Meanwhile, China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried and timid as it cements a land grab in a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual trade and has billions in resources, like oil, waiting to be exploited.
Six countries lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, and the US isn’t one of them. But the US doesn’t need a dog in this fight to stand up for freedom of navigation and international law.
Here’s how the US counters China in the region.
For the US, checking Beijing in the Pacific often means sailing carrier strike groups through the region — something the Navy has done for decades, whether China protests or not.
As Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, said recently at a military conference: “We’re going to fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows.”
The strike group has plenty of aircraft along with them, like this A F/A-18E Super Hornet and a nuclear-capable B-1B Lancer from Guam.
Unlike submarines and ICBMs buried under land or sea, the US’s strategic, nuclear-capable bombers make up the most visible leg of the nuclear triad. Placing a handful of B-1Bs in Guam sends a message to the region.
Here’s the US’s entire strategic bomber force lined up in Guam, representing more than 60 years bomber dominance.
It also doesn’t hurt when the US Navy shows off its complete mastery of carrier-based aircraft. There are F-18 pilots in the Navy that likely have more carrier landings than the entire Chinese navy combined.
Those jets benefit from the support of about 7,000 sailors on the ship, who keep them running around the clock.
Airborne early warning and control planes like the E-2 Hawkeye use massive radars to act as the eyes and ears of the fleet. Not much gets past them.
But carriers don’t sail alone either. Here a guided missile destroyer knocks through some rough seas accompanying the Vinson.
The US Navy may be the most professional in the world, with a very serious mission in the South China Sea, but they still make time for a swim on one of the US’s newest combat ships, the USS Coronado.
The Coronado doesn’t look like an aircraft carrier, but it does have serious airpower in the form of a MH-60S Seahawk with twin .50 caliber door guns.
But the key to the US’s success in far away waters is allies. The US doesn’t do anything alone, if you’re noticing a pattern here. Here US and Royal Brunei Navy sailors practice boarding a ship.
In February, US Marines partnered up with Japanese self-defense forces to practice amphibious landings — a skill that may one day come in handy on artificial islands.
Sometimes working with allies means getting down and dirty. Here a Seabee gets neck deep in Japan.
The bottom line is that the US military has decades of experience sailing, training, and fighting with its allies in the Pacific. China has come a long way in shifting the balance of power in the region, but the US remains on top — for now.
Returning to civilian life after years of service is bittersweet. Having more time with family is a blessing, but after getting used to an intense job that comes with lots of rules and regulations, it’s unnerving for some to suddenly have the freedom to do, well, anything! Starting a new career can be intimidating, especially for those who joined the military straight out of high school.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of employers who go out of their way to hire veterans and current service members! These are just a few of the awesome jobs that put your military expertise to good use.
1. Customer Service Representative
Median Annual Salary: ,300*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 5-9% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Customer service reps chat with customers and potential new ones to explain available products and services. They also often help troubleshoot products and solve problems, all while calming down frustrated customers. Military-grade problem solving is a big help for this one!
What You’ll Need: High school diploma plus training on the job and basic computer skills. Communication skills are a must, too! Entry-level positions don’t pay much, but many veterans climb the ladder quickly into more lucrative leading roles.
2. CDL Driver/Operator
Median Annual Salary: ,340*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 6% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Always a popular choice for veterans, truck driving is a no-brainer if you need a job fast. Companies are almost always hiring, and it’s an ideal job for someone strong who’s used to working long hours.
What You’ll Need: High school diploma or GED and a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. For a boost in pay, consider getting a Class A CDL to allow you to drive big rigs.
3. Sales Account Representative
Median Annual Salary:
Technical/Scientific Products: ,980
Wholesale and Manufacturing: ,140
The Forecast: The BLS projects 5-14% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Sales reps convince new customers to purchase products or sign up for services. Sometimes this is on the consumer level, but it can also be between businesses and to large organizations. Highly motivated, performance-driven individuals will thrive in this field.
What You’ll Need: High school diploma or GED, sales experience a plus. Some employers train new sales associates, but the most successful reps are naturally persuasive and charismatic.
4. Automotive Technician/Mechanic
Median Annual Salary: ,470*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 6% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Technicians and mechanics examine the inner workings of automobiles and make any necessary repairs. You don’t have to be an engineer, but you do need to be good at problem-solving and decoding repair manuals.
What You’ll Need: Formal training and industry certification is usually required. In some cases, relevant military training is enough.
5. Security Systems Technician
Median Annual Salary: ,330*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 10-14% growth through 2026.
What They Do: If repairing, programing, and installing important security and fire alarm equipment sounds like your cup of tea, becoming a security systems tech is a great choice. They keep these systems running smoothly and make sure they comply with codes to keep everyone in the building safe.
What You’ll Need: Relevant military training or on-the-job experience may already have you covered. If not, vocational school will get the job done.
6. Construction Technician
Median Annual Salary: ,480
The Forecast: The BLS projects 18% growth through 2026.
What They Do: In between a construction manager and civil engineer, construction techs wear many hats. Job responsibilities may include managing projects, scheduling inspections, and estimating build expenses.
What You’ll Need: Construction technicians can often learn on the job and work their way up, but you can also get an associate’s degree in construction technology.
The Forecast: The BLS projects 5-9% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: It’s a long title, but this type of first-line supervisor is really just an expert mechanic in charge of other mechanics.
What You’ll Need: A high school diploma or GED, plus relevant experience. In many cases, military training will already make you a strong candidate.
1. Operations Manager
Median Annual Salary: ,310*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 5-9% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: The specifics vary widely by industry, but operations managers are in charge of keeping large-scale business operations running smoothly. Their goal is to coordinate between multiple departments to maximize efficiency.
What You’ll Need: A bachelor’s degree and experience in management is usually required, but military leadership roles will give you a big leg up.
2. Computer Information Systems Manager
Median Annual Salary: 5,800
The Forecast: The BLS projects 10-14% job growth through 2026
What They Do: For the computer geeks out there, computer information systems management is an excellent option. These managers are responsible for assessing the digital activity of an entire company and deciding what technological improvements could help them meet their goals.
What You’ll Need: A bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in computer or information science. It’s also critical to be up to date on all the latest technology.
The Forecast: The BLS projects 2-4% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: This type of first-line supervisor manages offices. Companies that have many employees or departments need someone to manage the office, which is where the supervisor comes in to oversee administrative and clerical workers.
What You’ll Need: While it’s possible to work your way up to this position, it commonly requires an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Median Annual Salary: ,720*
The Forecast: The BLS projects 9% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Electricians handle anything electrical. Installing wiring, repairing fixtures and outlets, troubleshooting outages, and making sure electrical systems are up to code are just a few of the responsibilities of an electrician.
What You’ll Need: If you don’t have military training as an electrician, a vocational school is the way to go. You’ll also need to be licensed in your state before you start job searching.
5. Aircraft/Aviation Technician
Median Annual Salary: ,270
The Forecast: The BLS projects 5% job growth through 2026.
What They Do: Aviation techs are the people who keep airplanes from falling out of the sky. They maintain aircraft, diagnose and repair mechanical problems, and assess numerous complicated pieces of machinery.
What You’ll Need: Military vocational training will do the trick, but if you trained in a different area don’t sweat it. You’ll need to earn a mechanic’s certificate with an airframe rating, power plant rating, or both.
He has also witnessed first-hand how much the blockbuster director respects the military — Pietruszewski was one of the vets sought out by Bay to work on the “Transformers” films. Bay goes out of his way to hire and cast veterans on his sets, in front of and behind the camera.
There’s a big difference between the military and the depiction of the military onscreen, but with Hollywood’s tendency to perpetuate military myths, it’s nice to know that big directors like Bay are leading the way in including the military in their films.
If you’re a suburban mom in Iowa, your PT is a Cruiser.
And this is what your husband does to unwind. Check out his award-winning ride. (Photo via Flickr,
Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0)
If you’re a tumbler in the circus, your PT is a Barnum.
And if you’re an aspiring Industrial Age robber baron played by Daniel Day Lewis, your PT is an Anderson.
But if you served in the military, your PT is an acronym, meaning Physical Training. And your PT comes with a silent F, which might officially stand for “fitness,” but back on testing days, probably stood for an f-word you used frequently to grumble and bitch.
In the service, PT sucks. That goes without saying. And yet, as a civilian, you’re still doing it. Nowadays, you do PT voluntarily and brag about your preferred brand to anyone who will listen. You pay $100/month for a nice, clean place (close to work!) to do it in. You pay someone extra to play your drill instructor, someone who’s motivational but not too mean. Let’s face it. You have become
enmired in hypocrisy
And there’s only one man who can pull you free.
Max doesn’t do PT, he is PT. He’s Physically Titanic, Proactively Tactical, Pyrotechnically Triumphant, and Proudly Terse. He’s a Prehensile Tyrannosaurus with Possible Telekinesis and a full Power Train warranty. Also, he will Put a Trace on your phone if you try to weasel out of this workout.
In this episode, Max is sending you back to PT. No frills. No gym. No equipment. No excuses. Just minute after minute of good old fashioned body weight conditioning drills stacked up in supersets for you to grovel and bitch your way through .
Welcome back to Performance Testing, Puddy Tat.
Watch as Max casually bats aside your nonsense, in the video embedded at the top.
A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.
The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.
An unidentified member of the group was also killed.
In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.
The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.
(US Army photos)
The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.
France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.
Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”
US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”
Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the most ever-present devices in modern times is the navigation system in everything from cell phones and wrist watches to in-dash car displays. All of them are made possible with just a few constellations of satellites, most of them launched by the U.S.
But the systems use the satellite signals for free despite a cost in the billions to create and launch the satellites, and $2 million is spent daily to maintain the U.S. system. So why are civilians across the world allowed to use them for free?
The big turning point was in 1983 when a Korean Air passenger jet flying near the Soviet border accidentally crossed into Russian territory in the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Russians were worried that the plane was a U.S. bomber or spy plane, and made the catastrophic decision to attack the jet, downing it and killing all 269 passengers and crew members on board.
President Ronald Reagan publicly condemned the attacks and turned to his advisors to find a way to prevent other mix-ups in the future. He opened the GPS signals to public use with an executive order — but added scrambling to reduce accuracy.
This made the signals less valuable to rival militaries.
Civilian companies sprang up around GPS and worked to create devices that were perfectly accurate despite the scrambling. After almost a decade of the military increasing scrambling to foil technological workarounds, President Bill Clinton ordered that the scrambling come to an end.
Instead, the U.S. jams GPS signals locally when they’re in combat with a force that uses them.
This jamming works by interrupting the signals, allowing the U.S. to scramble signals from its own satellites as well as those launched in more recent years by Russia, China, India, and Japan.
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
Everyone lies in the military. From the newest privates to the saltiest of generals — we’ve all done it.
Studies show that by the time a child reaches the age of three, they know how to tell a fib. Although white lies are considered harmless, others can screw with peoples’ heads.
Since the military is a structured environment, young troops depend on their senior enlisted leaders for not only career guidance but personnel management. You can’t go home on leave or sometimes liberty without getting their signature (depending on the branch).
Keep in mind many first sergeants won’t even know your name without looking at your name tape. So they might not even care if they lie to your face. However, others may care and want to earn your respect — but that won’t stop them from lying.
So check out a few ways in which you might catch your first sergeant in a fib.
1. Look for a momentary head jerk or tilt
First sergeants don’t know everything, even though they may want you to think they do. According to lie expert Richard Wisemen, liars tend to retract, jerk or tilt their head during specific parts of their reply. If they jerk their heads while listening, that doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
If they jerk their heads while listening, it doesn’t technically mean they’re lying because they need to be speaking.
This muscle jerk is considered a form a user uncertainty.
The old fashion head tilt. It’s universally not a good sign. (Image via Giphy)
2. Watch their blinking
Everyone human on the planet blinks to lubricate their eyeballs. The average person blinks their eyelids 15-20 times per minute at nearly a consistent rate.
Lie experts suggest people who fib tend to change the rate of their blinking, slowing it down then increasing nearly eight times faster than norml. So to my E-4 mafia, if your first sergeant blinks too much, your request is denied.
Pretty inconsistent. (Image via Giphy)
3. Repeating their words
Since the military is about maintaining high levels of discipline, people often tend to over-speak or repeat the question you just asked them to buy themselves time. This act allows your brain to generate its next words carefully.
So the next time you ask your first sergeant for special liberty and it takes them an hour to explain why you can’t — they’re probably lying.
So, I guess it’s a no. (Image via Giphy)
4. Point towards the exit
We don’t mean that they literally point their index finger toward the exit, but many times when liars are in a situation they want to get out of, they tend to steer their bodies toward the nearest exit.
Yup, she’s lying. (Image via Giphy)
5. Breathing changes
In many cases, when someone is lying to you, their breathing habits increase as their stress levels elevate. Troops should watch how many times their first sergeant inhales and exhales. If the rate increases, it could be an indication they aren’t telling you the truth.
We think we just caught her in a lie. (Image via Giphy)
Body language tells us more than what the speaker is usually saying. In many cases, when a liar is lying, the lie creates a level of anxiety. So you may notice your higher ups overly correct their uniforms or put their hands in their pockets trying to relieve that stress.
If they do that, you can bust them for lying and for stowing their hands in a place that they’re not supposed too.
Next time you speak to anyone in your command, look for these “tells” to see if they’re telling you the truth.
North Korea unveiled a remarkably powerful bomb in its latest nuclear test, one with the ability to level entire urban centers.
In the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, state media claimed that the rogue regime had successfully tested a staged thermonuclear weapon – a hydrogen bomb. Explosive yield estimates range are around 150 kilotons, orders of magnitude larger than any bomb the North has tested before. While the international community has been trying to figure out what to do about this alarming development, Pyongyang has been celebrating its entry into the elite thermonuclear weapons club.
When North Korea’s nuclear scientists and engineers returned home, they were given a heroes welcome in Pyongyang. Similar celebrations were held after the successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, on which Kim Jong Un plans to mount his newest bomb.
Officials held another celebration Saturday to honor the individuals who contributed to the development of the latest addition to North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal. During Saturday’s celebratory concert, images of North Korea’s achievements were presented on the big screen, a not uncommon pastime for the regime.
The North revealed images of the nuclear bomb tested last Sunday at the celebration this weekend.
The bomb used in the test appears to be a slight variation of the warhead North Korea presented just hours before its shocking nuclear test. The shape suggests that the device may very well be a thermonuclear weapon, with one chamber for the fission reaction and another for the fusion reaction to produce a substantial explosive yield.
In the wake of the country’s sixth nuclear test, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new ICBM, which can effectively strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. While it is difficult to know for certain, it would appear that the North is “locked and loaded” for intercontinental strikes if it needed to do so.
“The recent test of the H-bomb is a great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” young North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said at the banquet Saturday, referring to North Korea’s success in the face of tough international sanctions and mounting pressure.
“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.
While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”
The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.
As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”
Here is that video:
Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.
“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:
“Top Gun” adds one as well.
Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.
Could Boeing be out of the fighter business in the near future? That question has been kicking around in recent years as air forces are looking to advanced planes like the Lockheed F-35 Lightning or for cheaper options like the Saab Gripen.
A big reason is that Boeing’s entry for a new Joint Strike Fighter, the X-32, lost that competition. A 2014 report from DefenceAviation.com noted that Boeing was producing an average of four jets a month.
The company has made some sales for versions of the F-15E Strike Eagle, but aside from Australia, there have not been many export orders for the F/A-18E/F Super Horner and EA-18G Growler (granted, the Marines could use the Super Hornet to replace aging F/A-18C/D Hornets in a more expeditious manner). The company has marketed the Super Hornet to India in the wake of the problems India has had in adapting the Tejas for carrier operations, and did a video promoting an advanced F-15C.
Boeing is not completely out of the light jet business. It has teamed up with Saab for an entry into the T-X competition that also includes the Lockheed T-50 and the T-100 from Leonardo and Raytheon. It also recently got an order for 36 F-15QAs from Qatar, according to FlightGlobal.com. Qatar also bought 36 Eurofighter Typhoons and 36 Dassault Rafales.
Boeing is also preparing for an upgrade to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet line. The Block III Super Hornet will feature conformal fuel tanks for longer range and improved avionics, including a new radar and better electronic countermeasures systems. President Trump’s budget proposals did include buying 80 more Super Hornets.
Such purchases could only be delaying the inevitable. The Navy and Air Force are reportedly planning a sixth-generation fighter in the FA-XX project, but that may still be years into the future.
If you’re in the market for a used fighter jet that can still fly, the Albanian Air Force would like to talk with you in the near future before they run out of stock!
Forty Cold War-era fighter jets have been put up for auction by the Albanian government with the goal of eventually selling all of its retired fixed-wing fleet to whoever has the highest bid. Of that forty, eleven fighters parked at the old Rinasi air base near Tirana are currently open for immediate sale, with opening bids beginning at 1.1 million to 1.9 million leks. Yes, million, and no, that’s not actually a lot of money when you do the currency conversion. Overall, it comes to the grand range of $8,600 to $14,800 USD, according to the Associated Press.
That pretty much means anybody with a job could probably afford to buy one of these fighters… not including transportation, maintenance, and insurance costs. Not to mention operational costs if you decide to actually fly these aircraft.
It’s somewhat unclear whether or not these fighters up for sale are actually MiGs or the Chinese clone copies, though a closer inspection of each aircraft will undoubtedly reveal their source. The Albanian Air Force originally fielded Soviet-built MiG-15s, -17s, and -19s, though it began to procure Chinese-made clones after Albanian relations with the USSR ended in 1961. Albania eventually bought large numbers of Shenyang J-5s and J-6s (MiG-17s and MiG-19s respectively) and a smaller fleet of Chengdu J-7s (MiG-21s).
Before you tell your wife you’re about to take out a second mortgage on your house, or your college roommates that you just found something really sweet to pool your money on, you should probably be aware of the fact that the Albanian Air Force had an astoundingly high accident rate with its fighters. When the USSR ended diplomatic ties with Albania, it became incredibly difficult to find parts and the appropriate jet fuel for their MiG fighters, so Albania spurred on its industry to attempt to produce a similar fuel composition to keep their fighters flying. The fuel wasn’t similar enough, and apparently wreaked havoc on the engines it was burned in, shortening their lifespans, and in some cases, outright blowing up aircraft while in-flight.
If the test sale of the 11 MiGs (or Shenyangs?) is successful, the remaining fighter fleet will be opened up for sale. Prospective bidders include museums around the United States and Europe, as well as private bidders who just want the aircraft to add to their collections. I can’t say with certainty that the TACAIRNET team won’t try to bid on one, either… So you’d better hurry if you’re looking to have a MiG-17 parked in your driveway by the end of this year!
The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.
But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.
The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.
“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 Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)
“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”
The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.
Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)
As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.
The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.
A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.
“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.
The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”
The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.
The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.
Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.
In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.
“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.
Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.
During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.
UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.
Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)
During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.
The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.
RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.
The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.
Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.