Yes, the makers of the legendary M82/M107 .50-caliber Long Range Sniper Rifle have sold another rifle to the U.S. Army. On March 30, 2021, Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey awarded a $49.9 million contract to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Inc. of Christiana, Tennessee. The contract is for the Army’s new sniper weapon system, the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design rifle.
The MK22 MRAD is part of the Army’s Precision Sniper Rifle Program. Included in the PSR program is the Leupold & Stevens Mark 5 HD scope and an accessory kit. The Army intends to replace both the venerable M107 and the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle with the PSR. Its aim is to become the “primary anti-personnel sniper weapons system” for Army sniper teams according to Army budget documents.
The Army plans to acquire approximately 2,800 MK22 MRADs. To live up to its name, the rifle is configurable in three different calibers. With a simple barrel swap, snipers will be able to select .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, or 7.62x51mm NATO as their mission dictates.
Additionally, the MK22 MRAD can be equipped with a slew of attachments to further increase the capability of Army snipers. While attachments like sound suppressors are a given on a sniper weapon system, the MK22 MRAD will accept direct view optics with fire control capabilities. This “allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition,” noted Army budget documents.
The MK22 MRAD was previously acquired by USSOCOM as part of their Advanced Sniper Rifle program. “The Army PSR program is adapting the rifle selected under the SOCOM ASR program,” said Army Program Executive Office Soldier spokesman Alton Stewart. “The initial rifle selected (the MK21 Precision Sniper Rifle based on the Remington MSR) did not conform to SOCOM requirements at the time and the program was re-competed with the Barrett MRAD selected as the rifle solution.” The Marine Corps is also looking at acquiring the MRAD.
The MRAD contract includes the procurement of rifles, spare parts, accessories, tools, and conversion kits. U.S. Army Contracting Command, New Jersey is the contracting activity. The contract’s estimated completion date is March 29, 2026.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.
The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.
The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.
Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.
(Department of Defense)
Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.
Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.
“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”
This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.
(Department of Defense)
While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.
The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.
“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.
The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.
Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.
Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.
(US Department of Defense)
The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.
Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.
During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A helicopter doesn’t fly; it beats the air into submission.
With the capacity to lift 88,000 lbs, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a true workhorse. It’s primed to be the premier lift helicopter by leveraging the lessons learned from its predecessors, the CH-53A, D and E.
The new metal beast of the air had its first flight on October 27, 2015. The 55-minute flight at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach flight test center was a real milestone considering the technical delays since 2014, mainly from the main gearbox.
The King Stallion will replace the current largest and heaviest helicopter in the military, the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion, which has been in service since 1980. Like the CH-53E, the King Stallion will also serve in the Corps. Although it’s not a game changer, it’s an overall improvement in power, speed, lift, structure, and more.
The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.
But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”
That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.
Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.
“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”
The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.
(U.S. Army photos)
“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”
Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.
These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.
Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.
One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.
All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.
More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.
“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”
When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.
Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.
“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.
One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.
In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.
That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.
Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.
In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.
“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.
To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.
Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.
“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.
The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.
“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”
Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.
Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.
When the Navy announced plans to retire a system in August of 2018, not a lot of media outlets paid attention. Despite its failure to make headlines, the system that’s on the way out is actually one of the most important in the Navy. We’re talking, of course, about the Standard Automated Logistics Tool Set, or SALTS.
Developed in the space of just three weeks during the run-up to Operation Desert Storm, this system has been with the Navy for 27 years — and it makes sure that the personnel in the fight have what they need by rapidly moving data on required parts and available inventory to and from the battlefield electronically.
There is an old saying, “amateurs discuss tactics and strategy, while professionals talk logistics.” Think of it this way: How can the pilot of a F/A-18E Super Hornet be expected to blow an enemy MiG out of the sky if his radar doesn’t work? Yes, launching skilled pilots on the right mission at the right time is critically important, but nothing happens if the moving pieces aren’t in order. The fighters on a carrier, for instance, need spare parts to work (just like your car).
A F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Such operations would not be possible without enough spare parts.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
It’s not just the super-complex fighters. Even the M16 rifles and M4 carbines used by SEALs will need spare parts or replacement magazines (which are often ejected and left behind in firefights) — not to mention ammo. Then there are the many other needs of the Navy: Food for the sailors, fuel to keep ships and planes running, the list goes on and on.
These magazines loaded with ammo for M16 rifles and M4 carbines — something Marines and SEALs need in abundance.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Turner)
SALTS enabled sailors on the front to handle Military Standard Requisitioning and Issue Procedures (MILSTRIP) in minutes as opposed to weeks or days. It also could fix some mistakes in seconds. Not bad for a solution that was designed and implemented in three weeks.
The replenishment underway in this photo is one of many made possible by SALTS.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)
SALTS, though, was running up against advancing computer technology and new cyber-security threats. There is a new system known as One Touch Support, or OTS, that will take over for SALTS. And yes, just like its predecessor, OTS isn’t likely to make headlines, but will play a crucial role for the Navy.
Sweden asserted its neutrality during the Cold War. Still, Stockholm was not going to let the country stand helpless in face of potential threats.
That’s why the Swedish Air Force had some fighters that were very capable – and perhaps the first of three that would be every bit as good as their contemporaries serving in NATO was the Saab J 35 Draken.
The Draken was a Mach 2-capable fighter equipped with a “double-delta” wing — a design rarely used in modern fighter construction. One of the only other planes to use it was the F-16XL, a prototype version of the F-16 that lost out in a competition with what became the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Sweden used the Draken as an interceptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the plane was armed with two 30mm Aden cannon and four Sidewinders (known to the Swedes as the Rb 24), the Draken ended up being exported to Denmark, Finland, and Austria. Improved versions of the Draken would eventually be able to carry up to six missiles, and add the capability to fire the AIM-4 Falcon and AIM-26 Falcon.
Ironically, the Danes used the Draken as a strike plane. The plane’s hardpoints were modified to allow them to drop 1,000 pound bombs. Six of the Danish Drakens found their way to the National Test Pilot School in the United States, where they served until 2009.
The Draken did emerge as a bit of a Hollywood star in at least one movie. The 1990 action flick “Fire Birds” saw at least two Drakens serve as fighters under the control of a drug cartel. One was shot down by an Apache flown by Brad Little (played by eventual Academy Award-winner Tommy Lee Jones), the other was shot down by a hand-held FIM-92 Stinger used by Billie Lee Guthrie (played by Sean Young).
In real life, the Royal Swedish Air Force flew the Draken for nearly four decades, retiring it in 1999 due to maintenance costs. The plane had only been partially replaced by the AS 37 and JA 37 versions of the Saab Viggen, and the replacement was completed with the JAS 39 Gripen, also from Saab. Not a bad career for a plane.
Filmed on May 26, 2018, the following footage shows Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mike Schriever, a pilot in the 303rd Fighter Squadron, flying an A-10 Thunderbolt II alongside his wingman, Air Force 1st Lieutenant Tanner Rindels, over Miami Beach, Florida during the 2nd annual Salute to American Heroes Air and Sea Show, a two-day event showcases military fighter jets and other aircraft and equipment from all branches of the United States military in observance of Memorial Day.
The clip shows the two A-10s maneuvering close to an HC-130 “King” involved in a HAAR (Helicopter Air-to-Air Refueling) mission with two HH-60G Pave Hawks from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
The LM002 was the third attempt by the supercar manufacturer to make an off-road vehicle. The first was the Cheetah in the 1970s with a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine. Next was the LM001 prototype, which also featured a rear-mounted V8 engine. However, both of these vehicles were scrapped because of weight balance problems, according to LamboCARS.
By 1982, Lamborghini finally got it right by installing the same V12 engine used in the Countach to the front of the vehicle, giving the LM002 450 horsepower and agile responsiveness. Finally the vehicle was ready for prime time, but the military never warmed up to it.
Since it couldn’t attract the military, Lamborghini did the next best thing by turning it into a luxury vehicle. The LM002 was made-to-order with fine leather, a blasting Alpine sound system, and air conditioning. Notable celebrity owners were Sylvester Stallone, Tina Turner, Eddie Van Halen, and Mike Tyson. Infamous owners included kingpin Pablo Escobar, Uday Hussein, and Muammar Gadafi, according to LamboCARS.
The LM002 was the last time Lamborghini had an SUV. Its latest concept – the URUS – was designed as a luxury SUV from inception, unlike the LM002.
Almost exactly 75 years ago, on Aug. 18, 1943, the USS Abner Read was rocked by a severe explosion.
The blast — which most historians say was likely a Japanese mine — tore the 75-foot stern section of the ship clean off. The stern plummeted to the depths of the ocean, taking the lives of 71 US sailors with it, while other US ships rushed to the rescue.
Though the rest of the USS Abner Read was miraculously saved and towed into port, the original stern was thought to be lost forever — until now.
A North American B-25 Mitchell Glides over an American destroyer after taking off from Unmak Island for a raid on the Japanese base at Kiska.
USS Abner Read (DD 526) as seen in Hunters Point, California on June 13, 1943.
The 474-feet long Japanese transport ship Nisan Maru sunk in Kiska Harbor after it was stuck by bombs dropped by the US 11th Air force on June 18, 1942. Two other Japanese ships are visible in the harbor nearby.
USS Abner Read (DD 526) afire and sinking in Leyte Gulf, Nov. 1, 1944, after being hit by a kamikaze. A second Japanese suicide plane (circled) is attempting to crash another ship; however, this one was shot down short of its target.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
After the stern section of the Abner Read sunk on Aug. 18, 1943, it remained lost on the bottom of the sea for almost 75 years. The ship was eventually repaired and re-entered active service.
In 1944, the Abner Read was sunk off the coast of the Philippines by a Japanese dive bomber, as seen in the image above.
US soldiers inspect Japanese midget subs left behind after the US retook Kiska Island.
Team members launch one of the project’s four REMUS 100 autonomous underwater vehicles from R/V Norseman II for a survey of the seafloor.
The expedition was part of Project Recover, a collaborative partnership between the University of Delaware, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, Bent Prop, a nonprofit, and US Navy partners to find and document the underwater resting places of American soldiers from World War II.
“The 17 hours of daylight that now occur at this high latitude were both a godsend and a curse as there was ample time to work, but little time to sleep,” Eric Terrill, an oceanographer and the leader of the expedition, said in a mission log.
“We take our responsibility to protect these wrecks seriously,” Samuel Cox, the director of the Naval History and Heritage Command said. The USS Abner Read is the “last resting place of American sailors,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ever since President Trump first announced his intentions to establish a new branch of the American Armed Forces dedicated specifically to space and orbital defense, imaginations have run wild with what this new era of conflict miles above our heads might look like. Decades worth of movies and video games have shaped our idea of war among the stars, and it’s hard not to let our imaginations run a bit wild when the concept of zero-G warfighting is suddenly so real that our lawmakers are actually budgeting for it.
The thing is, our ideas of space warfare and the reality of conflict in space are pretty far off from one another… at least for now. America’s near-peer opponents in China and Russia have both already stood accused by the international community of launching weapons systems into orbit, but these aren’t Decepticons equipped with doomsday lasers and vessels full of jet-pack laden Space Marines. Warfare in space doesn’t take nearly that much effort or panache. In fact, in some cases, an act of war would require little more than a nudge. In practice, there’s very little difference between the sorts of tools being developed to capture and destroy space junk and weapons being designed to capture and destroy satellites.
The truth is, America’s massive orbital infrastructure was largely deployed in an era with no serious competitors on the horizon. That means many of the satellites we rely on for communications, navigation, and defense lack any real means of defending themselves from attack or even moving out of the way of many kinds of danger. Departing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson aptly described it by saying the United States had built “a glass house before the invention of stones.” Like a glass house, our satellite infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable, and now America’s opponents have already begun throwing stones.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty outlines what its framers hoped would be the path to peaceful coexistence in orbit and beyond, but the language of the treaty allows for a great deal of latitude when it comes to orbital weapons. China, Russia, and the United States are all among the signatory members of the treaty, alongside a long list of others. Article IV of the treaty bans any signatory nation from deploying nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) in orbit, and while other portions of the treaty also attempt to dissuade a real-life remake of Star Wars, the treaty itself bars little else when it comes to weapons.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped nations like Russia from referencing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty when accusing the United States of violating international norms during ongoing debates about the future of American space defense. This bit of tomfoolery notwithstanding, America, Russia, and China do want to appear as though they’re honoring the intent of this treaty, and as a result, orbital weapons often come in the guise of something else entirely. Russia’s Inspector satellites, for instance, are believed to have been designed specifically for use as a weaponized platform that can both eavesdrop on nearby satellite communications and directly interact with other orbital platforms.
Ground based lasers may soon be able to blind satellites temporarily, wreaking havoc with communications, navigation, and early warning systems.
All an Inspector satellite would need to do in order to poke a hole in America’s defensive infrastructure is grab an American satellite with a retractable arm and pull it down into a degrading orbit. Eventually, the Russian satellite would just let go and watch its target burn up as it enters the atmosphere. The entire process would be fairly slow and even mundane to look at, but without any form of defense in orbit, there would be nothing U.S. Space Command could do but watch until the satellite went dark.
Similar methods to the same end would include deploying nets to capture enemy satellites or even simply giving them a push. Depending on the age and capability of the satellite, that could really be all it took to take it out of commission. In extreme cases, like the satellites the U.S. relies on to identify nuclear ballistic missile launches, simply incapacitating a satellite for a few minutes (by pushing it off its axis, for instance) could neuter the nation’s ability to spot or intercept inbound nukes. China has already demonstrated the theoretical ability to do exactly that using ground-based lasers that are invisible to the naked eye.
There are a number of strategies already being developed to counter this form of orbital warfare, like developing a fast-launch infrastructure to replace damaged satellites rapidly and deploying more maneuverable and capable platforms that aren’t as susceptible to these simplistic forms of attack… but for the next few decades, that’s the reality of our space wars: simple satellite drones nudging, poking, and maybe shooting at one another while we watch from below with bated breath.
The SR-71 Blackbird is an awesome plane. But did you know that it could have been even more awesome than it was? The Air Force was planning to make a fighter version of the plane.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as the early iterations of the SR-71 were being designed, there was a need for an interceptor. The F-108 program had been cancelled due to its high cost. However, there was still a desire for a high-speed, long-range interceptor.
The A-12 OXCART being developed for the CIA was seen as a likely basis for a fighter. Lockheed’s Skunk Works team soon figured out how to add a powerful radar, the AN/ASG-18, capable of detecting targets from as far off as 500 miles in some cases, and four AIM-47 missiles.
The resulting plane was designated the YF-12, and three prototypes were built.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the AIM-47 had a range of over 100 miles and a speed of Mach 4. While a 250-ton W42 warhead never materialized for this missile, it did get a 100-pound high-explosive warhead.
News of the the YF-12’s development was leaked in an effort to distract the public from the work being done to make a reconnaissance plane. But the plane – awesome as it was – would not ever see service due to the development of reliable inter-continental ballistic missiles.
The YF-12 would get a production order for 93 airframes from the Air Force. However, then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara refused to release the funds, and the project ended up being halted at the three prototypes. Two were handed over to NASA for research flights. One of those crashed after a fuel line caught fire in 1971, with the crew ejecting from the stricken plane.
The YF-12 will remain one of the biggest “could have been” planes in history. The jet still has a legacy – partially in the SR-71 Blackbird, but also in the form of the AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles used by the F-14 Tomcat. Even though this plane never got a chance to serve, it still did a lot for America’s military aviation development.
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.