Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Located near Clovis, New Mexico, near the Texas panhandle, Cannon Air Force Base employs around 5,800 people, including military and civilian personnel. Some of their civilian personnel include contracted radio-frequency calibration technicians in the Air Force Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) program. Their job is to repair and recalibrate precision measurement equipment that is used for testing, measuring, or diagnosing other systems. 

Precision is a matter of life and death

Every single machine and piece of equipment used by the Air Force and the military must work perfectly. That means each device has to operate at the highest level of precision. The civilians and AF personnel at PLEM are responsible for calibrating equipment used in just about every phase of maintenance. Specialists ensure everything works right. If it doesn’t, serious issues can happen. These experts comb over every single measurement too, to make sure aircraft is safe to operate. Sometimes this means they’re looking at increments as small as in the millionths!

Specifically, radio-frequency calibration technicians working at PMEL at Cannon AFB make sure every single piece of equipment is fully functioning. For instance, imagine that a drone’s calibration is slightly off. That could cause dire, perhaps even deadly consequences. The same is true for a bomb on target or any other equipment used by the Air Force. The radio-frequency calibration technicians in the PMEL make sure all devices are operating with pinpoint accuracy so that no unintended results occur. 

Watch out for shocks

Just one piece of precision equipment used to test weapons (YouTube)

All Air Force test, measurement, and diagnostic equipment used to manage weapons and other support systems go through PMEL for calibration before use. This is what makes the US Air Force the best in the world. They use measurement standards that can be traced through the Air Force Primary Standards Laboratory to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is an exact science, emphasis on “exact,”  that the Air Force could not succeed without. 

Working with electricity, the job has its risks, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s not all that uncommon for technicians to zap themselves. To counter this, they often work on electro-static discharge (ESD) benches where they can ground themselves with a piece of wire. That way they won’t die if they get electrocuted in the process of recalibrating and repairing equipment. 

There is no Air Force without the behind-the-scenes crew

Aside from outside contractors and government civilians, the Air Force also has trained personnel who work in the PMEL. The Air Force even has a specific PEML training program that entails eight and a half weeks of basic military training followed by 124 days of technical training. While the men and women who work on the front lines tend to get most of the credit and glory for US Military success, the people behind the scenes, such as those working in the PEML at Cannon Air Force Base, are just as valuable. 

Related: Brave little heart: One Air Force family navigates the unthinkable

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This company wants to make the Army’s M17 into way more than a pistol

Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.

That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.


Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)

Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.

The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.

The new Flux Defense MP17 // FluxDefense

youtu.be

According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.

FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.

Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.

(FLUX Defense)

Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.

Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.

Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.

Articles

This Spitfire flaw gave the Nazis an edge in aerial dogfights

The Supermarine Spitfire ranks up there with the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Messerschmitt Bf-109, and the P-51 Mustang as one of the most iconic planes of World War II. But all aircraft have their flaws — even when they’re at the top of their game.


The Zero’s flaw is well-known. It had no armor to speak of, making it very vulnerable to even the F4F Wildcat when tactics like the Thach Weave were implemented across the U.S. military.

The Spitfire’s problem was in its engine.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

The Rolls Royce Merlin was a great motor, but the real problem was how the Spitfire got the fuel to the engine. The Spitfire used a carburetor, which is fine for straight and level flight, but when does a dogfight involve staying straight and level?

The Spitfire’s carburetor would, in the course of maneuvering, cause the engine to cut out for a lack of fuel. When it returned to straight and level flight, the Spitfire would have an over-rich fuel mixture, which ran the risk of flooding the engine. It would also create a huge cloud of black smoke, that the Nazis quickly realized as a tell-tale sign of a sitting duck.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
This screenshot of a scene from the 1969 movie The Battle of Britain shows the black cloud of smoke that comes after a Spitfire’s fuel mixture is over-rich. (Youtube Screenshot)

So, what did work? The fuel-injection system used by the Nazis in the Me-109. This gave the Nazis a slight edge in the actual dogfights. This could have been a disaster for the Brits, but when their pilots bailed out, they were often doing so over home territory, and a new Spitfire was waiting for them. German pilots who lost dogfights over England were POWs.

The problem, though, proved to be very fixable. Beatrice Schilling, an engineer, managed to come up with a workaround for the over-rich problem that removed the black cloud of smoke and prevented the engine from flooding. That stop-gap helped the RAF stay competitive until a more permanent fix came in 1942.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the worst errors the living made at the Battle of Winterfell

If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.


Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”

They deployed their maneuver forces first.

Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.

Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.

They made little use of air superiority.

Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.

The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…

They had no eyes on the battlefield.

Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.

The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.

They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.

All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?

Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.

The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.

As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.

Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.

Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.

Articles

Air Force tests bolt-on aircraft laser weapon

Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.


Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber, C-130 aircraft or fighter jet.

“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.

Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.

However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.

Related: Here are 5 times bombers beat fighters in aerial combat

Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”

Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.

Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.

“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.

Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.

“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.

Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.

Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets

Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.

Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.

Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.

Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.

Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.

Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.

Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.

Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.

Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.

Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”

And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.

Man-in-the-Loop

As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.

While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.

“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.

Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.

Click here to view original article from Warrior Scout.

Articles

This is the Russian infantry weapon that has the US military so worried

Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.


The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.

That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment.  This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.

Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.

The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado/released)

Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.

The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.

The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments.  The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum has the reach and lethality of a .50 cal M2. (Photo from General Dynamics video screen grab)

Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.

The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.

If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.

If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.

That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.

In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.

However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.

As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See what happened when world’s top snipers competed

The finest snipers in the US military, as well as local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies, have been battling it out against teams from across the US and around the world in the annual International Sniper Competition.

The Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment came in first, the Colorado Army National Guard took second, and Sweden’s 17th Wing Air Force Rangers came in third. There were also some surprises in the rankings.


Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

According to the Army, teams must complete “a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills that include, but are not limited to, long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance and reporting abilities, and abilities to move with stealth and concealment.”

Source: US Army

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Snipers play a critical role in combat, with missions including “precision fires on enemy personnel and equipment, intelligence gathering, counter-sniper operations, infiltration and overwatch of [named areas of interest], occupation of and operations in support by fire positions, ballistic interdiction of IEDs, and disruption of enemy operations.”

Source: US Army

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

“Working together in this venue is a great way for us to share ideas, build rapport, and train our forces,” Brig. Gen. David M. Hodne, the US Army Infantry School commandant, said at the closing ceremony, “After all, the purpose of the International Sniper Competition is to improve our collective lethality.”

Source: Fort Benning Public Affairs Office

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs)

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

US Army teams dominated the competition. One surprising result: The US Coast Guard’s Special Missions Training Detachment edged out the US Marine Corps’ Scout Sniper instructors.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

War in space will probably be really boring

Ever since President Trump first announced his intentions to establish a new branch of the American Armed Forces dedicated specifically to space and orbital defense, imaginations have run wild with what this new era of conflict miles above our heads might look like. Decades worth of movies and video games have shaped our idea of war among the stars, and it’s hard not to let our imaginations run a bit wild when the concept of zero-G warfighting is suddenly so real that our lawmakers are actually budgeting for it.


The thing is, our ideas of space warfare and the reality of conflict in space are pretty far off from one another… at least for now. America’s near-peer opponents in China and Russia have both already stood accused by the international community of launching weapons systems into orbit, but these aren’t Decepticons equipped with doomsday lasers and vessels full of jet-pack laden Space Marines. Warfare in space doesn’t take nearly that much effort or panache. In fact, in some cases, an act of war would require little more than a nudge. In practice, there’s very little difference between the sorts of tools being developed to capture and destroy space junk and weapons being designed to capture and destroy satellites.

Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris’

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The truth is, America’s massive orbital infrastructure was largely deployed in an era with no serious competitors on the horizon. That means many of the satellites we rely on for communications, navigation, and defense lack any real means of defending themselves from attack or even moving out of the way of many kinds of danger. Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson aptly described it by saying the United States had built “a glass house before the invention of stones.” Like a glass house, our satellite infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable, and now America’s opponents have already begun throwing stones.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines what its framers hoped would be the path to peaceful coexistence in orbit and beyond, but the language of the treaty allows for a great deal of latitude when it comes to orbital weapons. China, Russia, and the United States are all among the signatory members of the treaty, alongside a long list of others. Article IV of the treaty bans any signatory nation from deploying nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) in orbit, and while other portions of the treaty also attempt to dissuade a real-life remake of Star Wars, the treaty itself bars little else when it comes to weapons.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped nations like Russia from referencing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty when accusing the United States of violating international norms during ongoing debates about the future of American space defense. This bit of tomfoolery notwithstanding, America, Russia, and China do want to appear as though they’re honoring the intent of this treaty, and as a result, orbital weapons often come in the guise of something else entirely. Russia’s Inspector satellites, for instance, are believed to have been designed specifically for use as a weaponized platform that can both eavesdrop on nearby satellite communications and directly interact with other orbital platforms.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Ground based lasers may soon be able to blind satellites temporarily, wreaking havoc with communications, navigation, and early warning systems.

(USAF Photo)

All an Inspector satellite would need to do in order to poke a hole in America’s defensive infrastructure is grab an American satellite with a retractable arm and pull it down into a degrading orbit. Eventually, the Russian satellite would just let go and watch its target burn up as it enters the atmosphere. The entire process would be fairly slow and even mundane to look at, but without any form of defense in orbit, there would be nothing U.S. Space Command could do but watch until the satellite went dark.

Similar methods to the same end would include deploying nets to capture enemy satellites or even simply giving them a push. Depending on the age and capability of the satellite, that could really be all it took to take it out of commission. In extreme cases, like the satellites the U.S. relies on to identify nuclear ballistic missile launches, simply incapacitating a satellite for a few minutes (by pushing it off its axis, for instance) could neuter the nation’s ability to spot or intercept inbound nukes. China has already demonstrated the theoretical ability to do exactly that using ground-based lasers that are invisible to the naked eye.

There are a number of strategies already being developed to counter this form of orbital warfare, like developing a fast-launch infrastructure to replace damaged satellites rapidly and deploying more maneuverable and capable platforms that aren’t as susceptible to these simplistic forms of attack… but for the next few decades, that’s the reality of our space wars: simple satellite drones nudging, poking, and maybe shooting at one another while we watch from below with bated breath.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Navy combat planes used these risky rockets to take off

Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.


Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.

(U.S. Navy)

First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.

(U.S. Navy)

Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.

Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O930YRruewQ

www.youtube.com

However, the need for JATO systems has declined as jet technology improves. Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing technology also emerged in the form of lift fans and vectored thrust.

Although JATO isn’t widely used, it makes for a spectacular moment when the Lockheed C-130 assigned to the Blue Angels makes its takeoff.

See how the Navy discussed JATO over 70 years ago in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the science behind how submarines dive and resurface

Let’s start with the basics: Ships stay afloat because the weight of the water that it displaces equals the weight of the ship. As gravity pulls down on the ship; water creates an opposite upward force called buoyant force, which prevents the ship from sinking.


Related: 27 incredible photos of life on a US Navy submarine

Submarines use ballast and trim tanks, which are filled with air or water to submerge or raise the ship. When the submarine is floating on the surface, the tanks are filled with air causing its density to be less than the surrounding water. When the submarine dives, the tanks are flooded with water causing its density to be greater than the water causing it to sink.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
Science Channel, YouTube

Some submarines use two hulls—one inside of another—instead of ballast tanks. This design allows it to flood the outer hull with water, which causes the vessel to sink, while the crew work and live in the inner one. An example of a double hull design is the Russian Alfa Class submarine considered by many to be the hot rod sub of the Cold War for its incredible speed. Designed during the 1960s, the Alfa Class submarine remains the fastest of its kind till this day, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

As the outer hull fills with water, the submarine dives.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
Brit Lab, YouTube

As the water is replaced by air, the submarine resurfaces.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
Brit Lab, YouTube

This video shows how American submarines dive and resurface using its ballast tanks:

Science Channel, YouTube
MIGHTY TACTICAL

China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

The United States is banking on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning to provide an advantage in a major war with China or Russia. These high-performance planes use stealth technology to evade enemy radars.


Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

The first operational stealth combat jet, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, was a gamechanger. It was able to penetrate air defenses, giving the enemy no idea that they were overhead — until the bombs hit their targets. The F-117 was followed by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Those planes gave China and Russia some real problems. Although they weren’t entirely invisible, the detection range was so short that… well, let’s just say that by the time you detected them, you had mere seconds to find cover before the bombs hit.

According to The National Interest, Communist China now claims they have a way to counter stealth aircraft: The KJ-600, a carrier-launched airborne radar plane that will be launched from the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 002 and 003 classes of aircraft carriers. One of the biggest weaknesses of China’s carrier aviation was the lack of a plane comparable to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest variant of the long-running E-2 Hawkeye series of aircraft, which employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battlespace and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

The KJ-600 aims to fill that gap in capacity. The Chinese Communists claim that this plane can detect stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35 at a range of 200 miles through use of an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, but this capability may be oversold. An expert, quoted in the South China Morning Post, admitted that the 200-mile range comes from “a certain angle.”

Those three words may be the catch for Communist China. There is no guarantee that the F-35 will come in at “a certain angle” conducive to 200-mile detection. It is far more likely the KJ-600 won’t detect the F-35 until the American fighter has fired a pair of AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Then, the Chinese Communists will find their navy’s been blinded, and are now sitting ducks.

Articles

Trump sets price reduction target for F-35

President-elect Donald Trump wants to lower the price tag for the F-35 Lightning II by about ten percent. That push comes as he also is trying to lower the cost of a new Air Force One.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the President-elect has been very critical of the high costs of the fifth-generation multi-role fighter intended to replace F-16 and F/A-18 fighters and AV-8B V/STOL aircraft in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The fighter’s cost has ballooned to about $100 million per airframe. The President-elect reportedly asked Boeing to price out new Super Hornets.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
An F-35 from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. (Lockheed Martin photo.)

Some progress is being made in bits and pieces. An Air Force release noted that an improved funnel system developed by the team testing the F-35 will save nearly $90,000 – and more importantly, time (about three days).

Foxnews.com also reported that President-elect Trump met again with the Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, over the Air Force One replacement. Last month, the President-elect tweeted his intention to cancel the program, which was slated to cost over $4 billion – an amount equivalent to buying over three dozen F-35s – for two airframes.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Muilenburg told Reuters, “We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices.” Those efforts, he went on to add, could save money on the replacement for Air Force One. The VC-25A, the current version of Air Force One, entered service in 1990, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

One way costs per airframe could be cut is to increase a production run. A 2015 Daily Caller article noted that when the productions for the Zumwalt-class destroyer and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle were slashed, the price per unit went up as each ship or vehicle bore more of the research an development costs. In the case of the Zumwalt, the reduction of the program to three hulls meant each was bearing over $3 billion in RD costs in addition to a $3.8 billion cost to build the vessel.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines want anti-tank LAVs fully capable by 2019

Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.

The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.

In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.


The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.

Precision Equipment Laboratory at Cannon AFB

The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.

(US Marine Corps photo)

“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.

The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.

The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.

“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.

Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.

“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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