Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer - We Are The Mighty
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Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

While most people may be familiar with Russia’s T-14, that tank is not the only Armata the Russians have in the works. The term Armata actually refers to a “unified tracked platform,” according to an Aug. 2016 report from Army-Recognition.com.


And that family also includes a heavy infantry fighting vehicle known as the T-15. While GlobalSecurity.org reports that the T-15 has the same 30mm gun used on the BMP-2, along with four turret-mounted AT-14 anti-tank missiles, Army-Recognition.com’s report indicates that a gun first fielded in the 1950s could get a new lease on life with the T-15.

And that has some analysts worried.

Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis, argues notes that the T-15 as presently equipped is “a clear threat against the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which is under gunned with a 25mm M242 chain gun with TOW missiles.”

What has Maginnis alarmed is that the T-15 is slated to be fitted with the S-60 cannon, which started its life as an anti-aircraft gun that got wide use in the Vietnam War and a host of other conflicts. It was also deployed on naval vessels, and is still in service on some of the Grisha-class corvettes in the Russian Navy.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The T-15 Armata heavy infantry fighting vehicle. This baseline version has a 30mm cannon and four AT-14 missiles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Army-Recognition.com noted that the old gun would be put into the AU-220M turret currently under development. In addition to the old gun, the turret also has four AT-9 “Spiral-2” missiles.

When asked about the implications of the AU-220M turret, Maginnis said, “the Bradley will be outgunned. Further our Strykers face a similar problem even though they may include the Javelin.”

“We are relying on pretty old technology vis-a-vis the Bradley and the Abrams even given the upgrades,” Maginnis added, blaming a “modernization holiday thanks to sequestration.”

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
A captured S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun in an Israeli museum. This gun is the centerpiece of a new turret for the T-15, the AU-220M. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As to what could be done to counter the T-15 and other modern Russian vehicles, Maginnis said it’s about new weaponry and modern defensive systems.

“The U.S. Army desperately needs to up-gun its arsenal for direct and indirect fire systems,” he said. “We need to relook at our reactive armor given the increased Russian anti-armor penetration systems.”

But it’s not just about tanks and armored vehicles, he said.

“We also need to relook at our air-to-ground capabilities against armored vehicles,” Maginnis said. “The A-10’s 30mm gun is good, but the Russians have paid close attention to that capability and have effective anti-aircraft counters.”

Russia’s support of the Syrian regime included the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missiles, according to a December 2015 report by the BBC. This past February, Sputnik News reported that T-90 main battle tanks provided to Syria by Russia made their combat debut.

“We are sadly falling behind due to neglect. Hopefully Mr. Trump’s Pentagon leaders will read the weapons effects intelligence coming out of the Ukraine and Syria and come to the sobering realization that America has a lot of catching up to do,” Maginnis concluded.

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Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

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This is how 12 other countries celebrate their version of Veterans Day

Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.


The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Soldiers celebrating World War I Armistice.

Related: Here’s a sneak peek at the new World War I Memorial going up in DC

Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.

In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.

1. Australia and New Zealand

The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.

2. Belgium

Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

3. France

The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.

4. Denmark

While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.

5. Germany

Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).

6. Israel

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Sirens sound throughout Israel marking the start of Yom Hazikaron.

Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.

7. Italy

Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.

8. The Netherlands

Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.

9. Nigeria

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.

10. Norway

Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.

11. Sweden

The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
(photo by Holger Ellgaard)

12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth

Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

There are actually rules on how to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. Britain and the Commonwealth observe two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. every Nov. 11 to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.

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This new ultralight machine gun from FN Herstal uses 3D printed parts

The Belgian company FN Herstal is a heavyweight manufacturer in the firearms industry. They’ve made machine guns like the FN Minimi and MAG, better known as the M249 SAW and M240 machine guns respectively. They’ve also manufactured the standard-issue M4 Carbine and the Special Operations Forces Carbine Assault Rifle, better known as the SCAR. On May 6, 2021, FN held a press conference they called “A New Chapter Begins.”

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Note the carbon fiber bipod (FN Herstal)

At the pre-recorded online press conference, FN unveiled the brand new FN EVOLYS Ultralight Machine Gun. The standard machine gun features are present: gas operated, open bolt, short stroke piston design. What makes the EVOLYS unique is its extreme light weight. FN claims that it fires like a machine gun, but handles like an assault rifle thanks to its light weight and ergonomics. It was even shown with a carbon fiber bipod.

FN highlighted the use of Polymers and Additive Manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, as a major contributor to the light weight of the EVOLYS. One interview shown during the press conference was conducted in front of a 3D printing machine.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The fire selector on the FN EVOLYS (FN Herstal)

Another notable feature is the inclusion of a semi-auto on the fire selector, similar to the SIG Sauer LMG-6.8. “The ambidextrous fire selector has a semi-auto position to engage point targets as with a rifle while the full auto position allows suppressive fire as with a machine gun,” FN said. Also similar to the SIG, the FN’s fire selector is very similar to the ultra-familiar AR/M4/M16 selector switch.

FN claims that all actions can be completed with just one hand, including engaging the belt. This action can also be done with either the left or right hand. Additionally, cartridges are automatically repositioned if the belt is not placed correctly on the feed tray when the feed tray cover is closed, preventing first round failure to feed. When the last round in the belt is fired, the last link is ejected, making clearing faster for the next reload.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The FN EVOLYS borrows a lot of design cues from the FN SCAR (FN Herstal)

Those familiar with FN products will also recognize the stock on the EVOLYS. Known in gun circles as the “Tactical UGG Boot” for obvious reasons, the stock appears to be taken directly off of the FN SCAR. The stock folds to the right side of the gun, extends and retracts, and features an adjustable cheek riser. “Whatever his size, or the equipment he is wearing, the user can always find a comfortable shooting position,” FN said.

The press conference showed plenty of firing demonstrations too. Despite the weapon’s light weight, recoil appeared to be very mild. This is due in large part to the EVOLYS’ hydraulic buffer. Demonstrations included shooting the EVOLYS standing, kneeling, prone, and on the move. The gun’s light weight will be a welcome feature to any machine gunner who has to carry it on patrol and make bounding movements with it.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
A machine gun that handles like a rifle can be a handy weapon on the battlefield (FN Herstal)

The EVOLYS appears to do a good job of directing its gasses away from the shooter. This prevents noxious fumes and toxins from affecting the shooter. The EVOLYS is also designed to work suppressed.

FN is marketing the EVOLYS in both 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO. The former weighs in at 5.5 kilograms unloaded while the former weighs just .5 kilograms more. For comparison, the M249 SAW weighs 7.5 kilograms unloaded.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Both models weigh less than the existing M249 SAW (FN Herstal)

Although the U.S. Army is moving to the 6.8mm caliber with the Next Generation Squad Weapon system, FN has plenty of potential NATO customers who look to be keeping 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO weapons in their armories for the foreseeable future.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The FN EVOLYS is a slick looking machine gun (FN Herstal)

Featured image: FN EVOLYS/FN Herstal

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China could be preparing for a paramilitary invasion in the East China Sea

Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.


Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.

China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.

“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.

But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.

It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.

Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?

The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.

That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.

This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.

Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.

That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.

On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.

In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.

China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.

The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.

“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.

Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.

China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.

It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.

Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The candy man who revolutionized tank design

The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.

Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.


Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.

(Harris Ewing)

Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.

Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.

The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.

It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.

(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)

The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.

Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.

But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.

Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.

As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.

The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.

(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)

When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.

But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.

The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.

Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.

Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.

(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Houthi rebels are kicking the crap out of the world’s best tank

The M1A2 Abrams is arguably one of the best (if not the best) tank systems in the world today. It’s the main battle tank of the United States, along with several of its allies — including Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom deployed a number of the tanks in its intervention against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is not having the success they expected to have.


It’s been three long years for the Saudi military and the coalition it’s leading to take on Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Almost as soon as the Saudi “intervention” (aka “invasion”) of Yemen began, the Kingdom started asking U.S.-based contractor General Dynamics for upgrades to the tank. They also ordered replacements.

A quick YouTube search will show you why.

Houthi rebels posted a lot of these videos showing the M1A2 getting wrecked by simple anti-tank weapons. In the videos above, that weapon is Tosun anti-tank guided missiles, an Iranian-built variant of a the Soviet 9M113 Konkurs ATGM, which uses a trailing wire system to guide the projectile.

At just 32 pounds, this Iranian ATGM can hit a Saudi M1A2 from two miles away. The current M1A2 defense system can’t really defend against this simple kind of attack. Reactive armor can help and there are M1 upgrades that could possibly further help, but complete, reliable 360-degree protection doesn’t exist in this family of tanks.

But don’t think because it’s not working out for the Saudis, the same fate would await American tank crews.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

For starters, Americans won’t just abandon their tank and bolt at the first sign of trouble.

The thing is that there’s nothing wrong with the tanks themselves. They could stand the upgrade package given to U.S. M1 tanks, maybe some of that depleted uranium armor, or maybe a tank protection system like the one Israel developed for its tankers. The problem Saudi Arabia has with its tanks is how they’re being used.

In the above videos, you could see tanks being destroyed that were completely alone. They were left out in the open with no infantry support. The minimal amount of 360 protection a crew can give themselves is to actually look around. We may never know what the crew was doing in there but what they weren’t doing was being aware of their surroundings.

So of course some Houthis are going to come up and shoot them with an anti-tank missile.

Maybe leaving your bright red Igloo cooler on the side of it isn’t a great idea either. Just throwing that out there.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s anti-ship missile is a Harpoon ripoff

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union had a few problems. For starters, their anti-ship missiles couldn’t quite cut it. Now, it’s not that the Russians built bad missiles — the SS-N-2 Styx had sunk an Israeli destroyer in 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War. The problem was that American (and NATO) surface-to-air missiles had more than caught up, meaning the Soviets were effectively outranged.


In addition, the arrival of the French Exocet, West German Komoran, and the American Harpoon changed the game. These missiles didn’t quite have the range or warhead of the AS-4 or AS-6, designed specifically to kill American carriers, but there were a lot of them. Worse, they were being back-fitted on just about every NATO ship or plane, giving them a lot more assets. Plus, they flew very low, skimming over the surface of the ocean.

The Soviets realized they were getting left behind in the anti-ship missile department, and that put them at a huge disadvantage.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
A Harpoon missile is launched from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) during a live-fire exercise. Shiloh is on patrol with the George Washington Carrier Strike Group supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham)

So, Russia began work on their own version of the Harpoon in the 1980s. However, after the Soviet Union fell, the missile’s introduction was delayed until 1997. Russia eventually got its “Harpoonski” and soon, older Krivak-class frigates and newly-build Gepard- and Neustrashimyy-class frigates were being equipped with this missile, known as the SS-N-25 Switchblade.

Quickly, many countries found that a quad-pack of SS-N-25s could replace a single SS-N-2 launcher. Algeria made such a swap on their Nanuchka-class corvettes. Russia also began to export corvettes, like the Tarantul-class, that could carry 16 of these missiles.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The SSC-6 Sennight is a truck-mounted version of the SS-N-25 Switchblade. (Wikimedia Commons photo by DonSimon)

The Russians also came up with an air-launched version, the AS-20 Kayak. This gave Su-33 Flankers operating from the Kuznetsov a capable anti-ship weapon. Su-24 Fencers and MiG-29 Fulcrums transferred to Russian Naval Aviation also got this weapon. It also saw export sales to India, Vietnam, and other countries.

The Switchblade also became a coastal-defense system. The SSC-6 Sennight can be mounted on trucks and used to attack ships 75 miles away. Russia has also developed an extended-range version that can go up to 180 miles.

In short, Russia’s Harpoon is one lethal missile.

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Navy puts plans to buy more ships and planes on hold

The Navy’s 2018 budget request is out – and it looks like more new ships and aircraft are going to be on hold for at least a year. However, if this proposal holds up, the recent trend of short-changing training and maintenance will be reversed.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Navy will get eight ships: A Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the new USS Enterprise), two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, a littoral combat ship (or frigate), two Virginia-class submarines, a salvage tug, and an oiler.

Aircraft procurement will include two dozen F-35B/C Lightning II multi-role fighters and 14 F/A-18E/F Hornets. Despite reducing the F-35C buy by two aircraft, the Navy still expects to be on pace to achieve initial operating capability with the carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2019.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The big focus on the fiscal 2018 budget, though, is restoring readiness. The Navy is getting a $1.9 billion increase in a category known as “Other Procurement, Navy.” This fund is used to purchase new electronic gear, and more importantly, spare parts for the Navy’s ships and aircraft.

The biggest winner in the budget is the operations and maintenance account, which is getting a $9.1 billion boost to a total of $54.5 billion. This represents roughly a 20 percent increase, with no category getting less than 87 percent of the stated requirements. Most notable is that Navy and Marine Corps flight hours have been funded to “the maximum executable level” – breaking a cycle of shortchanging training.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

The Navy and Marines have been hard-hit with readiness issues, particularly in terms of aviation. Last year, the Marines had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to have enough airframes for training. The Marines also had to carry out a safety stand-down after a series of mishaps in the summer of 2016. Even after the stand-down, the Marines lost four Hornets from Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 7, 2016.

“We tried to hold the line in our procurement accounts,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the Navy’s top budget officer, told BreakingDefense.com. He pointed out, though, that under Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “the direction was clear: fill the holes first.”

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It looks like Marine infantrymen are getting a new rifle — again

The Marine Corps has gone all in with the Heckler Koch-made M27 rifle, posting an order in August from the gunmaker for over 50,000 of the 5.56mm rifles.


Marine officials have hinted they intend to supply the entire Marine Corps with the pricey, German-made rifle but will start by outfitting Leathernecks in the infantry and eventually combat engineers and LAR Marines, according to multiple sources.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, sight-in with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/ Released)

Most firearms experts, including top infantry officials in the Corps, believe the M27 — a military version of the HK416 rifle — is a superior weapon compared to the M4 and M16A4 issued to most Marines. With a more durable barrel, a modern, free-float handguard and a cleaner gas-piston operating system — as well as a full-auto firing mode — the M27 will deliver more accurate fire over greater distances and with less wear and tear than current rifles, officials have said.

But this is the third time since 9/11 the Corps has changed up its rifle of choice, with the service upgrading to the M16A4 just after 9/11, then changing those over to the shorter M4 for infantry in 2015.

In 2010, the Corps bought a limited fleet of M27s, dubbing it the “Infantry Automatic Rifle” and supplying it in place of the Squad Automatic Weapon in infantry units.

The M27 was so popular among the rank and file, the Corps decided to adopt it for the entire force, with Commandant Gen. Robert Neller shifting more of the Corps into HK’s direction.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
Select Marines have been training with M27s equipped with suppressors. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Autmn Bobby)

“Everything I have seen suggests that the M27s we have been using for some time have been the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons in our rifle squads,” Neller has said.

For the past year, the Corps has experimented with equipping the bulk of an infantry battalion with the M27, including suppressors and better optics. Those experiments reportedly show the new gear helps Marines do their mission more effectively and are Marine-proof enough to be fielded throughout the fleet.

But some say the M27 — which costs around $3,000 per rifle — is an expensive alternative to simply upgrading existing M4s with new upper receivers.

“It is not that the M27 is a poor weapon, but rather that, in the ten years since the Infantry Automatic Rifle program was made public, substantial commercial off the shelf improvements have been introduced that could provide a weapon of equal or greater capability to the M27, but at lower cost and lower weight,” one small arms expert told The Firearm Blog.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US strikes Syria over chemical weapons attack

President Donald Trump announced “precision strikes” on Syria on April 13, 2018, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed dozens of people there earlier this month.

Britain and France have joined the US in the military operation, Trump said.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was suspected of orchestrating a chlorine attack against the rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital of Damascus, on April 7. Although exact figures were unclear, the attack is believed to have killed dozens, many of them children. The New York Times said at least 43 of the victims showed signs of having been exposed to “highly toxic chemicals.”

“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” Trump said on Friday.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land-attack missile on April 7, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

Trump called the incident a “heinous attack on innocent” Syrians and vowed that the US would respond: “This is about humanity; it can’t be allowed to happen.”

Trump also accused Russia and Iran of being “responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing” Assad’s regime: “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children,” Trump asked.

Also read: What you can do to help people in war-torn Syria

“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep,” the president said. “No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”

Trump continued: “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran. But maybe not.”

Britain and France join in the military action

In a statement on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.

“History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.”

An international uproar over chemical weapons

The chemical attack prompted several nations to respond, including the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. Trump had reportedly talked to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron this week, both of whom believed that the Syrian regime should be held accountable.

“I just want to say very clearly, that if they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

Although Trump reportedly advocated for a broad military strike that would punish Syria, and to an extent, its allies Russia and Iran, he is believed to have been met with resistance from Mattis and other military officials, who feared the White House lacked a broad strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The latest chemical attack follows the suspected Syrian-sponsored sarin attack in April 2017, which reportedly killed 89 people. The US responded by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that was suspected of playing a role in the chemical attacks.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the government’s involvement in the attacks, Syria has denied responsibility for both incidents.

In addition to Assad’s denials, Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, has also dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” and said its own experts found no “trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.”

On Tuesday, Russia took its response a step further and vetoed the US-backed United Nations resolution that condemned the apparent chemical attack.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley rebuked the decision and called it a “sad day.”

“When the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this council to act, one country stood in the way,” Haley said. “History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.”

This story is developing. Refresh this post for updates.

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US special operators are quietly avenging the attacks in Paris and Brussels

ISIS spends a lot of time celebrating their attacks on foreign soil, making them seem like overwhelming victories in their global campaign of fear. Meanwhile U.S. special operations forces in Iraq and Syria have killed 40 ISIS fighters responsible for those attacks.


Officials from the Department of Defense told Kim Dozier of The Daily Beast that U.S. special forces have killed those “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who were part of those attacks outside the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Vietnam-era S-60 gun turns Russian T-15 Armata into a Bradley killer

The use of special forces in kill or capture raids (though the capture part tends to happen much less frequently) is a major part of the U.S. counterterrorism plan against ISIS. Those 40 are less than half of the high-value targets that coalition forces have taken out. The U.S. mission also includes curtailing the terror group’s ability to recruit abroad and inhibit their ability to carry out Paris-style attacks. President Obama has ordered 250 more special operators to Iraq to support these operations.

According to Dozier’s report, the effort is seeing results. Those same defense officials estimated that ISIS’ overall fighting force is down to 19,000 – 25,000 fighters, from 33,000 in 2015. Moreover, the influx of new recruits coming into the region is down 90 percent from last year.

Dozier also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper warned this week that ISIS cells are already in place throughout Europe. ISIS’ external operations have killed 1,000 people across 21 countries since 2015. But the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is using a mixture of special operators from many, varied disciplines. Their units include Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Green Berets integrated in all aspects of the JSOC mission. This ensures the highest performers are on kill-capture raids, and have experience in hostage rescue and working with local opposition forces.

This may be a product of battlefield lessons learned. These days, the CENTCOM AOR is run by Gen. Joseph Votel, who once commanded both U.S. Special Operations Command and JSOC. Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the current JSOC commander, ran special operations in Afghanistan, where he used the mixed special forces tactics with great success.

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