The new Army jungle boot borrows its design from the beloved Vietnam-era M1966 - We Are The Mighty
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The new Army jungle boot borrows its design from the beloved Vietnam-era M1966

The standard-issue combat boot that most soldiers wear today — the one most commonly worn in Iraq and Afghanistan — is great for sandy dunes, hot dry weather and asphalt. But it’s proven to be not so good in hot and wet environments.


The Army Jungle Combat Boot, now under development, features a low-height heel to prevent snags on things like vines in a jungle environment; additional drainage holes to let water out if it becomes completely soaked, speed laces so that soldiers can don and doff the boots more quickly, a redesigned upper to make the boots less tight when they are new, an insert that helps improve water drainage, a lining that helps the boot breathe better and dry faster; a ballistic fabric-like layer under a soldier’s foot to help prevent punctures, and a foam layer between the rubber sole and the upper to provide greater shock absorbing capability. The boot will initially be issued to two full brigade combat teams in Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division, for evaluation. (Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)

So the Army has developed a new jungle boot that some soldiers will see this year.

In September, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley directed the Army to come up with a plan to outfit two full brigade combat teams in Hawaii, part of the 25th Infantry Division there, with a jungle boot. The Army had already been testing commercial jungle boots at the time — with mixed results — but didn’t have a specialized jungle boot, so Program Executive Officer Soldier, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, had to get a plan together to make it happen.

By October of last year, the Army had made a request to industry to find out what was possible, and by December, contracts were awarded to two U.S. boot manufacturers to build a little more than 36,700 jungle-ready combat boots — enough to outfit both full IBCTs in Hawaii.

“This is important to the Army, and important to soldiers in a hot, high-humidity, high-moisture area,” said Army Lt. Col. John Bryan, product manager for soldier clothing and individual equipment with PEO Soldier. “We are responding as quickly as we possibly can, with the best available, immediate capability, to get it on soldiers’ feet quickly, and then refine and improve as we go.”

Right now, the new jungle boot the Army developed will be for soldiers at the 25th ID in Hawaii — primarily because there are actually jungles in Hawaii that soldiers there must contend with. The new boots look remarkably similar to the current boots soldiers wear — they are the same color, for instance. And the boots, which Bryan said are called the “Army Jungle Combat Boot” or “JCB” for short, sport a variety of features drawn from both the legacy M1966 Vietnam-era jungle boot and modern technology.

And Army Special Forces soldier in Vietnam wearing M1966 jungle boots. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The M1966 Jungle Boot — which featured a green cotton fabric upper with a black leather toe that could be polished — had a solid rubber sole that soldiers reportedly said had no shock-absorbing capability. The new boot uses a similar tread, or “outsole,” as the M1966 “Panama style” — to shed mud for instance and provide great traction, but the added midsole is what makes it more comfortable and shock absorbing, said Albert Adams, who works at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts.

The outsole of the new boot is connected to the leather upper via “direct attach,” Adams said. That’s a process where a kind of liquid foam is poured between the rubber outsole and leather boot upper. It’s “a lot like an injection molding process,” he explained.

The foam layer between the rubber sole and the upper portion of the boot not only provides greater shock absorbing capability, but he said it also keeps out microbes in hot, wet environments that in the past have been shown to eat away at the glues that held older boots together. So the new boots won’t separate at the soles, he said. “It provides a high level of durability, and it also adds cushioning.”

Also part of the new boot is a textile layer that prevents foreign items from puncturing through the sole of the boot and hurting a soldier’s foot, Adams said. The M1966 boot accomplished that with a steel plate. The new boot has a ballistic fabric-like layer instead.

Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Morse, an instructor at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii, said the puncture resistance is welcome, noting that punji sticks, familiar to Vietnam War veterans, are still a problem for soldiers.

“They use these punji pits for hunting purposes,” he said. “In Brunei, you are literally in the middle of nowhere in this jungle, and there are natives that live in that area, and still hunt in that area, and it can be an issue.” And in mangrove swamps, he said, “you can’t see anything. You don’t know what’s under your feet at all. There are a lot of sharp objects in there as well.”

The Marine Corps is testing its own version of a jungle combat boot. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The new JCB also features a heel with a lower height than the M1966 model, to prevent snags on things like vines in a jungle environment. That prevents tripping and twisted ankles. Among other things, the boot also has additional drainage holes to let water out if it becomes completely soaked, speed laces so that soldiers can don and doff the boots more quickly, a redesigned upper to make the boots less tight when they are new, an insert that helps improve water drainage, and a lining that makes the boot breath better and dry faster than the old boot.

“You’re going to be stepping in mud up to your knees or higher, and going across rivers regularly,” Adams said. “So once the boot is soaked, we need it to be able to dry quickly as well.”

Morse has already been wearing and evaluating early versions of the JCB and said he thinks the efforts made by the Army toward providing him with better footwear are spot-on.

“The designs were conjured up in a lab somewhere, and they were brought out here, and the main focus was the field test with us,” Morse said. “A lot of us have worn these boots for a year now, different variants of the boots. And all the feedback that we’ve put into this, and given to the companies, they have come back and given us better products every single time.”

Morse said he hadn’t initially worn the new jungle boots that he had been asked to evaluate. On a trip to Brunei, he recalled, he went instead with what he was familiar with and what he trusted — a pair of boots he’d worn many times, the kind worn by soldiers in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I wore a pair of boots I’d had for a couple of years,” he said. “I wore them in Brunei and I had trench foot within a week. But then I thought — I have this brand new pair of test boots that they asked me to test; they are not broken in, but I’m going to give them a shot. I put them on. After 46 days soaking wet, nonstop, my feet were never completely dry. But I wore those boots, and I never had a problem again.”

The Army didn’t design the new JCB in a vacuum. Instead, it worked with solders like Morse to get the requirements and design just right — to meet the needs of soldiers, said Army Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, the assistant product manager for soldier clothing and individual equipment.

A U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division runs across an obstacle of the Jungle Warfare School obstacle course in Gabon, June 7, 2016. (US Army photo)

“We worked with soldiers to come up with this boot. We take what soldiers want and need, we boil that down to the salient characteristics, hand that over to our science and technology up at Natick; they work with us and industry, the manufacturing base, to come up with this product,” Ferenczy said. “This is a huge win, a great win story for the Army, because it was such a quick turnaround. Industry did a fantastic job. Our product engineers are also top of the line. And we had a ton of soldier feedback. … We really dealt very closely with what the soldier needs to get where we are.”

In March, the Army will begin fielding the current iteration of the JCB to soldiers in the first of two brigade combat teams in Hawaii. During that fielding, the boots will be available in sizes 7-12. In June, the Army will begin fielding the JCB to the second BCT — this time with a wider array of sizes available: sizes 3-16, in narrow, regular, wide and extra wide.

They will also go back and take care of those soldiers from the initial fielding who didn’t get boots due to their size not being available. A third fielding in September will ensure that all soldiers from the second fielding have boots. Each soldier will get two pairs of JCBs.

In all, for this initial fielding — meant to meet the requirement laid out in September by the Army’s chief of staff — more than 36,700 JCBs will be manufactured.

By December, the Army will return to Hawaii to ask soldiers how those new boots are working out for them.

“Al Adams will lead a small group and go back to 25th ID, to conduct focus groups with the soldiers who are wearing these boots and get their feedback — good and bad,” said Scott A. Fernald, an acquisition technician with PEO Soldier. “From there, the determination will be made, if we had a product we are satisfied with, or if we need to go back and do some tweaking.”

Fernald said that sometime between April and June of 2018, a final purchase description for the JCB will be developed — based on feedback from soldiers who wore it. He said he expects that in fiscal year 2019, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract will be signed with multiple vendors to produce the final version of the JCB for the Army.

Bryan said the JCB, when it becomes widely available, will be wearable by all soldiers who want to wear it — even if they don’t work in a jungle.

“From the get-go we have worked… to make sure we all understood the Army wear standards for boots,” he said. “One of the pieces of feedback we have gotten from soldiers before they wear them is they look a lot like our current boots. That’s by design. These will be authorized to wear.”

While the JCB will be authorized for wear by any solider, Bryan made it clear that there will only be some soldiers in some units who have the JCB issued to them. And right now, those decisions have not been made. Soldiers who are not issued the JCB will need to find it and purchase it on their own if they want to wear it.

“We are not directing commercial industry to sell them,” Bryan said. “But if they build to the specification we’ve given them for our contract, they can sell them commercially and soldiers are authorized to wear them.”

Articles

This Confederate regiment was nearly wiped out in minutes

The 1st Texas Infantry Regiment was a group of veteran soldiers by the time they took part in the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. That day still stands as the bloodiest single day for American soldiers in history, and the hardest hit was the 1st Texas.


The Battle of Antietam. (Photo: Public Domain)

Antietam was the disastrous end to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to liberate Maryland from the Union ahead of the 1862 midterm elections. Lee’s advance north was initially successful as the Southerners hit Union garrisons in Maryland and forced the surrender of 13,000 Union soldiers at Harper’s Ferry.

But Union Gen. George B. McClellan had found a copy of Lee’s strategic plans and used them to maneuver into position on the Confederates, and Lee’s army was woefully undersupplied and had low morale.

The two armies finally came together on Sep. 16 and began scoping out each other’s positions. By that night, small skirmishes were breaking out as forces maneuvered for better position for the following day.

On Sep. 17, the 1st Texas Infantry was part of a defensive position near a church. A Union advance through a nearby cornfield was overzealous, and the Union forces were relatively scattered when a Confederate brigade that included the 1st Texas suddenly leaped up from the ground and began firing on the soldiers in blue.

Union Maj. Rufus R. Dawes would later say, “Men, I can not say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by dozens.”

Dawes and his men retreated, and the Confederates gave chase, led by the 1st Texas Infantry.

But the 1st Texas made the same mistake that the Union soldiers had. The men advanced too fast and became disorganized.

“As soon as the regiment became engaged . . . in the corn-field, it became impossible to restrain the men, and they rushed forward,” 1st Texas Commander Lt. Col. Philip A. Work later said.

The 1st Texas had advanced until there were Union soldiers not only to their front, but also to their flank and rear. Its flanks were especially hard hit as Union 12-pound guns began firing into it.

Work ordered a retreat and the regiment began a disorganized withdrawal, but three Union regiments chose that moment to hit the 1st Texas with volleys.

The Burial of the Dead on the Antietam battlefield. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The regimental colors were dropped at least twice as the men carrying them were shot. The colors were lost and the 226-man regiment suffered 186 men killed.

That was a loss rate of 82.3 percent, most of whom were killed in those few minutes in the cornfield. This was the greatest casualty rate suffered by any infantry regiment in the entire war, and most of the men were lost in the 45 minutes between the counterattack at the church and the retreat from the cornfield.

The regiment’s Company F was wiped out. Companies A, C, and E combined had only six men. In total, the regiment had only 40 men.

The 1st Texas was later partially rebuilt. It was one of the Confederate units that attempted to take Little Round Top at Gettysburg and then helped break the Union lines at the Battle of Chickamagua.

The lost colors were found by Union soldiers and taken as a trophy, but were returned to Texas in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Articles

That time dentures were made from dead soldiers’ teeth

The first casualty of a U.S. troop’s military service is usually his wisdom teeth. It’s as if the U.S. military secretly runs on some kind of wisdom tooth-based fuel.


There are many supposed reasons for the mass extraction of otherwise normal wisdom teeth, but we can all be glad they don’t get sold into, say, dentures or something.

But travel back in time a couple hundred years and they certainly could have.

By 1815, the British Empire’s acquisition of a steady source of sugar coming from its Caribbean colonies created an embarrassing source of tooth decay – and a huge market for dentures.

Both were only for the wealthy.

In the earliest days of oral care on the British Isles, “everyone dabbled in dentistry,” according to a BBC interview with the British Dental Association. And replacement teeth were made from a variety of material, including ivory and porcelain — each with its own set of pros and cons.

Wooden tooth jokes are as funny as actual wooden teeth.

The best dentures, however, used real extracted teeth. As the demand for dentures grew, so did the demand for ones made with real teeth. To get a full set of real teeth, someone had to lose a full set of real teeth, and who would give up their teeth?

Someone who doesn’t need them anymore, of course.

Good thing the British just finished fighting a huge war with Napoleonic France. The recent Battle of Waterloo gave British dentists a huge source of teeth whose owners didn’t need them anymore.

Dead people. I mean dead people. Specifically soldiers.

And that’s just what happened.

Everyone, according to the British Dental Association Museum — from locals to other troops to scavengers — would have been pulling dead soldiers’ teeth out for sale back home. The demand was that great.

(British Dental Association Museum photo)

They wouldn’t take all of the teeth. Molars would be left in place because they were too hard to take out and difficult to turn onto dentures.

Once back in Britain, the “Waterloo Teeth” (as they came to be called) were sold at a price that couldn’t be beat, considering the demand for real teeth and the scarcity of them. It provided those battlefield scavengers with plenty of incentive to grab a pair of pliers and head out to Waterloo.

The recipients had no idea their new dentures came from the dead men on the battlefield of France. All they knew is that they could now eat all the boiled food the British Isles could muster. Which is a lot.

“Waterloo Teeth” would come to be known as any kind of tooth that was extracted from dead soldiers on battlefields for sale for use in dentures. This also happened during the American Civil War and the Crimean War.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This speedy missile gave bombers a lot of punch

In the late 1960s, the cancellation of the B-70 Valkyrie program and the retirement of the B-58 Hustler meant that the United States Air Force was likely to struggle with bypassing Soviet defenses. The FB-111 Switchblade was coming online to help address this gap in capabilities, but the plane’s production run was cut down to 76 airframes (from an originally planned 263) in 1969.

The US Air Force needed an answer — a fast one.


That answer came in the form of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile, or SRAM. The “short range” bit in the name, in this case, was relative. The AGM-69 SRAM had a maximum range of 100 miles. That’s considered “short” when compared with something like the AGM-28 Hound Dog (which had a 700-mile range). In theory, this weapon allowed B-52s or FB-111s to take on enemy air-defense sites.

A training version of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile is loaded onto a B-1B Lancer. The B-1 could carry two dozen of these missiles.

(USAF photo by Technical Sgt. Kit Thompson)

Any air-defense site that drew the ire of a B-52 or FB-111 enough to require the use of a SRAM was in for some hurt. The SRAM packed a W69 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 200 kilotons. A single AGM-69 sounds painful enough — the FB-111 could carry as many as six of these missiles. The B-52 could carry an even 20. By comparison, the legendary BUFF could only carry two AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missiles.

The AGM-69 entered service in 1972 and was widely deployed among Strategic Air Command units. This missile had a top speed of Mach 3 and weighed just under 2,300 pounds. The missile was 14-feet long and 17-and-a-half inches wide. Over 1,500 SRAMs were built.

The AGM-69 could be carried in a rotary launcher inside the bomb bay of bombers like the B-52, or on pylons on the wings.

(USAF)

The missile served until 1990. It was retired after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The planned successor, the AGM-131 SRAM II, which would have had longer range (250 miles) and smaller size (under ten-and-a-half feet long and a little more than 15 inches across) was cancelled the following year.

Learn more about this essential, Cold War-era missile in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUfEYhODsjg

www.youtube.com

Articles

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.


According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.

This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP) This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)

Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.

Iran has also been acting very aggressively towards American ships in the Persian Gulf, including threats to American maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and incidents with American surface warships.

The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.

According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes this week

Another week, another memes list. A lot of these came from the Facebook page Military Memes, so thanks to them and their users for keeping us laughing.


1. Same feeling applies to questions at Friday formation.

It’s never a good question, it’s always something that’s been answered already, and it’s usually embarrassing for the rest of the unit.

2. Thank the heavens that drill sergeants aren’t carrying change.

Though drill sergeant typically has plenty of rocks and sand, so he can always use those instead.

3. Almost all the accessories.

Where the Hell is his PT Belt?

4. The infantry believes in corporal punishment.

If you’re a big boy, don’t worry. They have some 7.62 and .50 belts that should fit you just fine.

5. The Coast Guard is serious, you guys.

You better be wearing either a flotation device or body armor.

SEE ALSO: 27 Incredible Photos of Life On A US Navy Submarine

6. “Hey! I’m here just in time to be ‘That Guy!'”

And, yeah, we know, but we’re not fixing the spelling.

7. This is why you never hear infantry say, “Every Marine a rifleman.”

Pretty fancy optics for a guy who can’t put an upper and lower receiver together.

8. Of course, not all soldiers are intellectual rockstars either.

Might want to take the cover off the site there, genius.

9. Shoot ’em up, cowboy.

10. You may want to focus the beam a little tighter. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Just a suggestion.

11. Hey, finding work after separation can be hard.

Tip generously.

 12. At least they know to deny it.

13. They’re just so polite.

I want to see what the rest of the rounds say.

NOW: 11 Insider Insults Sailors Say To Each Other

OR WATCH: Predator in Under 3 Minutes | Hurry Up and Watch 

Articles

The NFL’s Combat Losses Show The Playoffs Aren’t Really ‘Life Or Death’

It’s NFL playoff time — the part of the season that TV sports commentators refer to as “life or death” for teams that still have a chance to win the Super Bowl. But in the league’s history a number of players have learned about real matters pertaining to life and death as a result of serving in the military during wartime.


Also Read: 5 Hollywood Directors Who Served And Filmed Real Wars 

Records show that 638 NFL athletes joined the military during World War II. Of those, 23 died. Over 200 NFL players fought during the Korean War, but there were no casualties. Twenty-eight players fought in Vietnam; two of them were killed in action. And one NFL player — the only one to sign up — was killed during the War in Afghanistan.

Here are details of four of these heroes of the gridiron who sacrificed their lives while answering a call that extended well beyond the lines on the field:

1st. Lt. Jack Lummus, Marine Corps, (end, New York Giants, 1941-1942) – Killed on Iwo Jima in 1945

Lummus was a defensive end for the New York Giants before earning his commission in the Marine Corps. In March of 1945 he fought with extreme valor at the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Theater of World War II, helping his platoon take out well-fortified enemy positions despite being wounded. He was eventually felled by a landmine, and before succumbing to his wounds he famously told the medic that was trying to save his life, “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today.”

Lummus posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Major Don Steinbrunner, Air Force, (Cleveland Browns, 1953) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1967

Steinbrunner, who joined the ROTC while in college, was called to active duty following his rookie season with Cleveland in 1953. Upon completion of a two-year tour of duty as an Air Force navigator, he considered returning to the Browns but opted to pursue a military career due to concerns that he would aggravate a knee injury he’d sustained during his first season.

In 1966, Steinbrunner received orders to Vietnam. Not long after his arrival, he was shot in the knee during an aerial mission. Due to his injury, he was offered an opportunity to accept a less dangerous assignment, but declined, preferring to return to his unit. On July 20, 1967, Steinbrunner’s C-123 was shot down over South Vietnam during a defoliation mission that involved spraying Agent Orange on the jungle canopy.

Posthumously, Don Steinbrunner was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His citation read in part, “Disregarding the hazards of flying the difficult target terrain and the opposition presented by hostile ground forces, he led the formation through one attack and returned to make a second attack. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Major Steinbrunner reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

2nd Lt. Bob Kalsu, Army, (guard, Buffalo Bills, 1968-1969) – Killed in Vietnam in July 1970

Kalsu entered the Army as a second lieutenant following his promising rookie season with the Bills. Unlike many professional athletes who were draft eligible or had ROTC military commitments during those years, Kalsu did not seek the help of the Bills organization to arrange for a non-combat assignment in the reserves.

On July 21, 1970, following eight months of heavy fighting with enemy troops, Lieutenant Kalsu was killed when his unit came under heavy fire while defending Ripcord Base on an isolated jungle mountaintop. Two days later back in Oklahoma City his wife gave birth to their second child.

Cpl. Pat Tillman, Army, (defensive back, Arizona Cardinals, 1998-2002) – Killed in Afghanistan in April 2004

Pat Tillman gave up a multimillion-dollar contract to serve his country, motivated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When he enlisted and started his training that eventually earned him his Ranger Tab, Tillman was just 25 years old and entering his fifth NFL season with one All-Pro season under his belt.

On April 22, 2004 Tillman was on his second combat tour when he was killed by gunfire in Afghanistan near the eastern border. The incident was originally reported as enemy action but eventually the Army admitted that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire during a patrol where another element of his squad lost spatial awareness and directed fire toward him. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star (that the Army justified in spite of the fact it was awarded before the facts emerged) and Purple Heart.

NOW: Incredible Photos Of US Marines Learning How To Survive In The Jungle During One Of Asia’s Biggest Military Exercises 

OR: 39 Awesome Photos Of Life In The US Marine Corps Infantry 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This hotly anticipated aircraft just took its first flight

Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.


Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight

www.youtube.com

The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.

The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.

This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.

The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.

(Sikorsky)

Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.

So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.

So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)

Sikorsky-Boeing-Defiant-03212019-First-Flight-1

With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.

And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.

Articles

Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.


China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.

China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.

The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.

China has landed airliners on those islands – and if you can land airliners, you can land other sorts of heavy aircraft, like tankers, airborne radars, and H-6 Badger bombers like the one used to assert China’s “nine-dash line.”

Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.

When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).

That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.

Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.

The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.

“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.

The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.

The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.

Articles

Step into the boots of British soldiers with 360-degree view

British Army recruiters have embraced 360-degree videos, where the viewer can decide what direction they want to look at any given moment, and are using them to let potential recruits see different army jobs.


“Army Urban Ops” follows a squad as the men clear a series of buildings. It is the most watched of the 360-degree videos despite the big yellow blank adapters.

The tanker video is also great. The default view is down the gun as a Challenger II Tank races through the countryside, but swipe your finger on your phone or click and drag with your mouse to look left and see another tank firing its cannon and machine guns.

GIF: Youtube/ARMYjobs

The airborne version puts the viewer into the middle of a paratrooper drop and a mountaineering one allows them to climb along a narrow ridge with soldiers.

Check them all out at the ARMYjobs Youtube page.

Articles

These are the 10 deadliest self-propelled howitzers

A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.


But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.

An ARCHER Artillery System. (Wikimedia Commons)

For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.

Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.

Night falls at Fort Riley, Kan., as an M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer with 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery, fires a 155 mm shell during 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s combined arms live-fire exercise Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Portela/released)

The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.

This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.

2S19 Msta self-propelled howitzer. (Wikimedia Commons)

Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.

A PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer belonging to the Dutch Army fires on the Taliban in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.

You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.

Articles

What Louie Zamperini Meant To Angelina Jolie


Long before they collaborated on “Unbroken,” which opens nationwide on Christmas Day, Louie Zamperini and Angelina Jolie were neighbors in the Hollywood Hills. When Hollywood decided to make a movie about Zamperini’s life, the star actress was chosen to direct.

“There is a saying: ‘Never meet your heroes,'” Jolie says. “I got the chance to meet mine, and he was an even greater man than I could have hoped for. Meeting him and knowing him changed my life.”

The American Legion magazine interviewed Jolie via email about the experience.

How did you get involved with the project?

I read a brief description and was interested in the themes of the strength of the human spirit, resilience and faith. I read Laura Hillenbrand’s book and became desperate to tell the story, walk in his footsteps and take this journey. It wasn’t as a filmmaker but as a human being that I asked to do this film.

During an interview on NBC’s “Today,” you said that Zamperini has been a help to you. How?

He was a living reminder of what a person could be. He wasn’t perfect or born into a charmed life. He made mistakes. He did the wrong thing many times, especially as a youth. But when it came down to it, he rose up. He fought hard. He worked on improving himself and on giving to others. And through it all, he remained full of that fun and fire that made him the man we all came to love and admire.

Sitting with him in his living room, talking about life, made me a better person. He was always happy to take the time to give guidance. He had such clarity. So much wisdom. And with that was a man with the greatest sense of humor. I was always laughing. I would wake up feeling sad and ask if I could come up for breakfast. By the time I left, I was smiling. Always.

His story is one of survival, resilience and redemption. Did you see those traits as you worked with him?

Even in his hospital bed, he was taking care of others, making jokes to help us all not to feel sad.

You showed him the nearly-finished movie while he was hospitalized. What was his reaction?

It was a deeply moving experience. I felt very privileged to witness this man I admire and love so much watch his own life play out on screen. It was especially moving as he was watching scenes with his family and the friends who he survived the war with. As a man of faith, it seemed he was internally preparing himself to pass away and be reunited with them. He was very peaceful. He smiled when he saw his mother making gnocchi. He jumped a bit when the flak exploded and hit the planes. At one point, he said “Phil” (pilot and fellow POW Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips) under his breath. It made me realize how difficult the last few years must have been, when all his closest friends were gone.

The book and upcoming movie have generated a lot of buzz among veterans and nonveterans alike. Why?

Most people are interested in history, especially when a particular time in history shapes our world, as was the case for World War II. But above all, I believe people are drawn to Louie’s story because it is inspirational. Louie always reminded me that the purpose of the film is not to show how extraordinary he was but to help those watching it discover that they have the same strength inside them.

What was your last conversation with Zamperini?

My last moments with him were two days before he passed away. We held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. The last thing I said was, “I love you.” I miss him.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China probably lying that J-20 is ready for mass production

Chinese military sources told the South China Morning Post in early September 2018 that the new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter would soon be ready for mass production.

“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.

China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.


“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.

“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”

China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.

“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.

In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.

But it’s unclear how long that process will take.

“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.