This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

The M3 Carl Gustav is an upgraded variant of the Army’s Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or MAAWS – a reusable, recoilless shoulder-fired conventional munition.


It was first ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

The latest version, or M3E1, is not only lighter, but shorter than the existing M3 but also ergonomically designed with a longer handle and better grips. These features, as well as its ability to use multiple types of rounds for firing, has led the Army to approve a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units, service statements said.

Responding to soldier feedback, Army and Saab engineers designed a titanium updated M3E1 that is more than six pounds lighter than the bulkier M3 version. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, extra shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance.

The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapons portfolio, which is processing a contract to procure 1,111 M3E1s and an Urgent Material Release to field them as soon as possible, service statements said.

The new variant is “seven pounds lighter than the M3 – it can be carried safely while loaded – it has advanced fire control – and it has an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Land Domain with Saab North America, told Scout Warrior.

The M3E1 is also compatible with intelligent sighting systems for firing programmable rounds.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
U.S. Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade fires the M3 Carl Gustav rocket launcher at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. The Carl Gustav is a lightweight, man-portable recoilless rifle. This weapon was used by the U.S. Army after World War II. The Army retired these weapons when the Dragon and TOW anti-tank guided missiles were fielded.(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

The weapon includes an airburst capability with its High Explosive, or HE, round.

Army weapons developers say the airburst round is the one that is utilized most often because of its effective range. It uses a mechanical time fuse which is set prior to loading the weapon system.

Airburst rounds can be pre-programmed to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.

The weapon has been used by U.S. Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and Special Forces since the late-80s. In 1988, U.S. Special Forces identified a need for a shoulder-fired, recoilless rifle to replace the M67, and Saab Dynamics developed the M3, which was a likely candidate to address the need.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
A coalition force member observes as a soldier shoots a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle at a range in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2013. Coalition force members train at ranges regularly to maintain weapon readiness for operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin Young)

Earlier versions of the anti-armor, anti-personnel, shoulder-fired multi-role weapon is 42-inches long weighs 21 pounds and can fire up to four rounds per minute.

MAAWS can utilize thermal sights to provide Soldiers with the ability to shoot at night and reach the proper range.

The MAAWS is able to fire anti-tank, flechette, illumination, enhanced armor, smoke and High Explosive Dual Purpose rounds, Army developers explained.

“The High Explosive Dual Purpose round gives you two different capabilities. In impact mode, the round goes off immediately as soon as it hits the target. In delay mode, the round penetrates the target and then goes off,” a service official explained.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British Museum will return these war trophies to Afghanistan

Over the years, the British have taken a good many significant artifacts back to England with them. To its credit, the British Empire did an excellent job of preserving those relics. Still, plundering any country’s cultural treasures is kind of an a-hole thing to do. But there is one set of priceless antiquities that the British can feel good about rescuing and returning.

This one isn’t their fault.


One of the most troublesome incidents of the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years was the theft and complete loss of priceless cultural treasures from the distant fields and local museums around these two countries. Many of the things looted in the chaos of these two conflicts may never be seen again. Not so for nine sculpted heads from the Fourth Century AD. These were intercepted at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2002 on a flight from Pakistan. The British Museum took control of the sculptures and restored them – but how did they get there?

It’s because the Taliban are the a-holes in this situation.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

They usually are the a-holes in any situation.

These statue heads would have been atop artworks in the Buddhist temples of the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra some 1,500 years ago. The kingdom of Gandhāra straddled parts of what is today India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan at the time. As for what happened to the temples and the statues, the Taliban blew them up with dynamite. The terror group’s biggest destructive act was the use of anti-tank mines on Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Temples, which destroyed the beautiful pre-Islamic statues along the temple walls. The heads that were found in London were probably smuggled through Pakistan and on their way to the black market.

After their discovery, the British Museum was called in to document and catalog the priceless ancient sculptures. The heads will be on display in the museum for a short time, but will then be returned to the people of Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy expects there will probably be ‘hundreds’ of coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt

The acting secretary of the Navy said Thursday that he suspects the number of coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt will eventually be “in the hundreds.”

The first coronavirus cases aboard the flattop were reported Tuesday of last week. At that time, there were only three cases. The number had climbed to 114 by Thursday.


This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

“I can tell you with great certainty there’s going to be more. It will probably be in the hundreds,” Thomas Modly, the acting Navy secretary, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday afternoon.

He said that none of the 114 that have tested positive had been hospitalized. “The ones that are sick are exhibiting mild or moderate flu symptoms. Some are exhibiting no symptoms. And, some have already recovered,” he said.

The ship is currently in Guam, where the Navy is in the process of removing thousands of sailors from the ship and testing the entire crew.

On Wednesday, Modly told reporters 1,273 sailors, roughly one-fourth of the crew, had been tested. At least 93 tests had come back positive.

The Navy is moving at least 2,700 sailors off the ship, and those who test negative will be put up in vacant hotels on Guam, where they will be quarantined for two weeks.

Before the outbreak, the massive flattop had been sailing the Pacific. In early March, the ship made a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Modly’s prediction that the number of coronavirus cases aboard the carrier could eventually be in the hundreds came as he announced that he had relieved the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer of duty due to a loss of trust and confidence.

Capt. Brett Crozier, the ship’s CO, wrote a letter warning that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” He called for the removal of the majority of the crew from the ship as soon as possible. “Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

The letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and then quickly made headlines everywhere.

The acting Navy secretary accused the CO of mishandling information by distributing the letter outside the chain of command in a way that made it susceptible to being leaked. He said that Crozier exercised “poor judgment” and that his letter caused unnecessary panic among sailors and military families.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Capt. Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest and well-being of his crew,” Modly said. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US admits to killing hundreds of Russian mercs in Syria

Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump’s CIA, and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February 2018.

Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.


“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” said Pompeo. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”

The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.

Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.

The February 2018 battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
A U.S. Army AH 64E Apache helicopter.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)

The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.

Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. “We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up,” one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.

France 24 published an interview in February 2018, with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

President compares crucial new icebreaker to border wall

President Donald Trump on Dec. 25, 2018, renewed his pledge to fund a new icebreaker for the Coast Guard, comparing its necessity with his effort to build a wall on the southern border.

“It’s like the border wall. We still need a wall,” and the Coast Guard needs an icebreaker to replace the 42-year-old Polar Star, Trump said in a series of Christmas Day phone calls to service members around the world.

In a call to the Coast Guard’s District 17 in Juneau, Alaska, he said the new icebreaker will be fitted with the latest technology, but its defining feature will be the thick steel in its hull.

“With all of the technology, it still needs very thick steel,” Trump said.


Following the partial government shutdown that began at midnight Dec. 21, 2018, over billion the president is seeking to fund the wall, Trump said the new sections of the wall he proposes would consist of “steel slats.”

Technology would be no substitute for the wall, despite what House and Senate Democrats claim, he said. “They can have all the drones they want, all the technology they want,” but the wall is essential to border security, Trump said in the call to Alaska.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“I call it bells and whistles,” he said of the technology, “but if you don’t have the wall, it doesn’t work.”

The new icebreaker will have capabilities “the likes of which nobody’s seen before. The bad part is the price,” Trump said, apparently referring to the Coast Guard’s estimate of 0 million.

“The good part is it’s the most powerful in the world,” he said. “The ice is in big trouble when that thing gets finished. It’ll go right through it. It’s very expensive, but that’s OK.”

Trump called the icebreaker a Christmas present for the Coast Guard and suggested that a contract had already gone out, although Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said earlier this month that he expected an announcement on a contract award in spring 2019.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

In addition to the phone call to the Coast Guard, Trump also called Task Force Talon at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; Marine Attack Squadron 223 and Navy Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain; and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar.

The overall message: “There’s no greater privilege for me than to serve as your commander,” Trump said. “I know it’s a great sacrifice for you to be away from your families.”

In his own Christmas message to the troops, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned Dec. 20, 2018, in a dispute with Trump over his order to withdraw troops from Syria and other issues, said he was proud to serve with them.

“To those in the field or at sea, ‘keeping watch by night’ this holiday season, you should recognize that you carry on the proud legacy of those who stood the watch in decades past. In this world awash in change, you hold the line,” Mattis said in the message prepared before his resignation.

“Far from home, you have earned the gratitude and respect of your fellow citizens, and it remains my great privilege to serve alongside you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Master fitness trainers help soldiers prepare for combat

Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.

Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.

Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.


“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”

That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.

Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.

To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.

According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)

He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”

That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.

“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”

When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.

“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”

Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.

“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”

“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”

Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”

That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”

When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.

This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.

“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.

“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.

For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.

The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.

After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

Articles

North Korea shoots another missile and guess where it landed

The US believes North Korea fired a missile shortly before midnight Japan time, or 11 am EST July 28, a defense official confirmed to Business Insider — and initial estimates indicate it could be the longest-range missile ever tested by the Hermit Kingdom.


“I can confirm that we detected a launch of a ballistic missile from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told Business Insider. “We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected” Capt. Jeff Davis later said in a Pentagon release.

Ankit Panda, a senior editor at the Asia-focused news website The Diplomat, cited a US source as saying that the missile flew for 47 minutes, reaching an altitude of 2,300 miles and traveling 620 miles. Such a long flight time and high crest suggest a tremendous range.

While North Korea had already demonstrated an intercontinental range with the July 4 test of its Hwasong-14 ICBM, the missile launched July 28 appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, DC. Yet as with the previous launch, it is unclear whether North Korea has developed the technology to accurately deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The missile on July 28 may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

As launching an ICBM at full range could easily be interpreted as an act of war, North Korea lofts its missiles on a steep angle. Therefore a missile that flies only a few hundred miles toward Japan can still demonstrate a range of many thousands of miles.

For weeks, US intelligence monitoring North Korean military sites had predicted another missile test. July 27 marked the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War, a North Korean holiday celebrating the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

North Korea has a pattern of launching missiles on historically significant dates, like its July 4 debut of an ICBM, but the weather July 27 was poor, possibly preventing a launch.

Typically, North Korea waits until the day after a launch to release photos or video from the event, which researchers analyze for insights into Pyongyang’s shadowy missile program.

Articles

Air Force kills the lights at Hawaii station to save endangered birds

The U.S. Air Force will reduce exterior lighting at a Hawaii facility to help protect endangered and threatened seabirds there.


The Air Force agreed to reduce lighting at a mountaintop radar facility on the island of Kauai, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. After the announcement, the Center for Biological Diversity said it no longer intends to sue the Air Force.

The nonprofit conservation group says the threatened Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel are attracted to bright lights at night, which can cause crashes onto the ground and sometimes death.

The center believes lights at the Kokee Air Force Station caused more than 130 birds to fall out of the air in 2015, including Hawaiian petrels, endangered band-rumped storm petrels and Newell’s shearwaters. Most of them died, the center said.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Exterior lighting at Kokee AFB. (Photo by USFWS)

The Kokee Air Force Station was founded in 1961 to detect and track all aircraft operating near Hawaii.

The Air Force has taken steps to try to reduce the bird losses over the years, including switching from white and yellow exterior bulbs to green ones in 2013, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Air Force also said in June 2016 that it had agreed to turn off outside lights from April through December, when birds are going to and from colonies.

But the Center for Biological Diversity threatened legal action at the end of June 2016, saying the Air Force was violating the Endangered Species Act by not updating its formal consultation about seabirds with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The center said the Air Force reinitiated the consultation and agreed to ongoing protective measures in response.

The Air Force is “committed to protecting the threatened and endangered bird species that frequent the area around Mt. Kokee Air Force Station,” Col. Frank Flores wrote in an email to The Star-Advertiser.

Flores is the commander of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, which provides oversight for Kokee Station.

“We have collaborated closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services over the years on this issue. We take environmental stewardship very seriously and will continue to partner with USFWS to protect these species,” Flores wrote.

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Marine ‘Uber Squad’ will get suppressors, M27s, commando gear

Grunts, eat your hearts out.


As the Marine Corps continues to emphasize innovation and experiments with new gear, service officials are getting ready to equip a single infantry squad with an enviable range of equipment, from suppressors to polymer drum mags and special operations-issue hearing protection.

It’s part of an 18- to 20-month experiment that Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade is calling the “Über Squad.”

Wade, the gunner, or weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said the plan is for the 13-person unit to keep all the gear for a full training workup and deployment cycle to somewhere in Europe.

The squad will come from Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, though the originating company has yet to be chosen.

The squad is set to be a miniaturized, weapons-focused version of what the Corps is doing with its “experimental battalion,” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced in 2016 that 3/5 would serve as a testing platform for technologies ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to robots mounted with machine guns, all while remaining an operational infantry battalion.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
U.S. Marines will get helmets with built-in hearing protection. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Santino D. Martinez)

The unit deployed to the Pacific this spring. As part of its experimental efforts, 3/5 Marines have been equipped with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The M27 is carried by Marine automatic riflemen, but service officials have discussed the possibility of fielding the weapon as the new service rifle for all or most infantrymen.

Wade has pioneered similar efforts within 2nd Marine Division. He spearheaded an effort last year that put rifle suppressors in the hands of three different companies within 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to assess how troops fared using them on deployments around the globe.

For this effort, every Marine in the Über Squad will be equipped with an M27; a suppressor; and Ops-Core helmets used by U.S. Special Operations Command with built-in hearing protection systems that muffle noises loud enough to damage eardrums, while magnifying other sounds to maintain troops’ situational awareness.

“This capability protects [Marines’] hearing from high explosives and other loud noises we can’t mitigate in combat,” Wade said. “But digitally, it allowed you to hear ambient sound.”

Experiments to date with suppressors on whole infantry units have shown they work well – so well that a squad leader might not be able to locate his or her own squad by sound on the other side of a hill.

“Not only do we need hearing protection, we need hearing enhancement,” Wade said.

He also plans to fit the section of company-level M240 medium machine guns supporting the squad with suppressors, using equipment borrowed from SOCOM to suppress both barrels of the guns.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
A US Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Following the kitted-up squad through training and the Corps’ traditional pre-deployment event, the integrated training exercise, or ITX, at Twentynine Palms, California, will give Marines the chance to assess the value of the various gear elements and whether they add net cost or value to the warfighter.

Wade said he is looking forward to seeing his Über Squad contend with Range 400, one of the Corps’ most dynamic ranges and the only one for which overhead fire is authorized.

“For … 30 years, I’ve been running Range 400,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever ran it with a maneuver element that is suppressed and a company-level machine gun element that is also suppressed.”

As a bonus, Marines in the squad will be equipped with Magpul 60-round polymer drum magazines. Military.com reported back in January that various conventional and special operations units were testing the drum in small quantities as a substitute for traditional 30-round magazines.

While the drums offer a lot of portable firepower, there’s also a question of weight to consider. Wade said he planned to set the unit up with about 100 of the drums and let each Marine figure out how many he needed to fight effectively.

“What I think I’m going to find is that, with the ingenuity of the lance corporal, everything is going to find its place,” he said. “My assumption is they’re ultimately going to be carrying one [drum].”

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Marines will assess the value of the various gear elements. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

The effort to equip this squad will take shape over the next month, Wade said.

While the technology the Marines will carry is not new or experimental the way a gun-wielding robot is, it has never been issued to individual Marines at the squad level.

Wade plans to survey Marines at the start and end of the effort about their personal feelings and perceptions carrying the gear, and will couple those observations with objective data showing how the squad stacks up against other units at exercises such as ITX.

“We want to know what the Marines’ perception is, do the Marines have confidence in [the gear],” he said.

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This is what the Army wants in a new, more powerful combat rifle

US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.


“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. (U.S. Army photo from Todd Mozes)

The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
A soldier spotting a target, EBR in foreground. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.

The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.

Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.

In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
M16 assault rifles. (DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.

The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:

  • Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
  • Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
  • Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
  • Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
  • Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
  • Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
  • 20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
  • Folding sights

“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Strong

“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.

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A US defense contractor developed a drone that can fire a rifle

A US defense contractor has developed a consumer-sized sniper drone which it says could save the lives of soldiers and civilians on the battlefield, but some are voicing concerns, Popular Mechanics reported.


Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.

They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.

The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Photo from Duke Robotics

It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.

The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.

(Duke Robotics Inc | YouTube)

“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.

“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.

Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.

 

Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.

“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”

ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What the world’s top 25 militaries have in their arsenals

President Donald Trump has reemphasized military strength, reportedly planning to ask for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019 — a 7% increase over the 2018 budget (though spending is currently limited by budget caps).


US defense spending is the highest in the world, more than the combined budgets of the next several countries. But US plans to ramp up acquisitions of military hardware will only add to an already booming arms industry.

More: Everything you need to know about the massive new defense bill

Between 2012 and 2016, more weapons were delivered around the world than during any five-year period since 1990.

Below, you can see the world’s top 5 militaries, as ranked by Global Firepower Index.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
(Screenshot from GlobalFirepower.com)

The ranking assesses the diversity of weapons held by each country and pays particular attention to the manpower available.

“Balance is the key — a large, strong fighting force across land, sea, and air backed by a resilient economy and defensible territory along with an efficient infrastructure — such qualities are those used to round out a particular nation’s total fighting strength on paper,” the ranking states.

But a few defining aspects of those countries’ ability to muster military power are not directly related to their armed forces.

Geographical factors, logistical flexibility, natural resources, and local industry all influenced the final ranking, Global Firepower said.

Also read: NATO’s second-largest military power is threatening a dramatic pivot to Russia and China

Each of the top 10 countries have a labor force of more than 30 million people. Three of the top five — the US, China, and India — have more than 150 million available workers.

The following 15 countries vary more widely in labor-force size — from 123.7 million in Indonesia to 3.9 million in Israel — but they still have more than 37.2 million workers on average.

Industrial and labor capacity are complemented by robust logistical capabilities, including extensive railway and roadway networks, numerous major ports and airports, and strong merchant-marine corps. Extensive coastlines and waterways also facilitate the movement of goods and people.

For the US, those logistical capacities have been tested by increasing activity in Afghanistan as well as efforts to built up its presence in Europe.

This bazooka heading to US troops in Afghanistan is lighter and more deadly than ever
Vehicles and other cargo are unloaded from the USNS Bob Hope by the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, November 1, 2017. (US Army by Sgt. Jaccob Hearn)

The US Army’s 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade served as the logistics headquarters in Afghanistan in 2017. During its six-month deployment, the unit distributed more than 380 million gallons of fuel throughout Afghanistan — a landlocked country roughly the size of Texas.

“It’s not easy to [transport] fuel. You have to get it to the right place at the right time. You have to make sure it’s of the right quality, and you have to make sure you have storage on one end and distribution capability on the other end,” Col. Michael Lalor, the brigade commander, said in late February. “That’s what always kept me up at night.”

US Military Sealift Command (MSC), which oversees the US Navy’s fleet of mostly civilian-crewed support ships, is adding ships to boost its presence around Europe and Africa, in response to both insurgent activity and growing tensions with Russia — all of which have added tension to the US’s already strained supply lines.

Also read: The 25 most powerful militaries in the world 2018

In 2017, MSC moved twice as much ordnance, three times as many critical parts, and one-third as much cargo in Europe and Africa as it did in 2016.

“I definitely don’t see (activity) going down anytime soon,” Capt. Eric Conzen, MSC commander in Europe and Africa, told Stars and Stripes of his unit’s workload. “There’s a desire for it to increase.”

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