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The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

When you think ‘sherpa,’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably the folks who help people climb Mount Everest, not an Army aircraft. Unless you’re a pro, you’re probably not thinking about the Army’s C-23 transport plane.


Wait, the Army has a transport plane? That’s right. You see, the Army operates unarmed, fixed-wing aircraft. After the Army and Air Force split, the Air Force got the armed aircraft in the divorce settlement.

One of the unarmed transports the Army flies is the C-23 Sherpa. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sherpa was acquired to serve as an intra-theater transport between U.S. Army bases in Europe. However, the plane soon took on responsibilities beyond that limited role. The C-23 can haul up to 30 troops or three pallets of cargo. The plane is also capable of using smaller runways than the C-130 Hercules and is cheaper to operate than a CH-47 Chinook. With a top speed of 281 miles per hour and a range of 771 miles, this particular aircraft soon found work outside Europe as well.

 

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
A C-23 Sherpa over Europe in the 1980s. (Photo from USAF)

 

According to a 2014 United States Army release, the C-23 was used in the American peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. The plane was also a valuable asset during Operation Iraqi Freedom, moving cargo to places where C-130s couldn’t land, which was particularly valuable in humanitarian relief missions.

Related: This is what happened when a C-130 aircraft and a C-17 had a baby

Ultimately, the United States bought 62 airframes and, aside from losing one in a crash, the planes remained in service until it was retired in 2014 to be replaced by the C-27J Spartan. Still, the C-23 isn’t going away just yet. Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Philippines are receiving some of these short-haul airlifters as second-hand assets. As for the C-27J, it was retired by the Air Force and Air National Guard without replacement.

 

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
A US Army (USA) C-23B Sherpa aircraft assigned to Company H, 171st Aviation Regiment unloads Soldiers at an undisclosed airfield in Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. (USAF photo)

 

To learn more about this aircraft, check out the video below:

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 even more incredible facts about ‘Rambo’

When We Are The Mighty sat down with Sylvester Stallone, Sly revealed some truly astonishing things about one of action movie history’s most beloved characters: John Rambo. Most of us blacked out when Stallone revealed that Rambo didn’t originally join the Army but came to in time to learn a few great things that make the character much deeper than we ever imagined.

That was just info from Stallone. It turns out there’s much more, so we dove a little deeper.


Read: Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Rambo is almost a god in Papua New Guinea

Somehow, the character of John Rambo has entered the folklore of the Kamula people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, despite limited access to film and television. The Rambo of folklore is said to be a gunrunner who fought in the 10-year civil war in nearby Bougainville, and will come back to defend Papua New Guinea in case of World War III. In Kamula culture, along with other tribes, Rambo is said to symbolize peak masculinity.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Rambo’s trademark knife wasn’t supposed to exist

In the book First Blood, on which the movie and character John Rambo is based, Rambo never had a survival knife of any kind, let alone a giant one to use to bring down the entire police force of Hope, Wash. Stallone added the knife for effect, hoping to make the weapon a character all on its own.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Rambo wasn’t a killer – originally.

John Rambo never actually kills anyone in First Blood. There is only one death in the entire movie, and that happened as an accident when an overzealous cop falls from a helicopter while shooting at Rambo. In subsequent movies, that all changes of course. Rambo’s body count is 76 in First Blood: Part II, and 132 in Rambo III. In Rambo, he appears to kill the entire Burmese Army with one .50-cal.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Stallone hated the first cut of First Blood.

The first time Stallone saw the edit for First Blood, he hated it. It was three and a half hours long, and Rambo’s dialogue was terrible. At first, Stallone wanted to buy the film so he could burn it. Instead of that, he re-cut the film to 93 minutes with most of his dialogue removed, which is what you see when you watch it today.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Without ‘Rambo’ there would be no ‘Predator’

When Rocky Balboa took on Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, no one in Hollywood was quite sure who Rocky’s next opponent could possibly be. The joke was made that Rocky would have to fight some kind of Alien in Rocky V. After a while, Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas began to take the idea seriously and wrote a Rocky-Rambo Hybrid movie that we call Predator.

In Rocky V, Rocky fought a former student named Tommy Gunn. In the street. Outside a bar. In case you were wondering.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

John Rambo was almost played by John Travolta

Imagine how different action movie lore would be today if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been in the writing and casting process. John Travolta was considered for the role of the former Green Beret and one-man wrecking crew before Stallone stepped in and nixed the idea.

Travolta also almost became Forrest Gump and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell of Top Gun fame.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Arthur John Rambo of Lincoln County, Mont. gave his life to save his fellow soldiers in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

There actually is a John Rambo on “The Wall.”

Arthur John Rambo was an artilleryman with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. He was mortally wounded by multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades on Nov. 26, 1969. As he and his fellow artillerymen came under heavy mortar fire, a nearby self-propelled howitzer took an RPG hit and caught fire. Rambo cleared his fellow soldiers out of the way and attempted to drive the vehicle, still burning, away from the area where it wouldn’t be a threat. He did so successfully, but the vehicle took two more RPGs. The last, killing Rambo in action. Arthur John Rambo was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

“Nothing is over!” Damn right.

Rambo commits suicide. In the book.

… and in the original cut of the movie. Remember when Sylvester Stallone re-edited the entire movie? Rambo killing himself didn’t make the final cut, even though that’s what happens in the book. Instead, Stallone asked a few Vietnam vets what troubles they face, and Stallone wrote a speech at the end of the movie to let the world know.

That original movie sounds awful. Thank god for Sylvester Stallone.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

Articles

This is India’s version of the A-10 Warthog

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union designed the MiG-27 Flogger as a dedicated ground-attack plane based on the MiG-23 Flogger, an air-superiority fighter turned multi-role fighter. It was well-built for that mission, able to haul just over 8,800 pounds of ordinance, according to globalaircraft.org.


It also could bring two varieties of BRRRRRT! Airforce-Technology.com reports that the MiG-27 had a 30mm Gatling gun, the GSh-6-30, with 260 rounds that could kill tanks. In addition to the 30mm gun, this Flogger also packed twin-barrel 23mm gun with 200 rounds that the MiG-23 had. Double the BRRRRRT!, double the fun?

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
A close look at the nose of a MiG-27, showing its sensors. (Wikimedia Commons)

The F-15 Eagle made a similar transition in the late 1980s, going from an air-superiority plane to a deadly ground-attack bird (albeit still with powerful air-to-air capabilities). For the MiG-27, though, its only mission was to be ground attack. The Soviets removed the radars but did armor up the cockpit. The MiG-27 stayed in production until 1986 in the Soviet Union, but India then got a license to build the plane.

In Indian service, the MiG-27 is known as the Bahadur. India acquired a production license for the MiG-27, starting with 80 kits from Russia. Then, India began to build MiG-27s from scratch – eventually acquiring a total of 165 in that manner. India also imported MiG-27. According to FlightGlobal.com, India has 84 MiG-27s in service.

But these are not the Cold War MiG-27s.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
Indian Air Force MiG-27. (Wikimedia Commons)

GlobalSecurity.org noted that India carried out one upgrade starting in 2002, which included new navigation systems, improved target tracking systems, and a cockpit that made things easier for the pilot. That was finished by 2009. But a more advanced MiG-27 has been designed by India

MilitaryFactory.com reports that this advanced version of the MiG-27, known as the MiG-27H, would take it beyond a ground attack machine. The MiG-27H not only lightened the plane, but added multi-function displays to the cockpit, and a multi-mode radar that would enable the Flogger to fight aircraft and carry out anti-shipping missions.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
MiG-27 graphic showing some of its weapons configurations. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to a 2016 report from the India Times, India’s MiG-27s are to be retired no later than 2018, but other reports point to the Flogger sticking around until as late as 2020.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why corporal is ‘the worst rank in the Army’

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Army rank structure, there are three directions an Army specialist can go in terms of rank change. They can be demoted to private first class, losing responsibilities and pay. They can be promoted to sergeant, gaining responsibilities and pay.

Or, a third direction, they can be “laterally promoted” to corporal, where they gain lots of responsibilities but no pay.

This is why corporal is the worst rank in the Army.


The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

An Army corporal is sent to roll up ratchet straps near trees while an Army specialist is paid the same to take a photo of them doing it.

(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew J. Washington)

See, corporal is an enlisted level-4 rank, equal in pay to a specialist. This is a holdover from back in the day when the Army had two enlisted rank structures that ran side-by-side. There were specialists-4, specialists-5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Specialists got the same pay as their noncommissioned officer equivalents. So, a specialist-9 got paid the same as a sergeant major.

Specialists were expected to be experts in a specific job, but weren’t expected to necessarily lead other soldiers. So, it was unlikely that they would pull duties like sergeant of the guard, and they were only rarely appointed to real leadership positions. The rest of the time, they just did their jobs well and got left alone.

But specialists were slowly whittled down in the 1960s-80s. After 1985, only one specialist rank remained. It was paid at the E-4 level, same as a corporal.

Today, specialist is the most common rank in the Army.

But some specialists are so high-speed, so good at their jobs, so inspiring to their fellow troops, that the Army decides it must have them as leaders now. And, if they aren’t eligible for promotion to E-5 just yet, then we’ll just laterally promote them to corporal and get them into the rotation anyway.

So, the soldier gets added to the NCO duty rosters, gets tapped for all sorts of work details that pop up, and gets held to a higher standard than their peers, even though they’re drawing the same paycheck every month.

They can even be assigned to positions which would normally go to a sergeant, like senior team leader.

“All of the work, none of the pay.”

Meanwhile, their specialist peers are so well known for cutting up that the symbol of their rank is known as the “sham shield,” a play on the Army slang of “shamming” (skipping work, known as skating in the Navy).

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

The Army needed someone to go out and take photos of a bunch of guys getting hit with CS gas in the middle of the desert. They, of course, turned to a corporal.

(U.S. Army Cpl. Hannah Baker)

But, hey, how bad can life actually be?

Well, first, Army enlisted soldier is already one of the most stressful jobs in the nation according to yearly surveys. One widely reported every year comes from CareerCast which ranked enlisted military as the single most stressful position in the country in 2018.

(Side note: the rest of the occupations in the top 5 most stressful jobs have an average salary of ,562. E-4s pull in about ,000 depending on their time in service.)

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

A U.S. Army specialist is “promoted” to corporal, a promotion that he will never regret.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christina Turnipseed)

Next, when corporals are laterally promoted, they only move up the feeding chain a tiny amount, moving from specialists to guys who are ostensibly in charge of specialist, but still below all other NCO, officers, and warrant officers.

And we said ostensibly for a reason. Specialists aren’t known for always caring what a corporal says. Or what anyone else says, but corporals get particularly short shrift. And this is especially bad for corporals who are appointed to that rank in the same unit they were specialists in. After all, that means they have to now direct the guys they were hanging out with just a few days or weeks before, all without the benefit of a more concrete promotion.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Army Cpl. Quantavius Carter works as a movement noncommissioned officer, logging all the measurements necessary for the paperwork to ship the vehicle.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

But their job is important, and most corporals are appointed to that rank because higher leadership knows that they’ll take it seriously. Like we mentioned, corporals can be assigned to jobs that would normally require a sergeant. They sent to supervise everything from crap details to automatic weapons teams.

They are, truthfully, part of the backbone of the Army, but they still often have to share barracks rooms with drunk specialists.

So, yeah, buy your local corporal a drink when you get a chance, because they’re stuck in a tough job with no extra pay and little extra respect. Worst rank in the Army.

Articles

The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.


In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.

 

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
WIRED FOR DISCOVERY. Earl Shamwell, one of the authors, sets up a multisensor robotics testbed to collect images, LIDAR data and inertial measurements. Researchers aim to improve robotic performance by closing the gap between what a robot expects to happen and what actually happens. (Photo by Jhi Scott, ARL)

What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.

We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.

‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’

Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.

Related: Army developing robots to remove casualties from combat

The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.

The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.

We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.

Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.

A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.

NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’

In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.

Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.

All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.

Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
Army researchers brief a Japanese industry delegation on a unique robot with strong, dexterous arms during an Oct. 5, 2016, visit to the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. (U.S. Army photo by David McNally)

‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF

Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.

Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.

For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.

Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.

CONCLUSION

At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.

A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.

Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.

If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.

Also read: The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

For more information about ARL collaboration opportunities in the science for maneuver, go to http://www.arl.army.mil/opencampus/.

DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.

MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.

This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.

Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.

Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.

Syria’s government has been linked to 33 cases of chemical weapons use against its own people during the 7 year-long civil war, and along with Russia stands accused of war crimes such as the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals and schools.


Russian media has accused terrorists and groups with US-backing of plotting to stage, and to actually carry out, a chemical weapons attack on children and families in Idlib to justify attacking the Syrian regime.

But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.

Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.

With a small armada of Russian ships in the Mediterranean, Russia too appears to have taken measures to look more committed to its cause.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

Enter the F-35B

In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.

But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.

The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.

Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.

“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Russia flirting with disaster

Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.

The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.

If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps’ new sniper rifle is now fully operational

Recon Marines and scout snipers now have a new weapon in their arsenal.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Long Range Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action, precision-firing rifle that offers more accuracy and range than similar weapons of yesteryear. The system partially replaces the M40A6 — the legacy system — and gives Marines increased lethality.

In the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Mk13 reached full operational capability.

“This weapon better prepares us to take the fight to any adversary in any clime and place.”

The Mk13 delivers a larger bullet at greater distances than the legacy sniper rifle. The additional velocity offered by the Mk13 will be advantageous on the battlefield, said Berger.


“When shooting the Mk13, the bullet remains stable for much longer,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, MCSC’s weapons team lead for Infantry Weapons. “The weapon gives you enough extra initial velocity that it stays supersonic for a much longer distance than the M40A6.”

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, fire the MK13 Sniper Rifle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)

Additionally, the rifle includes the M571, an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle. The new optic enables Marines to positively identify enemies at greater distances and creates a larger buffer between the warfighter and adversaries.

Mk13 a ‘positive step forward’

The M40A6 has served the warfighter well for many years. However, the Corps searched for ways to enhance their sniper capability after identifying a materiel capability gap in its sniper rifles, said Brisker. He said Marines will primarily use the Mk13 during deployments, while the M40A6 will serve as a training rifle for snipers.

“We are looking to conserve the barrel life of the Mk13 Mod 7 and facilitate training aboard all installations,” said Berger.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and Marine Corps Systems Command liaison, demonstrates the Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle during training aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)

Since its initial fielding to I Marine Expeditionary Force in 2018, the Mk13 has been popular among Marines. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper platoon used the weapon for more than a year in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Many users emphasize how the weapon significantly improves their precision firing capability, said Berger.

“At our new equipment trainings, the resounding feedback from the scout snipers was that this rifle is a positive step forward in the realm of precision-fire weapons,” said Berger. “Overall, there has been positive feedback from the fleet.”

Both Berger and Brisker expressed encouragement for the Mk13 after the weapon reached FOC. They believe the rifle will give the warfighter an additional option, increase lethality and enhance the ability to execute missions on the battlefield.

“The fact that we managed to get a gun of this capability out to our sniper teams is really positive,” said Brisker. “We’re looking forward to doing even more in the future.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time infantry captured a Nazi train filled with lingerie

In August 1944, the successes of D-Day were in the rear-view mirror and American troops were engaged in the long slog to Berlin. One group of American soldiers got a surprise when, while chasing German soldiers east, they captured a military train only to find that sections of it were filled with lingerie, perfume, and other treats.


The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

(Chris Tingom, CC BY 2.0)

After Allied troops took the beachheads at D-Day, there were optimistic predictions that they could take Berlin by Christmas. But it wasn’t to be. It took weeks just to fight through the hedgerows of Normandy, and Germany stiffened its resistance everywhere possible.

Free French forces, resistance members, and British and American units maneuvered east, trying to keep as much pressure on German troops as they could.

As the line shifted east, German troops would burn supplies they were abandoning, but tried to keep vehicles, especially tanks, in good working order, so they could use them to kill American and other Allied soldiers. So the attackers quickly learned to seize as much as they could whenever possible.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

German armored troops roll through Denmark in April 1940.

(Danish Ministry of Defence)

As June ground into July and then August, the push east accelerated. Paris was liberated and, on August 26, Free French General Charles de Gaulle led a parade into the city.

About that time, the 3rd Armored Division was pushing to Soissons, a city 55 miles northeast of Paris. German soldiers pulling back were using railroads to quickly move equipment but, according to a story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers, one unit had overestimated how long it had to load onto the train and get going.

When U.S. troops arrived, they saw a train preparing to roll out with tanks and armored vehicles loaded onto it. Every armored vehicle that escaped would need to be killed in eastern France, Belgium, or Germany. The train had to be stopped.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

U.S. troops fire their machine gun during battle in Aachen, Germany.

(U.S. Army)

U.S. tanks and half-tracks opened fire as machine gunners and mortarmen rushed into position. Most of their rounds were bouncing off the German armor, but the sheer volume of fire was keeping German drivers and crew out of their vehicles, allowing American troops to keep the upper hand.

Most of the Germans who stayed to fight were killed or captured, and those who escaped into the woods were rounded up by the French resistance. The Germans had dallied too long, and now the train belonged to the U.S. troops.

When they began assessing their find, they were surprised to find little ammunition, medical supplies, or food, all materiel that they needed. Instead, the Germans had loaded the train with candy, women’s lingerie, and lipstick.

It appeared that the German soldiers had raided French shops and, when it came time to run, had prioritized gifts for girlfriends and family over packing or destroying their own supplies, getting a faster exit to save the vehicles, or even just absconding with their lives and arms.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

A woman writes a message on a U.S. tank in Belgium

(U.S. Army)

Their mistake was U.S. gain. The 3rd Armored took the vehicles, other U.S. troops seized millions of pounds of beef, grain, flour, coal, and more. Many items were given to the French public to alleviate shortages caused by Nazi occupation, but other items were pressed into the war effort to keep American troops moving.

Ambrose doesn’t reveal what happened to the love train’s more romantic contents, but it’s likely that some of it made it back to the states in reverse care packages, but most of it probably stayed right there in France, consumed by the people lucky enough to get their hands on it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Search underway after 2 Marine Corps aircraft crash

Update: One Marine has been recovered alive but a second unfortunately perished. Five Marines are still missing and search-and-rescue operations are still underway.

A search is underway for the crews of two U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in an aerial crash near Japan at 2 a.m. on December 6 during aerial refueling operations.


Japanese aircraft are assisting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the search which, according to reporting from USNI News and CBS, involved a two-seater F/A-18D Hornet and a KC-130J tanker. The Hornet had two crew onboard and the tanker had five crew members, according to CBS.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
JMSDF – MCAS Iwakuni Friendship Day 2018

The Marine Corps released a statement after the incident:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan – Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6.

The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred.

Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery.

The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time.

The local time of 2 a.m. in Japan translated to approximately noon EST.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, is the lead agency for media response, so updates should come from the News section of the Marine website or the III MEF Twitter.

Aerial refueling is, naturally, a hazardous activity but the U.S. military practices this capability regularly as safe aerial refueling is a major combat multiplier, allowing strike pilots to extend their range and patrol times. This is especially true for the Navy and Marine Corps as their planes are often launched from carriers or amphibious assault ships where launch weight is a major factor.

Reducing launch weight can mean a reduction in either fuel or weapons load, but this can be countered by launching with limited fuel and then topping off in flight from a tanker like the KC-130J.

Update: One Marine has been rescued, 2nd Lt. Alyssa J. Morales, a spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, told Task Purpose.

Update 2: The Japanese Self-Defense Forces has a second Marine who unfortunately perished in the crash. The Marine rescued earlier is now reportedly in stable condition. An earlier version of this update erroneously said that the second Marine had been recovered alive.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a 200-year-old engine is changing sub warfare

Swedish submarines have proven themselves in exercises against the U.S. One of their subs successfully lodged a kill against the USS Ronald Reagan as the carrier’s protectors stood idly by, incapable of detecting the silent and stealthy Swedish boat. Oddly, the Swedish forces succeeded while using an engine based on a 200-year-old design.


The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

The USS Ronald Reagan was sailing with its task force for protection when a single Gotland-class submarine snuck up, simulated killing it, and sailed away without damage.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

First, a quick background on what engines were available to Sweden when it was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet in the 1980s. They weren’t on great terms with the U.S. and they were on worse terms with the Soviets, so getting one of those sweet nuclear submarines that France and England had was unlikely.

Nor was it necessarily the right option for Sweden. Their submarines largely work to protect their home shores. Nuclear boats can operate for weeks or months underwater, but they’re noisier than diesel subs running on battery power. Sweden needed to prioritize stealth over range.

But diesel subs, while they can run more quietly under the surface, have a severe range problem. Patrols entirely underwater are measured in days, and surfacing in the modern world was getting riskier by the day as satellites kept popping up in space, potentially allowing the U.S. and Soviet Union to spot diesel subs when they came up for air.

So, the Swedish government took a look at an engine originally patented in 1816 as the “Stirling Hot Air Engine.” Stirling engines, as simply as we can put it, rely on the changes in pressure of a fluid as it is heated and cooled to drive engine movement.

That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but the important aspects of a Stirling engine for submarine development are simple enough.

  • They can work with any fuel or heat source.
  • They generate very little vibration or noise.
  • They’re very efficient, achieving efficiency rates as high as 50 percent while gas and diesel engines are typically 30-45 percent efficient.
The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

An officer from the HMS Gotland watches the crew of a U.S. patrol plane track his sub during war games near Sweden in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Brian O’Bannon)

Sweden tested a Stirling engine design in a French research vessel in the 1980s and, when it worked well, they modified an older submarine to work with the new engine design. Successes there led to the construction of three brand-new submarines, all with the Stirling engine.

And it’s easy to see why the Swedes chose it once the technology was proven. Their Stirling engines are capable of air-independent propulsion, meaning the engines can run and charge the batteries while the sub is completely submerged. So, the boats have a underwater mission endurance measured in weeks instead of days.

But they’re still stealthy, much more quiet than nuclear subs, which must constantly pump coolant over their reactors to prevent meltdowns.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank

The HMS Gotland sails with other NATO ships during exercise Dynamic Mongoose off the coast of Norway in 2015.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

So much more stealthy, in fact, that when a single Swedish Gotland-class submarine was tasked during war games to attack the USS Ronald Reagan, it was able to slip undetected past the passive sonars of the carriers, simulate firing its torpedoes, and then slip away.

The sub did so well that the U.S. leased it for a year so they could develop tactics and techniques to defeat it. After all, while Sweden may have the only subs with the Stirling engine, that won’t last forever. And the thing that makes them so stealthy isn’t restricted to the Stirling design; any air-independent propulsion system could get the same stealthy results.

Shortened to AIP, these are any power systems for a submarine that doesn’t require outside oxygen while generating power, and navies are testing everything from diesel to fuel cells to make their own stealthy subs. China claims to have AIP subs in the water, and there is speculation that a future Russian upgrade to the Lada-class will introduce the technology (as of August 2017, the Lada-class did not feature AIP).

So, for the U.S., getting a chance to test their mettle against them could save lives in a future war. And, if it saves a carrier, that alone would save thousands of lives and preserve tons of firepower.

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For its part, Sweden is ordering two new submarines in their Type A26 program that will also feature Stirling engines, hopefully providing the stealth necessary to catch Russian subs next time their waters are violated. Surprisingly, these advanced subs are also cheap. The bill to develop and build two A26s and provide the midlife upgrades for two Gotland-Class submarines is less than id=”listicle-2589628522″ billion USD.

Compare that to America’s Virginia-Class attack submarines, which cost .7 billion each.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian beast is one of the biggest anti-aircraft missiles ever developed

Many of the most-well known anti-aircraft missiles are relatively small. The American FIM-92 Stinger is small enough to be carried by one person. The Sparrow can be carried by aircraft or launched from ships, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow made the missile more compact while increasing performance.


But one anti-aircraft missile is simply huge. Meet the SA-5 Gammon, one of Russia’s many Cold War efforts to defend itself from Strategic Air Command’s bombers.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, this missile was huge, over 35 feet long. It had nearly 500 pounds of high explosives in its warhead, and came in at a weight of nearly eight tons. By comparison, the F6F Hellcat, the scourge of the Pacific Theater was 33 feet long, and weighted a bit over six tons. That’s right – this missile is larger than a World War II fighter.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
A SA-5 Gammon on its launcher. Was a similar missile the first kill for the Arrow? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

These missiles had a long reach, able to hit targets as far as 250 miles away, and with a top speed of over 5,600 miles per hour. But when it comes to combat, the SA-5’s record has been… spotty. In 1986, these missiles were fired at U.S. Navy jets, and missed.

The batteries didn’t regret their poor marksmanship for long, as A-7 Corsairs used AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs, to put the batteries out of action.

The massive plane-killing missile remains in some countries’ inventory, including Iran, India, Poland, Syria and North Korea. Others, like Ukraine, inherited SA-5s after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of Ukraine’s missiles was responsible for the accidental downing of a Russian Tu-154 airliner in 2001, killing 78 people. The SA-5 was also notable for being the first kill of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system.

The unknown Army aircraft that flew a tank
Two SA-5s on their single-rail launchers, while a third is on the ground. Their immense size is apparent. (Wikimedia Commons)

With continued upgrades, the SA-5 will stick around for a while. Check out the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h6l3j_bX5g