Here are some new options for sheathing your irons - We Are The Mighty
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Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

Some people prefer holsters made from Kydex. Others would rather use a rig made from the skin of a dead beast (sad face).


Either way, a good holster isn’t just important to have; if you’re gonna go heeled, it’s vital. Sure, sometimes you don’t have a choice (like you poor bastards what hafta use Serpas), but when you do, you should make an informed, intelligent decision.

Here are three holsters released recently for your consideration. Note that this is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither a review nor a denunciation.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. Some Bawidamann Boltoron

First up, a couple sumthin’s from Bawidamann Shenanigans (Bawidamann Industries).

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Holsters with a side of sexy. (Photo: Bawidamann)

These Glock 17 holsters are open-bottomed (just how we like a bottom to be) and will fit a KKM compensated barrel.

They’re built from .09 Boltoron for Glocks with the X300U aboard; they’re for AIWB carry and utilize IWB (that’s “inside the waistband” for you youngins out there) and softloops or overhooks.

These are an adjustable depth, one piece design built with the seam on top of your slide. This is intended to keep the part that touches your inner leg rounded and smooth — because you don’t want it rough or scratchy unless you’re going for a mustache ride, right? These holsters are available for right or left-handed carry and are handmade in the distant reaches of faraway Ohio. They will fit G17s, G23s, or G34s, and they make use of the RCS (Raven Concealment Systems) claw to help minimize printing.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
We like our holsters like we like our drinks: stiff and bottomless. (Photo: Bawidamann)

Gonna carry a blaster? You’re going to want to gas it up. You can do that with one of Bawidamann Industry’s “Uber CC Mag carriers.”

Why? Because, as Andrew Bawidamann says (and we’re not making this up), “…you never know if the exotic woman on your bed is the high priced whore you asked for or an assassin.”

Finally, someone besides us gets it.

Find Bawidamann Industries holsters here and mag pouches for concealed carry are here.

Bawidamann Industries is on Instagram, @bawidamann_industries, but you’d do better to follow Andrew personally, @abawidamann. On Facebook at /bawidamannindustries/.

2. DeSantis Thigh Hide — Guns and Garters

Next up, the DeSantis Gunhide Thigh-Hide. We like this for all sorts of reasons, though admittedly none of our minions have actually tried one.

First, it can be used to carry concealed by women who otherwise might resort to off-body carry (not our preferred method at all, though off-body gun is admittedly better than no gun). Second, it has removable straps to attach it to a garter belt.

Garter. Belt.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
This is real life. (Photo: DeSantis Gunhide)

Now, this looks like it’d only be truly useful in a skirt- or kilt-wearing situation, and it’s possible it would present the same sort of problems a traditional thigh rig does (serious, it’s not the 90s anymore, quit using them unless you have to)…but it is something worth looking at.

The images on the DeSantis Gunhide website seem to indicate it’s intended for a cross-draw situation, which is less than ideal. If we wind up giving one a try we’ll see if that’s mandatory or an option. They make ’em for something like 30 different firearm manufacturers, usually with multiple models of each. The MSRP is $59.95

Meantime, for more information check out the product page right here or an informative video below:

Plus, Gene DeSantis dual-wields shotties…

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Pew pew. (Photo: DeSantis)

That’s enough reason to look at his gear right there. You can check out DeSantis on Facebook here if you’re so inclined, or follow them on Instagram: @desantisholster.

3. Comp-Tack L Line — Lasers and Lights

Lastly, we’ll take a quick look at the new L series holster from Comp-Tac. Coming to you in any color you want (as long as it’s black), the L-Line is a sorta universal: right- or left-handed, strong side modular pancake holster for pistols with WMLs attached.

The L-Line will fit (or so Comp-Tac tells us) blasters with Surefire XC-1, Crimson Trace 201/206, Lasermax Micro, and the TruGlo Micro Tac, but not (not) this thing:

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
She might need a little elbow grease before your next duel. (Photo: Breach Bang Clear)

More on that here, if you’re interested — it’s real.

The current L-Line (presumably they’re going to expand it) has adjustable tension and will will fit the Sig P250/320 9.40/45 all lengths and the XD 9/40/45 in all lengths, as well as an assortment of SW MPs and Walthers. It ships with multiple mounting clips (because if you’re like us you like to mount in all sorts of different ways) and is optics-ready. It’s also open at the bottom to accommodate a threaded barrel. MSRP is $79.99.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
We like it when the colors match. (Photo: Comp-Tac)

We don’t have much in the way of imagery. Their social media presence kinda sucks balls (like, 793 1/2 posts about Black Friday) and there wasn’t much presented in the press release that went out — don’t let that stop you from giving their gear a look, however.

They’re on Facebook and on Twitter as well (@comptac).

Articles

How a Recon Marine started a company that revolutionized the firearms industry

Some of the greatest businesses of the 21st century started in a garage: Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, just to name a few. In the firearms industry, one of the most prolific manufacturers of accessories is Magpul. Today, it is a leading innovator and supplier to both the military and civilian markets around the world. And the company started in — you guessed it — a garage.

In 1991, Richard Fitzpatrick was a Recon Marine in Alpha Company, 3rd Recon Battalion. It was during this time he began thinking of ways to improve a battlefield improvisation going back to the Vietnam War.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
A Marine loads his M16A4 with a PMAG (U.S. Marine Corps)

For infantry in the heat of battle, keeping your weapon going is one of, if not the most important, things you can do. Reducing the time needed to reload your weapon also reduces the time that you are out of the fight. To help with this, troops used to improvise loops out of duct tape and paracord and attach them to the bottom of their magazines. This made them easier to pull from pouches and control during a reload. Taking this tried and tested concept, Fitzpatrick sought to improve it.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Magpuls on a Special Operations Marine’s magazines in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

At first, he tried glueing pieces of rubber together. However, the design wasn’t up to Fitzpatrick’s standards. Still, he kept toying with the idea. In 1997, a few years after he left the Marine Corps, he found the solution. Fitzpatrick made a magazine puller with a dual friction band and had his eureka moment.

He used his life savings to patent the idea and buy a small injection mold to start making them. From his garage in Erie, Colorado, Fitzpatrick produced and sold his new rubberized magazine pullers. He christened his new product Magpul and bet it all on its success.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
A soldier with an M4 loaded with a PMAG (U.S. Army)

In 1999, Fitzpatrick introduced the Magpul at the NDIA Small Arms Symposium. Although there was much interest in the new product, no orders were placed. While Fitzpatrick did not initially receive a military contract like he had hoped for, the Magpul quickly became popular with individual units. Discretionary unit purchases and individual sales started to come in on Magpul’s website.

Through the early 2000s, Magpul’s notoriety expanded. The company’s growth was due in large part to its focus on education over direct marketing. Every package of Magpuls came with a booklet titled “Advanced Tactical Reloading.”

“It had over 60 illustrations in it and was very detailed,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “Because of this detail, users became experts on the product and went on to become ambassadors for Magpul.” Today, Magpul even has a dedicated training division.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Then-Wyoming Governor Matt Mead tours the Magpul facility following the company’s move from Colorado (Magpul)

As the company grew, so did its product line. In addition to Magpuls for M4/M16 STANAG and other weapon magazines, the company made other accessories like grips and stocks. They also designed a self-leveling follower for their magazines to reduce the likelihood of jams. In 2006, after years of individual sales, Magpul received its first official NATO Stock Number.

The next year, the company introduced the PMAG 30 for the AR-15/M4 platform. In contrast to the standard aluminum magazine used by the military, the PMAG is made of a composite polymer. This allows the magazine to flex under pressure that would otherwise bend the feed lips or crack the body of a metal magazine. Moreover, all PMAGs include the aforementioned self-leveling follower. All of this resulted in increased reliability over traditional metal magazines.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
An EMAG in the SA80 rifle of a British paratrooper (MOD)

An export version of the PMAG, called the EMAG, was introduced in 2009. The next year, Magpul won a contract to supply 1 million EMAGs to the UK Ministry of Defence. Meanwhile, the company diversified even further with products like back-up iron sights, conceptual firearms, and even phone cases.

In 2016, Magpul hit the jackpot when it was awarded an exclusive contract to manufacture magazines for the U.S. Marine Corps. Two years later, the Army followed with a formal announcement allowing all units to acquire PMAGs with procurement funds.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
A Special Operation Marine with Magpul PMAGs, CTR stock, and MOE grip (U.S. Marine Corps)

Today, all branches of the U.S. military field PMAGs in their weapon systems. Moreover, Magpul’s accessory attachment system, M-Lok, was selected by SOCOM as its standard system. Although not standardized, troops commonly accessorize their weapons with Magpul grips and stocks as well. In just over 20 years, Magpul has changed the face of the firearms industry and worked its way to the top.

Articles

The Border Patrol was actually founded to stop illegal Chinese immigration — from Mexico

A lot gets said about “America’s porous borders,” especially in an election year. Forget for a moment, about the argument about whether or not a wall would be effective along the U.S.-Mexican border (and forget about who is going to pay for it). Right now, there is no wall and there are three borders, guarded by a thin green line called the U.S. Border Patrol.


The boats, horses, and men of the Border Patrol weren’t originally meant to be on guard against illegal Mexican immigrants, drugs, and guns from coming over the southern U.S. border, they were formed to keep the American southwest free of illegal Chinese immigrants.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

The Border Patrol is no joke. The agency has a Congressionally-mandated 21,370 agents covering a staggering 19,000 miles across the U.S. northern and southern borders as well as the Caribbean. It has its own SWAT team, special operators, and search and rescue squads. They finish a 13- to 21-week long basic training course (depending on how well the trainee speaks Spanish) and then complete 12 to 16 weeks of field training at their first duty station – just to call themselves “agent.”

In 1904, the nascent Border Patrol was known as the Mounted Guards. Operating out of El Paso, Texas, 75 horsemen scanned as far west as California in an attempt to stem the tide of Chinese immigration.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
(National Archives)

Around the turn of the 20th Century, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting immigration from China. During the Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroads, Chinese laborers were welcomed to the U.S. in droves. After the economic booms of the post-Civil War years and the end of the Gold Rush, the once-welcomed source of cheap labor lost their appeal and public opinion quickly turned sour.

A mix of these Mounted Guards, U.S. troops, and Texas Rangers kept an eye out for the unwanted immigrants. In 1915, the Mounted Guards became Mounted Inspectors and had Congressional authority – but they had to bring their own horses.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
The Border Patrol still does mounted operations today, but horses are provided. (National Archives)

In those days, catching customs violations were more important than cutting off illegal immigration. The Border Patrol as we know it was born in 1924, both as a response to Prohibition and to Congressional restrictions on the number of legal immigrants coming into the U.S.

With Prohibition, defending the northern border became as important as the south. Based in Detroit, the northern area had to cut illegal immigration as well as the illegal import of Canadian Whiskey. The American government authorized 450 agents to patrol all of America’s borders.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
(National Archives)

In 1925, Pancho Villa and his “Villistas” invaded American territory, sacking Columbus, New Mexico and killing it inhabitants. It was the largest American loss of life on American soil until the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Columbus didn’t receive Border Patrol agents until 1927 – two men guarding 135 miles of border, a microcosm of the modern Border Patrol’s modern long-distance mission.

Articles

ISIS is thriving on the internet ‘dark web’

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Photo: Flickr


FBI Director James Comey made waves this week when he suggested that commercial encryption on mobile devices may prevent law enforcement from intercepting communications between Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) militants.

“The tools we are asked to use are increasingly ineffective,” Comey told a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. “ISIL says go kill, go kill…we are stopping these things so far…but it is incredibly difficult.”

The FBI wants tech companies using end-t0-end encryption, such as WhatsApp, to give the agency backdoor access to its communications before the encryption leads us all “to a very, very dark place,” Comey argued.

But even if Comey got his way — which doesn’t seem likely given the companies’ protests — ISIS would still have an anonymous forum for procuring fighters, weapons, and cash: the Dark Web.

“ISIL’s activities on the Surface Web are now being monitored closely, and the decision by a number of governments to take down or filter extremist content has forced the jihadists to look for new online safe havens,” Beatrice Berton writes in a new report on ISIS’ use of the dark net.

“The Dark Web is a perfect alternative as it is inaccessible to most but navigable for the initiated few – and it is completely anonymous,” she adds.

Accessed via the anonymous Tor browser, the deep web — anything not searchable by Google — “is kind of like an iceberg,” Aamir Lakhani, senior security strategist at Fortinet, told Business Insider last month. “Only about 30% of it is actually visible, and some say it is around 1,000 times larger than web we use every day.”

Indeed, “since the Dark [Web] is far less indexed and far harder to come across than regular Websites are, there is the possibility that there are Websites used by ISIS of which we do not know yet,”  Ido Wulkan, the senior analyst at dark web tech company S2T, told Defense One.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Photo: Tor

Messages sent and received on Tor are anonymized via a process known as onion rooting. “Just as an onion has multiple layers, onion rooting on Tor protects people’s identities by wrapping layers around their communications” that are impenetrable — and thereby untraceable — by either party, Lakhani explained.

Tor browser email services such as Torbox and Sigaint are popular among the jihadis because they hide both their identities and their locations, Berton notes. Encrypyted jihadi forums and chat rooms also allow militants and sympathizers to communicate without fear of detection from law enforcement.

As a result, “the dark web has become ISIS’ number one recruiting platform,” Lakhani said.

The browser’s benefits for ISIS don’t stop at anonymous messaging: Supporters of the group from around the world can also use one of Tor’s many ilicit exchanges to transfer Bitcoins — a digital currency — directly into the militants’ accounts.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Photo: Youtube.com

One ISIS supporter went so far as to create a guide explaining how anyone could help fund the jihadis using Dark Wallet, a dark web app that promises to anonymize your Bitcoin transactions. Numerous dark web websites soliciting bitcoin donations for terror groups have reportedly been found.

The national security community has developed various tools to track the IP addresses and activities of those logged onto Tor — including the NSA’s XKeyscore, the FBI’s Metasploit Decloaking Engine, and the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency’s Memex project.

If the uproar over FBI director Comey’s comments are any indication, however, web monitoring programs will continue to face significant resistance from internet freedom advocates.

Meanwhile, ISIS is taking full advantage of the shadowiest parts of the web.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 “creepy” DARPA projects that will save lives

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for both world-changing programs, like the internet, and creepy ones, like synthetic blood. Although it draws flack for creating multiple types of terminators, the Department of Defense’s “mad scientist” laboratory is still cranking out insane inventions that will save the lives of war fighters and civilians.

Here are six of them:


Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

A British poster advocating blood donation.

(Imperial War Museums)

Synthetic blood

We figured that intro may make some people curious, so we’ll talk about synthetic blood right up top. DARPA pushed the project in 2008 and the first batch of blood went to the FDA in 2010. Unfortunately, no synthetic blood has yet made it through FDA approval.

But DARPA backed the venture for a reason. The logistics chain to get blood from donors to patients, including those in war zones, can be insane. Blood shipments to Iraq and Afghanistan often end up being 21 days old when they arrive, meaning there’s only one more week to use it. Synthetic blood could be universal O-negative blood with zero chance of spreading infections and have a much longer shelf life.

So, sure, it’s creepy. But the lives of millions of disaster victims and thousands of troops are in the balance, so let’s press forward.

www.youtube.com

Remote body control

Yeah, we’re talking dudes with remotes controlling the bodies of other living animals. Sure, the organisms being controlled were beetles, not humans, but still, creepy.

But the cyborg insects worked, and could eventually see deployments around the world. The big benefit to using them? They were designed to carry chemical sensors into warzones to help identify IED and mine locations. The inventor who first got cyborg beetles into the air pointed to their potential for tracking conditions in disaster zones and even finding injured people in the rubble.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

A schematic showing the physical nature of deep brain stimulation.

(University of Iowa)

Brain implants

The process of implanting electrodes into the brain is even worse then you’re probably imagining. Doctors can either jab a large electrode deep into the brain, or they can create a lattice and plant it against the side of the brain,allowingsome brain cells to grow into the lattice. Either way:metal inside your skull and brain.

But, brace yourselves, amazing medicine is already being done with these things, from alleviating Parkinson’s symptoms to treating depression to allowing amputees to control prosthetics. And DARPA is doubling down, calling for new implants and procedures that will allow direct connection to 1 million neurons, way up from the few hundred possible today.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

A person shows off his tattoo with biostasis instructions. DARPA is looking at biostasis protocols that might work in emergencies.

(Photo by Steve Jurvetson)

Frozen soldiers

You’ll see this fairly often on mystery and conspiracy websites, “DARPA wants frozen soldiers.” Those same websites sometimes also claim that the U.S. is going to unleash an army of White Walkers and Olafs over the ice caps to destroy Russia. Or they’ll have reports of immortal soldiers who will presumably suck the blood of the innocent and wax poetic about how hot Kristen Stewart is.

In actuality, DARPA just wants to put injured people in biostatis to give medical personnel more time to evacuate and treat them, potentially turning the “Golden Hour” of medevacs into the “Golden Couple of Days.” This could be done by rapidly lowering blood temperatures, something the medical community has looked at for heart attack victims. But DARPA’s program focuses on proteins and cellular processes, hopefully allowing for interventions at room temperature.

If it works, expect to see the process in use in a war with near peers who can force our medevac birds to stay on the ground, and expect to see it quickly copied to ambulance services around the world.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

The schematic of a proposed nanorobot.

(Graphic by Waquarahmad)

Robot nano-doctors in our bodies

Imagine whole pharmacies inside every soldier, floating through their bloodstreams, ready to deliver drugs at any time. DARPA’s In Vivo Nanoplatforms program calls for persistent nanoparticles to be planted inside organisms, especially troops, but potentially also civilians in populations vulnerable to infection.

The idea is to have sensors inside people that can provide very early detection of disease or injury, especially infectious diseases that spread rapidly. That’s what they call, “in vivo diagnostics.” Other groups would also get “in vivo therapeutics,” additional nanoparticles that can provide extremely targeted drugs directly to the relevant infected or injured cells and tissues.

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

A SCHAFT robot competes in the DARPA robotics challenge it eventually won.

(Department of Defense)

Sweating robots

DARPA didn’t directly call for sweating robots, but the winner of their robotics challenge was from SCHAFT. Their robot can “sweat” and outperformed all of the other competitors. So, what’s so great about giving robots the ability to stink up the showers with humans? Is it to allow them to evolve into Cylons and seduce us before killing us?

Nope, it’s for the same reason that humans sweat: Robots are getting more complex with more motors and computing units on board to do more complex tasks. But all of that tech generates a ton of heat. To dissipate this, SCHAFT tried pushing filtered water through the robot’s frame and allowing it to evaporate, cooling it. Spoiler: It worked. And robots that can better cool themselves can carry more powerful processors and motors, and therefore perform better in emergencies.

Articles

These 6 tweaks could make America’s military better without breaking the bank

Pentagon budgets are shrinking (or growing at a smaller rate than they had during the previous few decades). And while there’s not a lot of money to procure new weapons systems, the threats to the nation aren’t going away. The U.S. military still has a job to do. There are no bucks, but the American public still expects Buck Rogers.


Here are six improvements — “tweaks,” if you will — to existing platforms that would improve military readiness without breaking the increasingly small bank:

1. An internal gun for the F-35B/C variants of the Lightning II

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The Air Force’s F-35A has a gun — the GAU-22, a 25mm Gatling Gun, with 182 rounds. The GAU-22 is based off the AV-8B’s GAU-12, and it gives the F-35A an offensive edge. But the F-35B and F-35C don’t have an internal gun (only a gun pod with 220 rounds).

The same situation existed with the F-4 Phantom – probably America’s first real joint strike fighter, which saw action during the Vietnam War with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. As Navy ace (and convicted congressional felon) Randy Cunningham noted in his memoir, Fox Two, the lack of a gun cost him kills.

2. The Penguin anti-ship missile for the MH-60R Seahawk

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
MH-60R fires a Hellfire missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This chopper is an advanced version of the SH-60B. Equipped with a choice of lightweight torpedo (either Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54), and Hellfire missiles, it serves as additional eyes and ears for surface combatants. But the Hellfire has only a 20-pound warhead and a range of about five nautical miles.

The SH-60B, though, had the Penguin anti-ship missile. This weapon had a 265-pound warhead and a range of 15 nautical miles. In other words, it can handle bigger targets – and would be very useful additions to the MH-60R’s arsenal.

3. More bomb capacity for the B-1B Lancer

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

While the B-1B already has the largest bombload of any American combat plane, it could have even more. Presently, it has a bomb bay that can hold 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The venerable B-52 can only carry 51 such bombs. In other words, the B-1 can deliver about 60 percent more hurt to the bad guys.

But it could be even more. The B-1B, when designed, had the capability to carry up to 14 cruise missiles or 44 more Mk 82s on external pylons. Restoring those external pylons would give the B-1 50 percent more firepower.

4. Harpoon launchers for the Flight IIA and III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Flt I Burke class destroyer shoots a Harpoon missile. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

While the Flight IIA and Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are very capable vessels in anti-air warfare and anti-sub warfare. But the earlier Flight I and Flight II versions of this destroyer have something the later ships don’t: A pair of Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Boeing’s latest version of the Harpoon has a range of 130 nautical miles and a 300-pound warhead. The Mk 141 launchers don’t take up a lot of space, and it never hurts to have more anti-ship firepower as China and Russia are adding modern ships to their naval arsenals.

5. Laser-guided bombs for the B-2 Spirit

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
B-2 dropping a JDAM GPS-guided bomb. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

What more could you want on America’s most advanced bomber in service? The B-2 Spirit has stealth technology and the ability to deliver precision-guided weapons including the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, as well as nuclear weapons – excuse me, “special stores.” It’s also expensive – a flyaway cost of just over $700 million per plane caused the production run to stop at 21 airframes.

That said, they have a couple of gaps in their capabilities. All of the B-2’s weapons are either dumb bombs or GPS-guided. So, perhaps the best upgrade they could get would be to give the B-2 the ability to drop laser-guided bombs like the GBU-24 and to use Harpoon anti-ship missiles and the Standoff Land-Attack Missile, giving them more options to target ships like the Chinese Type 52C destroyer.

6. Bushmaster cannon for the M1126/M1127 Stryker

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
(Photo: U.S. Army)

The Stryker’s proven itself in combat operations during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The M1126 and M1127 have a remote weapons station that can use an M2 heavy machine gun or a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher.

But now, it could be asked to help fight Russian aggression against NATO allies. Here it has a problem. The Stryker is outgunned by the BMP-3 or BTR-90, Russia’s most modern infantry fighting vehicles. The former has a 100mm gun and a 30mm coaxial cannon. The latter has a 30mm cannon and an AT-5 Spandrel anti-tank missile.

So, to give the Stryker a better chance in a fight against the Russians, the best option would be to give it the same chain gun that the M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles carry: the 25mm Bushmaster cannon.

These six weapons systems serve with our troops – and have done so with excellence. But some small improvements to each of them would give our troops even better odds on battlefields around the world.

Articles

The Air Force’s 2016 New Years resolutions

It’s been a long 2015, and no group is feeling it more than the U.S. Air Force, especially Air Force leadership who took quite a beating this year from a variety of sources. But, as one first shirt used to say all the time: “The good news is they can improve.”


Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
And here’s how the Air Force higher-ups usually respond to critics.

Here’s how:

Resolution 1: Stop pushing away your loved ones

In 2013, the Air Force started drastically reducing its numbers. Today, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the USAF is the smallest its ever been. This is a tough thing to hear considering the number of Air Force general officers, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, who believe the Air Force is becoming too small to succeed. He’s not wrong. The Air Force is undermanned in many critical fields and faces an estimated $10 billion budget shortfall. But they still had enough money to make really awesome commercials like this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHkjM-3lUDk

The Air Force is already working to counter that problem. The $122 billion USAF leadership requested for 2016 included slots for 4,000 new airmen. But the Air Force is threatening to cut aircraft programs to make the budget work. The service even proposed cutting 14 F-35s, which — to anyone following the F-35 controversy —is almost unbelievable.

Resolution 2: Live within your means

There’s no doubt, when you read about everything the F-35 is supposed to be capable of when it’s fully operational, the idea of having one watching your back is very reassuring. The problem is the F-35 keeps coming up with new problems. When they fix the randomly igniting engine, they find out the helmet is too big for the cockpit. The plane is supposed to be able to take out intercepting aircraft without even being in visual range and provide air superiority for the whole battle space, but it can’t do that with a weapons system that won’t fire or bombs that won’t fit. Will the F-35 even be operational when we need it?

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons

Maybe. But if it’s too expensive to fly now and we still need a fleet of new fighters, why not go with the tried and true airframes which made the U.S. Air Force the most formidable in the world? Someone in the Air Force had this very same idea. Since the Air Force will likely be unable to afford F-35s at the rate the leadership wants, they are considering supplementing their fleets by purchasing and upgrading F-15, F-16, and maybe F-18 fighters.

Resolution 3: Stop procrastinating

Those planes aren’t getting any younger. The Air Force decided it needs to upgrade critical programs like the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). It also needs to replace aging airframes with new ones to meet ongoing operational needs, as is the case with KC-46 tanker. Then Air Force leadership decided to mess around with its fighter programs first. When it came time to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, the Air Force jumped at that first. Now the backlog is so great it seems overwhelming. What have we been doing this whole time?

Here are some new options for sheathing your irons
Oh, riiiiight. That. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Well, no more. The Air Force decided to do all these things at once, as well as develop new unmanned vehicles, a new combat rescue helicopter, a replacement for Air Force One, and a new trainer aircraft. Of course simultaneously developing and updating nine aircraft programs presents significant challenges in terms of budget. But the Air Force is getting creative with its procurement solutions, like siphoning money from the Navy.

Resolution 4: Make amends with your siblings

The Budget Control Act of 2011 cut $487 billion from defense spending through 2021. It also led the way to sequestration, which implemented another slashing of defense money, this time $495 million. That’s almost $1 trillion. That means there’s a lot of competition for what’s left. After reading about the Air Force’s nine airframe initiatives, you might be surprised to know they also feel the need to upgrade or replace land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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Someone should let them know it’s not 1965.

At the same time, the Navy needs to replace its Ohio-class boomer fleet (aka ballistic missile submarines). They argue their submarine fleets are as important to the “nuclear triad” as anything the Air Force maintains. The trouble is, all three parts of the triad are way too expensive. When the Air Force awarded Northrop-Grumman the contract to develop the Long Range Strike-Bomber, it also started a full court press to get Congress to create a special fund to develop the LRS-B, which is how the Navy wanted to pay for the Ohio-class submarine upgrades. The interservice funding rivalry could touch off another “Revolt of the Admirals.” Congress can pay for both, but that solution would require a sacrificial lamb from the Air Force.

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And the might of the F-35, unsmote by the sword, hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

Resolution 5: Don’t fix what’s not broken

In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.

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An A-10 Thunderbolt II sits on the ramp at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn)

And then, Congress provided those funds. They allocated enough money to keep the A-10s in the air until the the Air Force completes the independent study. If they have the funds, they have a mission, and they have reliable aircraft to fulfill the mission, the Air Force should probably just leave well enough alone.

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The Air Force made a $25 billion ‘oopsie’

In a report to Congress last year, the Air Force estimated the cost of the new Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) to be $33.1 billion for the next ten years. This year, that price ballooned to $58.2 billion.


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The amount of the gap is so large, it caught the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who immediately demanded answers from Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh. How does the Air Force explain the $25 billion error? It says the cost should have actually been $41.7 billion, but human error was the explanation for the discrepancy.

Welsh insists he was caught off guard as well. It was just a multi-billion dollar oopsie, people.

“We were surprised by the number when we saw it as well once it had been pointed out to us that it looked like the number had grown because we’ve been using the same number,” Welsh said.

The Air Force has a history of bait-and-switch budgeting when it comes to developing new aircraft. The Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is famously over budget (it’s the most expensive weapons program ever) and underperforming. The Air Force’s most recent fighter program, the dogfighting-optimized F-22 Raptor, produced 187 units between 1996 and 2011 at the cost of $157 million each. The Raptor wasn’t used in combat until 2014.

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The LSRB is estimated to cost $500 million per plane, with a total cost of $55 billion to replace the USAF’s 77 aging B-52 (first developed in 1955) and 21 B-2 (1989) bombers.

NOW: How Much Does An F-35 Really Cost?

OR: The F-35B Can Take Off Like An Olympic Ski Jumper Now 

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Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.


Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.

“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”

Related: 6 female military units you don’t want to mess with

In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”

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Photo: flickr/free kurdistan

“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.

Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.

“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.

Also read: Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.

“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.

You can check out the full website here.

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Here’s why it’s a good thing the US military is getting rid of the M14

The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.


That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.

While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:

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While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.

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Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)

Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.

This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.

Enter, the M14.

The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.

On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.

But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.

Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.

Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.

Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.

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Cpl. Scott P. Ruggio, scout sniper, Scout Sniper platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires his MK-11 sniper rifle in the first stage of a three-day platoon competition in Djibouti March 25. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.

Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.

Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.


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One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.

“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.

Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.

For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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These are the jets Iran would use to fight the US

After forty years of sanctions and arms embargoes, Iran’s air force has slowly become an eclectic mishmash of aging platforms sourced through various channels. If war were to break out between Iran and the United States today, U.S. pilots would find themselves squaring off with Iranian pilots in a swarm of old American, Soviet, and Chinese jets. Some of these planes, like the Northrop F-5 Tiger II, have seen update efforts over the years. Others, however, are thought to be barely sky-worthy.


While there’s little doubt that advanced American fighters like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or the F-22 Raptor would have a long list of advantages over Iran’s ragtag fighters, that isn’t to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force lacks any teeth whatsoever. In fact, some of Iran’s jets actually boast capabilities that would put even America’s fifth-generation fighters to shame.

Of course, combat isn’t about who can put the best numbers on paper, and even Iran’s best jets likely wouldn’t even see the American fighter that put them down until long after they pulled their ejection seat levers, but America’s pilots should remain cautious: Some of Iran’s jets were actually the best America had to offer at one point. While Iran has more than a dozen combat-aircraft in service (in varying numbers), these are some of the first aircraft American pilots might run across in a war with Iran.

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Iranian Air Force Grumman F-14A Tomcats in 1986 (WikiMedia Commons)

 

Iran’s Top Gun: The Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Prior to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the United States was working hand in hand with the nation’s monarch, even agreeing to sell them 80 of the U.S. Navy’s top tier intercept fighters, the F-14 Tomcat. A total of 79 of these jets were delivered. With a top speed of Mach 2.34 and a combat radius of 500 miles, these air superiority fighters are faster and carry more weapons than America’s fifth-generation fighters like the F-35.

Iran claims to have upgraded two F-14s to F-14AMs since then and says 24 of the fighters are mission capable, though that seems unlikely. The U.S. has gone to great lengths to stop Iran from getting F-14 parts (even shredding our own retired platforms), which means Iran has had to cannibalize parts off some jets to keep others in the air. Even if their F-14s are operational, their pilots almost certainly have limited flight time with them–meaning this “Top Gun” dogfight likely wouldn’t be as dramatic as the movies.

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Mig-29 being operated by the German Air Force (USAF Photo taken by TSGT Michael Ammons)

 

Russian Steel: The Mig-29

Rounding out Iran’s air intercept fighter numbers are as many as 30 operational Mikoyan Mig-29 Fulcrums. These fighters were sourced in small numbers through Russia and as a result of Iraqi pilots fleeing destruction from American forces during 1991’s Operation Desert Storm.

With a top speed of Mach 2.25, these fighters are also faster than America’s stealth platforms, though, like the F-14, the Mig-29 would lose a drag race to America’s F-15. With seven hardpoints for air-to-air missiles, these Migs were purpose built to stand and fight with America’s fourth-generation fighters (like the aforementioned F-15 and the F-16 Fighting Falcon). Iran has reportedly updated these platforms to support Nasr-1 anti-ship missiles as well, making them a concern for the U.S. Navy in waterways like the Strait of Hormuz.

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If these pictures look old, just imagine how old the planes themselves must be. (WikiMedia Commons)

 

Iran’s “Home-built” Fighter: The Northrop F-5 Tiger II

In August of this year, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani sat in the cockpit of what he described as the nation’s new “home-built” fourth generation fighter… the thing is, the fighter was neither new nor home-built. Rouhani was posing with a Northrop F-5F — a platform Iran had purchased from the United States more than forty years ago. It is presumed, however, that these jets have received a good deal of updating over the years, much of which was concocted internally. Iran’s truly home-built HESA Saeqeh is based on reverse engineered F-5s as well, despite first taking to the skies in 2007.

Unbeknownst to many, the Northrop F-5 also appeared in 1986’s “Top Gun,” as both the menacing (and fictional) Mig-28 and as an aggressor aircraft utilized by instructors at the Top Gun school. It’s believed that Iran maintains a fleet of 60 operational F-5s in varying trims (mostly F-5Es fighter bombers along with around 16 F-5F dual seat training fighters), making it one of Iran’s workhorse platforms. With a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, seven total hardpoints for missiles or bombs, and a great deal of maneuverability, these long-dated platforms are still capable of causing a good amount of trouble.

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Su-22 operated by the Czech Republic (WikiMedia Commons)

 

Iraqi Leftovers: The Su-22 Fitter

As American F-15s headed in Iraqi airspace to kick off the Persian Gulf War in 1991, more than 40 Iraqi Su-22 fighter bombers frantically took to the sky. They weren’t looking to engage the inbound Eagles, however… they were running for their lives. American fighters brought down two, but the rest managed to make it into Iranian airspace. Some crash landed, some came down gently, but few were considered operable once they reached the tarmac.

It didn’t take long for Iran to claim these (and nearly a hundred other Iraqi aircraft) as their own, but making their newfound Su-22 fighter bombers sky-worthy again proved a lengthy (and costly) undertaking. Nearly 30 years after the already-dated jets arrived in Iran, it’s believed that something like 20 of these jets are operational today. Ten have even seen significant upgrades that allow them to carry precision-guided munitions and share data with nearby drones. These Fitters would pose little threat to American fighters, but would likely be relied on to engage ground forces instead, alongside their small number of Su-25 Grachs.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was one of the world’s first swing-wing fighters

Russian MiGs are often a punchline for a joke.


In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s 555th Fighter Squadron, now based at Aviano Air Base and part of the 31st Fighter Wing, was once famous as the “World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts” due to shooting down 39 MiGs during the Vietnam War.

But some MiGs weren’t exactly slouches. In 1971, the Soviet Union put the MiG-23 Flogger into service. The Flogger was a variable-geometry aircraft, which meant that its wings were capable of being swept or extended, depending on the situation.

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MiG-23 Flogger with wings extended. (Youtube Screenshot)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Flogger was capable of a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour, a range of 1,752 miles, and it was capable of carrying AA-7 Apex radar-guided missiles, AA-8 Aphid missiles (either radar-guided or infra-red guided), and it had a twin 23mm cannon with 200 rounds of ammo.

In essence, it was intended to be an answer to America’s wildly successful F-4 Phantom.

Like the Phantom, it was widely exported, mostly to Warsaw Pact countries and to Soviet allies in the Middle East. Like past MiGs, the parts were often forcefully distributed – albeit this time by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The United States Air Force got into the business of distributing Flogger parts during Operation Desert Storm, and Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan MiG-23s in 1989 over the Gulf of Sidra.

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An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

Some MiG-23s did find their way to the United States during the Cold War. Egypt had purchased about 20 Floggers in the 1970s, but eventually sold a dozen to the United States Air Force, which took them somewhere in Nevada for testing.

Today, the MiG-23, like the F-4 Phantom, is fading away as the last airframes are being retired. The Flogger, though, holds a place in history as one of the Soviet Union’s first swing-wing fighters. You can see a video on this plane below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtD9gfklELE
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