As the U.S. Space Force grows from a command in the Air Force to the proposed sixth branch of the military, it will take on the space assets of the other branches, including DARPA’s ghost robots in orbit, used to manipulate satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
The robotic arms of DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program.
Yes, DARPA has robots in development that would orbit the earth, using their little robot arms and other tools to repair American and corporate satellites, but they would also be useful for taking out enemy satellites without triggering the dreaded “Kessler Effect,” where damaging a single satellite dooms all satellites in orbit.
The robots are in development with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, selected by DARPA because it already has 15 years of experience in space robotics. The basic idea is to develop robots that can maintain satellites in orbit.
Right now, once a satellite goes into orbit, that’s basically it. It can do its job, but there’s little chance to repair it or its payload. If its payload becomes outdated or if it’s hit by space debris, the damage is permanent. Something as small as bits of dust or flakes of paint can sideline a multi-million dollar asset.
Astronauts repair the Hubble Telescope in the space shuttle bay of Endeavour.
One of the few exceptions to this rule, the Hubble Space Telescope, has been repaired five times, but this required five different trips by the Space Shuttle to the Hubble.
What DARPA wants is a group of satellites equipped with repair tools, including robot arms, that could fix their brethren while still in orbit. While the bulk of satellites are in low-earth orbit, the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program sets its sites higher, at geosynchronous orbit.
Geosynchronous orbits typically include weather, surveillance, and communications satellites, all assets that the military needs to keep in working order.
But the U.S., China, and Russia are also in an arms race to figure out how to destroy each other’s satellites without risking their own.
The greatest challenge comes at low-earth orbit where there are a lot more satellites in a lot less space. Satellites in LEO can be destroyed with anti-ballistic missile weapons, but doing so could create a chain reaction where the fast-moving debris from the killed satellites starts taking out other satellites.
This chain reaction is known as the “Kessler Effect,” and it works similar to a nuclear reaction, but with satellites in orbit instead of nuclei in dense metal. Once it gets started, it’s self-sustaining and all-destructive.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis takes off in 2010. After a catastrophe triggers the Kessler Effect, it could make exiting Earth’s atmosphere impossible for nearly a generation.
(Nasa Tony Gray and Tom Farrar)
A space attack or accident that triggers the Kessler Effect could make exiting Earth’s atmosphere too dangerous for generations, and it’s guaranteed to destroy friendly and enemy satellites alike.
So, if the Space Force ever does have to fight America’s wars in orbit, they need tools that can disable enemy satellites without putting out a lot of debris. These satellite repair bots could dock with adversary assets and disassemble or otherwise disable them.
No fast-moving debris, no catastrophic chain reaction, no muss, no fuss.
Artist’s concept of the robotic servicing vehicle for repairing satellites.
And their repairs won’t be limited to military customers, either. Private companies can join a “cooperative servicing” agreement to obtain the services of one of the robots. Each robot is expected repair up to 20 space assets while in space, so a single repair launch can revitalize or repair 20 existing satellites.
Or, in times of war, conduct a controlled disabling of 20 satellites — depending on how it’s deployed.
When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?
But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).
The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.
As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)
When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.
In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.
After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.
In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.
Anduril Industries, the military tech company founded by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, has unveiled a new kind of attack drone.
Anduril demonstrated the drone, which is capable of locking onto other drones and then knocking them out of the air to Bloomberg and NBC news. The drone seeks out target drones, identifies them, and then asks an operator’s permission to attack.
Anduril cofounder and CEO Brian Schimpf said the Interceptor weighs roughly the same amount as a bowling ball, and can go 90 to 100 mph.
“The only thing that can take out a swarm of fast drones is a bigger swarm of faster drones, and that’s exactly what we’re building,” Luckey told Bloomberg.
A render of Anduril’s Interceptor drone.
The Interceptor is apparently ready to be deployed, as Bloomberg reports the Interceptor drones have already been shipped to military bases and conflict zones. Anduril declined to give any details about where exactly the drones have been sent when contacted by Business Insider.
Now is not the time to be nervous. What if I don’t qualify? I’ll never see corporal. Okay, okay, okay… remember what you were taught. 300-yard line equals the tip of the post, or is it tip of the chevron? What if none of my shots hit the…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear.”
These thoughts can be all too familiar for some Marines during their annual rifle requalification. Marines can experience a lot of pressure when qualifying on the range, because every Marine’s primary job is to be a rifleman, regardless of their occupational field. As such, it is important that every Marine has the confidence to fire under the most adverse of conditions. If a Marine is not confident in their shooting abilities, then qualifying can be difficult without proper instruction from a subject matter expert.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Meise, small arms repairer/technician, Headquarters and Support Battalion (HS Bn), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, mentioned that his first time shooting was when he was in recruit training. He asked a lot of questions and used a rifle data book that was given to all of the recruits by their primary marksmanship instructors.
MCB Camp Pendleton’s Marksmanship Training Unit is dedicated to furthering the building blocks learned in recruit training, and further the training continuum approach to maintain proficient combat marksmen. During grass week, Marines practice without live firing, the four marksmanship shooting positions: sitting, kneeling, standing, and prone.
“If you properly apply the fundamentals, you will shoot black all the time,” said Meise, in regard to targets commonly fired upon at ranges. “Before the Marine Corps, I never shot a weapon, but with the guidance I received from the instructors, I now consistently fire expert on the range.”
Lance Cpl. Eric Janasiak, a rifleman with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
(US Marine Corps photo)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Garald John, combat marksmanship trainer, HS Bn, MCB Camp Pendleton, explains that the worst thing for CMTs, PMIs and combat marksmanship coaches is having one of their Marine’s fail on the range for annual training.
“One of the most commonly asked questions is, ‘how do I get a more stability in the standing position?'” said John. “The guidance I give them is: to rest their forward tricep on their chest as much as possible to get more stability, but mainly I express to just take their time to apply the fundamentals.”
With the CMT by their sides, Marines also practice the maneuvers needed to accomplish a proper ammunition speed reload as well as opportunities to use the computer based, indoor simulated marksmanship trainers to run-through drills they will perform during their firing week.
“For the Marines that come to our MTU, I would say one-on-one coaching time is what helps most,” explained John. “The first time we run everyone through the ISMT, and we assess that they are struggling, we’ll ask if they’d like to stay back for extra practice giving that Marine the chance for further one-on-one training. We give them recommendations on how to be more stable or improve breathing techniques. Whatever we see they need help in the most, we try to assist as much as possible.”
Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew)
Once the live firing commences, Marines are accompanied by their CMCs. While a Marine’s effort is individual, CMCs are there to provide guidance, and answer questions.
“During firing week, people tend to let their ego get in the way,” said Meise. “When Marines see a bad shot, expecting more or better results, they begin to worry. Worrying causes them to forget the fundamentals! They’re focusing on the shot, but not the form.”
John said that during grass week, the coaches and the CMTs always get Marines to a point where the instructors and coaches are confident enough to say every Marine has the potential to qualify for annual rifle training.
“When I see Marines achieve more than what they thought they could, it really makes me look forward to what I may see in the future of my Marine Corps,” said John. “I know it is because coaches try to uplift the shooters and the shooters try to uplift each other increasing everyone’s confidence and overall mindset.”
Deep breath. Fundamentals: stable shooting position, slow steady squeeze, natural respiratory pause, expect the recoil…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear”
The Air Force is mapping a two-fold future path for its B-1 bomber which includes plans to upgrade the bomber while simultaneously preparing the aircraft for eventual retirement as the service’s new stealth bomber arrives in coming years.
These two trajectories, which appear as somewhat of a paradox or contradiction, are actually interwoven efforts designed to both maximize the bomber’s firepower while easing an eventual transition to the emerging B-21 bomber, Air Force officials told Warrior Maven.
“Once sufficient numbers of B-21 aircraft are operational, B-1s will be incrementally retired. No exact dates have been established,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven. “The Air Force performs routine structural inspections, tests and necessary repairs to ensure the platform remains operationally viable until sufficient numbers of B-21s are operational.”
The B-21 is expected to emerge by the mid-2020s, so while the Air Force has not specified a timetable, the B-1 is not likely to be fully retired until the 2030s.
Service officials say the current technical overhaul is the largest in the history of the B-1, giving the aircraft an expanded weapons ability along with new avionics, communications technology, and engines.
Official U.S. Air Force Artist Rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Heavy Bomber.
The engines are being refurbished to retain their original performance specs, and the B-1 is getting new targeting and intelligence systems, Grabowski said.
A new Integrated Battle Station includes new aircrew displays and communication links for in-flight data sharing.
“This includes machine-to-machine interface for rapid re-tasking and/or weapon retargeting,” Grabowski added.
Another upgrade called The Fully Integrated Targeting Pod connects the targeting pod control and video feed into B-1 cockpit displays. The B-1 will also be able to increase its carriage capacity of 500-pound class weapons by 60-percent due to Bomb Rack Unit upgrades.
The B-1, which had its combat debut in Operation Desert Fox in 1998, went to drop thousands of JDAMs during the multi-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The B-1 can hit speeds of MACH 1.25 at 40,000 feet and operates at a ceiling of 60,000 feet.
It fires a wide-range of bombs, to include several JDAMS: GBU-31, GBU-38 and GBU-54. It also fires the small diameter bomb-GBU-39.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
As far as useful tools in a jam go, it’s tough to beat the general practicality of a knife. Whether it’s marking a trail, field dressing an animal, or defending yourself, a sharp piece of steel on your hip can solve a number of problems you may face in a survival situation; which is exactly why so many people maintain a good quality knife in their EDC (Everyday Carry) loadout. But what if you find yourself stuck in a long-term survival situation without ready access to a knife?
You could go on without one, or you could make one, using nothing but a few common hand tools and some scrap metal.
I found this scrap carbon steel in a metal recycling bin behind my neighbors shop.
The first thing you need to do is find yourself a suitable piece of metal. While you can usually get a sense of the sort of metal you’re working with with a visual inspection (stainless steel holds a shine while carbon steel will brown or rust, for instance), your top priority is finding a sturdy piece of metal that’s somewhat close to the size and shape of a knife. The closer it starts in size, the easier a day you’ll have. For a good survival knife that fits well in my hand, I usually prefer a piece of metal that’s somewhere between 10 and 12 inches long, less than a half inch thick, and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, but it may take some work to cut your piece into those dimensions.
Low carbon scrap steel is soft and doesn’t make for excellent knives, but in a pinch, even a rusting blade that needs sharpening is better than no blade at all.
There’s no getting around the need to have a hack saw when working with metal. In fact, if the scrap metal you locate is too long, it’s the only tool you can’t do without. Beyond that, all you really need is a metal file or access to plenty of sidewalks or blacktop. Any of the three will do.
Other tools that could help are a C-clamp or vice, sharpie, clips, and sandpaper.
Cut the steel into the general shape of a blade
Use your hacksaw to cut your scrap steel until it meets your general length and width requirements. The harder the steel (based on carbon levels and if it’s been treated) the harder the cutting will be. Be patient and careful not to hurt yourself. If you need tomake this knife, chances are good no ambulances will be coming if you suffer a nasty gash.
If you don’t have a clamp, you can step on the handle and saw near your feet for leverage.
Once you’ve got it cut somewhat to shape, saw off a corner to create what will become the point of the blade. If the steel is too wide to fit into your hand comfortably, you can keep on hacking to narrow down the handle portion as well. This is a lot more work, but can also provide a ridge if you’d like to add a handguard down the road.
The ridge between the handle and blade creates a stop on one side for a handguard when you’re making more elaborate knives.
Grind, grind, grind
If you have a metal file, hold the knife in one hand while carefully using the file to shape the profile of the blade. Be careful, if you have access to a vice, put the blade in it while you work. If not, finding a pair of work gloves can help keep the skin on your fingers.
By using the width of the metal to dictate the size of the blade, you only need to shape one corner.
Once the rough profile of the blade has been shaped, re-orient how you hold the knife to work on the blade’s edge. This will take a long time, and if you’re so inclined, you could spend a whole day or more making one very pretty, even edge. If you’re in a hurry, however, file it down until you have a reasonably fine point and a good sharp edge and leave looking pretty for the guys that aren’t making their own knives out of garbage.
If you don’t have a metal file, you’re not out of luck. Sidewalks and black top are very abrasive surfaces, and you can whittle away at the metal edge of your blade using either with enough patience and care. This is a great way to shave your knuckles, and you will ruin your driveway, but I’ve managed to fashion a workable blade or two using this method.
Making a handle
Depending on the tools you have on hand, there are probably rough metal splinters hanging off the edges of your knife and once your hand gets sweaty (or bloody) keeping a grip will be impossible. Fortunately, there are lots of materials that make for decent handles.
You can put some real time in to weave a leather strap, or just tightly wrap 550 cord around the handle.
Lots of military guys are familiar with making things out of paracord, and knife handles are no exception. Leather belts, rope, and duct tape are all excellent knife handle materials. Wrap the material around the handle of the knife as tightly as you can, overlapping it by however many layers as necessary to make the handle a comfortable girth.
Then get your ass out of dodge with your new prison-shank in hand.
The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things.
The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s – allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.
“Our primary goal is maintaining the CH-47F’s relevance to the warfighter,” Lt. Col. Ricard Bratt said in a special statement to Scout Warrior.
The latest model, called the Chinook F helicopter, represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.
Able to travel at speeds up to 170 knots, the Chinook has a range of 400 nautical miles and can reach altitudes greater than 18,000-feet. Its high-altitude performance capability has been a substantial enabling factor in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.
The aircraft is 52-feet long, 18-feet high and able to take off with 50,000 pounds. The helicopter can fly with a loaded weight of 26,000 pounds. In addition, the aircraft can mount at least three machine guns; one from each window and another from the back cargo opening.
The Chinook F is in the process of receiving a number of enhancements to its digital cockpit called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS, such improved avionics, digital displays, Line Replacement Units, navigational technology, multi-mode radios, software and emerging systems referred to as pilot-vehicle interface. Pilot-vehicle interface involves improved computing technology where faster processor and new software are able to better organize and display information to the crew, allowing them to make informed decisions faster.
By 2018, the Army plans to have a pure fleet of 473 F-model Chinooks. By 2021, the Army plans to field a new “Block 2” upgraded Chinook F which will increase the aircraft’s ability to function in what’s called “high-hot” conditions of 6,000 feet/95-degrees Fahrenheit where lower air pressure makes it more difficult to operate and maneuver a helicopter.
The Block 2 Chinook will also be engineered to accommodate a larger take-off maximum weight of 54,000 pounds, allowing it to sling-load the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle underneath. This provides the Army with what it calls a “mounted maneuver” capability wherein it can reposition vehicles and other key combat-relevant assets around the battlefield in a tactically-significant manner without need to drive on roads. This will be particularly helpful in places such as Afghanistan where mountainous terrain and lacking infrastructure can make combat necessary movements much more challenged.
The Chinook F is also in the process of getting new rotorblades engineered with composites and other materials designed to give the helicopter an additional 1,500 pounds of lift capability, Army officials explained.
Another key upgrade to the helicopter is a technology called Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System, or COOLS, which places rollers on the floor of the airframe designed to quickly on and off-load pallets of equipment and supplies. This technology also has the added benefit of increasing ballistic protection on the helicopter by better protecting it from small arms fire.
“The COOLS system has been added to the current production configuration and continues to be retrofitted to the existing F fleet. We have completed approximately 50-percent of the retrofit efforts. Since its fielding we made very minor design changes to improve maintainability.
The helicopter will also get improved gun-mounts and crew chief seating, along with a new vibration control system.
“We are finalizing design efforts on an improved vibration control system that, in testing, has produced significant reduction in vibration levels in the cockpit area,” Bratt said.
The F-model includes an automated flight system enabling the aircraft to fly and avoid obstacles in the event that a pilot is injured.
Additional adjustments include the use of a more monolithic airframe engineered to replace many of the rivets build into the aircraft, Army officials said.
“The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. In addition, the program office has conducted an in depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,” Bratt said.
The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, service officials said.
The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, called ATIRCM, — a high-tech laser jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching missile. The system fires a multiband heat laser to intercept the missile and throw it off course,
ATIRCM has been fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet.
Chinooks are also equipped with a combat-proven protective technology called Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS; this uses an ultraviolet sensor to locate approaching enemy fire before sending out a flare to divert the incoming fire from its course.
Finally, over the years there have been several efforts to engineer a small-arms detection system designed to locate the source of incoming enemy small-arms fire to better protect the aircraft and crew.
The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.
According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.
The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.
Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.
While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.
During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.
The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.
Firearms training presupposes a purpose or goal when we step out onto the range. While most would agree that training with your firearm is an essential part of improving skills; without a method to track your progress or reassess your goals, training turns quickly into recreation. There is no purpose beyond punching some holes in paper or seeing if that watermelon really does explode as it does on video. We’re not saying that it’s not fun. It just isn’t really training.
There’s an old saying, “You don’t win nothing for practice. You don’t win nothing without it.” Grammar aside, we agree. Practice means working on a skill. In any physical endeavor, there is no substitute for putting in reps. The arena of use doesn’t matter, be it self-defense, hunting, or competition. The path from competence to proficiency to mastery is one that’s sometimes solitary and sometimes shared.
Whether training by yourself, with a partner, or as part of a class each dynamic has benefits and drawbacks. But each has a place in skill developing.
Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media
Take a Class
Taking a course requires a commitment of time and money. Classes offer students a predetermined focus or theme revolving around a specific skill, and there are a multitude of different types of classes available.However, not all courses are created equal.
So you need to do some research to answer some basic questions. Is the individual/company providing the course reputable? Have they been around for a while? Are the reviews for the course good? Is the class size reasonable for the skill(s) being taught?
We recently took a defensive handgun class with Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics. Sage Dynamics was founded in 2012, and the reviews for the defensive handgun course were positive. The course had 18 participants, was taught over two days, and the participants were a mix of law enforcement and civilians.
Perhaps the defining element of the class was Cowan’s discussion of not just how something is done, but why it’s done. Knowing how to do something is important, but knowing why something is done in a certain way is vital when building skills because it defines a skill’s application. Real-life situations are not neat. Bad guys don’t just stand there, innocents are almost always involved, and only God knows what they’re going to do.
There are some drawbacks to training classes. They tend to be costly and don’t always fit your schedule. Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a training center with open enrollment classes, such as Gunsite or the Sig Academy, or a city where classes are often hosted, you’ll have to travel. Now, that means road tripping or booking flights and arranging lodging. Then there’s the added hassle of flying with guns and ammunition. Class size has a significant impact on the quality of the instruction. If there are too many participants, the likelihood of getting significant one-on-one time with the instructor goes down.
Or, if your skill level happens to fall in the middle of the ol’ bell curve, and you’re not outspoken, you may be easily overlooked. There’s also the harsh reality that simply taking a class, even with all the time and money invested, will not make you a better a shooter — however, this is one of the most important aspects of taking a class, learning how to improve your abilities on your own or with a buddy. It’ll simply give you the tools to pursue being a better shooter.
Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media
Instructor skill set is critical. The ability of the instructor to execute his/her own training philosophy and required skills will make or break the class. We’re not saying the instructor must be former military, law enforcement, a national champion, or world-renowned hunter. There are many excellent shooters who are simply not excellent teachers. On the flip side, an instructor must be able to walk their talk. The best firearm instructors have the skills to execute what they teach.
Some group settings come with interesting twists. All students in RECOIL’s own Summit in the Sand training event, held in fall of 2017, were provided SIG P320 X5 pistols and ammunition for the class. Students got to run drills with an unfamiliar gun that separated them from the baggage they normally brought to the range with their own pistols. Aside from taking you slightly out of your element, running something strange also gives you a different perspective on your own gear, helping inform future gear purchases.
Using the P320 X5s, students either walked away with a greater appreciation for the guns they normally ran, or left scratching their chin and wondering if maybe it was time to go shopping for a new EDC.
Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media
Training with a buddy
Training with a partner, friend, family member, or mentor is another good way to advance your training agenda. It provides a free(-ish) and flexible alternative to training in a group setting. You’ve got to provide your own targetry, but paper is cheap and steel lasts a long time, as does a rubber dummy. And going to the range with a partner is less of a scheduling challenge than wrapping your schedule around a class and skips the pain of planning and traveling, or telling the significant other you’re going to miss your in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary party.
The variables that loom large are the commitment to your training goals, the skills to practice, to what degree they are practiced, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of your partner.
If your partner’s KSAs are less than yours, you may wind up in a case of the not knowing what you don’t know, which can derail your progress. If your shot group looks like you’re using a shotgun while combatting a severe case of hiccups and your buddy looks you in the eye and tells you your group is, “a bit wild,” that may be an accurate statement, but it won’t help you correct the problem. He or she may dig deep and say something profound like, “It seems your sight alignment is off.” That’s a slightly more helpful suggestion, but still falls short of correcting the problem. Yet shooting with someone of lesser skills is not without benefit.
You might notice an error in how they shoot and realize it’s a common problem. That realization hopefully puts you on the path to correcting the problem. And, if you’re at all competitive, training with a partner will motivate you both to a higher level of performance as you practice. Bragging rights do matter, especially if there’s a cigar or case of beer on the line when it’s all said and done.
While training with a partner of like abilities can be good, it shares some of the same pitfalls as training with someone of lesser ability. Most notably, not knowing what you don’t know. This lack of knowledge makes progress on your training goal a hit-or-miss proposition if you find yourself struggling. So when you hit that point of failure neither of you really knows how to solve the problem. The temptation at this point is to simply switch to a drill you’re more comfortable with.
Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media
Shooting with someone of like abilities helps in reinforcing good habits, as your buddy is likely to call you out when you get sloppy. Your partner is able to give you more accurate feedback, such as telling you that you’re pushing forward on the gun as you pull the trigger. This is helpful, but feedback without instruction doesn’t give you the tools to correct the problem.
The third option, training with someone who is significantly better than you, eliminates the most glaring of problems noted above. They’ll know what you don’t. They’ll be able to not only tell you what you are doing wrong, but help you correct the error. They can take you to the point of failure and give you tools to move past it.
They can help you refine your training goal and give you the practice scenarios to aid in achieving the desired outcome. They can teach you how to self-diagnose problems. There is the normally unspoken motivation to shoot as well they do along with the awareness that, in most cases, it is possible.
Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media
Training by yourself is the most flexible way to train. You decide when, where, and what skills you’re going to practice and how many rounds you’re going to shoot. It can be most relaxing, as you’re not comparing yourself to — or being judged by someone. Yet, this requires the most self-discipline. Without it, your practice session can quickly go from a bona fide training day to just blowing up household objects found on the range.
The major failing, again, is not knowing what you don’t know. Unless you’ve reached the level of being able to self-diagnose, it’s difficult to move past the point of failure. There is also the common tendency of practicing what we’re already good at. Fun? Yes, but fun alone isn’t much help in advancing your overall training agenda.
We don’t get better by wishing. Wanting something doesn’t make it happen. There are many avenues of training and some are inherently better than others. We suggest training with someone whose abilities outmatch your own or paying to learn from bona fide professionals are the most efficient ways to go — and combining the two is even better. That being said, it’s not the only way.
Editor’s Note: The Best of Both Worlds
An alternate, and highly beneficial form of group training is competition. While matches don’t provide much opportunity for one-on-one remedial instruction, they do offer a unique chance to pressure test the skills you’ve worked so hard to cultivate through the other methods listed by Kris in his article. Shooting unfamiliar courses of fire among a group of shooters all vying for status under time limit adds a whole slew of stressors that are all excellent tools for determining just how deeply you’ve been able to program your shooting skills.
In RECOIL’s Summit in the Sand training event, we gave students one day of formal instruction followed by one-day competition that allowed attendees to check their learning progress against their peers. The P320 X5 gave students a unique tool to gain experience. Even though the P320 was designed from the ground up as a duty pistol, the X5 is a highly refined version of that template optimized for speed and efficiency on the competition circuit, showcasing a cross-pollination of ideal features from both the tactical and competition worlds.
Ammunition for Summit in the Sand was also provided by SIG. In addition to the FMJ range ammo we used, SIG also has the corresponding V-Crown line of defensive hollow point ammo. Being able to train with the same brand of ammo you carry eliminates one more variable between training and carry.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.
But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.
Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).
Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)
These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)
While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.
Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.
Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.
When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.
But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.
The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
…to scrub-covered plains…
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)
…to sandy deserts.
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)
To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.
The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.
The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)
“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.
China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.
“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.
“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”
China’s J-20 stealth fighter.
The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.
Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.
“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.
In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.
But it’s unclear how long that process will take.
“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.
The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.
Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”
After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.
“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”
The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.
“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.
One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.
The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.
“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”
Phase II, III
In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.
This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.
(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)
Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.
“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.
Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.
“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.
The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.
“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”
There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.
“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”
The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.
A C-130 aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)
Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.
With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.
Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.
“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.
“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”
In 1975, South Vietnam fell, and while many escaped, a lot of gear fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese. In fact, as late as 1987, FlightGlobal.com credited the Vietnamese People’s Air Force with as many as 50 F-5A/B/E variants in service, along with at least 25 A-37 Dragonfly counter-insurgency planes. Tigers might be next.
Presently, Vietnam has 40 Su-27/Su-30 “Flanker” fighters in its inventory, with six more on order, according to FlightGlobal.com. These planes are supplemented by 36 Su-22 “Fitter” ground-attack planes, similar to those targeted earlier this year in a Tomahawk strike on a Syrian air base. Vietnam retired its MiG-21 “Fishbed” fighters in 2015. Like the F-5, upgrade kits are available for the Fishbed.
The F-5E was a widely exported daytime fighter, capable of carrying up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, and AIM-9 Sidewinders. It has a top speed of 1,060 miles per hour, a range of 870 miles, and was first flown in 1972. It is equipped with a pair of M39A2 revolver cannon, each with 280 rounds.