The life of a foreign partner nation force member was saved last month through MARSOC’s first operational use of freeze-dried plasma.
The foreign ally sustained life-threatening injuries during an operation in the US Central Command area of operations, requiring battlefield trauma care made possible by MARSOC training and availability of the new product.
According to US Navy Lt. Eric Green, force health protection officer, freeze-dried plasma is providing better medical care on the battlefield. Green is the study coordinator with MARSOC Health Services Support. He explained that freeze-dried plasma is a dehydrated version of plasma that replaces the clotting factors lost in blood. Typically, plasma is frozen and thawed over a period of five days, preventing quick use in a deployed setting.
Another disadvantage of traditional blood products for special operations is the need for additional equipment, such as refrigerators and electricity. This creates a higher target profile for special operations forces (SOF) teams, and presents a logistical challenge for Navy corpsmen. Use of such equipment, as well as timely casualty evacuation options, is not always possible during SOF missions. FDP eliminates the need for this equipment and buys precious time for corpsmen to treat the injured before evacuation.
“I think it reassures Raiders that when they’re in harm’s way, they have a life-saving product in the medical bags of their very capable corpsmen,” said Green.
With the need for freezing and refrigeration eliminated, FDP can sustain a wider range of temperatures and is therefore more stable and reliable than traditional plasma during military operations. The dehydrated state of the plasma allows for a shelf life of two years and is compatible with all blood types. Before MARSOC received approval to begin use of freeze-dried plasma, battlefield treatment options for hemorrhaging – the leading cause of preventable death on the battlefield – were mainly limited to tourniquets and chemical clotting agents.
“It is stable in the field unlike whole blood or if we were to do fresh plasma or frozen plasma, so our guys can carry it with them in their resuscitative packs,” said US Navy Capt. Necia Williams, FDP primary principal investigator and MARSOC force surgeon with MARSOC HSS. “They can quickly reconstitute it, infuse it to somebody, and it buys time that is so critical.”
According to US Navy Lt. Aaron Conway, Marine Raider Regiment surgeon with MARSOC HSS, reconstitution happens within six minutes and patients start showing improvement in vital signs minutes later. The precious time bought using FDP allows medical personnel to transfer patients to a hospital where they can receive full medical care. Conway, MARSOCs FDP principal investigator, said during medical care, FDP’s effects can be physically seen most in a patient when surgery and recovery is happening.
Since December 2016, every MARSOC special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman deploys with a supply of freeze-dried plasma and the experience to administer it. By October 2017, every MARSOC unit deployed will be outfitted with FDP.
Once the FDP has returned unused from a deployment it goes into quarantine and gets used during training exercises to prepare Navy corpsmen in its use. Corpsmen go through a rigorous academic and practical training process to prepare them for the field. They get practical experience before deploying and learn how to reconstitute and identify the indications to use FDP.
“We’ve trained with it, we’ve sourced it to our guys, and now we’ve actually got the combat wounded application of the product,” said Conway. “I think it is a tip of the spear life-saving measure.”
This life-saving measure is manufactured by French Centre de Transfusion Sanguine de Armees and used since 1994. They provide the US with FDP while it is pending Food and Drug Administration approval and is under an Investigative New Drug protocol. Currently the use of FDP has been allowed within US Special Operations Command. MARSOC was the second service component within US Special Operations Command to receive approval for use of freeze-dried plasma.
In 2010, US Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, then-SOCOM commander, learned that US allied forces were using FDP successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan. McRaven wanted it made available to US forces, so he pushed his plan and helped expedite the process between the White House and the FDA.
The main roadblock getting FDA approval was the historical spike of Hepatitis B after World War II, causing the stoppage of production and use by US forces, resulting in rigorous testing and changes to the original formula. Plasma donors now undergo more testing for infectious diseases to prevent similar events. Freeze-dried plasma is expected to receive FDA approval by 2020.
Navy planners have for years been working on ways to make its battle groups less vulnerable to threats from long-range missiles, developing sophisticated radars, close-in defense and using aircraft to keep the bad guys far enough away that a launch would be futile.
But what hasn’t changed is the size and relative lack of maneuverability a Navy ship — especially an aircraft carrier — would have in the open sea.
So China has reportedly developed a specialized anti-ship ballistic missile that it could fire from the mainland and target a specific ship over 1,000 miles away. Dubbed the Dong-Feng-21D, the missile is a two-stage, solid rocket booster with a maneuverable warhead that is reported to be able to avoid ballistic countermeasures.
While Navy analysts are nervous about the missile’s ability to destroy a carrier with one hit screaming out of the atmosphere at Mach 10, others argue that China still has a long way to go before it can find and target a ship over 1,000 miles away and continue updating the DF-21D warhead’s guidance in an electronic countermeasure environment.
The United States military has a long history of adopting so-called wildcat calibers from the civilian world. Hell, the 5.56mm round that fills every M249 belt and M16 magazine has its origins as an experimental varmint round for civilian hunters — the .222 Remington Magnum.
But this was back when the U.S. military’s budget was not only enormous, but had less congressional oversight.
In the middle of the Cold War and a heated arms race with the Soviet Union, America was willing to adopt new tech without concern for the pricy or problematic logistics of adopting a new round for all branches.
Today, only small special operations groups like hand-selected units from SOCOM can afford to rearm with bleeding edge tech or equipment
In particular, sniper elements of various units tend to be the first to adopt new cartridges for their highly specialized work.
For a long time, this meant choosing between 7.62×51, .50 BMG or .300 Winchester Magnum. Eventually, someone decided they wanted the incredible effective range of the .50BMG round without the awful ballistic coefficient that makes anti-personal use at extreme ranges difficult.
After all, .50 BMG began life as a heavy machine gun round suited for anti-vehicle use, then aircraft use before being adopted to anti-material use in big-bore sniper rifles.
Developed in the early 1980s, the resulting .338 Lapua Magnum was an immediate hit in the vast expanses of Middle East like the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. Yet, it didn’t perform nearly as well in an anti-material role as the .50BMG, and some experts argued it didn’t retain sufficient energy for reliable soft target neutralization past 1,800 yards — though data on terminal ballistics data at this distance are not normally available to the public.
But this seems like a moot point, the best snipers in any military consider a shot at that distance both incredibly difficult and exceptionally rare. Which makes the recent adoption of a new round for the Advanced Sniper Rifle by U.S. Special Operations Command so interesting.
Dubbed, the .300 Norma Magnum, this new round boasts an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua. However, the .300 Norma actually uses a .308-caliber round which is smaller than the one employed in the .338 cartridge.
If this seems strange given past complaints about limited effectiveness against semi-hardened targets, you’re on the right path. Indeed, instead of trying to shoehorn a cartridge designed for shooting soft targets into an anti-material role, the new .300 Norma Magnum fully embraces the .308-caliber bullet’s anti-personnel qualities and top-notch ballistic coefficient.
Some food for thought: At that range, the intended target wouldn’t hear the shot for a full three seconds after it left the barrel.
The new cartridge’s potential for accuracy brings distant soft targets in delicate locations – i.e. those saturated with non-combatants – within the grasp of the US military. While the caliber of the .300 Norma’s projectile may lead some to believe this round is a downgrade from the .338 Lapua, it’s more akin to a different tool for different situations.
This round may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.
But this is all speculation; with the round being as new as it is, and special operators just now adopting it, the public won’t likely hear anything about its performance for years.
Either way, one thing is certain: the long reach of America’s special forces, just got even longer.
For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).
A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.
G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.
Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.
He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.
When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.
This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.
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.
There’s a common idea among people who get their gun education from movies and video games that all you need to make a firearm completely silent (or at least barely as loud as someone whispering, “pew“) is to attach a silencer to the front of it. For the record, they are sometimes called “silencers,” but they are still far from silent. The more accurate term is a firearm “suppressor.”
A suppressor works by dampening the gas that leaves the barrel after each shot. Inside the tube of the suppressor are rings, called baffles, that slow down the gas. When a round is fired normally, the gas leaves the barrel super hot and concentrated — creating a loud and beautifulbang sound. When fired out of a suppressed firearm, the gas is slowed by the baffles and leaves cooler and dispersed — creating a less-loud phut sound.
As for the pew that comes out of every gun in Hollywood spy movies, that is entirely a work of fiction. In a May 2011 episode of MythBusters, Jaime and Adam experimented with the effects of a suppressor on an un-suppressed .45 caliber and a 9mm handgun. They had a sound engineer record the decibels and fired three shots from each gun. They repeated the experiment using firearm suppressors and compared the results to what we see in most films.
They found that the average level of the un-suppressed handguns was 161 dB, while the suppressed firearms came in at 128 dB. Decibels are a logarithmic loudness measurement, which means that 33dB difference is very significant. An ordinary conversation at 3ft registers at about 60 dB and is the baseline for relative loudness. Although significantly quieter, 128 dB is still roughly 115.2 times louder than that baseline conversation.
Turning the math into a real-world perspective, if someone were to say the word “bang” at a normal speaking voice from three feet away under nominal conditions, a suppressed handgun would be roughly just as loud firing from 34 feet away (or roughly the width of an average 4-lane street). An un-suppressed handgun reaches that same volume at 50.5 feet away. Both still above the 125 dB threshold of pain.
And it’s still not that “pew” sound.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)
One of the benefits of having a firearm suppressor — a benefit many who use one can attest to — is that it brings noise below the 140 dB permanent damage mark. Along with the more control of sound in the battlefield, the Marine Corps has been eyeing adding suppressors on all of their rifles and an integrated suppressor on the new M27 infantry automatic rifle. Another benefit, especially on a handgun, is that the additional weight of a suppressor at a firearm’s business end helps with recoil control.
All of these firearm suppressors are spectacular for troops, veterans and civilian firearm owners. It just won’t ever make the whispered “pew” of a Hollywood silencer.
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff said on Oct. 8, 2018, that its 6.8mm, next-generation weapons, slated to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M4A1 carbine, will be able to penetrate any body armor on the battlefield.
“It will fire at speeds that far exceed the velocity of bullets today, and it will penetrate any existing or known … body armor that’s out there,” Gen. Mark Milley told Military.com at the 2018 Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. “What I have seen so far from the engineers and the folks that put these things together, this is entirely technologically possible. … It’s a very good weapon.”
Milley’s comments come on the heels of an Oct. 4, 2018 draft solicitation announcing the Army’s plans to “award up to three prototype Other Transaction Agreements … with each offeror developing two weapon variants and a common cartridge for both weapons, utilizing government-provided 6.8 millimeter projectiles,” according to the solicitation posted on the federal contracting website FedBizzOpps.”The weapons include the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Rifle (NGSW-R) and the Next Generation Squad Weapon-Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR).”
The Army also intends to make follow-on production awards for “250,000 total weapons system(s) (NGSW-R, NGSW-AR, or both), 150,000,000 rounds of ammunition, spare parts, tools/gauges/accessories, and engineering support,” the solicitation states.
Pfc. Tyler Kramer, a mechanic with I Company, 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division qualifies on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a range Feb. 1, 2018, at Fort Stewart, Ga.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ian Thompson)
The awards could be worth ” million the first year and 0 million per year at the higher production rates,” it adds.
The contracts were the result of a prototype opportunities notice the Army posted in March 2018 for the small-arms industry to submit ideas for the NGSW-AR, an effort to replace the M249 squad automatic rifle, made by FN America.
Milley would not comment on the recent prototype contracts, but said that there were “several prototypes that were advanced forward.”
He added that the Army will likely not “speak too much about its technical capabilities because our adversaries watch these things very closely.”
“It’s a very sophisticated weapon, a very capable weapon. It’s got an integrated sight system to it, and it also integrates into the soldier’s gear and other equipment that we are fielding,” Milley said. “And not surprisingly with a weapon like that, it’s probably pretty expensive. We expect it to be expensive so we are probably not going to field the entire Army with this weapon.”
He explained the service will likely field these cutting-edge weapons to infantry and other close-combat forces.
“The bottom line is we are committed to a new rifle and a new squad automatic weapon,” Milley said. “We hope to be able to shoot it on ranges down at Fort Benning, [Georgia], hopefully … maybe sometime next year late summer.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On September 30, 2020, U.S. Army Contract Command awarded a $77,168,400 contract to SIG Sauer to equip soldiers with the Direct View Optic for use on the M4A1 carbine. The outgoing M150 Rifle Combat Optic, manufactured by Trijicon as the TA31RCO, provides soldiers with a fixed 4x magnification and is effective out to 500 meters. The new DVO allows the end-user to quickly switch between 1x and 6x magnification and boasts an increased effective range of 600 meters.
Introduced by the Army in 2007, the RCO makes up a relatively small portion of the service’s M4 carbine optics. Though equipment varies by unit, the majority of soldiers are issued rifles equipped with the M68 Close Combat Optic. Manufactured by Aimpoint as the CompM2, the CCO was accepted by the Army in 2000 and is a non-magnified red dot reflex sight designed for use with the M4 out to an effective range of 300 meters.
The Army has not said whether or not the DVO will eventually replace the CCO as well. While the CCO excels at close-quarters fighting thanks to its reflex reticle, the Army’s requirement for the DVO stated that, “The DVO will be capable of variable power magnification with minimum magnification of 1.0x with no rounding and maximum magnification greater than or equal to 6.0 power.” The “1.0x with no rounding” is important because it calls for the DVO to provide a true 1x magnification setting; many commercial Low Power Variable Optics provide close to, but not true, 1x magnification. This requirement is given reasoning in the Army’s notice. “Variable power magnification optics combine the capabilities of the non-magnified optic’s ability to engage close quarter targets with a fixed-magnification optic’s ability to detect, recognize, identify, and precisely engage targets at extended ranges,” the Army explained. “This allows the Soldier to have both critical capabilities without the limitations of either non magnified or fixed magnification optics.”
Given these requirements, it would not be unreasonable to think that the Army may try to distribute the DVO across entire infantry squads. After all, the Marine Corps has already done just that with its new Squad Common Optic. On February 23, 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had awarded a $64,000,000 contract to Trijicon to supply its infantry with the Variable Combat Optical Gunsight 1-8×28 mm rifle scope for use on the M4 carbine and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle weapon systems. The SCO is set to begin replacing the Corps’ RCO during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.
While the exact model of SIG Sauer LPVO is unknown, there is speculation that the DVO may be the company’s Tango6T 1-6×24 mm SFP scope. The Tango6T has already been selected for use on the Army’s M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, a derivative of the Heckler & Kock G28/HK417, and general use by Special Operations Forces.
The contract allows for delivery of the DVO over the next five years. However, it is unknown how many of the new optic the Army plans to acquire from SIG Sauer, further lending to the theory that the DVO may replace the CCO as well.
The legendary M1 Abrams tank has been on the testing ranges and battlefields for 40 years, saving dozens or even hundreds of crews who were able to unleash hellish fury on their enemies while surviving dozens of blows from enemy tanks’ main guns.
It’s all thanks to American and British engineering that has stood the test of time.
That’s right, British engineering was a key ingredient in creating this dominant war machine.
The need for the M1 program came about because of the failure of the MBT-70 program, a joint U.S.-German program to develop a replacement for the M-60 Patton, a capable but aging tank that wouldn’t be able to hold the line against Soviet armor forever.
An MBT-70 prototype at the United States Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
(Mark Pellegrini, CC BY-SA 2.5)
But for all its bells and whistles, the MBT-70 had a lot of problems. It was too heavy to use most of the armored infrastructure then available in Europe, including recovery vehicles and bridges. It cost more than originally planned, too. But worst of all, its caseless ammo had a tendency to swell, making it unusable in combat and potentially even starting fires inside the vehicle.
The project was ultimately canceled due to costs, but some of the technical specs and designs were carried over into the XM1 project, which would churn out its first M1 Abrams in 1978. The M1 shared the low-profile of the MBT-70 as well as blowout compartments for ammunition and a shallow turret.
An M1 Abrams taking part in Getica Saber 17.
(U.S. Army Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet)
The Abrams was even faster than its speedy predecessor. On paper, it was slated to peak at 45mph, but in capable tankers’ hands, it was a little faster. Originally, its gun was shrunk down to 105mm, but later models were upgraded to 120mm — still a far cry from the 152mm of the MBT-70. But with sabot rounds controversially made from depleted uranium, it still had enough power to punch through nearly anything. Even modern explosive reactive armor has trouble with sabot.
But the the most revolutionary upgrades that the Abrams brought to the table are in the armor and engines. The armor is Chobham armor that Britain quietly revealed to the U.S. while it was developing the Abrams. It is, essentially, a layered sandwich of reactive plates encased in metal with elastic layers underneath. It provides great protection against high-explosive rounds, kinetic energy penetrators, and armor-piercing rounds.
An M1 Abrams tank fires in Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018.
(U.S. Army Christoph Koppers)
But the Abrams hasn’t survived for so long because it was awesome rolling off the line. The tank has been upgraded every few years since its debut. It has received not only a new gun, but improved optics and a better powertrain. And those are just the upgrades implemented before the 1990 Gulf War.
Since then, everything from the ammo to the armor to the electronics have been upgraded. It can power its computers without running the high-consumption turbines, its formerly vulnerable gas tanks are now better protected and it has defenses against IEDs and large anti-tank mines.
It has even gotten reactive armor with the TUSK — the Tank Urban Survival Kit. This is basically a bunch of bombs strapped to the outside of the tank that deflect enemy blasts and penetrators.
Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.
Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.
Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.
But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.
Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.
If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.
The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.
The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.
The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”
As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.
Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.
Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.
“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.
The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.
The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.
To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.
Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.
The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.
The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.
A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.
How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”
In would could herald a major escalation in America’s effort to fight ISIS in Syria, photos emerged in early March appearing to show a convoy of specially-modified U.S. armored vehicles rolling toward a town recently liberated by anti-ISIS allies.
Media outlets in Syria posted photos and video footage of what look like tricked-out M1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles rolling across the Euphrates river into Syria headed toward the town of Manbij, now the front line in the anti-ISIS coalition’s fight to take the last remaining militant stronghold in Raqqa.
The vehicles appeared to be carrying U.S. special operations troops and were flying American flags on their antennae.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Air Force Col. John Dorrian confirmed the influx of American armor in a March 4 statement via Twitter, saying the armored push was a “deliberate action” to reassure allies and to defeat ISIS.
The armored escalation comes just days after top Pentagon brass reportedly delivered a new plan to President Donald Trump on how to defeat ISIS. In a Feb. 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, Trump vowed to “demolish and destroy ISIS” and to “extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”
Though details of the new plan have not been publicly released, the Washington Post reports one preferred option weighs heavily on an increase in U.S. combat power into Syria, including ground troops, helicopters and artillery. There are currently an estimated 500 U.S. special operations troops operating in Syria in a largely advisory role.
The Stryker vehicles rolling into Syria appear to have incorporated modifications that make it more like an ultra-up-armored Humvee as opposed to an armored combat vehicle. Some of the photos show an open crew compartment and a unique driver capsule that sits above the usual eye line.
A fleet of up-armored Humvees are also pictured rolling into Syria accompanying the Strykers.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was hit by a weapons-grade laser during a routine patrol above international waters on February 17, 2020. The incident happened in the Philippine Sea approximately 380 miles west of Guam, where it was targeted by the laser belonging to a People’s Liberation Army Navy’s destroyer with hull number 161, according to the official statement, which should be the Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The laser was not visible to the naked-eye and was detected by the Poseidon’s sensors. The P-8A, assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 and based at NAS Jacksonville (Florida), is currently deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and operates from Kadena Air Base (Japan). No damage or injuries to the Poseidon and its crew were reported.
The U.S. Navy deemed the destroyer’s actions unsafe and unprofessional, adding also that this incident violated the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.
People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type 052D Destroyer “Hohhot”.
The official statement didn’t provide much details about the laser, other than noting it was weapons-grade and not visible to the naked-eye. However, it is worth noting that the Chinese military is developing multiple laser systems for various applications. In particular, the PLA Navy was testing last year the prototype of a tactical laser system intended for land applications and for use aboard the new Type 55 destroyers for both for air defense and close-in defense, as alternative to the HHQ-10 surface-to-air missile. China didn’t release details about the system, other than showcasing it on the national TV channel. However, the system bears some resemblance to the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS, developed by the U.S. Navy and tested in 2014 aboard the USS Ponce.
The LaWS is designed to work against low-end asymmetric threats with scalable power levels up to 30 kW. While working at low power, the laser can act as an Active Denial System (ADS), a non-lethal system for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control, while in high power mode it can be used to disable sensors and engines and also detonate explosive materials. During testing, the laser was directed by the Phalanx CIWS (Close-in Weapon System) Fire Control Radar and successfully hit targets mounted aboard a speeding small boat, a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and other moving targets at sea.
Similar incidents happened also in the last two years, however this is the first time the incident is directly attributable to the Chinese military. Back in 2018, a U.S. C-130 Hercules was targeted by a visible laser while the aircraft was flying near China’s Djibouti base, resulting in minor injuries to two pilots. In 2019, Australian Navy helicopter pilots flying from the HMAS Canberra were hit by lasers in the South China Sea during a cruise from Vietnam to Singapore, requiring them to perform a precautionary landing.