Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.
By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.
ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.
The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)
“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”
Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.
The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.
When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.
“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”
A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.
(University at Buffalo)
This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.
The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.
The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.
“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon, originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed-Martin), is a proven compact, single-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft. Since the F-16A’s first flight in December 1976, this highly maneuverable air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack aircraft has provided mission versatility and high-performance for the U.S. and allied nations at a relatively low-cost.
In an air combat role, the F-16’s maneuverability and combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat, stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter.
In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.
The U.S. Air Force officially named the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” on July 21, 1980, during a ceremony at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the home of the first F-16 unit.
The F-16V, or Viper, is the latest variant of the F-16 fourth-generation fighter aircraft. The upgrade integrates advanced capabilities to better interoperate with fifth-generation fighters, such as the F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor.
The last F-16 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force on 18 March 2005. The F-35 was developed to replace the F-16.
Development and design
The first operational F-16A was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB.
The F-16 was built under an agreement between the U.S. and four NATO countries: Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway. These countries jointly produced with the U.S. an initial 348 F-16s for their air forces.
The consortium’s F-16s are assembled from components manufactured in all five countries. Belgium also provides final assembly of the F100 engine used in the European F-16s.
Recently, Portugal joined the consortium. The long-term benefits of this program will be technology transfer among the nations producing the F-16, and a common-use aircraft for NATO nations. Additionally, the program increases the supply and availability of repair parts in Europe and improves the F-16’s combat readiness.
All F-16s delivered since November 1981 have built-in structural and wiring provisions and systems architecture that permit expansion of the multirole flexibility to perform precision strike, night attack and beyond-visual-range interception missions.
This improvement program led to the F-16C and F-16D aircraft, which are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, and incorporate the latest cockpit control and display technology. All active units and many Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units have converted to the F-16C/D.
Avionics systems include a highly accurate enhanced global positioning and inertial navigation systems, or EGI, in which computers provide steering information to the pilot. The plane has UHF and VHF radios plus an instrument landing system. It also has a warning system and modular countermeasure pods to that can be used against airborne or surface electronic threats. The fuselage also has space for additional avionics systems.
The cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision and greatly improved vision over the side and to the rear.
The F-16’s incredible maneuverability is achieved by its “relaxed stability” design. The airframe is inherently unstable, as the center of mass and lift are much closer together than on other designs, however this allows the aircraft to respond quickly to pilot control input and with tighter maneuvers.
While a fully analog jet aircraft of this design would require the pilot to make too many control inputs to fly safely, the F-16 pilot maintains excellent flight control through the aircraft’s “fly-by-wire” system.
The YF-16 became the world’s first aircraft to be aerodynamically unstable by design. With a rearward center of gravity, its natural tendency is to nose up rather than down. Level flight is created by the elevator pushing the tail up rather than down, and therefore pushing the entire aircraft up. With the elevator working with the wing rather than against it, wing area, weight, and drag are reduced.
The airplane is constantly on the verge of flipping up or down totally out of control. This tendency is being constantly caught and corrected by the fly-by-wire control system so quickly that neither the pilot nor an outside observer can tell. If the control system were to fail, the aircraft would instantly tumble; however, this has never happened.
Through a side stick controller, the pilot sends electrical signals to actuators of flight control surfaces, such as ailerons and rudder, while powerful onboard computers constantly adjust those inputs to enable stability in level flight and high maneuverability in combat. The side stick controller, in lieu of a center-mounted stick, allows the pilot easy and accurate control during high G-force combat maneuvers.
In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were selected. These were combined to simplify the airplane and reduce its size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. The lightweight of the fuselage is achieved without reducing its strength. With a full load of internal fuel, the F-16 can withstand up to nine G’s, nine times the force of gravity, which exceeds the capability of other current fighter aircraft.
Operation and deployment
More than 4,000 F-16’s are in service in 24 countries. There are 110 different versions of the aircraft. The main user of the F-16 is the U.S. The country with the largest F-16 fleet outside the U.S. is Israel. The four European Participating Forces who developed the midlife update for the F-16 are the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and later also Portugal. Other users of the F-16 are Bahrain, Chile, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela, United Arabian Emirates and South Korea.
U.S. Air Force F-16s were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm, where more sorties were flown than with any other aircraft. These fighters were used to attack airfields, military production facilities, Scud missiles sites and a variety of other targets.
During Operation Allied Force, U.S. Air Force F-16 multirole fighters flew a variety of missions to include suppression of enemy air defense, offensive counter air, defensive counter air, close air support and forward air controller missions. Mission results were outstanding as these fighters destroyed radar sites, vehicles, tanks, MiGs, and buildings.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the F-16 has been a major component of the combat forces committed to the war on terrorism flying thousands of sorties in support of operations Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense), Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom
Did you know?
Many military pilots refer to the F-16 as the “Viper”, because of its similarities to the head of the snake.
The F-16 was the first fighter jet to use a side-mounted control stick. The stick lets pilots rest their arm while flying, giving them better control of the jet in high-G maneuvers.
With its high thrust-to-weight ratio, extreme maneuverability, and pilot ergonomics and visibility, the F-16 has been one of the most respected and feared fighter aircraft of the past 40 years.
In 1976, Tech. Sgt. Joseph A. Kurdel, photosensor shop supervisor for the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, MacDill AFB, Florida, won the “Name-the-Plane Contest” with the name Fighting Falcon. He won a free dinner at the MacDill AFB NCO Mess.
F-16 Fighting Falcon fact sheet:
Primary function: multirole fighter
Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Power plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)
Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal (3,175 kilograms); typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks (5443 kilograms)
Payload: two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks
Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
Range: more than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
Armament: one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981; F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
The Marine Corps is doing away with its 0351 infantry assaultman military occupational specialty and phasing out the assault section of Marine rifle companies in an effort to build up communities such as cyber and electronic warfare, Military.com has learned.
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who confirmed planning in December while on an annual tour of deployed Marine elements around the world, said he expects the move to happen in the next three to five years as part of a slate of changes designed to help the Corps prepare for future fights.
The 0351 infantry assaultman, one of the Marine Corps’ five core infantry positions, is tasked with breaching, demolition, and rocket fire against fortified positions. Assaultmen carry the MK-153 shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon, or SMAW.
But Neller said he’s making changes that will ensure those roles are filled by other members of a rifle company.
Each future rifle company will have an element of combat engineers aligned with it to take on breaching and demolition duties. The engineers will carry the SMAW, but they may not be the only ones.
“Can you shoot a SMAW?” Neller asked a Marine infantryman during a brief visit to elements of the Corps’ crisis response task force for Africa in Moron, Spain.
The Marine responded that he could not.
“Yes, you can,” Neller shot back. “I could teach you in five seconds.”
Neller also confirmed that the Marine Corps plans to replace the SMAW in its breaching mission with the Carl Gustaf 84mm recoilless rifle, a possibility first reported exclusively by Military.com in November. That move will likely take place in the next four years.
“It’s a little more sporty [than the SMAW], but it has 10 different kinds of ammunition,” Neller said. ” … Do I like the SMAW? Yes, I do. But we had to give up something to get something else.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller explained that the plan to end the 0351 MOS and the assault section is a numbers game.
Marine Corps leaders made clear in early 2017 that they wanted a significant increase in end strength: 12,000 additional troops to resource fields such as cyber, information operations, and counter-drone efforts.
The service would add 3,000 Marines in 2017 and now expects an additional 1,000, thanks to the recently signed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. But in the absence of a major plus-up, planners are looking for trade-offs.
“We had to create some trades to buy other Marines to do other things,” Neller said.
At seven Marines in a company assault section, three companies in a battalion, and 24 battalions in the Marine Corps, the move will leave more than 500 spots available in the service to fill other jobs.
In addition to cyber, Neller said he’s looking to build up intelligence analysis, air defense, and maintenance for ground vehicles and aviation.
It makes sense to cut the infantry assaultman MOS in part because it contains Marines of more junior ranks — private to sergeant — and its training overlaps with that of the other infantry MOSs, he said.
“The curriculum for 0311 [rifleman], 0331 [machine gunner], 0341 [mortarman], 0351 — the first 28 days is exactly the same,” Neller said. “So I don’t think those Marines would have a whole lot of difficulty transitioning to another MOS.”
Assaultmen who re-enlist have to transition to MOS 0369, platoon sergeant, anyway, he added.
If the Marine Corps eventually does get the larger plus-up it’s after, Neller said, it could always bring the assault section back. Unlike more technologically sophisticated jobs such as cyber and electronic warfare that measure professional training in years, new assaultmen take a few months to train.
“It’s part of the calculus on anything you do, is how hard is it to bring it back if you cadre it,” Neller said.
Maximilian Uriarte, creator of the Terminal Lance webcomic that is hugely popular within the Marine Corps, has written in the past about his time as an infantry assaultman.
“It is kind of the oddball of the infantry; no one really knows what we do or how to properly employ us,” he wrote in 2010. “As a result, we are often just turned into a rifle squad or divided to be machine gunners.”
Uriarte told Military.com on Monday that rumors of the coming demise of the 0351 MOS had floated around the infantry for the entirety of his career.
Because of the specific, niche nature of the job, he said, 0351s end up doing other jobs on deployment. When he deployed to Iraq, he said, he ended up filling the always in-demand role of machine gunner.
“The whole idea of the job is to breach and blow open doors, and how often do you need to do that? Do you need a whole MOS for that?” he said.
But despite all that, Uriarte expressed nostalgia for the job.
“The captain goes down with the ship” is a maritime tradition suggesting that a captain is honor-bound to stay on a sinking ship until all passengers and crew members have been safely evacuated.
In 2012, Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia came under fire for allegedly leaving the ship while passengers were still on board when the vessel crashed off the coast of Italy. Thirty-two passengers died, and Schettino was sentenced to sixteen years in prison: ten years for manslaughter, five years for causing the shipwreck, and one year for abandoning his passengers.
The expectation that a ship’s captain would stay on board until everyone had been evacuated developed in the mid-19th Century, but it could be argued that the sentiment has gone too far. What about ship captains that go down with their ship even after they’ve ordered it abandoned?
Here are four notable cases of captains who went down with the ship:
Rear Admiral Giovanni Viglione
On May 30, 1918, the U-boat UB-49, captained by Kapitänleutnant Hans von Mellenthin, torpedoed the Pietro Maroncelli, an Italian steamer ship off the coast of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. Rear Admiral Giovanni Viglione, who was on board as the convoy commodore, ordered all the survivors into the lifeboats, then chose to stay aboard and go down with the ship.
Capitano di Corvetta Lorenzo Bezzi
On June 27, 1940, an Allied destroyer group spotted the Italian submarine Console Generale Liuzzi while she was on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea. Her captain, Capitano di Corvetta Lorenzo Bezzi, determined that the submarine was unable to flee nor fight the destroyers, so he therefore, ordered his crew to abandon and scuttle the ship. Bezzi, however, decided to go down with the Console Generale Liuzzi, for which he would be posthumously awarded the Gold Medal.
Captain Ryusaku Yanagimoto
On June 5, 1942, U.S. naval forces launched an attack against the Japanese Imperial Navy that would turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese carrier fleet was crippled with multiple losses, including the Akagi and Kaga, and later the Hiryu, but it was the loss of the Soryu — and her beloved captain — that would strike at the hearts of the Japanese sailors.
After Captain Ryusaku Yanagimoto gave the order to abandon the burning ship, it was discovered that he had remained aboard. When Chief Petty Officer Abe was chosen to retrieve the captain, Abe found Yanagimoto standing on the Soryu’s bridge, sword in hand. Abe reported that the “strength of will and determination of his grim-faced commander stopped him short.” Abe left Captain Yanagimoto, who calmly sang Kimigayo, the Japanese national anthem.
He watched with the other survivors as the Soryu sank along with the bodies of 718, including her captain.
Commander Howard W. Gilmore
On Feb. 7, 1943, a Japanese gunboat attacked the American submarine USS Growler, captained by Commander Howard W. Gilmore, who gave the order to clear the bridge. Two Americans were shot dead while Gilmore and two others were wounded — and time to save the crippled sub was running short. When the survivors entered the sub, Commander Gilmore gave his final order: “Take her down.”
His executive officer closed the hatch and submerged the USS Growler to safety. Commander Gilmore posthumously received the Medal of Honor:
“For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and anti-submarine patrols, Comdr. Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. Comdr. Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates.
“In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat’s heavy machine guns, Comdr. Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, Comdr. Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, ‘Take her down.’ The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.
According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.
This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)
Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.
The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.
Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.
According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The bear stood about 20 feet to our left on the hillside. In that instant the world around us became still, the river didn’t seem so loud, and, for the first time in my life, I drew my sidearm from its holster. We stood there — me, my father, and a lone cinnamon black bear — for only a few seconds. The bear huffed at us, seemingly unphased by our presence on the trail, and then it was over; the bear walked away, leaving us alone and a bit confused on the trail. We were not far from the Eagle River Nature Center in south-central Alaska, and when the bear was finally gone, I returned my pistol to my Diamond D Chest Holster.
I’ve owned and used three of these holsters over the years, one for each sidearm I’ve carried, and now these holsters are in my closet, sweat-stained and scratched but in perfect functional condition. Made of thick leather, these holsters are meant to withstand a serious beating out in the field. I have never seen one fail in any way, and to be totally honest, I can’t think of any real improvements on the design. The holster body fits snugly, even after hard use softens the leather. The holsters made for semi-automatic handguns come with a small snap to secure the firearm, while revolver holsters have a small leather thong to fit over the hammer.
Photo courtesy of Diamond D Custom Leather.
Diamond D Custom Leather, based in Wasilla, Alaska, makes these holsters by hand, and of the three I’ve owned, I’ve never found a single defect in manufacturing — not a single bad stitch or badly cut edge on the leather. This quality comes at a cost though. The chest holster retails for 5 or more, depending on options like a magazine or speed loader pouch.
And then there’s comfort. I have used this holster for long backpacking expeditions into the wilderness, and after a few miles on the first day, I no longer feel the weight of the holster. The shoulder strap is wide and distributes weight well. Also, I make sure to properly adjust the holster to my frame before setting out, making sure the holster is snug but not too tight. The best holster is the one you don’t notice, and this holster passes that test in spades.
When drawing, the holster is smooth and graceful. The holster body covers the entire trigger guard for safety, and the holster is one of the safest I’ve ever used. Just be careful not to muzzle yourself as you reholster, but that’s a concern with most every holster on the market. With practice, I found that I can draw and fire faster from this holster than from anything else I’ve used — though I’ve admittedly never tried out a 3-Gun race holster.
Diamond D chest holsters withstand abuse, comfortably and safely secure a sidearm, and stand out as one of my favorite pieces of gear while backpacking. This is one piece of kit that I highly recommend if you plan to venture into the wilder places … the places that put you a little lower on the food chain.
(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee, or Die Magazine)
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.
“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.
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.
This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:
1. Battle buddies depend on each other.
When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.
2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.
Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.
3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.
This is their version of “kick me.”
4. You get in trouble together.
No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.
5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.
This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.
6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.
Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.
7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …
… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.
8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.
The Army recently drove tactical trucks with sensors, electronics, and other applications powered by commercially-developed artificial intelligence technology — such as IBM’s Watson — as a way to take new steps in more quickly predicting and identifying mechanical failures of great relevance to combat operations.
Described by participants as a “bake-off,” an Army-industry assessment incorporated attempts to use AI and real-time data analytics for newer, fast-evolving applications of conditioned-based maintenance technology.
Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems, such as Watson, to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other onboard vehicle systems.
“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information, and other vehicle technologies and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.
When created, IBM stated that “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.
Faster diagnostics, of course, enable vehicle operators to anticipate when various failures, such as engine or transmission challenges, may happen in advance of a potentially disruptive battlefield event. Alongside an unmistakable operational benefit, faster conditioned-based maintenance activity also greatly streamlines the logistics train, optimizes repairs, and reduces costs for the Army.
Army wheeled tactical vehicles, which include things like the family of medium tactical vehicles and emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, are moving towards using more automation and AI to gather, organize, and analyze sensor data and key technical indicators from onboard systems.
“We identified Army data challenges, delivered new sensors – and used different approaches – invariably bringing on different ways that data can be delivered to the Army,” Aven added.
Faster computer processing brings substantial advantages to Army vehicles which increasingly rely upon networked electronics, sensors, and C4ISR systems.
Multiple vendors took part in the industry “bake-off” event, which included participation from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL); the ARL is among a number of Army and DoD entities now accelerating development and integration of AI into a wide range of military technologies.
“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Mangement for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”
Technical gains in the area of AI and autonomy are arriving at lightning speed, offering faster, more efficient technical functions across a wide range of platforms. Years ago, the Army began experimenting with “leader-follower” algorithms designed to program an unmanned tactical vehicle to follow a manned vehicle, mirroring its movements.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous navigation, quite naturally, brings a range of combat advantages. A truck able to drive itself can, among other things, free up vehicle operators for other high-priority combat tasks.
AI-enabled CBM can function through a variety of methods; sensor information can be gathered, organized, and then subsequently downloaded or wirelessly transmitted using cloud technology.
IBM’s Watson also drew upon this technology when contributing to an Army Stryker “proof-of-principle” exercise last year wherein the service used cloud computing, AI and real-time analytics to perform Conditioned Based Maintenance functions.
As the smoke is still settling down over the charred ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound details about the operation are already emerging.
SOFREP has learned that the assault force was comprised of approximately 70 operators from Delta Force’s A Squadron and Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment. The air package included eight helicopters, a combination of MH-60 Blackhawks and MH-47 Chinooks, from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). Supporting the operation were two MC-130J Commando II tankers, which provided mid-air refueling, and an unspecified number of F-15Es, which ensured air-superiority and bombed the compounded after the assault force had left.
The assault force received fire on its way in, its flight route overflew enemy-held territory, but it was quickly suppressed by the supporting air assets. The Russian government had received notification that an operation against ISIS would be taking place in the area. This ensured that the Russian forces didn’t engage the assault force inadvertently.
Upon reaching the target, the assault force immediately came under fire. Fearing a booby trapped main door, the assault force’s breachers penetrated the compound’s walls. Thereafter, training and experience kicked in and the assault force quickly secured the compound.
Former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Al-Baghdadi tried to flee through one of the many tunnels but picked a wrong one that was a dead-end. He detonated a suicided vest that killed three of his children. Two of his wives, also wearing suicide vests, were killed during the operation. Numerous other ISIS fighters were also killed and a number captured.
The assault team remained on the ground for about two hours conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), which most probably produced actionable intelligence on additional ISIS targets.
Using facial recognition technology, the operators managed to get a positive identification on al-Baghdadi on the spot – after the ISIS leader detonated his suicide vest, his head separated almost intact. But to be 100 percent sure about his identity, the assault force had to get more biological evidence that was sent for DNA testing.
No operators were injured during the operation but a Special Operations Military Working Dog (SOMWD) was wounded.
In a televised address to the nation, President Donald Trump said that “This raid was impeccable. [Al-Baghdadi] died like a dog, he died like a coward. The world is now a safer place. . .Terrorists who oppress and murder innocent people should never sleep soundly, knowing that we will completely destroy them.”
Donald Trump: Isil leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘died like a dog’
U.S. intelligence suspected that al-Baghdadi was located in the area since mid-summer. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proved to be key in the operations by furnishing critical and time-sensitive intelligence that pinpointed the location of the ISIS leader. They verified his position almost a month ago. The compound was under continuous surveillance for the past two weeks. The Turkish invasion in northern Syria forced U.S. officials to cancel the operation three times.
Another interesting note about the operation is that the assault force launched from Erbil, Iraq, and not from U.S. Base in Incirlik, Turkey. The former is almost 450 miles from the village the terrorist leader was hiding in; the latter a scant 65 miles.
The mission was named Operation Kayla Mueller, after the American humanitarian aid worker caught, raped, and killed by ISIS.
Delta’s A Squadron was very close to killing Osama bin Laden back in the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001.
The Pentagon’s research and development outfit wants to stop “UAS-enabled terrorist threats” with a new system it’s calling Aerial Dragnet that would track slow, low-flying drones — or what the military calls unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
“As off-the-shelf UAS become less expensive, easier to fly, and more adaptable for terrorist or military purposes, U.S. forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such craft,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a news release. “Especially in urban areas, where sight lines are limited and many objects may be moving at similar speeds.”
DARPA is soliciting proposals for the program, which seeks to provide “persistent, wide-area surveillance” of multiple drones on a city-wide scale.
Drones have become a mainstay on the battlefield — especially where the US is involved — but many other countries have, or are producing, drones for use in combat. Then there are the smaller, off-the-shelf types, which have even been used for surveillance purposes and to deliver explosive devices by terrorist groups like ISIS, for example.
The proliferation of drones is going to continue, so it looks like DARPA wants a sort-of “super drone” that will tell US forces where all the other little ones are on the battlefield. That is a ways off, since the the Aerial Dragnet research program will take more than three years, after which it’s up to the Pentagon on whether any of the research is implemented in the field.
“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft — from small general aviation planes to large airliners — all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” Jeff Krolik, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. “We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”
Krolik also works on another DARPA program called “upward falling payloads” — a way of parking drones in sealed cases on ocean floors around the world, where they can be remotely activated to “fall” up and take a look around should trouble occur.
DARPA said the program is mainly designed to protect deployed troops, but the system “could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas.”
The agency is hosting a proposers day on September 26, and full proposals for those interested in getting the contract are required by November 12.