Two US Air Force bombers have conducted a rare live-fire drill in South Korea and flown close to the heavily militarized border with North Korea — a show of force following North Korea’s test-launch of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile.
South Korea’s military said in a statement that the exercise was meant to “sternly respond to the series of North Korea’s ballistic-missile launches.”
The statement said the long-range B-1B bombers, accompanied by South Korean jet fighters, simulated an attack on enemy ballistic-missile batteries and precision air strikes against underground enemy command posts.
It said each US bomber dropped a 900-kilogram laser-guided smart bomb that was designed to destroy a fortified bunker.
The bombs were dropped on targets at a firing range about 80 kilometers south of the land border with North Korea. The planes then flew close to the border before turning back to Anderson Air Base in Guam from where they were deployed.
“Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverize enemy command posts,” the South Korean statement said.
The US Air Force said two of its B-1B bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea late on July 6 in a move that asserts the right to treat the area as international territory, despite China’s territorial claims in the busy waterway.
Those flights were conducted after the US bombers participated in a joint training exercise with Japanese jet fighters over the neighboring East China Sea — just to the south of the Korean Peninsula.
Washington wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its research into long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
Also in response to North Korea’s July 4 test, which demonstrated that North Korea’s arsenal is capable of striking parts of Alaska with an ICBM, US and South Korean forces on July 5 fired ballistic missiles in a drill simulating an attack on North Korea’s leadership.
South Korea said that test was meant “as a strong message of warning.”
The US Missile Defense Agency said on July 7 that it would soon test an anti-ballistic-missile system in Alaska.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
When people think of traveling 1,000 miles it often conjures thoughts of long, uncomfortable drives with kids shouting “are we there yet?” or perhaps of long lines waiting to get through airport security.
But what it almost certainly does not evoke is the thought of running those 1,000 miles.
The mere idea of running such a distance would seem crazy to most people. But it seemed like a great idea to Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, and he decided to set out to accomplish it in one year.
For Hanson running 1,000 miles in a year was a chance to strive for a goal that would stretch his physical and mental limits.
“I believe if you are not setting goals that stretch you, you’re probably not setting those goals high enough,” said Hanson.
To reach for such a goal, Hanson would take the lessons he learned while attending the Senior War College.
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, stands with the shoes and race bib he wore when running the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon, along with the medal he earned for completing the race held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
“In 2017 I accepted admission into the Senior War College,” said Hanson. “I had seen several of my friends and leaders come out of the school wrecked. It is very hard to keep a balanced life in that, and so I decided when I accepted Senior Service College that I was going to make sure I kept all my fitness’s in check.”
For Hanson, this simply means focusing on establishing and maintaining a balance between all aspects of his life.
“Try not to be over-focused,” said Hanson. “If our goals support other goals, all of our fitness’s, I think that we find that we have a much better experience in getting to those goals and accomplishing them.”
Running 1,000 miles in a year is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it would be nearly impossible without the support of his wife. Fortunately for Hanson, his wife was right beside him providing support, balance, and often a training partner.
“In my case, my spouse is very involved in my military life, and she’s very involved in my spiritual life, and she’s very involved in my physical life,” said Hanson. “We’d go places and we’d run together. We’d go places and we’d hike together. We find ways to make physical fitness not separate from each other.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, gestures to the camera as he runs the Revel Mt. Lemon marathon in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson also had the support of his Army Family to help bolster his efforts.
“I know my team out here, they would make sure that I would hydrate,” said Hanson. “They would make sure that I ate properly. They would support me and motivate me.”
As he approached the homestretch of his journey, the idea of running a marathon to complete his 1,000 miles began to gain traction in his mind. He also saw it as an opportunity to take another shot at a goal he had once reached for but fell short of grasping.
“I did a marathon in 2004 and I did not reach my goal of doing a less than 3 hour and 30-minute marathon,” said Hanson. “But this one here, as I was running I was kind of watching my splits and in the back of my mind, I knew I had not met my goal in 2004. I started to mention to my wife that my splits are getting close to Boston times.”
Hanson decided to complete his journey and pursue his secondary goal at the Revel Mt. Lemmon marathon held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019. As the marathon progressed, he knew he would complete his 1,000 miles and felt confident he would finally achieve the goal that eluded him in 2004.
“I would say I was pretty doggone focused,” said Hanson. “Certainly you’re feeling discomfort, but up until the point I started having debilitating cramps, I fully felt I was going to be able to accomplish my goal.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, returns the salute of Capt. Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer In Charge, Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 07, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson would complete the marathon and reach 1,000 miles. However, despite his spirit willing him to keep going, his body would rebel and he would fall short of his secondary goal of a sub 3 hour and 25-minute marathon. He would cross the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes, which would place him in the top 23% of all finishers.
“So, my goal was to be under 3 hours and 25 minutes,” said Hanson. “I think I was on pace to be under until mile 23. Somewhere in the 23rd is when the cramping started and I lost my pace.”
Failure to reach a goal, even if not the primary goal, is often enough for many people to avoid striving for difficult goals in the future. For Lt. Col. Hanson it is simply a confirmation that he is setting goals that will continually push him to expand his own limits.
“Not meeting a goal is a disappointment, but it’s only a setback,” said Hanson. “It’s a mentality thing. Although I felt like I failed, it’s just setting goals for yourself that are relevant to yourself that push you to the next level.”
And that disappointment is not enough to stop Hanson, it is just more motivation to keep chasing his white rabbit.
“There is a marathon here in Phoenix/Mesa in February,” said Hanson with a grin. “I think I can get it next time. I just need to tweak a couple of things.”
An Austrian firm has just debuted a new big-bore, bolt action rifle that could become a player in a new program to outfit U.S. special operations troops with an updated long-range sniper rifle.
A new company in the market, Ritter Stark is making precision modular rifles from the ground up, using an innovative rifling technology and a barrel attachment system that virtually guarantees zero with optics matched to the caliber. Its SX-1 MTR chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum answers Special Operations Command’s original call to provide commandos with a new “Advanced Sniper Rifle” that could be quickly reconfigured to several calibers and be deadly accurate each time.
The Ritter Stark SX-1 MTR is built from the ground up for precision. It’s modular barrel system includes chamberings in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 WinMag and .308. (Photo from Ritter Stark)
What sets Ritter Stark apart from the competition is the novel way in which its SX-1 changes caliber. Most manufacturers have an interchangeable barrel that slides into the receiver and is attached to the action with a barrel nut or similar method. Ritter Stark built theirs with the barrel attached to the Picatinny-railed upper receiver and it’s secured to the lower through simple hex bolts on the handguard.
“The caliber change takes a maximum of three minutes and you don’t have to take it to a gunsmith to do it, you can just use a hex wrench,” said Ritter Stark Deputy Managing Director Ekaterina Trakham during the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.
The SX-1 can be switched to a .300 WinMag chambering, a .308 chambering and the .338 Lapua Magnum option. Reports indicate, however, that SOCOM has modified its ASR requirement for a .300 Norma Magnum chambering.
Like other high-end military sniper rifles, the SX-1’s bolt locks inside the barrel for increased accuracy. And the company uses a proprietary “electrochemical” process to rifle its barrels, with company officials saying a .338 barrel is good for 5,000 rounds and a .308 can take 10,000 rounds before needing a replacement.
The SX-1 also has a three-position safety that’s optimized for military and police applications, with two standard “fire” and “safe” positions, and a third one that not only blocks the firing pin but locks the bold handle down.
“We have a lot of experience working with security detail snipers who patrol the perimeter, and they’re usually asked to engage the safety when they’re on target,” said Ritter Stark sales director Alexandr Chikin.
The SX-1 trigger also has a flip safety located under the trigger guard to limit movement that could give away a sniper’s position and also blocks it when the rifle needs to be safed.
Company officials say the rifle should be commercially available within the next few months and cost around $6,000 for the .338 variant and $5,000 for the .308 one.
Things you expect in pawn shops: jewelry, electronics, and nuclear bomb parts.
Wait, that last one isn’t right. No one expects to find nuclear bomb parts in a pawn shop. But in this scene from Pawn Stars, Rick calls in an expert to assess whether the cover for a B-57 nuclear bomb is authentic.
On its own, the cover for a B-57 is no more capable of being used as a weapon than a pen cap is of writing, so it’s perfectly safe to buy and sell. Of course, it’s also hard to find a use for nuclear bomb parts without any nuclear bombs.
See Pawn Star Rick negotiate the purchase in this clip:
If you’re author, internet marketing troll, and self professed “media manipulator” Ryan Holiday, you see an obstacle in your path and recognize that — far from being a barrier to progress or a warning to “TURN BAAAAACK!” — the thing obstructing you is actually an opportunity for you to succeed!
You think, woah dude, the obstacle is actually, like, totally the way! And then you clean that up a bit and make it the title of your new self-help book.
Should it matter that your silly, central platitude is a C minus Freshman English interpretation of Stoic philosophy which loses its credibility simply by being associated with your name, the name you made for yourself as American Apparel’s amoral PR con man-in-Chief? Of course not! You’ve read a few “notes to self” written by famous ancient Romans like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca the Younger espousing this easy-to-package philosophy and so, hitching your wagon to their Stoic chariot, you’ve decided you’re more than happy to burden their horses all the way to modern fame and fortune!
Because it’s the 2nd Decade of the Digital Age and thanks to geniuses like you, facts, standards, and reality are all now fully negotiable.
You know what isn’t negotiable?
Max’s apparel is all-American, his carriage is Greco-Roman, and his philosophy? Army special issue. For Max, the Obstacle is the First of Many Which Make Up: The Course.
And that miraculous revelation you just had? That the hardships one might encounter during the running of said course are actually opportunities for one to succeed? Well, whoopti-sh*t, Private Holiday, congratulations on drawing your first observationally-validated, sweat-confirmed human conclusion.
But actually, shut up and get moving.
In this episode, Max tunes you up for the obstacle course by putting you through an obstacle course. Maybe the obstacle really is the way.
The Army is now performing concept modeling and early design work for a new mobile, lethal, high-tech future lightweight tank platform able to detect and destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire – all for the 2030s and beyond.
The new vehicle, now emerging purely in the concept phase, is based upon the reality that the current M1A2 SEP Abrams main battle tank can only be upgraded to a certain limited extent, senior Army officials explained.
The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is now immersed in the development of design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Bassett emphasized the extensive conceptual work, simulation and design modeling will be needed before there is any opportunity to “bend metal” and produce a new tank.
“We’ve used concept modeling. What are the limits of what you can do? What does a built from the ground up vehicle look like? We are assuming, if we are going to evolve it, it is because there is something we can’t do in the current vehicle,” Basset explained.
The new tank will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will also include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links and laser warning receivers.
However, although Army developers often maintain that while the latest, upgraded high-tech v4 Abrams is much more advanced than the first Abrams tanks produced decades ago, there are limits to how much the existing Abrams platform can be upgraded.
A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.
Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.
“We will build in side and underbody protection from the ground up,” Bassett said.
Bassett said certain immediate changes and manufacturing techniques could easily save at least 20-percent of the weight of a current 72-ton Abrams.
The idea is to engineer a tank that is not only much more advanced than the Abrams in terms of sensors, networking technology, force tracking systems, an ability to control nearby drones and vastly increased fire-power – but to build a vehicle with open-architecture such that it can quickly accommodate new technologies as they emerge.
For instance, Bassett pointed out that the Abrams was first fielded with a 105mm cannon – yet built with a mind to potential future upgrades such that it could be configured to fire a 120mm gun.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Smith explained how, for example, Humvees were not built for the growth necessary to respond to the fast-emerging and deadly threat of roadside bombs in Iraq.
The new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people and ammunition. As computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control nearby drones using its own on-board command and control networking, service developers said.
Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions while manned-crews remained back at safer distances.
Bassett, and developers with General Dynamics Land Systems, specifically said that this kind of autonomy was already being worked on for current and future tanks.
Active protection systems are another instance of emerging technologies which will go on the latest state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and also quite likely be used for the new tank. Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds.
The Army is currently fast-tracking an effort to explore a number of different APS systems for the Abrams. General Dynamics Land Systems is, as part of the effort, using its own innovation to engineer an APS system which is not a “bolt-on” type of applique but something integrated more fully into the tank itself, company developers have told Scout Warrior.
The use of space in the new vehicle, drawing upon a better allocation of size-weight-and-electrical power will enable the new tank to accommodate better weapons, be more fuel efficient and provide greater protection to the crew.
“If you have less volume in the power train, you can get down to something with less transportability challenges,” he said. “If you add additional space to the vehicle, you can take out target sets at greater distances.”
While advanced Abrams tanks will be using a mobile Auxiliary Power Unit to bring more on-board electrical power to the platform for increased targeting, command-and-control technologies and weapons support, mobile power is needed to sustain future systems such as laser weapons.
The Army cancelled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, some of the innovations, technologies and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for the new tank. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute, uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Light Weight 120mm Cannon
The new tank may quite likely use a futuristic, lightweight 120mm cannon first developed years ago for the Army’s now-cancelled Future Combat Systems, or FCS; FCS worked on a series of “leap-ahead” technologies which, in many instances, continue to inform current Army modernization efforts.
The FCS program developed next-generation sensors, networking, robots and a series of mobile, high-tech 27-ton Manned-Ground Vehicles, or MGVs.
The MGVs included a Non-Line-of-Sight artillery variant, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, Infantry, Medical and Command-and-Control variants, among others. One of the key vehicles in this planned future fleet was the Mounted Combat System, or MCS.
The overall MGV effort was cancelled by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 because Gates felt that the 27-ton common chassis was not sufficiently survivable enough in a modern IED-filled threat environment.
Although the MGVs were engineered with a so-called “survivability onion” of networked sensors and active protection systems to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire at great distances, many critics of FCS felt that the vehicles were not sufficient to withstand a wide range of enemy attacks should incoming fire penetrate sensors or hit targets in the event that the sensor malfunctioned or were jammed.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds. The lightweight weapon being developed for the MCS was two-tons, roughly one-half the weight of the existing Abrams 120mm cannon.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
In fact, the Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy
Bassett said the potential re-emergence of the XM360 is indicative of the value of prototyping and building subsystem technologies.
The MCS was test-fired at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., in 2009. The platform used an aluminum turret and three-man crew using an automatic loading system. Also, the MCS was engineered to fire 120mm rounds up to 10 kilometers, what’s called Beyond-Line-of-Sight using advanced fire control and targeting sensors, General Dynamics developers explained at the time.
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
Smith added that a lighter-weight, more mobile and lethal tank platform will be necessary to adjust to a fast-changing modern threat environment including attacking RPGs, Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles and armor-piercing enemy tank rounds. He explained that increased speed can be used as a survivability combat-enhancing tactic, adding that there are likely to be continued urban threats in the future as more populations migrates into cities.
“Never forget what it is you are trying to use it for,” Smith said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has started deploying an old kind of military deception: inflatable weaponry.
The Russian government has a growing supply of inflatable military gear, including tanks, jets, and missile batteries, provided by hot-air balloon company RusBal, as detailed by a report by The New York Times.
A demonstration in a field near Moscow illustrated the ingenuity behind the idea.
The inflatables deploy quickly and break down just as fast. They transport relatively easily, providing targets that may not only draw the enemy’s fire but also affect their decision-making process, burdening a rival’s leadership with the task of verifying targets.
“If you study the major battles of history, you see that trickery wins every time,” Aleksei A. Komarov, RusBal’s director of military sales, told The Times. “Nobody ever wins honestly.”
Inflatable weaponry has a history on Europe’s battlefields. Prior to the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, Gen. George S. Patton was placed in charge of the First US Army Group (FUSAG) — a phantom force housed in cities of empty tents and deployed in vehicles made of wood, fabric, or inflatable rubber.
After Allied forces had a foothold in France, the “Ghost Army,” as it came to be called, continued to serve a purpose, as it was responsible for more than 20 illusions that befuddled German military leadership and disguised actual Allied troop movements in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.
Moscow’s modern-day iteration of the inflatable army fits with a distinctly Russian style of subterfuge: Maskirovka, a Russian doctrine that mixes strategic and tactical deception with the aim of distorting an enemy’s conception of reality, bogging down decision-makers at every level with misinformation and confusion.
Maskirovka is a longstanding practice of Russian planners. During the Cold War, maps created for the Russian public were filled with tiny inaccuracies that would make them useless should they fall into the hands of rival military planners. The cartographer who came up with the ruse was given the State Prize by Josef Stalin.
A more recent version of maskirovka was displayed in Ukraine in 2014, when masked or otherwise disguised soldiers showed up in Crimea, and later by other soldiers purportedly “vacationing” in eastern Ukraine.
According to The Times, Russian military leaders were dubious about the inflatable hardware at first, but they appear to have been won over.
“There are no gentlemen’s agreements in war,” Maria Oparina, the director of RusBal and daughter of the founder, told The Times.
“There’s no chivalry anymore. Nobody wears a red uniform. Nobody stands up to get shot at. It’s either you or me, and whoever has the best trick wins.”
This article by Stephen Carlson was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
During the height of the Cold War, the U.S. Army deployed a nuclear-tipped rocket launcher that could be carried by a fire team.
Davy Crockett was a renowned frontier hero steeped in myth and legend, much of it probably based on tales invented by himself. Supposedly Crockett was such a crack shot he could split a bullet on an axe blade using a musket.
The Cold War weapon that bore his name was many things, but dead accuracy wasn’t one of them. The M28/29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was a man-portable recoilless rifle that could fire a 76-pound W54 nuclear warhead up to two and half miles, and provided the terrible power of fission in a system that could be carried and operated by three men.
Developed in the 1950s, the Davy Crockett was envisioned for use at the Fulda Gap, considered a prime invasion route for Soviet army divisions driving into West Germany and widely anticipated as where the first big battles of World War III would be fought.
Faced with overwhelming numbers of Soviet tanks, it was hoped weapons like the Crockett and the W48 shell could devastate large armored formations and keep the Soviet Union bottled up in the Fulda Gap. This even included nuclear landmines such as the Special Atomic Demolition Munition, which could also be used by Special Forces parachuting behind enemy lines to destroy key infrastructure.
By nuclear standards, the W54 warhead used by the Davy Crockett was tiny, with an explosive yield of .01-.02 kilotons, or the equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. By comparison, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or 15,000 tons of TNT, nearly a thousand times more powerful.
But though a shrimp compared to most nukes, the warhead still carried plenty of bang. The largest conventional bomb fielded by the U.S. military, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, weighs 22,600 pounds and has a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT. The Crockett could deliver double that with a bomb .3% of the mass.
The blast was powerful enough to collapse buildings and cause third-degree burns hundreds of feet away, but the real lethality of the weapon lay in its radiation effects, which could be fatal over a quarter of a mile away. Residual fallout would contaminate the area and make it dangerous for any exposed personnel to pass through, making it a potent barrier weapon.
But the Davy Crockett had a number of problems that seem obvious in retrospect. The weapon was highly inaccurate, often hundreds of feet off target, and its limited range made it highly probable that users could be exposed to radioactive fallout. Though designed primarily to engage Soviet tank formations, the slow setup and inaccuracy of the weapon made targeting fast-moving tanks problematic.
The fact that mass use of the weapon could contaminate huge areas of land for years to come also made it dubious as a defensive weapon, since it would effectively deny territory to either side. It would also create a huge risk of escalation that could lead to a world-destroying nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
With its many deficiencies in mind, and perhaps a glimpse of sanity among military planners, it was phased out of use by 1971 and not replaced.
The United States nuclear stockpile has declined from its horrifying height in 1967 to a little over 70,000 today. A little over 2,000 of those are actually deployed, with the rest being held in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.
We may be past the days where the military fielded nuclear weapons on the scale seen in Western Germany during the Cold War, and the nuclear forces of the U.S. are aging and suffering from a long period of neglect from the Pentagon. But it is worth remembering that nuclear weapons were once so prevalent it was thought necessary to turn them into an infantry weapon.
The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.
“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.
The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.
“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”
The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.
The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”
The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.
The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.
Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.
Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.
The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced a sweeping buildup of America’s Navy to oppose the rising threat from China, calling for more ships as well as the adoption of new technologies and doctrines.
Speaking at the Rand Corp. on Wednesday, Esper called for the US Navy to increase its fleet size from today’s 293 ships to more than 355 by the year 2045 as part of a comprehensive modernization plan called “Future Forward.” This revamped naval force will comprise a bigger fleet of smaller ships, including surface ships and submarines that are unmanned, manned, and autonomous. The buildup will also comprise additional unmanned, carrier-based aircraft.
In addition to that quantitative increase, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, Esper is also calling for the Navy and Marine Corps to adopt new warfighting technologies and doctrines to counter novel threats from China.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California, Sept. 16, 2020. DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando, courtesy of DVIDS.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon published a report underscoring that China now wields the world’s largest navy with some 350 ships and submarines at its disposal. Beijing aims to complete its crash-course military modernization program by 2035, with plans to field a “world-class” military by 2049, Esper said. To that end, China is building new aircraft carriers, unmanned submarines, and missile systems and is expanding its nuclear arsenal.
“I want to make clear that China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power. Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the [People’s Republic of China] years to close the gap when it comes to our capability on the high seas,” Esper said, adding: “Ship numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.”
However, the secretary said the US needs to invest in new technologies — artificial intelligence, or AI, in particular — to maintain its qualitative edge over China’s growing military might.
“Today, we are at another inflection point, one where I believe unmanned technologies, AI, and long-range precision weapons will play an increasingly leading role. The US military, including the Navy, must lean into that future as the character of warfare changes,” Esper said.
Royal Australian navy, Republic of Korea navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and United States Navy warships sail in formation during the Pacific Vanguard 2020 exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 11, 2020. Official Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force photo by Lt. Mark Langford, courtesy of DVIDS.
Esper said that the US faces threats from both Russia and China. But the secretary also underscored that, in the long run, China was the bigger strategic threat to America’s global dominance, as well as an existential threat to the US homeland.
“Clearly when you look at Russia compared to China, China’s vast population, its resources, it’s this strength, the dynamism of its economy, we see that as a … much greater long-term challenge,” Esper said.
The Pentagon has created a Defense Policy office on China, and established a China Strategy Management Group. Esper said he had instructed the National Defense University to dedicate half of its coursework to China. And all military services have made China the overarching threat guiding the direction of their training and other educational programs.
“These are just a few of our efforts to focus attention on our priority theater, the Indo-Pacific,” Esper said. “Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of great power competition with China.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 launches from the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on the Philippine Sea, Sept. 12, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Samantha Jetzer, courtesy of DVIDS.
The Pentagon needs to reform its acquisitions program, tighten its budget, and build up its industrial base to sustain the long-term effort necessary to counter China’s rise. Such an endeavor will be difficult to justify, however, in the absence of a conflict, many experts say.
Nevertheless, earlier this year, the Navy awarded a 5 million contract to purchase the first ship of a new class of guided missile frigates — with an option to purchase nine more totaling nearly .6 billion.
“This is the first new major shipbuilding program the Navy has sought in more than a decade,” Esper said, adding that trials are ongoing on a 132-foot-long trimaran drone called the Sea Hunter, which can autonomously patrol for enemy submarines for more than two months at a time.
Esper’s quarter-century naval buildup, while ambitious, pales in comparison with what the US was able to accomplish during World War II.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the US into the war, the US Navy mustered 790 total ships. During the period from 1941 to 1945, US shipyards produced thousands of new vessels. Total US Navy ships numbered 6,768 by August of 1945, according to Pentagon records. That number dropped to 1,248 by June 1946.
To defeat the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan ordered a peacetime naval buildup from 530 to 597 ships in the period from 1980 to 1987.
“We must stay ahead; we must retain our overmatch; and we will keep building modern ships to ensure we remain the world’s greatest navy,” Esper said.
For Veterans Day, the Call of Duty Endowment held the Race to Prestige. Five gamer personalities – GoldGloveTV, TmarTn, Jeriicho, Hutch, and VernNotice – played Call of Duty: Black Ops III for 96 hours straight in a live stream marathon. The goal? To help veterans get high quality jobs.
The Call of Duty Endowment helps veterans find high quality careers by supporting groups that prepare them for the job market and by raising awareness of the value vets ring to the workplace.
Activision matched the donations raised by gamers from all over the Internet. The event collected $450,000 for the endowment. Navy veteran and Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment Dan Goldenberg lauded the goal-breaking fundraising, “Our goal initially was to raise $25,000 and they blew that away in the first two hours… basically, every $600 puts a vet in a job.”
By that math, the event raised enough money to help 750 veterans find great, long-term employment.
Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.
“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”
The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.
“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”
So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.
The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.
Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.
“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”
King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.
“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.
Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.
“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”
So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.