Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins? - We Are The Mighty
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Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.


Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completes tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.

We’re familiar with the M1 Abrams. It has a 120mm main gun with 40 rounds, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. It is very tough (recall that in Desert Storm, this tank deflected T-72 main guns rounds fired from 400 meters away), but it is also fast – with a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).

So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.

But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Infantry Marines are now getting lighter, more streamlined body armor

The Marine Corps has started fielding a new plate carrier vest that features a more streamlined cut and offers a 25% weight savings over the vests Marines currently wear.

The new Plate Carrier Generation III will go first to infantry and other combat-arms Marines and then to supporting units in a push to reach full operational capability by fiscal 2023, according to a recent Marine Corps Systems Command announcement.


The Corps selected Vertical Protective Apparel LLC in September 2018 to manufacture up to 225,886 of the lighter and better-fitting Plate Carrier Generation III in an effort to increase the performance of Marines on the battlefield.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster, and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The PC Gen. III is important because it is nearly 25-percent lighter than the legacy technology.”

Military.com reached out to Systems Command for the average weight of the PC Gen. III compared to the current plate carrier but did not receive an immediate response.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The Marine Corps conducted a study in 2016 using the prototype of the new plate carrier, which involved Marines wearing it while running through obstacle courses and taking a 15-kilometer hike, according to the release. The study results showed that Marines completed the courses faster and appeared better conditioned when wearing the newer plate carrier design, it states.

Program officials worked with industry to remove excess bulk from the legacy plate carrier to reduce weight and give Marines more freedom of movement for handling weapons.

The material of the PC Gen. III reduces water absorption, and designers shaved bulk from the vest by cutting out excess fabric from around the shoulders.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, who leads the Individual Armor Team at PM ICE, said in the release.

The PC Gen. III is better-fitting than the current vest. It fits closer to the body, increasing protection and decreasing the risk of injury because of improper fit, according to the release.

The Marine Corps also added more sizes, so nearly 15,000 more male and female Marines will be able to get a proper fit when wearing the system, it adds.

“I think there’s a misconception that all females are small, and that’s not always true,” said Konicki. “We conducted a study that found the smallest Marine is actually male.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Joint Strike Fighter that might have been

The F-35 Lightning, the ultimate result of the Joint Strike Fighter program, is entering service with the Marines and Air Force. Its prototype, the X-35, won the competition in 2001, but it wasn’t the only serious contender. In fact, we were close to going in a very different direction. Boeing had its own entry into the JSF competition, the X-32, which would have been the F-32 had it won.

While the F-35 looks like a single-engine version of the F-22, the X-32 bore a resemblance to the A-7 Corsair, which is affectionately known as the SLUF, or “short little ugly f*cker.” Like the X-35, Boeing’s offering was to be cheaper than the F-22 Raptor and was intended to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, A-10 Thunderbolt, and AV-8B Harrier.


Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The X-32 taking off from Little Rock Air Force Base during the fly-off.

(DOD)

The X-32 and X-35 were selected to take part in a fly-off in 1996, beating out designs from Northrop Grumman and McDonnell Douglas.

The X-32 was based on reliable technology. To achieve Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing capability, it used a thrust-vectoring system similar to that used by the AV-8B Harrier. It had a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and a maximum unrefueled range of 979 miles. It packed a M61 20mm gun (again, proven technology) and was capable of carrying as many as six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles or up to 15,000 pounds of bombs.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The X-32’s big chin inlet, which gave it the appearance of a futuristic A-7, netted it the nickname “Monica.”

(USAF)

Lockheed’s X-35 used a separate lift-fan, much like the failed Yak-141 fighter. That gave it a performance edge over the X-32. As a result, “Monica” ended up losing out.

Both X-32 prototypes survived and have since been sent to museums.

Learn more about the Joint Strike Fighter that could have been in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJOc3vWc7_U

www.youtube.com

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Why the Japanese knee mortar terrified Marines

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary. 

Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence. 

The Knee Mortar makes its appearance

The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon. 

A little history

The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.

According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.

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History’s 6 greatest sniper duels

Sniper duels are common in movies, but they’re actually pretty rare in real life. Snipers spend most of their time protecting friendly troops and engaging enemy riflemen.


Still, snipers have faced off in tense, life and death battles. Here are 6 legendary cases where snipers hunted one another.

1. Carlos Hathcock and his hunter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7wnTfbtODI

Marine legend Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock fought a few sniper battles during his time in Vietnam as the North Vietnamese sent sniper after sniper to hunt him.

In one sniper duel, Hathcock found the trail of an NVA sniper hunting him. While following the sniper, Hathcock tripped over a tree and gave away his position. The NVA sniper took a shot but hit Hathcock’s spotter’s canteen.

The men maneuvered against each other and Hathcock eventually caught sight of a glint in the brush. He fired and then moved forward to investigate. As Hathcock had suspected, the glint was from the enemy scope. Hathcock’s round had gone straight through the tube and through the sniper’s eye.

2. Australian Billy Sing vs. Abdul the Terrible

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Photo: Australian War Museum

Trooper Billy Sing was an Australian who volunteered for service in World War I and found himself in Gallipoli fighting the Turks. Most days, he and a spotter would find a spot in the trees overlooking the enemy’s trench and then kill a soldier or two.

By the time he had amassed 200 kills, he was well known to the Turks who sent their own sniper, Abdul the Terrible. Abdul managed to kill Sing’s spotter, Tom Sheehan. Sing later spotted Abdul and avenged Sheehan. The Turks then attempted to shell Sing’s hiding place, but the sniper had already withdrawn to the trenches.

3. Simo Häyhä and the Soviet snipers sent to kill him

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Photos: Wikipedia

Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper from World War II who was known for scoring more than 500 Soviet kills in only 100 days. Of course, the Russians weren’t okay with this and sent sniper after sniper to kill him.

Häyhä picked them all off one by one until March 1940 when an unidentified Soviet sniper shot him through the face. Häyhä survived the shot and the war. He was promoted straight from corporal to lieutenant for his success on the battlefield.

4. Hathcock and the Apache

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

In another Carlos Hathcock battle, Hathcock hunted “Apache.” She was a sniper and interrogator who tortured Marines to death within earshot of the base that Hathcock stayed at.

After one Marine was tortured, skinned alive, and castrated, Hathcock watched for weeks for his target. He was watching an NVA patrol from 700 yards away when he saw her.

“We were in the midst of switching rifles,” he said. “We saw them. I saw a group coming, five of them. I saw her squat to pee, that’s how I knew it was her. They tried to get her to stop, but she didn’t stop. I stopped her. I put one extra in her for good measure.”

5. Adelbert Waldron takes out a sniper in a coconut tree from 900 meters.

Staff Sgt. Adelbert Waldron had a confirmed 109 kills during the Vietnam War. One of them was a stunning shot from the back of a boat as he took fire from an enemy sniper.

As the riverine patrol took fire, Waldron scanned the area for the sniper and spotted him nearly 1,000 yards away in a tree. While bobbing in the river water, Waldron dropped his attacker with a single shot.

6. The “Enemy at the Gates” battle for Stalingrad

During the Battle for Stalingrad, top Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev had over 400 confirmed kills, a number he was adding to throughout the battle. The Germans also had a top sniper there, Maj. Konig.

Zaitsev studied the battlefield and Konig’s kills until he deduced Zaitsev was hiding under a sheet of metal in a pile of bricks. Zaitsev used a friend as bait to draw out Konig and then picked off the German sniper when he exposed himself.

The story was adapted for the Hollywood movie “Enemy At The Gates,” but some have called the historical battle a piece of fiction as well. The story is good, but it may have just been Soviet propaganda.

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Soldiers sue for benefits after non-honorable discharges related to PTSD

Hyper-vigilant during his military stint in Iraq, always on the alert that he was in danger of being killed, Steve Kennedy found he could not turn it off.


An Army soldier who had led several teams during his time in Iraq, and won numerous awards, Kennedy uncharacteristically started using alcohol and putting himself in dangerous situations, hoping to get hurt.

Diagnosed with major depression they could not treat, the military gave Kennedy a less than honorable discharge blamed on an absence without leave to attend his wedding. Once out of the service he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
According to RAND, 20-30% of veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. (Courtesy photo illustration)

Alicia Carson took part in more than 100 missions in less than 300 days with an Army Special Forces unit in Afghanistan, and served in combat on a regular basis. When she returned home, she was found to have PTSD and a traumatic brain injury.

After presenting a physician’s diagnosis, she asked to be excused from National Guard drills. The National Guard then discharged her with a less than honorable discharge because of her absenses.

The two Army veterans filed a federal class-action suit April 17 asking that the Army Discharge Review Board give “liberal consideration” to their PTSD diagnoses as former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hegel had instructed in 2014.

They are being represented by supervisors and student interns at the Jerone N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School.

Kennedy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, members of the Yale Law School team and others held a press conference on the suit at the law school after it was filed with U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton in Bridgeport’ federal court.

Kennedy and Carson are filing on behalf of themselves and more than 50,000 similarly situated former military personnel.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
In 2014, only 42% of veterans were enrolled in the VA. (Veterans Affairs photo)

Blumenthal had worked with the former secretary of defense to put in place the Hegel memo to correct discharges that were based on actions tied to brain trauma and PTSD.

“This cause is a matter or justice, plain and simple. …Steve Kennedy has been through hell. The special hell of a bad paper discharge resulting from post-traumatic stress, one of the invisible wounds of war,” the senator said.

He introduced Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran, who was part of a different war but experienced the same bad papers due to actions committed while suffering from PTSD, something that was not even recognized medically in that era.

Monk, however, benefitted from the review board following Hegel’s memo after a lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense.

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

Blumenthal said the discharges resulted in a stigma for both of them and Carson, as well as a loss of benefits.

Kennedy has since put himself through school and is expected to get his doctorate this year in biophysical chemistry at New York University. With an honorable discharge, he would have been eligible for $75,000 in benefits he never received.

The senator said a lawsuit should not have been necessary to move the review board to do the right thing and follow the law.

“The Department of Defense has failed to provide the relief the law requires,” Blumenthal said.

The Army does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Blumenthal said he has spoken to Secretary of Defense James Mattis about this issue.

“He has been sympathetic, but these men and women are not seeking sympathy. They want real results. …They deserve consistent standards and fair treatment,” he said. Blumethal said they are not seeking any financial renumeration.

Kennedy lives in Fairfield, while Carson lives in Southington. She was not at the press conference.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Carson suffered from severe PTSD-related symptoms, such as nightmares, loss of consciousness, loss of memory, trouble sleeping, irritability, feelings of being dazed and confused, and photosensitivity, a vision problem recognized as a symptom of traumatic brain injury.

Jonathan Petkun, who is among the law students representing Kennedy and Carson, is also a former Marine and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“With this lawsuit, we are asking the Army to live up to its obligations and to fairly adjudicate the discharge upgrade applications of individuals with PTSD,” he said.

Petkun said since 2001, more than 2.5 million military personnel have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with more than half deployed more than once. At the same time, some 20 percent are estimated to be suffering from PTSD or PTSD-related conditions.

“Instead of giving these wounded warriors the treatment they deserve, too often the military kicks them out with less than honorable discharges based on minor infractions, many of which are attributable to their untreated PTSD,” Petkun said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy releases classified details on failed anti-torpedo weapon

The US Navy has shed light on a previously highly classified project meant to protect aircraft carriers from the grave and widespread threat of torpedoes, and it’s been a massive failure.

Virtually every navy the US might find itself at war against can field torpedoes, or underwater self-propelled bombs that have been sinking warships for more than 100 years.

US Navy aircraft carriers represent technological marvels, as they’re floating airports powered by nuclear reactors. But after years of secretive tests, the US has given up on a program to protect the ships against torpedoes.


The US Navy has canceled its anti-torpedo torpedo-defense system and will remove the systems from the five aircraft carriers that have them installed, the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation said in a report on Feb. 5, 2019.

“In September 2018, the Navy suspended its efforts to develop the [surface ship torpedo defense] system. The Navy plans to restore all carriers to their normal configurations during maintenance availabilities” over the next four years, the report said.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

Sitting ducks?

(Photo by Michael D. Cole)

Essentially, the report said that over five years the program made some progress in finding and knocking down incoming torpedoes, but not enough. Data on the reliability of the systems remains either too thin or nonexistent.

This leaves the US Navy’s surface ships with almost no defense against a submarine’s primary anti-surface weapon at a time when the service says that Russia’s and China’s submarine fleets have rapidly grown to pose a major threat to US ships.

The US ignored the threat of torpedoes, and now anyone with half a navy has a shot

At the end of the Cold War, the US turned away from anti-submarine warfare toward a fight against surface ships. But now, Russia, China, and Iran reportedly have supercavitating torpedoes, or torpedoes that form a bubble of air around themselves as they jet through the water at hundreds of miles per hour.

The new class of speedy torpedoes can’t be guided, but can fire straight toward US Navy carriers that have little chance of detecting them.

Torpedoes don’t directly collide with a ship, but rather use an explosion to create an air bubble under the ship to bend or break the keel, sinking the ship.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

High-speed underwater missile Shkval-E.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Other Russian torpedoes have a range of 12 miles and can zigzag to beat countermeasures when closing in on a ship.

In a combat exercise off the coast of Florida in 2015, a small French nuclear submarine, the Saphir, snuck through multiple rings of carrier-strike-group defenses and scored a simulated kill on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and half its escort ships, Reuters reported. Other US naval exercises have seen even old-fashioned, diesel-electric submarines sinking carriers.

Even unsophisticated foes such as North Korea and Iran can field diesel-electric submarines and hide them in the noisy littoral waters along key US Navy transit routes.

The US has spent 0 million on the failed system, The Drive reported.

The US Navy can deploy “nixies” or noise-making decoys that the ship drags behind it to attract torpedoes, but it must detect the incoming torpedoes first.

A US Navy carrier at 30 knots runs just 10 knots slower than a standard torpedo, but with a flight deck full of aircraft and personnel, pulling tight turns to dodge an incoming torpedo presents problems of its own.

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

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War

Much of the current conversation about warfare in the veteran community revolves around our involvement in the Middle East which appears to be drawing to a close at the end of its second complete decade. Many veterans have been busy producing works that address the legacy of the Global War on Terrorism and how it has shaped our most recent generation of veterans. But Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis have turned their sights to the future to speculate on what might come next.

What they have produced is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, a fast-paced thriller set in the year 2034, told from multiple perspectives as the world finds itself on the brink of a war the likes of which have not been seen since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. The novel attempts to merge present-day fact with an all too plausible future on a global scale. The effect is unsettling. It is wargames with literary flair and it wastes no time jumping into the action. 

At the beginning of the novel, two seemingly minor occurrences kick off a chain reaction of events that quickly escalate to global proportions with dire consequences. Lines are drawn. Sides are taken. The United States finds itself enmeshed in its first conflict with a near-peer adversary in decades. As the conflict continues to grow, the numbers of casualties rapidly lose meaning demonstrating the sheer scale of the war. A few hundred sailors lost at sea in one chapter becomes thirty-seven ships sunk during battle in the next chapter which then becomes ten million civilians vaporized through the use of a nuclear warhead. The reader is engulfed by the catastrophic numbers and left feeling haunted.

What is immediately appealing about this novel is that it resists over-intellectualizing the politics at play. It is accessible and unpretentious in its approach. They accomplish this through the use of a vibrant cast of characters. Each one is fully realized with impressive brevity. The reader recognizes their motivations because they are the desires any person can relate to. Sarah Hunt, a Commodore with the United States Navy, laments the premature end of her military career due to a medical board’s unfavorable decision. A disgraced Brigadier General with the Quds Force of Iran meditates on the true meaning of a soldier’s death as he considers the scars left on his body and his soul from a career spent serving a government that does not appear to appreciate his sacrifice. Their plights are relatable. They are human. It is easy for the reader to feel they understand the characters and their individual struggles more so than the global conflict that consumes them. At the same time, Ackerman and Admiral Stavridis handle the narrative with such weight of authority that it feels as if the events have already occurred in history. It is clear they are writing from an informed perspective with extensive experience to back up their vision.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

They portray the United States as a nation that has not learned from its mistakes. A nation that is too comfortable in its own opulence. The military is stymied by bureaucracy and betrays an over-dependence on technology to the point that these tools become obsolete through the use of cyber-attacks by the Chinese government before the halfway point of the novel. The Americans are burdened by their history and stifled by their own legacies. Readers are inundated with the names and trophies of past victories from bygone eras the country still clings to despite new threats bearing down on the nation. Many of the service members hold legitimate credentials but lack actual combat experience. The leadership is more concerned with what the public thinks rather than how to best retaliate. “Jesus! What will the country say?” exclaims the president after a large military defeat at sea which reveals her greatest fear: what others think of her. The novel makes a convincing argument that despite all the advancements of technology in the modern era it is still the men and women who control those devices that will decide the fate of our future. 

What makes this thriller so powerful is that it is written from the inside of the characters’ lives. They come from diverse backgrounds and many represent powers greater than themselves that have malicious intentions in the global theater. Yet we are drawn to them because we understand their motivations as individuals. We are invited into their interior lives and through that landscape we are offered a glimpse at their humanity. And it is through their humanity that they become fully realized on the page. Regardless of their allegiances, readers find themselves wanting each character to fulfill their desires. Admiral Stavridis and Ackerman succeed by rendering a fully engrossing picture of a reality that is subtle yet poignant and might be just beyond the horizon.

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

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US Air Force considers retiring F-15C/D in 2020s

The Air Force is looking at possible plans to retire the F-15C/D Eagle as early as the mid-2020s, officials told lawmakers Wednesday.


While the decision would mean divesting an entire aircraft class, officials said the F-15 capability would be replaced by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a potential cost-saving measure that would allow pilots to train on fewer platforms.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
An air-to-air view of two F-15 Eagle aircraft armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles. (McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis)

Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice said the Air Force as a total force is in “deep discussions” and will further assess the F-15 inventory next year.

“The F-15C [has] served our nation well, as have its pilots for decades. And it was our air superiority fighter; now F-22 has taken that role,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and deputy chief of staff for operations for the service at the Pentagon.

Also read: Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

Air Force officials were testifying before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness on Capitol Hill.

“We do have capacity in the F-16C community to recapitalize that radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” West said about the effort to minimize the number of systems pilots operate.

Taking questions from reporters after the hearing, Rice elaborated, “It’s a bigger picture. There’s a balance between capability and capacity — capacity being, do we have … 1,900 to 2,000 fighters in our inventory? But at the same time, we also look at capability. Does it have all the right radar on it [at] the right time? Certainly, an F-15 right now is a very capable platform … [but] as we move into maintaining our capacity and keeping our capability, we have to address those needs.”

Rice said “planning choices” for the F-15C within the 2019 budget started last fall.

The F-15 is all-weather, tactical fighter; the now-retired F-15A made its maiden flight in 1972. The single-seat F-15C and two-seat F-15D models entered the Air Force inventory beginning in 1979, and have been in almost every theater across the globe, according to the service.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

American F-15s are stationed at overseas bases such as RAF Lakenheath, England, and Kadena Air Base, Japan. A deployment of F-15s moved across Europe last summer as a deterrent for Russia during Operation Atlantic Resolve, and F-15E Strike Eagles have been used throughout the air war against the Islamic State.

Rice said planned F-15 upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rep. Martha McSally, a former Air Force pilot and advocate for the A-10 Thunderbolt, questioned the choice to scrap the F-15 — a capable fighter, “the best in air-to-air” as a fourth-generation aircraft.

“The F-16 kind of fills in those gaps, [but] comparing the capabilities side-by-side we have to be careful through that analysis,” the Arizona Republican said. “But I realize the funding challenges that you have as you go through this decision process — but it doesn’t bring the same capability.”

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
An F-15C cockpit at sunset. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Air Force wants more manpower, more maintenance, more pilots to ramp up readiness and sustain the force for a high-end fight with a near-peer adversary.

West, Rice and Lt. Gen. Maryanne Miller, chief of the Air Force Reserve, testified they need pilots to sustain each part the force: at least 800 for the Guard; 300 for the Reserve; and nearly 1,500 — including 700 fighter pilots — for the active-duty component.

When asked if retiring the F-15 is a good idea amid a push to ramp up pilot — especially fighter pilot — production in the next few years, Rice said, “That’s true that is a challenge, because it’s not just capability-capacity, it’s all sorts of things. The readiness, the training, the people, the equipment. They all have to be at the right balance.

“So as we look at potentially doing a ‘what if’ drill [with the F-15 retirement] … over a certain period of time, ‘How much will that hurt? How much do we have to fill in the gap? Where do we go to gain that capability back at the right time, in the right place?’ ” he said.

It will be about “fitting into a system of systems,” Rice said.

Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy

These five American generals and admirals did things that played with the thin line between cunning and crazy, but they were awesome at their jobs so most everyone looked the other way.


1. A Navy admiral dressed up in a ninja suit to ensure his classified areas were defended.

 

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Photo: US Navy

 

Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley was an American hero, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. He fought to attend Annapolis and graduated in 1933 but was passed over for a Naval commission due to budget constraints. So he joined the Army Air Corps for a while until the Navy was allowed to commission additional officers. In the sea service, he distinguished himself on multiple occasions including a Medal of Honor performance in the Pacific in World War II. War. Hero.

But he was also kind of crazy. As the commander of Clarksville Base, Tennessee after the war, Bulkeley was worried that his Marines may not have been properly protecting the classified areas. So, he would dress up in a ninja suit, blacken his face, and attempt to sneak past the armed Marines. Luckily, he was never shot by any of the sentries.

2. Lt. Gen. George Custer was obsessed with his huge pack of dogs.

 

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

 

Gen. George Custer had “crazy cat lady” numbers of dogs with between 40 and 80 animals at a time. It’s unknown exactly when he began collecting the animals, but while in Texas in 1866 he and his wife had 23 dogs and it grew from there.

Custer’s love of the animals was so deep, his wife almost abandoned their bed before he agreed to stop sleeping with them. On campaign, he brought dozens of the dogs with him and would sleep with them on and near his cot. Before embarking on the campaign that would end at Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send all the dogs back home. This caused his dog handler, Pvt. John Burkman, to suspect that the campaign was more dangerous than most.

Some of the dogs refused to leave and so Burkman continued to watch them at Custer’s side. Burkman had night guard duty just before the battle, and so he and a group of the dogs were not present when Native American forces killed Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry. It’s unknown what happened to the dogs after the battle.

3. Gen. Curtis LeMay really wanted to bomb the Russians.

 

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Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he served as the commander of Strategic Air Command and later as the Air Force Chief of Staff. He shaping American air power as it became one of the most deadly military forces in the history of the world, mostly due it’s strategic nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, he really wanted to use those nukes. He advocated nuclear bombs being used in Vietnam and drew up plans in 1949 to destroy 77 Russian cities in a single day of bombing. He even proposed a nuclear first strike directly against Russia. Any attempt to limit America’s nuclear platform was met with criticism from LeMay. Discussing his civilian superiors, he was known to often say, “I ask you: would things be much worse if Khrushchev were Secretary of Defense?”

4. LeMay’s successor really, really wanted to bomb the Russians.

 

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

Gen. Curtis LeMay may have been itchy to press the big red button, but his protege and successor was even worse. LeMay described Gen. Thomas Power as “not stable,” and a “sadist.”

When a Rand study advocated limiting nuclear strikes at the outset of a war with the Soviet Union, Power asked him, “Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards … At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.”

5. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne made his soldiers fight without ammunition.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Portrait: Anna Claypoole Peale

 

In the Revolutionary War, bayonets played a much larger role than they do today. Still, most generals had their soldiers fire their weapons before using the bayonets.

Not Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was sent by Gen. George Washington to reconnoiter the defense at Stony Point, New York. There, Wayne decided storming the defenses would be suicide and suggested that the Army conduct a bayonet charge instead.

Shockingly, this worked. On the night of July 15, 1779, the men marched to Stony Point. After they arrived and took a short rest, the soldiers unloaded their weapons. Then, with only bayonets, the men slipped up to the defenses and attacked. Wayne himself fought at the lead of one of the attacking columns, wielding a half-pike against the British. Wayne was shot in the head early in the battle but continued fighting and the Americans were victorious.

Articles

Nuclear trains may be coming back

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.


But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.

The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Concept art of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear-armed train, the RS-23 Molodets. (Image: Defenseimagery.mil)

These trains would remain in a fortified depot during normal operations. During periods of nuclear brinksmanship, though, they would be dispersed across the country to provide a credible counterstrike if the enemy fires their nukes first.

The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.

Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
One of Russia’s first nuclear-armed trains on display in the Saint Petersburg railway museum. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5 Panther

Now, Russia has leaked that it is designing and fielding a new version of the trains. The Barguzin missile trains, named for a fierce wind that comes off of Russia’s Lake Baikal, will carry six RS-24 Yars missiles each. Yars missiles can carry up to six independently-targetable warheads with 100-300 kilotons of explosive power each.

The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.

America has been flirting with restarting its nuclear trains, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Air Force awarded study contracts in 2013 to look at the feasibility of a “nuclear subway” system where missile launching trains would have dedicated tracks underground.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Concept art for the U.S. Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system. Image: San Diego Air Space Museum

But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.

The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.

Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.

China has also flirted with nuclear trains. In 2013, Chinese media – whether accidentally or on purpose – leaked footage of a train modified to hold DF-31 and DF-31A missiles which can carry a single 1-megaton nuclear warhead. There were some questions at the times about whether or not the system was truly operational.

Articles

Here’s how Hollywood turns actors into military operators

Filmmakers would love just to pick up a camera, press record, and film the most realistic performances from their hired actors. In many cases that is considered possible (after a few takes), but not when you’re dealing with military-based movies. Winning over the veteran audiences is a struggle; comments about how Hollywood “got it wrong” tend to start flying as the end credits roll.


Veterans critique the hell out of any movie that contains our troops — most of the time they have issues with uniforms and tactics. Face it — we have every right to.

Check Out: 7 reasons why ‘Top Gun’ made you want to become a fighter pilot

However, there are a few films out there (like “Platoon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Blackhawk Down”) that, for the most part, won over even those tough-to-reach veterans. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of issues, but they had well-written scripts supported by research and outstanding technical advisors.

Since replicating the real-life grittiness of war is next to impossible, it’s the technical advisor’s job to train the actors on how to make their combat maneuvering authentic and feel like they’re really in the thick of battle. That means putting the cast through some extreme training scenarios before heading to set.

So check out how these advisors turned their actors into military operators:

1. “Platoon”

In 1986’s “Platoon” directed by Vietnam Veteran Oliver Stone, retired Marine Captain Dale Dye took his cast of actors into the jungle, 85 miles away from all communications with only an entrenching tool so they could acquire a thousand yard stare.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of “Platoon” deep in the Philippines jungle (Source: Orion Pictures | Screenshot)

2. “Saving Private Ryan”

Capt. Dye would repeat a similar practice for director Steven Spielberg in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” as he led the A-list cast on a six-day field training exercise, conducting land nav, physical training, and weapons training just to name a few.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
Tom Hanks (left) stands with Capt. Dye (right) on the set of “Saving Private Ryan” (Source: Dream Works | Screenshot)

3. “Black Hawk Down”

Not all movies use this method to nail the combatant mind-set.

In 2001’s “Black Hawk Down,” producers chose a different approach by sending actors such as Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, and Orlando Bloom on a civilian mission to Fort Benning to attend a crash course orientation class of intense physical training, intro to demolition, and ground fighting led by the elite Army Rangers.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?
The cast of Black Hawk Down receives a few some words of instruction before raiding an M.O.U.T. or Military Operations Urban Terrain. War Games! (Source: Sony | Screenshot)

The cast also got to listen to words from the veterans of the Mogadishu raid, including Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Durant, who is famously known for piloting one of the Black Hawks that was shot down during the raid and was taken prisoner but was released 11 days later.

Comment below on how you’d like to see Hollywood represent your branch of service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The amazing thing the SR-71 did the day before its retirement

Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.

But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.


The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.

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(Laughs in Blackbird)

When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.

Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.

(U.S. Air Force)

When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.

During that Blackbird’s final flight on Mar. 7, 1990, the plane and its pilots set four new speed records:

  • West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
  • Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
  • St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

(U.S. Air Force)

The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.

Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”

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