In 2012, Mullah Falzullah, a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered his thugs to murder Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who had become outspoken in her advocacy for women’s education. Yousafzai survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
A pilot was at a ground control station similar to this one when controlling the MQ-9 Reaper that blasted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
The exact drone that took the terrorist out wasn’t identified in media reports, but seeing as the MQ-1 Predator was retired in March, 2018, the drone used was likely an MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that entered service in 2007. Just as the Predator helped make the world a better place one strike at a time, the Reaper is very capable of doing so as well, famously interrupting an ISIS execution.
The Reaper can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellifre missiles (the Predator was limited to two), and can also be configured to carry GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. It normally flies at about 230 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 1,150 miles.
MQ-9 Reapers have been operating in Afghanistan since 2007.
The Hellfire missile, the preferred weapon in targeting terrorists, has a maximum range of five miles and travels at Mach 1.3. The missile has been in service since 1984 and was primarily intended as a tank-killing weapon for use by the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The missile has since become the basis for the British-designed Brimstone.
The Reaper/Hellfire combo will likely take out a lot more terrorists in the future, in addition to providing precision strike capabilities against other targets.
The Civil War was one of the first industrialized wars, helping lead the world from battles conducted by marching men with muskets around each other on a large field to battles fought between small, quick-moving formations with repeating rifles, quick-firing guns, and higher-powered artillery. But not all of the weapon designs that debuted had a lasting effect on warfare.
And one of the designs that fell by the wayside was the quite weird “steam-powered cannon.”
As the world entered the late 1800s, breakthroughs in technology like steam engines and metallurgy allowed the world to make great industrial breakthroughs, and weapon designers hoped to harness those breakthroughs to make the U.S. military more powerful.
Historically, steam powered guns worked similarly to a conventional rifle, but instead of relying on gunpowder exploding to create high pressure and propel the bullet out of the barrel, they featured a chamber filled with water that would be heated into steam.
When water is heated into steam, it expands to 1,600 times its starting volume. So, it can give a bullet plenty of umph, but it takes a lot of time and heat to build up the pressure necessary to fire the weapon.
But Joslin and Dickinson were at the forefront of a new, steam-powered weapon design. Instead of using steam to build up pressure in the firing chamber, a steam engine would quickly rotate a mechanism and fire the round using centrifugal force.
Basically, this is a mechanized version of David and his sling to hit Goliath, but at 400 rounds per second.
The design showed promise, but the inventors had a falling out, so Dickinson created his own version and won funding for a prototype in 1860. By 1861, it was on display in Baltimore. History buffs will notice that the Civil War started in 1861, so this was an auspicious time to show off a new weapon design. Which, yes, could fire 400 balls per minute.
A steam engine powered a rotary wheel that flung ball ammunition in a closed circle before releasing it at high speeds from a barrel that could pivot within a large metal shield protecting the crew. The entire device was weighty, requiring a large boiler in addition to the barrel, rotary, and shield, and typically had to be moved with horses.
A member of the crew needed to keep feeding balls into the weapon as it tore through rounds. And it wasn’t horribly accurate, so they really needed to keep the balls going. While the weapon is sometimes described as a cannon, it fired .38-caliber rounds, larger than a 7.62mm round but still 24 percent smaller than a .50-cal.
But the worst shortcoming of the weapon was the actual speed of the rounds when they left the barrel. The centrifugal force couldn’t generate nearly the velocity that a chemically propelled or even steam-pressured round enjoyed. In fact, the Mythbusters built one and tested it, and they couldn’t get the rounds to pierce a pig at just a few feet.
Media coverage of the weapon at the time managed to muddle up some details, and the weapon became associated with Ross Winans, a states-right activist and steam expert in Maryland. The public became worried that this was a super weapon and Winans could deliver it to the Confederacy. The weapon even became known as the Winans Gun.
Baltimore police seized the weapon and then returned it to Dickinson who later tried to sell it to the Confederates. Union forces seized the weapon and it served during the war in a number of defensive positions at infrastructure in the North, but it never saw combat.
While it would be cool to say that the weapon went on to change warfare or inspire new weapons that were wildly successful, the truth is that the invention of the Gatling gun and then proper machine guns made the steam-powered Winans Gun unnecessary.
And while the Winans showed some promise during the Civil War, when its high rate of fire made it seem worth the effort to improve the weapon’s muzzle velocity, other weapon breakthroughs that were incompatible with the Winans relegated it to the dustbin.
The increased prevalence of rifled barrels didn’t work well with centrifugal weapons, and weapon cartridges allowed other weapons to catch up in rate of fire but didn’t benefit centrifugal weapons. And as it became clear that attacking forces needed to become more mobile, a massive weapon requiring a steam boiler was a clear loser.
Steam obviously still has a role in warfare, nearly all nuclear-powered weapons we’ve ever designed used steam to carry the power from the reactor. But steam projectiles have, sadly, disappeared, ruining our plans for the SteamPunk Revolution.
Back in World War II, patrol torpedo, or PT, boats were the scourge of the Japanese Navy. These vessels were so small, they weren’t even measured in tons, but rather by feet. The Elco PT boat was 80 feet long, and the Higgins PT boat was 78.
Many were discarded after World War II, but the Soviet Union, China, and some NATO allies brought the concept back, this time equipping them with anti-ship missiles, like the MM38/MM40 Exocet, the Penguin, and the SS-N-2 Styx.
In the 1980s, the United States got into the game with the Pegasus-class hydrofoil.
The Pegasus was all of 255 tons, according to the Federation of American Scientists. It carried some serious firepower, though: A single 76mm gun, like those used on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (and later, the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters) forward and eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. That’s a lot more than what you see on today’s Littoral Combat Ships.
The Navy bought six of these vessels and based them at Key West, Florida. There, they helped keep an eye on Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and pitched in to fight the War on Drugs. With a top speed in excess of 45 knots, these boats could chase down just about anything on the waves, and their firepower gave them a good chance of defeating any vessel the Cuban Navy could throw at them. That said, these vessels were expensive to operate and suffered from short range.
With the end of the Cold War, the PHMs were among the many assets retired. All six were retired on July 30, 1993. Four of the vessels were scrapped immediately. A fifth, USS Gemini (PHM 6), became a yacht for a brief time before she went to the scrapyard. The lone surviving vessel in this class is the former USS Aries (PHM 5), which is slated to become part of a hydrofoil museum.
The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon has been on the front lines for the United States for over 30 years. It’s easy to see why when you look at the specs: It fires the 5.56x45mm NATO round and can use a box with 200 rounds in a belt, or it can use the same 30-round magazines from M16 rifles and M4 carbines. But now the M27 reigns supreme.
Why? Well, the specs have an answer for that, too. All weapons have compromises built in, and the firepower that the M249 brings to the front has a price: the SAW weighs in at 17 pounds. Compare that to the M16 rifle’s weight of just under eight pounds, four ounces and the difference is clear.
Despite the heft, Marines still want to have an automatic rifle in their fire teams. M16s and M4s have settings for single-shot and three-round bursts. They don’t allow for full-auto fire to avoid excessive wear and tear and wasted ammo.
Heckler and Koch have offered a solution in the form of a variant of the HK416. The HK416 is a 5.56x45mm NATO assault rifle that has a 30-round magazine. Importantly, it weighs under eight pounds. Just like the M249, it can use the same magazines as the M16 and M4 and offers full-auto fire. It’s harder to distinguish at a distance from other rifles than the M249, meaning enemy snipers will have a harder time singling out machine gunners.
The Marines have designated their modified HK416 as the M27 Individual Automatic Rifle, and they’ve fallen hard for it. In fact, Yahoo News reported that the Marines are thinking about buying more, so that every grunt has an Infantry Automatic Rifle. That’s a lot of firepower. Learn more about this light-weight, automatic rifle in the video below:
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.
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.
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.
Members of the 900th Contracting Battalion played a key role in revolutionizing the future of airborne operations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the Aug. 10, 2018 contract award for the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System.
In recent years, the 900th CBN embedded soldiers from its 639th Contracting Team into the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters to better support their customer.
“The 639th CT is embedded with 82nd Airborne Division and remains empowered to prudently apply their contracting support expertise to help meet mission readiness,” said Lt. Col. Jason Miles, deputy director of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command-Fort Bragg contracting office and 900th CBN commander.
The Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System, or CAADS, is a new door bundle dolly system that has been in development and testing since early 2018. Modeled after a similar door bundle system used by French airborne forces, CAADS is specifically designed to increase the number of door bundles that can be rapidly deployed from a DOD transit aircraft while reducing deployment time. The 82nd AD spearheaded the successful testing, and on June 5 interim airdrop rigging procedures and training manuals were published for the innovative system.
Capt. Colton Crawford and Capt. Lesley Thomas conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. look on.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)
“The acquisition of the Caster Assisted A-series Delivery Systems for the 82nd Airborne Division will help reduce jumper fatigue as well as triple the amount of supplies and equipment on a drop zone simultaneously with paratroopers exiting an aircraft” said Capt. Colton Crawford, 82nd AD parachute officer.
Equally impressive as the testing was the procurement process. The 639th CT was able to award a contract for the delivery of more than 948 units in less than 14 days after receipt of a funded purchase request. Fully involved in the acquisition planning since late 2017, the contracting team was able to conduct extensive market research and find a number of responsible vendors able meet the requirements the division.
Capt. Colton Crawford, third from right, discusses specifications with Cape Terrell during a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)
“The 639th Contracting Team and the Acquisition Corps seem to have a unique skill to increase readiness on demand. They are paramount to meeting the Army’s ability to ‘fight tonight and win,'” Crawford added.
As the first samples are delivered and inspected for quality assurance by division parachute riggers, the 82nd AD moves onto the next operation armed with increased delivery capabilities.
“It is always impactful when a requirement you’ve been working on for months satisfies the customers’ needs and directly impacts the mission,” said Capt. Lesley Thomas, a contract management officer for the 639th CT.
Contracting Soldiers from the 639th Contracting Team were joined by members of the 82nd Airborne Division and 82nd AD Sustainment Brigade as well as vendor representatives from Carolina Material Handling Inc. to conduct a technical inspection of the Caster Assisted A-Series Delivery System at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Gunn)
About the MICC: Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,500 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. The command is made up of two contracting support brigades, two field directorates, 30 contracting offices and nine battalions. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.
A new innovation for the United States Military means an innovation for the entire world. Something as simple as the creation of the GPS, which started as a DoD project in the 70s, quickly became one of the most useful quality-of-life tools used in today’s society — and this isn’t the first (or last) time military tech landed in the hands of civilians.
A large portion of the government’s tech eventually trickles down to the people. Recently, the Army established an entire command unit dedicated to research and development, called the Army Futures Command (AFC). Everything about this newly-formed group of soldier-scientists seems like it can only mean great things for moving science — and society at large — forward.
And that’s not hyperbolic to say. It’s actually vastly underselling the mind-boggling capabilities of quantum computing.
(U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott)
Of course, they’ll be developing new weapon systems (technology that will likely not trickle down) that will give America the fighting edge it needs on the battlefield, but it goes much further than that. The AFC will be working on projects that range from computer technologies to advanced medicine and beyond — anything that will aid future soldiers.
While integrating lasers into anti-missile defenses to detonate incoming projectiles from hundreds of miles away is going to be a game-changer for warfare, they’re also taking a serious crack at the Holy Grail of computer engineering: quantum computing. To put it at simply as possible, quantum computing is having a computer use atomic particles to compute instead of 1s and 0s and, theoretically, this technology will instantly increase the potential for computing power a thousandfold. If the ACR can figure it out, the U.S. government and, subsequently, the American civilian tech industry, will make unbelievable leaps forward.
“You say you can put a laser on an Apache? Shut up and take my money.”
(Department of Defense)
The primary focus of the AFC is and will always be increasing a soldier’s combat readiness. Based in Austin, Texas, it will employ both civilian and soldier innovators. The AFC and its Army Application Laboratory (AAL) are designed to be a place where inventors can create what hasn’t already been recognized as an official priority.
And even when an invention doesn’t revolutionize technology, the road that led them there is valuable. Adam Jay Harrison, the USAFC Innovation Officer, said at a conference for potential innovators that “at the end of the day, 90 percent of what we do ain’t going to work, but 100 percent of what we do should be informing somebody’s decision.“
This kind of open environment and ease of access to funding gives the inventive minds of the U.S. a chance to create anything they can imagine — as long as it helps Uncle Sam. That level of trust in its scientists is unheard of in the academic world and it’ll be the cornerstone of the Army Futures Command.
The AFC is on track to be fully operational by September 2019. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what kind of insane designs will come out of it.
The Royal Norwegian Navy has been around, in one form or another, for over a millennium. Though once a loose conscription of seafaring coastal communities, the Royal Norwegian Navy has, for the last 200 years, been an organized force responsible for the defense of the Nordic country’s deceptively long coast.
During the Cold War, the Norwegian Navy turned to fast patrol boats armed with guided missiles and torpedoes. Most of these vessels were armed with the “Penguin” anti-ship missile, which had a range of roughly 34 miles and used infra-red homing for deadly precision. Additionally, some of the Norweigan patrol boats were armed with wire-guided heavy torpedoes.
In the late 1990s, Cold War patrol boats were retired, but Norway still needed to protect the coast against the Russian threat, as diminished as it was. To do this, they turned to a very fast vessel with some very advanced technology to replace their older vessels.
The Skjold weighs in at 274 tons and carries eight “Kongsberg” Naval Strike Missiles (NSM), along with a 76mm gun and two .50-caliber machine guns. This firepower is comparable to what the United States Navy had on the Pegasus-class hydrofoil missile boats.
Compared to the Penguin, the NSM packs a bigger punch and has a much longer range. The Skjold is capable of reaching speeds of up to 60 knots, leaving the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship in the dust. The vessels also employ stealth technology – making them very difficult to detect.
Norway currently has six of these vessels in service, and while they are very capable, they still are being asked to replace 40 Hauk, Snogg, and Storm-class missile boats. That said, despite the lower numbers, their high speed, powerful missiles, and stealth technology makes them much more likely to survive a fight. Check out the video below for more about this high-tech missile boat:
Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.
“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.
“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.
While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)
The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.
“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”
ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.
It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)
“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.
“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.
The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.
But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”
While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.
Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?
I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:
1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”
2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.
I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?
Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.
(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)
His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:
“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”
“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”
Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.
What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.
(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)
Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.
It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!
When the United States military switched from the legendary M1911 to the M9 Beretta, a lot of hell was raised, to put it mildly. The M1911 had served with American troops for nearly three-quarters of a century and it fired a .45 ACP round that had a reputation for stopping enemy troops. The 9x19mm NATO round the M9 fired was… well, not quite so potent, at least in the minds of many.
The thing is, the 9x19mm NATO is not a bad round. It fires a 124-grain full metal jacket bullet at 1,150 feet per second, producing 364 foot-pounds of energy. By comparison, the .45 ACP round sends a 230-grain full metal jacket bullet at 835 feet per second, generating 356 foot-pounds of energy.
In short, you don’t want to be hit by either round — but the 9x19mm NATO is more lethal than many would have you believe.
Metrics aside, how have these rounds actually performed? Well, that’s the real issue. Being good against ballistic gelatin or a paper target is one thing, but being effective against against the living is something else.
During fighting with the Nazis, an American officer holds the tried-and-true M1911 while fighting alongside a French partisan.
To put this matter to bed, a retired homicide detective from the Detroit area, Evan Marshall, gathered his own data on the effectiveness of different types of ammo. He computed how often a given round was able to achieve a “one-shot stop” when hitting an enemy’s torso. In his 2001 book, Stopping Power: A Practical Analysis of the Latest Handgun Ammunition, Marshall and Edwin Sanow defined a “stop” as when an aggressor collapsed before being able to carry out another aggressive act.
The M9 has served for over 30 years, but was derided by those who liked the .45 ACP punch of the M1911
(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Todd Michalek)
His work allows us to compare the .45 ACP of the much-beloved M1911 with 9mm rounds, like the ones fired by the less-popular M9.
The legendary .45 ACP achieved a one-shot stop 62 percent of the time. That’s not bad — almost five-eighths of the time. Marshall did not have data for the 124-grain NATO round, but he did have data for a very similar 115-grain full metal jacket round in 9mm. This round achieved one-shot stops 70 percent of the time — even better.
The choice of 9mm rounds for the M17 wasn’t controversial — largely because the M9 proved very capable over three decades of service.
In short, the 9mm seems to hold its own when compared to the .45 ACP. Additionally, given that the M9 (which had a 15-round magazine) and the M17 (which has a 17-round magazine) both hold far more rounds than the M1911 (seven rounds in the magazine), it arguably gives a grunt greater firepower and a better chance of stopping the bad guy.
Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.
Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.
Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.
But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.
Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.
The big-deck amphibious ship has long been a staple of getting troops from the sea to the shore with heavy equipment. The United States has built the most of these, but other countries have them, too. Perhaps the largest force of these vessels outside the U.S. Navy is that of the French Navy.
France’s force is centered on three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Mistral displaces 16,500 tons, about 7,000 tons less than a Commencement Bay-class aircraft carrier, and a top speed of 19 knots, about one knot slower than the World War II-era escort carrier. The Mistral can carry up to 35 helicopters and 900 troops.
But like the American Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, the Mistral isn’t just limited to sending helicopters. This ship also has a welldeck, capable of operating landing craft. This allows the Mistral to deploy heavy armored vehicles like the LeClerc main battle tank.
The Mistrals also have a decent self-protection suite. One primary weapon is the Simbad system, which carries two Mistral surface-to-air missiles. Yeah, the Mistrals are defended by a missile called… Mistral. They also have two 30mm cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.
The ships have seen some action, mostly in evacuating civilians or providing humanitarian relief. France built two more for Russia, but that deal got kiboshed after Russian proxies invaded Ukraine.
Egypt now owns the two vessels intended for the Russian Navy, and managed to MacGyver some air defenses.