In some ways, Sweden is a surprising place to find some of the most modern weapon systems. Yet, in other ways, it isn’t such a surprise. Sweden managed to remain neutral in both World Wars and the Cold War, but they didn’t do so by simply asking politely. They developed a number of incredible weapons, ranging from the Saab Draken to the S-Tank, which acted as deterrents.
That trend continues today, as Sweden has now used its infantry fighting vehicle, the CV90, as the basis for a new light tank. That tank is called the CV90120T. Let’s take a closer look at this armored fighting vehicle – but to do that, we need to look at the vehicle it was derived from first.
The CV90 is known as the Stridsforden 90 in Sweden. It comes in three major varieties: The CV9040, equipped with a 40mm Bofors gun; the CV9030, equipped with a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun (similar to that on the M1296 Stryker Dragoon); and the CV9035, equipped with a 35mm Bushmaster III chain gun. These vehicles have a crew of three and hold eight infantrymen. Sweden has also developed a 120mm-mortar-carrying variant, as well as a command variant, a forward-observer variant, and an armored recovery vehicle.
MilitaryFactory.com notes that the CV90120T is not the first such light tank. Sweden had developed a version with a 105mm main gun, the CV90105T. The CV90120T, however, brings some impressive firepower to the battlefield. It carries 45 rounds for its main gun – five more than the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank. The four-man crew can fire up to 14 rounds a minute.
There haven’t been any orders for this light tank yet. Weighing in at just under 39 tons, it can’t be carried by a C-130, but it is an easy lift for a C-17 Globemaster or C-5 Galaxy.
Learn more about this impressive, modern Swedish tank in the video below!
The Royal Australian Navy has a big job, even though it is a relatively small force. This force relies on one ship as its backbone, the Anzac-class frigate, and those frigates have been on the front lines for Australia and New Zealand.
The Royal Australian Navy Anzac Class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) prepares to conduct an underway replenishment during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)
According to the Sixteenth Edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Australia has eight of these vessels in service, while New Zealand has two. These ships can be very powerful, and are based on the MEKO 200 design from Germany, a vessel that has also been sold to Turkey, Algeria, Greece, Portugal, and South Africa.
Australian Anzac-class frigates are heavily armed. They have an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system for the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, a five-inch gun, eight RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and the ability to operate a Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk multi-mission helicopter. They also have Mk 32 launchers for 324mm torpedoes. These vessels have received upgrades for defending themselves against anti-ship missiles. These upgrades are centered around the CEAFAR and CEAMOUNT phased-array radars.
The New Zealand Anzacs didn’t get the same upgrade, largely due to the collapse of the ANZUS mutual-defense treaty in the 1980s, spurred by New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy. As a result, the Te Kaha and Te Mana have a less-capable system. Their Mk 41 vertical launch system initially only fired RIM-7 Sea Sparrows, and they operate SH-2G Sea Sprites. An upgrade, though replaced the old Sea Sparrows with the Sea Ceptor system from the United Kingdom
These frigates will still be around for a while. Australia plans to replace them with one of three designs (the French-Italian FREMM, the British Type 26m, or a modified Spanish F100) starting in 2024. New Zealand’s will remain in service until 2030.
Check out more about these frigates in the video below.
When you think about the best attack helicopters out there, the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Westland Lynx, the Mil Mi-24 Hind, and the Kamov Ka-50/52 Hokum all come to mind. But one of the world’s best attack helicopters comes from a surprising place: Italy.
Yep, that’s right, the land of pasta, romance, and Roman legions is also the birthplace of one of the world’s best tank-killing helicopters. That helicopter is the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Italian for ‘mongoose’). The project was ambitious, but would never reach its full potential thanks to the end of the Cold War.
This was a very capable attack helicopter. It had a top speed of 174 miles per hour, a maximum range of 317 miles, and a crew of two. The firepower it could bring was impressive: A M197 20mm Gatling gun (that gave it a bite just like the AH-1 Cobra’s), eight BGM-71 TOW or AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, not to mention rocket pods and gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns. Yeah, this chopper would definitely ruin some armored column’s day.
Italy planned to build 100 of these helicopters. It first flew in 1983, but the research and development process took a while, and West Germany eventually bailed on the program, leaving Italy to for ahead alone. The first production examples didn’t arrive until 1990. The planned purchase of 100 was then slashed to 60. Another version of this chopper capable of hauling eight troops in addition to the firepower, the A139, never got off the ground.
Still, the A129 has served Italy well. In fact, the Italians are converting two dozen of their existing choppers into armed reconnaissance helicopters to join two dozen newly build helicopters. Plus, Turkey has acquired a production license to build a local version of this lethal helicopter.
Learn more about Italy’s deadly helicopter in the video below.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft.
While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter.
This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011, and is expected to be operational by 2018, according to publicly available information and various news reports.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show in February of last year catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies – including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 Sensor Fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior – however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs – give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
The F-35. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges – essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission Data Files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com last year. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
It’s been over 40 years since the AH-64 Apache made its first flight. This helicopter emerged as the best among entrants to the 1972 Advanced Attack Helicopter program, beating out a design from Bell to become the Army’s most advanced helicopter. From there, this legendary aircraft went on to see action across the globe in the hands of the world’s most advanced militaries.
Originally designed as a Cold War tank killer, the Apache has since become a very lethal hunter of terrorists. These helicopters are outfitted with the M230 30mm chain gun, 70mm Hydra rockets, and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
An AH-64D Apache Longbow flies over Baghdad in 2007.
From the skies above, the Apache has watched as the Army shifted from Patton to Abrams and Bradley to Stryker. It’s had a service career that the AH-56 Cheyenne, a cancelled helicopter that created a vacuum in capabilities filled by the Apache, could only dream of.
It seems fitting that this chopper was the first to fire shots in Desert Storm — after all, it’s had a long history of making terrorist asses grass. It even took a turn as a cinematic star in the movie Firebirds, which featured Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones.
Over 2,000 Apaches have been purchased in the decades since its military debut in 1986. The Apache has seen action in the Balkans and during the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The AH-64E Apache Guardian is slated to be in production through 2026, 51 years after the Apache’s first flight.
The Apache has survived at least one attempt to replace it (in the form of the RAH-66 Comanche). Recently, it’s taken over scout helicopter duties from the new-retired OH-58 Kiowa — and learned how to control UAVs in the process. The new AH-64E Apache Guardian is now in service and has export orders with Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Qatar.
Learn more about this helicopter that’s survived for nearly four decades in the video below.
When the SR-71 Blackbird was revealed to the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the Soviets were caught by surprise. The fact was, the SR-71 couldn’t be caught by any air defense, rendered nearly invulnerable due to its blazing speed and high altitude. The Soviets, though, had a plane that could give it a close chase.
That plane was the MiG-25 Foxbat and it was originally designed to catch another deadly airframe, the B-70 Valkyrie bomber. The Valkyrie never entered service, but the Soviets still pushed the MiG-25, especially after the SR-71 was revealed.
After all, it was the only plane that had a prayer of catching a Blackbird — and even then, it was a very, very faint prayer.
The Soviet Union produced almost 1,200 MiG-25 Foxbats, as opposed to 32 SR-71 Blackbirds.
While the SR-71 was built in very small numbers, the Soviets built a lot of MiG-25s — almost 1,200 were produced. Some were exported to countries like Syria, Iraq, and Libya, but many remained in Soviet service. The plane had a top speed of 2,156 miles per hour (compared to the Blackbird’s 2,200 miles per hour) and its primary weapon was the AA-6 Acrid.
The AA-6 Acrid was huge, packing a 150-pound, high-explosive warhead. It had a maximum range of about 30 miles and could go at Mach 4.5. The Foxbat was originally intended to be a bomber-killer, but there was a huge air of mystery around this plane. That mystery was compounded by the outstanding performance of the reconnaissance variant prior to the Yom Kippur War. Soviet pilots flying from Egypt were able to evade Israeli F-4s. That alone prompted much concern in the United States.
The AA-6 Acrid is the primary weapon of the MiG-25 Foxbat,
(Photo by Jno~commonswiki)
The MiG-25’s emergence prompted the Air Force to start development of what became the F-15 Eagle. The two planes would face off the Middle East over Lebanon and Iraq, and the MiG-25 would emerge in second place.
Some sources claim an Iraqi MiG-25 was responsible for shooting down the F/A-18 Hornet piloted by Scott Speicher on the opening day of Desert Storm, but others claim that a SA-2 Guideline was to blame.
Learn more about this Russian answer to the Blackbird in the video below! Tell us, do you think the Foxbat could catch and kill the Lockheed legend?
With the help of the 374th Operations Group, Yokota Air Base C-130J Super Hercules aircrews are always ready for potential chemical and biological threats.
By using the Aircrew Eye/Respiratory Protection Equipment, aircrews can safely fly and execute their mission under any real-world chemical scenario.
The current mask, the Mask Breathing Unit-19/P (MBU-19/P), is nearing the end of its lifespan and has been found to have many faults during its service. Its successor, the Joint Service Aircrew Mask, or JSAM, Strategic, is scheduled to be available for Yokota AB’s C-130Js in 2021.
Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, puts on a M50 gas mask, allowing communication during a flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)
The standard issue M50 gas mask, a newer, more portable option for chemical protection, can be modified for use in-flight by adding communication-enabled wiring. With these modifications, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J crewmembers and 374th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen can use the M50 gas mask as a cost-efficient, user-friendly stopgap during the transition.
Yokota AB Airmen are now leading the way, reviewing the tactics, techniques and procedures for other large-frame aircraft units across the Air Force on the use of the M50 gas mask by aircrew.
Learning how the M50 gas mask works alongside other Air Force assets is a top priority for 374th OG Airmen.
“We’re making sure the equipment is flight-worthy, there are no difficulties flying and seeing how well it integrates with our other AFE equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. David Showers, 374th OSS AFE lead trainer. “We want know what can we keep and what we can make better. By reducing the components and the kits we’ll be giving back time to our people, our training and our mission.”
Maj. George Metros, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules evaluator pilot, connects a M50 gas mask during a training flight, Feb. 5, 2019, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Juan Torres)
By making this integration possible, 374th OG Airmen are saving the Air Force time and money.
Maintenance on the older, more complicated MBU-19/P could take anywhere from three to four hours to a full day depending on the inspection and what kind of fixes the technician needs to make. With the introduction to the M50 gas mask on flights, inspection and maintenance times could be cut to approximately 30 minutes per mask freeing up valuable time to complete other tasks.
“By switching to the M50 gas mask we’ll increase our workflow and mission flow,” said Airman 1st Class Matthew Wilson, 374th OSS AFE technician. “With this switch we’ll avoid a lot of maintenance hours and we could have our aircrews running missions more effectively.”
The legendary M1 Abrams tank has been on the testing ranges and battlefields for 40 years, saving dozens or even hundreds of crews who were able to unleash hellish fury on their enemies while surviving dozens of blows from enemy tanks’ main guns.
It’s all thanks to American and British engineering that has stood the test of time.
That’s right, British engineering was a key ingredient in creating this dominant war machine.
The need for the M1 program came about because of the failure of the MBT-70 program, a joint U.S.-German program to develop a replacement for the M-60 Patton, a capable but aging tank that wouldn’t be able to hold the line against Soviet armor forever.
An MBT-70 prototype at the United States Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
(Mark Pellegrini, CC BY-SA 2.5)
But for all its bells and whistles, the MBT-70 had a lot of problems. It was too heavy to use most of the armored infrastructure then available in Europe, including recovery vehicles and bridges. It cost more than originally planned, too. But worst of all, its caseless ammo had a tendency to swell, making it unusable in combat and potentially even starting fires inside the vehicle.
The project was ultimately canceled due to costs, but some of the technical specs and designs were carried over into the XM1 project, which would churn out its first M1 Abrams in 1978. The M1 shared the low-profile of the MBT-70 as well as blowout compartments for ammunition and a shallow turret.
An M1 Abrams taking part in Getica Saber 17.
(U.S. Army Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet)
The Abrams was even faster than its speedy predecessor. On paper, it was slated to peak at 45mph, but in capable tankers’ hands, it was a little faster. Originally, its gun was shrunk down to 105mm, but later models were upgraded to 120mm — still a far cry from the 152mm of the MBT-70. But with sabot rounds controversially made from depleted uranium, it still had enough power to punch through nearly anything. Even modern explosive reactive armor has trouble with sabot.
But the the most revolutionary upgrades that the Abrams brought to the table are in the armor and engines. The armor is Chobham armor that Britain quietly revealed to the U.S. while it was developing the Abrams. It is, essentially, a layered sandwich of reactive plates encased in metal with elastic layers underneath. It provides great protection against high-explosive rounds, kinetic energy penetrators, and armor-piercing rounds.
An M1 Abrams tank fires in Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018.
(U.S. Army Christoph Koppers)
But the Abrams hasn’t survived for so long because it was awesome rolling off the line. The tank has been upgraded every few years since its debut. It has received not only a new gun, but improved optics and a better powertrain. And those are just the upgrades implemented before the 1990 Gulf War.
Since then, everything from the ammo to the armor to the electronics have been upgraded. It can power its computers without running the high-consumption turbines, its formerly vulnerable gas tanks are now better protected and it has defenses against IEDs and large anti-tank mines.
It has even gotten reactive armor with the TUSK — the Tank Urban Survival Kit. This is basically a bunch of bombs strapped to the outside of the tank that deflect enemy blasts and penetrators.
“Peak performance” is a term thrown around every locker room in the NFL, but achieving true excellence in any sport is a process based on a variety of factors — both physical and mental. As a result, players and coaches often debate whether an extra workout or strict adherence to a specific diet is the most important variable in achieving results on the field.
In short, achieving peak performance among a team of athletes is incredibly challenging. This year, some NFL teams are giving consideration to a new variable: trust, and they’ve turned to an unlikely ally for help — the Green Berets.
Captain Jason Van Camp (left) as a Green Beret in Iraq
U.S. Army Green Berets are some of the military’s most elite soldiers and their mission is almost always impossible. Tasked with infiltrating deep behind enemy lines, Green Berets link up with local forces and train them for battle. Instead of kicking down doors, they train indigenous forces to kick the doors down for them. They can always expect to be faced with limited resources and, even worse, limited time, but Green Berets have a special skill that’s fostered from the very first day of their training: They focus on people first and live by a principle that “humans are more important than hardware.”
This strict belief in a humans-first mentality is why some NFL Coaches are turning to former Green Beret Jason Van Camp and his team of Special Operations veterans from Mission 6 Zero, a management consulting company that combines Special Forces with Science. Over the past seven years, Jason and his Mission 6 Zero team has worked with NFL and MLB teams to improve their performance both on and off the field by focusing on trust as the foundation of team building. This is a mission that Jason and his team know very well. They’ve helped foreign allies around the world achieve peak performance in some of the most austere environments. Now, instead of working deep behind enemy lines, these Green Berets are embedded in locker rooms across the league, training players, coaches, and front office personnel.
In the process of driving Mission 6 Zero to an elite level, Jason and his team decided to create Warrior Rising, a non-profit organization that helps veterans start or accelerate their own businesses. The Minnesota Vikings (one of the NFL teams that Mission 6 Zero advises) offered to sponsor a fundraising event in Minnesota to support Warrior Rising’s vetrepreneurs. The fundraising event was attended by Vikings players and coaches and intended to be a team bonding experience focused on trust.
Trust is the cornerstone of any successful team, but there are thousands of factors that can degrade trust within organizations, including fear, communication problems, family issues, values conflicts, and more. The veterans with Warrior Rising know that a lack of trust is what can lead a convoy into an ambush — or a turnover in the Redzone — but before Jason, a former West Point football player himself, and his team can help the NFL, they start their work by listening.
This tactic is essential, especially in today’s NFL where any action, from an off-handed comment in the locker room to an overt gesture like kneeling, can have an impact that extends far beyond the playing field. Jason explained his approach to We Are The Mighty,
“Working with an NFL team is very similar to being a Green Beret in Iraq or Afghanistan – you must master the art of communication in order to succeed. Proper communication leads to trust. Trust is an amazing weapon, but before you step out into battle, you need to understand the barriers that are keeping your teammates from trusting each other.”
Once the Green Berets have an understanding of the issues facing the team, that’s when they develop a full training plan to turn up the heat — literally — by using flamethrowers. Yeah, you read that right: flamethrowers, because there’s nothing quite like using pressurized-fuel weapons to build trust among teammates.
Jason briefs the Minnesota Vikings on there next training exercise.
Jason and the Green Berets’ logic is simple – get comfortable being uncomfortable. A little shared danger, adrenaline, and communication about team issues can help burn down (sorry) the obstacles between peak performance. Jason believes that,
“Having a talented roster alone does not make you a great coach. Great coaches create an environment that allows their players’ talents to flourish.”
In preparation for the 2018 Season, Jason and his team have used their unique approach to team-building with the Minnesota Vikings. As the season starts, we’re all excited to watch how the Green Berets’ trust training will translate into touchdowns.
Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.
The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.
The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.
Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.
If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
The American Freedom Distillery Team
“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”
For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.
Good work if you can get it.
The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.
(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)
If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.
Somewhere out in the California desert, a streamlined, aerodynamic behemoth woke up on April 13, 2019. It was Stratolaunch Systems’ critical test flight for an airframe designed to launch rockets into space while in mid-air. The aircraft was a long time coming, the dream of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who died of Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2018.
After the plane’s historic two-hour flight, Allen would have been proud to watch the mammoth plane land on the Mojave Desert test strip.
Stratolaunch’s six-engine, 500,000-pound aircraft has a 385-foot wingspan and is designed to fly around 35,000 feet. In comparison, the largest aircraft used for civilian air travel is the Airbus A380-800, with a wingspan of 238 feet and weighing in at slightly more than the Stratolaunch.
“The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want a first flight to be,” said test pilot Evan Thomas. “It flew very much like we had simulated and like we predicted.”
The previous record holder for largest aircraft ever flown was Howard Hughes’ famed Spruce Goose, an eight-engine, wooden-framed plane that was less than half the weight of the Stratolaunch. Until April 13, it was the longest wingspan aircraft to ever fly.
“It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight,” said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd.
Stratolaunch was founded in 2011, the brainchild of Allen, who originally also wanted to make the rockets the Stratolaunch planes would launch into low earth orbit. The company plans to do incremental tests of the airframe over the coming years, as they had done in previous years. Other small tests included engine tests and runway taxis before the April flight.
While the two-hour test flight was a success, not much else was conclusive save for a deal with Northrop Grumman to use Stratolaunch planes to put their Pegasus XL rockets into space. Who knows – these could be the early models of a Space Force troop transport. The skies are no longer the limit.
The Joint Air-to-Ground missile has been cleared to begin low-rate initial production, weapons maker Lockheed Martin said on June 27, 2018.
The JAGM is the successor to the vaunted Hellfire missile and is meant to provide precision standoff-strike capability against high-value fixed and moving targets, both armored and unarmored, on land and at sea, even in poor weather conditions.
The new missile combines semi-active laser guidance, like that used on the Hellfire II, and millimeter-wave radar, like that used by the Longbow Hellfire, into a single system, which is paired with the warhead, motor, and flight-control system of the Hellfire Romeo missile.
Lockheed was the sole bidder for the missile contract, taking it on in summer 2015, and the weapons maker will give the Army 2,631 missiles under the production contract, Col. David Warnick, the Army program manager for Joint Attack Munition Systems, told Defense News.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Hellfire was originally designed to be a 100-pound armor-piercing weapon to destroy tanks, but it has seen extensive use in the war against ISIS as a precision-guided munition that can be fired from planes, helicopters and drones. The Army has had to increase production for fear of running out.
The JAGM is to replace the Hellfire on all the platforms that fire the older missile. The new missile is also expected to be used on unmanned vehicles, like the MQ-9 Reaper drone. During the engineering and manufacturing development phase, the JAGM was tested and qualified on the AH-64E Apache and AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.
During testing, pilots spoke highly of the JAGM, particularly of the ability to toggle between semi-active-laser and radio-frequency guidance within seconds.
“Using a SAL missile, the last six seconds of the missile flight is the most critical to keep your laser sight on target,” Michael Kennedy, an experimental test pilot with the Aviation Flight Test Directorate at Redstone Test Center, said an Army release early 2018.
“If you’re getting shot at and your line of sight goes off the target, your missile misses,” Kennedy said. “JAGM can start off using the laser, then transition to the radar portion and still hit the target if the crew has to use evasive maneuvers.”
Lockheed said it had successfully carried out 10 limited-user test flights in the months leading up to approval for low-rate initial production.
(U.S. Army photo)
A Pentagon Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report released in January 2018 said the Army carried out two successful ground launches and 20 successful air launches during fiscal year 2017.
“The test results demonstrated the system’s combat effectiveness and technical maturity,” Lockheed said in a release. “Additionally, the program successfully conducted supplier and prime contractor production readiness reviews establishing the program’s readiness to move into LRIP.”
The JAGM system has demonstrated more than 95% reliability in flight testing, Lockheed said in its release, adding that the system is being built into the production line by the same team that has churned out more than 75,000 Hellfire missiles.
JAGM’s development has not been without issues, though.
The DOTE report said several technical issues cropped up during testing and that, on several occasions during tests, the missile missed its target or failed to detonate. The Army said that the issues that appeared in earlier tests have been corrected, according to Defense News.
Warnick, of the Army’s Joint Attack Munition Systems program, said operational testing would take place in the 2019 fiscal year, which runs from October 2018 to September 2019. That will be followed by a full-rate production review between March and September 2020, he told Defense News.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.