The M1126 and M1127 Strykers have provided good service to the Army in the wars since 9/11, where they provided an excellent balance of mobility, protection, and firepower for troops.
However, when you’re potentially facing a fight with Russia, you need a bigger gun. They now will have one.
The United States Army rolled out the “Dragoon” in response to feedback from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently based in Europe, and likely to be on the front lines if the Russian hordes come. According to an Army release, the Dragoon is officially the XM1296 Infantry Combat Vehicle, and features a Mk 44 Bushmaster II, a 30mm version of the M242 25mm chain gun used on the M2/M3 Bradley, the LAV-25, and a number of United States Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
The baseline M1126 Stryker usually had either a M2 .50-caliber machine gun or a 40mm Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher. Both systems are great for dealing with light enemy forces whose best vehicles may be the “technical” — a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun mounted on it. Against a BMP or BTR – never mind a T-80 main battle tank — the firepower comes up short, placing the nine Joes in the back and the Stryker’s two-man crew in more danger.
Some Strykers have more firepower, like the M1128 Mobile Gun System (which uses a 105mm gun) and the M1134 Anti-Tank Vehicle (armed with the BGM-71 TOW missile). The grunts inside the Stryker can also carry and use the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile.
The Army plans to give the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment 81 of the XM1296s. Other purchases may likely follow, as there are potential conflicts across the globe. While those units could face long odds in some of those conflicts, those odds won’t be so long with the XM1296 backing the troops up.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the MiG-29 Fulcrum and the F/A-18 Hornet had plenty of opportunities to go head-to-head. There was the ever-present possibility of the Cold War turning hot, a potential meeting during Desert Storm, and again, an opportunity to clash over the Balkans. Even today, deployed carriers operate Hornets while several potential adversaries (like Syria, Iran, and North Korea) have Fulcrums in service.
This, of course, begs the question — which plane would win a dogfight? Let’s take a closer look at each.
Let’s start this off with a look at the F/A-18 Hornet. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Navy was looking for a plane to replace the F-4 Phantom and the A-7 Corsair in Navy and Marine Corps service. As a result, they got a very versatile plane – one that could help protect carriers from attacking Backfires, yet still carry out strike missions.
The MiG-29 Fulcrum was designed for the air-superiority role – and was meant to counter the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet
(USAF photo by MSGT Pat Nugent)
The baseline F/A-18 Hornets have a top speed of 1,190 miles per hour, an unrefueled range of 1,243 miles, and are armed with an M61 Vulcan cannon and a wide variety of air-to-ground weapons. Additionally, Hornets are typically armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. The Hornet is a very versatile plane that has seen action across the globe, from Libya to the War on Terror.
The MiG-29 Fulcrum, on the other hand, was one of two planes designed for fighting NATO planes for control of the air. The Fulcrum entered service in 1982 and was intended to be complemented by the Su-27 Flanker. The plane earned a bit of fame by playing an important role in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog.
The F/A-18 Hornet has advantages that would give it an edge over the MiG-29 in a fight.
(US Navy photo by PH2 Shane McCoy)
The MiG-29 has a higher top speed of 1,519 miles per hour, but a lower unrefueled range of 889 miles. It has a 30mm cannon, and primarily carries the AA-10 Alamo and AA-11 Archer air-to-air missiles. Over time, the Fulcrum has evolved to carry some air-to-surface weapons, including bombs and missiles.
So, which of these planes would win in combat? The Fulcrum’s speed and the power of the AA-11 Archer would give it an advantage in a close-in dogfight. The problem, though, is getting close enough for that dogfight. The Hornet offers its pilot better situational awareness through hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls and advanced avionics. In a deadly duel where any single mistake can be fatal, being prepared is key.
As always, it depends on which plane’s fight is fought and how good the pilots are.
Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.
Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.
In these conditions, snipers are “an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops,” the analysis said.
When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.
“Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines” were using bolt-action rifles that “fire three times farther than the SVD rifles.”
Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.
Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.
The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
Mines are some of the most dangerous weapons used on the battlefield. They are the unseen enemy that can totally wreck an army or a navy. While still destructive, land mines are often stuck in one place, easily found, removed, or bypassed once made aware of their presence. Naval mines have come a long way in a short time, and are able to count the number of enemy ships that pass before attacking and can even swarm oncoming warships.
How they take down warships starts with a bang.
A Polish Mina Morska naval mine used between 1908-1939.
The damage a ship takes depends on the power of the mine and its initial explosiveness versus how far away from the ship’s hull the mine is when it explodes. The closer to the ship the mine is, the more direct damage the ship will take. But the direct damage isn’t the only type of damage a mine does to a ship. Other types of damage occur from the bubble created by the underwater explosion as well as the resulting shock wave from the explosives themselves.
Direct damage can be exacted by using more and more high explosives in mines. This will also affect the bubble jet and shock wave. The bubble jet removes water from the area of the explosion temporarily, but when the water comes rushing back in under the surface, it does so at such high velocity that it can penetrate a ship’s hull. The shock wave from a naval mine is enough to tear out the engines from a ship, toss around the crew, and kill divers.
Each kind of damage can do incredibly grievous harm to the ship and its crew. Results from mine detonations can be seen in incidents around the world. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine, for example, the U.S. Navy stunned Iran with its response.
Modern mines are simple devices that are designed much like bombs. There is an explosive case surrounding an arming device and explosive train that will detonate the mine when it’s supposed to go off. When mines are deployed, the arming device activates the mine. When the train is aligned with the arming device, the target detecting device activates. This is the trigger that senses when it should go off. There are many kinds of detection devices: magnetic, seismic, acoustic, and pressure mines.
Different kinds of ships generate a different response from different mines, and the mine is smart enough to know when to explode. When it does, the resulting explosion, bubble jet, and shock wave can literally tear a ship in two.
By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”
The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.
“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.
Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.
Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.
The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.
The F-15 Eagle rightfully boasts of one of the most successful runs in air-to-air combat of all time. In fact, the F-15 Eagle is undefeated when the air-to-air combat has been for real, with over 100 kills. But believe it or not, it has lacked something — something that its arch-rival, the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, has had from day one.
According to a release from Lockheed Martin, the Air Force has announced Lockheed’s Legion Pod has been selected for use on the F-15C Eagles the service has on hand, starting in 2018. This pod will give the Eagle an infra-red search and track system, or IRST.
When the F-15 was designed, it was given an awesome radar. That radar helped the Eagle guide AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. But the Su-27 not only had a radar for its AA-10 “Alamo” and AA-12 “Adder” missiles, it also had an IRST, which gave it a technological edge in air-to-air combat.
Radar, while it has long range, is a system that can itself be detected. When a radar “paints” a combat aircraft, the crew will find out because most combat aircraft have what is known as a radar warning receiver, or RWR. In essence, when the radar locks on to the target, the RWR screams bloody murder, telling the pilot, “Hey, someone’s trying to blow you out of the sky. DO SOMETHING!”
IRSTs get around this by tracking on the heat from an aircraft. It works a lot like a forward-looking infrared, but it specializes in the air-to-air arena as opposed to the air-to-ground arena. Furthermore, it can feed data to an infra-red guided missile, like the AIM-9 Sidewinder or AA-11 Archer. Those cannot be picked up by a RWR, and thus, they give a pilot much less warning when targeted.
Lockheed notes that 130 Legion pods will be purchased. The first of the pods is expected to be delivered in 2018.
While France, at times, has been the butt of many jokes when it comes to military prowess, we must not forget one historical fact: The French Navy arguably won the battle that secured American independence by defeating the Royal Navy’s effort to relieve General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The Battle of the Virginia Capes, at the time, was a rare setback for the Royal Navy – it was like the Harlem Globetrotters losing a game.
It’s a reminder that the French Navy is no joke, even if it has left a lot of the heavy lifting in the World Wars to the Royal Navy. In fact, France has one of the more modern air-defense destroyer classes in the world. They didn’t design this vessel on their own, however.
In 1992, the French Navy, the Royal Navy, and the Italian Navy began development of what they called the Common New Generation Frigate. The goal was to come up with a common design that would help cut costs for the three countries. The British planned to buy 12 vessels, France four, and the Italians four. However, increasing expenses and disagreements lead to the British dropping and instead building six Type 45 destroyers.
France and Italy ended up building a grand total of four ships, two for each country. The French vessels were named Horizon-class frigates and the Italian vessels were labeled Orizzonte class frigates.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the French Horizon-class vessels are armed with eight MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 48-cell Sylver A50 vertical-launch system, two 76mm guns, and two 20mm guns. They can also carry a NH-90 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare or to mount additional Excoet anti-ship missiles.
Learn more about this destroyer in the video below.
Sometimes, a good weapon system never gets a chance to shine. In some cases, there simply aren’t any conflicts going on through which the gear can demonstrate its worth (the B-36 Peacemaker comes to mind). In other cases, a piece of technology might mark an important milestone, but end up virtually obsolete by the time the next war rolls around, as was the case with USS Ranger (CV 4).
Well, the M26 Pershing fits into neither of these categories. While over 2,000 of these tanks were produced, they largely missed World War II because of bureaucratic infighting. The few tanks that did get to the front lines performed well, though — leaving many to wonder what might have happened had an Army general by the name of Leslie McNair been more open-minded.
Here’s the deal. Prior to World War II, the United States Army didn’t think that tanks should fight other tanks. Instead, that job was relegated to the aptly named tank destroyer class of vehicle. These vehicles were fast and had potent guns, but sacrificed a lot of armor to achieve such a speed. Meanwhile, the mission of the tank was to support infantry.
That was the leading theory of the time and, as a result, the Army went with the M4 Sherman – producing over 50,000 of those tanks.
One of the few M26 Pershing tanks that got to the front lines.
Reality, of course, tells a different story. If tanks support infantry and infantry fights infantry, then logic would tell us that tanks would end up facing off against other tanks as those tanks supported opposing infantry. In essence, a key capability in supporting infantry is the ability to kill the other side’s tanks.
The Pershing could do just that with its 90mm main gun (and the 70 rounds it carried for it). Unfortunately, GIs would never get the chance to witness that.
M26 Pershings being prepared to embark on LSTs in Pusan, South Korea.
According to tanks-encyclopedia.com, Leslie McNair, who headed Army Ground Forces, stuck with the pre-war theory. His opposition to a new tank delayed the M26’s service entry. Eventually, McNair was given a combat assignment and killed by friendly fire during the fighting near Saint-Lô.
The Pershing reached the front lines after the Battle of the Bulge proved the inadequacy of the M4 Sherman in tank combat.
The M26 Pershing saw some action in the Korean War, but many were soon shipped to Europe to bolster NATO.
The Pershing went on to see some action in the Korean War, but it was quickly shifted to Europe to bolster the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Eventually, it was replaced by the M46/M47/M48 Patton family of tanks.
Watch the video below to learn more about this great tank that never get a real shot to prove itself.
If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.
Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.
“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”
They deployed their maneuver forces first.
Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.
Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.
Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.
They made little use of air superiority.
Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.
The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.
If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…
They had no eyes on the battlefield.
Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.
The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.
Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.
They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.
All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?
Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.
You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.
The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.
As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.
Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.
Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.
For decades, U.S. military air operations have relied on increasingly capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well, however, driving up the costs for vehicle design, operation and replacement. An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems with coordinated, distributed capabilities could provide U.S. forces with improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms—especially if those unmanned systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne. So far, however, the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of reach.
To help make that technology a reality, DARPA has launched the Gremlins program. Named for the imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, the program envisions launching groups of UASs from existing large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft—as well as from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms—while those planes are out of range of adversary defenses. When the gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.
The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages over expendable systems by reducing payload and airframe costs and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.
The Gremlins program plans to explore numerous technical areas, including:
Launch and recovery techniques, equipment and aircraft integration concepts
Low-cost, limited-life airframe designs
High-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative navigation and station keeping
The program aims to conduct a compelling proof-of-concept flight demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and other modular, non-kinetic payloads in a robust, responsive, and affordable manner.
Not since the year 1066 have the British home islands been successfully invaded by an outside power. One of the reasons for that is the United Kingdom’s unfailing, stout supply of able British seamen. But the UK may no longer be dependent on the bravery of those men. Instead, the Royal Navy might be filled with robotic, autonomous submarines to rule the high seas.
In February 2021, the government of the United Kingdom announced that it will be accepting submissions for sensors, computers, and other technology to outfit its new crewless fleet of submarines.
Formally referred to as the Extra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV), the robot submarines are still in the very early experimental phases, but critical to its development is its ability to move and see as it traverses the depths of the world’s oceans.
The first trial submarine in the series of experiments will be 30 feet long and displace about 10 tons. The technology being developed for the new robot fleet will be tested in the water, in a real-world setting.
Not much else is known about the future of this fleet, either by those who will be submitting potential technology or by the Royal Navy itself. One of the objectives, says Popular Science, is that the UK’s navy will be determining its own future needs as well as the potential abilities and limitations of underwater autonomous vehicles.
There are at least two companies already using their tech to build similar submarines. Boeing’s Echo Seeker is one example as is the UK’s home-built Manta sub. But the proposed electronic sensors and other components will be installed on the Royal Navy’s existing XLUUV (made by MSubs, Ltd.), tested in the sea trials, and then removed.
For companies looking to develop their technology in this area, it’s a chance to build, develop, and test their wares in real-world environments under the auspices of a real military purpose. The Royal Navy, while testing the equipment, will not be signing contracts to buy any of it.
“The main aim of this activity is to help the Royal Navy shape future requirements and design future capabilities and concepts of operation,” the Ministry of Defence said in an announcement, “whilst providing innovators in industry and academia the opportunity to develop and test technology aligned to this future capability.”
The call for technology is not limited to defense contractors or corporations. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is opening it to anyone who has technical expertise in underwater sensors. Tech startups, individual innovators, and even universities are welcome to propose technology for the new robot submarines.
The United Kingdom’s engineers will be on hand to fix any external technology to the XLUUV and integrate it into the submarine’s operations.
While the future defenses and nuclear capabilities of the Royal Navy may one day be in the hands of robotics underwater vehicles, there are some functions that will still require the UK’s cadre of brave sailors. These are missions like underwater intelligence gathering, tracking enemy submarines, and the myriad other things submariners do while deployed for months on end, things they just can’t talk about.
But crewless subs operating unseen in the depths around America’s greatest ally may give enemies pause to wonder what’s down there – and how long they can stay hidden from view.
Not every country in the world can afford to buy and operate the latest and greatest armored war machines available on defense markets today, like the M1A2 Abrams or the Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
Some countries opt to refrain from maintaining a fleet of tanks at all, and others, like Paraguay, choose to use refurbished armored steeds from conflicts long past.
As crazy as it may sound, the backbone of the Paraguayan military’s sole armored squadron consists of a humble handful of M4 Sherman medium tanks and M3 Stuart light tanks. Both of these vehicles were last fully relevant when Allied forces marched across Europe on their path to victory against the Axis scourge.
Paraguay received its small complement of Shermans in 1980 from Argentina, while the Stuarts were donated by the Brazilian government in the 1970s. By the time the small South American nation received these second-hand vehicles, however, they were already obsolete and outclassed, unable to stand up to anti-tank weaponry or even other armored vehicles anymore.
But in recent years, the Paraguayan army has decided to reactivate its fleet of Shermans and Stuarts, “modernizing” them by installing new engines and replacing the M4’s small battery of .30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns with .50 caliber M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ heavy machine guns.
The Sherman was born of a need for a medium-sized tank that was easy to mass produce and deploy overseas in large numbers, swarming larger and more heavily-armored German tanks during WWII. Cheap to produce, and pretty reliable if treated well, the Sherman was a fairly potent killing machine in the hands of tank commanders who knew what they were doing.
The Argentinian military received 450 Shermans from Belgium in the 1940s, putting them through a series of upgrades over the next 30 years that would see these old tanks get larger guns and new diesel engines. A small selection of these Shermans were passed on to Paraguay, though it’s unclear whether or not the examples donated were modernized or left in their original configurations.
According to Ian Hogg in his book, “Tank Killing,” the Stuart, wasn’t exactly very effective at all in engaging German armor. Though it was one of the few light tanks capable of firing high-explosive shells, it was better utilized as a high speed reconnaissance vehicle by British forces throughout the African theater during WWII, with its turret removed to cut down on weight.
Brazil picked up its Stuarts from the United States in WWII, actually shipping them overseas for combat in Italy as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Upon the end of the war, these tanks were returned to South America by ship and were upgraded in the 1970s. During that decade, Brazil donated 15 Stuarts to Paraguay.
Paraguay can afford to use these older machines in place of newer heavy tanks mostly because the country hasn’t seen much war over the past 40-odd years. Currently, the military claims these modernized Shermans and Stuarts will only be used for training purposes, though the endgame of the training is highly suspect, considering that the vehicles in question aren’t fit for combat against a decently-armed enemy.
It is possible, however, that these old fighting machines could be eventually used in the long-standing counterinsurgency effort Paraguay has been embroiled in against guerrillas since 2005. Though their hulls would likely be easily destroyed by small anti-tank weapons like the M72 LAW, the armor would still be able to stand up to small arms like pistols and rifles.
Even if Paraguay never uses its tanks in combat, its geriatric fleet will still work in a pinch should the need arise — at least against unarmored and under-gunned enemies.