When the U.S. military is looking for a custom bike, they look to DARPA. This time, they needed a stealthy dirt bike that could handle rough terrain… and maybe a few other tasks SEALs and Green Berets might need during an operation.
Two potential models were the frontrunners for DARPA’s project. The Silent Hawk, designed by Logos Technology, and the Nightmare, built by LSA Autonomy. They are both hybrids, capable of running on lithium-ion batteries or a variety of fuels, including JP-8, propane,
or even olive oil.
An artist’s rendering of the Silent Hawk.
Both are about as loud as a garbage disposal while running on fuel and about as loud as an indoor conversation when running on batteries.
The differences are where it gets interesting. The Nightmare weighs 400 pounds while Silent Hawk weighs 350. Those extra 50 pounds go toward generating additional horsepower for the Nightmare’s all-wheel drive. Silent Hawk was built with a battery pack that has a higher density and active cooling system to keep lithium-ion batteries from exploding.
The two bikes can also provide power to external devices, including medical equipment, blue force trackers, and communications gear.
Bikes — especially dirt bikes — aren’t new to the military. Veterans and active duty bike enthusiasts have been building their own custom bikes for years. It’s a huge community. One retired Marine Corps First Sergeant even founded a vocational therapy non-profit centered on building custom dirt bikes. It’s called
After all, he created one of the premier purveyors of patriotic apparel, standing tall in an extremely crowded field. Alarik and his team didn’t stop at clothing design, however.
Alarik ventured directly into another competitive field: the tactical monthly subscription box sector. His offering: Alpha Outpost.
Now, we’re not sure how familiar you are with the bizarre and extensive youTube subculture of subscription box unboxing videos, but believe us when we tell you, folks out there are effing intense about the quality, uniqueness, and overall wow-factor of the various, competing tactical gift boxes they receive in the mail every month. Suffice to say, the average subscription box customer is a difficult dude to please.
Alpha Outpost must be doing something right. They made over $8 million dollars in revenue in their first year of operation.
The skills Alarik acquired and the systems he perfected through the hard years of launching Grunt Style certainly account for some of Alpha Outpost’s success. But a greater share is surely due to the sheer thoughtfulness evident in each of their monthly offerings.
Every month’s box has a theme and that theme poses a problem. The tools in the box make up part of the solution. The other part comes as a result of the skills you build by putting those tools to use as you work through specific challenges Alpha Outpost poses.
They’re not just sending you gear. They’re trying to make you better.
Knowing Alarik’s trajectory, it makes perfect sense that self-improvement lies at the heart of any gift you receive from his his company.
As the CEO of two multi-million dollar, veteran-oriented companies, Alarik views kicking ass as a skill that anyone with the right tools can build. In his view, military experience isn’t a magic bullet for veteran success, but it provides a damn fine head start.
Check out the full Cigars and Sea Stories interview with Daniel Alarik and tell us you can’t think of someone who’d love to get a new box of ass-kicking tools every month from Alpha Outpost.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Military equipment is notoriously cheap and can sometimes fall short of expectations when in the hands of the dirt-eating grunts who use them the most. But, every once in a while, a company comes by and makes something that not only lives up to its potential, but manages to make its way into the hearts of troops everywhere (things as wonderful as the M27 are few and far between). So, when DevTac developed the Ronin Kevlar Level IIIA Tactical Ballistic Helmet, we wondered how effective it really was.
Thankfully, Dr. Matt Carriker, a veterinarian and fellow gun enthusiast, put the helmet to the test on his YouTube channel, Demolition Ranch. We’ve covered a previous video of his where he tested Army helmets, seeing just how bulletproof they really are, but does this Boba-Fett-looking helmet stand up to the test?
Let’s find out!
This thing just looks awesome.
Before the test, Dr. Carriker goes over some of the basic features of the helmet to provide a baseline of what to expect. Some of those features include armor plating — some parts Level II, others Level IIIA. Allegedly, the helmet is able to withstand most bullets shot from a pistol.
You never know if you’ll catch a ricochet in the face while squirrel hunting.
Dr. Carriker starts off easy and light, hitting the helmet with a .22 LR fired from a suppressed pistol, then moving onto a .22 Hornet round fired from a Taurus Raging Hornet. The results for both are the same — some chipped paint but no penetration, which is what we hoped would happen given such a small bullet.
There are some scratches and holes, but nothing went all the way through.
Next, he hits it with a .410, shooting a Charles Daly Defense Honcho. The lenses are supposed to stop a shotgun blast, and they do, but they get shot out. Afterwards, like a true, red-blooded American, he double fists a pair of Maxim 9s to hit the helmet with 9mm rounds. Still no penetration.
We might have to get one for ourselves here… For professional reasons, of course.
After seeing that 9mm ain’t going to cut it, Dr. Carriker goes on to test a .357 magnum round shot from a Desert Eagle. After that, he picks up a .44 magnum and then, later, a .45-70 Government round shot from a revolver. The results for all three, despite doing significant damage to the helmet, were the same: no penetration.
When The Hunt for Red October came out in 1984, and with it the invention of the techno-thriller genre (author Tom Clancy’s claim to literary greatness), one of the stars was a modified Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). That novel, of course, was adapted to film in 1990.
The book and the film featured two different versions of the silent drive. The book used impellors, while the film used magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. Now, something that is somewhat similar to the latter version of the Red October’s silent drive could be a reality… thanks to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Permanent magnet motors run much more quietly than conventional types currently in use on submarines. This is due to their “brushless” nature, which also means they can be smaller, taking up less volume on submarines (which are notoriously cramped) and increasing their reliability and also improving their endurance.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, China has a small number of nuclear submarines at present, roughly a half-dozen attack subs and four ballistic missile submarines. While greatly outnumbered by those of the United States, China is planning to build many more nuclear-powered subs by 2030, including versions more modern than the Shang and Jin classes that are their current state of the art.
The United States is not standing still. Reportedly, the new Columbia-class SSBNs will also be using a magnetic-drive technology. That said, it should be noted that in both the book and movie versions of Hunt for Red October, the United States Navy was able to track the titular submarine.
China may be working on a new infantry fighting vehicle – less than a decade after introducing its latest vehicle, the ZBD-04.
Janes.com reports that a photo possibly showing the new Chinese IFV next to a ZBD-04 emerged on discussion forms in early February. The vehicle’s major upgrade appears to be the addition of an unmanned turret. ArmyRecognition.com notes that the ZBD-04 made its debut in 2009. This video shows the ZBD-04 taking part in a parade.
The ZBD-04 has a very similar armament suite to Russia’s BMP-3. It has a 100mm main gun, a 30mm coaxial gun, and three 7.62mm machine guns. The 100mm gun is capable of firing the AT-10 “Stabber,” a laser-guided missile. The vehicle can carry up to seven soldiers, and has a crew of three. The vehicle is also capable of some amphibious operations as well.
Russian experience with the BMP-3 has shown some problems with the basic design. The vehicle is relatively lightly protected. This means it can ford a river, but if it gets hit, the crew and infantry squad inside are very likely to go out with a bang. ArmyRecognition.com reported that Russian BMP-3s have reportedly been blown apart at the welds when the onboard munitions go up.
The new Chinese IFV may be dispensing with the 100mm/30mm combo in favor of a new 40mm gun.
Jane’s reports that the new gun could be chambered for cased telescoped ammunition. According to ThinkDefence.co.uk, such a system packs the payload inside the propellant, allowing more rounds to fit in a given volume.
China displayed a 40mm cannon that could fire cased telescoped ammunition in November, 2016. The United Kingdom is considering the use of a similar cannon in the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle and the Ajax reconnaissance vehicle.
China’s Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter jet may be getting an engine upgrade that will increase its maneuverability and make it harder to detect on radar.
Defense News reports that a photo of a J-10C in an unknown Chinese defense magazine features an engine that appears to be equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle. The engine also appears to have sawtooth edges, according to Defense News, and the bottom part of the compartment that houses the fighter’s drogue parachute was removed.
The new nozzle will enable the J-10 to be capable of thrust vectoring, sometimes referred to as thrust vector control or TVC. TVC happens when the engine itself is directed in different directions, directly manipulating the thrust generated from the engine.
This gives the pilot greater control of altitude and angular velocity, and enables the aircraft to make better turns, substantially increasing maneuverability.
The new nozzle suggests that the Chinese have made gains in their attempts to add TVC technology to fighter jets.
But increased maneuverability is not the only thing that the engine provides. The sawtooth edges around the nozzle are similar to those used by other stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22. Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30/35 Flanker series of fighters also utilize the same edges.
The J-10C is actually an improved version of the J-10. It features enhanced 4th generation electronics, like an active electronically scanned array radar, and also has a diverterless supersonic inlet, an air intake system that diverts boundary layer airflow away from the aircraft’s engine lowering its radar cross section.
The J-10 itself is rumored to be a Chinese copy of the American F-16.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)
In the 1990s, Israel was hoping to make its own domestic fighter jet that could compete on the international market. It required assistance from US companies and ended up making the IAI Lavi, a fighter that heavily resembled the F-16.
After it was discovered that up to $1.3 billion of US aid to Israel was spent on the development of the Lavi, and that the US was essentially funding a potential competitor, the project was canceled.
The plans for the fighter were then said to have been sold to China. Some US government officials even believed that Israel and China were collaborating with each other to develop the fighter. China and Israel have both denied all such claims.
China has been aggresively pursuing stealth capability for its jets. In September 2017, the government officially announced that its stealth fighter jet, the J-20, was in active service.
DARPA has a plan to implant a device in soldiers’ brains to let them communicate with computers and digital sensors.
The brain-computer interface would allow soldier to communicate with sensors to more effectively track enemies or sense the surrounding terrain. Photo: US Army PEO
The program is called Neural Engineering System Design. The device would be about the size of two nickels stacked together. If successful, the small device would represent a huge breakthrough in neural communications.
“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
NESD would gather signals from the brain at a much higher resolution than is currently possible. Right now, devices which read brain waves are aimed at areas of the brain. Each of 100 sensors picks up the activity of tens of thousands of neurons, giving a vague picture of what the brain is saying.
The chip and sensors from the NESD program would aim to communicate individually with millions of neurons. This would allow prosthetics wearers to give detailed commands to their prosthesis, soldiers to receive information from battlefield sensors instantly, and for researchers to map the human brain in exquisite detail.
The road forward for DARPA and its research partners is a hard one. According to a DARPA release, it will require “breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”
DARPA is looking for business and research partners for the initiative. Interested parties can find information at their website.
An updated helmet-mounted night vision system is beginning to make its way to infantry units. Marine Corps Systems Command accelerated the acquisition of about 1,300 Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles using existing Defense Logistics Agency contracts.
“We have employed a bridge capability to give Marines the best gear right now available in the commercial marketplace,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons. “A final procurement solution will allow a larger pool of our industry partners to bid on the program.”
Army/Navy Portable Visual Search devices, or AN/PVS, have been employed by the military since at least the 1990’s and upgraded with next-generation systems as funding and technology became available.
Marines took delivery of the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles during new equipment training in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
(Photo by Joseph Neigh)
The move to the SNBVG is expected to enhance the infantry’s lethality and situational awareness in reduced visibility. It combines two systems: a binocular night vision device and an enhanced clip-on thermal imager.
“It’s a little bit lighter than the current system, and gives Marines better depth perception when they are performing movements,” said Joe Blackstone, Optics team lead at MCSC.
Marines took delivery of the equipment and learned how to use them in December 2018 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Known as NET, the new equipment training entails teaching Marines about the operations, characteristics, maintenance and use of the new devices.
“The lethality that it’ll bring is exponential [sic],” said Cpl. Zachary Zapata, a Marine who participated in the training. “With these new [BNVGs], having the ability to not only use thermal optics along with it, but just the entire depth perception and speed that we can operate in is going to significantly increase, as opposed to what we were able to do in the past.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron James B. Vinculado)
The initial buy and follow-on procurement is being funded with Marine Corps dollars as prioritized by the Department of Defense Close Combat Lethality Task Force, which concentrates on the squad-level infantry and is aimed at ensuring close combat overmatch against pacing threats. The SBNVG acquisition strategy is to procure the devices incrementally and concurrently as the Corps looks toward future technologies.
“Right now, we are participating with the Army on their next generation night vision systems, both the Enhanced Night Vision Device-Binocular and Integrated Visual Augmentation System Programs,” Hough said. “We are eager to see the maturation of these capabilities for adoption to improve the effectiveness of our Marines.”
The program office plans on releasing a final request for proposals to procure an estimated 16,000 additional systems on the basis of full and open competition. According to program officials, a draft request for proposals was posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website in mid-November 2018, and closed on Dec. 19, 2018. The Government is currently adjudicating comments and anticipates release of a final RFP in the near future.
Additional fielding of the systems is planned for September 2019. While the devices may eventually make their way to the entire Ground Combat Element, for now the first priority is given to the Marine Rifle Squad, program officials said.
“This program office is committed to bolstering the combat lethality, survivability, resilience and readiness of the GCE,” said Hough.
The Philippine Air Force may be replacing an old airplane with an even older one.
According to a report by Janes.com, the OV-10 Broncos currently in service with the PAF are in need of replacement, and Basler Turbo Conversions of OshKosh Wisconsin is stepping in to offer an updated version of the C-47 Skytrain cargo plane. The Philippines are currently battling the Islamist terror group known as Abu Sayyaf, and these gunships could be valuable – just as AC-130s have proven valuable for American forces in the same environment.
Over 10,000 C-47s were built before and during World War II along with the civilian DC-3, or licensed production versions made by Japan (the L2D) and the Soviet Union (the Li-2). So, finding the airframes is not hard in spite of the platform’s age.
The AC-47D was the first gunship modification, using three side-mounted GAU-2 Miniguns, entering service in 1964. Each GAU-2 could fire up to 2,000 7.62mm NATO rounds a minute. The AC-47s gained a reputation among Special Operations troops on the ground for providing reliable support. Two AC-47s were later provided to the El Salvadoran Air Force during that country’s civil war.
The AC-47T was first put into service by the Colombian Air Force in 2006, to fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC. The gunships would be rigged with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, bombs, and even some French M621 20mm cannon (mostly used on helicopters and patrol craft).
The baseline for the AC-47T is Basler’s BT-67 transport. This transport uses two Pratt and Whitney PT6A-67R turboprop engines in place of the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 engines, giving it a top speed of 210 knots. With a long range fuel tank, it can travel over 2400 nautical miles – over a thousand nautical miles more than the original versions could! Various upgraded versions of the C-47 are still in service with Greece, South Africa, Colombia, and El Salvador . . . and the U.S. State Department.
The U.S. Army hasn’t really flown fixed-wing combat aircraft since the Army Air Forces became the Air Force in 1947. An agreement on U.S. military policy written in Key West in 1948 divvied up the roles of aircraft used by the United States for air defense, interdiction of enemy land forces, intelligence, mine-laying, airlift, and pretty much anything else aircraft might have a role in doing.
Ever since, the Air Force is solely expected to provide close-air support, resupply, airborne operations, and pretty much everything else the Army might need fixed-wing aircraft for. Now one lawmaker wants to upend all that.
The top leadership of the world’s new superpower came together after World War II to form this gentleman’s agreement on whose air forces would perform what tasks because it was better than leaving it to Congress to codify it. Solving the problem before it became one also gives the Pentagon more flexibility in the future to control how it fights war, rather than forcing Congress to change legislation so it could get on with the business of defending America.
Seeing as how the Pentagon – and the Army in particular – need the tools required to execute that mission, one lawmaker is getting impatient with Air Force foot-dragging over a new close-air support attack aircraft. He’s ready to give the contract and the money to the Army if the project doesn’t get a move on.
Florida Rep. Michael Waltz is promoting his legislation to allow the U.S. Special Operations Command to get its own light attack aircraft, separate from the U.S. Air Force fleet. The House has already given the idea the green light (but not the money yet), and Waltz wants to extend that same courtesy to the Army. The reason is that the Air Force has been too slow in rolling out new, prop-driven attack planes for land interdiction.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said.
The Air Force has been working on the plane for the past 12 years, unsure if it really wants the platform over the A-10 or the newest F-35 fighters. The argument for the prop planes is that they provide better CAS coverage while costing much, much less than flying an F-35 for hours on end, all while carrying the same armaments. There’s only one problem – prop planes are really easy to shoot down.
The A-26 Super Tocano is just one of the types of light attack craft tested by the Air Force.
Waltz is a former U.S. Army Special Forces operator who believes low-intensity conflict will not go away in the coming years but rather will likely increase. He also believes the U.S. military’s main mission shouldn’t stray too far from its counterterrorism role.
“Whether it’s Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South America, we are going to be engaged with our local partners on the ground in low-intensity conflict…” he said. “If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority.”
The Air Force is looking to produce six A-29 Super Tocanos or six AT-6 Wolverines for training and advisory missions overseas and here at home. While the Air Force program has no set date for rollout, the legislation to give the Army the authority to roll out its own is part of the House version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System has been in service since 2002. Equipped with a 105mm main gun, an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun, it can bring the hurt. But despite the lethality and practicality of this vehicle, the Americans were actually late to the game. France had a similar vehicle — and it was in service for two decades before the Stryker arrived.
Meet the AMX-10RC. Like the Stryker, it is a wheeled vehicle with a 105mm main gun. It has six wheels — instead of eight — and was designed to fill a reconnaissance role. That may sound like heavy armament for recon, but if it were discovered by an enemy scout vehicle, like Russia’s BRDM-2, the AMX-10RC’s will stick around to tell the tale — the BRDM’s crew won’t be talking.
An AMX-10RC moving — it can reach speeds of up to 53 miles per hour. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Sgaze)
The AMX-10RC entered service in 1981 with the French Army and French Foreign Legion. It packed 38 rounds for its 105mm main gun – compared to the 18 of the M1128. The vehicle is also equipped with a 7.62mm machine gun and can add a .50-caliber machine gun for additional firepower against planes and infantry when needed.
While the M1128 Stryker has a three-man crew, thanks to an auto-loader, the AMX-10RC requires four. The AMX-10RC has a top speed of 53 miles per hour and can go just under 560 miles on a single tank of fuel. It weighs roughly 33,000 pounds.
The AMX-10RC saw action in Desert Storm, Chad, the Balkans, and in the Ivory Coast with French forces. This armored car was also exported to Morocco and Qatar. While production stopped after 540 of these vehicles were built, those in service are being upgraded with modern systems to serve until the ERBC Jaguar is ready for deployment.
Learn more about this French mobile gun system in the video below.
Before World War II, the Marine Corps had what were known as Marine Defense Battalions. These units were used to defend outposts like those on Wake Island and Midway Atoll, and the one at Wake deserves credit for one of the great stands in Marine Corps history after being left high and dry by the U.S. Navy’s answer to George McClellan.
Now the Marines may be ready to resurrect that concept. According to a solicitation posted at FedBizOpps on Oct. 27 of this year, the service is looking for some land-based anti-ship missiles that can reach out and touch the enemy at least 80 miles away. The system needs to be “employable by highly deployable and mobile forces.”
Such missiles are actually old hat for many countries, both friendly and not-so-friendly. Norway, for instance, relied on land-based batteries of the Penguin anti-ship missile to supplement armed missile boats should the Cold War have turned hot. The Soviet Union (and later Russia) developed land-based versions of the SS-N-3 Shaddock, SS-N-2 Styx, and the SS-N-26 Sapless. China’s Silkworm missiles were famously purchased by Iran, and Iran developed the Noor, which was fired at American ships multipletimes last year.
According to Marine Corps history, during World War II, 20 Marine Defense Battalions were formed. Back then, these units generally had coastal artillery to defend against enemy ships (the 1st Marine Defense Battalion at Wake actually sank a Japanese destroyer), as well as machine guns for defending against troops, and anti-aircraft guns for use against enemy planes. And of course, every Marine in those units was a rifleman.
What sort of modern missiles might be used? The United States does have the Harpoon anti-ship missile in service – some versions of which can reach over 80 miles. Other relatively off-the-shelf options could include the Norwegian-designed NSM, or a ground-launched version of the LRASM. There is also the chance that the 155mm Vulcano heat-seeking round could be used from Marine Corps M777 howitzers.
In short, the Marines’ desire for a few good anti-ship missiles could lead to the return of some little-known but storied units to the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.
According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”
So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.
One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.
So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.
SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.
The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano. If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.