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This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Israel’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) kit converts unguided bombs into precision-guided ones.


There’s no hiding from a SPICE enabled bomb, it will find you in the dark and chase you on the battlefield. The kit is highly precise in that it combines GPS and EO technology. The GPS side enables the bomb to engage camouflaged or hidden targets in all weather conditions by inputting coordinates. On the other hand, the EO side provides the flexibility of remote control guidance to engage relocatable targets.

With 12 control surfaces on three groups (fore, mid-body and tail), the kit provides a glide range of about 60 kilometers (approx. 37 miles), turning any bomb into a true fire-and-forget weapon. With this much distance between the target, the striking aircraft is safe from short and medium range defense systems.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GujLif0VZIg

ArmedForceUpdate, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New Army vehicle will outmatch Russian equivalent

The U.S. Army plans to build prototypes in the next several years of a new lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armored vehicle expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.


Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks, and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering U.S. Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain

“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get offroad. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility, and survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.

The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air-transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
A Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD. (Photo by Vitaly Kuzmin)

“It (U.S. Army MPF) is a light vehicle but not at the expense of the protection that the Russians accept. The level of protection on the vehicle they (the Russians) airdrop is not even close to what we are talking about,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, said last Fall at the Association of the United States Army annual symposium.

In light of these kinds of near-peer adversaries with longer-range sensors, more accurate precision fires and air support for mechanized ground assault, the Army is acutely aware that its maneuvering infantry stands in need of armored, mobile firepower.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.

Accordingly, Smith explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. This fast-changing calculus, based on knowledge of emerging threats and enemy weapons, informs an Army need to close the threat gap by engineering the MPF vehicle.

While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly. The MPF represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability. Therefore, it is no surprise that two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
A C-17 Globemaster III. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan.)

Rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to U.S. or NATO forces.

Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy.

All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

Designs, specs, and requirements for the emerging vehicle are now being evaluated by Army weapons developers currently analyzing industry submissions in response to a recent Request for Proposal.

The service expects to award two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) deals by 2019 as part of an initial step to building prototypes from multiple vendors, service officials said. Army statement said initial prototypes are expected within 14 months of a contract award.

Related: The Army wants a new light tank to fill gaps on the battlefield

While requirements and particular material solutions are expected to adjust as the programs move forward, there are some initial sketches of the capabilities the Army seeks for the vehicle.

According to a report from Globalsecurity.org, “the main gun has to be stabilized for on-the-move firing, while the optics and fire control system should support operations at all weather conditions including night operations.”

BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems, and SAIC (partnered with ST Kinetics and CMI) are among the industry competitors seeking to build the new MPF. It is by no means surprising that, given the ongoing competition, industry competitors are reluctant to discuss details of their various offerings.

For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently available or fast emerging technology while engineered the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.

An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the MPF developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, active protection systems, and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
An example of an active-protection system. (Image from DRS Technologies)

This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons, and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.

“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said.

“If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained heat so you need all types of sensors together and machines can help us sift through information,” added Smith.

In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors — with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now

being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.

Also Read: This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 — built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant, its technology bears great relevance to the MPF effort – which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.

An article in nextBIGFuture cites progress with a technology referred to as rarefaction wave gun technology, or RAVEN. explaining it can involve “combining composite and ceramic technologies with castings of any alloy – for dramatic weight reduction.” The idea is, in part, to develop and demonstrate hybrid component concepts that combine aluminum castings with both polymer matrix composites and ceramics, the report says.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These insane robot machine guns guard the Korean DMZ

The Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably the most watched, most ironically named 250 kilometers found anywhere in the world. Despite the unprecedented brutality of the Korean War and the sporadic violence between the two, people still routinely try to get through the DMZ, often even going the hard way – going right through the most heavily defended strip of land in the world.


Commando raids, spies, and even axe murderers have all tried to cross the DMZ in some way. In just 25 years after the Korean Armistice was signed, more than 200 incursion attempts were made across the area. There had to be a better way.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

This is how they did it in 1969. Surely by 2019, we could do better.

Enter Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate best known for making exploding mobile phones, which makes so many other products. They have an aerospace division, as well as divisions to make textiles, chemicals, and even automated sentry guns that kill the hell out of anyone who doesn’t know the password – the Samsung SGR-A1.

The defense system is a highly-classified, first-of-its-kind unit that incorporates surveillance, tracking, firing, and voice recognition technology to keep the humans in South Korea’s military free to operate elsewhere while still being massively outnumbered.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Gun-toting death robots is the perfect solution.

While other sentry guns have been developed and deployed elsewhere, this is the grand stage. The Korean Peninsula is the Carnegie Hall of weapons testing, where chances are good the weapon will likely get used in an operational capacity sooner rather than later. Failure is not an option. That’s why each 0,000 sentry gun comes equipped with a laser rangefinder, thermographic camera, IR illuminator, a K3 LMG machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ammo, and a Mikor MGL 40mm multiple grenade launcher that doesn’t give a damn about the ethical issues surrounding autonomous killing machines.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

If this thing had legs, it would be a Terminator-Predator hybrid.

The only controversy surrounding these weapons, now deployed in the DMZ, is whether or not they truly need a human in the loop to do their job. The system could conceivably be automated to kill or capture anyone who happened upon them in the area, regardless of their affiliation. To the robot, if you’re in the DMZ for any reason, you are the enemy. And you must be stopped.

“Human soldiers can easily fall asleep or allow for the depreciation of their concentration over time,” Huh Kwang-hak, a spokesman for Samsung Techwin, told Stars and Stripes. “But these robots have automatic surveillance, which doesn’t leave room for anything resembling human laziness. They also won’t have any fear (of) enemy attackers on the front lines.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines will get a new wheeled amphibious combat vehicle

The Marine Corps announced on June 20, 2018, that BAE Systems will make the service’s brand-new amphibious combat vehicle, planned to replace aging tracked amphibious assault vehicles that have been in service since the 1970s.

After almost three years of testing, the Corps announced it will award several contract options, worth up to $198 million, to BAE to build 30 low-rate production ACV 1.1 vehicles, John Garner, Program Executive Officer for Land Systems Marine Corps, told defense reporters.


Additional contract options could raise the value of the deal to $1.2 billion.

BAE, a British defense contractor, was one of two companies the Marine Corps selected in 2015 to build 16 ACV 1.1 prototypes for testing as part of a “lower-risk, incremental approach” to replacing the Corps aging amphibious assault vehicle fleet. The other company that built a prototype was Virginia-based SAIC, which teamed up with Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

“Today, after a rigorous and thorough test and evaluation period of two competing prototypes, we are taking another major step in fielding that much-needed capability to our Marines,” Garner said.

The decision comes after the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, James “Hondo” Geurts, made the Milestone C decision for the program to move forward, Garner said.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
James F. Geurts

Milestone C signifies a validation of early testing and clearance to move forward with an operational platform.

ACV1.1 will bring a “modern wheeled capability with land mobility on par with modern battle tanks, along with the remarkable survivability the system has for under-body blast and also other threats,” said Col. Wendell Leimbach, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault.

The first low-rate initial production vehicles will be delivered to the Marine Corps by the fall of 2019, Garner said, adding that the service will conduct initial operational test and evaluation in late 2020.

The 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion on the West Coast will be the first unit equipped with the ACV 1.1, Marine Corps officials said.

The Marine Corps plans to buy 204 ACV 1.1 vehicles in this first phase of the effort. Phase Two will be the development of the ACV 1.2, an upgraded amphibious platform, also made by BAE, that the Marines hope field to as a replacement for the fleet of 870 amphibious assault vehicles.

BAE will make some minor improvements to the ACV 1.1 LRIP vehicles before initial delivery, but “there are no issues” in terms of major system capabilities such as survivability, Garner said.

“Quite frankly, we could field the vehicle right now the way it is,” Garner said. “But we will always — as we do with any program — continue to do improvements to it.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army tests human-like robots

Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.

RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.


The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.

As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.

(U.S. Army photo)

The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.

“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.

During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.

Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.

“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35’s abysmal readiness rate is raising some questions

The US military’s F-35 Joint Strike Force program may be in trouble due to its abysmal mission readiness rates, according to a report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

POGO’s report is based on a chart from the Joint Program Office’s Integrated Test Force showing that the 23-aircraft test fleet had a “fully mission capable” rate of 8.7% in June 2019 — an improvement over its May 2019 mission-capable rate of 4.7%. The average rate was just 11% for December 2018 through June 2019.

The F-35 program has been plagued with problems; loss of cabin pressure and aircraft control and serious issues in both hot and cold conditions are just a few of the challenges facing the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system.


Such low rates can typically be attributed to a lack of spare parts or one of the many previously reported problems. The POGO report specifically points to issues with the aircraft’s Distributed Aperture System, which warns F-35 pilots of incoming missiles. While the aircraft can still fly without the system being fully functional, it’s a necessary component in combat.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flightline at Volk Field.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

The Lightning II test fleet is actually performing far worse than the full F-35 fleet, but even that rate is less than ideal — it was only 27% fully mission capable between May and December 2018, according to Flight Global.

In October 2018, then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called for 80% mission capability for the F-35, F-22, F-16, and F-18 fleets by September, Defense News reported at the time.

But Air Force Times reported in July 2019 that the Air Force’s overall aircraft mission-capable rate fell eight percentage points from 2012 to 2018, dipping below 70% last year. Col. Bill Maxwell, the chief of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times that any downward trend in readiness is cause for concern but that the overall readiness rate was a “snapshot in time.”

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)

The Pentagon is set to decide whether to move to full-rate production in October, but given low readiness rates, it is doubtful that testing will be completed by then. According to POGO, a major defense acquisition like the F-35 can’t legally proceed to full-rate production until after testing is completed and a final report is submitted.

The Joint Strike Fighter program declined INSIDER’S request for comment on the POGO report.

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

Articles

The Harrier versus the Lightning II: Which does close air support better?

With the debate on close-air support raging between those who think the F-35 Lightning can perform the role versus those who think the A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka the Warthog) can’t be beaten, one other plane that excels in this role has been all but forgotten.


This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry , North Carolina – Maj. James S. Tanis lands an AV-8B Harrier during field carrier landing practice sustainment training at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo By: Cpl. J. R. Heins)

The McDonnell-Douglas/British Aerospace AV-8B+ Harrier has played a role for decades supporting troops on the ground in combat.

The Harrier had caught the fancy of Hollywood for a while – notably being used to evacuate a defector in the beginning of “The Living Daylights” – and especially after it proved to be a war-winning weapon in the Falklands in 1982. The U.S. Marines had a similar plane in the AV-8A Harrier.

Then, around 1985, the AV-8B and GR.5 entered service, offering a greater payload for ground attack. The 1990s saw the AV-8B+ enter service with the APG-65 radar used on the F/A-18 Hornet.

So, how does this plane stack up against the competition is a close-air support mission?

In a max-payload configuration, the AV-8B+ can carry 14 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. The AV-8B+ can carry a wide variety of other weapons as well, including the Mk 84 2,000 pound bomb, CBU-87 and CBU-100 cluster bombs, the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile, GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), and laser-guided bombs.

The Harrier also features an internal gun – the 25mm GAU-12 — with 300 rounds of ammo. While not as powerful as the A-10’s GAU-12, this gun still packs a punch.

So, how does this stack up to the F-35B which the Marines are using to replace the Harrier?

The F-35B can carry JDAMs, but cannot carry any 2,000-pound bombs. As this Military.com video shows, 2,000 pound bombs are sometimes needed to support grunts.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct the first ever hot load on the F-35B Lightning II in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Sept. 22, 2016. (Staff Sgt. Artur Shvartsberg)

Even though the F-35 has a larger maximum payload (15,000 pounds to the AV-8B’s 9,200 pounds), not being able to drop the bigger bombs can be a problem. The F-35 also doesn’t carry the Maverick missile, which can be a problem when there are ground-based air defenses.

The lack of an internal gun is another killer. Sometimes, you don’t need a big bang, especially when you have to be aware of collateral damage. When you drop a 500-pound bomb, that’s still a lot of high explosives going off.

Even the AGM-114 Hellfire used on drones has caused some civilian casualties when taking out high-ranking terrorists.

The Marines need new aircraft, particularly since they had to be bailed out by the boneyard earlier this year. The high-tech F-35B may be a good replacement for the F/A-18C Hornets the Marines desperately need to replace, but the AV-8B+ may need to stick around a while to help with the close-air support mission.

Because like the Hog, it can do stuff that the F-35 just can’t do.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Army Apaches actually kill their numerous victims

The Black Death. The Monster. The Rifleman of the Sky.

The Apache is a lethal and feared military monstrosity that rakes its claws across the battlefield and leaves shattered bodies and buckets of gore in its wake. Here’s how it kills you — and anyone nearby. And anyone within a few miles.


This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

An Apache sits on the airfield in Germany in 2018. The Apaches main armament in the U.S. consists of rockets, missiles, and a chain gun. The chain gun is visible under the cockpit. The missile racks are mounted on either side of the Apache body and the rocket pods are the pieces with the honeycomb pattern mounted on the outside of the wing stubs.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

First, lets take a look at the Apache armament. While it can be fitted with other missiles and guns, Apaches are usually deployed with three offensive weapons: Hellfire missiles, guided and unguided rockets, and a 30mm chain gun that’s often described as an automatic grenade launcher.

All three of them are highly capable, and all of them kill in their own special way.

First, the chain gun. It’s commonly loaded with M789 High-Explosive, dual-purpose ammunition. When this is fired at personnel on the ground, it does look a lot like they’re getting attacked by an automatic grenade launcher. The weapon is fired in bursts with over two rounds per second striking the ground, all of which explode soon after, shredding the bodies of those targeted.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter fires its M203 chain gun during an exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

The chain gun ammunition is dual-purpose and is designed to penetrate armor at ranges of up to 3 kilometers. Against older tanks, these rounds pierce the hull and blow up inside or nearly pierce it and then explode, turning the remaining armor into shrapnel that flies through the crew compartment. The helicopters carries up to 1,200 of these rounds.

Most modern tanks can survive this onslaught, but they’ll likely lose any externally mounted equipment, potentially including their main gun. For these rugged targets, the Apache will typically turn to its Hellfire missiles.

There isn’t a known tank that the Hellfire missile can’t kill, and the Apache can carry up to 16 of these bad boys if it foregoes rockets. The Apache originally carried laser-guided Hellfires, but now it often carries radar-guided Longbow variants of the missile which the pilot can fire and forget about. It’ll get to the target on its own.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter flies over Georgian tanks during a live-fire exercise in Georgia in 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ellen Babo)

While there are now air-to-air and surface-to-air versions of the Hellfire, the Apache is essentially always equipped with the air-to-ground version in the U.S. arsenal. It has a variety of available warheads, including thermobaric, tandem charges, shaped charges, and blast fragmentation.

That basically means that the Apache can use the missile against enclosed structures, any-and-all tanks, and soft vehicles and personnel, but it does have to decide what it will likely be attacking before departing the base.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

An Army Apache helicopter fires rockets during a live-fire range in Korea in 2014.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Abril)

Finally, the Apache carries rockets. Historically, this was the Hydra rocket, a 70mm unguided weapon. But then BAE Systems rolled out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, a kit that gives guidance to dumb rockets. So now, the pilots can send their rockets with warheads between 8 and 15 pounds.

These rockets’ payloads can be high explosive, but they can also be filled with darts called flechettes that zip through human flesh and bones, shredding arteries, nerves, and other flesh, and quickly ending life. Occasionally, the rockets are used with parachuting illumination payloads or CS gas.

So, when Apaches are flying at you, they can choose to kill you with a chain gun, a warhead, or rockets, all of which can explode on impact or carry a variety of other payloads. But what really makes the Apache so dangerous is how far away it can kill you from.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

A U.S. Army Apache helicopter returns from a maintenance test flight in 2018. The disc on top is a radar that allows to Apache to detect and engage targets from up to 3 miles away.

(U.S. Army Charles Rosemond)

The Apache has a super sensitive camera mounted under its nose and a variety of other sensors. One of the most powerful sensors is the radar mounted over the rotor blades.

These sensors and the on-board computers allow the helicopter to track up to 256 targets from up to 3 miles away. That’s further away than the sound of their rotor blades carries, especially if there is vegetation or uneven ground to break up the waves. So, for many people being hunted by an Apache, the first sign of trouble is the sudden sound of high-explosive chain gun rounds landing all around them.

This sound is quickly followed by the noise of the gun firing, since the rounds leave the gun at over Mach 2 at normal temperatures. Around the same time that the sound wave comes, the rounds begin exploding. You likely won’t hear anything else after that.

Unless you’re in a tank! But, then you likely wouldn’t hear any explosive rounds. Instead, you’d just take a Hellfire missile to the turret and be dead from the tandem warhead before you realize anything is wrong. Tandem warheads fire twice. The first explosive opens a gap in your reactive armor. The second pierces the remaining armor and sends you to your maker.

But it might hit you with rockets, shredding you with darts or destroying you with explosives and fragmentation.

So, uh, maybe don’t get caught burying an IED when any of these things are around. It’ll be a bad day.

Intel

Russia’s ‘worst-kept secret’ is its dependence on mercenaries to project power

The days of the United States staring down the evil empire of the Soviet Union are long passed. Today, Russia is a Wal-Mart version of its former self, and it shows. Although it may seem like a military or strategic powerhouse, it’s ability to project real power is seriously limited. 

In the bygone Russian heyday, the communist threat loomed large. It was a threat that was enough to make the United States – the only other global superpower – limit its wars and interventions for fear of sparking another world war. 

Today, Russia’s biggest threat comes in the form of either bungled poisonings of former Soviet-era operatives and dissidents, election interference, and hacking corporate software that allowed it to collect intelligence on government email servers. 

While the SolarWinds hack was definitely threatening and potentially disastrous, it’s not really the great power struggles we’ve come to expect from an increasingly belligerent Russia. In real terms, according to the RAND Corporation, Russia isn’t really able to make a significant threat to forces on the ground… Unless you happen to be within arms reach.

In a March 2021 blog post, the RAND Corporation’s Molly Dunigan and Ben Connable wrote that Russia’s ability to project power on the ground has actually become a strategic vulnerability, and one the Biden Administration could exploit, if it chose to do so.

“It has almost no organic ability to project and sustain ground power more than a few hundred kilometers beyond its own borders. Russian strategic lift is anemic compared to Soviet-era lift. Available forces are often tied down in one of the many frozen conflicts that ring Russia’s western and southern borders,” they write. 

The conflicts they are referring to are most notably the Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War and backing separatist rebels in Ukraine. 

Russia, they posit, depends on an army full of drafted Russians who are serving one-year enlistments, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decreed that drafted Russians will never be deployed outside of Russia. Those forces make up around half of Russia’s total ground force. 

Instead of using its drafted army to project power, Russia instead uses companies that provide military services, some might call them “mercenaries” to reach its foreign policy goals in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burundi, and elsewhere. 

Russia
Russia’s Ceremonial Guard still looks polished, but the Russian military’s power is not what it once was.

Russia will contend that its use of mercenaries alongside its special operations and conventional forces allows it to compete with the United States, Dunigan and Connablle wrote, but that narrative is counterfactual. Such a force actually squared off against a force of United States special operators and Kurdish SDF fighters in Khasham, Syria in 2018. The fight did not go well for the Russians, their mercenaries, and their Syrian allies. 

500 Russian, Syrian, and Shia Militiamen with T-72 and T-55 tanks hit a base of 40 special forces troops, backed by United States Marine Corps artillery, U.S. Air Force “Spooky” gunships, and more firepower were quickly routed in Khasham, losing a quarter of the attacking force in the firefight. It wasn’t even close. 

Rather than bolstering the Russian military on the ground, the mercenaries are instead an example in the decline of the former Soviet Union’s ground force, indicative of its increasing dependence on small, special operations missions and sneaky espionage tactics. But these too are things the United States will have to learn to counter as Russia’s skills with them grow.

Articles

This ingenious 1911 pistol modification turns it into a dart gun

The 1911 pistol has been around for over 100 years. It is beloved by many for its ergonomics, accuracy and heavy-hitting .45 caliber round. In fact, some versions are still in service with the Marine Corps as the M45.


When something’s been around for so long, it’s also a safe bet that people are tinkering with its design. You can find 1911s in various calibers aside from its original .45 ACO, including 9mm NATO, 10mm Auto, and .22 long rifle.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

In an article at PopularMechanics.com, Ian McCollum of ForgottenWeapons.com noted that during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services wanted something that could allow commandos and other secret agents to kill sentries quietly and at a distance.

This is actually very important because if the sentry sees you and sounds the alarm, he’s won. It doesn’t matter if he’s hit the alarm with his dying effort. That alarm could even be him dying very noisily.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

The key to this was a two-part system that could be added to just about any M1911 pistol that was called “Bigot.” The rear portion was inserted through the ejection port. It had to be set up right to allow the M1911’s slide to close. Then, the piston would be screwed in. After that, a variety of darts – or even mini grenades – could be inserted for use in silently dispatching a sentry of the two-legged or four-legged variety. The darts and grenades would be fired by a .25 ACP blank.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
Ian McCollum holds a M1911 with a Bigot system. The dart looks pretty nasty. (YouTube screenshot)

Tests with a quickly-made reproduction were kind of iffy (only one-third of the darts broke a glass target eight feet away). It’s probably why the Bigot never saw any real action.

Still, if Buffy needed a little extra edge to dust some vamps or if 007 wants a gadget that makes for great cinematic eye candy, it’s probably a good choice. Watch the video below to hear Ian relate what we know about this nifty-looking piece!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Meet the ‘Ripsaw,’ one extreme badass tank


If an M1 Abrams tank and a Baja race truck had a baby, it would be the Ripsaw. This extreme tank can go faster than anything on tracks. The only downside — lack of armor.

Related: Here is the smallest manned tank ever made

There are two versions of the vehicle. The military version has an open top while the newer one, the Ripsaw EV2 (Extreme Vehicle 2) has a hard top and closely resembles the Batmobile in The Dark Knight. The EV-2 is being touted as a “high-end luxury super tank” and sold to the public. It comes with gull-wing doors, a high-end racing suspension, and a diesel engine that cranks out over 600 hp.

Howe and Howe Technologies makes some of the most extreme vehicles and robotics. Their creations have attracted police departments, the U.S. military, and Hollywood. There’s a good chance you’ve seen a modified version of the vehicle if you saw Mad Max: Fury Road or G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart
U.S. Army RDECOM, Flickr

The company even had a reality show on the Discovery Channel hosted by its founders, twin brothers Michael “Mike” and Geoffrey “Geoff” Howe.

This video shows how the Ripsaw’s speed and handling compares to the M113 armored personnel carrier, which many consider to be the quickest tracked vehicle in the military, and a Baja-style Dodge truck.

Watch:

Offroadzilla, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.

US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.

While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.


Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.

Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.

The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.

These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.

There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.

These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.

This weapons kit makes dumb bombs smart

(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)

“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”

There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.

The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.

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

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