Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.
But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.
During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.
An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.
Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.
When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”
This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.
The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)
How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.
Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”
For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project:
The Russian Navy has been having a lot of problems since the end of the Cold War. The Kuznetsov Follies are just the tip of the iceberg. But the Russian Navy may be taking a real hit under the ocean.
Yeah, folks, Russia’s headed for a big hit on the submarine front. In a sense, they already took one.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an immense fleet of submarines, ranging from the ancient Whiskey-class diesel-electric subs to modern Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, there were a total of 61 submarines active in the Russian Navy in 2015. In 1985, the Soviet Navy had 366. That is a drop of 83 percent. Much of this was due to the end of the Cold War. Russia, practically bankrupt, couldn’t afford to keep many of those subs in service.
Worse, new construction also fell off, truncating the production runs of the Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines and the Akula-class attack submarines. It also had the effect of stretching out the time it took to get the first Yasen-class submarine built (20 years from start to finish on the first sub). The slow rate of construction means that Russia will see its nuclear submarine force dwindle even further.
Russian submarines have also had a disturbing trend of being lost in accidents, including at least three nuclear submarines since 1985, a Yankee-class ballistic missile sub off Bermuda in 1986, a Mike-class attack submarine off Norway in 1989, and the Oscar-class submarine Kursk in a 2000 explosion.
One bright spot for Russia is that the production of diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class are continuing, fuelled by export orders. That said, the recent loss of an Indian Navy Kilo, the Sindhurakshak, to a fire and explosion in 2013 will leave open questions about the quality of Russian designs.
If there ever was a Marine that took the motto “adapt, improvise, overcome,” to heart it’s Rob Jones — a retired Marine Corps combat engineer who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
It’s not enough that he won a Bronze Medal in the Paralympics. Or that he was the first and only double above-the-knee amputee to ride a normal bicycle 5,180 miles across America. Now, he is on a journey to run 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 major cities.
Jones will run 26.2 miles in the selected city on his own, travel to the next city, and repeat, ending appropriately on Veterans Day in our Nation’s Capital.
“I came up with the idea for 31/31/31 because I learned that I had a talent for running when I was training for triathlons,” says Jones. “I hope that by completing this challenge, my fellow veterans will be able to see what I accomplished, and can have an easier time envisioning themselves doing so.”
While in Afghanistan, Jones was tasked with clearing a path through an area thought to have a buried explosive device. “The IED found me, before I found it,” Jones described.
During his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Jones was fitted with prosthetics and learned how to walk again with two bionic knees.
Jones is a true hardcharger and credits the Marine Corps for “forging” him into the man he has become. He hopes that other veterans will be inspired and wants them to know they are not alone.
“Seek out your brothers for advice,” says Jones. “No one will think less of you for struggling to cope with hell on earth. It is our duty to each other to support one another in war and at home.”
Many veterans leave the military and lose that sense of mission and purpose that drives them to be the best they can be. Rob Jones is a stellar example that the mission can go on and that veterans can find a renewed sense of purpose for their lives.
Jones’ suggestion? Find purpose in challenging yourself to do something that seems impossible. Harness the power of the veteran community, get up, and make it happen.
The Polish government has introduced a new app that will require coronavirus patients to take selfies to prove they’re quarantining properly.
Per France 24, the “Home Quarantine” app is intended for people quarantining for 14 days after returning from abroad.
People who’ve downloaded the app register a selfie with the app, then periodically receive requests for geo-located selfies. If they fail to comply, the police will be alerted.
“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry told the AFP. If a user fails to respond to a request within 20 minutes police will be notified.
France 24 reported that police in Poland fined someone for breaking quarantine 500 zloty (6) on Friday.
British journalist Jakub Krupa tweeted that accounts are being automatically created for suspected quarantine patients.
Krupa tweeted that the purpose of the app isn’t solely to punish people breaking quarantine, saying it also “helps to connect with the social services or request help with urgent supplies.”
The Coast Guard is getting very serious about fielding highly capable icebreakers — and not just for getting through the frozen oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. They’re also looking to prepare these vessels for a fight. A report by the Washington Times revealed that the Coast Guard wants their next six icebreakers to pack some serious firepower, able to send cruise missiles at a hostile target on land or sea.
Contrary to what some might think, heavily armed icebreakers are not a new phenomenon. In fact, a number of countries are currently operating powerful, combat-ready icebreakers.
HDMS Knud Rasmussen outside Akureyri Harbour in Iceland. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Adaahh)
The Danish Knud Rasmussen-class icebreakers, for instance, are armed with a 76mm gun, two twin 324mm torpedo tubes for the MU-90 Impact, and a Mk 56 vertical launch system for the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Norway’s lone Svalbard-class icebreaker is equipped with a single 57mm gun, similar to those used on the Freedom- and Independence-class littoral combat ships. Russia, of course, is arming its icebreakers as well. The Ivan Susanin-class icebreakers, in service since the 1970s, are armed with a twin 76.2mm gun and two 30mm Gatling guns.
Even Canada’s getting in on the action. Their planned Harry Dewolf-class icebreakers are to be equipped with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and two M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
The current icebreaker classes in the United States Coast Guard, the Healy and the Polar Star, are each equipped with a pair of M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
“We’ve been able to find offsets to drive the cost down … [and] reserve the space weight and power necessary to fully weaponize these and make these a capable platform offensively in the event this world changes in the next five, 10, even 15 years from now,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, said during an address at a symposium hosted by the Surface Navy Association.
Sure, there’s no combat to be done in the Arctic today, but as always, having weapons ready is often the best way to prevent a fight. With so many armed adversaries, we think putting more guns on new icebreakers is a great move.
Looking almost like an oversized pistol, the Heckler Koch MP7 is a cross between a submachine gun and a carbine that serves around the world in the hands of law enforcement and special operations units.
In the late 1980s, NATO developed requirements for a next-generation personal defense weapon that would be more effective against body armor than current pistol-caliber PDWs. While submachine guns based on the .45 ACP or 9mm deliver plenty of stopping power against unarmored targets, the growing availability of capable and affordable body armor meant that something new was needed.
SEAL Team 6 operators in Afghanistan armed with a mix of MP7s and HK416 rifles. (Photo from imgur)
So German gunmaker Heckler Koch developed the MP7 to meet these NATO requirements and it has served across the world since entering full production in 2001.
Some of the most commonly-spotted submachine guns in the hands of law enforcement and other professionals are the MP5 and its successor, the UMP. These guns typify the classic submachine gun, being automatic weapons chambered for pistol cartridges.
The MP7, however, is chambered for the 4.6x30mm cartridge. The steel core 4.6x30mm was developed specifically to be a lightweight pistol-ish round delivering the penetration more like a rifle cartridge. The smaller, lighter round means that more ammunition can be carried and that it has a minimal recoil even in full-automatic shooting.
The 4.6mm cartridge was developed by HK for the MP7 and its companion sidearm, the UCP pistol. The UCP never got past the prototype stage, but the 4.6x30mm has definitely made its mark in the MP7.
The MP7, currently being produced as updated models MP7A1 and MP7A2, weighs less than 5 pounds with a loaded magazine and is only 25-inches long with its adjustable stock fully extended. The barrel is 7.1 inches long and the magazine feeds into the pistol grip, creating a compact, easy to handle package.
The action is a gas-operated short stroke piston like that of HK’s HK416 rifle and is rated at 950 rounds per minute. A folding forward vertical grip comes standard on the MP7, though this has been replaced on the new MP7A2 model with a standard lower rail which allows the user to easily install any grip if desired. A full-length top rail comes with removable folding sights and permits the mounting of any standard optic or other accessory, and side rails can be easily added for additional mounting options.
The 4.6x30mm ammunition means that magazine size is decreased compared to those holding traditional cartridges. A 40-round MP7 magazine is comparable in size to 30-round 9mm magazine like the ones in the MP5. This means more firepower ready for action and fewer mag changes, both of which can easily spell the difference between success or failure in life and death situations.
The MP7 utilizes a great deal of polymer in its construction, and the weapon’s light weight, ergonomics, and physical size allow it to be fired accurately with one hand. When the stock is extended and the forward grip used, it suddenly becomes a mini carbine with performance similar to full-sized guns as long at the range stays below 200 meters or so.
Military special forces utilize the MP7 much like they have used submachine guns for decades. Smaller, lighter weapons that can provide automatic fire are invaluable for close-quarters combat and the 4.6x30mm’s armor-piercing capability make the MP7 a natural choice for elite units needing compact firepower. The weapon’s design and tactical rails mean that the gun can be easily upgraded as needed with off the shelf accessories. Additionally, the MP7 is suppressor-ready, adding another level of utility to an already-capable gun for special operations use.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team 6, is one of the most famous units that employ the MP7 in the special operations community. Many details of their equipment became known after the 2011 mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and the MP7 was said to have been chosen by some of the raid’s members.
Pistols will remain common sidearms for as long as sidearms are needed. And while standard submachine guns using pistol ammunition will continue to serve a vital role for years to come and carbine-configuration assault rifles will remain the standard infantry weapon in militaries for the foreseeable future, the HK MP7 and other weapons like it will fill a crucial middle ground for those looking for the best of all worlds.
In Los Angeles, a staple of the genteel fitness regime is what practitioners unironically refer to as “going for a hike,” but which, to the veteran eye, more closely resembles a Zoolanderian walk-off between sweat-averse yoga pant models.
It’s this, but with sneakers. (Photo from pixabay,
Catching wind of this lunacy, Army vet and elite trainer Max Philisaire advanced on Runyon Canyon and surveilled the Hollywood hiker in his/her habitat. The rumors, he found, were all too true. Crushing an unripe avocado in each furious fist, Max declared that “this soft hipster fitness tourism
Because this is Max. Max doesn’t hike — he rucks. Max signs his autographs “Good Night and Good Ruck.” If Max were an action star? He’d be goddamned Ruck Norris.
Suffering in good company is a furnace in which pride — and great big useful slabs of muscle — are forged. Max doesn’t want to be rucking Runyon Canyon alone. So he’s extending an invite. To you.
Don’t have 50 lb weights for your ruck sack? Use avocados. It’s LA. You
know youcan ethically source 100 of them. Don’t have a ruck sack, you say? A blue IKEA tote on each shoulder should more than get you to muster.
The point is, once you finish Max’s workout, no ruck march on earth will feel hard to you again. Because marching ain’t sprinting. And if you make it through the inclined lunges, that’s what you’re doing next. Eating Max’s ruck dust all the way to glory.
Watch as Max trains for his new movie, The Hud-Rucker Proxy , in the video embedded at the top.
On January 13, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced that Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was selected as the location for the United States Space Command Headquarters. “I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Governor Ivey said.
““This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force,” Shelby said. “This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”
Space Command was established in 2019 as a unified combatant command under the Department of Defense. The search for its headquarters’ location began in 2020. Potential sites were ranked based on room to grow, opportunity to add infrastructure, community support, cost to the DoD, and ability to support the command’s mission. 24 states initially competed to host the headquarters. In addition to Huntsville, finalist cities included Albuquerque, Bellevue, Cape Canaveral, Colorado Springs, and San Antonio.
The new command is expected to bring at least 1,600 new jobs to the local area, with more expected as its mission grows. Redstone Aresenal is already home to Army Materiel Command, Army Space and Missile Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency/Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The FBI has also taken up residency at Redstone Arsenal as part of a strategic realignment of major assets including its cybersecurity operations. The bureau called Huntsville, “the Silicon Valley of the South.”
Historically, Huntsville has played a major role in America’s space presence since the 1950s. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists developed the Saturn V rocket that would take man to the moon in Huntsville. The space shuttle propulsion system was also developed there, and the city still hosts the U.S. Space and Rocket Center with its world-famous Space Camp.
Space Command is currently commanded by Army General James Dickinson and is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The command is expected to remain there for at least six years. The decision to move to Huntsville is still pending an environmental impact study. A final decision is expected to be made in spring 2023.
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.
The prototypes for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (U.S. Army)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
The Air Force has made a number of moves to reduce its shortage of active-duty pilots, including bringing on more retired pilots to administrative roles in order to keep qualified fliers in the air.
Now the service is looking to expand the number of pilots it draws in from the Air National Guard and Reserve to fill vacancies across the active-duty force.
On Oct. 1, the Total Force Aircrew Management — Assignment Augmentation Process grew from 10 positions to 30, in an effort to bring active reserve-component fighter pilots who are available and interested into the active-duty force for two to three years, according to an Air Force release.
“This is a growing total-force program,” said Maj. Walt Ehman, head of the TFAM-AAP. “It enables all air components to help fill pilot-assignment positions around the world.” (Positions are only open to fighter pilots and fighter-combat-systems officers, however.)
The TFAM-AAP, started in 2014, brings together the management of active-duty, Air Guard, and Reserve aircrew resources, whereas previously each component had its own office overseeing officers and career enlisted airmen.
“TFAM enables the use of a single agreed-upon model, in one office, to make training and resource decisions, provide policy guidance, and make integrated recommendations to solving problems like aircrew shortfalls,” Ehman said.
Boosting TFAM-AAP openings is one of many initiatives the Air Force is pursuing to improve retention, production, and absorption.
On the retention side, a number of quality-of-life improvements have been implemented, including reducing administrative duties for pilots and increasing pay and bonuses.
To boost production, the Air Force is considering outsourcing some aspects of training, like adversary-pilot duties, as well as partnering with external organizations to augment the training process.
The Air Force’s Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program is also open to up to 25 retired fliers from any pilot specialty code who elect to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions,” allowing active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.
An amended executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also allows the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 pilots to active duty for up to three years. However, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, director of the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, has said the service doesn’t intended to force anyone back into active duty.
Rather, he told Military.com, the executive order is an addendum to the VRRAD, giving the Air Force “more access to more retirees” for a longer period of time. Koscheski said the order opened the VRRAD program to personnel who could act as instructors.
The Air Force’s component forces are about 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 they are required to have. According to Koscheski, 1,300 of those absent are fighter pilots.
The United States is still grappling with the legacy of the Civil War, but legislators in the House of Representatives are moving to prevent the military from naming any assets — including bases and warships — after Confederate soldiers or any locations of Confederate victory, Politico reported.
A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act passed the House July 2019, and contains explicit language barring the practice. Even if this amendment is signed into law, it wouldn’t retroactively apply to assets currently honoring the Confederacy like the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, named for an important Confederate victory.
After a significant cultural reckoning with the legacy of the Confederacy, including the removal of statues and monuments honoring the Confederate dead, the military still uses 10 bases that honor Confederate soldiers — men that fought to uphold the practice of slavery.
“We are naming ships of the United States Navy after people who fought war against the United States,” a veteran told Navy Times.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers jump out of a UH-60 Blackhawk, while fellow Soldiers swim to shore, as part of a Helocast event at Mott Lake at the 2019 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 27, 2019. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)
Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina is named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.
Fort Bragg is home to the Airborne and Special Operations Forces. Established in 1918 as Camp Bragg, the base is one of the largest military installations in the world and employs about 57,000 military personnel, according to the Army.
Fort Bragg is also named after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general and West Point graduate who was born in Warrenton, North Carolina. The Army’s history of the base doesn’t mention Bragg’s Confederate ties, saying instead that the base bears his name because of his success in the Mexican-American War that began in 1846.
According to the National Park Service, Bragg had resigned from the Army and “was overseeing his Louisiana plantation when the [Civil] war began.”
Bragg was apointed a brigadier general in 1861, commanding defenses from Pensacola, Florida to Mobile, Alabama. He later commanded the Army of Tennessee, and after a series of defeats, went to Richmond to advise Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He died in 1876.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, head toward shooting point 26 aboard their Amphibious Assault Vehicles during a live fire exercise in participation with Mission Readiness Exercise at Fort. A.P. Hill, Va., June 18, 2019. The Reserve Marines are undergoing MRX to prepare for Integrated Training Exercise, which is an even larger scale training event that is necessary for the unit to operate efficiently for their upcoming deployment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Markeith Hall)
Fort A.P. Hill is named for Ambrose Powell Hill, who was killed in the Civil War.
Fort A.P. Hill, located near Bowling Green, Virginia was established June 11, 1941 as a training installation, a role it still serves today. The Army estimates that 80,000 troops from all branches of the military trained here each year during the War on Terror. It also hosted the Boy Scout Jamboree every four years from 1981 to 2005, and in 2010 as well.
The Army calls A.P. (short for Ambrose Powell) Hill a “distinguished” Confederate general, and notes that John Wilkes Booth was killed nearby.
Ambrose Powell Hill was a Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army.
(Library of Congress)
A.P. Hill served in the Confederate army.
Hill was born in Culpeper, Virginia, and was a graduate of West Point. He died in 1865 at the Third Battle of Petersburg, according to Military.com.
Paratroopers file onto a C-17 aircraft for an airborne operation over Blackstone Army Airfield June 6. Many of the parachutists attended a morning ceremony at Fort Lee commemorating the airborne and other operations occuring 75 years ago on D-Day.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Lee is named for Gen. Robert E. Lee, perhaps the most famous Confederate general.
Fort Lee, in Prince George County, Virginia, is named for Robert E. Lee, the Virginia general who was a slave owner. Fort Lee was established as Camp Lee in 1917, but the original site was dismantled after the end of World War I, but re-established during World War II. In 1950, it was formally renamed Fort Lee, and it’s now the Army’s third-largest training site.
(The Library of Congress)
Robert E. Lee was one of the Confederacy’s most famous figures. He surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, ending the Civil War.
Parachutists line up for their flight on a Chinook helicopter Nov. 29 at Blackstone Army Airfield.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Pickett is named for Maj. Gen. George Pickett, who led an eponymous, ill-fated charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Fort Pickett is a Virginia National Guard installation near Blackstone, Virginia. It was established as Camp Pickett on July 3, 1942 at 3:00 PM — 79 years to the hour after Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett began his charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, as the Virginia National Guard notes.
Fort Pickett hosts the Virginia National Guard and Air Guard.
Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett.
(Library of Congress)
Maj. Gen. George Pickett left the US Army to join the Confederate Army in 1861.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Darius Davis, a Combat Documentation Production Specialist with the 982nd Signal Company (Combat Camera)(Airborne), fires from the kneeling position during the M16 qualification range of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) Best Warrior Competition 2019 at Fort Gordon, Georgia, April 19, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leron Richards)
Fort Gordon is home to the US Army Cyber Corps and Signal Corps.
Soldiers conduct pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone on post March 21, 2019. During this portion of the training Soldiers conduct a VIRS Transmission and airborne operations from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The U.S. Army pathfinder School teaches Soldiers to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones for airborne and air assault operations.
(U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright)
Fort Benning, also in Georgia, is named for Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, who was born in Georgia.
A C-12 Huron, from Fort Rucker, Alabama, arrives on the flight line at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 12, 2018. The aircraft evacuated to Barksdale as a proactive measure to prevent possible damage from Hurricane Florence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Miller)
Fort Rucker is named after Col. Edmund Rucker.
Fort Rucker, an Army Aviation training base in Alabama, was established May 1, 1942. Edmund Rucker was a Confederate colonel — not a general — and became an industrial leader in Alabama after the war. German and Italian prisoners of war were held nearby during World War II, according to the Army.
Louisiana National Guard Airmen and Soldiers compete in the Adjutant General’s Match at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, Oct. 19-20, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Noshoba Davis)
Louisiana’s Camp Beauregard is named for Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard.
Louisiana’s National Guard calls Camp Beauregard, located in Pineville, Louisiana, home. Beauregard was a West Point graduate, and championed the use of what we now recognize as the Confederate flag, according to The Washington Post.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), clear an urban environment during brigade live fire exercise at Fort Polk, La. Mar.11, 2019
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Justin Wright)
Louisiana’s Fort Polk is named for Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk.
Polk was a second cousin of US President James Polk, and died during the Battle of Atlanta. Polk was a West Point graduate but served as an Episcopal priest until he joined the Confederacy, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Fort Polk, located in central Louisiana, hosts the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center.
Students at Fort Hood Air Assault school conduct rappel operations. The Soldiers who participated in the training learned the basics of Air Assault operations from the instructors of the Phantom Warrior Academy.
(Photo by Sgt. Gregory Hunter)
Fort Hood is named for Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood.
It’s a real submarine that’s in service right now, and it could annihilate American cities in a surprise attack.
The Yuri Dolgorukiy in sea trials in 2010.
(Schekinov Alexey Victorovich, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Yuri Dolgoruky has 16 vertical launch silos for missiles and it can pack a single Bulava into each one with a range of almost 6,000 miles. That means it could surface west of Hawaii, fire east, and still hit New York City.
But that would force the Russians to fire their missiles past multiple American missile defenses. After all, some of America’s best missiles defenses are in Hawaii. So, it would be better for the subs to give up their range advantage by firing from a position with fewer defenses, like the Gulf of Mexico.
From there, the crew could still hit literally all U.S. states and most U.S. territories.
Eight warheads from a Peacekeeper missile hit targets during testing by the U.S. Navy. Russian MIRVs work in a similar way, allowing subs to hit multiple targets with one missile, but navies keep the potential spread of MIRV warheads secret.
(U.S. Army David James Paquin)
And those missiles each carry 6 warheads with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, meaning that each warhead can hit a different target. And, each of those warheads has an estimated yield of 100 kilotons. So, the total explosive power is 9,600 kilotons spread over up to 96 locations, like U.S. military installations and cities. And, to top it all of, it’s thought to be capable of firing all its missiles in just 1 minute.
So, what would happen if the Russians actually attacked the U.S. with this or similar submarines?
Well, first, the Yuri Dolgoruky is part of the Borei class of submarines, and its 100-kiloton warheads cannot penetrate the most hardened installations. So, an attack on Cheyenne Mountain might degrade NORAD’s communication capabilities, but the base would survive.
At most of these locations, all 6 warheads from a missile would likely be set to hit nearby locations at a single target. Navies keep the details of their MIRV capabilities secret because, obviously, they don’t want an enemy commander to know exactly what spread they can create with their warheads. But it’s unlikely that a missile striking against King’s Bay would have another logical target within range of the MIRVs. So, the missiles would probably drop all six warheads on or near the naval base.
The exception would be a strike against the Pentagon. When hitting the Pentagon, warheads could almost certainly also reach the White House, the Capitol Building, and maybe even nearby Forts Meade and Detrick and the U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico.
For people on the ground, the next few seconds and minutes are key to survival. If you’re at ground zero and the bomb goes off, you have little chance. Absent a true, robust bomb shelter, you’re either dying when the blast hits you or when the building collapses around you. Literally just the over-pressurization of the air can kill you. The heat and radiation are just gravy.
A nuclear missile targeting the King’s Bay Naval Base in Georgia might not have the ability to spread its warheads far enough to hit other military targets, so it might stack them all on top of the base to ensure all the submarine pens and naval headquarters are taken out.
But outside of that, there are still acute dangers. At 2 miles from a blast, you can survive the immediate explosion but still die within seconds. If you see the flash of the bomb and step toward the window to get a better look, the over-pressurization wave will hit the glass as you step toward the window, creating a shotgun burst of glass that would go right into your face and torso.
But even if you avoid the glass exploding, you need to deal with your own injuries from over-pressurization and radiation while also fighting fires in your local area and rendering medical aid. If you fail to do first aid on yourself and those around you, you’ll all likely die of wounds. And fires are a real possibility, especially if there are dark surfaces or flammable debris where you are.
The Borei Class of submarines poses a significant threat to Russia’s enemies, but they will almost certainly never fire their nuclear missiles in anger since since doing so would demand a retaliatory strike against Russia.
Now, one good thing about a strike against U.S. military facilities is that many of America’s nuclear platforms were intentionally built far from population centers to reduce civilian casualties in a war. So, while D.C. is obviously a major city where hundreds of thousands would die in a strike, Kings Bay has about 60,000 people living on and near the base. Still a catastrophe, but at least a numerically smaller one.
Still, hundreds of thousands would die and dozens of U.S. nuclear bombers, submarines, and missiles would be wiped out, limiting our response capabilities. And all of that is with just one enemy submarine. Multiple submarines or submarines paired with jet or missile attacks would be even worse.
USS Kentucky, a ballistic-missile submarine,departs for astrategic deterrencemission since 2016.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray)
We would be devastated, for sure. But the reason that Russia would never even hope to conduct an attack like this is simple: Even if they were able to cripple the submarine base at King’s Bay, the Air Force bases in the Midwest, and the command and control at the Pentagon, America keeps nuclear submarines from King’s Bay on patrol. So, our response capability would be limited after an attack, but it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the capability all at once.
And those ballistic missile submarines are extremely resilient. If America were attacked, it would be the job of these submarines to retaliate, unleashing their own massive payloads of missiles against Russian targets with similar results. If four or five were on patrol, which is fairly standard, they could send dozens of nuclear missiles against Russian targets, causing even more devastation there than we suffered here.
While the nightmare can be scary (but also cathartic) to think about, it’s important to remember that it’s just a nightmare. The U.S. military maintains a robust nuclear deterrent to keep anyone from actually going through an attack like this. And our submarines, as well as the slightly less survivable bombers and missiles, ensure that no enemy could launch such an attack without losing their own country in the process.