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.
BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.
“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.
CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.
The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.
(Photo by BAE Systems)
The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.
Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.
One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.
Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.
He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is slated to replace the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee), entered low-rate initial production this year. But while it faces the challenge of replacing an iconic vehicle (much as the HMMWV replaced the jeep), it is getting a little help from another icon, the AH-64 Apache.
Not that the HMMWV couldn’t carry some decent firepower. It has operated the M2 heavy machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile (TOW). That said, here’s its problem: The M2 and Mk 19 are more suited to take out infantry and trucks than to take on armored vehicles. Granted, even a HMMWV could carry a lot of ammo for those weapons. Using those weapons against a BMP would be like shooting an elephant with a .22.
So, the JLTV, to paraphrase an Army NCO from the 1998 version of “Godzilla,” needed a bigger gun. But what sort of gun? The JLTV couldn’t quite manage the M242 Bushmaster used on the M2/M3 Bradley or the LAV-25 and still have enough ammo and still be able to carry up to six troops. Then, the Army looked to the Apache.
At 160 pounds, the M230 cannon on the Apache is lighter than the M242 (262 pounds), but the 30mm round it fires can easily take out most light vehicles, particularly the BRDM-2, a likely opponent. The M230 can also take out a number of armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, like the BTR-80 or BMP.
The M2 made a similar journey. While initially intended as an anti-tank weapon, Ma Deuce gained its biggest notoriety as the main armament of American fighters like the P-51, F4U, and P-38 during World War II. Even in the Korean War, it served as the primary armament for the F-86, before being displaced by 20mm cannon.
Using the M230 is also a benefit for lighter units like the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Air Assault Division. Since the AH-64s with those units use the M230 already, there is no need to add a new gun and all the spare parts and ammo into the supply chain for those divisions. That makes life a little easier for the valuable logistics personnel while the front-line grunts get a bit more firepower.
When it was first designed, the AGM-114 Hellfire missile was intended to give the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter a way to kill the Soviet tanks of World War II, replacing a combination of the AH-1 Cobra and the BGM-71 TOW missile. But the Hellfire has proven to be far more versatile.
Don’t get us wrong, the Hellfire was indeed a very capable tank killer. As many as 4,000 missiles were fired during Operation Desert Storm and as many as 90% of those hit their targets, which ranged from tanks to bunkers to radar sites.
After Desert Storm, the missile was improved. One of the biggest improvements was the addition of a new means of guidance: the Longbow radar system. The Longbow radar is able to automatically search, detect, locate, classify, and prioritize targets in the air, on land, and at sea.
The Hellfire has been added to numerous other helicopters, notably Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. It also has been added to the Navy’s littoral combat ships, and it has been tested for launch from a variety of ground vehicles, from the M113 to the High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. The missile is so versatile, in fact, that they’re used for coastal defense by Norway and Sweden, and they’re also used on the Combat Boat 90, a Swedish coastal boat.
But the missile’s true versatility emerged in the War on Terror.
The United States and Israel have used the Hellfire to take out a number of high-ranking terrorists. This includes Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, Anwar al-Awlaki, and ISIS propagandist, “Jihadi John.” The Hellfire has been exported to over two dozen countries and it will likely be in service for a long time to come, including as an option for the Stryker Mobile Short-range Air Defense vehicle.
Learn more about the highly-versatile Hellfire in the video below.
This Is The First F-35C Carrier Variant Joint Strike Fighter For The U.S. Marine Corps VMFA-314.
Marines are also getting the F-35C CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Lightning II. Here’s their first Carrier Variant Jet in VMFA-314 markings.
Along with flying the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft, that operates from amphibious assault ships, the U.S. Marine Corps is transitioning to the F-35C, the CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Assisted Recovery) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (also known as CV – Carrier Variant), that can operate from U.S. Navy’s flattops (the Nimitz-class ones, until issues with the Ford-class carriers are fixed).
Indeed, the Corps plans to operate 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs to replace three types of aircraft: the F/A-18A++/C/D “Legacy” Hornet, the AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, is the first Marines squadron that will replace the “Legacy” Hornet with the brand new F-35C.
The first F-35C delivered to a USMC squadron, VMFA-314, at NAS Lemoore.
Photo by United States Marine Corps
At the time of writing, VMFA-314 has already started training alongside the U.S. Navy’s VFA-125, the F-35’s only Fleet Replacement Squadron, based at NAS Lemoore, California. The plan is to complete the preparation by next Spring.
By the time the Marine Aircraft Group 11 commander officer will certify the squadron as “safe for flight” and ready to operate independently of the FRS, VMFA-314 will have returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the F-35C was declared on Feb. 28, 2019, after the first F-35C squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, conducted aircraft carrier qualifications aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and received its Safe-For-Flight Operations Certification.
“In order to declare IOC, the first operational squadron must be properly manned, trained and equipped to conduct assigned missions in support of fleet operations. This includes having 10 Block 3F, F-35C aircraft, requisite spare parts, support equipment, tools, technical publications, training programs and a functional Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS). Additionally, the ship that supports the first squadron must possess the proper infrastructure, qualifications and certifications. Lastly, the Joint Program Office (JPO), industry, and Naval Aviation must demonstrate that all procedures, processes and policies are in place to sustain operations,” the Navy added in an official statement.
VFA-147 will conduct the first deployment with the F-35C integrated into the Carrier Air Wing 2, aboard the Nimitz-class USS Carl Vinson in 2021, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 will conduct the second F-35C carrier deployment.
Interestingly, at least one F-35C already sports full VMFA-314 markings. The first photos of CF-35/169601, modex VW-434, including those that you can find in this article, were posted three weeks ago by Col. Simon Doran, MAG 11’s commanding officer. More shots have started circulating on the Internet after the aircraft, with just a handful flying hours, made a public appearance at Tinker AFB Air Show, on Jun. 1, 2019.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
The skill and agility of airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, were on full display at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 19-Nov. 22, 2019, during exercise Mobil Tiger.
The asymmetric advantage of US combat troops is greatly increased by the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Commonly known as the “Warthog,” this staple of combat air support depends greatly upon the expertise of airmen who operate and sustain them.
“Mobil Tiger is an agile combat deployment exercise,” said Air Force Major Zachary Krueger, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 23rd Wing Exercises and Plans office at Moody AFB. “The intent was to provide close air support and recover to an austere field, using only weapons and fuel we had available ourselves.”
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Edmonds, an A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, coordinates maintenance operations for exercise Mobil Tiger, at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)
During the exercise, US Air Force HC-130J Combat King II aircraft assigned to the 71st Rescue Squadron, Moody AFB, dropped off maintenance and security forces personnel along with their equipment and supplies on a remote corner of the MacDill AFB flight line to begin operations.
Security forces established a security perimeter while maintainers pulled their tools, set up chalks and placed munitions stands. They were swiftly joined by 74th Fighter Squadron A-10s, ready to be configured for combat.
Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)
“I was part of the first crew to hit the ground on MacDill where we quickly began finding ways to improve our time and efficiency,” said Senior Airman Dylan Holton, 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crewmember.
Deriving no support from MacDill AFB other than a slab of concrete on which to operate, the 23rd AMXS Airmen reconfigured weapons on the A-10s, quickly unloading one aircraft, guiding the next into position and arming them prior to take-off.
Weapons load crew members remove flares from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)
“It was my first time to experience an exercise like this and be at the center of all the action,” said Holton. “We moved as quickly and safely as possible to get the mission done.”
Joining the A-10s on the ramp were HH-60Gs from the 41st Rescue Squadron, which received fully stocked ammunition cans for their .50 caliber guns from the maintainers on the ground.
Elsewhere on the ramp, crews transferred fuel from the HC-130J aircraft to the A-10s and the HH-60Gs, thereby extending their range and operations.
Airmen load munitions on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft during exercise Mobil Tiger on MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Nov. 20, 2019.
(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brad Tipton)
“It’s awe inspiring seeing them execute to such a high level, learn lessons and show everyone else around them so that if and when we execute this mission downrange, we’re able to be effective and bring the whole weight of the 23rd Wing’s combat power to the combatant commander,” added Krueger.
Mobil Tiger serves as proof that the US Air Force can project lethal force at any chosen time and place.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Tactical Baby Gear takes a parenting essential — the diaper bag — and makes it something dads will actually want to tote around.
Let’s face it: Most diaper bags are, at best, neutral and inoffensive. Very few of them make an actual statement. That’s where Tactical Baby Gear comes in. This shit is no joke. Speaking of shit, it comes with an indestructible changing pad.
You get a heavy-duty, military-grade diaper bag with pad. The bag is made from 600D tactical polyester material and heavy-duty YKK zippers, so it’s able to withstand the zombie apocalypse, should it come to pass. The diaper bag itself is totally modular, with a large main compartment and roomy inner pockets.
Naturally, there’s a padded tablet compartment and a padded, detachable shoulder strap. And when your angel is potty-trained, you can even use this thing for non-baby outings.
The AV-8B+ Harrier is an iconic plane. The British Sea Harrier arguably was the reason the United Kingdom won the Falklands War. But let’s be honest, this plane isn’t immune from being something we can poke fun at…
So, as we have done with the F-16 and the A-10, here’s the Hater’s Guide to the Harrier.
Why it is easy to make fun of the Harrier
It has short range. The payload’s not much when you compare it to conventional planes. It kinda looks funny.
Also, it’s British, and have the Brits developed a good combat plane since World War II? The Spitfire wasn’t bad. But the “Spit,” like the Harrier, had the same short range problem. So, it’s…a British thing?
Because it won’t win any races against an F-15, F-16, F/A-18, or F-22.
That vertical landing, tho… (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)
Why you should love the Harrier
Because it can operate where other planes can’t. Runway cratered? Harriers are still in business. It holds the line when Hornets can’t. With AMRAAMs, it can shoot down anything an Eagle can. It’s GAU-12 can put the hurt on bad guys.
Because, when it was needed by the United Kingdom, it came through. For close air support, a Marine Harrier is the best option when you can’t have a Warthog.
Okay, when it comes down to it, the Harrier is, despite its foibles, one awesome jet.
Innovation isn’t just a matter of creating something new. Rather, it’s the process of translating an idea into goods or services that will create value for an end user. As such, innovation requires three key ingredients: the need (or, in defense acquisition terms, the requirement of the customer); people competent in the required technology; and supporting resources. The Catch-22 is that all three of these ingredients need to be present for innovation success, but each one often depends on the existence of the others.
This can be challenging for the government, where it tends to be difficult to find funding for innovative ideas when there are no perceived requirements to be fulfilled. With transformational ideas, the need is often not fully realized until after the innovation; people did not realize they “needed” a smartphone until after the iPhone was produced. For this reason, revolutionary innovations within the DoD struggle to fully mature without concerted and focused efforts from all of the defense communities: research, requirements, transition, and acquisition.
Despite these challenges, the Army has demonstrated its ability to generate successful innovative programs throughout the years. A prime example is the recently-completed Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3rd Gen FLIR) program.
The first implementation of FLIR gave the Army a limited ability to detect objects on the battlefield at night. Users were able to see “glowing, moving blobs” that stood out in contrast to the background. Although detectable, these blobs were often challenging to identify. In cluttered, complex environments, distinguishing non-moving objects from the background could be difficult.
These first-generation systems were large and slow and provided low-resolution images not suitable for long-range target identification. In many ways, they were like the boom box music players that existed before the iPhone: They played music, but they could support only one function, had a limited capacity, took up a lot of space, required significant power and were not very portable. Third Gen FLIR was developed based on the idea that greater speed, precision, and range in the targeting process could unlock the full potential of infrared imaging and would provide a transformative capability, like the iPhone, that would have cascading positive effects across the entire military well into the future.
Because speed, precision, and accuracy are critical components for platform lethality, 3rd Gen FLIR provides a significant operational performance advantage over the previous FLIR sensor systems. With 3rd Gen FLIR, the Army moved away from a single band (which uses only a portion of the light spectrum) to a multiband infrared imaging system, which is able to select the optimal portion of the light spectrum for identifying a variety of different targets.
U.S. Soldiers as seen through night vision.
The Army integrated this new sensor with computer software (signal processing) to automatically enhance these FLIR images and video in real time with no complicated setup or training required (similar to how the iPhone automatically adjusts for various lighting conditions to create the best image possible). 3rd Gen FLIR combines all of these features along with multiple fields of view (similar to having multiple camera lenses that change on demand) to provide significantly improved detection ranges and a reduction in false alarms when compared with previous FLIR sensor systems.
Using its wider fields of view and increased resolution, 3rd Gen FLIR allows the military to conduct rapid area search. This capability has proven to be invaluable in distinguishing combatants from noncombatants and reducing collateral damage. Having all of these elements within a single sensor allows warfighters to optimize their equipment for the prevailing battlefield conditions, greatly enhancing mission effectiveness and survivability. Current and future air and ground-based systems alike benefit from the new FLIR sensors, by enabling the military to purchase a single sensor that can be used across multiple platforms and for a variety of missions. This provides significant cost savings for the military by reducing the number of different systems it has to buy, maintain and sustain.
When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.
In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.
Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.
A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.
The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).
PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.
The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.
Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.
The military loves to boast that we “own the night.” That’s mostly because we don’t sleep, but it’s also because we have night vision goggles. If you weren’t a grunt, then your night vision was probably halfway decent. If you were a grunt, then your night vision was probably as effective as putting a green piece of plastic on the end of an empty paper towel roll.
So, if you ask one of us what it’s like to use NVGs, you’ll likely get an unexpected response: It sucks.
You might be asking yourself, “but aren’t you guys supposed to get awesome gear?” Yeah, sure. But no one wants to pay for it.
So, they give us what they are willing to pay for, and that’s why we get a set of AN/PVS-14s. A monocular (for the ASVAB waivers out there, that means it has one lens) device that, for one reason or another, doesn’t want to work how or when you’d like it to.
Marines will talk sh*t about them all day, but these complaints surface most often:
Not the sun, though. The moon is the best.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
They work best with natural light
This may not seem like a big deal — until you realize that a triple canopy jungle or a cloudy night sky are going to ruin any chance at having functional night vision. If you’re a grunt, the night sky is always cloudy and if you have to break the tree line, which you probably should, your NVGs are going to lose most of their ability.
Un-even weight distribution
Strapping that bad boy to your helmet is like taking a big rock and taping it to the side. It feels awkward and can throw you slightly off balance, which can be especially sh*tty as you’re trying to leap over ditches in the middle of the night.
They flood the hell out of your eye.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Unnatural light sources suck
If you have both eyes open (which you should) while you’re wearing these bad boys and you come across a glow stick or flashlight, your eyes’ sensitivity to light will be vastly different.
Your field of vision is severely reduced
If you’re peering into the night with both eyes open, you’ll see (hopefully) clearly with one eye, while the other is basically blind. Like we said before, it’s like looking through an empty paper towel tube — which doesn’t afford the best field of view.
Also, your command will give you 0 batteries.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anne K. Henry)
They eat batteries
Not literally — not like that guy in your platoon from Nebraska (you know the one). But when you go out with the NVGs, you are required to carry spare batteries, which just means tacking on a few more, precious ounces to your load.
Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.
But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.
The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.
No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.
The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.
The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.
While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.