5 things troops won't miss about the M9 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

The replacement of the Colt M1911A1 with the Beretta 92F as the primary sidearm of the U.S. military in 1985 was a controversial move. Not only was the military dropping from the hard-hitting .45acp to the smaller 9x19mm, but the adoption of an Italian pistol over an all-American Colt just seemed plain wrong. On top of this, the 92F, later designated the M9, was actually beat out by its competitor, the SIG Sauer P226, in the competition for the government contract. It was the 92F’s lower price point that ultimately won Beretta the coveted contract. In 2017, the Army announced the winner of its Modular Handgun System competition and replacement for the M9 to be the SIG Sauer P320. Designated the M17 and M18, the new SIGs are making their way into the armories and holsters of service members across the military as other branches followed the Army’s lead in adopting the new handguns to replace the M9. As the old Beretta is phased out, let’s take a look at why many troops won’t be mourning its departure.

1. Size and Weight

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
(U.S. Marine Corps)

The M9 is a full-size combat handgun made mostly of metal. Weighing in at 34.2oz unloaded, you certainly notice it strapped to your thigh or on your hip. A product of its time, many troops find the M9 to be unnecessarily heavy for a piece of kit that few of them will ever actually draw in combat. By comparison, the M17 and M18 weigh 29.4oz and 26oz respectively. While this may not seem like a huge difference, the old infantry adage comes to mind: ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. Additionally, the new SIG platform offers a more compact and modular weapon system to serve more suitably in a wider array of duty roles.

2. Ergonomics

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
The safety actuates in the opposite direction of most pistol safeties because it is also a decocker (U.S. Army)

A weapon can perform exceptionally, but if it’s difficult to use, then it loses its effectivenes. Just look at SOCOM’s Mk23. The handgun exceeded the stringent requirements put forth by America’s elite operators, but it was large, heavy, and cumbersome. As a result, it goes largely unused. The M9 suffers from this problem too. In addition to the size and weight previously mentioned, the M9 has a large grip that troops with smaller hands can find difficult to hold in a solid shooting grip. It also makes it difficult to eject the magazine one-handed. Furthermore, the M9 has a safety/decocker on the slide rather than on the frame. This makes it difficult to operate even for troops with medium-sized hands. On top of that, the safety/decocker sits high on the slide and sweeps down 90-degrees from the muzzle. This means that it’s possible, and common, for the user to decock the M9 and engage the safety depending on how they rack the slide.

3. Reliability

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A soldier qualifies with an M9 (U.S. Army)

Let me preface this by saying that the Beretta 92F is a very reliable firearm. During its testing, the handgun survived temperatures of −40 and 140 °F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud, and snow. The 92F also boasted an impressive 35,000 mean rounds before failure during the tests. Its large ejection port and near-straight blowback design also make it less prone to jamming. However, the M9 suffered heavily as a result of government cost-saving. Although Beretta won the contract for the M9, the contract for the M9’s magazines was given to Check-Mate Industries. The original Beretta magazines were made by Mec-Gar, an industry leader famed for producing reliable and high-quality magazines. Combined with the fine sand of the Middle East, the lower-quality Check-Mate magazines led to feeding issues in the M9. Airtronic eventually took over the magazine contract and patterned its magazines after the OEM Mec-Gars. Additionally, after years of heavy use in adverse environments, the military’s stock of M9s are prone to failure in their locking blocks.

4. Double-Action Trigger

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A double-action trigger requires more pressure and can accurate first shots difficult

The M9 features a double-action trigger. This means that the weapon can be fired by a long trigger pull which cycles the hammer back before releasing it. It can also be fired single-action with the hammer back. Generally, a double-action trigger acts as a safety mechanism. With the hammer in the down position, significantly more force is required to pull the trigger and fire the weapon compared to a single-action shot from the cocked position. As a result, many shooters argue that the inclusion of a manual safety is redundant. Because of this, troops have to disengage the safety (which can be difficult, see 2) and overcome a heavy first-shot trigger pull in order to engage a target. Although the new M17 and M18 also feature manual safeties, their striker-fired actions provide an easier trigger pull that is consistent with every shot.

5. Stopping Power

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
M17/M18 magazines loaded with hollow-point ammunition (U.S. Army)

The military’s adoption of the 9x19mm cartridge was met with much concern. Although troops were able to carry more of the smaller rounds, the 9mm lacks the punch of the larger .45acp. “If you’re using an M9 in a firefight, be sure to punch it forward with each shot. It makes the bullets go faster,” one Army sniper sarcastically commented. The argument over capacity versus stopping power isn’t likely to end any time soon, and the M17 and M18 are still chambered in 9mm. However, in 2019, the Army introduced a new hollow-point 9mm round for its new pistols. Designated as the XM1156, the new round is described as “barrier blind”. This means that it can penetrate certain types of cover like windows and doors without expanding and losing much of its stopping power. Like other barrier blind ammo, the XM1156 is able to punch through obstacles and retain enough inertia to expand within its target and cause maximum trauma, thereby increasing the round’s lethality.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy approves its first metal 3D-printed part for ship use

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) approved the first metal part created by additive manufacturing (AM) for shipboard installation, the command announced Oct. 11, 2018.

A prototype drain strainer orifice (DSO) assembly will be installed on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in fiscal year 2019 for a one-year test and evaluation trial. The DSO assembly is a steam system component that permits drainage/removal of water from a steam line while in use.

Huntington Ingalls Industries — Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) builds Navy aircraft carriers and proposed installing the prototype on an aircraft carrier for test and evaluation.


“This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy’s ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA’s strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability,” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, NAVSEA chief engineer and deputy commander for ship design, integration, and naval engineering. “By targeting CVN-75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so — if successful — we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet.”

The test articles passed functional and environmental testing, which included material, welding, shock, vibration, hydrostatic, and operational steam, and will continue to be evaluated while installed within a low temperature and low pressure saturated steam system. After the test and evaluation period, the prototype assembly will be removed for analysis and inspection.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman transits the Gulf of Oman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)

While the Navy has been using additive manufacturing technology for several years, the use of it for metal parts for naval systems is a newer concept and this prototype assembly design, production, and first article testing used traditional mechanical testing to identify requirements and acceptance criteria. Final requirements are still under review.

“Specifications will establish a path for NAVSEA and industry to follow when designing, manufacturing and installing AM components shipboard and will streamline the approval process,” said Dr. Justin Rettaliata, technical warrant holder for additive manufacturing. “NAVSEA has several efforts underway to develop specifications and standards for more commonly used additive manufacturing processes.”

Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands. NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships, submarines and combat systems to meet the fleet’s current and future operational requirements.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

DARPA Is Making A Real Life Terminator (Seriously)

The fantasy world of Skynet and the T-100 is inching closer to reality with DARPA’s Atlas program.


Also Read: The 7 Coolest High-Tech Projects The Military Is Currently Working On

Based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN humanoid robot, ATLAS will most likely go through an I, Robot puberty stage before reaching Terminator adulthood. The robot is being developed with some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world through DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. The competition’s goal is to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, according to DARPA.

Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a robot like ATLAS could mitigate future accidents by sending in a machine where it would otherwise be hazardous to humans. Like in I, Robot, these humanoids should be capable of opening doors, move debris, turn valves, and perform other human tasks.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
I, Robot (Photo: IMDb)

The fact these robots are being developed to provide relief has done little to mollify the concerns over the threat of killer robots. “At the end of the day people need to remember what the D in DARPA stands for. It stands for Defense,” said Peter Singer, in an interview with NPR. Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century:

Singer argues that if researchers build a robot that can drive cars, climb a ladder and operate a jackhammer that they can also be used for war. “That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47,” Singer told NPR.

The challenge finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California where robots will be judged on their ability to perform semi-autonomous tasks. The winning team will receive a $2 million prize; runner-up will be awarded $1 million and $500,000 for third place.

Here’s a short of video of the robot’s current capabilities:

NOW: This Is The Vehicle Lamborghini Designed For The Military

AND: Here’s Video Of The US Navy Testing A ‘Game-Changing’ New Missile

Articles

6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past

The Coast Guard may not have a lot of hulls, but what they have, they make very good use of. In fact, they were able to keep old ships in service for a long time, and they even bring in some unique systems. Here’s some of the cool stuff they’ve used over the years.


1. Casco-class high-endurance cutters

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
USCGC Castle Rock (WHEC 383) during her service. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Navy had a lot of leftover vessels. The Coast Guard took in 18 Barnegat-class small seaplane tenders and used them as high-endurance cutters for over two decades.

While many were scrapped or sunk, the USCGC Unimak (WHEC 379), stayed in active service until 1988. One ship, the former USCGC Absecon (WHEC 374) may have remained through the 1990s after being captured by North Vietnam.

The Barnegats had a five-inch gun, two twin 40mm mounts, two twin 20mm mounts, and were even fitted with 324mm torpedo tubes.

The 1987-1988 version of Combat Fleets of the World noted that the North Vietnamese had fitted launchers for the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile on the former Absecon.

2. HU-16 Albatross

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A HU-16E Albatross during the 1970s. The Coast Guard kept this plane in service until 1983! (USCG photo)

Helicopters took a while to develop. Before that, the best search-and-rescue assets were flying boats and amphibian aircraft.

The Grumman HU-16 was one asset that handled this mission after World War II. The Air Force put it to use during the Korean War, and it also saw action in the Vietnam War.

In Coast Guard service, the survivors of a 91-plane purchase of HU-16s stuck around until 1983 – and civilian versions still operate today.

It’s not surprising the plane lasted so long. According to specifications at GlobalSecurity.org, the Albatross had a range of over 1600 miles and a top speed of 240 miles per hour. Let’s see a helicopter do that!

3. HH-52 Seaguard

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
U.S. astronaut Frank Borman, Gemini 7 prime crew command pilot, is hoisted out of the water by a U.S. Coast Guard recovery team from a Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter during water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA photo)

This amphibious helicopter was the epitome of the specialized aircraft the Coast Guard bought when it could.

Imagine being able to land on the water to retrieve a survivor, but not needing to make a long takeoff run.

According to a Coast Guard fact sheet on this helo, the capability was necessary because there was no rescue swimmer program at the time. That omission was rectified in the 1980s, and in 1989, the last HH-52 was retired. By that time the fleet of 99 helos had saved over 15,000 lives.

4. Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A U.S. Coast Guard Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortress search and rescue plane in flight. (USCG photo)

After World War II, the Army Air Force had a lot of planes lying around – many of which had been built too late for them to see action.

The legendary bomber served as a search-and-rescue asset for 14 years, using a lifeboat slung underneath for that mission. The Coast Guard’s fact sheet notes that another legendary plane, the C-130, eventually replaced the Flying Fortress in their service.

5. MH-68A Stingray

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A Coast Guard MH-68 Sting Ray helicopter crew prepares to take off for a patrol of the Savannah River to provide security during the G8 Summit while Air Force One sits in the background. USCG photo by PA3 Ryan Doss

The Coast Guard once had a specialized unit, HITRON 10 (Helicopter Interdiction Squadron 10), that specialized in stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. To do that, the service got a special helicopter, the MH-68A Stingray — a version of the Agusta A109.

With a forward-looking infrared system, an M240 machine gun, a M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, and other high-tech avionics, this helo was a lethal hunter. According to Helis.com, the eight-plane force was retired in 2008, and the Coast Guard modified 10 MH-65s to the MH-65C standard to replace them.

6. Sea Bird-class Surface Effect Ships

This three-ship class was fast (25-knot cruising speed), and they were perfectly suited for the drug interdiction mission in the Caribbean.

The lead ship, USCGC Sea Hawk (WSES 2), and her two sisters, USCGC Shearwater (WSES 3) and USCGC Petrel (WSES 4) were commissioned in the 1980s and cost $5 million each. While they primarily focused on drug interdiction, they proved very capable assets in search-and-rescue missions as well.

They all left service in 1994.

But in an era where drug smugglers have “go fast” boats, they might be useful now.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

15 photos that show the C-130 can do almost anything

The C-130 is one of the workhorses among American military planes, performing a wide range of missions from humanitarian relief to law enforcement to bombing missions. Here’s a rundown of 15 of them:


1. Close air support

 

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air Force

Let’s get this one out of the way, because the AC-130 is most people’s favorite version. These flying gunships have carried a variety of guns over the years, everything from 7.62mm miniguns to 105mm cannons. One of the most famous was the AC-130U “Spooky” with 25mm, 40mm, and 105mm guns.

2. Anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Graphic: Lockheed Martin

Guns aren’t the only weapon that has been strapped to what was originally a resupply plane. Lockheed Martin has designed, but not sold, the SC-130J Sea Herc. The aircraft is pitched as a cheap, high-endurance, and high-payload maritime patrol and anti-surface/anti-submarine plane.

It’s equipped with sensors to find the enemy ships and subs as well as torpedoes and anti-ship missiles to prosecute them.

3. Bomber

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
This BLU-82 bomb was dropped from a C-130 Photo: US Air Force Capt. Patrick Nichols

Of course, if it can bomb a ship then it can bomb a building. The most precise and imposing C-130 bombers are the Air Force’s Stinger II and the Marine Corps’ Harvest Hawk, both of which fire precision missiles and bombs.

On the other end of the spectrum are the C-130s that took part in improvised bombing missions in Vietnam. Daisy Cutter bombs were carried in C-130s and dropped into the jungle.

4. Firefighting

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards

When the U.S. Forest Service finds itself overwhelmed fighting wildfires, it turns to the Air Force for assistance. C-130s are outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems that can drop 3,000 gallons of repellant in 5 seconds without any major modifications to the aircraft.

5. Airborne

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Staff Sgt. Travis Surber, a native of Franklin County, Va., and a paratrooper with the 173rd Brigade Combat Team’s Battle Company of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, parachutes out of a C-130 into the Ukraine sky.

The C-130 can drop 64 fully-armed paratroopers into combat on a single pass. With additional passes or a long drop zone, they can also drop “door bundles” with ammunition and other supplies ahead of the soldiers.

Some equipment, like Humvees and 105mm cannons, can also be dropped from the back of the plane.

6. Aerial refueling

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Here the C-130 is about to refuel a section of F-35s. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz)

The KC-130J can carry up to 47,903 pounds of fuel to give to other aircraft. The Marine Corps racked up over 20,000 hours of KC-130J flight over Iraq where the birds dispensed jet fuel to bombers supporting troops on the ground.

7. Search and rescue

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

Photo: Wikipedia/João Eduardo Sequeira CC BY 2.5

Both the Air Force and the Coast Guard fly HC-130s modified for search and rescue missions. The planes feature command and control computer suites as well as special sensors that help it find survivors in the water or on land.

The Air Force’s version also packs a refueling capability so that it can bring helicopters with it on long-range missions.

8. Law enforcement

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael De Nyse

The Coast Guard’s HC-130s can use their sensors to find and track people suspected of crime. The planes can patrol a large area and, if they spot suspicious activity in the water, can track criminals from afar or chase them down.

9. Weather monitoring

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Curt Eddings

The Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flies WC-130Js into tropical storms and hurricanes to collect weather data. The modified C-130s feature external fuel tanks and weather sensors, but are not structurally reinforced. The Herc survives the high winds on its own.

The Coast Guard uses their C-130s to track and monitor icebergs and other threats to shipping.

10. Aeromedical evacuation

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air force Master Sgt. William Greer

There are 31 aeromedical squadrons in the U.S. Air Force. The units fly wounded troops and civilians out of war and disaster zones on C-130s and C-17s filled with special mission pallets and medical equipment. Teams of doctors and nurses accompany the wounded.

11. Transport and resupply

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: flickr/Eli Duke CC BY-SA 2.0

The C-130 was originally a cargo plane, and the transport and resupply mission is its bread and butter. It does get fancy with the work though, dropping armored vehicles and other equipment from its ramp without landing.

12. Flying radio station

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: Aaron Ansarov, Defense Visual Information Center

The EC-130J Commando Solo is used by Military Information Support Operation, more commonly known as PSYOPS, and civil affairs service members to broadcast radio messages to people in disaster and war zones.

13. Airborne command center

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bob Kay

The EC-130E carries the USC-48 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center Capsules which allow commanders to ride to battle in the plane and control their troops from overhead. The high-tech center takes a lot of computer power, but it carries extra fuel and special air conditioning systems to keep all the electronics powered and cool.

14. Electromagnetic warfare

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman

When the Air Force needs to shut down some enemy air defenses, it it can put the EC-130H Compass Call into the game. The plane disrupts enemy communication nodes and jams early warning and acquisition radars, allowing fighters and bombers to slip through enemy lines and wreak havoc.

15. Humanitarian relief

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Photo: US Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Philip A. Fortnam

The C-130, with the ability to land on dirt strips where jets fear to tread, is one of the heroes of humanitarian relief. After a major disaster, the C-130s form a flying train that rushes medical supplies and food in while ferrying wounded out.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how to safely land NASA’s bomber with an engine out

When soaring through the skies, thousands of feet above the ground, the last thing a pilot wants to deal with a faulty engine. Those in single-engine jets are typically left with one option: Getting out of the plane. For most military planes, this means it’s time to grab the “loud handle” and trigger the ejection seat.

But if you’re in a multi-engine plane, you have a chance to bring the plane back safely. The key word here is chance.


How big or small that chance is depends greatly on circumstance. What type of plane is it? How did the engine go out? Is there any other damage to the plane? How well-trained is the pilot?

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

B-57 Canberra bombers were tricky enough to fly — when both engines worked.

(USAF)

This last question is crucial. Flying a plane back to base with an engine out is no simple task. The thrust propelling a plane is going to be very different — and if you don’t adjust, you’ll lose control.

One plane for which that recovery is especially tricky is the B-57, three of which are still in service with NASA today. The plane, when fully functional, is very touchy — as evidenced by its high accident rate. This plane has two engines, so if you lose one, you lose half your thrust. What remains is uneven. So, pilots had to be specially trained for such an event — but conducting that training in the plane could make for some very costly lessons.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

NASA has three B-57s in its inventory — including this one, with the tail number 928.

(NASA)

Check out the video below from 1955 to see how pilots were trained to conduct a single-engine landing. The instructions might be over 50 years old, but some lessons are timeless.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLdEGdyuIo

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens when you put a rocket on a Starfighter?

When you look at the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, this is a plane that looks like it could be a rocket from some sci-fi movie or show from the old days. In some ways, it was. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-104 had a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour. This was about 173 percent of the speed of sound. But there was one minor hiccup. The F-104 needed a lot of runway to take off, mostly because its wings were small. Okay, on the puny side.


5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
A F-104 with its canopy open. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This causes a quandry. One big concern was that the Soviet Union would be able to get control of the air by hitting the runways on the airbases. The United States began testing Zero-Length Launches (ZeLL) with the F-100 Super Sabre. According to The Aviationist, West Germany also was looking into this concept. They had a good reason to do so. They were likely to be on the front lines, and airfields were not only threatened by bombers, but also by fighters and missiles.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
Zero-Length Launch of F-100D-60-NA (S/N 56-2904) with Maj. R. Titus as pilot. Note the dummy nuclear weapon on the right wing has been retouched out of the photograph. (U.S. Air Force photo)

ZeLL was accomplished by use of a big, powerful rocket that was installed on the plane. The F-104 was a natural as it was intended to be a point-defense interceptor. West Germany had bought a lot of these planes as multi-role fighters (which resulted in a big investigation as the F-104’s manufacturer had… well, let’s just say some money changed hands).

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
German Me-163B Komet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Germany had used rocket-powered interceptors, like the Me-163 Komet in World War II. The planes hadn’t worked well. Still, the Germans gave the ZeLL-equipped F-104 a shot. By 1966, though, the West Germans, as America had earlier, gave up on the idea. But the United Kingdom would solve the problem by developing the V/STOL jet known as the Harrier. That plane would later prove to be a decisive factor in the British winning the Falklands War. And it all started with using rockets to throw fighters into the air.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9
An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 lands on amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The program that created the Harrier came out of the ZeLL experiments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael McNabb/Released)

You can see more about the ZeLL-equipped F-104 in the video below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why grenades in movies look nothing like real life

Yeah, yeah, yeah… We know grenades in movies aren’t like the real thing. But that could make you wonder, “Why?”

Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?


First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.

The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.

The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.

(U.S. Army)

That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.

That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.

As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.

Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.

The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.

But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.

And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.

Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.

But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.

So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.

The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.

But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.

If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.

But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.

So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine regains mobility with robotic exoskeleton gear

It took Marine Corps veteran Tim Conner more than a year of training and waiting, but it paid off. He was finally able to take home his new (exoskeleton) legs.

Conner has used a wheelchair since 2010. An accident left him with a spinal cord injury, and he is the first veteran at Tampa Bay VA Medical Center to be issued an exoskeleton for home use. The robotic exoskeleton, made by ReWalk, provides powered hip and knee motion that lets Conner stand upright and walk.

Before being issued his own exoskeleton, Conner underwent four months of training, then took a test model home for four months as a trial run. He then had to wait several more months for delivery. He was so excited about getting it that he mistakenly arrived a week early to pick it up.


“They said, “You’re here early, it’s the thirtieth,'” Conner said with a laugh. “I was like, that’s not today. I looked at my phone and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited, what can I say.'”

For Conner, the most significant advantage of the exoskeleton is being able to stand and walk again. Which, in turn, motivates him to stay healthy.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

Tim Conner and the team that helped him walk again. From left, Chief of Staff Dr. Colleen Jakey, Cassandra Hogan, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Brittany Durant, and Spinal Cord Injury Service Chief Dr. Kevin White.

“I’m not 3-and-a-half, 4 feet tall anymore. I’m back to 5-8,” Conner said. “Not only can I stand up and look eye-to-eye to everybody. I’m not always kinking my neck looking up at life. It’s been able to allow me to stay motivated, to stay healthy, because you have to be healthy to even do the study for this program. That is going to keep me motivated to stay healthy and live longer than what could be expected for the average person in my situation.”

Exoskeleton

The exoskeleton is an expensive piece of equipment, with some versions costing as much as 0,000. According to Dr. Kevin White, chief of the Tampa Bay VA spinal cord injury service, that is why the hospital has been conducting research on the units.

“We wanted to know that the patient when they get it, they’re actually going to utilize it in the community,” said White. “If they’re showing that benefit, the VA has made a commitment to make sure that any veteran who needs it and qualifies, whether it’s a spinal cord injury and even stroke. That they have that opportunity, and we provide it free of charge.”

Walking in the exoskeleton is like “a mixture between Robocop, Ironman, and Forrest Gump,” said Conner. “It is pretty cool, especially when you’re walking and people are like, ‘Oh my God, look at this guy. He’s a robot.’ But I can’t imagine walking without it, so it’s just a normal way of walking. It feels the same way it did if I didn’t have a spinal cord injury.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Can shooting plastic explosives really set them off?

James H. asks: How realistic is the idea presented in video games of shooting explosives to set them off?

Given that their main and really only purposes is violently exploding, you might be surprised to learn that most explosives utilized by the military are shockingly stable. So much so, in fact, that, contrary to what is often depicted in movies and video games, plastic explosives like C-4 won’t explode if you shoot them or set them on fire. In fact, C-4 won’t even explode if you shoot it while it is currently on fire.

Indeed, beyond the benefit of being able to shape the explosive in a variety of ways to accomplish a given destructive goal, one of the main reasons plastic explosives like C-4 are utilized so extensively by the military is precisely because they are largely inert and can be handled without specialized equipment.


Further, creating C-4 is noted as being a relatively simple process that involves mixing a plasticizer with a conventional explosive (in this case usually cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, often referred to as “RDX” or “Royal Demolition Explosive”- or for the non-Brits “Research Department Explosive”). While exact ratios vary somewhat, for reference in its C-4 the U.S. military currently uses a mixture of 91% RDX, 5.3% of the plasticizer dioctyl sebacate, 2.1% of the synthetic rubber Polyisobutylene, and 1.6% mineral oil or, for civilian use, motor oil, giving such C4 its telltale odor of, well, motor oil.

Commonly likened to ordinary modeling clay in texture and consistency, C-4 and most other plastic explosives can be shaped, stored and molded just as easily. The key difference being that, unlike modeling clay, a mere half kilogram of C-4 can turn a typical vehicle into a pile of scrap metal. The key to making this happen, though, is attaching some form of blasting cap.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

As the name suggests, these blasting caps rely on a smaller, controlled explosion which will in turn cause the explosive components within the C-4 to go off, resulting in the C-4 producing a wave of gasses, including nitrogen and carbon oxides, that rapidly expand out at upwards of 18,000 mph. So fast is this effect that it actually creates something of a temporary vacuum around the core blast area. This results in a second, much less violent, wave of air collapsing in on the vacuum after the initial blast.

Not keen to just rely on theory, the US Army has conducted countless sensitivity tests on C-4 and other plastic explosive compounds, shooting them with bullets of varying calibres and even putting them within feet of things like hand grenades to see if that explosion or subsequent shrapnel could set the C-4 off. The Army has even conducted tests to see if things like fire will cause C-4 to explode, all with little effect. In fact, it turns out C-4 not only remains stable while on fire but it actually burns quite slowly, making it a good fire starter if you don’t mind the poisonous fumes.

While you might think soldiers would be scared to use this compound in this way, both because of perhaps worrying about an accidental explosion or from the noxious gasses given off, amazingly, during the Vietnam war using small chunks of C-4 as tinder to light campfires, or even as the sole source of the fire itself, was indeed a thing many soldiers did, despite military brass advising against it owing to the poisonous gasses given off.

Further, beyond its use as an explosive, fire starter, and badass modeling clay, it turns out that when eaten in extremely small amounts, C-4 is known to produce a mild high likened to being drunk, something soldiers in Vietnam also took advantage of.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that when consumed in anything other than extremely tiny quantities, C-4 can cause a host of health problems, as noted in a case study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2002 where a soldier decided to swallow about a cubic centimeter of the substance… Potential resulting complications of mimicking this moronic act include “generalized seizures, lethargy, coma, muscular twitching, hyperreflexia, myalgias, headaches, vomiting, mild renal injury, and haematuria (blood in your pee).”

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

Inserting blasting caps into blocks of C-4 explosive.

Back to the extreme stability of C-4- as they often do, the show Mythbusters took the idea of testing this to its logical extreme, shooting a piece that was currently on fire with a high-explosive incendiary round. The C-4 stubbornly refused to explode even then, despite the incendiary round giving a nice little blast on impact.

There is one caveat to all this, however. It turns out there is a way to set off C-4 by shooting at it. How? While there are a variety of designs for blasting caps, some may be set off via being hit with a bullet, thus providing the needed energy to cause the C-4 itself to explode. Why this is an extremely unlikely scenario in the real world is because these blasting caps are typically very small (think a half used pencil) and anyone trying to shoot at them would presumably want to be a fair distance away just in case they were successful.

This all becomes an even less likely in real world scenarios given that you don’t put the blast cap in the C-4 until you yourself are preparing to actually make it go boom.

So, in the end, while there are certainly many unstable explosives that will happily release their destructive power if you were to shoot them, it turns out plastic explosives and pretty much the majority of explosives used by militaries and for industrial use the world over are almost always shockingly stable precisely because these organizations aren’t keen on deploying explosive devices that might go off unexpectedly.

Bonus Fact:

  • Speaking of shooting at explosive devices, during WWI there are documented instances of soldiers using shotguns to destroy thrown hand grenades before they could reach their target. For example, in Leroy Thompson’s U.S. Combat Shotguns book, he notes the following account where a group of soldiers acted in concert in this way: “Their first warnings were German ‘potato masher’ hand grenades lobbing through the air. Few landed as most of them were exploded in the air by the experts in the outposts. Upon the failure of the grenade attack, the enemy launched a mortar attack. Again the trapshooters proved their worth, deflecting the slowly arching bombs. Finally, a vast grey wave of the Kaiser’s best surged forward.”

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Gunfighters use 1950s tech on F-35 for a huge win

‘Things aren’t made the way they used to be’ is a sentiment often tossed around when a new car or appliance breaks down. Even with all the new inventions and integrated technology there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an original design. Mountain Home Air Force Base members are learning this lesson firsthand.

Airmen from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron, also known as Gunfighters, are the first in the Air Force to perform hot-pit refueling on F-35 Lightning II’s with a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose cart from the 1970s.

A hot-pit is when a plane lands, refuels then takes off again without turning off the engine, explains Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th LRS fuels operator. The typical refueling procedure consists of landing, turning off the engine and a laundry list of to-do’s.


Traditional refueling takes upwards of 2 hours while the hot-pit gold standard takes 13 minutes, which translates to huge monetary saving.

During hot-pits, Gunfighters initially used eight R-11 refueling trucks that hold 6,000 gallons of fuel each. One R-11 is only capable of refueling two jets and requires a new truck to come out with additional fuel to meet the demands of the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, 366th LRS fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

Senior Airman Michael Rogers, 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, and Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operator, performs a hot-pits refueling with a hose cart from the 1970s on an F-35 Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 20, 2019, at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

“This method is not time-efficient, ties up 50 percent of the base’s R-11’s and associated personnel and creates traffic on an active flightline that could pose a safety hazard,” Kiniry said.

His team realized that more moving parts was not the answer, Kiniry said. With a new, simplified approach they found a resourceful solution in using older-generation equipment to better complete the mission.

Now, Gunfighters use a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose carts from the 1970s directly connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing Gunfighters to virtually endlessly refuel F-35s.

“Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds,” Kiniry said.

With this new process, Gunfighters have the capability to run hot-pits 24/7, saving 15 minutes between every other F-35 that was previously needed to set up a new R-11.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

“We have eliminated safety concerns from the heavy traffic on the flightline and reallocated eight R-11’s with their associated personnel to perform the rest of the mission outside of hot-pits,” Cooks explained.

Gunfighters are continuing their legacy of excellence and are an example how flexibility is the key to air power.

“Mountain Home Air Force Base is proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment at unheard of turnaround times,” Kiniry said.

“We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep Airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 and F-35 test their ‘beast mode’ stealth technology

US F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers in the western Pacific recently trained for high-end combat scenarios requiring the full might of the US military — exercises that came as Beijing reacts with fury to heavy-duty missile deployments.

In a first, the F-35B, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the world’s most expensive weapons system, took off from the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship capable of launching aircraft, and dropped externally mounted bombs.


The F-35 is a stealth aircraft designed to store most of its weapons internally to preserve its streamlined, radar-evading shape, but the F-35Bs on the Wasp ditched that tactic to carry more bombs and air-to-air missiles.

An executive from Lockheed Martin, which builds the F-35, previously told Business Insider that an F-35 with external bomb stores represented a kind of “beast mode,” or an alternative to the normal stealth mode, and was something F-35s would do on the third day of a war, after enemy defenses had been knocked out and stealth became less of a priority.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

A B-2 bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii during a training exercise in January 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

“We conducted these missions by launching from the USS Wasp, engaging role-player adversary aircraft, striking simulated targets with internally and externally mounted precision-guided munitions,” and then landing aboard the Wasp, Lt. Col. Michael Rountree, the F-35B detachment officer-in-charge on the Wasp, said in a statement.

While F-35s trained for Day Three of an all-out war in the Pacific, stealthier jets — the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber — trained for Day One.

B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri flew to Hawaii, where they met up with F-22 stealth jets, the top air-to-air fighters in the US fleet.

The B-2s spent their time near Hawaii “going out to an airspace and practicing realistic threats,” with an F-22 on either wing, said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

(South China Sea)

The Pacific area of responsibility “is of high importance as of late,” Schoeneberg said, adding that “it will continue to be of high importance.”

F-22s and B-2 bombers represent the US’s most high-end platforms, designed to work as “door kickers,” or the opening punch in a war.

B-2s carry “massive ordnance penetrators” — the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US inventory — and nuclear gravity bombs. Both could play a role in opening a conflict.

F-22s also serve an air-to-ground role and are frequently discussed as a first-strike weapon that could take out enemy air defenses and clear the way for less stealthy fighters.

(South China Sea)

China is getting mad and trying to get even

Washington’s focus on air power in the Pacific comes as Beijing’s military installations in the South China Sea are becoming formidable.

China has landed nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets and deployed surface-to-air missiles and an extensive network of radars at those installations.

This, coupled with “carrier killer” long-range anti-ship missiles deployed on China’s mainland, indicates China is determined to lock the US out of international waters in the western Pacific.

China’s military is also speaking openly about fighting the US and even about sinking aircraft carriers.

5 things troops won’t miss about the M9

(Defence.Pk Frorums)

Chinese state media said in early February 2019 that Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, “required the officers and soldiers to be well-prepared for different cases, encouraging them to staunchly safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests.”

Days earlier, US Navy ships had sailed through the tense Taiwan Strait. Days later, Navy destroyers challenged China’s extrajudicial claims in the South China Sea with a freedom-of-navigation exercise.

China responded to the US Navy’s sailing in international waters near its artificial islands with its usual fury, saying the US had threatened its sovereignty.

Beijing knows Washington is training, and it wants anti-stealth

China has been pioneering anti-stealth technology in an attempt to blunt the advantage of F-22s and F-35s.

“China is fielding networked air-defense systems that can coordinate the radar pictures from multiple sites in an area like the South China Sea,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who was formerly a special assistant to the chief of naval operations, told Business Insider.

“This could enable the radars to see F-35Bs or other low-observable aircraft from the side or back aspect, where they have higher radar signatures, and share that information with [surface-to-air missile] launchers elsewhere in the region to engage the F-35Bs,” he added.

But the US knows no aircraft is truly invisible, especially in an area with a dense network of radars, like the South China Sea.

Instead of focusing solely on stealth, the US has shifted to employing decoys and electronic warfare to fight in highly contested areas, Clark said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Four Belgian Air Force F-16AM jets are deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic region since September. As part of their mission to safeguard the airspaces over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Baltic Sea, the Belgian Vipers (just like the fighters of all the other air forces which support the BAP mission with rotational deployments to the Baltic States) are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian/non-NATO aircraft that fly in international airspace near NATO airspace.


While Il-76s, Su-27s and other interesting “zombies” are often escorted over the Baltic, the Russian Navy Tu-134 UB-L, RF-12041 nicknamed “Black Pearl”, that the BAF F-16s intercepted last week is a real first. The Belgian Air Force shared an IR image (most probably taken by the F-16’s SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod used in air-to-air mode for long range identification) of the rare bird, along with a file photo of the same aircraft taking off in 2019:

The Tu-134UB-L, NATO reporting name Crusty-B, is a variant of the civilian Tu-134B aircraft designed to train Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers aircrews (in particular, the Tu-134 was chosen because of the thrust to weight ratio and landing/takeoff characteristics were similar to those of the Tu-22M). The Tu-134UB-L (Uchebno-Boyevoy dla Lyotchikov, Russian for combat trainer for pilots) is indeed a Tu-134B airframe with a Tu-22 nose. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, a total 109 Tu-134UB-L were built, with the first one making its maiden flight in March 1981.

Noteworthy, according to some sources, the “Black Pearl” is no longer used as a trainer, but was converted to be used for transportation tasks in 2017.

Whatever its current mission is the Tu-134UB-L RF-12041 is an extremely interesting and rare aircraft. Let’s just hope the BAF will release more images of this beauty!!

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.