Most sniper rifles for military special operations units are long, heavy affairs. With barrels out to 20 inches, long bolt actions geared toward large calibers like .338 Lapua Magnum and beyond, it’s tough to get compact when the goal is to reach out to distant targets with pinpoint accuracy.
And these rifles aren’t exactly the most portable things either, with snipers usually having to sneak to a hide in the dark so the bad guys don’t catch a glimpse of that obviously specialized firearm.
Seeing a need for a sniper rifle that could be covertly carried into a position and deployed in seconds on a target, a top tier special operations unit asked industry to come up with a super short, take-down bolt gun that could be assembled in less than a minute and be precisely on target with the first shot.
Remington Defense answered the call with its “Concealable Sniper Rifle,” or CSR, which breaks down into three pieces no longer than 16 inches and can be assembled and shot in less than 60 seconds.
“The whole thing fits in a Jansport kind of granola-eater-looking backpack,” said Remington’s chief of military products Josh Cutlip. “So if someone needed to insert and egress quietly, there’d be no indication of what’s on their backpack.”
Optimized for subsonic ammunition, the 14-inch barrel is chambered in .308 and is built with a 1:8 twist, which gives the lower-velocity subsonic round better ballistics. The CSR is fitted for an Advanced Armament Corp. SR-7 7.62 suppressor to keep things quiet.
The CSR features a folding, fully-adjustable stock and a one-piece handguard that’s keyed precisely to the receiver’s Picatinny top rail. Another cool thing about the handguard includes a Remington proprietary accessory attachment system that officials say can hold the weight of a soldier if his kit gets caught on a side rail section and he’s hanging out the door of a Black Hawk.
The concealable sniper rifle system includes an indexed torque wrench to tighten up the barrel nut assembly and company officials say the rifle holds its zero from backpack to firing position.
“There are precision applications where size and concealability can be distinct advantage,” Cutlip said. “The entire nexus of this platform was to get down to the smallest components you could.”
In a clear message to Russian forces, three US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew an extended sortie over the Arctic Circle for the first time on Sept. 5, 2019, the Air Force’s 509th Bomb Wing confirmed to Insider.
Details about the sortie over the Norwegian Sea are scarce, but the aircraft involved completed a night refueling over the Arctic Circle as part of Bomber Task Force Europe. In March, Norway accused Russia of jamming its GPS systems and interfering in encrypted communications systems.
“Training outside the U.S. enables aircrew and airmen to become familiar with other theaters and airspace, and enhances enduring skills and relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” US Air Force spokesman Capt. Christopher Bowyer-Meeder told Insider.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
The B-2s are part of the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. They are deployed to Royal Air Force Base Fairford near Gloucestershire, England where last month they flew with non-US F-35s for the first time. RAF Fairford is the forward operating location for US Air Force in Europe’s bombers.
Four KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing stationed at RAF Mildenhall joined the B-2s on the mission over the Norwegian Sea.
A spokesperson from the 509th Bomb Wing told Insider that no other NATO aircraft were involved in the mission, and the bombers did not have any ammunition on board.
A B-2 Spirit assigned to Whiteman AFB, Missouri, approaches to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to RAF Mildenhall over the Norwegian Sea, Sept. 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Last month, the B-2 also made its very first visit to Iceland, establishing the Air Force’s presence in a region Russia considers its dominion. Iceland’s Keflavik Air Base was established during the Cold War as a deterrent to the Soviet Union, and the B-2s’ brief stopoff there demonstrated its ability to operate in cold-weather conditions.
Army Futures Command on Sept. 25, 2019, began equipping the first of two combat brigades, selected so far, to receive the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), a capability that modernization officials promise will improve marksmanship, day and night.
The ENVG-B is a wireless, dual-tubed technology with a built-in thermal imager that is part of a capability set modernization officials started fielding to soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.
The Army has also selected 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the next unit to receive the new capability in March 2020, Bridgett Siter, spokeswoman for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told Military.com. The service plans to buy as many as 108,251 ENVG-Bs to issue to infantry and other close-combat units.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and senior modernization officials celebrated the fielding as the first major achievement of Army Futures Command.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B).
(US Army photo)
“This is a historic event; I am really proud to be here,” Grinston said during a discussion with reporters at Riley. “So, we can say we stood up the Army’s Futures Command, and then today we are delivering a product in two years.”
The service announced its plan to create the command in 2017, but didn’t activate it until August 2018.
During the process, the Army has conducted 11 user evaluations, known as Soldier Touchpoints, in which soldiers and Marines have field-tested the prototypes of ENVG-B and “helped us get this right,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and chief of infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In addition to the creation of Army Futures Command, officials credited the work of the cross-functional teams — made up of requirements experts, materiel developers and test officials — that make it possible to field equipment much faster than in the past.
Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, Technical Advisor, Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, gets ready to step off for an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire using the Enhanced Night Vision Google- Binocular during a Soldier Touchpoint on the system July 10-12, 2019.
(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
The structure “really enables us to move faster as an enterprise than we have ever been able to move before, in being able to derive and deliver capabilities for our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier.
The binocular function of the ENVG-B gives soldiers more depth perception, and the thermal image intensifier allows soldiers to see enemy heat signatures at night and in the daylight through smoke, fog and other battlefield obscurants, Army officials say.
But when the system is teamed with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I), which is being fielded with the ENVG-B, soldiers can view their sight reticle as it’s transmitted wirelessly into the goggle.
Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, 237th Military Police Company, New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take before embarking on an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular Soldier Touchpoint, July 10-12, 2019.
(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)
“Now we are able to move that targeting data straight from that weapon, without wires, up in front of a soldier’s eyes,” Potts said, adding that the process is much faster and “makes a soldier far more lethal.”
“What you are seeing today is the first iteration of a capability fielding … and we are going to continue to grow this capability out so that we really treat the soldier as an integrated weapon platform,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Army quickly mobilized to engage with Japan in the Pacific Theater. Fortunately for America, we had a few advantages on the ready. Not only did we have the semi-auto M1 Garand to face up against Japan’s bolt-action Arisaka. We also had the M1911 paired against the Japanese Nambu. For the most part, our weapons were far superior to the Japanese – with one major exception. Japan had the Knee Mortar and that was pretty scary.
Don’t let the name mislead you. The knee mortar was really a grenade launcher. Japan called it Type 89, since it was introduced in the 2,589th year of Japan’s existence.
The Knee Mortar makes its appearance
The Knee Mortar was created so Japan’s soldiers stood a chance facing off with the US. Even though their Army included some well-trained infantrymen, the Knee Mortar was definitely their back pocket weapon.
A little history
The short version: Japan had pretty crappy tanks. Their artillery was not much better. When it came down to anti-tank weapons, they didn’t have much there, either. Furthermore, the Imperial Japanese Navy got a lot of the RD priority for new ships and planes. Japan figured – correctly – that their best course of action was to try to ensure naval dominance.
According to a U.S. Army manual, the Type 89 fired a 50mm round and weighed ten pounds. Depending on the round used, it had a maximum range of just under 750 yards. It could fire incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and high-explosive rounds. Think of it as kind of an M79 grenade launcher on steroids. You didn’t want to fire it from your knee, unless you wanted to be on a medevac flight or ship home. Instead, you braced it on the ground.
Two Marine Corps legends, “Chesty” Puller and Merritt Edson, both came away very impressed by this weapon. Edson, who lead the Marine Raiders on Guadalcanal, noted that a Japanese soldier could carry that weapon and ten rounds with no problem. The weapon was issued in large quantities to Japanese troops and had a high rate of fire. As a result, it was believed to have caused 40 percent of American battle casualties in the Pacific.
Today, the knee mortar is out of service, but the concept is alive in the form of “commando mortars” like the British L9A1, the South African M-4, and the Iranian 37mm “marsh mortar.” In short, grunts have options for lightweight firepower.
The US Navy’s efforts to develop a powerful electromagnetic railgun are a lesson in what not to do, a top US admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.
The US has “a number of great ideas that are on the cusp,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that “some of these technologies are going to be absolutely decisive in terms of defining who wins and who does not in these conflicts and in this new era” of great power competition.
But the US needs to accelerate the process because its adversaries are moving faster, he said. The admiral called attention to the railgun, a $500 million next-generation weapon concept that uses electromagnetic energy to hurl a projectile at an enemy at hypersonic speeds.
The US Navy has been researching this technology for years, but the US has not armed a warship with the gun. China, a rival power, appears to have mounted a railgun on a naval vessel, suggesting it may be beating the US in the race to field a working railgun with many times the range of existing naval guns.
Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
“I would say that railgun is kind of the case study that would say ‘This is how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,'” Richardson said. “It’s been around, I think, for about 15 years, maybe 20. So ‘rapid’ doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about timeframes like that.”
He said that the US had learned a lot from the project and that “the engineering of building something like that, that can handle that much electromagnetic energy and not just explode, is challenging.”
“So we’re going to continue after this, right? We’re going to install this thing. We’re going to continue to develop it, test it,” he said. “It’s too great a weapon system, so it’s going somewhere, hopefully.”
The admiral compared the railgun to a sticky note, which was invented for an entirely different purpose, to illustrate that the US had learned other things from its railgun research.
The hypervelocity projectile developed for the railgun, for instance, “is actually a pretty neat thing in and of itself,” he said, and “is also usable in just about every gun we have.”
“It can be out into the fleet very, very quickly, independent of the railgun,” he said. “So this effort is sort of breeding all sorts of advances. We just need to get the clock sped up with respect to the railgun.”
Guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) transits the Pacific Ocean while underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
And it’s apparently a concept the Navy is considering for the Zumwalt-class destroyers, the guns for which do not work and do not have suitable ammunition.
These hypervelocity projectiles are fired through the barrel via sabots that hold the round in place and harmlessly fall out the end of the barrel after firing. The sheer power of the electromagnetic pulse and the round’s aerodynamic profile allow it to fly much faster than normal rounds to devastating effect — the US Navy has said its experimental railgun could fire these bullets at seven times the speed of sound.
But experts argue that the railgun is inherently problematic technology, saying that regardless of who gets there first, the guns are likely to be militarily useless.
Railguns are “not a good replacement for a missile,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”
He added: “It’s not useful military technology.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.
The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”
The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.
The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.
The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.
“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.
Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.
With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.
Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.
China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.
The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You may think that the last Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon will be flying its last in 2048. That is, of course, what the Air Force is saying, but you’d be very, very wrong to believe it. The last Air Force F-16 will be flying for decades after its supposed retirement.
Don’t just take my word for it: Look at what happened with the F-4 Phantom. The real last flight of the F-4 for the United States Air Force was in 2016, not the mid-1990s when the last F-4G Wild Weasels were sent to Davis Monthan Air Force Base to be laid to rest in the boneyard. Instead, those F-4s were converted into QF-4 Phantom target drones.
Over 5,200 QF-4 Phantoms were built and gave the United States over two decades of service as target drones. With so many F-16s built, it was a natural fit to transition these ‘retiring’ airframes from front-line combat to serving as target drones. These unmanned aircraft help keep pilots current and provide a way to test the performance of air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.
So, how can we be so sure the same fate awaits the Fighting Falcons? Well, it’s already happening. The QF-16 first flew in 2013, an unmanned craft created by converting an A-model Falcon. The plan calls for at least 200 of these drones to be created through modifications by Boeing. Like the F-4s, the QF-16s will still be able to be flown by pilots. They will have weapons and radars removed, though. They will also be rigged with a self-destruct system, in case they go wild.
Moments before a QF-16 fulfills its purpose — in the sights of another plane. (Boeing photo)
Other planes that have served as target drones include the QF-100 Super Sabre, QF-102 Delta Dagger, QF-104 Starfighter, and QF-106 Delta Dart. The QF-4 Phantom was the most recent full-scale aerial target.
Learn more about how the F-16 will fly for decades after its so-called ‘retirement’ in the video below.
China’s newest maritime patrol aircraft has made a debut by deploying to Hainan Island, a sign that Beijing wants to improve its anti-submarine warfare capabilities in the disputed South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.
According to a report by DefenseNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force has deployed a new version of the Y-8 maritime patrol plane. This version, the Y-8Q, appears to have a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) on the tail, giving it a profile similar to the P-3 Orion. Both planes are four-engine turbo-prop aircraft.
The aircraft was seen by commercial satellites at Lingshui, a base the Chinese have on Hainan Island. Scramble.nl notes that the 9th Air Division is deployed at Lingshui, and also has the KJ-500H, an airborne early warning variant. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the baseline Y-8 is a version of the Antonov An-12 transport.
China has been strongly asserting claims to the South China Sea. In 2001, a PLANAF J-8B Finback based out of Hainan Island collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft. The Chinese pilot, Lieutenant Wang Wei, was killed, while the American EP-3E landed at Hainan Island and the crew was held for almost two weeks.
Russia’s increasing aggression in Europe has made some countries nervous. This is particularly true for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — former Soviet republics that have since joined NATO. To make matters worse, these countries don’t have much in the way of military power.
That said, NATO is doing what they can to reassure these countries. To do that, they’re putting on an exercise known as Saber Strike. This exercise brings together 19 countries, including Baltic nations and Poland, to “build readiness” in the area — sending a clear message to a particular Eastern neighbor.
This year’s exercise features the 2nd Cavalry Regiment moving from its base in Germany to Poland, simulating the type of deployment the unit would make in a real crisis.
In a fight with Russia, A-10 Thunderbolts would likely use AGM-65 Mavericks as a primary weapon against air-defense systems.
(DOD photo by Jim Haseltine)
One of the units taking part in this exercise is the 127th Operations Group, the parent unit of the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard. This unit has flown the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a plane designed for close-air support missions, since 2008. This is the plane that would back up NATO forces sent to defend the Baltic states if anything were to go down.
The United States currently has 13 squadrons that operate the A-10. This plane, famous for the BRRRRRT emitted by its GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun, has a top speed of 450 knots and a maximum range of 2,240 nautical miles. In addition to its massive gun, the A-10 can carry up to eight tons of bombs, missiles, and rockets.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed to help NATO defeat the hordes of Soviet and Warsaw Pact tanks threatening Western Europe.
The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program to try to (partially) replace the A-10 — right now, the AT-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine, a pair of light attack planes, are looking like favorites. Unfortunately, as it stands now, those planes aren’t nearly as capable as the A-10.
Watch the video below to see the A-10s with the Michigan Air National Guard take part in Saber Strike ’18!
Nestled inside infantry units moving against the enemy is often a single artilleryman who is arguably one of the most lethal fighters on the battlefield — the forward observer.
These soldiers, usually assigned to a Forward Support Team (the FiST), are known as “FiSTers” and are the eyes and ears for naval artillery and artillery gun lines across the world.
The FiSTers carry inside their helmets knowledge of every gun capable of reaching their areas of operation, including how fast the weapon can fire, what kinds of rounds it has at its disposal, and what effects those rounds have on targets.
They use this knowledge to support the infantry and other maneuver units. When the friendly element finds and engages the enemy, the FiSTer gets to work figuring out how to best bring artillery to bear.
Often, this involves getting the machine gunners and riflemen to corral the enemy into a tight box that can easily be hit with airburst artillery, causing shrapnel to rain down on the enemy dismounts.
If enemy armored vehicles are rolling towards the line, the forward observers can call down specific rounds for penetrating a tank’s top turret armor or for creating a smoke screen to block friendly vehicles from view.
Many observers go through training to learn how to best use weapons deployed from helicopters, jets, and other aerial platforms. This allows them to start targeting enemies with hellfire missiles and the 30mm cannons of A-10s and AH-64s.
Marine observers and Army observers trained in joint fires can call for help from naval ships. While the Navy has decommissioned its massive battleships, there are still plenty of cruisers and destroyers packing missiles and 5-inch guns that are pretty useful for troops ashore.
It’s the forward observers that get those missiles and shells on target.
Forward observers direct the fires of all the big guns that can’t see their targets. And that’s what makes them so lethal.
Different weapons serve different purposes in combat, but every fighter in history has looked for an edge – one advantage that could mean the difference between life and death for the combatant. In an era where everyone is cutting each other with increasingly sharp blades of different sizes, wouldn’t it be great if that ax also shot bullets?
If you happened to be the one holding the ax, then yes: that would be great. Unless your opponent was holding a shield – especially if that shield also shot bullets.
If that example sounds far-fetched, that’s because it is — but just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it never happened.
Yes, the ax that shoots bullets was only partly a joke. Polish cavalry used a short ax as a weapon for more than 200 years. The tradition spilled over into Hungary as well, presumably because axes that could also shoot bullets were great at killing Turks.
Even better than the handheld pistol ax was the multi-barreled and/or halberd long gun versions used by Germans around the same time.
Knives and swords.
The Germans are back with this hunting knife-pistol combo. From the 16th through the 18th centuries, shooting and stabbing was a popular combination, not just among German civilians, but also among troops belonging to various warlords in a then-ununified Germany.
Pistol knives experienced a rebirth in popularity in Victorian England, probably as a means to not get murdered at night on the streets of London.
Speaking of not getting murdered on the streets of old-timey Europe, French street gangs were keen on using the Apache pistol to do just that: kill to avoid being killed. These were combination brass knuckles, switchblades, and pistols that were really good at being none of those things. The knives were flimsy, the pistol had no trigger guard, and the brass knuckles weren’t big or heavy enough to be a difference maker.
A walking stick.
This is pretty much just Henry VIII’s thing. The big guy carried a walking stick that was also pulling triple duty as both a pistol and a mace. The pistol part was triple-barreled, and Henry used it while walking around his kingdom at night, trying to not get murdered on the streets of London.
I’m starting to sense a theme here…
If the firepower of his walking stick proved to be insufficient for anyone coming at him, Henry had his bodyguards equipped with shields… shields that fired black-powder pistols. Considering their size and iron composition, a weapon so hefty would surely have been difficult to aim.
On the morning of September 8, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the southeastern outskirts of recently liberated Paris. The blast killed six people and wounded 36 more. Nearly eight hours later, two more explosions occurred in London, killing three people and wounding 17.
One of the explosions in London left a crater 30 feet wide and 8 feet deep. The site was closed to the public, and censors barred journalists from reporting on it. The blast was blamed on a faulty gas main and quickly hushed up.
Hundreds of explosions in the following weeks forced the British to admit the truth. The Germans had launched a horrifying new type of weapon at France and England: the V-2, the first guided ballistic missile in history.
For almost a year, more than 3,000 V-2s would be launched at civilian and military targets in Belgium, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.
A vengeance weapon
Development of the V-2 started in 1934. The German Wehrmacht had a keen interest in rockets, and some of Germany’s best engineers were tasked by the military to create this new “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder weapon.”
The missile had its first successful test flight in October 1942. Traveling over 118 miles and reaching an altitude of 277,200 feet, or 52.5 miles, it was the first rocket to reach the edge of space.
The project was repeatedly downgraded and upgraded during the war, but in 1943 it became one of the largest weapons projects of the Third Reich.
Hitler, angry at the destruction Allied bombing was causing in Germany, wanted to strike Allied cities in revenge. The missile became the second in Hitler’s series of “Vergeltungswaffen,” or “vengeance weapons,” and was designated V-2.
About 6,000 V-2 rockets were built. They were intended to be launched from hardened complexes similar to modern missile silos, but Allied bombing and advances on the ground forced the Germans to rely on mobile launch platforms.
V-2s were much more complex and larger than their predecessor, the V-1. They were about 46 feet tall and were equipped with a 2,000-pound amatol warhead at the tip. They also had a range of 200 miles.
After launch, the missile rose over 50 miles into the air and reached a speed of over 3,000 mph, enabling most to reach their targets in just five minutes. V-2s were so fast that they could hit their targets at up to 1,790 mph.
A program of death and destruction
Their speed and operational ceiling made them impossible to intercept, and Allied attempts to jam the V-2’s guidance system were useless, as the missile did not use radio guidance. (Its guidance system was an innovation in its own right; gyroscopes and an analog computer in it constantly tracked and adjusted its course to a preprogrammed destination.)
Up to 100 V-2s were launched each day, and they wreaked havoc on Allied cities. Over 2,700 people were killed by the missiles in Britain alone.
One V-2 struck a packed cinema in the Belgian port city of Antwerp, killing 567 people, including 296 Allied soldiers — the deadliest strike from a single piece of aerial ordnance in the European theater.
There is no complete official toll, but it is estimated that V-2 attacks killed anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 people. Together, V-1 and V-2 attacks caused over 30,000 civilian casualties and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
That number does not include the deaths of 10,000 to 20,000 people who were used as slave labor in V-2 construction at the underground Mittelwerk factory and various concentration camps.
Desperate to stop the strikes, the Allies launched Operation Crossbow — a series of operations and bombing campaigns aimed at destroying the V-weapon program. The Allies were aware of the V-2 as early as 1943 and even managed to obtain V-2 parts with the assistance of the Polish Home Army.
A lasting legacy
In the end, the V-2, like many of Nazi Germany’s so-called wonder weapons, was too little, too late. Though the civilian body count was high, it was smaller than that caused by other weapons.
Moreover, V-2s did almost no significant damage to military targets, and by 1944 the Allied war machine was just too large for Germany to fight off.
The Wehrmacht spent so much money and resources on the V-2 for such minimal military gain that Freeman Dyson, a Royal Air Force analyst during the war, later likened it to “a policy of unilateral disarmament.”
But the V-2 left a lasting legacy. Combined with the advent of nuclear weapons, it proved that the most important weapons of the future would be ballistic missiles.
The Soviets and the Western Allies scrambled to collect as much of the V-2 program as possible when the war ended, and some of the earliest ballistic missiles on both sides of the Cold War were essentially copies of the V-2.
Many scientists from the V-2 program, including its leader, Wernher von Braun, were also directly involved in the US space program, ultimately helping NASA land on the moon in 1969.
As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.
FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.
The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.
The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.
Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.
“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”
Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.
The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.
The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.
The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.
For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.
The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.
While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.