Few things in battle are scarier than a gas attack during a ground assault. The air grows thick with toxic mist, and the world shrinks to the view from a hot, sterile mask.
It’s the attack most troops have dreaded since the tactic was first used on a large scale at the Second Battle of Ypres over 100 years ago. Chemical warfare was outlawed in the wake of World War I, but it’s something that American forces still prepare for.
During a recent mock battle with the Australia military dubbed Exercise Koolendong in Darwin, Australia, Leathernecks from the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment trainers dropped CS gas into fighting positions to force the troops to deal with a chemical attack in the middle of a firefight.
Photos from the exercise show how difficult it is for troops to fight during a chemical attack and provide an eery reminder of the mustard gas-blanketed battlefields on the War to End All Wars.
1. The assault began with simulated artillery firing in on Marine and allied positions
2. Despite the gas drifting into their positions, the Marines had to stand their ground
3. Range safety officers peer through the gas-filled haze to keep Marines injury free
4. Getting a gas mask on in time to stay alive in the middle of a fight can be a daunting task
5. Despite the restricted vision and discomfort, Marines still have to put rounds down range and keep the enemy at bay
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire at enemy positions during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)
6. Troops take precious minutes testing the air to determine how best to survive the attack
7. It’s just as important for medical personnel to practice treating and evacuating casualties during a chem-bio attack
8. As America’s potential adversaries look for ways to defeat U.S. troops with unconventional weapons, it’s important that the services practice fighting during a chemical or biological attack — no matter how remote the possibility
According to reports from the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, the Michigan Heroes Museum, and others, Lt. Col. Charles Kettles — the Vietnam war hero and Army pilot who received the Medal of Honor in 2016 for his resupply and rescue efforts in 1967 — died Jan. 21, 2019, at his home in Michigan.
Charles Kettles, at the time an Army major and flight commander in the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division, led a platoon of UH-1D Huey transport helicopters to resupply soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force near Duc Pho. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire, the White House says.
“Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and wounded personnel were loaded on the helicopters to capacity,” the Army said in an official account of his actions. “Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.”
Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Jan. 9, 1930, Kettles left the Army in 1956 to start a car dealership with his brother, then returned to the ranks in 1963 as the Vietnam war began to heat up. He served two tours in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 1978 as a Lt. Colonel.
According to the
Detroit News, the Veterans History Project launched a formal campaign to elevate Kettles’ Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor, with Congress waving the time limit to consider the Army aviator for the MOH.
Kettles earned a host of awards during his career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, an Air Medal with Numeral “27” and the Army Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, the Army says.
Editor’s Note: This piece was original written by Christian Lowe. The story was updated by Team Mighty upon hearing about the Kettles’ passing. Our very best goes out to this hero and those he leaves behind.
Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.
Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.
According to the DoD’s press release:
“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:
Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590
Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400
Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200
The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:
“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”
“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”
Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016
The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.
Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.
Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
On Monday, SpaceX conducted a short test flight of a full sized prototype of the Starship they say will soon ferry Americans to Mars.
The Starship SN5 Test Vehicle flew for only about 40 seconds on Monday evening before touching back down to earth at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Short as the Starship’s little hop may have been, it was a significant leap toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s goal of mounting crewed missions to Mars.
The SN5 Starship prototype isn’t the first iteration of the Starship to reach take off. Last year, a smaller prototype vehicle called the Starhopper completed a handful of short flights, reaching as high as 500 feet on one launch before returning to the ground. While these short trips may not seem significant, they actually represent two of the most challenging parts of a any space mission: the take off, and the return to earth.
The Starship mirrors the landing capability of SpaceX’s smaller and proven Falcon 9 rockets. The ability to land and re-use rocket stages has dramatically reduced the cost of orbital missions. The ship will eventually utilize an entire Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in service anywhere on earth today, as it’s first stage. The Falcon Heavy utilizes 31 individual Falcon 9 rockets for propulsion and boasts similar reusability.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy during launch (SpaceX)
The SpaceX Starship prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine, but will eventually be equipped with six of the advanced rocket engines, which in conjunction with its powerful first stage, will give the ship a total crew capacity of up to 100 people.
The combination of the Falcon Heavy with the Starship will make SpaceX’s massive rocket entirely reusable, dramatically reducing the costs associated with long-duration space missions to the Moon or Mars. Importantly, the Falcon Heavy is the only rocket currently capable of making the long trip into lunar orbit with a crew onboard.
SpaceX is currently a strong contender for America’s upcoming moon plans to place astronauts on the Lunar surface by the mid-2020s. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a flight around the moon aboard Musk’s Starship slated for 2023.
Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff” documented the United States’ postwar love affair with high-speed, high-powered aircraft, rocketry, and the test pilots who flew them. Wolfe used an interesting term to describe how military personnel and veterans speak English, “Army Creole.”
Army Creole, according to Wolfe, was a “language in which there were about ten nouns, five verbs, and one adjective.” In the book, the word “fuck” is used for all of these.
The original Army Creole as described by Wolfe was a manner of speech similar to actual creole. The term now refers to the military-veteran propensity toward including swear words as intensifiers and the sometimes overwhelming use of acronyms.
Accoring to Wolfe, no one was more proficient in Army Creole than Mercury 7 astronaut Deke Slayton, who made people cringe whenever he got near a microphone, for fear he was “going to Army Creole the nationwide TV and scorch the brains of half the people of the U.S.A.”
The unique name given to the dialect is not to be confused with Seaspeak, the official, universal language of mariners the world over. Developed in 1983, shipping experts and linguists devised a communication system, defining the rules for speaking on the ship’s radio.
In 1988, the International Maritime Organization made seaspeak official.
In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – the LEGION Act. In brief, the legislation says the United States has been in a period of constant warfare since Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.
What this means for other areas of the law is up for other people to debate. What this means for veterans is that servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in previously undeclared periods of war are now eligible for expanded benefits.
The most apparent benefit of the new LEGION Act legislation is that now every veteran who served since the bombing of Pearl Harbor is eligible to join the American Legion. This will affect some 1,600 veterans who were killed or wounded during their service, which just so happened to be during a previously undeclared period of global conflict. The American Legion says this act honors their service and sacrifice.
“This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett.
This also means the eligibility window will run until the U.S. is no longer at war, which – historically speaking – may never happen.
The war in Afghanistan alone has outlasted two uniform designs.
Veterans with an interest in joining the American Legion still need to meet the other requirements of membership, such as having an honorable discharge. Joining the Legion means more than finding cheap drinks at the local post. The American Legion is not only a club for veterans, it’s also a powerful lobby in Congress and offers its membership benefits like temporary financial assistance, scholarship eligibility, and even help in getting VA disability claims through the system.
By expanding its network to include thousands of new veterans, the American Legion is better able to leverage its membership with members of Congress as well as state and local elected officials and legislative bodies – after all, it was the American Legion who drafted the first GI Bill legislation and helped to create the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So feel free to stop by for more than just a cheap beer.
Marines qualify on the rifle range every year and train to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. In October 2016, the Marine Corps has presented a new challenge for Marines on the range — a modification to the second half of the marksmanship program was implemented with hopes to better train Marines for combat.
Marines will still complete table one, which trains Marines on the basic fundamentals and techniques of rifle marksmanship.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Luis Carrillo, the officer in charge on Camp Hansen ranges, table two takes the training to the next level. This table focuses more on combat and teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat related environment.
The following changes have been implemented for table two:
• Keeping up the heart rate: Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position when the targets are ready to appear.
• Engaging the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line, where previously they trained the other way around.
• Maintaining situational awareness in combat: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.
This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.
“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”
The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.
“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”
Marines are America’s expeditionary force in readiness and need to be ready to move in a moment’s notice. Table two helps train Marines to respond quickly and aggressively in real-world scenarios, according to Carrillo.
“I think it gets the Marines more in a combat mindset while closing in on the enemy,” he said.
In the early 1860s, Spain was dealing with the loss of many of its overseas colonies. Spain also suffered a series of minor insults to their prestige at the hands of Peru, a former Spanish colony. In an effort to save face and collect on debts left over the Peruvian War of Independence, Spanish forces launched a fleet of ships in April 1864 to seize the valuable Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru.
So when the Spanish landed 400 marines on the islands and formed a blockade of Peruvian ports, the Peruvian government was understandably angry. A political crisis followed as negotiations repeatedly failed to end the standoff. This stalemate drug on from April 1864 to September 1865.
That was when a Spanish ship went to a Chilean port to refuel with coal and the Chileans refused it on the basis that they couldn’t support Spain’s occupation of the islands and blockade of Peru. The Spanish commander, Vice Adm. Juan Manuel Pareja, sailed his flagship into the Chilean harbor and demanded a military salute from the town. When it was refused, Spain demanded reparations payments. The Chileans declared war in September 1865 instead. The Chincha Islands war was on.
Chile won an early victory at the Battle of Papudo when it captured a Spanish ship, the Covadongo. Peru then entered open hostilities with Spain and signed a treaty with Chile. Spain, Peru, and Chile fought for a year before Ecuador and Bolivia joined the fight against Spain in late-1866.
In early 1867 Spain crippled Chile’s merchant marine and shelled a Chilean city. While the attacks were militarily successful, the rest of the world was quick to condemn Spanish actions. Spain found itself with even fewer friends as Britain and America condemned the attacks.
Spain eventually gave up on the war without having captured any ground beyond the original guano-soaked gains in the Chincha Islands. As the Spanish withdrew, Peru took the islands again and have continued to collect the guano since.
The Chincha Islands War wasn’t the only conflict the nations fought for guano. The War of the Pacific from 1879-1884 was partially over guano deposits in the Atacama Desert.
In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.
No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.
No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend. Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know.
Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test.
Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this.
Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately.
The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity.
Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization. We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
Apocalypse Now. Full Metal Jacket. Platoon. Top Gun. Black Hawk Down. A Few Good Men. Saving Private Ryan. Kelly’s Heroes. Crimson Tide.
If you ask your circle of friends and family what some of their favorite military films are, you could get literally a hundred different answers. You’d probably have to ask a few more friends and listen to another hundred more before you get someone to organically name 2006’s The Guardian as a movie they’ve even heard of.
Just to get a few FAQ out of the way early on: yes, Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher did a film together. Yes, it is based on the military. Yes, it is about the US Coast Guard. Yes, the USCG is an arm of the US Armed Forces.
As you can imagine, there aren’t very many people who would dare call this a good film, but I ask that you pump the brakes a bit and read why The Guardian should be on your list of favorite military films.
The original DHS
(Image from MilitaryHumor.com)
A movie about the Coast Guard?
As stated above, yes, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military… kind of.
They aren’t, technically, a part of the Department of Defense so there is that odd “one of these things is not like the others” vibe going on, but they are our brothers and sisters, regardless. At one point they were Department of Transportation during peacetime and switched over to Department of Defense, falling under the umbrella of the Navy, during wartime.
They currently fall under the Department of Homeland Security, another departmental move that makes many of us lower-level peons scratch our heads.
Yes, the USCG got some badasses, too!
(Image from Outsideonline.com)
It features some unheralded badasses
Rescue swimmer seems like the most fitting name for this group of hardened heroes, but they have a much more official title: Aviation Survival Technician. Regardless of all of that, the AST of the US Coast Guard is a certified badass.
It is one of the US military’s most elite careers with about an 80% washout rate. For comparison sake, that’s about the same attrition rate as the Green Beret and Navy SEAL, and higher than the Army Ranger!
A bit of split in opinion between the critics and the audience
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes.com)
It’s better than you think
Sure it made less than m in profit (horrible for a major theatrical release). Yes, it is lambasted on movie critiquing platform, Rotten Tomatoes. However, have you seen it?
Give The Guardian a good, genuine, non-biased once over, and you’ll likely find yourself among the 80% of the audience who think this film is rated “fresh.” The film doesn’t tell any groundbreaking story. It is a completely fictionalized account but there are enough moments to draw you in, and that ending is truly special, if not a bit predictable.
(Image from 20th Century Fox’s Dude, Where’s My Car?)
It’s one of the few watchable Ashton Kutcher films
Look, Ashton Kutcher is a great man. He is involved in some of the most selfless causes in modern society. He has been instrumental in raising awareness, if nothing else, to the mainstream.
He also has a pretty decent track record when it comes to television. He was key in That 70’s Show, created and hosted Punk’d, replaced Charlie freakin’ Sheen on Two and a Half Men, and is currently putting out the Netflix Show, The Ranch. His television reputation is intact. Filmwise..not so much.
A bit of a holdover of a foregone era in a way, Kutcher doesn’t seem to have the same magic when selected for movie projects as he does with TV. Of the 20+ movies Kutcher has starred in The Guardian is one of about four films that is actually enjoyable without intoxicants.
Yea… he did this doozy too
(Image from Universal Pictures’ Waterworld)
It’s got Costner being Costner
Similar to his co-star, Kevin Costner has a bit of a checkered history when it comes to choosing movie roles. On the one hand you have films like Dances with Wolves and Hatfields McCoys, two productions that yielded major awards and nominations for Costner.
The United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force are teaming up for some practice. The targets: North Korean ballistic missiles.
According to a release by the United States Navy, Resilient Shield 2018 started on Feb. 16 and will continue until the 23rd of the month. The exercise will involve two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Benfold (DDG 65), and USS Stethem (DDG 63), the Kongo-class guided missile destroyer JS Kongo (DDG 173), and the Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116).
That is a potent force – six of these vessels are equipped with the Aegis system, centered around the AN/SPY-1 radar, and all six of those are capable of using the RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missile. All seven ships have the Mk 41 vertical-launch system, which can carry that missile. According to Designation-Systems.net, this missile has a range of over 270 nautical miles and can travel at 6,000 miles per hour, or just under Mach 8. In a number of tests, the SM-3, depending on the version, has proven very capable of taking out inbound ballistic targets.
The SM-3 is not the only system deployed in the region to counter North Korean ballistic missiles. The United States, Japan, and South Korea all use the MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which was initially designed to provide area air defense against enemy aircraft, but which proved capable of taking out ballistic missiles in Operation Desert Storm. The United States also deployed the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has a range of over 125 miles and can go more than eight times the speed of sound, according to Designation-Systems.net.
Making the transition from military to the civilian workforce is a challenging phase in the lives of veterans. While the thought of spending more time with family is comforting, starting afresh and beginning an all-new career can be quite a daunting task. After their military lives come to an end, most veterans begin their hunt for jobs but there are a few who have a different plan in mind.
From military to entrepreneurship
Meet Sean Matson, a former Navy SEAL who carved his path to entrepreneurship after having spent 10 years as a SEAL in the US Navy. While he is still serving his country in the Navy Reserves, Sean was deployed five times to a lot of austere locations during his 10-year active-duty career.
Like many other veterans, Sean’s transition to the civilian workforce was not an easy one. Not only was he unemployed after leaving the military, he was also stuck in the middle of a nasty divorce, causing him to almost lose custody of his children and face tremendous debt. All this while he was making ends meet to start his very own brand – Strike Force Energy, an energy drink.
The story behind Strike Force Energy
So, what made this ex-officer launch his own energy drink? Having spent years in the military, Sean understood the importance of energy drinks and caffeine among the military troops. He noticed how the existing drinks in the market were not doing the job of fueling the military — and to make matters worse, the bulky energy drink cans were nothing short of a burden. This gave rise to Strike Force Energy, an energy drink primarily targeted to the military troops.
In a market filled with dubious energy drinks, Sean introduced a healthier and affordable alternative with Strike Force Energy. With zero sugar, zero calories, and the right amount of caffeine, taurine, and B vitamins, this energy drink promises to give you a boost without having an adverse impact on your health. What’s more, its pocket-friendly packaging and attractive price point makes it popular among customers and retailers. Strike Force Energy comes in four flavors: original, grape, lemon, and orange, and it is available in packets or 750-milliliter pump bottles.
Strike Force Energy garners a positive response
This veteran-owned, American-made company enjoys exceptional margins and lower distribution costs compared to its competitors. “Our product has an over 70% gross margin due to in-house manufacturing and distribution combined with a 50:1 relative shipping and storage cost,” says Sean. Its compact size also makes it easy to ship while occupying minimal space. Not just that, this drink has also been gaining preference over competitors owing to its taste.
In two years of business, the founders have received an incredible response and experienced exponential growth since inception. The brand has also made inroads into retail stores such as 7-Eleven and is also garnering interest from other retailers, grocery stores, and fast-food chains.
Brand with a social mission
While his brand is doing incredibly well, Sean has not forgotten his roots. A socially responsible entrepreneur, he is committed to giving back to society through his venture. Strike Force Energy has partnered with non-profitsand donates 10% of their gross sales to them to provide support for law enforcement officers and their families across America.
Top 4 tips for military veterans making the transition
Sean Matson shares his top 4 tips for military veterans looking to transition to the civilian workforce:
1. Start earlier than you think you should
2. The skills you learn in the military completely apply to the civilian workforce
3. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
4. Remember, you have the power to influence much more as a civilian than you ever did in the military
This military officer turned entrepreneur is confident that his energy drink has what it takes to compete with the leading players in the market. When asked what the future looks like for his business, he says “We are either going to be the best energy drink company or be bought by the best.”
The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.
The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.
“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.
The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.
The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.
The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.
“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”
The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.
A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.
New lightweight .50 cal
The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.
The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.
The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.
The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.
“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”
“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”
An intimidating combat-tested weapon
The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.
“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.
The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.
The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.
“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”
The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.
The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.
The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.
The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.
“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”
The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.