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Diplomacy & Crisis News

The Air Force's T-6 Texan II Is Getting a New Paint Job

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 11:00

Gabriele Barison

Technology, Americas

A great honor.

With a strong legacy to uphold, the 37th FTS continues its mission to create pilots and will use this newly painted T-6 to reach the next generation of aviators, giving them the opportunity to connect with their heritage and build the future.

The 14th Flying Training Wing (FTW) unveiled its first of six heritage flag ship aircraft during a ceremony at the fire department on May 30, 2019 on Columbus Air Force Base (AFB), Mississippi.

Members of the 37th Flying Training Squadron were able to see their freshly painted T-6 Texan II which represents the squadron’s patch, a Bengal tiger mother with a cub in her mouth. The T-6 is primarily yellow and its black stripes represent their lineage and heritage at Columbus.

“This is about having pride in our unit and across the base as a whole,” said Lt. Col. William Free, 37th FTS commander. “Now that the plane is finished up and painted it will be an opportunity for people to come together to honor and celebrate the great traditions that we have at Columbus AFB and the squadrons that are represented.”

As explained by Airman 1st Class Jake Jacobsen, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs , in the article New T-6 paint scheme unveiled, first of 6 CAFB aircraft to receive new look, future generations of student pilots at Columbus AFB will have the opportunity fly specially designed flag ship planes. The new paint schemes will reflect the heritage of that aircraft’s squadron. The squadrons are responsible for designing the aircraft’s new look.

“People take great pride in these planes so when all six planes are done they will be the showcase of flying operations on our base representing the history of our squadrons and the heritage that we bring,” said Col. Derek Stuart, 14th Operations Group commander.

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51 Years Ago, a Navy Nuclear Submarine Sank (And We Don't Know Why)

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 10:00

Warfare History Network


What brought her down?

The Navy Board of Inquiry’s final report suggested several possible reasons for the loss, but nearly all involved equipment failure, not the explosion of a weapon. That was where the matter ended, at least for the next 25 years. The families of the dead crew were left in limbo as to what had really happened.​

Even in the age of ultra-sophisticated nuclear submarines, with their advanced computers, sonar, navigation, and communication systems, the hard truth is inescapable: the sea is the most hostile environment on Earth. It is totally unforgiving of human error or overconfidence. The pressures below 2,000 feet can crush a submarine like an aluminum can in seconds. For reasons that even now are a closely guarded secret, that happened in late May 1968 when the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as she was returning from a long deployment. Ninety-nine officers and men were on board the Scorpion.

The Scorpion was third in the revolutionary new Skipjack class of nuclear fast-attack subs. She was commissioned at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, on July 29, 1960. The rapidly changing Cold War arena demanded that each one of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines be on continual service for the purpose of locating and tracking Soviet attack and missile submarines.  But time and constant service took their toll. The Navy was pushing the Scorpion to its limits; as a result, systems began to break down. There were serious oil leaks in the machinery, and sea water seeped in from the propeller shaft seal. Her depth was restricted to 300 feet, well above the 900-foot test depth. In 1967 she experienced vibration so severe it seemed that the entire boat was literally corkscrewing through the water. The cause was never determined. The crew had taken to calling their boat the “Scrapiron.”

By 1968 it was obvious to the Navy’s Bureau of Ships that the submarine was badly in need of major overhaul. Yet the demands of the Cold War made it necessary to send Scorpion and her officers and crew on one more deployment to the Mediterranean Sea to participate in joint NATO operations. She would, however, sail with one less man. Electrician’s Mate Dan Rogers, who refused to go on the cruise, flatly stated to Lt. Cmdr. Francis Slattery that every man on Scorpion was in danger.

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Sorry Marines, The Coast Guard Has Better Sniper Teams

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 09:00

Task and Purpose


We have the data.

The Coast Guard team, which is part of the service's Special Missions Training Detachment, came in 9th (They were 3rd place in 2017). The Marine Corps team, which was from the Scout Sniper Instructor School in Quantico, Virginia, came in 10th (the Corps team in 2017 got 7th place).

Marine snipers are considered among the most elite hunters of men in the U.S. military with Hollywood movies and countless books dedicated to them, and yet, for the past two years, they have been beaten in competition by the freakin' Coast Guard.

Over the past week, the 2018 International Sniper Competition has played out at Fort Benning, Georgia, with 30 teams going head-to-head from U.S. and international militaries, as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

This article by Paul Szoldra originally appeared at Task & Purpose. Follow Task & Purpose on Twitter. This article first appeared in 2018.

(This article originally appeared last month.)

And for the second year in row, snipers from the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment came out on top, while the Corps' finest got rocked by the service branch most would derisively label "puddle pirates."

Well, who's laughing now?

The best team — 75th Ranger Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque — was chosen after all competitors went through "a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills that include, but are not limited to, long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance and reporting abilities, and abilities to move with stealth and concealment," according to the competition website.

Second place went to the Colorado Army National Guard, while Sweden's 17th Wing Air Force Rangers came in third.

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The P320: Sig Sauer's Answer to the Glock's Gun Dominance

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 08:00

Gun News Daily


Is it enough?

The huge difference between the Sig P320 and the Glock 19, though, is the modularity of the Sig. “Modularity” is one of those words that is in vogue at the moment, and for the majority of manufacturers and guns it seems to mean almost nothing, being just a fancy word to sell more pistols.

One of the most common questions we get asked here at GND is whether you should buy a Glock 19 or a Sig P320. Both are great guns, of course, as proven by their loyal followings, but there seems to be no real consensus on which is the best.

In some ways, the story of the Sig P320 is a strange one. When it was released, nobody really paid it any attention. It was just another 9mm handgun, much like the dozens of similar pistols that are released each year.

However, then the US Army decided to buy a load of these weapons for use by troops. This instantly thrust the gun into the limelight – what had the Army seen in the weapon that made it better than the good old Glock 19?

This was a good question, not least because the Glock 19 had ruled the roost for many years. The Austrian legend had built up an enviable reputation as a do-everything gun, small enough to conceal and yet large, powerful and accurate enough to see action as a full-sized service weapon.

The Sig P320 has to be really good to even stand a chance of being a replacement for the Glock 19, right?

Right. But the truth is that both of these weapons are actually pretty similar. The Sig P320 is also just about concealable, and also large and accurate enough to be a “do everything” pistol.

But which is better? Well, I suppose it depends on what you are after. No review like this can ever recommend a pistol for everyone, because shooting is all about the feel of a gun in your hand, and not the boring old specifications of your weapon. Still, I’ll have shot at drawing out the differences between these two weapons.

Think about like this. The Glock 19 is basically the Honda Civic of handguns. It will run forever, shoot everything you give it, it never needs maintenance, and has a huge ammunition capacity. The P320 also has all that, but makes a few tweaks that might – might – make it more suitable for you.

Let’s take a look at both in more detail.


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Aerial Face-off: Russia's Su-57 vs. America's F-15C Eagle (Who Wins?)

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 07:00

Dave Majumdar


Who wins?

Close in at the merge, if the Su-57s survive the initial AMRAAM volley, the surviving F-15Cs would be at somewhat of disadvantage against the extraordinarily maneuverable Russian fighters. However, the F-15C community has a lot of practice flying against the extremely maneuverable F-22s, and while they are disadvantaged, Eagle pilots do win dogfights against the Raptor on some occasions. Moreover, with the addition of the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder, the F-15C has excellent high off boresight capability—the ability for the pilot to shoot in the direction his head is pointed—as does the Su-57, which more often than not results in a mutual kill as numerous training exercises have shown.

The venerable Boeing F-15C Eagle has long been hailed as the world’s greatest air superiority fighter given its lopsided combat record of 104 kills to zero losses, however, the aging jet is likely near the end of its operational life. Nonetheless, it remains a potent fighter even as it likely heads toward retirement.

(This first appeared last year.)

The U.S. Air Force is deferring planned upgrades to the Eagle—such as the addition of new electronic warfare systems—until it decides if it wants to keep the increasingly aged airframe. Indeed, as the Air Force has discovered, the F-15C will need an extensive airframe overhaul and structural modifications to remain in service past the mid-2020s. In all likelihood, given that the Congress has refused to allow the service to retire the A-10 Warthog, the Air Force will have little choice but to divest itself of the F-15C to free up funding for more pressing projects. The F-15E Strike Eagle interdictor aircraft, though, will remain in service indefinitely.

Recommended: The World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program.

Recommended: The Fatal Flaw That Could Take Down an F-22 or F-35.

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Aerial Assassin: Why No Helicopter Can Compare with the Ah-64 Apache

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 06:00

Sebastien Roblin



The Apache continues to evolve in the twenty-first century.

Early in the morning of January 17, 1991, eight sleek helicopters bristling with missiles swooped low over the sands of the An Nafud desert in as they soared towards the border separating Saudi Arabia from Iraq.

At 2:30 a.m., the choppers fanned out and set to work in teams of two. Rocket motors flashed as Hellfire missiles streaked towards two Iraqi radars powerful enough to potentially pick up the faint signature of a stealth plane.

Minutes after the radars had been reduced to rubble, Nighthawk stealth jets soared through the twenty-mile-wide radar gap, headed for Baghdad. But the Army’s Apache attack helicopter aviators they had struck first to “kick down the door” for the Nighthawks.

Nearly three decades later, the Apache’s status as the world’s premier attack helicopter remains largely unchallenged, and the type continues to see extensive action in the Middle East and in demand in countries as diverse as the UK, Egypt, India and Taiwan. The $35 million armored attack helicopter, which can pack as many as sixteen tank-busting missiles under its stub wings, remains supreme.

The Apache’s origins date back to the United States withdrawal from the Vietnam War, as the Army turned its attention back to the huge mechanized armies of the Warsaw Pact. Helicopter gunships had proven highly useful in Vietnam for delivering precise strikes and loitering air support—but relatively lightly-armed Viet Cong had shot down hundreds of them. The Red Army mustered heavier anti-aircraft defenses and huge tank armies that would not be phased by miniguns and anti-personnel rockets.

Seeking a helicopter fit to tackle Soviet tank division, the Army ultimately had to choose between the Bell YAH-63, which resembled a stretched-out Cobra, and the McDonnell-Douglas YAH-64. Disliking the former’s tricycle landing gear and two-shaft rotor, the Army selected the YAH-64 in 1976. Per custom (and even regulation), permission was obtained from Apache elders to name the helicopter after the Native American tribe.

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Can Heckler & Koch VP9 Gun Stand Up to the Mighty Glock 19?

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 03:17

Gun News Daily


Here's what we know.

If there’s any pistol that comes anywhere close to the PPQ’s trigger, it’s the VP9. Many shooters report that that the VP9 has a shorter take up than the PPQ but a slightly less crisp break. Still, the VP9’s trigger, out of the box, is widely regarded as being superior to the Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P’s trigger, which is something you may expect out of high quality German engineering.

If there’s anything you need to know about the company Heckler & Koch, it’s that they are pretty much synonymous with quality firearms that are in service with military, law enforcement units, and civilians all over the world.

And if you know anything about Heckler & Koch, then you should have heard about the HK VP9 9mm pistol, which was first released to the general market in 2014.

Today, the HK VP9 competes with other handguns such as the CZ P10C, Glock 19, and the Walther PPQ. So yes, it is ‘just another striker fired 9mm pistol’ on the market.

But nonetheless, in many ways the HK VP9 is a very unique offering, and we’ll cover the reasons why in this review.

History of the HK VP9

Contrary to what many people think, the VP9 is not HK’s first striker fired pistol. That title would belong to the HK VP70, which truly was the first factory produced polymer framed, striker fired pistol, beating out the Glock 17 by around a dozen years.

The VP9 was also very far from being the pistol that gave HK a name for themselves. Before, Heckler & Koch had been arming law enforcement units and militaries and security forces all over the world with guns such as the HK MP5 and UMP submachine guns, HK416 rifle, the P7 pistol, the USP and USP Compact, P2000, the HK45, and the P30.

In fact, in many regards, the VP9 is simply a further development of the P30, with the primary difference being that the P30 is hammer fired whereas the VP9 is striker fired.

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After Losing Istanbul, Erdogan's Grip on Turkey Will Never Be the Same

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 03:12

Mohammed Ayoob

Security, Middle East

Erdogan’s days may not be numbered already but his grip on power will never be the same again.

It was some years ago that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan coined the saying “Those who win Istanbul, win Turkey.” It was based among other things on his own political trajectory. Erdogan rose to national prominence with his election in the mid-1990s as the candidate of the then Islamist party, Refaah, as mayor of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. His statement must have come to haunt him on June 23 when Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition CHP nominee, defeated his candidate for the mayor of Istanbul, Binali Yildirim, decisively. What has added insult to Erdogan’s injury is the fact that Imamoglu garnered over 54 percent of the votes thus increasing his vote share by 6 percent compared to the March 31 result when he had barely managed to defeat former Prime Minister Yildirim with a very thin margin of fifteen thousand votes. The High Election Council under pressure from Erdogan and his party, the AKP, annulled the March 31 election results on flimsy technical grounds, a blatant tactic to deny the opposition control of Istanbul and its vast resources. It is clear that many of the ruling party supporters who were disgusted with these tactics switched their votes to Imamoglu this time, thus punishing Erdogan and his party for their subterfuge.

If one accepts the fact that the Istanbul verdict is a bellwether for what could happen in the rest of the country when national elections are held then it is good news for the opposition. The Istanbul verdict is very important because nearly one-fifth of the Turkish population lives in Istanbul and the city produces over thirty percent of Turkey’s GDP. Moreover, Istanbul is not alone in sending the signal that large segments of the population are disenchanted with Erdogan and the AKP. The second and third largest cities in the country, Ankara and Izmir, also elected opposition candidates as mayors in the March 31 local elections as did several other large urban concentrations. It is the Anatolian heartland with its conservative and religious orientation that has so far stood by the AKP.

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Is the United States Ready for a Tech War?

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 03:12

Daniel Gerstein

Security, Americas

The Trump administration should develop technology priorities, and technologies considered vital to U.S. economic and national security should receive investments to stimulate advances and promote American leadership.

A global “technology war” that will likely shape U.S. economic and national security well into the twenty-first century is emerging. Many technologies have become the focus of this war, with winners and losers are already beginning to emerge. At this point, the United States finds itself at a distinct disadvantage.

Ironically, the seeds of this emerging conflict were inadvertently sown by the United States. The world has seen the impact of technology—how it has led to the buildup of significant wealth and overwhelming military capacity with global reach. With approximately one-quarter of the global gross domestic product and military spending that exceeds the spending of the next seven nations combined, the United States became what some have labelled the world’s “hyperpower.” And others want in, which has meant growing competition and now an emerging tech war.

Today, important technology development changes are underway that could dramatically affect world order. The continued shift in global research and development spending highlights how far U.S. dominance has eroded. In 1960, when considering federal, industry and academia, the United States accounted for 69 percent of the global R&D. By 2016, the United States accounted for only 28 percent of the global R&D. With such a shift, it is no wonder that U.S. technology leadership and superiority can no longer be assured.

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Europe is Getting An American Anti-Missile System That Might Not Work

The National Interest - Sat, 06/07/2019 - 00:30

Michael Peck


Can it be fixed?

America’s missile defense umbrella is supposed to protect Europe from Iranian (and perhaps Russian) ballistic missiles.

But vital tests haven’t been performed, and there are delays in building missile defense sites in Poland. All of which means that the anti-missile shield over Europe may be leaky.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has conducted only seven out of eleven planned tests in 2018, or just 64 percent, according to a Government Accountability Office study. At the same time, problems with contractors have delayed construction of an anti-missile system in Poland by eighteen months.

Begun by the Obama administration, the U.S. missile defense effort in Europe—the European Phased Adaptive Approach—has three parts. Phase I, completed in 2012, comprises a missile defense radar in Turkey and command center in Germany, supporting U.S. Navy ships equipped with the naval version of the Aegis missile defense system. Phase II was completed in 2016, when an Aegis Ashore site in Romania became operational. The delay has been in phase III, in which an Aegis Ashore site in Poland was supposed to be ready.

The Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland are land-based versions of the naval Aegis, each consisting of a powerful SPY-1 radar and twenty-four SM-3 interceptor rockets. Aegis Ashore is aimed at stopping short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Iran has built an arsenal of ballistic missiles, including intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) that could—in theory—be armed with nuclear warheads if Iran develops them.

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RIP: How the Radio-Controlled Battleship USS Utah Sunk

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 23:30

Robert Farley


Attacked at pearl harbor.

Two weeks ago, the United States almost went to war over the downing of a drone along the Iranian border. This is not, strangely enough, the first time that an attack against the United States began with violence against a drone. On December 7, 1941, one of the first attacks conducted by Japanese aircraft was launched against the former battleship USS Utah, a radio-controlled target ship. Today, USS Utah remains at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, a memorial to those lost in the surprise attack. 


USS Utah (BB-31) was the sixth dreadnought battleship commissioned by the U.S. Navy. Like the preceding Delaware-class, Utah and her sister Florida carried ten 12” gun in five twin, center-line turrets. Displacing 23,000 tons, Utah could make 21 knots on steam turbines. She and her sister were the first U.S. battleships to use turbines, although some later ships would revert to reciprocating engines. 

The commissioning of Utah gave the USN a squadron of four modern battleships, behind the British but competitive with the Germans. Michigan and South Carolina, the first U.S. dreadnoughts, were too slow to operate in the line of battle. The USN took pains to avoid the interoperability problems that plagued its British, German, and Japanese counterparts. Between 1910 and 1921, the battleships were all relatively heavily armed, armored, and consistent in speed. It was not difficult, therefore, for the fleet to operate as a unit. In contrast, the Royal Navy included battlecruisers—which, while useful for many operations, could not operate safely in the battle line. Also, the dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy varied widely in speed; this could be a handicap in battle, as faster ships could get separated from slower. The Kaiserliche Marine and the Imperial Japanese Navy suffered from similar issues. 

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Meet THOR, the Air Force's New Drone-Killing Microwave Gun

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 22:30

Task and Purpose

Technology, Americas

Coming to a base near you.

"It's built to negate swarms of drones," Anderson said. "We want to drop many of them at one time without a single leaker getting through."

U.S. military bases across the globe may soon have a New Mexico-made, high-powered microwave weapon at their disposal to instantaneously down swarms of enemy drones." frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base unveiled the weapon Thursday morning in a live demonstration with local reporters, who watched the system effortlessly knock a hovering drone out of the sky with an invisible and inaudible electromagnetic wave.

The $15 million system, called the Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, or THOR, disabled the unmanned aerial vehicle in a flash, sending it spiraling to the ground the moment the electromagnetic ray hit it. Had more drones been flying within THOR's expansive scope, they also would have dropped in an instant, THOR program manager Amber Anderson said.

"It operates like a flashlight," Anderson said after the demonstration. "It spreads out when the operator hits the button, and anything within that cone will be taken down. It engages in the blink of an eye."

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Scientists Built a Laser Than Can Detect Your Heartbeat 650 Feet Away

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 21:30

Task and Purpose

Technology, Americas


"I don't want to say you could do it from space, but longer ranges should be possible." Steward Remaly, a defense official in the Pentagon's Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, told MIT Technology Review.

Just as everyone has unique fingerprints, everyone also has a unique heartbeat, and that concept is crucial to the US military's newest identification device.

The Department of Defense, at the request of U.S. special operations forces, used this principle to develop an infrared laser that can identify enemy combatants from a distance by reading their cardiac signature, the MIT Technology Review reported Thursday, citing Pentagon officials.

Jetson, as the U.S. military's new device is called, uses laser vibrometry (non-contact vibration measurements) to detect surface movement caused by a person's heartbeat. The device is an extension of existing technology, such as already available equipment for measuring vibrations in distant structures like wind turbines.

The laser is reportedly able to penetrate clothing and achieve a positive identification roughly 95 percent of the time from up to 200 meters away, or about 650 feet, and there is the real possibility that the range could be extended.

"I don't want to say you could do it from space, but longer ranges should be possible." Steward Remaly, a defense official in the Pentagon's Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, told MIT Technology Review.

This technology is still in its early stages. The laser device can't penetrate thick clothing and the person must be sitting or standing in one place for it to work. It takes about 30 seconds to get a reading.

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Stealth Suprise: Is Japan's New Submarine a Game Changer?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 19:30

Sebastien Roblin


Or a dud?

In June 2019, submarine manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hosted a presentation (subsequently shared on Twitter) revealing plans for Japan’s next-generation submarine, dubbed the 29SS or “New 3,000-[metric] ton Submarine.” 

Documents reveal the 29SS will begin development in 2025–2028, and is targeted for entry into service in 2031. The lead ship is estimated to cost 76 billion yen ($710 million) and will likely serve primarily for testing and development purposes.

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) is planning to increase its submarine fleet to twenty-two operational diesel and AIP-powered submarines, plus one testing and two training submarines. The increase is likely meant to counterbalance China’s burgeoning undersea fleet of around seventy submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines.

To enable this expansion, Japan’s 2019 defense budget includes funding to upgrade and increase the service life of seven older Oyashio-class diesel-electric submarines which entered service in the 1990s. 

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Heavy Industries is currently completing a twelfth Soryu-class submarine weighing 2,900 metric tons surfaced, with three more likely to be built by KHI and MHI. Unlike earlier Soryu boats, the final flight has swapped out its air-independent propulsion system for long-lasting lithium-ion batteries (LIBs)—a larger-scale, ruggedized adaptation of the lightweight, high-power-density batteries used in smartphones and laptops.

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Is Russia Creating A Nazi-Style Army of Genetic Supersoldiers?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 18:30

Michael Peck


That sounds terrifying.

Want to be a Russian paratrooper or tank commander? Then you’d better hope you have the right genes.

The Russian military will be assigning soldiers based on their “genetic passports.”

“The project is far-reaching, scientific, fundamental,” Alexander Sergeyev, the chief of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, told Russian news agency TASS (English translation here). “Its essence is to find such genetic predispositions among military personnel, which will allow them to be properly oriented according to military specialties.”

“It is a question of understanding at the genetic level who is more prone to, for example, to service in the fleet, who may be more prepared to become a paratrooper or a tankman.”

Advances in medical technology are making genetic testing a common medical procedure. It is used to detect genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, or the risk of developing certain diseases such as colorectal cancer. Pregnant women can also choose to be tested to determine whether their baby has genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin has embraced genetics with a passion. In March, the Kremlin issued a decree that called for “implementation of genetic certification of the population, taking into account the legal framework for the protection of data on the personal human genome and the formation of the genetic profile of the population.” Ostensibly this is to protect Russia’s population against chemical and biological attack, as well as safeguard Russia’s genetic patrimony from Western spies and saboteurs.

It has also spurred fears that Russia is edging towards a Nazi-style eugenics program in which certain groups, such as those Russians of Slavic ancestry, will be favored.

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The HK Universal Service Pistol: Just How Good Is This Gun?

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 17:30

Kyle Mizokami

Guns, North America

We have some ideas.

In the 1990s, U.S. Special Operations Command went looking for a new pistol. The new handgun would arm commandos from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, giving them a next generation handgun with the latest technology. One outgrowth of that program was the Heckler and Koch Universal Service Pistol, a handgun available today in the U.S. domestic firearms market. Although nearly thirty years old, the USP’s feature set still makes it competitive alongside the latest pistols.

In 1991, U.S. SOCOM—the parent command for several Army, Navy, and Air Force special operations units—issued a requirement for a new handgun. SOCOM wanted a hard-hitting pistol that combined a high ammunition capacity, a variety of aiming devices, luminous sights and ambidextrous manual safety. The Offensive Handgun Weapon System (OHWS) was also to be capable of firing high-pressure +P rounds that dramatically increased muzzle velocity and energy. The contract was for up to 8,000 pistols, plus accessories, a relative rarity at a time the rest of the U.S. military was engaged in a post-Cold War drawdown.

Heckler and Koch’s submission for the OHWS was based on the company’s new Universal Service Pistol. The USP was developed in the late 1980s as a response to the wave of European “Wonder Nine” high capacity pistols flooding the American firearms market. So prevalent was the wave that even the U.S. Army adopted a foreign handgun, the M9. The USP was initially aimed at the law enforcement and commercial markets. Police and sheriff departments across the U.S. were rapidly adopting the new .40 Smith & Wesson round, so the USP was initially chambered in the new midrange round. The company later released 9 millimeter and .45 ACP versions.

The USP is 7.68 inches long with a height of 5.31 inches. It is 1.26 inches wide, making it relatively narrow among high capacity autoloaders, with even the .45 ACP version the same width. Barrel length is 4.25 inches, the same as a Colt Commander-type handgun. The .40 Smith & Wesson version could carry up to 13 rounds in a magazine, the .45 ACP version 12 rounds, and the 9-millimeter version 15 rounds.

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History Made: Last Year, Israel's F-35 Were First Ever to a Launch Attack

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 16:30

Dario Leone


Game changer.

The F-35 stealth fighter has seen its first ever combat action, flying in an operation for the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

On May 22, 2018 in fact Maj Gen Amikam Norkin, IAF chief, told heads of 20 foreign air forces meeting in Israel at the International Air Force Commander Conference that “The ‘Adir’ (F-35I) aircraft are already operational and flying combat missions. In fact, we have performed the first operational F-35 strike in the world. We attacked twice in the Middle East using the F-35 (and) we are the first in the world to do so. The Israeli Air Force is a pioneer and a world leader in operating air power.” He did not specify the targets.

“Israel launched world’s first air strike using F-35 stealth fighters,” IAF chief says

“You know that we just won the Eurovision with the song ‘Toy.’ Well, the F-35 is not a toy,” he said.

According BBC, Israel’s claim to have used it in an operational strike even before the Americans may be designed as a further show of military strength, since it is believed that elite Iranian forces are trying to entrench themselves in Syria to threaten Israel.

Israel said its recent air strikes inside Syria targeted Iranian military infrastructure, in response to rocket fire aimed at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights.

“Over the past weeks, we understood that Iran was transporting long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, among which are ‘Uragan’ missile launchers which we attacked, just north of Damascus,” Maj. Gen. Norkin added. “The Iranians fired 32 rockets towards Israel. We intercepted four of them, while the rest fell outside of Israel’s territory. Afterward, we attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria. Sadly, the Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 SAM (Surface-to-air missiles) at our aircraft using SA-5, SA-17, and SA-22 missile batteries. In response, we destroyed their SAM batteries. A short time later, we destroyed a 20-meter deep Hamas tunnel.”

Iran has hundreds of personnel in Syria, who it says serve as military advisers to the Syrian army. It has also sent thousands of volunteer fighters in support of the Syrian government.

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Why Israel’s Self-Thinking Smart Bomb is Dangerous

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 15:30

Michael Peck


Ultimate weapon or a threat to mankind?

An Israeli company has unveiled a smart bomb that is truly smart.

The SPICE-250 glide bomb has the ability to autonomously recognize and select targets. But how safe is a bomb that can pick its own targets?

Israeli manufacturer Rafael calls this Automatic Target Recognition, which relies on electro-optic sensors (which process light into sensor data) and Artificial Intelligence. “The newly-unveiled ATR feature is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE-250 to effectively learn the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies,” according to a Rafael announcement. “During flight, the pilot selects the target type to be attacked and allocates a target to each weapon. The weapons are launched towards the vicinity of the targets, using their INS [inertial navigation] for initial navigation. When approaching the target area, the weapons use the ATR mode for detection and recognition of the targets. Each weapon homes-in on the pre-defined target, either autonomously or with a human-in-the-loop, aided by the ATR algorithm.”

The SPICE-250 is a glide bomb with a range of 75 kilometers (47 miles) and armed with a 75-kilogram (165-pound) warhead. A single F-16 can carry sixteen of these weapons.

The SPICE-250 uses terrain data, 3-D models and algorithms to identify targets amid the surrounding clutter of objects and terrain in the kill zone, Rafael deputy marketing manager Gideon Weiss told IT magazine Insight Analytics. A two-way data link and video stream enable a pilot to retarget the weapon until just seconds before impact.

Yet most significant is that if the primary target cannot be hit, the SPICE-250’s AI algorithms can select a secondary target. “This goes into the area of user-defined policies and rules of engagement, and it is up to the users to decide on how to apply the weapon, when and where to use it, and how to define target recognition probabilities and its eventuality,” Weiss said.,

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Forget the AK-47: This Sig Sauer Rifle Might Be Better

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 14:30

Charlie Gao


Take a look.

In February 2019, the Indian Army announced the purchase of SIG716G2 7.62x51mm battle rifles. The SIG716 is meant to complement their purchase of AK-103 rifles from Russia and Caracal CAR 816 carbines. This will mean that the Indian Army will field service rifles in three different calibers in the near future: 7.62x51 in the Sig, 7.62x39 in the AK, and 5.56x45 in the Caracal.

But in the tender for the Indian Army contract, the Sig was mentioned to have beat out two other 7.62x51mm battle rifles for the final purchase: The Caracal CAR817 and an Israeli rifle from IWI, which either could have been the Galil ACE 7.62 or Tavor 7.

So how does the Sig rifle stack up to these competitors? Which factors could have lead to its eventual purchase by the Indian military?

In layout, the SIG716G2 is practically identical to the Caracal CAR817. Both rifles are AR-pattern 7.62x51mm battle rifles that utilize a short-stroke tappet gas piston mounted above the barrel. There are some minor differences between the two rifles in internal layout, piston design, and ergonomic features, but the primary functional difference is the setup of the gas block.

On the CAR817, the gas block is railed to mount a forward iron sight, presumably to better hold zero as the ironsight is mounted directly onto the barrel. However, on the CAR 817, this means that the rail terminates at the gas block, preventing the mounting of lights and lasers far forward on the rifle, where many users prefer to place them.

In contrast, the SIG716G2 has a low profile gas block that fits under the rail that allows the rail to extend further forward. Small cuts in the rail give space for a tool to adjust the gas block to different gas settings. The SIG’s longer rail and low profile gas block appear to be the most popular barrel and rail configuration on rifles nowadays, being used on U.S. Army SOF’s new URG-I and various other popular Colt Canada, SIG, and H&K rifles.

The SIG716G2’s gas block is also additionally tunable, having four gas positions including an “off” setting for launching rifle grenades, compared to the CAR817’s two gas positions, which don’t include a full off.

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We Can Prove It: This Plane Has Better Stealth and Is Faster Than an F-22 Raptor

The National Interest - Fri, 05/07/2019 - 14:05

Dario Leone


Take a peak. 

The video in this post features an interesting interview with YF-23 PAV-2 (Prototype Air Vehicle 2) Test Pilot Jim Sandberg about the PAV-2 first flight (landing gear problem). Sandberg also conducts a walk-around of the aircraft discussing typical checks he performed prior to a test flight.

Currently, the YF-23 PAV-2 is on display at the Western Museum of Flight.

The YF-23A PAV-2 (S/N 87-801) on display at the Western Museum of Flight is on long term loan to the Western Museum of Flight from NASA. The Western Museum of Flight’s YF-23A PAV-2 used two General Electric YF120 engines. YF-23A PAV-1 used two Pratt & Whitney YF119 engines. PAV-2 was delivered in October 1995 to the Northrop Grumman Hawthorne facility where it underwent some preliminary repairs in preparation for formal restoration activities at the Western Museum of Flight.

As we have previously explained the Northrop YF-23A was designed to meet USAF needs for survivability, ease of maintenance and supercruise.

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