When the Stryker family of combat vehicles was developed and produced in the 1990s and 2000s, it was very diverse. There were many variants of the original M1128 made to fulfill a swath of roles, including command and control, medical evacuation, anti-tank, reconnaissance, and more. However, due to warfighting requirements of the time, one variant was never developed: an anti-air Stryker.
The Stryker performed well in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much so that the Army chose to equip the 2nd Cavalry Regiment with this vehicle. The problem, of course, is that looming, near-peer threats — primarily Russia — are not al-Qaeda or the Taliban. So, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment has been getting better Stryker-based vehicles to address a potentially more sophisticated threat. One such variant is the rapidly-fielded M1296 Stryker Dragoon, which gives the infantry fighting vehicle a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. Now, yet another new vehicle will join the force.
A soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 263rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, looks into the distance at a drone, the target of crews for their annual two-week training, while a stinger missile is fired from the Avenger weapon system, at Onslow Beach March 15, 2013. (US Army photo)
According to a report by Defense News, the Stryker will be the basis for an interim short-range air-defense (SHORAD) solution for the Army. We took a look at one version of this vehicle last year, developed by Boeing and General Dynamics. This version was armed with AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun.
Currently, the Army’s short-range air-defense needs are filled by M1097 Avengers, which are high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles equipped with a turret that holds eight FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and an M3 .50-caliber machine gun. The Army had also deployed the M6 Bradley Linebacker, a version of the Bradley that replaced the standard launcher that holds two BGM-71 TOW missiles with one that holds four FIM-92 Stingers. The Linebackers, however, were converted to regular infantry fighting vehicles in 2006, according to Army-Technology.com.
The first of the Stryker-based air-defense vehicles are slated to enter service in 2020, but they may not be alone. The Army is also rushing to field more Avengers in Europe, refurbishing several dozens that were previously awaiting disposal in Pennsylvania.
The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.
“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.
While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.
Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.
On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.
Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.
While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.
But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.
The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.
Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.
“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.
But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.
By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s raining on a Tuesday morning — pretty standard for a Marine physical fitness test — and I know that rain or shine; pull-ups, sit-ups, and a three-mile run are going to happen. I stand, shivering in the pre-dawn drizzle, listening for the sergeant to call me forward. I’m at an about face waiting for my buddy to finish his set of pull-ups. 21… 22… 23… he just hit a perfect score. It’s my turn now. I stretch my arms and take a deep breath.
“Next,” the sergeant calls.
I mount the bar and wait for the signal to start. This isn’t my first PT test, which is a blessing and a curse. I know exactly the number of pull-ups that I need to crank out, but after three deployments, I have no idea how my body is going to respond. I prepare myself for a battle. I start to pull and pull harder. I breathe slow and deep, but then my shoulder pops, an injury left over from my years as a high school pitcher. I gut through the pain to the end. 21… 22… 23… I finish the test with a perfect score, but the pain in my arm will take weeks to heal. I’m qualified by Marines standards but my injury makes me feel anything but ready for war.
Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks, Board of Advisors for Sparta Science
Just like the legendary King Leonidas and his 300, today’s warriors require strict physical training and discipline to make sure they are ready for any battle. Readiness is exactly the problem that Army Major General (Ret.) “Spider” Marks and his team at Sparta Science are trying to fix. In fact, my PFT injury is much more common than I thought. The Marine Corps estimates that musculoskeletal injuries cost 365,000 lost duty days and 1 million annually.
To help Marines increase their readiness for war, the Marine Corps is turning to some 21st century technology. General Marks is no stranger to hard problems and out-of-the-box thinking. He cut his teeth as an Airborne Ranger and the senior intelligence officer in Iraq. General Marks told We Are The Mighty,
“Every Marine has his or her strengths and weaknesses but we all have to complete the mission. Sparta Science helps to identify those individual weaknesses and provide a training program to make sure you are ready to fight on any mission.”
Dr. Phil Wagner uses the Sparta System.
Sparta Science is the brainchild of Dr. Phil Wagner, a strength coach and former Rugby player who asked himself a simple question, “Can we use technology to increase performance and prevent injuries before they happen?” Dr. Wagner believed the answer not only to be a resounding “yes” but he believed he could also identify potential injuries in a matter of seconds. He’s developed the Sparta System, which first uses a movement assessment (Balance, Plank, Jump) to capture a personalized body scan. The scan is then compared against over a million other assessments and with AI technology, the system can identify areas prone to injury and prescribe personalized training programs to correct weaknesses.
Sparta System dashboard.
The Sparta System is already being deployed among college athletes and even professionals in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA to outstanding results. Not only is the system helping athletes achieve their peak physical performance but it’s also helping prevent injuries that can cost players/teams millions of dollars in medical expenses. General Marks and the Sparta team believe their system can also help military leaders all the way from the top brass to the NCOs on the ground to better leader and prepare their troops for war.
Athletes undergo assessment through the Sparta System.
Imagine that within minutes of completing a Sparta Assessment, your NCO or Platoon leader could have a chart showing your overall readiness score — and any injury risks to your feet, knees, or back. It’s this level of detail that General Marks expects will change the game in military readiness,
“By having access to this kind of information, military leaders can make smarter choices about how to train for war and employ those soldiers once they get there. The Sparta System makes us fight better.”
As this new system continues to be used among various military units, we should expect the ancient Spartan ethos of “the more you train in peace the less you bleed in war” to still apply. However, we can also avoid some preventable risks, like popping shoulders during a PFT.
In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.
While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.
An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)
Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.
The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.
The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.
One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)
Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.
Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.
An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.
The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.
Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.
US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.
Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.
The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.
“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”
Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)
Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.
While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.
US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.
“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”
At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.
Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.
“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.
“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”
Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.
Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.
“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.
Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.
“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Snipers are undoubtedly the most lethal shooters on the battlefield, able to take out targets from hundreds and hundreds of yards away, without their marks being alerted to their presence.
They are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed and always well-trained. But snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.
Over the past 50 years, records for the longest kill-shots in history have been made and broken repeatedly by some of the greatest snipers the world has ever seen. These are the four guns they have used to break and set these records on confirmed kills at unimaginably far distances:
4. Browning M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ Heavy Machine Gun
A WWII-era machine gun used as a sniping system doesn’t exactly evoke any images of precision shooting, but it’s exactly what a 24 year-old Marine by the name of Carlos Hathcock used in early 1967 to take out a Vietcong militiaman pushing a bicycle loaded with weapons and ammunition. Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted.
With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over 1600 yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags.
His record-breaking February 1967 kill was made using this setup at 2500 yards, creating a record for the history books which would stand until the War in Afghanistan in 2002.
3. Barrett M82A1 Special Application Scoped Rifle
According to Chris Martin in his book, “Modern American Snipers,” Sgt. Brian Kremer currently holds the American record for the longest sniper kill in Iraq, while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The M82 SASR is every bit the beast it looks, firing a .50 Browning Machine Gun round at effective ranges up to nearly 2,000 yards. Weighing in 30 pounds, and measuring 48-57 inches long depending on the barrel used, the M82 is without a doubt one of the most fearsome small arms on the battlefield.
The M82 was originally put into service with the US military in 1990, and has been used in every conflict since. Though smaller-caliber sniper rifles are typically unable to hit targets behind cover, American snipers have been able to use the M82 and the Raufoss Mk 211 .50 caliber round to simply shoot their way through obstacles at great distances to reach their marks. Kremer’s shot reportedly measured 2,515 yards.
2. Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle
In 2009, British Army sniper Craig Harrison set a new world record for the longest confirmed kill in history with his L115A3, the standard long-range marksman’s rifle of the British military. During an ambush on a convoy he was attached to, Harrison hit a pair of Taliban machine gunners using 10 carefully-placed shots at a range of 2,707 yards, beating out the previous record by 50 yards.
Known in civilian markets as the Arctic Warfare Magnum, the L115A3 is chambered to fire the .338 Lapua round — a devastating bullet with phenomenal range. Known for its armor-piercing abilities at long distances, the .338 is now extremely popular among military snipers and marksmen across the world.
1. C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon
Commercially known as the McMillan Tac-50, this is the rifle which has broken the world record for longest kill on three separate occasions over the last 15 years.
In March 2002 during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Canadian sniper Arron Perry broke Carlos Hathcock’s 35-year record with a confirmed kill at 2,526 yards. Later that month, another Canadian sniper, Rob Furlong, topped Perry with a shot ranging 2,657 yards. Recently, it was reported that yet another Canadian set and holds the world record — now at a mind-blowing 3,540 yards… that’s over half a mile longer than Furlong’s 2002 kill!
The C15, like its commercial name suggests, is built to fire .50 caliber rounds, and has seen service with a number of elite military units, including the US Navy’s SEAL teams, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, and Israeli special forces.
This monster of a weapon weighs 26 pounds on its own, and measures 57 inches from stock to barrel.
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.
China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:
LCAC / Type 726
The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.
It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.
But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.
The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.
(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Y-20 / C-17
Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.
China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”
The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Arleigh-Burke / Type 052
China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.
This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.
So, we wrote about that “four-barrel” rifle last week and posed a few questions to the inventor, Martin Grier, in an email. He got back to us that day with our initial query and has now responded to some more of the questions we posited in the original article. His answers make us even more excited about the weapon’s promise, assuming that everything holds true through testing in Army labs and the field.
The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.
First, a bit of terminology. The weapon is a rifle. Most people have described it as having four barrels, but it’s really a barrel with four bores (the original prototype had five). The inventor prefers to call it a “ribbon gun,” which we’ll go ahead and use from here on out.
Just be aware that “ribbon gun” means a firearm with multiple bores that can fire multiple multiple rounds per trigger squeeze or one round at a time. The bullets are spinning as they exit the weapon, stabilizing them in flight like shots from a conventional rifle.
If you haven’t read our original article on the weapon, that might help you get caught up. It’s available at this link.
So, some of our major questions about the rifle were how the design, if adopted, would affect an infantryman’s combat load, their effective rate of fire, and how the rounds affect each other in flight when fired in bursts. We’re going to take on those topics one at a time, below.
How much weight would an infantryman be carrying if equipped with the new weapon? Grier says it should be very similar, as the charge blocks which hold the ammunition are actually very light
“In practice, Charge Block ammo, shot-for-shot, is roughly equivalent to conventional cartridge ammo,” he said, “depending on which caliber it’s compared to. It’s lighter than 7.62 and slightly heavier than 5.56. It outperforms both.”
Since the weapon fires 6mm rounds, that means the per-shot weight is right where you would expect with conventional rounds. The prototype weapon weighs 6.5 pounds. That’s less than an M16 and right on for the base M4.
The L4m ammo blocks feature four firing chambers and their rounds, stacked vertically. The blocks can clip together in stacks and be loaded quickly. Excess blocks able to be snapped off and returned to the shooter’s pouch easily.
(Copyright FD Munitions, reprinted with permission)
Even better, the blocks snap together and can be loaded as a partial stack. So, if you fire six blocks and want to reload, there’s no need to empty the rifle. Just pull the load knob and shove in your spare stack. The weapon will accept six blocks, and you can snap off the spares and put them back into your pouch.
Rate of fire
But what about effective rates of fire?
Well, the biggest hindrance on a rifle’s effective rate of fire is the heat buildup. Grier says that’s been taken care of, thanks to the materials used in the barrel as well as the fact that each chamber is only used once per block.
“In the L4, … the chamber is integral with the Charge Block,” he said. “Every four shots, the Block is ejected, along with its heat, and a new, cold one takes its place. The barrel is constructed with a thin, hard-alloy core, and a light-alloy outer casing that acts as a finned heat sink. In continuous operation, the barrel will reach an elevated temperature, then stabilize (like a piston engine). Each bore in the L4 carries only a 25 percent duty cycle, spreading the heat load and quadrupling barrel life.”
FD Munitions expects that the military version of the L4 would have a stabilized temperature during sustained fire somewhere around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, but they took pains to clarify that it’s a projected data point. They have not yet tested any version of the weapon at those fire rates.
But, if it holds up, that beats the M16 during 1975 Army tests by hundreds of degrees. The M16 barrels reached temperatures of over 600 degrees while firing 10 rounds per minute. At 60-120 rounds per minute, the barrels reached temperatures of over 1,000 degrees. That’s a big part of why the military tells troops to hold their fire to 15 rounds per minute or less, except in emergencies.
The guts of the weapon feature very few moving parts, a trait that should reduce the likelihood of failures in the field.
Do rounds affect one another mid-flight?
Sweet, so the combat load won’t be too heavy, and the weapon can spit rounds fast AF. But, if rounds are fired in volleys or bursts, will they affect each other in flight, widening the shot group?
Grier says the rounds fly close together, but have very little effect on each other in flight, remaining accurate even if you’re firing all four rounds at once.
And, four rounds at once has a special bonus when shot against ceramic armor, designed for a maximum of three hits.
“The projectiles do not affect each other in flight,” he said. “Even when fired simultaneously, tiny variations in timing because of chemical reaction rates, striker spring resonances, field decay rates, electric conductor lengths etc., ensure that the projectiles will be spaced out slightly in time along the line of sight. The side effect is that the impacts will be likewise consecutive, defeating even the best ceramic body armor.”
Meanwhile, for single shot mode, each bore can be independently zeroed when combined with an active-reticle scope. With standard mechanical sights, Grier recommends zeroing to one of the inside bores, ensuring rounds from any bore will land close to your zeroed point of impact.
Some other concerns that have arisen are things like battery life, which Grier thinks will be a non-issue in the military version. It’s expected to pack a gas-operated Faraday generator that not only can power the rifle indefinitely, but can provide juice for attachments like night vision scopes or range finders.
There’s also the question of malfunctions, which can happen in any weapon. Failure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.
So, if everything goes well, this weapon could shift the balance of power when the U.S. goes squad vs. squad against other militaries. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to the hype and makes it into the hands of service members.
Sure, we all love the “Brrrrrt” of America’s A-10 Warthog — the legendary close air support plane that’s become the terror of Taliban insurgents and Iraqi bad guys alike.
But before the A-10 was the OV-10 Bronco. And while not a 100 percent close air support plane and tank killer like the A-10, the Bronco could deliver it’s own version of hurt when soldiers and Marines were in a pinch.
It’s rugged, powerful and can land just about anywhere with its beefed-up landing gear and high wing. In fact, it was even tested aboard the carrier USS John F. Kennedy in 1968 — without arresting gear.
Since it was retired in the 1995, the OV-10 has experienced a bit of a resurgence these days, with many in the special operations community, Army and Marine Corps calling for a “low and slow” light attack aircraft that can carry more, fly faster and orbit for longer than a helicopter, at a lot less cost than a sophisticated fighter like the F-35 Lightning II or even the aging A-10.
Heck, it even has a small cargo bay for gear and troops.
While there are other options out there, the OV-10 had been in the post-Vietnam inventory for years and still has a solid following in the services. In fact, U.S. special operations troops tested a NASA-owned Bronco recently for several of its missions and, according to an active duty aviator with knowledge of the tests, they loved it.
And if the Marine Corps or Navy says the OV-10 isn’t for them because it can’t land on a carrier? Well, here’s the evidence that it can.
It’s hard to let go. If you’re a sports fan, then you’ve probably watched your favorite players age well past their primes. They cling to their identities as athletes, as competitors, and they refuse to hang up their titles even as the competition gets younger, faster, and stronger around them. Well, this same thing can happen to planes, too.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was a technological breakthrough when it first flew in 1932. But, when combat came in 1941, it was hit by a double whammy of being obsolete and badly outnumbered — and the loss rate was abysmal.
The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane fighter to see service in the United States. It officially entered service in 1934 and remained the fastest fighter in the skies until 1938.
The P-26 Peashooter was the first all-metal monoplane to enter American service, but within a decade of its first flight, it was greatly outclassed.
Not only that, this plane was also the first to introduce flaps to U.S. aviation — a piece of technology used to make landings easier and safer. The plane needed flaps because it had a then-blistering landing speed of just under 83 miles per hour.
In the skies, it reached a top speed of 227 miles per hour and had a range of 360 miles. The plane’s initial armament included two .30-caliber machine guns — one of which was later upgraded to .50-caliber. Either two 100-pound bombs or five 31-pound bombs could be carried for ground-support missions.
P-26 Peashooters on the flight line at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
The last P-26s to serve defended the Panama Canal until 1942, when they were exported to Guatemala. There, they hung on until 1957, four years after the Korean War saw jets fighting for control of the air.
Watch a classic video of these legendary planes in service below!
The king of battle, in all its thunderous glory, has struck fear into the hearts of enemies for centuries. Throughout the history of warfare, different varieties of artillery weapons have been used on battlefields to great effect and have ranged from ancient and medieval siege weapons to railway guns, naval artillery, and even atomic weapons.
But which artillery pieces stand out from their peers as the most ridiculous and the most awesome? We have a few suggestions.
A 36-inch mortar in use by the US during World War II for test-firing bombs was later converted to be used as a siege mortar, but it was never used in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Little David mortar has a name that can be deceiving because it is considered, along with the British Mallet’s Mortar, to be the largest-caliber gun ever made. As the United States prepared its battle plans to invade Japan during World War II, the US Army began a project to build a weapon capable of annihilating coastal and heavily fortified defenses. Little David had a 36-inch (914mm) caliber mortar and could fire 3,650 pound shells through a 22-foot muzzle at a distance of 6 miles.
Two artillery M26A1 tractors including the “Dragon Wagon” helped transport Little David to its required firing position. The behemoth mortar didn’t see combat action before Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war and the Little David mortar.
Counterweight trebuchets at Château de Castelnaud. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When one thinks of a medieval siege weapon, the trebuchet is at the top of the list. These compound machines use the mechanical leverage of a lever to launch 200-pound stones with a sling, which were capable of destroying the empire’s most prized fortifications. The ancient war machine was believed to be invented in China in 300 BC and was largely used by the French in Europe. These destructive weapons didn’t just hurl stones, darts, or wooden stakes through the air. Casks of burning tar, dead animals, pots of Greek Fire, and disease-infested corpses were some of the other forms of damaging projectiles seen throughout history that made both a psychological and biological impact on the enemy.
Reproductions of ancient Greek artillery, including catapults such as the polybolos (to the left in the foreground) and a large, early crossbow known as the gastraphetes (mounted on the wall in the background). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A ballista was an ancient missile (bolts) and stone throwing weapon system that was effective against guards defending their castles or fortifications during large-scale sieges. The ballista arrived on the battlefield with the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and the Roman Empire evolved the machines to be highly capable against both troops and walls.
With an effective range of 300 meters, the iron-clad darts or sharpened wooden projectiles easily pierced body armor and impaled determined defenders, both killing their fight and psychologically damaging their morale. Procopius, a Byzantine Greek scholar, described how during the 6th century ballistas were sometimes placed in siege towers, which increased their lethality against defenses.
Soldiers used the “Grasshopper Crossbow” while in the trenches during World War I before better advancements made them obsolete. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy
Before French and British forces employed the 2-inch Medium Trench Mortar or the Stokes Mortar upon German infantry during World War I, the allies used a grenade-throwing crossbow with an effective range of 125 meters. Elie André Broca was a French artillery officer, doctor, science professor, and inventor who manufactured his weapon system under the name L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy, more commonly known as Sauterelle, or “The Grasshopper Crossbow.”
Hand grenades exposed the thrower to sniper fire and pot-shots from infantrymen, while the Grasshopper Crossbow enabled allied soldiers to launch French F1 hand grenades and British Mills bombs from behind the cover of their trenches. The crossbow weighed 64 pounds and required one to two operators to use a hand crank similar to how bolts are loaded on modern crossbows. An experienced operator could hurl four bombs per minute.
The Davy Crockett required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.
M28/M29 Davy Crockett
Code named Little Feller I, presidential advisor and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sat surrounded by US Army generals and engineers while 396 spectators watched nearby as the smallest nuclear explosion ever recorded was detonated on July 17, 1962. Kennedy peered through his protective lenses as a dust cloud appeared after the nuclear detonation occurred 2.17 miles in the distance.
In the midst of the Cold War, the US military frequently tested new capabilities at the Nevada Test Site. One of these mechanisms was the M28/M39 Davy Crockett recoilless rifle weapon system. A three-man crew operated the weapon the same way a typical mortar crew would operate in the field, except instead of a mortar shell, the Davy Crockett fired a nuclear projectile carrying the W54 nuclear warhead, which had the explosive equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. The nuclear capability was carried by small teams on the ground while deployed to Europe and provided a nuclear security blanket in case war with the Soviet Union ever broke out.
History’s first atomic artillery shell fired from the Army’s new 280mm artillery gun. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
M65 Atomic Cannon: “Atomic Annie”
The M65 Atomic Cannon, better known as “Atomic Annie,” was a towed artillery piece that fired the W-9 15-kiloton atomic 280mm Projectile T124. The 47-ton weapon system had a remarkably fast emplacement rate, taking only 12 minutes to ready and fire and 15 minutes to make ready for traveling to the next target. The maximum range of Atomic Annie was between 20 and 35 miles, and it was operational between 1953 and 1963. The only nuclear detonation occurred at the Nevada Proving Ground during Operation Upshot Knothole on May 25, 1953. The device traveled a distance of 7 miles and detonated 524 feet above the ground. The testing was captured on video for archival records. Atomic Annie was never used during combat operations.
The rear 18-inch turret of HMS Furious. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun
The largest and heaviest weapon ever used by the British was the BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun. The initial design was geared toward arming the HMS Furious to make it capable of providing naval support to smaller vessels in the Baltic Narrows during the invasion of Germany in World War I. However, the warship lacked defenses and was considered a liability rather than an asset. During test trials of the 18-inch/40 (45.7 cm) turret gun, the ship couldn’t handle the overpressure when the gun fired. In theory, having a large naval weapon was a necessity, but since it didn’t pass the required tests, the HMS Furious was converted into an aircraft carrier.
The Royal Navy recognized they had a capability but had no sure way to apply it. On Sept. 28, 1918, the HMS General Wolfe changed these perceptions when it fired on a railroad bridge at Snaaskerke at a distance of 36,000 yards — the longest range any Royal Navy vessel has ever engaged enemy personnel up to that point in history.
Giant artillery shell that hit the Adria building on Aug. 18, 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising. Heavy shells like this were fired by siege weapons. Photo courtesy of SPWW1944.
The Karl-Gerät was another siege weapon in the Nazi Germany inventory and was deemed the largest self-propelled gun in the history of warfare. The 273,374-pound super weapon could be moved across Europe during World War II through the use of European rail networks. When the weapon reached its destination, it was detached from its special transportation car and set up facing its target — usually a city or town. The Karl was used during the Battle of Sevastopol and along both the eastern and western fronts. It had its fair share of mechanical and technical problems but still crippled buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Warsaw Uprising. The historic Battle of the Bulge might have turned out different if the Karl wasn’t strafed and damaged by allied aircraft orbiting above.
The Dictator was used during the American Civil War. Photo courtesy of ironbrigader.com.
During the American Civil War, the Union built a makeshift railroad battery of their own that tipped the scales at 17,120 pounds. They called it the “Dictator,” and it was used during the 1864 Siege of Petersburg. The Dictator was secured on a reinforced railway car and could fire 200-pound shells at a 45-degree angle up to 4,235 yards.
“This 13 inch mortar was used principally against what was known as the ‘Chesterfield Battery,’ which from the left bank of [the] river, completely enfiladed our batteries on the right; all our direct fire seemed to have no effect,” according to a 1st Connecticut historian. “From this mortar was the only fire that seemed to hold the battery in check.”
Adolf Hitler, second from right, and Albert Speer, far right, in front of the 800mm Gustav railway gun in 1943. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Nazi regime had several advanced weapons within its arsenal, and Adolf Hitler’s own Schwerer Gustav, a super weapon and railway gun, was the largest weapon ever built. The Nazis first used the cannon during the Battle of Sevastopol in 1942. The Schwerer Gustav required a crew of 2,000 people to operate and took four days of maintenance before the enormous railway gun could be used. More than 300 800mm shells decimated the Crimean city and, although it was originally created to destroy the Maginot Line — a defensive fortification deemed impregnable — the Schwerer Gustav was ultimately never needed after a successful Blitzkrieg campaign.
The booby trap was one of the signature tactics the Viet Cong used against American troops in Vietnam. Punji sticks, snake pits, and hidden grenades are as synonymous with the Vietnam War as the song “Fortunate Son.”
But even for the Viet Cong, the dense, dark jungle canopy of what is supposed to be their home turf can get confusing and disorienting. So how can a retreating VC know how to find the booby traps they laid for the GIs after a few days or weeks away from that area? It seems impossible, but the VC thought of that.
In order to avoid falling victim to their own simple but effective traps, they created a system to clandestinely mark the traps. So whether it’s the “Grenade in a Can,” “the Mace,” or even a simple snake pit, they developed a way to warn themselves and other VC as well as show them a route to avoid the trap.
Luckily for American troops, Marine Corps engineers established the Demolitions and Mine Warfare School to use captured mines, bullet traps and other deadly devices captured from the VC to teach soldiers how to avoid them. If possible they might even teach Marines how to rewire them.
Viet Cong fighters would set traps in the places they believed the American troops would actually walk. If they thought the American GI would notice the trap, the VC would place a secondary trap to get anyone who avoided the first one. These are the lessons taught by the Marines at the Demolitions and Mine Warfare School.
Markings used by the VC who laid these booby traps would indicate what kind of trap it was, the location of it and which way the trap would explode, where applicable. Some of them were fairly obvious, such as rectangles or pyramids made of bamboo. Others were not as noticeable, such as formations of broken sticks on the ground, bamboo spikes pointed a certain way or palm leaves on the ground, either specially folded or with a stick wound through it.
Just like they learned about the VC’s secondary booby trap, U.S. engineers eventually picked up on these signals too. Not only did they pick up that special code, they learned how to use it against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese as well.
Using the code, Americans could change how the VC moved through an area and even make them walk headlong into their own booby traps.
The VC noted how effective their traps were by returning to the sites where they all were set and noting how many had been triggered. They could adapt the most effective ones to other areas by reusing the styles already triggered. If American GIs got wise to the pit traps, for example, the Viet Cong would just start using arrow traps or cartridge traps instead.
The booby traps of Vietnam were psychologically difficult for the soldiers and Marines on search and destroy missions in the bush. So even though the VC had the market cornered on hidden booby traps in the jungle, it’s nice to know there were some American troops out there turing the tables on these terrible weapons.