A pistol sidearm is generally used as a last resort weapon. On the two-way shooting range, a rifle will generally serve you better than a pistol. However, in the early 1990s, U.S. Special Operations Command held the Offensive Handgun Weapon System competition. The competition sought to procure a primary offensive handgun for use across all branches of SOCOM. Aside from standardizing a handgun, the new weapon would fill a specialized offensive close-quarters battle role.
Heckler & Koch and Colt were the only companies that participated. The Colt OHWS failed primarily because it could not handle the high pressure ammo like .45 Super and +P .45 acp that USSOCOM required. Despite having no competition, the H&K submission was over engineered and optimized for harsh operating environments.
The H&K MK23 is waterproof and corrosion-resistant. Its polygonal barrel is expensive, but is capable of producing a 2-inch group at 25 meters. The handgun is also completely ambidextrous and features oversized controls for use with gloves. The MK23 is part of a weapon system that includes a proprietary Laser Aiming Module, a suppressor, and match-grade ammunition.
The LAM is manufactured by Insight Technology and is designed to work specifically with the MK23. One version of the LAM emits a visible red dot while another emits an infrared dot for use with night vision. Both LAM units can also produce a white light. The suppressor is manufactured by Knight’s Armament Company and is very effective at suppressing the high-pressure ammo.
Testing of the MK23 was extremely extensive. USSOCOM’s requirement was 2,000 mean rounds before failure. The MK23 averaged 6,027 MRBF and was capable of up to 15,122 MRBF. Three pistols were subjected to a 30,000 round endurance test and maintained an accuracy of 2.5 inches at 25 meters. It was also tested in temperatures ranging from -25 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit while exposed to ice, sand, and mud.
H&K was awarded the OHWS contract in June 1995. Classified as the USSOCOM MK 23 MOD 0, 1,950 systems were ordered at $1,186 (~$2,026 adjusted for inflation) each. All of the handguns were produced by H&K in Germany and were first delivered on May 1, 1996.
The MK23 is powerful, accurate, and reliable. It excels in its role as an offensive handgun. However, while its size and weight helped to mitigate recoil and retain accuracy, these features made it unpopular for operators to carry. According to armorers, though the MK23 remains on the books and in weapon cages, most go unused. In 2010, it was reported that the MK23 is still taught at the SOCOM armorer course, but not the Naval Special Warfare armorer course.
In response to criticisms, H&K developed the USP Tactical pistol. The Tactical retains much of the MK23’s performance in a more compact size. For this reason, the Tactical is popular with German Army and Navy Special Forces.
Because of its niche role and extremely high retail price, the civilian and law enforcement version of the MK23 yielded poor sales figures. Sold as the H&K MARK 23, the handgun does not include the LAM or suppressor. However, because of the weapon’s affiliation with USSOCOM and its use in the popular Metal Gear Solid video games, it is highly sought after and fetches a premium on the civilian gun market.
Though its application is limited, the H&K MK23 is arguably still the best offensive handgun today. The lengthy process for its adoption by USSOCOM earned it the reputation as the most thoroughly tested handgun in history. Its performance is unmatched thanks to classic H&K over engineering. Just be sure you’ve been extra good this year before asking Santa for one.
There are some important fundamentals underlying proper shooting techniques that involve cover and what we’ll refer to as half-assed cover, based on hard-learned lessons gleaned from nearly two decades of continuous warfare. And they all fall under the most important principle of patrolling — common sense. Yet, you’ll still see outdated, old-school techniques used in the field and presented all over social media. I always say, “my way isn’t the only way,” but I preach what’s worked for the Special Forces community during the recent wars — nothing validates doctrine and fundamentals like confirmation under fire. Regardless of what you take from this article, at a minimum, do the following: have an offensive mindset, limit your exposure to the enemy, think in terms of near and far, and use what you have to stabilize your shooting platform.
The corner of this building provides some cover as well as stability for sending more effective fire downrange. The author braces his support hand and rifle against the edge of the building.
Cover and mindset
First, let’s define cover as the term’s used in military doctrine. Cover is anything that provides protection from bullets, fragments, flames, and nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. Cover can be man-made or naturally occurring. Examples include logs, trees, ravines, trenches, walls, rubble, craters, and small depressions. What’s half-assed cover, then? Well, you really never know… Vehicles are half-assed cover for the most part, but hat’s a whole other topic in itself. And it’s far better to use half-assed cover than to just stand out in the open.
Remember, we don’t hide, we fight, and nothing will ever afford us complete protection. In conflict, you either fight or you hide, period — and we fight! Always maintain an offensive mindset and act accordingly.
Is a mud wall in Afghanistan thick enough to provide cover? Well it all depends where you’re situated. Will a PKM smoke right through it? If someone says you should simply move to a 100-percent solid structure and fight from there, well that’s just not possible in most circumstances. Perhaps you’re next to a wall, the side of a building, or a door frame. They may or may not stop that PKM round, but they’re often sturdy and can provide you some stability. So use what you have as support and deliver faster, more accurate follow-up shots. If you’re behind something, why not use it to support yourself and your firearm? If you’re not using cover to support your position, no matter if it’s half-assed or not, you’re doing it wrong. If you think there’s theory and science behind what bullets do when they ricochet, please show us a scientifically validated study. You can apply techniques based on theory or maintain that offensive mindset. The choice is clear.
Take the sh*t and stop playing peek-a-boo
This isn’t just my opinion, but also that of the Special Operations Forces community, and those who’ve taught in its school house and know what’s right. Years ago, we’d come up to an alleyway and pie it off in a slow, methodical movement. It involved baby steps to clear the alleyway at angles to limit exposure, and we didn’t use the available cover to support our firing position. Was it valid? Perhaps. But what about our shooting position? We weren’t using the edge of the wall to support our shooting platforms. Could we engage someone close? Hell yes, but we weren’t effective at longer distances and weren’t supporting what we currently teach and refer to as a 10-round-string stance; that’s a strong, stable fighting stance from which you can effectively and quickly put multiple rounds on target. We’ve found it’s far more effective and faster to just take the alleyway by force, and then post up on the side of the wall in a stable firing position and collapse that sector.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
The next time you go to the range, put up a barricade and place targets at 10 to 40 and 70 meters away. Pie off the barricade, don’t support yourself, and shoot five rounds at each target while timing yourself. Next, take it by force, post up in a good stable firing position, use the barricade, and execute the same drill. Your hits will be far more accurate, and your time will be much faster. We’ve put in the time using simunitions and teammates playing the peek-a-boo technique — the bottom line is if someone’s waiting for you to break a corner or an alleyway, he’ll see you anyway. Bring a good solid supported stance and shove 10 rounds of lead down his throat rather than slowly pieing off the corner and giving up the extra stability.
There’s a time and place for the pieing technique — save that for CQB. We never know how far our threat will be, and we plan for the worst case. So stop pieing sh*t off. Take it by force and post up while you collapse your sector of that alleyway or when you turn the corner of a house on a raid.
If you’re fighting from behind something, use it. Using your piece of cover or even half-assed cover will further stabilize your firing platform. The goal is to put fast, accurate follow-up shots on target, so use what’s in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you have a rifle or a pistol. Yes, there are a lot of great shooters that could run up to a barricade or position of cover and crush targets without a support. That’s great when running drills on the flat range, but the flat range is not reality. Reality is when you’re pulling security in an isolation or containment position — you’ll definitely benefit from using what’s in front of you to support yourself for extended periods of time. Then add in stress, adrenaline, the dark of night, weather, fatigue, and maybe an injury, like being down to one arm or hand.
There’s no single, best way to support your carbine on a piece of cover. The key is to get meat between your weapon and what you’re using for cover. That means your hands; it’s not a good idea to support yourself with equipment connected to your blaster. There are some exceptions, like laying your carbine flat on its side at 90 degrees. You definitely don’t want the slide of a pistol touching anything; we all know what’ll happen — a lot of shooter-induced malfunctions. Place the meaty portion of your palm against cover and form an L to support and brace your rifle. Use your forearm to brace against awkwardly shaped pieces of cover or half-assed cover like the front end of a vehicle. With a pistol, dig your knuckles into cover or use your support thumb to hook onto cover as well. However, attempt to maintain a solid fundamental grip on the pistol, and don’t let the piece of cover totally support you.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
Square up to your piece of cover as best as you can. This isn’t a USPSA or three-gun match where you can be off balance, rip off two shots, and haul ass to the next position. Establish a solid base, square up to cover, and remember our 10-round-string stance. Squaring up also keeps legs and knees in a tight position so teammates aren’t tripping over legs at night. Who knows how many others will need to share that piece of cover with you.
When kneeling, always keep the outside knee up. Right or wrong? It’s a technique we teach. It provides a stable platform to drop your arm and tuck it into your thigh. It also avoids legs sticking out and tripping teammates as they run past the alleyway you’re posted up on. So, square up and support your firing platform, and remember the 10-round-string stance, no matter what awkward position you might find yourself in.
Limit your exposure
Limiting exposure sounds like common sense, but what it really means is you need to be an ambidextrous gunfighter. People get small and seek cover when it’s raining lead. Whether standing or kneeling, squaring up helps — you don’t want to expose yourself needlessly, yet you must stabilize yourself to support that 10-round string of fire.
Vehicles are half-assed cover, but you should still use them as support.
First, don’t try to conceal yourself so much that you give up both a stable firing position and the ability to fight effecively. Remember, we must have an offensive mindset — we don’t hide. Second, you have to shoot strong and support side — don’t forget we don’t have a weak side (see issue 7 of CONCEALMENT for more on weak sides). If you’re on the left side of something, you should shoot from the left side of your body with a carbine. The same applies for the right side of cover. Your mindset and training philosophy should be to become fully ambidextrous, especially when it comes to shooting around cover. Put in the practice time on the range.
Oh sh*t vehicle tactics
Vehicles aren’t cover; they’re half-assed cover. Yet the philosophy of using them to support yourself still applies. Be offensive and seek better positions like the rear of the vehicle, the engine block, and axles. This philosophy comes from battlefield experience, and is presented as doctrine in SOF and law enforcement training. First, have you seen ballistic data on ricochets? Bullet type, distance, angle, and so on; there are too many factors that influence what bullets will do when they hit sh*t. We used to have beer shoots, skipping rounds off car hoods into the A zone of targets. We knew the distance and where best to try to aim, but the reality is that there’s no telling where that bullet will go.
Kneeling with the outside knee up provides a more stable shooting platform than the alternative. Always have an offensive mindset.
It’s fine to take these things into consideration, but you shouldn’t avoid using the vehicle to support yourself. Most vehicle interdictions in military terms are close range, but not all of them… and not all engagements are at close range. So apply the same techniques for shooting around vehicles as for around walls. Of course, if the bad guy’s 5 feet away, you don’t have to support yourself on a vehicle. But some say that ricochet theories dictate that you shouldn’t support yourself on a vehicle. In my book, that’s not an offensive mindset, and we should always have an offensive mindset.
Outside the vehicle
So, get up close and personal on the outside of your vehicle. Use it to support yourself and your shots. Yes, vehicles don’t stop bullets, but what about armored or military vehicles? Don’t correlate this all to vehicles, but the principles apply to both. If you’re in an engagement, using the engine block or front of the vehicle to fight from, why would you be 3 to 5 feet away from the vehicle? Then, how would you support yourself in a junkyard prone position on the hood? If your threat is 5 feet away, you don’t need support; but what if it isn’t? Think night; think far.
When shooting underneath a vehicle, get close to it.
Second, consider fighting in a hostile environment where threats are at the rooftop level. The further you move away from a vehicle, the more exposed you are. You also limit your fields of fire. Try backing away from a piece of cover, then shoot underneath or over it — you better have some good loophole math locked into memory to avoid putting rounds into your cover in a stressful situation! Shooting underneath a vehicle certainly reduces your situational awareness, but you might need to do it at some point. I’ve seen it before — it’s easy with a gun truck, not so easy under a BMW with the tires blown out. When you only have a couple inches to get it done, hug those axles and get that gun up underneath the vehicle to get your shots off. This becomes very difficult when you’re several meters from the vehicle.
Inside the vehicle
When fighting from a vehicle, there are certain areas of the vehicles that afford better protection than others. Probably not the front two seats, though shooting through the front windshield is a viable option, if needed.
When shooting through windshields, don’t be stingy.
I’ve shot numerous types of ammunition through windshields, from inside and out. There’s one rule to remember — P for Plenty, plenty of lead! No matter what type of ammunition you use, it’ll take multiple shots through the same hole to get good hits on target. If a threat’s approaching your vehicle and you must engage through the windshield, put a couple rounds into the same hole and then jam your muzzle into the hole. To adjust your aim and point of impact, move your body. Never walk rounds across the windshield; you won’t make the positive contact you need to eliminate the threat.
Contingencies of gunfighting
Should you ever find yourself injured and in an engagement when behind cover, or half-assed cover, you’ll need that platform to support yourself. Don’t train or think of the best case scenarios at all time. Train and develop techniques that apply to contingencies as well. When rounds are flying, it shouldn’t be your first time figuring out how to fire your pistol one handed from behind a wall or how to support yourself using the wall.
Get meat between your weapon and the support — with a pistol as shown here, you can dig your knuckles into the fender.
There aren’t any right answers when sh*t hits the fan and it’s raining lead. What you do and how you do it on the range is the answer. There are a lot of ways to do things, but if you’re fighting from behind cover (or half-assed cover), utilize the following four fundamentals.
Have an offensive mindset
Limit your exposure
Think near and far for engagements
Support yourself to provide a solid, 10-round string firing position
Also don’t forget common sense, one of the principles of patrolling. If it works at night, in the rain and cold, when you’re exhausted or injured, then you’re on the right track. Fast, accurate shots win the day. Prepare yourself to take advantage of what’s around you and practice supported shooting from behind cover. Apply the fundamentals and push forward; remember that on the range, everything is a rehearsal for something.
Photos by Blake Rea and RECOIL Staff
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
When you think of artillery, you’re probably thinking of something like the M777-towed 155mm howitzer or the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled gun. But in the Civil War, artillery was very different.
Back then, a gun wasn’t described by how wide the round was, but how much the round weighed. According to a National Park Service release, one of the most common was the 12-pounder Napoleon, which got that name from firing a 12-pound solid shot. The typical range for the Napoleon was about 2,000 yards. Multiply that by about twenty to have a rough idea how far a M777 can shoot an Excalibur GPS-guided round.
Another round used was the shell, a hollowed-out solid shot that usually had about eight ounces of black powder inserted. This is pretty much what most artillery rounds are today. The typical Civil War shell had a range of about 1,500 yards — or just under a mile.
However, when enemy troops were approaching, the artillery had two options. The first was to use what was called “case” rounds. These were spherical rounds that held musket balls. In the case of the Napoleon, it held 78 balls. Think of it as a giant hand grenade that could reach out as far as a mile and “touch” enemy troops.
When the enemy troops got real close, there was one last round: the canister. In essence, this turned the cannon into a giant shotgun. It would have cast-iron shot packed with sawdust. When enemy troops got very close, they’d use two canister rounds, known as “double canister” (in the 1993 movie, “Gettysburg,” you can hear a Union officer order “double canister” during the depiction of Pickett’s Charge).
To see what a canister round did to enemy troops, watch this video:
It was called the “Blue Bandit” by the American pilots who faced it in combat. It ranks as one of the most widely produced and exported fighters in history. It was the victim of one of the best ruses in military warfare, and it’s flown for almost 60 years. Even though it was designed in the ’50s, it remained in production until 1985 alongside more advanced jets.
This jet was produced by both the Soviet Union and Communist China. It saw action in Vietnam, the Middle East, and even over Yugoslavia. Even now, with upgrades that allow it to carry the latest in air-to-air missiles, it serves on the front for India. Over its long history, this plane has evolved from a pure interceptor to a multirole fighter.
The wide exportation of the MiG-21 meant that a few examples, like the one on the right, ended up in American hands.
The MiG-21 is best known for its use by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. It was fast — it could reach a top speed of 1,386 miles per hour — but had a short range of just 721 miles.
Most famously, the MiG-21 was the primary victim of Operation Bolo, a plan cooked up by U.S. Air Force legend Robin Olds. The North Vietnamese sent their MiG-21s to attack what looked like a large, unescorted strike. They found out the hard way that what looked like F-105 Thunderchiefs (ground-attack planes) were actually F-4 Phantoms. Seven Fishbeds were shot down in that dogfight.
While North Vietnamese Fishbeds did shoot down 56 American planes using the AA-2 Atoll anti-air missile, 90 were downed in air-to-air combat, including two by B-52 tail gunners.
A Bulgarian MiG-21 taxis for takeoff during a 2006 exercise with the United States Air Force.
(US Army photo by Maj. Dana Hampton)
The Fishbed also saw action in the Middle East, mostly going up against Israeli Defense Forces. Here, its record wasn’t as good — and it gained notoriety for being the first to fall prey to the F-15 Eagle.
Learn more about this veteran fighter in the video blow!
The Cold War was a great time for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. It seemed like they were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted in the interest of just seeing if they could do it. But the X-15 was much more than just a power play. Even though the Air Force already had the perfect spy plane, capable of flying across the planet at Mach 3, they still decided to up the game just a little further and came away with some important discoveries, discoveries that led to the creation of the Space Shuttle.
Not to mention the world’s speed record for manned, powered flight – Mach 6.7.
The craft had to be drop launched from the wing of a specially modified B-52 Stratofortress but could reach the very edge of space, setting altitude records for winged aircraft. Once dropped from the wing of the “mother ship” the X-15 launched its XLR-99 rocket engine to propel the craft at hypersonic speeds. It was a unique plane because it was designed to operate in an environment where there was less air than other aircraft.
It was the world’s first spaceplane, thus it used rocket thrusters to control its altitude at times. It could switch back and forth between conventional flight controls as needed for exoatmospheric flight as well as landing the craft.
There were three different X-15 airframes. One suffered from a landing accident in 1962 that injured pilot John McKay. As a result of this flight and the damage suffered to the airframe, the fuselage was lengthened, it was given extra drop tanks for fuel beneath the wings and was given an ablative coating to protect its pilot from the heat of hypersonic flight.
A second one was lost in 1967, just minutes after its launch. The craft had taken a video of the horizon at the edge of space and began its descent to the world below. As the craft descended, it entered a hypersonic spin. Even though its pilot, Michael J. Adams, was able to recover the plane at 36,000 feet, it then went into an inverted dive at Mach 4.7. The plane broke up under the stress and Adams was killed.
Pilots who flew the X-15 to its highest altitudes were eventually given astronaut wings by the U.S. Air Force, considering the craft broke the USAF threshold for the edge of space at 50 miles above the surface of the earth. The craft would also make faster and faster hypersonic flights until Oct.3, 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight took the craft to its maximum speed of 4,520 miles per hour.
Aside from these two achievements, the X-15 also had a number of notable firsts, including being the first restartable, throttle-controlled and man-rated rocket engine. It also tested the first spaceflight stellar navigation system and advanced pressure suits. The X-15 program was a direct ancestor of the modern Space Shuttle program, and without it, many notable achievements would not have happened.
A new sniper rifle that can change between three calibers at the twist of a barrel.
These are just a few of the new technologies America’s top special operators are looking for to help them go after the bad guys of the future.
According to an announcement released last month, the Joint Special Operations Command — the folks in charge of so-called “Tier 1” commandos, including SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force — is asking industry for help developing several new weapons technologies to help them do their job in a variety of battlefields.
First off, the JSOC operators are looking for a machine gun chambered in a “medium caliber” — usually considered anywhere between a 30-06 and 5.56 — that can reach out accurately to 2,000 yards. That’s slightly more than the maximum effective range of the new lightweight M240L that’s chambered in 7.62mm. The special operators want the machine gun to weigh 24 pounds or less — the M240L has a spec weight of 22.3 pounds.
But sources say what SOCOM is really leaning toward is a machine gun chambered in .338 — “it’s all the rage,” our source said.
It’s no secret that special operations troops put a lot of stock in silence and stealth. From advanced night vision to secret helicopters that cut down on rotor noise and radar signature, the Tier 1 commandos are always looking for ways to creep in and out of a target while most are unawares.
So that’s why JSOC is throwing out a request to industry for ideas on a so-called “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.” Essentially what the spec ops troops are looking for is a rifle upper that fits on current M4-style standard lower receivers that is designed to operate in full-time suppressed mode.
Most of today’s special operators use detachable suppressors that mount on the flash hider or muzzle brake at the end of the rifle’s barrel. But what JSOC wants is a specially-designed upper that has that suppressor built into it. Advocates argue a dedicated suppressed upper would help make the rifle perform better and run cleaner.
But SOCOM had to cancel an earlier request for proposals on the SURG due to unrealistic requirements, sources say, and that’s why JSOC is asking industry to see what it’s got.
The primary problem with the earlier request, insiders say, was how to deal with the heat a suppressor generates during high rates of fire. It was so bad, some say, that it could damage sensitive electronic sights and laser pointers mounted to the rifle’s handguard.
The special operators are “seeking a next-generation, modular upper receiver group that is interoperable with current lower receivers and is optimized for full time suppressed operation,” SOCOM says “[It] must have advanced heat mitigation technology to counter mirage effect.”
The new JSOC specs “are more realistic and not from a video game,” one source told WATM.
Lastly, JSOC has tweaked its request for a so-called Advanced Precision Sniper Rifle. While the ASR request has been out there for a while, SOCOM has changed the chambering options for the rifle.
Now the command wants a rifle that can change from a .308 caliber precision rifle to one in .300 Norma Magnum or .338 Norma Magnum. That’s a change from previous requests for .308, .300 WinMag and .338 Lapua Magnum.
A former special operations sniper instructor tells WATM that the Norma Magnum round feeds better from a magazine than its Lapua counterpart, and the .300 NM has a better ballistic performance than .338 LM.
Program officials with SOCOM are inviting industry to submit their ideas in person during an industry day in Florida in early November.
As tensions grow in the South China Sea due to Communist China’s aggressive posture, other countries are trying to build up their military forces. One such country is Vietnam, which has a bit of history with China that includes a naval battle fought nearly 45 years ago.
In 1974, Chinese Communist and South Vietnamese naval forces fought a battle off the Paracel Islands. The South Vietnamese lost both the battle and a corvette while China took the Paracels. At the time, the major surface combatants for the Vietnam People’s Navy were five Petya-class light corvettes, World War II-era destroyer escorts, and eight Osa II-class missile boats armed with the SS-N-2c Styx anti-ship missile. These were older designs and the Chinese simply had more capable vessels.
Today, the situation has changed. Vietnam took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to get big upgrades at bargain prices, including the acquisition of six diesel-electric subs. But the big buy was the purchase of a half-dozen Gepard-class frigates from Russia, two of which are now in service.
The Soviets designed the Gepard in the last years of the Cold War to replace older Mirka and Petya-class light frigates. The basic weapons suite includes a SAN-4 launcher, two quad SS-N-25 launchers, a 76mm gun, two AK-630 close-in weapon systems, and two twin 21-inch torpedo tube mounts.
The Russians planned to use a single hull type for five different designs. Gepard 1 would have a helicopter deck. Gepard 2 replaced the SA-N-4 with a hangar for a Ka-27 type chopper. Gepard 3 was larger and packed a CADS-N-1. Gepard 4 was an unarmed rescue ship that still could be fitted with some weapons and, finally, Gepard 5 was a long-range patrol ship that was slower, but still carried a heavier gun armament than a littoral combat ship.
These six frigates join at least a dozen Vietnamese Tarantul-class corvettes (eight armed with SS-N-25, four with SS-N-2) and at least two BPS 500 corvettes.
If Vietnam and China fight over the Paracels again, the Vietnamese will likely put up one heck of a fight.
The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.
According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”
Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.
The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.
But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.
The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.
The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.
You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.
Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.
Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.
Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)
The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.
One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)
We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.
Even though President Donald Trump’s defense budget is committed to keeping the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, as many as three squadrons could still be shut down.
According to a report in DefenseNews.com, the Air Force says that unless funding to produce more new wings for the A-10 is provided, three of the nine squadrons currently in service will have to be shut down due to fatigue issues in their wings. Re-winged A-10s have a projected service life into the 2030s.
“We’re working on a long-term beddown plan for how we can replace older airplanes as the F-35 comes on, and we’ll work through to figure out how we’re going to address those A-10s that will run out of service life on their wings,” Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command told DefenseNews.com.
Presently, only 173 wing kits have been ordered by the Air Force, with an option for 69 more. The Air Force currently had 283 A-10s in service, but some may need to be retired when the wings end their service lives.
The A-10 has a number of supporters in Congress, notably Rep. Martha McSally, who piloted that plane during her career in the Air Force. In the defense authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2017, Congress mandated that at least 171 A-10s be kept in service to maintain a close-air-support capability.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the A-10 was originally designed to bust enemy tanks, and was given the 30mm GAU-8 gatling gun with 1,174 rounds. It can also carry up to eight tons of bombs, rockets, missiles and external fuel tanks.
Fully 356 Thunderbolts were upgraded to the A-10C version, which has been equipped with modern precision-guided bombs like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM. A total of 713 A-10s were built between 1975 and 1984.
The Army is arming Bradley Fighting Vehicles with heat-seeking Stinger air defense missiles to give the infantry carriers an improved ability to track and destroy enemy air threats such as drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft.
Most current Bradleys are armed with TOW anti-tank missiles, a land weapon predominantly used for attacking enemy armored vehicles, bunkers or troop formations. Adding Stinger missiles will increase the attack envelope for the vehicles and potentially better enable them to protect maneuvering infantry and mechanized forces in combat.
“As directed by the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Army is conducting a proof of principle to incorporate Man Portable Air Defense Systems back into the Armored Brigade Combat Teams by modifying two dozen Bradleys to carry Stinger Missiles in lieu of TOW Missiles,” Ashley Givens, spokeswoman for Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven.
As anti-armor weapons, TOW missiles are not typically used to attack enemy air threats.
“Current versions are capable of penetrating more than 30 inches of armor, or “any 1990s tank,” at a maximum range of more than 3,000 meters. It can be fired by infantrymen using a tripod, as well from vehicles and helicopters, and can launch 3 missiles in 90 seconds,” the Federation of American Scientists writes in a paper.
Stinger missiles, by contrast, are infrared-guided surface-to-air weapons with nearly twice the range as TOW missiles.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fire a TOW missile from a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during training at Fort Riley, Kansas, May 18, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jonathan Camire)
Adding Stingers to Bradleys is entirely consistent with the Army’s broad strategic aims for the Bradley, which call for a highly-networked infantry carrier increasingly able to maneuver in support of ground infantry using long-range, high-tech sensors to find and hit targets.
“The Army has chosen to increase the cross-country mobility of the Bradley, allowing it to go further into off-road situations to support infantry formations,” Givens said.
An extended range TOW 2B Aero, engineered with a one-way radio link and range enhancing nose-cap, can hit targets more than four kilometers away; a Stinger missile, however, can reportedly hit targets out to eight kilometers.
Army information says a TOW Bunker Buster warhead consists of a blast type warhead designed to penetrate and then detonate inside Military Operations in Urban Terrain targets such as 8-inch double reinforced concrete, brick-over-block, and triple brick walls. The warhead utilizes both a cast titanium body and chisel style nose to allow better penetration capability while reducing ricochet probability.
The latest TOW upgrade uses Target Acquisition Systems that incorporate Far Target Location capability (ITAS-FTL), a technology which incorporates a global positioning satellite-based position attitude determination subsystem, Army officials said.
An Army paper says ITAS is the fire control system for the TOW missile and consists of integrated optical and second-generation forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. It offers improved hit probability by aided target tracking, improved missile flight software algorithms, and an elevation brake to minimize launch transients”
The TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and of the target that he sees in his ITAS sight. It is accurate to a 60-meter CEP (circular error of probability),” an Army report said.
Although described by Givens as a “limited effort,” integrating Stinger onto Bradley is a part of the broader Army Short Range Air Defense Strategy, an effort to strengthen air defense weapons across infantry brigade combat teams.
“This is a limited effort designed to inform the Army on Short Range Air Defense employment techniques and considerations,” she said.
Pvt. Denzell Darden, a Kansas City native and cavalry scout with Company A, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pushes a simulated tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile into the turret on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.)
The Army SHORAD program, already being built into Stryker vehicles, represents a service-wide strategic and tactical need to respond to near-peer type mechanized combat threats. Focused on heavily during the Cold War, when facing a Soviet threat, SHORAD faded a bit during the last 15 years of ongoing ground wars. The Taliban and Iraqi insurgents did not possess much of an air threat.
However, today’s global threat environment is vastly different. Potential adversaries can easily acquire drone attack technology, as it is readily available on the international market. This means enemies could hold Army units at risk from the air in newer, more dangerous ways — and at farther ranges. Furthermore, the advent and proliferation of weaponized drones, enabled by growing levels of autonomy, could use long-range EO/IR to target and attack advancing infantry and armored units in ways previously not possible.
Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can. PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.
Also, it goes without saying that any kind of major enemy ground assault is likely to include long range fires, massive air support as well as closer in helicopters and drones to support an advancing mechanized attack.
As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address these closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker or Bradley SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker or Bradley, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed armored vehicle. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon has been a mainstay for the troops since it entered service with the United States in 1984. In the 33 years since, it’s seen action in the War on Terror, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm.
According to the FN website, the M249 fires the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. It comes in at 17 pounds, and is 40.75 inches long with a 20.5-inch barrel. It can use the same 30-round magazines as M16/M4 rifles, or it can use belts of 100 or 200 rounds. The M249 Para has a 16.3″ barrel, and weighs just under 16 pounds. These guns have an effective range of just under 875 yards.
Due to a 1986 law, finding a real SAW for you to add to your collection is very difficult, and it’s impossible to get one made after 1986. Thankfully, Fabrique Nationale has stepped in. In a catalog available at the Association of the United States Army’s expo held in Washington, D.C., last month, FN notes that a semi-auto only version of the weapon, known as the M249S, is available.
The baseline version comes with an 18.5-inch barrel, and weighs the same 17 pounds as the version the troops use. It does come in slightly longer, at 41 inches, but retains the same ability to use 30-round magazines or the 100 or 200-round belts. FN also makes a M249S Para. This comes in at just under 17 pounds, and has a 16.5-inch barrel. They cost $8,499.00 new.
All federal, state, and local laws apply to the M249S family of weapons. Still, it makes an excellent option for a person who wants to have something that can help the give friends and family a sense of their military service.
In films and in comics, combat robots have caught our imaginations for years. Whether it’s the Terminator, Optimus Prime, or giant Gundams, robots with serious firepower draw big crowds to the box office. But such mechanical marvels haven’t yet emerged on the real battlefield.
That may soon change — at least for Russia, who recently demonstrated the Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle (UGCV) at the 2018 Victory Day Parade on May 8.
Now, this vehicle isn’t some mech out of Robotech. According to Rosoboronexport’s website, this system is designed to provide “remote reconnaissance and fire support to combined arms, recon, and counter-terror units.”
Since it doesn’t need to haul any crew or grunts, the Uran-9 is a very compact vehicle that can hide and ambush the enemy.
The system consists of a control station, a truck, and two remote-controlled tankettes. It might not sound like much, but this small tank (it weighs about 11 tons) can punch way above its weight. In fact, its armament suite is comparable to some full-sized Russian infantry fighting vehicles.
The main weapon on the Uran-9 is a 30mm autocannon, similar to those used on the BMP-2, BTR-90, BTR-80A, and BMP-3 IFVs. It also carries four AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles, six RPO thermobaric rockets, and a 7.62mm PKT machine gun.
A look at the 30mm autocannon and two AT-9 Spiral 2 anti-tank missiles used on the Uran-9.
(Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The Uran-9 is a versatile system and can swap out and add weapons to better suit the mission. For example, it’s capable of using the SA-16/SA-18 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles for stronger anti-aircraft capability. While its diverse arsenal makes it very capable fighter, it also carries sensors and tracking gear to find the enemy.
The United States doesn’t have a similar system, but has used packbots and larger robots for clearing explosives and urban recon.
Learn more about this super-lethal, unmanned Russian tankette in the video below!