During the Cold War, Sweden charted a course of neutrality in Europe. It wasn’t always easy, and that neutrality wasn’t always respected (see the “Whiskey on the Rocks” incident from 1981). But to preserve it, Sweden often had to design its own weapons.
In the air, that resulted in a series of outstanding fighters, starting with the Draken. But on land came a very unique tank – one that was designed for a defensive role, to fight alongside improved Centurion main battle tanks.
The Stridsvagn 103, or “S-Tank,” was intended to help defeat a Soviet invasion. According to MilitaryFactory.com, its main armament was a Bofors 105mm gun, for which it carried 50 rounds. However, after looking at combat from World War II and Korea, the Swedes decided to put the 105mm gun into the hull. This removed the vulnerability of the tank to hits in the turret, and it also allowed it to be compact at only seven feet tall.
Russian tanks like the T-72 were almost as short as the S-Tank, but gained their compact size by packing everything in a very small space. This meant that bad things usually happened when the tanks took a hit.
The S-Tank had a crew of three, a top speed of 37 miles per hour, and it could go 186 miles before needing to be refueled. It weighed in at 47 tons.
Like many of Sweden’s weapons, the S-Tank never saw combat before it was retired in 1997, along with the early Cold War-era Centurions.
To replace this unique tank, the Swedes decided to import German Leopard 2 main battle tanks, then proceeded to build a variant of the Leopard 2A5, the Stridsvagn 122.
A classified unmanned space plane has been in orbit for over 500 days, but no one is telling the public what it’s doing.
Drones are in the news nearly every day. Tiny toys snapping exciting photos for our Instagram accounts. Commercial drones working for farmers and municipal agencies. Missile-armed drones performing strikes on enemy locations. Unmanned craft, in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, are conducting more missions for more people all the time.
Operated by the United States Air Force, the X-37B is at the top of the drone pyramid and is pushing the outside edge of the envelope as you read this.
The X-37B, sometimes called the Orbital Test Vehicle, is a small unmanned reusable spacecraft built by Boeing that looks a lot like a small space shuttle. It’s 29 feet-long with stubby wings and angled tail fins. Unlike the famous shuttle orbiters that it resembles, however, it lacks a vertical stabilizer. It launches atop an Atlas V 501 launch vehicle inside the booster’s payload fairing and, at the end of its mission, returns to earth and lands on a runway like the 80s-era space shuttle.
What the space plane does while it’s up there, though, is mostly a mystery.
The first X-37B mission, OTV-1, flew in 2010 and lasted for 224 days — close to the X-37B’s designed 270-day endurance. The second mission, flown by a second X-37B, flew in 2011 and lasted 468 days. The third mission, performed by the first spacecraft, lasted an astounding 674 days. The current mission, dubbed “OTV-4,” was launched on May 20, 2015, and recently passed 500 days in orbit.
The Air Force is tight-lipped about how long OTV-4 will last, though it must last until at least March 25, 2017, if it’s going to break OTV-3’s record.
The X-37B program began as a NASA project. One of the X-37’s primary missions was to have been satellite rendezvous for refueling and repair, and the small space plane would have been carried to orbit inside a space shuttle’s cargo bay.
As the program progressed, however, the plan shifted to launching atop an expendable booster and, in 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency took over the program. DARPA continued development of the X-37, resulting in the current X-37B for the US Air Force.
Once the project transferred to the military, it became classified.
The spacecraft itself is not terribly secret. For the past six years, numerous news stories have been run about the “secret” space plane and many photographs have been published.
What the X-37B does while it’s up there on missions lasting well over a year, though, is the source of much conjecture. The fact sheet for the X-37B on the official Air Force web site describes the mission as “an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”
That’s an explanation that doesn’t explain much, however, and doesn’t seem to justify the enormous expense of building, launching, and operating the spacecraft.
Of course, theories on the internet abound. Some have claimed that the X-37B is an advanced spy satellite. Some wonder if the X-37B could be an experimental space bomber. Others believe that the original mission of satellite rendezvous for maintenance could easily have been adapted to more nefarious purposes, such as interfering with or destroying satellites operated by nations such as Russia or China.
If you spend enough time online, you’re certain to find any number of wild ideas. One of the most outlandish theories about the X-37B is that it’s not unmanned at all. The idea is that a hibernating astronaut is onboard the space plane and that experiments are being conducted to prepare for long-duration manned missions to Mars or, perhaps, to station a quick-reaction force of soldiers in orbit for secret missions anywhere on the globe. Or above it.
Whatever the X-37B is up to, it seems to be doing a good job of it. Work is being done to make it possible for the drone to land at Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle landing strip. Part of the shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility, without a mission since the shuttle program ended, is being modified to process X-37Bs.
A recent NASA presentation discussed the potential to develop a space ambulance which could service the ISS from the X-37B. An X-37C proposal, more than 50 percent larger than the current model, would possibly be able to carry astronauts.
The classified little space plane is a bit of a mystery but certainly one of the most exciting drones in use today. Even if we aren’t sure what’s it doing.
The SSK .950 JDJ is an absolute beast. Made by SSK Industries, each bullet is over four inches long, weighs over half a pound and costs about $40. There are only three rifles ever made that can fire the round. The weapons weigh between 85 and 120 pounds and produce a recoil capable of injuring its shooter.
The AGM-114 Hellfire has gotten lots of press. Deservedly so, given how it has made a number of prominent terrorists good terrorists. Here’s the Hellfire’s tale of the tape: it weighs 110 pounds, has a 20-pound warhead, and a range of 4.85 nautical miles.
But as good as the Hellfire is, there may be a better missile — and the Brits have it. The missile is called Brimstone, and at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, MBDA was displaying mock-ups on its triple mounts.
The baseline Brimstone has over 100 percent more range (over ten nautical miles, according to the RAF’s web page) than the Hellfire. The longer range is a huge benefit for the aircraft on close-air support missions, outranging many man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even some modern short-range systems like the SA-15.
Three missiles, three small boats — this is a mock-up of a typical triple-mount of the Brimstone missile on display at SeaAirSpace 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)
The Royal Air Force currently uses the Brimstone on the Tornado GR.4 aircraft and also used it on the Harrier GR.9 prior to the jump jet’s retirement. The RAF will introduce it on the Typhoon multi-role fighters and the Reaper drone currently in the inventory. According to a MDBA handout available at SeaAirSpace 2017, Brimstone made its bones over Afghanistan and Libya.
But at SeaAirSpace 2017, MDBA was showing signs of wanting to put the Brimstone on more aircraft. At their booth was a model of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with four three-round mounts for the Brimstone. Such a pairing could be very devastating to Iranian small boat swarms that have been known to harass United States Navy vessels on multiple occasions or hordes of Russian tanks that could threaten the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Researchers from MIT and NASA have developed an airplane wing that can change shape and increase the efficiency of aircraft flight, production, and maintenance, according to MIT News.
On a traditional airplane wing, only parts of the wing, such as flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane’s direction. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety.
The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components which make it lighter and more efficient than traditional airplane wings. Since the wing could adjust to the particular characteristics of each stage of flight (takeoff, landing, steering, etc.), it could perform better than traditional wings, which are not designed to maximize performance during any part of a flight.
Wing assembly under construction.
“We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack,” NASA research engineer Nicholas Cramer told MIT News.
The wing’s parts are arranged in a lattice structure that creates a large amount of empty space and covered in a thin, polymer material. Combined, the wing’s materials and structure make it as firm as a rubber-like polymer (though much less dense) and as light as an aerogel.
MIT graduate student Benjamin Jenett told MIT News that the wing performed better than expected during a test in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.
The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.
In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.
It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.
Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.
Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.
NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.
The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.
Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but during the Cold War, he’d find the Caspian Sea a little crowded.
Now, Russia is building a new Caspian Sea Monster.
According to a tweet by the Russian embassy in South Africa, the Chaika A-050 is slated to enter service by 2020. The A-050 is what is known as an “ekranoplan,” or ground-effect vehicle. The Soviet Union pushed these airplane hybrids during the Cold War, largely because they offered a unique mix of the capabilities of ships and aircraft.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Lun-class ekranoplan is one such example. It had a top speed of 342 miles per hour — slightly slower than the B-29 Superfortress — which could go 358 miles per hour. However, the Lun carried six SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles, which are limited for use on surface combatants like the Sovremenny-class destroyer and Tarantul-class missile boat. The Lun could climb to as high as 24,000 feet.
According to a 2015 report by Valuewalk.com, the Chaika A-050 will travel at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour, with a range of 3,000 miles. It will be able to carry at least nine tons of cargo or 100 passengers. However, a Sputnik News report indicated that the Russians could install the BrahMos missile on the new ekranoplan.
The BrahMos is a version of the SS-N-26 Oniks surface-to-surface missile that has been installed on a number of Indian Navy vessels. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the BrahMos has a top speed of Mach 2.8 and a range of 500 kilometers. The missile carries a 300-kilogram warhead, and can hit surface ships or land targets. The missile can be used by submarines and surface ships.
Loose lips sink ships, the old saying goes. Nothing could be more true. And the combination of an international audience with highly classified intelligence along with a complete lack of understanding for what’s important and what’s not can be disastrous. It should come to no surprise for anyone reading that a Congressman learned this the hard way.
Back then, at least, it was enough to cost him the next election.
This f*cking guy.
In the early days of World War II, the Japanese didn’t really understand Allied submarine technology. Most importantly, they had no idea American and British submarines could dive so deep. When fighting Allied subs, the Japanese set their depth charge fuses to explode at a depth roughly equivalent to what their submarines could handle, which was a lot more shallow than American and British subs could dive. As a result, the survival rate of Allied submarines encountering Japanese ships was amazingly high.
For the first year or so of the war, the Americans enjoyed this advantage in the Pacific. Japanese anti-submarine warfare was never sophisticated enough to realize its fatal flaws, and American sailors’ lives were saved as a result. Then Kentucky Congressman Andrew J. May made a visit to the Pacific Theater and changed all that.
Droppin’ charges, droppin’ bodies
The Balao-class submarines of the time could dive to depths of some 400 feet, much deeper than the depth Japanese ships set their depth charges to explode. Congressman May was informed of this during his visit, along with a ton of other sensitive war-related information. Upon returning from his junket in the war zone, May held a press conference where he revealed this fact to the world, informing the press wires that American sailors were surviving in incredible numbers because the charges were set too shallow. The press reported his quotes, and eventually, it got back to the Japanese.
Who promptly changed their depth charge fuses.
A depth charge-damaged submarine.
Vice-Admiral Charles Lockwood was understandably livid when he heard the news, not just because a Congressman had leaked sensitive information to the press for seemingly no reason, but because he knew what the tactical outcome of the reveal would be. And Admiral Lockwood was right. When the Japanese changed their fuses, it began to take its toll on American submarines, which might have normally survived such an attack. He estimated the slip cost ten submarines and 800 crewmen killed in action.
“I hear Congressman May said the Jap depth charges are not set deep enough,” Lockwood reportedly told the press. “He would be pleased to know that the Japs set them deeper now.”
When the time came for May’s re-election campaign after the war in 1946, the reveal (which became known as The May Incident) along with corruption allegations became too much for the Kentucky voters, and May lost his seat in the House of Representatives. May served nine months in a federal prison for corruption.
Militaries and private companies around the world are developing new technologies that turn war fighters into supersoldiers. Jet-powered suits that allow the wearer to hop between boats moving at 20 knots and flying hoverboards are just the start of it.
The Russian military is developing motorized body armor that looks like it belongs on Boba Fett from “Star Wars.” And the hoverboard isn’t just something from “Back to the Future,” it’s a real invention that France’s Franky Zapata successfully used to cross the English Channel.
The Russian military, as well as the US, France, and Great Britain, are all developing futuristic technologies that seem like something straight out of a Marvel blockbuster. But these technologies aren’t far off in the future; many are already in testing phases — or in use on the battlefield.
Read on to see some of the most wild futuristic military tech out there.
Jet-powered flyboard steals the show at Bastille Day celebrations
1. The French inventor Franky Zapata’s high-flying hoverboard made it all the way to France’s Bastille Day celebrations this year. French President Emmanuel Macron was so enamored that he tweeted a video of it, suggesting that the French military might use them in combat one day.
“Proud of our army, modern and innovative,” Macron tweeted during the Bastille Day festivities.
Zapata’s Flyboard Air can fly at speeds up to 190 kph (118 mph), according to The Guardian.
2. The US Army is in the final testing stage for its Enhanced Night Vision Goggles-Binocular (ENVG-B), which will allow soldiers to accurately shoot from the hip and around corners. They also provide improved situational awareness, thermal imaging, and better depth perception.
The new goggles have dramatically improved marksmanship, Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress.
The goggles can display the weapon’s aim point and can be linked to see video or virtual feeds from other positions, allowing troops to accurately shoot around corners without exposing their heads.
An armored brigade combat team deploying to South Korea will be the first to use the new goggles, according to Army Times.
3. The FLIR Black Hornet III is a pocket-sized drone that will perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in combat. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, already has the drones, which come in a pair — one for daytime and one enabling night vision. The drones are about 6 inches long and can fit on a soldier’s utility belt. The Army hopes to equip every soldier with the drones in the future.
Paratroopers of the 83rd Airborne Brigade preparing for jump drills in 2017.
4. According to Russian state media, the Russian military is developing the D-14 Shelest parachute system, which will allow soldiers to access their weapons and begin firing immediately after they jump out of a plane.
Russia’s Tass news agency reported the parachute system would allow paratroopers to have small arms strapped to their chests and that the new technology would be tested at the Research Institute of Parachute-Making soon.
5. Russia’s infantry could soon be wearing the Ratnik-3 armor that reportedly allows soldiers to fire a machine gun with one hand. It has integrated electric motors — an improvement over the Ratnik-2 version, which was not motorized. It’s in testing.
The US had a similar suit in development, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. However, we’re not likely to see the TALOS in combat anytime soon, Task Purpose reported earlier this year.
6. The inventor and former Royal Marine Richard Browning tested his jet suit over the English Channel, using the five-turbine suit to move back and forth with ease between Royal Navy boats.
7. “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Rocket Man! Inventor, pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning, along side HMS Dasher, tested his jet-powered body suit over the water of the Solent for the very first time,” the Royal Navy tweeted on Tuesday.
7. The Army is developing a 50 kilowatt laser cannon, the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), to be mounted on Stryker combat vehicles. It’s designed to shoot drones and explosives out of the sky, and the Army plans to roll it out in the next four years.
The Army accelerated the development and deployment of the MMHEL. “The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition, said in a statement.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller using a HoloLens.
(US Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)
8. The Army is testing goggles that employ facial recognition, as well as technology that translates written words like road signs. The goggles may even be able to project visual data from drones right in front of soldiers’ eyes. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is a modified Microsoft HoloLens technology and is expected to go into wide use in the mid-2020s.
“We’re going to demonstrate very, very soon, the ability, on body — if there are persons of interest that you want to look for and you’re walking around, it will identify those very quickly,” Col. Chris Schneider, a project manager for IVAS, said at a demonstration of the technology recently.
At a quick glance, the rules as outlined by the Geneva Conventions on which weapons are allowed (and disallowed) to be used in combat make little sense. The objective of combat is, ultimately, to put an enemy down so the conflict will end — and yet such killing must be done via the most humane means available.
Weapons like a nuclear ICBM are strongly condemned by the international community — but a depleted uranium tank buster round is fine. A Browning .50 caliber Machine Gun is entirely legal, but simply shaving a side of a bullet is a war crime. Incendiary grenades are banned, but (and it’s very explicitly stated) a flamethrower was permitted and often used during the Vietnam War.
So how, exactly, do the Geneva Conventions delineate what is and isn’t allowed when killing the enemy? It all boils down to two simple words: military necessity.
This idea of the Conventions was to keep war as humane as possible, not just for the sake of civilians that may be in the area of operations, but for combatants. This is achieved by limiting the infliction of undue harm.
It’s understood that, by the very nature of combat, one side’s troop will be required to end the life of the other, but such killing doesn’t need to be sadistic or cruel. The previously-mentioned shaved bullet, or “dum-dum round,” is banned because, instead of entering the human body and either exiting or stopping, a dum-dum round ricochets around the organs, causing an extreme level of pain before ultimately killing via internal bleeding.
Say the enemy is attacking troops from a positioned reinforced by armor. The troops in that position are allowed to use the lowest-level solution to counter enemy actions. Sure, an ICBM would technically get the job done, but that’s escalating the situation to an extreme level, putting civilians at unnecessary risk. Still, The troops something to punch through that armor, like a depleted uranium tank buster round.
It’s not quite as cut-and-dry as that, though. “Military necessity” accounts for what’s available at any given moment. If troops roll up in a vehicle outfitted with an M2 machine gun and terrorists open fire, troops aren’t required to fall back and find something a little less powerful than the .50 cal they have on hand.
That being said, the use of weapon, round, or weapon system must be carefully considered when there’s a chance civilians are in the area. After all, the objective of a given conflict is to stop the enemy by whatever means — not to harm innocents.
With those qualifying factors in mind, let’s consider a weapon like the flamethrower. Despite its reputation, this weapon wasn’t designed solely to roast the enemy alive. The flamethrower’s intended use is to clear out hard-to-reach tunnels and bunkers when sending in troops with only conventional means would likely result in their deaths. This same justification can be applied to thick forests or jungles.
It cannot, however, be used as the sole weapon of a troop, unless it is the only weapon on hand, and it cannot be used to specifically destroy the plant cover to prevent it from spreading, unless the plant cover is being used by the enemy as a military objective.
The aftermath of using a flamethrower isn’t something that can be controlled, so it’s highly discouraged, but not forbidden if used with caution.
Thanks to the generosity of military members who literally gave up the uniforms they wore on their backs, Alexander Barnes and Kevin Born have successfully authored a new book that is educating readers on the nuances of desert uniforms.
After more than two years, their 344-page hardcover reference book “Desert Uniforms, Patches and Insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces” was published in late 2016. It features more than 1,000 mostly color photos with detailed descriptions of a variety of uniforms, different unit patches and insignia and more. They had lots of willing help tracking these down – locally and around the globe.
To handle the massive project, they set up a small studio in Born’s house and spend nights and weekends photographing and scanning several hundred donated and loaned uniforms, patches and insignia worn by U.S. Armed Forces.
Barnes, a former Marine and National Guardsman, and Kevin Born, chief of the Collective Training Development Division in theCASCOM G-3/5/7, and retired Army major, often just needed to walk around CASCOM for help.
“Working in a building with so many military veterans,” said Born “one is bound to run into some who had served during the desert period. Retired Col. Charles (Charlie) Brown, director of the Battle Lab, gave me his 6-colored uniform from Desert Storm and 3-colored Desert Combat Uniform from Afghanistan. And on the day he retired, he loaned me his Army Combat Uniform off his back, which is in the book illustrating the transition to the ACU uniform.”
Born said, “In another example, one day I walked out of my office in the CASCOM G-3 area and 10 feet away in Jason Aleo’s cubicle was hanging a rare desert Close Combat Uniform from his service as a field artillery captain with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. I asked to borrow it as well as photos of him wearing it in Northern Iraq. It’s included on two pages in the book.
Barnes, who retired as a CASCOM logistics management supervisor in 2015, has similar accounts of those assisting with the book.
“I sent an email to Lt. Gen. (Mitchell) Stevenson (in England), a former CASCOM commander, and asked if he could share a photo of his service. He replied a day later, ‘What do you need, and how soon?'” said Barnes. “He was in a civilian job, but he stepped forward and sent us a great picture of him in the desert.”
Born continued, “I walked by Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter’s office one day, and saw a set of framed photos from his service with the 10th Mountain Division very early in Afghanistan in 2001. He kindly loaned several for us to scan. These appear in the book with Trotter praying next to a Soldier.”
Barnes and Born together have more than 50 years of military service and share a long history and avid passion for military collecting. Barnes has a master’s in anthropology, grew up in a military family and has co-authored three other books on military history as well as writing many articles on the subject.
Born has a bachelor’s in history and education and has authored numerous articles on military insignia collecting, an area he has focused on for more than 40 years. While they worked at CASCOM for a number of years, they did not know each other until the August 2011 earthquake in Central Virginia.
”Al and I are both members of the U.S. Militaria Forum and he commented about the earthquake on the forum that night,” said Born. “I saw his post and realized there was another military collector one floor above me. I reached out to him through the forum.”
Barnes said, “the earthquake was the catalyst.”
They soon discovered like-minded military collectors on Fort Lee who included Richard Killblane, the Transportation School historian, and then Lt. Col. (now Col.) Robert Nay, the former deputy installation chaplain.
“We met periodically at lunch to talk about our collecting interests,” Born said. “The seeds for the book came out of these discussions.”
They also collaborated on several articles in Military Trader Magazine that allowed them to get used to each other’s writing styles and served as practice for writing the book.
However, there were no plans yet for a book.
Barnes continued, “We started having lunches with others who had the same interest. After several, we decided to have a military swap meet at Fort Lee.”
Three annual gatherings took place and there was a huge interest, Barnes said.
“After one of these, we said, ‘We need to do something about all these desert uniforms. If we don’t, it will be hard to do it in 20 years.'”
A soldier enjoys breakfast in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 wearing the so-called “chocolate chip” desert camo uniform. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros via Flickr)
The two were unsure of any interest in a book about desert uniforms. “It was such a short period of military history,” noted Barnes. Others at Lee changed their minds.
“It was one of these serendipity things,” said Barnes as they began asking veterans about their desert tours. “So, you were there too. I’ll be darned. Would you have any pictures? And they would say ‘sure.'”
Barnes added, “most were surprised anyone cared. ‘You’re kidding. You really want pictures of me in Iraq. Sure – anything I have, you can have.'”
The original project was smaller in scale. “We thought it would be kind of an Army patch book – showing the variations of these with a couple pictures of uniforms,” said Barnes. “But it kept growing as we felt it important to add all services.”
Schiffer Publishing – the publisher of three other books by Barnes – quickly gave the go-ahead. Both were surprised to get a positive response. They were given nearly a year to pull it together – write the chapters and captions, gather the content, take photos and more.
After 10 months of gathering content and expanding the book, they submitted their package in August 2015. In December, they began receiving sections of the book from Schiffer. After receiving proofs, both saw areas where more details were needed, and they started a Facebook page to help in this process.
“We got more interest from around the world,” said Barnes.
In preparation for the book, they accumulated more than 1,000 government and theater-made desert patches and over 300 uniforms. A large number are in it. These came from numerous veterans and collectors.
Others at Fort Lee (some retired or at other bases now) who were helpful include retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffie Moore, formerly with the CASCOM Proponency office; Maj Mike Bethea, an Enterprise Systems Directorate officer in CASCOM; Dr. Milt Smith, a dentist at Bull clinic; and Capt. (now Maj.) Vance Zemke, a former instructor at ALU.
Born added, “I found out two weeks before Maj. Zemke was to PCS to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that he had a huge collection of theater-made patches acquired in his deployments. He kindly loaned them to me with the provision I get them back in a few days’ time for him to pack them up for the movers. I spent day-and-night scanning them. They can be found throughout the book.”
The book foreword is by retired Maj. Gen. Ken Bowra, a former Special Forces officer, a friend of Barnes and Born.
“He not only wrote the foreword, but he allowed us to take pictures of his personal uniforms and shared many photographs as well,” said Barnes. “He served in the entire desert uniform period, wore these uniforms and patches in Desert Storm/Somalia/Operation Enduring Freedom and many other places. Most importantly, he always had a great respect for all the men and women who served during this era.”
Bowra also is a military history writer and author of two Osprey Vietnam-era books.
There were some hard-to-get uniforms and patches, notably CASCOM patches.
“Most collectors do not have these,” noted Born. “These units are not normally in the desert environment, and fewer people were deployed from the schools. I only had a loose copy of the patch. But Al beat the bushes with all of his contacts to find a photograph of one being worn in theater, which are both in the book.”
They completed their final review in August 2016 and were pleased to receive finished copies in late December.
Born said, “writing the book was about two things for us – recognizing the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces who wore the desert uniform as well as advancing this area of military collecting. Whenever a reference like this is published, there is an increased interest among collectors.”
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.
Kimber has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of high quality small arms, especially their 1911 pistols. Based on the original design of John Moses Browning from over a century ago, the 1911 platform is famed for its crisp single-action trigger, .45 ACP stopping power, and being the winner of two world wars as well as the U.S. military’s longest serving sidearm. Today, Kimber makes pistols that have been used by the USA Shooting Team, LAPD SWAT, MARSOC, and John Wick.
Originally founded in 1979 in Clackamas, Oregon by Australian immigrant Jack Warne and his son, Greg, Kimber of Oregon started as a manufacturer of precision .22lr rifles. The late 1980s and early 1990s were tough on Kimber and Jack left to found the Warne Manufacturing Company. Greg revived Kimber with the financial backing of Les Edelman, owner of Nationwide Sports Distributors. Though the younger Warne was eventually forced out of the company, Edelman saw great opportunity in pairing Kimber’s reputation for quality and extensive network of dealers with his newly acquired Yonkers-based company, Jerico Precision Manufacturing.
Jerico was undergoing a drop in production due to cuts in defense spending, but still maintained a sizable industrial capability. Edelman moved Kimber’s production to Jerico’s facilities in New York, thus ending the Kimber presence in Oregon. It was at this time that Kimber began manufacturing the high quality 1911 handguns that the company is known for today.
Though its professional connection to tier one units like LAPD SWAT and MARSOC led to great commercial success and expansion of operations to New Jersey, Kimber faced political opposition from both states.
In early 2018, Kimber announced that it would move its manufacturing operations to Troy, Alabama with a new design engineering and manufacturing facility beginning operations in early 2019. “We are pleased with the impressive track record that Alabama has with attracting and retaining world-class manufacturing companies,” Edelman said.
Less than three years after announcing the move of its design and production facilities, the company announced that it would also move the Kimber headquarters to Troy. The company says that it will have 366 employees in Troy with a $38 million investment. “The final step in completing this new facility is adding staff across all departments,” the company announced in a press release. “Kimber’s new headquarters is situated on 80+ acres with more than 225,000 square-feet of space and is now home to industry-leading design engineering, product management and manufacturing capabilities.”
Kimber is not the only company to move its business to the area. In 2019, Lockheed Martin broke ground on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, also in Troy. Less than three hours to the southwest, Airbus opened its A220 final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama in May 2020.