Even within the military, there are people who use the terms “machine gun” and “automatic rifle” interchangeably. While these classifications of weapon share similar functions and mechanics, it’s important to understand that they are, in fact, not the same.
In terms of mechanics, machine guns and automatic rifles are both capable of fully automatic fire. But, beyond that, there are some key differences. Due to differences in range and firing rate, you should never send an automatic rifle to do a machine gun’s job, or vice versa. Here are some of the key features you will find on a machine gun but not on an automatic rifle.
Hearing a machine gun firing is glorious, though.
One firing option
Machine guns are absolutely designed for automatic fire, but here’s the thing: most machine guns only have that option. You can either have the weapon on safe or fully automatic. Conversely, with an automatic rifle, there’s an option for semi-automatic fire when full-auto is not tactically wise.
There’s a reason they’re always carried on the shoulder.
Probably the biggest and most notable difference, machine guns are inherently heavier. Even the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, a “light” machine gun, weighs 17 lbs when empty. While 17 lbs may not sound like a lot, when you take into consideration the amount of ammunition you’ll need to carry and the weight of your other gear, it adds up.
Automatic rifles, specifically the M27, don’t compare — even when loaded.
The ammunition is also loaded onto a feeding tray.
Plenty of machine guns offer a magazine-fed option, but that’s really only for extremely dire situations in which belt-fed ammunition isn’t easily available. An automatic rifle may be modified to be belt-fed, but the original design calls for magazines.
Melting the barrel would probably be an expensive — but amazing — “accident.”
Firing hundreds of rounds in rapid succession gets the barrel so hot it runs the risk of melting. So, to prevent machine guns from destroying themselves, barrels can be exchanged after a certain amount of time or number of bullets fired. An automatic rifle doesn’t need this option.
You can’t complete a disassembly without removing the buttstock.
Removable buttstock and pistol grip
In order to remove certain parts inside a machine gun’s receiver, the buttstock and pistol grip must first be removed. With an automatic rifle, the buffer and buffer spring can be removed by separating the upper and lower receiver.
Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.
An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.
Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”
Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.
Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.
Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)
Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.
Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)
Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.
I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.
When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.
Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)
I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.
I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)
Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.
As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.
Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)
At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.
So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.
At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-power—the highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.
Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)
Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.
I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.
The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber harden its growing ship-bast ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services.
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.
“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”
Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.
(U.S. Navy photo)
“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomolous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time — such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters and drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems — the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope, and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers, and computing functions.
“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.
Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase on-board automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.
Along these lines, Navy engineers recently competed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.
“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.
The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyberattacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.
“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The F-35 Lightning II brings a lot of new capabilities to the table. In one sense, this 5th-generation fighter can take out targets that are defended by some of the most modern air defenses in the world.
But the plane has one weakness, in the form of relatively limited space in the internal weapons bays. For the F-35A and F-35C, that bay can carry two 2,000-pound class bombs. The F-35B can carry two 1,000-pound class bombs. Usually these bombs are the GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
These weapons are accurate, but you have to get pretty close to the target to use them effectively.
Now, Roketsan and Lockheed Martin have teamed up to develop a weapon that can allow a F-35 to hit a naval or land target at long range while still retaining its most stealthy configuration. According to handout provided by Rocketan and Lockheed at the AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland, the Stand Off Missile-JSF or SOM-J, can put a 310-pound semi-armor piercing blast-fragmentation warhead on a naval or land target from over 150 nautical miles away.
The missile, weighing roughly 1,000 pounds, can be carried in the F-35’s internal weapons bay. Not only does this mean the F-35 can’t be seen, it means that it can hit targets from beyond the range of advanced radars or surface-to-air missiles.
Like the F-35, SOM-J is also low observable, and it also adds new features like the ability to hit targets of opportunity, or is able to change targets while in flight. The system uses an imaging infrared seeker, as well as GPS guidance, as well as the ability to navigate using images of landmarks or the ability to match terrain. It has “high-subsonic” speed.
The SOM-J can be fired from the F-16 Fighting Falcon or the F-35 Lightning. Turkey already uses an earlier version, the Stand Off Missile, or SOM, on its F-4 Phantoms and F-16s.
Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.
It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.
That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.
A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
1. Nuclear weapon
A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.
Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)
During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.
A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.
Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.
Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.
Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.
Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.
Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.
For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.
All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.
5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233
Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.
U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.
U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.
Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).
6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240
Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.
Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.
Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.
Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.
7. Yellowcake uranium
Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.
The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.
The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.
The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.
Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.
9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.
HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).
10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)
Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).
It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)
A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.
The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.
A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984
11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.
Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.
12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)
Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).
These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.
13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)
CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.
The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.
Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.
Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.
Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.
In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:
“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”
Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Spanish Navy has always operated an aircraft carrier. Its most recent carrier is SNS Juan Carlos I, which is, in essence, an amphibious assault ship capable of operating Spain’s force of EAV-8B Harriers. Juan Carlos I’s predecessor, though, was Spain’s first home-built aircraft carrier.
The Principe de Asturias, named for the heir to the Spanish throne, replaced the Dedalo, which began its life as the Independence-class light carrier USS Cabot (CVL 28). The Dedalo had been modified to operate AV-8S Harriers, which were very similar to various the Harriers in service with both the United States Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force.
The fact of the matter was that Independence-class light carriers were good ships — of the nine vessels to serve in World War II, eight survived — but they were designed to launch a piston-engine fighter, like the F6F Hellcat. The Principe de Asturias was designed to be a Harrier carrier from the getgo. One of the primary features of that ship was the ski-jump ramp on the bow.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Principe de Asturias displaced 17,190 tons and had a top speed of 25 knots. It could operate a mix of Harriers and anti-submarine helicopter and had four Meroka 20mm close-in weapon systems.
25 knots seems quite low when compared to American Nimitz-class supercarriers. This is because the Principe de Asturias wasn’t meant to take on the Soviet Navy in the Norwegian Sea. Her mission was to help protect convoys heading across the Atlantic. The Harriers might not be able to destroy a regiment of Backfires, but they could kill the occasional Tu-95 “Bear D” search aircraft. Meanwhile, her helicopters could keep an enemy submarine at bay — or better yet, sink it.
This ship gave Spain 25 years of excellent service. Despite reports of a number of countries wanting to buy it, she was sold for scrap.
The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.
They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”
While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.
As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.
To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.
Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.
That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.
And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.
H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
China’s navy is growing at a rapid rate. On Dec. 17, 2019, China commissioned its first homegrown aircraft carrier, the Shandong, into service as part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Chinese state media reported.
The new carrier entered service at the naval port in Sanya on the South China Sea island of Hainan. The ship bears the hull number 17.
China joins only a handful of countries that maintain multiple aircraft carriers, but its combat power is still limited compared with the UK’s F-35B stealth-fighter carriers and especially the 11 more advanced carriers fielded by the US.
The Shandong is the Chinese navy’s second carrier after the Liaoning, previously a rusty, unfinished Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that was purchased in the mid-1990s, refitted, and commissioned in 2012 to serve as the flagship of the Chinese navy.
The Shandong is an indigenously produced variation of its predecessor. It features improvements like an upgraded radar and the ability to carry 36 Shenyang J-15 fighters, 12 more than the Liaoning can carry.
Construction of a third aircraft carrier is believed to be underway at China’s Jiangnan Shipyard, satellite photos revealed earlier this year.
China’s first and second carriers are conventionally powered ships with ski-jump-assisted short-take-off-barrier-arrested-recovery launch systems, which are less effective than the catapults the US Navy uses on its Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.
The third aircraft carrier is expected to be a true modern flattop with a larger flight deck and catapult launchers.
A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.
“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations,” the US Department of Defense wrote in its most recent report on China’s military power.
The US Navy has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in service, and it is developing a new class of carrier. The USS Gerald R. Ford is undergoing postdelivery tests and trials, and the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second of the new Ford-class carriers, was recently christened at Newport News Shipyard in Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s almost time for the Marine Corps’ Blue Dress Uniform to get knocked off their pedestal for the first time since their introduction in the late 19th century. The Army’s recent change to the uniform standard reintroduces the much-beloved WWII “Pinks and Greens” dress uniform. So far, this decision has been met almost-universal praise from the Army and veteran community.
Recent changes have been made to the prototypes. Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Daniel A. Dailey, brought four soldiers to Capitol Hill on Feb. 2 to spotlight the variations of the new dress uniform.
Here’s what you need to know.
Nostalgic color scheme
The uniforms are a callback to the dress uniforms worn by WWII-era soldiers and they’re just beautiful. The first prototypes surfaced at the annual AUSA meeting and were made nearly-official when Sgt. Maj. Dailey wore them to the Army-Navy game.
I’m not saying that we won the Army-Navy game because of how majestic the “Pinks and Greens” are, but if that’s why, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The headgear looks much sharper than the current dress uniform’s beret. The crush cap and garrison cap are a welcome callback to previous generations of soldiers. The crush cap will be authorized for NCOs and officers. The garrison cap will, to put it bluntly, look better on a Private’s head if they don’t know how to properly shape a beret.
The reintroduction of the “Pinks and Greens” headgear will be another nail in the coffin of the standard-issued black beret.
Not only does the belt give soldiers a much slimmer appearance, it also distinguishes the Class-A uniform from the business-suit-with-medals look that the Air Force has going on. Even from the back, this belt makes the uniform clearly identifiable as military.
I guess it also gives the “bigger” folks in formation an incentive to shrink their waistline.
For male soldiers, setting up the ribbon racks, awards, badges, and name tapes are simple. Take a ruler and go 1/8th of an inch up from the pocket, make sure they’re not crooked, and you’re done. Female soldiers? Not so easy.
Without the pockets to use as a guideline, female soldiers have to put on the uniform, approximately mark where everything should go according to the name tape (which should be 1″ to 2″ above the top button), take off the uniform, affix decorations, put the uniform back on, realize everything’s slightly off, try again, realize it’s still off, and then give up hope and pray no one notices. Those pocket flaps will make things much simpler for female soldiers setting up their dress uniform.
The current maternity Class-A uniform isn’t being changed by much, except for tweaks to the color scheme and the addition of shoulder epaulets to show the soldier’s rank. Although these are small changes, they go a long way in making the uniform “more military.”
IWA International is a company based out of Miami, FL that specializes in importing unique tactical gear from all around the world. We recently got a chance to play with a couple of their latest releases — civilian-legal flashbang grenades.
Actual flashbangs produced for military and law enforcement use are classified as destructive devices by the ATF and are not available on the commercial market. They typically consist of an explosive charge and fuse mechanism inside a steel or aluminum grenade body. We have seen simulators and training aids available for unrestricted purchase that use shotgun blanks or even CO2 cartridges to create the bang, popular for use in airsoft and paintball matches.
But the IWA bangs are a little different. They consist of a small charge inside a cardboard tube. The design actually reminds us of some of the first-generation concussion grenades that used a similar cardboard or paper body. The IWA grenades are classified as pyrotechnics and are governed by the same restrictions that apply to fireworks. Because of this, shipping is limited to ground-transport only which means only those in the Lower 48 will be able to purchase them, state and local laws notwithstanding.
There are currently three models available from IWA – the M11 multi-burst, the M12 Distraction Device, and the M13 Thermobaric Canister. The M11 gives off a single loud bang followed by two smaller bangs. The M12 is a single charge, and the M13 Thermobaric produces a single loud bang and a “mild overpressure” as described by the folks at IWA. Fortunately, they sent us a couple of each for testing. All three models sport OD green cardboard bodies and pull-ring fuses with a safety spoon that flies free when the safety ring is pulled. Each grenade is individually labeled and, though the bodies look identical, the labels are large and clearly marked so you know what you’re getting when you pull the pin. They are roughly the same size as an actual flashbang and seem to fit in most nylon pouches made for the real deal.
There are, of course, some differences between the IWA products and the real thing. The biggest difference is sound output. The products made by DefTec and ALS produce about 175 decibels on detonation. The IWA grenades are rated for 125 decibels. The other major difference is time delay. Tactical-grade flashbangs usually have a 1.5-second delay, while the IWA versions are currently advertised at 2.5 seconds. They tell us they are working on an improved fuse that will bring the delay down to 2 seconds or less.
The folks we spoke to at IWA say that these are meant primarily for training and simulation purposes. Not to mention the obvious f*ck-yeah-factor of getting to toss grenades for whatever special occasion you can come up with. The lower sound output makes them a more akin to a sophisticated M80 than a tool for post-apocalyptic home defense, but we don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Who needs a reason to set off explosives? All three versions of the IWA flashbang are available for .99 each, with bulk pricing available.
The photos here will have to hold you over for now but stay tuned to RecoilWeb and RecoilTV for video of our tests of these unique products. In the meantime, check out iwainternationalinc.com and pick up one or two for yourself.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for some of the world’s most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
DARPA has had a hand in major inventions like GPS, the internet, and stealth aircraft. And it’s always developing new technologies — military or intelligence-related systems that could end up having a huge impact outside the battlefield as well.
We’ve looked at some of DARPA’s active projects, and found some of the more astounding systems that are currently in the works.
Generally, surface-to-air missiles are faster than the plane they’re targeting, making it difficult for an aircraft to evade fire. The HELLADS program attempts to use lasers to disable incoming missiles.
DARPA is also planning on increasing the strength of the HELLADS laser in order to make it an offensive weapon capable of destroying enemy ground targets.
ARES will be a dual-mode vehicle capable of both driving on the ground and achieving high-speed vertical takeoff and landing. Twin tilting fans will allow the vehicle to hover and land. The vehicle can also configure itself for high-speed flight.
DARPA hopes that the ARES will be especially resistant to IEDs — while also being able to evade aerial threats, like air-to-air missiles.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) introduced by DARPA and in development by Boston Dynamics is a mobile, semi-autonomous, four-legged robot that can function as a beast of burden on the battlefield.
Boston Dynamic’s AlphaDog can currently go70% to 80% of the places that troops are capable of walking. The prototype can carry hundreds of pounds of gear, lightening the burden for soldiers. It is currently taking part in testing trials alongside Marines in Hawaii.
DARPA’s One Shot XG program aims to improve the accuracy of military snipers through a small mountable calculation system that can be placed either on a weapon’s barrel or on its spotting scope.
The One Shot system is designed to calculate a number of variables, such as crosswind conditions, the maximum effective range of the weapon, and weapon alignment, using an internal Linux-based computer. The system would then indicate an ideal aim point for the marksman.
The One Shot XG began testing in March 2013.
A system that provides almost immediate close air support
The tactic of close air-support — in which soldiers call in attack aircraft to gain advantage in the midst of a ground engagement — has remained relatively unchanged since its emergence in World War I. In conventional close air support, pilots and ground forces focus on one target at a time through voice directions and a shared map.
US soldiers must operate in ever condition imaginable, including environments rife with physical obstacles that require soldiers to rely on ropes, ladders, or other heavy-climbing tools.
To overcome this challenge, DARPA has initiated the Z-Man program.
Z-Man seeks to replicate the natural climbing ability of geckos and spiders. One of the main products of the Z-Man program is “Geckskin,” a synthetically produced high-grip material. In a 2012 trial, a 16-square-inch sheet of Geckskin successfully attached to a glass wall — and managed to hold a static load of 660 pounds.
The initial phases of the program are aimed at aiding soldiers and officials with active translation of English into a listener’s native language and vice versa. DARPA plans on eventually expanding BOLT into a tool that could allow everyone to communicate fluidly without having to learn each other’s language.
DARPA awarded a $89 million contract to Boeing to develop the Solar Eagle unmanned drone.
Part of DARPA’s Vulture II program, the Solar Eagle is designed to stay in the air for a minimum of five years using solar energy. The drone will have a 400-foot wing span, equivalent to a forty-story building, and can fly at stratospheric altitudes.
The drone will have intelligence, communications, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions.
A system that gives soldiers enhanced optical awareness
The Soldier Scentric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) began in 2011 but is still at an early point in development. The program imagines a final system comprised of optical sensors that are both soldier and drone-mounted, allowing a synthesis of information that greatly increases battlefield awareness.
The program could provide soldiers with second-by-second information relating to their missions using a completely hands-free system.
The program aims to create an autonomous, unmanned high-altitude airship capable of conducting persistent wide area surveillance, tracking, and engagement of air and ground targets for a ten-year period. The airship will be fully solar powered as well.
Naval supply payloads hidden at the bottom of the ocean
Re-supply in remote sections of the ocean is one of the key difficulties that the Navy faces.
The Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program envisions the deployment of supply stockpiles throughout the bottom of the earth’s oceans. These supplies will be placed in capsules that can survive for years under extreme ocean floor-level pressure.
When needed, a passing ship would be able to send a signal to the supplies, causing them to rapidly rise through the water to the ship.
The VTOL X-Plane further pushes the boundaries of hybrid-wing aircraft beyond what the V-22 Osprey can already accomplish.
DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane envisions a new type of aircraft that can maintain a flight speed of 345 to 460 miles per hour, but is still capable of super-efficient hovering while carrying at least 4,800 pounds of cargo.
The X-Plane is scheduled for three phases of development between October 2013 and February 2018.
The SeeMe program would consist of a number of satellites that travel in a set band across the earth. This satellite constellation would provide precise imagery for any location within the pre-set band within a 90-minute time frame, making the program a potentially invaluable asset for military intelligence.
The constellation satellites would fly for 60-90 days before burning up in the atmosphere, leaving behind no space debris behind.
A precise lightweight laser weapon
The Pentagon is constantly attempting to reduce combat risk in urban situations where less-precise conventional weapons may cause unintended collateral damage.
DARPA’s Excalibur program is aimed at allaying these fears through light-weight laser weapon. Eventually, DARPA hopes the program will produce a 100-kilowatt laser that could be used in precision strikes against ground and air targets.
Thirty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, which called for the elimination of all ground launched-surface-to-surface missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,417 miles). This treaty held through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, but in recent years, there have been allegations of Russian non-compliance.
Details on the new missile are scarce, as the system’s development has begun. One likely option would be to try to bring back the ground-launched version of the Tomahawk. Another option could be to launch Tomahawks from an Aegis Ashore base. The Tomahawk can be launched from the same vertical-launch cells as the RIM-161 Standard Missile, or SM-3, used in Aegis Ashore. A 2016 release from Lockheed Martin noted that an Aegis Ashore base in Romania is active, and one in Poland is under construction.
The Wall Street Journal noted that the Pentagon’s intention is to hopefully force Russia to comply with the 1987 treaty. However, should Russia not go back into compliance, a source told the paper that the United States is determined to be ready if the Russians choose to “live in a post-INF world … if that is the world the Russians want,” as one official put it.
The Hill reported that during meetings with other NATO defense ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Secretary of Defense James Mattis states that Russia’s violations raise “concern about Russia’s willingness to live up to the accords that it’s signed, the treaties it’s signed.”