5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

The SPIW on display at the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum (Public Domain)

1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon

The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?

Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T

hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Top to bottom: AAI, HK, Steyr, and Colt ACR prototypes (Public Domain)

2. Advanced Combat Rifle

Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.

The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

A soldier with the XM29 Block 3 prototype (U.S. Army)

3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29

In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.

The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Army Chief of Staff, General Peter J. Shoomaker, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston fire the compact variant of the XM8 at Fort Benning, August 2004 (U.S. Army)

4. XM8

Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.

The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Soldiers fire the HK HK416 (U.S. Army)

5. Individual Carbine

The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.

Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.

Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

A Marine armed with an M27 IAR covers his team in Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps)

6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle

The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.

In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”

The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.

Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 injured as Syria intercepts Israeli missiles

Syrian state media says the country’s air defenses have downed several Israeli missiles in a wave of attacks that injured three soldiers.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported on Dec. 25, 2018, that most of the missiles fired from Israeli jets were intercepted before reaching their targets.

“Our air defenses confronted hostile missiles launched by Israeli war planes from above the Lebanese territories and downed most of them before reaching their targets,” SANA quoted a military source as saying. The source added that an arms depot was hit and three soldiers were injured in the attack.


The Israeli Army only noted on its official Twitter account that “an IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” while the U.K.-based monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the missiles were launched from above Lebanese territories and targeted western and southwestern Damascus rural areas.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war since 2011 with Russia and Iran backing President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel has become alarmed at Tehran’s increased power in the country and has struck targets it says are Iranian deployments.

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

Articles

Air Force says its new bomber will be stealthier than stealth

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
U.S. Air Force


The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.

When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able to elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.

“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.

James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”

The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.

The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.

“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.

Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.

For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.

The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there.  This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.

Wikipedia

The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.

Stealth Technology

Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.

At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft.  New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.

However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.

“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.

Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.

U.S. Air Force

At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.

Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.

“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.

The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.

“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure.  I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat.  I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.

Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.

The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.

“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 advanced Russian weapons (that don’t actually work)

Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.


Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.

Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!

Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.

Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill

youtu.be

Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria

In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.

According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Dude’s practically invisible!

Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot

Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.

Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

About as far as it goes.

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment

In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.

But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

As U.S. moves to exit Afghanistan, rivals prepare to swoop in

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.


Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.

Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.

Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.

But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.

Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.

Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.

With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.

Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.

Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.

Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.

“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”

Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.

Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.

‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.

Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.

Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”

‘Buffer Zone’

Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.

Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.

Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.

“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

‘A Great Power’

For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”

But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.

In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.

Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the guy who deleted President Trump’s Twitter

The man who deleted President Donald Trump’s Twitter account for 11 minutes earlier this month has revealed himself, and says it was all a mistake.


Former Twitter contractor Bahtiyar Duysak, who was born and raised in Germany and has Turkish roots, calls the United States “the best country in the world.” With a U.S. work and study visa, the 28-year-old had worked for Google, YouTube, and Vaco before Twitter.

On his last day as a Pro Unlimited contractor for Twitter’s Trust and Safety division, Duysak said he was alerted to someone reporting the president’s account. Duysak said as a last throwaway gesture, he marked the account for deletion and left the building — not realizing that the account would actually be taken down.

It was only after he saw news reports of the incident, he said, that he realized what had happened.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

“The specific mentions of this person on his last day, I immediately knew I was the only guy who left on the last day … I felt a little bit nervous,” Duysak told CNN.

“I did a mistake, I confess. It’s not like I was looking for something or planning to do it. It was in front of me, and I didn’t do a good job, and I didn’t double-check things.”

See Also: This is how two Air Force Bases ended up in a Twitter feud

Duysak, whose identity was first revealed by TechCrunch, said he and his family were aggressively contacted by news media and didn’t feel like the “hero” many said he was.

“I didn’t hack anyone. I didn’t do anything that I was not authorized to do,” he said. “I didn’t go to any site I was not supposed to go to. I didn’t break any rules.”

The day after the account was deactivated, Twitter promised a full review of the situation and vowed it wouldn’t happen again.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
Trump was not happy to have his favorite platform taken away. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Duysak said he chose to identify himself now in order to “continue an ordinary life.”

“I want to continue an ordinary life. I don’t want to flee from the media,” he said. “I want to speak to my neighbors and friends. I had to delete hundreds of friends, so many pictures, because reporters are stalking me.”

Although he insists he didn’t commit any crime or “evil” act, Duysak said he doesn’t plan on getting another tech job anytime soon.

“But I love Twitter,” he said. “And I love America.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Another US combat drone has been shot out of the sky

A US military combat drone has been shot down over Yemen, marking the second time in three months the US has lost an unmanned aerial vehicle over the war-torn country.

Yemen’s Houthi insurgency claimed responsibility, announcing that it downed a US MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drone, a $15 million unmanned aerial combat vehicle developed by General Atomics, in Dhamar, an area to the southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa.

“We are aware of reporting that a US MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen. We do not have any further information to provide at this time,” US Central Command initially said in response to Insider’s inquiries Aug. 20, 2019.


Two officials speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity confirmed the that a drone was shot down. While one said it was the Houthis, another cautioned that it was too early to tell.

“It’s the Houthis, but it’s enabled by Iran,” another US official told Voice of America.

In a follow-up response to media questions, CENTCOM said Aug. 21, 2019, it is “investigating reports of an attack by Iranian-backed Houthis forces on a U.S. unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operating in authorized airspace over Yemen.”

The US military has, to varying degrees, for years been supporting of a coalition of mostly Sunni Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, fighting to restore the internationally-recognized government in Yemen as the Houthi rebels backed by Shia Iran push to topple it.

“We have been clear that Iran’s provocative actions and support to militants and proxies, like the Iranian-backed Houthis, poses a serious threat to stability in the region and our partners,” CENTCOM said in its statement Aug. 21, 2019.

The Houthis shot down an US MQ-9 in mid-June 2019 with what CENTCOM assessed to be an SQ-6 surface-to-air missile. The US believes that the rebel group had help from the Iranians.

“The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance,” CENTCOM said in a statement

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.

(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)

Around that same time, Iranian forces fired a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an MQ-9 in an attempt to “disrupt surveillance of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” one of the tankers targeted in a string of suspected limpet mine attacks the US has blamed on Iran, CENTCOM revealed, USNI News reported at the time. The Iranians failed to down the aircraft.

Toward the end of June 2019, Iranian forces successfully shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude long endurance (HALE) drone operating over the Strait of Hormuz.

President Donald Trump had initially planned to retaliate militarily against Iran but cancelled the mission after learning that striking would result in significant Iranian casualties, which would make the response disproportionate as the Iranians attacked an unmanned system.

Tensions between Iran and the US have spiked in recent months, as Washington put increased pressure on Tehran, leading it to push back with carefully calculated displays of force just below the threshold of armed conflict. The Houthis in Yemen have taken shots at the US before, firing not only on US combat drones but also US warships.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US suspends F-35 delivery to Turkey over Russian S-400 missile deal

The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.

“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.


Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.

(Photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

Ankara has refused to back down on its planned purchase.

On March 29, 2019, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country was committed to the deal to buy the Russian system and was discussing delivery dates.

Russia media reported that Turkey intended to buy four S-400 units for a price of .5 billion.

Washington has also said it could withdraw an offer to sell Turkey the U.S. air-defense equivalent — the Patriot missile system.

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

Articles

‘Vets Make Movies’ lets former troops express themselves with film

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
(Photo courtesy of LACMA)


On any given weekend, visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art might notice a gathering of fledgling filmmakers behind cameras capturing some action or seated in front of desktop editing station assembling their footage into a coherent narrative.

And the sight of filmmakers hard at work might not strike passersby as unusual — after all, this is LA, home of Hollywood and the epicenter of the movie business. But this group at LACMA isn’t just any collection of potential Spielbergs or Bays.

Welcome to “Veterans Make Movies,” a three-year initiative focused on highlighting the veteran experience presented in collaboration with the Los Angeles Public Library. In 2013, LAPL launched Veterans Resource Centers within library branches throughout Los Angeles in response to the growing need for veteran support programs and social services.

Watch “Tacit Veritas” by veteran filmmaker Levi Preston:

The library identified the lack of an expressive outlet for veterans to share their perspectives about service or their unique coming home story to a wider audience of both veterans and civilians, so LACMA offered to develop a multilayered filmmaking program tailored to veterans’ personal, creative, and social needs, building on the museum’s ongoing initiative to engage communities through art and film. The program is free to students, in part due to the support of organizations like the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Safeway Foundation.

VMM is an 8-week curriculum that takes a group of 16 military veterans through a series of 3-hour workshops taught by artists and industry experts. The graduation exercise for each student is to create a 3-minute short film suitable for screening at the end of the session.

“These classes are designed to take somebody who’s never picked up a camera before and learn how to make a film,” says Sarah Jesse, LACMA’s associate vice president of education.

Watch “A Chaos Within” by veteran filmmaker Jason Fracaro:

Jesse explains that the basic premise of the course is that when it comes to the medium of film, “you can’t separate the technical aspect from the story aspect.”

The course starts with analysis of a wide variety of filmmaking technics “to give students a sense of how others have communicated,” Jesse says. That’s followed by reflective writing exercises that are then morphed into storyboards that guide the filmmakers as they actually shoot the footage. After that comes the extensive process of editing and post producing the work, arguably the most important part of realizing the artistic vision.

Jesse points out that an important part of getting vet students into the right frame of mind is creating the right atmosphere.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
VMM participants work on post production. (Photo courtesy of LACMA)

“It’s a safe place where vets feel comfortable sharing experience,” she says. “It’s not a therapy program, but art-making is cathartic.”

Jesse explains that halfway through the second session the instructors, who are also veterans, feel like they have added to their knowledge of the military community as much as they’ve managed to teach the students about filmmaking.

“The vet experience is diverse and people can have a lot of different types of jobs in uniform,” she says. “We went into this thinking we were going to bridge the military-civilian divide but we’ve also seen a vet-vet divide.”

Jesse says the instructors have noted a camaraderie develop between the vets over the course of the eight weekends they spend together.

“They crew for each other’s films,” she says. “They help each other out.”

Word-of-mouth about VMM has quickly spread around the LA veteran community.

“We’ve had a ton of people apply,” Jesse says. “It’s catching on.”

Veterans can begin to apply for VMM’s winter/spring session starting October 15, 2016. Access the application here.

To watch other veteran-made movies created in the VMM program go here.

And if you’re going to be in LA on October 30, check out VMM’s celebration of Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day. Television legend Norman Lear (creator of “All in the Family,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Maude”) will be in attendance to screen a collection of veteran films. For more information go here.

Articles

This is why space could become the next battleground

In 2007, China fired a missile that flew 537 miles above the earth and smashed one of its weather satellites, causing thousands of pieces of debris to drift endlessly through Earth’s orbit.


Just a year later, the US Navy responded by shooting down a satellite in danger of falling out of earth’s orbit at 133 miles and traveling at 17,000 mph with an SM-3 missile, which the US military fields hundreds of.

Since then, Russia has completed at least five anti-satellite missile tests.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
A Standard Missile-3. (Photo courtesy of US Navy.)

Though US astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 left behind a plaque on the moon in 1969 with the inscription “We came in peace for all mankind,” in the intervening decades, space has become militarized as major superpowers now rely on satellite communications.

“Space is not a sanctuary, it is a war fighting domain,” US Air Force Brigadier General Mark Baird said at the Defense One Tech Summit last week.

The US military relies on space-based operations for everything including communications, coordination, navigation, and surveillance, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris. (Image from NASA.)

Even civilian systems like the stock market are reliant on satellites because GPS systems “time-stamp” stock trades, according to Singer.

“If you were an adversary attacking the US, you’d start by attacking satellites,” said Singer. “The first shots in a war between the US and China or Russia, no one would likely hear.”

Also read: This is what the potential US Space Corps could look like

China and Russia also rely on space systems for numerous functions, but the US is more heavily dependent. Chinese and Russian jets still use analogue systems in their older jets and tanks and boats, and could operate better without satellites.

In that way, the US’s strength in space assets has become a dragging liability.

New defenses emerging

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
Nimbus B1 Satellite. (Image from NASA.)

While the concept of a space-based conflict terrifies Baird, he said a range of growing technologies and possibilities also has him excited.

In response to the growing space threat, the House of Representatives passed a National Defense Authorization Act with money set aside for a proposed sixth military branch, the Space Corps. While the Space Corps seems unlikely to make it through the Senate, the Senate version of the NDAA does set aside extra money for increased space operations.

But even with a dedicated military branch, there is just no protecting satellites, which sit defenseless in geosynchronous or predictable orbits above earth.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
Close-up view of the SPARTAN satellite. (Photo from NASA.)

Instead, companies and the military are leveraging shrinking processors and cameras to develop constellations of small satellites that can be easily launched, thus ending a reliance on large satellites that cost billions. The US would then be able to quickly replace downed satellites with smaller, cheaper ones that would simultaneously create more, lower-value targets for adversaries to find and destroy.

For example, the massive Stratolaunch airplane, founded by billionaire Paul Allen, could one day fly high in the atmosphere and launch three rockets, each carrying multiple small satellites into orbit.

Additionally, reusable rockets from companies like SpaceX could save the US time and money on launches, making it less damaging when a satellite is lost.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

The space debris problem

While replacing large satellites with smaller ones works as a quick fix, it comes with major environmental concerns.

Space debris from destroyed satellites clutters the domain and makes it harder for sensors and trackers to operate. In a worst-case scenario, the debris could potentially get into a very fast orbit around the earth and end up smashing holes into existing space systems.

“I worry about anti-satellite business from the orbital debris mitigation point of view,” Dr. Bhavya Lal, a research staff member at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, said at the Defense One Tech Summit.

According to Lal, the Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 added approximately 3,000 pieces of debris to the more than half a million pieces “bigger than a marble” in Earth’s orbit.

With enough high-velocity debris flying around, the entire upper atmosphere of Earth could become unsuitable for satellites, possibly resetting technology back decades before the proliferation of space systems.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did
1986 DIA illustration of the IS system attacking a target. (Ronald C. Wittmann via Wikimedia Commons)

Deterrence

Like all conflicts between major powers, space combat doesn’t happen because it is deterred.

The US’s anti-satellite tests have demonstrated that it too can down another nation’s satellites, to say nothing of the US’s ability to counter any serious attack with its formidable nuclear forces.

However, new technologies like Stratolaunch and others show that the US can can survive an initial space attack and get a new cluster of critical satellites up within a matter of hours if needed.

For the US, the world’s most powerful country, commanding forces is mainly about deterring aggression rather than fighting wars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year, Norfolk’s Battleship has more lights than Disneyland

Missing holiday lights this year? If you live near Norfolk, Virginia, you don’t have to! Amidst countless cancelations of winter festivities this year, the battleship Wisconsin is restoring a little light to the season- literally. Kicking off the massive ship’s first annual WinterFest, the entire boat is decked out with so many lights that they can probably be spotted from space. 

Decorating the ship was quite the undertaking. 

Just decorating an ordinary house takes hours. Try decorating a 50,000-ton battleship the size of three football fields! 

According to the Nauticus Executive Director, Stephen Kirkland, the event took months to prepare for. They had to enlist the help of Blue Steel Lighting Design, led by lighting expert Jeremy Kilgore, to turn the cold, metallic ship into a winter wonderland. And transform it they did. Working up to 15 hours a day, a small crew installed over 250,000 lights and custom-built displays that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. 

The ship itself isn’t perfectly primed for decorating. It’s not very symmetrical, which makes it trickier to make aesthetically pleasing displays. To add to the challenge, every installation has to be done by hand. It’s really a labor of love, but as you can see, the effort paid off. The ship’s massive guns were even turned into candy canes! 

While other battleships have been decorated before, including a series of annual decorating competitions in San Diego, nothing has ever been done to this scale. 

Beneath the glittering lights, the Battleship Wisconsin has a storied history.

It’s one of the largest battleships in American history, and one of the last to be built by the US Navy. She was first launched on December 7th, 1943, and commissioned the following April commanded by Captain Earl E. Stone. She earned five battle stars during WWII, along with numerous other honors. Visitors can enjoy the lights and learn more about the incredible ship’s history at the same time!

What to know before you go

The WinterFest will continue every weekend through the end of December. Tickets are $10 for kids and $12.50 for adults, with discounts for members. When you get there, expect plenty of fun with plenty of precautions. Tickets are timed to avoid overcrowding, masks are mandated for visitors ages 5 and up, and social distancing is required. 

Once you get there, a one-way path will take you through a glowing forest, with live entertainment, Santa sightings, holiday treats, and sailboat parades on Saturdays. A live tree can be spotted in the harbor, too! To save a spot, purchase tickets online.

Will WinterFest become a new tradition for the Wisconsin? The odds are looking good. 

If you miss it this year, don’t sweat it. The event’s organizers hope to continue the tradition for years to come, as a “Hampton Roads’ version of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree”. Alternatively, you can always enjoy footage of the lights without leaving your couch on the battleship’s Instagram page

And who knows? Maybe the Wisconsin’s whimsical take on military Christmas will inspire other battleships to get lit, too! 

MIGHTY TRENDING

A camera can now grab facial expressions from miles away

Here’s the brief story of an obscenely large picture.

It’s the brainchild of a company called Jingkun Technology, or BigPixel, taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

What it is not, contrary to chatter on social media this week, is some evil new Chinese satellite “quantum technology.”

It’s just a very, very big picture, and according to the company, more than 8 million people have explored it.

The company said the photo’s resolution is a mind-blowing 195 gigapixels.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines create their own bridge in Norway

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.


A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.

During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”

Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”

Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.

5 rifles that almost replaced the M4/M16…and one that did

U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)

The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.

“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”

The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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