MRAD sniper rifle: The military's new sniper weapon - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

Soldiers, Marines, and special operators will be soon sporting a new sniper rifle.

Following a lengthy acquisition process that began in 2016, the Army, Marine Corps, and US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have started receiving the first batches of the Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) sniper rifle made by Barrett.

In the Army, the MRAD rifle will replace the M107 and M210 sniper rifles. In the Marine Corps, the new weapon will replace all bolt-action sniper rifles, such as the M40, which dates all the way back to the Vietnam War.

What makes the MRAD rifle special is its ability to be adapted according to the situation. The bolt-action rifle can quickly be re-configured to an array of different calibers as the tactical situation demands, thus giving warfighters more options.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
Barrett’s bolt-action Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) system (Barrett)

On the battlefield, snipers can potentially face several scenarios, from vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIED)—moving vehicle bombs—to high-value targets, to waves upon waves of assaulting enemies. The ability to efficiently adjust depending on the scenario is a remarkable and highly-sought out trait.

In addition, the MRAD rifle has a smooth recoil that allows snipers to quickly get a sight picture after engaging a target.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
Shooting a Barrett MRAD chambered for .308 Winchester with suppressor. (WikiMedia Commons)

Initially, the MRAD rifle was a SOCOM-driven initiative through the Advanced Sniper Rifle program, with the Army and Marine Corps entering the process at a later stage. It comes in three calibers (7.62 NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum).

According to the manufacturing company, the MRAD rifle’s “robust design, user modularity and unfailing accuracy combined with the new cartridge designed by Hornady, offer an unbeatable system for long-range effectiveness.”

A spokesperson with the Program Executive Officer Soldier who spoke to Task & Purpose said that the Army is planning to purchase close to 3,000 MRAD rifles, almost six times more than what was originally planned. The Marine Corps plans to buy a significantly smaller number, with just 250 rifles budgeted for.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This British sub shows the resiliency of the Royal Navy

When it comes to military history, the Guinness Book of World Records – like the rest of the public – only knows what it’s allowed to know. For the longest time the Guinness Book gave the award for the longest continuously submerged patrol to the HMS Warspite – one of the Royal Navy’s storied names.


While there have been longer patrols the mission of the Warspite happened at the height of the Cold War, prowling the waters around the Falkland Islands after the end of the UK’s war with Argentina.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

This Warspite was the eighth vessel to carry the name.

The Warspite had a number of innovations that made it perfect for its 1983 submerged mission. It was the first Royal Navy vessel navigated entirely by gyroscope. Its nuclear-powered engines, along with air conditioning, purification systems and electrolytic gills allowed it to be submerged for weeks at a time. The longest time below the waves wasn’t even its first record. During a 6,000-mile journey in the far east, the submarine did the entire run submerged, earning the then-record for longest distance submerged. But breaking records wasn’t the Royal Navy’s mission, it was countering the Soviet Union.

No naval force on Earth was better at penetrating the USSR’s maritime boundaries than the Royal Navy. Warspite was specially suited for spy missions in the cold waters of the Arctic. Its ability to sneak into the areas undetected allowed them to watch the Soviet Navy at work and listen to their uncoded communications. But its record-breaking underwater patrol didn’t come against the USSR, it came while watching Argentina.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

The now-decommissioned HMS Warspite.

The ship had just completed a complete, three-year refit after a massive fire nearly caused the captain to scuttle the ship. It was finished just in time for the United Kingdom to go to war with Argentina over the latter country’s invasion of the Falkland Islands. In a rush to get into the action, the crew of the Warspite shrugged off the six-month trial period and dashed for the war.

She didn’t see much action in the war, but its patrol afterward was the stuff of legend at the time. The ship and its crew spent more than 112 days aboard ship and underwater, keeping the Argentine Navy at bay.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

When you are talking about the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, it is without a doubt, the best close-air support plane ever devised. One of the biggest reasons is in the plane’s nose.


Yeah, we’re talking the GAU-8, a seven-barrel Gatling gun that fires a 30mm round made from depleted uranium. This gun was designed to kill tanks – make them deader than the zombies on The Walking Dead. You might think a 30mm gun is too small to kill a tank. If you’re taking the tank head-on, it is.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
The entire A-10 platform was designed around the tank-killing cannon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

Shooting from above the tank, though, you’re aiming for where the armor is the thinnest. This is because the crew needs to be able to exit the tank through the hatches, which means they have to be able to open them. Oh, and the supplies the tank’s crew needs to function (food, water, ammo) have to come into the tank through those hatches as well.

The A-10 looks as if it was designed around the GAU-8. That’s true. The plane can carry 1,174 rounds for this gun, which fires at 3,900 to 4,200 rounds per minute. That’s anywhere from 16.77 to 18 seconds of firing time. The gun can kill a target up to two and a quarter miles away.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The Air Force is running a competition to see what plane will replace the A-10. There have been four contenders flying off to win the OA-X contract, but none of them have this powerful gun in their arsenal. Perhaps it may be a better idea to re-open the A-10 production line, no?

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This battleship went from Pearl Harbor to D-Day to nuclear tests

The D-Day landings featured an immense fleet – including seven battleships.


One, HMS Rodney, was notable for being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship. However, one of the American battleships came to Normandy via Pearl Harbor, where she was run aground.

That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
USS Nevada (BB 36) shortly after she was built. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.

On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.

As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.

The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
Damage to USS Nevada after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo)

Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.

On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.

She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.

The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
USS Nevada fires on Nazi positions during D-Day. (U.S. Navy photo)

After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.

According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New PD-100 black hornet nano-drones can fit in the palm of your hand

The new PD-100 black hornet nano-drone has made its way into the Australian Army in a very big way. It is mainly utilized as a small range, inconspicuous recon drone. However, it is essentially the first of its kind, and the possibilities are endless.


MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

Not too shabby for a drone the size of a matchbox

(reddit user /u/harriharris)

These little dudes have been assisting in recon training with the Australian Army. Apparently, they are much quieter than their larger drone counterparts. This, coupled with the tiny size, makes them a perfect match for covert recon. They can also snap some really crisp pictures for a micro-drone.

This makes them a logical improvement from the already tremendously effective “instanteye” being used by forces today. The instanteye has a lackluster battery and picture resolution, but can still be advantageous for getting an idea of the enemy’s position from a safe distance. The PD-100 black hornet improves on this with a much smaller, quieter, design.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

A previous generation of the “instanteye”

The thought of spawning hundreds of these little dudes all over a battlefield, essentially giving commanders a fully comprehensive and detailed view of the battlefield, could change the way battle tactics evolve alongside nano-technology.

This brings to mind sci-fi visions of Ed Harris in “The Truman Show” overseeing every single detail in a massive landscape, pulling every tiny string perfectly. Now couple that with tactical genius in a real-world setting, and it’s not too far of a logical jump to consider the combat effects.

Another interesting implication to consider with these little marvels is their offensive capabilities. What if one of these was armed with high explosives and controlled remotely to be deadly accurate? Now consider that possibility, but with a swarm of dozens of them — or hundreds.

US Military Released Micro Drone Swarm From FA 18 Super Hornet Jet…

www.youtube.com

Here is a video of a micro-drone 9 (albeit, larger than the PD-100 black hornets) swarm being released by some F-18s.

Imagine those, but smaller, strapped and readied with high explosives, each controlled remotely by some military equivalent to a professional gamer. The quiet PD-100 black hornet certainly poses some interesting implications.

As of now, the biggest limitation of this technology is its battery life. It is estimated at somewhere between 30-60 minutes. This is somewhat of a far cry from its larger drone counterpart, the RQ-11b Raven (which is estimated at about 60-90 minutes).

Still, even with its limited battery life and the obvious problems that could arise for a small drone in heavy winds — the PD-100 seems to be dipping its tiny little toes into the water of the world of evolved combat. Time will tell if military tech will continue to go bigger, by getting smaller.

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4 unmanned fighters that are being developed for the next war

The major nations of the world have been in an air-to-air arms race since the first fighter pilots fired pistols at each other in World War I. From machine gun mounts to jet engines to stealth technology, the race has always been about making the human in one cockpit more lethal than the other.


It now appears that the race is moving to an entirely new stage where the goal is to make autonomous drones that can kill while the pilot is either in another cockpit or an office far away. While the manned F-22 Raptor is still the king of the roost and F-35 pilots are gearing up for their combat debut, these are the unmanned fighters in development to replace them in the future:

1. BAE’s Taranis

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
The British Taranis UCAV flies during testing. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The Taranis unmanned combat aerial vehicle has ruffled a lot of feathers in Europe where large groups oppose autonomous weapons of war. While Taranis will likely be capable of full autonomy, the Ministry of Defense and British Aerospace Engineering have said the unmanned combat aerial vehicle will function as a “man in the loop” system. A human decides what’s a target and the system engages approved targets.

Taranis is primarily a strike aircraft, meaning that it goes after ground targets. But it’s capable of fighting enemy planes and could fly from Britain to continents outside of Europe with limited input from pilots and crew.

 

2. F-16s (Yeah, those F-16s)

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

America’s current entry for an autonomous fighter now that the X-47B will most likely become a flying gas station is actually an old airframe — the F-16 Falcon.

The “Loyal Wingman” program calls for upgrading fourth-generation aircraft like F-16s with autonomous controls, software and hardware upgrades that will let computers fly the jet. Then human pilots in F-35s or F-22s would be able to fight with a few drone F-16s and F/A-18 Hornets backing them up.

The Navy is still interested in developing a next-generation unmanned fighter, but that’s far in the future, while unmanned F-16s could be fighting within a few years.

3. DRDO AURA

India’s Autonomous Unmanned Research Vehicle is a technology demonstrator under development by the country’s Defense Research and Development Organisation. The final weapon is designed to carry its weapons internally and be capable of self-defense, reconnaissance, and striking ground targets.

The exact level of “self-defense” capability the AURA will have has not yet been announced, so this could be a ground-attack drone with limited air-to-air capability. The program appears to be behind schedule but was initially slated for a 2015 prototype and a 2020 completion.

4. Sharp Sword

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
China’s Sharp Sword UCAV conducts a taxiing test. (Photo: Youtube/arronlee33)

China’s Sharp Sword is so wrapped in secrecy that no one’s sure what its ultimate mission will be. It has gone through some iterations and prototypes, but a blended-wing design that flew in late-2013 is the best known version.

It appears that China’s Sharp Sword is based on Russia’s mothballed “Skat” UCAV which has languished for years. China’s primary need for a stealth UCAV is for naval operations in disputed regions of the South and East China Sea.

That means it will need something to defend itself against fighters from U.S. carriers. If it doesn’t get integrated air-to-air weapons, expect it to act as a sensor for ground-based defenses and possibly take on an anti-ship role.

European-NEUROn_-_Dassault_Aviation-UCAV-drone-sits-on-display The Dassault nEUROn is a Pan-European UCAV designed for strike capabilities and technology testing. (Photo: Aerolegende CC BY-SA 3.0)

In addition to the UCAVs discussed above, there are a number of new drones designed to surveil and strike ground targets. Russia’s Skat was canceled, but its technology is incorporated into a new platform developed by Sukhoi, the same company that makes the PAK FA T-50.

Countries in the European Union, including Britain, are working together to develop a new UCAV for hitting ground targets that is based on the Taranis and the nEUROn, a UCAV produced by France; Italy; Sweden; Spain; Greece and Switzerland.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps 3D printing is like ‘spare tire’ for tanks

Marine Corps Systems Command recently collaborated with fleet Marines and other organizations to review the successful performance of several 3D-printed impellers used on M1A1 Abrams tanks at Twentynine Palms, California.

The Corps plans to use 3D-printed impellers when the original part wears or becomes inoperable and a new part cannot be received in a timely fashion.

“Call it a spare tire or a stop-gap solution,” said Joseph Burns, technical lead for MCSC’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell. “This can get you through a mission, through your training exercise or whatever may be critical at the time.”


An impeller expels dust from the tank engine to keep the filters clean. When an impeller experiences wear and tear, the part may not pull enough air to function properly, which could degrade mission effectiveness.

A few years ago, the Marine Corps and the Army ordered a large batch of impellers. As a result, the Defense Logistics Agency — the agency responsible for providing parts for military vehicles — did not have enough parts to satisfy all orders.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Charles Matte, a machinist with 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, mills an impeller fan on a computer numerically controlled lathe machine aboard Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Sorci)

“At certain times, logistical issues can occur,” said Tony Delgado, research and development program manager for additive manufacturing at DLA. “Sometimes the part is not available right away or something happens with a vendor and a part cannot be provided immediately. This was one of those times where the part wasn’t available.”

DLA can award a contract to a company, let that manufacturer set up a production line and then order a large sum of parts. However, it can take from six to 10 months for the Marines to receive a part. Waiting months for an order can reduce readiness or effectiveness on the battlefield.

Consequentially, MCSC had to find an alternative solution.

“Around that time, the Marine Corps had been provided with 3D printing additive manufacturing tools,” said Burns. “And Marines were being encouraged to be innovative and develop prototype solutions to real-world problems. A young Marine identified the impeller and began exploring ways to 3D print this part.”

Building on this early success, MCSC collaborated with Johns Hopkins University – Applied Physics Laboratory and DLA to formally qualify the performance of the 3D printed impeller and document the design in a technical data package.

The exercise conducted at Twentynine Palms in December and January was the culmination of formal qualification testing and was intended to confirm the performance of a 3D-printed version of an impeller in an operationally relevant environment.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

Marines drive M1A1 Abrams tanks in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 19, 2015.

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)


After about 100 hours of testing on Abrams tanks during these exercises, Marines at Twentynine Palms disassembled the impellers to look for any unusual wear, leakage or other problems. None existed.

“Right now, we don’t see any reason why the 3D-printed impeller is any less reliable than the OEM version,” said Burns. “We plan to continue to collect operational hours on three 3D-printed impellers to better assess the long-term reliability of the part.”

MCSC is in the process of creating a 100-page technical data package for the 3D-printed impeller. The AMOC has reviewed two drafts of the TDP and plans to finalize the first version by the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 2019.

Once the TDP is finalized, the 3D-printed impeller will be fully qualified, tested and certified by the Marine Corps for use in the Abrams tank.

Although a more expensive alternative, a 3D-printed impeller can be produced and ready for use in less than a week, said Burns. Once the TDP is certified, a manufacturer, depot or Marine unit with the right equipment can 3D print an impeller for use. The expedited delivery can improve readiness on the battlefield.

“The 3D-printed impeller also gives the tank commander another option,” said Delgado. “It’s important to have an alternative option.”

The organizations and agencies that helped develop the 3D-impeller and its TDP include DLA, Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Tank Battalion, and the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Delgado emphasized the importance of all parties involved in the creation of the 3D-printed impeller.

“We’ve involved engineers from Marine Corps Systems Command and the Army, and we’ve even had lawyers in some meetings to ensure there’s no intellectual property infringement,” explained Delgado. “In terms of collaboration, this has been a great project.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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This is the rifle Vasily Zaytsev used to wage a one-man war in ‘Enemy at the Gates’

First used by the Russians in 1891, the Mosin-Nagant was modified from a standard service weapon to a sniper rifle in the 1930s. This five-shot, bolt-action rifle was a highly effective killing tool on the battlefield because of its sturdy construction and accuracy.


The Mosin-Nagant rifle typically weighs in at 8.8 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of nearly 3,000 feet per second — but the rifle is only as good as the man or woman who pulls its trigger.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, talented Russians snipers used the Mosin-Nagant PU version to wreak plenty of havoc against their Nazi adversaries. One of those talented sharpshooters was none other than the Soviet hero himself, Vasily Zaytsev.

Related: The 6 best Hollywood sniper shots ever

Zaytsev’s remarkable story was brought to life in 2001’s feature film “Enemy at the  Gates” starring Jude Law.  As a young boy, he learned his expert marksmanship skills while hunting game and tracking wolves near his home in desolate Siberia.

In 1937, Zaytsev was recruited into the Red Army, volunteered to be transferred to the front lines and waged a one-man war against the Nazis and reportedly killed 250 enemy troops with his Mosin-Nagant.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
The Hero of the Soviet Union Vasily Zaitsev (left)

Reportedly, Zaitsev was involved in a historical sniper duel with Maj. Konig, the former head of the German Army’s sniper school. During an afternoon of stalking one another, Zaitsev scored a righteous kill shot eliminating the German sniper from the war — using his famous Mosin-Nagant.

Roughly, 17 million Mosin–Nagant were produced during War World II, and its devastating 7.62 x 54R round is still used today in several Russian-made weapons.

Also Read: These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video to see this effective sniper rifle in action for yourself.

YouTube, LightningWar1941

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russian-backed separatists shoot down OSCE drone

Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) monitoring mission, demanding that those responsible “be held accountable.”

In a joint statement on Nov. 1, 2018, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on “multiple occasions” and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.


Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.

Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2018.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.

The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.

It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.

The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The mission said in March 2018 it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

Featured image: OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ships with guns that weighed more than entire battleships

Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.

The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.


Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.

While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.

The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon


Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.

As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”

On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.

These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.

The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.

Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.

Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.

Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.

While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.

Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.

The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.

Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.

Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.

And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.

It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)

Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.

As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.


The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.

The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).

This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.

One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,

How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood.
What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact?
The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters.
More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out?
… The battle begins….
As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood….
The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them.
We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.

In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.

Bonus Fact:

  • Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

Robo-mule canned for being louder than real mule

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
Sgt. Michael Walters | U.S. Marine Corps


After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.

The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.

In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.

The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.

But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.

With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.

But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.

“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”

For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.

While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.

“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”

Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happened when Communist China gave steroids to a Russian transport

When it comes to aviation, original ideas are few and far between. Much of the progress that happens in the space can be considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. The F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighter, for instance, was an evolution of the F-15 Eagle, an air-superiority fighter. This is often the case with transport planes, too.


For example, the general appearance of transport planes hasn’t changed much over the decades. There’s a huge, mostly hollow fuselage, high-mounted wings, and, at the very least, a rear ramp used to load vehicles or pallets of cargo. In developing cargo planes, the real issue isn’t figure out how to transport something, it’s figuring out how to transport that much.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

A Y-20 in flight. This plane is based on the Russian Il-76 Candid transport.

(Photo by Alert5)

When the Chinese Communists were looking for a solution for massive-scale logistics, they decided to develop an aircraft based on the Il-76 “Candid” family of planes. They took this already-impressive aircraft and put it on a metaphorical steroid regimen, just like the ones former baseball sluggers Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez used to bulk up.

The Il-76 can haul 44 tons of cargo. Communist China’s Y-20, their ‘roided-out version of the Russian plane, hauls up to 66 tons. The Y-20 has a top speed of 572 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,796 miles. The Il-76 can go for 2,734 miles at a top speed of 559 miles per hour.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon

China has acquired 30 planes in the Il-76 Candid, 22 of which are transports similar to this Indian Air Force Il-76.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Now, that still doesn’t quite match up with the United States’ logistical powerhouse, the C-17, which can carry up to 85 tons of cargo up to 2,400 nautical miles. Additionally, the C-17 can be refueled in flight, so it can reach anywhere in the world. But compared to the baseline Il-76, the Y-20 is a substantial improvement, and gives Communist China a better plane — even if it’s still waiting on the WS-20 engines.

Watch the video below to see this plane go through some of its paces.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers

The control room of the Navy’s most advanced submarine is filled with sophisticated computers, flat-screen monitors, and sailors who grew up in a digital world.


At times it can look a bit like a video game arcade, and not just because of the high-resolution graphics.

The Navy is beginning to use an Xbox 360 controller — like the ones you find at the mall — to operate the periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines.

Unlike other types of submarines people are familiar with from Hollywood, Virginia-class submarines don’t have a traditional rotating tube periscope that only one person can look through at a time.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
A wireless Xbox 360 controller. Image under Public Domain.

It’s been replaced with two photonics masts that rotate 360 degrees. They feature high-resolution cameras whose images are displayed on large monitors that everyone in the control room can see. There’s no barrel to peer through anymore; everything is controlled with a helicopter-style stick. But that stick isn’t so popular.

“The Navy got together and they asked a bunch of JOs and junior guys, ‘What can we do to make your life better?’ ” said Lt. j.g. Kyle Leonard, the USS John Warner’s assistant weapons officer, referring to junior officers and sailors. “And one of the things that came out is the controls for the scope. It’s kind of clunky in your hand; it’s real heavy.”

Lockheed Martin and Navy officials have been working to use commercial off-the-shelf technology to reduce costs and take advantage of the technological skills sailors grow up with. The integration of the video-game Xbox controller grew out of that effort.

Lockheed Martin refers to the classified research lab in Manassas where testing occurred as the submarine version of “Area 51,” the nickname for the Nevada base where some of the Air Force’s most advanced and secretive projects are tested.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
Crew members render salutes as they officially bring the newest Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine USS North Carolina to life during her commissioning ceremony. US Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Lucy M. Quinn.

The Xbox controller is no different than the ones a lot of crew members grew up playing with. Lockheed Martin says the sailors who tested the controller at its lab were intuitively able to figure out how to use it on their own within minutes, compared to hours of training required for the joystick.

The Xbox controller also is significantly cheaper. The company says the photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel that cost about $38,000 can now be replaced with an Xbox controller that typically costs less than $30.

“That joystick is by no means cheap, and it is only designed to fit on a Virginia-class submarine,” said Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, the John Warner’s assistant navigator. “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”

The Navy says that the system has gone through extensive testing over the past two years and that the Xbox controller will be included as part of the integrated imaging system for Virginia-class subs beginning with the future USS Colorado, which is supposed to be commissioned by November.

MRAD sniper rifle: The military’s new sniper weapon
The the USS Colorado sits in the construction hall at General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Conn. Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The Xbox controller will be installed on other Virginia-class submarines, such as the Norfolk-based John Warner, through the normal modernization process, according to Brienne Lang, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s program executive office for submarines. The John Warner had a demonstration model aboard this past week as it transited from Naval Station Norfolk to Groton, Conn.

Eichenlaub said the Navy doesn’t plan on stopping innovation with the Xbox controller, either. The goal is to develop technology that young people already are comfortable with, such as working with electronic touch screens on iPads and in virtual environments.

“Ideally, what they want to see in 10 years down the road is, there’s basically a glass panel display with windows, and you can just pull a window of information, review that, push it off, bring in the next window,” he said.

“They want to bring in sailors with what they have at home on their personal laptop, their personal desktop, what they grew up with in a classroom.”

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