While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
US Army sharpshooters recently field tested a new, more accurate sniper rifle out west, where these top marksman fired thousands of rounds and even when waged simulated warfare in force-on-force training.
Eight Army Ivy Division snipers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team tested out the new M110A1 Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), an upgraded version of the current M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), at Fort Carson in Colorado, the Army revealed in a statement.
Comparatively, the new CSASS offers advantageous features like increased accuracy and reduced weight, among other improvements.
“The CSASS is smaller, lighter, and more ergonomic, as the majority of the changes were requested by the soldiers themselves,” Victor Yarosh, an individual involved in the weapon’s development, explained in summer 2018. “The rifle is easier to shoot and has less recoil, all while shooting the same round as the M110,” which fires a 7.62 mm round.
A test sniper engages targets identified by his spotter while wearing a Ghillie suit during the Compact, Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle (CSASS) operational test at Fort Carson, Colo.
(Maj. Michael P. Brabner, Test Officer, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Operational Test Command)
“The CSASS has increased accuracy, which equates to higher hit percentages at longer ranges.”
The recent testing involved having the “snipers employ the system in the manner and the environment they would in combat,” according to Maj. Mindy Brown, a US Army Operational Test Command CSASS test officer.
These types of drills are an “extremely fantastic way for us as snipers to hone our field craft,” Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Sherwood, one of the snipers involved in the testing said.
The CSASS has not been fielded yet, but in 2018,Congress approved the Army’s planned .2 million purchase of several thousand CSASS rifles.
The Army began fielding the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM-R), distributing the weapon — a derivative of the CSASS — to a few select units for limited user testing last fall. The rifle “provides infantry, scout, and engineer squads the capability to engage with accurate rifle fire at longer ranges,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on August 2, 2020, after returning from a 63-day mission to the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls/NASA)
SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.
On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.
Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.
“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”
“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.
“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.
“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.
The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.
“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.
He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”
“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.
“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.
American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil
Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.
During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.
Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).
Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.
With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”
In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.
Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.
“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.
‘I doubted us, too’
During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.
“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.
He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”
Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”
Throughout history, a number of conflicts, due to the quirky nature of international diplomacy, never officially ended.
Of course, these “extended wars” have never actually had any bearing on international relations.
Instead, the ongoing de facto peace overrode any technicalities on the world stage. However, the patching up of these diplomatic irregularities has been used by countries still technically at war to boost their current ties and gain media attention.
We have listed nine such examples of extended wars below.
In 499 B.C., the Persian Empire attempted to conquer the various city-states of Ancient Greece. Ultimately, the Persian efforts were unsuccessful, and the two civilizations remained at war with some intensity until the Persians called off their invasion attempts in 449 B.C.
However, despite the war having ended centuries ago, Greece and Persia never officially mended their relationship until 1902. At that point, after 2,393 years of conflict, Persia (having not yet renamed itself Iran), appointed its first Greek diplomat.
The conflict between Rome and Carthage was one of the defining moments of the creation of the Roman Empire. Between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., the two empires fought a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars, which culminated in the Roman conquest of Carthage.
As Rome seized and destroyed Carthage, there was no need for the two countries to formally sign a peace treaty. However, that did not stop the mayors of Rome and Carthage from signing a treaty of symbolic friendship and collaboration in 1985. The sign of goodwill had been consistently floated until that point by both Tunisian and Italian governments.
In 1651, the Dutch Republic declared war on the Council of the Isles of Scilly, a small island archipelago under the British crown. The islands were harboring pirates who interfered with Dutch shipping. However, the conflict between the Isles of Scilly and the Dutch Republic quickly was subsumed into the wider First Anglo-Dutch war.
Although the Dutch and British concluded their conflict in 1654, the Council of the Isles of Scilly were technically not included in the peace process. As such, the small islands and the Dutch remained at war until a Dutch ambassador visited the islands and formally concluded a peace settlement in 1986.
In 1809, as the Napoleonic Wars were raging throughout Europe, the tiny Spanish hamlet of Huéscar declared war on Denmark. Denmark at the time was a staunch ally of the French Empire, and the town was eager to wage war against Napoleon and his allies.
However, the town’s declaration of war was quickly forgotten — even by the town itself. The actual declaration was only rediscovered by chance in in 1981. Following the discovery, the Danish ambassador to Spain formally concluded peace with the town.
Lijar and France
Declaration of war: 1883
De jure peace: 1983
Like Huéscar, Lijar was another Spanish village that took it upon itself to unilaterally declare war. In 1883, Lijar’s town council declared war on France following ill treatment of the Spanish King Alfonso XII by a French crowd.
Despite the declaration of war, Lijar and France never exchanged blows. And, in 1983, France sent its consul general from the Spanish city of Malaga to Lijar for a formal peace celebration between the would-be combatants.
Following the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the tiny European nation of Andorra was one of the first states to declare war on the German Empire in 1914. This was despite the fact that the nation had no standing army, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Amazingly, despite Andorra’s early declaration of war, it was one of the last states to declare peace. Sidelined at the Treaty of Versailles, which formally concluded World War I, the country did not sign a peace agreement with Germany until 1939, right before the outbreak of World War II.
Much like Andorra, Costa Rica was also not included in the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.
As such, the small nation remained technically at war with Germany throughout both World Wars, with peace only being achieved after Costa Rica was included on the Potsdam Agreement that ended World War II.
In an ultimate display of the difficulties of ending a war, a final peace agreement between Germany and the Allied Powers was not reached until nearly 50 years after the war ended. Following the Nazi surrender and the end of the war in Europe, a formal peace treaty between Germany and the Allies was stalled by the Soviets.
As such, the US passed a resolution in 1951 that acted as a substitute for a peace treaty. This action was emulated by other Allied powers. It was not until German reunification was completed with the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, put into effect on March 15, 1991, that Germany was ultimately able to gain full sovereignty, make alliances without foreign influence, and World War II ended with a formal peace treaty.
Principality of Montenegro and the Empire of Japan
In 1904, the Principality of Montenegro declared war against Japan in support of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War. Due to the extreme distances separating the two countries, neither country saw combat with the other.
As such, when Russia and Japan signed a peace treaty, the Principality of Montenegro was not included. However, following Montenegro’s secession from Serbia in 2006, Japanese officials visited the Balkan country to both recognize the country’s independence and to deliver a letter declaring the official end of the war between the states.
U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jets will soon be targeting and destroying ISIS targets with upgraded laser-guided Maverick missiles engineered to pinpoint maneuvering or fast-moving targets, service officials explained.
The Maverick air-to-ground missile, in service since the Vietnam era, is now receiving an upgraded laser-seeker along with new software configurations to better enable it to hit targets on the run.
The upgraded weapon is currently configured to fire from an Air Force F-16 and A-10 and Navy Harrier Jets and F/A-18s.
“The Laser Maverick (LMAV) E2 seeker upgrade is capable of precisely targeting and destroying a wide variety of fixed, stationary and high speed moving land or sea targets,” Navy Spokeswoman Lt. Amber Lynn Daniel told Scout Warrior.
The LMAV E2 upgrade program has been implemented as a seeker and sustainment upgrade, she added. The Air Force is currently attacking ISIS with the upgraded Maverick through a prior deal to receive 256 missiles from its maker, Raytheon.
Also, there is an existing laser-guided version of the Maverick already in use; the new variant involves a substantial improvement in the weapon’s guidance and targeting systems.
The AGM-65E2, as it’s called, will be used to attack ISIS as part of the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve, Navy officials said. Such a technology is of particular relevance against ISIS because the ongoing U.S. Coalition air bombing has made it virtually impossible for ISIS to gather in large formations, use convoys of armored vehicles or mass large numbers of fighters.
As a result, their combat tactics are now largely restricted to movement in small groups such as pick-up trucks or groups of fighters deliberately blended in with civilians. This kind of tactical circumstance, without question, underscores the need for precision weaponry from the air – weapons which can destroy maneuvering and fast-moving targets.
The Navy is now in the process of receiving 566 upgraded Maverick ER weapons from a 2014, $50 million contract with Raytheon.
The Maverick uses Semi-Active Laser, or SAL, guidance to follow a laser “spot” or designation from an aircraft itself, a nearby aircraft or ground asset to paint the target.
“Legacy AGM-65A/B Guidance and Control Sections will be modified with a state-of-the-art Semi-Active Laser E2 seeker. The missiles with upgraded seekers add the capability to self-lase from the delivery platform, address numerous changes in response to parts obsolescence, and add Pulse repetition frequency (PRF) last code hold to ease pilot workload,” Daniel explained.
The weapon can also use infrared and electro-optical or EO guidance to attack target. It can use a point detonation fuse designed to explode upon impact or a delayed fuse allowing the missile to penetrate a structure before detonating as a way to maximize its lethal impact. It uses a 300-pound “blast-frag” warhead engineered to explode shrapnel and metal fragments in all directions near or on a designated target.
“It uses a blast but not quite as large as a 500-pound bomb for lower collateral damage,” Gordon McKenzie, Maverick business development manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Also, In the event of a loss of LASER lock, the upgraded missiles are able to de-arm fly towards last seen laser spot; and will re-arm guide to target with laser reacquisition.
“The Maverick is a superb close air support weapon against stationary, moving and rapidly maneuvering targets. Pilots say it is the weapon of choice for fast-moving and rapidly maneuvering targets,” McKenzie said.
In addition to its role against ground targets such as ISIS, the Maverick weapon able to hit maneuvering targets at sea such as small attack boats.
“It has a rocket on it versus being a free-fall weapon. It travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck,” McKenzie explained.
The Navy’s elite SEAL teams have taken on a lot of America’s enemies, and have proceeded to kick ass and take names. Now, though, they are facing a potential challenge from within — a streak of drug use.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, five SEALs were kicked out for drug use in a three-month period late last year, prompting a safety stand-down.
“I feel like I’m watching our foundation, our culture, erode in front of our eyes,” Capt. Jamie Sands, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said in a video of a meeting carried out during the December 2016 stand-down.
“I feel betrayed,” Sands added. “How do you do that to us? How do you decide that it’s OK for you to do drugs?”
One of three SEALs who went to CBS News outlined some of the drugs allegedly being used.
“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” the SEAL said in an interview. CBS disguised the SEAL’s voice and concealed his identity.
Leadership in Naval Special Warfare Group 2 viewed the drug use situation as “staggering,” according to the CBS News report. One of the SEALs who went to CBS said that “it has gotten to a point where he had to deal with it.”
“I hope he’s somebody that we can rally behind and hold people accountable, but I’m not sure at this point,” the SEAL added.
One thing Sands has done has been to carry out drug testing even when away from their home bases, something not always done in the past.
“We’re going to test on the road,” Sands told the SEALs in a video released to CBS News. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, which I don’t think anyone’s going to do after today — I believe that — then you will be caught.”
During the stand-down, drug testing was done, and one SEAL who had earlier tested positive for cocaine ended up testing positive again, this time for prescription drugs. That SEAL is being kicked out.
I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.
There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.
We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.
Quarantine and Retirement
I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.
It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?
Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.
Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.
2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet
I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.
What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?
Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.
Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
Walks through the neighborhood
Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
Noise-canceling headphones while writing
Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence
3. Open communication makes all the difference
Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.
One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.
All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.
The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.
Turkey’s defense minister said Ankara was preparing for potential U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, but also spoke of what he called a growing “rapprochement” with Washington over the issue.
The United States has demanded that Ankara call off the deal to purchase the Russian system, and NATO allies have also expressed concerns about the potential threat to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
Washington has warned Ankara that it could invoke the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and impose financial penalties should Turkey go ahead with the deal.
An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Michael Jackson)
Speaking to reporters late on May 21, 2019, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that during recent talks with Washington, Ankara had seen a “general easing and rapprochement” on the issue.
But he said Turkey was “making preparations” and “considering all options” against possible U.S. sanctions over the purchase.
Akar also said Turkish military personnel were receiving training to operate the S-400 missile defense system.
S-400 missile defense system.
(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)
Washington has said it could withdraw an offer to sell Ankara the U.S. equivalent — the Patriot anti-missile system — and warned that Turkey risks being ejected from the F-35 fighter-jet program.
Turkey is a member of the consortium involved in the production of the jet and a buyer.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to arm armored combat vehicles and tactical wheeled vehicles with additional protective technology to secure platforms and soldiers from enemy fire; vehicles slated for use of APS systems are infantry fighting vehicles such as Bradleys along with Stykers, Abrams tanks and even tactical vehicles such as transport trucks and the emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
“The Army’s expedited APS effort is being managed by a coordinated team of Tank Automotive Research, Development Engineering Center engineers, acquisition professionals, and industry; and is intended to assess current APS state-of-the art by installing and characterizing some existing non-developmental APS systems on Army combat vehicles,” the Army official said.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Being engineered as among the most survivable and heavily armored vehicles in existence, the Abrams tank is built to withstand a high degree of enemy fire, such some enemy tank rounds, RPGs, rockets and missiles. Abrams tanks can also carry reactive armor, material used to explode incoming enemy fire in a matter that protects the chassis and crew of the vehicle itself. However, depending upon the range, speed and impact location of enemy fire, there are some weapons which still pose a substantial threat to Abrams tanks. Therefore, having an APS system which could knock out enemy rounds before they hit the tank, without question, adds an additional layer of protection for the tank and crew. A particular threat area for Abrams tanks is the need the possibility of having enemy rounds hit its ammunition compartment, thereby causing a damaging secondary explosion.
APS on Abrams tanks, quite naturally, is the kind of protective technology which could help US Army tanks in tank-on-tank mechanized warfare against near-peer adversary tanks, such as a high-tech Russian T-14 Armata tank. According to a report in The National Interest from Dave Majumdar, Russian T-14s are engineered with an unmanned turret, reactive armor and Active Protection Systems.
A challenge with the technology is to develop the proper protocol or tactics, techniques and procedures such that soldiers walking in proximity to a vehicle are not vulnerable to shrapnel, debris or fragments from the explosion between an interceptor and approaching enemy fire.
“The expedited activity will inform future decisions and trade-space for the Army’s overarching APS strategy which uses the MAPS program to develop a modular capability that can be integrated on any platform,” the Army official said.
Rafael’s Trophy system, Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, and others.
DRS Technologies and Israeli-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are asking the U.S. Army to consider acquiring their recently combat-tested Trophy Active Protection System, a vehicle-mounted technology engineered to instantly locate and destroy incoming enemy fire.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs,
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Trophy was recently deployed in combat in Gaza on Israeli Defense Forces’ Merkava tanks. A brigade’s worth of tanks used Trophy to destroy approaching enemy fire such as RPGs in a high-clutter urban environment, he added.
“Dozens of threats were launched at these platforms, many of which would have been lethal to these vehicles. Trophy engaged those threats and defeated them in all cases with no collateral injury and no danger to the dismounts and no false engagement,” the DRS official said.
A tank gunner in 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, checks the battery box and connections on his M1A1 Abrams tank after gunnery qualifications | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar
While the Trophy system was primarily designed to track and destroy approaching enemy fire, it also provides the additional benefit of locating the position of an enemy shooter.
“Trophy will not only knock an RPG out of the sky but it will also calculate the shooter’s location. It will enable what we call slew-to-cue. At the same time that the system is defeating the threat that is coming at it, it will enable the main gun or sensor or weapons station to vector with sights to where the threat came from and engage, identify or call in fire. At very least you will get an early warning to enable you to take some kind of action,” the DRS official explained. “I am no longer on the defensive with Trophy. Israeli commanders will tell you ‘I am taking the fight to the enemy.’
The Israelis developed Trophy upon realizing that tanks could not simply be given more armor without greatly minimizing their maneuverability and deployability, DRS officials said.
Trophy APS was selected by the Israel Defense Forces as the Active Protection System designed to protect the Namer heavy infantry fighting vehicle.
Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain
A Virginia-based defense firm known as Artis, developer of the Iron Curtain APS system, uses two independent sensors, radar and optical, along with high-speed computing and counter munitions to detect and intercept approaching fire, according to multiple reports.
Iron Curtain began in 2005 with the Pentagon’s research arm known as DARPA; the APS system is engineered to defeat enemy fire at extremely close ranges.
The systems developers and multiple reports – such as an account from Defense Review — say that Iron Curtain defeats threats inches from their target, which separates the system from many others which intercept threats several meters out. The aim is to engineer a dependable system with minimal risk of collateral damage to dismounted troops or civilians.
The Defense Review report also says that Iron Curtain’s sensors can target destroy approaching RPG fire to within one-meter of accuracy.
Iron Curtain’s radar was developed by the Mustang Technology Group in Plano, Texas.
“Iron Curtain has already been successfully demonstrated in the field. They installed the system on an up-armored HMMWV (Humvee), and Iron Curtain protected the vehicle against an RPG. Apparently, the countermeasure deflagrates the RPG’s warhead without detonating it, leaving the “dudded” RPG fragments to just bounce off the vehicle’s side. Iron Curtain is supposed to be low weight and low cost, with a minimal false alarm rate and minimal internal footprint,” the Defense Review report states.
Israel’s IRON FIST
Israel’s IMISystems has also developed an APS system which uses a multi-sensor early warning system with both infrared and radar sensors.
“Electro-optical jammers, Instantaneous smoke screens and, if necessary, an interceptor-based hard kill Active Protection System,” IMISystems officials state.
IRON FIST capability demonstrators underwent full end-to-end interception tests, against all threat types, operating on the move and in urban scenarios. These tests included both heavy and lightly armored vehicles.
“In these installations, IRON FIST proved highly effective, with its wide angle protection, minimal weight penalty and modest integration requirements,” company officials said.
UBT/Rheinmetall’s Active Defense System
German defense firms called Rheinmetall and IBD Deisenroth, Germany, joined forces to develop active vehicle protection systems; Rheinmetall AG owns a 74% share, with the remainder held by IBD Deisenroth GmbH.
Described as a system which operates on the “hard kill” principle, the ADS is engineered for vehicles of every weight class; it purports to defend against light antitank weapons, guided missiles and certain improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“The sensor system detects an incoming projectile as it draws close to the vehicle, e.g. a shaped charge or antitank missile. Then, in a matter of microseconds, the system activates a protection sector, applying directed pyrotechnic energy to destroy the projectile in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Owing to its downward trajectory, ADS minimizes collateral damage in the zone surrounding the vehicle,” the company’s website states.
A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.
In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.
As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.
Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.
With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.
Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.
After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.
Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.
Medal of Honor.
(US Army photo.)
Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.
For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.
Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.
Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.
Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.
“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the biggest films of 2019, earning more than $1 billion at the box office.
The film, which was a culmination of a decade of Marvel movies, featured time travel, heartbreaking moments, and a major battle sequence. Larger-than-life moments were made possible through the use of computer-generated imagery (also known as CGI) and other special effects. And oftentimes, the most exciting scenes in the movie were filmed in front of a green screen.
In a new video shared by Marvel Entertainment, “Endgame” visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw broke down the film’s major battle sequence with Ryan Penagos.
Keep reading to see how different “Endgame” looks without special effects.
The superheroes returned after stepping through portals.
Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.
With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.
Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.
Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.
Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.
Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.
That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.
“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.
“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”
But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.
“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.
“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.
“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.
The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.
The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.
“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.
Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.
“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.
“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.
Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.
“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.
“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.
However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.
Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.
“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”
While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.
Recon Marines and scout snipers now have a new weapon in their arsenal.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Long Range Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action, precision-firing rifle that offers more accuracy and range than similar weapons of yesteryear. The system partially replaces the M40A6 — the legacy system — and gives Marines increased lethality.
In the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, the Mk13 reached full operational capability.
“This weapon better prepares us to take the fight to any adversary in any clime and place.”
The Mk13 delivers a larger bullet at greater distances than the legacy sniper rifle. The additional velocity offered by the Mk13 will be advantageous on the battlefield, said Berger.
“When shooting the Mk13, the bullet remains stable for much longer,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, MCSC’s weapons team lead for Infantry Weapons. “The weapon gives you enough extra initial velocity that it stays supersonic for a much longer distance than the M40A6.”
U.S. Marines with Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, fire the MK13 Sniper Rifle.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)
Additionally, the rifle includes the M571, an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle. The new optic enables Marines to positively identify enemies at greater distances and creates a larger buffer between the warfighter and adversaries.
Mk13 a ‘positive step forward’
The M40A6 has served the warfighter well for many years. However, the Corps searched for ways to enhance their sniper capability after identifying a materiel capability gap in its sniper rifles, said Brisker. He said Marines will primarily use the Mk13 during deployments, while the M40A6 will serve as a training rifle for snipers.
“We are looking to conserve the barrel life of the Mk13 Mod 7 and facilitate training aboard all installations,” said Berger.
Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and Marine Corps Systems Command liaison, demonstrates the Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle during training aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Murphy)
Since its initial fielding to I Marine Expeditionary Force in 2018, the Mk13 has been popular among Marines. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper platoon used the weapon for more than a year in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Many users emphasize how the weapon significantly improves their precision firing capability, said Berger.
“At our new equipment trainings, the resounding feedback from the scout snipers was that this rifle is a positive step forward in the realm of precision-fire weapons,” said Berger. “Overall, there has been positive feedback from the fleet.”
Both Berger and Brisker expressed encouragement for the Mk13 after the weapon reached FOC. They believe the rifle will give the warfighter an additional option, increase lethality and enhance the ability to execute missions on the battlefield.
“The fact that we managed to get a gun of this capability out to our sniper teams is really positive,” said Brisker. “We’re looking forward to doing even more in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.