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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Magic bullets

Smart ammunition is about to make things a lot more dangerous for guerrillas fighting regular troops

IN WARFARE, an outgunned force that manoeuvres to shoot from behind cover such as rocks or the rim of a ditch can often save itself from an otherwise nearly certain rout. That, at least, was the opinion of Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general whose treatise “On War” was the handbook of many 19th-century military men. And modern ones, too. Almost two centuries after Clausewitz committed his thoughts to print, underdog forces such as the Afghan Taliban continue to make deadly use of the art of concealment against technologically superior armies. But not, perhaps, for much longer. For a collaboration between ATK, an American firm, and Heckler & Koch, a German one, has come up with a rifle that negates the advantage of cover which Clausewitz described, by borrowing an idea from one of his contemporaries, Henry Shrapnel.
The XM25, as the new gun is known, weighs about 6kg (13lb) and fires a 25mm round. The trick is that instead of having to be aimed directly at the target, this round need only be aimed at a place in proximity to it. Once there, it explodes—just like Shrapnel’s original artillery shells—and the fragments kill the enemy. It knows when to explode because of a timed fuse. In Shrapnel’s shells this fuse was made of gunpowder. In the XM25 it is a small computer inside the bullet that monitors details of the projectile’s flight.

A new equaliser
A handful of XM25s are now being tested in Afghanistan by the Americans. So far, they have been used on more than 200 occasions. Most of these fights ended quickly, and in America’s favour, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Shawn Lucas, who is in charge of the weapon’s field-testing programme. Indeed, the programme has been so successful that the army has ordered 36 more of the new rifles.
Each rifle bullet is programmed, before it is fired, by a second computer in the rifle itself. To determine the distance to the target, the gunman shines a laser rangefinder attached to the rifle at whatever is shielding the enemy. If that enemy is in a ditch, a nearby object—a tree trunk behind or to the side of the ditch, perhaps—will do. Looking through the rifle’s telescopic sight, the gunman then estimates the distance from this object to the target. He presses a button near the trigger to add that value to (or subtract it from) the distance determined by the rangefinder.
When the round is fired, the internal computer counts the number of rotations it makes, to calculate the distance flown. The rifle’s muzzle velocity is 210 metres a second, which is the starting point for the calculation. When the computer calculates that the round has flown the requisite distance, it issues the instruction to detonate. The explosion creates a burst of shrapnel that is lethal within a radius of several metres (exact details are classified). And the whole process takes less than five seconds.
Just how the turn-counting fuse works is an even more closely guarded secret than the lethal radius—though judging by the number of failed attempts to hack into computers that might be expected to hold information about it, many people would dearly like to know. Certainly, the trick is not easy. An alternative design developed in South Korea, which clocks flight time rather than number of rotations, seems plagued by problems. Last year South Korea’s Agency of Defence Development halted production of trial versions of the K-11, as this rifle is called, and announced a redesign, following serious malfunctions.
The XM25, in contrast, appears to work well. It is accurate at ranges of up to 500 metres. That is almost as far as America’s main assault rifle, the M-16, can shoot conventional bullets with accuracy. More pertinently, it is nearly double the range of the AK-47, a rifle of Soviet design that is used by many insurgent groups. And according to Sergeant-Major Bernard McPherson, part of the XM25’s development programme in Virginia, it is receiving rave reviews from soldiers in the field.
It is also inspiring imitation. Though several European countries are planning to buy the XM25, some of them, including Germany, are working on weapons that operate in the same way, but fire 40mm rounds. Such bullets are easier (and less expensive) to make than 25mm rounds. But starting with a smaller design increases the usefulness of the technology. It is easier to enlarge components than to shrink them, so the XM25 bullet design could, without too much trouble, be made to fit ammunition intended for weapons with larger-bore barrels. ATK has already begun modifying the technology to fit in the shells fired by marine-corps artillery pieces, according to Jeff Janey, the firm’s vice-president of business development.
None of this is cheap. An XM25 with a thermal sight and a four-round magazine is reckoned by informed observers of the field to cost about $35,000. The bullets, which have to be made by hand at the moment, clock in at several hundred dollars each. But the price of a bullet could fall to as low as $25 when ATK switches to automated production. And even at its current price, both gun and ammunition compare favourably with alternative methods of dealing with dug-in gunmen.
The most reliable of these is an airstrike. But that is costly. Grenade launchers, mortars and conventional artillery are cheaper, but more likely than a single explosive bullet to cause collateral damage.
The upshot, then, is that though Clausewitz has had a good run, his advice in this regard could soon become redundant. In coming years, those who fight technologically advanced armies would be wise to note that ducking for cover—one of the oldest ploys in combat—will no longer offer the sanctuary it has in centuries past.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Great Aircraft

This video is fresh (for the public). It was made just six weeks ago in the Atlantic, just off Newport News (Hampton Roads), Virginia .
These are the latest sea trials of the F-35B on the USS Wasp. They were very successful, with 74 VL's and STO's in a three week period. The media and the program critics had predicted that we would burn holes in the deck and wash sailors overboard. Neither of which happened. You will notice a sailor standing on the bow of the ship as the jet rotates. That was an intentional part of the sea trials.
The USS Wasp is an amphibious assault ship designed to embark a Marine Expeditionary Unit. It is capable of simultaneously supporting rotary and fixed wing STOVL aircraft and amphibious landing craft operations. For this test deployment the USS Wasp was outfitted with special instrumentation to support and measure the unique operating environment as the F-35B conducted short takeoffs and vertical landings.
No catapult...... No hook ............

Monday, December 12, 2011

Iran Says It's Almost Done Decoding US Drone

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian experts are in the final stages of recovering data from the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the country's armed forces, state TV reported Monday.
Tehran has flaunted the drone's capture as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.
Lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, who is on the parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said Monday the extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States for the "invasion" by the unmanned aircraft.
Sorouri also claimed that Iran has the capability to reproduce the drone through reverse engineering, but he didn't elaborate.
The TV broadcast a video on Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected and brought down over the country's east, near the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone.
Officers in the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, have claimed the country's armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.
American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials spoke anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.
U.S. officials are concerned others may be able to reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone's radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft's sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.
They are also worried adversaries may be able to hack into the drone's database, although it is not clear whether any data could be recovered. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.
Sorouri racheted up the anti-U.S. rhetoric in Monday's remarks.
"The extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States over the invasion," he told state TV.
Separately, in comments to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Sorouri said Iran would soon hold a navy drill to practice the closure of the strategic Strait of Hormouz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which is the passageway for about 40 percent of the world's oil tanker traffic.
Despite Sorouri's comments and past threats that Iran could endanger the waterway if the U.S. or Israel moved against Iranian nuclear facilities, no such exercise has been officially announced.
"Iran will make the world unsafe," if the world attacks Iran, Sorouri said.
Both the U.S. and Israel have not rule out military option against Iran's controversial nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are geared toward peaceful purposes like power generation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

 Remember the guy who wouldn't take the flag down? 

You might remember a news story several months ago about a crotchety

    Old man who defied his homeowners association and refused to take down

    The flagpole on his property and the large flag that flew on it.  Now you can

    Find out who, exactly, that old man was.

On June 15, 1919, Van T. Barfoot was born in Edinburg -- probably

Didn't make much news back then.

Twenty-five years later, on May 23, 1944, near Carano , Italy ,

Van T. Barfoot, who had enlisted in the US Army in 1940, set out to

Flank German machine gun positions from which fire was coming

Down on his fellow soldiers.  He advanced through a minefield,

Took out three enemy machine gun positions and returned

With 17 prisoners of war.


If that wasn't enough for a day's work, he later took on and

Destroyed three German tanks sent to retake the machine gun positions.


That probably didn't make much news either, given the scope of the

War, but it did earn Van T. Barfoot, who retired as a colonel after

Also serving in Korea and Vietnam , a Congressional Medal of Honor.



What did make news was a neighborhood association's quibble with

How the 90-year-old veteran chose to fly the American flag outside

His suburban Virginia home.  Seems the rules said a flag could be

Flown on a house-mounted bracket, but, for decorum, items such

As Barfoot's 21-foot flagpole were unsuitable.



He had been denied a permit for the pole, erected it anyway and was

Facing court action if he didn't take it down.  Since the story made

National TV, the neighborhood association has rethought its position

And agreed to indulge this old hero who dwells among them.



"In the time I have left I plan to continue to fly the American flag without

Interference," Barfoot told The Associated Press.  As well he should.

And if any of his neighbors still takes a notion to contest him, they

Might want to read his Medal of Honor citation.  It indicates he's not

Real good at backing down.


Van T. Barfoot's Medal of Honor citation:


This 1944 Medal of Honor citation, listed with the National Medal of Honor Society,
is for Second Lieutenant Van T. Barfoot, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry:






Keeping our Oath

I hope you enjoy this great news as I did when I was told.

OUTSTANDING!! I just left my neighbors house. Devon is with the National Guard for this area. He just got home from a EDRE (emergency deployment readiness exercise) at the armory. He said that during the exercise 3 companies of infantry were polled by questionare about the drill and it's purpose. One of the questions was, will you as a member of the Nat. Guard use lethal force against the American public if ordered to do so? One of the men stepped forward and refused to take the poll and explained that it was a moral judgement on his part and that he could not do so. He then placed his weapon on the ground and fell in behind the formation. Devon said it was like a waterfall, Every member layed their weapons on the deck and fell in beside the one lone specialist. This included ALL NCO's, STAFF NCO's and SENIOR NCO's. The only people left in front of the original formation was 3 Capt's. 2 Lt's and the BN Commander who was so upset he started having chest pains from yelling and screaming about court martials and disbandment of the unit into other units. Devon is a Mstr.Sgt and he went with his troops and told them that he could not be prouder of any of them. He was floating while he was telling me this. Maybe we have more than just hope on our side. SEMPER FI. my thanks for the honor of being here Robert

I just heard from Devon. He was TX'd by his Plt LDR and advised that the Specialist Who first layed down his weapon is being held in county jail by the Bn CMDR, awaiting a hearing under the UCMJ. Devon couldn't get any more info than that. I don't want to post the mans name until we have more information. I am so upset by this that I am having chest pains. How can they do this to one soldier and not them all. I will let you know how things go. Think I might go lay down for a bit. SEMPER FI.

Gary Greene That is great, sort of, to hear. That the officers wont stand by THEIR oath is troubling. Where is this?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bomb Sniffing Dog awarded

On September 17 the 13th annual National Adopt a Serviceman awards banquet, which honors Missouri service members, also honored a military dog with the Exercise Tiger Foundation’s first “Combat Canine Award.”
The idea to honor a canine was inspired by the recent death of Bart, a Navy SEAL dog who died when a helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan.
Susan Haines, director of the foundation, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that Filo, a 6-year-old German shepherd, has guarded the U.S. president and B-52 bombers and has prevented explosives from getting on a military base.
Filo’s handler, Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Holloway, said he was surprised when he first heard Filo would receive the award. But he says Filo deserves it because he works hard and is repaid only in love.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9 missing WWII troops' remains identified

 Nine servicemen who died when their bomber was shot down over the Pacific during World War II have been identified, and their remains will be buried in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
The Pentagon says the men took off in their B-17E Flying Fortress named “Naughty But Nice” in June 1943 from an airfield in Papua New Guinea. The plane was damaged by anti-aircraft fire and then shot down by Japanese fighter aircraft.
Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William J. Sarsfield of Philadelphia; 2nd Lt. Charles E. Trimingham of Salinas, Calif.; Tech. Sgt. Robert L. Christopherson of Blue Earth, Minn.; and Tech. Sgt. Leonard A. Gionet of Shirley, Mass., will be buried as a group in a single casket Wednesday at Arlington.
Also in the casket will be the remains of previously identified crew members 2nd Lt. Herman H. Knott, 2nd Lt. Francis G. Peattie, Staff Sgt. Henry Garcia, Staff Sgt. Robert E. Griebel and Staff Sgt. Pace P. Payne. They were buried individually in 1985. A 10th man, the navigator and only survivor of the crash, 2nd Lt. Jose L. Holguin, was held as a prisoner of war until his release in September 1945.
Remains were recovered in 1949 on New Britain Island but couldn’t be identified at the time. The remains were buried as unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
In the early 1980s, Holguin returned to the area and located the crash site. In 1985, remains were exhumed and identified as Knott, Payne, Garcia, Peattie and Griebel. A fragment of the aircraft’s nose art was recovered and is on display at a museum in Papua New Guinea.
In 2001, a team excavated the site and found additional human remains and related equipment.
The Defense Department said scientists used dental comparisons and DNA matching techniques to identify the remains.
At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover and identify approximately 79,000 Americans, the Defense Department said. Now, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.
May they rest in peace for all eternity