We hear a lot about the T-14 Armata and the T-90, some of Russia’s latest designs. But neither of these tanks, historically, has served as the backbone of the Russian Army. Let’s face facts: Most of the T-90 production has been for export — India is arguably the world’s biggest operator of the T-90 — and the T-14 is still, technically, in development. That means that the most modern tank that the Russians can operate in significant numbers is still the T-80.
This late-Soviet-era tank was produced in multiple locations, some of which are in what is now Russia and others in what is now Ukraine. Russia has around 4,500 of these tanks on hand, either in active service or in reserve. Russia may have more T-72s currently, but, frankly, the T-72 is an overhyped piece of junk.
The T-80 is a much-improved version of the T-64. The T-80 has a top speed of 43 miles per hour and can go 273 miles on a single tank of gas. It also has a crew of three, like most Soviet tanks, but uses an auto-loader as opposed to a 19-year-old grunt to feed the gun.
It’s armed with a pair of anti-tank missiles, the AT-8 Songster and the AT-11 Sniper, that can be fired from its 125mm gun. The tank also has a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun and a 7.62mm machine gun. This all sounds good, but this is virtually the same gun that couldn’t penetrate an Abrams at 400 yards. The usual load is 36 rounds for the gun and five AT-8s.
The T-80 saw action in the First Chechen War — but woefully underperformed. As many as 200 tanks were lost in the city of Grozny alone. That didn’t stop the tank from being exported, however, especially as former Soviet republics fell into a cash crunch (South Korea even bought some).
Learn more about the mainstay of Russia’s task force in the video below:
North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.
Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.
So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.
1. SA-10 Grumble
This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.
2. SA-12 Gladiator
The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.
But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.
3. SA-20 Gargoyle
This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.
The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.
4. SA-21 Growler
This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.
5. SA-23 Giant
What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.
So, what might make it into a Trump defense budget? Will some weapons make it that might have been on the chopping block? Will we see larger production runs of other systems? Here’s a look to see what will happen.
1. Long-Range Land Attack Projectile
While recently cancelled, this GPS-guided round could easily make a comeback with sequestration off the table. The round’s price tag jumped to $800,000, largely because the Zumwalt buy was cut from 32 to three. That said, LRLAP may very well face competition from OTO Melara’s Vulcano round, which is far more versatile (offering GPS, IR, and laser guidance options) and which is available in 76mm and 127mm as well as 155mm.
Figure, though, that a guided round will be on the table.
2. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Zumwalt-class destroyers, Freedom-class littoral combat ships, Independence-class littoral combat ships, and Small Surface Combatants
While the Obama Administration re-started production of these ships, the fleet total is at 272 ships as of this writing. On his campaign website, Trump is pushing for a Navy of 350 ships.
One way to get these additional ships is to increase the current and planned building programs. The Navy has five such programs underway or in RD – and all could readily see more production as Trump looks to make up a 78-ship gap between his goal and the present Navy.
Expect the Coast Guard to get in on the largesse as well. Of course, if they just bought the Freedom-class LCS as their new Offshore Patrol Cutter, they could probably get a lot more hulls in the water. Licensing some foreign designs might help, too.
3. F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Trump has promised to build 1,200 fighters for the Air Force alone, and the Navy and Marines need planes too.
The F-22’s production was halted at 187 airframes in 2009, but Congress recently ordered the Pentagon to look into re-starting production of the Raptor. A restarted F-22 program (maybe with some of the avionics from the F-35) wouldn’t be a surprise, given the China’s J-20 has taken to the air.
You can also expect that the F-35 and F/A-18E/F will be produced in larger numbers. This will help address the airframe shortfall that lead the Marines to raid the boneyard to get enough airframes after they had to call timeout to address a rash of crashes.
4. XM1296 Dragoon
The Army bought 81 of the recently-unveiled Dragoons to help face off against the Russians. That said, Europe may not be the only place we need these vehicles – and we may need a lot more than 81. It may be that the XM1296 could push the M1126 versions to second-line roles currently held by the M113 armored personnel carrier.
5. V-280 Valor and SB-1 Defiant
The Army is looking to move its rotary-wing fleet into the next generation. The Trump White House will probably make a decision of one or the other option – but Trump may decide to boost manufacturing by going with both airframe options (like the Navy did with the Littoral Combat Ship).
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle met the budget axe at the hands of Robert Gates in January 2011. With Trump’s promise to increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, it may not be a bad idea to bring this baby back.
Since most of the RD on this vehicle has already been done, it might make sense to give the Corps a new amphibious fighting vehicle — and it will save time and money.
DARPA has a plan to implant a device in soldiers’ brains to let them communicate with computers and digital sensors.
The brain-computer interface would allow soldier to communicate with sensors to more effectively track enemies or sense the surrounding terrain. Photo: US Army PEO
The program is called Neural Engineering System Design. The device would be about the size of two nickels stacked together. If successful, the small device would represent a huge breakthrough in neural communications.
“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
NESD would gather signals from the brain at a much higher resolution than is currently possible. Right now, devices which read brain waves are aimed at areas of the brain. Each of 100 sensors picks up the activity of tens of thousands of neurons, giving a vague picture of what the brain is saying.
The chip and sensors from the NESD program would aim to communicate individually with millions of neurons. This would allow prosthetics wearers to give detailed commands to their prosthesis, soldiers to receive information from battlefield sensors instantly, and for researchers to map the human brain in exquisite detail.
The road forward for DARPA and its research partners is a hard one. According to a DARPA release, it will require “breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”
DARPA is looking for business and research partners for the initiative. Interested parties can find information at their website.
The M16/M4 rifle platform, long the standard for the US Army and Marine Corps, could soon be set aside, as officials in both service branches are looking at new options for both weapons and ammunition.
Army researchers are reportedly looking at six different types of ammunition of “intermediate calibers,” according to Army Times.
Those calibers fall between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds and include the .260 Remington, the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .264 USA, as well as other variants that aren’t available commercially, Army officials told the Times.
The search for alternatives for both weapons and ammo comes in response to concerns with the 5.56 mm round and about the M16 and the M4, which has been continuously upgraded and modified since being first introduced in the 1960s.
The M16 and M4 and their variants continue to have problems with jamming, an issue the system has dealt with since its introduction. Improvements in body armor have lessened the lethality of the 5.56 round. Groups like ISIS have also made use of large rounds that outperform the US military’s ammo. (Russia is reportedly working on its own assault rifle using a 6.5 mm round.)
According to some research, Army firefights in Afghanistan, where the US has been engaged for more than 15 years, have mostly taken place at distances of more than 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet. At that range, the 5.56 mm round is far less lethal.
At least two studies presented to the US Army have pointed to rounds in the 6.5 mm to 7 mm range as better options.
“Right now the [M16/M4] platform we have is a workhorse and very effective in the hands of a trained soldier or Marine,” Maj. Jason Bohannon, the lethality branch chief at Fort Benning’s US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Army Times.
Going forward, Bohannon said, the Army wouldn’t be able to get more out of the platform and would likely look for a new one.
A report last month from the Marine Corps Times also indicates the Corps is looking to replace the M4 carried by almost every infantry rifleman with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 to replace the aging M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with one M27, carried by the automatic rifleman.
“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in April, saying M27s have been “the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons” carried by rifle squads.
Expanding the use of the M27 would be the most recent of several weapons changes.
In late 2015, Neller approved the move from the M16 to the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for Marine Corps infantry. About a year later, the Corps started testing the M27 infantry assault rifle, which offered a longer effective range, better firing, and more resistance to wear.
A senior Marine officer noted the M27’s rate of fire as a point of concern, suggesting the weapon, which carries 30 rounds and can be fired in full-automatic mode, could lend itself to ammo overuse. (Both the M4 and the M27 use the 5.56 mm round, and the US and NATO militaries have an abundance of that caliber stockpiled.)
One drawback to the M27 is the cost of the rifle, which is produced by German gunmaker Heckler Koch and runs about $3,000. The M4, built by Colt Defense and FN America costs less than $1,000.
Outfitting the 11,000 Marines — members of companies and fire teams, but not squad or platoon leaders — who would get the M27 under the new plan would cost roughly $33 million, though a Marine Corps official told the Marine Corps Times that cost was not a primary concern during the evaluation process, and the price may change as the Corps continues to inquire with weapons makers.
“I am considering it,” Neller told the Marine Corps Times of the possible change, “but we have to balance improved capabilities and increased lethality with cost.”
Even though the F-35 program is making strides, each of the Joint Strike Fighter variants is still coming up short on combat readiness goals, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
Based on collected data for fiscal 2019, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants all remain “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, Robert Behler, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, said Nov. 13, 2019.
“Operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations,” he said before the House Subcommittee on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces. “In particular, no F-35 variant meets the specified reliability or maintainability metrics.”
One reason for falling short of the 65% availability rate goal is that “the aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” Behler added.
Lawmakers requested that Behler; Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office; and Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management for the Government Accountability Office testify on sustainment, supply and production challenges affecting the program.
Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
Results improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 but were still below the benchmark, and well below the 80% mission-capable rate goal set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in 2018.
Mattis ordered the services to raise mission-capable rates for four key tactical aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35. The objective was to achieve an 80% or higher mission-capable rate for each fleet by the end of fiscal 2019.
Units that deployed for overseas missions had better luck, Behler said.
“Individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” he said in his prepared testimony.
Fick backed up that claim. For example, he said, the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to the Middle East as part of the F-35A’s first rotation to the region. As a unit, the mission-capable rate for the jet fighters increased from 72% in April to 92% by the time they returned last month, he said.
Later in the hearing, Fick mentioned that a substantial contributor to the degraded mission capability rate — the ability to perform a core mission function — is a deteriorated stealth coating on F-35 canopies.
In July 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers the F-35 would fall short of the 80% mission-capable rate target over parts supply shortages to fix the crumbling coating that allows the plane to evade radar.
“[Canopy] supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper said in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”
33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
Nov. 13, 2019’s hearing comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office report that once again urges the Defense Department to outline new policies to deal with the F-35’s challenges.
“DoD’s costs to purchase the F-35 are expected to exceed 6 billion, and the department expects to spend more than id=”listicle-2641354570″ trillion to sustain its F-35 fleet,” the Nov. 13, 2019 report states. “Thus, DoD must continue to grapple with affordability as it takes actions to increase the readiness of the F-35 fleet and improve its sustainment efforts to deliver an aircraft that the military services and partner nations can successfully operate and maintain over the long term within their budgetary realities.”
The 22-page report largely reiterated what the GAO found in April 2019: that a lapse in supply chain management is one reason the F-35 stealth jet fleet, operated across three services, is falling short of its performance and operational requirements.
It’s something the Pentagon and manufacturer Lockheed Martin need to work through as they gear up for another large endeavor. The DoD last month finalized a billion agreement with the company for the next three batches of Joint Strike Fighters, firming up its largest stealth fighter jet deal to date.
The agreement includes 291 fifth-generation fighters for the US, 127 for international partners in the program, and 60 for foreign military sale customers.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s no surprise that the U.S. military is constantly trying to stay on the bleeding edge of technology to give its troops the upper hand. But what might raise eyebrows is how deep they’re thinking about every strategic and tactical advantage.
What also might not be so obvious is the civilian tech out there that’ll help troops on the ground in the future.
1. DNA reconfiguration to resist radiation.
Researchers at the university of Tokyo isolated the cells of a microscopic organism called the tardigrade. It looks like a fat cross between a walrus and an anteater, but the little guy is resistant to boiling temperatures, extreme cold, crushing pressures, and intense radiation that would instantly kill any human.
The December 2016 issue of Foreign Policy magazine reported the same researchers added the resistant DNA to human cells in a petri dish and bombarded the cells with X-ray radiation. They found that human cells configured with tardigrade DNA were 40 percent less damaged than regular human cells – resistant enough to withstand the radiation on the surface of Mars.
2. Bomb-detecting spinach.
It’s not just for Popeye anymore. A research team at MIT embedded nanoparticles onto spinach plants and when these particles come in contact with explosives, they bind together, causing a reaction that gives off an infrared signal and can be alerted to mobile phones via wifi.
Not only does the plant modification detect explosives in soil, but it can also detect them in groundwater. Moreover, the plant can be used to decontaminate soil and take reclaim environmentally damaged Earth.
3. Solar Cell Uniforms.
Not solar-powered uniforms, solar power uniforms – wearable solar cells. the University of Central Florida estimates a typical rucksack weighs 60-100 pounds and is full of devices that require batteries — NVGs, radios, and GPS devices, to name a few. Those same researchers estimate that U.S. troops in Afghanistan carry 16 pounds of batteries for every 72-hour mission. Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t have to carry that extra weight?
That’s why they developed a supercapacitor, a strip of electronic ribbon they want to interweave with cotton for American uniforms. The new fatigues would come with clip-on adapters to use in charging their needed devices. The troops would be walking solar panels, never running out of juice while on the mission.
The tourniquet is a long-standing staple of the battlefield and has been since before recorded history. The standard tourniquet has come a long way in that time; strips of torn cloth are now specially designed for ease of use and maximum pressure. But now it’s about to make its biggest leap ever.
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., is developing a “neural tourniquet” that is placed on a wound to electronically stimulate the spleen, ordering the red blood cells to clot wounds everywhere on a body. So far, researchers note that clotting with the e-tourniquet begins in as little as three minutes, cutting blood loss by 50 percent and bleeding time by 40 percent.
5. Electric training headphones.
The Halo Sport is currently in the realm of Olympic athletes. It’s a $700 headphone device containing electrodes that send an electrical current to the brain’s motor cortex. This strengthens the connection between the brain and muscles, improving muscle memory – giving athletes a bigger edge in competition.
If training with the Halo Sport gives athletes a performance edge in training, it could probably do wonders for getting new recruits and foreign armies up to speed on the tactics of future battlefields.
Taran Butler is a better shot than you. Sure, there are people who may be better at very specialized skills within shooting, or who shoot better with a particular style of firearm under certain conditions or at a specific range of distances. But Butler, who runs Taran Tactical Innovations and trains both Hollywood stars and military/law enforcement clients at his facility in Southern California, is often regarded as the best all-around shooter alive.
If his name eludes you, here’s what you’re missing. Butler is a multiple United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) 3-Gun National and World Champion; he’s the man who helped turned Keanu Reeves into John Wick; and he can shoot six, 8-inch plates set 30 feet away with one hand while drawing from the hip in well under two seconds. If you’re not impressed, you should be.
Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.
Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.
Butler said that he was a natural shooter from the start, but his competitive career officially began in 1995. He attended his first match with a Glock 21 pistol — which had a lower capacity than the pistols of the other competitors and required an additional reload. Butler still finished 7th in a field of 118, and that’s when he realized that he had a future in competitive shooting.
The next year he won the Southwest Pistol League’s Limited Division, and from there he went on to win the SPL’s Unlimited Division and a handful of Glock Shooting Sports Foundation matches. After that initial 7th place finish, Butler won every match he entered for the next two years, which were all pistol-shooting competitions. It wasn’t until the following year that he would jump into the world of 3-Gun, an arena he considered “kinda lame” before trying it out.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
In 1997, Butler competed in his first 3-Gun match, the Five Dogs Winter Classic, despite the fact that he didn’t yet have his Benelli shotgun tricked out for 3-Gun — and none of the ways he was taught to load a shotgun were practical for competition. He borrowed two shotguns for the weekend and described those stages as an “absolute disaster because the shotguns didn’t function properly … [it] was a box-office fiasco on every level.”
Butler, who had gotten used to winning, was livid, but he pressed on. He noticed that most of the competitors were going into the prone position to shoot the farthest rifle targets, a distance Butler estimated to be about 100 yards. Figuring that he had nothing to lose after the shotgun stages, Butler shot standing. The second place time for that stage was 25 seconds — Butler finished in 16. On the pistol stages, since that’s Butler’s expertise, he “went dog nuts and absolutely shredded the pistol stages into the ground.” Even though he came in near the bottom for the shotgun stages, his incredible performances during the pistol and rifle stages propelled him to the top, winning the entire match overall. It was the first of many wins, but also some heartbreaking losses.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler’s first trip to the 3-Gun Nationals was in 1999. He was leading by a large margin (about 200 points) after 14 stages, but there were still two to go. The 15th stage required each competitor to rest their rifle on the roof of a car while shooting. Butler’s rifle didn’t have a free-floating handguard, so the contact with the car interfered with the vibration of the barrel, causing the gun to shoot extremely high at 100 yards. The bullets were impacting the torso target at the top of the head when Butlet was aiming for the A zone. He suffered eight penalty misses, ultimately losing the match by five points — which he equates to about half a second. At his next 3-Gun Nationals appearance, the cross pin holding the trigger group in his shotgun broke during the final stage, and the entire trigger group fell out of his gun. He ended up losing by a few points. These losses taught Butler the importance of having high-quality gear and knowing the gear that you have.
In 2003, Butler finally broke through. At the time, Bennie Cooley was the reigning 3-Gun champion. He was unstoppable with a long-range rifle, and Butler was unstoppable with a pistol, so the shotgun stage was where they met in the middle. First up was the pistol stages, and Cooley shot first. He was slower but had no penalties. Butler shot three or four seconds faster but suffered penalties — the pressure had gotten to him, and he was upset with himself. Great, throwing away the Nationals again, he thought. On the next stage, Butler again beat Cooley on time — but, also again, he shot a hostage. At that point, Butler had to shake off the pressure and focus solely on the shooting. The next pistol stages were left-hand, right-hand, and Butler shot them clean. He went on to shoot the long-range rifle and close-range hunting rifle stages, and then shotgun.
Taran Butler, left, with Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler dominated the stages and ultimately won the 2003 3-Gun Nationals in the Limited Division. That was the beginning of a long winning streak and a record-breaking career. The following year, Butler became the first shooter to win the 3-Gun Nationals’ Tactical Division. In 2012, he won the Open Division, making him the USPSA’s first-ever Multigun Triple Crown Champion, having won Nationals in each of the three divisions.
“It’s kind of like winning a championship belt in three different weight classes in the UFC,” Butler said of his accomplishment.
Another defining moment in his career was in 2007 at the Fort Benning Multigun Challenge. Butler was unaware of a rule change in his division that limited shotgun magazine tubes to eight rounds. His shotgun held nine, so he was automatically moved into the unlimited division where he was shooting against competitors with 16-round mag tubes on their shotguns — and in one case, a 32-round drum mag. They also had 30-round pistols, and their firearms were tricked out with the best upgrades available. Butler said it “is the equivalent to showing up in a bicycle at a motocross competition.”
Against all odds, Butler won. Legendary shooter Jerry Miculek, who Butler described as “a man of few words and one of the greatest shooters that ever walked the earth,” was also competing that day. After the match, he approached Butler and said, “Taran, you’re a fuckin’ animal” — and then walked away. Butler said it’s one of the best compliments he’s ever received from a peer. After the Fort Benning match was televised, Butler’s sponsorship opportunities quadrupled. Despite this massive success, Butler had his sights set on accomplishments outside of the competitive shooting world.
The next step for Butler was appearing as the go-to firearms expert on the hit TV series “TopShot” for five seasons. From there, things took off for his career as a firearms trainer. He was hired to work with Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves and Khloe Kardashian. When one of Butler’s videos with Keanu Reeves went viral, his popularity in Hollywood exploded.
Keanu Reeves honing his shotgun skills at Taran Butler’s shooting range in California.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
If you enjoy watching current films with actors who actually look like they’ve held a gun before — and don’t utilize a 1970s-style teacup-and-saucer grip — you can thank Butler for helping to establish a higher standard for gunplay in movies and television. He has consulted on numerous films and has trained A-list Hollywood celebrities, including training Michael B. Jordan for his role as Killmonger in “Black Panther” and Halle Berry for her role alongside Keanu Reeves in the most recent “John Wick” movie. He also trained director Ang Lee and star Will Smith for “Gemini Man.” The film features a young Will Smith shooting a Glock 41 modified by Butler’s company, Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), against an older Will Smith shooting a Gucci’d-out TTI Combat Master Glock.
Butler also mentioned several projects that have yet been released, including his work with “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders for her new ABC show “Stumptown,” an adaptation of a popular graphic novel. He has also trained John Cho for Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop”; Josh Lucas for the upcoming “Purge” film; Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne for “The Old Guard”; and Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, and Aaron Taylor Johnson for an unnamed upcoming film.
Halle Berry training with at Taran Butler’s range in Southern California.
Photo courtesy of Taran Butler
Butler also trains military and law enforcement groups whose jobs and lives rely on the skilled handling of weapons. “Three-Gunners are the deadliest weapons handlers on the planet,” Butler said, pointing to the fact that grueling matches that last three to four days are frequently won and lost by fractions of a second. So world-champion 3-Gun shooters like Butler spend countless hours “training their asses off.” He acknowledged that military and law enforcement groups are more proficient with combat tactics, but they frequently come to people like Butler for firearms operation and manipulation training.
While training military and LEO groups, Butler said he noticed that those who also compete in 3-Gun “annihilate” their non-competition-shooting counterparts. He encourages everyone he trains to also compete in multi-gun or USPSA competitions to hone their skills. While he sometimes works with celebrities for months, Butler usually has only a day or two with tactical groups, so training them is more about tweaking small habits and incorporating 3-Gun fundamentals into their tactics.
In his impressive career, Taran Butler has learned from some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the shooting sports. Few, if any, will ever be able to match his accomplishments in that realm. But he used it as a springboard into an adjacent career that helps shine a light on others as well. Butler’s work with military and law enforcement demonstrates the value of his 3-Gun training and has the potential to save lives. His work with Hollywood stars has raised the standard across the board, even in media he doesn’t touch, when it comes to the realism we see on screen. So, yeah, he may be a better shot than you — but he earned it.
American special operators are known to have exacting standards for their weapons, vehicles, and other gear. When it comes to tactical motorcycles, elite troops across the Pentagon have settled on one very specific type.
In July, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing approved a plan to buy more than 50 Christini Technologies all-wheel drive 450cc motorcycles for special tactics personnel. These air commandos work with other special operators to coordinate air drops and parachute jumps, help secure drop zones and call in air strikes.
“The Christini Technologies, Inc. AWD Motorcycle is the only AWD tactical motorcycle on the market,” the flying branch’s contracting officers explained in a so-called “justification for other than full and open competition” document. “There are no other tactical motorcycles on the market that provide the AWD function needed by Air Force Special Tactics.”
Government agencies need to submit one of these reviews any time they want to give a contract to a specific company and avoid a lengthy bidding process. To back up their argument, the Air Force pointed out that Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces troops, and the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command were all using the Christini bikes.
To the casual observer, the AWD 450 probably looks like any other high-end dirt bike. At a glance, the vehicle appears is something you might expect to see at the X Games or a Motocross rally.
Despite being derived from a Honda CRF 250, the motorcycle is far more rugged than its commercial competitors. The Christini model has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on roads and a range of approximately 90 miles without needing to stop for gas.
The bikes feature rugged suspension and a modified seat for long missions rather than laps around a track. An enlarged, bullet resistant radiator helps keep the cycles working in extreme weather conditions. On top of that, they have run-flat tires and a headlight that can be switched to shine infrared light.
Most importantly, the engine powers both wheels. Since 1995, Christini has been cooking up and building patented all-wheel drive setups for both mountain bikes and motorcycles. The feature provides extra power in rough terrain and makes it easier for the rider to handle a tactical motorcycle.
“We’ve … done testing that that shows our AWD bike is 30 percent less fatiguing than a standard bike,” Steve Christini, the company’s founder, told We Are The Mighty in an email. “You just don’t get stuck … in anything.”
Coupled with an anti-stall clutch, the AWD 450s can come to a sudden, complete stop and then get going again without the rider having to restart the motor. Even if the transmission system breaks, the motorcycle’s rear wheel won’t stop running. It’s these elements that have made Christini’s product the go-to choice for American special operations forces.
Troops around the world have used tactical motorcycles as long as the vehicles have been in existence. In World War I, American soldiers started running messages between command posts on early Harley-Davidsons instead of horses.
Over the next century, soldiers, Marines, and airmen continually experimented with new roles for bikes. Relatively stock commercial types were the standard.
During the first Gulf War, American and British special operators hunted for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in the Iraqi desert in light trucks and on motorcycles. Some versions of the Desert Mobility Vehicle – a special Humvee Army Special Forces came up with – were set up to carry Desert Operations Motorcycles on the back. The “DOM” was a single-wheel drive Kawasaki KL type.
With the lighter, more discreet vehicles, commandos could scout ahead to survey targets or possible areas to establish a temporary camp, according to one 1999 Army manual. The bikes could carry troops or small amounts of gear to and from forward bases and listening posts and ambush positions.
Weighing more than 350 pounds and able to make 60 miles per hour on roads, the Kawasakis served their purpose well enough. Unfortunately, as time went on, it became clear that these cycles were simply not tough enough the missions at hand.
When American special operations forces went to Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, they brought their Kawasaki KLXs with them. Less than two years later, commandos took the vehicles to Iraq as an international coalition toppled Hussein regime. We don’t know for sure, but elite troops have likely used the motorcycles during other counter-terrorism missions, too.
“The Kawasaki KLX 250cc tactical motorcycle proved to be marginally fit for the high-altitude, rugged terrain of Afghanistan,” the Air Force pointed out in their justification. After nearly a decade of continuous combat operations, Army Special Forces were ready for a change.
In January 2010, the Army’s Special Operations Research Support Element looked into the Christini design. The evaluators were thrilled with the bike.
“The AWD motorcycle is far superior to a conventional single wheel drive motorcycle,” the office wrote in an unclassified review of the tests. “Increase in traction stabilizes the bike, reducing the fatigue on the operator while negotiating rough terrain and enables the bike to go places a standard motorcycle would not be able to go (eg: deep sand and steep inclines).”
“This vehicle enables the … operator, both motorcycle savvy and non-motorcyclist alike, to navigate off-road over difficult terrain,” the Special Forces soldiers added.
As of July, Christini had been working with America’s elite forces for more than four years, including sending 25 bikes to the SEALs, according to Christini. His company has also supplied tactical motorcycles to special operators and regular troops in the U.K., Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol are getting their own batches.
The North Carolina bike maker has partnered with Tactical Mobility Training, another private training company also located in the state. Together with the Army’s unique Asymmetric Warfare Group, Tactical Mobility Training helped developed a new concept of operations for motorcycle-mounted commandos specifically based around the AWD 450.
The special operations missions still focus largely on scouting ahead of larger formations and providing extra situational awareness of the battlefield and possible chokepoints. But commandos are now prepared to chase down or cut off fleeing terrorists and militants – nicknamed “squirt control” – during attacks on compounds or other sites, according to the Army’s review.
But regardless of the actual operation, if you happen to spot a special operator on a motorcycle these days, chances are good it’s a Christini.
This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Dr. Albert Weed, whose career has taken him from enlisted Green Beret Army medic to an Army medical officer to VA surgeon. Weed discussed his name, and how his family’s military background and medical experiences led him to, among other things, peacekeeping in Egypt, swimming in Saddam Hussein’s pool, and receiving four different DD-214s.
Weed traces his journey’s beginnings from high school and later to Special Forces training, where he volunteered to work as a medic. The future doctor realized during training that he wanted to stay in the medical field. He was inspired to become an Army medical doctor while doing his clinical. He had just finished a late shift helping labor and deliveries and was planning to take a nap when he was called to the operating room to help. After the operation, Weed went out for a run instead of taking his nap. In that moment, he realized he wanted to pursue a medical career.
Peacekeeping with the MFO in the Sinai 1987 – 1 of 7
The M113 armored personnel carrier is one of the most versatile — and long-lasting — armored vehicles in the American inventory. The Army has just now, after 50 years of service, begun the process of replacing the M113 with the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Even then, the M113 will stick around in some capacity — over 80,000 have been produced.
One particularly notable variant of this APC is the M163. This is an M113 refitted with a turret-mounted M61 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun. In one sense, this was a simple approach – the Army took the M61 Vulcan that has been a mainstay on fighters like the F-105 Thunderchief, F-104 Starfighter, and the F-4 Phantom and simply attached it to the M113. This gun proved to be quite a MiG-killer in air-to-air combat, and the assumption was it would be effective from the ground, too.
The M163 saw some combat trials during the Vietnam War, but the radar systems weren’t quite ready to take on targets in the sky. Like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” however, the M163 proved that ground targets were no problem for this anti-aircraft vehicle, especially when it carried over 2,000 rounds of ammo for the gun. The M163 soon found itself exported to South Korea, Thailand, Israel, and a number of other countries.
The M163 eventually received upgrades, giving it a better radar and making things simpler for the gunner. It also got more powerful rounds for the M61 gun. Yet, in American service, the M163 would be more known for its use as a ground-support asset. However, the Israelis did score three kills with the vehicle, one of them a MiG-21, during the 1982 Lebanon War.
After Desert Storm, the Army retired the M163, replacing it and the M72 Chaparral with the 1-2 combination of the M1097 Avenger and the M6 Bradley Linebacker air-defense vehicle.
Learn more about this adapted M113 in the video below.
A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.
But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.
For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.
Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.
This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.
Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.
Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.
You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.
The U.S. Navy may have come across a common sense way to save billions on bombs, according to statements made from U.S. officials at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.
For years now, the Navy has been working on the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) network to help detect, track, and intercept targets using a fused network of all types of sensors at the Navy’s disposal.
Essentially, NIFC-CA allows one platform to detect a target, another platform to fire on it, and the original platform to help guide the missile to the target. The system recently integrated with F-35s, allowing an F-35 to guide a missile fired from a land-based version of a navy ship to hitting a target.
Remarks from Cmdr. David Snee, director for integration and interoperability at the warfare integration directorate, recently revealed that NIFC-CA could also help save the Navy billions on bombs.
“Right now we’re in a world where if I can’t see beyond the horizon then I need to build in that sort of sensing and high-tech effort into the weapon itself,” Snee told conference attendees, as noted by USNI News.
“But in a world where I can see beyond the horizon and I can target, then I don’t need to spend a billion dollars on a weapon that doesn’t need to have all that information. I just need to be able to give the data to the weapon at the appropriate time.”
According to Snee, with an integrated network of sensors allowing the Navy to see beyond the horizon, the costly sensors and guidance systems the U.S. puts on nearly every single bomb dropped could become obsolete.
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Shirley Shugar, from Joppa, Ala., takes inventory of ordnance in the bomb farm aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicholas A. Groesch)
In the scenario described by Snee, today’s guided or “smart bombs” could be replaced with bombs that simply receive targeting info from other sensors, like F-35s or E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft.
Essentially, the “smart” part of the weapon’s guidance would remain on the ship, plane, or other sensor node that fired them, instead of living on the missile and being destroyed with each blast.
The Navy would have to do extensive testing to make sure the bombs could do their job with minimal sensor technology. But the move could potentially save billions, as the U.S. military dropped at least 26,000 bombs in 2016, the vast majority of which contained expensive sensors.