Gigantic warships equipped with massive amounts of firepower, like Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Nimitz-class carriers, immediately spring to mind when we think “United States Navy.” But not every ship in service is a seafaring behemoth — in fact, cyclone vessels are quite small.
The smallest warships in U.S. Navy service are Cyclone-class patrol craft. The Navy acquired 14 of these ships for special operations work in the 1990s. These small vessels weigh roughly 288 tons, have a crew of 28 personnel, and can hold either nine SEALs or a six-man Coast Guard law-enforcement detachment.
Two Cyclones operate in a joint Navy-Coast Guard exercise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey)
These ships are roughly 178 feet long and have a top speed of 35 knots. They also pack a punch. Cyclones are equipped with two 25mm Bushmaster chain guns and a mix of M2 .50-caliber machine guns, 7.62mm machine guns, and Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers. The ships also can carry the FIM-92 Stinger for air defense.
In some cases, even these tiny ships are too big for special operations work. So for those select missions, Cyclones carry rigid-hull inflatable craft and two combat rubber raiding craft, operated with either a hydraulic lift or a stern ramp. To date, these ships have seen a good amount of action in the Persian Gulf and in the Caribbean.
USS Zephyr (PC 8) catches up to a drug-smuggling go-fast. While the Cyclone-class ships were intended to support special operations, they also can support the Coast Guard.
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
The Navy handed down the lead ship of the class, the former USS Cyclone (PC 1), to the Philippine Navy, where it’s still in active service. Five of these ships served with the Coast Guard for a few years before being returned to the Navy. These vessels are slated to be replaced by the Littoral Combat Ship in the near future.
Learn more about these small Navy vessels that prove that size doesn’t equal strength in the video below!
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the U.S. Air Force’s infamous trillion-dollar weapon system. So many millions were poured into making the airframe one of the stealthiest fighters on the planet, it might surprise aviation fans to know it comes with an option to totally kill its own stealth capabilities.
With every nook and cranny of this aircraft precisely engineered to make it invisible to enemy radar, it comes with these tiny bolts that are fashioned onto the top of its fuselage, ensuring every radar watcher and SAM battery knows exactly where it is.
There are actually a few great reasons for making the aircraft more visible to radar. The use of these devices, called Luneberg Reflectors, amplify the stealthy craft’s radar signature to make it visible because not every mission is a combat mission. Troops require training with their weapons and the F-35 and its pilots are no different. Just flying an invisible plane in an area close to air lanes used by aircraft from around the world would be an incredibly dangerous venture.
Think about Area 51 in the Nevada desert, the site where the Air Force tests its combat aircraft, is just over a hundred miles from Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport, where thousands of tourist flow in and out every day. Invisible airplanes would create a slow hell for the Air Traffic Controllers over those skies – and if you think U.S. pilots won’t do something crazy over a civilian area, I invite you to google “Sky Penis.”
An F-35B without reflectors.
So flying over friendly areas on non-combat missions would obviously be the first safety goal for such an aircraft. But a more military reason for keeping the F-35 visible is that the United States doesn’t want to give the enemy any practice in looking for the F-35 on their radar. If the Russians don’t know what it looks like on radar during peacetime, they won’t be prepared to track it during wartime – whether in Syria or Eastern Europe, where Russian anti-air capabilities are the same.
Getting a new ship into the water is, presumably, the most important part of building a seafaring vessel. But not all ships are created equal — some are simply massive. They all need to get in the water somehow… can’t we just toss that bad boy in there?
Yes. The answer is yes, we can.
Traditionally, shipbuilders construct a ship-launching slipway — this is, essentially, a ramp that will slide a ship of any size into the water at full force. There are four ways of going about this:
This is something many of us have seen before. A ship slides sideways into the water on a ramp. That ramp has either been made slick with oil or wax, uses steel rollers, or detaches with the ship and is later recovered. The oldest ship-launching method was powered by gravity and is known as longitudinal oiled slideway launching. It uses minimal equipment, but makes heavy use of oil, which can pollute the water.
…it’d be a whole lot cooler if you did.
Ships built in drydocks are typically launched this way. Using locks, the drydock is filled with water and the ship simply floats out when launched. This is a much less violent way of launching a ship than throwing it over the side of the dock, but it’s also way less cool. Think about that — you could just chuck the Disney Fantasy directly into the Caribbean…
At least the boat was launched, right?
Why throw a ship into the water when you can place it there, like a reasonable, civilized person? For those less interested in a cool launch and more interested in keeping their smaller craft from sinking, a mechanical assist is a great option. Large ships, of course, can’t just be picked up and slowly moved, so this method’s for the lesser vessels.
Keep in mind, however, that introducing any additional element to launching a ship opens more areas for potential chaos.
This method is the safest for any size ship. The newest form of launching, employed primarily by Asian shipbuilders, uses these hardcore rubber airbags to slowly put a new ship to sea. It’s a safe way for smaller shipyards that may not have access to a slideway to get crafts in the water.
Can the Army produce faster, stronger and smarter soldiers through electrical stimulation of the brain?
Neurostimulation is not actually a process the Army intends to use for creating “super soldiers.” However, Army researchers have been experimenting with it as a means to accelerate training.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive effects of neurostimulation in our lab,” said Dr. Tad Brunye, senior cognitive scientist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, known as NSRDEC, in Natick, Massachusetts. He heads up neurostimulation research there along with Dr. Erika Hussey.
Brunye and members of his staff were in the Pentagon courtyard May 23-24, 2018, during a Close Combat Lethality Tech Day.
Brunye has been experimenting with neurostimulation at Natick over the past four years and at the nearby Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences in Medford, Massachusetts. The center was created in 2015 through a partnership between the Army and the School of Engineering at Tufts University. It is co-directed by NSRDEC’s Cognitive Science and Applications Team along with Tufts faculty.
The center includes what Brunye calls “large virtual-reality caves.”
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
Volunteers at the center receive low-intensity electrical current through headphone-style stimulation systems or electrodes mounted on what looks like a bathing cap. Then their performance in the virtual-reality environment is measured. Neurostimulation has shown the following benefits:
— Increased ability to recognize suspected terrorists from a list of faces studied hours earlier during neurostimulation.
— Improved navigation performance, especially for individuals with lower spatial abilities. Soldiers in large-scale virtual urban environments did better moving between objectives during neurostimulation.
— Increased attention span. Attention might wane after 20 minutes when watching a security monitor and neurostimulation could increase that attention span to 20 hours.
— Enhanced motor skills, such as the standing broad jump, when a particular area of the brain is stimulated during practice.
“We want to make sure that we stimulate the right areas of the brain, at the right time, in the right individual, in a manner targeted to specific tasks that we need them to excel on,” Brunye said.
“The consumer market is exploding with do-it-yourself brain stimulation devices right now, and Soldiers are willing to try just about anything to enhance their mental and physical performance,” Brunye continued. “But we need to be sure that any commercial claims are supported by rigorous experimental science, and that the systems are being used only in appropriate and beneficial ways. Our science and technology efforts are helping ensure that is the case.”
Creating high performers
Soldiers from a variety of military occupational specialties volunteer to come to Natick immediately following their initial-entry training, Brunye said. They serve about three months at Natick before moving on to their first unit. These soldiers are used in the experiments, along with volunteers from local communities around Boston.
The volunteers feel just a tingling, itchy sensation on their scalp during the neurostimulation, he said.
“In terms of long-term impact, there are no known negative or adverse effects of neurostimulation,” he said.
Neurostimulation will help accelerate learning and can bring Soldiers up to a level of high performance quickly. “It will compensate for some of the variability we see” during learning, Brunye said.
The effects of neurostimulation, however, are less noticeable on those who are already high performers on a specific task, he said. In fact, neurostimulation can sometimes have a slightly detrimental effect on high performers. Those individuals already have a fine-tuned system for completing a task and neurostimulation will help them wire a new neuron highway for that task — one that may not be initially as effective, he explained.
(U.S. Army photo by Gary Sheftick)
The Army signed a five-year cooperative agreement with the Tufts School of Engineering almost four years ago and established the Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
“It’s a very unique reciprocal relationship we have with the university,” Brunye said.
The university provided the physical facility and infrastructure, such as the heating and cooling systems, networking, and computer hardware and software. Tufts also provided personnel for manning the facility and post-doctoral researchers to help run it.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center — part of the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command — provided everything else. The virtual reality programs all came from Natick.
About half of the participants in experiments at the center are soldiers, Brunye said.
The neurostimulation is provided via a wireless device. Much was learned from experiments that involved searching and clearing buildings over the last five months, he said. In these experiments, neurostimulation began about five minutes before a task and continued through the task, Brunye said.
The voltage varied from 7 to 18 volts, at very low amperage (usually between 1 and 2 milliamps). Direct current is the norm, but the lab is beginning to use alternating current to target more specific areas of the brain, he said.
Special ops interest
The Army’s Special Operations community is becoming more interested in neurostimulation, Brunye said.
Recently, Special Operations Command and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, have been experimenting with neurostimulation. They have been especially interested in developing motor skills and new procedures with weapons systems, Brunye said.
In addition to coordinating with RDECOM, the Natick team works closely with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command on neurostimulation to enhance training, Brunye said. They also work closely with the Air Force Research Laboratory and have partnered with them on a NATO exploratory team examining several techniques for cognitive neuroenhancement.
Other government partners in research include the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the Army Research Lab’s Human Research and Engineering Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has been conducting related brain-stimulation research called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT.
A precision strike missile was fired on April 30, 2020, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and hit a target 85 kilometers away. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army modernization officials want to field a new mid-range missile that can kill targets at triple the distance of the 500-kilometer-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). For context, that’s enough range to fire from Washington, D.C. and hit Florida.
The new surface-to-surface missile that the Army wants — which would be capable of operating between 500 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers, or 310 to 930 miles — could be positioned in strategic areas in the Pacific island chains to deter China, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), said in a recent service news release.
“What a dilemma that would create for our adversary,” Rafferty said. “How we would change the calculus in a second, if we could deliver this kind of capability out there.”
Modernization officials hope to introduce the new mid-range missile sometime in 2023, according to the release. The effort is currently a research project by the officials at the LRPF CFT, Field Artillery School, Fires Capability Development Integration Directorate, and Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The long-range precision fires effort is the Army’s top modernization priority and the focus of several strategic-range weapons programs.
The PrSM recently completed a successful April 30 test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The next phase of testing will include four shots, one to be fired out into the Pacific Ocean from the California coastline.
“We’ll go to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and we’ll test it out into the ocean and see how far it will go,” Rafferty said in the release.
If successful, the PrSM will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, compared to 300-kilometer, or 186-mile, range of the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) it will begin replacing in 2023.
The Army is also working with the Navy to develop and field a hypersonic missile battery by 2023. The joint-service effort successfully tested a common hypersonic glide vehicle across the Pacific in March. An Army unit is slated to start training on the system without the live rounds next year, according to the release.
But the project is not without controversy, Rafferty said in the release, adding its feasibility is being examined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“We’re going to get a fair evaluation,” he said. “They appreciate the operation and utility in our approach of a volume of fire with more affordable projectiles.”
Even if the system is not expected to be fielded soon, Rafferty said that science and technology projects such as strategic long-range cannon will ultimately help with deterrence.
“It’s not just moving units around and fielding systems,” he said in the release. “It’s also where our research and development is and where our science and technology investment is. So, we’re having an effect with our approach to this.”
The M16/M4 rifle platform, long the standard for the US Army and Marine Corps, could soon be set aside, as officials in both service branches are looking at new options for both weapons and ammunition.
Army researchers are reportedly looking at six different types of ammunition of “intermediate calibers,” according to Army Times.
Those calibers fall between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds and include the .260 Remington, the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .264 USA, as well as other variants that aren’t available commercially, Army officials told the Times.
The search for alternatives for both weapons and ammo comes in response to concerns with the 5.56 mm round and about the M16 and the M4, which has been continuously upgraded and modified since being first introduced in the 1960s.
The M16 and M4 and their variants continue to have problems with jamming, an issue the system has dealt with since its introduction. Improvements in body armor have lessened the lethality of the 5.56 round. Groups like ISIS have also made use of large rounds that outperform the US military’s ammo. (Russia is reportedly working on its own assault rifle using a 6.5 mm round.)
According to some research, Army firefights in Afghanistan, where the US has been engaged for more than 15 years, have mostly taken place at distances of more than 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet. At that range, the 5.56 mm round is far less lethal.
At least two studies presented to the US Army have pointed to rounds in the 6.5 mm to 7 mm range as better options.
“Right now the [M16/M4] platform we have is a workhorse and very effective in the hands of a trained soldier or Marine,” Maj. Jason Bohannon, the lethality branch chief at Fort Benning’s US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Army Times.
Going forward, Bohannon said, the Army wouldn’t be able to get more out of the platform and would likely look for a new one.
A report last month from the Marine Corps Times also indicates the Corps is looking to replace the M4 carried by almost every infantry rifleman with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 to replace the aging M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with one M27, carried by the automatic rifleman.
“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in April, saying M27s have been “the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons” carried by rifle squads.
Expanding the use of the M27 would be the most recent of several weapons changes.
In late 2015, Neller approved the move from the M16 to the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for Marine Corps infantry. About a year later, the Corps started testing the M27 infantry assault rifle, which offered a longer effective range, better firing, and more resistance to wear.
A senior Marine officer noted the M27’s rate of fire as a point of concern, suggesting the weapon, which carries 30 rounds and can be fired in full-automatic mode, could lend itself to ammo overuse. (Both the M4 and the M27 use the 5.56 mm round, and the US and NATO militaries have an abundance of that caliber stockpiled.)
One drawback to the M27 is the cost of the rifle, which is produced by German gunmaker Heckler Koch and runs about $3,000. The M4, built by Colt Defense and FN America costs less than $1,000.
Outfitting the 11,000 Marines — members of companies and fire teams, but not squad or platoon leaders — who would get the M27 under the new plan would cost roughly $33 million, though a Marine Corps official told the Marine Corps Times that cost was not a primary concern during the evaluation process, and the price may change as the Corps continues to inquire with weapons makers.
“I am considering it,” Neller told the Marine Corps Times of the possible change, “but we have to balance improved capabilities and increased lethality with cost.”
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.
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 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.
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.
The origin of the American sniper is vague, with reports dating back as early as the American Revolution. The first established peacetime sniper school within the U.S. military was the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper course in Quantico, Virginia, in 1977. The U.S. Army followed suit with their sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1985. Brotherly competition between the two branches is infamous and continuous, predating the establishment of peace time training for snipers.
As far as sniper legends go, the Marine Corps has Carlos Hathcock, aka White Feather, with 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Of the Viet Cong enemies he eliminated, several were known for their brutality — including a woman known as “Apache.” According to Military.com, “‘She tortured [a Marine she had captured] all afternoon, half the next day,’ Hathcock recalls. ‘I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire.’ Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.”
On the U.S. Army’s side is Adelbert Waldron, also a legendary Vietnam War sniper, with 109 confirmed kills. After serving 12 years in the U.S. Navy, Adelbert joined the Army, starting out as a buck sergeant and deployed to the Mekong Delta area. Major General Julian Ewell, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, recalled a story about Waldron’s eagle eye: “One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot.”
Coffee or Die spoke with both Army snipers and Marine Scout Snipers about their professional differences.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Editor in Chief, Logan Stark, started his career in the Marine Corps in May 2007. He spent four years in the service and deployed three times.
Stark passed sniper indoctrination and, later, the Scout Sniper course. He said the most difficult part of the school was the actual shooting. It wasn’t standardized, 1,000-yard shots on paper, but shots from 750 to 1,000 yards on steel. Their range was elevated, which made calculating wind calls for their shots more difficult.
“You get these swirling winds coming off of the mountains, mixing with the wind coming off of the ocean, which makes reading wind extremely difficult to do,” Stark said, adding that “suffer patiently and patiently suffer” was a saying they often clung to during training.
However, the difficult conditions are what helped them hone in on the skill set Marine Scout Snipers are expected to perfect — which is, according to Stark, being an individual who can rapidly and calmly process information and execute a decision off that assessment.
“That’s why I joined the Marine Corps, was to do stuff exactly like that,” he said. “There wasn’t a worst part — it was fun.”
While Stark never worked directly with Army snipers, he has learned through the sniper community that the major difference is “the reconnaissance element to the Marine Corps Scout Sniper program. We’re meant to be an independent unit with four guys going out on their own without any direct support.”
Phillip Velayo spent 10 and a half years in a Marine Corps Scout Sniper platoon. He passed the Scout Sniper course on his second attempt and was an instructor from 2015 to 2018. Velayo now works as the training director for Gunwerks Long Range University.
Velayo has worked with Army snipers in the past and from talking with them, he learned that the Army’s sniper school is shorter — five weeks — compared to the Marine Corps’ school, which includes a three-week indoctrination course in addition to the 79-day Scout Sniper basic course. He added that he believes Army snipers place more emphasis on marksmanship than on mission planning because the Army has designated scouts, whereas Marine Corps snipers are responsible for shooting and scouting.
Velayo presented an example: If you take a blank-slate Marine and put him through Scout Sniper school and do the same with a soldier on the Army side, he said, “I mean, you’re splitting nails at that point, but honestly, I’m going to give it to the Marine side that we hold a higher standard to marksmanship than Army guys.”
Brady Cervantes spent the better part of a decade, starting back in 2006, with the Marine Corps as a Scout Sniper, and deployed four times. Cervantes passed the Scout Sniper school on his second attempt after his first try was cut short due to family matters that pulled him out of class.
“One thing I do respect about the Army is that they have certain calibers of curriculum that we may not,” Cervantes said, regarding differences between the two sniper schools, adding that the Army possibly goes into more depth as far as mission focus for a sniper. However, he said that he believes the Marine Corps maintains the highest standard within the military’s sniper community.
Cervantes said that if you take any Marine Scout Sniper and place them in a different sniper section, their shooter-spotter dialogue is uniform so they can function seamlessly as a team. In Cervantes’ experience overseas, the Army sniper teams he was around didn’t appear to have a clear-cut dialogue between their shooters and spotters.
But at the end of the day, Cervantes said, “if you’re a brother of the bolt, you have my respect.”
Ted Giunta served in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 2003 to 2009, transferring to the sniper platoon in 2006. He deployed four times as a sniper, three of those as the sniper section leader. Since leaving the military, he has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically pertaining to nuclear transportation. He is one of the two long-gun trainers for his entire agency.
Giunta attended the U.S. Army Special Operation Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). He believes that the Marine Scout Sniper program and the Army Sniper program are similar in how they train and evaluate their candidates. SOTIC, on the other hand, was a “gentleman’s course,” where they weren’t smoked or beaten down but evaluated on whether they could do the job or not.
Giunta said comparing Marine Scout Snipers to 75th Ranger Regiment snipers comes down to the level of financing for the unit. Because his unit and their mission set was Tier 2 and often worked with Tier 1 units, they had better access to training and equipment, which gives them the edge over Marine Scout Snipers. Giunta said the work as a sniper is an art form, and no matter what branch you are in, you make it your life.
Andrew Wiscombe served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2010, deploying to forward operating base (FOB) Mamuhdiyah, Iraq, from 2008 to 2009 as part of the scout sniper team.
Wiscombe said that Army snipers who belong to a dedicated sniper/recon section are comparable to Marine Scout Snipers. As far as a soldier who goes through the basic sniper school and then returns to an infantry line unit where they aren’t continually using their skills, they won’t be on the same level, he said.
The biggest difference Wiscombe is aware of relates to how they calculate shooting formulas. “I know we use meters and they use yards, so formulas will be slightly different,” he said. “The banter may be different, but the fundamentals remain the same for any sniper. At the end of the day, there is some inter-service rivalry fun and jokes, but I saw nothing but mutual respect for very proficient shooters and spotters all around.”
Jaime Koopman spent eight years in an Army sniper section, from 2008 to 2016. He has worked with Marine Scout Snipers several times in a sniper capacity; he also had two Marine Scout Sniper veterans in his section after they switched over to the Army. Koopman worked alongside the Marine Scout Sniper veterans as well as others while competing in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) International Sniper Competition.
Koopman’s experience with Marine Scout Snipers showed him that their training is a little different from Army snipers, but it’s comparable. “The Marine Corps Scout Sniper is an MOS for them, so the school is longer, affording them the opportunity to dive a little deeper in each subject area,” he said, “whereas an Army sniper is expected to gain the deeper knowledge outside the school house with his section.”
As far as the most recent standings from the 2019 USASOC International Sniper Competition, first and second place positions were held by U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) teams while third place was claimed by a Marine Scout Sniper team. The 2020 competition has been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Okay, when you first saw the headline, you were probably wondering how the heck a howitzer can be a sniper rifle. Sniper rifles are precision instruments, designed to dish out extremely concentrated hurt while howitzers are meant to do big damage — it seems like a contradiction, right? Wrong.
With the right ammo, there’s a howitzer out capable of being a giant sniper rifle with an extremely long reach. How long? Try 22 miles.
The M777 Ultralight Field Howitzer is a towed 155-millimeter gun that’s been in service since 2005 and is capable of hitting targets from remarkable distances. Over the last decade, it’s been slowly replacing the M198 towed 155-millimeter howitzer.
But here’s where the M77 has the M198 beat: It weighs in at just 8,256 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com. That might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing next to the 15,792 pounds of the M198. That’s a nearly 50 percent reduction in weight, making the M777 a superb option for units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the Marines.
Marines fire a M777 howitzer at 29 Palms to prepare for the real thing.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Jose E. Guillen)
Now, to achieve that 22-mile reach and sniper-rifle accuracy, the shell of choice is the M982 Excalibur round. This GPS-guided round can hit within about 30 feet of the aim point — a level of precision that’s proved extremely useful.
Australian troops fire their M777 to support Marines during a training mission.
(USMC photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)
In 2012, the Marines manning a M777 howitzer received word that some Taliban were up to no good. So, the artillery crew fired a round from their base, which was in Helmand Province, and hit the Taliban who were in Musa Qala. The Taliban were accurately dispatched from miles away before any of their plans could take root.
Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer.
(US Army photo by Specialist Evan D. Marcy)
The M777 is currently in service with the United States Army and United States Marine Corps. Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and India have all bought this cannon as well.
Learn more about this over-sized sniper rifle in the video below!
Richard Rice did two tours in the Vietnam War and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. And in 2017, he went back to Vietnam for the first time since “Vietnam.”
In this episode, Rich visits the Maison Centrale in Hanoi aka “The Hanoi Hilton.”
I could feel Rich going back in time – planning how his MACV-SOG team could rescue the POW’s trapped behind these walls some 45 years ago.
The approach was beautiful. Wide sidewalks around a lake with a floating ancient temple, past a white tulip garden down a tree-lined street full of Sunday revelers and coffee shops and the excitement of abandon. It felt like Paris.
We turned a corner and then became now deep in our guts and the prison doors were wide open, the scrolled Maison Centrale almost luring us in. We’d been all over Vietnam to date, retracing so many of Rich’s steps of yesteryears and yet here, in this moment, his tension was my tension and we felt trapped. We were just standing there on a sidewalk in front of the Hanoi Hilton beneath the high-rises and the rooftop bars, surrounded by the din of motorbikes and indifference.
There’s nowhere to go, really, if you just want to stand there and feel what it feels like to remember something you wish you could have done, but never did. Five minutes, ten minutes, I can’t remember. But there we stayed. I had a few beers in my ruck and we cracked them open and began another journey back to 2018.
Rich looked around and said, “You know, I’m gonna chalk this up to an impossible mission. I would have happily volunteered to try to get our guys out, but this is impossible.” And he shook his head once and took a deep breath and his consolation prize was seeing it with his own two eyes.
It’s the only time I’ve ever heard him say the word impossible.
We raised a toast to those who had sacrificed so much inside those walls, and beyond.
The doors were still open but we didn’t want to go in, but we didn’t want to leave. We took a few pictures, Rich said he couldn’t believe he was standing in front of the Hanoi Hilton, drinking a beer. “Of all the things I ever thought I’d do in life, I never thought I’d be doing this. This is crazy.”
And then there was a family next to us and their young boy, whose shirt said “If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on,” and he kept making peace signs and goofy faces, just like my son does back home. How do you not laugh?
The mom said with a big smile, “Are you from America?” Rich said, “Yes ma’am we are. Are you from here?”
“Yes, Hanoi,” she said, pointing to the ground we were standing on.
So many worlds collided in that moment, and all of them were better for it. It was never and will never be the time to forget, but it was time to move on, to close a circle. A couple pictures with our new friends, one final toast to the fallen, and we were on our way.
A few years back, Rich and I had an immediate connection because we both served in Special Forces. But we became friends as we experienced Vietnam together – the kind of friends you can count on one hand how many you’ll have in your whole life, if you’re lucky.
He did two tours in the war and went on to have the kind of 30 year career in Special Forces that spanned every major conflict and mission of his generation. A lot of people would call him a hero, a warrior, an American badass, the list goes on.
But all he ever wanted to do was serve America honorably, and earn the respect of the men to his left and right. And he describes himself as lucky to be alive, and then he smiles and says nobody owes him a damn thing. So if you meet him, just call him Rich.
No one wants to be labelled a “geardo.” They’re the person in the unit that spends way too much money to buy themselves things that are either not authorized for wear with the uniform or are redundant because the issued version is just as good.
It’s not inherently a bad thing to make yourself more prepared for combat, it’s more that people who buy extra crap are wasting their money to tack on useless crap that will do nothing but slow them down. Being fully decked out in mostly useless gear is also a telltale sign that the person has no idea what is actually used in combat — meaning they’re probably a POG.
All that being said, some of the crap they buy isn’t without merit. Sometimes, buying your own version of gear, something that was designed by someone other than the lowest bidder, helps plenty. The following pieces of gear are popular among geardos, but are actually useful.
If you’re on a boring field op that you know won’t require you to fire your weapon, having a muzzle cap will make it so you can just immediately turn your weapon into the armorer, no problem.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
A dumb geardo buys anything to look cool. Smart geardos, however, buy things that actually serve a tangible purpose. Take the muzzle cap, for instance. It costs all of seven bucks for a pack of five and it’s literally just a piece of plastic.
That insignificant-seeming muzzle cover makes sure that dust and sand don’t get inside your barrel. Typically, grunts clean their rifles more often than POGs, but making sure that you’re spending time cleaning just carbon out of the chamber instead of all the rest of the gunk makes life so much easier.
They also make great unit shirts that everyone will actually want to wear… just saying.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Carlos J. Treviño)
If you’re sent to the desert, you’re going to sweat every minute of the day. Standard-issue undershirts are made of heavy cotton, which means they’re heavier, thicker, and hold all that nasty sweat.
Most Army regulations state the undershirt of your ACU top needs to be the same, “coyote tan” color. Thankfully, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the regulations and there are plenty of third-party options to pick from.
They’re helpful, once you learn how to put the damn thing on.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Cayce Nevers)
Three-point rifle slings
When you’re deployed, you constantly need to have your assigned weapon on your person, POG or grunt. The single-strap sling that you’re given can get caught when you’re trying to get to the low-ready. The three-point sling makes things a lot more ergonomic and less of a hassle.
And then there’s the overly cool one-point slings that just tie around the buttstock. You’re going to drag your rifle through the dirt and mud with that thing — that’s entirely a geardo buy.
You seriously don’t want to ever overdo it. Ounces make pounds, after all.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
Store-bought magazine pouches
One of the defining traits of a geardo is the number of pouches they have on their kit or rucksack. As long as you don’t have more than your standard six plus one magazine pouches, no one will accuse you of being a Fobbit.
But if you swap out the six that the Army gave you with the store-bought varieties, you can use the extra magazine pouches to hold all the other crap, like those AAFES pogs that replaced coins. The M249 SAW drum pouch is actually extremely useful because it’s about the same size as a folded-up poncho.
Whatever it takes to make you not go deaf.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kitt Amaritnant)
High-speed ear pro
Tinnitus is a very serious problem. It’s a constant ringing in your ears that lasts for the rest of your life, and it seems to hit the military community in far greater numbers than the civilian world — for obvious reasons. It’s actually the number one disability among U.S. veterans.
The ear pro that your supply NCO tosses out barely works and is a pain in the ass to put in properly. If going out of your way to buy a good set of ear protection gets you to actually use them and not screw up your hearing, it’s a hundred-percent justified.
Once you make the switch, it’s kinda hard to go back to regular boots.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)
Barely authorized boots
If there’s one piece of military gear that the Army keeps issuing out despite being complete garbage, it’s got to be the general-issue boots. They rip easily, they have no arch or heel support, and the soles wear out extremely quickly.
As long as you can find a pair that is within regulations for your branch and your command doesn’t seem to mind if you supply your own, these are a must.
To observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing took 3 F-15 Eagles and gave them incredible paint jobs, reminiscent of the colorful and squadron-specific adornments featured on American fighters during the Second World War.
One jet from each of the 48th’s fast mover units — the 492d, the 493d, and the 494th Fighter Squadrons — was briefly pulled from service to be spruced up with a custom color scheme selected by members of the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.
Both the 492d “Madhatters” and the 494th “Panthers” fly F-15E Strike Eagles, the Air Force’s premier all-weather multirole strike fighter, while the 493d “Grim Reapers” flies the F-15C/D Eagle.
An F-15E Strike Eagle of the 492d Fighter Squadron in WWII paint (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The first jet to receive the planned makeover is a Strike Eagle of the 492d, painted with “invasion stripes” used to distinguish friendly Allied from enemy Axis aircraft, a red checkerboard pattern on the nose similar to those found on WWII-era P-47 Thunderbolts, as well as a Statue of Liberty on the vertical stabilizers.
According to Stars Stripes, the repaint operation on a single F-15 took 640 man hours, spread between 10 airmen, and required just around ,000 worth of supplies to complete.
The 48th Fighter Wing is one of a number of modern American fighter units which can trace its lineage back to the Second World War. Back during the 1940s, the unit was officially designated the 48th Fighter Group, and its subordinate squadrons played an important part in Operation Overlord.
The repainted 492d F-15E parked next to a P-47 with its period-accurate WWII scheme (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
On June 6, 1944, the 48th’s three squadrons of P-47s took to the skies above Normandy, France as part of a larger flight of hundreds upon hundreds of other Allied combat aircraft. In the blistering aerial campaign that ensued, the 48th’s pilots flew over 2000 sorties, attacking scores of German military targets in support of the ground invasion force.
By the end of the invasion, the 48th had expended almost 500 tons of bombs, destroying German supply routes including bridges and rail lines, gun and artillery emplacements, and hardened German infantry positions.
The P-47s, popularly known as “Jugs” because they looked similar to a milk jug at the time, were fearsome fighter-bombers in their heyday. The Eagles and Strike Eagles that the 48th flies today would be just as worthy of carrying the same markings as their predecessors, serving as some of the most advanced and deadliest military aircraft in existence today.
The repainted F-15s will be just one of many upcoming segments the 48th will use to commemorate D-Day, which historians unequivocally agree was the turning point in the European Theater during WWII.
The Army’s recent order of a four-bore rifle prototype made some waves. It’s a pretty exciting piece of technology, but if it gets picked up, it won’t be the first four-barrel weapon that American troops have fielded. And while this new prototype rifle fires 6mm rounds at an impressive rate, the older system packed a bigger wallop.
This older four-barrel system wasn’t a rifle, however, it was a rocket launcher called the M202 FLASH. “FLASH,” in this case, stood for FLame Assault SHoulder weapon. It packed four 66-millimeter M74 rockets that were held together by a clip.
As the full name of the rocket launcher suggests, the rockets were equipped with incendiary warheads. It replaced the traditional flamethrowers that had seen a lot of action in World War II, much to the relief of the grunts who once carried them.
Traditional flamethrowers, like this M2 being used in the Pacific Theater, were effective, but had a lot of drawbacks.
Traditional flamethrowers were backpack-mounted. The canisters on their backs were filled with what was, essentially, jellied gasoline. To make matters worse for the GI carrying a large, flammable target on their back, they had to get within 47 yards of the enemy to use a traditional flamethrower.
While flamethrowers were devastating to enemy positions and extremely effective at clearing terrain, the guy who carried it on his back was in danger of becoming a very crispy critter should his flamethrower get hit. And there’s no hiding who’s carrying a flamethrower. This made the specially-trained operators a target.
The M202 entered service in 1978 and has seen action in the Global War on Terror.
The M202A1 eliminated a lot of those drawbacks. Any number of grunts could be trained to use the system. The weapon is still distinctive but, according to U.S. Army Training Circular 23-2, it has a maximum range of just over 800 yards. While you’re not always going to be firing from maximum range, it’s a lot better than being within a stone’s throw.
Each of the M74 rockets fired by the M202 packed about 1.3 pounds of what the Army called a “thickened pyrophoric agent,” called triethylaluminum. This burned at temperatures of up to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, similar to white phosphorus (“Willie Pete”).
The M202 has been obscured — largely because it had its share of hiccups. Still, it’s seen some action in the War on Terror — and in a few of our favorite movies and games. The M202 made an appearance in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Capcom’s Resident Evil, and Overkill Software’s Payday 2.