3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is a Marine Corps favorite because it can suppress the enemies of freedom at the max rate of 800 rounds of democracy per minute. The max range of 3,600 meters is enough to reach out and touch the enemy – and for the Corps to forgive the heresy that the Army had her first. The M249 SAW served as the light machine gun of choice for the Marine fire teams since the 1980s. The commanders of today want to put this ol’ gal out to pasture but the Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW.

1. She’s a millennial

For the sake of brevity let’s disregard the weapon was designed in the 1970s but implanted in the 1980s. Anyone who has fired the weapon can attest to the euphoria of holding down the trigger of this belt-fed beauty at the cyclic rate. She saw action in the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. She was the queen bee in Iraq and Afghanistan. The millennial generation of war fighters patrolled the mountains of the Korengal valley with her. Troops cleared the streets of Fallujah and dominated the sands of Helmand province with this piece of American engineering. When the M249 SAW sings, she retakes the initiative from the insurgency with overwhelming fire power. The SAW is to OIF/OEF era Marines what the M60 is to Vietnam era devil dogs.

2. A reliable weapon

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The weapon system comes with an additional barrel to provide a sustainable rate of fire without melting the barrel. Barrels of other SAWs should not be interchanged due to head spacing of each individual weapon system. A machine gunner can carry a combat load of 600 rounds of ammunition and, the Assistant Gunner, who can carry an additional combat load as well. It is considered light weight at 18 lbs, yet the weight adds up on patrol. If the Gunner and A Gunner run out of linked ammunition the M249 SAW can use M16 magazines. The versatility of this weapon provides an adequate base of fire for fire teams to maneuver, close with, and destroy the enemy. With proper maintenance and a well-trained trigger puller, officers can rest assured that they can employ a fireteam with this weapon to lethal effect.

3. It’s just plain fun to use

Why put a suppressor on it? Because, that’s why. Many moons ago, when I was young boot PFC, my unit held a machine gunner competition. The final event was to saw a 2×4 in half with…the SAW. That’s the best thing about this weapon, there is so much ammo for it. In 2012, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines received the M27 or the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) as part of the Marine Corps’ wide survey. It was up in the air at the time whether the IAR would replace the M249 SAW or replace M16 series all together. While the IAR was less prone to jams and easier to maintain, it did not provide the same level of suppression as it’s predecessor. The Squad Automatic Weapon will be phased out eventually by newer technology but the Marine Corps infantry will always love it anyway. Flaws and all.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force just used its new laser to shoot down a missile

The Air Force Research Laboratory Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program successfully completed a major program milestone with the successful surrogate laser weapon system shoot down of multiple air launched missiles in flight, April 23, 2019.

The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

“This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate director.


During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., April 23, 2019, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system, was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight.

(Air Force Research Laboratory)

The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. The final SHiELD system, however, will be much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.

“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”

High Energy Laser technology has made significant gains in performance and maturity due to continued research and development by AFRL and others in the science and technology ecosystem. It is considered to be a game changing technology that will bring new capabilities to the warfighter.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 advanced Russian weapons (that don’t actually work)

Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.


Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.

Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!

Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.

Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill

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Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria

In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.

According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

Dude’s practically invisible!

Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot

Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.

Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

About as far as it goes.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment

In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.

But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Intimidation: Army crew names their howitzer ‘Coronavirus’

The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.


One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”

ALWAYS VIGILANT! We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders. As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat. #IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1

twitter.com

Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.

But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.

In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.

As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.

The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.

The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.

The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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Now you can own an M249 Para

The folks at FN America just unveiled the latest model in their FN Military Collector Series, the FN M249S Para.


It is a civilian version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon developed for paratroopers and, like its full-sized brother, is certain to turn heads when it’s pulled out to send some rounds downrange.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
Sgt. Craig McComsey, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard, serving with the Zabul Agribusiness Development Team, keeps a close watch from the roof of the district center, Shah Joy, Afghanistan. (Army photo)

The FN Military Collector Series is a line of faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of the actual government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference the lack of select fire capability.

Read More: Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

While the two rifles in the series take “replica” to a whole new level, the  M249 SAW models take things a step farther. Though semi-automatics rather than machine guns, there just aren’t other guns like this available without signing up for a term of service.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
(Photo from FN America)

“The M249S Para is the fourth in our series of classic, semi-automatic FN military rifles and like the Standard, the Para is authentic to the last possible detail,” said John Keppeler, senior vice president of sales and marketing for FN America, LLC. “You’ll notice only two major differences between the semi- and full-auto versions — the barrel length and reconfigured internal components to change the rifle’s operation from open-bolt to closed-bolt.”

“Authenticity was critical in this series and we changed as little as possible,” he added.

The FN M249S Para has a machine gun grade 16.1-inch barrel, flip-up feed tray, integrated bipod, and the adjustable telescoping and rotating buttstock. It has an overall length of 31.5 inches to 37 inches and weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds — slightly lighter than the FN M249S Standard.

It can operate with linked ammunition or a standard M16 or M4/AR15 magazine.

Like the M249S Standard, the M249S Para has a top cover with an integrated MIL-STD-1913 rail for optics or other accessories, a folding carrying handle, crossbolt safety, non-reciprocationg charging handle, and quick-change barrel capability.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
(Photo from FN America)

While the military M249 Para was originally intended for use by airborne infantry, the weapon’s shorter length and lighter weight have made it popular with many gunners, particularly those who spend a lot of time getting in and out of vehicles and those deployed to urban combat zones where space is tight and ranges are often short.

The FN Military Collector Series guns are top-notch firearms and draw a lot of attention when they’re sighted, but that quality and near-military authenticity does not come cheaply.

The FN M249S Para has an MSRP of $8,799 in black and $9,199 in flat dark earth. But owning and shooting one of these guns, particularly with a belt of 5.56, could make the steep price seem like a good deal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New technology will protect four-legged heroes from hearing loss

A new, flexible hood a little more than an inch thick is expected to better protect military working dogs at risk for short-term or permanent hearing loss on the job, the Army Research Office announced Nov. 20, 2019.

Funded by an Army small business innovation grant, Zeteo Tech Inc. and the University of Cincinnati developed the Canine Auditory Protection System (CAPS) to replace often rigid products that are hard to put on dogs, according to a recent news release.

Dr. Stephen Lee, senior scientist at the Army Research Office, said in the release that CAPS could extend dogs’ working lives, protecting them from high-decibel noise during training, transport and operations.


“Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog’s hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler’s commands, which can hinder the mission,” he said.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The Canine Auditory Protection System, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the dogs’ hearing protection in place, while avoiding challenges associated with straps.

(Zeteo Tech)

The researchers found a “significant” reduction in short-term hearing loss when wearing the product during helicopter operations.

CAPS is also compatible with other gear, like goggles, and was tested for usability and comfort on canines working in the military or federal law enforcement. It is designed to conform to each dog’s unique head shape, and its flexibility ensures a proper sealing around their ears for maximum sound reduction.

Lee said CAPS could broaden the use of military working dogs in operations in the future, extending their ability to work in a wide range of environments with soldiers and autonomous systems.

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

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This company can ‘hack’ enemy drones for the US military

A Maryland-based company claims it can take control over an enemy drone while in flight without the use of jamming, a potential game-changer for the US military, prisons, and airports.


Started in 2010, Department 13 came out of DARPA-funded research into radio frequencies and Bluetooth technology. That was when CEO Jonathan Hunter realized his work could have real effects in mitigating radio-controlled drone aircraft — a frequent, and growing nuisance to militaries as well as the private sector.

“We’ve learned how to speak drone talk,” Hunter told Business Insider. Though D13’s technology has often been described as “hacking” a drone, he likes to describe it differently. Instead, his black box of antennas and sensors, called Mesmer, is able to take over a drone by manipulating the protocols being used by its original operator.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
Drone technology. (Photo: DARPA)

Let’s say someone is trying to fly a commercial drone over the walls of a prison complex to drop off some goodies for inmates — a problem that is increasing as off-the-shelf drones get better and less expensive. The prison can use Mesmer to set up an invisible geofence around its physical walls that stops a drone in its tracks, or takes complete control and brings it into the prison and lands it.

“If I can speak the same language as the drone, I don’t need to scream louder, i.e. jamming” Hunter said.

D13 was one of eight finalists last year in a counter-drone challenge at Quantico, Va., where it stopped a drone out to one kilometer away, though the company didn’t win first place (the winner, Skywall 100, uses a human-fired launcher to shoot a projectile at a drone to capture it in a net). D13 also demonstrated the ability to safely land a hostile drone with its technology at a security conference in October.

Besides setting up an invisible wall for drones, Mesmer can sometimes tap into telemetry data the drone would normally send back to the operator, or tap into its video feed. In some cases, Hunter said, it could even track down the person flying it.

The system does have its drawbacks: It only works on “known” commercial drones, so the library of drones it’s effective against only covers about 75% of the marketplace, according to Scout. That number is also likely much less for non-commercial drones made for foreign militaries.

Also read: New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Still, once a commercial drone makes it into Mesmer’s library, it’s unlikely that a future software update would help it overcome D13’s solution. That’s because Mesmer focuses on the radio signals, not the software.

“There is not a single drone that we haven’t been able to crack,” Hunter said. “We’re working our way through the drone families.”

The company plans to have the system on the market this month.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘Big Five’ systems that helped win Desert Storm

America’s ground supremacy in the 21st century is due primarily to the “Big Five” Army acquisition of the 20th century. These five systems, although designed and procured with fighting the Soviets in mind, first proved their combined might in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Despite being built to stem a communist tide in the Fulda Gap of Germany, these five systems were instrumental in pushing the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait in 1991 and then toppling the Iraqi regime in 2003.

1. M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
M1A1 Abrams tanks of the 3rd Armored Division during Desert Storm (U.S. Army)

The M1 Abrams is to the Army what the F-15 Eagle is to the Air Force: iconic. Since the Marine Corps divested its tanks in 2020, the Army is now the sole American operator of the Abrams. Built to slug it out with Soviet T-72 and T-80 tanks, the Abrams entered service in 1980 to replace the M60 Patton tank. Despite being one of the heaviest tanks in modern service, its multi-fuel turbine engine can propel it to a limited top speed of 45 mph. Originally equipped with a 105mm rifled main gun, the M1A1 tanks that took part in Desert Storm were upgraded to a 120mm smoothbore main gun that fired an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot round. Combined with advanced Chobham composite armor, night vision optics, and modern rangefinders, the Abrams easily outclassed the Iraqi T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks. Of the nine Abrams tanks destroyed during Desert Storm, seven were destroyed by friendly fire. The other two were scuttled to prevent their capture after being damaged. Abrams tanks were also used in the Iraq War where they saw more close-quarters urban fighting in support of infantry house-to-house clearing operations.

2. M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
An M2 Bradley of the 24th Infantry Division (U.S. Army)

The M2 Bradley had a troubled development. It was mainly a response to the Soviet BMP infantry fighting vehicles which served as both armored personnel carriers and tank-killers. The existing M113 armored personnel carrier lacked offensive capabilities in its troop-carrier configuration and was too slow to keep up with the new M1 Abrams tank. The Bradley was given the M242 25mm autocannon for its main gun and a compliment of 2 TOW anti-tank missiles. To increase its survivability, it was also outfitted with spaced laminate armor. However, in making the Bradley more lethal, the Army sacrificed the vehicle’s cargo capacity and it could only carry six passengers in addition to its crew of three. Still, the Bradley served as an excellent scout and fighting vehicle during Desert Storm. During the 100 hours of ground combat, the Bradley actually destroyed more Iraqi armored vehicles than the Abrams. 20 Bradleys were destroyed—three by enemy fire and 17 by friendly fire. During the Iraq War, the Bradley proved to be more vulnerable to IEDs and close-quarter RPG attacks and was given upgraded reactive armor. Though Bradley losses rose, crew and passenger casualties remained relatively light.

3. AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
An AH-64 Apache in the Kuwaiti desert (U.S. Army)

Designed to replace the Vietnam-era AH-1 Cobra, the AH-64 Apache entered service with the Army in 1986. Armed with the M230 30mm chain gun and capable of carrying a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets, the Apache was built as a tin-opener for Soviet tanks. Its first action was in Panama during Operation Just Cause. General Carl Stiner, the operation’s commander, praised the Apache for its ability to deliver precision fire. “You could fire that Hellfire missile through a window from four miles away at night,” he said. It also was the Apache that fired the first shots of Operation Desert Storm. On January 17, 1991, eight Apaches flew over the desert at low altitude and destroyed an Iraqi radar station. The attack opened a gap in the radar network that allowed the first Coalition air strikes to hit with surprise. 277 Apaches took part in the war and destroyed 278 tanks in addition to numerous other Iraqi vehicles. One Apache was lost after it was hit by an RPG, though the crew survived. A deadlier threat to the Apache was the desert sand. Built to fight in Europe, the early Apaches had no engine filters for the fine particulates. Ground crews came up with the ingenious solution of covering up the engines with pantyhose on the ground. With the addition of advanced optics and weapons management systems, the Apache has become one of the deadliest battlefield implements of the 21st century.

4. UH-60 Black Hawk Medium-Lift Utility Helicopter

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
A UH-60 Black Hawk lands to pick up troops (U.S. Army)

The UH-60 Black Hawk entered service in 1979 to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey, as the Army’s tactical transport helicopter. Designed to carry 11 combat-loaded troops, the Black Hawk was more survivable than the Huey thanks to its run-dry gearbox, redundant subsystems, armored seats, shock-absorbing landing gear, and ballistically-tolerant fuselage. It was first used during the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and saw action again during the invasion of Panama in 1989. During Desert Storm, the Black Hawk was instrumental in carrying out the largest air assault mission in U.S. Army history with over 300 helicopters involved. During the war, 2 Black Hawks were shot down on February 27, 1991 during a combat search and rescue mission. The Black Hawk has since been upgraded with electronic countermeasures, modern navigation systems, and in the case of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Direct Action Penetrator, M134 7.62mm miniguns and Hydra 70 2.75-inchrockets. Two stealth versions of the Black Hawk also helped to deliver the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden during Operation Neptune Spear in 2011.

5. MIM-104 Patriot Missile

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
A Patriot missile battery set up in the desert (U.S. Army)

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile that replaced both the MIM-14 Nike Hercules High to Medium Air Defense missile and the MIM-23 Hawk medium tactical air defense missile. Though it entered service in 1981, the Patriot was unproven in combat when it deployed to the Middle East in 1990. In addition to its anti-aircraft mission the Patriot was also called upon to intercept Iraqi Scud and Al Hussein missiles. Over the course of the war, Patriot missiles attempted to engage over 40 Iraqi missiles. On February 15, 1991, President George H. W. Bush visited Raytheon’s Patriot missile plant and praised its success in the Middle East. “Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!” The President’s claim of a 97% success rate was challenged by independent investigations into the Patriot’s effectiveness and a government investigation into a failed Scud intercept that resulted in the deaths of 28 American soldiers. The latter was blamed on a one-third of a second deviation in the system’s internal clock due to it being in operation for over 100 hours. Still, the Patriot remains the primary anti-ballistic missile system for America and its allies and is expected to remain in use until at least 2040.

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4 things cluster bombs can do that JDAMs can’t

People think that the Joint Direct Attack Munition is an excellent system. Don’t get me wrong it is great when there is a point target you need to go away.


JDAMs usually land within 30 feet of their target thanks to the use of the Global Positioning System for guidance. In fact, a lot of other systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, use that system as their entire guidance package, or to supplement other precision systems.

But there are some things these precision-guided systems can’t do so well. In fact, the cluster bomb actually can do some things that the JDAM can’t – which is a reason why the United States has not signed the Oslo Treaty that bans cluster bombs.

Here’s a sample of situations where it proves useful.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1. Cluster bombs can hit multiple targets

This is the big thing. One JDAM can take out one target. Bridges or bunkers are the sort of thing the JDAM specialize it killing. But let’s take a look at a company of tanks. Here, we are talking anywhere from ten to fifteen vehicles.

This is the sort of target something like the CBU-87 cluster bomb was designed to handle. With 202 BLU-97 bomblets, it has a good chance of landing one or two on the thin top armor of tanks. One bomb can kill multiple tanks, or trucks, or enemy troops.

That can be very useful for an Special Forces A-Team in a fight for their lives.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
When a lot of tanks are coming, You don’t have time for JDAMs to kill them one-by-one. (Photo: Wikimedia)

2. Cluster munitions allow missiles to hit multiple locations

Next to the BGM-109B TASM Tomahawk anti-ship missile, the BGM-109D Tomahawk TLAM-D is often a forgotten missile. But the BGM-109D has the ability to hit multiple locations, something the latest Tactical Tomahawks can’t do.

This is because the BGM-109D’s BLU-97s – the same ones used on the CBU-87 – are carried in a series of packets. For instance, one missile could dump some of its bomblets on parked planes, then fly on to hit a supply base elsewhere. The BGM-109D, therefore can do the work of two TLAMs.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

3. Cluster bombs provide multiple effects in one package

The JDAM has one warhead that can go off one time. But a cluster bomb can carry different kinds of submunitions in the same case. Perhaps the best example is the CBU-89 GATOR – it carried two kinds of mines – one was an anti-tank mile, the other was anti-personnel. The JP233 was another – it combined both a runway-cratering munition with area-denial munitions.

The other thing is that even when you have a bomb that is all one type of submunition, some bomblets can be set to go off immediately, while others could be set to wait for a period of time (the famous delayed-action bomb – or in this case, delayed-action bomblets).

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
The JP233 on display underneath the Panavia Tornado GR1 in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Cluster bombs can provide surprises without going bang

Some cluster bombs don’t even need their submunitions to go bang. For instance, Designation-Systems.net notes that the CBU-94 and CBU-102 are “blackout bombs” that drop carbon fiber chaff over power lines. This shorts out an entire power grid.

The CBU-19, though, dispensed 528 bomblets filled with CS, better known as tear gas. If you ever saw “The Big Break” episode of the 1950s TV show “Dragnet,” you saw CS in use.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

Finally, some cluster bombs can also be guided in, thanks to the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser program. In essence, these systems can also be dropped within feet of their aiming point.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

French troops ride into battle in this armored truck

When you think of moving infantry, one of three options usually springs to mind: Troops marching in unison, troops riding in infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, or transporting troops by the truck-load. In recent years, that third option has undergone a very interesting evolution, largely due to the War on Terror.


3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

TITUS by NEXTER on TATRA chassis, IDET 2017, Brno Exhibition Center, Czech Republic

(Photo by Karel Subrt)

Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, wreaked havoc on Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who used unarmored wheeled vehicles, like Humvees, to move troops. Extremely effective and inexpensive, IEDs quickly became a popular choice among insurgents. In response, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were born, specifically tuned to reduce the risks presented by IEDs while maintaining the tactical mobility required by urban warfare.

Developing technology to protect vehicles from explosives is not a new phenomenon. Rhodesia and South Africa had pioneered such vehicles to fight insurgencies in the 1970s. Today, just about every country is developing — or buying — some form of MRAP. France, which has been fighting a radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, is no different. Their vehicle of choice is the Nexter TITUS, which is short for Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System.

The TITUS has a crew of three, a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and can go up to 435 miles on a single tank of gas. It can hold up to a dozen fully equipped troops. This transport system also supports an option for a remote weapon system that can hold a variety of machine guns or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, like the Mk 19.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te_V8IfhM_c

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The TITUS also comes in several variants, including a version for police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, a 120mm mortar carrier, a counter-insurgency version, a water-cannon vehicle, and a “forward-support” vehicle capable of carrying ammunition.

This versatile vehicle will likely be around for a while. Learn more about this tough armored truck in the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the Russian submarine fleet is such a basket case

The Russian Navy has been having a lot of problems since the end of the Cold War. The Kuznetsov Follies are just the tip of the iceberg. But the Russian Navy may be taking a real hit under the ocean. Yeah, folks, Russia’s headed for a big hit on the submarine front. In a sense, they already took one.


During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an immense fleet of submarines, ranging from the ancient Whiskey-class diesel-electric subs to modern Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DOD photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, there were a total of 61 subs active in the Russian Navy in 2015. In 1985, the Soviet Navy had 366. That is a drop of 83 percent. Much of this was due to the end of the Cold War. Russia, practically bankrupt, couldn’t afford to keep many of those subs in service.

Worse, new construction also fell off, truncating the production runs of the Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines and the Akula-class attack versions. It also had the effect of stretching out the time it took to get the first Yasen-class sub built (20 years from start to finish on the first sub). The slow rate of construction means that Russia will see its nuclear submarine force dwindle even further.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
Improved Kilo class submarine. Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Russian submarines have also had a disturbing trend of being lost in accidents, including at least three nuclear submarines since 1985, a Yankee-class ballistic missile sub off Bermuda in 1986, a Mike-class attack submarine off Norway in 1989, and the Oscar-class submarine Kursk in a 2000 explosion.

One bright spot for Russia is that the production of diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class are continuing, fuelled by export orders. That said, the recent loss of an Indian Navy Kilo, the Sindhurakshak, to a fire and explosion in 2013 will leave open questions about the quality of Russian designs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppUuQwXATYI
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Here is how the Lancer stops Russia in the Baltics

When one thinks about Russia invading the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, it’s hard not to imagine it being a cakewalk for the Russians. For instance, none of these countries have any fighters or tanks, according to orders of battle available at GlobalSecurity.org. Russia, it goes without saying, has lots of both.


So, how might NATO keep these countries from being overrun in a matter of days, or even hours? Much depends on how much warning is acquired. The United States plans to deploy an Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe to join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, which is getting upgraded Strykers.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
(U.S. Navy Photo by Michael Larsen)

Still, when Russia can send a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, the Americans will face very long odds until more forces can arrive by sea. That will take a while, and the Russians will likely use bombers like the Tu-22M Backfire to try to sink them, as described in Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.

That said, the United States has a way to even the odds. One of the best is to use aircraft to take out tanks. In World War II, planes like the P-47 would be used against German tanks, as seen in this video. P-47s would fire rockets or drop bombs and each would kill a tank or two if they were lucky.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group 41-6265 identifiable. (U.S. Army Air Force Photo)

Today, there are more…surer ways to kill tanks. One of the best ways to kill a lot of tanks very quickly is to use a cluster bomb called the CBU-97. According to designation-systems.net, this bomb carries 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each of which has four “skeets.” Each skeet has an infra-red sensor, and fires an explosively-formed projectile, or EFP.

The EFP is capable of punching through the top armor of a tank or infantry fighting vehicle. So, each CBU-97 can take out up to 40 tanks, armored personnel carriers, or infantry fighting vehicles.

While fighters like the A-10 or F-15E can carry a decent number of CBU-97s, the B-1B Lancer can carry as many as 30. That allows it to take out up to 1,200 armored vehicles. The problem is that to use CBU-97s effectively, you have to get close enough for anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Centre. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But the CBU-97 can take something called the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser kit. This kit adds an inertial navigation system. According to designation-systems.net, this allows the bomb, now designated CBU-105, to hit within 85 feet of an aimpoint. When dropped from 40,000 feet, the bomb can hit targets ten miles away.

Not bad, but still a little too close for comfort.

That is where the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser-Extended Range, or WCMD-ER comes in. This adds wings to the inertial navigation system, and the CBU-97 now is called the CBU-115, and it can hit targets up to 40 miles away.

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

This is what would allow a small force of B-1Bs — maybe six planes in total — to deliver a deadly knockout punch against a formation like the First Guards Tank Army. The B-1Bs would launch from way beyond the range of most missiles or guns.

The Russians’ only hope would be to send fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum to try to shoot down the B-1s before they can drop their cluster bombs. Not only would the Flankers and Fulcrums have to fight their way through NATO fighters, but in all likelihood, there would be surface ships like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the Baltic Sea as well.

In all likelihood, the B-1s would be able to drop their bombs and then make their getaway with the help of a fighter escort. With over 7200 skeets being dropped on the First Guards Tank Army, the Russians are likely to suffer very heavy casualties — buying NATO time to get reinforcements to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

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