The C-130 is a very valuable transport – and a legend. It’s hauled cargo and troops since December, 1956. That gives it almost 61 years of service — a most impressive run.
And the plane is still rolling off the Lockheed Martin assembly line today.
That description of this amazing plane’s longevity still sells the Hercules short. It’s not only been in the air a long time, it’s been modified for a crazy amount of different missions, including as a gunship.
But one of the less-well known versions is the EC-130J Commando Solo II. This Hercules doesn’t haul stuff or blow stuff up. Instead, like the 1930s-era comic book detective The Shadow, it has the power to cloud the mind of the enemy.
The Commando Solo is a very rare version of the Hercules. According to an Air Force fact sheet, only three airframes are in service, all with the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. It is equipped as a flying radio and TV station, capable of broadcasting AM radio, FM radio, and color television.
The plane has seen action a number of times, including during the liberation of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), Operation Just Cause, Desert Storm, the 1994 intervention in Haiti, the Balkans, and in the War on Terror. The planes usually operate at night, so as to not be detected. Even then, they carry what the Air Force calls “self-protection equipment.”
The EC-130J has been in service since 2004. It has a crew of nine (pilot, copilot, combat systems officer, mission crew supervisor, three electronic communications systems operators and two loadmasters), a range of 2,300 nautical miles (without aerial refueling), and usually cruises at a speed of 335 miles per hour.
You can see a video of a training mission on the Commando Solo below.
The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom acquired many nicknames over its storied career: Snoopy, Old Smokey, St. Louis Slugger, the Flying Anvil, and many more. The best, by far, came from the sheer number of Soviet-built MiGs taken down by the plane.
The F-4 was truly an amazing aircraft. Even at the end of its service life, it was winning simulated air battles against the United States’ latest and greatest airframes, including the F-15 Eagle, which is still in service today. Even though it was considered an ugly aircraft by pilots of the time, it’s hard to argue with 280 enemy MiG kills — which is how it acquired its best nickname, “The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts.”
After being introduced in 1960, it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy as an interceptor and fighter-bomber. In Vietnam, the Phantom was used as a close-air support aircraft and also fulfilled roles as aerial reconnaissance and as an air superiority fighter.
All of the last American pilots, weapon systems officers, and radar intercept officers to attain ace status did so in F-4 Phantom II fighters over Vietnam — against MiGs.
And the MiG fighters flown by the North Vietnamese were no joke, either. The Navy’s Top Gun school was founded because of the loss rate attributed to VPAF pilots — and that’s only the opposition in the air. North Vietnam’s air defenses were incredibly tight, using precise, effective doctrine to thwart American air power whenever possible. Air Force Col. Robin Olds used this doctrine against them in Operation Bolo, the first offensive fighter sweep of the war and a brilliant air victory.
Olds found the loss rate to VPAF MiG-21s to be unacceptable when taking command of the 8th TFW in Ubon. With the F-4’s success in Operation Bolo, Olds and the 8th TFW grounded the entire Vietnamese People’s Air Force for months.
The F-4 Phantom II was eventually replaced, but it took a number of different planes to compensate for the absence of this versatile airframe. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 was also the most widely produced aircraft, with more than 5,000 built.
Today, the Phantom still out there with the air forces of Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and Iran, and was last seen blowing up ISIS fighters in a close-air support role.
The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot,” at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.
The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.
“The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve,” said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.
The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as “White Forces,” set the parameters for each fighter squadron’s “blue air” team.
“The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix,” Wozniak said. “For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins.”
The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 “red air” F-15s to defend specified targets.
In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.
An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight,” Wozniak said.
In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.
“Turkey shoots advance our wing’s readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat,” Camilletti said.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.
One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”
We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders.
As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat.
#IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1
Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.
But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”
The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.
In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.
As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.
The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.
The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.
The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.
Way back in 1999, Lockheed Martin had a plan to field a delta-shaped stealth fighter that skipped the need for a conventional tail section, in the F-22-based X-44 Manta.
Instead of using a conventional tail section with both vertical and horizontal control surfaces, the Manta aimed to leverage thrust vector control, or directing the flow of the engine’s thrust to give the aircraft the acrobatic capabilities it would need in a high-end dogfight. Today, more than two decades later, that same concept appears to be found consistently across nearly all official renderings of the Air Force’s next air superiority fighter being developed under the NGAD, or Next Generation Air Dominance, program, begging the question… could elements of the X-44 Manta have found their way to America’s next top-of-the-line fighter?
Last year, the U.S. Air Force shocked the world with the announcement that they had already designed, built, and tested a prototype aircraft out of their Next Generation Air Dominance program. This new jet promises to be more advanced than any fighter to ever come before it, designed to not only do battle with the advanced 5th generation fighters being churned out by America’s opponents in Russia and China, but to dominate them for decades to come.
At right around the same time, the Air Force also unveiled a birthday-celebrating image seemingly showing a wedge-shaped aircraft with no conventional tail section, prompting some to wonder if the artist’s handiwork had anything to do with the NGAD announcement that came alongside it. Since then, other official images out of the Air Force, along with renderings from prominent aviation firms like Lockheed Martin, have all shown similar wedge-shaped aircraft.
Some, including me, have pointed toward Northrop’s highly capable but ultimately passed-over YF-23 Black Widow II as the stealthy precedent for this tailless design, but Northrop isn’t the only show in town that knows how to build a stealth fighter without a tail.
In fact, based on some of these artist’s renderings and the practical limitations of developing a new fighter on a short fuse, the X-44 Manta may represent an early iteration of what has or will become at least part of America’s next prizefighter in the sky.
X-44 MANTA… or the Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft
The X-44’s name, or more appropriately, its acronym, gets straight to the intent behind the concept. After decades of rapid fighter development, some things had simply come to be considered standard fare for a capable tactical aircraft: things like a conventional tail section with vertical and horizontal control surfaces. While both the F-22 and later, the F-35, adopted slightly different tails than you’d find on a non-stealth 4th-generation fighter like the F-16, the X-44 Manta aimed to pull off the same sort of maneuverability without the need for all those tail surfaces. With no tail section, the aircraft’s radar return would be dramatically reduced, creating an even stealthier fighter than America’s highly capable F-22.
So, logically enough, Lockheed Martin partnered up with NASA to talk about how to bring this concept to fruition. Successfully making an acrobatic fighter that could forgo using its tail for handling would mean relying heavily on using thrust vector controls to change the direction of the fighter’s flight path. NASA had already had a great deal of success using thrust vector controls on a high-performance fighter in the F-15 ACTIVE, which was a modified F-15 Eagle that used front wing canards (taken from the tail section of an F/A-18 Hornet) and thrust vectoring jet nozzles to produce a fighter that could outperform the legendary Eagle in almost every appreciable way.
Put in its simplest terms, thrust vector control offers the ability to aim or point the nozzle of the jet engine. In some platforms, like the F-22 Raptor, that nozzle aiming is done on a single plain (up or down), while in other jets like Russia’s 4th-generation Su-35, the nozzle can move in 360 degrees, offering even more dramatic options when it comes to rapidly shifting directions.
In a head-on engagement, the F-22 Raptor’s thrust vectoring can allow the pilot to point the nose and weapons of the fighter down at an enemy jet as it passes by, all while continuing to push in the same original direction. In a close-up scrap between two fighters who are trying to successfully turn tighter than the other to get weapons lock, that same thrust vectoring capability allows jets like the F-22 and Su-35 to change directions far more aggressively than any advanced jet without thrust vector controls can.
While the F-22 leverages thrust vector control alongside its more conventional tail section, Lockheed Martin proposed using the F-22 design as a starting point for this new technology demonstrator that could prove just as capabley as the fighter designs we’ve come to see as conventional in recent decades.
An F-22 Raptor without the tail
Because the concept wasn’t being pursued as a clean sheet fighter development program, but rather as a technology demonstrator effort, starting from scratch on an aircraft design didn’t seem practical. Instead, Lockheed Martin volunteered the F-22 Raptor. While not the most recent stealth fighter out of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works (the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter began test flights three years prior), the F-22 was–and is—America’s best and most capable fighter when it comes to engaging enemy jets. It also already boasts thrust vector control, making it a logical choice for an experiment so focused on that specific capability.
The X-44 Manta wasn’t the only F-22 based concept rolling around at the Pentagon at the time. As the world’s first operational stealth fighter, the first fighter to christen the new “5th-generation” of jets, and arguably the most potent air superiority aircraft ever to fly in service for any nation, it makes sense that the United States would have considered leaning into the F-22 program for other, more specialized roles. While the X-44 concept aimed to saw off its tail and make the F-22 even sneakier, the Sea Raptor effort would have placed F-22s aboard America’s fleet of supercarriers–offering a jet that could fly faster, further while carrying more ordnance than the F-35C’s now destined for Uncle Sam’s flat tops.
The F-22 Raptor had already set itself apart from the rest of the fighter world thanks to its creators leveraging stealth as a part of the fighter’s very design. While previous and highly-capable air superiority fighters like the F-15 relied on sheer performance to win scraps in the air and only later incorporated things like radar-absorbent coating to slow detection, the F-22’s very design was intended to postpone or defeat detection entirely. From there, its two powerful Pratt & Whitney F119 engines could still push the stealthy fighter to speeds as high as Mach 2.25, and its thrust vector controls allowed it to pirouette away from any inbound missiles that may have managed to secure a hard-to-come-by lock. Today, the F-22 remains the most highly capable air superiority fighter on the planet, and in 1999, its lead over the competition was even more pronounced.
But even the incredible F-22 could be even better if it could be even stealthier, and that’s where a tailless delta design could have produced real results. If the X-44 Manta could have offered similar performance to the F-22 while also being even harder to detect, it may have been enough to push this aircraft concept off of Lockheed’s notebook pages and into their production facilities. But it wasn’t just stealth the X-44 did better. It also carried a whole lot more hate.
Some of the strengths of the F-16XL
While the tailless wedge shape of the X-44 Manta would benefit its stealth profile, it also came with some other significant advantages over America’s existing stealth fighters, like payload capacity and range. America’s F-22 Raptor can carry a maximum of six air-to-air weapons internally and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is limited to just four–but the broad fuselage of the wedged-shaped X-44 would almost certainly have allowed for far more ordnance, both in terms of carrying space inside the aircraft and overall payload capability as a measure of lift and fuel economy.
First developed as the F-16 SCAMP and later matured into the F-16XL that would compete with (now) Boeing’s F-15E Strike Eagle in the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, the F-16XL also leveraged a broad, wedge-shaped fuselage that granted it superior lift, range, fuel capacity, and payload over the standard F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16XL wasn’t worried about stealth, so it carried its weapons on external hardpoints, but thanks to the increased surface area of its wedged-wing design, the F-16XL had hard points for an astonishing 27 weapons, as compared to the F-16’s standard nine.
It’s unclear just what a sort of boost to payload or range the X-44 Manta may have offered over the F-22, but it would have benefitted not only from the increased internal payload space, but also the increased lift provided by the broader lifting body. That lift could help support more weight while also offering greater efficiency in fuel use.
Could the X-44 Manta be involved in the NGAD program?
Like most questions made about NGAD at this point, there’s no real way to definitely say for sure that the X-44 has been a part of the conversation leading up to fielding the F-22’s replacement. However, there are some parallels we can draw between the intent behind the X-44 and the goals in place for NGAD.
The premise behind the X-44 Manta was to build an even better stealth fighter than the F-22 Raptor, and in no uncertain terms, that is precisely the stated aim of the NGAD program. However, it’s also important to note that the X-44 concept was born in 1999, making its design just about as dated as the F-35 and the fighters NGAD will be tasked with killing–the Chinese J-20, and Russian Su-57, both of which also began development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In other words, simply dusting off the X-44 concept and pushing it into production really wouldn’t meet the needs of the NGAD program. Of course, because so much of the X-44 is based on the out-of-production F-22, kicking off that production line would be about as expensive as simply starting from scratch with a new fighter anyway.
But that’s not to say the X-44’s DNA won’t find its way into the Air Force’s next top dog. As Air Force renderings have repeatedly shown, the branch seems intent on a wedge-shaped, tailless design for the NGAD. Many analysts have indeed pointed to the similarities between this concept and Northrop’s very real YF-23, but it’s important to note that these design images of the X-44 actually bear a stronger resemblance to what the NGAD is proposed to look like. So, if Northrop’s old stealth fighter is in this fight, it seems logical that so are advanced iterations of Lockheed’s more successful one.
The idea of using no conventional tail section and a wedge-shaped design keeps bubbling to the surface in other places as well–like this image from the Air Force Research Lab (part of a video they released a few years ago):
Or these images from Northrop Grumman:
Or this image from Boeing:
So, at the end of the day, the question might be: Will the Air Force draw its inspiration from wedge-shaped aircraft like Lockheed Martin’s proposed X-44 Manta and Northrop’s YF-23 Black Widow II for it’s next generation fighter? Or perhaps more aptly… has the whole aviation industry already done that?
As if shortages of toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer were not enough; shooters are reporting ammunition shortages amid the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The response to the virus seems to be responsible for the next nationwide shortage of ammunition and possibly firearms.
The ever prescient Alexander Crown, recently penned an article for RECOIL, When the Brass Dries Up and lays out some of the more recent ammunition shortages and how to cope with them. It seems very timely amid reports we have been hearing since early February.
We’ve seen subtle signs of a panic buying here and there the past few weeks but it looks like the lid is about to blow off.
A looming shortage of ammunition and firearms
A reader from Arizona, Brent Stuart, tried to purchase two cases of pistol primers last week from Sportsman’s Warehouse in Phoenix, AZ, this afternoon and was told he could only purchase one case. The clerk at the counter told him there was a new corporate policy limiting the amounts of firearms, ammunition and reloading components purchased in a single day. According to the employee, he had received a copy of a memo from corporate headquarters that morning limiting firearm, reloading components and ammunition purchases temporarily.
The memo states:
With increased demand and limited supply on select items, Sportsman’s Warehouse has implemented the following purchase limits to ensure our product reaches as many of our customers as possible. Firearm Limits:
Handguns (any type): 2 per customer per day.
Modern Sporting Rifles: 1 per customer per day.
Ammunition and Reloading Components Limits:
All Bulk Handgun and Centerfire Rifle Ammunition (100 rd + count box): 1 Per caliber, per customer per day.
Bulk Rimfire (200 rd + count box): 1 per customer per day.
All Handgun, Rimfire and Rifle hunting ammunition: 3 boxes per customer per day
All 25 ct. shotgun shells: 10 boxes per gauge per day.
All primers: 1k per day.
Keg powder (4,5,8): 1 per day.
All 1lb powder cans: 1 per day.
We tried contacting Sportsman’s directly Friday 3/13 and our call was placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. So, we took the liberty of calling a few of the local stores in Reno and Carson City, Nevada. Both stores reported no limits on anything, but said ammunition was flying off the shelves. One employee reported a 75% decrease in stock on the shelves within the two hours he had been there. The other stated that it would not surprise him if such a policy would be put into place soon as a measure to stop ammunition and firearm shortages due to COVID-19.
Online retailer blames COVID-19 for buying surge
Online ammunition retailer, Ammo.com, reports a significant increase in sales since February 23, 2020. The company believes that this surge corresponds with the public concern regarding the COVID-19 virus.
When compared to the 11 days before February 23 (February 12 to 22), in the 11 days after (February 23 to March 4), Ammo.com’sber of transactions increased 68%.
Alex Horsman, the marketing manager at Ammo.com, said of the surge, “We know certain things impact ammo sales, mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed, but this is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.” Horsman continued, “But it makes sense. A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just facemasks and Thera-Flu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”
We queried another big box store, Cabela’s and Bass Pro-Shops, who reported that ammunition is selling at a record pace. Week to date tallies for Herter’s 9mm 115-grain FMJ ammunition is 5,589 boxes. That’s 279,450 rounds and it’s not even Saturday. Month to date sales are 40,152 boxes for 2,007,600 rounds and we are not even halfway through March for just that one type and brand of 9mm ammo.
Cabela’s had no plans to limit purchases at this time.
Firearm sales and COVID-19
Firearm sales numbers are always difficult to nail down definitively, but at least in Nevada, calls into the state’s background check system have been taking in excess of 2 hours. At certain times after waiting for 30 minutes or more a message tells the dealer that the queue is full and disconnects the line, causing them to call back in and having to wait again.
We’ve witnessed that happening while in several different gun shops and ranges over the past several weeks. It appears more people are buying firearms than usual.
Firearm and ammunition sales in California are reported to be five times above normal due to COVID-19.
A shooting range in Clovis, California, had to stop customers from buying ammunition to take home because they were running out of ammunition for the range. The Firing Line owner Jake Belemjian says people are stocking up on ammunition because of COVID-19 and the shop can’t keep up with the demand.
If this were not bad enough, the NRA is reporting that today, an ordinance has passed in Champaign, IL, to empower the mayor to “[o]rder the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of … firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.”
Apparently, politicians want to fan fears of limiting access to firearms and ammunition, leading more people into panic and creating more shortfalls in supply. We have speculated that the State of Nevada’s background check system’s extensive hold times may be the work of an anti-gun governor ordering staff cuts or allocating personnel elsewhere, but it seems coincidental with the timing of COVID-19.
The fact that it is an election year with an outspoken anti-gun candidate on the presidential ticket could add fuel to this fire and spur along potential ammunition and firearm shortages even without COVID-19, but probably not this early in the cycle.
Is This a Nationwide Shortage?
Dealers and distributors who have maintained good inventory should be able to continue to service customers. Most shooters who’ve gone through these shortages before have learned from the past and planned accordingly.
We aren’t yet seeing a firearm shortage due to COVID-19 in our neighborhood, but there may be an extended ammunition shortage on the way if it is not here already. In 2014, it was 22 LR, according to Ammo.com that caliber is moving a lot, but the surprise we found topping their list of most in-demand ammunition for the past few weeks was 40 SW.
40 SW: 410%
12 gauge: 95%
380 ACP: 43%
45 ACP: 35%
308 Winchester: 32%
22 lr: 29%
We would never tell anyone to not buy ammunition. Just don’t act all panicky and act like the folks who are building toilet paper forts in their garages.
Speaking of which, Franklin Armory has a smoking deal on Government issue “MRE” toilet paper and it comes with a free BFS-III binary trigger. Of course, that means that you will probably need to buy more ammunition.
The US Navy’s submarine service is easily the most powerful ever fielded in the history of submarine warfare. Consisting of Los Angeles, Seawolf, Virginia and Ohio-class boats, this all-nuclear force is silent and deadly, prowling the world’s waterways without anybody the wiser.
While the unlimited range, the quiet and very stealthy nature of these combat vessels makes them incredibly dangerous, it’s their armament that plays the biggest part in making them the most lethal killing machines traversing the oceans today.
Every American submarine in service today is armed with the Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedo, the latest and greatest in underwater warfare technology. These “fish” are designed to give submarine commanders a flexible tool that can be used to destroy enemy vessels, or serve as remote sensors, extending the operational capabilities of submarines far beyond what they’re inherently able to do while on patrol.
As you can probably tell, these next-level torpedoes have undergone a considerable evolution from their predecessors of decades past. Advanced on-board computers, propulsion systems and explosives combine within the frame of the Mark 48 to make it a highly lethal one-shot-one-kill solution for every American submarine commander serving today.
Like many weapons fielded on modern battlefields the Mark 48 ADCAP is “smart,” meaning that it can function autonomously with a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness, allowing for unparalleled accuracy. When fired in anger, the Mark 48 rushes to its target using a “pumpjet propulsor” that can push the torpedo to speeds estimated to be above 50 mph underwater, though the actual stats are classified.
The high speeds were originally a major requirement to allow American subs to chase down fast-moving Soviet attack submarines, which were also capable of diving deep and out of range, thanks to reinforced titanium pressure hulls.
The Mark 48 is initially guided by the submarine which deploys it through a thin trailing wire connected to the boat’s targeting computers and sensors. Upon acquiring its target, the wire is cut and the torpedo’s internal computers take over, guiding the underwater weapon home with precision.
In days past, when torpedoes missed their target, they would likely keep swimming on until exhausting their fuel supply, or until they detonated. That’s not the case with the Mark 48, however.
When the Mark 48 misses its target, it doesn’t stop hunting. Instead, it circles around using its onboard computers to reacquire a lock and attempt a second attack.
This time, it probably won’t miss.
When the Mark 48 reaches its target, that’s when all hell breaks loose. Though earlier torpedoes would be programmed to detonate upon impacting or nearing the hull of an enemy vessel, the Mark 48 takes a different path… literally.
When attacking surface vessels, it travels below the keel of the ship, which is generally unprotected, detonating directly underneath. The massive pressure bubble that results from the gigantic explosion doesn’t just slice through the bulk of the target boat – it also literally lifts the ship out of the water and snaps the keel, essentially breaking its back.
When attacking a submarine, it detonates in close proximity to the pressure hull of the enemy boat, corrupting it immediately with a massive shockwave. Once the Mark 48 strikes, it’s game over and the enemy ship’s crew, or at least whoever is left of them, will have just minutes to evacuate before their boat makes its way below the surface to Davy Jones’ locker.
The US Navy is in the process of exploring upgrades to the Mark 48, including diminishing the noise generated by its engine in order to make it nearly undetectable to its targets, and enhancing its in-built detection and targeting systems.
Currently, the Navy fields the Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System variant of the Mark 48 – the 7th major upgrade the torpedo has undergone over its service history.
The Air Force has begun early testing, software development, and weapons integration for its upcoming Block 4 variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an emerging model intended to give the multi-role fighter a new dimension of weapons and attack mission possibilities, service leaders said.
The new version, to emerge in the early 2020s, will add new long-range precision-tracking weapons such as the newly named StormBreaker weapon — previously called the Small Diameter Bomb II.
“StormBreaker™ successfully completed Developmental Testing and the Government Confidence Testing phase in early 2018. StormBreaker demonstrated all operating modes, the capability to send, receive, and process data-link messages via both link-16 and UHF, Tara Wood, an official with Raytheon’s weapons development unit, told Warrior Maven.
The Air Force and F-35 weapons integration office are also integrating a new upgraded AIM-9x air to air missile, which will enable pilots to attack enemy fighters “off-boresight,” a term which refers to an increased target envelope.
An “off-boresight” AIM-9s will give pilots an ability to target and destroy enemies behind and to the sides of the F-35, Joe Dellavedova, an official with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
US Navy F-35C.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King)
“The next step for F-35 weapons integration will be to address the weapon requirements within Block 4. Integration of the Small Diameter Bomb II has already begun, and flight test is scheduled to start as early as 2019,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a statement a short time ago.
StormBreaker – Small Diameter Bomb II
StormBreaker, described as a key element of Block 4, is a new air-dropped weapon able to destroy moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions at ranges greater than 40-miles, Air Force and Raytheon officials said.
Wood further explained that StormBreaker detects, classifies, and tracks a wide array of targets, both moving and stationary. It also has an ability to prosecute moving targets through adverse weather conditions. StormBreaker™ is currently in Operational Test, Wood said.
GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets. StormBreaker has already completed a series of wind tunnel tests.
While the Air Force currently uses a laser-guided bomb called the GBU-54 able to destroy moving targets, the new SDB II will be able to do this at longer ranges and in all kinds of weather conditions. In addition, the SDB II is built with a two-way, dual-band data link which enables it to change targets or adjust to different target locations while in flight, Raytheon developers told Warrior Maven.
Operational Testing will utilize the weapon in real world conditions in operationally relevant scenarios, she explained.
A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.
Raytheon weapons developers say the tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.
Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground, Raytheon officials told Warrior.
One Raytheon SDB II developer told Warrior in a previous interview that “the millimeter wave radar turns on first. Then the data link gives it a cue and tells the seeker where to open up and look. Then, the weapon can turn on its IR (infrared) which uses heat seeking technology.”
The SBD II is engineered to weigh only 208 pounds, a lighter weight than most other air dropped bombs, so that eight of them can fit on the inside of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Raytheon officials explained.
If weapons are kept in an internal weapons bay and not rested on an external weapons pod, then an aircraft can succeed in retaining its stealth properties because the shapes or contours of the weapons will not be visible to enemy radar.
About 105 pound of the SDB II is an explosive warhead which encompasses a “blast-frag” capability and a “plasma-jet” technology designed to pierce enemy armor, Raytheon officials explained.
The SDB II also has the ability to classify targets, meaning it could for example be programmed to hit only tanks in a convoy as opposed to other moving vehicles. The weapon can classify tanks, boats or wheeled targets, Raytheon officials added.s, this will no longer remain the case.
StormBreaker, which is also being integrated on the F-15E, is carried on the BRU-61, a 4 place miniature munitions rack that fits in the F-35’s internal weapons bays. The weapons will be integrated on the F/A-18E/F and F-35B for the Navy and Marine Corps before the F-35A and F-35C, developers explained.
“StormBreaker™ uses Universal Armament Interface protocol to make the weapon/aircraft interface compatible with a wide range of aircraft, including F-35,” Wood added.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, previous test-firings of the AIM-9X were intended to further the missile’s ability to demonstrate this “off-boresight,” attack technology. Previous test data and observers have confirmed the F-35 identified and targeted the drone with its mission systems sensors, passed the target ‘track’ information to the missile, enabled the pilot to verify targeting information using the high off-boresight capability of the helmet mounted display and launched the AIM-9X from the aircraft to engage the target drone, a statement from the F-35 JPO said.
F-35 to 2070
The current consensus among senior Pentagon weapons developers holds that, at the moment, the F-35 is the most capable 5th generation plane in the world. Maintaining this edge, however, is anticipated to quickly become more and more difficult now that both Russia and China are building 5th-gen stealth fighters.
“Block 4 is important with the national defense strategy to make sure we are modernizing the plane to keep it dominant on the battlefield. We are close to knowing the strategy for how to go after it,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, told a group of reporters in early 2018.
While the applied impact of Block 4 will incorporate a range of mission-expanding technologies, much of the ongoing preparation work is in the realm of software development, Roper said.
“The physical pieces of the plane are moving in a good direction. Most of what we have left to do is software. The department (DoD) has not historically been good at software development. That will take a little longer. I cannot imagine building anything for the Air Force that is not software intensive,” Roper said.
The Block 4 initiative is part of a long range trajectory planned for the F-35 described by Pentagon developers as C2D2 – Continuous Capability Development and Delivery. The idea, officials say, is to position the multi-role fighter such that it can consistently accommodate new weapons, stealth materials, sensors, and guidance technology as it becomes available
“We own today’s fight,” said Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, F-35 Test Director, Edwards AFB, told reporters in early 2018. However, Tucker went on to say that, in the absence of aggressive modernization, sustainment and various improvement efforts.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
American special operators are known to have exacting standards for their weapons, vehicles, and other gear. When it comes to tactical motorcycles, elite troops across the Pentagon have settled on one very specific type.
In July, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing approved a plan to buy more than 50 Christini Technologies all-wheel drive 450cc motorcycles for special tactics personnel. These air commandos work with other special operators to coordinate air drops and parachute jumps, help secure drop zones and call in air strikes.
“The Christini Technologies, Inc. AWD Motorcycle is the only AWD tactical motorcycle on the market,” the flying branch’s contracting officers explained in a so-called “justification for other than full and open competition” document. “There are no other tactical motorcycles on the market that provide the AWD function needed by Air Force Special Tactics.”
Government agencies need to submit one of these reviews any time they want to give a contract to a specific company and avoid a lengthy bidding process. To back up their argument, the Air Force pointed out that Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces troops, and the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command were all using the Christini bikes.
To the casual observer, the AWD 450 probably looks like any other high-end dirt bike. At a glance, the vehicle appears is something you might expect to see at the X Games or a Motocross rally.
Despite being derived from a Honda CRF 250, the motorcycle is far more rugged than its commercial competitors. The Christini model has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on roads and a range of approximately 90 miles without needing to stop for gas.
The bikes feature rugged suspension and a modified seat for long missions rather than laps around a track. An enlarged, bullet resistant radiator helps keep the cycles working in extreme weather conditions. On top of that, they have run-flat tires and a headlight that can be switched to shine infrared light.
Most importantly, the engine powers both wheels. Since 1995, Christini has been cooking up and building patented all-wheel drive setups for both mountain bikes and motorcycles. The feature provides extra power in rough terrain and makes it easier for the rider to handle a tactical motorcycle.
“We’ve … done testing that that shows our AWD bike is 30 percent less fatiguing than a standard bike,” Steve Christini, the company’s founder, told We Are The Mighty in an email. “You just don’t get stuck … in anything.”
Coupled with an anti-stall clutch, the AWD 450s can come to a sudden, complete stop and then get going again without the rider having to restart the motor. Even if the transmission system breaks, the motorcycle’s rear wheel won’t stop running. It’s these elements that have made Christini’s product the go-to choice for American special operations forces.
Troops around the world have used tactical motorcycles as long as the vehicles have been in existence. In World War I, American soldiers started running messages between command posts on early Harley-Davidsons instead of horses.
Over the next century, soldiers, Marines, and airmen continually experimented with new roles for bikes. Relatively stock commercial types were the standard.
During the first Gulf War, American and British special operators hunted for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in the Iraqi desert in light trucks and on motorcycles. Some versions of the Desert Mobility Vehicle – a special Humvee Army Special Forces came up with – were set up to carry Desert Operations Motorcycles on the back. The “DOM” was a single-wheel drive Kawasaki KL type.
With the lighter, more discreet vehicles, commandos could scout ahead to survey targets or possible areas to establish a temporary camp, according to one 1999 Army manual. The bikes could carry troops or small amounts of gear to and from forward bases and listening posts and ambush positions.
Weighing more than 350 pounds and able to make 60 miles per hour on roads, the Kawasakis served their purpose well enough. Unfortunately, as time went on, it became clear that these cycles were simply not tough enough the missions at hand.
When American special operations forces went to Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, they brought their Kawasaki KLXs with them. Less than two years later, commandos took the vehicles to Iraq as an international coalition toppled Hussein regime. We don’t know for sure, but elite troops have likely used the motorcycles during other counter-terrorism missions, too.
“The Kawasaki KLX 250cc tactical motorcycle proved to be marginally fit for the high-altitude, rugged terrain of Afghanistan,” the Air Force pointed out in their justification. After nearly a decade of continuous combat operations, Army Special Forces were ready for a change.
In January 2010, the Army’s Special Operations Research Support Element looked into the Christini design. The evaluators were thrilled with the bike.
“The AWD motorcycle is far superior to a conventional single wheel drive motorcycle,” the office wrote in an unclassified review of the tests. “Increase in traction stabilizes the bike, reducing the fatigue on the operator while negotiating rough terrain and enables the bike to go places a standard motorcycle would not be able to go (eg: deep sand and steep inclines).”
“This vehicle enables the … operator, both motorcycle savvy and non-motorcyclist alike, to navigate off-road over difficult terrain,” the Special Forces soldiers added.
As of July, Christini had been working with America’s elite forces for more than four years, including sending 25 bikes to the SEALs, according to Christini. His company has also supplied tactical motorcycles to special operators and regular troops in the U.K., Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol are getting their own batches.
The North Carolina bike maker has partnered with Tactical Mobility Training, another private training company also located in the state. Together with the Army’s unique Asymmetric Warfare Group, Tactical Mobility Training helped developed a new concept of operations for motorcycle-mounted commandos specifically based around the AWD 450.
The special operations missions still focus largely on scouting ahead of larger formations and providing extra situational awareness of the battlefield and possible chokepoints. But commandos are now prepared to chase down or cut off fleeing terrorists and militants – nicknamed “squirt control” – during attacks on compounds or other sites, according to the Army’s review.
But regardless of the actual operation, if you happen to spot a special operator on a motorcycle these days, chances are good it’s a Christini.
It’s official: the U.S. Air Force will call its new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter the “Jolly Green II.”
Standing alongside combat-search-and-rescue pilots from past and current conflicts, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett made the announcement during the opening of the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Thursday.
“Reviving the Jolly Green name honors our combat search and rescue crews past and present,” Barrett said on social media following her speech. “In the hands of our airmen, the HH-60W ensures the rescue community can perform their duties better than ever,” she said.
The longstanding motto of the rescue community is, “These things we do that others may live.” The name Jolly Green — which the CSAR community has adopted as its trademark alongside green feet stamps on the aircraft — dates back to the Vietnam War era when American pilots flew the HH-3E.
While pilots today will stamp the sides of the helicopter with green feet to commemorate their own missions, the origin of the green feet is a nod to the HH-3E helicopter, also known as the Jolly Green Giant, which left fat imprints when landing in Vietnam’s rice patties and grass fields, according to the service.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein on Thursday stressed the service’s need for HH-60W, especially given his own experience. As a lieutenant colonel, Goldfein was shot down in his F-16CJ fighter jet over Serbia in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and subsequently rescued by CSAR units.
“The Jolly Green gives us extended range and better capability,” Goldfein said on Twitter following the announcement. “I was grateful for a ride out of enemy territory when I needed it and I can tell you first-hand that this aircraft will save lives.”
In July, the service began its first tests of the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky-made HH-60W — based on the UH-60M Black Hawk — which is meant to replace its current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet. Its missions also include “civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support and CSAR command and control,” the service said.
Current 1980s-era HH-60G models are capable of flying low, and have a retractable in-flight refueling probe and internal auxiliary fuel tanks that allow for better range and loiter time during rescue missions.
The HH-60W doubles the internal fuel capacity without using the auxiliary fuel tanks, and also increases the flight hours. The aircraft also has improved avionics, navigation, communications and an enhanced software network, plus better defensive measures and armored plating, according to the company.
Through its fiscal 2019 and 2020 budgets, Congress gave the Air Force the authority to procure 22 of the Jolly Green II. The first two units to be fielded with the aircraft will be the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and the 512th Rescue Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, officials said.
The service plans to purchase up to 113 of the rotary-wing aircraft.
Chinese officials have touted their progress with a new type of rocket propulsion that they say could give them an advantage in a potential conflict around the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan mountains.
The project reportedly intends to add electromagnetic force to the launch of traditional rocket artillery, which is typically cheaper than missiles and can be fired in larger quantities.
Han Junli, lead researcher on the project, told the state-run Science and Technology Daily that an electromagnetic launch “can give the rocket a very high initial speed on its launching state.”
Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that an electromagnetic catapult “may also be able to help stabilize the rocket during launch and improve its accuracy.”
Han, who researches the use of China’s ground forces, called the project the first of its kind and said work on it had been progressing steadily “with great breakthroughs.”
Chinese Type PHZ-89 122 mm 40-tube self-propelled multiple rocket launchers assigned to an army artillery regiment during a live-fire exercise in Jiangxi Province, Aug. 21, 2016.
(Wang Liang/Central Military Commission of the People’s Republic of China)
Han’s work has reportedly involved gathering data from the Tibetan Plateau, which has an altitude of about 13,000 to 15,000 feet and is surrounded by mountains that reach higher.
Han told Science and Technology Daily that the greater range of electromagnetically launched rockets would mean they don’t need to deploy to the front lines — a challenging task in the region’s rough terrain.
Thinner air at higher elections, which may hinder traditional rockets, would also not be as big an obstacle for electromagnetically launched rockets. Reduced friction from thinner air may also allow such rockets to hit higher speeds, though thinner air may mean less precision.
“Conventional artillery that uses powder may suffer from lack of oxygen on plateaus,” Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the state-run Global Times in early August 2018.
Electromagnetically launched rockets — which Song said could reach distances of 200 kilometers, or roughly 125 miles — would not face that issue, which “makes [them] very valuable in warfare on plateaus.”
“The plateau covers 26 per cent of China’s entire land territory,” Han was quoted as saying. “Rockets deployed in the field can cause severe damage to any invader in hundreds of square kilometres.”
“It is like in boxing,” he reportedly said. “The person who has longer arms and harder fists enjoys the advantage.”
Details about electromagnetic rocket artillery, like its range and how far along work on it is, remain unclear, but it is not the only potential venue for such technology.
Electromagnetic force is used in rail guns to fire projectiles with more precision and greater range that typical propulsion systems, and China’s military may include electromagnetic catapults on its next aircraft carrier.
China’s progress may be overstated, however.
While the rail gun appeared to be undergoing testing on a Chinese navy ship, sources told the Post that the vessel was a landing ship repurposed to hold the bulky electrical equipment needed to power the expensive-to-use weapon and that the new destroyers on which the rail gun is supposed to be deployed are not well suited for it.
A possible rail gun mounted on the Chinese Navy Type 072III-class landing ship Haiyang Shan.
Electromagnetic catapults for aircraft, which China is said to be considering for its next aircraft carrier, may not yet be viable either.
The US Navy — which has struggled with its own rail-gun research — has an electromagnetic catapult aboard its newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, but a Pentagon report released in early 2018 called into question that system’s ability “to conduct the type of high-intensity flight operations expected during wartime.”
A ‘win’ over a ‘bullying neighbor’
Han told Science and Technology Daily in early August 2018 that the necessity of rocket artillery was illustrated by a “military incident” that took place in a border region on a plateau in southwest China.
He did not specify what he was referring to, though he may have meant the 73-day border standoff between China and India in summer 2017 in the Doklam region where China, India, and Bhutan’s borders meet. After that incident, Han reportedly started making plans to target an unnamed opponent’s military installations in the area.
Chinese and Indian forces both backed away in late August that year, though troops from both sides have remained in the area and are believed to be reinforcing their positions, including upgrades to Chinese airbases in Lhasa and Shigatse and increased deployments to Indian airbases at Siliguri Bagdogra and Hasimara.
India has also moved forward with its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, which is designed to intercept targets at greater distances and altitudes.
In the year since, Beijing and New Dehli have worked to mend relations, including the Chinese defense minister’s first visit since the standoff, during which he hailed their friendship as one dating to ancient times.
The two sides also agreed to “expand the engagement between their armed forces relating to training, joint exercises and other professional interactions” and to implement “confidence-building measures” along their border, including a hotline between armed forces there.
But China is reportedly still smarting from the incident. In the months since, Indian commentary has described the incident as a “win” for Dehli over a “bullying neighbor.” Comments this spring by India’s ambassador to China that attributed the standoff to Chinese actions drew a rebuke from Beijing.
“I imagine the Chinese are not pleased with how events unfolded last year, and there are some who felt like they were somewhat embarrassed by India,” Jeff Smith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said in an August 2018 interview. “So I’m sure they’re redoubling their efforts down there to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen again.”
Featured image: Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems assigned to the 41st Fires Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, fire rockets during a live fire at the Udairi Range Complex, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 13, 2014.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Thanks to movies and video games, tons of people join the military thinking they’ll be the next John Wick. Gun-hungry recruits salivate at the prospect of sending rounds downrange using all the latest and greatest weaponry. Unfortunately, that rug will be pulled out from under newcomers when they realize that “military-grade” really just means “broken all the time with no money to fix it.”
The famous M203 Grenade Launcher is no exception. Yes, it’s a useful tool in combat since it can fire a 40mm grenade and reap an entire cluster of souls and limbs. But, in reality, they’re big pieces of sh*t.
It’s mostly just annoying to have a fore grip.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider)
You can’t really use a grip
There are fore grips made specifically for the M203, but they aren’t all that great. The real tragedy here is that you can’t add a cool, angled fore grip or any variation. If you choose to use the M203-specific grip, you have to place it somewhere that won’t interfere with the reloading process.
When you get issued an M203, your rifle’s sling swivel will turn into your personal noisemaker because it’s going to click against the M203 with every step you take.
Aiming is a minor inconvenience with an M203.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)
It adds weight to your rifle
Granted, the M203 doesn’t weigh so much on its own, but as every infantryman will tell you, “ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.”
Additionally, when you want to fire from a standing position, you’ll have to lift the front end of your rifle, which has now been weighted down. This may seem like a nitpick, but after days of little food, water, and sleep, you’ll be feeling it. If you get issued an M203, start hitting the gym because you’ll need the extra muscle.
If you’ve got that M16/M203 combo going on, have fun fitting into tight spaces. It’s baffling how often that M203 gets in the way. Want to sit comfortably in any military vehicle? Good luck.
Consider yourself lucky if you can reload with it still attached.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isabelo Tabanguil)
They fall off
Easily the worst part of having an M203 is that they’re not usable 100% of the time. Most will just fall of the rifle after firing a single shot, which is both dangerous and annoying. If you’re in a situation where you have to use that bad boy, you don’t have time to pick it up and put it back on. This means you’ll just have to hand-fire it, which isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it also means you don’t have the sights of the rifle for aiming,
With these issues in mind, you’ll likely not get to fire it often enough for it to be worthwhile. You’ll most likely end up hating the thing and it’ll feel like dead weight.
In nature, scorpions are deadly creatures that wield a fearsome sting. So, it makes sense that they’ve lent their name to many a weapon, like the F-89 Scorpion and the Textron Scorpion, just to name two of the most prominent. One of the lesser-known weapons to hold this arachnid moniker is the the M56 Scorpion.
The M56 was a contemporary of the M50 Ontos, an anti-tank six-shooter that served with the Marine Corps for 13 years, giving them a lightweight vehicle with a potent punch. The Army took a different approach in fielding a similar vehicle.
Instead of the six 106mm recoilless rifles the Marines selected for the Ontos, the Army opted for a single M54 90mm gun as the primary armament for the M56. The Scorpion had 29 rounds for the main gun — which was its only weapon.
The Scorpion was intended to give the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions some serious anti-tank firepower. They needed something lightweight — and the Scorpion was only 15,750 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com, less than a third of the weight of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. That weight combined with a 90mm gun and you’ve got yourself a winning vehicle, right?
This M56 at the American Armored Foundation Museum shows how small the M56 Scorpion was, despite its powerful 90mm M54 gun.
(Photo by Ryan Crierie)
Well, not quite. It turns out that when you’ve a powerful gun on a light vehicle, the recoil can be vicious. In this case, it was real bad – firing the Scorpion’s gun could send it flying three feet into the air. As you can imagine, this was an extremely uncomfortable experience for the crew in two ways. Not only did it jolt them about, risking serious injury, it also exposed their position to enemy forces — which is last thing you want on a battlefield.
The M56 Scorpion, like the M50 Ontos, saw action in Vietnam.
Unlike the Ontos, the Scorpion did see some export sales. The Spanish Marines bought some, and so did Morocco and South Korea. The M56 saw action in the Vietnam War, primarily serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The M56 was eventually replaced by the M551 Sheridan, which not only saw action in Vietnam, but served into the 1990s.
Learn more about this lightweight Scorpion in the video below!