The Russian Navy’s decline since the fall of the Soviet Union has been very dramatic, especially when it comes to major surface combatants and nuclear submarines. The Russians have, however, been making advances in other areas.
One of those has been in what the ships they do have are capable of shooting. This includes the VA-111 Shkval, or “Squall,” a weapon that has been operated by Russia’s submarine force since 2003, according to deagel.com. The Shkval has a range of roughly five and a half nautical miles and a top speed of 200 nautical miles per hour, according to militaryperiscope.com.
MilitaryPeriscope.com reports that initial versions were armed with a nuclear warhead, but later versions have a 460-pound warhead. While the torpedo is very fast – able to cover its maximum range in a minute and a half – it is also effectively a straight-run weapon, with effectiveness in limited situations and locations.
One such location is the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran reportedly tested its own version of the Shkval earlier this year. Iran’s Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and home-built Ghadir-class mini-submarines are both capable of firing this torpedo from their 21-inch torpedo tubes.
While the 460-pound warhead might not do much to the United States Navy’s supercarriers like the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered vessels or the newest ship, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), it could very easily cripple or sink the valuable escorts like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Amphibious vessels could also be vulnerable to this weapon. In all cases, the submarine would need to get very close to the target vessel.
Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Aug. 12, 2018, to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.
Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.
The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.
“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.
(NASA / Bill Ingalls)
During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September 2018 and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.
“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”
Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October 2018 – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November 2018 to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.
Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.
Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?
Renowned physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
(NASA / Glenn Benson)
Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.
“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”
Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.
The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.
A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May 2018. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.
So, the American warfighter is one of the most technologically advantaged warriors in history.
But we could still make it better, right? No one wants a fair fight in war, and nature is full of animal superpowers that would give the U.S. a greater advantage.
Here are four that might be on the way:
1. Snow fox rangefinder
Snow foxes have achieved internet fame recently for their “built-in compass” that makes them more successful in hunting mice under the snow or dirt when they strike at a small range of compass directions to the northeast of their position.
But it’s not exactly a built-in compass, it’s more of a range finder. This Discovery Blog article does a good job of explaining it, but the snow fox can basically sense disturbances at a fixed distance from them along a fixed direction. This allows them to much more accurately sense the exact range of the mouse from their position and attack with precision.
As for targeting enemy forces that aren’t actively engaging them, soldiers still have to spot the enemy and either guess, hit them with a laser rangefinder, or compare the enemy positions to their position on a map and do the math. No magic hunting powers are on the table yet.
There are still software limits, though. Someone will have to teach the mechanical noses what elements are present one, two, or eight days after an enemy infantry patrol passes a given point or a fuel point has been disbanded.
The short answer is maybe. Troops currently can see infrared energy through bulky optics, but there’s a possibility for contact lenses that sense infrared radiation. Because it’s tied to ultraviolet detection, it’s explained at the end of entry 4, below.
4. Jumping spider and bat eyes that see four primary colors
Yes. Four of them. We are told that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. But that’s not exactly true. Red, yellow, and blue correspond with specific wavelengths of light that stimulate humans’ three kinds of color receptors. Human corneas filter out light in another, otherwise visible band, ultraviolet. Some bats and spiders can see this band.
Soldiers who can see UV light would have much better night vision with none of the “tunneling” of most NV goggles. They would also be able to see insects better, helping troops avoid them, and fingerprints, helping with site exploitation.
Is it coming?
Maybe. The major technology breakthroughs have already come thanks to graphene, which can be used to make “ultra-broadband” photoreceptors. Basically, sensors that can detect infrared energy, visible light, and UV rays and combine them into one final image.
Best of all, graphene is thin enough that the possibility exists to make these receptors into contact lenses. But no one has currently commissioned graphene contact lenses for the troops. Still, fingers crossed.
The Navy is now strengthening and extending conceptual design deals with shipbuilders tasked with refining structures and presenting options for a new Navy multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate — slated to be ready for open warfare on the world’s oceans by the mid 2020s.
Navy envisions the Frigate, FFG(X), able to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat, according to service statements.
In early 2018, Naval Sea Systems Command chose five shipbuilders to advance designs and technologies for the ship, awarding development deals to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.
The service has now modified these existing deals, first announced in February 2018, to enable the shipbuilders to continue their conceptual design work and “mature their proposed ship design to meet the FFG(X) System Specification,” according to the deal modifications.
The Navy expects that new weapons and sensors will better enable the ship to destroy swarming small boat attacks, support carrier strike groups, conduct dis-aggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile, and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare, service statements specify.
Lockeheed Martin’s conceptual design for the FFG(X).
“These Conceptual Design awards will reduce FFG(X) risk by enabling industry to mature their designs to meet the approved FFG(X) capability requirements. The Navy has not changed its FFG(X) capability requirements,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Service Command, told Warrior Maven.
The Navy hopes to expedite development to award a production contract in 2020 and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. For this reason, bidders were required to submit designs that have been “demonstrated at sea” and already paired with a shipyard for rapid production, according to the previous service solicitation.
“The Conceptual Design effort will inform the final specifications that will be used for the Detail Design and Construction Request for Proposal that will deliver the required capability for FFG(X),” the Navy’s contract announcement said.
Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.
“The FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking (ISRT) efforts,” Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) documents said.
The “blue force sensor” language is explained by Navy developers as integral to the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept which, as evidenced by its name, seeks to enable a more dispersed and networked attack fleet suited for dis-aggregated operations as needed.
Also, by extension, longer range sensors will be needed to identify enemy attackers now equipped with long-range precision strike weapons and enable command and control across vast distances of open water and coastal patrol areas.
The Navy vision for the ship further specifies this, saying the “FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”
Along these lines, the Navy’s FFG(X) Request for Proposal identifies a need for a netted sensor technology called Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).
CEC is an integral aspect of key emerging ship-defense technologies aimed at “netting” sensors and radar technologies in order to better identify and destroy approaching threats such as anti-ship missiles, drones and enemy aircraft.
“CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information such that the superset of this data is available to all participating CEC units,” a Raytheon statement said.
Current analysis is no longer restricted to the idea of loosely basing the “hull design” upon the LCS, as was previously the case, Navy officials say.
Designs for the ship no longer merely envision a more “survivable” variant of an LCS. Previous FFG(X) requirements analyses conducted by a Navy Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team examined the feasibility of making the ship even more lethal and survivable than what previous plans had called for, Navy officials said.
Existing plans for the Frigate have considered “space armor” configurations, a method of segmenting and strengthening ship armor in specified segments to enable the ship to continue operations in the event that one area is damaged by enemy attack. Discussions for Frigate technologies have included plans for an MH-60R helicopter, Fire Scout drone and ship defense technologies such as SeaRAM.
The Navy already plans for the new Frigate to be integrated with anti-submarine surface warfare technologies including sonar, an over-the-horizon missile and surface-to-surface weapons, which could include a 30mm gun and closer-in missiles such as the HELLFIRE. An over-the-horizon missile chosen by the Navy for the LCS is the Naval Strike Missile by Kongsberg-Raytheon.
Navy plans for the FFG(X) also call for advanced electronic warfare tech along with both variable depth and lightweight sonar systems.
The new ship may also have seven 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats for short combat or expeditionary missions such as visiting, searching and boarding other ships.
The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.
In addition, Navy developers explain that the ship will be configured in what’s called a “modular” fashion, meaning it will be engineered to accept and integrate new technologies and weapons as they emerge. It certainly seems realistic that a new, even more survivable Frigate might be engineered with an additional capacity for on-board electrical power such that it can accommodate stronger laser weapons as they become available.
The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. This strategic approach, in development for several years now, emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed to respond to fast-emerging near-peer threats.
Part of the rationale is to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increases its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against emerging high-tech adversaries.
Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed. Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
When people think of the Israeli Defense Force, they usually think of the Israeli versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-15 Eagle. But the one plane that did more to help Israel control the skies over the Middle East was actually French-designed and built.
That plane was the Dassault Mirage III. This plane was born in the wake of combat experience from the Korean War where the Soviet MiG-15 proved to be a very dangerous adversary, taking the United Nations by surprise. France quickly realized it had to be able to defeat not just Soviet bombers, but the fighters that would escort them.
The plane was delivered to the French Air Force in 1961. It was capable of carrying heat-seeking missiles, like the Sidewinder, or a radar-guided R530 missile. The Israelis, however, would depend primarily on the two 30mm cannon and how they performed in aerial combat.
The Mirage went on to earn its credibility in combat during the Six-Day War in 1967, flying under the Israeli flag. Mirages helped dominate the skies, pre-empting a planned Arab attack. The gun-camera footage shows airbase attacks and air-to-air kills. Pilots like Ran Ronen and Giora Epstein used the plane on their way to reaching ace status. The Six-Day War caused France to issue an arms embargo, forcing Israel to steal the Mirage 5 plans, and, with them, develop the Kfir.
The Mirage III also served with France, Pakistan, Argentina (where it saw action in the Falklands War), Australia, and a number of other countries. Some of these planes, or the derivative Mirage 5, are still in service today.
Learn more about this classic French jet in the video below.
The Belgian company FN Herstal is a heavyweight manufacturer in the firearms industry. They’ve made machine guns like the FN Minimi and MAG, better known as the M249 SAW and M240 machine guns respectively. They’ve also manufactured the standard-issue M4 Carbine and the Special Operations Forces Carbine Assault Rifle, better known as the SCAR. On May 6, 2021, FN held a press conference they called “A New Chapter Begins.”
At the pre-recorded online press conference, FN unveiled the brand new FN EVOLYS Ultralight Machine Gun. The standard machine gun features are present: gas operated, open bolt, short stroke piston design. What makes the EVOLYS unique is its extreme light weight. FN claims that it fires like a machine gun, but handles like an assault rifle thanks to its light weight and ergonomics. It was even shown with a carbon fiber bipod.
FN highlighted the use of Polymers and Additive Manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, as a major contributor to the light weight of the EVOLYS. One interview shown during the press conference was conducted in front of a 3D printing machine.
Another notable feature is the inclusion of a semi-auto on the fire selector, similar to the SIG Sauer LMG-6.8. “The ambidextrous fire selector has a semi-auto position to engage point targets as with a rifle while the full auto position allows suppressive fire as with a machine gun,” FN said. Also similar to the SIG, the FN’s fire selector is very similar to the ultra-familiar AR/M4/M16 selector switch.
FN claims that all actions can be completed with just one hand, including engaging the belt. This action can also be done with either the left or right hand. Additionally, cartridges are automatically repositioned if the belt is not placed correctly on the feed tray when the feed tray cover is closed, preventing first round failure to feed. When the last round in the belt is fired, the last link is ejected, making clearing faster for the next reload.
Those familiar with FN products will also recognize the stock on the EVOLYS. Known in gun circles as the “Tactical UGG Boot” for obvious reasons, the stock appears to be taken directly off of the FN SCAR. The stock folds to the right side of the gun, extends and retracts, and features an adjustable cheek riser. “Whatever his size, or the equipment he is wearing, the user can always find a comfortable shooting position,” FN said.
The press conference showed plenty of firing demonstrations too. Despite the weapon’s light weight, recoil appeared to be very mild. This is due in large part to the EVOLYS’ hydraulic buffer. Demonstrations included shooting the EVOLYS standing, kneeling, prone, and on the move. The gun’s light weight will be a welcome feature to any machine gunner who has to carry it on patrol and make bounding movements with it.
The EVOLYS appears to do a good job of directing its gasses away from the shooter. This prevents noxious fumes and toxins from affecting the shooter. The EVOLYS is also designed to work suppressed.
FN is marketing the EVOLYS in both 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO. The former weighs in at 5.5 kilograms unloaded while the former weighs just .5 kilograms more. For comparison, the M249 SAW weighs 7.5 kilograms unloaded.
Although the U.S. Army is moving to the 6.8mm caliber with the Next Generation Squad Weapon system, FN has plenty of potential NATO customers who look to be keeping 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO weapons in their armories for the foreseeable future.
That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?
That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn’t work, like inside buildings or underground.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don’t rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.
The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.
Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!
So you’re in the OP, and you’ve identified the supply route that Chinese troops are using to resupply and reinforce their frontline troops. But the enemy managed to cut off your own resupply two days ago when a platoon slipped by undetected and set up to your rear. Now, you need to get the intel back to base and try to squirt home, but your batteries are dead. It’s okay, though, because, in this new future, you can just piss into the battery.
Well, you could do that if you were using a hydrogen fuel cell battery and have a tablet of the new aluminum alloy powder developed by researchers working with the U.S. Army. Don’t pee onto your current batteries. That will not work.
At the end, the proton and electron recombine into hydrogen, combine with oxygen, and are disposed of as water in a low-temperature exhaust.
“This is on-demand hydrogen production,” said Dr. Anit Giri, a materials scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. “Utilizing hydrogen, you can generate power on-demand, which is very important for the Soldier.”
It’s all environmentally friendly, cheap, and—more importantly for troops—leaves no exhaust that could be easily detected by the enemy. Depending on the exact makeup of the equipment, troops could even drink their radio or vehicle exhaust if they were using hydrogen fuel cells.
New Jersey Best Warrior Competition. That radio is not fueled by pee. Yet.
(New Jersey National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Olsen)
And hydrogen is very energy dense, having 200 times as much specific energy as lithium batteries. But the military has resisted using hydrogen fuel sources for the same reason that auto manufacturers and other industries have been slow to adopt it: transporting hydrogen is costly and challenging.
While hydrogen fuel cell cars can be refueled at any hydrogen filling station as quickly as their gas counterparts, they can go twice as far. But the streets have more electric and gasoline-powered vehicles because it’s way easier to recharge and refuel those vehicles than to find a hydrogen station.
But with the new powder, the Army might be able to generate hydrogen on demand at bases around the world. And the technology is so promising that civilian corporations are lining up to use the powder here in the states.
H2 Power is envisioning a future where existing gas stations can be easily converted into hydrogen fueling stations without the need for new pipelines or trucks to constantly ferry hydrogen to the station.
“The powder is safe to handle, is 100 percent environmentally friendly, and its residue can be recycled an unlimited number of times back into aluminum, for more powder. Recycling apart, only water and powder are necessary to recreate this renewable energy cycle, anywhere in the world,” H2 Power CEO Fabrice Bonvoisin said, according to a TechXplore article.
“For example, this technology enables us to transform existing gas stations into power stations where hydrogen and electricity can be produced on-demand for the benefit of the environment and the users of electric and hydrogen vehicles or equipment. We can’t wait to work with OEMs of all kind to unleash the genuine hydrogen economy that so many of us are waiting for,” he said.
The Army could pull this same trick at bases around the world. With a static supply of the aluminum powder, it could generate its own fuel from water and electricity. This would be good for bases around the world as it would reduce the cost to run fleets of vehicles, but it would be game-changing at remote bases where frontline commanders could create their own fuel, slashing their logistics support requirement.
They would need constant power generation, though, meaning the Army would need to invest more heavily in mobile solar or nuclear solutions to fully realize the advantages of their hydrogen breakthrough.
Remember how the Stryker was supposed to be a family of fighting vehicles? Well, now, a new member of the family has emerged… and it’s a plane killer.
According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, Boeing and General Dynamics have teamed up to create the Stryker Maneuver SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air-Defense) Launcher. Plain and simple, this variant will be murder for enemy planes – and it can be mounted with a wide variety of munitions that can make this new Stryker an effective distributor of surplus MiG, Sukhoi, Mil, and Kamov parts.
While one configuration displayed at a Huntsville, Alabama, expo was armed with a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders (technically MIM-9X, since they are vehicle-launched) with four Hellfire missiles, a display at the show listed numerous options. These included the FIM-92 Stinger, the Mk 44 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, multiple machine guns (bringing back the Meat Chopper?) and lasers.
How this was done was shockingly simple. A Stryker chassis was modified to operate the turret from the Avenger, a HMMWV-based air defense system. The Avenger has eight FIM-92 Stingers and a single M3P .50-caliber machine gun, and was intended to replace the Chapparal and M163/M167 Vulcan Air Defense System.
Most of the Army’s land-based surface-to-air missile systems have been focused on the missile-defense mission. The MIM-104 Patriot, for instance, was initially designed to kill aircraft and provide area air defense, but it has since become a specialist in killing shorter-range ballistic missiles like the SS-1 Scud.
The Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system has capabilities against a wider variety of missiles.
The Navy has a wider array of surface-to-air missiles for tactical purposes against aircraft. The RIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 surface-to-air missile scored kills against anti-ship missiles this fired at the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) in October 2016.
The SM-2 was also used by the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49) to shoot down an Iranian airliner misidentified as a hostile fighter during a July 1988 incident in the Strait of Hormuz.
Automatic weaponry has been a major asset to the United States Military for a long time now. There’s been a lot of innovation since James Puckle patented his famous gun in 1718 — arguably the world’s first “machine gun.” It should come as no surprise that much of this innovation was spurned on by centuries of warfare.
In the form of machine guns, submachine guns, and automatic rifles, the United States has used a slew of automatic weaponry on battlefields across the globe since World War I. Many of these weapons hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the service members who employed them. These are the favorites:
M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle
This is the youngest item on the list, but it’s certainly worth the mention — the M27 IAR began its service in the Marine Corps in 2010 after years of testing. A personal favorite of Marines all across the Corps (especially the one writing this article), this bad boy fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round and is magazine-fed (which is considered a major disadvantage to the automatic riflemen who employ it). It offers the option of semi-automatic fire for when fully automatic is not ideal.
Though there is plenty of debate surrounding the replacement of the M249, the M27’s magazine-fed, closed-bolt system is what makes it ideal for use within a fire team. It requires only the person carrying it to operate it. The downside is that the operator will have to carry a ton of extra magazines.
M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
The M249 SAW was brought into service in 1984 and is still in use. The M249 was used by automatic riflemen in the Marine Corps and fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round. However, its weight and the fact that it takes two people to operate made it less than ideal within fire teams. Marines will still preach about the glory of the SAW and somehow recall its mechanical shortcomings with fondness.
If you talk to Vietnam veterans about the weapons they used, the M60 will undoubtedly come up in conversation as one of their favorites. It first entered into service in 1957. “The Pig,” as its known, fires a 7.62x51mm NATO round and was used as the Squad Automatic Weapon for plenty of infantry units until the introduction of the M249 SAW.
The M60 still finds use in the United States Military among Navy SEALS, Army helicopter door gunners, and on Coast Guard ships, but it’s slowly being phased out.
Thompson submachine gun
The “Tommy Gun” was used by law enforcement officers and criminals long before the military adopted it at the brink of the second World War. The Thompson saw service from 1938 to 1971 in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, the Korean War, and during the Vietnam War.
The term “submachine gun” was coined prior to the development of automatic rifles to describe weapons capable of fully automatic fire that chamber pistol rounds. The Thompson, for example, fires a .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) round.
Browning Automatic Rifle
The BAR was brought into service in 1918 and was used all the way up to the 1970s in a number of capacities. Most notably, this weapon was one of the main reasons the Marine Corps developed 13-man squads, which consisted of three fire teams with an automatic rifleman carrying a BAR in each. This structure is still used in the Marine Corps today.
M2 Browning machine gun
At the top of the list is another design from John Browning. Everyone’s favorite, the M2 Browning machine gun entered service in 1933 and fires the large .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG) round. Given its reliability and impressive versatility, this machine gun embodies the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This gun was introduced over 80 years ago and is still in service within the military with no signs of replacement.
If you’ve ever sat in a treestand with the sun in your eyes, or spent a day on the water or at the range fighting the glare, then you know the importance of having adequate eyewear. While Leupold is probably not the first name you think of when you think of eyewear, well, it should be.
Leupold released their new line of performance eyewear this year at SHOT Show, and now it is available for purchase. The new line features five designs to address a myriad of needs: the Katmai, Becnara, Packout, Switchback, and Tracer. While individual models are designed to meet different needs, all models share some pretty awesome features.
“Leupold consumers expect the highest-quality optics in the world, and that’s exactly what we’re delivering with the Performance Eyewear line,” said Zach Bird, Product Line Manager for Leupold & Stevens, Inc. “There’s a style for every need, and they’re all packed with top-of-the-line features. Plus, every model is proudly designed, machined, and assembled right here in the USA.”
The Becnara fuses Leupold performance with everyday style.
Features for Everyone
All five frame styles are made from lightweight, ballistic-rated materials and ship with scratch-resistant, polarized lenses that are reminiscent of what we love about Leupold riflescopes- resilience and clarity. Leupold’s Guard-ion hydrophobic coating sheds dirt, water, and fingerprints for a clear, crisp image, while Diamondcoat-hardened lenses prevent surface scratches. A no-slip bridge design provides all day comfort with soft-touch rubber bridge pads. Daylight Max technology provides complete UV protection for optimal performance in any environment. Additionally, three of the five styles – the Packout, Switchback, and Tracer – meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 high-velocity impact standards for eye protection.
The Tracer is a must-have for any diehard shooter.
“Whether you’re talking about riflescopes, reflex sights, mounting systems, or observational equipment, our products have always outperformed the competition under the harshest conditions, without fail,” said Tim Lesser, Vice President of Product Development for Leupold Stevens, Inc. “Now, with the Performance Eyewear line, we’re applying that same expertise to a new line of optics, so you can experience Leupold’s rugged clarity every day.”
For more information on Leupold products, please visit us at Leupold.com.
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The Switchback was designed with hunters and shooters in mind.
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Twenty-five years ago, H.R. McMaster lead Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment into battle at 73 Easting in Iraq, and kicked some Republican Guard butt.
Now, he is sounding some alarm bells.
According to an Army release, McMaster — now a lieutenant general and Army Training and Doctrine Command’s deputy commanding general for futures — gave the keynote address at a function held by the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare where he urged the development of new armored vehicles. The Silver Star recipient noted that Germany’s Puma, the Swedish CV90, and the British Ajax all featured more advanced technology than that on the M2/M3 Bradley.
That could put American troops at a disadvantage if the long-range precision firepower (systems like the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery round and the Joint Direct Attack Munition) is taken off the table. How might that happen? An enemy force could hide among civilians, or avoid the wide open spaces that make for easy target location.
McMaster noted that new armored vehicles might seem expensive, but in reality, they are cheap compared to big-ticket items in the Defense budget. The $362 million price tag of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship, for example, is enough to buy about 40 M1A2 Abrams tanks. This is important since in an environment where air power and naval power won’t be factors, an armored vehicle will be needed to get in close to decide the battle.
That said, it should be noted that the M1A2SEP Abrams of today is not like the tank that first entered service. The armor is even tougher than that on the tanks that served in Desert Storm (one famous incident involved main gun rounds from a T-72 bouncing off, even though they’d been fired from less than 400 yards away). The radios are better. A planned M1A3 will be about two tons lighter than current M1A2SEPs, and will feature no loss in lethality or protection.
The Bradley, though, has outlasted two efforts to replace it. First, the Future Combat Systems’ M1206 proposal got the chop for budget reasons. Then, the Ground Combat Vehicle didn’t even get a number in the M series.
McMaster notes that if nothing is done, “the Bradley and Abrams will remain in the inventory for 50 to 70 more years.”
“We are gravely underinvested in close-combat overmatch, gravely underinvested in land systems broadly, gravely underinvested in combat vehicles in particular,” he said.
With all the advances in military clothing technology these days, there’s still one glaring holdover from the days of military uniforms gone by: boot laces. We have velcro work uniforms, and velcro body armor, zippers on work pants, and plastic buckles have replaced the old metal clasps on web gear.
Yet, every day, U.S. troops are lacing up their boots just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Commando 30-plus years ago. What gives?
Pictured: me before work every morning during my time in the Air Force… In my head.
The truth is that there’s actually a good reason for all the combat/work uniform gear that American troops wear every day. From the way it’s worn, to what it’s made of, to how it’s worn, it all actually has an operational value to it. The most enduring reason velcro isn’t used as a means to secure one’s boots is that shoelaces are built to last, like most other military-grade gear. Velcro wears out after repeated use and becomes less and less sticky with time.
Another reason for laces securing their boots is that if one of the laces does happen to wear out and snap, a spare boot lace can be secured pretty easily. All a Marine at a combat outpost in the hills of Afghanistan has to do to re-secure his boot is to get a lace and lace it up. If it were secured with velcro, both sides being held together would require a seam ripped out and new velcro patches sewn in its place.
“Cover me, this is a hemstitch!”
Speaking of austere locations, has anyone ever tried to use velcro when it was soaking wet or caked in mud? For anyone who’s ever seen a recruiting video for any branch of the military (including the Coast Guard), it becomes pretty apparent that mud, water, and lord-knows-what-else are occupational hazards for the feet of the average U.S. troop. Bootlaces don’t need to be dry, clean, or chemical agent-free to work their magic, they just work.
The whole idea behind clothing a capable, combat-ready force is to eliminate the worry about the clothing as long as each individual troop follows the clothing guidelines. Everything about military work gear and combat uniforms is that they can be worn relatively easily and their parts can be replaced just as easily – by even the least capable person in a military unit.
Even the new Second Lieutenant.
Finally, the most significant reason troops need laced-up boots instead of goofy velcro attachments is the most unique aspect to their chosen profession: the idea that they may be in combat at some point. Military combat medics will tell you that the easiest way to access a wounded foot area is to simply cut the laces away and toss the boot. That’s probably the biggest combat-related factor.
Besides, where would Marines string their second dog tag if they secured their boots with velcro?