Russia's standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is a legend — and deservedly so, seeing as he was America’s top sniper of all time. But the United States is not the only country in the world to have had a great sniper. Russia has its legends as well, like sharpshooter Vasily Zaytsev.


We know a lot about the guns Chris Kyle used to leave his mark, but what type of rifle did Russia’s deadeye use? The answer is likely to be a rifle that was around for over a decade when Kyle was born in 1974. That rifle is the SVD Dragunov, which, over the years, has seen a lot of action — from the Vietnam War to the War on Terror.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
The United States military has faced the Dragunov since the Vietnam War. This rifle was taken from one of Saddam’s palaces. (USMC photo)

The Dragunov fires the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, the same cartridge used by the PKM machine gun and the classic Mosin-Nagant rifle. The Russians had a lot of those rounds hanging around – and decided to put them to good use.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
The SVD has been upgraded over the years. This one has a folding stock. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Michal Maňas)

It is a semi-automatic system – giving the user a chance to make a quick follow-up shot. It comes with a 24.4-inch barrel, weighs just under ten pounds, takes detachable magazines (usually with 10 rounds), and is equipped with a PSO-1 optical sight. Now, don’t look down on it for being a semi-auto — the U.S. Army has proved that a semi-automatic sniper rifle can do serious work —America’s top sniper in Vietnam, Adelbert Waldron, used the Army’s M21 sniper rifle, an M14 equipped with a scope, to tally 109 confirmed kills.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
A Polish version of the SVD Dragunov. (Photo by Polish Ministry of Defense)

The Dragunov has been widely exported. China made their own version, called the Type 79, and later developed an improved variant, which they call the Type 85. As you might expect, this means American personnel have faced it in combat. The rifle is still serving in Russia and newer variants have emerged, including some chambered for more powerful rounds.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
Two Tigr rifles, the civilian version of the Dragunov. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Cas4j)

Since the Dragunov is semi-automatic, that means it’s also seen export to the United States for private owners. One model, the Tigr, was chambered not only in 7.62x54mmR, but also had options for using the 9.3x64mm and .308 Winchester (the same round used by the M14 rifle and M40 sniper rifle, among other systems).

This dependable rifle is likely not going away anytime soon!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new ‘360 Invictus’ attack helicopter

Bell has unveiled its proposed single-rotor design for the U.S. Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), a cutting-edge helicopter that may be optionally manned.

The ‘360 Invictus’ helicopter will be loaded with a 20 mm cannon and integrated munitions launcher able to carry Hellfire missiles or rockets. It will be able to adapt for future weapons integration in order to fight in urban environments, according to Bell.

Bell showcased its design to reporters at its facilities in Arlington, Virginia on Oct. 1, 2019.


“The Army realized that they absolutely do need a smaller aircraft that’s … able to operate in urban canyons as well as out in mixed terrain,” said Jeffrey Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

Bell ‘360 Invictus’ rendering.

(Bell)

Schloesser said the 360 Invictus has high-cruise speeds, long-range capabilities and advanced maneuverability, all intended to help it dominate a future battlespace.

“We have a solution that can accomplish those missions, but it’s also the lowest-risk, and therefore probably the lowest-cost aircraft, to be able to accomplish [that],” Schloesser said.

Keith Flail, vice president of advanced vertical lift systems, said the agile helicopter’s first flight is expected in the fall of 2022. It should be able to fly at speeds greater than 180 knots true airspeed, or more than 200 miles per hour; the aircraft will also have a supplemental power unit that can boost the aircraft’s speed in flight.

Loosely based on Bell’s 525 Relentless rotor system, the fly-by-wire computer flight control helicopter will be made in partnership with Collins Aerospace which will deliver a new avionics hardware and software suite. “[Collins] also has the ability to integrate capabilities with the MOSA, or modular open system architecture, onto the aircraft,” Flail said.

Some observers at Oct. 1, 2019’s event remarked how the streamlined, lightweight fuselage design of the 360 Invictus resembled the body of a shark, particularly the vertical canted ducted tail rotor, designed for optimized lift and propulsion.

“As we’re in the wind tunnel, as we’re looking at performance, as we’re looking at drag, everything on the aircraft, we’re very confident that we have a good story on … that design target,” Flail said.

In April 2019, the Army awarded Bell, a subsidiary of Textron, the contract to begin prototype and design work; but the company must compete against four other firms before the service downselects its options to move forward with its future helicopter.

They are: AVX Aircraft Co. partnered with L3Harris Technologies; Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky; and Karem Aircraft.

Currently, the Army is developing FARA and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) along with other airframes as part of its larger Future Vertical Lift initiative, or FVL.

FVL, the Army’s third modernization priority, is intended to field a new generation of helicopters before 2030.

Flail said that Bell will have a full-scale model of its FARA design, which fits inside a C-17 Globemaster III for transport as well as a 40-foot CONEX box, at the annual Association of the U.S. Army show later this month.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The days of the US military’s obsession with the 5.56 rifle may be numbered

The U.S. military has been talking about it for years, but now the stars may be aligning to force a closer look at replacing the standard military rifle issued to most American troops.


The Army is reportedly exploring how it might outfit all its front-line troops with a rifle chambered in a larger round than the 5.56mm M4 and M16 for the current fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, insiders claim. Service officials are increasingly worried that that soldiers are being targeted by insurgent fighters wielding rifles and machine guns that can kill U.S. troops at a distance, while staying out of the effective range of America’s current small arms.

“A Capability Gap exists for 80 percent of US and NATO riflemen who are armed with 5.56mm weapons,” weapons expert and former Heckler Koch official Jim Schatz stated in a recent small arms briefing. “The threat engages friendly forces with 7.62mmR weapons 300 meters beyond the effective range of 5.56mm NATO ammo.”

“These 5.56mm riflemen have no effective means to engage the enemy.”

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

So the service is considering options to outfit soldiers with a true “battle rifle” chambered in 7.62×51, a more powerful round with a greater range than the 5.56, analysts say. It’s unclear which system the Army will pick if it decides to go this route, with rifles like the Mk-17 SCAR-H, M-110 and now the M110A1 CSASS either getting set for fielding or already in the inventory.

But military planners aren’t stopping there.

Multiple sources confirm that the service is also looking at fielding a so-called “intermediate caliber” round that can be used in both machine guns and infantry rifles that deliver better range and lethality than the 5.56 but in a smaller, lighter package than the NATO M80 7.62×51 ammo.

Dubbed the .264 USA, the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been shooting a prototype intermediate caliber round for years. Similar to the 6.5 Grendel but with a case sized for use in a standard M4 magazine, the .264 USA has an 800 meter effective range and better terminal ballistics further out than a 5.56.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
A slide from a 2016 briefing by the late Jim Schatz who argued the .264 USA round being used by the Army Marksmanship Unit could be the perfect caliber to replace the 5.56 and the 7.62. (Photo from DTIC.mil)

The round is also being developed with a polymer case instead of brass, which cuts down the weight significantly, experts claim.

“Stand-off shooters in Afghanistan employ the suppressive merits of 7.62x54R weapons by raining down .30 caliber projectiles onto troops armed mostly with 5.56mm rifles incapable of returning effective fire,” Schatz wrote. “A lightweight polymer-cased intermediate caliber cartridge and projectile would thus improve the probability of hit, incapacitation and suppression for all members of the squad without the weight and recoil penalties associated with 7.62mm NATO ammunition and weapons.”


The notion is to field one caliber that can work for a variety of missions — from close-in battle clearing houses to distant engagements using a rifle or a machine gun. In fact, there’s increased interest within the service to evaluate a new medium machine gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum that would replace the M240 and potentially even the decades-old M2 .50 cal in some missions.

The Army has not taken an official position on the fielding of 7.62 battle rifles for its front-line troops or on the development of an intermediate caliber. The service did conduct a Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study to look into the issue, but the results have not yet been publicly released.

And weapons experts within the military and in industry confirm to WATM that the debate is heating up.

Two experts who spoke to WATM questioned the wisdom of fielding a 7.62 battle rifle as an interim solution, arguing the current M4 could benefit from better constructed, longer length, free-floated barrels and top-notch ammunition to make up for some of the ballistic shortfalls.

Another veteran and firearms expert said the M4’s range problem is more a training issue than it is a caliber one, calling the Army’s marksmanship program “a joke” and arguing good ammo and a longer barrel could solve many of the engagement distance problems.

Additionally, one world champion competitive shooter and tactical trainer told WATM that top-tier special operators who’ve taken his classes are using 18-inch barrels on their carbines, moving away from shorter options geared for tight spaces in favor of the range advantages of a longer gun.

The military has been debating the wisdom of sticking with the 5.56 since operations in Somalia prompted discussions over the terminal ballistics of the “varmint” round, but despite multiple studies claiming there are better options out there, the Army and the rest of the services haven’t seen a compelling enough reason to make a change.

Yet with the potential for increased defense budgets, a replacement for the M9 pistol coming on board and a Pentagon leadership that seems more in tune with the needs of troops fighting terrorists on the ground, the drive to rethink America’s arsenal could lead to major changes.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army to use Israeli defense missiles instead of Patriots

The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.

“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.


Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.

While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.

On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.

Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.

While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.

But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.

The 2019 Missile Defense Review said the US’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile-defense system has a “proven combat record,” though US officials inflated its success rate during Operation Desert Storm.

The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.

But Saudi Arabia, a weaker US ally, has put its Patriot defenses to the test and found them severely wanting either through user error or failings of the system itself.

In repeated missile strikes from Houthi rebels using relatively unsophisticated Iranian ballistic missiles, the Patriot missile defenses have failed, sometimes spectacularly.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

MIM-104 Patriot.

Despite Saudi Arabia claiming a high success rate for the missile system, it proceeded to talk to Russia about obtaining advanced S-400 missile defenses after the Patriot failures. NATO allies such as Turkey have also sought to augment their defenses with the Russian system, causing friction with the US and others.

Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.

“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.

But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.

By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why America needs to rethink how it ‘owns the night’

Warfighting is not a 9-to-5 job. War is waged at all hours of the day. While getting into a firefight in broad daylight means you won’t need to sling NVGs over your face to see clearly, it’s arguably more convenient to raid compounds when the enemy has their pants down — figuratively and, occasionally, literally. The two tools that make night raids possible are night vision goggles and the PEQ-15, which is basically a rifle-mounted IR laser-pointer that can be seen through NVGs.


Until recently, America and its allies have been unrivaled in nighttime operations. Now, the Taliban Red Group has been spotted using stolen and black-market NVGs while they overrun checkpoints and police bases. Retired Army Col. Steven Bucci of the Heritage Foundation told Military Times that this was, in his view, “kind of inevitable.”

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
The Taliban Red Group finally learned how to use eBay. (Photo by Al-Emara)

“When we do these kinds of missions, we basically try and buy [local forces] the same kind of equipment they already have,” Bucci said. “But, you know, we are trying to upgrade these folks and give them an advantage, so we do introduce them to things like night vision devices and maybe longer range optics for weapons, and you run the risk that they’re going to fall into enemy hands.”

Keep in mind, NVGs and weapon-mounted IR lasers are still hard to come by for the Taliban Red Group and even more so for the average terrorist. And the gear that they do acquire is typically far below our “lowest bidder” quality.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
Your goggles may be a PoS at times, but they’re leagues better than the ones used by terrorists. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)

But this does throw a wrench in the well-oiled system that America and its allies have grown accustomed to fighting within. Just knowing that even one terrorist might be able to see what our warfighters see means a huge change of strategy is coming. NATO’s reliance on IR markings for everything from helicopter landing sites to troop positions will need to be adapted.

The easy solution here is for troops to maintain light discipline for IR, just as they do with every other light used during night operations. Though the darkness of night may no longer be an impenetrable concealer, we maintain the technological edge over those getting their first glimpse behind the curtain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch how bulletproof these ‘Star Wars’ inspired helmets are

Military equipment is notoriously cheap and can sometimes fall short of expectations when in the hands of the dirt-eating grunts who use them the most. But, every once in a while, a company comes by and makes something that not only lives up to its potential, but manages to make its way into the hearts of troops everywhere (things as wonderful as the M27 are few and far between). So, when DevTac developed the Ronin Kevlar Level IIIA Tactical Ballistic Helmet, we wondered how effective it really was.

Thankfully, Dr. Matt Carriker, a veterinarian and fellow gun enthusiast, put the helmet to the test on his YouTube channel, Demolition Ranch. We’ve covered a previous video of his where he tested Army helmets, seeing just how bulletproof they really are, but does this Boba-Fett-looking helmet stand up to the test?

Let’s find out!


Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
This thing just looks awesome. (Demolition Ranch)

 

Before the test, Dr. Carriker goes over some of the basic features of the helmet to provide a baseline of what to expect. Some of those features include armor plating — some parts Level II, others Level IIIA. Allegedly, the helmet is able to withstand most bullets shot from a pistol.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
You never know if you’ll catch a ricochet in the face while squirrel hunting. (Demolition Ranch)

 

Dr. Carriker starts off easy and light, hitting the helmet with a .22 LR fired from a suppressed pistol, then moving onto a .22 Hornet round fired from a Taurus Raging Hornet. The results for both are the same — some chipped paint but no penetration, which is what we hoped would happen given such a small bullet.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
There are some scratches and holes, but nothing went all the way through. (Demolition Ranch)

 

Next, he hits it with a .410, shooting a Charles Daly Defense Honcho. The lenses are supposed to stop a shotgun blast, and they do, but they get shot out. Afterwards, like a true, red-blooded American, he double fists a pair of Maxim 9s to hit the helmet with 9mm rounds. Still no penetration.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
We might have to get one for ourselves here… For professional reasons, of course. (Demolition Ranch)

 

After seeing that 9mm ain’t going to cut it, Dr. Carriker goes on to test a .357 magnum round shot from a Desert Eagle. After that, he picks up a .44 magnum and then, later, a .45-70 Government round shot from a revolver. The results for all three, despite doing significant damage to the helmet, were the same: no penetration.

If you don’t believe it, check out the video below and see the action for yourself:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy carrier strike group is weirdly deploying without its aircraft carrier

Ships from the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are deploying without their carrier and accompanying air wing after the flattop suffered an unexpected electrical problem that required maintenance, the Navy revealed Sept. 12, 2019.

The destroyers USS Lassen, USS Farragut, and USS Forrest Sherman, along with the cruiser USS Normandy, will set sail from their homeports in Norfolk, Virginia, and Mayport, Florida, in the near future. These ships will be accompanied by helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Squadron 72 out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, however, will remain behind.


The move is unusual. Normally, if a carrier is down for maintenance or some other reason, it will simply be replaced with another carrier. But, the East Coast carrier fleet is currently short a suitable alternative in the inventory due to maintenance backlogs and delivery delays, among other issues.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

In late August 2019, the Truman aircraft carrier experienced an “electrical malfunction within the ship’s electrical distribution system requiring analysis and repair,” US Fleet Forces Command spokesman Capt. Scott Miller told USNI News, which first reported the news of both the electrical issue and the unusual deployment.

US 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis characterized the latest developments as “unfortunate” in talks with USNI News. “The situation with Truman frankly is unfortunate,” he told the naval affairs outlet. “Obviously, we’re working really hard to fix it, and we will fix it, but it’s unfortunate — nobody wanted that to happen certainly.”

The Navy said Sept. 12, 2019, that “repairs are progressing and all efforts are being made to deploy the carrier and air wing as soon as possible.” But, as there are still a number of unknowns surrounding the issue, it is unclear when the Truman will again be ready to sail.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

USS Harry S. Truman in drydock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

“Not having the aircraft carrier,” Lewis explained to USNI News, “it does detract from the symbolism and the deterrent effect, no question.”

“The aircraft carrier is a behemoth beast with an amazing capability, it shows up off your shores, and if you’re not our friend you become our friend quickly if you know what’s good for you. There is no question that that effect is lost with smaller ships.”

The deploying ships have formed a Surface Action Group, and the admiral insists that these ships bring the kind of capability to confront both low- and high-end threats.

Explaining that the ships have anti-submarine, air-and-missile defense, and strike warfare capabilities, he insisted that this is a “very capable group” that is ready “to do the nation’s bidding in this great power competition,” an apparent reference to 2nd Fleet’s role in countering a resurgent Russia.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s why we love the Bradley Fighting Vehicle

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


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

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

Read more about why we love the Bradley here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are some of the craziest planes ever flown by the US military

A number of American planes have become classics. We know them off the top of our head: the P-51 Mustang, the F4U Corsair, the B-17 Flying Fortress. We can go on and on, and even debate amongst ourselves which planes were the coolest.


Some, though, are just plain crazy. You have to wonder Whiskey Tango Foxtrot were they thinking when they tried to fly `em. Was there ever any hope of them working? Here’s a look at a few — but just because they look crazy doesn’t mean some of them didn’t work.

McDonnell F-85 Goblin

Early jet fighters were a lot like sprinters. They were fast, but they didn’t have a lot of range. So some folks had the bright idea of having the bomber bring along its fighter escort. The “parasite fighter” was intended to be carried in by a bomber, be discharged, fight off enemy planes, then hook back up with the bomber.

The ultimate expression was the F-85 Goblin. This plane weighed less than 5,000 pounds, and was armed with four .50-caliber machine guns. It made a total of seven flights before the program was cancelled. Why? Aerial refueling was perfected, and making bombers trade off a lot of their payload to carry their fighter escort was no longer necessary.

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
To fit inside the parent aircraft’s bomb bay, the XF-85’s wings folded up. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

Northrop B-35 and B-49

We see the B-2 today as perhaps the ultimate high-tech bomber. But Northrop had been trying to make a flying wing work since World War II. The B-35 and B-49 looked futuristic — and indeed they were decades ahead of their time. In this case, that was literally their problem.

The flying wing had its benefits, but the problem was the technology wasn’t there yet. The crash of a YB-49 prototype helped put the flying wing into limbo, not to return until the B-2 program, when computers enabled the flying wing to fly.

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
YB-49 takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

NB-36H Peacemaker

In one sense, the B-36 arguably made the legendary B-52 Stratofortress look puny. However, that plane took a lot of fuel to get off the ground, and to keep flying. Fuel can get expensive, and its flammable. So, they decided to see if they could use nuclear power. The NB-36H was built to test the concept.

The reactor weighed 35,000 pounds. But after test flights, the Air Force decided that jet fuel was still a better option. Besides, they were buying some of the first of 732 KC-135 tankers.

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
The NB-36H testbed. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

C-5 Galaxy

The C-5 Galaxy is crazy, all right. Crazy huge. It is 247 feet long, 65 feet high, and has a wingspan of just under 223 feet. The Air Force built 126 of these planes: 76 C-5As from 1968-1973, and 50 C-5Bs from 1985-1989.

It can be refueled while flying, but even when carrying 60 tons, it can fly 4,800 nautical miles. Currently the Air Force has 78 C-5s on inventory. But when you have something that can haul as much as 135 tons of cargo in one go, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to build more.

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
A C-130 Hercules training fuselage is loaded into a C-5 Galaxy for transport to Stratton Air National Guard Base, New York. This was the first time a C-5 transported a C-130 fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ty Moore)

 

F-117 Nighthawk

This plane falls into the crazy-enough-to-work category. Just looking at it, you think it wouldn’t even fly. Well, it could, and it is one of the crown jewels to emerge from that famous Lockheed refinery known as the “Skunk Works.”

Often called the “Wobblin’ Goblin,” the F-117 was designed to have a very low radar cross-section. It ended up working very well for American pilots, easily penetrating Iraq’s vaunted air defense system. One was lost over Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999, but the F-117 served well, and the planes have still been flying despite having been “retired” in 2007.

 

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
An F-117 on display at MCAS Miramar, in 2006 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new electronic messenger delivers like the god it was named for

The stuff that goes boom on an enemy target is very important. But that is just the payoff at the end of a long and what used to be a dangerous process. You see, the first thing you had to do was find the thing you want to want to make go away. That can be hard in and of itself, but let’s assume that the scouts do their job and find the target.


That is only half the work… you see, once the scouts have FOUND the target, you gotta tell the folks dropping the bombs that location. In the old days, the scouts would try to get back – and sometimes, they didn’t make it. And we all know that dead men tell no tales. Furthermore, there was always a time-lapse aspect. Technology has helped in this regard – first with radios, but in recent years, something newer has emerged.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

The RQ-4 Global Hawk can help find targets, but Radiant Mercury allows the information to be passed to shooters very quickly.

(USAF photo)

According to material obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that something newer is called Radiant Mercury, and it takes passing information to a new level. The methods range from old-school data using old-school ASCII text files to the latest technology, including Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. This is a huge game-changer.

How so? Because with all the options, the scouting elements, be they special operators or a drone, can send the information securely to the shooters – and do so very quickly. This is known as shortening the kill chain. The only way to make it better is if the scout actually carried the weapons.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

A shooter like the F-15E Strike Eagle can act on information passed on to it via Radiant Mercury.

(USAF photo)

Radiant Mercury is one of those programs that will not make big headlines or draw much attention. Yet being able to pass on information between scouts and shooters is one of the most important things in warfare. With Radiant Mercury, the United States gets an edge in doing that.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

Articles

This is why pilots fear the Starstreak surface-to-air missile

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old
THOR/Multi Mission System (MMS) Starstreak missile launcher unit mounted on light tactical vehicle Pinzgauer. Image: Thales


Three is better than one, right? That’s the basic idea missile developers had in mind when designing the Starstreak, a deadly man-portable air-defense system.

“Three darts give us the very high probability of at least one dart hitting the target and we would normally expect two darts to actually hit the target,” said Hill Wilson, the weapon’s technical director. “Three gives a very good punch.”

Manufactured by Thales Air Defense in Belfast, United Kingdom, the Starstreak accelerates towards targets at speeds faster than Mach four, making it one of the fastest short-range surface-to-air missiles in the world. It was developed in the 1980s to replace existing shoulder-launched missiles and officially entered service in 1997. Troops can fire the round from various portable launcher systems including the THOR Multi-Mission System as demonstrated in the following video.

(Skip to 5:30 to watch the portion about the Starstreak missile.)

Jason Miller, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the legendary .50-cal. actually kills you

There’s a reason that the M2 .50-caliber machine gun design has endured since John Browning first created it 100 years ago, in 1918: The mechanical reliability of the weapon and ballistics of the round are still exactly what a soldier needs to kill large numbers of people and light vehicles quickly at long range.

Here’s how it works and how it affects a human body.


Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

A mounted .50-cal. fires during an exercise in Germany in September 2018.

(U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Legros)

First, the M2 and its ammunition can be legally used to target enemy personnel, despite apersistent myth that states it can only be aimed at equipment. That said, it isn’t designed solely for anti-personnel use. An anti-personnel specific weapon usually has smaller rounds that are more likely to tumble when they strike human flesh.

See, there are three major effects from a metal round hitting flesh that are likely to cause severe injury or death. First, there’s the laceration and crushing from the round’s traversalthrough the flesh.

Then, there’s the cavitation,which has two parts. The first cavity is the permanent one:the open space left from the laceration discussed above. But there’s a second, temporary cavity. As the round travels through the body, it’s crushing the flesh and pushing it out of the way very quickly. That flesh maintains its momentum for a fraction of a second, billowing out from the path of the bullet. The flesh can tear and cells can burst as the tissue erupts outward and then slams back.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

In this GIF of ballistics gel taking a .50-cal. round, you can see all three effects. There’s the laceration and crushing immediately around the bullet, the huge cavity as the gel flies apart, and the shockwave from that expansion as it forces the gel to fly outwards before re-compressing. The cavitation and re-compression is so violent that you can see a small explosion in the first block from the compressing air.

Finally, there’s the shock wave. That temporary cavity discussed above? The flesh all around it is obviously compressed as the cavity expands, and that’s where the shock wave starts. The cavity pushes outward, compressing the flesh and the energy in the compressed flesh keeps traveling outward until it dissipates. This can also cause separations and tears. In extreme situations, it can even cause damage to nerve tissue, like the spinal cord and brain.

Typical rifle rounds generally aim to maximize the first two effects, laceration and crushing and cavitation. A relatively short, small round — 5.56mm or .223 caliber in the case of the M16 — travels very quickly to the target. When it hits, it quickly begins to yaw and then tumble, depositing all of its kinetic energy to create a large, temporary cavity. And the tumble of the round allows it to crush and cut a little more flesh than it would if flying straight.

But maximizing design for cavitation is maximizing for tumble, and that can make the round more susceptible to environmental effects in flight, making it less accurate at long range.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

A 5.56mm NATO round stands to the left of a .50-cal. sniper round.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lawrence Sena)

But Browning wanted the M2 to be accurate at long ranges, so he opted for a big, heavy round with a sharp tip. That’s great for flying long ranges and punching through the skin of a vehicle, but it can cause the bullet to punch right through human flesh without depositing much kinetic energy, meaning that it only damages the flesh directly in the path of the round.

But there’s a way to still get the round to cause lots of damage, even if it’s going to pass right through the enemy: maximizing its speed and size so that it still sends a lot of energy into the surrounding flesh, making a large cavity and creating a stunning shockwave. Basically, it doesn’t matter that the round only deposits a fraction of its energy if it has a ton of energy.

The M2 fires rounds at a lower muzzle velocity than the M16 and at similar speeds to the M4, but its round is much larger and heavier. The M33 ball ammo for the M2 weighs almost 46 grams, while the M16’s NATO standard 5.56mm round weighs less than 4 grams. That means, flying at the same speeds, the M2 .50-cal. has 11 times as much energy to impart.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

A Jordanian soldier fires the M2 .50-cal. machine gun during an exercise near Amman, Jordan in 2018.

(U.S. Army)

It also maintains more speed during flight. So, when the M33 round from the M2 hits a target, it does usually pass through with plenty of its kinetic energy left with the exiting round. But it still cuts a massive path through its target, doing plenty of damage from the first effect. And it compresses plenty of flesh around it as it forces its way through the target, creating a large permanent cavity and a still-impressive, temporary cavity.

But it really shines when it comes to shock wave damage. The M33 and other .50-cal. rounds have so much energy that even depositing a small fraction of it into the surrounding tissues can cause it to greatly compress and then expand. With a large round traveling at such high speeds, the shock wave can become large enough to cause neurological damage.

Russia’s standard-issue sniper rifle is over 50 years old

A soldier fires the M240B during an exercise. The M240B fires a 7.62mm round that carries more energy than a 5.56mm NATO rounds, but still much less than the .50-cal. machine gun. The amount of kinetic energy in a round is largely a product of its propellant and its mass.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Andrew Valenza)

Yeah, the target’s flesh deforms so quickly that the energy can compress nerves or displace them, shredding the connections between them and potentially causing a concussion.

And all of that is without the round hitting a bone, which instantly makes the whole problem much worse for the target. All rounds impart some of their energy to a bone if they strike it, but with smaller rounds, there’s not all that much energy. With a .50-cal, it can make the bone explode into multiple shards that are all flying with the speed of a low-velocity bullet.

The M2 can turn its target’s skeleton into a shotgun blast taking place inside their body. The harder the bone that takes the hit, the more energy is imparted to the skeleton before the bone breaks. On really hard bones, like the hip socket, the huge, fast-moving round can leave all or most of its energy in the bone and connected flesh.

This will basically liquefy the enemy it hits as the energy travels through the nearby muscles and the organs in the abdominal cavity. There’s really no way to survive a .50-cal. round if it hits a good, hard, well-connected bone. Not that your chances are much better if it hits anything but an extremity.

In fact, the .50-cal. hits with so much energy that it would likely kill you even if your body armor could stop it. The impact of the armor plate hitting your rib cage would be like taking a hit from Thor’s Hammer. That energy would still crush your organs and break apart your blood vessels and arteries, it would just allow your skin to keep most of the goop inside as you died. No laceration or cavitation, but so much crushing and shock wave that it wouldn’t matter.

So, try to avoid enemy .50-cal. rounds if you can, but rest confident in the effects on the enemy if you’re firing it at them. The ammo cans might be super heavy, but causing these kinds of effects at over a mile is often worth it.

There are a lot of vets sharing their stories of bodies hit by .50-cal. rounds on Quora, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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