Here's why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you) - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

The M1 Abrams main battle tank gets a lot of attention and respect. As well it should; it has a very enviable combat record – not to mention a reputation that is simply fearsome.


After all, if you were facing them and knew that enemy shells fired from 400 yards away bounced off the armor of an M1, you’d want to find some sort of white fabric to wave to keep it from shooting at you.

But the Abrams doesn’t operate alone. Often, it works with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or BFV. The “B” could also stand for “badass” because the Bradley has done its share of kicking butt alongside the Abrams, including during Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Incidentally the Bradley took a lot of flak early on, pun intended. People called it a “coffin ready to burn.” U.S. News and World Report placed it on their list of America’s 10 Worst Weapons. Even the legendary “60 Minutes” took its shots at the vehicle.

That said, the Bradley proved `em wrong in Desert Storm. Here are some of the reasons why:

Chain Gun Firepower

The Bradley has the M242 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, and can hold up to 900 or 1500 rounds, depending on whether you are in the M2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle or M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. This chain gun can handle just about any battlefield threat. Opposing armored personnel carriers or infantry fighting vehicles, dismounted infantry, trucks, just about anything on the battlefield short of a tank can be taken out. That sells the M242 short. In Desert Storm, one Bradley even took out a T-72 with that chain gun!

An Anti-Tank Missile, Too!

But the Bradley didn’t forget the fact that tanks are on the battlefield. It has a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile. The BGM-71E TOW has a range of about two and a third miles, and carries a 13-pound shaped charge. This is enough to rip just about any tank to shreds. The BGM-71F attacks the top of a tank with two explosively formed projectiles.

Oh, and the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can stow five reloads for its launcher. The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries ten — almost enough to take out an entire company of tanks.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment conducts a combat patrol in Iraq. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

The Grunts

The Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle can carry up to seven grunts in the back. What can grunts bring to the table? Plenty. With M4 carbines, M249 squad automatic weapons, M203 grenade launchers, M320 grenade launchers, the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, and a host of other weapons, the grunts can add to the vehicle’s already impressive punch.

The Cavalry Fighting Vehicle carries two grunts, but they have access to the same weapons that the grunts in the Infantry Fighting Vehicle do.

Versatility

The Bradley also comes in the Bradley Linebacker version. This Bradley, designated the M6, replaced the TOW launcher with a four-round launcher for the FIM-92 Stinger. Now, the Bradley could hunt aircraft and helicopters. It retained the M242, though, which still gives it the ability to handle ground targets.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Hard-charging grunts in an M6 scan the sands of Balad for insurgents. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Acosta)

The M7 Bradley Fire Support Vehicle replaced the M113-based M981, and while it still has a 25mm gun, it uses a sophisticated navigation system (a combination of GPS and inertial navigation) to serve as a reference point. The TOW system has been replaced with something far more deadly: the means to provide laser designation for anything from Hellfire missiles, to Copperhead laser-guided artillery rounds, to Paveway laser-guided bombs like the GBU-12 and GBU-24.

Other versions of the Bradley are used for command and control and for combat engineers. In short, this vehicle can do a lot.

Toughness

The Bradley has not been easy to kill. During Desert Storm, only three were lost to enemy fire. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 150 Bradleys were lost from all causes. Still, the vehicle still allows the crew and grunts inside to survive.

It Keeps Up

One problem with the M113 armored personnel carrier has been the fact it couldn’t keep up with the M1 Abrams. The Bradley never had that problem — and was able to fight side-by-side with the M1, allowing such feats as the 24th Infantry Division’s advance of 260 miles during the 100-hour long ground war of Desert Storm.

The combat record of the Bradley also speaks volumes. In Desert Storm, Bradleys destroyed more enemy vehicles than the Abrams.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
The M2 Bradley has seen a lot of desert miles. (National War College Military Image Collection)

It Keeps Getting Better

The Bradley isn’t standing still. Like the M1 Abrams, it has received upgrades thoughout its career. By 2018, the new versions of the Bradley will be entering service, bringing a more powerful engine, new shock absorbers, and an improved power-management system, among other improvements.

So, before you dismiss the badass Bradley, keep these things in mind. The United States Army bought over 4,600 of these vehicles — and it has outlasted two efforts to replace it in the Future Combat Systems XM1206 and the Ground Combat Vehicle Infantry Carrier Vehicle. Not a bad track record for this vehicle!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

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Here’s what would happen if North Korea sold nukes to US enemies

North Korea shocked the world in the early morning hours of July 4 by launching a ballistic missile that could reach the US mainland — but North Korea has long had the ability to make and detonate nuclear devices.


But North Korea does not sell, export, or use such nuclear devices on anyone because if they did, the consequences would be phenomenal.

“North Korea sells all kinds of weapons” to African countries, Cuba, and its Asian neighbors, according to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm.

“The most dangerous aspects of that trade has been with Syria and Iran in terms of missiles and nuclear reactors they helped the Syrians build before the Israelis knocked that out with an airstrike,” said Lamrani. “The most frightening is the potential sale of nuclear warheads.”

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

With some of the harshest sanctions on earth imposed on North Korea, it’s easy to imagine the nation attempting to raise money through illegal arms sales to the US’s enemies, which could even include non-state actors, like al Qaeda or ISIS.

While procuring the materials and manufacturing a nuclear weapon would represent an incredible technical and logistical hardships for a non-state actor, a single compact warhead could be in the range of capabilities for a non-state actor like Hezbollah, said Lamrani.

Furthermore, the US’s enemies would see a huge strategic benefit from having or demonstrating a nuclear capability, but with that benefit would come a burden.

If US intelligence caught wind of any plot to arm a terror group, it would make every possible effort to rip that weapon from the group’s hands before they could use it. News of a nuclear-armed terror group would fast-track a global response and steamroll whatever actor took on such a bold stance.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, in South Korea. (DoD photo)

And not only would the terror group catch hell, North Korea would, too.

“North Korea understands if they do give nuclear weapons, it could backfire on them,” said Lamrani. “If a warhead explodes, through nuclear forensics and isotope analysts, you can definitely trace it back to North Korea.”

At that point, North Korea would go from being an adversarial state that developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security to a state that has enabled and abetted nuclear terrorism or proliferation.

This would change the calculus of how the world deals with North Korea, and make a direct attack much more likely.

Right now, North Korea has achieved regime security with long-range nuclear arms. If they sold those arms to someone else, they would effectively risk it all.

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Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.


Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Illustration: Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.

Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.

The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

Four companies were recently awarded phase 1 contracts for the project and are tasked with designing launch and retrieval systems for the gremlins. Phase 2 involves the creation of a preliminary design of the drone itself and phase 3 will requires that manufacturers create a functioning prototype.

The drones would be “limited-life” aircraft and fly approximately 20 missions each before being retired. Their downtime between missions would need to be 24 hours or less.

If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.

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These 12 rare photos show the island city the US Navy built to invade Japan

In 1944, the U.S.’s progress in its island-hopping campaign through the Pacific brought it to Ulithi Atoll. From March to September, they bombed the Japanese forces stationed there until they eventually withdrew, believing the atoll was too small to accommodate an airfield and therefore not of value to either side.


The U.S. Navy disagreed. Forces landed in Sep. 1944 and began building one of the largest naval bases used in the war. At it’s peak, Ulithi Atoll housed 617 ships, had its own 1,200-yard airstrip, and hosted 20,000 troops on its recreation island, Mogmog.

Here are 12 photos from the massive base:

1. Ulithi Atoll primarily served as a massive anchoring and refueling point for Navy ships.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US Navy

2. Ulithi Atoll was home of the famous “Murderer’s Row,” where the Third Fleet’s massive aircraft carriers were parked in late-1944.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US Navy

3. Sorlen Island in Ulithi Atoll featured a 1,600-seat movie theater and a hospital. Water was pumped in from the ocean and distilled on site.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

4. The airstrip was constructed on Falalop Islet. Hellcats and other planes were stationed there to protect the island and to bomb targets to the north.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Hellcats parked at Ulithi Atoll. Photo: US National Archives

5. Bombs were moved across the soft sand on trailers.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US Navy

6. Mogmog Island served predominantly as a rest and recreation facility where sailors could drink, lounge, and take in entertainment.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US National Archives/Charles Kerlee

7. An officer’s club was constructed on Mogmog.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US National Archives/Charles Kerlee

8. Religious services were held on the islands. Most of the natives consolidated onto a single island for the duration of the Navy’s stay, but some visited with sailors.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

9. Sailors enjoying themselves on the beach were still surrounded by their offices.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US Navy

10. The Navy set up floating dry docks to maintain and repair ships at the atoll.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Photo: US Navy

11. Ships at Ulithi were in danger from mines and suicide torpedo attacks. The USS Mississinewa, a tanker filled with aviation fuel, was sank in Nov. 1944 by a Kaiten suicide torpedo.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
US National Archives photo

12. The suicide torpedoes were a new Japanese weapon that was analyzed at the Ulithi facilities.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
U.S. Navy Photograph

Ulithi Atoll gradually drew down in size as ships moved north but remained in service through the end of the war. This video shows the sheer size of the fleet anchored there.

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This Medal Citation Reads Like a Blockbuster Movie

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
General Mike Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presents the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant Brian Chontosh, USMC.


The word “hero” has been overused since 9-11, but early in the Iraq War, Marine Corps First Lieutenant Brian Chontosh engaged in some bad-assery that truly merits him wearing that label.  Check out the write-up on his Navy Cross citation.  It reads like something straight out of Hollywood:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS to

FIRST LIEUTENANT BRIAN R. CHONTOSH

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following

Citation:

For extraordinary heroism as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 25 March 2003. While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, First Lieutenant Chontosh’s platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and automatic weapons, fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone. He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy. He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others. By his outstanding diplay of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Also Read: Medal Of Honor: Meet The 16 Heroes Of Iraq And Afghanistan Who Received The Nation’s Highest Honor 

Here’s what the actual citation looked like as it was presented to Lieutenant Chontosh:

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

 

NOW: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

OR: Take the quiz: Which Marine Corps Legend Are You? 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s new autonomous refueling drone flies for the first time

The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.

The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.


Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)

The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.

(Boeing)

This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.

According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.

MQ-25A Stingray Takes First Flight

www.youtube.com

The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.

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

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There are still no answers for the KC-130 crash that killed 16 Marines

Military investigators are trying to piece together the cause of a crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi in July, but it could be a year or more until any information becomes public.


In the meantime, the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC130T transport planes remains grounded. That plane is similar to the one that crashed near Itta Bena on July 10.

April Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Naval Safety Center, said August 21 that final reports often don’t become public for 12 to 18 months following a crash. Even then, much of the information in the reports is often withheld from public view.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
KC-130 Hercules. DOD Photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward.

“Ours are done solely to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again,” Phillips said, saying that various military commanders must endorse the report before it’s finished.

Marines and other investigators finished collecting debris August 3, recovering all of the plane’s major components, said Marine Forces Reserve spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon. She said last week that there’s still work going on to clean up the crash area.

Naval Safety Center investigators are both reconstructing the wreckage and interviewing witnesses. Their report will ultimately include recommendations to enhance safety.

Victims included nine Marines based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, who flew and crewed the plane, plus six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The passengers were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona. Cargo included at least some ammunition.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Screen capture from DoD.

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James has told reporters that whatever went wrong began when the plane was at cruising altitude. Most of the plane pancaked upside down into a field, but part of it, including the cockpit, broke off and landed far from the fuselage and wings. Debris was scattered for miles over fields, woods, and ponds.

Witnesses said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking, with some describing what pilots call a “flat spin,” where a plane twirls around like a boomerang.

Phillips said the plane didn’t have an in-flight data recorder. That, plus the lack of survivors, could make the debris crucial to determining what happened.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
KC-130T. Wikimedia Commons photo by Jerry Gunner.

“A lot it, in this case, is likely to come from forensic evidence,” she said.

Phillips said the C-130 and its variants have historically been one of the safest planes operated by the Marine Corps. The Navy classifies its most serious incidents as Class A mishaps, involving death, permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damage. Only two in-flight Class A mishaps were recorded before the Mississippi crash, both in 2002. A KC-130R experienced a flash fire and crashed into a mountain in Pakistan while nearing an airfield, killing seven people. A KC130F crash landed shortly after taking off inCalifornia, causing injuries but no deaths.

The New York squadron is the last Marine unit flying the KC-130T version and is scheduled to upgrade to a newer version in 2019. Only the remaining 12 KC-130Ts are affected by the grounding.

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The US Army is planning to combine 2 legendary weapons into one

The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.


The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
Soldiers fire a .50 caliber machine gun at Camp Atterbury, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.

The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.

The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.

 

The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”

The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (and so should you)
The hot barrel of an M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun. |US Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret

New lightweight .50 cal

The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”

“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”

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A US Army soldier with an MK-19 grenade launcher. | Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Parsons

An intimidating combat-tested weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.

The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.

“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”

The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.

The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia just named the first places it will drop its new weapons

As President Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam to defuse one potential nuclear showdown, America’s perennial rival Russia is upping the ante on the new Cold War’s latest arms race: hypersonic nuclear weapons.


It doesn’t help that a Cold War-era nuclear arms limitation treaty is also in the midst of being dismantled by both the United States and Russia. In recent days, the U.S. has accused the Russians of repeatedly violating the Intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty, going so far as threatening to pull out of it entirely. Russia vowed a “tit-for-tat” response to the American declaration.

And now the Russian media are entering the discussion.

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No, not the Trololo Guy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one of Russia’s most influential state-run media channels boasted about the Kremlin’s first strike capabilities against the United States during its Sunday night prime-time recap of the news of the week. The Kremlin mouthpiece specifically mentioned that precision strikes against the Pentagon and Camp David could hit the United States in less than five minutes.

They also mentioned that a U.S. response to the attack would take another 10 to 12 minutes. The Russians cite this advantage due to their positioning of Russian missile subs carrying Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles.

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A Tsirkon cruise missile during a test fire.

(Sputnik News)

The Tsirkon missile was first successfully tested in 2015 and has since been developed to reach speeds of eight times the speed of sound. Its operational range is upwards of 300 miles or more. Being so close to the U.S. and capable of such speed would make it difficult to intercept with current U.S. ballistic missile technology. The missile travels covered by a plasma cloud which both absorbs radio waves and makes it invisible to radar, according to Russian military sources.

Tsirkon missiles are at the center of the newly heightened tensions between the two powers. Washington contends the Tsirkon violates the 1987 INF Treaty, along with several other missiles developed by the Russians in the years since. When Washington threatened to redeploy short- and medium-range nuclear forces in Europe, it was too much for Russian state media. That’s when they began lashing out and naming targets.

Other potential targets listed included Jim Creek, a naval communications base in Washington, as well as the Pentagon. Camp David is the traditional vacation home of the sitting American President, and was a clear shot at President Trump. There was no mention of Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, where he spends much of his free time.

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These full-bird colonels are amped about vertical lift aircraft

The Army, the Marine Corps, and the Special Operations Command are working together in an ambitious drive to develop leap-ahead capabilities for future vertical lift aircraft that will provide greater range, speed, lethality, and survivability, but also have the maximum degree of commonality in platforms and systems to reduce cost and enhance sustainability.


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A USMC V-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The three colonels managing that complex effort say they believe they can do a better job of maximizing commonality and limiting cost than the tri-service F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, program that continues to struggle with technology challenges, cost growth, and fractured schedules.

Appearing at a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum on future vertical lift (FVL) on Dec. 9, the three officers stated slightly different platform requirements for the future aircraft.

The Army and SOCOM are primarily interested in filling air lift and air assault missions currently performed by the different variants of the H-60 Black Hawks, according to Col. Erskine Bentley, the future vertical lift program manager at Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army Col. David Phillips, program executive for rotary wing requirements at SOCOM.

Bentley described the Army’s focus as “primarily the utility mission,” which includes aerial medical evacuation and air assault, or “the ability to assault light forces and their equipment.”

SOCOM’s air lift missions tend to be long-range covert insertion and extraction of special operations units.

Marine Col. John Barranco, the rotary requirements branch head, expressed a need for both troop transport and attack capabilities as successors to the Corps’ current UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. That did not include replacing the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys, which already has speed and range far greater than those two.

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U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

But all three emphasized the primary focus of their FVL effort was more speed, range, power, and survivability than the current generation of helicopters. They emphasized that those enhanced capabilities were needed to overcome the emerging anti-access, area-denial defensive capabilities being fielded by “near-peer competitors,” which usually refers to Russia and China.

Bentley said greater “reach, speed, and power” would enable the Army to “conduct strategic deployment” from outside the combat theater, and immediately go into tactical operations on arrival.

Greater speed and reach, combined with additional protective systems, enhances survivability and “coupled with light-weight sensor systems, increases the lethality of Army aviation,” he said.

Barranco, noted that the Marines are fielding the “fifth generation” F-35B strike fighter, while their vertical lift aircraft, with the exception of the Osprey, are little better than the helicopters used in Vietnam. But, due to “the threat picture, the anti-access, area-denial, from a variety of near peer competitors,” he said, “there is a need across the joint force to leverage technology to develop a new, more capable aircraft.”

Phillips said the improved capabilities, and the open architecture systems were essential to “stay ahead of the environment,” which was his term for the threat.

The CSIS moderator, Andrew Hunter, challenged the officers on how they could achieve the high commonality for their different missions in light of the record of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has been “challenged” and has had “less commonality than expected.”

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The F-35 was developed under a unique joint program office, while the FVL effort is under the established Army program office. (Photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen. (Cropped))

All three emphasized the time they have spent on confirming the key common requirements. Bentley said within each of those requirements was “trade space” that would allow each service to take from one capability to enhance another.

Barranco agreed, saying “every requirement is in a range of capabilitie,” so they could trade some speed or range for more troops. The Marine also stressed how they all needed the high commonality to enable them to get what they need within “the fiscally constrained environment,” which he predicted would not change.

In addition to reducing the procurement costs, commonality also would enhance sustainability by allowing common supply of spare parts and even cross-service maintenance, they said.

Although the individual platforms may be different, Barranco cited the example of the Marines’ new H-1s, which have 85 percent commonality in engine and mission systems, despite the significant difference in airframe and missions. 

Commonality also would be easier with open architecture in systems that would make it easier and cheaper to modify some performances, they said.

As the program lead, Bentley said the goal was to develop and test prototype aircraft in the 2020s and begin full rate production in the 2030s, when current vertical lift aircraft were due to retire.

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The F-16 could transition to an unmanned aerial asset

In its quest to meet and exceed the challenges of the future, the U.S. Air Force has been increasingly looking to unmanned systems — and a recent test proved that an unmanned F-16 can now think and fight on its own.


The U.S. has used F-16 drones before as realistic targets for the F-35 to blow up in training, but on April 10 it announced fully autonomous air-to-air and ground strike capabilities as a new capability thanks to joint research between the service and Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunkworks.

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An F-35 Lightning II from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. Was the Viper just bait? (Lockheed Martin photo)

Not only did the F-16 drone figure out the best way to get there and execute a ground strike mission by itself, it was interrupted by an air threat, responded, and kept going.

“We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned, but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way,” said Capt. Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Laboratory in a Lockheed Martin statement.

But having F-16 drones plan and fly their own missions is only part of a much larger picture. The future of the U.S. Air Force may well depend on advanced platforms like F-35s commanding fleets of unmanned drones which can act as additional ears, eyes, and shooters in the sky during battles.

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F-16 Fighting Falcons from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway together during Exercise Buddy Wing 14-8 at Seosan Air Base, Republic of Korea Aug. 21, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force has what’s called an “open mission system” where it designs all platforms to network together and share information. Essentially, even an unmanned drone will have decision-grade data fed to it from everything from satellites in the sky to radars on the ground.

Lockheed Martin calls it the “loyal wingman” program, where drone systems like old F-16s can seamlessly network with F-35s and think on its feet.

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Here are 6 ongoing conflicts the next POTUS will inherit

Whomever America chooses in 2016, among his or her first orders of business will be to spend a lot of time getting briefed on where the U.S. military is deployed.


Service members around the world are currently conducting airstrikes, raids, bilateral training missions, and other operations to help America and our allies. These six ongoing conflicts will certainly still be on the plate when the next president gets up to bat:

1. Iraq and Syria

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U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Andre Dakis)

Few people need a primer on what is going on in Iraq and Syria. ISIS holds territory and is murdering thousands of people. America’s involvement against ISIS has been slowly growing.

We’ve lost three service members there. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed while rescuing potential victims of an imminent massacre, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed in a rocket attack while providing fire support for coalition fighters, and Navy SEAL Charles Keating was killed while rescuing other American advisors caught by an ISIS surprise attack.

While the Obama administration has tried to keep America’s footprint on the ground relatively small, 300 troops in Syria and approximately 4,000 in Iraq, the Navy and Air Force have been busy conducting air strikes to support both American and coalition ground forces.

2. Libya

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U.S. Marines prepare to evacuate military personnel from Libya at the request of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya on Jul. 26, 2014. (Photo: US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

Of course, ISIS operations aren’t limited to Iraq and Syria. Portions of Libya’s coastal areas are controlled by the terror organization. A few dozen U.S. troops, most likely Special Forces soldiers or other operators, are deployed there to help the competing national governments fight further ISIS attacks.

America has launched airstrikes there in the past to topple ISIS leaders, but that was put on hold. According to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the current nominee to take over Africa Command, no more troops are currently needed in Libya but more airstrikes would be beneficial.

3. Afghanistan

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Cavalry soldiers provide security in Afghanistan during a security meeting Aug. 19, 2010. (Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)

While the U.S. officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, approximately 9,800 troops are still deployed there. It’s an “advise and train” mission, but reports have surfaced of operators engaging in direct combat.

The Taliban is still the greatest threat in Afghanistan and most coalition missions are aimed at them. ISIS has captured ground in the east of the country, though. America flies drone missions to kill local ISIS leaders while militias provide some muscle on the ground.

4. Horn of Africa

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Soldiers assigned to the East Africa Response Force train for contingency operations on May 30, 2015. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook

In addition to working against ISIS in Libya, American troops supporting African forces have been engaged by Al-Shabab terrorists in Somalia and Boko Haram in Cameroon. U.S. troops have previously helped hunt Boko Haram fighters and hostages in Nigeria.

These missions are expected to continue for at least the next few years as both terror organizations have proven resilient.

5. Eastern Ukraine

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US Army soldiers parachute into Ukraine during a 2011 training mission. (Photo: US Army Europe)

American troops aren’t deployed to eastern Ukraine where government troops fight Russian-backed separatists. But, the U.S. has provided training and equipment for government forces while Russia has provided materiel and troops to the separatists.

A fragile cease-fire from late 2015 has reduced, but not eliminated, fighting in the Donbass region and both sides are violating the cease-fire. Ukraine has failed to remove heavy guns and other equipment and Russia has deployed more fighters and equipment to the area. There’s no sign that this conflict will be done when the next president takes office and most signs point to it actually being worse.

6. South China Sea

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U.S. Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles head back to their landing ship during a bilateral training mission in the South China Sea. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katerine Noll)

The conflict in the South China Sea is currently bloodless but has the potential to become the biggest fight on this list. Multiple nations claim territorial rights in the South China Sea, an area that controls a huge amount of sea traffic and is estimated to have large oil and natural gas reserves.

China has built islands that it may or may not hold sovereignty over and is conducting military drills in the area. Meanwhile, American Navy ships and planes are conducting freedom of navigation exercises there, sailing through contested water and flying over contested islands as a way of disputing Chinese claims.

China has conducted dangerous intercepts of these flights and is becoming more aggressive as a United Nations ruling on certain areas of the South China Sea looms. If the conflict gets more aggressive, the world’s two largest navies could end up in combat against one another.

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