Here's why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Thanks to movies and video games, tons of people join the military thinking they’ll be the next John Wick. Gun-hungry recruits salivate at the prospect of sending rounds downrange using all the latest and greatest weaponry. Unfortunately, that rug will be pulled out from under newcomers when they realize that “military-grade” really just means “broken all the time with no money to fix it.”

The famous M203 Grenade Launcher is no exception. Yes, it’s a useful tool in combat since it can fire a 40mm grenade and reap an entire cluster of souls and limbs. But, in reality, they’re big pieces of sh*t.

Here’s why:


Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

It’s mostly just annoying to have a fore grip.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider)

You can’t really use a grip

There are fore grips made specifically for the M203, but they aren’t all that great. The real tragedy here is that you can’t add a cool, angled fore grip or any variation. If you choose to use the M203-specific grip, you have to place it somewhere that won’t interfere with the reloading process.

They’re noisy

When you get issued an M203, your rifle’s sling swivel will turn into your personal noisemaker because it’s going to click against the M203 with every step you take.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Aiming is a minor inconvenience with an M203.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

It adds weight to your rifle

Granted, the M203 doesn’t weigh so much on its own, but as every infantryman will tell you, “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.”

Additionally, when you want to fire from a standing position, you’ll have to lift the front end of your rifle, which has now been weighted down. This may seem like a nitpick, but after days of little food, water, and sleep, you’ll be feeling it. If you get issued an M203, start hitting the gym because you’ll need the extra muscle.

They’re bulky

If you’ve got that M16/M203 combo going on, have fun fitting into tight spaces. It’s baffling how often that M203 gets in the way. Want to sit comfortably in any military vehicle? Good luck.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Consider yourself lucky if you can reload with it still attached.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)

They fall off

Easily the worst part of having an M203 is that they’re not usable 100% of the time. Most will just fall of the rifle after firing a single shot, which is both dangerous and annoying. If you’re in a situation where you have to use that bad boy, you don’t have time to pick it up and put it back on. This means you’ll just have to hand-fire it, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it also means you don’t have the sights of the rifle for aiming,

With these issues in mind, you’ll likely not get to fire it often enough for it to be worthwhile. You’ll most likely end up hating the thing and it’ll feel like dead weight.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A box of gear from Alpha Outpost for the tactical vet in your life

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For a gift of gear that keeps on giving:

~ The tactical subscription service designed by the guy behind Grunt Style ~

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

“If you’re not selling, you’re not in business. You’re just busy.”

Daniel Alarik, Cigars and Sea Stories Podcast

 

As we’ve reported, thoroughly, from previous fun encounters with Grunt Style founder, Daniel Alarik, the man is a force in the vetrepreneurial sector.

After all, he created one of the premier purveyors of patriotic apparel, standing tall in an extremely crowded field. Alarik and his team didn’t stop at clothing design, however.

Alarik ventured directly into another competitive field: the tactical monthly subscription box sector. His offering: Alpha Outpost.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Now, we’re not sure how familiar you are with the bizarre and extensive youTube subculture of subscription box unboxing videos, but believe us when we tell you, folks out there are effing intense about the quality, uniqueness, and overall wow-factor of the various, competing tactical gift boxes they receive in the mail every month.  Suffice to say, the average subscription box customer is a difficult dude to please.

Alpha Outpost must be doing something right. They made over $8 million dollars in revenue in their first year of operation.

The skills Alarik acquired and the systems he perfected through the hard years of launching Grunt Style certainly account for some of Alpha Outpost’s success. But a greater share is surely due to the sheer thoughtfulness evident in each of their monthly offerings.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Every month’s box has a theme and that theme poses a problem. The tools in the box make up part of the solution. The other part comes as a result of the skills you build by putting those tools to use as you work through specific challenges Alpha Outpost poses.

They’re not just sending you gear. They’re trying to make you better.

Knowing Alarik’s trajectory, it makes perfect sense that self-improvement lies at the heart of any gift you receive from his his company.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

As the CEO of two multi-million dollar, veteran-oriented companies, Alarik views kicking ass as a skill that anyone with the right tools can build. In his view, military experience isn’t a magic bullet for veteran success, but it provides a damn fine head start.

Check out the full Cigars and Sea Stories interview with Daniel Alarik and tell us you can’t think of someone who’d love to get a new box of ass-kicking tools every month from Alpha Outpost.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Russia Reports Largest Daily Increase Of Cases; 10,000 Graves Dug In Tehran

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.

Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.

Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.

“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.

Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”

Bulgaria

Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.

Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.

“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.

“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.

Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.

Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.

The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.

Iran

Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.

The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.

Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.

He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.

In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.

Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.

The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.

The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.

Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.

He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.

Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.

The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.

Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.

Armenia

In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”

He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.

The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fproxy%2F0j8lmZ30tqvGI7p40mbbeh-iddjMEj_TrxEL8GZ7gUiVA0eMtSMEqbSSLmSGXtl8ujqBcb4lja8uNx2mI3wQp5lUjnstQu-mKTuxKKg44xZITiFrDQk25Ic&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=934&h=e9c18fc442a8f5762418e944a3b7ecf0659d777d65b51ee78cc1fdcb9c93d8cf&size=980x&c=4246473462 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fproxy%252F0j8lmZ30tqvGI7p40mbbeh-iddjMEj_TrxEL8GZ7gUiVA0eMtSMEqbSSLmSGXtl8ujqBcb4lja8uNx2mI3wQp5lUjnstQu-mKTuxKKg44xZITiFrDQk25Ic%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D934%26h%3De9c18fc442a8f5762418e944a3b7ecf0659d777d65b51ee78cc1fdcb9c93d8cf%26size%3D980x%26c%3D4246473462%22%7D” expand=1]

lh3.googleusercontent.com

After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.

Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.

The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 reasons military brats make better adults

There’s definitely something different about growing up a military brat. There are obvious things like always being the new kid, living all over the world and missing huge chunks of time with your service member parent. Life was a bit harder for you, harder to you perhaps. But with hard things come some major perks in the adult world.

Here are 4 reasons military brats make better adults:

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

1. You’re a master infiltrator

Do you know what most people are awful at? What creates that dry lump in throats of even the top business professionals? Walking into a room not knowing a soul and having to work that room of strangers. Life taught you not just to work the room, but how to infiltrate foreign camps and dominate the space. Military kids know how to read groups and people like a cheap deck of cards.

Jumping off the deep end into the unforgiving social circles of middle and high school as the newbie pays off in spades as an adult. Trial and error networking in the formative years. Getting it wrong as a kid a time or two saves major face when Tom from the office is profusely sweating from anxiety while you’ve got a drink in hand pulling out stories from your diverse life deck like a boss.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

2. You’ve got contacts

Growing up in the same little town with the same group of friends is as American as apple pie. It’s what’s glorified in the sitcoms, and what you think you’re missing out on. But you’ve been wrong. Life today is international. Staying put is a thing of the past. Lucky for you, you have two generations of contacts all working in different states or even countries around the world to tap into for a reference or internship. If your family ETS’d in Kansas, but NYC is more your speed, the likelihood you already know someone there is far greater than Susan, whose territory ends at the cornfield. Be nice, grow your network and wait for those big doors to open.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

3. You’ve got perspective

What’s the biggest value add potential employers are looking for in addition to a degree? Perspective. And you, you globetrotting, hardship enduring military brat have it in spades. You have actual firsthand knowledge of economies, well-planned cities or progressivism that works because you lived it.

Living it and just reading about it are two very different things. It may have sucked moving time and time again as a kid, but with the right spin, you can become ten times more valuable than a local ever could be.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

4. You’re just a better human

There are two kinds of people. The people that peak in high school, and the ones who unapologetically kick ass as an adult. Not sticking around a place long enough to establish your pre-real-world social hierarchy is painful, only until you realize that all your strife and struggle can and will make you a better adult.

You’ll be the one making the point of saying hello to the new guy in the office. You’ll be the one to see “different” as potential versus problematic. You will view the world through a much better, much bigger lens than your peers. You will be nicer overall because you endured a heck of a lot more things as a kid that has prepared you to face the hardships of life head-on.

No doubt growing up as a child in the military is quite the experience. There is, however, a tremendous amount of hope that all of those experiences can and will make military children the best damn adults around. Here’s to you military child.


MIGHTY TRENDING

US employee in China may have been victim of ‘sonic attack’

The State Department says a US government employee working in China suffered “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that later led to a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” — resulting in a warning to all US citizens in the country.

The strange incident recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where US officials reported symptoms consistent with a “sonic attack,” or exposure to harmful frequencies.


“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the State Department warned in a health alert. “We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms, and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.”

The State Department went on to advise: “While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the US worker’s ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something US officials in Cuba also experienced.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
The U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

The Post reports that Chinese and US officials are looking into the matter. Americans working in Cuba suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches, loss of balance, brain swelling, and disruption to cognitive functions.

The US originally called the Cuba incidents “sonic attacks” but later backed off that phrasing as medical experts examined the patients and found their symptoms and conditions to be of mysterious origins.

Medical testing revealed the embassy workers in Cuba developed changes to the white-matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, officials told the Associated Press.

But a purposeful attack hasn’t been ruled out as the source of the brain injuries now linked to two countries.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” a study about the victims in Cuba concluded.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia doubles down on its version of the beloved A-10

The Su-25 Frogfoot, known as the Grach or “Rook” by Russian pilots, is one of those aircraft that may not be at the cutting edge of technology, but still has seen widespread service around the world because it offers an effective and useful solution to the need to blast targets on the ground.

As such, its obvious stablemate is the American A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane. But while the U.S. Air Force wants to retire the A-10 starting in 2022, the Su-25 is undergoing extensive upgrades to keep with the times.


Also unlike the Thunderbolt, it has been disseminated it all over the world and seen action in over a dozen wars, including in the air campaigns over Syria, Iraq and Ukraine.

Not only has Russia had a lot of experience flying Su-25s in combat — it has shot several down as well.

During World War II, Russia’s armored Il-2 Sturmovik attack planes, nicknamed “Flying Tanks,” were renowned for their ability to take a pounding while dishing it out to German Panzer divisions with bombs, rockets and cannon fire.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Unlike the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s, which was enamored with the concept of “winning” nuclear wars with strategic bombers, the Soviet air service, the VVS, placed more emphasis on supporting ground armies in its Frontal Aviation branch. However, no worthy successor to the Shturmovik immediately appeared after World War II

In 1968, the VVS service decided it was time for another properly designed flying tank. After a three-way competition, the prototype submitted by Sukhoi was selected and the first Su-25 attack planes entered production in 1978 in a factory in Tbilisi, Georgia. Coincidentally, the American A-10 Thunderbolt had begun entering service a few years earlier.

Like the A-10, the Su-25 was all about winning a titanic clash between the ground forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact by busting tanks and blasting infantry in Close Air Support missions. This meant flying low and slow to properly observe the battlefield and line up the plane for an attack run.

Flying low would also help the Su-25 avoid all the deadly long-range SAMs that would have been active in a European battlefield. However, this would have exposed it to all kinds of antiaircraft guns. Thus, the pilot of the Su-25 benefited from an “armored bathtub” — ten to twenty-five millimeters of armor plating that wrapped around the cockpit and even padded the pilot’s headrest. It also had armored fuel tanks and redundant control schemes to increase the likelihood of surviving a hit. And in their extensive combat careers, Su-25s have survived some really bad hits.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

A Sukhoi Su-25SM at the Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Russian Air Force.

Despite the similarities with the A-10, the Su-25 is a smaller and lighter, and has a maximum speed fifty percent faster than the Thunderbolt’s at around six hundred miles per hour. However, the Frogfoot has shorter range and loiter time, can only operate at half the altitude, and has a lighter maximum load of up to eight thousand pounds of munitions, compared to sixteen thousand on the Thunderbolt.

More importantly, the types of munitions usually carried are typically different. The Thunderbolt’s mainstays are precision-guided munitions, especially Maverick antitank missiles, as well as its monstrous, fast-firing GAU-8 cannon.

The Su-25’s armament has typically consisted of unguided 250 or 500 kilogram bombs, cluster bombs and rockets. The rockets come in forms ranging from pods containing dozens of smaller 57- or 80-millimeter rockets, to five-shot 130-millimeter S-13 system, to large singular 240- or 330-millimeter rockets. The Su-25 also has a Gsh-30-2 30-millimeter cannon under the nose with 260 rounds of ammunition, though it doesn’t have the absurd rate of fire of the GAU-8.

The lower tip of the Frogfoot’s nose holds a glass-enclosed laser designator. Su-25s did make occasional use of Kh-25ML and Kh-29 laser guided missiles in Afghanistan to take out Mujahideen fortified caves, striking targets as far as five miles away. KAB-250 laser-guided bombs began to see use in Chechnya as well. However, use of such weapons was relatively rare. For example, they made up only 2 percent of munitions expended by the Russian Air Force in Chechnya.

The Su-25 was still packing plenty of antipersonnel firepower—and that’s exactly what was called for when it first saw action in Afghanistan beginning in 1981. The Su-25 was the workhorse fixed-wing attack plane in the conflict, flying more than sixty thousand sorties in bombing raids on mujahedeen villages and mountain strongholds. They often teamed up with Mi-24 attack helicopters to provide air support for Soviet armored units.

However, as the Afghan rebels began to acquire Stinger missiles from the United States, Su-25s began to suffer losses and the Soviet pilots were forced to fly higher to avoid the man-portable surface-to-air missiles. In all, some fifteen Su-25s were shot down in Afghanistan before the Soviet withdrawal.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Su-25s were passed onto the air services of all the Soviet successor states. Those that didn’t use Su-25s in local wars—on both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example—often exported them to countries that did. Frogfoots have seen action in the service of Macedonia (against Albanian rebels), Ethiopia (against Eritrea, with one shot down), Sudan (target: Darfur), and Georgia versus Abkhazian separatists that shot down several. And that list is not comprehensive.

In one notable episode, Cote d’Ivoire acquired several Su-25s and used them in its civil war. When the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was angered by the perceived partisanship of French peacekeepers, his mercenary-piloted Su-25s bombed the French camp, killing nine. Whoever ordered the attack didn’t consider that there was a French contingent stationed at the Yamoussoukro Airfield where the Frogfoots were based. The French used anti-tank missiles to destroy the fighter bombers on the ground in retaliation.

Russian Su-25 were back in action in the Chechnya campaign of 1994 to 1995, flying 5,300 strike sorties. Early on they helped wipe out Chechen aircraft on the ground and hit the Presidential Palace in Grozny with anti-concrete bombs. They then pursued a more general bombing campaign. Four were lost to missiles and flak. They were again prominent in the Second Chechen War in 1999, where only one was lost.

Of course, it’s important to note at this juncture that the Su-25 is one of a handful of Soviet aircraft that received its own American computer game in 1990.

Modern Su-25s

In addition to the base model, the Frogfoot also came in an export variant, the Su-25K, and a variety of two-seat trainers with a hunchback canopy, including the combat-capable Su-25UBM.

There were a number of projects to modernize the Su-25, including small productions runs of Su-25T and Su-25TM tank busters. But the Russian Air Force finally selected the Su-25SM in the early 2000s for all future modernization.

The SM has a new BARS satellite navigation/attack system, which allows for more precise targeting, as well as a whole slew of improved avionics such as news heads-up displays (HUDS), Radar Warning Receivers and the like. The Su-25SM can use the excellent R-73 short-range air-to-air missile, and has improved targeting abilities for laser-guided bombs. Other improvements reduce maintenance requirements and lower aircraft weight.

The National Interest‘s Dave Majumdar has written about the latest SM3 upgrade, which includes the capacity to fire Kh-58 anti-radar missiles, which could enable Su-25s to help suppress enemy air defenses, as well as a Vitebskelectronic-countermeasure system that could increase its survivability against both radar- and infarred-guided surface to air missiles.

Georgia and Ukraine also have limited numbers of their own domestically upgrade variants, the Su-25KM and the Su-25M1 respectively. You can check out the Su-25KM variant, produced with an Israeli firm, in this video full of unironic 1980s flair.

Speaking of Georgia, things got messy in 2008 when both Russia and Georgia operated Frogfoots in the Russo-Georgian War. The Georgian Frogfoots provided air support for Georgian troops seizing the city of Tskhinvali. Then Russian Su-25s assisted Russian armor in blasting them out. Russia lost three Su-25s to MANPADS—two likely from friendly fire—and Georgia lost a similar number to Russian SAMs. To the surprise of observers, however, the Russian Air Force did not succeed in sweeping Georgian aviation from the sky.

In 2014, Ukraine deployed its Frogfoots to support ground forces combating separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine. They assisted in the initial recapture of the Donetsk airport in May, would be followed over a half year of seesaw battles ending in a separatist victory in 2015. Ukraine lost four Su-25s in the ensuing ground-attack missions—three were hit by missiles (one MANPADS, two allegedly by longer-ranged systems across the Russian border), and a fourth was reportedly downed by a Russian MiG-29. Two others survivedhits from missiles. As a result, Su-25 strikes were sharply curtailed to avoid incurring further losses.

In 2015, the Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have launched airstrikes with an Su-25 of their own. Depending on who you ask, the airplane was restored from a museum or flew in from Russia.

The Iraqi Air Force has deployed its own Su-25s in the war against ISIS, purchasing five from Russia in 2014 and receiving seven from Iran that had been impounded during the 1991 Gulf War.

Finally, in the fall of 2015, Russia deployed a dozen modernized Su-25SMs in support of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Many observers noted that of the aircraft involved in the mission, the Su-25s were the best adapted for the close air-support role. The Frogfoot flew 1,600 sorties against rebel-held Syrian cities, and expended more than six thousand munitions, mostly unguided bombs and S-13 rockets. They were withdrawn this year, leaving attack helicopter behind to perform more precise—and risky—close air support missions.

Lessons Learned from Flying Tanks?

While it’s fun to admire high-performing fighters like the MiG-29 or F-22 Raptor, the unglamorous Su-25 has so far had a greater impact on a wide range of conflicts. We can draw a few lessons from its recent combat record.

First, the significant losses suffered by Su-25s demonstrate that without effective air-defense suppression and electronic counter-measures, low-and-slow ground support planes are poised to take heavy losses against Russian-made surface-to-air missiles deployed in sufficient numbers.

Second, observation of Russia’s Syrian contingent suggests that despite possessing a diverse arsenal of precision guided munitions, the Russian Air Force continues to rely primarily on unguided bombs and rockets for the close air support mission.

Lastly, aircraft capable of delivering punishing attacks on ground targets while retaining a good chance of surviving hits taken in return are going to remain in high demand worldwide.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army will get first light tank prototypes in 2020

The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.

The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.


The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.

“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.

“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.

The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.

Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.

The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.

The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air Force C-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.

(US Air Force photo)

Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.

GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.

“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.

The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.

“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”

The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.

“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”

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

popular

French Marines ended a hostage crisis with a bayonet charge

French Marines were manning observation posts on either side of the Vrbanja Bridge. They were UN peacekeepers, the first to arrive in the decimated city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in May 1995. But their day was to begin in humiliation and end in bloodshed as their mission to hold the observation posts quickly escalated into the first UN combat mission of the war.


When they first began their occupation of the bridge, one side was overtaken by Bosnian Serb commandos. Dressed in French uniforms and donning French weapons, the commandos took one side of the bridge without firing a shot. They even pulled up to the post in a stolen French armored personnel carrier. For many of the Serbs, it was the last thing they would ever do.

 

A lot of them, like Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, were busy committing war crimes.

 

At gunpoint, the 10 French marines were disarmed and taken captive, and driven to another location. The other two were to be used on the bridge as human shields. The other side of the bridge didn’t even know their comrades had been overrun and captured. When the other unit didn’t check in with headquarters, their platoon commander came to check in on the Marines – he then sounded the alarm. When their fellow marines discovered their friends had been taken captive, they decided to move quickly on the Serb commandos.

“When the Serbs took our soldiers under their control by threat, by dirty tricks, they began to act as terrorists, you cannot support this,” Said Col. Erik Sandahl, commander of the 4th French Battalion. “You must react. The moment comes when you have to stop it. Full stop. And we did.”

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
French APCs on the ground in Bosnia, 1995.

 

When French President Jacques Chirac found out about the captured French marines, he went around the UN and ordered his troops to retake the bridge and find the missing men. The French sent 30 more Marines, 13 APCs, and 70 French Army soldiers to the bridge. But they couldn’t just blow up the observation post or do a regular infantry assault on the position. There were still hostages inside. They were going to have to do it the old fashioned way.

The French marines mounted their first bayonet charge since the Korean War.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
François Lecointre, now a general and France’s Chief of the Defence Staff, led the bayonet charge. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

After the bayonet charge, a 32-minute firefight ensued that saw one of the French hostages shot by a Bosnian sniper, the other hostage escaped, three Frenchmen killed in action and another ten wounded, along with four Serbs killed, three wounded and another four taken prisoner. The 10 French hostages were later released. The Serbs soldiers captured were treated as prisoners of war and held by the UN peacekeeping force.

It was the last time the French Army ever launched a bayonet charge, but for the rest of the time the French were participating as UN Peacekeepers in Bosnia, the Serbian forces kept a clear, noticeable distance from them.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pierre Le Gloan: The ace WWII fighter who fought for both sides

Fighter aces—those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircrafts—are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds”. There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, and many who have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.


That is, none except one…

Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.

When war came he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On November 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Alchetron

All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.

It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.

Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter ace, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.

On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan it made no difference. He’d flown, fought and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.

His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables) and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.

Neither would his life.

The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.

Soon all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.

Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built, this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Le Gloan, in severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground the undercarriage collapsed.

The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.

Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper’s proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018’s general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.


If a majority of California voters who cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislature. Then it would reach the US Congress.

The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences in support for slavery.

Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.

With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous US state. Supporters of the initiative argue that it isn’t fairly represented with two senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
u200b

According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.

“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Peggy Grande, a representative for the Cal 3 campaign, said in a June 16, 2018 statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”

However, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.

Critics of the initiative say that having three Californias would diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states could change that equation, which worries some Democrats.

Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of California’s population:

  • California: This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito.
  • Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial.
  • Northern California: This would make up 40 counties including those of the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento, the state capital.

This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.

In 2016, an effort called Calexit sought to separate California from the US. The secession movement fell out of the spotlight after its former leader announced he was moving to Russia, though the group is still gathering signatures to qualify a measure for the 2018 ballot.

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

Lists

8 books that inspired great war films

War is the subject of some of the most powerful movies ever made. But Hollywood has long been borrowing its inspiration from an older medium – books – and its war movies are no exception. While some war movies are original efforts, like 2017’s Dunkirk (though The Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord is a fantastic book on the subject — even if the movie wasn’t based on it), many of the greatest war movies of all time have been based on novels or nonfiction books.


Some of the books that have inspired war adaptations are considered classics, and others are too often overlooked. But all are worth reading, and we’ve brought together some of the very best ones below. Here are the superb books behind some of the best war adaptations Hollywood has ever made.

Also read: The 9 best nonfiction history audiobooks you can get right now

1. Enemy at the Gates by William Craig

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Craig’s nonfiction account of one of the most dramatic moments of the Second World War was the inspiration for a movie made nearly 30 years after its publication. Enemy at the Gates (2001) used multiple accounts to create its story, but both the movie and this book capture the dark drama and tension of the Battle of Stalingrad.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
Joseph Fiennes and Jude Law in Enemy at the Gates (2001). (Paramount Pictures)

2. From Here to Eternity by James Jones

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

From Here to Eternity (1953) is one of Hollywood’s all-time classics, and it owes its existence to the novel of the same name written by James Jones. The story centers around the men stationed at Pearl Harbor and reaches its climax with the infamous surprise attack launched by the Japanese. Themes of love and friendship mix with the horror of the attack in a story that lingers. Jones’ sequel, The Thin Red Line, focuses on a fictionalized battle within the Battle of Guadalcanal and was adapted into a film starring Sean Penn and Adrien Brody in 1998.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity (1953). (Columbia Pictures)

3. Casualties of War by Daniel Lang

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

The roots of Casualties of War (1989) are found in Daniel Lang’s work – not just in his book Casualties of War, but also in the 1969 article he wrote for The New Yorker that eventually led to the full-length work. Like the movie and the article, Lang’s book tells the story of a wartime atrocity committed by American servicemen in Vietnam. The kidnapping, rape, and murder of Phan Thi Mao is difficult to read about and impossible to forget.

4. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

We Were Soldiers (2002) is an adaptation of this nonfiction book, widely considered to be one of the great modern military histories ever written. The book is a collaboration between Galloway, a war journalist, and Moore, a lieutenant colonel at the time of the Battle of Ia Drang, which is featured prominently in the book.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
Barry Pepper and Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers (2002). (Paramount Pictures)

Related: 6 military movies you need to watch in 2018

5. Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

War correspondent Richard Tregaskis’ clear, vernacular prose and careful reporting work make his account of his time on Guadalcanal one of the most readable journalistic records of World War II. The book offered insight into the relationship between the Marines on Guadalcanal, and its uplifting moments of camaraderie helped make it popular in the U.S. as the war raged on. It was swiftly adapted into a film, which was also released before the end of World War II.

6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Heart of Darkness is unique on this list in part because it is not, strictly speaking, a war novel. Conrad’s book is about the soul of a man in the in the Congo at the height of colonization. Kurtz, a European ivory trader, has changed dramatically during his years in the jungle. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and screenwriter John Milius saw parallels to the changing souls of men at war and adapted the novella into the classic, Apocalypse Now.

More: 7 amazing war books written by the men who fought there

7. American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

Fascinating, impressive, and sometimes troubling, the autobiography that Chris Kyle wrote with Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice is an essential documentation of American warrior culture. Kyle is the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, with 160 confirmed kills. Yet some reports have suggested that he embellished his military record in this book, which also led to Kyle losing a defamation lawsuit. Kyle was later killed by a shooter at a civilian gun range, but his book survives as a fascinating primary document – more useful and important, in some ways, than the popular film adaptation.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
Jake McDorman and Bradley Cooper in American Sniper (2014). (Warner Bros.)

8. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible

All Quiet on the Western Front is a grim and moving novel. It is a fictionalized account of Remarque’s time in the German army late in World War I. Its unflinching portrayal of the evils of war and its underlying tones of survivor’s guilt make it one of the most honest books ever written about war. It’s also one of the best. It was adapted into a film in 1930, which went on to win Academy Awards for Best Director and Outstanding Production.

popular

America wanted to stop Earth’s rotation during Cold War

A book from a nuclear whistleblower has a stunning claim that the U.S. Air Force once had a plan to throw off Soviet missiles by stopping the rotation of the earth with a thousand rockets.

Yup, the Wile E. Coyote missile defense plan which, theoretically, could have worked.


Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
Like this, but with fewer spectators and tires. And more rockets. (NASA)

 

First, the qualifications: The allegation comes from Daniel Ellsberg who worked for RAND from 1960 to 1970 and says he saw the plans before he left the corporation. Basically, it called for 1,000 rocket engines laid horizontally on the Earth’s surface that would fire when missiles were in flight towards America. His claim is the only evidence that remains. He said he stole documents, but they were lost years later.

The plan was in early stages when Ellsberg saw it, and it seems to have gone nowhere. But, in the most limited sense, the science does kind of work. Before cruise missiles became all the rage, nearly all nuclear threats were limited to ballistic missiles and bombers. When it comes to ballistic missiles, they have no guidance after a certain point in the flight; some can’t be redirected after takeoff because they used solely inertial guidance.

So imagine if you shot an arrow at a moving target and then someone stopped the target from moving while the arrow was already in flight. You would likely miss since, you know, target moved. So far, so good.

But the rest of the science isn’t so great.

 

Can you change earth’s rotation with rockets – Project Retro

First of all, rockets laid against the ground would be pushing against the atmosphere, and the earth is much, much denser than the atmosphere. So most of the energy would accelerate the atmosphere rather than slow the rotation of the earth.

Even with a thousand of America’s most powerful rockets pushing at once, it’s likely that U.S. cities would be in basically the exact same spot. A YouTuber who plugged the numbers into some simulations found that the rotation would only slow enough to shift the target’s position so minutely that you couldn’t even measure it with conventional tools. Like, the missiles would only miss by the width of a couple of atoms. Not enough to save a single human life.

And then there’s the fact that, even if the rockets offset the cities’ positions by hundreds of yards or even a few miles, that would only shift the pain. The missiles would still impact on the east side of the city or just east of the city. For New York, the missile would explode over the ocean instead of the city. But east of Philadelphia is still New Jersey. East of Atlanta is still Georgia, east of Dallas is still Texas.

But the more success the rockets have in shifting the city’s position, the worse another problem is. Everything on earth experiences the earth’s inertia, we just can’t feel it because it’s always there. But if the earth’s inertia suddenly slowed or even stopped, we would experience it like the earth was suddenly moving.

Ballistic missiles coming from Russia would take something like 30 minutes from launch to impact, but the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily know the missile was in flight for the first few minutes. So, if we give the rockets 20 minutes of time to shift the planet’s rotation 11 miles, the distance needed to keep a missile aimed at western Washington D.C. from hitting the city, the rockets would have to slow the planet’s rotation by 33 mph for that entire 20 minutes. (But the nukes would still hit the suburbs.)

Imagine a model of a city sitting on top of a car, then imagine accelerating the car to 33 mph as fast as you could, driving it for 20 minutes, and then coasting to a stop. And the city isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

And every human and structure and animal and droplet of water in the world would experience this slowdown at once, not just the ones targeted by the missiles. But not all tectonic plates would experience it exactly the same. Assuming the rockets would all have been placed in the U.S., the North American Plate would take all the stress.

Here’s why having an M203 Grenade Launcher is actually terrible
​Pictured: Still not as bad as worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

Where the plate borders other tectonic plates, this would certainly create earthquakes, potentially triggering tsunamis off the West Coast as well as deep within the Atlantic. Another fault line passes through the Caribbean south of Florida and it, too, would likely quake.

So, actual earthquakes and tsunamis would be triggered at the same time that every city in the world experiences a weird pseudo-quake as the rockets fire, and the oceans would slosh over continents, all so the missiles would land on the outskirts of a few dozen cities instead of the hearts of the cities.

The missiles are starting to not look so bad, huh? It seems likely that, if the Air Force ever did seriously consider this, it was like the nuclear moon bases. They wrote some papers, decided it was nonsense, and moved on. But then, they did make prototype nuclear-powered planes and rockets, so maybe not.

(Featured image by Kevin Gill CC BY 2.0)

Do Not Sell My Personal Information