This gun company makes a SAW you can own - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon has been a mainstay for the troops since it entered service with the United States in 1984. In the 33 years since, it’s seen action in the War on Terror, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm.


According to the FN website, the M249 fires the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. It comes in at 17 pounds, and is 40.75 inches long with a 20.5-inch barrel. It can use the same 30-round magazines as M16/M4 rifles, or it can use belts of 100 or 200 rounds. The M249 Para has a 16.3″ barrel, and weighs just under 16 pounds. These guns have an effective range of just under 875 yards.

 

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
A M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) on a Stryker.(Photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

 

Due to a 1986 law, finding a real SAW for you to add to your collection is very difficult, and it’s impossible to get one made after 1986. Thankfully, Fabrique Nationale has stepped in. In a catalog available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo held in Washington, D.C., last month, FN notes that a semi-auto only version of the weapon, known as the M249S, is available.

The baseline version comes with an 18.5-inch barrel, and weighs the same 17 pounds as the version the troops use. It does come in slightly longer, at 41 inches, but retains the same ability to use 30-round magazines or the 100 or 200-round belts. FN also makes a M249S Para. This comes in at just under 17 pounds, and has a 16.5-inch barrel. They cost $8,499.00 new.

 

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
The M249S Para, which doesn’t quite have the weight savings over the M249S as the M249 Para provides. (Photo from FN)

 

All federal, state, and local laws apply to the M249S family of weapons. Still, it makes an excellent option for a person who wants to have something that can help the give friends and family a sense of their military service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Say goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler with these fun facts

In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.

It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.


This gun company makes a SAW you can own

#BabyPictures

It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS

First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Its victories were flawless

Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Its job was to jam enemy radar

But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

It’s the longest serving tactical jet

F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.

For now.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden

Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy drops high-explosive footage of awesome weapons tests

The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.


NAWCWD China Lake Ranges 2018

youtu.be

The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.

There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.

The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.

(U.S. Navy)

The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.

And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*

*Must bring your own jet and bombs.

The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s last F/A-18C Hornet just took its final flight

The last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana on Oct. 2, 2019.

Assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, was also born in 1988.

“Today marked the final United States Navy F/A-18C Operational Hornet flight,” said the Commodore, Command Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Brian Becker.


This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.

Becker said the F/A-18C aircraft has served admirably for over 30 years and highlighted its history in naval aviation.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

During the last year, VFA-106 has transferred over 50 F/A-18 Hornets to various Navy Reserve and US Marine aviation commands, as well as being placed in preservation for future use if needed.

Both the F/A-18A and F/A-18C Hornet variants have been replaced by the updated F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. VFA-106 is the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, which trains naval aviators to fly the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNAVY on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

KC-46 debuts at Paris air show amid news of more delays

The Air Force’s new KC-46 Pegasus tanker landed on the flight line at France’s Paris-Le Bourget Airport June 15, 2019, ahead of its public debut at the air show.

But the overseas unveiling comes on the heels of a new government watchdog report outlining new concerns for the KC-46 program, and amid continued challenges with manufacturer Boeing Co. regarding assembly line inspection.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it will take some time for the new inspection process to become standard at Boeing’s production facility. The inspections are supposed to correct actions that set back the program earlier this year.


The Air Force in April 2019 cleared Boeing to resume aircraft deliveries following two stand-downs over foreign object debris (FOD) — trash, tools, nuts and bolts, and other miscellaneous items — found scattered inside the aircraft.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

A KC-46 Pegasus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Roper on June 17, 2019, said more FOD issues were discovered within the last week.

“It’s slowing down deliveries,” Roper said here during the airshow.

Currently, the production is averaging one aircraft delivery to the Air Force per month, well below the rate of delivery the service had expected, Roper said.

“We’re currently not accepting at three airplanes per month, which was the original plan. But we’re not going to be pushing on a faster delivery schedule in a way that would put the rigor of the inspection at risk,” he said.

All aircraft under assembly are supposed to be swept routinely for debris. Loose objects are dangerous because they can cause damage over time.

The first halt in accepting KC-46 deliveries occurred in February, and the decision to halt acceptance a second time was made March 23, 2019, officials said at the time.

“We’re just going to have to stay focused, have to continue verifying through these inspections, and what we hope we’ll see is that [detection will happen earlier] for total foreign object debris to come down,” Roper said.

On top of the FOD issue, a new Government Accountability Office report says that the KC-46 — which has had its share of issues even before the FOD discoveries — has a long road ahead for fixing other setbacks that still plague the aircraft.

The GAO found that while both Boeing and the Air Force are aware of or have begun implementing solutions to fix the aircraft, the repeated repairs and recurring delays in the program will likely cause other hiccups in the company’s delivery requirement, according to a report released June 12, 2019.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

The KC-46 Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time Oct. 9, 2015.

(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

As previously reported, one of the main issues surrounds poorly-timed testing. But GAO said a new issue lies with delivery of the wing refueling pods, which would allow for simultaneous refueling of two Navy or allied aircraft, or for aircraft that do not use a boom system.

Since the company did not start the process for testing the wing refueling pods on time, GAO found, it is not expected to meet the delivery date for the pods, nearly 34 months after the delivery was originally planned.

“Boeing continued to have difficulty providing design documentation needed to start Federal Aviation Administration testing for the wing aerial refueling pods over the past year, which caused the additional delays beyond what [GAO] reported last year,” the report said. “Specifically, program officials anticipate that the Air Force will accept the first 18 aircraft by August 2019, and nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods by June 2020 — which together with two spare engines constitute the contractual delivery requirement contained in the development contract.”

GAO officials noted the Air Force still grapples with other previously-known problems with the aircraft. For example, the service said in January 2019 said it would accept the tanker, which is based on the 767 airliner design, despite the fact it has a number of deficiencies, mainly with its Remote Vision System.

The RVS, which is made by Rockwell Collins and permits the in-flight operator to view the refueling system below the tanker, has been subject to frequent software glitches. The first tankers were delivered in spite of that problem.

The systemic issue, which will require a software and hardware update, may take three to four years to fix, officials have said.

GAO estimates it will take the same amount of time to fix and FAA-certify the tanker’s telescoping boom, which has previously been described as “too stiff”for lighter aircraft to receive fuel.

“The KC-46 boom currently requires more force to compress it sufficiently to maintain refueling position,” the report said. “Pilots of lighter receiver aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-16, reported the need to use more power to move the boom forward while in contact with the boom to maintain refueling position.”

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

An A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Pilots also pointed out the same power is needed to disconnect from the boom, which could damage the aircraft or the boom upon release.

The solution requires a hardware change and “will then take additional time to retrofit about 106 aircraft in lots 1 to 8,” GAO said. “The total estimated cost for designing and retrofitting aircraft is more than 0 million.”

It’s unclear if the latest findings will impede prospects for future international sales, especially at the Paris air show.

Jim McAleese, expert defense industry analyst and founder of McAleese Associates, said that the KC-46 is still the U.S.’s latest aviation program, and international partners will be curious about it.

“Now that [the Air Force] is accepting deliveries, KC-46 is high visibility for international sales,” McAleese recently told Military.com.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan on June 17, 2019, said its presence is key to showing U.S. capabilities abroad regardless of “minor” issues.

“KC-46 really is a great airplane,” Donovan said. “What we’re talking about here are sort of minor things when you take a look at the whole capability of the airplane.”

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

A KC-46 Pegasus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Roper added, “The foreign object debris is not a reflection of the end-state performance. We’re not happy with how FOD is being handled … but once we get the FOD out of the airplane the hard way, our operators are getting good performance out in the field.”

The Air Force has received six KC-46 tankers at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and five at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, according to a service release.

Designated aircraft and aircrew at McConnell earlier this month began Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation (IOTE), which will provide a glimpse “of how well the aircraft performs under the strain of operations,” the release said.

“As the KC-46 program proceeds with IOTE, participation in the Paris Air Show and other international aviation events serves as [an] opportunity to increase understanding of ally and partner capabilities and proficiencies, while promoting standardization and interoperability of equipment,” the Air Force said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA made a device that turns insects into remote-controlled cyborgs

DARPA created a device that hijacks an insect’s brain and body turning it into a miniature drone.


Through a DARPA-funded program, scientists at the University of California invented a tiny rig that connects to an insect’s brain and flight muscles. Once implanted, the device takes over the insect’s body, turning it into a remote control cyborg capable of receiving flight commands wirelessly from a nearby laptop.

Engineers at CRASAR developed small robots to aid in search-and-rescue missions and disaster relief, but nothing they’ve made has come close to the size and capabilities of an insect. Rather than creating such a robot, the University of California scientists decided to take a shortcut. “Insects are just amazing fliers compared to anything we can build at that scale,” said lead engineer Michel Maharbiz in and interview with WIRED.

This is not the first time scientists used technology to control insects, according WIRED:

Researches have created remote-controlled crawling insects before, forcing a bug’s legs to move by electrically stimulating its muscles. It’s simple enough that you can even buy your own kit to commandeer a cockroach at home. But flying bugs are harder to hijack.

This video shows the University of California scientists controlling a beetle cyborg:

Read more: DARPA invented a robot that can learn from watching YouTube videos

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.

The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.


In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.

It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.

Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.

The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing delivers first ‘loyal wingman’ drone prototype for testing

The Royal Australian Air Force has its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype, which will use artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict.

The company delivered its first “loyal wingman” prototype to Australia this week; it is expected to be used in tandem with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters on the battlefield, officials said in a release.


It’s also the first aircraft “to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years,” Boeing said, adding that it’s the company’s “largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.”

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”

The delivery in Sydney is the first of three for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, officials said.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow last year. Australia is investing roughly million into the program, CNN reported.

The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, according to its fact sheet.

It uses artificial intelligence “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft, the fact sheet states. The first prototype was constructed using digital engineering concepts, allowing developers to simulate parts via computer models, according to the company.

“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space Security.

“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept,” Robertson said. The drone-jet will now begin ground testing, followed by a first flight later this year.

“We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System,” she said.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own “Loyal Wingman” program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

In January, the Air Force conducted test flights of the XQ-58A Valkyrie drone at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, taking the unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Kratos Defense, to higher altitudes than previous tests.

The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft, which are intended to be reusable but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This deadly Russian attack helicopter is known as ‘the flying tank’

The Russian-made Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter is affectionately called the “flying tank” for its ability to take hits and keep flying. The nickname is also an homage to the World War II-era Soviet Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, which was equally hard to knock out of the sky.


Related: These are the 4 most savage attack helicopters of all time

Its fuselage is surrounded by thick armor plates capable of taking .50 cal rounds from all angles. The cockpit sits on a titanium tub—much like the A-10 Thunderbolt‘s design—and protected by bullet-proof windshields.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
Mi-24 Super Agile Hind, a modernized Hind by the South African firm ATE. At the Ysterplaat Airshow 2006. Photo by Danie van der Merwe, Flikr

Its flexible design allows the helicopter to perform fire support and infantry transport missions. Depending on the variant, the flying tank is armed with an incredible arsenal, including:

  • anti-tank guided missiles
  • rocket pods
  • machine gun pods
  • munitions dispenser pods
  • mine dispenser pods
  • conventional bomb pods
  • and more

The gunship entered the Soviet Air Force in 1972 and continues to serve in more than 30 nations around the world as the Mi-25 and Mi-35 export versions. This video perfectly shows why this weapons system is still relevant on today’s battlefields.

Watch:

Vexed123, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 10 worst Air Forces in the world

When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.


The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.

This gun company makes a SAW you can own
#blessed.

But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.

We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.

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Iran: 30+ years of Top Gun references. You know they love it.

But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.

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You magnificent, old bastard.

The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.

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A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

10. Canada

It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.

Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.

Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.

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Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.

9. China

Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.

That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.

More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.

It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.

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Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.

8. Greece

There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.

Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.

Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.

(FARS News Agency)

7. Iran

The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.

Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.

In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.

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This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.

(The Aviationist)

6. Ukraine

Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.

Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.

To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.

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PAF: Caveat emptor.

5. Pakistan

On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.

So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.

To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.

Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.

It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.

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4. Mexico

Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.

While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.

The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.

As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.

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The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.

3. Saudi Arabia

Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.

Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.

That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.

Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.

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North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.

(KCNA)

2. North Korea

Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.

But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.

The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.

I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.

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Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.

1. Syria

It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.

It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.

Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.

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