5 key features that define a machine gun - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 key features that define a machine gun

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.

5 key features that define a machine gun
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Hersey)

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.

5 key features that define a machine gun
(U.S. Marine Corps)

There’s a reason they’re always carried on the shoulder.

Weight

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.

5 key features that define a machine gun
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

The ammunition is also loaded onto a feeding tray.

Belt-fed ammunition

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.

5 key features that define a machine gun
(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena)

Melting the barrel would probably be an expensive — but amazing — “accident.”

Changeable barrel

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.

5 key features that define a machine gun
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Karnath)

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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of the Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife

Every badass commando needs their own fighting knife. When the battle gets up-close and personal, all the rules are thrown out and it’s anything goes. When a suitable blade doesn’t exist, you get one made. On Nov. 4, 1940, John “Jack” Wilkinson-Latham, Charlie Rose, Lieutenant Colonel William Ewart “Dan” Fairbairn, and Major Eric Anthony “Bill” Sykes met at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. to discuss the prospect of engineering a new combat fighting knife.


Each man brought desirable knowledge in practical concepts to the drawing board. Taking three decades of past experience as a peace officer and firearms instructor for the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in China, then the most violent cop-beat in the world, Fairbairn had the required intangibles to show up for a conversation. He was one of the original members of the world’s first Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) teams and had expertise in forensic ballistics. These bullet points in Fairbairn’s life were what allied clandestine units eyeballed. “I was in police work in the Orient for 30 years [1907-1940],” he said. “We had a tough crowd to deal with there so you had to be prepared to beat every trick in the book.”

5 key features that define a machine gun

Dermot O’Neill teaches combatives learned from his days as an SMP officer.

Photo courtesy of Special Forces Roll of Honour.

A bloody fight in an alleyway hospitalized Fairbairn after he was ambushed by goons from a Chinese separatist gang. Covered in bandages after being stabbed over a dozen times and left for dead, he awoke to notice a plaque on the wall that read: “Professor Okada, Jiu-Jitsu and Bone-setting.” He had an epiphany to use Jiu-Jitsu and combine it with other martial arts such as boxing, judo, and wrestling. He called it Defendu and used it to better protect his officers in these types of melees.

Sykes, a special sergeant attached to the sniper unit, was highly respected by Fairbairn. Together they tussled with street thugs in riots and patrolled among the political unrest across the red light districts. In just 12.5 years, they were present during more than 2,000 riots and fights, 666 of which were shootings. They deescalated 200 of them, a remarkable record considering that a mob can turn into a violent riot fairly quickly. This anomaly exposed them to real-world tactics shaped from classroom theory to results-driven practices. The skill to incapacitate called for a specific level of training because killing was the last resort.

From 1927 to 1940, Fairbairn made connections with the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in China; those from the “China Marines” were exposed to his methods in how to kill with a blade. These connections would prove to be effective down the road in his role with the implementation of unarmed combat within the U.S. military and select special operations units.

5 key features that define a machine gun

A commando concealing his F-S knife in a sheath on his calf.

(photo courtesy of the Commando Museum.)

After retiring from the SMP, the pair returned to the United Kingdom in 1940 and were approached by the Secret Intelligence Service’s (SIS) “Section D” (for destruction) to set up a combatives program for the newly formed Commandos and Special Operations Executive (SOE). Since their November 1940 meeting, it took Rose, the top development engineer at Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd. Experimental Workshop, 10 days to work out the kinks in the “First Pattern” of the F-S knives. The expedited process ensured a batch of 1,500 daggers would reach schoolhouses across England.

“In modern warfare, the job is more drastic,” said Fairbairn. “You’re interested only in disabling or killing your enemy. That’s why I teach what I call ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play; no rules except one; kill or be killed.” Their nimble design had a long, thin 6.5- to 7-inch blade; the grip was made from solid brass, and the grip handguard was nickel-plated.

Designed for combat applications, the double-edged stiletto could be worn and concealed on the calf of a commando. Its usage was common in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) but saw action among members of SOE’s Force 136, including James Alexander E. MacPherson, who carried it in the Far East.

Gutter Fighting training by OSS at Catoctin

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This lightweight model was then introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Rex Applegate, a counterintelligence officer assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) instructor cadre. Known for his instruction on “Point Shooting” with handguns and a visionary in combat application, he traveled to the U.K. to witness the commandos training firsthand. He and Fairbairn inspected the field reports of the dagger’s effectiveness on body armor, conducted additional training, and met up with Fairbairn’s then-compatriot Sykes. While Sykes remained in the U.K. instructing his “Silent Killing” course, Fairbairn and him had a disagreement that is rumored to have hurt their relationship.

Applegate and Fairbairn returned to the West to introduce their methods to the Americans at Camp Ritchie, then later at the 275-acre farmland training grounds called STS-3 (Special Training School), or Camp X, in Oshawa, Canada. Camp X opened on Dec. 6, 1941, a day before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. It became an instrumental link between British and American special operations forces who cross-trained before going to war. They eventually made a knife of their own called the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.

The Shanghai connection didn’t stop there. Irishman Dermot “Pat” O’Neill served amongst the SMP, following in his father’s footsteps. As he rose through the ranks, O’Neill earned a fourth dan black belt. His influence was feared — a SWAT cop mingling in the same gyms as Judo students who were trained as spies for the Kempeitai, the Japanese version of the Gestapo. Adding to the heat already upon him was rampant corruption in the SMP, including the chief of detective squad, Lu Liankui. He was a Green Gang boss and disciple of the Ji Yunquing, one of the eight leaders of the Big Eight Mob. O’Neill expected retribution and bailed onto a fishing boat for Sydney; he soon received a telegram from Fairbairn requesting his presence in the United States.

5 key features that define a machine gun

The Fairbairn-Sykes commando knife is present on many modern-day unit insignias, including the U.S. Army Special Forces.

(Open source graphic.)

O’Neill weaved his way to Camp X, where Fairbairn utilized his expertise teaching OSS officers. Here he taught students how to sneak up on sentries and eliminate them. He ran the students through real-world scenarios because shooting paper targets on a range and performing hand-to-hand combat drills on dummies wasn’t going to cut it in war. Fairbairn put students through “indoor mystery ranges” (the “shoot houses” or “kill houses” today’s special operations soldiers are familiar with).

“Under varying degrees of light, darkness, and shadows, plus the introduction of sound effects, moving objects, and various alarming surprises,” Fairbairn explained, “an opportunity is afforded to test the moral fiber of the student and to develop his courage and capacity for self control.” The students referred to these tests as the “House of Horrors” for its authenticity.

Fairbairn’s web of connections brought helped spread the Fairbairn-Sykes combat fighting knife around the world, and it has a lineage in many different historical units. When O’Neill left the OSS, he later joined Lt. Col. Robert Frederick’s First Special Service Force (FSSF), commonly referred to as the Devil’s Brigade. The joint U.S.-Canada team learned quickly that O’Neill wasn’t there to teach them how to incapacitate an enemy — he was there to teach them how to kill.

Frederick developed his own knife called the V-42 stiletto. Inspired by the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Frederick issued his “Cross Dagger” to his commandos. Today, the lineage can be seen in the insignia of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Royal Marines, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Army Rangers, Dutch Commando Corps, and the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment.

The Best Ranger Competition

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Bell Flight wants to make an awesome tilt-rotor drone

Bell Helicopters Textron, one of the companies behind the V-22 Osprey and the makers of a proposed Army tilt-rotor, are pitching a new drone for the Navy and Marine Corps that packs tilt-rotor technology into a large drone capable of carrying weapons, sensor platforms, and other payloads into combat.


(Bell Helicopters Textron)

The Bell V-247 Vigilant is to be an unmanned bird capable of operating at ranges of 1,300 nautical miles from its ship or base, carrying 2,000 pounds internally or a 9,000-pound sling load, or spending 12 hours time on station.

Of course, those numbers represent maximum endurance, maximum lift, or maximum range. A more likely mission profile combines all three. Bell says the aircraft will be capable of carrying a 600-pound payload 450 nautical miles for a mission with 8 hours time on station. It can also refuel in flight, further extending ranges and time on target.

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

And, with just two V-247s, a commander could establish 24-hour persistent reconnaissance of a target. That implies a much lower set of maintenance requirements than manned aircraft, since many require more hours of maintenance on the ground than they get in-flight hours.

Best of all, because the wings fold and it doesn’t need space for a crew, the V-247 would fit in about the same amount of space on a ship as a UH-1Y, tight enough for it to land on Navy destroyers, whether to shuttle supplies or to refuel and re-arm for another mission.

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

For armament, Bell highlights its ability to fire air-to-surface missiles, helping Marines on the ground or potentially helping interdict fast boats during a swarm attack on the water.

All in, the design has a lot of the numbers that planners would want to see in a support aircraft. And, because it doesn’t require a pilot, it can do a lot of complicated tasks while reducing the workload of the military’s already strained pilot population. It’s easy to see a role for an aircraft like this in fleet replenishment, in amphibious assault and air support, and in ship-to-shore logistics.

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

But, the Navy and Marine Corps are already on the hook for a large number of V-22 Ospreys. The Marine Corps has made the V-22 one of its most numerous aircraft, flying them across the world. And the Navy is looking to buy 38 V-22s to conduct fleet replenishment missions around the world, ferrying everything from engines to potatoes from warehouses on land to ships at sea.

So, while it would be useful for the Navy to get some smaller, unmanned aircraft to move the smaller packages between ships — especially since V-22 exhaust is so hot and fast-moving that it breaks down ship decks faster than other aircraft — there may not be enough money to go around. But the V-247 might represent a valuable asset for the Marines and Navy. And many of the sea services’ missions for the tilt-rotor would be valuable for the Army as well.

More graphic depictions of the proposed aircraft are available below.

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

5 key features that define a machine gun

(Bell Helicopters Textron)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How forensics experts help in counterinsurgency warfare

A relatively new weapon to combat the enemy is being used in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. It’s been around a little more than a decade and fits into the counterinsurgency warfare necessity of being able to identify who the enemy is by person versus just identifying an enemy organization.

The Afghanistan Captured Material Exploitation Laboratory is aiding combat commanders in their need to know who is building and setting off the enemy’s choice weapon — Improvised Explosive Devices. With this positive identification of enemy personnel, coalition units working within NATO’s Resolute Support mission can then hunt down the enemy for detention or destroy if need be.


“The commanders are starting to understand it more and seeing the capability and asset it provides,” said Kim Perusse, incoming ACME lab manager at BAF.

Perusse said commanders are embracing it and wanting more forensics exploitation.

Personnel from ACME deploy from the Forensic Exploitation Directorate which is part of the Defense Forensics Science Center located at the Gillem Enclave, Forest Park, Ga. DFSC also contains the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the Office of Quality Initiatives and Training.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Shown is an RFT2 device which consists of a CWC-11 A/0 receiver module with a custom switching circuit. The RFT2 functions as a receiver and switch of IED’s initiators.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The DFSC’s mission is to provide full-service forensic support — traditional, expeditionary, and reachback — to Army and Department of Defense entities worldwide; to provide specialized forensic training and research capabilities; serve as executive agent for DOD Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Program; and to provide forensic support to other federal departments and agencies when appropriate, its website stated.

ACME provides forensic/technical intelligence, analysis, and exploitation of captured enemy material. The findings are then provided to coalition forces and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to counter the IED threat, attack the counterinsurgent networks, advise the Afghanistan government’s exploitation labs, and provide prosecutorial support to the Afghan justice system, an ACME slide presentation stated.

ACME capabilities include latent print examination; explosive/drug chemistry; electronic engineering; explosive triage; DNA; firearm/toolmark analysis; weapons technical intelligence analysis; and, provide assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, National Directorate of Security, and Afghan National Security Forces.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Triage, the first stop for all evidence, tests an unknown substance on the HazMatID for any hazards.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As part of employment with DFSC, FXD, personnel must deploy every 18 months to a deployed lab for six months, as there are currently two, one here and one in Kuwait.

The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory — CENTCOM in Kuwait supports military operations in Iraq and Syria, and is located at Camp Arifjan.

ACME’s primary mission “is to allow the commanders on the ground to understand who’s within the battlespace,” said Lateisha Tiller, outgoing ACME lab manager.

Whether this is people coming onto the coalition locations as part of employment or those building the IEDS, forensics exploitation results in positive identification of such individuals.

“Our mission is to identify nefarious actors that are in the CJOA [Combined/Joint Operations Area] right now,” Tiller said.

“We don’t want them putting IEDs in the road, and blowing up the road, blowing up the bridge. We want that type of activity to stop,” Tiller said. ” ‘How do you stop it?’ You identify who’s doing it; identify the network of people who’s doing it. Eliminate them from the battlespace” as evidence collected is then shared with military intelligence, she said.

5 key features that define a machine gun

X-rays are taken of all evidence in Triage to ensure no hazards such as Trojan horses are observed. This x-ray shows a pressure plate containing a hazard.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“It’s never just one person; identify the network,” she said. By taking people out, the network “eventually is going to dismantle itself.”

“The secondary mission is the Rule of Law,” Perusse said. “Helping get the information out to the Afghans to potentially prosecute those nefarious actors that we may identify” through biometrics, chemistry, firearms, and toolmarks.

The conclusive findings and evidence — criminal activity analysis reports — is then shared with the Afghan laboratories as they work to build a case against alleged personnel who could be tried in an Afghan court.

The reports are also shared with military intelligence — U.S. and NATO — and also sent to the Justice Center in Parwan to assist in the prosecution of the enemy. The JCIP is located in the Parwan Province where BAF is located too in east-central Afghanistan.

The justice center was a joint U.S.-Afghan project to establish Afghanistan’s first national security court. Established in June 2010, the JCIP exists to ensure fair and impartial justice for those defendants alleged of committing national security crimes in the Afghan criminal justice system. Coalition forces provide technical assistance and operate in an advisory capacity.

The reports are accepted in the Afghans courts because the Afghans understand and trust the findings of ACME. “Building that alliance is absolutely part of the mission,” Tiller said. “The lines of communication are definitely open.”

5 key features that define a machine gun

The evidence room is the hub of the lab that distributes and stores the evidence while located at ACME.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

Because of this fairly new application of forensics to counterinsurgency warfare, the Afghans initially didn’t understand it, the lab managers said.

“They didn’t understand forensics. They didn’t trust it,” Perusse said. “Especially DNA, it was like magic to them.”

But as she explained, the U.S. also took a long time to accept DNA as factual and evidential versus something like latent prints. Latent prints are impressions produced by the ridged skin, known as friction ridges, on human fingers, palms, and soles of the feet. Examiners analyze and compare latent prints to known prints of individuals in an effort to make identifications or exclusions, internet sources stated.

“Latent prints you can visualize, DNA you can’t,” she said.

The application of forensics exploitation as part of the battle plan started in the latter years Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lab managers said. OIF began in March 2003 and lasted until December 2011.

This type of warfare — counterinsurgency — required a determination of who — by person — was the enemy in an effort to combat their terrorist acts.

5 key features that define a machine gun

A latent print examiner develops a latent print on the neck of a plastic bottle with Superglue Fuming and Rhodamine 6G processing, then visualized with a forensic laser.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

“I think there was a point where the DOD realized that they weren’t utilizing forensics to help with the fight,” Tiller said.

The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were not big units fighting other big units, with mass casualties, but much smaller units engaging each other with an enemy using more terrorist-like tactics of killing.

Forensics told you “who you were fighting. You kind of knew the person in a more intimate way,” Tiller said, adding, it put a face on the enemy.

Forensics exploitation goes hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency warfare, Perusse said. “They’re (Taliban/ISIS) not organized like a foreign military were in the past” but instead have individuals and groups fighting back in a shared ideology, she said.

Because of the eventual drawdown in NATO troop strength in Afghanistan, the ACME labs at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Leatherneck, Helmand Province, were closed and some assets were relocated to BAF’s ACME in 2013.

5 key features that define a machine gun

A DNA analyst prepares DNA samples for analysis on the Lifetech 3500XL Genetic Analyzer.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The evidence is collected at the sites of detonation by conventional forces — explosive ordnance personnel, route clearance personnel — through personnel working in the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate of Security, and other Afghan partners, Perusse said.

From January 2018 to December 2018, the ACME lab was responsible for:

  • 1,145 cases processed based on 36,667 individual exhibits
  • 3,402 latent prints uploaded; 69 associations made from unknown to known
  • 3,090 DNA profiles uploaded; 59 unique identifications made from unknown to known
  • 209 explosive samples, 121 precursors, 167 non-explosives/other, and 40 controlled substances analyzed
  • 55 firearms/toolmarks microscopic identifications

Adding credibility to ACME was that it became accredited by the International Organization of Standard in 2015. Both lab managers said they believe that ACME is probably the only deployed Defense Department lab accredited — besides the FXL-C in Kuwait — in the forensics field.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Forensic chemist conducts a single-step extraction to prepare the samples for analysis by Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations comprised of members from 168 countries. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. It was founded in 1947.

Tiller and Perusse said this accreditation is quite meaningful, personally and professionally.

Interestingly, both lab managers offer extensive deployment experience to the ACME lab.

Tiller has deployed four times for FXD — three times to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait — for a total of 26 months. Likewise, Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience too with FXD, with now four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait. And, because of mission requirements, no rest and relaxation periods — vacations — are allowed during their deployments. The reason is because most positions are one-person deep and the mission cannot continue without all sections working collectively, they said.

Currently, there are 17 people working at the BAF ACME lab.

FXD’s mandatory deployment policy can be viewed as positive and negative depending on a person’s particular situation.

5 key features that define a machine gun

An electronic exploitation examiner uses the Advanced Aggregate Data Extractor test equipment to perform testing on an RFT2 device. The AADE produces the following tests: Filter Analyzer, Emissions Analyzer, Peak Harmonic Distortion and Bit Error Rate.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse points out, there are plenty of other places to work that do not require mandatory deployments which require forensic skills such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Homeland Security to name several.

So those who do work at ACME do so because they want to be.

“There is nowhere else in the world where you’re going to get a [final] forensic result of the quality that you’re going to get from the ACME as quickly as you do,” Tiller said, which often brings immediate gratification to one’s work.

Whether it’s producing a DNA profile or finding a latent print on some material, finding this evidence within two days is a big reason why people at ACME find their work rewarding.

“It happens nowhere else,” Tiller said, describing it as the “ultimate satisfaction,” knowing the evidence produced will ultimately save lives.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Shown are incoming ACME lab manager Kim Perusse (left) and outgoing ACME lab manager Lateisha Tiller. Tiller has deployed four times for FXD for a total of 26 months. Perusse has 28 months of deployment experience with FXD, with four deployments in Afghanistan and one to Kuwait.

(Photo by Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public Affairs)

As Perusse put it, there is no place like ACME’s lab in Afghanistan.

“We are in war zone. We are around everything, we get IDFed,” she said, referencing the periodic indirect fire of mortar attacks at BAF. She said it is much different type of deployment than at the Kuwait lab where examiners can “have more freedom to include going into the city and shop at the mall.”

“There’s a reason why we’re doing this,” Perusse said, of identifying the enemy, which leads to saving lives and helping the NATO coalition.

“It’s very powerful to be able to see that and be with the people who are going out the field and risking their lives,” she said of those who look for and submit items for evidence.

As Tiller redeploys back to her normal duty station in Georgia, she knows ACME will continue in experienced hands with Perusse who will now take over as lab manager for a third time.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk says the US’s F-35 stealth jet ‘would have no chance’ against a ‘drone fighter plane’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.


At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy.”

“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.

The F-35, variants of which are used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, has had its critics since its inception. Lawmakers have scrutinized it over multiple delays in production and its price tag, which at 6.5 billion, makes it the costliest weapons program in US history.

The Defense Department in October announced a billion contract that includes delivery of 478 F-35s, according to CNBC.

Problems with the F-35 surfaced soon after it joined the fleet. Over 800 flaws riddled the software, according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, which also said the 25 mm cannon on the Air Force’s F-35A, the most common variant, displayed an “unacceptable” level of accuracy.

The F-35 was also unable to meet a branchwide goal set by the previous defense secretary, James Mattis, in 2019. Mattis wanted 80% of F-35s and other stealth aircraft to be “mission-capable” 80% of the time.

5 key features that define a machine gun

media.defense.gov

The Air Force conference at which Musk made his comments included senior US military officials and pilots.

Speaking with Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Musk said autonomous drone warfare “is where it’s at” and “where the future will be,” according to Defense News.

“It’s not that I want the future to be this. That’s just what the future will be,” Musk added. “The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 fastest military aircraft in service today

Every Air Force and Navy feels the need for speed. It’s just a fact. When trying to scramble your defending aircraft, time is of the essence and speed is a critical element of that. Aircraft developers have come a very long way since the development of the first jet engine in the mid-20th Century. These days, an airframe that can’t cruise at supersonic speeds might as well be a diesel-powered propeller plane.


It was a long and winding road human engineering took to get to the point where fighter aircraft have the radar cross section of bumblebee. Here are the fastest examples currently in service.

5 key features that define a machine gun

 Boeing X-37

The Boeing X-37 is an unmanned space drone operated by the U.S. Air Force and boosted into space by NASA. Its mission is to test reusable space technologies, then come back to Earth. On the way down, the X-37 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere at an average speed of 16 times the speed of sound, but has come back as fast as Mach 25.

5 key features that define a machine gun

MiG-25 Foxbat

The fastest fighter still in service today is the Soviet-built MiG-25. Mikoyan designed this fighter to be a pure interceptor aircraft. As a result, the Foxbat can sustain a cruising speed of Mach 2.8 and kick it into overdrive with a top speed of 3.2 – not a bad technology for an aircraft that first took off in 1964.

5 key features that define a machine gun
Aug. 3 airpower summary: F-15E provides cover for disabled convoy

F-15E Strike Eagle

The F-15 has been flying for more than 30 years and is set to keep going. The reason is just good design, another aircraft initially designed to catch incoming enemies and destroy them. The F-15 can fly at a top speed of 3,017 miles per hour, then stop, hit ground targets, and fade away.

5 key features that define a machine gun

MiG-31 Foxhound

When the Russians needed something that could try to chase down the vaunted SR-71 Blackbird, they called up the MiG-21 and its Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The only problem is that it doesn’t handle as well as its predecessor, the MiG-25. With a top speed of 2,993 miles per hour, it also isn’t as fast.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Sukhoi SU-27

The Su-27 is a heavy fighter, designed to be the Soviet Union’s answer to the F-15 program. First flown in 1977, it’s still used by a handful of different countries, and is relied on for its 2,496 miles per hour top speed. The United States even has four SU-27 aircraft it uses to train pilots.

Articles

Soldiers could get this ‘Aliens’-like 3rd arm

There is a proverbial 800-pound gorilla that the United States Army is facing. Well, more like 110 pounds. That’s the weight some soldiers have to haul on their backs. And it’s a big problem.


5 key features that define a machine gun
(GIF: Maple Films via YouTube)

“We [now] have Soldiers in their late teens and early 20s and they’re getting broken sometimes in training before they see a day in combat,” Zac Wingard, a mechanical engineer for the Army Research Laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, was quoted in an Army release as saying during the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium.

5 key features that define a machine gun

How to prevent this? One solution is to give the troops a third arm. Yeah, you read that right. The Army Research Lab has a prototype third arm for troops that will hang off their body armor.

The device, which weighs about 4 pounds, is currently in testing at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Currently, the third arm is being used to help re-direct the weight of weapons, currently M4 carbines, onto a soldier’s body.

“With this configuration right now, we can go up to 20 pounds and take all of that weight off of the arms,” mechanical engineer Dan Baechle said.

During the testing, troops have been wearing sensors to determine how much muscle activity is occurring. Eventually this system could be used with other weapons, like the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon or the M240B machine gun. But it might not end there – troops could be able to carry more powerful systems, since the recoil won’t be directly impacting them.

5 key features that define a machine gun

“We could potentially look at very high recoil systems that aren’t going to beat up on the soldier like they normally would,” Baechle said. There are also application for other tactical needs, like shooting around corners, close-quarters combat, and other fighting techniques.

But it might not just be about helping to shoot a weapon. Troops could also use the third arm to hold shields or keep a weapon ready while using other tools to breach barricades.

That said, before this system goes into the field, they will try to make sure it can be rugged enough to handle whatever the battlefield throws at it.

Articles

The United States is sending BUFFs and Lightnings to Korea

Recent North Korean missile launches, including four into the Sea of Japan earlier this month, have prompted a major deployment of U.S. forces, including B-52 Stratofortress bombers, also known as BUFFs (for Big Ugly Fat F*ckers), and F-35B Lightning II fighters to the Korean peninsula.


According to a report by The Sun, the deployments come as part of the Foal Eagle exercises, which are held by American and South Korean forces. Other assets being deployed in support of the exercises include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and its strike group, as well as B-1B Lancer heavy bombers.

5 key features that define a machine gun

The B-52s can carry a wide variety of ordnance.

Some of the things that they can deliver a lot of to the North Koreas, if Kim Jong Un continues on his present course, include dumb bombs (usually the Mk 82 500-pound bomb or the M117 750-pound bomb, but Mk 84 2,000 pound bombs are an option as well), AGM-86 cruise missiles in both conventional or nuclear versions, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, CBU-87 cluster bombs, CBU-97 cluster bombs, GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (2,000 pound GPS guided bombs), the AGM-142 HAVE NAP missile, the AGM-158 JASSM, and the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon.

The F-35s that will participate are Marine Corps F-35B variants that are based in Japan. The F-35Bs are fifth-generation multi-role strike fighters, capable to engaging targets in the air or on the ground. The planes carry AIM-120 AMRAAMs, AIM-9 Sidewinders, JDAMs, JSOWs, and cluster bombs.

5 key features that define a machine gun
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The planned exercises will involve 315,000 troops, most of them South Korean. North Korea has routinely claimed that the Foal Eagle exercises are rehearsals for an invasion. Earlier this month, a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missiles were deployed to South Korea, a decision criticized by China, which vowed to make South Korea “feel the pain” for allowing the deployment.

Someone needs to tell Kim, “You’re making Chaos angry. You will not like it when Chaos gets angry.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army uses pearls for life-saving technology

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.

By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)


“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”

5 key features that define a machine gun

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.

The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.

When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

5 key features that define a machine gun

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(University at Buffalo)

This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.

The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.

The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.

“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.

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

Articles

This is how the Coast Guard is getting stronger for coastal defense

The Coast Guard has been very busy recapitalizing its fleet. Many of its vessels, like the Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters and Reliance-class medium endurance cutters are quite old.


The Coast Guard has built six Bertholf-class cutters out of a planned class of nine to replace the 12 Hamilton-class ships. How nine vessels can be in 12 places at once is a mystery, but that’s a discussion for another time.

For their next step, the Coast Guard has been building what have been called the Sentinel-class cutters to replace 49 Island-class cutters built from 1985-1992.

5 key features that define a machine gun
USCGC Matagorda (WPB 1303), one of eight Island-class cutters that were lengthened and modernized. She is now in mothballs. (USCG photo)

The Island-class cutters started out at 110 feet long, and were armed with a Mk 38 Bushmaster chain gun like the one used on the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, as well as a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns (“Ma Deuce”). They have a top speed of nearly 30 knots and a range of 3,300 miles. The Coast Guard had 49 of them, but an effort to lengthen and modernize them went bad, and eight vessels had to be mothballed.

The new cutters are 154 feet long. While the main gun is the same Mk 38 Bushmaster, a Sentinel-class cutter boasts four M2 heavy machine guns as a secondary battery – twice as many as an Island-class cutter. The cutter is slightly slower (28 knots) and has shorter range (2,900 miles), and can launch a Short-Range Prosecutor, essentially a rigid-hull inflatable boat.

5 key features that define a machine gun
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios.

The Coast Guard plans to build 58 of the Sentinel-class cutters, replacing the Island-class cutters. According to a report by Military.com, the 24th Sentinel-class cutter, USCGC Oliver Barry (WPC 1124), will be commissioned this coming October in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Coast Guard though, is planning to retire the Island-class cutter USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336), which is based at Hilo, without replacing it at the largest city on the easternmost of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Coast Guard is also planning to purchase the first nine of a planned 25-ship “Offshore Patrol Cutter” class. These vessels will replace not only the 14 ancient Reliance-class medium endurance cutters, but the 13 Bear-class medium endurance cutters as well.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The thing everyone gets wrong about post-apocalypse vehicles

Every generation has concerns about the apocalypse. From doomsday prophets to Y2K bugs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an era of humanity that didn’t include some portion of the population that sincerely believed they were living in the end times. My generation is different, however.


We may be the first generation that seems to be hoping for it.

Between popular blockbusters depicting the end of the world, popular TV shows dramatizing post-apocalyptic survival, and seemingly ever-rising tensions between very real global powers on the world’s stage, my generation didn’t grow up with the specter of nuclear war quite like our parents did. Instead, we grew up in the cynical aftermath: wedged somewhere between the Baby Boomers in power and the young millennials clamoring for it. Those of us in the middle have grown up with a romanticized idea of the end times, if only as a refuge from the problems of today.

5 key features that define a machine gun

Everybody seems to think they’d be the guy IN the car, rather than the one strapped to the front.

(Warner Brothers Pictures)

There’s a big difference between fantasizing about the end of the world and surviving it

Many of us like to be “prepared” for a bad situation. Maybe that’s because people my age are all old enough to have already lived through one or two. But some take that drive to be prepared a few steps further, intent on not just being ready for the end of the world, but genuinely hoping to thrive once it comes about. Of course, some others settle for wistfully talking about what they’d do if the zombies descended on their house: head to Walmart to stock up, load up on firearms at the local gun store, and then swing by the National Guard armory for a Humvee, right?

No credit scores. No social obligations. No debts, bosses, or reason to get up early. Just you, your survival ride, and hordes of the undead to roll over. There’s just one problem with that idea: your dream survival rides would all get you killed.

Whether you hope to take to the streets in a muscle car like Mad Max or Will Smith in I am Legend, or you plan to drive over your problems in an armored military vehicle, you’re screwed either way.

5 key features that define a machine gun

This thing would be awesome until anything broke.

(U.S. Marines)

Armored and specialized survival rides aren’t maintainable

Sure, cruising through the apocalypse in an up-armored humvee or MRAP sounds like your best bet, but those planning on raiding the Motor T lot of their local National Guard center seem to forget that in order to operate all those armored vehicles, the United States employs a veritable army of maintainers, mechanics, and service technicians each with specialized skills and a fair amount of training.

You can’t service these massive vehicles with the floor jack out of your Honda Accord either, and that’s why those pesky diesel mechanics usually have their own building chock-full of heavy lifts and power tools. Ever changed the tire on a Humvee? Even with the right tools on hand, it can be a real pain in the ass. I’d imagine that only gets worse when the old Motor T guys are trying to eat your brains while you’re at it.

Big, specialized vehicles aren’t just hard to work on; they’re hard to find parts for. Specialty vehicles need specialty dealers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find some other Mercedes 6×6 trucks to cannibalize parts from in a jam. You’re better off on a Vespa that runs than you are in a Mercedes that doesn’t.

5 key features that define a machine gun

The least believable part of “I am Legend” was a Mustang Cobra driving on these streets.

(Warner Brothers Pictures)

Sports cars and muscle cars won’t go anywhere

Maybe you’ve got a less pragmatic approach to survival and after a world-ending cataclysm your first priority would be getting your hands on the keys to a brand new mid-engine Corvette, or that ’68 Charger you’ve always dreamed of. After all, with all the current owners dead or zombified, what’s to stop you? Well, the roads for one thing.

Despite the number of potholes on my street, we do tend to enjoy fairly well maintained and clear roads here in the United States. That stops immediately when all the hard-working folks responsible for that start eating each other. That means your super-low sports car will have trouble making it anywhere at all, let alone at the speeds it was designed to achieve.

And then, of course, we get back to that first problem with finding parts and having the know-how required to repair or maintain your vehicle. In many newer performance cars, repairs are as much a digital effort as they are a physical one, and unless you have the specialized equipment you need to communicate with a car’s ECU (or other form of on-board computer), you’re going to be sh*t out of luck when it comes time to throw some wrenches at a problem.

Articles

This new camouflage could make troops totally invisible

For centuries, militaries have been trying to devise ways to disguise their troops and gear.


Sure, there was a time there where cladding your soldiers in the gaudiest of uniforms was considered more sporting than slapping on the face paint, but we all know how those Redcoats were sent packing by a guerrillas who slipped through the trees wearing green.

5 key features that define a machine gun
Can you see me now? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s militaries spend billions on camo patterns in hopes they’ll give their troops the edge. But a company that’s been on the forefront of concealment technology is about to one-up the industry and make all those fancy patterns out there obsolete.

Canada-based Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. has developed a material that its inventor claims can bend light around a subject, literally making it invisible.

Dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” the material has reportedly evolved from its introduction in 2012 to be flexible enough for uniforms and clothing. And it requires no power to operate.

It reportedly works by bending the visible light around the material, a feat even some of the world’s best material scientists and physicists can’t seem to get right.

But Hyperstealth’s Guy Cramer claims he’s nailed it.

Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com) Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com)

“We’re bending the entire spectrum of light—infrared, ultraviolet, thermal,” Cramer told The Atlantic. “People are disappearing. It doesn’t use cameras or mirrors or require power.”

Cramer did not respond to a WATM request for comment on this story.

5 key features that define a machine gun
What am I really seeing here?

For years Cramer had been flirting with the U.S. military and special operations community to adopt the technology for real-world applications. But according to a statement on his website from May, diplomatic hurdles got in the way of a technology transfer and the Army cancelled its search for “adaptive” camouflage.

But that hasn’t stopped Cramer from continuing his pitch for Quantum Stealth. And while he’s been cagey about how it works, people who’ve seen it are convinced it’s legit.

“As I viewed several other videos, it was interesting to see that environmental conditions appear to effect how well Quantum Stealth works,” wrote Special Forces veteran Jack Murphy for Business Insider. “With different background colors and poor lighting, you could sometimes make something out moving around behind the material.  However, even under these adverse conditions, Cramer’s invention appeared to deliver the goods: rendering the person or object 95-98 percent invisible with just a few flashes of color moving from behind the blind.”

5 key features that define a machine gun
Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corporation president Guy Cramer. (Photo from Hyperstealth Facebook)

Cramer claims he was given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments to develop a commercial version of Quantum Stealth for hunters and outdoorsmen.

Dubbed “INVISIB,” the material will have versions designed for law enforcement agencies, another for sportsmen and a more advanced version for military units.

“This material cannot be seen visually (nor the target it is hiding) and current optical technology is not going to help you find them either in the day or night,” Cramer said in a statement.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Brains vs brawns: A Green Beret and a Ranger meet

Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.

There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:

The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.


The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”

“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.

“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.

“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”

As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”

The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”

“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”

Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”

“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.

“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”

The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”

The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”

The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”

As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.

“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”

The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”

Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”

“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”

Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.

As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.

Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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