This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

When it entered service in 1966 with the Soviet Red Army, the BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle was revolutionary.


Like most armored personnel carriers, it could carry a squad of troops. However, it changed the game of armored warfare by adding what was at the time considered heavy armament for a troop carrier, including a 73mm gun with 40 rounds, and the AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile.

This configuration created what may have been one of the first true infantry fighting vehicles.

The BMP became the means of carrying infantry for the Soviet Union’s tank divisions, while partially displacing the BTR armored personnel carriers in the motor rifle divisions. In the last years of the Cold War, the Soviets unveiled the BMP-3, the latest in the BMP series.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
A BMP-3 in Moscow, prior to a 2008 parade. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the BMP-3 can carry seven infantrymen and has a crew of three. However, this infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of the T-55 main battle tank, as its primary armament is a 100mm rifled gun with 40 rounds. It still retains the capability to fire anti-tank missiles, this time the AT-10 Stabber through that 100mm gun. It also retained the 30mm autocannon on the BMP-2.

The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, though, meant that the BMP-3 did not get the wide production run of the BMP-1 and BMP-2. Analysts note that roughly 700 BMP-3s were built, as compared to 26,000 BMP-1s.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
The United Arab Emirates, a GCC member, offloads a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle at a Kuwaiti port facility from its Elbahia L62 landing craft. (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Joseph Krypel).

Like the earlier BMPs, the BMP-3 has been exported to Russian partner countries. The biggest non-Russian user is currently the United Arab Emirates, which has purchased over 400 of the vehicles. Others include Venezuela, Kuwait, the Ukraine, and Indonesia. Ironically, South Korea has bought some of these vehicles as well, meaning that if the crisis with North Korea goes hot, BMP-3s could be facing off against one another.

You can see a video about the BMP-3 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osshVnWpTkQ
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This flying tank destroyer had a much bigger gun than the Warthog

The A-10 is justifiably celebrated for its tank-killing prowess.


After all, it destroyed 987 tanks and a metric buttload of other Iraqi stuff during Desert Storm, and its GAU-8 got a lot of use, including some Iraqi helicopters who felt the BRRRRT! But the Air Force once planned for a tank-buster with a gun that made the A-10’s GAU-8 look puny.

The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly was intended to be a close-air support plane to bust up tanks and bunkers in front of the infantry. Beechcraft, ironically, is best known for civilian planes like the King Air.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
Beechcraft XA-38 (S/N 43-14407) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To accomplish that mission, it was given a powerful armament. In the nose was a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a powerful T15E1 75mm automatic cannon. It had a pair of twin .50-caliber turrets as well (one on the top, one on the bottom), and the ability to carry up to 2,000 pounds of bombs, according to MilitaryFactory.com.

Yeah, you read that right. The Army Air Force in World War II was developing a specialized tank-buster that was two and a half times bigger than the GAU-8. Of course, a 75mm gun had been used on variants of the B-25, but the XA-38’s gun was essentially a semi-auto.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
A parked XA-38, with the barrel of the T15E1 prominently visible. Makes the GAU-8 looks like a cute popgun doesn’t it? (U.S. Air Force photo)

The plane had a top speed of 376 miles per hour, a range of 1,625 miles, and a crew of two. With all that performance, it had a lot of promise when it first flew in May of 1944. But that promise was never seen by the grunts on the ground.

The XA-38 project never got past the two prototypes, because a different aviation project took up all the engines that the Grizzly was designed to use. The Wright GR-3350-43 engines were needed by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which in 1944 was needed to bomb Japan.

One prototype was scrapped, while the other’s fate remains unknown.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NICS checks up 80% as Americans want guns

This month has been a great month to own a gun store. For many, it was black Friday every day of the week, just without the crazy deals. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, NICS background checks are up 80.4% compared to March 2019. NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and is maintained by the FBI for the purpose of background checks during gun sales. March 2020 has seen the highest volume of NICS checks for the month of March in over 21 years.

March 2020 saw 2,375,525 background checks. That’s over 76,000 a day. The raw NICS numbers are different from the NSSF numbers, but there is a valid reason why. The NSSF adjusts their number to exclude NICS checks used for concealed carry permits. This results in more accurate information for tracking gun sales.


With the end of March also being the end of the first quarter, the NSSF released the first-quarter NICS numbers that showed a 41.8 percent increase from the first quarter of March 2019. That’s a radical increase in background checks, and according to many retailers, a big chunk of these buyers are new gun owners.

This sharp increase in gun sales is evident that American’s want their guns. The more new owners we can welcome to the fold, the better chance we have at preserving our right to keep and bear arms.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

Painting a Clearer Picture with NICS

It’s important to contextualize the NICS numbers and to understand they do not represent all gun sales. What makes the picture a little muddier is that multiple firearms can be purchased with a single NICS check. On top of that, 25 states allow people to skip background checks by having a permit of some type. These purchasers with a permit who purchase firearms do not contribute to the NICS numbers.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation provides monthly NICS numbers and tracks and accumulates the data yearly. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

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This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Whether in the military or not, most people don’t drive tanks. But for nearly a decade, Drive A Tank has opened its doors to civilians wanting to live out their tank fantasies.



Related: 5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.

It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.

With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.

But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.

“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.

This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:

The Daily, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pistols are carried by NCOs at the Tomb of the Unknowns

Many military members are familiar with the sight of a shift change at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only the U.S. Army’s finest can join the Old Guard and walk the carpet as a tomb sentinel, so the highlight of any visit to Arlington is catching the Changing of the Guard, where the guard’s M-14 rifle is famously inspected during the ceremony.

What you might not notice is the duty NCO’s sidearm, holstered but clearly ready for use. This weapon is as clean as the rifle the NCO inspects, with one important difference for the guards.


This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

Firepower.

The M-14 rifles used by the Tomb Sentinels are fully functional, the Old Guard says. While the unit would not discuss further security measures due to the sensitive nature of what they do, it’s clear the rifle isn’t loaded when it’s carried by the men walking the line in front of the Tomb. An M-14 with a magazine is distinctly different than one without. Furthermore, when the rifle is inspected during the Changing of the Guard, the inspection would eject a round from the rifle, were there a round in the chamber.

No one really knows if there are live rounds in the nearby tent or another means for the sentinels to defend themselves in case of an active shooter. But the NCOs are packing.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

Serious firepower.

When an NCO of the Old Guard attends to the Changing of the Guard, the NCO is equipped with a custom, U.S. Army-issued weapon, the Sig-Sauer M17. The weapon was built by the gunmaker specifically for the Tomb Sentinels and comes with a number of beautiful features. There are only four like them ever created, and all are carried exclusively by NCOs in the Old Guard.

The hardwood in the grip of these special pistols comes from the deck of the USS Olympia, a cruiser first laid in 1895 and seeing service in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Marble from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is superheated, converted into glass, and added to the weapon’s sights, making for one of the most unique weapons created for the military anywhere.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

Since things are so tight at the Pentagon in terms of operational security, it’s not known whether the NCOs are carrying ammunition for the sidearms, but since there is a magazine in the weapon, they certainly could be. After the 2014 shootings at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and subsequent spree on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, they certainly should be.

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This is why pilots fear the Starstreak surface-to-air missile

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
THOR/Multi Mission System (MMS) Starstreak missile launcher unit mounted on light tactical vehicle Pinzgauer. Image: Thales


Three is better than one, right? That’s the basic idea missile developers had in mind when designing the Starstreak, a deadly man-portable air-defense system.

“Three darts give us the very high probability of at least one dart hitting the target and we would normally expect two darts to actually hit the target,” said Hill Wilson, the weapon’s technical director. “Three gives a very good punch.”

Manufactured by Thales Air Defense in Belfast, United Kingdom, the Starstreak accelerates towards targets at speeds faster than Mach four, making it one of the fastest short-range surface-to-air missiles in the world. It was developed in the 1980s to replace existing shoulder-launched missiles and officially entered service in 1997. Troops can fire the round from various portable launcher systems including the THOR Multi-Mission System as demonstrated in the following video.

(Skip to 5:30 to watch the portion about the Starstreak missile.)

Jason Miller, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 things you didn’t know about G Shock watches



This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

Ibe wearing the classic G Shock “Square” (Casio)

1. They were invented after an accident

Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe conceptualized the G Shock watch after he tragically dropped a pocket watch given to him by his father. With his family heirloom broken, Ibe was inspired to change the identity of the timepiece from a fragile piece of horological jewelry to a tough and reliable gadget accessible to anyone and everyone. In 1981, Project Team Tough was formed to make this idea a reality. After two years and over 200 prototypes, the team finally released the first G Shock watch model DW-5000C (DW standing for Digital Water resistant) in April 1983.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

The many layers of G Shock toughness (Casio)

2. All G Shocks must adhere to the “Triple 10” philosophy

When Ibe set the standards for this new tough watch, he developed what is known as the “Triple 10” philosophy. The watch had to be water-resistant to 10 bar (100 meters), possess a 10-year battery life and, of course, withstand a 10 meter drop. Note that the 10-year battery life is from the time the battery is fitted in the factory. If a G Shock has been sitting on the PX shelf for a few years, your mileage may vary. Of course, the “Triple 10” philosophy is a minimum standard and many G Shocks surpass it.

3. They are certified for space travel by NASA

That’s right, the humble G Shock is a certified astronaut watch. Specifically, the DW-5600C, DW-5600E, DW-5900, DW-6600 and DW-6900 models are all flight-qualified for NASA space travel. The G Shock is joined by the Timex Ironman and the more famous Omega Speedmaster Professional and Speedmaster Skywalker X-33 on the prestigious list of NASA-approved watches.

4. They are the choice of Special Forces

Ok, you probably knew this one. After all, most people who wear the uniform also strap a G Shock to their wrist. Operators like Marcus Luttrell, Grady Powell and Jared Ogden have all been pictured sporting the tough G Shock. It’s always nice to remember though, that even if you can’t grow out a cool-guy beard, walk around with your hands in your pockets, or run around on secret squirrel missions like the tier one elite, the G Shock on your wrist was made in the same factory as the one that they’re wearing.

5. It holds a world record

In order to prove the toughness of G Shocks, Casio subjected a classic G Shock DW-5600E-1 “Square” to the most extreme test in the pursuit of the Guinness World Record title for the heaviest vehicle to drive over a watch. In order to break the record, the watch had to be running properly after being driven over by at least a 20-ton truck. On October 30, 2017, the “Square” was placed face-up and run over by three tires of a 24.97-ton truck. The watch sustained no significant damage and functioned normally, claiming the world record.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank

The gold G Shock still adheres to the “Triple 10” philosophy (Casio)

6. The line continues to evolve and expand

Since its invention nearly 40 years ago, the G Shock line has incorporated over 3,000 different models. Today, while you can still buy the classic G Shock “Square” for just over , there seems to be a G Shock for every buyer, occasion and budget. The G Shock Women and Baby-G lines offer the same toughness and durability expected from the G Shock name in a smaller, more restrained case size. Modern features like GPS, Bluetooth and heart rate monitoring are also available. Materials have similarly been updated in the 21st century with the Carbon Core Guard, G-Steel line and even 18-karat gold. Announced in 2019, the G-D5000-9JR was limited to 35 units and retailed for ¥7,000,000, or about ,000, making it the most expensive G Shock ever.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the F-86 was so deadly over Korea

During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.


That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
F-86 Sabres on patrol over Korea. Sabres shot down at least 792 MiGs. (USAF photo)

First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.

Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)

Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.

In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s nuclear rover took an amazing selfie in a storm on Mars

A nasty dust storm is wrapping around Mars, and visibility in some regions is so poor that the skies look like night during the middle of the day.

It’s a dire moment for NASA’s Opportunity rover, which uses solar power to explore the red planet. The 15-year-old rover fell asleep on June 10, 2018, to conserve power in hopes of waiting out the storm until sunlight can reach its panels.

“This is the worst storm Opportunity has ever seen, and we’re doing what we can, crossing our fingers, and hoping for the best,” Steve Squyres, a planetary scientist at Cornell University and leader of the rover mission, told A.J.S. Rayl for a recent Planetary Society blog post.


Scientists think the storm may last weeks. If Opportunity’s energy reserves run too low to keep its aging electronic circuits warm, blisteringly cold Martian temperatures could disable them.

But halfway around the planet, dust storm conditions aren’t as dangerous for Curiosity — a car-size, nuclear-powered rover that NASA landed on Mars in 2012. Curiosity uses plutonium-238 instead of solar cells to power its exploration of the red planet, so the darkness isn’t a problem either.

In fact, Curiosity photographed itself on Friday during the dust storm.

Curiosity’s latest selfie

The image comes from an instrument called the Mars Hand Lens Imager. The camera sits on the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm and can function like a multi-million-dollar selfie stick.

Because the camera can’t capture all of Curiosity in one shot, it has to take a series of photos — more than 200 in this case. So on June 16, 2018, Kevin M. Gill, a NASA software engineer who processes spacecraft photos as a hobby, stitched them all together into a single panorama.

The full panoramic selfie also shows the rover’s surroundings, including a rock with a drill hole in it and a small pile of orange dust:

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
(NASA)

Curiosity’s drill was taken offline line in December 2016 after suffering a mechanical problem.

However, NASA eventually figured out a way to work around the problem and tested the drill in May 2018. Curiosity bored a two-inch-deep hole, then dropped some fresh Martian grit on the ground during a subsequent test (to see how much dirt the drill could collect for sampling).

The perfect storm for science

Scientists hope to gain more clues as to how such massive dust storms arise and dissipate on Mars by using Opportunity, Curiosity, and three satellites in orbit around the planet.

The last dust storm to enshroud Mars happened in 2007, but there weren’t as many spacecraft there at the time. So, while NASA is concerned about the future of its Opportunity rover, scientists have waited more than a decade for a dust storm of this magnitude to brew and study.

“This is the ideal storm for Mars science,” Jim Watzin, the director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said in a press release. “We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the red planet. Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave — knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
Simulated images show what NASA’s Opportunity rover saw as a global dust storm on Mars blotted out the sun in June 2018.
(NASA)

The last time NASA updated the public about Curiosity, it was sitting on the edge of the growing dust storm, which had grown to the size of North America and Russia combined. A space agency representative could not immediately update Business Insider on the storm or the rovers’ statuses.

Future missions to Mars

NASA recently launched its InSight Mars lander, which should touch down on November 26, 2018. Next up is the Mars 2020 rover, which is almost identical to Curiosity, though it may be better equipped to detect signs of past alien life and prepare a sample for return to Earth.

NASA is also working on its giant Space Launch System, and one of the planned versions might send a small crew to the red planet. In addition, private companies hope to explore Mars. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, aims to send people to the red planet in the mid-2020s with its upcoming Big Falcon Rocket system. Blue Origin, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, is designing a New Glenn rocket that may be Mars-capable.

If any of these outfits can send people to Mars in relative safety, experts say it will be no walk in the park. Crews will face threats from explosions, radiation, starvation, and other dangers.

If NASA can master a small-scale nuclear reactor for space, though, future Martian crews would at least not have to worry about a dust storm threatening their power supply.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happens when you put lasers on rockets

The AGM-114 Hellfire has been a lethal anti-tank missile, and it’s also been used to make a bunch of terrorists good terrorists, according to one of William F. Halsey’s more Mattis-esque statements. But the 20-pound warhead on the Hellfire can be too much of a bang.


How that perceived problem was solved was to put laser guidance onto a smaller missile. Lockheed Martin has done just that with a program called DAGR, which you can best describe as what happens nine months after a Hydra rocket and a Hellfire hooked up.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
The key to making a Hydra a mini-Hellfire is here. (Lockheed Graphic)

According to an e-brochure sent by Lockheed Martin, DAGR used the rocket and warhead of the Hydra, and mated it with the laser-seeker technology of the Hellfire. This creates a missile with a range of up to seven and a half miles, but also has a 10-pound warhead that the laser guidance can put within three feet of a target. Okay, not as big a boom, but would you want to stand next to ten pounds of high explosives detonating?

Lockheed notes that this system is not only cheaper, but that it can hit high-value targets and minimize collateral damage. Since it works like the Hellfire, it can be used on any aircraft, helicopter, or drone that can use the Hellfire.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
The quantitative edge that DAGR provides for a AH-6 or OH-58 is obvious. (Lockheed Graphic)

The DAGR can be fired from modified Hydra rocket pods, but the system also can be used from a specialized launcher that holds four rounds. Each of these missiles comes in at 36 pounds, and is 75 inches long.

You can see a video about DAGR below.

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The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).


In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.

The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”

So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
That’s a lotta weapons. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflicting reports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.

Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.

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Brimstone could bring a big bang for the United States

The AGM-114 Hellfire has gotten lots of press. Deservedly so, given how it has made a number of prominent terrorists good terrorists. Here’s the Hellfire’s tale of the tape: it weighs 110 pounds, has a 20-pound warhead, and a range of 4.85 nautical miles.


But as good as the Hellfire is, there may be a better missile — and the Brits have it. The missile is called Brimstone, and at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, MBDA was displaying mock-ups on its triple mounts.

The baseline Brimstone has over 100 percent more range (over ten nautical miles, according to the RAF’s web page) than the Hellfire. The longer range is a huge benefit for the aircraft on close-air support missions, outranging many man-portable surface-to-air missiles and even some modern short-range systems like the SA-15.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
Three missiles, three small boats — this is a mock-up of a typical triple-mount of the Brimstone missile on display at SeaAirSpace 2017. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The Royal Air Force currently uses the Brimstone on the Tornado GR.4 aircraft and also used it on the Harrier GR.9 prior to the jump jet’s retirement. The RAF will introduce it on the Typhoon multi-role fighters and the Reaper drone currently in the inventory. According to a MDBA handout available at SeaAirSpace 2017, Brimstone made its bones over Afghanistan and Libya.

But at SeaAirSpace 2017, MDBA was showing signs of wanting to put the Brimstone on more aircraft. At their booth was a model of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with four three-round mounts for the Brimstone. Such a pairing could be very devastating to Iranian small boat swarms that have been known to harass United States Navy vessels on multiple occasions or hordes of Russian tanks that could threaten the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
A Tornado GR4 training for deployment to Afghanistan. Among its weapons load is a Brimstone missile on the lower left portion of the fuselage. (British Ministry of Defense photo)

British weapons have been imported by the United States military — with the Harrier being the most notable, as well as some of the classic British planes of World War II. The Brimstone missile could very well become the next big import, with a Brimstone delivering what a 2013 FlightGlobal.com report described as at least triple the range reaching an initial operating capability in 2016, according to Janes.com.

In other words, Brimstone could very well come to a Super Hornet — or Falcon, Reaper, or Strike Eagle soon!

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This SOCOM test determined the future of modular weapon rail systems

For nearly two decades, the Picatinny/NATO Accessory Rail Interface System handguards have adorned U.S. military rifles. These rails allow troops to attach accessories like lights, lasers, and grips to the fore-end of their weapon. However, although the omnipresent rails allow the end user to easily configure their accessories to suit their needs, the fully railed handguard is a large block of metal at the front of a weapon. Any unused rail estate is simply dead weight. The solution is new modular rail systems like the KeyMod and M-Lok weapon accessory attachment systems. These systems allow the end user to attach rail segments to their handguard as needed or attach accessories directly to the slick handguard. Since their introduction, the KeyMod vs. M-Lok war has been waged in gun stores, armories, and internet forums. However, like the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray war, there can only be one winner.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
NSWC Crane tested three examples of six different handguards (U.S. Navy)

In 2016, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division conducted testing for USSOCOM to determine the best modular rail system. NSWC Crane evaluated handguards from manufacturers Aero Precision, Midwest Industries, and Seekins. Three KeyMod and three M-Lok handguards were tested from each manufacturer for a total of 18 handguards. They were tested for repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop testing, and static failure load.

Although a resilient handguard is not entirely necessary for the mounting of grips and lights, it is vital for mounting lasers aiming devices. Under night vision, it can be difficult for a rifleman to aim through their optic. An infrared laser mounted to the handguard allows the end user to shoot accurately without needing a proper sight picture, especially in close quarters. However, this method of aiming only works if the laser is properly zeroed. Because bullets are affected by gravity, unlike lasers, shooters must know where there rounds will fall relative to their laser based on the distance they are shooting. If the handguard bends or the laser is knocked and shifts even a few millimeters, a 200 meter shot could be completely off. Clip-on thermal scopes mounted to the top of the handguard also need to be mounted without risk of shifting. A good rail attachment system has to not only be secure, but strong.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
SOCOM’s Suppressed Upper Receiver Group is based on SIG Sauer’s MCX and uses M-LOK (SIG Sauer)

During NSWC Crane’s testing, all handguards passed the full-auto fire endurance and rough handling testing. However, the repeatability, drop test, and failure load tests yielded distinct performance differences. Repeatability testing showed that “M-LOKTM allowed for the repeated installation of the same accessory rail in the same location on a handguard with an average point of aim (POA) shift of 1.3 MOA (minute of angle), as low as one quarter the average POA shift observed by other modular rail systems.” Drop testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems maintain securement of accessories to the handguard and sustain less damage from impact forces than some other modular rail systems.” Finally, failure load testing showed that “M-LOKTM systems support the highest load of all modular rail systems tested.” The study went on to note that the test equipment mounted to the M-Lok rails “repeatedly failed prior to failure of the M-LOKTM attachment system.” Overall, the failure load of M-Lok was over three times that of KeyMod.

Released in 2017, the results of the study were a clear win for M-Lok. As a result, NSWC Crane recommended the M-Lok rail system over any other to USSOCOM. In turn, USSOCOM incorporated M-Lok handguards into new acquisitions like the Upper Receiver Group – Improved, Suppressed Upper Receiver Group, and the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The study has also influenced the civilian market which has seen a marked increase in the popularity of M-Lok handguards and accessories over KeyMod. As with most Special Forces acquisitions, the M-Lok system is likely to trickle down to regular troops too.

This infantry fighting vehicle has the firepower of a tank
The Army’s new M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System uses M-Lok (U.S. Army)

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Jenkins

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