This is the deadliest machine gun in military history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Many military historians argue that the Maschinengewehr 42 – better known as the MG 42 – was the best general-purpose machine gun ever made. It fired up to 1,800 rounds per minute in some versions. That’s nearly twice as fast as any automatic weapon fielded by any army in the world at the time.


But veterans of World War II rarely remember dry statistics about the weapon. They remember its fearsome nicknames – and why the machine gun earned them. American GIs were rightly terrified of the capabilities of the MG 42, so they gave it an apt name: “Hitler’s buzz saw,” because of the way it cut down troops is swaths. The Red Army called it “The Linoleum Ripper” because of the unique tearing or ripping sound it made because of its extremely high rate of fire.

And German soldiers knew they had a weapon so fierce that the Wehrmacht built its infantry tactics around squads of men armed with the Hitlersäge or “Hitler’s bone saw.”

“It sounded like a zipper. It eats up a lot of ammunition and that makes for a logistical problem, but it eats up a lot of people, too,” Orville W. “Sonny” Martin Jr., who was a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Division, said in an oral history of infantry and armor operations in Europe. “When there’s a group of people advancing, you can really rip them up with that machine gun.”

When the war began in 1939, the Germans had a solid, reliable general-purpose machine gun: the MG34.  But like so many German weapons, it was exquisitely – and expensively – made and difficult to produce. But the German high command wanted front-line troops to have more machine guns. That meant a weapon designed to deliver a high rate of fire like the MG34 but cheaper and quicker to produce.

Mauser-Werke developed a machine gun that fired a 7.92-millimeter Mauser cartridge fed into the gun from either a 50-round or 250-round belt. What’s more, the company manufactured the machine gun from stamped and pressed parts, welding the components together with a technique that reduced production time by 35 percent. That manufacturing method reduced the cost as well. The result was the MG 42, and German soldiers soon swore by its lethal effectiveness.

The MG 42 had a range of up to 2,300 feet, weighed 25 pounds and possessed a barrel that could be changed in seconds.

True, the machine gun had its weaknesses: It used ammunition like crazy, possessed no single-shot capability and could quickly overheat. But the amount of firepower it brought to the battlefield had ghastly results.

 

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history
A Waffen SS soldier totes an MG 42 with a shoulder strap. (German Bundesarchiv photo.)

The sound alone of the MG 42 took a psychological toll on troops. The situation became so bad the U.S. Army produced a training film intended to boost the morale of U.S. soldiers terrified of the machine gun’s reputation:

In one of the film’s dramatized scenes, a green replacement is portrayed pinned down by MG 42 fire while the narrator says that nobody else in the platoon seems particularly bothered by the sound – nobody but the raw G.I. who “can’t get over the fast burp of the German gun.”

“Well, so it does have a high rate of fire,” the narrator continues. “Does that mean it is a better fighting weapon than ours?”

What comes next is a “shoot off” between various U.S. machine guns and the MG 42 along with other German automatic weapons. The narrator of the training film soberly describes the accuracy and slower-but-steady rate of fire of U.S. weapons, saying, “The German gunner pays for his impressive rate of fire. But you get maximum accuracy with a rate of fire that isn’t just noise! The German gun is good – but ours is betters. Their bark is worse than their bite.”

But the reality is the MG 42 bit hard, killing or grievously wounding many thousands of Allied soldiers. James H. Willbanks, author of Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact, writes that the MG 42 was nearly everywhere on the European battlefield, either in machine gun emplacements or vehicle-mounted on everything from halftracks to Panzers.

In fact, it was so deadly the MG 42 shaped German infantry tactics during the war.

U.S. and British tacticians emphasized the importance of the rifleman, with machine guns tasked to support infantry assaults.

Because of the MG42’s devastating power, the Wehrmacht placed the machine gunner in the central infantry role with riflemen in support. Each MG42 ideally had a six-man crew: a gun commander, gunner, a soldier who carried the weapon’s tripod, and three additional troops who carried spare barrels, additional ammunition, and tools.

When Allied troops attempted infantry assaults against positions protected by the MG42, the German machine gun crew would lay down withering suppressive fire. In most cases, all the infantrymen could do was wait for a barrel change, for the gun to run out of ammunition, or for a tank to show up so it could blast the machine-gun nest to oblivion.

The MG42 survived World War II to continue service in the West German Bundeswehr.  Rechambered so it would fire the NATO 7.62-millimeter cartridge, the Germans designated the weapon the MG3 – but it still kept its blistering rate of fire and basic design.

The MG3 is used to this day, not only by the German army, but also by the militaries of 30 nations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey’s S-400 could give F-35s and F-22s a boost in a fight with Russia

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s top-of-the-line S-400 missile defense system has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington and led NATO’s southernmost member to miss out on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but it could actually prove fatal to Moscow’s plans to take on US F-22s and F-35s.

Articles on the threat posed to the F-35 program by the S-400 are a dime a dozen, with experts across the board agreeing that networking Russian systems into NATO’s air defenses spells a near death sentence for allied air power.

Additionally, scores of US experts have argued that Turkey’s S-400 could get a peak at the F-35’s stealth technology and glean important intelligence on the new plane meant to serve as the backbone of US airpower for decades to come.


But something weird is going on with the US’s laser focus on F-35’s security. Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told Defense One this should be cause for concern.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

An F-35A Lightning II.

“For some reason coverage tends not to ask the question of how are Russians planning to deal with the potential problem of US intelligence being all over their system in Turkey,” he said.

“Russians are not crying about selling their best tech to a NATO country, despite the obvious implications for technology access. That should make us wonder,” he continued.

Basically, while Russia’s installation and support for S-400 systems in Turkey may give it intel on the F-35, Turkey, a NATO country, having Russia’s best weapon against against US airpower could spell doom for the system.

If the US cracks the S-400, Russia is in trouble

Russia relies on its missile defenses to keep its assets at home and abroad safe as it pursues increasingly risky military escalations in theaters like Ukraine and Syria. Defeating these systems, potentially, could leave Russia vulnerable to attack.

But if the US can take a look at Russia’s S-400 “depends entirely on what conditions the Russians manage to hold the Turks to in terms of allowing NATO (US) access to inspect the system,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Russian S-400 batteries in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“It’s potentially a very valuable source of previously unavailable information about a threat system which is a specific priority for the alliance and the US has never come into possession of an S-400 before,” Bronk said. However, “it may be that the system is actually operated by and guarded by Russian personnel in Turkey which could complicate things,” he continued.

Also, Russia’s export version of the S-400 doesn’t exactly match the version they use at home, but a former top US Air Force official told Business Insider that the US already has insight into Russia’s anti-air capabilities, and that the export version isn’t too far off from the genuine article.

Russia needs the money?

“Russia will sell them to whomever will give them the cash,” the source continued, pointing to Russia’s weak economy as a potential explanation for making the risky move of selling S-400 systems to a NATO country.

So while Russia may get some intelligence on the F-35 through its relationship with Turkey, that road runs both ways.

Furthermore, while US stealth aircraft represent individual systems, Russia’s missile defenses serve as an answer to multiple US platforms, including naval missiles. Therefore, Russia having its S-400 mechanics exposed may prove a worse proposition than the F-35 being somewhat exposed to Russian eyes.

“Getting a look at the system architecture and the hardware would still be extremely valuable for NATO,” Bronk concluded.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Taliban have special forces and the tech to match it

In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.


This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.

Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.

The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.

No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?

“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”

Videos released by the Taliban depict their fighters training with even more advanced American weapons technology, including the FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle, AN/PEQ 5 visible lasers, and more. The SCAR is only used by the U.S. Special Operations Command, so seeing a Taliban insurgent carrying one came as a surprise to those in the know.

Articles

These special Army cyber teams are hacking ISIS comms

Soldiers in new cyber teams are now bringing offensive and defensive virtual effects against Islamic militants in northern Iraq and Syria, according to senior leaders.


This is the deadliest machine gun in military history
An embedded expeditionary cyber team performs surveillance and reconnaissance of various local networks during the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities support to Corps and Below pilot at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Aug. 10, 2016. Cyber senior leaders recently announced that cyber Soldiers are now employing offensive and defensive cyber effects against Islamic militants in northern Iraq and Syria. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

“We have Army Soldiers who are in the fight and they are engaged (with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” said Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, the Army Cyber Command’s deputy commander for operations.

Once the cyber mission force teams stand up, McGee said they’re going straight into operational use.

“As we build these teams, we are … putting them right into the fight in contact in cyberspace,” he said at a media roundtable last week.

The general declined to discuss specific details, but said the majority of the effort is offensive cyberspace effects that are being delivered from locations in the United States and downrange.

The Army is responsible for creating 41 of the 133 teams in the Defense Department’s cyber mission force. Of the Army’s teams, 11 are currently at initial operating capability with the rest at full operational capability, according to Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of cyber for the Army’s G-3/5/7.

She expects all of the Army teams to be ready to go before the October 2018 deadline, she said.

The teams have three main missions: protect networks, particularly the DOD Information Network; defend the U.S. and its national interests against cyberattacks; and give cyber support to military operations and contingency plans.

This spring, Army cyber also plans to continue the Cyberspace Electromagnetic Activities support to Corps and Below pilot, which is testing the concept of expeditionary CEMA cells within training brigades.

The 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team is slated to take part in the pilot’s sixth iteration, being held at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

In the training, Soldiers discover how to map out cyber and EM terrain in a simulated battlefield in order to defeat the enemy.

“Where are the wireless points, cell phone towers? What does that look like? How do you figure out how to gain access to them to be able to deliver effects?” McGee asked.

In one example, McGee said that a CEMA cell could be used to shut down an enemy’s internet access for a period of time to help a patrol safely pass through a contested area. The internet access could then be turned back on to collect information on enemy activities.

“We’re innovating and trying to figure this out,” he said.

McGee also envisions cyber Soldiers working alongside a battlefield commander inside a tactical operations center, similar to how field artillery or aviation planners give input.

“A maneuver commander can look at a team on his staff that can advise him on how to deliver cyber and electromagnetic effects and activities in support of his maneuver plan,” he said.

Until then, the Army has created a cyber first line of defense program, which trains two-person teams to actively defend the tactical networks of brigades, Frost said. Each team consists of a warrant officer and NCO who are not specifically in the cyber career field, but who can still help brigades operate semi-autonomously in combat.

“[We] look at putting two individuals that will come with cyber education and tools to be that first line of defense,” Frost said. “It allows a brigade commander to be able to execute mission command.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the NVGs we’ve all been waiting for

US Night Vision is one of the largest distributors of night vision optics and accessories in the world. As such, they have a couple new products of interest that made their way to SHOT Show 2019.

The Harris F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular has actually been around for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, Harris chose not to push it on the market and kept it on the back burner. This competitor to the L3 PVS1531 features white phosphor tubes and a unique close-focus technology that allows users to perform intricate tasks under night vision.


This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular.

As many a user of helmet-mounted night vision has experienced, most NVGs will blackout when the user tilts their head to look upward. The F5032 has an intuitive vertical viewing capability that recognizes when the optics are in use and prevents the automatic tilt shutoff from activating, so that the goggles only shutoff when placed in the stowed position. This is sure to be a huge selling point for those who spend time working under aircraft or ascending vertical structures.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

A view through the white phosphor F5032.

The F5032 has an integrated LED IR illuminator to reduce the need for external IR illumination devices. The image intensifier tubes are serviceable at the unit level, making it easier for them to be repaired without the extended downtime that comes from shipping them back to the company. The F5032 uses a standard dovetail mounting bracket for compatibility with the Wilcox NVG mount.

Also new from US Night Vision is the BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder. This minimalistic recording device attaches to the eyepiece of the ocular lens of your night vision optic (optic specific) to record whatever you are viewing. The unit supports up to 128gb Micro SD for nine hours of record time with minute by minute seamless High Definition 1920×1080 30fps recording.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder attached to a PVS14.

The LPMR-MK2 has an integrated microphone to capture audio and is externally powered via USB to accommodate a wide variety of battery sources. To make operation simple, the LPMR automatically begins recording when powered on, so there are no external buttons to fool with, and the operator doesn’t have to wonder if what if what they are seeing is actually being captured or not.

The unit weighs less than 1.5oz, so the added weight to night vision optics is minimal. The upfront placement of the device also reduces the amount of leverage placed on the helmet, so the user doesn’t have extra forward weight pulling down on their helmet. This recorder is sure to be a hit with military and law enforcement who have a need to record low-light training or real-world operations for after-action evaluation or courtroom purposes.

More information on these and other new products from US Night Vision can be found here.

Featured image: Recoilweb.com

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force has selected bases for its future stealth bomber

On Nov. 16, 2018, the Air Force announced the first two bases that will host its new, highly advanced bomber for testing and maintenance.

The service said in a release that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would coordinate maintenance and sustainment for the B-21 Raider and that Edwards Air Force Base in California had been picked to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.

Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and Hill Air Force Base in Utah will support Tinker with maintaining and, when necessary, overhauling and upgrading the new bomber, the Air Force said.


Personnel at those bases will be equipped to rebuild the aircraft’s parts, assemblies, or subassemblies as well as to test and reclaim equipment as necessary for depot activations.

The first B-21 is expected to be delivered in the mid-2020s.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

A B-2A stealth bomber at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a visit on April 11, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The release noted the “deep and accomplished history” of the Air Logistics Complex of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker and said officials believe the base has the knowledge and expertise to support the new bomber.

“With a talented workforce and decades of experience in aircraft maintenance, Tinker AFB is the right place for this critical mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson said.

Edwards Air Force Base is also home to the Air Force Test Center, which leads the service’s testing and evaluation efforts.

“From flight testing the X-15 to the F-117, Edwards AFB in the Mohave Desert [sic] has been at the forefront of keeping our Air Force on the cutting edge,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Now testing the B-21 Raider will begin another historic chapter in the base’s history.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, head of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said in 2018 that the B-21 would be tested at the base. Few details about the B-21’s development have been released, and previous reports suggested it could be tested at the Air Force’s secretive Area 51 facility.

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history

A B-1B Lancer bomber awaits maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Jan. 27, 2017

(US Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

The B-21 acquisition cycle is currently in the engineering and manufacturing-development phase, the Air Force said. The Raider’s design and development headquarters is at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Melbourne, Florida.

The Air Force expects to buy about 100 of the new bomber, with each cost over 0 million, according to Air Force Times.

The Air Force said in May 2018 that once the new bombers begin arriving they will head to three bases in the US — Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The service said those bases were “reasonable alternatives” for the new bomber, although it will likely not make a final basing decision until 2019.

The B-21 is to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers at those bases, but the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are enough B-21s to replace them.

Using existing bomber bases would reduce operational impact, lower overhead, and minimize costs, the Air Force said in May. “Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” Wilson said at the time.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This gun company makes a SAW you can own

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


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

 

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history
A M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) on a Stryker.(Photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

 

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

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

 

This is the deadliest machine gun in military history
The M249S Para, which doesn’t quite have the weight savings over the M249S as the M249 Para provides. (Photo from FN)

 

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 crazy facts to honor the AC-130U

The U.S. Air Force confirmed in mid-2019 that the AC-130U gunship (affectionately known as “spooky”) had finished its final combat deployment. The last Spooky gunship returned from a mission to Hulbert Field, Florida, on July 8. Spooky’s final ride ushers in the new era of the AC-130J Ghostrider. So as Spooky’s illustrious career pridefully rises to the rafters, we look back on some of the coolest facts about the AC-130U gunship.


Each one costs about 0 million 

According to the USAF website, one Spooky AC-130U runs about 0 million. Compare this to the infamous “brrrrrt brrrrrt” A-10 Warthog’s total unit cost of million. This makes the AC-130U one of the single most expensive units in the Air Force. The rest of these facts make Spooky’s price tag make a bit more sense.

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The cockpit of the AC-130U, 2016.

(Senior Airman Taylor Queen)

It takes a crew of 13 to operate

That’s right, it takes a baker’s dozen airmen to operate Spooky. The 13 crew members consist of: a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a fire control officer, an electronic warfare officer, a flight engineer, a loadmaster, an all-light-level TV operator, an infrared detection set operator, and finally—four aerial gunners.

It can attack two targets simultaneously 

The “fire control system” in the AC-130U is capable of targeting two separate targets, up to one kilometer apart, and then engaging each target individually with two different guns. This versatile offensive advantage is referred to, simply as “dual-target attack capability.” And you thought your job required multi-tasking.

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The AC-47 “Puff the Magic Dragon”, 1965.

It was originally nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon”

The original (and unofficial) nickname was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” This nickname came about for the predecessor of the AC-130U. The predecessor was the Douglas AC-47 Spooky. It was developed and utilized during the Vietnam War. “Puff” ran so that “Spooky” could walk.

It contains over 609,000 lines of software 

The versatile functionality of the AC-130U Spooky gunship also calls for extremely advanced onboard computer processing. One single Spooky gunship has over 609,000 lines of software. For reference, a complicated iPhone full of apps would contain about 50,000 lines of software. The software on the AC-130U covers advanced sensor technology, fire control systems, infrared technology, global positioning, navigation, and radar.

Air Force AC-130U Gunship Close Air Support Live-Fire Training

www.youtube.com

Only 47 AC-130s have ever been built…

In a testament to both the maintainers quality of work, and the exorbitant price tag—only 47 AC-130s (of any variant) have ever been built… since the Vietnam War. Another reason why so few have been built is because their role in nighttime counter insurgency is incredibly specific. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And only 7 AC-130s have been lost

Six of these were lost during the Vietnam conflict, when the AC-130s humble beginnings were just recently developed. In modern conflicts, the most significant lost AC-130 was the Spirit 03 that was tragically lost in the Iraqi conflict on Jan. 30, 1991, from a lone shoulder-fired surface to air missile. The attack came after the ship had battled through the cloak of night, but doubled back after refueling to defend ground forces after dawn had broke. There were no survivors, but the bravery and service of the Spirit 03 lives on.

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This is the Pentagon’s not-so-secret civilian ‘ghost’ aircraft fleet

The Second World War saw the US government press a number of civilian aircraft into military service for use as transports and cargo haulers, thanks to a rising demand for vehicles. Known as the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, this force consists of hundreds of passenger and freight aircraft flown by companies such as JetBlue, UPS and United Airlines, which can be ushered into military service whenever the Department of Defense needs more aircraft to fulfill its various missions.


The CRAF was officially formed in December 1951 through an agreement brokered between the Department of Defense and the Department of Commerce that would streamline the realignment of civilian aircraft into military service if the military’s own airlift capabilities weren’t able to handle the volume of transport operations caused by national emergencies, crises, or war.

 

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A Pan Am Boeing 747 passenger jet reconfigured to be used as an air ambulance during a training and testing scenario for the CRAF in 1986 (Photo US Air Force)

 

If called upon, airlines and freight carriers that have agreed to a CRAF contract would provide aircraft and aircrew (i.e. pilots and flight attendants) to the U.S. Transportation Command, which will then assign these airliners to airlift missions — from moving troops and gear to evacuating the injured and wounded in “air ambulance” roles.

At the moment, virtually all major American commercial aircraft operators — including international and domestic airlines and parcel delivery companies with aviation divisions — are fully-contracted members of the CRAF, making their aircraft available to USTRANSCOM as and when they are needed. This includes scores of short, medium and long-range airliners and cargo aircraft which can have their interiors reconfigured to carry gear or troops.

Long-range widebody airliners and cargo transporters, such as the Boeing 747 and 777, Airbus A330, or McDonnell Douglas MD-11, are operated in sizable numbers by carriers like FedEx, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These aircraft, according to the CRAF’s guidelines, are slated to augment the Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Galaxy fleets because of their transoceanic range.

 

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A civilian Boeing 747 offloading troops in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield while serving on CRAF duty (Photo US Air Force)

Smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 series and the Airbus A320 series are also listed among the aircraft available to USTRANSCOM in the event of a CRAF activation. As they lack the range and capacity of larger widebody airliners, they are relegated to domestic roles instead.

The CRAF was last activated during the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s to transport scores of American troops and tons of military hardware to the Middle East in preparation for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Airlines like Pan Am, United and TWA were responsible for providing large passenger aircraft to haul Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors from the continental United States to Saudi Arabia and other major staging points in advance of the coordinated assault on Iraqi forces.

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Airmen load gear and personnel aboard a CRAF Pan Am jumbo jet at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, for deployment to Saudi Arabia (Photo US Air Force)

In the years since, the US military has been mostly able to rely upon its own airlift abilities to fly troops and gear in and out of combat zones. However, should the need arise, the military also tenders contracts to civilian charter companies like Omni Air International, who provide aircraft and pilots to ferry personnel and equipment wherever the military requires.

Airlines can indeed opt out of joining the CRAF, but many choose not to as it makes them more competitive for government transportation contracts, including charter flights for military personnel across the world.

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Flight equipment will finally fit female aviators

Flight equipment is on its way through a major overhaul. The biggest change coming to the equipment is it is being designed with measurements from female aviators.

Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, held a Female Fitment Event, June 4, 2019, where Air Force and Navy female aviators gathered to have their measurements taken, which will be used to design new prototypes for female flight equipment.

“We wanted to bring together a large enough group of women to get our different sizing both in our uniforms, helmets and masks,” said Lt. Col. Shelly Mendieta, plans and requirements officer. “When you go to a squadron to go to a fitment event, there’s usually only a couple of women, so to get a full spectrum of what is going to work for women aviators, we needed to bring them all together in one place.”


In the past, flight equipment has been designed to the measurements of males because there are statistically more male aviators. This means more male measurements were used as opposed to their female counterparts. Department of Defense leadership hopes to change that.

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A female aviator has her measurements taken while in a flight suit during a Female Fitment Event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., June 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcus M. Bullock)

“The chief of staff of the United States Air Force is committed to seeing us make progress and better integrate humans into the machine environment mix,” said Brig. Gen. Edward Vaughan, Air Force directorate of readiness and training, assistant to the director. “What has happened over the years is that a lot of our data and information we use to design these systems have traditionally been based on men.”

Female aviators using flight equipment designed to the specifications of males presents a problem for their combat effectiveness. When it comes to the mission, the tools airmen use play a big role in mission success.

Vaughan explained that if flight equipment, from harness straps to flight suits, does not meet the needs of the human, as well as of the various machines used for our missions, then service members are not going to be as effective and ready for combat.

The information gathered from the event is going to be crucial in the development of not only female flight equipment, but female aviators as a whole across multiple branches.

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A group of Air Force and Navy female aviators discuss some of the improvements they want to see made to their flight equipment during a Female Fitment Event at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., June 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marcus M. Bullock)

“The goal is to ensure that the equipment that we are developing is going to fit properly, so that we have a safe and ready force,” Mendieta said. “By measuring a spectrum of women at different stages in their career, we can ensure that we have better equipment.”

Many officers participating in this event are hoping to be able to disseminate information to other bases regarding female flight equipment.

“When I look across the enterprise, this is an historic event and it’s important that we get this word out,” Vaughan said. “It’s not just the data that we are collecting and the fact that we are going to improve the equipment we use in combat, it’s also important to make people aware that this is one of the challenges that we are facing right now. It’s an airmen challenge.”

For many female aviators, this marks a monumental push to ensure they are combat ready and their opinions are being heard.

“Women have been flying in the Air Force for a very long time,” Mendieta said. “We have made progress but this is the first time in my 20-year career that we have had the kind of momentum that we have to get this right. We have the opportunity to get this right and we have to grab that and take it for all it’s worth.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

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The difference between the two Swiss Army Knife brands

Certain brand names become synonymous with their primary product, despite other companies making similar products. ArmaLite with AR-15 style rifles, Kleenex with facial tissues, Sharpie with permanent marker, etc. When it comes to the famous Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox is the brand that most people think of. However, it wasn’t the only brand.

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The classic Victorinox knife (Victorinox)

Victorinox was founded in Switzerland in 1884. Later in the 19th century, the company began supplying knives to the Swiss Army. In 1897, the company patented its knife design which was later marketed as the Original Swiss Army Knife. Twelve years later, Victorinox adopted the Swiss coat of arms as its logo which it still uses today. However, between 1908 and 2005, there was one other supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.

Wenger was founded in Switzerland after Victorinox in 1893. Originally a manufacturer of utensils, the company expanded from spoons and forks and into knives to meet a contract for the Swiss Army. The contract was split 50/50 between Wenger and Victornix. Interestingly, the split contract also represented the two sides of Switzerland itself. Wenger was located in a French-speaking area of the country whereas Victorinox was located in a German-speaking area.

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A Wenger knife. Note the slightly different logo that still features the Swiss cross (Wenger)

With both companies vying for their share of the civilian market, a compromise was reached between the Swiss Army Knife manufacturers. Victorinox marketed itself as Original Swiss Army Knifes while Wenger marketed itself as Genuine Swiss Army Knives. Though both claims were true, the two slogans led to some confusion between the two red pocket knives for the average consumer.

Following the events of 9/11, these types of knives suffered in the market. Increased security regulations prevented the carrying of pocket knives and eliminated a huge portion of sales through duty-free airport shops. On April 26, 2005, Victornix bought out Wenger and eliminated their competition. The Wenger brand was kept intact until 2013 when it was completely merged into Victorinox.

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The Victorinox Wenger pays tribute to the bygone brand (Victorinox)

Today, the last remnant of the separate Wenger brand is the Victorinox Wenger knife. It features Wenger’s original logo and classic 7 functions. Still, original Wenger products can be found on the used market for the discerning enthusiast who appreciates a quality Swiss product from the past.

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There is an official time frame for the US withdrawal from Syria

By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.


As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.

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Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.

The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.

President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

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A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.

The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.

Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.

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