Let’s face it. Enemy troops behind cover can be a real pain. In fact, someone was gonna have to root them out. Thankfully, that is no longer the case, thanks to new ammunition coming from Nammo.
According to a report by Soldier Systems, this programmable ammo is available for a variety of weapon systems, including 40mm grenades from rifle-mounted grenade launchers or automatic grenade launchers like the Mk 19, the 66mm rockets used in the M72 Light Antitank Weapon, the 120mm guns used on the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, and the 30mm chain gun used on some U.S. Navy ships and the M1296 Dragoon infantry fighting vehicle.
However, Nammo has also reported that the programmable ammo may also be able to deal with enemy drones. This is a huge development, given that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria made use of drones as a means to deliver improvised explosive devices. As a result, friendly troops could be that much safer (if not completely safe) on the battlefield.
Nammo is displaying some of the programmable ammo at the Defence and Security Equipment International show in London this week. In a release, Nammo claimed that its 40mm grenade has been combat proven. Nammo also stated that the use of programmable ammunition against drones would reduce collateral damage or damage from stray rounds.
Programmable ammo was used as part of the XM25 Punisher weapon system, a semi-automatic 25mm grenade launcher which proved itself in Afghanistan before being placed on hold. ModernFirearms.net notes that the XM25 had a range of up to 700 meters against area targets, and had a six-shot magazine.
Japan has been making a comeback as a carrier navy, but they’re small compared to those of other Western powers. Overall, Japan had perhaps the most modern navy in East Asia during the Cold War, and did so while mostly respecting its constitution that renounced war.
But now, with China getting aggressive around the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea, Japan is stepping up its preparations. What are their best weapons? Here’s a listing from one video.
1. Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers”
Japan’s most modern “carriers” are among the biggest game-changers in the region. Vessels similar to this have operated small detachments of AV-8B Harriers but mostly deploy helicopters. And this isn’t the first time Japan has set its sights on bantam-weight carriers — its powerful Kido Butai dominated the seas during the initial stages of World War II.
2. Soryu-class diesel-electric submarines
Even more quiet than the carrier comeback has been Japan’s submarine force. In this case, Japan has perhaps the most modern diesel-electric submarines in East Asia. The Soryu-class vessels could also be getting new batteries that would greatly increase submerged performance.
3. Atago-class guided-missile destroyers
This is Japan’s version of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIA guided-missile destroyers. They’re about the same size, both have 96 vertical launch cells in two Mk 41 vertical-launch systems, and both can carry a couple of Seahawk helicopters. Two-to-four modified versions are planned to be added to the fleet in the coming years.
4. V-22 Osprey
A planned purchase of the hight-tech tiltrotor aircraft is more rumor than fact. It should be noted that Japanese troops have been training on the Osprey since 2013. The Hyuga, a “helicopter destroyer” that is slightly smaller than the aforementioned Izumo, has operated this tilt-rotor aircraft. This could be a game-changer in a Senkaku Islands conflict.
Dr. John Paul Stapp earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” when he rode the Sonic Wind I rocket-propelled sled at the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds.
He sustained the greatest recorded G-forces endured by man, decelerating in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had previously undergone.
When he was pulled from the sled, Stapp’s eyes flooded with blood from bursting almost all their capillaries. Stapp was rushed to the hospital, worried that one or both of his retinas had detached and would leave him blind. By the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released, though his eyesight would never be the same.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
More than 50 years later, the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman still exists, but its riders have changed. Stapp was the last human to ride the track and now egress missions use highly instrumented mannequins to look at what loads are and then determine whether or not aircrew survivability was achieved.
“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
The data is collected with a variety of onboard data acquisition systems or telemetered for post-test analysis. Additionally, technical imagery, including high-speed digital images, is available for scientists to examine the status of their payloads. Track personnel use the same imagery to determine the status of the sled vehicle during tests. All data can be post-processed and merged using a common time reference to verify the accuracy of the data, and to produce a unified data product.
“We’re always pushing to open up new capability fronts. Thinking differently,” he said. “It’s built into our culture to think about those next steps. What do we need to do? How do we refine things? How do we look at problems differently based upon what we learn out of a mission outcome? So it’s a constant learning process here.”
At 10 miles, the track is also now the world’s longest and it is used to test high-speed vehicles such as aircraft ejection seats.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“The Holloman High Speed Test Track hearkens back to the 1950’s,” Vap said. “The mission has changed over time and the track has grown over time, from 3,500 feet to now 50,000 feet of rail.”
With the current track, the 846th TS has reached velocities in excess of 9,000 feet per second. That is around Mach 8.6 when calculating for altitude. However, the goal speed of Mach 10 has yet to be reached.
“We’re going for success, but there’s still a lot of territory to be explored and to learn from,” Vap said.
Test missions on the track last a few seconds; however, there are weeks, if not months, put into the design effort, fabrication and getting prepped for a test. There are a litany of cameras along the track to make sure that everything is captured in a six-, 10- or 30-second test mission.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“We design the sleds, we fabricate them and we load them on the rail,” Vap said. “Prior to that work, we look at the velocity profiles … We look at our rocket motor inventory and we put together the payload necessary to reach the velocities that are needed to carry out the test mission.”
“But don’t kid yourself. It’s not a small measure,” he added. “It takes a great deal of engineering staff and a lot of hard work to carry out these missions, on the order of weeks to months to prep for a 10 second shot.”
The goal of these tests is to wring out some of the potential problems that could exist in an airborne environment.
“We don’t just slap something on a jet and hope it works,” Vap said. “Those are things that just aren’t done from an operational standpoint. You have to verify that it’s going work.”
This means failure is inevitable. Not everything is going to be a success and what Vap tells everyone is that you learn more out of your failures than your successes.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Holmes, Egress Craftsman, 846th TS. “Our system isn’t used as frequently as most, which is a very positive thing. Being able to come out in this environment and actually test [an ejection seat] and see it operate is pretty exciting.”
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
Vap said there is no bigger “cool factor” in the Air Force than what the HHSTT does on a day-to-day basis. There is no other place in the Air Force that is essentially strapping rocket motors to a sled, pushing payloads down the track at flight relevant velocities and excess.
While the track’s passengers are no longer flesh and blood, they are still pioneers – of speed, science and safety. And their contributions to the high speed test track are making the goal of Mach 10 more and more a reality.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics–such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems–are computer based.
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
Air Force Chief Information Security Officer, Peter Kim, recently told Scout Warrior that the service was vigorously invovled in expanding cyber security beyond IT to inlcude larger platforms.
Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to “bake-in” cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack — such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol–codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers are an instance cited where ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.”You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.
F-22 and Air Superiority
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview last year.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias last year.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
Imagine you’re in a country that tends to pinch pennies when it comes to the defense budget. Now imagine that you’re looking to upgrade your armored fighting vehicles (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers), but you’ve just been told you can’t buy new ones — even second-hand vehicles aren’t an option. Sounds like you’re stuck with obsolete vehicles, right?
Not necessarily. Believe it or not, those old tanks can be given new life, and the process is actually very simple and relatively cheap. More often than not, your real problem isn’t the armored fighting vehicle itself, it’s what goes on top: the turret.
This is where the firepower of your typical armored fighting vehicle resides. Thankfully, the great thing about turrets is that they can be replaced quite easily if you have the proper facilities and trained maintenance personnel. If you have a perfectly good hull, swapping out the turret is a great way to buy time and extend the service life of an otherwise-outdated and outmatched system.
The baseline BTR-80 has a KPV 14.5mm machine gun, but a new turret can make this a BTR-80A with a 30mm auto-cannon.
Russia is doing just this with their BTR-80 and BTR-82 armored personnel carriers. The baseline versions had a manned turret with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun. However, the Russians replaced the initial turret with one that houses a 2A72 30mm auto-cannon — similar to the 2A42 auto-cannon used on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter — thus creating the BTR-80A and the BTR-82A. According to some reports, Russia may make another turret switch for the latter vehicle, giving the BTR-82A a 57mm gun.
During Reforger 82, when this photo was taken, the M60A1 tank was still in widespread service, even as the M1 Abrams was starting to replace it.
Tanks also benefit from this upgrade treatment. For example, Turkey was able to extend the life of 170 M60 Patton tanks by going with the Israeli Sabra upgrade, which essentially puts a Merkava III turret on the Patton’s hull (a few other upgrades were made while they were at it). Egypt is also looking to do this with its fleet of M60 main battle tanks.
The centerpiece of the M60T in Turkish Army service is a new turret like that on Israeli Merkava tanks.
(Photo by Natan Flayer)
The fact is, if you have an older armored vehicle, just junking it or passing it on may not be the best option. You might find that the better bargain is in getting a new turret instead.
The Cold War must have been an amazing time to be a weapons manufacturer for the U.S. government. Like some kind of early Tony Stark (I guess that would be Howard Stark), if you could dream it, you could build it, and chances were very good the CIA would fund it. From funding LSD tests using prostitutes and their johns to a secret underground ice base in Greenland to trying to build an actual flying saucer, there was literally no end to what the CIA would try.
What they ended up actually building and then using was much less fun and much more terrifying. We only found out about it because Senator Frank Church decided to do a little investigating.
Among other things, he found a gun that caused heart attacks, a weapon that had been used against the U.S. political enemies and beyond.
Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s article in The New York Times in December 1974, the United States Congress decided to look into just what its internal and external intelligence agencies were doing in the name of the American people using their tax dollars. What they found was a trove of legal and illegal methods used by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and even the IRS. Among the abuses of power discovered by the Church Commission was the opening of domestic mail without a warrant and without the Postal Service’s knowledge, the widespread access intelligence had to domestic telecommunications providers and adding Americans to watch lists.
Even the Army was spying on American civilians.
The most shocking of the Church Commission’s findings was the targeted assassination operations the CIA used against foreign leaders. Allegedly, Fidel Castro wasn’t the only name on the CIA hit list. Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, and Gen. René Schneider of Chile were all targets for CIA-sanctioned killings.
Castro alone survived 600 assassination attempts.
The clandestine service had its people researching all sorts of various ways to kill its targets. The CIA soon latched on to poisons, ones that were undetectable and appeared to mimic a heart attack. They found it in a specially-designed poison, engineered for the CIA. Only a skilled pathologist who knew what to look for would ever discover the victim’s heart attack wasn’t from natural causes. To deliver the poison, the injection was frozen and packed into a dart.
Darts from the new secret assassination gun would penetrate clothing but leave only a small red dot on the skin’s surface. Once inside the body, the dart disintegrated and the frozen poison inside would begin to melt, entering the bloodstream and causing the cardiac episode. Shortly after, the deadly agent denatured quickly and became virtually undetectable. They even brought the gun to show Congress.
The Church Commission and its findings caused a massive frenzy in the United States. People became hungry for more and began to get hysterical in the wake of any news about the CIA. In the aftermath of the Church Commission, President Ford (and later, Reagan) had to issue executive orders banning the tactics of targeted assassinations by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
What became of the poison dart gun is anyone’s guess.
Many great warriors throughout history enjoyed having rare, exquisite weapons. The fictional King Arthur had his Excalibur. The real-life Charlemagne had Joyeuse. But it was some unknown Inuit tribesman who had the rarest, most magical weapon of all – a spear made from the horn of a Narwhal, tipped by iron from a meteor.
For centuries, the horn of what we know today as the Narwhal was a pretty uncommon sight in European countries. European kings as recent as just a couple of centuries ago believed the “horns” sold to them by Viking traders were from the mythical unicorn and used them in everything from crown jewels to their drinking goblets. In reality, they were actually the tusks of a medium-sized whale; what we know today as a Narwhal. While this didn’t make the tusk any less rare, it did mean the source was less mythical and just really cold – the Narwhal preys on other sea life in the cold Arctic waters of the North.
Meanwhile, much further back in Earth’s history, a particular meteorite collided with Earth. The iron-based ball hit what we know as Cape York, Greenland today. It left a chunk of iron ore that weighed 31 metric tons embedded in the Earth’s surface. The local Inuit called it Saviksoah, or “Great Iron” and used it as a source of metal for hunting and building their communities.
Explorer Robert E. Peary with a chunk of the Saviksoah meteor.
The tusk of the now-endangered Narwhal can grow anywhere from five to ten feet in length and is a sensory organ, covered with nerves on the outer part of the tusk. So that tusk (which is actually a long, spiral tooth) doesn’t just fall out or shed naturally. For every Narwhal tusk, there’s a dead Narwhal out there somewhere. For the Inuit, they use the occasion to make hunting weapons from the tusks, and the length is ideal for making a spear.
To form an arrowhead, the natives need a source of metal, and, being unable to mine iron ore, they used the meteor as a source of the metal. Instead of using the blacksmithing techniques we all know through movies, televisions, renaissance faires, and whatnot, the Inuit had to use cold forging techniques – that means they just stamped the cold metal until it was beat into the shape they needed.
So it’s not impossible that this lance is the only example of a spear-like weapon forged from the cold iron of a million-year-old meteor then wedged atop the rare ten-foot tooth of a near-mythical Arctic whale. It’s just highly unlikely. And while people have been making weapons from the Ivory of Narwhals for decades now, know that killing one for its tusk is just as illegal as killing anything else for its ivory – only the Inuit are still allowed to hunt the creatures.
Luke T. asks: How many times can you shoot a bulletproof vest before it stops working?
To begin with, it should probably be noted that the name “bulletproof vest” is a misnomer with “bullet resistant vest” being more apt. Or to quote John Geshay, marketing director for body armor company Safariland, “…nothing can be bulletproof, not even a manhole cover. In an extremely small percentage of cases, a round can even go through a vest that it is rated to stop. The round itself could have an extra serration on it or something.”
Furthermore, body armor designed to protect the wearer from high caliber guns can still be penetrated or compromised by smaller caliber bullets. For example, armor designed to stop a round from a .44 Magnum (the kind of round Dirty Harry claims can blow a man’s head clean off) could theoretically be pierced by a 9mm round if the latter is fired with a high enough muzzle velocity, with distance to the target also playing a role. Or as Police Magazine notes, “There’s a tendency among gun enthusiasts to dismiss the lethal potential of certain calibers of handguns. Don’t believe it. A small round traveling at high speed can punch through body armor.”
Similarly, in part because shot from shotgun shells have highly varying velocities, shotguns are deemed very dangerous even to otherwise extremely robust body armor. That’s not to mention, of course, that even should the vest do its job, the spread out nature of the shot gives a higher probability of unprotected areas being hit as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)
With that preamble out of the way, let’s discuss the differing levels of protection offered by various types of body armor and how many times they can be shot before they stop offering an acceptable level of defense. In the United States most all body armor is ranked according to standards set by the National Institute of Justice, or the NIJ, with their ratings pretty much considered the gold standard the world over in regards to levels of ballistic protection offered by a given piece of armor.
As for those ratings, the NIJ assigns a generalised level rating between 1 and 4 to all kinds of armor. In the most basic sense, the higher the level of the armor, the more protection it provides. For example, a rating of anywhere from Level 1 through 3a will stop bullets fired from the majority of handguns. For comfort’s sake, body armor at these levels are usually made from some sort of soft fiber material, such as Kevlar, though at the higher levels may use additional materials. On the extreme end, level 4 armor is the only kind capable of potentially stopping armor piercing rounds, and is usually made of some hard material, sometimes with a soft material like Kevlar reinforcing it.
On that note, although all kinds of armor are held to the same standards by the NIJ, a distinction is drawn between “hard” and “soft” types. For anyone unfamiliar with the terms, “soft” body armor is usually created by weaving ultra-strong fibres together in a web-like pattern, with the armor stopping bullets much in the same way a net slows and stops some object like a baseball, distributing the force over a larger area in the process.
“Hard” body armor on the other hand is usually created by inserting solid plates of either ceramic or special plastic into a vest or other housing.
Although hard armor generally provides more protection than soft armor, it has its own shortcomings that need to be considered. For example, ceramic armor plates are often only designed to protect the area around the heart and lungs owing to the drawback of hindered maneuverability if covering over other areas, as well as the fact that they are relatively heavy, with a 10 by 12 inch plate typically weighing about 7 or 8 pounds. So a combined front and back plate weight of roughly 15 pounds or 7 kilograms even when just protecting the heart and lung area.
This all finally brings us around to how many bullets a piece of body armor can absorb before it is rendered useless. Well, as you might imagine given how many different types of body armor there are out there, this depends. For example, on the extreme end we found some manufacturers who claimed their Level III body armors were capable of taking literally hundreds of rounds before failing.
United States Navy sailors wearing Modular Tactical Vests.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth W. Robinson)
As for some general examples, we’ll start with soft armor. The moment these are hit by a bullet, the fibers around the area of impact are compromised and lose some of their ability to absorb and dissipate the energy of a bullet. Thus, if another shot were to hit reasonably close to where the first hit, the bullet has a good chance of penetrating, even if the vest would have normally been able to handle it fine. Thus, while it is possible they can take multiple hits in some cases, and even be rated for such, depending on the caliber of bullet, way the armor was made, etc. it’s generally deemed unsafe to rely on this.
Moving on to ceramic plate armor, in most cases these plates are designed to shatter when hit by a bullet, dissipating the force of the impact via breaking up the bullet so that the smaller pieces can be absorbed by some backing material like Kevlar or some form of polymer or sometimes both. However, a side effect of this is that a large portion of the plate is then completely useless against a second shot similar to our previous example with soft armor. That said, there are types of ceramic armor that are designed to take multiple rounds, just, again, relying on this is generally considered unwise in most cases. And certainly with armor piercing rounds and level IV ceramic armor, the NIJ only requires it to work for one shot to receive that rating, though manufacturers do their own testing and we did find examples of companies that claimed to exceed that with their level IV ceramic armor, even with armor piercing rounds.
This brings us to polyethylene armor plating. In this case the impact of the bullet actually melts the plate which then re-hardens, trapping the bullet within it. Due to this, polyethylene armor can survive being shot numerous times without losing its ballistic integrity and we found examples of manufacturers that claimed their polyethylene armor could take hundreds of rounds before failing. Polyethylene plates also have the advantage of being roughly half the weight of ceramic for the same level of protection.
Metropolitan Police officers supervising World Cup, 2006.
Hybrid body armor is also quite common at the higher levels, meaning your mileage may vary from a given piece of body armor to another, with the NIJ’s ratings giving a decent overview of what it’s capable of and often the manufacturer’s testing giving even more insight onto how many rounds of a given type of bullet the vest can take before failure.
All this said, again, while a given piece of body armor may pass the tests and even be claimed by the manufacturer to protect against much more, most manufacturers recommend replacing body armor even after a single shot. And, beyond that, even in some cases if you just drop your armor on the floor. This is because although body armor is designed to stop bullets, some types are surprisingly fragile. For example, ceramic plates can easily crack if dropped, sometimes in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
Moving on to soft body armor, stretching or deforming the fibers in some way, again in ways that are sometimes not obvious to the naked eye, also can compromise their integrity. Some manufacturers even advise replacing Kevlar-based body armor if you just get it wet as this potentially weakens the fibers. On that note, because daily, otherwise innocuous, activities can sometimes compromise body armor, the standard in the body armor industry (set by the NIJ) is also to replace a given vest a maximum of every 5 years, even if it’s never been hit by a bullet.
For the fashionably minded individual who might need some protection from getting shot, it turns out bulletproof suits are not just a thing in the movies, but a real product that makes military and police body armor look like something made from an era when hitching up your covered wagon to go to the market was a thing. Perhaps the most famous manufacturer of these is the Colombian company Miguel Caballero, founded in 1992 by, you guessed it, a guy named Miguel Caballero. What exact materials he uses to make his line of bullet proof clothing isn’t clear, though he states it’s a “hybrid between nylon and polyester”. The advantage of his material is it is significantly lighter and thinner than Kevlar at equivalent protection levels. And, indeed, if you go check our their website, their undershirt body armor looks pretty much like any other undershirt unless you look really closely. As for price tag, this isn’t listed on the website, but it would appear a basic suit top made by the company will run you upwards of about ,000-,000, though you can get other product, such as an undershirt for less, apparently starting at around ,000. Funny enough, one of Caballero’s favorite ways to advertise is in fact to put the clothing on someone and then personally shoot them, leading to the company’s slogan, “I was shot by Miguel Caballero” with apparently a few hundred people shot by the man himself to date. They even have a youtube channel where you can go and see him shoot his wife in the stomach. Not just stopping bullets, some of Caballero’s product are also rated to stop knives, be fireproof, waterproof, etc. Essentially, think the type of snazzy and robust clothing seen in most spy movies and that’s pretty accurate in this case.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.
The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.
China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.
The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.
The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.
Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.
China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.
A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.
The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking to upgrade its fleet of AH/MH-6 Little Bird helicopters.
Operated by the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), also known as the “Night Stalkers,” the AH-6 (attack) and MH-6 (assault/transport) Little Bird helicopters have been a staple special operations rotary-winged platform since the 1980s. Working closely with the special mission units of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the Night Stalkers have flown Little Birds into combat in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, among other places.
But the consecutive deployments of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have taken a toll on the AH/MH-6 Little Bird fleet. And now SOCOM wants to polish it.
According to a government’s acquisition site, SOCOM is looking for offers to replace the special operations helicopters’ Light Weight Plank Systems (LWPS). The contract will fall under the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity category—meaning that the number of LWPS is up in the air—and can last to up to eight years.
This is the latest update for the Little Bird fleet. A couple of years ago, SOCOM awarded a contract to Boeing for an indefinite number of Mission Enhanced Little Bird (MELB) kits for both versions of the Little Bird. The MELB kits include an improved six-blade main rotor and four-blade tail rotor, enhanced tail boom and rotor drive system, upgraded tail stinger, chambered vertical fin, landing gear, and doors.
The 160th SOAR is comprised of four battalions and operates three rotary-wing platforms, for a total of around 140 aircraft.
The AH/MH-6 Little Birds provide attack, assault, and transport options. These are the helicopters that will drop a Delta Force team on top of a target building or provide close air support on target to a SEAL Team 6 group.
The MH-60 Black Hawk offers medium-lift capabilities. These are the helicopters that will carry. An updated stealth version of the MH-60 Black Hawk participated in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-60 Direct Attack Penetration (DAP) Black Hawk, a gun platform that packs some serious firepower and can take heavily fortified targets on its own.
Finally, the MH-47 Chinook presents heavy-life capabilities. This special operations version of the venerable Chinook is the workhorse of the Night Stalkers. It’s mainly used for long-range insertions of special operations elements, such as a Ranger platoon or a Special Forces operational detachment and its partner force.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the U.S. Air Force’s workhorse fighter for more than forty years, and at one point, it looked like a carrier-capable version would do the same for the U.S. Navy.
More than 4,600 F-16s have rolled out off the assembly line since it first took to the sky in 1974, and even amid this era of stealthy supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-16 force remains the backbone of America’s air dominance. With some 1,245 of the fighter still in operation under the Air Force’s banner, the F-16’s broad multi-role capabilities and sheer performance make it one of the world’s top fighter jets, despite being old enough to have seen the original “Star Wars” in theaters.
Today, F-16s fly for the United States, Israel, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, and more… but the most surprising place this highly capable 4th generation fighter may have ended up is on the deck of America’s supercarriers. Shortly after the F-16 won the Air Force’s new Air Combat Fighter (ACF) contract in 1975, then-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger pushed the U.S. Navy to adopt the new fighter as well.
The F-16 had performed well in its pursuit of the Air Force contract, and if the Navy could also find use for the Fighting Falcon, Schlesinger reasoned, the Defense Department could procure the jet in higher numbers and streamline logistics for both branches.
This line of thinking, of course, would eventually lead to the acquisition nightmare that has been the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which was also intended to be a single fighter platform that could meet the disparate needs of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as foreign buyers. The F-16, then, could have become a similar boondoggle (or maybe proven the concept sound) if the Vought Model 1600, or carrier-capable F-16, had ever made it into service.
Precursors to the F-16 and F/A-18 squared off more than once
In order for the YF-16 to find its destiny as the Air Force’s workhorse fighter, it first had to contend with stiff competition in the form of Northrop’s YF-17. The YF-17 was a lightweight prototype fighter first designed to serve as a lower-cost alternative to America’s most dominant air superiority fighter in the modern era, the F-15 Eagle. In the minds of military leaders, the large, powerful, and expensive F-15 brought more power to bear than was really necessary for many combat operations, and as such, a cheaper but still highly capable jet could complement America’s fleet of Eagles by assuming those lower stakes roles.
Ultimately, the YF-16 would outperform the Northrop’s YF-17 in testing oriented specifically toward the Air Force’s needs, but it wouldn’t be the last time these two highly-capable platforms would find themselves competing over a contract. In fact, as the Navy mulled over the idea of converting the F-16 for carrier use, it once again found stiff competition in the form of Northrop’s YF-17.
Neither General Dynamics (the maker of the F-16) nor Northrop (who made the YF-17) had ever built a carrier-fighter before. With a lucrative contract on the line, both firms sought out partners with carrier-aircraft experience. General Dynamics teamed up with Vought to convert their new F-16 Fighting Falcon into the Vought Model 1600, and Northrop paired off with McDonnell Douglas to improve upon their YF-17 design.
The new iterations of both of these fighters had to place a larger emphasis on the Navy’s primary needs at the time: Namely, long-range radar capabilities for intercept missions and multi-role capabilities to support the sort of air-to-ground combat operations America has come to leverage heavily throughout the past few decades.
Making the F-16 into the Vought 1600
It seems counterintuitive today, with the F-16 so expertly filling the role of an attack aircraft as well as a fighter, but the original concept behind the F-16 was to create a no-frills fighter built to do nothing but dominate the skies. Its designers at General Dynamics, internally known as the “Lightweight Fighter Mafia,” sought to keep the “gold-plating” they believed common in new fighter programs away from their new jet. “Gold-plating,” in their minds, including a number of things we now think of as practically standard in a 4th or 5th generation fighter, like fire control radar, electronic countermeasures for flying in highly contested airspace, radar-guided missiles, and–perhaps most importantly–ground attack capabilities.
By the time the F-16A began to emerge, it would have some of that gold-plating the “Lightweight Fighter Mafia” so disdained, like an AN/APG-66 radar and some intrinsic ground-attack capabilities. It still lacked radar-guided air-to-air weapons, forgoing them in favor of the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile. These additions made the F-16 a better candidate for the Navy’s needs than it would have been as originally imagined, but it still didn’t quite fit the bill.
In order to meet the needs of the Navy, the Vought 1600 was larger than the F-16A, stretching some three feet longer, with a 33-foot 3-inch wingspan that was a full two feet broader than the Air Force’s version of the fighter. The breadth of the wings grew, covering a total of 269 feet and giving the aircraft better stability at lower speeds. The fuselage was flattened a bit and made broader, and its canopy was designed to pivot forward, which was different from the F-16, but can now be found on the F-35.
In order to withstand carrier landings, heavier duty landing gear had to be affixed to the Vought 1600’s belly, alongside the standard carrier equipment like a landing hook. The fuselage itself was made stronger and in order to offer the engagement range the Navy needed, a pulse-doppler radar for beyond visual range targeting was also added.
All told, the structural changes needed to make the F-16 into the Vought 1600 added more than 3,000 pounds to the aircraft. Further changes were made to the fuselage and wings as subsequent iterations of the Vought 1600 came to fruition. The V-1602, for instance, had even more wing area at 399 square feet, and was given a heavier GE F101 engine.
For the YF-17, the second time was a charm
Despite the changes made to the F-16 to meet the Navy’s needs, the combined General Dynamics/Vought effort would ultimately lose out to Northrop and McDonnell Douglas’ YF-17, which would later come to be known as the F/A-18 Hornet, and its own successor, the Block II Super Hornet.
The YF-17 may not have cut it for the Air Force, but the Navy saw promise in a scaled-up version of the fighter, thanks to its superior range, and likely, safety.
The Vought 1600’s low-lying intake located just above the nose-wheel was considered a real risk on the flight deck of a Navy carrier, as it could literally suck unsuspecting sailors straight into it. This wasn’t the first time Vought faced this sort of criticism, as the pilot-favorite Vought F-8 Crusader’s large, low intake had already earned it the nickname “the Gator,” because of its tenacity for gobbling up sailors.
Importantly, the F-16’s lightweight design and lack of radar-specific weapons made it poorly suited for all-weather operations like intercepting fighters or bombers en route to a carrier strike group.
“This capability, with the necessary radar guidance system and heavier pylons, had been incorporated into the F-18 design, but the F-16 would not accommodate an all-weather missile system without extensive redesign and added weight.”
However, according to Holloway’s book, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger was still dead set on pushing the Vought 1600 onto the Navy. In order to settle the debate once and for all, Schlesinger invited Admiral Holloway to his office to discuss the Navy’s next fighter. Despite Schlesinger telling Holloway that his office was too small to bring more than two of his subordinates to the discussion, Holloway walked into the Secretary of Defense’s office to find more than a dozen people waiting for him. Schlesinger ambushed the admiral, keen to use his superior numbers to push the Vought 1600 onto the Navy.
Holloway stood firm, however, highlighting the concern of his engineers that the Vought 1600 was apt to bang its engine on the flight deck during carrier landings, which could cause damage to both the deck and the aircraft. When the men gathered in Schlesinger’s office argued that problems like that could be mitigated with better pilot technique, Holloway grew frustrated. Clearly, anyone peaching about improved pilot technique to offset a fighter’s design shortcomings had never attempted to land on the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier that was barely visible against a seemingly endless backdrop of stormy seas during nighttime operations.
The YF-17 also offered a second engine, which could mean the difference between getting a jet back to its carrier or having to dump it in the sea if anything went wrong with one of them.
The Vought 1600 misses the boat
Ultimately, it may have been the intended weapons for each platform that became the deciding factor. Because the F-16’s design wouldn’t accommodate an all-weather missile system without extensive modifications, the Vought 1600 may have been able to manage carrier operations, but still wouldn’t meet the exacting needs of the branch.
Of course, the F-16 would eventually gain the very capabilities it lacked at the time, both in the form of Sparrow missiles and eventually AMRAAMs. Had similar capabilities been a part of the Vought 1600’s pitch, we may not have seen the nearly four decades’ worth of service out of the Hornet and Super Hornet family that we have. Instead, the Navy would have been flying F-16s alongside F-14 Tomcats off of their flattops, and the Super Hornet would be another what-if fighter in the annals of military history.
A South Korea missile system that could be used to target North Korea Scuds will cost Seoul more than $800 million to develop, a Seoul defense committee said Nov. 17.
South Korea’s planned development for the system, which has the capability to destroy incoming ballistic missiles at an altitude of about 12.4 miles, comes at a time when North Korea may be on an “aggressive schedule” to deploy its first operational ballistic missile submarine.
South Korea’s defense committee said the purpose of M-SAM development is to “secure a medium-range and medium-sized interceptor system, in response to North Korea ballistic missile and aircraft attacks,” News 1 reported.
South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration and LIG Nex1 is developing the system.
Deployment was scheduled for after 2018, but plans came under scrutiny after Oct. 30, when a minor opposition party member claimed South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo had ordered the suspension of M-SAM development.
But Seoul confirmed Nov. 17 M-SAM plans are being pursued.
According to News 1, the M-SAM could play a crucial role in intercepting midrange ballistic missiles, similar to the way SM-3 missiles are being deployed with the Japanese navy.
South Korea could also deploy the SM-3, but would not be able to do so until its military upgrades the Gwanggaeto-3 batch-2 Aegis ships after 2023.
The missile plans are being followed through at a time when North Korea could be constructing a new submarine, according to 38 North.
“A probable launch canister support, or launch canister, appears to be present within the service tower at the missile test stand [in Sinpo South Shipyard] suggesting the ongoing ejection testing of submarine launch ballistic missiles,” writes U.S. analyst Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr.
North Korea has refrained from provocations for about two months, and analysts have offered reasons as to why Pyongyang has stayed quiet after weeks of tests.