This 'Duster' cleaned up in the air and on the ground - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

World War II proved that tanks were very vulnerable to air attack. To deal with that threat, the United States and Soviet Union both developed some anti-aircraft guns that could keep up with and protect that valuable armor.

The Russians have invested heavily in tactical anti-air in recent years, developing systems that can, theoretically, shoot down an entire squadron of planes. Today, the best American self-propelled anti-aircraft gun is the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System. But before the Vulcan, there was the Duster.


The “Duster” was the popular nickname for the M42 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle took a tried-and-true weapon system, the twin 40mm Bofors gun that was responsible for eliminating many enemy planes in World War II, and mated it with the chassis of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. The result was a vehicle that would stick around for nearly two decades after its successor, the M163, entered service.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

The M42 was intended to shoot down planes, but like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” it was also lethal against ground targets.

(USMC)

The 40mm Bofors gun was the heart of the system. The M42 packed 336 rounds of 40mm ammo for the twin guns, which could fire 120 rounds a minute, giving the vehicle a bit less than 90 seconds of sustained firing time. The powerful 40mm guns had an effective range of 11,000 yards, or six-and-a-quarter miles.

The M42, like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” proved to be very potent in the air-to-air role but made an even bigger impact on the ground. It seems that, like aircraft, lightly-armored trucks and troops in the open don’t fare too well after meeting up with the 40mm.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Even with the introduction of the M163, the M42 hung around through most of the 1980s.

(Photo by Chitrapa)

As surface-to-air missiles were fielded, the Duster stuck around as a supplement to systems like the MIM-23 HAWK. The introduction of the M163 saw the Duster more often fielded with reserve units, where it hung on until 1988.

Despite not seeing use with American armed forces, the system is still in use with a number of countries around the world.

Learn more in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SJW7vTEPR8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has a message for commanders on their physical condition: Get on a fitness program or your job is at risk.

Addressing a standing room-only ballroom of officers and airmen at the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 17, 2019, Goldfein said he will launch an initiative Sept. 21, 2019, requiring officers in command billets to be in shape.

“If you are a commander in the United States Air Force, you are fit. There is no other discussion,” he said.

According to recently published Defense Department data, the Air Force has the second-highest percentage of obese troops, following the Navy. Some 18% of all airmen are obese, according to the most recent Health of the DoD Force report.


Goldfein didn’t provide specifics on his plan, but the initiative is part of an ongoing overhaul of Air Force fitness, designed to ensure that service members are fit without the current emphasis on the physical fitness assessment.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Air Force Maj. Michael Bliss, 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

He will underline his expectations by running the Air Force Half-Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a race for which Goldfein said he’s spent three months training and plans to complete. But “you can clock me … with a calendar,” he quipped.

“The point is … I don’t know when I am going to task [commanders] to deploy to Djibouti or Estonia or somewhere in the Pacific and expect you to perform the functions of an expeditionary commander in 120-degree heat or 30 below zero. I just know this: [That] is not the time to start your fitness program,” Goldfein said.

Squadron commanders, he added, will have an additional requirement: Unit fitness will be among the elements they will be graded on as part of a successful command tour.

“There are five elements of a command tour. It’s mission, culture, fitness, family and fun, and fitness is key. … We are going to do this from the top down,” Goldfein said.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

The Air Force is reviewing its physical fitness program with an aim to ensure that airmen sustain fitness throughout the year, instead of simply focusing their efforts on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.

Among the ideas being considered are randomized testing, a longer time between tests for the superfit, and measures to reduce anxiety around test time.

Speaking alongside Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the goal is to promote a culture of fitness across the force — a standard he said will improve readiness across-the-board.

“I wish all of us as the Air Force would spend more time throughout the year talking about health, fitness, nutrition and sleep than the time we spend on the test,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Russian special forces learned from their US counterparts

Russian special forces is often seen as a bit backward compared to NATO allies and the U.S. — with dated equipment, low budgets and ships that can’t sail.


But one force Moscow has clearly placed a lot of emphasis on are its special operations units. Like the U.S., the Russian military clearly sees how a small number of these specially-trained and-equipped troops can have an outsized influence on the battlefield — particularly against poorly organized, commanded and equipped terrorist forces like ISIS.

On May 10, 2017, the Russian military bestowed high honors on 13 members of a special forces unit that reportedly killed 300 ISIS fighters in Syria — that’s an average of 23 EKIA per man.

And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, Moscow’s commandos have taken a few pages out of Washington’s playbook. From their thumb-over-bore rifle handling, to their Multicam uniforms to their OpsCore helmets and red-dot optics, the Russian special operators have clearly learned the lessons of America’s anti-terrorism experience and applied it to their best trained troops.

“We had a good advantage in terms of armament and equipment, including thermal imaging sights,” one Russian commander said of his troops’ experience in Syria. “All this added to our success.”

Not only do the Russians have the latest weapons technology and gear, they’re also using top-end electronic systems for targeting and surveillance, the video shows. And they’ve clearly come a long way from their ham-fisted anti-terrorist operations in the Chechnya of the 1990s, with high-speed direct action and snipers taking the place of tank shells and dumb bombs.

“Training is constantly being improved, and the current special operations forces are touted as highly professional and elite troops,” independent Russian security expert Igor Nikolaychuk told Sputnik News.

And by the looks of this video from the Russian Special Operations Forces, he’s not far off.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gainey Cup is the Army’s annual cavalry competition and yes, it includes a final charge

As a showcase for the fourth biennial Gainey Cup International Best Scout Squad Competition, the U.S. Army Armor School hosted the Scouts in Action demonstration, April 29, 2019, at Red Cloud Range.

The Gainey Cup determines the best six-soldier scout squad in the Army and internationally by testing squads on their scout and cavalry skills, their physical stamina, and their cohesion as a team.


This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

The Scouts in Action demonstration was an opportunity for the Armor School to tell the history of the U.S. Cavalry and to show the public what scout squads do for their units, according to Capt. Tim Sweeney, Cavalry Leaders Course instructor.

“Part of what we do in the cavalry is really in the shadows and really hidden from the world to see, because that’s the nature of our business,” said Sweeney. “[Scouts in Action] was a demonstration of the different weapons platforms that we have and how they can be used to execute missions on the battlefield. So we’re just bringing what the Cav does to light.”

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, right, the namesake of the biennial Gainey Cup, speaks to competitors before the Recon Run.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

During the historical portion of Scouts in Action, the spectators, which included soldiers, civilians and Family members, saw scouts as they would have appeared in period uniforms as they would have ridden or driven period conveyances. They rode horses as Army scouts would have during the Civil War and drove jeeps as Army scouts would have during World War II. Then they drove the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker armored vehicle, all from the latter part of the 20th century.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

As part of the demonstration of scout skills for the audience, a scout squad performed aerial reconnaissance using a drone. After a notional enemy fired upon the scouts the scouts fired back. Their HMMWV got several rounds off in a one-second burst. Then a Bradley fighting vehicle joined the aciton. Then scouts in Abrams tanks fired at the enemy, each concussive thud knocking up dust.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

“So today was the demonstration of the firepower they have,” said Sweeney. “Then over the next three days, they’ll use that firepower and use their dismounted capabilities to execute the missions and really achieve their commander’s end state.”

When the demonstration concluded, the spectators had the opportunity to get refreshments, talk with soldiers and explore some of the vehicles they had just seen in action. The demonstration served as a public entry point to the competition already in progress.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The scout squads arrived the week before and took part in knowledge tests, vehicle identification, a call for fire, a gunnery skills test and a land navigation course.

Units participating this year include the 1st Armored Division; 1st Cavalry Division; 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 25th Infantry Divisions; 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; 10th Mountain Division; 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions; 2nd, 3rd and 134th Cavalry Regiments; 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; U.S. Army Alaska; 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and the Canadian, Great Britain, Netherlands and German armies.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

The squads began the second week of competition with an early morning reconnaissance run at Brave Rifles Field at Harmony Church. During the reconnaissance run, the six-person scout squads must run in uniform and with gear over a set course they do not know the distance to. The course is complete once every member of a squad crosses the finish line back at Brave Rifles Field.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Over three days, the squads will perform exercises that synthesize skills they were evaluated on during the first week. A scout squad proficiency exercise requires the scout squads to orient on a reconnaissance objective while performing reconnaissance on 20 kilometers of terrain occupied by enemy forces. During the scout skills event, the squads must maneuver within their vehicle while collecting and reporting information. As part of a lethality exercise, the squads must conduct a tactical mission under live fire, and then they receive a grade according to their ability to report and engage the enemy force.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Besides drawing focus to the scout mission operational specialty, the competition also serves as a training event for the U.S. Armor School and the units the scout squads represent.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

“This competition does a very good job of highlighting the capabilities and limitations that Cavalry scouts encounter, so it’s a way that units can continue to build their training plan, and the Army can look at training and figure out how we can become more and more lethal,” he said.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)


The final event of the competition is the Final Charge scheduled for 8 a.m. May 3, 2019, at Brave Rifles Field. After the final charge, the awards ceremony is scheduled to begin.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How NATO will counter increased Russian sub activity

Units from the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2018, only three months after deploying.

The Truman’s time at sea was only about half as long as typical deployments, and the early return reflects the Pentagon’s shift toward “dynamic force employment,” a concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to make the military more responsive to emerging threats.


“The National Defense Strategy directs us to be operationally unpredictable while remaining strategically predictable,” US Navy Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said a release announcing the return to port, which he said was “a direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the US Navy.”

Grady said the carrier group “had an incredibly successful three months in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility,” an area that stretches from pole to pole between the mid-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk

However, the Truman and its accompanying vessels finished their time at sea much closer to home — in the western Atlantic closer to Canada than to Europe, according to USNI News.

That area falls under the responsibility of Fleet Forces Command but will soon become the remit of the US Second Fleet, which was reestablished in early 2018 amid growing concern about Russian naval activity in and around the Atlantic Ocean.

The cruiser Normandy and destroyers Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke are set to return to Norfolk in July 2018, while the destroyers Bulkeley and Farragut remain at sea, a Navy official told The Virginian-Pilot. An official with Fleet Forces Command did not return a request seeking details about what operations these ships have been performing. But anti-submarine operations have become a bigger priority for the US and its allies.

The Truman’s anti-submarine capabilities are limited to the helicopters it carries, but the strike group did deploy in early 2018 with more destroyers than usual.

Those ships are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare assets that aren’t typically used in the Atlantic, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former submariner, told USNI News in June 2018. Operating in the Atlantic would give carrier strike groups opportunities to carry out high-end exercises with partner forces, he said.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

The North Atlantic become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).

Russia’s submarine fleet is is not nearly as big as its Cold War predecessor, but the subs Moscow has added and is working on are more advanced. (NATO navies, too, are smaller than they were during the Cold War.)

“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in early 2018. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”

The US and its allies have put more energy and resources into anti-submarine warfare. That includes a new focus on the Cold War maritime surveillance network that covered the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — known as the GIUK Gap. The US Navy has spent several million dollars refurbishing Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland to handle the advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, though the Navy has said those upgrades don’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.

Nevertheless, focusing on the GIUK Gap may fall short of the challenge NATO now faces.

For much of the Cold War, the Soviet navy lacked land-attack cruise missiles and would have had to leave its “bastion” in the Barents Sea in order to engage NATO forces, which made the GIUK Gap an important choke point at that time, according to Steven Wills, a military historian and former US Navy surface-warfare officer.

But with the development of sub-launched missiles — especially the modern Kaliber cruise missile — “Today’s Russian Navy can remain within its Barents bastion and still launch accurate attacks against ships in the Norwegian Sea and NATO land targets without leaving these protected waters,” Wills argues in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security, a professional military journal focused on naval strategy.

NATO should adopt a deterrent posture like that of the Cold War, Wills says, “but the locus of the action is much further north than Iceland.”

NATO’s decision to reestablish an Atlantic Command, to be based in Norfolk, is a welcome one, Wills writes, but that headquarters should focus on air and port facilities around the Norwegian and Greenland seas, even forward-deploying to oversee activity there. Surface vessels may need to partner with unmanned assets to cover a greater area as sea ice recedes.

Russia’s Northern Fleet is based on the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea, and a more active NATO naval presence in the area would almost certainly draw protests from Moscow, which has accused the alliance of trying to box in it and its allies in Europe. But a presence in the northern seas is necessary, according to Wills.

“The real ‘Gap’ where NATO must focus its deterrent action is the Greenland, Svalbard, North Cape line at the northern limit of the Norwegian and and Greenland Seas,” he writes. “It is again time to consider deterrent action and potential naval warfare in the ‘High North.'”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US used two new weapons in the latest strike on Syria

Massive missile strikes conducted by US, UK, and French air and naval assets on April 13, 2018, hit three targets that were allegedly related to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program. The strikes appear to have been largely successful.

US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, described the operation as “precise, overwhelming, effective,” and said that it “significantly crippled” the Syrian government’s chemical weapons capabilities.


In all, 105 weapons struck the Barzah Research and Development Center outside of Damascus, the Him Shinshar bunker, and a storage site near Homs.

“Taken together … these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense systems,” he said.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground
A News Briefing Slide from the US Department of Defense showing how the April 13, 2018 strikes on Syria played out.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

McKenzie also said that Syrian air defenses fired up to 40 surface-to-air missiles “without guidance,” and that they were “largely ineffective” as they had not managed to shoot down any US aircraft or prevent the intended targets from being destroyed.

Often overlooked in the assessment of the operation is the fact that two new weapons, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, known as the JASSM-ER, and the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine both made their combat debuts during the operation — and appear to have performed perfectly.

The JASSM kept bombers out of Syrian airspace

The JASSM is a standoff air-launched cruise missile made by Lockheed Martin. It is usually dropped from a bomber like a B-1B Lancer or B-2 Spirit, but can also be carried by F-15s and F-16s.

Its standoff capability enables it to be launched well away from its target, meaning its carrying vehicle may not even need to enter hostile airspace. This appears to be what happened in Syria, as Air Force spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told Military.com that the B-1B was able to “launch stand-off weapons from outside Syrian airspace.”

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground
A B-1 bomber dropping a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

The JASSM has a range of 200-500 nautical miles, a 1,000 pound penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead that can strike within 10 feet of its target, and a stealthy airframe that, in Lockheed Martin’s words, make it “extremely difficult to defeat.”

The missile has been in service since 2009, and at least 2,000 of them were delivered to the US Air Force. They are also in service with Australia, Finland, and Poland.

A total of 19 JASSMs were launched from B-1 bombers on April 13, 2018, all of which struck the Barzah Research Center. The bombers flew from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar with an escort of EA-6B Prowlers that are designed for electronic warfare.

The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the quietest submarines in service

Made by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the newest classes of submarines in the US Navy, and is considered by some to be one of the quietest submarines in service.

It has 12 vertical launch missile tubes that can fire 16 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles, as well as four 533mm torpedo tubes.

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground
(U.S. Navy photo)

A Virginia-class submarine, the USS John Warner, was one of four US Navy vessels that took part in April 13, 2018’s operation, firing six Tomahawks. The other vessels were the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Monterey, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Higgins and USS Laboon.

USS Laboon and USS Monterey fired 37 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea, while USS Higgins fired 23 from the Persian Gulf.

The Warner was notably the only US Navy vessel firing weapons from the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia reportedly has a considerable naval presence. Before the strike, a former Russian navy admiral said the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the Mediterranean, if it carries out a strike on Syria.

In the end, the Cook didn’t fire, and the Warner, a submarine, fired missiles while submerged, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface.

The Navy released footage of USS John Warner launching its cruise missiles, which you can see here:


Articles

Feds say contractor sold defective combat helmets built with prison labor

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The last World War I soldier to see combat died at age 111

On Sept. 22, 1917, a British Lewis gun team was hit by an incoming German shell during the third Battle of Ypres, near Passchendaele, Harry Patch was a member of that team. He was blown away by the blast, but his other three teammates were completely vaporized. He never saw them again. Patch struggled for years to tell that story, which he finally did before he died in 2009.

At his death, the last British Tommy to see World War I combat was 111 years, one month, one week, and one day old.


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A Canadian soldier tests out a Lewis Gun similar to the one Harry Patch worked in World War I.

With Patch went our collective connection to a bygone era. While other Great War veterans outlived Patch, Patch was the last among them to fight in the mud, the wet, the disease-ridden trenches of World War I’s Western Front. He was born in 1898 and drafted into the British Army at age 18. After a brief training period, Private Patch was sent to the Western Front with the other members of his Lewis Gun team during the winter of 1916. The next year is when the German artillery round hit his position and killed his friends.

Patch was still wounded and recovering by the time of the Armistice in November 1918. For the rest of his life, he considered September 22 to be his remembrance day, not November 11.

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Patch with Victoria Cross recipient Johnson Beharry in 2008.

By the time World War II rolled around, Harry Patch was much too old to join the Army and served as a firefighter in the British city of Bath instead. Patch never discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, let alone journalists, so he declined interviews until 1998, when the BBC pointed out to him that the number of World War I veterans still alive was shrinking fast. His first appearance was World War I in Colour, where he recalled the first time he came face to face with an enemy soldier. He shot to wound the man, not kill him. Patch was not a fan of killing, even in warfare.

“Millions of men came to fight in this war and I find it incredible that I am the only one left,” he told the BBC in 2007.

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Six pall-bearers from the 1st Battalion The Rifles bear the coffin of World War I veteran Harry Patch into Wells Cathedral in 2009.

Before his death, Harry Patch returned to the fields of Passchendaele where his three best friends met their end. He was going to once again meet a German, but this time there would be only handshakes. At age 106, Patch met Charles Kuentz, 107-year-old German World War I veteran who fought the British at Passchendaele. The two exchanged gifts and talked about the futility of war.

Patch wrote his memoirs at 107, to become the oldest author ever, and later watched as World War I-era planes dropped poppies over Somerset in memoriam to those who served. He died in 2009, aged 111 years, one month, one week, and one day. The bells of Wells Cathedral in Somerset were rung 111 times in his honor.

Articles

Here’s what it would look like if a modern Army fought the Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history with over 7,000 soldiers killed in three days of fighting.


(A single civilian, Mary Virginia Wade, was also killed.)

But if the modern military fought the battle, the costs could easily be much higher as today’s artillery, mortars, jets, and helicopters make every exchange more costly. And the increased range and firing rate of the M16 instead of Civil War rifles would make the missteps of generals even more catastrophic.

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A squad designated marksman scans his sector while providing security. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the two sides first clashed at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, it was largely an accident. Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, the head of cavalry for the North, had sent men to scout the area around the city and they ran into a group of men commanded by Gen. Harry Heth heading into the city to find supplies.

While many Union leaders thought there were only a few rebels in the area, and many rebels thought the Union forces were just a militia group, Buford and a few others suspected the truth. The two major armies in the eastern theater had just stumbled into one another.

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Mounted infantry is now known as mechanized infantry. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But Buford was a pioneer of mounted infantry tactics and ordered his subordinates to prepare for a pitched battle the following day. He spent the bulk of that night getting the lay of the land and planning his attack. But, if he had been in command of modern, mechanized infantry, he wouldn’t have needed to.

Instead, he would have sent his dismounts forward to search out the enemy encampments and would have brought his Strykers up with them. Meanwhile, any UAVs he could wrangle up would be flying ahead, searching out the enemy.

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An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

But Rebels with modern communication equipment would have reported the chance engagement in the city to their higher headquarters. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who knew that the Union was pursuing them north, would likely have sent out his own scouts and drones to search for enemy forces.

When each side learned that their enemy was nearby, heavily armed, and deployed near the vital strategic crossroads of Gettysburg, they would have surged all assets to take and hold the key ground.

Buford’s mechanized infantry would likely have taken the same heights that it did in 1863, but this time it would have positioned Strykers with TOW missiles behind cover and sent those armed with machine guns to cover the approaches to the heights. Most infantry squads would dismount and take up defensive positions on the heights.

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A U.S. soldier engages enemies during a training exercise. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia)

Meanwhile, each side would begin calling up close air support and alerting the Air Force that they needed air battle interdiction immediately. Unfortunately, when the jets arrived, they would be too busy trying to establish air superiority to start hitting ground targets.

As the duel began to play out in the sky, artillery units on the ground would begin lobbing shells at precision targets and using rockets and howitzer barrages to saturate areas of known enemy activity.

This is what makes it unlikely that Mrs. Mary Wade would be the only civilian casualty of a modern Gettysburg.

The Union forces would likely congregate in a similar fishhook that first night as they did in the actual battle on the second day.

But here is where things would go wrong for the Union. When Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-fated move into the peach orchard, the Confederates would have been able to pin his men down with machine gun fire and then concentrate their artillery fire, wiping out Sickles and most of his men.

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena)

Unfortunately, that would mean that U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, would not receive Sickles’ leg as a permanent display.

Down most of a corps and under fire, the Union would fall back to the heights once again and move forces to defend the flank where Sickles once was.

But Lee might once again make his great mistake of the battle. With a corps ground under his heel and the Union center losing men to guard the flank, he would order Maj. Gen. George Pickett, newly arrived on the battlefield in transports, to push against the seemingly weak Union center.

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Like this, but with even more destruction. (Scan: Library of Congress)

But as Pickett leads his men across the 1-mile of open ground to the Union center, his men would be cut down. The Union Strykers and Abrams would fire from behind cover and, while a few of them would be taken out by Confederate Javelins, TOWs, and other weapons, they would still wreak havoc.

Gunners on the ridge would open up with M2 .50-cals and M240Bs, walking the rounds on incoming Confederate infantry as they bounded into range. Union artillery would, once again, saturate the area. Fisters would identify command vehicles and pass their locations to helicopters and artillery crews for concentrated destruction.

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Missiles would arc back and forth across the Gettysburg fields in the wee hours of July 1. The whole Battle of Gettysburg, fought over a three-day period in real life, would have played out on an advanced timeline with modern-day weapons of war.

But the outcome would likely be the same: Lee’s undersupplied, outnumbered troops would attempt to force the high ground against defenders who reached most of the important terrain first; a false sense of confidence after the Confederates took advantage of Sickles’ mistake would have led them to gamble much and lose it all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Indian Air Force is more powerful than you think

India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.


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An upgraded Indian MiG-27 Flogger. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.

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But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.

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An Il-78 refuels two Mirage 2000s. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.

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An Indian Air Force (IAF) 14th Squadron SEPECAT (Breguet/BAC) Jaguar GR-1 Shamser (Sword of Justice) ground attack aircraft prepares to receive fuel from a IAF 78th Squadron Ilyushin IL-78 Midas aerial refueling aircraft. (Image from USAF)

The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.

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Two BAe Hawks. (Image from Indian Navy)

In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army recruit gets first haircut in 15 years before shipping out to basic training

A 23-year-old California native received his first haircut in 15 years to enlist in the US Army.

US Army Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo of Riverside donated 150 inches of hair to Locks of Love and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on Aug. 15, 2019.

“I’m just really excited to be enlisting in the US Army,” Arroyo said in a Facebook video. “Hopefully, some lucky little girl’s going to get it.”

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that donates hair to disadvantaged people with long-term medical conditions resulting in hair loss, such as cancer and severe burns.


Arroyo is scheduled to ship out to Ft. Benning, home of the Army’s infantry school, within the next two weeks, a US Army spokesperson told INSIDER.

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US Army Recruit Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo holds up his donation bag containing his hair.

(U.S. Army)

But Arroyo will not be sporting his fresh haircut for long.

Upon arriving at Ft. Benning, he is expected to receive a buzz cut like all the other male recruits. After graduating and at his commander’s discretion, he may grow out his hair again, so long as it remains “neat and conservative,” according to Army regulations.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What North Korea experts get wrong about life there

As US president Donald Trump prepares to meet with North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 19, 2018, all eyes are on North Korea.

Little is known about day-to-day life there, even among people who study the country. According to one defector, government propaganda in North Korea is pervasive, and even self-proclaimed North Korean experts often don’t realize how much.

In 1997, North Korean defector Kim Young-il escaped while the country was experiencing a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million — despite the government claiming it was a prosperous time with plenty of food.


Now 39, Kim is the founder of a nonprofit, People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), to help raise awareness about human rights issues in North Korea, promote reunification, and help defectors adjust to life in South Korea.

Even though Kim escaped the dictatorship, he told Business Insider in a recent interview that life remains the same in North Korea: Citizens are lied to and have to accept it. Within Korea, people major in North Korean studies in school, which Kim finds “silly.” He says these experts research North Korea and send information to the South Korean government, like reports that several factions are competing for power in North Korea, which could lead to the country’s downfall.

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North Koreans posing for a photo.

But Kim says this is false. “There is no difference between factions. There is only the family and the people. Kim Jong Un has total power. None of these factions are important. They just have a name. They have no power.” Kim continued: “Experts say there are two different factions that control North Korea, but it is only the dictator and his family that controls everything.”

Powerful people in South Korea are able to employ people who are loyal to them, but that’s not an option in North Korea because the highest levels of government choose who works where, said Kim.

“People in North Korea have no idea if the person working underneath them is a spy who is checking up on him or her. They have no idea who is trustworthy. People can’t form factions because everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone distrusts each other,” Kim said.

And as a defector, Kim said experts discount his experience. “These experts don’t see any value in the testimony of defectors,” he said. “They want to focus on the official documents of the North Korean government.” But Kim says these documents and official announcements “are not true. It’s propaganda.”

“The official announcements of North Korea is all false,” Kim said. “I experienced 20 years of North Korea and whenever there was a season of drought, the news would say there is a season of prosperity. What they officially say is all lies.”

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