I’m a big fan of the AR-15 platform and of HK’s version, the 416, which became the USMC’s M27 IAR. The USMC really like the M27, and has moved it from being the squad automatic weapon to also being the squad designated marksman’s weapon, and soon to being the standard weapon for every man in the fireteam. But the Marine Raider Regiment has declined to get in on that, saying they’re happy with their existing M4s. Let’s unpack this a little bit. I’ve long held that while the HK 416 is a good weapon, it doesn’t do much that a well set up M4 doesn’t.
The Marine Raider Regiment1 is a special forces offshoot of the Marine Corps. So it’s under the auspices of SOCOM, not the regular Marine Corps. In terms of equipment, it gets to pick from it’s choice of stuff that SOCOM approves of and stuff from its parent service branch (i.e. the USMC). Previously, the carbine choice would be between USMC-standard M16A4s and M4s or the SOCOM M4s. Being a smaller group with a much greater ability to get new stuff, SOCOM has nicer M4s than the USMC does. Or Big Army for that matter.
M4s configured through SOCOM channels will probably have the following features: safe/semiautomatic/full automatic trigger group instead of the safe/semiautomatic/burst trigger group, a medium-weight barrel profile instead of the “government” barrel profile, and a longer, free float handguard. For the handguard, it will likely be either the Daniel Defense M4 RIS II quadrail2 or one of Geissele’s Mlok handguards.3 Either way, that’s most of what you get in a 416, other than the short-stroke gas piston system. At best, this would be a lateral move, to a new weapon system that doesn’t get you much else4, and is heavier to boot.
The M27 is also a little bit longer (16″ barrel on the M27, instead of a 14.5″ barrel on an M4A1). Which doesn’t sound like much, until you add a suppressor. And the Marine Raiders always run suppressors. Adding the suppressor length gets you back to the approximate barrel length of the M16. Longer is a little more awkward indoors, and the Raiders have mentioned that as another reason why they like their M4A1s.
None of this is all that surprising to me, but it’s always nice to see someone else confirm one’s analysis.
I’ve mentioned before that the AR-15 is a really great design. It got a lot of things right. It’s very hard to compete with a design that has had 60-odd years to fix bugs and get improvements. And when it’s not an AR-15 design that’s winning, it’s often a derivative. The popular HK416 is just an AR-15 with a few improvements that HK likes. Let’s look at another improvement project, courtesy of Colt Canada.1 Unlike the HK416, which you can buy today, this is a notional project.
Colt Canada has had a license to manufacture and sell Colt AR-15s (and derivatives) for quite some time, and their C7 rifle is basically an M16A1E1, rather than an M16A1 or M16A2. The C8 is very similar to the M4. Colt Canada also uses excellent hammer-forged barrels, which they make in-house.
Our first major difference is the handguard integrated into the upper receiver. Colt Canada already makes these for their IUR and MRR product lines. An integrated handguard is simpler, more rigid, and may be lighter depending on the design. It does lock the user into one type of accessory attachment system and handguard configuration, however. It also means that the handguard has to be designed cleverly to allow access to the gas block and the barrel nut.
Next, we have an integrated suppressor built into the barrel. Very cool. This should save some weight and length over attaching one on the end of a barrel. It also requires careful design to allow the suppressor to be easily cleaned in the field. Colt Canada discussed the finer points of this rifle design with the USMC, who are big on suppressors. I’m stoked about that, because I’m also a huge fan.2
The last is the power-pack in the stock, combined with a powered accessory rail system. Centralizing the battery should be a net improvement in weight, plus it means there’s only one battery to worry about. On the other hand, it makes the rail more susceptible to the elements and a possible failure point. I’ve heard lots of stories of these projects, but I haven’t seen much actual field testing. We’ll see.
Finally, let’s discuss what isn’t changing: the operating system. Colt Canada is sticking with the same tried-and-true direct impingement gas operating system. No short stroke piston here. I’m fine with this.
The Opinionated Bastards pack up and ship out, leaving Piedmont for the Free Rasalhague Republic world of Stanzach.
In transit, we get word from the Free Rasalhague Republic intelligence liaison that the Clans have restarted their attacks, and that Stanzach is nearly overrun. They redirect us to Gunzburg instead, and even that isn’t looking like a particularly tenable position when we arrive on December 9.
Clan Wolf has advanced as far as Hainfeld and Wheel down to the galactic southwest; Clan Ghost Bear is as far as Alshain on the other flank.
We barely manage to land and get unpacked before reports reach us that Clan Wolf has landed on the planet and already overrun the capital. Provided we can survive until Christmas and are willing to fight the remainder of our contract elsewhere, the Free Rasalhague Republic has promised to send a DropShip to evacuate us. It’s a fair deal; we get a free ride back to the front line and keep the generous terms of the contract, and the Republic gets access to four lances of heavyweight mechs with veteran pilots.
First, though, we have to survive…
The Action of December 21, 3051
While the yet-unnamed Second Lance (Rook and company) is patrolling a wooded valley along the edge of our area of responsibility along with our liaison (who drives a Shadow Hawk), they stumble into the first Clan units. There are only four mechs; either a light star or a previously-damaged one. They didn’t call us up to offer a challenge, so presumably they bid for the right to engage us. Happily, Drake’s Destroyers are also deployed nearby, and will be able to join us in a few rounds.
The map is large and heavily forested, which plays to our advantage. Lots of cover means lots of opportunity to stay out of sight of the heavier Clan units until they get to very short range, where punches and kicks tend to negate their advantages in range, heat management, firepower, and speed.
We deploy behind heavy woods in the middle of the map, where the trees will screen us from enemy fire to a degree. My goal here is to keep the enemy at a distance and shooting ineffectually until First Lance arrives, at which point we can hopefully overwhelm the Clanners. Their fault for attacking without sufficient reconnaissance.
More Clanners offscreen to the south. The red hexes are the jamming field from the enemy Loki.
Despite the briefings we’ve received, it’s still a little unnerving how much weapons fire comes from just four Clan mechs. Happily, they miss through the trees. Rook lands a few missiles on a light mech running through the trees, and takes a few shots from some kind of cluster-firing autocannon in response.
Jockeying for position all around. Rook and Wizard have a decent chance of some hits on a heavy mech our helpful liaison informs us is called a Thor.
Rook and Wizard both hit, and are looking rather satisfied with themselves, when The Thor fires back. An AC/20 shell and a large laser tear into the Stalker’s right arm, slicing it off. To make matters worse, the Stalker falls, and Rook falls again trying to get back up. The Stalker is looking decidedly less healthy. (n.b. to make this series of events happen, Rook rolled 3 on 2d6 three times in a row, which has a probability of about one in five thousand. Maybe the Flashman was lucky.)
Rook finally manages to get her Stalker on its feet, and runs it into a dead-end gully where it’s largely safe from enemy fire. Unfortunately, the enemy light mech (a Fenris, says the liaison, and a medium mech in weight despite its speed) has a shot. The rest of the lance can bring some weapons to bear on it, at least, although none has a very good chance to hit.
The Fenris remains in the backfield, but doesn’t score any further crippling hits on the Stalker. Rook clips the enemy Thor in the head, but not enough to knock out its pilot.
Wizard and the liaison officer’s Shadow Hawk surround the enemy Fenris and both land kicks; it isn’t enough to knock it out or even knock it down.
Drake’s Destroyers arrive! By more than doubling the enemy’s weight, we roughly even the odds.
The enemy Fenris has snuck around behind the Stalker yet again, a worrying trend, but it’s also been targeted by many of our reinforcements. The enemy Thor is likely going to take a highly destructive shot at Milspec in the Crab, but Rook and Wizard can both take a crack at kicking it, potentially.
Drake and Carcer (now driving Rook’s old Flashman) combine for our first Clan kill. Drake lands all three PPC shots on the Fenris, blowing out its remaining autocannon ammo, taking out its left arm, and chewing through its center torso armor, while Carcer cores it with a large laser and medium laser to the center torso. Rook kicks the Thor in front of her, and it falls.
This round, we aim to put the enemy Thor in the ground. One way or another, I think we’ll probably manage it.
In the south, Drake has a very good chance of hitting the enemy Mad Cat with three PPCs (though, annoyingly, the Clan PPCs do a whopping 15 points of damage to our 10, the jerks).
Wizard scores the killing blow on the Thor after Rook softens it up, but not before it’s able to score immobilizing hits on Rook’s Stalker. (She’s still standing, but not able to move or turn.) On the southern front, the enemy Loki hits Double Dog in the Thunderbolt Tallman with two ER PPCs and knocks him over, while the Mad Cat plugs Drake with one.
With only two Clan mechs left, it’s looking like the tide has turned somewhat. (Thanks in the main to our reinforcements.)
The enemy Loki isn’t going down without a fight, though. He scores an ER PPC hit to the head of **Double Dog’s* Thunderbolt, who only just manages to eject in time. Shrapnel from his exploding cockpit hits him hard. (n.b. per the game, he died; he’s now spent 1 Edge to survive lethal damage and has 1 Edge remaining.)
Drake and Carcer prove a solid combination again, knocking out one of the Loki’s PPCs and eating through most of its torso armor. The Loki’s pilot stays on his feet, but the mechs coming down from the north put enough fire onto the Mad Dog to knock it over.
Woad, who is driving one of our medium laser boats and therefore leading the charge, is close enough to kick the Loki from one elevation up. He plants his Grasshopper’s foot right on the Loki’s shoulder and shears it clean off.
Swarming the Mad Cat, the faster elements from both lances aim to finish it off, or at least cripple it, this round.
Rook has managed to get her balance back a bit, and has turned partway around. At this rate, another eight or ten rounds and she’ll be back in the battle.
Private Hernandez in the Phoenix Hawk falls over, and neither Clan mech falls, though Drake, Carcer, and Milspec have done a number on the Loki, which is all but unarmored now.
Still swarming the enemy. Drake gets his first Clanner kill, punching through the Loki’s center torso armor and knocking out its engine.
Wizard and Woad continue kicking the Mad Cat, which is more or less immobilized in a little dip in the terrain. Its right torso fails, dropping the arm off, and its left arm follows shortly after.
With all six operational, mobile mechs now focusing fire on the Mad Cat, it goes down. Wizard gets the last shot, her second kill of the day.
Damage, Injuries, Salvage
Rough day for the Bastards. The Stalker is a figurative wreck, while the Thunderbolt is a literal one (at least until we order a new head).
Carcer, Rook, and Hernandez are lightly wounded. Double Dog is on the brink of death.
Salvage is a better story. The Fenris, Loki, and Mad Cat all end up in our possession, although we’ll be hard-pressed to strip them before we’re heading offworld in four days. They’re beyond repair, but that’s hardly a great loss; we can’t buy parts to field them anyway.
The Thor is a different story. It’s actually functional, or could be restored to function; that puts it well outside of our salvage budget.
Wizard is moving up the ranks.
“Rook” Ishikawa (24, 5 mechs)
“Drake” Halit (13, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
“Woad” Kohler (12, 4 mechs)
“Carcer” Ngo (10, 4 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
“Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
“Severe” Payne (4, 4 mechs)
“Double Dog” Dare (4, 1 mech)
“Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
“Wizard” Que (3, 2 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
“Teddy Bear” Jamil (3, 1 mech)
“Milspec” Ortega (3)
“Euchre” Kojic (2, 2 mechs)
“Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
“Hanzoku” Yuksel (1, 1 mech)
It is now December 25, 3051.
After radioing the Bastards’ command post to be sure it’s clear enough to attempt a landing, a Rasalhague Royal Army Union touches down, followed shortly after by a Leopard. There are just enough mech bays to fit the active units, and too little cargo space to comfortably fit all our salvage and parts. Our administrators work with the Rasalhague officers to make it work.
The men aboard the dropships are ashen-faced and gaunt, and no wonder. The Bastards who choose to wander get the sense this isn’t the first world the Royal Army has abandoned in a hurry, not by a long shot. It hasn’t been a very long war by the standard of such things, but it has been a brutal one, defeat followed by failure circling right back to defeat again. There’s very little of the Free Rasalhague Republic left to flee to. The soldiers and sailors aboard are very aware of that.
The more reflective Bastards realize that they got off easy. Only the presence of reinforcements turned a brewing rout into a costly victory.
There isn’t much worth mentioning for sale: an UrbanMech, a Dragon, and three Wasps. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for better stuff.
We have 23.155 million C-bills on hand, after purchasing the spare parts necessary to get the unit back into fighting shape.
Wojtek increases his gunnery to 4+, the last Green pilot to join the ranks of the Regulars.
Ker-Ker and Double Dog have both used 1 Edge at various points in the campaign, and have 1 remaining. All the other claimed mech pilots have 2.
Repairs and Refits
Our mechs are back into fighting trim. In the rush, we haven’t had time to fix the paint, so they’re looking a little battle-scarred.
Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments
For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
Pvt. Xue-Min “Wizard” Que (Rince Wind) – Guillotine GLT-4P
Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz “Pepper” Popalzi – Archer ARC-2K
The following mechwarriors are available.
Pvt. Gwenael Hernandez – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K
We’re en route to Nox. Presumably, we’re honoring the deal we made for evacuation. If we don’t, then there’ll be consequences regarding our reputation.
We have some Clan salvage (one ER PPC, two ER Medium Lasers, one double heat sink, one anti-missile system). The Free Rasalhague Republic doesn’t have much left in the stores to trade to us. Other employers (FedCom, the Free Worlds League) may be willing to share advanced technology with us in exchange for our Clan salvage. We can’t just slap the latter onto our mechs; advanced Inner Sphere tech isn’t up to the same standard as Clan tech, but also doesn’t require us to salvage a functioning Clan mech and put it back in service.
Put another way, should we look to trade our Clan salvage for access to advanced Inner Sphere weaponry, or hoard it and try to assemble a franken-Clan-mech or two?
Let’s kick off a series on army food by discussing some awesome news. Take a look:
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.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember my two race gunproposal 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.
A decent competition holster, preferably something with drop, offset, and adjustable retention.
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.
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.
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.
$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.
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.
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 (www.vickerstactical.com) 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.
No electronic sights, no compensators, no barrel porting, magazines no longer than 141.25 mm. ↩
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.
VTP Weight (lbs.)
ESAPI Size M
XSAPI Size M
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.
MSV, size M
BCS, size M
ESAPI-VTP plates, size M (pair)
ESBI-VTP plates (pair)
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.
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. ↩
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:
First Lance (270t)
Drake, Awesome AWS-8Q
Carcer, Flashman FLS-7K
Woad, Grasshopper GHR-5H
Pvt. Hernandez, Phoenix Hawk PHX-1K
Second Lance (270t)
Rook, Stalker STK-3F
Double Dog, Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
Milspec, Crab CRB-20
Wizard, Guillotine GLT-4P
Bear’s Bruisers (180t)
Teddy Bear, Vulcan VL-5T
Hanzoku, Guillotine GLT-4L
Severe, Locust Custom
Pvt. Popalzi, Archer ARC-2K
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.
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.
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
Seriously, they are the only ones that are willing to hazard a guess. ↩
Circular Error Probable, i.e. the size of a target that the guidance/navigation system has a 50% chance of hitting. ↩
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. ↩
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