This is why the Apache is a tank's worst nightmare - We Are The Mighty
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This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.


The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
An Apache attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, California. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.

The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.

That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.

According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.

Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
Apache helicopters have successfully taken out advanced air defenses before, but it would still be better to use F-22s when possible. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?

Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.

That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.

This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.

A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
An Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st AD Combat Aviation Brigade also known as ‘Task Force Apocalypse’, fires a Hellfire missile Sept. 11, 2014 at Fort Irwin, Ca. (US Army photo by: Sgt. Aaron R. Braddy/Released)

According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.

The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.

Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.

Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.

That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.

Articles

Army answers Navy with a high-gloss spirit spot of its own

Army West Point has just revealed its most crucial and secret operation in the war against Navy team spirit in a video released across social media channels this morning.


The Navy fired their first video of this year recently.

The video is currently hosted on the West Point U.S. Military Academy Facebook page and depicts an operation that centers around the Army 1st Spirit Forces Group but also incorporates the 82nd Airborne Division, the U.S. Army Pacific Command, and other major units.

It appears that the mission objective may be the Navy’s mascot, Bill.

See what we know so far in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just tested an ICBM near deadly nuclear missile accident site

The Russian military successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new Borei A-class submarine, the nuclear-powered Knyaz Vladimir, or Prince Vladimir, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news agency.

The missile, the RSM-56 Bulava, has a range of 8,000 to 9,000 kilometers, or more than 5,000 miles, can carry six to 10 150-kiloton nuclear warheads, and has a yield of 1,150 kilograms. While its speed is unknown, Michael Duitsman, a research associate specializing in Russian missile technology at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury College, estimates it’s in the range of Mach 16 to Mach 20. The Bulava has been in operational use since 2013, and it was fired for the first time from the nuclear-powered submarine on Oct. 29, 2019.


The Prince Vladimir is the first of the Borei A-class submarine, which has better noise reduction and improved communication equipment over the Borei class, Duitsman told Insider via email.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

Russian Borei class nuclear ballistic missile submarine Alexander Nevsky.

According to the Moscow Times, the missile was launched from the Arkhangelsk region and traveled thousands of miles to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East — across the entire country.

Once it enters service — it is expected to in December — the Borei A-class strategic submarine will carry up to 16 of the Bulava missiles with four to six nuclear warheads each, according to the Moscow Times.

The missile was launched from a submerged position in the White Sea — the same place a devastating nuclear accident occurred in August 2019. In that instance, Russian engineers were attempting to recover a “Skyfall” missile from the bed of the White Sea when the weapon’s nuclear reactor exploded, causing the deaths of at least seven Russians. Russia’s handling of the incident has been referred to as a cover-up by a senior official at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.

Russia’s Prince Vladimir submarine fires a Bulava missile into north Atlantic

www.youtube.com

The Bulava is understood to have a devastating payload — 50 to 60 times as powerful as the bomb the US dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. But just because it’s powerful, that doesn’t mean the Russian Navy is using the missile to menace its adversaries — in fact, it’s a defensive weapon.

The Bulava “forms part of Russia’s strategic deterrent force; the missiles are not for use in normal combat,” Duitsman told Insider. “Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, deter an enemy from attacking you with nuclear weapons, because it is very difficult to find and destroy all of the submarines.”

The US counterparts to the Borei and the Bulava — the Ohio-class submarines and Trident II missiles — are more powerful in combination than the Russian offerings. The Ohio-class can carry 24 Trident II missiles, which have a longer range at 12,000 kilometers, a speed of Mach 24, and a payload of 2,800 kilograms. But, as Duitsman notes, the Ohio-class is 20 years old, and its replacement, the Columbia-class, isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2031.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

World War I gamers held their own ceasefire on 100-year anniversary

Gamers playing “Battlefield 1,” a game set in World War 1, stopped shooting to participate in a ceasefire during an online match at 11 a.m. Canberra time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marks the end of the first World War.

The ceasefire in the game took place on the same day and same time that the annual World War 1 commemoration typically occurs around the globe: On November 11 at 11 a.m.


The player who helped arrange the ceasefire posted a short video of the event on Reddit, but it’s hard to tell from the video everyone actually stopped shooting. It looks like some players either didn’t hear about the planned ceasefire at the specified time or they ignored the effort altogether. The game’s background audio and effects, like loud explosions and artillery from battleships were also still ongoing, which diminished the silence. There’s also a player in a plane who performs a strafing run on a bunch on players who are partaking in the ceasefire, which somewhat ruins the moment.

EA/Dice developer Jan David Hassel posted the video on Twitter:

Still, you can tell that some players abided to the ceasefire by the fact that the player recording the video was surrounded by enemy players (with red icons above their heads) and didn’t get shot. Any other day and time and the player recording the event would have been killed in seconds when surrounded by so many enemy players.

Ultimately, however, the player recording the event was stabbed and killed. The player doing the stabbing apparently apologized for doing so.

“Battlefield 1” players like myself will know how surprising it is that anyone partook in the event, considering how difficult it is to communicate with others in the game.

The player, known as u/JeremyJenki on Reddit, who helped set up the event and recorded the video posted on Reddit how they did it:

“At the start of the game, me and a couple others started talking about having a ceasefire. We made it known in the chat and many people were on board with it, deciding that this armistice should be held on the beach (This didn’t seem like a great idea to me at the time). Players started heading down to the beach early and for a few minutes it was amazing. When editing the video I cut out most of the in between, only showing the beginning and end. But hey, against all odds, we did it, and while short it was the coolest experience in Battlefield I had ever had.”

Featured image: Electronic Arts

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain, Japan team up in rare pairing to deter China

The UK and Japan are carrying out their first joint military exercise in the latter country, as both look for ways to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Soldiers from Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company are at a training camp near Mt. Fuji in Japan, where they are drilling with troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Vigilant Isles.

The exercise started with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill and will continue for two weeks in Ojijihara, north of Sendai on Honshu, which is Japan’s largest island.


Japanese and British soldiers will be deployed to a rural training area there for drills focused on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques, according to The Telegraph.

Japanese forces have carried out joint drills with the British navy and air force, “but this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the HAC.

“There’s always a commonality with soldiers — equipment, interest in each other’s weapons, each other’s rations — so I think that always gives any soldier a basis for a discussion, a common point,” Lance Sgt. Liam Magee told the British Forces Network.

‘Natural partners’

The exercise comes roughly a year after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan to discuss trade and defense issues. During that trip, May toured Japan’s largest warship and became the first European leader to sit in on a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.

The two countries released a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which they pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises. May also said three times that the countries were “natural partners,” and “each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe.”

The UK has in recent months also taken a more active approach to countering China, whose growing influence and assertiveness in the region has put it at odds with many of its neighbors.

A British warship sailed through the South China Sea in March 2018, and British ships accompanied French vessels through the area in summer 2018. At the end of August 2018, a British ship had a close encounter with Chinese frigate as it sailed near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands.

In Japan, which is also watching China warily, Abe’s hawkish government has made a number of moves on sea and land to build military capacity.

The country’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever, and this year saw the Ground Self-Defense Force’s largest reorganization since 1954. Japan’s military has also said it would raise the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32 to ensure “a stable supply” of personnel. The force is also looking to bring in more women.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force/Twitter)

Earlier in 2018, Tokyo activated an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, and it has carried out several exercises already in 2018.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships joined a US carrier strike group for drills in the South China Sea at the end of August 2018, and September 2018 saw a Japanese submarine join surface ships for an exercise in the same area — Japan’s first sub deployment to the contested region.

Tokyo has made moves farther afield to counter China as well.

Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, sailed into Sri Lanka’s Colombo harbor at the end of September 2018. Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region in general have been targets for Chinese outreach that many see as an effort to gain leverage over neighbors.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Huawei’s Harmony OS may be ready for smartphones in 6 to 9 months

Chinese technology giant Huawei will decide whether it will have to move forward with bringing its Harmony OS operating system to its smartphones in the next six to nine months as it remains prohibited from working with American companies like Google, Vincent Pang, Huawei’s senior vice president, told Business Insider during a press dinner on Nov. 12, 2019.

“We cannot wait more, we missed one flagship,” Pang said, referring to Huawei’s recently launched Mate 30 smartphone. That phone runs on the open-source version of Android that doesn’t include any of Google’s services or apps, including the Google Play Store.

The United States Commerce Department placed Huawei, the second largest smartphone vendor in the world by market share, on a trade blacklist that prevents it from doing business with American companies unless those firms obtain government permission.


That means Huawei is unable to work with Google, which operates the Android software platform that powers the majority of smartphones around the world. Losing the ability to use Google’s Android puts Huawei’s phones at a major disadvantage in markets outside of China.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

(Photo by Rami Al-zayat)

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said that licenses would soon be granted for American companies to begin selling to Huawei again, adding that the government has received 260 license requests so far, Bloomberg reported on Nov. 3, 2019. But no official announcements have been made yet.

Huawei has been readying its own software platform called Harmony OS, which the Shenzhen-based firm unveiled in August 2019. But the firm has been positioning Harmony OS as much more than just a smartphone operating system to replace Android. Instead, the company framed it as being a platform that will run across many devices, including smartwatches, internet-of-things gadgets, televisions, and more.

“Harmony is not a replacement of Android,” Pang also said during the press dinner. “It’s a next generation of Android.”

So far, Huawei has unveiled televisions that run on Harmony OS, including the Vision, Honor Vision, and Honor Vision Pro. However, the company has not made specific announcements about how and precisely when the software will appear on smartphones. It has said that it’s hoping it will be able to work with Google in the future.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

(Photo by Edho Pratama)

Huawei said in the past that it could be years before it’s able to develop a true alternative to Android, as the Financial Times reported. Pang also told CNET in August 2019 that it didn’t have plans to develop a Harmony OS-powered smartphone at the time, although he did say that could change if the ban persisted. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business, also previously told CNBC in May 2019 that an operating system for smartphones and laptops could be ready for markets outside of China in the first or second quarter of 2020.

But despite ongoing trade tensions between the US and China — a dispute that Huawei has been at the center of — and the company’s inability to work with companies like Google, Huawei’s business has been thriving. The company’s fiscal third-quarter revenue increased by 24.4% year-over-year, and smartphone sales jumped 26% year-over-year in the first three quarters of 2019.

However, the US ban has made it difficult for Huawei to expand and flourish overseas, particularly in Europe, which serves as a key market for the company.

“By only staying in [our] existing footprint, we can definitely survive,” Pang previously said to Business Insider. “But no company just wants to survive.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Watch this Navy SEAL talk about the night that earned him the Medal of Honor

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. was bestowed the Medal of Honor on Feb. 29, 2016, for his incredible heroics in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.


On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.

In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.

Watch:

Articles

The Philippine Marines teach an old submachine gun new tricks

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
Philippine Naval Special Warfare Group members in 2009. The camouflaged commando at center left is carrying an M3. | U.S. Navy photo


War Is Boring and Historical Firearms recently posted a story about the use of suppressed M3 “Grease Gun” from World War II onward to Vietnam. U.S. forces stopped issuing the guns to troops in 1992, but at least one unit in The Philippine military believes that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … much.”

The M3 SpecOps Generation 2 , also known as the M3 Gen2 or PN/PMC M3, is a modified, modern incarnation of the M3 grease gun built from pre-existing caches of the 1940s-era weapon. Used primarily for ship seizures and boarding operations, the weapon is the Philippine navy’s method of teaching an old dog new tricks.

Equipped with an integral suppressor and a Picatinny rail, the weapon is able to mimic some of the capabilities of modern submachine guns on a very tight budget. The weapon is chambered with the .45-caliber ACP bullet, which was itself developed as a U.S. counter to tough, close quarters jungle battles with Philippine insurgents more than a century ago.

Modern optics ranging from reflex sights to thermal imagers can be added to the weapon via the Picatinny rail, and the suppressor means that the subsonic .45 caliber bullets fired by the weapon lack both the supersonic “crack,” which occurs when high velocity rounds such as the M-16’s 5.56 breaks the sound barrier, and the notorious “blam” of igniting gunpowder.

Taken together, the weapons system provides a viable alternative to modern, hard-hitting submachine guns at a fraction of the price seen in current generation weapons.

The comparatively low cost of the PMC/PN M3, about 1/40th the cost of a modern UMP submachine gun, can not be overstated. The Philippines, while growing in terms of its economy, is by no means a rich country.

The purchase of modern firearms is often too expensive a proposition to undertake in a comprehensive manner, which has led to entire tactical elements of Philippine marines carrying unmodified, Vietnam-era M14s into major urban battles as recently as 2013.

Additionally, the PMC/PN often face security threats that can range from transnational insurgent groups to burgeoning superpowers in the space of less than a month. Every Philippine peso spent on a weapon customized for close-quarters infantry fighting is one that can’t be used on an anti-submarine helicopter, and vice versa.

This means that cheap, effective shortcuts to modern capabilities are more than just useful in The Philippines, they could be vital, and should stand as a lesson to be heeded by other countries facing war on a budget.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army gets approval from FDA for new malaria drug research

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity here has received a Fast Track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the development of Tafenoquine, a potential anti-malaria drug for adults.


“Achieving FDA licensure of Tafenoquine will provide a significant improvement over the current measures of malaria prevention for U.S. forces,” said Dr. Lawrence Lightner, project manager for the Pharmaceutical Systems Project Management Office at USAMMDA. “Tafenoquine is only required to be administered weekly, while current preventive measures are required daily, and it protects against all forms of malaria.”

Developed through a partnership between the U.S. Army and 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals LLC, Tafenoquine has shown promise in preventing malaria with a convenient weekly dosing regimen. Fast Track approval will allow for an expedited review of Tafenoquine’s application for approval by the FDA, so that, if approved, it can be used to prevent the disease in adults traveling to malaria-prone areas.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
The female yellow fever mosquito spreads the disease by biting into humans. The left and center illustrations show the female. The one on the right is male. (Illustration: Public Domain by E. A. Goeldi in 1905)

Malaria is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and remains the top infectious disease threat to U.S. Military service members deployed overseas. The malaria parasite has several life cycle stages during infection, including a blood and liver stage, which has made treatment and prevention challenging. Tafenoquine is highly effective in the prevention of malaria, as it acts against multiple stages of the malaria parasite life cycle.

Tafenoquine was first discovered more than three decades ago at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and the drug eventually progressed into advanced development within the U.S. Army Medical Command. USAMMDA, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, initiated a cooperative research and development agreement with 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals LLC in 2014. Managed by the PSPMO, the effort has yielded successful results over the past three years in pursuit of an effective anti-malaria drug.

Also Read: This Army doctor made the Panama Canal possible by killing mosquitoes

As the premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, USAMMDA is responsible for developing and delivering critical products designed to protect and preserve the lives of U.S. troops across the globe. These products include drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices, and medical support equipment intended to maximize survival of casualties on the battlefield.

“Our mission is to develop and deliver quality medical capabilities to protect, treat, and sustain the health of our service members,” said Col. Ryan Bailey, commander of USAMMDA. “The Tafenoquine new drug application is a great example of how we intend to deliver solutions to protect our service members from the malaria threat. This achievement is the result of significant research work and product development — a true team effort.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What China’s newest jets can actually do in a war

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.

The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s new rifle qualification is more realistic

In 2019, the Army approved a new rifle qualification and individual weapons training strategy. The old qualification, the automated record fire, was developed back in 1956. Since then, the Army’s battles and the way it fights them have changed. The new qualification, the rifle and carbine qualification, was developed with the same principle as the Army Combat Fitness Test. It more holistically assesses a soldier’s ability to employ situational awareness, safe weapon handling, and core marksmanship competencies.

Soldier shooting the new qualification in the snow
A 10th Mountain Division soldier shoots the new qualification (Miguel Ortiz)

Due to COVID-19 considerations, full integration of the new rifle qualification in 2020 was slowed. However, more and more units in both Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command are starting to test their soldiers on the new standards.

Training and evaluation for the rifle and carbine qualification is broken down into six tables: preliminary marksmanship instruction and evaluation, pre-live fire simulation training, magazine and shooting position drills, grouping and zeroing, practice qualification, and qualification. “Soldiers start by receiving a series of classes on how to properly zero the rifle, whether it’s a bare rifle or with optics,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “Soldiers received classes on laser bore sight, Minute of Angle (MOA), zeroing process, windage, ballistics, and also received EST training and practiced position changes before going to a live range.”

The rifle qualification consists of four firing phases for which soldiers will employ four magazines with 10 rounds each. 40 targets will pop up on their own or in groups for varying lengths of time depending on their distance. Soldiers will fire from the standing unsupported, prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported positions. A barricade is used to simulate cover and provide a more stable shooting position for supported fire. Transitioning between positions and changing magazines are integrated organically into the course of fire in order to more closely simulate real-world combat situations. “The old rifle qualification did not help in combat situations, so they incorporated magazine exchanges and position changes by yourself to represent combat,” said Staff Sgt. Tadeysz Showers, assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “No matter the military occupational specialty (MOS), any MOS can teach a Soldier how to do this new weapons qualification.”

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare
A soldier of the 25th Infantry Division engages targets from the kneeling supported position (U.S. Army)

Whereas commanders could previously dictate whether or not their soldiers could shoot “slick” without their body armor and helmet, the new rifle qualification requires soldiers to wear them. Magazines are retained on the soldier’s gear rather than laying ready on the ground or on a sandbag in order to more closely simulate a combat situation. The first shot of the qualification will be on a close-range target from the standing unsupported firing position. From there, soldiers will transition into the prone unsupported firing position and engage the next nine targets through a port in the bottom of the barricade. The last 30 targets will appear in three waves of 10 with soldiers conducting magazine and firing position changes on their own in between.

The new qualification also includes guidance for night and CBRNE shooting. Soldiers will be expected to utilize night-vision goggles, IR lasers, and gas masks to engage targets under adverse conditions. The inclusion of these variables reflects the Army’s return to training for a near-peer fight against conventional armies. Additionally, soldiers will no longer be given alibis. Previously, if a soldier experienced a weapon malfunction during their course of fire, they could be given the opportunity to re-shoot. Now, soldiers will be expected to assess and clear the malfunction during the course of fire and continue to engage targets. Any missed targets during this time will count against them. While this can make the qualification more difficult, it encourages soldiers to build the muscle memory necessary to address such variables under stress.

Some aspects of the old rifle qualification have carried over though. Soldiers are still required to hit 23 of the 40 targets in order to qualify. 23-29 hits earns a Marksman qualification, 30-35 hits earns a Sharpshooter qualification, and 36-40 hits earns an Expert qualification. “This new weapons qualification is more combat oriented with changing positions, changing magazines and engaging the targets,” said Sgt. Octavius Moon assigned to the 25th Sustainment Brigade. “This will help Soldiers shoot better as well as make ranges faster and have more Soldiers qualified. It helps Soldiers become more knowledgeable about their weapon as well.”

A 10th Mountain Division soldier conducts the new qualification while wearing cold weather gear (Miguel Ortiz)
MIGHTY TRENDING

New report says Afghan opium production has plummeted

Opium production in Afghanistan dropped by 29 percent in 2017, the United Nations anti-drug agency reported, a decrease attributed mainly to a severe drought.

The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report released Nov. 19, 2018, that the drop — from 9,000 tons to 6,400 tons — coincided with a decrease in the amount of land area being used for cultivating the crop.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey, which is jointly compiled by the UN agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, said a total of 263,000 hectares of land was used for opium cultivation, representing a decline of 20 percent compared to 2017.


“Despite the decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is the second-highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

Afghan National Police officers, along with U.S. Special Operations Soldiers, discovered 600 pounds of opium May 7, 2009, during a cordon and search operation of a known Taliban safe house, collection center and trauma center in Babaji Village, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

(Photo by Cpl. Sean K. Harp)

The report said the farm-gate prices of dry opium — which fell for the second consecutive year to an average of per kilogram, the lowest level since 2004 — may have contributed to less cultivation of opium poppy.

Eradication of opium poppy has also dropped by 46 percent in 2018 to 406 hectares, compared to 750 hectares last year.

Ten of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered poppy free, unchanged from 2017.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and international donors have spent billions of dollars on counternarcotics efforts in the country over the past decade, including initiatives aimed at encouraging farmers to switch to other crops.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These drones are fighting the massive fires in California

Five years after a proof-of-concept mission, the MQ-9 Reaper drone has developed into a key asset in California’s fight against wildfires, including the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires, which are currently burning in Northern California.


“It’s a technology I never thought I’d see,” said Jeremy Salizzoni, a fire technical specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was embedded with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, during 2013’s devastating Rim Fire.

More than 250,000 acres burned in August 2013 as the Rim Fire raged in Tuolumne County, California. At the time, it was the state’s third largest wildfire on record. More than 100 structures were lost in the blaze, which took nine weeks to fully contain.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. The aircrew conducted fire perimeter scans and spot checks on the blaze, which encompasses the Ranch and River fires.

(California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Game-Changing Technology

Eleven days after the Rim Fire started, the wing launched a first-of-its kind mission to overfly the fire with an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft and beam back real-time video footage of the fire to Salizzoni and wing intelligence analysts working in an operations facility at March.

Through the Predator’s footage, Salizzoni, who was used to driving for hours through rugged terrain to access overlook points and put eyes on the leading edge of a fire, could see any area of the fire he wanted, in real time and without ever leaving the operations facility.

The remotely piloted aircraft’s thermal imaging camera provided a view of the fire unlike anything he’d ever seen. Traditional aerial assets are important, but encounter limitations due to smoke, fuel, altitude and field of view, he said.

“It was such a dramatic change from anything I’d seen in my career,” Salizzoni said. “It was like being blind and then having vision in the blink of an eye.”

He and his colleagues knew they had a new tool in their firefighting toolbox.

“We saw things over the course of that fire that you couldn’t have made up,” Salizzoni said. “I don’t think there’s a better intel resource at our disposal right now.”

During its eight-day emergency activation for the Rim Fire, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the unit’s name at the time — logged more than 150 hours of fire support and was credited with helping firefighters expedite containment.

This is why the Apache is a tank’s worst nightmare

MQ-9 Reaper RPA

Domestic Response

In the five years since, the 163rd Attack Wing has changed its name and the kind of airplane it flies, but one thing hasn’t changed: the wing’s dedication to domestic disaster response missions right here at home.

RPAs are no longer just trying to prove their worth, said Air Force Maj. Mike Baird, the senior intelligence officer at the 163rd Attack Wing. The wing’s MQ-9 Reaper RPAs — a big-brother to the recently-retired Predators — are an in-demand incident awareness and assessment asset preferred by California’s civil authorities when disaster strikes.

The wing has supported more than 20 wildfires since 2013, but it takes more than just airplanes, Baird said. Keeping California safe takes a wing-wide effort.

“What we’ve been doing behind the scenes from maintenance and communications to refining our deployment and personnel processes has led up to our ability to provide an unprecedented level of MQ-9 support,” Baird said.

The wing provided real-time full motion video support over a number of fires in 2017, including California’s most destructive fire on record and also its largest fire to date. More than 5,600 structures were damaged and 22 lives were lost during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in October. Two months later, in December, the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to become the state’s largest fire on record with more than 280,000 acres burned.

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class James Thompson)

Innovation on the Fly

The wing works to refine its techniques and procedures, and works to expand the detailed real-time incident awareness and assessment data it provides to incident commanders. Innovation on the fly is the name of the game.

An investment by James G. Clark, director of Air Force innovation, and Air Force Col. Chris McDonald from the disruptive innovation division in Clark’s office, helped the wing’s Hap Arnold Innovation Center develop a specialized network to push and pull data from RPAs and other data-generating assets from civilian and military organizations.

The network’s customizable data sets — coupled with the RPAs’ real-time thermal imagery — provide incident commanders and first responders a common operating picture they can access from anywhere, anytime.

RPAs proved “an opportunity for people to make tactical and objective based decisions on real time information,” Salizzoni said.

As the Rim Fire nears its fifth anniversary, RPAs are once again in the sky, flying through smoke to deliver data and protect Californians as wildfires ravage the state.

By July 31, the 163rd was on its fifth fire of the summer.

Throughout July, the wing flew nearly 350 hours to support civil authorities working the County, Klamathon, Ferguson, Carr, Mendocino Complex and Eel fires, and is credited with helping to protect thousands of structures in the process. The MQ-9 provided near real-time full motion video and frequent fire-line updates to decision makers determining where to build up future containment lines.

It’s a marathon pace, but the wing’s airmen up for it, said Air Force 1st Lt. Frank Cruz, officer in charge of the 163rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose unit provides direct support for the MQ-9’s around-the-clock fire operations to aid civil authorities.

“Everyone is 100 percent on board,” Cruz said. “They’re all-in.”