The Lockheed F-35 Lightning has been drawing a lot of press – and orders from across the world. According to a Lockheed website, 14 countries either have orders in or are looking at buying the Lightning. But another cheaper jet is making waves.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is part of a long line of Swedish jets, to include the Draken and Viggen. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Gripen has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 1,988 miles. The plane is armed with a 27mm cannon and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance. It is a very advanced fourth-generation fighter (arguably falling in the Generation 4.5 category with the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale).
The F-35, on the other hand, offers stealth technology and very advanced avionics, making it a fifth-generation fighter. MilitaryFactory.com reports it has a top speed of 1,199 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,379 miles. It also has a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance, and comes with a GAU-22 25mm cannon.
The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)
So, why would a country want the Gripen? Two words: Math and money. The F-35 comes in at anywhere from $94 million to $122 million, depending on the variant, according to Lockheed. Now, this price may go down, but it’s still pretty steep. According to GlobalSecurity.org, South Africa paid roughly $1.5 billion for 28 Gripen, which comes to about $53.5 million per jet. That’s a $40 million savings, and you get everything the F-35 can do but stealth.
The F-35C Lightning II — a next generation single-seat, single-engine strike fighter that incorporates stealth technologies, defensive avionics, internal and external weapons, and a revolutionary sensor fusion capability — is designed as the U.S. Navy’s first-day-of-war, survivable strike fighter. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)
But which plane can win in a fight? The Gripen has high performance, but the F-35 can see it easily. The F-35, on the other hand, is much harder for the Gripen to see. Fighter pilots have a saying, “Lose the sight, lose the fight.” That means the Gripen, as impressive as it is, would come out second-best in a fight with the F-35.
Still, it’s better than relying on a MiG or Sukhoi.
In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.
The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).
The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.
Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.
The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.
Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.
About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.
However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.
SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on August 2, 2020, after returning from a 63-day mission to the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls/NASA)
SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.
On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.
Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.
“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”
“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.
“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.
“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.
The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.
“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.
He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”
“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.
“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.
American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil
Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.
During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.
Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).
Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.
With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”
In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.
Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.
“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.
‘I doubted us, too’
During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.
“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.
He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”
Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”
As the smoke is still settling down over the charred ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound details about the operation are already emerging.
SOFREP has learned that the assault force was comprised of approximately 70 operators from Delta Force’s A Squadron and Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The air package included eight helicopters, a combination of MH-60 Blackhawks and MH-47 Chinooks, from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). Supporting the operation were two MC-130J Commando II tankers, which provided mid-air refueling, and an unspecified number of F-15Es, which ensured air-superiority and bombed the compounded after the assault force had left.
The assault force received fire on its way in, its flight route overflew enemy-held territory, but it was quickly suppressed by the supporting air assets. The Russian government had received notification that an operation against ISIS would be taking place in the area. This ensured that the Russian forces didn’t engage the assault force inadvertently.
Upon reaching the target, the assault force immediately came under fire. Fearing a booby trapped main door, the assault force’s breachers penetrated the compound’s walls. Thereafter, training and experience kicked in and the assault force quickly secured the compound.
Former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Al-Baghdadi tried to flee through one of the many tunnels but picked a wrong one that was a dead-end. He detonated a suicided vest that killed three of his children. Two of his wives, also wearing suicide vests, were killed during the operation. Numerous other ISIS fighters were also killed and a number captured.
The assault team remained on the ground for about two hours conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), which most probably produced actionable intelligence on additional ISIS targets.
Using facial recognition technology, the operators managed to get a positive identification on al-Baghdadi on the spot – after the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, his head separated almost intact. But to be 100 percent sure about his identity, the assault force had to get more biological evidence that was sent for DNA testing.
No operators were injured during the operation but a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) was wounded.
In a televised address to the nation, President Donald Trump said that “This raid was impeccable. [Al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a safer place. . .Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them.”
Donald Trump: Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘died like a dog’
U.S. intelligence suspected that al-Baghdadi was located in the area since mid-summer. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proved to be key in the operations by furnishing critical and time-sensitive intelligence that pinpointed the location of the ISIS leader. They verified his position almost a month ago. The compound was under continuous surveillance for the past two weeks. The Turkish invasion in northern Syria forced U.S. officials to cancel the operation three times.
Another interesting note about the operation is that the assault force launched from Erbil, Iraq, and not from U.S. Base in Incirlik, Turkey. The former is almost 450 miles from the village the terrorist leader was hiding in; the latter a scant 65 miles.
The mission was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the American humanitarian aid worker caught, raped, and killed by ISIS.
Delta’s A Squadron was very close to killing Osama bin Laden back in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001.
The ability to rapidly project power and force against any threat on a moment’s notice has long been a hallmark of American military might. Dozens of advanced stealth fighters carried on that tradition during a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018.
During the exercise, the US Air Force put a lot of destructive power in the air very quickly, launching a total of 35 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in 11 minutes.
Check out these stunning photos of this show of force by dozens of F-35s.
Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group prepare an F-35A for its mission Nov. 19, 2018.
(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)
F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
2. The milestone drill marks the first ever F-35 “Elephant Walk” combat power exercise, the purpose of which is to fly as many sorties as possible in a predetermined time period in preparation for a possible combat surge.
F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly in close formation during the combat power exercise.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
10. During development, the F-35 has faced numerous setbacks. The aircraft, recognized as the most expensive in military history, suffered its first crash in South Carolina the same week it completed its first combat mission.
Thirteenth Floor is an Akron, Ohio art and clothing store whose run by Billy Ludwig, an artist working under the name Impale Design.
“All of the artwork is my own, Ludwig says. “Although my work can take on different styles and personalities, the majority of my work revolves around the paranormal and macabre.”
He has a small staff who runs his Akron-based warehouse, from where they run their online store. Ludwig and Thirteenth Floor also sets up shop at Comic-Cons and horror conventions throughout the United States.
“I was renting an old store front in Massillon, Ohio, our original location,” Ludwig recalls. “[It was] as a rehearsal studio, and I decided to convert it into an art gallery to sell my artwork along with other regional artists.”
Ludwig has been a Star Wars fan since he was able to say the word “Star Wars.” He was inspired to create a signature poster series, merging World War II imagery with imagery from Star Wars.
“Many of George Lucas’ concepts for Star Wars came from WWII,” he says. “I thought it would be interesting to combine the two. It was just something I did for fun, and over time has gained quite a large following.”
Ludwig is currently creating a fourth series of posters, and plans to create some interesting surprises for his series and for the fans who frequent his work.
Check out Thirteenth Floor’s Instagram and Website for more beyond the “SWVSWWII” Series.
The Air Force has a different kind of plane for every task, but its fighter jets are often its most visible aircraft, carrying out a variety of missions over any kind of terrain.
The first F-15 arrived in the early 1970s, and the highly advanced (though technically troubled) F-35 came online in the past few years. In that period, the Air Force’s fighters have operated all over the world, adapting to new challenges in order to dominate the battlefield and control the skies.
Below, you can see each of the fighter jets the Air Force has in service:
1. F-15 Eagle
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)
The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority over the battlefield. It first became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and intercept platform for decades.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)
The F-15’s superior maneuverability and acceleration are achieved through high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading, or the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area. Combined with the high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading lets the aircraft turn tightly without losing airspeed.
The F-15’s multimission avionics system includes the pilot’s head-up display, which projects all essential flight information gathered by the integrated avionics system onto the windscreen. This display allows the pilot to track and destroy an enemy aircraft without having to look down at cockpit instruments.
2. F-15E Strike Eagle
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)
The F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-seat variant of the F-15 Eagle that became operational in late 1989. It is a dual-role fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
It can operate day or night, at low altitude, and in all weather conditions, thanks to an array of avionics and electronics systems.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
“One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, and the weapons systems officer,” the Air Force says. “On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic ‘moving map’ to navigate.”
3. F-16 Fighting Falcon
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The F-16 is a compact, multirole fighter that first became operational in early 1979. It has all-weather operating capability and better maneuverability and combat radius against potential adversaries.
There are more than 1,000 in service, and it is able to fulfill a number of roles, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, and electronic warfare.
(U.S. Defense Department photo)
“It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations,” the Air Force says.
4. F-22 Raptor
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The F-22, introduced in late 2005, is considered the US Air Force’s first 5th-generation fighter. It’s low-observable technology gives it an advantage over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.
(Photo by Todd Miller)
“The F-22 … is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps,” the Air Force says.
5. F-35A Lightning II
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The F-35A is the most recent addition to the Air Force’s fighter ranks. Variants are being built for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.
It’s designed to replace aging fighter and attack platforms, including the A-10 Thunderbolt and F-16.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
F-35s have been introduced to some air forces, but the program is still in development in the US and continues to face challenges.
The Pentagon said in April 2018 that it would stop accepting most deliveries of the jet from Lockheed Martin because of a dispute over which party was responsible for the cost of a production error found in 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the Post-9/11 GI Bill rates for the 2019-2020 school year. These rates will be effective on Aug. 1, 2019. The Montgomery GI Bill and Dependents’ Education Assistance programs will see a rate change on Oct. 1, 2019.
By law, the GI Bill rate increase is tied to the average cost increase of undergraduate tuition in the U.S. For the 2019-2020 school year, that increase will average 3.4%.
More than 80 percent of those taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits are doing so through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Private & foreign school GI Bill rates
Effective Aug. 1, 2019, those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill at a private or foreign school will see their maximum yearly GI Bill rate increase from ,671.94 to ,476.79.
Those who are enrolled in flight schools will see their annual maximum GI Bill benefit increase from ,526.81 to ,986.72.
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron returns to a training mission after refueling March 27, 2012, over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth)
You can be reimbursed up to ,000 per test for licensing and certification tests. For national testing programs, there is no maximum amount of GI Bill reimbursement. Your entitlement will be charged one month for every ,042.06 spent; currently, that trigger point is id=”listicle-2634152786″,974.91.
You can be reimbursed the actual net costs, not to exceed ,888.70 annually. That’s up from ,497.78 currently.
If you are attending classroom sessions, your housing allowance is based on the ZIP code of the campus location where you attend the majority of your classes.
If you are attending classes at a foreign school, not on a military base, your maximum housing allowance will be id=”listicle-2634152786″,789.00. This is prorated based on the length of your active-duty service and how many classes you are taking.
If you attend all your classes online, your maximum housing allowance will be 4.50. This is also prorated.
Keep up with your education benefits
Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s never too soon to start planning an epic spring or summer vacation. For disabled veterans living stateside, 2020 could be the best year yet for outdoor recreation. This is because the National Parks Service offers disabled veterans an amazing deal on their next visit. From Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park to Dry Tortugas National Park and the Mt. Zion and the Smokey Mountains in between, they’re all at our fingertips – and it’s now totally free.
More than 330 million people visit America’s most beautiful parks every year, and the parks are about to see a huge influx from American veterans due to this partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Disabled veterans can get free access with an Access Pass on their cars, granting free access to anyone in that vehicle. On top of access, the access pass gives holders a discount on expanded amenity fees at many National Parks sites, which can include campsite fees, swimming, boat launches, and group tours.
All a veteran has to do to be one of those who enter the parks for free is submit proper documentation of his or her service-connected disability, along with proof of identification and a processing fee. A Veterans Administration letter of service connection is enough to satisfy this requirement, and the passes can even be ordered online.
This could be you.
(Emily Ogden/National Parks Service)
On top of the disability award letter from the VA, qualified veterans can also use a VA summary of benefits, or proof of SSDI income to prove their disability status. Once proof of residency is also established, and the processing fee is paid, all the veteran has to do is wait. Their new lifetime access pass will arrive 3-5 weeks after sending the application. If online payments aren’t available to the veteran, the passes can also be acquired by paper mail or by stopping into an access pass-issuing facility. The documentation is still required, but getting the pass is a breeze.
The National Parks Service really is full of amazing natural wonders, which make this lifetime pass one of the biggest benefits of having served. The NPS is full of places you’ve always heard about, but likely have never seen: Big Bend, Arches, Denali, Sequoia, Crater Lake, Petrified Forest, Glacier Bay, Hot Springs, and so much more. Summer vacations will never be the same.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”
Despite all the disruptions of 2020, Army modernization officials have tested new, longer-range and more precise infantry weapon systems. They also announced efforts that could lead to future machine guns, precision grenade launchers and possibly even hand-held directed energy weapons.
Soldier lethality is a key Army modernization priority, one that has gained momentum since the service unveiled a strategy in 2017 to equip combat units with a new generation of air and ground combat systems.
In the short term, the Army wants to field new squad-level weapons to close-combat units and a set of high-tech goggles that projects a sight reticle in front of soldiers’ eyes.
The service announced long-term efforts to develop new belt-fed, crew-served weapons, as well as to begin thinking about what infantry weapons will look like decades from now.
Here’s a look at five weapons-related programs Military.com has reported on this year:
1. Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).
In October, Army modernization officials finished the third soldier touch point (STP) in which troops evaluated the first ruggedized version of IVAS. The Microsoft-designed goggles are intended to provide a heads-up display that offers infantry troops situational awareness tools to help them navigate, communicate and keep track of other members of their unit day and night.
But IVAS is also designed to enhance troops” marksmanship with a tool known as Rapid Target Acquisition. A special thermal weapons site mounts on the soldier’s weapon and projects the site reticle into the wearer’s field of view via Bluetooth signal. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division involved in the STP said it took some adjustment to learn how to shoot with IVAS, but most said they were easily hitting 300-meter targets from a standing position. If all goes well, the IVAS is slated to be ready for fielding sometime in 2021.
2. Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW).
The Army is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, chambered for a new 6.8mm round, that are slated to start replacing the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.
Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition that have gone through STPs. Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the 6.8mm ammunition. The Army plans to select a single firm to make both the weapons and ammunition in the first quarter of fiscal 2022.
Army weapons officials announced in November that the service is pursuing a longer-term effort to arm some infantry squad members with a precision, counter-defilade weapons system designed to destroy enemy hiding behind cover. Currently, two infantrymen in each squad are armed with an M4A1 carbine with an M320 40mm grenade launcher to engage counter-defilade targets, but weapons officials have long wanted something more sophisticated.
During the past decade, the Army tried to field the XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement System — a semi-automatic, shoulder-fired weapon that used 25mm high-explosive, air-bursting ammunition. XM25 stirred excitement in the infantry community but, in the end, the complex system was plagued by program delays that led to its demise.
The Army is currently conducting the Platoon Arms and Ammunition Configuration (PAAC) study — scheduled to be complete by 2024 — which will look at the enemies the service will face in the future and help guide weapons officials to a new counter-defilade weapon sometime in 2028, Army officials say.
The Maneuver Battle Lab at Fort Benning, Georgia, live-fire tested a promising M240 sound suppressor from Maxim Defense during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021, which began in late October. Benning officials said this is the first year that a machine gun suppressor has created excitement in the maneuver community.
Other suppressors in past tests have not been able to stand up to the heat and audible roar produced by the 7.62mm M240. Finding a durable, affordable suppressor that can dampen the sound signature of an M240 would make it more difficult for enemies to locate and target machine gun teams from a distance, Benning officials say.
When the AEWE concludes in early March, Battle Lab officials will compile a report detailing the performance of equipment tested. If testing continues to go well, the Battle Lab may recommend that the Maxim suppressor undergo further testing for possible fielding, according to Benning officials.
Looking further into the future, it will likely be a long time until infantrymen are armed with the blaster weapons like those carried by Stormtroopers or Han Solo in the “Star Wars” saga, but Army weapons officials have already started thinking about it.
“We are working on the Next Generation Squad Weapon … but then what’s the next weapon after that?” Col. Rhett Thompson, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning, said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Armaments, Robotics and Munitions conference in early November.
“Does it fire a round? Instead of a magazine with ammunition, is it some sort of energy capacity … or is it something more directed energy or something else?” he said. “That is really what we are getting at as we get further out there, and some of that is kind of fun to think about.”
China may have released a video teaser of its H-20 stealth bomber and trolled the US’s stealth bombers in the process, according to The Drive.
China’s state-run aviation and defense company, Aviation Industry Corporation of China, recently posted a video celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of AVIC, The Drive reported.
The video, which China Daily tweeted, ends with a shadowy wide shot of bomber-looking aircraft covered in a sheet with text reading “The Next” appearing on the screen.
The shot looks eerily similar to a Northrop Grumman advertisement of the B-21 Raider, which ran during the 2015 Super Bowl, The Drive reported, adding that China Defense Online may have also added the ending itself. As such, it’s unclear if it’s legit.
Still, China has been in search of a long-range bomber.
In 2015, Chinese defense experts said China needed to develop a long-range bomber that could strike targets far from its coast, AFP reported at the time.
Then in 2016, General Ma Xiaotian, a PLA Air Force commander, said China was researching the development of such a bomber, according to Popular Science.
The Drive also reported that conception of the H-20 may have even come before that, citing Airforce Monthly as saying that XAC had built small models of it, but in 2011, the program came to a halt.
In any event, the Pentagon confirmed in 2017 report that China was “developing a strategic bomber that officials expect to have a nuclear mission,” also noting that “[past] PLA writings expressed the need to develop a ‘stealth strategic bomber,’ suggesting aspirations to field a strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability.”
To that end, the H-20 needs to be capable of carrying a 10 ton payload and have a range of 5,000 miles, The Drive reported.
Popular Science reported that the H-20, in order to strike different continents, needs a 6,200 mile range and carry a 10-20 ton payload, which would most likely require four WS-10 turbofan engines.
Whatever the specifications would be, a researcher working with the US Air Force told Business Insider that the H-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”
The researcher also said that China has built three static H-20 airframes without electronics and engines.
The Drive reported that the H-20’s main weapon would probably be KD-20 cruise missiles, and Popular Science reported that it would carry the KD-20s in its internal weapons bays.
The H-20 might eventually even carry “GB-6A stealth cruise missiles and hypersonic scramjet missiles,” and act as a command and control aircraft, Popular Science reported.
The “deployment and integration” of a nuclear bomber “would provide China with its first credible nuclear ‘triad’ of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air,” the 2017 Pentagon report on China’s military said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Time brings continued improvement to the world of CCW handguns. Smaller, lighter, new cartridges, new projectile designs, innovative sighting systems.
On the other hand, you don’t see that sort of innovation in the pepper spray market. Pretty much since its inception, an OC dispenser has been an aerosol can that squirts oleoresin capsaicin. Your choices have been pretty much limited to the size and color of the dispenser, and whether it dispenses the spicy treats in stream, spray, or gel form.
But it’s 2019, and if you want innovation in OC dispensers, it turns out there’s an app for that. More than one, actually.
Sabre is releasing a new Smart Pepper Spray in 2019, which will communicate with your phone via Bluetooth. The app on your phone will alert designated contacts or first responders, marking your position on a map.
Additionally, the app can be used independently of the spray, since the map will show where and when pepper spray has been deployed previously. This function could prove useful if the user is in an unfamiliar town. “Probably don’t want to go jogging there; fifteen OC uses in the last month.”
Also new from Sabre is a combination OC dispenser and auto rescue tool, with a seatbelt cutter and glass breaker. The position of the glass breaker, on the bottom of the canister, opposite the dispensing button, doesn’t seem ideal. Giving yourself a faceful of OC spray while trying to escape a rollover would make an already bad day worse.
Another manufacturer was showing off their own Bluetooth-enhanced Smart Pepper Spray. Plegium, based out of Sweden, packs even more functions into theirs. In addition to the automatic alert function, there’s an audible 130dB alarm. Next to the OC nozzle are a trio of bright LED emitters that strobe 19 times a second to disorient your attacker and make it easier to aim the spray in low light conditions.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.