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Archive for July, 2007

In the Weeds With Eric (Gunsight Edition)

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

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In the realm of combat shooting the standard rule of thumb is, he who hits first wins. Consequentially, for the last couple of hundred years, the focus in firearms training has been sight alignment — the faster you can align the front and rear sights on your target, the faster you can put lethal fire on your target.

Unfortunately, until recently, darkness presented a significant challenge to this theory. If its too dark to see your sights, you can pretty well guarantee that you arent going to be able to align them very well and your accuracy is going to suffer. While there are a number of ways to overcome this condition (illuminate the battlefield with flares, illuminate your sights with tritium or similar material, or illuminate your fire by using tracers) none has been universally effective.

Electro-optical reflex sights have changed all of that. These sights are battery powered, non-magnified, single sight optics that not only allow the shooter to rapidly acquire a good sight picture and alignment in all conditions (day or night) but also provide the shooter with better situational awareness since they need not be totally focused on aligning their sights, but rather need only put the dot on the target, literally.

The first of these sights was the Aimpoint M2 which the Army designated the M68 CCO (close combat optic.) It was driven by a watch-type battery and had a single on/off rheostat on the side to adjust reticle brightness.

While the sight did perform as advertised, I had issues with it. First, the on/off knob was easy to accidentally bump, which could either cause your sight to turn off or go to max power, which not only reduced your battery life, but also produced a visible red glow out of the back of the sight. Furthermore, the aiming dot was visible, at high power, through the front of the sight, which could reveal your location to an NVG equipped enemy (I am told this has been addressed though I cant confirm it.)

The sight I liked, and what in addition to the ACOG seems to be the one being currently issued, is the EOTech model 550. The 550 is a non-magnified EO sight which displays a 1MOA (minute of angle) dot in the center of a 65MOA circle. Reticle brightness is regulated by up/down buttons on the back of the sight, and the newer versions are equipped with a NVG direct button that automatically dims the reticle for use with night vision devices. The 550 is powered by a pair of standard AA batteries, has a reticle life of 1100 hours, and is waterproof to 1 ATM (33 feet).

What I liked about the 550 over the M68 was the battery choice (AAs are much easier to get) the fact that there is no forward projection of the beam, even on max power, and that there was more positive control of the reticle brightness. The 550 is also mil-std 1913 rail compatable and works well with weapon mounted NVGs such as the AN/PVS-10.

While Im sure that there are certainly more modern CCOs out there with many more bells and whistles, the 550 does everything I need it to and it didnt cost an arm and a leg.

(See much more “beyond standard issue” advice and tricks over at Kit Up!)

– Eric Daniel

Is Iran This Cold War’s India?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

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The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is looking into evidence that Russia plans to sell 250 Sukhoi-30 fighters to Iran in an “unprecedented billion-dollar deal.” The deal also appears to include compatable aerial refueling tankers.

This report comes in the wake of the U.S. signing a deal to supply Saudi Arabia with thousands of Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, a move that Iran has called destabilizing to the region. (Israel didn’t care much for the deal either, by the way.)

The U.S. also recently made a big show of destroying its mothballed fleet of F-14s in order to prevent Iran from refurbishing its own Tomcats with Black Market parts.

For its part, Russia is unflinching in its foreign military sales strategy. Moscow said it reserved the right to sell Iran weapons, such as the antiaircraft system supplied a few months ago, that were of a defensive nature. However, at a glance strike aircraft afforded long-range capability courtesy of tankers would appear to be of an offensive nature.

So is Iran to this Cold War what India was to the last one?

(Gouge: NC)

(Photo: Indian Su-30)

– Ward

Israeli Navy Chief Steps Down

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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The commander-in-chief of the Israel Navy, Vice Admiral David Ben-Bashat, submitted his resignation on July 26, the latest of several senior Israeli military officers who have resigned or been dismissed in the aftermath of last summer’s invasion of Lebanon. During operations against Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon the Israeli missile corvette Hanit was struck by a guided missile and heavily damaged.

Admiral Ben-Bashat became commander-in-chief of the Israel Navy in 2004. Previously he had held senior positions ashore and afloat, including command of several surface ships. He also served as defense attach in Singapore and attended the U.S. Naval War College at Newport, R.I.

The large missile corvette Hanit (“spear”) was struck on July 21, 2006, some ten miles off the coast of Lebanon, by a C-802 missile launched from the shore. Apparently two missiles were launched, the first fired “high” to distract the ship’s defensive systems and the second aimed at the Hanit.

The first missile struck a small merchant ship, reported to be a Cambodian-flag cargo ship with an Egyptian crew, steaming about 35 miles off the coast. The second missile hit the stern of the 1,275-ton Hanit. Four sailors were killed.

The Israel Navy apparently had no knowledge that there was a missile threat in the area. The C-802 missiles were probably produced in Iran, copied from a Chinese weapon, and launched by Syrian specialists.

Previously Israel’s Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Air Force General Dan Halutz, resigned, and other officers were dismissed in the wake of the poor Israeli military performance during the invasion of Lebanon.

(Photo: Hanit before she took a hit. The black spot on the waterline is exhaust.)

– Norman Polmar

Pork Goes the Engine … JSF Style (Updated)

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but my greatest fears about how the defense industry operates are being realized these days by developments surrounding the Joint Strike Fighter’s power plant(s).

When you have an airplane that is already wrestling with a flyaway unit cost that is well above program estimates ($80 million versus $65 million), more than a year behind the developmental test schedule for the Navy variant, and increasingly overweight the notion of an “alternative engine” just reeks of — dare I say it — pork.

Aviation Week reports the following: “The House Appropriations defense subcommittee added $480 million to the Joint Strike Fighter research and development account to fund continued work on the alternate engine for the F-35. The Pentagon argued against funding the alternate engine for fear it would reduce the focus and resources necessary for the program of record. Lawmakers also add $200 million to the development account to address ‘unfunded information assurance requirements’ driven by Defense Dept. policy updates, the committee’s report says.”

Hmmmm … so Pentagon doesn’t want the alternative engine but lawmakers are shoving down their throats anyway. How can that be? Don’t congressmen get all teary-eyed when they talk about how they support the troops?

Well, let’s take a look at how this particular game is played — which happens to be a nice window into how the defense game is too often played overall.

Representative Jean Schmidt, the hawkish Republican from the Ohio district that hosts a General Electric engine manufacturing plant has once again re-inserted the alternative engine funding line into the defense budget. At the same time, Rolls-Royce, the alternative engine co-manufacturer, is calling in a couple of markers on the Hill. First, Rolls-Royce is a British company run by British people who have influence over Parliament whose members want some love because of their support for the Iraq War. Second, Rolls-Royce jumped the gun and built a huge JSF engine manufacturing facility at their plant outside of Indianapolis and the company’s lobby arm is executing a full court press to ensure that the American taxpayer pays for it (instead of Rolls-Royce shareholders).

And while — as a former Tomcat guy — I’m not overwhelmed by engines made by Pratt and Whitney, I have to believe that company is capable of making an engine that’ll work over the JSF’s service life.

The scariest part is all of this is being conducted in plain sight. Will GE and R-R get their way in an environment that is funding a war that costs $12 billion a month? Stay tuned …

(Photo: F-136 being tested in STOVL mode at the GE facility in Ohio.)

(Gouge: NC)

(Updated July 31 at 0016Z.) CBS News is adding Ted Kennedy to the pork list with a report that suggests he is trying to bring JSF jobs to the GE plant in Lynn, Mass. And check out our favorite editor Christian in this news clip.

– Ward

The Sunday Paper (Sports Section)

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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Very soon, maybe today, Barry Bonds will tie Hank Aaron’s home run record. When Bonds “goes yard” with Number 755 those who choose to celebrate the achievement will be met with a Greek chorus of sports purists who will suggest that the milestone is tainted if not irrelevant because of allegations that Bonds used steroids for part of his career.

So here’s a Sunday Paper question for the learned DT audience: What should we think about Barry Bonds? And what does his quandry say about the state of baseball, professional sports, and the nation?

– Ward

Line Up at the Pork Trough

Friday, July 27th, 2007

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An astute reader passed along this item to Defense Tech yesterday, and weve only gotten around to including it today because its a pretty long list.

What we got, as first reported by the premier political newspaper in Washington, DC, The Politico, is a comprehensive list of earmarks included in the House version of the 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill passed a couple days ago.

Weve provided a link to the list, compiled by PorkBusters​.org, which outlines every one of the 1,776 (nice number, huh?) earmarks and its sponsor.

DT invites its readers to dive into the (lengthy) list and pull out particularly egregious items for us to include in updated posts. Be that extra set of eyes for us!

– Christian

Army Preps for Sandstorm Test of M4

Friday, July 27th, 2007

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After months of heated debate, the Army will conduct a side-by-side test shoot next month with its standard-issued carbine to see how well it can withstand extreme dust and sand environments.

The tests, which will be conducted at the Army’s Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland, will include three other rifles some say are better constructed to withstand the grueling environmental conditions often found in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The service yielded to critics — particularly lawmakers in Congress — who recently ratcheted up the debate over whether the current M4 carbine, manufactured by Colt Defense, is more susceptible to jamming in dusty conditions than other weapons used by Soldiers and special operators.

“The Army agreed to conduct testing of four carbine designs in an extreme dust environment,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Chyma, product manager for individual weapons with Program Executive Office Soldier, in an email to Military​.com.

“The test results will inform the U.S. Army Infantry Center in the development of a potential new carbine requirement as part of their ongoing capabilities based assessment.”

(more…)

I’d Rather be In Philadelphia?

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Big John, in another life known as USS John F Kennedy, is show below as it is towed out of Naval Station Mayport en route first to Norfolk Naval Station for a bit to await her permanent berth to the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia, PA.
We wrote about the Kennedy decommissioning here on Defense Tech as well as at the Instapinch.
She will slowly make her way up the east coast of the US, pulling into Norfolk for a bit, then will continue her last cruise of any significance farther up the coast, up the Delaware River to be tied to, for who knows how long, a pier just off Interstate 95 near downtown Philly. You used to be able to see the big “66” of the de-commed carrier America from the interstate a number of years ago, and you should be able to see the big “67” there in a few months as you drive by, just before you cross the Delaware Expressway/I-95 bridge over the Schuylkill River bridge.
I’ll be in Norfolk for reserve duty in a few weeks. I’ll see about getting some pics of her as she makes one last visit to the homeport where she spent most of her years of service.
070726-N-4565G-005.jpg MAYPORT, Fla. (July 26, 2007) — Decommissioned aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy (CV 67) departs Naval Station Mayport en route to Norfolk, Va. Homeported at Naval Station Mayport since 1995, the ship will be towed to Hampton Roads until the ship can be transferred to the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tommy Gilligan (RELEASED)
–Pinch Paisley

Murtha Irked by CSAR-X

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

CSAR-X UPDATE:
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A source tells Defense Tech that one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill in defense matters, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), has problems with the way in which the CSAR-X decision was made.

Our source tells us that during a brief press conference announcing the completion of the 2008 appropriations bill yesterday, HAC-D chairman Murtha expressed his frustration with the contract process.

Murtha reportedly said: “What we were worried about was the way it was bid. They bid [CSAR-X] for one company, and we thought it should have been more open.”

Our source also tells DT that Murtha read Air Force chief Moseley the riot act, threatening to pull all CSAR-X funding if the program wasnt cleaned up. As it stands, the HAC-D removed $100 million of 08 funds due to protest delays.

– Christian

Pimp My Tank!

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

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Heres one to read over a morning cup of Joe

When you absolutely, positively must crash that party you werent invited to, heres your ride.

Its sophisticated, yet rugged.

The white color scheme and United Nations logo stenciled on the side says Im willing to be reasonable about this. Someone must have forgotten to put me on the guest list. But the smooth-bore 120 jutting from the turret says: Though, if youre not going to let me in, were gonna have a problem.
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Comfortable Corinthian leather bench seats that can accommodate all your scantily-clad groupies — and thick glass portals to keep the paparazzi at bay.
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Oh, and did we forget the beverage cooler and milspec champagne bottle rack?

So when the pansies in Hollywood try to block your entrance to their post-production party in the Hills with their girlie-man Prius hybrids, just put this chick magnet in gear and drive right the hell over them.

(Gouge: CM)

Christian