NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.
The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.
It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.
The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.
China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.
According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.
At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.
The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.
Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.
(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)
While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.
“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.
Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”
Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.
An S-400 radar unit.
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.
Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”
Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.
But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.
The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”
“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.
In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.
An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.
Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.
The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.
The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.
In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.
But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.
India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.
And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.
“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With threats of a mustard gas attack on U.S. troops re-emerging in ISIS-infested Iraq, a leading clothing technology company has developed an ingenious way to protect troops from the horrors of chem-bio warfare.
Known more for its waterproof and breathable coating for rainwear and other outdoor equipment, W.L. Gore — the folks who make Gore-Tex — has developed a next-to-skin clothing system that protects against both chemical and biological warfare agents with just a thin layer of its so-called “Chempak” material.
So, say goodbye to that hot, bulky, carbon-impregnated MOPP suit.
“The big thing you think about with chem-bio suits is the thermal burden,” said Gore’s Mike Merrick. “You want to make sure you’re keeping that user as effective as possible which means you have to relieve heat stress and reduce that mobility restriction. That’s how we’ve designed this garment — to address that mobility restriction and range of motion and thermal burden.”
The new Chemical/Biological Protective Clothing System developed by Gore is light, stretchy and thin, so it allows the operator unrestricted movement when things go kinetic. Gore also claims it 20 percent cooler than the current chem-bio suit.
The best part is most observers would have no idea a soldier is wearing it, so for public events where security is worried about a potential terrorist attacks, the crowd won’t freak out seeing troops or police wearing bulky chem-bio space suits.
“The benefits of this is it’s very concealable you could be wearing it under your clothes right now and I’d have no idea,” Merrick said during an interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.
“Think of something like the Olympics where you don’t want to alert a stadium full of people that their could be a threat — you don’t want to walk around there in a big chem-bio suit,” he added. “But in the event something happens, you have a backpack, you pull a mask on you put gloves on and you’re good to go.”
Another advantage of the Chempak material, Merrick says, is that it protects against both vapor-based chemical warfare agents as well as liquid-based biological weapons which the current MOPP suit does a poor job repelling.
Gore has also developed a more robust system that includes a one-piece Union-Suit-like undergarment and a thin coverall. The advantage with this option is that it can be doffed and donned over a trooper’s uniform and can be configured for different missions depending on the environment. The inner protective layer can be worn under a coverall that matches the camo pattern of the service or agency, for example, rather than forcing units to buy entire suits in one color or pattern.
“The benefit is that it’s got this removable outer shell. So that’s good for tailorability to the unit,” Merrick said. “If they want to change that outer garment for a jungle uniform or you’re Coast Guard and you’re doing a drug interdiction mission — its’ one chem-bio suit with two different outer garment coveralls, so the logistics burden is reduced and you don’t have to carry two different chem-bio suits.”
American special operations units are already wearing the two-piece chem-bio undergarment on some missions, but Gore is gunning for the Pentagon’s replacement for the dreaded MOPP suit.
The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.
On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.
General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.
In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.
To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.
“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”
According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.
The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.
According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.
The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even “more stressing threats,” the service recently revealed.
The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.
The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.
Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead work on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.
United States Tomahawk cruise missile.
The Army declined to clarify whether or not “more stressing threats” included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.
The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.
Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.
“The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in July 2019.
A Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.
(U.S. Army photo)
“Where before we were shooting 0,000 missiles at ,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion.”
And, the Army isn’t the only service trying to develop combat lasers.
The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.
Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.
“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.
Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”
The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.
DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.
The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.
In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.
“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.
Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.
U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.
Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”
“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.
By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.
“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.
The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.
The new Strykers’ vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a serious issue against top adversaries.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOTE) said in a January 2019 report, according to The War Zone.
Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.
It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.
The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.
The development of the new Strykers began in 2015.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha)
It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.
These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.
US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.
“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said April 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin)
He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”
NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.
The recent DOTE report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Mk 22 is a modified Smith & Wesson M39 pistol with a silencer, but it’s mostly known as the “Hush Puppy.”
During the 1960s, the Navy SEALs were just starting to develop their clandestine techniques that would eventually turn them into one of the finest fighting forces in the world. Being special operations commandos, they had their pick of conventional and non-conventional military weapons.
One of those was the M39. But after a few runs in the field, the frogmen started asking for modifications, which resulted in a longer barrel threaded at the muzzle to accept the screw-on suppressor, among other modifications.
“We’d go into these villages at two or three o’clock in the morning, and the dogs and ducks raised all kinds of kain [noise],” said former Navy SEAL Chief James “Patches” Watson in the video below. “We needed something to shut them up without disturbing the whole neighborhood.”
The gun was fantastic for silencing noisy dogs, hence its nickname. (Editor’s note: please don’t kill dogs.)
American inventor, Hiram Percy Maxim created the first commercially successful firearm suppressor in the early 1900s, giving way to the quietest gun on the battlefield.
Ironically, his father, Hiram Stevens Maxim, was the inventor of one of the loudest — the Maxim Gun. This weapon was the first fully automatic machine gun, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Maxim Jr.’s suppressors were popular in the 1920s and 30s among shooters and sportsmen before being adopted by the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the modern CIA — during World War II. The next use by the American military were by the Navy SEALs, according to this American Heroes Channel video:
The Pentagon is substantially revving up its arsenal of air-launched, laser-guided rockets able to attack and hit moving targets from the air at ranges more than three kilometers, service officials said.
Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System attaches a guidance section to unguided Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets, giving helicopters and fixed-wing assets an increased ability to pinpoint targets on the move with laser precision.
“APKWS provides the warfighter a precision-guided, moving-target capability for the F-16 and A-10 aircraft with effects between machine gun ammunition and a Hellfire missile,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Air Force officials explain that there continues to be a widespread, fast-increasing demand for APKWS given the current global op-tempo and ongoing air attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
BAE Systems just received a modified APKWS production deal to add more than 10,000 new units to the existing arsenal. While Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting authority, the largest amounts of the new rockets are slated for the Air Force.
A-10 Warthog attack planes, Air Force F-16s and other aircraft, have been consistently attacking enemies in Iraq and Syria. Unlike 100-pound, tank-killing Hellfire Missiles, APKWS rockets are well suited to attack smaller targets, such as groups of ISIS fighters.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Consisting of a rocket motor, seeker, warhead, and fuze, APKWS rockets can track and attack targets such as small groups of enemy fighters, thin-skinned vehicles and other targets for which a Hellfire might be too large or unnecessary.
Upon launching strikes, wing-mounted seeker optics receive the reflected laser energy from the target, BAE weapons developers said.
BAE developers also report that the weapon has a 90-percent probability of hitting a target within two meters per single shot.
“The weapon has been very effective against stationary and mobile targets,” Grabowski said.
ISIS and other terrorist groups are known to deliberately blend in with civilian populations to complicate targeting for attacking forces. Such a phenomenon underscores the merits of smaller, precision weaponry which can isolate enemy targets while avoiding damage to nearby civilians or surrounding infrastructure.
“A guidance kit we have developed goes in between the warhead and the rocket motor,
making it into a precise, accurate and low collateral damage weapon,” Dave Harrold, Director of Business Development for Survivability, Targeting and Sensing at BAE Systems
BAE has designed its APKWS rockets with a particular “mid-body” design engineered for additional targeting and guidance.
“Other SAL (semi-active laser) systems have a nose-mounted SAL seeker that is limited to one aperture in the front. We have four distributed apertures on those wings, giving us a better instantaneous field of regard,” Harrold added.
BAE is now pursuing a technical roadmap to improve the range and targeting guidance of APKWS. These include technical exploration of rocket motor upgrades and additional seeker technology.
“Range limitations are based on the rocket motor,” Harrold explained.
Multiple modes of “seeking” technology would vastly expand the versatility of the weapon by enabling it to operate more effectively in adverse weather.
“SAL can have challenges where there are obscurants. If you cannot get a strong laser signal, that is going to be difficult,” he said.
More than 17,000 APKWS units were ordered for 2018; over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, V-22 Ospreys, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters, and Air Force F-16s, among others.
BAE has also qualified APKWS weapons on an F-18 Super Hornet and A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.
APKWS rockets have also been successfully tested against maritime targets such as small surface boats, a report from Naval-Technology.com said. The rockets were fired from a Marine Corps UH-1Y.
“The APKWS rocket used its inert Mk152 high explosive warheads and Mk149 flechette warheads to directly hit and destroy the targets at ranges of 2km-4km and validated its maritime capability,” the report writes.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.
Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.
(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)
That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).
Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”
Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.
Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.
Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.
A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.
(U.S. Air Force)
They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.
With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.
A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.
(U.S. Navy video screenshot)
They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.
So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.
Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.
Ballistic missile defense has become a growing concern. Russia has been modernizing not only its strategic forces, but has also deployed the Iskander tactical ballistic system. China has the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The need clearly exists for new assets to stop these missiles — or at least lessen the virtual attrition they would inflict.
Huntington Ingalls Industries has a solution — but this solution comes from a surprising basis. The company, which builds everything from Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to amphibious assault ships, has proposed using the hull of the San Antonio-class landing platform dock amphibious ship to mount.
The design is still a concept — there’s a lot of options in terms of what radars to use, and how the exact weapons fit would work. The model shows at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 featured 96 cells in the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, or the equivalent of a Burke-class destroyer. That’s a low-end version, though. A handout provided says the system can hold as many as 288 cells. This is 225 percent of the capacity of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and 300 percent of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s capacity.
Of course, the Mk41 can hold a number of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2, the RIM-174 SM-6, the RIM-161 SM-3 — all of which can knock down ballistic missiles. For local defense, a quad-pack RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is an option. The Mk 41 also can launch the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. In other words, this ballistic missile defense ship can do more than just play defense — it can provide a hell of an offensive punch as well.
The handout also notes other armament options, including a rail gun, two Mk 46 chain guns, advanced radars, launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and .50-caliber machine guns. Yes, even in a super-modern missile-defense vessel, Ma Deuce still has a place in the armament suite. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of firepower.
The propulsion options include the diesel powerplants used on the San Antonio, providing a top speed of 22 knots. Using an integrated power system similar to that on the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) would get a top speed of about 29 knots, according to a Huntinton Ingals representative at the expo.
The ship is still just a concept, but with President Trump proposing a 350-ship Navy, that concept could be a very awesome reality.
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.