The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking to upgrade its fleet of AH/MH-6 Little Bird helicopters.
Operated by the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), also known as the “Night Stalkers,” the AH-6 (attack) and MH-6 (assault/transport) Little Bird helicopters have been a staple special operations rotary-winged platform since the 1980s. Working closely with the special mission units of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Night Stalkers have flown Little Birds into combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, among other places.
But the consecutive deployments of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have taken a toll on the AH/MH-6 Little Bird fleet. And now SOCOM wants to polish it.
According to a government’s acquisition site, SOCOM is looking for offers to replace the special operations helicopters’ Light Weight Plank Systems (LWPS). The contract will fall under the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity category—meaning that the number of LWPS is up in the air—and can last to up to eight years.
This is the latest update for the Little Bird fleet. A couple of years ago, SOCOM awarded a contract to Boeing for an indefinite number of Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) kits for both versions of the Little Bird. The MELB kits include an improved six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor, enhanced tail boom and rotor drive system, upgraded tail stinger, chambered vertical fin, landing gear, and doors.
The 160th SOAR is comprised of four battalions and operates three rotary-wing platforms, for a total of around 140 aircraft.
The AH/MH-6 Little Birds provide attack, assault, and transport options. These are the helicopters that will drop a Delta Force team on top of a target building or provide close air support on target to a SEAL Team 6 group.
The MH-60 Black Hawk offers medium-lift capabilities. These are the helicopters that will carry. An updated stealth version of the MH-60 Black Hawk participated in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-60 Direct Attack Penetration (DAP) Black Hawk, a gun platform that packs some serious firepower and can take heavily fortified targets on its own.
Finally, the MH-47 Chinook presents heavy-life capabilities. This special operations version of the venerable Chinook is the workhorse of the Night Stalkers. It’s mainly used for long-range insertions of special operations elements, such as a Ranger platoon or a Special Forces operational detachment and its partner force.
Looking almost like an oversized pistol, the Heckler Koch MP7 is a cross between a submachine gun and a carbine that serves around the world in the hands of law enforcement and special operations units.
In the late 1980s, NATO developed requirements for a next-generation personal defense weapon that would be more effective against body armor than current pistol-caliber PDWs. While submachine guns based on the .45 ACP or 9mm deliver plenty of stopping power against unarmored targets, the growing availability of capable and affordable body armor meant that something new was needed.
SEAL Team 6 operators in Afghanistan armed with a mix of MP7s and HK416 rifles. (Photo from imgur)
So German gunmaker Heckler Koch developed the MP7 to meet these NATO requirements and it has served across the world since entering full production in 2001.
Some of the most commonly-spotted submachine guns in the hands of law enforcement and other professionals are the MP5 and its successor, the UMP. These guns typify the classic submachine gun, being automatic weapons chambered for pistol cartridges.
The MP7, however, is chambered for the 4.6x30mm cartridge. The steel core 4.6x30mm was developed specifically to be a lightweight pistol-ish round delivering the penetration more like a rifle cartridge. The smaller, lighter round means that more ammunition can be carried and that it has a minimal recoil even in full-automatic shooting.
The 4.6mm cartridge was developed by HK for the MP7 and its companion sidearm, the UCP pistol. The UCP never got past the prototype stage, but the 4.6x30mm has definitely made its mark in the MP7.
The MP7, currently being produced as updated models MP7A1 and MP7A2, weighs less than 5 pounds with a loaded magazine and is only 25-inches long with its adjustable stock fully extended. The barrel is 7.1 inches long and the magazine feeds into the pistol grip, creating a compact, easy to handle package.
The action is a gas-operated short stroke piston like that of HK’s HK416 rifle and is rated at 950 rounds per minute. A folding forward vertical grip comes standard on the MP7, though this has been replaced on the new MP7A2 model with a standard lower rail which allows the user to easily install any grip if desired. A full-length top rail comes with removable folding sights and permits the mounting of any standard optic or other accessory, and side rails can be easily added for additional mounting options.
The 4.6x30mm ammunition means that magazine size is decreased compared to those holding traditional cartridges. A 40-round MP7 magazine is comparable in size to 30-round 9mm magazine like the ones in the MP5. This means more firepower ready for action and fewer mag changes, both of which can easily spell the difference between success or failure in life and death situations.
The MP7 utilizes a great deal of polymer in its construction, and the weapon’s light weight, ergonomics, and physical size allow it to be fired accurately with one hand. When the stock is extended and the forward grip used, it suddenly becomes a mini carbine with performance similar to full-sized guns as long at the range stays below 200 meters or so.
Military special forces utilize the MP7 much like they have used submachine guns for decades. Smaller, lighter weapons that can provide automatic fire are invaluable for close-quarters combat and the 4.6x30mm’s armor-piercing capability make the MP7 a natural choice for elite units needing compact firepower. The weapon’s design and tactical rails mean that the gun can be easily upgraded as needed with off the shelf accessories. Additionally, the MP7 is suppressor-ready, adding another level of utility to an already-capable gun for special operations use.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team 6, is one of the most famous units that employ the MP7 in the special operations community. Many details of their equipment became known after the 2011 mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and the MP7 was said to have been chosen by some of the raid’s members.
Pistols will remain common sidearms for as long as sidearms are needed. And while standard submachine guns using pistol ammunition will continue to serve a vital role for years to come and carbine-configuration assault rifles will remain the standard infantry weapon in militaries for the foreseeable future, the HK MP7 and other weapons like it will fill a crucial middle ground for those looking for the best of all worlds.
China claims that its advanced strike fighter now has “near stealth” capabilities.
The Shenyang J-16 twin-engine, twin-seat multi-role fighter has reportedly been upgraded with radar-absorbent paint, also known as ferromagnetic paint.
“The silver-gray painting covering the J-16 is a kind of cloaking coating that gives the warplane a certain stealth capability, making it nearly invisible to the naked eye and electromagnetic devices,” the official Global Times reported, citing a recent interview with Chinese aviation brigade commander Jiang Jiaji conducted by state broadcaster CCTV.
The aircraft is a modified version of the J-11, which is a carbon copy of Russia’s Su-27. It was designed for maneuverability, not stealth. Chinese military expert Fu Qianshao told the Global Times that the new paint job reduces the plane’s radar cross-section, making detection less likely. “The enemy will only recognize it at close range, giving it a huge advantage in combat,” Chinese media reported.
A Russia Sukhoi Su-27.
The J-16, a heavily-armed offensive companion for China’s J-20 stealth air superiority fighter, is said to be capable of carrying eight tons of weapons, including guided smart bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and even anti-ship missiles. China is also reportedly developing an electronic attack variant.
While Chinese military officers argue that the radar-absorbent paint makes the fighter “nearly invisible,” this is likely an exaggeration of the coating’s capabilities.
The US Air Force has been applying ferromagnetic paint to F-16s for decades, according to The National Interest. In 2012, the F-16s received new coats of paint similar to that of the stealthy F-35, the Aviationist reported at that time. Even with the upgrade, the F-16s have a radar cross-section of 1.2 square meters, much larger than the impressive 0.005 square meters of the F-22 and F-35.
No amount of radar-absorbent paint, TNI notes, can make up for the shape of the aircraft, which are not designed to significantly reflect radar waves. Despite improvements, the F-16 continues to be labeled a “fourth-generation aircraft,” with no mention of stealth capabilities. The same is likely true of China’s J-16, although the stealth paint may dampen part of the radar return making it relatively harder to pick up on radar.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
The J-16 advances China’s ability to conduct offensive strikes. “In the past the PLA Air Force’s combat division has been characterised more as a defensive arm, with limited range and offensive capabilities, confined mainly to its immediate region and territory,” Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, told the South China Morning Post.
The aircraft is expected to play a role in an armed conflict over Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing views as a renegade province.
Chinese military analysts explained to Chinese media that the J-16 could carry out a devastating assault against surface targets after the J-20 cleared away an enemy’s air defenses. It is unclear whether China actually has the ability to conduct such operations, as both aircraft are relatively new.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Elon Musk’s plan to station thousands of satellites above the Earth is already starting to annoy astronomers.
Starlink is the project launched by Elon Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX which aims to put up to 42,000 satellites in orbit with the aim of bringing high-speed internet to even the most remote corners of the globe.
Though only 120 of the satellites are up and running, they’re already wreaking havoc with astronomical research.
The brightness of the satellites mean that when they cross a piece of sky being watched by a telescope, they leave bright streaks that obscure stars and other celestial objects.
Last week astronomer Clarae Martínez-Vázquez of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile tweeted that 19 Starlink satellites crossed the sky and disrupted the work of the observatory because they were so bright they affected its exposure. “Rather depressing… This is not cool,” she added.
Dr Dave Clements of Imperial College London told Business Insider that SpaceX is applying a typically Silicon Valley approach to Starlink, rushing it through without fully thinking through the consequences.
“I’m very concerned about the impact of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation on all aspects of astronomy,” he said.
“Move fast and break things might be workable when you’re breaking a competitor’s business model or the outdated assumptions of an industry, but in this case Musk is breaking the night sky for personal profit. That is unacceptable, and is not something you can fix when you’re out of beta. The launches should stop until a solution is agreed with astronomers, professional and amateur.”
Clements added that the Starlink satellites also interfere with radio astronomy.
“They transmit in bands used by radio astronomers, especially at high frequencies. While these bands are used by other transmitters on the ground, we cope with that by having radio silent preserves around the telescopes. This won’t work when the Sky is full of bright satellite transmitters so Musk might be ruining several kinds of astronomy at once,” he said.
View of Starlink satellites.
Researchers working on a new state-of-the-art observatory due to open next year told the Guardian that private satellites launched by SpaceX, Amazon, and other private firms threaten to jeopardise their work.
Astronomers at the yet-to-open Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) ran simulations which suggested the vast majority of images taken by the telescope could be ruined by bright private satellites passing by.
The disruption caused by Starlink has not come as a surprise to the scientific community.
When SpaceX launched its last batch of 60 satellites earlier this month James Lowenthal, Professor of Astronomy at Smith College told the New York Times the project could majorly complicate astronomical research. “It potentially threatens the science of astronomy itself,” he said.
SpaceX was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
India hasn’t been given a lot of credit as a military power. Given that Mahatma Ghandi is highly revered for his advocacy of non-violence, it seems ironic that India has quietly become a significant military power in Asia. This is evidenced best by the Indian Air Force. When it comes to air-power, India is hard to beat.
Part of what makes India a formidable airborne combatant is that it operates such a wide variety of aircraft. FlightGlobal.com notes that seven multi-role fighters are in service with the Indian Air Force and at least two other systems are on order. These aircraft range from the venerable MiG-21 Fishbed (which India has modified into an effective fighter) to the ultra-modern Sukhoi Su-30MKI Flanker and the indigenously designed Tejas (formerly known as the Light Combat Aircraft). The force totals over 800 fighters.
But there’s more to an air force than just fighters. India also sports a lot of transports, ranging from the relatively small An-32s to the powerful C-17 Globemasters — and these are just two of the six transport types in service. Additionally, India has a grand total of seven Il-78 Midas aerial refueling planes and two Airbus A330-based tankers on order.
Staffing such a force requires a talented crew, and you can’t have that without trainers. India has over 300 trainers, from British-designed Hawk 132s to India’s own HJT-16 Kiran. The country also has two-seat versions of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 to help train pilots for the vast force of fighters.
The Indian Air Force also has a lot of helicopters. Many are Mi-8 or Mi-17 “Hip” transports, joined by home-built Dhruvs. A small force of Mi-24 Hinds are in service, and the country has ordered some of the latest AH-64 Apaches, but the bulk of the attack helicopters are from the country’s Light Combat Helicopter program.
In short, if a country wants to attack India, it’s got one heck of a fight coming.
There’s no shortage of media featuring the good, bad, and ugly aspects of life at war or in the military. In fact, as we come out of the biopic zeitgeist and set our sights toward the digital era, the number of films, television shows, movies, and other forms of content featuring these elements is only growing. But not all depictions of combat are created equal.
It’s easier to make a film about war than it is to stay true to its source — so, which movies treat its combat with the most respect and realism? We asked some veterans, and here’s what they had to say.
While Christopher Nolan didn’t take home the 2018 Oscar for this particular war blockbuster, “Dunkirk” has gained universal acclaim as one of the best World War II films to date. It tells the story of trapped British and French forces attempting to evacuate a war-torn beach in May 1940, while German forces closed in. The clean-shaven soldiers may not be a testament to the details, but “Dunkirk” thrives on its atmosphere and closed cinema, which is used to communicate the overall gravity of the battle.
“‘Dunkirk’ succeeds in recreating the plight of tending to your fellow soldier while being under constant threat of bombardment,” said Tan Vega, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. With gritty visuals and stellar performances, the film uses tight angles and extreme close-ups to create and emanate panic, desperation, and fear to its audience. In moments of true cinema, we can examine the bonds forged between the troops, as well as the intense pressure they’re under to survive.
With Empire Magazine lauding the Omaha Beach landing as “the best battle sequence of all time,” this entry should come as no surprise. “Saving Private Ryan” uses its artistic license to enrich its characters and depict realistic events of war in a way that had never been done before. The movie focuses on the personal journey of a few soldiers venturing behind enemy lines to save fellow soldier Private James Ryan.
“The most realistic thing about ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is nothing is off the table,” said Gay Dimars, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “The water’s bloody, the soldiers are nauseous, and as an audience, we’re there with them.” However, Steven Spielberg did sacrifice historic authenticity in favor of dramatic effect — the film’s climax is strewn with inaccuracies, but with top-notch performances depicting the effect of war and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the film solidifies its place among the best war movies ever made.
Platoon 1986 Final battle scene with Charlie Sheen
“Platoon” is the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War. The script capitalizes on Oliver Stone’s experiences in various combat units to expertly depict the severity of combat as well as the rippling effects of war. As such, the toughest critiques of the movie come from Stone’s former platoonmates, some of whom say they felt too exposed after the film’s release. “Platoon” was shot on location in the Philippines and utilizes long lenses, careful lighting, and talented actors to craft the atmosphere of the Vietnam War and inform the audience of the confusion, psychological trauma, and deep-seated violence Vietnam veterans endured.
Black Hawk Down Battle Scenes 2001 NO FINAL BATTLE
The film “Black Hawk Down” has faced criticism for wavering from the highly accurate book upon which it was based. “The combat is realistic, but many details miss the mark,” said Sharm Ali, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “What it does really well is explain how a noble cause could go south really quickly.”
“Black Hawk Down” tells the story of the Battle of Mogadishu, during which U.S. service members were sent to kill or capture Somalia’s key warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, in a broader effort to stabilize a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. However, Somali forces shot down their helicopters and effectively trapped them on the streets of the foreign country, forcing them to fight their way out. The film is most impressive in its depiction of the harsh realities of urban combat that soldiers were forced to endure during the Somali conflict, and was notable in that it lifted the curtain on the types of operations the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) were conducting at the time.
The U.S. Air Force no longer wants to kick the can down the road on aging aircraft that may not be suitable for a fight against a near-peer adversary such as China or Russia.
More resources should be spent on state-of-the-art programs instead of sustaining old weapons and aircraft, multiple service officials said Sep 4, 2019, during the 2019 Defense News Conference.
“We have to divest some of the old to get to the new,” Lt. Gen. Timothy Fay, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, told audiences during a panel on Air Force program prioritization.
Fay said the service is prioritizing four major areas that its aircraft fleets will need to meet: multi-domain command and control, space, generated combat power, and logistics under attack.
A B-1B Lancer takes off March 3, 2015, during Red Flag 15-2 at Nellis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler)
As the Air Force drafts its upcoming budget request, it will keep those focuses in mind, he said. “We think those four areas move the needle,” he explained.
Earlier in the conference, Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been open to “divesting of legacy capabilities that simply aren’t suited” for future battlefields.
“His guidance states that, ‘No reform is too small, too bold or too controversial to be considered,'” Donovan said. “The Air Force is leading the way with bold, and likely controversial, changes to our future budget. We need to shift funding and allegiance from legacy programs we can no longer afford due to their incompatibility with the future battlefields and [instead] into the capabilities and systems … required for victory. There’s no way around it.”
Following Donovan’s remarks, aviation geek enthusiasts posting on social media wondered: Does that mean getting rid of the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft?
A-10 Thunderbolt II.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“Short answer, no,” Fay said.
The beloved ground-support Warthog has had its ups and downs in recent years: The conversation to retire the aircraft began in 2014 by top brass who said the Warthog might not be survivable in a future fight. But in 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the A-10’s retirement would be delayed until 2022 after lawmakers complained that eliminating it would deprive the military of a “valuable and effective” close-air-support aircraft.
More congressional pushback followed to keep the A-10 flying for as long as possible. In July 2019, Boeing Co. won a 9 million contract to re-wing up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and provide up to 15 wing kits.
That doesn’t mean sustaining older platforms isn’t taking a toll on the Air Force, Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said Sep. 4, 2019.
“It’s been shocking to me how much hard work the Air Force puts into sustainment programs,” he said during the Air Force panel. “A lot of our programs are in sustainment long past the original design life … and we’re having to do Herculean tasks to keep airplanes flying that should have been retired a long time ago.”
If the Air Force continues to keep less-than-capable fleets that won’t survive a contested environment, it will not have adequate resources to devote to new programs, he said.
“They need to have an expiration date. … We want to be a cutting-edge Air Force working on the pediatric side of the hospital, not the geriatric side,” Roper said.
The Air Force has been pouring money into more than one overtasked aircraft fleet in recent years.
The B-1B Lancer fleet, for example, has been undergoing extensive maintenance for the past few months after the service overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade. The repeated deployments caused the aircraft to deteriorate more quickly than expected, Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said in the spring.
U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brian Ferguson)
“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained April 17, 2019. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade.”
The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to conduct operations at any given time — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.
As of August 2019, there were only seven fully mission-capable B-1 bombers ready to deploy, AFGSC said.
The Air Force has managed to kill some aircraft programs despite congressional pushback.
Through the fiscal 2019 defense budget, the service officially put to bed the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System recapitalization effort, convincing lawmakers to think beyond a single-platform program in favor of an elite system that will fuse intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor data from around the world.
As a result, the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act granted additional funding for the next-generation system, known as the Advanced Battle Management System, in lieu of a new JSTARS fleet.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
U.S. Army‘s senior leadership has ended an agreement with Orbital ATK Inc. that spanned two decades over the XM25 25mm airburst weapon, a move that could put the troubled weapon system’s future into jeopardy.
Nicknamed “the Punisher” and designed by Orbital ATK and Heckler Koch, XM25 has long been the Army’s attempt to field a “leap-ahead” weapon designed to give infantry units a decisive edge against enemies hiding behind cover.
The XM25 has stirred excitement in the infantry community, but the complex system has also been plagued by program delays that have made it a target of Pentagon auditors.
The latest trouble for the program came when the Army canceled its contract with Orbital ATK just one month ago.
“On April 5, 2017, the Army terminated the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) contract with the prime contractor (Orbital-ATK) after it failed to deliver the 20 weapons as specified by the terms of the contract,” an Army spokesman told Military.com in a May 5 email.
“Despite extensive negotiation efforts, the contractor failed to provide an acceptable alternate resolution to the Government.”
The announcement follows reports that Orbital ATK filed a lawsuit in February against Heckler Koch in the Minnesota U.S. District Court seeking damages in excess of $27 million, according to a report by Reuters.
In the complaint, Orbital said it was seeking damages for breach of contract over the XM25 semi-automatic weapon system, which Orbital and Heckler Koch started developing more than 20 years ago.
Orbital said in the filing that Heckler Koch had failed to deliver 20 additional prototypes of the XM25 weapon systems, as contracted, and that its failure to do so meant the Army had raised the possibility of terminating its contract with Orbital, Reuters reported.
Heckler Koch has rejected all claims in the suit, according to the news agency.
Military.com reached out to both Orbital ATK and Heckler Koch for comment but did not receive a response by press time.
It’s unclear what the future is for XM25, but Army weapons officials appeared unsure of its status this week at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum.
Following a presentation from the Army’s Project Manager Soldier Weapons, an audience member asked why the XM25 did not appear on any of the briefing slides covering the Army’s near-term, mid-term and far-term small arms programs.
Lt. Col. Steven Power, who runs Product Manager Individual Weapons, said, “The XM25 is still managed by my office” and then gave a long pause before adding, “I can’t speak right now about the status of that program.”
Power said, “I have been informed that it is not really my place to provide information ahead of other stakeholders.”
Col. Brian Stehle, head of Program Manager Soldier Weapons, said, “There is a requirement within the Army to have an air-burst, direct-fire capability within our formation. The Army is reassessing the actual requirement itself, and we are pursuing material solutions.”
The service has considered taking the XM25’s fire-control system and joining it to a weapon that shoots a 40mm air-burst grenade, a technology Army ammunition experts are developing, according to service sources who are not cleared to speak to the press.
The XM25 is an offshoot of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program the Army began in the mid-1990s to increase the effectiveness of soldier firepower.
It features a target acquisition/fire control system that allows soldiers to identify a target, determine the range, and program the ammunition to explode above or near targets out to 600 meters.
But the stand-alone weapon has suffered from a barrage of criticism from both auditors as well as from military units.
In September 2016, the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s Office released a follow-on report to a March 2014 audit and concluded Army officials “could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively.”
The service has repeatedly delayed the weapon’s initial production decision and failed to justify a basis of issue plan, the document states.
“Specifically, Army officials removed procurement funding from the XM25 budget, which extended the engineering and manufacturing development phase by 2 years,” it states. “Additionally, Army officials contributed to the initial production decision delay by placing a hold on the XM25 capability production document.”
But while the IG said the service’s decision to extend the development effort and XM25 research caused costs to climb between February 2013 and March 2016, it failed to specify actual dollar amounts.
Indeed, the report was heavily redacted, with blacked-out figures for not only cost increases but also quantities, including how many XM25s the Army intends to field as part of its basis of issue plan.
Problems with the program started Feb. 2, 2013, when the XM25 malfunctioned during its second round of operational testing in Afghanistan, inflicting minor injuries on a soldier.
The Army halted the operational testing when the XM25 experienced a double feed and an unintentional primer ignition of one of the 25mm high-explosive rounds, Army officials said at the time.
The warhead did not detonate because of safety mechanisms on the weapon. The service removed all prototypes from theater to determine the problem’s cause.
The XM25 had completed one 14-month battlefield assessment and was in the early stages of a second assessment when the double feed and primer ignition occurred during a live-fire training exercise.
According to PM Individual Weapon officials, the XM25 has not had any similar malfunctions since changes were incorporated into the weapon and ammunition, the audit states.
In March 2013, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment refused to take the XM25 with them for a raid on a fortified enemy compound in Afghanistan, sources familiar with the incident said.
After an initial assessment, Ranger units found the 14-pound XM25 too heavy and cumbersome for the battlefield. They were also concerned that the limited basic load of 25mm rounds was not enough to justify taking an M4A1 carbine out of the mission, sources said.
Team Mighty – Photos courtesy of CTT Solutions and Pillar Media Group
CZ USA has released its newest pistol, a polymer, striker-fired handgun called the CZ P-10Z. It has been described as weapon that combines all the best features of its competitors: a Steyr M-A1 bore axis, VP9 trigger, MP grip, and the safety and ergonomics of a customized Glock — all for a price comparable to the XDM.
If all that is true, this might be the best pistol of this breed yet. Time and round count will tell.
The CZ P-10 C (presumably so named in anticipation of a full-sized and sub-compact version yet to come) is a 9mm or .40 fiber-reinforced polymer framed, striker-fired pistol. It features a cold hammer-forged barrel, trigger safety and firing pin block safety with three-dot “stepped” metal sights suitable for use in racking the weapon off a bootheel or belt. MSRP is set at $499, which means barring political shenanigans you’ll be able to pick one up for even less.
When news of the new pistol first broke a couple months ago, Mike Pannone (a former Unit operator who now runs CTT Solutions) spoke highly of it.
“I’ve shot it and I’m gonna tell you all, this will be a big player in the striker market,” Pannone said. “Great ergos, legendary CZ reliability/durability/accuracy, incredible trigger right out of the box…and it fits in nearly every Glock 19 holster. Just wait until the full-size model hits…Duty gun and Production class USPSA here we go!”
Here he is more recently, going into more detail.
Now, why should you give a damn what this guy thinks?
Easy. Mike “Noner” Pannone of CTT Solutions is a former Force Marine turned CAG (1ST SFOD-D) operator. Pannone came back out of retirement after 9/11 to serve as the head marksmanship instructor for the (then-fledgling) Federal Air Marshals Service, the agency said to have the most stringent and rigorous firearms/marksmanship standards in US law enforcement.
He later worked as a security contractor for the Department of State overseas in highly non-permissive areas, later working with the Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group.
Pannone is a CZ-sponsored competitive shooter, yes, but by all accounts is reckoned a blunt, even brutally candid SME. Knowing what we know of him, if he wasn’t happy with the weapon, he’d say so (or just wouldn’t say anything at all).
Here’s how CZ lists out the P-10 C’s primary advantages.
•Slide and barrel with extremely durable surface finish
•Two pairs of cocking grip surfaces for comfortable handling
•New “degree” of resistance against corrosion and mechanical damage
•Exceptional iron sights accentuated by three luminescent dots
•Automatic striker block guaranteeing drop safety
•Mechanically and thermally stable polymer frame reinforced with glass fibre
•Three interchangeable backstraps in S, M, L sizes
•Excellent magazine capacity of 15 (17) rounds in 9×19 calibre
•Excellent shooting comfort thanks to the well-designed ergonomic grip with distinct checkering
•Flat ambidextrous slide stop and magazine catch; a magazine catch with a wider grip for right-handed as well as left-handed shooters is available as an accessory
The pistol should be hitting shelves sometime during the first half of 2017. Find more details online at CZ USA.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro not only earned their pay recently but they also once again proved themselves worthy of their boat’s namesake. After struggling to catch up to a narco-sub filled with 17,000 pounds of cocaine, the crew hopped aboard the partially-submerged craft, opened the hatch, and apprehended the crew as the boats all sped along at the water line.
If for some reason you didn’t actually think the Coast Guard was cool, just watch this Coastie bang on a cartel submarine like they personally violated his property.
At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.
“Send the droid,” one of them says.
Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.
Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.
The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.
During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.
Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.
Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.
See if Domino’s can beat that!
Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.
The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.
SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.
The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.
Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.
The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.
Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.