much farther away.


A Canadian special forces sniper, for instance, shattered the world record for longest confirmed kill shot in 2017, shooting an ISIS fighter dead in Iraq from over two miles away.

“There’s definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Business Insider. “Anything is possible.”

We asked a handful of elite US Army snipers, each of whom has engaged enemies in combat, what goes into long-range shots. Here is what these expert marksman had to say about shooting like a sniper.

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes told BI.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

First, a sharpshooter needs the right gear. A sniper’s rifle is his most important piece of equipment, his lifeline. The two standard rifles used by conventional Army snipers are the gas M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and the bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.

Bullets fired from these rifles leave the barrel at speeds in excess of 750 meters per second, more than two times the speed of sound.

The other critical assets a sniper never wants to go into the field without are his DOPE (Data on Previous Engagements) book and his consolidated data card or range card — hard data gathered in training that allow a sniper to accelerate the challenging shot process. Snipers do not have an unlimited amount of time to make a shot. They have to be able to act quick when called upon.

Second, while every Army sniper has the ability to carry out his mission independently, these sharpshooters typically work closely with their spotters, a critical set of extra eyes on the battlefield.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

A U.S. Army sniper, paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, uses his spotter scope to observe the battlefield during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

The two soldiers swap roles in training so that each person is crystal clear on the responsibilities of the other, ensuring greater effectiveness in combat.

Third, a sharpshooter needs a stable firing position, preferably one where the sniper is concealed from the watchful eyes of the enemy and can lie prone, with legs spread to absorb the recoil. Snipers do, however, train to shoot from other positions, such as standing or kneeling.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Fourth, the sniper and his spotter must have a comprehensive understanding of all of the difficult considerations and calculations that go into the shot process, Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, sniper instructor team sergeant at Fort Benning, explained to BI. The team must measure atmospherics, determine range, determine wind, and then work together to fire accurately on a target.

“The biggest thing you have to consider is, right off the bat, your atmospherics,” he said. These include temperature, station pressure, and humidity for starters. “The sniper has to account for all of that, and that is going to help formulate a firing solution.”

An important tool is a sniper-spotter team’s applied ballistics kestrel, basically a handheld weather station. “It automatically takes readings and calculates a firing solution based on the gun profile we build,” Rance told BI.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Next, the pair determines range, which is paramount.

Against lower level threats like militants, snipers can use laser range finders. But trained soldiers likely have the ability to detect that. Against these advanced battlefield enemies, snipers must rely on the reticle in the scope.

“So, basically, we have this ruler, about three and a half, four inches in front of our eyes that’s inside the optic that can go ahead and mil off a target and determine a range through that,” Rance said.

Once the sniper determines range, the next step is to determine the wind speed. Based on the distance to the target, the sniper must determine wind speed for different zones. “The sniper will then generally apply a hold,” Rance explained. “He will dial the elevation on his optic, and he will hold for wind.”

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

When firing from great distances, bullets don’t fly straight. Over long range, bullets experience spin drift and gravity’s toll, which causes it to slow down from initial supersonic flight.

When it comes time to take the shot, the sniper will “fire on a respiratory pause,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at the sniper school at Fort Benning, explained to BI. “He is naturally going to stop breathing before he pulls the trigger.”

For an expert sniper, the gun will come straight back into his shoulder, and the scope ought to fall right back on target.

Fifth, a sniper has to be ready to quickly put another shot down range if the first fails to eliminate the threat. “If [the sniper] were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do the second shot correction before that target seeks cover and disappears.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines compete to find the Corps’ most lethal tank crew

The hot California sun beamed, drawing beads of sweat, but the US Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of the local community were heedless. Hands holding phones, binoculars and video cameras hovered as they anxiously waited for another ground shaking explosion.

A murmur erupted from the sweat-slicked crowd perched on top of the Range 409A observation point as 4th Tank Battalion’s M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fired another dead-center hit during TIGERCOMP Aug. 29, 2019, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

According to Lt. Col. Matthew Zummo, the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, TIGERCOMP has been the Marine Corps tank gunnery competition since 1996. The three Marine Tank Battalions compete to determine the Corps’ most lethal tank crew. Following a six-year break from 2003-2009, the competition was reignited in 2010.


“First Tanks is hosting this year’s competition,” said Zummo. “We selected Range 409A as the venue to enable a better spectator experience compared to the usual Range 500 at 29 Palms. The winning crew will have the opportunity to compete in the Sullivan Cup, which is the Army’s total force tank gunnery competition.”

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

US Marines selected to compete in TIGERCOMP meet the local and military community on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

US Marine veteran Michael Jiron watches the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

A medium tactical vehicle replacement at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

US Marine Corps videographer Pfc. Jacob Yost records an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

US Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Lyrla, operations officer in charge of planning TIGERCOMP, talks to the local and military communities during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

US Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve celebrate during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

In the end, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, collected the enormous TIGERCOMP trophy, the pride and joy of the tank community.

Stay tuned to watch the Marines compete against the soldiers in the Sullivan Cup, the Army’s precision gunnery competition. The next competition that will rigorously test US soldiers, US Marines and international partners is set for 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
(U.S. Navy)

 

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

 

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

 

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
(Pixnio)

 

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
(PXHere)

 

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between $25 and $50 million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over $1 million.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

 

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

 

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

 

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked $400 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer

Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

India bought over 140,000 infantry rifles from Sig Sauer
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

 

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

This article by Alex Hollings originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

 

Do Not Sell My Personal Information