The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)

Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting

Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.

India is a good example. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, like China and Pakistan, India’s government has quickly identified the need to modernize its tank fleet. The biggest defense vulnerability were gaps in the night-vision capabilities. Eventually, the government decided to equip its army’s old 3,500 battle tanks with modern night-vision devices.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.

As a response to similar demand around the world, many companies started offering retrofitted thermal imaging cameras and driver vision enhancement kits that can be installed on refurbished vehicles or added as an upgrade to new vehicles. Using these upgrades, older-generation military machinery can be modernized relatively inexpensively.

But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)

​Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness

Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.

A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.

Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

​Improved maneuvering

Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.

This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?

Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).

This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.

New advances

The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This deadly little ship is how Russia plans to dominate shallow waters

The Russian navy has long been seen as a basket case, especially when it comes to major surface combatants and nuclear submarines. However, when it comes to smaller vessels, the Russians are making a very determined comeback.


The Russian navy, like the Soviet navy before it, had a large fleet of heavily armed corvettes, light frigates, and patrol boats. The Steregushchiy-class corvette — also called Project 2038.0 or Project 2038.1 — follows in this tradition. According to Naval-Technology.com, the lead ship is armed with eight SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missiles, a Kashtan close-in weapon systems, a 100mm gun, two AK-630s, and two twin 324mm torpedo tube mounts.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The Steregushchiy-class corvette Sovershennyy. Note the Redut VLS forward.(Wikimedia Commons)

The second ship and follow-on vessels replace the Kashtan with a “Redut” vertical-launch system carrying 9M96E missiles, which have a range of 32 nautical miles. The Steregushchiy-class corvette is able to carry a single Kamov Ka-27 “Helix” helicopter. All of this is done on a hull that displaces 2,100 tons.

By comparison, the Littoral Combat Ships in service with the United States Navy feature a 57mm gun and a single launcher for RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (either the Mk 31 with 21 missiles, or the SeaRAM with 11 missiles). The Littoral Combat Ships displace either 3,200 tons (Independence-class) or 3,450 tons (Freedom-class). They do carry two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, or can carry unmanned aerial vehicles.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The Steregushchiy-class corvette Stoikiy with its 100mm gun raised. (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia plans on building as many as 30 of these vessels, according to MilitaryFactory.com. These ships will be deployed to all four of the Russian navy’s fleets: the Northern Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, and the Pacific Fleet. Russia has also developed two improved versions, the Gremyashchiy-class corvette and the Derzky-class corvette.

For more on these vessels, take a look at the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAuyUlRCIJo
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This is what an F-35 looks like when it drops a nuclear bomb

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is frequently touted as the most advanced fighter ever to take to the skies, and soon it will be certified to carry nuclear bombs.

Like all fifth generation fighters, the F-35 is a stealth platform designed to avoid detection and engagement from air defense systems. As a result, the aircraft must carry its weapons payload internally, in the belly of the aircraft, rather than on external pylons like we’ve all come to expect on fourth generation jets like F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F/A-18 Super Hornet.


The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Fourth generation fighters like this F-16 carry their bombs, missiles, and external fuel tanks under their wings. (Air Force photo by Tom Reynolds)
The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
(F-35 Joint Program Office)

 

External pylons allow fighters to carry far more ordnance into a fight than the F-35 can internally (and indeed, even the F-35 has external pylons that can be used when detection is not a concern).

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
(F-35 Joint Program Office)

 

The F-35 goes nuclear

While most people tend to think of heavy payload bombers like the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress when talking about the airborne leg of America’s nuclear triad, the role of dual-purpose “nuclear fighters” has long been a part of the strategy. Currently, both the F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fill the role of “nuclear fighter” in America’s stable, alongside their aforementioned nuclear bomber sister platforms.

Americans’ nuclear triad, for those who aren’t aware, is comprised of nuclear ICBMs on the ground, nuclear missile subs in the water, and nuclear-capable aircraft in the air. The premise of maintaining this triad is simple: by keeping America’s nuclear weapons dispersed and utilizing multiple forms of delivery, it makes it all but impossible to stop American from launching a nuclear counter-attack against an aggressive state that started lobbing nukes America’s way. In other words, America’s nuclear triad is the backbone of Uncle Sam’s part in the “mutually assured destruction” doctrine.

For now, the “nuclear” title is going to remain with the F-15s and F-16s, but the U.S. intends to certify the F-35 for nuclear duty by 2023 and it will likely carry that title well beyond the retirement dates for its two nuclear predecessors.

But before it can be certified, the Air Force needs to test the F-35’s ability to deploy these weapons thoroughly, and that’s where these incredible new photos come in. Ever since last June, the F-35 Joint Program Office has been overseeing drops of inert B61-12 nuclear bombs. These bombs have already seen testing with the F-15E, and will soon replace a number of older nuclear bomb variants.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
(F-35 Joint Program Office)

These bombs may be inert, but they are designed to look and act like the real thing, giving the Pentagon all the information it needs to assess the F-35’s capabilities as a nuclear strike platform.

These tests are all being conducted with an F-35A, which is the standard takeoff and landing variant of the platform utilized primarily by the United States Air Force. The Navy’s F-35Cs are designed to take off and land on the deck of aircraft carriers, and the F-35B employed by the Marine Corps can take off on extremely short runways and even land vertically on the decks of ships. At least to date, it appears that the Pentagon has no intentions of mounting nuclear weapons in the F-35B or C variants.

This article by Alex Hollings originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the Coast Guard’s new class of cutters

One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.


Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.

(USCG photo)

These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.

The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.

(USCG photo)

The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.

Articles

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.

The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The INS Vikramaditya has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability.

INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.

For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happened to all the old US F-14 Tomcats

There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.

And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.


Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Watching Iranian Tomcats fly is like watching your ex wearing the ring you bought her that she won’t give back.

But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.

But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Kinda like this, except with millions of dollars worth of metal and avionics.

Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.

“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Goose is rolling around in his grave.

 

The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This German rifle is a combination of one of the best rifles in the world — and a flop

Let’s face it, there are some cool rifles out there.


There’s the HK416, a derivative of the M16 that is best known as the rifle used by SEAL Team Six to kill Osama bin Laden. There is the Steyr AUG, a so-called “bullpup” design that packs a full-sized rifle in a shorter package.

There is, of course, the M1 Garand, celebrated by George S. Patton and R. Lee Ermey.

Others don’t fare so well, like the Canadian Ross rifle, an effort by America’s northern neighbor to be self-reliant in at least some aspect of small arms. It didn’t work, and today Canada uses a version of the M16 known as the C7 alongside a variant of the M4 carbine called the C8.

Even the Germans had a recent dud in the G36 rifle, which they are trying to replace.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
During exercise Joint Resolve 26, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), soldiers from the German Battle Group’s 2nd Reinforced Infantry Company, armed with Heckler and Koch G36 automatic assault rifles, seek to capture French soldiers playing the role of paramilitary extremists, near a paramilitary training camp in the town of Pazaric.

One possible contender for this replacement is the HK433 rifle — basically an effort to take the best features from the AR-15/M16 platform, which includes the HK416, and the G36. Yes, the G36 had some virtues, including its ability to be operated by both right-handed shooters and southpaws.

According to a handout from Heckler and Koch that was available at the Association of the United States Army annual exhibition in Washington, D.C., the HK433 offers operators the choice between the operating concept of the M16/M4/AR-15 and that of the G36. But this rifle, chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, is customizable in many more ways.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The HK433. (Photo from Heckler and Koch)

There are six choices for barrel length, from 11 inches to 20 inches. Two color options, black and “flat dark earth” are available. The rifle can handle a grenade launcher, optics, and a suppressor. The rifle also includes an adjustable cheek rest, a round counter, a magazine well that is compatible with both the AR-15 and G36 magazines, and a foldable and retractable buttstock.

And as the U.S. Army takes a look at its potential future rifle, the HK433 could be a contender.

Articles

The Israeli Arrow shot down a SAM for its first kill

Israel’s Arrow missile defense system managed to get its first kill. This particular kill is notable because it was a Syrian surface-to-air missile.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, Israeli jets had attacked a number of Syrian targets. After the successful operation, they were targeted by Syrian air-defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
An Arrow anti-ballistic missile is launched as part of the on going United States/Israel Arrow System Improvement Program (ASIP). (U.S. Navy photo)

Reportedly, at least one of the surface-to-air missiles was shot down by an Arrow. According to astronautix.com, the system designed to kill ballistic missiles, had its first test flight in 1990 and has hit targets as high as 60 miles up.

Army-Technology.com notes that the Israeli system has a range of up to 56 miles and a top speed of Mach 9. That is about three times the speed of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that the Arrow 2 can engage up to 14 targets, with the first battery deployed in 2000, with a second in 2002. A third is reportedly stated for deployment as well.

The surprise, of course, is that the Arrow proved capable of killing the unidentified surface-to-air missile the Syrians fired.

Surface-to-air missiles are much harder targets to hit than ballistic missiles because they will maneuver to target a fighter or other aircraft.

Furthermore, the SAM that was shot down is very likely to have been of Russian manufacture (DefenseNews.com reported the missile was a SA-5 Gammon, also known as the S-200).

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
A SA-5 Gammon on its launcher. Was a similar missile the first kill for the Arrow? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Most of the missiles are from various production blocks of the Arrow 2, but this past January, Reuters reported that the first Arrow 3 battery had become operational.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) completed the second successful flyout test of the Arrow-3 interceptor in 2014. (Dept. of Defense photo)

While the Arrow 2 intercepts incoming warheads in the atmosphere, the Arrow 3 is capable of exoatmospheric intercepts. One battery has been built so far, and will supplement Israel’s Arrow 2 batteries. The Arrow 3’s range is up to 2,400 kilometers, according to CSIS.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how Marine Corps mortar crews get explosive rounds to fall right on top of an enemy over 1,000 meters away

CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.

During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.


The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.

Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.

Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.

When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.

A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.

In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.

The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.

The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.

There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.

There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.

Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.

Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.

There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.

Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.

The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.

Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.

But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.

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A close-up shot of the three main crew members as the round exits the tube.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert Kuehn

A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.

Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.

The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”

During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.

The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Littoral Combat Ship will use an advanced AI warfare network

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.

The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber harden its growing ship-bast ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services.


CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.

“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”

Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Pre-Installation Test and Check Out technicians Diana Burnside and Arnel Franswells perform acceptance testing on Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services racks in SPAWAR’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility.
(U.S. Navy photo)

“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomolous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time — such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters and drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems — the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope, and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers, and computing functions.

“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.

Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase on-board automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.

Along these lines, Navy engineers recently competed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.

“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.

The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyberattacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.

“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Future Army artillery so strong it needs better muzzle brakes

The U.S. Army is asking defense firms to develop prototypes for a new, lightweight artillery muzzle brake that’s designed to work with the service’s future extended-range cannons.

The Army has made long-range precision fires its top modernization priority under a bold plan to field new, more capable weapons systems by 2028.

In the short term, Army artillery experts are working to develop a 155 mm cannon capable of striking targets to 70 kilometers, a range that doubles the effectiveness of current 155s.


As part of this effort, the Army recently asked the defense industry to develop “novel muzzle brake structures for extended range cannon artillery systems” that are 30 percent lighter than conventional muzzle brakes, according to a solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

“Given the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires priority, a need exists for novel and innovative muzzle brakes capable of supporting the new extended range cannons and sabot, direct, and indirect munitions currently under development,” the solicitation states.

“High pressure waves produced within gun barrels during projectile acceleration have negative impact upon the surrounding environment due to muzzle blast … exiting the barrel,” it adds.

Muzzle brakes are also subjected to “material degradation due to collisions with small particles exiting the gun barrel, such as solid propellant grains that did not undergo combustion,” the solicitation states.

Because of this, current muzzle brakes tend to be heavy.

The effort “seeks to develop novel muzzle brake aerodynamic designs and structures which minimize the overall mass of the artillery system without compromising performance,” according to the solicitation.

Interested companies have until Feb. 6, 2019, to respond to the Nov. 28, 2018 solicitation.

The first phase of the solicitation asks companies to model and simulate the operational performance of proposed muzzle brake designs that meet the weight-reduction requirements and simulate mechanical wear over the life cycle of the brake.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles

The M109A6 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

Companies will then produce at least one prototype for Phase Two, which will be tested on a large-caliber Army platform identified during the Phase One effort, according to the solicitation. Companies will document “recoil, acoustic and optical signature, and muzzle blast” and make refinements on the prototype design, it says.

Companies then will conduct a live-fire demonstration of their final prototype in an operational environment with involvement from the prime contractor for the weapon system, according to the solicitation.

Meanwhile, under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, or ERCA, the Army plans to fit M109A8 155 mm Paladin self-propelled howitzers with much longer, .58 caliber gun tubes, redesigned chambers and breeches that will be able to withstand the gun pressures to get out to 70 kilometers, Army officials said.

The service also is finalizing a new version of a rocket-assisted projectile (RAP) round that testers have shot out to 62 kilometers. Artillery experts plan to make improvements to the round by fiscal 2020 so Army testers can hit the 70-kilometer mark, service officials said at the 2018 Association of the United States Army annual meeting and exposition.

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

popular

4 things you didn’t know about night vision goggles

For many years, U.S. troops have hunted our nation’s enemies under the blanket of complete darkness, scoring some impressive kills due, in part, to our outstanding ability to see at night — just ask Osama bin Laden.

Oh, wait. You can’t.

Today, you can head to a tactical store and pick up a relatively inexpensive set of NVGs for a few hundred bucks. Although many models seem to have issues with depth-of-field, cheaper night optics can still get you from A to B on a somewhat clear night.


Although this impressive piece of tech can be used by anybody, not many people look into how this technology works or how it came to be. Let’s fix that.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
The “Vampir” man-portable night vision system.

German origins

Despite the fact that we defeated the Germans in WWII, they can still claim credit over many important technological advancements. For example, they manufactured the first nighttime image enhancer. The concept was worked on as early as 1935 but wasn’t put in the hands of German soldiers until 1939.

However, only the most highly trained soldiers were issued this new technology to employ in night attacks. By the end of the war, Hitler’s army had also equipped nearly 50 Panther tanks with this tech. These tanks saw combat on both the Western and Eastern Fronts.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
As seen through a night-vision device, an Army MH-47 Chinook helicopter prepares to land as Army Special Forces soldiers participate in a night infiltration and exfiltration exercise.
(Photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride)

Why green?

When you look into a set of NVGs, you’ll immediately notice the green display. This isn’t some arbitrary color choice on the part of the manufacturer — your eyes are more sensitive to that particular color.

When we say “sensitive,” we’re not referring to your current emotional status. It means our eyes detect this color naturally, making it easier to pick out shapes in the otherwise dark. In short, it’s easy on the eyes.

How NVGs work

The device detects low levels of light and amplifies them. You want a little more of a breakdown? Okay, let’s get scientific.

When dim light enters the NVGs, it hits an internal layer, called the “photocathode,” which releases electrons.
These electrons then hit a second layer called a “micro-channel plate,” where they get multiplied before hitting the third layer, called the phosphor screen.

After passing through that layer, the electrons are converted back into light. The more electrons the device produces, the higher the image quality. Check out the video below for a full breakdown.

You can build your own set at home

Although high-quality NVGs require some real ingenuity and tech to produce, Superhero Armory built a rudimentary set using a pair of LCD sunglasses, a small night-vision camera, and some LED lights.

Don’t believe us? Watch the video for yourself.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.

Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.


At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.

Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.

“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.

The need for upgrade: Capabilities of modern thermal imaging systems for armored vehicles
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)

The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.

While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.

A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.

The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.

On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.

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

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