When you hear the word Jaguar in conjunction with England, your first reaction might be to think about the brand of luxury cars. Can’t blame you, they do look very nice. However, there is a Jaguar that took to the skies, and the British designed and built it (with a little help from the French).
To understand how this flying Jaguar came about, we need to go back to the time when the Beatles were spearheading the British invasion. According to militaryfactory.com, the British and French both needed new planes. The British were trying to replace the Folland Gnat, while the French needed to replace T-33 and Magister training jets, as well as the Dassault Mystere fighters.
The two countries decided to team up, and in 1966 formed the Société Européenne de Production de l’avion Ecole de Combat et d’Appui Tactique, or SEPECAT. The first prototypes took to the air three years later, and in 1972, the Jaguar entered French service as a strike aircraft and trainer, while the British GR.1 version entered service in 1974.
The Jaguar specialized in low-level operations, presaging those of the multi-national Tornado in the 1980s and 1990s. It was also fast, capable of a top speed of 1,056 miles per hour. It could carry up to 10,000 pounds of bombs, and British Jaguars could carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on unique over-wing rails. Ecuador, Nigeria, and Oman all bought export versions of the Jaguar, but one export customer really outdid the original.
The Indian Air Force bought the Jaguar to supplement its MiG-27 Flogger ground attack planes. Just as India did with the Flogger, the Jaguar, which India calls Shamsher, was improved beyond the original specs. According to bharat-rakshak.com, when India was offered a degraded internal navigation system, they came up with one superior to the original model. India’s Jaguars also feature more powerful engines and are capable of firing the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile.
Fittingly, while all other users of this aircraft have retired this plane, Globalsecurity.org reports that India’s Jaguars are expected to remain in service for another 20 years with continued upgrades. You can see a video about this plane below.
Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots, and fire the most advanced weapons in the world — all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank?
Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms.
“I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough…with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature.
Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained.
Soldiers conduct a live-fire exercise with M1A2 Abrams tanks.
(Army photo by Gertrud Zach)
While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that there are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology.
“Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) — that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said.
A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called “M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow,” reinforces Schirmer’s point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006.
Therefore, GD and Army developers continue to upgrade the Abrams and pursue innovations which will enable the Abrams to address these kinds of evolving threats — such as the long-range kinetic energy penetrator rods Schirmer mentioned; one of the key areas of emphasis for this would be to develop a more expansive Active Protection System able to knock out a much wider range of attack possibilities — beyond RPGs and certain Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.
The essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank bring unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate.
Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors, and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. Many Abrams tanks are already equipped with a system known as “Trophy” which tracks and knocks out incoming enemy fire.
A next-gen APS technology that can take out the most sophisticated enemy threats could enable the Army to engineer a much lighter weight tank, while still maintaining the requisite protection.
For these and other reasons, the combat-tested Abrams weapons, armor and attack technology will be extremely difficult to replicate or match in a new platform. Furthermore, the current Abrams is almost an entirely new platform these days — in light of how much it has been upgraded to address modern combat challenges.
U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
In short, regardless which future path is arrived upon by the Army — the Abrams is not going anywhere for many years to come. In fact, the Army and General Dynamics Land Systems have already engineered and delivered a new, massively improved, M1A2 SEP v3 Abrams. Concurrently, service and industry developers are progressing with an even more advanced v4 model — featuring a massive “lethality upgrade.”
All this being the case, when it comes to a future tank platform — all options are still on the table.
“Abrams will be out there for some time. We are funded from the v3 through the v4, but there is a thought in mind that we may need to shift gears,” David Marck, Program manager for the Main Battle Tank, told a small group of reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. “I have no requirements for a replacement tank.”
Accordingly, some of the details, technologies, and applications intended for the v4, are still in flux.
“The Army has some decisions to make. Will the v4 be an improved v3 with 3rd-Gen FLIR, or will the Army remove the turret and build in an autoloader — reduce the crew size?” Michael Peck, Director, Enterprise Business Development, GD, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Also, ongoing work on NGCV could, to a large extent, be integrated with Abrams v4 exploration, Peck explained. GD is preparing options to present to the Army for input — such as options using a common lighter-weight chassis with interchangeable elements such as different turrets or an auto-loader, depending upon the threat.
“There are some things that we think we would do to make the current chassis lighter more nimble when it comes to crew size and electronics — eventually it may go on a 55-ton platform. We have a couple different interchangeable turrets, which we could swap as needed,” Peck asked.
Despite the speed, mobility and transportable power challenges known to encumber the current Abrams, the vehicle continues to be impactful in combat circumstances — and developers have sought to retain the technical sophistication designed to outmatch or counter adversaries.
“Today’s tank is so different than the tanks that took Baghdad. They were not digitized, did not have 1st-Gen FLIR and did not have commander’s independent viewers,” Marck said.
Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The massive acceleration of the Army future armored platform — the Next Generation Combat Vehicle — is also informing the fast-moving calculus regarding future tank possibilities.
Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat, told Warrior Maven in an interview the Army developers are working on both near-term and longer term plans; he said it was entirely possible that a future tank or tank-like combat vehicle could emerge out of the NGCV program.
“We want to get as much capability as quickly as we can, to stay above parity with our adversaries,” Cummings said.
The program, which has now been moved forward by nearly a decade, could likely evolve into a family of vehicles and will definitely have unmanned technology.
“Right now we are trying to get the replacement for the Bradley to be the first optionally manned fighting vehicle. As we get that capability we may look at technology that we are getting in the future and insert them into current platforms,” Cummings said.
Any new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people, and ammunition. Also, as computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control
Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions.
General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin III.
However, while clearly emphasizing the importance of unmanned technology, Schirmer did say there was still room for growth and technological advanced necessary to replicate or come close to many human functions.
“It is not impossible — but it is a long way away,” Schirmer said.
The most advanced algorithms enabling autonomy are, certain in the nearer term, are likely to succeed in performing procedural functions able to ease the “cognitive burden” of manned crews who would then be freed up to focus on more pressing combat-oriented tasks. Essentially, the ability of human cognition to make dynamic decisions amid fast-changing variable, and make more subjective determinations less calculable by computer technology. Nonetheless, autonomy, particularly when enabled by AI, can condense and organize combat-essential data such as sensor information, targeting technology or certain crucial maintenance functions.
“Typically a vehicle commander is still looking through multiple soda straws. If no one has their screen turned to that view, that information is not of use to the crew, AI can process all those streams of ones and zeroes and bring the crews’ attention to threats they may not otherwise see,” Schirmer said.
Abrams v3 and v4 upgrades
Meanwhile, the Army is now building the next versions of the Abrams tank — an effort which advances on-board power, electronics, computing, sensors, weapons, and protection to address the prospect of massive, mechanized, force-on-force great power land war in coming decades, officials with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems told Warrior Maven.
The first MIA2 SEP v3 tank, which includes a massive electronics, mobility and sensor upgrades, was delivered by General Dynamics Land Systems in 2017.
“The Army’s ultimate intent is to upgrade the entire fleet of M1A2 vehicles — at this time, over 1,500 tanks,” an Army official told Warrior.
The first v3 pilot vehicles will feature technological advancements in communications, reliability, sustainment and fuel efficiency and upgraded armor.
This current mobility and power upgrade, among other things, adds an auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system, GDLS developers said.
In addition to receiving a common high-resolution display for gunner and commander stations, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, were replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules. This includes a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, developers from General Dynamics Land Systems say.
Facilitating continued upgrades, innovations and modernization efforts for the Abrams in years to come is the principle rationale upon which the Line Replacement Modules is based. It encompasses the much-discussed “open architecture” approach wherein computing standards, electronics, hardware, and software systems can efficiently be integrated with new technologies as they emerge.
This M1A2 SEP v3 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Using a moving digital map display, JBCP shows blue and red icons, indicating where friendly and enemy forces are operating in relation to the surrounding battle space and terrain. JBCP also include an intelligence database, called TIGR, which contains essential information about threats and prior incidents in specific combat ares.
Current GD development deals also advances a commensurate effort to design and construct and even more advanced M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond.
The v4 is designed to be more lethal, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
SEPv4 upgrades include the Commander’s Primary Sight, an improved Gunner’s Primary Sight and enhancements to sensors, lethality and survivability.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
A Russian T-14 Armata.
Interestingly, when asked about specific US Army concerns regarding the much-hyped high-tech Russian T-14 Armata, Schirmer said the Army would pursue its current modernization plan regardless of the existence of the Armata. That being said, it is certainly a safe assumption to recognize that the US Army is acutely aware, to the best of its ability, of the most advanced tanks in existence.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Army developers told Warrior.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Army developers did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Army official said.
Improved FLIR technologies help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these v4 upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Army officials said.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations
A new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
The Institute for Defense Analysis report also makes the case for the continued relevance and combat necessity for a main battle tank. The Abrams tank proven effective both as a deterrent in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War, waged war with great success in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 — but it has also expanded it sphere of operational utility by proving valuable in counterinsurgency operations as well.
The IDA essay goes on to emphasize that the armored main battle tank brings unparalleled advantages to combat, in part by bringing powerful land-attack options in threat environments where advanced air defenses might make it difficult for air assets to operate and conduct attacks.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The Army is testing and prototyping self-generating “Ironman-like” soldier exoskeletons, designed to massively change combat missions by supporting soldier movement, generating electricity, powering weapons systems, and substantially lowering the weight burden of what troops carry in war.
Energy-harvesting technology can extend mission life for small units or dismounted soldiers on-patrol. The emerging concept, described by Army developers as a technical breakthrough is engineered, not so much for the near-term, but 10 to 20 years down the road.
“The design is for an energy-harvesting exoskeleton to address the needs of dismounted soldiers. The system can derive energy from the motion of the soldier as they are moving around,” Dr. Nathan Sharps, mechanical engineer, Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The implications of this kind of technology are significant. While exoskeletons have been in development for several years now, the technology consistently confronts the challenge of finding ways to sustain mobile power sources to support and sustain its functionality.
Furthermore, current use of batteries brings significant combat challenges due to difficulty recharging and the massive amount of weight involved in hauling them through combat.
For instance, should a soldier carry a portable 35-pound generator, water, ammunition, weapons, and communications equipment, mission duration and soldier effectiveness is greatly impacted. The Army has been pursuing various efforts to “lighten the load” for soldiers for many years now.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun, 108th Public Affairs Detachment)
“The technologies we are developing can produce electricity, which can be stored and used to power batteries. This increases the longevity of a mission, decreases the need for resupply and reduces the logistics trail,” Sharps explained.
Sharps further elaborated that during intense combat engagement, casualties often occur during logistics resupply missions.
An added advantage is that, while the technology harvests energy from the motion of soldiers, it also simultaneously eases the strain on their joints and muscles due to its apparatus.
“This decreases the chance of muscular-skeletal injury. We look at the soldier as an individual ecosystem. We’re not just looking at what they cannot do right now, but also at what challenges they are going to face 20 years from now,” Sharps said.
The emerging system, currently in the early phases of exploration, calls upon a collaborative effort between CERDEC, the Army Research Laboratory and the Army’s Natick Soldier Center.
The scientists explain that added electrical energy decreases the number of calories a soldier has to burn.
“When you move, you bounce up and down, and the gait motion is an inverted pendulum. If you lift every step thousands of times, it is a whole lot of energy you are expending,” said Juliane Douglas, mechanical engineer, CERDEC, told Warrior Maven.
The Army is currently exploring various configurations for the exoskeleton, some of which include a suspended backpack, which can slide up and down on a spring, having little or no weight impact on the soldier.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)
“In mechanical engineering terms, if you have masses moving together, there is a kinetic energy difference between the two. We have mechanisms which can convert that linear motion into electricity,” explained Douglas.
This technical advantage will impact a wide array of emerging systems now being built into exoskeletons. Not surprisingly, many of these rely upon mobile power to operate.
For example, helmets with high-resolution thermal sensors, wearable computers, various kinds of conformal body armor and even many weapons systems are now being built into a range of Ironman-like exoskeletons.
U.S. Special Operations Command’s current TALOS effort is working with a wide sphere of industry, military and academic experts on plans to build initial exoskeleton prototypes within the next year or two. This longer-term CERDEC effort is the kind of thing which could easily merge with, or integrate into, some of these exoskeletons now being built.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army’s website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
Army evaluators have also been assessing a Lockheed-built FORTIS knee-stress-release-device exoskeleton with soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill as part of a focus on fielding new performance enhancing soldier technologies.
Using independent actuators, motors and lightweight conformal structures, lithium ion battery powered FORTIS allows soldiers to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs while expending less energy.
FORTIS is built with a conformal upper structure that works on a belt attached to the waist. The belt connects with flexible hip sensors throughout the systems. These sensors tell the computer where the soldier is in space along with the speed and velocity of the movements.
CERDEC developers say their effort is observing and working closely with many of these efforts looking to find exoskeleton technologies able to better protect and enable soldiers in combat.
“What we are doing is designing the conversion technologies to make many of these technologies more effective by storing the energy. We are testing prototypes, and we are able to leverage current exoskeleton work and use it as a platform for our systems,” Douglas said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
In an era where a lot of the focus is on smaller helicopters — sometimes unmanned, like the MQ-8 Fire Scout — there are some big choppers out there worth mentioning. Arguably the world’s biggest helicopter comes from Russia’s Mil design bureau.
This beast comes in at almost 131 feet four inches long, just under 105 feet wide, and just under 26 feet nine inches tall. It can carry up to 90 troops — two full light infantry platoons — into combat, or lift over 22 tons of cargo. By comparison, the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion can carry up to 55 troops, is 99 feet long, 78 feet nine inches wide, and 27 feet nine inches tall. It can lift up to 15 tons of cargo.
The Mi-26 has been widely exported — 17 countries use it. The CH-53E, on the only hand has been primarily operated by the United States, with some airframes exported to Japan. The Mi-26 has also come in a number of variants, including passenger transport (more convenient than commuter planes), medevac (capable of carrying 60 litters), a heavy-lift crane, and even anti-submarine versions.
This chopper’s huge capacity has been helpful in a number of disaster relief operations, notably after severe earthquakes in China. But the large capacity has been a double-edge sword. When Chechen militants shot down a Mi-26 in 2002, the death toll reached 125.
The Mi-26 has been in service since 1986, and with over 300 airframes produced. Will likely see action for a long time. Check out the video below to learn more about this Russian beast.
In fact, the U.S. Air Force’s 555th Fighter Squadron, now based at Aviano Air Base and part of the 31st Fighter Wing, was once famous as the “World’s Largest Distributor of MiG Parts” due to shooting down 39 MiGs during the Vietnam War.
But some MiGs weren’t exactly slouches. In 1971, the Soviet Union put the MiG-23 Flogger into service. The Flogger was a variable-geometry aircraft, which meant that its wings were capable of being swept or extended, depending on the situation.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Flogger was capable of a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour, a range of 1,752 miles, and it was capable of carrying AA-7 Apex radar-guided missiles, AA-8 Aphid missiles (either radar-guided or infra-red guided), and it had a twin 23mm cannon with 200 rounds of ammo.
In essence, it was intended to be an answer to America’s wildly successful F-4 Phantom.
Like the Phantom, it was widely exported, mostly to Warsaw Pact countries and to Soviet allies in the Middle East. Like past MiGs, the parts were often forcefully distributed – albeit this time by the Israeli Air Force in the 1982 Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The United States Air Force got into the business of distributing Flogger parts during Operation Desert Storm, and Navy F-14s shot down two Libyan MiG-23s in 1989 over the Gulf of Sidra.
Some MiG-23s did find their way to the United States during the Cold War. Egypt had purchased about 20 Floggers in the 1970s, but eventually sold a dozen to the United States Air Force, which took them somewhere in Nevada for testing.
Today, the MiG-23, like the F-4 Phantom, is fading away as the last airframes are being retired. The Flogger, though, holds a place in history as one of the Soviet Union’s first swing-wing fighters. You can see a video on this plane below.
A new sniper rifle that can change between three calibers at the twist of a barrel.
These are just a few of the new technologies America’s top special operators are looking for to help them go after the bad guys of the future.
According to an announcement released last month, the Joint Special Operations Command — the folks in charge of so-called “Tier 1” commandos, including SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force — is asking industry for help developing several new weapons technologies to help them do their job in a variety of battlefields.
First off, the JSOC operators are looking for a machine gun chambered in a “medium caliber” — usually considered anywhere between a 30-06 and 5.56 — that can reach out accurately to 2,000 yards. That’s slightly more than the maximum effective range of the new lightweight M240L that’s chambered in 7.62mm. The special operators want the machine gun to weigh 24 pounds or less — the M240L has a spec weight of 22.3 pounds.
But sources say what SOCOM is really leaning toward is a machine gun chambered in .338 — “it’s all the rage,” our source said.
It’s no secret that special operations troops put a lot of stock in silence and stealth. From advanced night vision to secret helicopters that cut down on rotor noise and radar signature, the Tier 1 commandos are always looking for ways to creep in and out of a target while most are unawares.
So that’s why JSOC is throwing out a request to industry for ideas on a so-called “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.” Essentially what the spec ops troops are looking for is a rifle upper that fits on current M4-style standard lower receivers that is designed to operate in full-time suppressed mode.
Most of today’s special operators use detachable suppressors that mount on the flash hider or muzzle brake at the end of the rifle’s barrel. But what JSOC wants is a specially-designed upper that has that suppressor built into it. Advocates argue a dedicated suppressed upper would help make the rifle perform better and run cleaner.
But SOCOM had to cancel an earlier request for proposals on the SURG due to unrealistic requirements, sources say, and that’s why JSOC is asking industry to see what it’s got.
The primary problem with the earlier request, insiders say, was how to deal with the heat a suppressor generates during high rates of fire. It was so bad, some say, that it could damage sensitive electronic sights and laser pointers mounted to the rifle’s handguard.
The special operators are “seeking a next-generation, modular upper receiver group that is interoperable with current lower receivers and is optimized for full time suppressed operation,” SOCOM says “[It] must have advanced heat mitigation technology to counter mirage effect.”
The new JSOC specs “are more realistic and not from a video game,” one source told WATM.
Lastly, JSOC has tweaked its request for a so-called Advanced Precision Sniper Rifle. While the ASR request has been out there for a while, SOCOM has changed the chambering options for the rifle.
Now the command wants a rifle that can change from a .308 caliber precision rifle to one in .300 Norma Magnum or .338 Norma Magnum. That’s a change from previous requests for .308, .300 WinMag and .338 Lapua Magnum.
A former special operations sniper instructor tells WATM that the Norma Magnum round feeds better from a magazine than its Lapua counterpart, and the .300 NM has a better ballistic performance than .338 LM.
Program officials with SOCOM are inviting industry to submit their ideas in person during an industry day in Florida in early November.
While the United States has let its short-range air defense systems decline since the end of the Cold War, Russia’s been very active in bolstering theirs. Of course, this can be explained in part by the different situations the two countries face.
Generally, the United States controls the skies over the battlefield, often to the detriment of gear that the Russians have sold to countries like Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia. This makes other countries that either bought or licensed Russian designs nervous. So, Russia’s been working hard to come up with more effective defenses, especially for battlefield forces, like tank and infantry divisions.
The latest in this series is a system called Pantsir. It is an advanced, self-propelled combined gun/missile system that is used on 8×8 trucks. On these trucks are 12 SA-22 “Greyhound” surface-to-air missiles and a pair of 30mm cannon. This is a higher capacity than the previous state-of-the-art Russian tactical defense system, the 2S6 Tunguska, which had eight SA-19 “Grison” missiles and two 30mm cannon on a tracked vehicle. To put it bluntly, one of these truck-mounted systems has enough missiles to kill an entire Navy or Marine squadron of F/A-18 Hornets.
The SA-22 Greyhound missiles have a maximum range of just over 11 miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org, but Deagel.com reports that an advanced version of this missile could have a range of nearly 25 miles – well in excess of many precision-guided bombs in the American inventory.
The scary thing is that Russia is already exporting this advanced air-defense system. So far, buyers have included the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and, ominously, Syria. In short, American combat planes could very well be facing a Russian truck that could blow them out of the sky
The Navy has now completed at least one-fourth of the design drawings and begun advanced work on a stealthy “electric drive” propulsion system for the emerging nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines — as part of its strategy to engineer the quietest, most technically advanced and least detectable submarine of all time.
The Columbia-class, slated to begin full construction by 2021, is to be equipped with an electric-drive propulsion train, as opposed to the mechanical-drive propulsion train used on other Navy submarines.
“The electric-drive system is expected to be quieter (i.e., stealthier) than a mechanical-drive system,” a Congressional Research Service report on Columbia-Class submarines from 2018 states.
In today’s Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat which creates steam, Navy officials explained. The steam then turns turbines which produce electricity and also propel the ship forward through “reduction gears” which are able to translate the high-speed energy from a turbine into the shaft RPMs needed to move a boat propeller.
Designed to be 560-feet–long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will use a quieting X-shaped stern configuration.
“Of the required design disclosures (drawings), 26-percent have been issued, and the program is on a path to have 83-percent issued by construction start,” Bill Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven several months ago.
The “X”-shaped stern will restore maneuverability to submarines; as submarine designs progressed from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve quieting, submarines lost some surface maneuverability, senior Navy officials told Warrior Maven in previous interviews.
Navy developers explained that electric-drive propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and create steam to power turbines. However, the electricity produced is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to spin the boat’s propellers.
The use of an electric motor brings other advantages as well, according to an MIT essay written years ago when electric drive was being evaluated for submarine propulsion.
Using an electric motor optimizes use of installed reactor power in a more efficient way compared with mechanical drive submarines, making more on-board power available for other uses, according to an essay called “Evaluation and Comparison of Electric Propulsion Motors for Submarines.” Author Joel Harbour says that on mechanical drive submarine, 80-percent of the total reactor power is used exclusively for propulsion.
“With an electric drive submarine, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical power and then delivered to an electric propulsion motor. The now available electrical potential not being used for propulsion could easily be tapped into for other uses,” he writes.
Research, science and technology work and initial missile tube construction on Columbia-Class submarines has been underway for several years. One key exercise, called tube-and-hull forging, involves building four-packs of missile tubes to assess welding and construction methods. These structures are intended to load into the boat’s modules as construction advances.
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland.
(US Navy photo by James Kimber)
“Early procurement of missile tubes and prototyping of the first assembly of four missile tubes are supporting the proving out of production planning,” Couch said.
While the Columbia-Class is intended to replace the existing fleet of Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarines, the new boats include a number of not-yet-seen technologies as well as different configurations when compared with the Ohio-Class. The Columbia-Class will have 16 launch tubes rather than the 24 tubes current on Ohio boats, yet the Columbias will also be about 2-tons larger, according to Navy information.
The Columbia-Class, to be operational by the 2028, is a new generation of technically advanced submarines intended to quietly patrol the undersea realm around the world to ensure second-strike ability should the US be hit with a catastrophic nuclear attack.
The nuclear-armed submarines are expected to serve all the way into and beyond the 2080s.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has begun acquiring long-lead items in anticipation of beginning construction; the process involves acquiring metals, electronics, sonar arrays, and other key components necessary to build the submarines.
Both the Pentagon and the Navy are approaching this program with a sense of urgency, given the escalation of the current global threat environment. Many senior DoD officials have called the Columbia-Class program as a number one priority across all the services.
“The Columbia-Class submarine program is leveraging enhanced acquisition authorities provided by Congress such as advanced procurement, advanced construction and multi-year continuous production of missile tubes,” Couch added.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.
Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.
Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.
All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.
Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.
Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.
Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.
Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber, C-130 aircraft or fighter jet.
“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.
Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.
However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.
Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.
Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.
“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.
Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.
Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.
“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.
Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.
Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets
Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.
Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.
Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”
And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.
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It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.
But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.
Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)
Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.
Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.
“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”
The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.
The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.
But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.
“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.
Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.
Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.
For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.
But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.
The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.
All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.
It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.
Two violent explosions in galaxies billions of light-years away recently produced the brightest light in the universe. Scientists caught it in action for the first time.
The explosions were gamma-ray bursts: short eruptions of the most energetic form of light in the universe.
Telescopes caught the first burst in July 2018. The second burst, captured in January 2019, produced light containing about 100 billion times as much energy as the light that’s visible to our human eyes.
Gamma-ray bursts appear without warning and only last a few seconds, so astronomers had to move quickly. Just 50 seconds after satellites spotted the January explosion, telescopes on Earth swiveled to catch a flood of thousands of particles of light.
“These are by far the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst,” Elisa Bernardini, a gamma-ray scientist, said in a press release.
Over 300 scientists around the world studied the results; their work was published Nov. 20, 2019, in the journal Nature.
The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C (center of the green circle) and its home galaxy.
50 seconds to capture the brightest, most mysterious light in the universe
Gamma-ray bursts happen almost every day, without warning, and they only last a few seconds. Yet the high-energy explosions remain something of a mystery to scientists. Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae — events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes.
“Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe and typically release more energy in just a few seconds than our sun during its entire lifetime,” gamma-ray scientist David Berge said in the release. “They can shine through almost the entire visible universe.”
After the brief, intense eruptions of gamma rays, hours or days of afterglow follow.
Telescopes have observed low-energy rays that come from the initial explosion and the afterglow.
“Much of what we’ve learned about GRBs [gamma-ray bursts] over the past couple of decades has come from observing their afterglows at lower energies,” NASA scientist Elizabeth Hays said in a release.
But scientists had never caught the ultra-high-energy light until these two recent observations.
On Jan. 14, 2019, two NASA satellites detected an explosions in a galaxy over 4 billion light-years away. Within 22 seconds, these space telescopes — the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — beamed the coordinates of the burst to astronomers all over Earth.
Within 27 seconds of receiving the coordinates, astronomers in the Canary Islands turned two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes toward that exact point in the sky.
On January 14, 2019, the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) observatory in the Canary Islands captured the highest-energy light ever recorded from a gamma-ray burst. This illustration of that event also shows NASA’s Fermi and Swift spacecraft (top left and right, respectively).
The photons flooded those telescopes for the next 20 minutes, leading to new revelations about some of the most elusive properties of gamma-ray bursts.
“It turns out we were missing approximately half of their energy budget until now,” Konstancja Satalecka, a scientist who coordinates MAGIC’s searches for gamma-ray bursts, said in the release. “Our measurements show that the energy released in very-high-energy gamma-rays is comparable to the amount radiated at all lower energies taken together. That is remarkable.”
The large central H.E.S.S. telescope array in Namibia detected the light from a gamma-ray burst on July 20, 2018.
(MPIK / Christian Föhr)
Ultra-high-energy light came in the afterglow, not the explosion itself
The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren’t as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.
But the earlier detection was still notable because the flow of high-energy light came 10 hours after the initial explosion. The light lasted for another two hours — deep into the afterglow phase.
In their paper, the researchers suggested that electrons may have scattered the photons, increasing the photons’ energy. Another paper about the January observations suggested the same thing.
Scientists had long suspected that this scattering was one way gamma-ray bursts could produce so much ultra-high-energy light in the afterglow phase. The observations of these two bursts confirmed that for the first time.
Scientists expect to learn more as they turn telescopes toward more gamma-ray bursts like these in the future.
“Thanks to these new ground-based detections, we’re seeing the gamma rays from gamma-ray bursts in a whole new way,” Hays said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When you hear the term, “armored car,” the first thing that comes to mind might be those Brinks trucks that haul a lot of cash. But the term also refers to military vehicles, many of which notably served in World War II. After that war, they fell out of popularity in favor of tracked vehicles due to their offroad mobility.
Russia, however, stuck with wheeled vehicles. The BTR-60/70/80/90 armored personnel carriers run on eight wheels each. But one of the most versatile vehicles they have in their arsenal is the BRDM-2 armored car.
The BRDM-2 entered service in 1966 and was widely exported. While it may look like a normal four-by-four vehicle, it actually has additional wheels on its belly to aid with offroad mobility. The BRDM-2 is equipped with some night-vision systems and it has a turret that houses a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun.
A lot of BRDM-2s saw action in the various Arab-Israeli wars, including the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israelis managed to capture a number of these vehicles. While some were donated to museums, the Israelis mounted BGM-71 TOW missiles on others for use in combat.
The Soviets built over 7,000 BRDM-2s, and not all of them were used in a reconnaissance role. Others were armed with anti-tank missiles, like the AT-3 Sagger or AT-5 Spandrel, and used to defend against enemy armor. Others were equipped with the SA-9 Gaskin.
American troops faced off against the BRDM-2 in Grenada, where a few were captured and sent back. American troops had a great deal of success against this vehicle during Desert Storm and even more success during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. As many as 40 countries have operated this vehicle, which is now being slowly retired around the world.