Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Pizza MRE

Let’s kick off a series on army food by discussing some awesome news. Take a look:

eating pizza mre

At first glance, this picture is nothing special. A couple American soldiers enjoying a pizza. We Americans love our pizza. But look closer.

That is MRE pizza. Pizza in a ration, which means they’ve figured out how to make something solidly shelf stable without making it out of every chemical in Dow’s catalog.

To understand the significance of this, let’s take a step back. Like most military rations, MREs used to be absolute crap. But then the First Persian Gulf War happened. As you might be aware, there’s literally nothing in northern Saudi Arabia that is edible. Unless you like sand. So everything had to be shipped in, including food. Which meant dining options were MREs, MREs, or MREs. For everybody. Even the Generals. So instead of just a bunch of grunts complaining that food sucked, a bunch of generals with a constellation’s worth of stars on their shoulders were complaining that the food sucked. And that got some changes to happen, and the improvement program has continued ever since.

As part of the continuous improvement program for MREs, the guys at the US Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Massachusetts conduct a poll of soldiers every so often. This poll asks soldiers to rate every ration in the current set of menus, and asks them what they’d like. Meals that consistently score poorly are pulled and reworked, and Natick tries to fulfill the requests. The most consistent request for many years has been a pizza MRE.

The problem was shelf stability. MREs need to last in a storage depot for a while. The usual benchmark is 3 years, and you might imagine this is difficult with a pizza. But they’ve finally figured it out, and soldier food is about to get better.

Fishbreath Shoots: CZ P-09 .40 S&W ‘C-Zed’ Race Gun Build

If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember my two race gun proposal posts from last year, in which I justified my desire to build a USPSA Limited gun on the cheap.

You may also recall the shootout post, in which I decided that the gun to buy, between the Beretta 96 and the CZ P-09, was the CZ.

Lastly, you may recall the CZ P-09 .40 review from last summer, in which I reviewed the base model gun.

We’re now nearly to the end of the series. In this post, we’ll explore what I did to the P-09 and what supporting equipment I bought, and, at the end, come up with a cost.


Beyond the requirements imposed by the USPSA Limited rules, there are a few requirements I gave myself, too.

  1. A decent competition holster, preferably something with drop, offset, and adjustable retention.
  2. At least 60 rounds of ammunition on the belt. That was my setup with the M9, and I didn’t want to go any lower.
  3. A sturdy belt to hold everything.


The C-Zed’s guts are all Cajun Gun Works all the way. I bought their hammer, with different spur geometry for reduced single-action trigger pull, the short reset kit, which included an extended firing pin, and a number of springs: a main spring, a reduced-strength trigger return spring, reduced springs for the firing pin plunger, and an increased-strength sear spring.

The increased-strength sear spring sounds like it’s the wrong tool for lightening a trigger, pull, doesn’t it? You would be correct. Cajun Gun Works sells them as a tool for adding weight to a dangerously light trigger. I didn’t expect to need it and didn’t use it in the end, but figured that, at $10, it was worth the money just in case.

The other items on the list all work together. The hammer reduces single-action pull, the main spring reduces the work the trigger has to do, the reduced trigger return and firing pin plunger springs reduce the spring weight you’re pulling against. The extended firing pin is necessary for the lighter main springs, because the reduced hammer impulse can cause light strikes.

I haven’t had any trouble with cheap Magtech ammo, though, with the full setup. All my primers are well-punched; none are punctured.

Everything was relatively easy to install except the trigger spring. It’s a coil spring with offset legs. The trigger has two ears and a space in the middle, and a hole for one leg of the trigger spring. You have to get one end of the spring in the hole, one end on a shelf, and the trigger ears and spring coil lined up with the holes in the frame for the pin, all while pushing the pin in. It was a four-handed job at Soapbox World HQ.

In the end, the combination of modifications resulted in a smoother 7lb double-action trigger pull, and a very crisp 2.5lb single-action trigger pull (albeit with the expected double-action takeup). Those are significant improvements over the stock 10lb double-action pull, and the stock 4.5lb single-action pull. There were also improvements in crispness, creep, and reset, thanks to the Cajun parts.


Cajun Gun Works sells Dawson Precision-made sights in traditional competition configuration: blacked-out rear sights, fiber-optic front. It comes with green and red bits of fiber, so you can pick which one you want.

These were the most annoying parts to install. The Dawson rear sight was tremendously oversized, and took about half an hour of filing before I could punch it into place. The CZ factory front sight had been glued in. Try as I might, I couldn’t even begin to loosen it. I ended up stopping by the Friendly Local Gun Shop, which has a much better heat gun; they got it in a few minutes.

Not to be outdone, the front sight from Dawson took some filing to get installed, too. Precision is not an accurate descriptor of the sights’ fit into the dovetails.


Cajun Gun Works’ part in things completed, I turned to CZ Custom for magazines and magazine wells. The C-Zed now mounts the large CZ Custom magazine well, which makes a big difference in ease of magazine insertion.

The P-09’s magazines, with the CZ Custom 140mm base plates and spring-and-follower kits, have a claimed capacity of 21. Parvusimperator suggested I take that with a grain of salt, so I assumed 20. I decided I wanted four magazines rather than just three to give me more flexibility on reloads; at the same time, I was looking to keep the total cost of the project down. I settled on four magazines with the 140mm baseplate, but only three with the spring-and-follower kit.

The end result is three magazines which hold 20 rounds of .40 S&W, and one magazine which holds 17. The latter can be used to get a round into the chamber before loading one of the 20-rounders to start a stage, and serves as my backup.

Belt Etc.

Midway USA makes a cheap two-part belt. I’m not looking for anything super-fancy, but the two-part setup is nice. I can mount all my gear on the outer belt and just velcro it onto the inner belt come match time, without having to undo any buckles. It holds my gear just fine. (That’s 1lb, 14oz of gun for those of you keeping track, plus 77 rounds of .40 and four magazines.)

Cook’s Holsters makes a decent Kydex competition holster starting at $47.95, or $67.95 if they install the TekLok and drop/offset rig for you. I had them do so. The holster is low-cut in the front, and has adjustable retention by means of a pair of screws running through springy rubber washers. The drop and offset are nice, making the draw a good bit easier.

I’ll continue to use my ten-dollar MOLLE-strap canvas Amazon-bought triple pistol mag pouches for magazine carriage. They do the job just fine; the retention straps fold out of the way easily, and on the Midway USA belt, they’re pinned in place by the inner belt.

In Sum

Here’s what I spent.

  • $506: CZ P-09 .40, night sights, 3 magazines
  • $294.60: Cajun Gun Works internals
  • $303.20: CZ Custom magazine well and magazine parts
  • $46.53: Fourth magazine
  • $104.27: Holster and belt

In total, the cost of this race gun project was $1224.60. (Or $1254.60, if you’re buying the magazine pouches too.) Even counting a trigger scale I bought and a case of test ammunition, the project tips the scales at under $1500. Has it reached the magical point of ‘good enough’? Only match experience will tell. Check back toward the end of April for some thoughts with that in mind.

Competition Meets Tactical: SOF STI 2011s

I love competition shooting, and I love modern military gear. Sometimes, the two worlds collide, and I always find such events fascinating. Let’s take a look at a little bit of Special Operations history, courtesy of an old Gunbroker auction and the late, great Weaponsman.

First, some competition background. In the USPSA Limited1 division, the dominant platform is the double-stack 1911, often called a 2011, which is the trade name used by STI for their pistols. Since STI is the biggest builder of these, and where to go for a factory-type solution, the name has stuck. While people use other guns in Limited, the 2011s are the most popular. Since it’s based on the 1911, with its expired patents, its wide open for people to play with, so you can get your gun customized to your heart’s content. While it’s the indian, not the arrow, that decides results, nobody wants to shoot a lame arrow. Plus the 1911-style, single-action, sliding trigger is super easy to make amazing. There are no better triggers than a tuned 1911-type trigger for shooting.

Around 2006-2007, one of America’s elite special operations units decided to experiment with these pistols. Here are a pair of them.
STI 40s

A few things to note. They’re chambered for .40 S&W, not 9mm NATO like you might expect. Being based on the 1911, which was originally designed around the .45 ACP cartridge, 2011s tend to be easier to make reliable with longer cartridges. .40 S&W is a bit longer than 9mm NATO, so that helps. Plus, the vast majority of 2011s are chambered in .40 for USPSA,2 that’s where most of the experience in keeping them running is focused.

From the auction description:

Both of these STI 2011 .40 caliber pistols saw actual issue and use in a US Army SOF unit in 2006-2007. One pistol is in 93%+ condition and the other is in 96%+ condition. They are consecutively serial numbered and are quite possibly the only consecutively numbered set to be offered for sale. This consecutively numbered set comes with the following items: *** individual letters of authenticity from Larry Vickers ( for each pistol— original, unedited versions will be provided to the buyer *** six 140mm 17 round magazines *** one 170mm 22 round magazine *** one issued Surefire X200A light *** issued Safariland 6005 light bearing holster with end user modifications *** two Eagle Industries pistol cases

These are standard STI magazines with STI follower and basepad. This doesn’t sound odd, but most competitors will swap the follower and basepad out to get more capacity. More capacity is great at a match, but it tends to make the mags a bit more fussy, and extra maintenance requirements are not the friend of the combat soldier.

What did SOF think of these pistols? They liked them, but found the maintenance requirements to be more than they wanted to deal with. Specifically, issues came up with fine desert sand from the Middle East. This makes some sense. These are tightly tuned competition pistols, built for maximum shootability. Competitors don’t mind having to do a bit more cleaning of their magazines. And of course, as a general rule, guns with a metal frame and slide need more lubrication than those with a polymer frame and steel slide.

That said, in Vickers’ letter of authenticity, he said that “these were the only pistols sold outside the unit” (emphasis added). So likely lots of the men chose to keep the pistols, because they are awesome and shoot really well. Even if they might not be the best choice for a secondary weapon out in the sandbox.

  1. No electronic sights, no compensators, no barrel porting, magazines no longer than 141.25 mm. 
  2. Because power factor. 

More Body Armor Improvements: VTP and TEP

The US Army is always looking for ways to improve on it’s current standard body armor, the IOTV. We’ve already talked about one of the results of this, the Ballistic Combat Shirt. This is part of the Torso and Extremity Protection (TEP) System, and we’ll look at other developments here. We’ll also look at the results of the Vital Torso Protection (VTP) system, an effort to lighten the ceramic plates that stop rifle rounds.

Let’s start with the VTP. The result of this is an eight to fourteen percent1 weight reduction in plate weights, depending on plate size. Plates are available in the standard range of SAPI sizes, in ESAPI and XSAPI equivalent protection levels. Let’s see what this looks like.

PlateVTP Weight (lbs.)
ESAPI Size M5.0
XSAPI Size M5.5

I believe the side plates quoted above are 6″x8″ plates, but I could be wrong. There are a few different side plate sizes.

Now, on to the TEP, starting with the new vest. The new vest is called the Modular Scalable Vest. This vest includes some more clever thinking to reduce weight and improve comfort. One of the things we see on the weight reduction front is the replacement of PALS webbing, which is strips of cordura sewn to the front of the vest to create loops for MOLLE attachments to laser cutting holes directly into the cordura of the vest itself to create loops. Plus, there’s likely some new material in use for the soft armor panels themselves, judging by the weight savings. And those are significant: a medium-size MSV weighs 6.19 lbs. We’ll do a system-level comparison with the old vest, since the new one is smaller, but is expected to be worn with that Ballistic Combat Shirt.

The SPS also includes a new battle belt, called the Load Distribustion System. This is a wide, padded belt that’s MOLLE ready. It also contains some soft armor. It’s designed to allow soldiers to move some things from their vest to their belt to redistribute load from their shoulders to their hips. Good theory, but soldiers being soldiers, they’ll probably just carry more stuff. What isn’t clear to me is if the belt has some kind of system to interface with the vest. Some of the higher end armor makers in the US2 have come up with ways to attach the vest to the belt to redistribute vest weight to the hips too. I don’t know if SPS is going that route. Anyway, medium size LDS weighs 2.3 lbs.

Finally, we come to the Blast Pelvic Protector. This is designed to protect the pelvis and femoral artery from fragmentation injury. It looks kind of like a small pair of chaps, and is worn over the uniform trousers. This is an improvement over the groin protector assembly of the IOTV, as it provides all-around protection. Weight of the BPP is 1.68 lbs.

Okay. Totals time. Again, we’re going to compare system to system, understanding that there are some changes in protected area. And also understanding that I’m not a huge fan of the side plates. But the US Army is, and both vests will have them.

ComponentWeight (lbs.)
MSV, size M6.19
BCS, size M2.89
ESAPI-VTP plates, size M (pair)10.0
ESBI-VTP plates (pair)4.06

Compare this to an IOTV Gen 2 (medium size) weight of 31.79 lbs from the manual, and we have a weight savings of 4.67 lbs. Not bad, SPS program. Not bad at all.

  1. These differences don’t totally agree with my prior weight chart numbers, so I may be missing some versions. Or some of the numbers may be inaccurate. And XSAPI was a guesstimate anyway. 
  2. Offhand, Crye Precision and Tyr Tactical. 

The Opinionated Bastards: Piedmont Again (Sep. 8, 3051)

Nashira Wraps Up

At the end of June, our FedCom liaison stops into the Bastards’ headquarters and lets us know that the assault is over; they’ve come to terms with the Draconis Combine. We spend another week or two on Nashira while the FedCom military packs up; we spend some money on paid recruitment rolls to pick up more mech techs, and some additional money on spare parts.

The Bastards return to Piedmont in early September, along with a brand-new used Stalker, the company’s second assault mech. Unpacking from its rented DropShip, the company bids their traveling companions farewell and gets down to training, refitting, and preparing for whatever comes next.

Which is a bit of a sticky question. The full extent of the Clan push into the Inner Sphere is still not exactly common knowledge, but it’s common enough now that a well-regarded mercenary outfit such as the Bastards can get a sense of the scale of the problem. The upshot is that the Inner Sphere is, at present, largely at peace with itself.

What does that mean for us? Mainly, that there isn’t much to do right now on the general contract market. There’s some pirate hunting in the Federated Commonwealth and Free Worlds League, and the Free Rasalhague Republic is desperate enough to put out a call for mercenaries to carry out security duty against the Clans on Stanzach.


With Rook getting used to her new Stalker, it’s time for some lance reorganization. I’ve come up with two options, one of which is less well-described than the other. We can also change lance names now, if you’d like.

One Assault Lance

We can pack both assault mechs into one lance; along with our two heaviest heavies, that makes for a 310-ton lance, 70 tons shy of our 380-ton maximum drop weight. The other lances would likely be medium-weight, with one underweight heavy lance.

Two Heavy Lances with Assault Mechs

The setup I have right now. It looks like this:

  1. First Lance (270t)
    • Drake, Awesome AWS-8Q
    • Carcer, Flashman FLS-7K
    • Woad, Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Hernandez, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1K
  2. Second Lance (270t)
    • Rook, Stalker STK-3F
    • Double Dog, Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Milspec, Crab CRB-20
    • Wizard, Guillotine GLT-4P
  3. Bear’s Bruisers (180t)
    • Teddy Bear, Vulcan VL-5T
    • Hanzoku, Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Severe, Locust Custom
    • Pvt. Popalzi, Archer ARC-2K
  4. Reserve Lance (220t)
    • Linebuster, Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Wojtek, Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Ker-Ker, Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Euchre, Trebuchet TBT-5S

First and Second Lances are both solid, assault-anchored heavy lances near the 280t heavy lance cap. Bear’s Bruisers is a durable, punchy medium lance with long-range fire support between the Archer/Locust team. Reserve Lance is a true reserve, subbing in whenever a pilot is injured or a mech damaged in the other lances.

Contract Options

We have a few short-term options, limited by the fact that the Inner Sphere isn’t really fighting amongst itself very much right now, and a few longer-term options. As ever, we also have the option of waiting to see what next month brings.


The Free Worlds League and the Federated Commonwealth both have some pirate hunting on offer. They’re very similar contracts; both have Liaison command rights, pay for about 35% of transport, give us 20% or 30% salvage rights, and cover 10% of battle losses. The FedCom contract pays about 22 million C-bills in profit for 5 months, and the Free Worlds League contract pays about 16 million for 3 months.

The Free Rasalhague Republic offers a Security Duty contract against the Clans on Stanzach, as mentioned above, Clan Wolf in particular. We get a bit more transport, 40% battle loss compensation, and 30% pure salvage rights, a generous offer when Clan tech is on the table.


We also have the option now of signing on for the longer haul with one of the great powers of the Inner Sphere. The Federated Commonwealth was impressed with our performance on Nashira against strong Draconis Combine resistance, and is willing to bring us on semi-permanently—until the threat of the Clans is diminished. They’ll pay us to relocate to a world in the northeast of the Inner Sphere near the Clan front line plus a signing bonus of 10 million C-bills, and keep us on a mix of reserve/refit missions, like short-term garrison and cadre duty, and front-line missions like planetary assault and security duty. They’ll accept liaison command rights and pay good battle loss compensation, but salvage rights will be exchange (i.e., they buy Clan tech we salvage at market rates) rather than pure.

We could attempt to put out feelers to the Free Rasalhague Republic about a longer-term contract. They’re more desperate, but also much poorer. We’d have to relocate on our own dime and wouldn’t get much of a signing bonus. In exchange, we’d likely see front-line combat as often as we want, liaison command rights, and broad rights to take what we want from the wreckage. In exchange, we wouldn’t get a lot of battle loss compensation.

In both cases, we’d of course be paid a fair base rate, although a slightly fairer one from the Federated Commonwealth. It’s the bonuses and benefits which are different.


Gonna keep this one short, since it’s deep into Saturday morning and I’m still writing this. It’s September 8, 3051, and we have 11.874 million C-bills in the bank.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome AWS-8Q
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Stalker STK-3F
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Crab CRB-20
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Cpl. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Custom Locust
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku) – Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze) – Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz Popalzi – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Gwenael Hernandez – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K

Action Items

  • Lance organization and naming suggestions.
  • Contract choices.

Resurrected Weapons: AGM-129A/B ACM

The AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile was a great way to extend the service life of the B-52. Now, despite the massive Soviet air defense network, SAC’s beloved manned bombers could rain nuclear hellfire down on godless communist scum from over 1,500 nautical miles away. Perfect for keeping big, slow bombers away from fancy air defense systems. And we’ve seen the effectiveness of cruise missiles with conventional warheads many times in Iraq.

But those commies had innovations of their own. They managed to make look-down/shoot-down radars for their advanced fighters, and even had a native AWACS by the 1980s. These could spot the small AGM-86s and shoot them down. One of the key goals of SA-15 was to be able to successfully engage inbound AGM-86s.

You probably guessed the answer to the above problem: stealth. Enter the AGM-129. The Advanced Cruise Missile.1 It had modern, low observability shaping and radar-absorbent material coatings to make it as sneaky as possible. Now it could exploit imperfections in radar deployments, with a vastly reduced detection range allowing it to elude Soviet air defenses. The AGM-129 also had an improved version of the Williams F107 engine that powered the AGM-86. The newer F112 used advanced internal coatings to reduce the thermal signature of the AGM-129. It also brought large improvements in range over the AGM-86’s 1,500 nautical mile reach, though the exact range figure for the ACM remains classified.

The guidance and navigation systems were also improved, but again, remain classified. Russian sources2 give it a CEP3 of 16 meters.

The AGM-129 used the same 5-150 kiloton warhead as used on the AGM-86, the W-80. It was also only marginally longer than the AGM-86, so it could still fit in the bomb bay of a B-52. However, it was about five inches fatter, had a wingspan two feet shorter, and was more than 550 lbs. heavier. And, of course, the stealth coating requires more maintenance. Here was the ultimate standoff weapon for the venerable BUFF, just in time for the end of the Soviet Union. Production numbers were repeatedly slashed, from 2,500, to 1,460, to 1,000, and then to the final total of 460 missiles.

Higher maintenance costs would eventually doom the AGM-129 to withdrawal from service in 2012. Which is a shame, because even if you’re not big into nuclear strikes, a conventional variant4 would be very useful against nations with modern, integrated air defense systems.

Verdict: Funding Approved by the Borgundy Air Ordnance Procurement Board


  1. A very creative name. 
  2. Seriously, they are the only ones that are willing to hazard a guess. 
  3. Circular Error Probable, i.e. the size of a target that the guidance/navigation system has a 50% chance of hitting. 
  4. To the best I am able to determine, no such variant was proposed. From other conventional variants of cruise missiles, we can reckon that replacing the W-80 with high explosives would give an approximately 1,000 lb warhead. 

Resurrected Weapons: FIM-92 RMP Block II Advanced Stinger

The Stinger missile is a hugely successful MANPADS, but it does have cancelled variants, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. First, a brief discussion of the Stinger.

The FIM-92 Stinger is a man-portable SAM, designed in the late 70s to replace the earlier FIM-43 Redeye. The Stinger is 5 ft. long, 70mm in diameter, and weighs about 34 lbs in its launch tube ready to fire. Unlike Mistral or Starstreak, Stinger is fired from the shoulder, not a tripod.

Stinger has an effective firing range of about 5 miles, due to the nature of its seeker. It uses a dual-spectrum IR and UV seeker. Adding the UV spectrum makes the job of countermeasures designers harder. The countermeasure now has to duplicate the signature of the aircraft across two spectra, not merely the infrared one.

Stinger has been deployed in several conflicts, and has proven effective. It’s easy to use and good at denying aircraft the use of lower altitudes, forcing them out of its engagement envelope.

In addition to use in the man-portable role, the Stinger is deployed on the M1097 Avenger SHORAD system, the Bradley Linebacker, the Stryker-MSL, and as an air-to-air defensive missile aboard Apache helicopters.

And now we come to the RMP Block II program. This integrated the focal plane array IR seeker from the AIM-9X missile onto the Stinger, which brought two key improvements. To understand these, let’s look at what exactly a focal plane array is.

A focal plane array is an array of light (in this case, infrared-spectrum) sensing receptors placed at the focal plane of a lens. It’s also known as a staring sensor, because that’s exactly what it does: it stares. Unlike a more conventional scanning array, it doesn’t build an image from narrow slices rastered across the field of view. Instead, it looks at the entire field of view all the time.

As I said, this brings two major improvements. First, the focal plane array seeker is a lot better at detecting targets than the old dual-wavelength scanning-type seeker, which gave the RMP Block II a larger engagement envelope and longer effective range. The second is a significantly better seeking capability, which translates into both improved performance in cluttered environments and significantly higher resistance to countermeasures. The imaging capabilities of a focal plane array seeker make them extremely difficult to deceive. The RMP Block II would have had good performance against advanced aircraft flying low and firing off decoys, cruise missiles, and UAVs.

The RMP Block II program was cancelled in 2002 for cost reasons. The war on terror was ramping up, and the money was needed elsewhere.

I can understand cost concerns for a MANPADS system if there are other vehicle-borne SHORAD systems available. For the US, there have been a wide variety of recent developments in SHORAD, helpfully linked above. Unlike previous attempts, these are deploying off-the-shelf missiles for the SHORAD role, including the AIM-9X, which has a motor that’s a better ballistic match for the range capabilities of the FPA seeker. The Stinger is already reasonably effective at denying lower altitudes and getting aircraft to fly higher, and low cost encourages wide deployment. I’m inclined to use the money for other things.

Verdict: Funding Denied by the Borgundy War Department Army Ordnance Procurement Board

The Opinionated Bastards: Nashira Part IV (Jun. 15, 3051)

After a few weeks of downtime, during which our intrepid techs decidedly do not succeed in quickly refitting Teddy Bear‘s Vulcan to the more effective 5T variant, we end up with a battle.

The Action of May 27, 3051

This time, it’s a chase, and we’re the defender. We need to eliminate 50% of the enemy before they reach the north edge of the map.

Heavy Lance gets the nod for deployment again. Only Bear’s Bruisers are able to make it to the battlefield in time. (I house rule this one—when I’m listed as the attacker, I can deploy whatever I want; when I’m listed as the defender, only the listed lance, lances with a duty of Defend can join in automatically. Other lances have to roll 4+ on a d6.) Happily, Teddy Bear borrowed the new Dragon from Private Popalzi, who’s now temporarily driving our Wasp in Cadre Lance.

Besides the Heavy Lance we all know and love, we’re bringing another three mechs: Teddy Bear has the Dragon, like I said; Wizard has a Guillotine GLT-4P, and Hanzoku has a Guillotine GLT-4L. Good luck.

There are a full five lances of enemies deployed, largely light forces with a few heavier mechs mixed in. There are several Archers, in particular.

Because it’s a chase, and most of the enemy is lighter weight than we are, we’ll be fortunate to catch anything, frankly.

Round 1-6

Yes, the enemy gets a seven-round head start. (At least, the lighter things do. All of their speed 6 and slower mechs arrive now too.)

Round 7

A lot of our mechs are about this fast, so a lot of them show up. Taking the field are Woad, Carcer, Wizard, Hanzoku, Teddy Bear, and our liaison unit, a FedCom Blackjack.

After our first round of deployment and movement, there are a number of enemy vehicles we may be able to get some good attacks off against.


Woad opens up the shooting with a kill on an enemy Packrat patrol vehicle, though he takes a few SRM-6 missiles in response.

Wizard, next to a pair of Vedettes, gets his with three medium lasers and half of an SRM-6 volley, which is sufficient to immobilize the vehicle. She’s in good shape to get on the killboard in her first battle.

Hanzoku and Teddy Bear don’t miss a beat, either, tagging the second Vedette near Wizard sufficiently to immobilize it, too. A good round.

Round 8


Teddy Bear moves up to join Wizard in knocking out the Vedettes. Hanzoku will work on the Archer until Drake arrives next round.

Rook is on the field, to the east; she’ll try to knock out the Packrat there while Carcer and Woad move forward.

Rook gets her kill, as does Wizard. Teddy Bear doesn’t quite manage to finish his Vedette with his Ultra AC/5, but polishes it off shortly thereafter with a kick to the fuel tank.

Hanzoku makes good progress on the Archer, doing enough damage to knock it down.

Round 9


Most of the Bastards push north. Drake is too slow to catch up, and leisurely picks apart the Archer with Hanzoku‘s help.

Round 10

As the company advances, Woad takes down a Maxim heavy hover transport, and Rook bags a J. Edgar hover tank.

Further back, Hanzoku kicks the Archer in the back, and it falls over again.

Round 11

We’re well on track to win this one by the victory condition, which I didn’t expect. Early kills by the lighter mechs in these two lances helped us out immensely.

Woad and Rook both score kills again this round; Rook finishes off a Vedette, while Woad bags a Scorpion light tank.

Further north, Teddy Bear makes some unlikely hits on a Galleon light tank.

Round 12-13


The southern Archer falls once more after Hanzoku kicks it; he advances north to join the rest of the lance, while Drake attempts to decapitate the Archer with a few PPC shots.

Wizard, Teddy Bear, and the allied Blackjack are in position to take a shot at the Galleon light tank near the middle of the map.

Drake gets his critical hit, and a little more to boot. He’s not likely to see much more action this battle, but he’ll gamely run north anyway.


Round 14


Rook finishes off the Galleon, according to the combat telemetry analyzed after the battle, although it would be more accurate to say that the combined weapons fire of a lance vaporized it just about all at once.

A Phoenix Hawk from the Draconis Combine reinforcements moves into range, and we’ll start to engage that now.

Round 15

Surprisingly, Drake is catching up and Hanzoku is almost in range. The enemy reinforcements have pushed a bit further south, with a second Archer now roughly in weapons range. We’ll finish off the Phoenix Hawk, take down that Archer, and call it a day.


The Phoenix Hawk pilot ejects after the allied Blackjack kicks out its gyro.

Woad is the man of the hour, finishing off the second Archer with a medium laser shot to the head, followed by a large laser shot to the head.

But wait, there’s more! A Vedette from the Combine reinforcements moves south in a futile attempt to cover the Archer’s escape, and Woad, on a tricky LRM-5 shot, finishes it off after the rest of the company chips away at it.

That’s right: two five-kill battles for Woad. Look out, Rook, there’s a new challenger.

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

The Dragon and Wizard‘s Guillotine both took a good bit of armor damage. She and Teddy Bear both took a few knocks during the fight, and will have to stop by the infirmary.

As for salvage, well, I’m just going to post the picture and let your jaws drop.


In addition to that epic haul, we earn about 60,000 C-bills in battle loss compensation and 130,000 C-bills from prisoner ransom.

Kill Board(s)

Woad is the story of the day, with another epic five-kill performance to move into a tie for second place on the leaderboard.

Last Battle


The killboard here pictured is missing the Packrat which Woad killed—the game assigned them both the same name, without giving one a #2, so it didn’t know they were separate kills. I gave him the Harasser Missile Platform instead (which killed itself by failing a movement roll before we even deployed).

All-Time Leaders

  1. “Rook” Ishikawa (24, 5 mechs)
  2. “Drake” Halit (12, 4 mechs)
  3. “Woad” Kohler (12, 4 mechs)
  4. “Carcer” Ngo (9, 3 mechs)
  5. “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  6. “Severe” Payne (4, 4 mechs)
  7. “Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
  8. “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  9. “Milspec” Ortega (3)
  10. “Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
  11. “Teddy Bear” Jamil (3, 1 mech)
  12. “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
  13. “Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)
  14. “Wizard” Que (1)


It is now June 15, 3051.

Contract Status

Again, no battles on the calendar.

Enemy morale is now believed to be very low.

Unit Market


There are a few tasty chassis on the market, including a few assault mechs, and all are easily affordable. Should we pick anything up? Build a second elite heavy lance? Save the money for now?


The Rifleman and civilian Commando get kicked to the curb. In addition to the monthly payout, that puts our current finances at 15.177 million C-bills.


On the strength of his second five-kill performance, Woad is now a 4+/3+ veteran, and is promoted to Corporal. He also gains Weapon Specialist (ER PPC), not that we can buy ER PPCs. Congratulations!

Nobody else has much to do on the training side. Rook is sitting at 48 experience, and needs 100 to make the final step from Gunnery 1+ to Gunnery 0+. She could alternately spend 40xp to go from Piloting 3+ to Piloting 2+, or buy a special ability.


The Bastards are currently organized into four lances. Heavy Lance and Medium Lance are unchanged. Cadre Lance looks like this:

  • Lancelot LNC25-02 (Linebuster)
  • Trebuchet TBT-5S (Euchre)
  • Trebuchet TBT-5N (Wojtek)
  • Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K (Hernandez)

That’s 205 tons, so it’s not really a good lance to be deploying for combat. It’s a heavy lance by weight, but only barely above medium lance strength. It’s also not really a cadre lance anymore; only Wojtek still benefits from training, and he’ll be up to Regular soon.

Bears Bruisers look like this:

  • Vulcan VL-5T (Teddy Bear)
  • Guillotine GLT-4P (Wizard)
  • Guillotine GLT-4L (Hanzoku)
  • Archer ARC-2K (Popalzi)

It’s a 250-ton heavy lance; not as well-optimized as actual Heavy Lance, but still functional. Its pilots aren’t quite Heavy Lance good, but they’re no slouches; Wizard especially is pretty good.

At present, we have two spare mechs: the Dragon and the Wasp.

Repairs and Refits

As you may have noticed above, Teddy Bear is back in his Vulcan, which is now armored nearly to the level of a stock Rifleman, and mounts a solid primary armament of four medium lasers.

The salvaged Archer and Phoenix Hawk both enter service.

We are quite dramatically understaffed in the technical department; we have fourteen tech teams for eighteen mechs.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome AWS-8Q
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Crab CRB-20
    • Cpl. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Custom Locust
    • Pvt. E-Shei “Ker-Ker” Ec (Kanil) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Pvt. Ed “Hanzoku” Yuksel (Hanzoku) – Guillotine GLT-4L
    • Pvt. Ik-jun “Wojtek” Frajtov (Blaze) – Trebuchet TBT-5N
    • Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz Popalzi – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Gwenael Hernandez – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K

Action Items

  • There are mechwarriors for claim.
  • Should we buy any mechs?

Engineering Tradeoff Q&A: Puma and Bradley

I finally worked out answers to a few things that puzzled me for a while, and figured it might be fun to post here in a sort of Q&A format. This follows our articles looking at loadouts for the Bradley and Puma IFVs. Having read those articles, you might be wondering the following:

  • How does the Bradley manage to carry so much ammo?
  • The Puma IFV has an unmanned turret, so no turret basket, and it’s pretty large. So why does the Puma only have space for six dismounts?

The space under the turret on the Puma, where we would expect a basket to be on a manned turret, is actually a bunch of storage bins. It takes up about the same amount of space that two more shock-resistant seats would. So that’s where the space goes.

That begs more questions. Why do we need those bins? The Puma requires storage bins under the turret because the Puma’s sponsons contain fuel and various systems. They can’t be used for storage. On the smaller Bradley, the sponsons are empty and open to the cabin. So the space behind the bench seats can be loaded up with tons of stuff for both the vehicle and the dismounts. Check out this picture to see what I mean:

M2A2 storage space

Happily, this picture shows the space being used with things you are probably familiar with, like a cooler and a bunch of 2-liter bottles. In combat conditions, we’d expect this to be full 25 mm ammo boxes and TOW missiles for the Bradley, plus food and ammo for the crew and dismounts. If you give up that storage space, you have to put the stuff somewhere else. And you can’t easily relocate stuff for the dismounts outside of the crew compartment. Hence, storage lockers. Note also in the above picture the floor panels at the bottom left. These can be lifted up to access yet more storage space. This space is normally used to fit 25mm ammo. We can also see some storage space under the bench seat. Convenient, but not the best when dealing with antitank mines.

The Puma uses the in-cabin storage lockers for stuff for the dismounts, and it has a bunch of external compartments to hold the 30mm ammo. The Puma was designed with protection and survivability first. The Germans went to a lot of trouble to put in decoupled running gear to minimize the number of penetrations into the hull for the suspension, since penetrations mean weak points for mines. This meant that the sponsons had to hold more suspension gear. Plus, the Puma’s designers tried to isolate the passengers and crew from the fuel and ammo.

The Bradley was designed in an earlier time when survivability was not as paramount, and its designers put firepower first to counter the expected hordes of Soviet light armor. If the Bradleys could take those out, American tanks would be free to concentrate their fire on enemy tanks. Or so the theory went. While possessing a bit of a glass jaw, the Bradley proved to be an excellent vehicle killer in Desert Storm, and was a good fire support vehicle in Operation Iraqi Freedom.