The US Navy and Missile Defense Agency, supported by Lockheed Martin, successfully conducted a series of Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) tests in the Atlantic Ocean during Formidable Shield 2017 from Sept. 24 to Oct. 17, 2017. Naval forces from eight NATO nations participated in the exercise.
Formidable Shield is designed to demonstrate and improve allied interoperability in an integrated air and missile defense environment, using NATO command-and-control reporting structures and datalink architecture.
In one event, a US Navy ship operating with the BMD 4.0.3 Aegis Combat System conducted a simulated SM-3 Blk IB TU engagement of a live short-range ballistic missile target using remote track data provided by a Spanish F-100 class ship. In the same event, another US Navy ship, operating with the Baseline 9.C1 integrated air and missile defense capabilty, launched SM-2 missiles against cruise missile targets while simultaneously tracking the short-range ballistic missile.
In another event, a US Navy ship with BMD 4.0.3 Aegis Combat System successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile target with an SM-3 Blk IB TU.
“The tests show how flexible and versatile the Aegis Combat System is with other international navies around the world,” said Jim Sheridan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Naval Combat Missile Defense Systems. “Working with our allied nations and the US Navy depicts the interoperability of the Aegis Combat System with other disparate systems in an integrated air and missile defense environment.”
As a proven world leader in systems integration and development of air and missile defense systems and technologies, Lockheed Martin delivers high-quality missile defense solutions that protect citizens, critical assets and deployed forces from current and future threats. The company’s experience spans missile design and production, hit-to-kill capabilities, infrared seekers, command and control/battle management, and communications, precision pointing and tracking optics, radar and signal processing, as well as threat-representative targets for missile defense tests.
The origin of the American sniper is vague, with reports dating back as early as the American Revolution. The first established peacetime sniper school within the U.S. military was the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper course in Quantico, Virginia, in 1977. The U.S. Army followed suit with their sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1985. Brotherly competition between the two branches is infamous and continuous, predating the establishment of peace time training for snipers.
As far as sniper legends go, the Marine Corps has Carlos Hathcock, aka White Feather, with 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Of the Viet Cong enemies he eliminated, several were known for their brutality — including a woman known as “Apache.” According to Military.com, “‘She tortured [a Marine she had captured] all afternoon, half the next day,’ Hathcock recalls. ‘I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire.’ Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.”
On the U.S. Army’s side is Adelbert Waldron, also a legendary Vietnam War sniper, with 109 confirmed kills. After serving 12 years in the U.S. Navy, Adelbert joined the Army, starting out as a buck sergeant and deployed to the Mekong Delta area. Major General Julian Ewell, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, recalled a story about Waldron’s eagle eye: “One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Viet Cong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot.”
Coffee or Die spoke with both Army snipers and Marine Scout Snipers about their professional differences.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Editor in Chief, Logan Stark, started his career in the Marine Corps in May 2007. He spent four years in the service and deployed three times.
Stark passed sniper indoctrination and, later, the Scout Sniper course. He said the most difficult part of the school was the actual shooting. It wasn’t standardized, 1,000-yard shots on paper, but shots from 750 to 1,000 yards on steel. Their range was elevated, which made calculating wind calls for their shots more difficult.
“You get these swirling winds coming off of the mountains, mixing with the wind coming off of the ocean, which makes reading wind extremely difficult to do,” Stark said, adding that “suffer patiently and patiently suffer” was a saying they often clung to during training.
However, the difficult conditions are what helped them hone in on the skill set Marine Scout Snipers are expected to perfect — which is, according to Stark, being an individual who can rapidly and calmly process information and execute a decision off that assessment.
“That’s why I joined the Marine Corps, was to do stuff exactly like that,” he said. “There wasn’t a worst part — it was fun.”
While Stark never worked directly with Army snipers, he has learned through the sniper community that the major difference is “the reconnaissance element to the Marine Corps Scout Sniper program. We’re meant to be an independent unit with four guys going out on their own without any direct support.”
Phillip Velayo spent 10 and a half years in a Marine Corps Scout Sniper platoon. He passed the Scout Sniper course on his second attempt and was an instructor from 2015 to 2018. Velayo now works as the training director for Gunwerks Long Range University.
Velayo has worked with Army snipers in the past and from talking with them, he learned that the Army’s sniper school is shorter — five weeks — compared to the Marine Corps’ school, which includes a three-week indoctrination course in addition to the 79-day Scout Sniper basic course. He added that he believes Army snipers place more emphasis on marksmanship than on mission planning because the Army has designated scouts, whereas Marine Corps snipers are responsible for shooting and scouting.
Velayo presented an example: If you take a blank-slate Marine and put him through Scout Sniper school and do the same with a soldier on the Army side, he said, “I mean, you’re splitting nails at that point, but honestly, I’m going to give it to the Marine side that we hold a higher standard to marksmanship than Army guys.”
Brady Cervantes spent the better part of a decade, starting back in 2006, with the Marine Corps as a Scout Sniper, and deployed four times. Cervantes passed the Scout Sniper school on his second attempt after his first try was cut short due to family matters that pulled him out of class.
“One thing I do respect about the Army is that they have certain calibers of curriculum that we may not,” Cervantes said, regarding differences between the two sniper schools, adding that the Army possibly goes into more depth as far as mission focus for a sniper. However, he said that he believes the Marine Corps maintains the highest standard within the military’s sniper community.
Cervantes said that if you take any Marine Scout Sniper and place them in a different sniper section, their shooter-spotter dialogue is uniform so they can function seamlessly as a team. In Cervantes’ experience overseas, the Army sniper teams he was around didn’t appear to have a clear-cut dialogue between their shooters and spotters.
But at the end of the day, Cervantes said, “if you’re a brother of the bolt, you have my respect.”
Ted Giunta served in the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 2003 to 2009, transferring to the sniper platoon in 2006. He deployed four times as a sniper, three of those as the sniper section leader. Since leaving the military, he has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, specifically pertaining to nuclear transportation. He is one of the two long-gun trainers for his entire agency.
Giunta attended the U.S. Army Special Operation Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). He believes that the Marine Scout Sniper program and the Army Sniper program are similar in how they train and evaluate their candidates. SOTIC, on the other hand, was a “gentleman’s course,” where they weren’t smoked or beaten down but evaluated on whether they could do the job or not.
Giunta said comparing Marine Scout Snipers to 75th Ranger Regiment snipers comes down to the level of financing for the unit. Because his unit and their mission set was Tier 2 and often worked with Tier 1 units, they had better access to training and equipment, which gives them the edge over Marine Scout Snipers. Giunta said the work as a sniper is an art form, and no matter what branch you are in, you make it your life.
Andrew Wiscombe served in the U.S. Army from 2005 to 2010, deploying to forward operating base (FOB) Mamuhdiyah, Iraq, from 2008 to 2009 as part of the scout sniper team.
Wiscombe said that Army snipers who belong to a dedicated sniper/recon section are comparable to Marine Scout Snipers. As far as a soldier who goes through the basic sniper school and then returns to an infantry line unit where they aren’t continually using their skills, they won’t be on the same level, he said.
The biggest difference Wiscombe is aware of relates to how they calculate shooting formulas. “I know we use meters and they use yards, so formulas will be slightly different,” he said. “The banter may be different, but the fundamentals remain the same for any sniper. At the end of the day, there is some inter-service rivalry fun and jokes, but I saw nothing but mutual respect for very proficient shooters and spotters all around.”
Jaime Koopman spent eight years in an Army sniper section, from 2008 to 2016. He has worked with Marine Scout Snipers several times in a sniper capacity; he also had two Marine Scout Sniper veterans in his section after they switched over to the Army. Koopman worked alongside the Marine Scout Sniper veterans as well as others while competing in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) International Sniper Competition.
Koopman’s experience with Marine Scout Snipers showed him that their training is a little different from Army snipers, but it’s comparable. “The Marine Corps Scout Sniper is an MOS for them, so the school is longer, affording them the opportunity to dive a little deeper in each subject area,” he said, “whereas an Army sniper is expected to gain the deeper knowledge outside the school house with his section.”
As far as the most recent standings from the 2019 USASOC International Sniper Competition, first and second place positions were held by U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) teams while third place was claimed by a Marine Scout Sniper team. The 2020 competition has been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.
When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.
For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.
Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.
Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.
No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.
And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.
If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.
The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.
In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.
“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”
The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.
New gear designs come and go. One troop’s packing list will look drastically different from the next generation’s. Rucksacks have gone through major overhauls since their inception and it feels like uniforms change faster than you can blink. But one piece of military gear has remained virtually unchanged since WWII: the anglehead flashlight.
Early flashlights were either huge and bulky or dim and short-lived — both were very impractical for troops fighting in combat. And then the TL-122 was first created.
The design was simple. It gave the flashlight a clip and an ergonomic bend so that it could be attached to a soldier’s body, leaving their hands free for fighting. The easily-interchangeable batteries and bulbs made it that much more desirable.
The design of the TL-122 was available to multiple manufacturers and used by many different countries. Only slight variations were made before the Vietnam War, including the TL-122 D, which gave it a new compartment to affix various filters. The red filter is one of the most useful because red light doesn’t hinder the eyes’ natural night vision and is far less conspicuous to enemies.
Later, a third option was added to the simple always-on/always-off switch: signal mode. Now, troops who set their flashlight to “signal mode” could push the button to turn it on and off. This feature re-sparked troops’ interest in learning Morse code, since you could now tap out a message and send it across the light using the tiny, little button. The TL-122 would later be rebranded as the MX991 by Fulton Industries and would be used by troops, law enforcement, and civilians.
Today, the flashlight hasn’t changed much. There have been changes in materials used to create the frame and the original bulb was replaced with a longer-lasting LED. Any modern-day soldier could pick up their grandfather’s anglehead flashlight from WWII and it’ll be practically the same thing they use today.
The year is 1979. The aftermath of the battle left 60 humans killed in action and an untold number of the enemy’s troops mortally wounded. It was the U.S. Army’s Special Forces’ greatest threat — and no one would ever know about it. The Green Berets were dispatched to Dulce, New Mexico, to keep alien forces underground and away from the rest of the world.
Schneider claims he was working on a highly secretive, underground base on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation in New Mexico, near Dulce, a Colorado border town. He told the Huffington Post he first became suspicious of the project’s true intention when he noticed American Special Forces soldiers operating in and around the area.
They don’t just send Green Berets to New Mexico for no reason. Schneider alleged the gray aliens were conducting bizarre medical experiments on mankind, both live humans and samples of DNA. He said that deep underground, the “Grays” would absorb human and cow blood for sustenance.
Schneider finally came out with his story in the mid-1990s. Two years later, he killed himself with a catheter cord – a suicide that has some screaming “foul play.” At the time, the engineer said he began construction on the underground base just like he would any other base, by drilling holes. This time, however an acrid smell like burning garbage emerged from the drilled holes. That’s when the fighting started.
Then, one day, he turned around and came face-to-face with what he called a “7-foot-tall, stinky, gray alien.” Immediately, the engineer grabbed his pistol and took two of them down. A third one blew off some his fingers with a kind of laser blaster. That’s when one of the Green Berets sacrificed himself to save Schneider’s life.
The scuffle turned into a full-blown battle that killed 60 humans. Green Berets reacted instantly, bringing all the firepower they could bear on the aliens. The aliens responded by shooting blue bolts of radiant power with movements of their hands. The kind of bolts that blew Schneider’s fingers off were turning the Special Forces soldiers inside out. Eventually, the aliens relented, retreating deeper into the complex.
What happened in the years that followed is anyone’s guess.
Before his death, Schneider alleged that there were more than 1,400 of these underground bases all over the world, each with a price tag of billion. The 192 bases inside the U.S. are also said to be interconnected. While there is no further information on what started the underground alien war or if it continues to this day, residents of nearby Dulce attest to strange happenings in areas near the base.
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
(The featured cartoon courtesy of the author. A flash-bang is a concussion grenade that does not produce primary fragmentation, only extreme sound and blinding flash that serves to stun an enemy momentarily upon a room entry.
Depicted is a team preparing to enter a room of unknown threat posture, substituting the flash-bang preparation drill with a can of “explosive” spray adhesive. “Lid’s off!” replaces the usual “Pin’s out!” referring to the flash-bang’s safety pin whose removal is the last step before throwing the grenade.
In the final scene, the threat is neutralized by the exploding can of “spooge” rendering the threat stuck to walls, floors, and other incapacitating postures.)
(A typical Flash-Bang grenade used by Law Enforcement; no fragmentation, just loud extreme loud noise and flash. Flash-Bangs are categorized as non-lethal riot control devices.)
“Spooge” somehow became the nickname for the cans of spray adhesive we used to stick paper targets, bull’s eyes, and the like to a target stake downrange. It simply was the quickest and most convenient way to stick paper to cardboard and get on to the business of sending maximum rounds down range on a near-daily basis.
(In all its glory, the 3M Super 77CA Multipurpose spray adhesive can)
Spray adhesive was for paper on cardboard. For attaching cardboard to a wooden target, slat roofing tacks were used. Roofing tacks are a short nail with a very wide and flat head. It happened that when our Delta brother, Cuz, was hurriedly attaching a fresh target paper he noted his target backing was pulling apart from the wooden target slat.
Not wanting to lose the time to run the 150 meters back to the target shed to retrieve a proper hammer, Cuz decided that the spooge can already in his hand possessed sufficient merit to serve to pound in the tack. Within a few smacks on the roof tack with the bottom edge of the can it burst, completely engulfing his head and face.
Cuz’s ballistic eye protection was glued to his face, and his hair was covered. He staggered around blindly and calling out:
“Little help… a little help over here — we have a situation!”
We quickly engage in the attempt to pull his eye protection away from his face so he could see again, a ponderous and painful process.
“Well guys… that’s why we wear this safety equipment, you know?” he recited flatly, mimicking a certain redundant preaching that was certain to result from the incident.
“Cuz, I think you better just head on straight home from here and see about getting that spooge out of your hair; there’s not much else you can accomplish here… unless you want to finish hammering that nail with a fresh can…” our Troop Sergeant joked.
As fortune would have it, Cuz’s Mrs. was a hairdresser and knew just how to work the glue from out of Cuz’s hair and off his face. She did a remarkable job; when Cuz returned to work the next day, there was not so much of a hint of the adhesive in his hair, a vision that I found truly extraordinary.
For sure I endured the nagging and pining need for a cartoon to portray the event. As bizarre as it was, it was sure to be a cinch to find the humor…the humor in a can of target spooge that blew up in Cuz’s face like a… a flash-bang grenade. There it was; the vision in my head of spooge cans replacing bangers in a tactical building entry, the bad guys glued to the walls, floors, and fixtures. I stuck a fork in it *cuz* it was done.
Soon enough, I felt Cuz’s eye on me for a time, then he finally approached me when I was alone; I felt I already knew what was coming and was right:
“Yo Geo… this isn’t going to find its way into the cartoon book, is it?”
Oh, the shame! Yet again a man was missing the glory of being immortalized in the Unit cartoon book. I had to remind him; I had to remind them all that they WANTED to be in the cartoon book for the balance of time, though it might not be a thing they recognized immediately. I had to explain to Cuz the same way I had to explain it to every candidate:
Just because you got hurt or injured or humiliated due to an unfortunate blunder committed while on the job… do NOT think you should get a pass for that from the unit Cartoonist. That will not happen — if you dance you’re going to have to pay the band, and if you have to pay the band you might as well make sure it plays your favorite tune!
“Recall if you will that the cartoonist has a measure of reputation to maintain with his public. The fact that you make the cartoon book is purely a business decision, one entirely devoid of any emotion or sympathy… a cold, impersonal, heartless business decision. I am the cartoonist; I AM THE BAND!
World War II proved that tanks were very vulnerable to air attack. To deal with that threat, the United States and Soviet Union both developed some anti-aircraft guns that could keep up with and protect that valuable armor.
The “Duster” was the popular nickname for the M42 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle took a tried-and-true weapon system, the twin 40mm Bofors gun that was responsible for eliminating many enemy planes in World War II, and mated it with the chassis of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. The result was a vehicle that would stick around for nearly two decades after its successor, the M163, entered service.
The M42 was intended to shoot down planes, but like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” it was also lethal against ground targets.
The 40mm Bofors gun was the heart of the system. The M42 packed 336 rounds of 40mm ammo for the twin guns, which could fire 120 rounds a minute, giving the vehicle a bit less than 90 seconds of sustained firing time. The powerful 40mm guns had an effective range of 11,000 yards, or six-and-a-quarter miles.
The M42, like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” proved to be very potent in the air-to-air role but made an even bigger impact on the ground. It seems that, like aircraft, lightly-armored trucks and troops in the open don’t fare too well after meeting up with the 40mm.
Even with the introduction of the M163, the M42 hung around through most of the 1980s.
(Photo by Chitrapa)
As surface-to-air missiles were fielded, the Duster stuck around as a supplement to systems like the MIM-23 HAWK. The introduction of the M163 saw the Duster more often fielded with reserve units, where it hung on until 1988.
Despite not seeing use with American armed forces, the system is still in use with a number of countries around the world.
DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.
The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.
Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.
A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.
The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.
If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.
When talking the future of helicopters, the Sikorsky S-97 Raider has been figuring prominently in the discussion. This is because the Raider holds the potential for high performance not seen since the AH-56 Cheyenne took to the skies. Now it has gotten its “test flight” card, and according to DefenseNews.com, the Raider will get its chance to show its stuff.
The Raider had a bit of a setback last year when the first prototype had what was called a “hard landing” (really a delicate way of saying it crashed). The Raider uses what is known as X2 technology, which uses a combination of counter-rotating main rotors and a pusher in the tail to attain high speeds. While the Raider itself has only pushed past 150 knots, the X2 demonstrator blew past 250 knots in 2010.
Plans call for the Raider to push past 200 knots in the testing. The Raider is seen as a contender for armed reconnaissance missions, where two other helicopters, the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, did not manage to reach front-line service. The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired, and the scout mission was passed to the AH-64 Apache.
The S-97 Raider is seen as a contender for the armed reconnaissance role.
(Lockheed Martin graphic)
The Raider and the larger SB-1 Defiant are among the designs contending for all or part of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. The goal of this program is to replace the current Army helicopters, including the classic UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook, and AH-64 Apache with more advanced airframes through a series of Joint Multi-Role Helicopters.
The S-97 uses a pusher rotor, much like that on the AH-56 Cheyenne.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The plan is to shrink the current inventory from 25 types of helicopters and tiltrotors to as few as five: JMR-Light, a new scout helicopter; JMR Medium-Light; JMR-Medium, which will replace the AH-64 and UH-60; JMR-Heavy, a replacement for the CH-47; and JMR-Ultra, which will combine the payload and performance of the C-130J with vertical lift capability.
The first of these next-generation helicopters could emerge as soon as 2027. But we are getting a glimpse at what they will be able to do now.
The latest venture north began Tuesday, when Navy and Coast Guard ships joined Canadian, Danish, and French vessels for the annual Canadian-led exercise Operation Nanook in the waters between Canada and Greenland.
The exercise consists of “basic tactical operating in the higher latitudes,” elements of which are “significantly different than how we operate” elsewhere, Lewis said.
An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter takes off from Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, August 2, 2020. (US Navy/MCS Seaman Apprentice Sawyer Connally)
“If you fall in the water where they’re going to be operating, you’re not going to survive very long unless you have the proper equipment on board, which is something that we have taken off our ships in recent years, and now we’ve put it back in,” Lewis said.
“You have to have the flexibility and the timing built into your scheme of maneuver … because the weather has a huge impact on your ability to make it through straits or going through a certain chokepoint,” Lewis said.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner will also do rigid-hull inflatable boat operations as part of the exercise. “It is the first time that we’re putting a boat in the water recently in these temperature climates,” Lewis said.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner the Atlantic Ocean, August 2, 2020. (US Navy/MCS MC2 Sara Eshleman)
“It’s by nature a fairly challenging environment anyway,” Lewis added. “But then you throw the temperature and the potential sea state being higher — that’s something we need to kind of take a crawl-walk-run approach to.”
Nanook will have gunnery and other drills, such as tracking vessels of interest. “A lot of it has to do with basic warfare serials … and then basic security tasks and operating together,” Rear Adm. Brian Santarpia said Tuesday.
Santarpia, who commands Canadian naval forces in the Atlantic and Arctic, said it was “great” to get sailors into unfamiliar surroundings.
“Once we put them up there, they’re going to solve all the problems on their own,” Santarpia said. “They just have to recognize that there is a challenge and then they tend to get after it.”
US Coast Guard cutter Willow transits near an iceberg with a Danish naval vessel in the Nares Strait, August 23, 2011. (US Coast Guard/PO3 Luke Clayton)
‘We’re going to learn a lot’
The Canadian military has conducted Operation Nanook since 2007, working with local and foreign partners to practice disaster response and maritime security across northern Canada. There will be no operations ashore this year because of COVID-19.
The Canadian ships left Halifax on Tuesday with US Coast Guard medium-endurance cutter Tahoma. They will meet USS Thomas Hudner and sail north to meet French and Danish ships and operate around the Davis Strait, off Greenland’s west coast.
“This will be the farthest north that we have deployed this class of cutter, so we’re excited to showcase the agility of our fleet,” Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area commander, said Tuesday.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to push this medium endurance cutter so far north. We’re going to learn a lot about our own operations” and about “the logistics chain that’s required to support our Coast Guard assets that are so far north,” Poulin said.
Search and rescue technicians on a CH-149 Cormorant conduct a hoist-rescue exercise with Canadian coastal defense ship Shawinigan during Operation Nanook, August, 22, 2014. (Joint Task Force (North)/LS Mat1 Barrieau)
The Canadian military adjusted Nanook in 2018 to include “everything we did in the Arctic,” Santarpia said. “It demonstrates … to anybody who is interested in the Arctic that Canada knows … how to take care of its own security and sovereignty in that area.”
Santarpia said more activity in the Arctic, facilitated by a warming climate, underscores the need to be present there for strategic reasons as well as emergency response.
“Last year was the warmest year in the Arctic that they’ve ever had. This year’s on pace to be warmer yet. It allows us to operate [there] for a little bit longer,” Santarpia said, adding that Canada’s navy didn’t “have any [Arctic] ability until just Friday, when the very first Canadian Arctic offshore patrol ship was delivered.”
That ship, HMCS Harry DeWolf, arrived two years late, but five more are to be delivered to Canada’s navy and two to its coast guard in the coming years.
“Next year, it’ll be part of the of the exercise, and that vessel can operate actually in the first-year ice that’s a meter thick,” Santarpia said. But until then the Canadian navy “is limited to where the ice is not pack ice.”
As those waters become navigable for longer periods, “we will slowly be able to spend more time in the north,” Santarpia added. “As the new capability comes online … we’ll be up there for the majority of year eventually.”
The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.
Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.
It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.
In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”
Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.
The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”
But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.
While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.
Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.
“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”