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Archive for August, 2007

New Combat Rifle Enters the Fray

Friday, August 31st, 2007


Theres been a lot of debate recently about the whole issue of small arms, particularly with the effectiveness of the Colt M4 carbine. The Armys reliability study demonstrated that if well lubed, the M4 performs largely without fight-ending stoppage. But theres continued argument over the knock-down power of the 5.56mm round, the reliability of the M4 if constant care isnt possible and on the whole issue of whether or not theres a better operating system out there.

The debate is just reaching a critical point, with the Army recently caving to pressure from Capitol Hill and agreeing to hold a sandstorm test between its M4 and a couple other carbines that fire on a different operating system many say is more reliable. With the end-strength increase in the Army and Marine Corps and the overall focus of budget attention on land forces, momentum may be building to issue a new infantry rifle as the Army and Marine Corps build new brigade combat teams and infantry battalions.

Theres no one in the DoD officially saying this yet, but a lot more people in high places are asking previously taboo questions on whether its time to throw the stoner design to the side.

Weve already taken a look at three of the most popular competitors to the M4: the XM8, the H&K 416 and the FN SCAR — or Mk-17 and Mk-16. Well, a buddy passed along another interesting entrant into the new carbine world (thats not to say there arent others out there, but this ones the new kid on the block) which seems to meld all the best aspects of the previous three rifles into one.

Made by Longmont, Colorado-based Magpul Industries Corp., the Masada does have that first person shooter gamer nerd look to it. But look at the specs and it seems the Masada has some interesting aspects that would make operators give it a second look. One thing I noticed was the two interchangeable lowers one for 5.56mm, the other for AK-47 7.62x39 ammo. So for shooters going native in the AO, this could be the ticket — of course, as long as you have a compatible barrel.


The Dragon Enters the Bear’s Den

Friday, August 31st, 2007


Two Chinese naval ships visited the Russian port city of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland on August 27. This is believed to be the first time that a Chinese warship has visited the one-time Russian capital, which remains the countrys second city and a major port, naval center, and shipbuilding center of Russia.

The Peoples Liberation Armys missile destroyer Guangzhou and the replenishment ship Weishanhu are on an 87-day cruise that is also taking them to ports in Britain, France, and Spain. The two ships are under the command of Vice Admiral Su Zhiqian, the deputy commander of the South Sea Fleet. (The PLA Navy is divided into three fleets — the North, East, and South Sea Fleets.)

The two ships, expected to travel some 23,000 nautical miles on their cruise, are among Chinas most modern naval units. The cruise apparently has a dual mission — training for the officers and enlisted men, and demonstrating the increasing naval capabilities of China.

The Guangzhouwas built in China, being completed in 2004. She is a multi-purpose destroyer, with anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-ship weapons. A helicopter is embarked in the ship, which has a full load displacement of 6,500 tons. It is significant that the Guangzhou is a Chinese-built ship and not one of the four Russian-built Sovremennyy-class missile destroyers delivered to China from 1999 to 2006.

The Weishanhu, a 22,000-ton replenishment ship completed in 2005, can transfer fuel, provisions, and munitions while underway to ships alongside or astern. She, too, has a helicopter capability.

– Norman Polmar

China Rolls Over Taiwan

Thursday, August 30th, 2007


I know its kind of random, and the sourcing is a bit strange coming from the American Conservative magazine, but a piece written by a UPI reporter in the magazine that posits how a potential conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan would go is worth a read.

This piece comes on a day that Chinese defense chief Cao Gangchuan told his Japanese counterparts Chinas military is not a threat to security in the region and that his defense buildup and development are becoming more transparent.

But he did reiterate that the main justification for Chinas accelerating defense spending and buildup is primarily due to tensions over the Taiwan issue.

Give the futuristic “The Chips are Down” piece a read and see what you think…food for thought at least.

…Beijing announced that if the newly elected government in Taiwan declared independence, China would intervene militarily. The United States responded by dispatching two carrier task forces attached to the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Ronald Reagan. Besides the usual high-tech armament, including ship-to-shore missiles, ship-to-air missiles, and ship-to-ship missiles, and 400-odd warplanes aboard the carriers, the combined task force also included two Battalion Landing Teams, some 4,000 Marines.

The Chinese had nowhere near as many warships, planes, or tanks, but they had 350,000 men aboard transport shipsand they had a secret weapon in orbit.

As the Chinese expeditionary force approached Taiwan, they crossed an imaginary red line drawn across a Pentagon map, breaching the point American generals estimated would be one from which the Chinese would not turn back.

From his command post aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Adm. Anthony S. Samuelson picked up a secure telephone connecting him directly to the Pentagon and to the office of the secretary of defense. The secretary picked up on the first ring.

Tell me its good news, admiral.

Wish I could, sir. They are now in firing range and are not about to turn around. It looks like this is it.

The secretary of defense asked the admiral to stand by. He picked up a burgundy phone on his desk.

The president answered instantly. Madame President, said the secretary, You must order the attack. If we are to proceed, it must be now.

The president scanned the room, moving her eyes around the Oval Office where her national security advisers were gathered. Each in turn nodded his head, indicating a silent yes. The president of the United States put the phone to her ear and told her secretary of defense to proceed. With a heavy heart, Chelsea Clinton placed the receiver back in its cradle.

As the first Chinese soldier set foot on the beaches of Taiwan, the order was received from Adm. Samuelsons headquarters to open fire.

Minutes before the order was given, some 300 miles up in space, a Chinese scientific satellite released a burst of electro-magnetic energy aimed at American and Taiwanese forces. Other similar satellites positioned strategically around the Earth released a number of similar bursts directed at strategic U.S. missile silos in the continental United States, Korea, and Australia.

Total confusion followed. Not one order issued electronically by U.S. command-and-control centers reached its target. Missiles fired from the ships of the Seventh Fleet went straight into space and exploded harmlessly above the earth. The Abrams M1A1 tanks started to turn around in circles like demented prehistoric dogs trying to bite their tails. The few planes that managed to take off from the carriers crashed into the South China Sea. Search-and-rescue helicopters were unable to even start their engines.

The Chinese were able to walk ashore and take Taiwan without firing a single shot.

(Gouge: NC)

– Christian

Amazing MRAP Survival Photos

Thursday, August 30th, 2007


Ive caught a lot of flak for my lack of enthusiasm with the MRAP vehicle. Some readers have maligned my intent, experience, reporting and general understanding of the issue without considering my argument carefully and reading closely to what I say.

I recognize that my stance on the MRAP debate is controversial and contrarian, but I see that as part of my job as DefenseTech editor to seed the conversation.

One thing I have never argued is the protective capability of the MRAP. Its construction and design run circles around the Humvee if protecting the pax and crew is your sole priority. Its an amazing vehicle that can really take a pounding.

DefenseTech ran across these pictures that attest to the MRAPs survivability.mrap-thumb.jpg
As you can see, the entire Marine convoy is comprised of MRAPs, and the Cougar which was hit by the IED gets truly banged up. But no one inside was killed and everyone escaped with only minor injuries. (Check out the engine blown 100 yards away)…

I dont necessarily agree with the idea that all Humvees in Iraq should be replaced with MRAPs. But seeing these photos has me almost convinced.


Heat Ray Too Scary for Iraq

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007


Many a DT reader will remember the so-called Active Denial System a giant millimeter-wave electromagnetic antenna mounted on a Humvee that could be directed at large, unruly crowds to disperse them without firing a shot in anger.

The ray heats the human skin to such an uncomfortable level that he has to retreat. It is the hallmark of the Pentagons non-lethal weapons development plan…and the most controversial.

Well, it looks like commanders in Iraq have been pleading for the device, which is pretty far along in its development. But fearing the post-Taser backlash from some groups, the Pentagon denied the technology in favor of more lethal methods.

It would be a familiar scene in Iraq’s next few years: Crowds gather, insurgents mingle with civilians. Troops open fire, and innocents die.

All the while, according to internal military correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, U.S. commanders were telling Washington that many civilian casualties could be avoided by using a new non-lethal weapon developed over the past decade.

Military leaders repeatedly and urgently requested — and were denied — the device, which uses energy beams instead of bullets and lets soldiers break up unruly crowds without firing a shot.

It’s a ray gun that neither kills nor maims, but the Pentagon has refused to deploy it out of concern that the weapon itself might be seen as a torture device.

Perched on a Humvee or a flatbed truck, the Active Denial System gives people hit by the invisible beam the sense that their skin is on fire. They move out of the way quickly and without injury.

On April 30, 2003, two days after the first Fallujah incident, Gene McCall, then the top scientist at Air Force Space Command in Colorado, typed out a two-sentence e-mail to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I am convinced that the tragedy at Fallujah would not have occurred if an Active Denial System had been there,” McCall told Myers, according to the e-mail obtained by AP. The system should become “an immediate priority,” McCall said.

Myers referred McCall’s message to his staff, according to the e-mail chain.

It seems this is the sort of catch-22 the military is in when it comes to non-lethals. The devices conjure up grim images of pain and discomfort when you look at what they do, so groups object to them often on human rights grounds and ethics.

But whats the alternative? Getting U.S. troops and other personnel killed, or using deadly force. So it looks like weve got a little ways to go before we can collectively wrap our minds around the issue and get these tools out to where theyre needed.

Watch a video of the ADS at work HERE. (Best line: “I think we had a crowd of two for about two seconds…”)

And check out the entire story posted HERE on Military​.com.


Return of the “Elephant Gun”

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

I was introduced to big bore anti-tank (anti-material) rifles back in the 80s when I became an ardent follower of the board game Advanced Squad Leader (ASL was originally produced by the Avalon Hill Game Company, which was purchased by Hasbro, who discontinued production of the game. ASL is now published by MLB pitcher Curt Schilling and his Multi-Man Publishing company.) For those of you unfamiliar with the game, ASL was arguably the most accurate and detailed squad level tactical board game ever developed, with counters representing individual squads, leaders, tanks and support weapons.

Anyway, the one support weapon that caught my eye was the L-39 Lahti 20mm AT rifle. In game terms the Lahti was heavy (5 portage points) and it fired off of the AVF kill table under the 20L column (the only squad portable weapon capable of doing so.) In real life terms the L-39 was heavy, (109 pounds, necessatating its transport by reindeer) and possessed such savage recoil (its cartridge, the 20 mm x 138 mm Solothurn Long, was the largest ever fired by a shoulder fired weapon in the war) that the Finns dubbed it the “Norsupyssy” (“Elephant Gun”), but it was also capable of reaching out 1,000m and penetrating 10mm of armor plate. Rendered obsolete by advanced Soviet tank designs by 1941, the incrediable accuracy of the L-39 enabled it to remain in service as a long range sniper rifle.

Seventy years later, the concept of the long range, big bore, anti-material rifle has come full circle. With .50 caliber (12.7mm) rifles a dime a dozen, my question now is, who fields the new Elephant Gun of the 21st century?


Endgame in Iraq

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007


As many of you already know, Stratfor has been an important resource for deep analysis of many geostrategic problems facing the United States. While their analysis is typically dry and dispassionate, they tend to examine all angles without favor and do a pretty good job of distilling the issue for general consumption.

They have not been Iraq war cheerleaders, nor have they been obsessively morose in their characterization of the challenges there. So I thought it might be a thought-provoking exercise to include an excerpt here of their most recent analysis of the options in Iraq, which is posted in full on Military​.coms Warfighters Forum page.

While I understand none of you want this page to turn into an Iraq War site, we will be including a few more Iraq items than usual as the Sept. 15 interim report deadline approaches.

…Following the Republican defeat in Congress in November, U.S. President George W. Bush surprised Iran by increasing U.S. forces in Iraq rather than beginning withdrawals. This created a window of a few months during which Tehran, weighing the risks and rewards, was sufficiently uncertain that it might have opted for an agreement thrusting the Shiites behind a coalition government. That moment has passed. As the NIE points out, the probability of forming any viable government in Baghdad is extremely low. Iran no longer is facing its worst-case scenario. It has no motivation to bail the United States out.

What, then, is the United States to do? In general, three options are available. The first is to maintain the current strategy. This is the administration’s point of view. The second is to start a phased withdrawal, beginning sometime in the next few months and concluding when circumstances allow. This is the consensus among most centrist Democrats and a growing number of Republicans. The third is a rapid withdrawal of forces, a position held by a fairly small group mostly but not exclusively on the left. All three conventional options, however, suffer from fatal defects.

Bush’s plan to stay the course would appear to make relatively little sense. Having pursued a strategic goal with relatively fixed means for more than four years, it is unclear what would be achieved in years five or six. As the old saw goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Unless Bush seriously disagrees with the NIE, it is difficult to make a case for continuing the current course.

Looking at it differently, however, there are these arguments to be made for maintaining the current strategy: Whatever mistakes might have been made in the past, the current reality is that any withdrawal from Iraq would create a vacuum, which would rapidly be filled by Iran. Alternatively, Iraq could become a jihadist haven, focusing attention not only on Iraq but also on targets outside Iraq. After all, a jihadist safe-haven with abundant resources in the heart of the Arab world outweighs the strategic locale of Afghanistan. Therefore, continuing the U.S. presence in Iraq, at the cost of 1,000–2,000 American lives a year, prevents both outcomes, even if Washington no longer has any hope of achieving the original goal…

Read the entire Endgame article in this weeks Warfighters Forum.


UPDATE: CSAR-X Disclosure…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


UPDATE: DefenseTech has learned that while Maj. Gen. Comer did work at AIC when the company was a subcontractor to Sikorsky during CSAR-X competition, he was acting only as a consultant to AIC at the time he wrote the note posted on DefenseTech last week — but not on the CSAR-X account.

Maj. Gen. Comer replies:

I wrote the letter because I think the H-47 is not the right helicopter for the need. I did work for AIC and AIC had a contract with Sikorsky. AIC got bought out and threw me over the side. They had no room for me after that, so I left and became a consultant. I have advised AIC a couple of times since, mostly on SOF and overseas business. I do not have an affiliation with Sikorsky, but I do have friends in that company–as I do in Boeing and Lockheed.

There will be plenty of Chinooks available for the high altitude missions which may come up. There will also be some V-22s, an aircaft I am on record for supporting in greater numbers. The AF rescue mission will need to deploy quickly, fit in lots of LZs and will benefit from not flying the largest, hottest, loudest, and most expensive helicopter. That’s all I said. It’s true.

We again want to thank alert readers, and Maj. Gen. Comer, for clearing the record…

– Christian

Full Disclosure on CSAR-X

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Our thanks goes out to an alert DT reader who brought to our attention a mitigating fact in the ongoing (fueled mostly by the protesting parties) debate over the CSAR-X program.

On August 21, DefenseTech posted a letter forwarded to us written by a former top general in the Air Force search and rescue community who had some pretty harsh words for the source selection officials and the ultimate decision to award Boeing with the CSAR-X contract.


He signed the letter with his name and former rank only. But what he left out is more revealing than what he put in his letter.

It turns out Maj. Gen. Richard Comer (ret.) is the executive vice president of Aerospace Integration Corporation based in Mary Esther, Fl. AIC announced with great glee in February of last year its selection as a partner with Sikorsky to do systems integration work for the companys HH-92 CSAR-X bid. Both Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are protesting Boeings win.

In Comers letter, he outlines his credentials in the opening paragraph, but declines to mention hes employed by a Sikorsky subcontractor. He impugns the motives of the source selection officials in the Air Force, saying they were probably the victims of group think though he caveated his remarks by saying the officers were conscientious and honest in their decision.

Our reader knows Comer and was stung by his crass assertion without ever revealing that he has a financial interest in Boeings demise, selling his soul for 30 pieces of Sikorsky silver.

And he raises a very valid point. The source selectors in the DoD are precluded by law from discussing any of their motivations beyond the stated specifications and how the selected aircraft met them. But that hasnt stopped the protesters from pumping out info to folks like us here at DefenseTech undercutting Boeings win and fueling the fire of protest. The government folks can say nothing while the fur is flying.

Sober people can debate the strengths and weaknesses of the Boeing win. Were agnostic on the issue other than to say that it seems the Air Force picked a heavy lift helicopter for a medium lift job. Hearing the Boeing folks talk about the superior range, speed and payload of the HH-47 was kind of like hearing Boeing say the C-17 is better than the Lockheed Martin C-130of course, theyre different aircraft in separate classes.

But its starting to get to the point where the debate has devolved into the arcane world of defense contracting procedure and who dotted which i and crossed what t and when. At the same time, America has hundreds of thousands of troops worldwide in combat who will need this capability and it may start getting to the point where the bickering comes at the cost of our troops lives.

We want to extend our deep thanks to our readers for providing us important information that helps advance all the stories posted on DefenseTech. Its difficult for us to read all the comments on each post, so if you have crucial information that can help expand on the posts, please send an email to the EDITOR.


Japan Launches Carrier…Sorta

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


The Japanese Navy — officially the Maritime Self-Defense Force — has launched an aircraft carrier. At least the Hyuga, launched at Yokohama on August 23, looks like an aircraft carrier — she has a flush flight deck and a large, starboard-side island structure. But the Hyuga is a relatively small ship as carriers go, with a standard displacement of 13,500 (metric) tonnes and will displace 18,000 tonnes full load. That is about the size of the planned U.S. destroyers of the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) class.

The Hyuga is classified as a helicopter-carrying destroyer (DDH 181) by the Japanese. She will carry an Aegis-type air defense system, with the U.S.-developed AN/SPY-1 multi-function radar; her principal weapons armament will be 64 advanced ESSM-type Sparrow missiles. She will also be fitted with two 20-mm Phalanx Gatling guns for close-in defense against anti-ship missiles, and she will have six tubes for anti-submarine torpedoes.

(EDITOR: Thanks to DT reader “Camp” for links to Hyuga pics…)

More significant from an aviation viewpoint, the Hyuga will normally operate three SH-60J Blackhawk-type anti-submarine helicopters and one MH-53E Super Stallion multi-purpose helicopter. Reportedly, the ships hangar can accommodate 11 of the smaller aircraft.

Ironically, the U.S. Navy briefly, and mostly at congressional insistence, looked at similar aircraft-carrying destroyer designs in the 1970s. Based on the U.S. Spruance (DD 963) design, such ships could have operated Harrier VSTOL aircraft as well as helicopters on a modified destroyer hull. (Congress voted funding for two such ships, but instead the Navy simply built another conventional destroyer.)

The Hyuga, the largest warship constructed in Japan since World War II, is considered by some observers to be the first step toward the development of a large aircraft carrier. Japans constitution, imposed by the United States after World War II, permits Japanese to have only self-defense forces. Many Japanese, recalling the effectiveness of Japanese aircraft carriers in China in the 1930s and against U.S. forces in the Pacific in the early stages of World War II, consider carriers to be offensive weapons.

Japan was a leader in carrier development in the 1930s and early 1940 with their short-lived carrier Shinano, which was converted during construction from a battleship. It was the worlds largest carrier to be built prior to the USS Forrestal (CVA 59), completed in 1955.

The overwhelming dependence of Japan on oil from the Middle East, with tankers having to transit long ocean distances, and the increasing Japanese political-economic involvement in the Middle East and Africa, has led many Japanese leaders to look at the utility of naval forces in a new light.

In this context, the innovative design of the Hyuga raises the question: Whats next?

– Norman Polmar