Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun - We Are The Mighty
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Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons and Soldier lethality and weight reduction, point out features of the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun. | US Army photo


The Army is manufacturing a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-cal 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 percent 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, N.J. and then go to Anniston Army Depot, Ala., for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load. A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon,” Laura Battista, Product Management Engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview Battista, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
U.S. Army Pvt. Michael Dinius and Pfc. Andrew Mitcham, both assigned to 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indian Army National Guard prepare to fire an M2.50-caliber machine gun during mobilization training at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

“We will procure 30 and then go into full blown testing – air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability and government standard testing.  We’ll see how it did compared to the M2 and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record,” Battista added.  

An Intimidating and 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 explained.

The machine gun is currently 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 and destroy enemy targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Cpl. Kehinde Howard, 188th Brigade Support Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), fires a vehicle mounted M2 .50-caliber machine gun at a range on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 10. The range helped the soldiers get a feel for firing from a vehicle gunner position and familiarized them with the weapon system. | US Army photo

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 per minute.

“It can be used for anti-personnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles. 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,” Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons Alessio, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Army owns what’s 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 explained.

The Army currently operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-cal weapons designed with a number of 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 explained. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio explained.

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.

“We are looking to test this summer,” he said.

The lighter weight 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. 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,” Alessio said.

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 space to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, he said.

Future .50-cal Innovations

The Army’s .50-cal program is also looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter weight caseless ammunition which will reduce the amount of brass needed, he added.

Further into the future, the service will also create requirements for a new externally-mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the Mk19 grenade launcher.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Alessio explained.

Aside from improving the weapon itself, the Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time. We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16-pounds off of a 26-pound barrel,” Alessio said.

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 will 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.

The new addition to the weapon is called a Mounted Gun Optic, or MMO.

“It is basically an optic or direct view optic which will have some type of laser crosshair. This will improve lethality and an ability to put first round on target,” he added.

Finally, within five to ten years, the Army plans to have some kind of fire control technology added to the .50-cal; this will improve the accuracy of the weapon an increase its effective range by incorporating ballistic calculations such as the round’s trajectory through the air to target, Alessio explained.

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US general concerned about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic

A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.


“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.

“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Lt. General Ken Wilsbach (left) – DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Litke

Wilsbach defended Russia’s five recent military flights near Alaska’s coast, however, saying they were legal and never entered U.S. airspace.

On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.

Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why a Trump deal with North Korea is bad news for Iran

Of the three charter members of the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Iran may be the last man standing, thanks to the guys with the crazy hair – Kim Jong-Un and Donald J. Trump.

The Iranian leadership’s special blend of messianism, self-pity, and paranoia has fueled its hegemonic push West, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and meddling in the territory of its neighbors, Yemen and Afghanistan. This makes sense in the regime’s House of Leadership, while it husbands its nuclear weapons development capability for another day, thanks to the “Iran nuclear deal” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it undercuts Iran’s need to attract foreign investment to revive its deteriorating economy.


Despite the surprise election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Iran’s leadership no doubt hoped the opportunity for contracts for U.S. companies, read Boeing, would be too good to pass up despite candidate Trump’s disdain for the JCPOA, which he called “the worst deal ever.” And in May 2018, after delaying for over a year and giving the U.S. Congress or the other JCPOA partners an opportunity to fix the agreement, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the “horrible one-sided” JCPOA.

On the other side of the world, North Korea’s hereditary leader, Kim Jong-Un, had a face-t0-face meeting in Singapore with Donald Trump, who had only recently derided him as “Rocket Man.” Kim has visited Beijing several times to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a historic trip to the Panmunjom truce village where he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stepped over the border into South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so.

What does Iran have to do to get some respect?

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

There may not be much Iran can do because North Korea has one thing Iran lacks: neighbors who want a peace process to succeed and can brandish the appropriate carrots and sticks.

Iran’s neighbor Iraq is key to Iran’s regional strategy due to its location and large Shia Muslim population, but Iran’s involvement increases Iraqi Sunni anxiety, leaving them open to manipulation by outside forces; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have neither the financial or political heft to improve Iran’s economy or its security situation; Turkey, a regional competitor, will likely bide its time as Iran’s isolation continues; in the Southern Caucasus, secular Azerbaijan is wary of its militant neighbor, and Armenia is a shambles and hardly able to help itself much less anyone else. And across the Persian Gulf lies Saudi Arabia, anxious to take down its regional rival as its ambitious young ruler looks to reshape its economy and society.

Iran’s remaining partners in the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are distant from the consequences of any regional instability and are primarily motivated by trade opportunities.

North Korea lives in an entirely different neighborhood. To its North are China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and, in China’s case, a diverse, growing economy – the world’s second largest. To the South is South Korea, home of the world’s eleventh largest economy and a vibrant exporter of cultural and technology products. Across the Sea of Japan is, well, Japan, a leading technology exporter and home of the third largest economy.

North Korea’s neighbors have significant security concerns: China wants to stop North Korean refugees escaping across its border and to be able to mitigate the increasing stress in its relations with the Kim regime. South Korea is interested in threat reduction and family reunification; Japan can’t move out of range of the North’s missiles, so would like the missile and nuclear weapon programs to end. And the U.S., with 28,000 troops and numerous family members in the South, is fully invested in both denuclearization and a peaceful end of the Korean War, which started sixty-eight years ago in June 2018.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Chinese president Xi Jinping

If war broke out again on the Korean Peninsula, the effect would worldwide and immediate as South Korea is a vital part of the global supply chain for high technology equipment. And it’s unlikely someone else could quickly pick up the slack: it is estimated that the replacement cost of the display manufacturing capability of Samsung and rival LG will top billion. In the words of one analyst, “If Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop.”

So a major conflict in Asia will damage economies worldwide; more trouble in Iran’s neighborhood, short of stopping all oil exports from the Persian Gulf, is Page 3 news.

President Trump probably looked at Iran and North Korea and correctly concluded that North Korea was the greater strategic threat to the U.S. and must be dealt with first. The North has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can soon reach the U.S. mainland, even if it now lacks warhead re-entry capability and terminal guidance technology. But Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” was then amplified by Pyongyang’s neighbors who have their own economic and political heft and who want the North to denuclearize and join the world economy.

Iran is a noisy, regional menace but is being countered in part by aggressive economic sanctions which, coupled with the regime’s economic mismanagementand corruption, are doing more damage than a subversion campaign sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. But that’s probably going on, too.

Kim signaled he was taking the country in a new direction in 2016, at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where he emphasized his policy of “byungjin” — or “simultaneous pursuit” — equating economic growth and the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. His likely goal is to announce significant economic growth at the 8th Workers’ Party Congress in 2022.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Kim Jong Un

(KCNA)

In April 2018, Kim “declared victory on the nuclear front“, allowing him to focus on the economy – and to be publicly responsible for the success or failure of his policies.

Shortly after Trump’s return from his meeting with Kim, U.S. media reported North Korea had increased nuclear production at secret sites. Was Trump snookered by Kim as some observers hoped? Possibly, but Kim likely wants to maximize production of nukes and missiles, so he has more to trade when trading day arrives. He also needs to keep the military-industrial complex busy and motivated as he prepares for years of difficult negotiations with the U.S. and his neighbors.

Indeed, strategists at Korean conglomerate Samsung think North Korea is “already past the point of no return,” and the economy will overtake the military as the regime’s means of survival. If so, regime insiders will want to be rewarded for their fidelity, as visions of mobile phone licenses and mining concessions dance in their heads. Though North Korea is a long way from mass politics, economic success will enable Kim to solidify his popular base as a counterweight to regime insiders.

In fact, Kim may be ahead of his cadres in the new politics game. In 2017, in a national broadcast, he admitted “My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability,” a startling admission from someone the subject of a pervasive personality cult. And Kim and Trump know a picture of two men shaking hands is enough to start a political reordering.

Where is Iran in all this? As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”

The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.

And time is of the essence, as the media recently uncovered the possible use of Danske Bank Estonia in Tallinn to finance weapons deals between North Korea and Iran. North Korea was the focus of the news cycle two weeks ago, but if its future disclosures lag media reporting, it will be continually reacting to disclosures about its money laundering and use of the informal transportation sector and for no benefit.

And the U.S. must not forget the Iranian people – they are a key audience (aside from swing voters in the 2020 U.S. elections). They should be the target of news reports on economic progress in North Korea as their economy continues to stagnate so they, and the young especially, can ask why their leaders can’t get the world’s respect and engagement. To underline what happened, they should be reminded that Trump traveled to Asia – Kim’s neighborhood – to meet him.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s invocation of “resistance” will be increasingly threadbare if Iranians’ quality of life deteriorates as additional sanctions bite and China stops taking Iran’s calls.

Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei – they’ve both done awful things, but now we’ll see who’s the transformational leader with his eyes on the future.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iraqi army closes in, ISIS fighters are throwing in the towel

When US-backed Iraqi security forces and Iranian Shia militias cleared ISIS’ final Iraqi stronghold in Hawijah, they met weak resistance and a massive surrender from a once fearsome army.


In 2015 and 2016, ISIS, the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State, carried out suicide attacks around the globe at a historic rate.

The group, founded in June 2014, has long demanded that its militants fight or die, and it often sends young men and even children on suicide-bombing missions.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

But as the group weakens on the ground, it seems to have shifted course.

A US Department of Defense release on the battle for Hawijah cites “many sources reporting more than 1,000 terrorists surrendered.”

Unlike the battle for Mosul, once ISIS’ largest Iraqi stronghold, the terrorist group “put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps,” Kurdish officials told The New York Times.

Strikingly, the same officials reported that ISIS commanders had ordered their fighters to turn themselves in, on the grounds that the Kurds would take prisoners while other opponents would be harsher.

Indeed, after three years of brutal conflict, the Iraqi Security Forces fighting have admitted to engaging in acts of savagery against defeated ISIS fighters.

In July, Iraqi officers said they took part in extrajudicial killings of many unarmed ISIS fighters, with one vowing a “slow death” as revenge for killing his father.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

After suffering defeat after defeat on the ground, ISIS has upped the aggression of its media operation in an attempt to save face. Recently the group released audio it said came from its top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was rumored to be killed or at least injured by airstrikes.

After last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, ISIS also made the dubious claim that the gunman was one of its followers.

US officials have shot this claim down, and ISIS’ claims do not match evidence that has since emerged on the gunman’s preparation for the attack.

In its early months and years, ISIS enjoyed a surge of battlefield victories. The group had political support in Sunni Muslim areas, where many felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shia-run government.

But it has since been ground down for years by US-led coalition airstrikes and a wide range of militias and national armies on the ground.

With the fall of Hawijah, only a small strip of territory along Syria’s border remains in ISIS’ control.

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Here’s how DARPA is helping to crack down on the scourge of human trafficking

On Dec. 28, 2016, President Barack Obama published the annual proclamation of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing next-generation search technologies to help investigators find the online perpetrators of those crimes.


Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Part of the Memex suite of tools, Tellfinder reveals trafficking activity and summarizes the behavior of and relationships between the entities that post them. (DARPA graphic)

Wade Shen, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, said in a recent DoD News interview that the program, called Memex, is designed to help law enforcement officers and others perform online investigations to hunt down human traffickers.

“Our goal is to understand the footprint of human trafficking in online spaces, whether that be the dark web or the open web,” he explained, characterizing the dark web as the anonymous internet, accessed through a system, among others, called Tor.

“The term dark web is used to refer to the fact that crimes can be committed in those spaces because they’re anonymous,” Shen said, “and therefore, people can make use of [them] for nefarious activities.”

Point of Sale

The approach he and his team have taken is to collect data from the Internet and make it accessible through search engines.

“Typically, this is data that’s hard for commercial search engines to get at, and it’s typically the point of sale where sex trafficking is happening,” Shen explained. “Victims of sex trafficking are often sold as prostitutes online, and a number of websites are the advertising point where people who want to buy and people who are selling can exchange information, or make deals.

“What we’re looking for,” he continued, “is online behavioral signals in the ads that occur in these spaces that help us detect whether or not a person is being trafficked.”

 

When a prostitute is advertised online as being “new in town” or by specific characteristics, those are hints that person might be trafficked. New in town means a person might be moving around, and the term “fresh” often means a person is underage, Shen explained. “Those kinds of things are indicators we can use to figure out whether or not a person is being pimped and trafficked,” he added.

Trafficking Signals

Before the Memex program formally began in late 2014, Shen’s team was working with the district attorney of New York to determine if they could find signals associated with trafficking in prostitution ads on popular websites.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
DMA modern slavery info graphic.

 

“We found that lots of signals existed in the data, whether they be phone numbers used repeatedly by organizations that are selling multiple women online, or branding tattoos that exist in photos online, or signals in the text of the ads,” Shen said.

Shen’s team had been working on text-based exploitation programs for big data — extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. But they thought that if they extended the technology to understand images and networks of people, then they could apply it to detecting rings of traffickers and behaviors associated with trafficking online.

“If we could do that,” he said, “we could … generate leads for investigators so they wouldn’t have to sift through millions of ads in order to find the small number of ads that are associated with trafficking. So that’s what we did.”

 

Prosecuting Perpetrators

Early on, the team realized that search wasn’t quite the right modality for doing such investigations and that there was a lot more work to do before the technology could be adapted to trafficking. That’s when the Memex program began, Shen said.

“Since the beginning of the program, we’ve had a strong relationship with the district attorney of New York, but they’re not the only user of the technology. Over time, we have engaged with many different law enforcement agencies, including 26 in the United Kingdom, the district attorney of San Francisco, and a number of others,” he said.

Investigators for the district attorney of New York were able to use Memex tools to find and prosecute perpetrators, and that resulted in an arrest and conviction in the program’s first year, he added.

“Since then,” Shen said, “there have been hundreds of arrests and other convictions by a variety of law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.”

Today, more than 33 agencies are using the tools, he added, and an increasing number of local law enforcement agencies are using the tools.

“As word of mouth spreads about the tools and the fact that we give free access to the tools to law enforcement, more and more people are signing up to use it,” he said.

Shen said it’s easy for his team to work with state, local and federal partners in the United States, but it’s harder to work with agencies abroad.

“But we’re committed to do that,” he added, “so we are in the process of working out deals with a number of those agencies so they have access to the tools we currently deploy and to allow them, after we exit [when the program ends in a year] … to continue to run their own versions of these tools.”

Noble Cause

DARPA funds the Memex project, which, according to the agency’s budget office, has cost $67 million to date. But rather than do the work, as with its other projects, DARPA catalyzes commercial agents, universities and others to develop the technology, Shen said.

“They are experts in their fields — image analysis, text analysis or web crawling and so on — and we engage the best of that community to work on this problem. What they’ve essentially done is form coalitions to … build the tools [needed] to solve the problem, because no one of the entities that we call performers is able to do that on their own,” he added.

The Memex program has 17 different performers, and many of them also work with partners. “So all in all,” Shen said, “we have hundreds of people who are working on this effort. All of them are very dedicated to this problem, because the problem of human trafficking is real.”

When Shen’s team started the program, one of the things they realized was that the cost of people in these spaces, the cost of slaves, is essentially zero, he added.

“That means our lives are essentially worthless in some sense, and that just seems wrong,” he said. “That motivated us and a lot of our performers to do something, especially when we build technology for all sorts of commercial applications for profit and for other motives. That’s what a lot of our folks do on a day-to-day basis, and they felt the need to make use of their technology for a noble cause. We think Memex is one of these noble causes.”

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Trump may name Sec Def this week, but Mattis may be out

President-elect Donald Trump may name his nominee for Secretary of Defense before the week is out, and legendary Marine Gen. Jim Mattis seems to be fading among the candidate pool, according to a new report from Colin Clark at Breaking Defense.


The report cites two sources involved with the Trump presidential transition team. One source told the site that Trump may release his pick within the next two days, while the other source said that other candidates, such as former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), are still very much in the running.

Also read: Congress kills plan forcing women to register for the military draft

After Trump met with Mattis more than a week ago, most defense watchers believed the retired Marine general was the top pick to lead the Pentagon. The President-elect described Mattis, 66, as “very impressive” and said he was “seriously considering” him for the position.

Trump later had an off-the-record meeting with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,”according to Politico. Other Republicans and many D.C. insiders also offered praise for Mattis, though he would require a congressional waiver to serve as Defense Secretary since he has not been out of uniform for the statutorily required seven years.

When reached by Business Insider, Mattis declined to comment.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Wikimedia Commons

Though Sen. Talent has been among the candidates floated almost since the beginning, Sen. Kyl is a new name to emerge as a possible pick. Now a senior counsel at the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington Burling, Kyl previously served as the second-highest Republican senator when he retired in 2013, after 26 years in Congress.

Kyl was not immediately available for an interview, but soon after the Breaking Defense report was published, he told Politico he was not interested in serving again in government, which “the Trump transition team is well aware of.”

A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.

Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

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That time a British sniper blew the head off of an ISIS executioner during beheading training session

An ISIS militant teaching a class on how to behead captured prisoners was nailed in the head by a British sniper attached to the elite Special Air Service from 1,000 meters away.


The International Business Times says the 20-person execution class scrambled as the instructor’s head was taken “clean off” by the round from an Israeli-made .338 caliber DAN rifle. The bullet is designed to “tumble” as it moves through a target’s body, inflicting massive damage.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Israel Weapon Industries DAN .338 Bolt Action Rifle

“One minute he was standing there and the next his head had exploded,” a British military source told Express UK. “The commander remained standing upright for a couple of seconds before collapsing and that’s when panic set in. We later heard most of the recruits deserted. We got rid of 21 terrorists with one bullet.”

Express also reported that British SAS units are deployed in small numbers to combat Daesh terrorists to avoid an all-out ground war. The militants will either swarm to a location, making an airstrike a better defense or retreat using tunnels.

One tactic the SAS uses is setting “desert death traps” for jihadis by laying out dummies dressed as officers. The terrorist fighters are alerted by scouts and locals, take the bait, and are then gunned down by SAS snipers.

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Can this Navy patent explain away many UAP sightings?

This new Navy tech aims to use lasers to fool air defense systems and missiles into thinking they see multiple aircraft or even a UAP for that matter–but the plan wasn’t to trick the world into thinking they were being visited by aliens.

America uses stealth technology not just to avoid detection, but to avoid being shot down after they’ve been detected. A recent patent filed by the U.S. Navy meant to increase the survivability of stealth aircraft might do just that, but if the system works the way it’s supposed to, it could just as easily be used to project images into the sky that would look and act a whole lot like the strange crafts depicted in UAP footage released by the U.S. military in recent years.

How can Navy tech be responsible for UAP sightings?

This video contains the same content as the rest of this story.

When talking military aviation, it’s not uncommon for many to think of “stealth” as a singular technology utilized to help advanced aircraft defeat detection. The truth, of course, is a lot more complicated than that. Stealth might be more accurately described as an approach to warfare, rather than a specific piece of gear. In order to leverage a stealth aircraft effectively, pains must be taken to limit the platform’s radar cross-section (from multiple angles), its infrared detectability (the amount of heat it releases), and to create a mission flight plan that keeps the aircraft operating to its advantage, rather than its detriment.

The truth is, many of America’s most advanced stealth aircraft aren’t actually invisible to radar detection at all. The intent behind stealth isn’t truly to go entirely unnoticed in many instances, but instead, to prevent an opponent from being able to effectively engage and shoot down your aircraft. To that end, even “stealth” platforms like the F-22 Raptor can actually be spotted on radar using lower frequency bands. Radar systems leveraged in this way can spot sneaky intruders, but they’re not good for establishing a weapon’s grade lock on anything. In other words, lower-frequency radar bands can be used to see stealth planes coming, but can’t be used to shoot them down.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (U.S. Air Force photo)

However, coupling these sorts of radar systems with other forms of air defenses can make for a real threat for stealth aircraft. “Heat-seeking” missiles, which have been around since the 1950s and don’t rely on radar to engage targets effectively sniff out encroaching aircraft by following the infrared signature of the super-heated exhaust exiting the back of the jet. While design elements have been incorporated into stealth aircraft aimed at mitigating these infrared signatures, only so much can be done to hide the heat released by the chemical explosions we use to propel our combat aircraft.

So, even if America’s stealth planes were completely invisible to radar (which they aren’t), they still need to worry about infrared-driven missiles fired in their general direction either as a result of visual detection or low-band radar systems. Pilots go to great lengths to plan out their sorties prior to getting airborne to leverage their stealth aircraft most effectively. Limiting exposure to advanced air defense systems, operating at night to avoid visual detection, and employing strategies regarding altitude and angle of attack all play a role in maintaining a “stealth” profile.

In the event a “heat-seeking” missile does find its way onto the trail of a stealth fighter like the F-22, the aircraft has the ability to deploy flares in an attempt to confuse the infrared-led ordnance. But flares offer an extremely limited form of protection in heavily contested airspace. Because of this, the general rule of thumb on combat sorties is simple: try to avoid situations where the enemy can lob missiles at you, and your chances of success increase dramatically.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
(USAF Photo)

However, in a large scale conflict against a technologically capable foe like China or (to a lesser extent) Russia, America’s stealth aircraft would face challenges unlike any they have in modern warfare, as our fleets of sneaky fighters and bombers came up against some of the most advanced air defense systems currently employed anywhere on the planet. In such a war, losses would be all but certain, and while America may employ more stealth aircraft than any other nation, our total numbers remain in the hundreds. So each stealth aircraft lost would truly be felt.

But new technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds even further into the favor of stealth aircraft: leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.

This technology has already been used to create laser-plasma balls that can transmit human speech. I’m going to be honest with you here, that sentence is as hard to wrap my head around as the writer as it probably is for you to grasp as a reader. Talking plasma balls? 

Here’s a video from our friends at Military Times running down this cutting edge plasma technology:

Other applications for this laser system include use as a non-lethal weapon and even as a continuous flashbang grenade that could keep opponents in an area disoriented and unable to respond.

So, how does the Navy intend to leverage this sort of technology to make stealth aircraft even harder to hit? According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.

These “laser-induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat-seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light. Of course, it’s unlikely that the system could be used to mimic the visual cues of an actual aircraft, but it is possible to produce visible barriers between the weapon operator and the stealth aircraft emitting the laser.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
 That IR Target signature could feasibly appear to be a UAP to an uninformed observer. (Image courtesy of the US Patent Office)

This system could be deployed instantly, reused throughout a mission, and can stay at a desired altitude or location in mid-air; all things flares can’t do. With enough aircraft equipped with these systems (or enough systems equipped on a single aircraft) this method could be used to do far more than just protect jets. In the future, this approach could become a part of a missile defense system employed by Navy ships, carrier strike groups, or even entire cities.

“If you have a very short pulse you can generate a filament, and in the air that can propagate for hundreds of meters, and maybe with the next generation of lasers you could produce a filament of even a mile,” Alexandru Hening, a lead researcher on the patent, told IT magazine in 2017.

It’s likely that we won’t see this technology lighting up the airspace over combat zones any time soon, as there may well be years of research and development left before it finds its way into operational use. However, some have already begun scratching their heads regarding what it appears these laser-induced plasma filaments can do, and how that could explain the unusual behavior recorded in recently acknowledged Navy footage of unidentified aircraft being tracked on FLIR cameras by F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots.

It seems feasible that this technology could be used to fake just such a UFO or UAP sighting… but then, the earliest of these videos was produced in 2004, which would suggest far more advanced laser systems than the United States currently maintains were already in use some 17 years ago.

Could lasers have been used to fake UAP sightings? It seems feasible, but for now, the military’s focus seems set squarely on defensive applications for the patent.

Want to read more about groundbreaking patents filed by the U.S. Navy in recent years?

Read: NAVY TEAM FLOATS IDEA FOR A ‘SPACETIME MODIFICATION WEAPON’ MORE POWERFUL THAN NUKES


This article by Alex Hollings was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Feature image courtesy of Transport Canada

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US military gave GPS away for free

One of the most ever-present devices in modern times is the navigation system in everything from cell phones and wrist watches to in-dash car displays. All of them are made possible with just a few constellations of satellites, most of them launched by the U.S.


But the systems use the satellite signals for free despite a cost in the billions to create and launch the satellites, and even as far back as 2012, $2 million was spent daily to maintain the U.S. system. So why are civilians across the world allowed to use them for free?

 

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
An Su-15 Flagon fighter like the one that downed Korean Air 007. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense).

 

The big turning point was in 1983 when a Korean Air passenger jet flying near the Soviet border accidentally crossed into Russian territory in the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Russians were worried that the plane was a U.S. bomber or spy plane, and made the catastrophic decision to attack the jet, downing it and killing all 269 passengers and crew members on board.

American officials later admitted privately that the error was an easy one to make and that the passenger jet was — probably accidentally — traveling on almost the exact same route that a U.S. spy plane was flying at the same time.

 

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
(Reagan Library photo)

 

President Ronald Reagan publicly condemned the attacks and turned to his advisors to find a way to prevent other mix-ups in the future. He opened the GPS signals to public use with an executive order — but added scrambling to reduce accuracy.

This made the signals less valuable to rival militaries.

Civilian companies sprang up around GPS and worked to create devices that were perfectly accurate despite the scrambling. After almost a decade of the military increasing scrambling to foil technological workarounds, President Bill Clinton ordered that the scrambling come to an end.

Instead, the U.S. jams GPS signals locally when they’re in combat with a force that uses them.

This jamming works by interrupting the signals, allowing the U.S. to scramble signals from its own satellites as well as those launched in more recent years by Russia, China, India, and Japan.

Articles

Here’s what happens when a wounded warrior uses his arm for the first time in 10 years

A U.S. Army tanker who lost his arm to an IED attack in Iraq was able to manipulate a prosthetic arm for the first time since his 2007 injury.


Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland worked with Army Spc. Jerral Hancock to develop the Modular Prosthetic Limb, a robotic arm being built by JHU’s Applied Physics Lab. The goal of the program is to create a robotic prosthetic with all the capabilities of the human arm.

Hancock has struggled in the years since his injury to live a fully-functioning life after the attack left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. His right arm has limited mobility, making it difficult to do even one-handed tasks.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Army Spc. Jerral Hancock and a researcher from John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab discusses the calibration procedures for the Modular Prosthetic Limb. (Photo: YouTube/Freethink)

The MPL features hundreds of sensors that help it accurately gauge the angles, speed, and power the arm is using. Other sensors strapped to Hancock’s body read the signals being passed through his skin to his missing limb. The device’s software then tries to replicate the movements that Hancock is imagining, syncing his commands to the robotic arm.

In one heart-breaking moment, Hancock tells the researchers that he doesn’t imagine a left hand with full mobility, but one that has the same physical limitations of his injured right hand.

In the video, Hancock teaches the software his signals for opening and closing his hand and bending his elbow. Once the software is calibrated, he can then use the arm to grab a drink from the fridge and to fire a foam dart with his daughter.

See Hancock with the arm and his family in the full video below:

Video: YouTube/Freethink

 

Hancock won’t get to use the arm just yet, but his work with researchers to refine the technology will hopefully allow people who need prosthetics to get a more functional option in the next few years. JHU currently has six MPLs that are being used for research purposes and four more in development, according to the project’s website.

The U.S. Army Brotherhood of Tankers helped link Hancock and JHU together. The USABOT is a nonprofit organization that promotes knowledge of tanker culture, history, and capabilities.

MIGHTY MONEY

Guard to see changes in GI Bill transfer benefits

Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.

“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.

The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.


“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.

“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”

For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.

“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”

Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.

“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.

The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.

“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.

Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.

“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.

“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.

Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)

“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.

“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.

After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.

“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”

However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”

Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.

“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rewilding war zones can help heal the wounds of conflict

Where the Iron Curtain once divided Europe with barbed wire, a network of wilderness with bears, wolves, and lynx now thrives. Commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, people wear poppies to evoke the vast fields of red flowers which grew over the carnage of Europe’s battlefields. Once human conflict has ended, the return of nature to barren landscapes becomes a potent symbol of peace.

These tragedies, which force people away from a place, can help ecosystems replenish in their absence. Though rewilding is typically considered an active decision, like the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, abandoned rural land often returns to wilderness of its own accord. Today, as people vacate rural settlements for life in cities, accidental rewilding has meant large predators returning to areas of Europe, long after they were almost made extinct.


Sudden changes, such as the the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disasterin 1986, result in wildlife recolonising exclusion zones in previously developed areas.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Abandonment of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster ushered in wildlife.

Warfare can also result in human exclusion, which might benefit wildlife under specific conditions. Isolation and abandonment can generate wild population increases and recoveries, which has been observed in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The strange link between war and wildlife

Fish populations in the North Atlantic benefited from World War II as fishing fleets were drastically reduced. Fishing vessels were requisitioned by the navy, seamen were drafted and the risks of fishing due to enemy strikes or subsurface mining deterred fishermen from venturing out to sea.

As a result, the war essentially created vast “marine protected areas” for several years in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, armed with faster and bigger trawlers with new technology, fishermen reported bonanza catches.

A more gruesome result of World War II allowed opportunistic species such as the oceanic whitetip shark to flourish, as human casualties at sea proved a rich and plentiful food source.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

The growth of oceanic whitetip shark populations during WWII is a grisly example of how war can sometimes benefit wildlife.

(CC BY-SA)

Warship wrecks also became artificial reefs on the seabed which still contribute to the abundance of marine life today. The 52 captured German warships that were sunk during World War I between the Orkney mainland and the South Isles, off the north coast of Scotland, are now thriving marine habitats.

Exclusion areas, or “no mans lands”, which remain after fighting has ended may also help terrestrial ecosystems recuperate by creating de facto wildlife reserves. Formerly endangered species, such as the Persian leopard, have re-established their populations in the rugged northern Iran-Iraq frontier.

An uneasy post-war settlement can create hard borders with vast areas forbidden to human entry. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a 4km by 250km strip of land that has separated the two Koreas since 1953. For humans it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers patrolling its edges. For wildlife however, it’s one of the safest areas in the region.

Today, the zone is home to thousands of species that are extinct or endangered elsewhere on the Korean peninsula, such as the long-tailed goral.

Miraculously, even habitats scarred by the most horrific weaponry can thrive as places where human access is excluded or heavily regulated. Areas previously used for nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean have been recolonizedby coral and fish, which seem to be thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, declared a nuclear wasteland after nuclear bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s.

War – still good for nothing

For all the quirks caused by abandonment, warfare overwhelmingly harms human communities and ecosystems with equal fervor. A review of the impact of human conflict on ecosystems in Africa showed an overall decrease in wildlife between 1946 and 2010. In war’s aftermath, natural populations were slow to recover or stopped altogether as economic hardship meant conservation fell by the wayside.

Humans often continue to avoid a “no mans land” because of the presence of land mines. But these don’t differentiate between soldiers and wildlife, particularly large mammals. It’s believed that residual explosives in conflict zones have helped push some endangered species closer to extinction.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

Today’s European Green Belt traces the original route of the Iron Curtain.

(CC BY-SA)

However, where possible, accidental rewilding caused by war can help reconcile people after the fighting ends by installing nature where war had brought isolation. There is hope that should Korea reunify, a permanently protected area could be established within the current demilitarised zone boundaries, allowing ecotourism and education to replace enmity.

Such an initiative has already succeeded elsewhere in the world. The European Green Belt is the name for the corridor of wilderness which runs along the former Iron Curtain, which once divided the continent. Started in the 1970s, this project has sprawled along the border of 24 states and today is the longest and largest ecological network of its kind in the world. Here, ponds have replaced exploded land mine craters and forests and insect populations have grown in the absence of farming and pesticide use.

Where war isolates and restricts human movement, nature does seem to thrive. If, as a human species, we aim for a peaceful world without war, we must strive to limit our own intrusions on the natural paradises that ironically human warfare creates and nurture a positive legacy from a tragic history.

Feature image: SpeedPropertyBuyers.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Articles

FOX News launches 8th consecutive year of ‘Proud American’ Memorial Day programming

FOX News announced the launch of their eighth straight year of Proud American for Memorial Day weekend. Across all platforms, the special programming will be devoted to America’s Armed Forces, veterans and the fallen heroes the holiday was created for. 

In commemoration of Memorial Day, the signature series will feature uplifting and powerful stories of active members of the U.S. military as well as its veterans. Additionally, in recognition of the 2021 edition of Proud American, FOX News Media will donate $25,000 to The Navy Seal Foundation and $15,000 to the USO effort to deliver meals to service members supporting COVID-19 vaccine missions.

The special coverage will begin Friday May 28, 2021 with Janice Dean of FOX and Friends going live at the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum. The following afternoon, Griff Jenkins will be co-anchoring FOX News Live from the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun
Marine Corps Memorial. USMC photo.

Also planned for the weekend lineup is Proud America: Tunnel to Towers Special, which will be hosted by Army veteran and FOX and Friends Weekend co-host, Pete Hegseth. The event takes place at Liberty State Park with the Freedom Tower in the background. The event itself is sponsored by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and will bring viewers through the organization’s history and the families it’s served. 

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 just on the horizon, it promises to be a deeply moving segment with interviews featuring the surviving families of those who died in the terrorist attacks. 

Hegseth will also be hosting another edition of his veteran show, Modern Warriors, later that evening. This time though, the title includes something new: Reflections. Viewers will hear and see the stories of four American warriors and other veterans as they share their experiences at war and the losses they mourn. 

Marine Corps and combat wounded veteran Johnny Joey Jones also put his voice on a 5-part podcast series that reminds Americans what the holiday is really about. Jones will also lead a two hour radio special for the network as well. 

The programming will also feature a special edition of Jason in the House with FOX News contributor and former Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz. 

Coverage of events throughout the country and America’s fallen will continue through to Memorial Day on Monday May 31, 2021. Through that somber day, active duty military members and veterans will receive access to FOX Nation for an entire year, free of charge. Individuals just have to click here to register.

FOX News Media and its representatives have stated that they are proud to continue the tradition of highlighting and honoring America’s heroes through Proud American.

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