Monthly Archives: October 2018

Griffin III: OMFV Frontrunner?

At AUSA 2018, we saw three possible candidate vehicles for the OMFV Bradley Replacement: BAE’s CV90 Mk. IV, Rheinmetall/Raytheon’s Lynx, and General Dynamics’ Griffin III. Of these, the Griffin III looks to be the frontrunner right now, in so far as it very closely matches what the US Army says it wants. Let’s take a look.

Griffin III is based on the ASCOD hull. This checks our already in service box; the ASCOD is used by Spain and Austria, and was the basis for Britain’s Ajax (and related family of vehicles). It is a newer chassis than the CV90, which is also in service in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and some other places. The Lynx is not in service in any version anywhere, which is points against it, though it is also a contender in Australia’s new IFV competition.

Both the CV90 Mk IV and Lynx have 35mm guns. However, US Army really wants a 50mm. Both BAE and Rheinmetall claim to be able to oblige. General Dynamics, on the other hand, went ahead and mounted the XM913 50mm gun in their AUSA show vehicle. General Dynamics also has a turret design with an incredible +85/-20 elevation range, which looks pretty spectacular on a show floor and is expressly directed at urban warfare scenarios that the US Army worries about. A near-vertical autocannon looks great for anyone who remembers Grozny.

Continuing to hit all the cool future features, General Dynamics has partnered with Aerovision for UAV integration. The Griffin III comes with a nine tube vertical launcher for Aerovision’s Switchblade UAV/Missile, with all the related digital datalink equipment installed. The turret can also accommodate ATGMs, but these weren’t fitted for the show model.

Additional systems fitted for the show model were the Iron Fist (hard kill) APS system, with associated radars and launchers, a gunshot locating system, and Armorworks Tacticam multispectral camouflage. A situational awareness system (i.e. a whole bunch of cameras) was also fitted. I’d guess it’s Leonardo DRS’ system, but this wasn’t stated.

Protection levels are not clear yet. At the show, the Griffin III model as configured weighed about 38 tonnes. With all of the supplemental armor kits mounted, the vehicle would weigh about 50 tonnes.

In terms of capacity, the Griffin III is at a bit of a disadvantage, being designed around no more than six dismounts, where the CV90 can accommodate eight and the Lynx can hold nine. But the US Army has stated that it’s happy enough with a lower capacity vehicle. Their documents indicate that six or even five dismounts is acceptable, and their plans call for a six vehicle platoon with five dismounts in each one.

Let’s also talk about the crewing needs. General Dynamics designed the Griffin III to have space for a three man crew, but automation and crew aids sufficient to enable a two man crew. They’ve done a good job of hedging their bets, being prepared to deliver the future-looking vehicle the Army says it wants, but being prepared for a more conservative design if that ends up winning out.

It’s still really early in the race, and the US Army might change the requirements somewhat. But it’s clear that General Dynamics did their homework when putting the Griffin III together. They seem to have a reasonable idea of what the Army wants, and what tradeoffs they might be willing to accept.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 17, 2018)

In local news, it’s your correspondent’s birthday this weekend.

Defense

Hurricane Michael and Tyndall AFB

Defense (China-focused)

Grab Bag

The OMFV Program

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The US Army is looking to replace it’s Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles with…

Okay, yeah. We’ve been down this road a few times. And we at the Soapbox are super skeptical. But let’s look at this “Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle” anyway.

Obviously, it’s supposed to do double duty as a UGV. Not really a surprise there. We do have some ground drone kits, so that might work out okay.

It’s also supposed to be “better” than the Bradley in terms of protection, dash speed, and lethality. Unsurprising. Better can be kind of an annoying word though, because it make you vulnerable to the sort of Lucy-with-the-football stuff we’ve seen before.

Hopefully continuing the trend of this program having some restrictions in it to help it actually go somewhere, the Army is keenly interested in buying something that’s a derivative of someone else’s already-in-service vehicle.

We also see that they’re looking to fit a pair of the new OMFVs in a C-17, giving a maximum weight of about 38.75 tonnes. Or can be stripped down to that weight. Again, this is pretty reasonable given the capacity they want, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The fun begins when we look at the manning numbers. The US Army is specifically requesting a crew of 2 and capacity for 5 dismounts. Let’s look at those in turn.

A crew of two means some faith in your sensors and computer systems for observation and fire control. In practice, this means distributing the gunner’s work between the computers, the driver, and the commander. There have been tests of two-man armored fighting vehicle crews in Germany, the United States, and Israel going back to the 90s. The conclusion has been that it works if you had quality situational awareness aids (i.e. electronic sensors with some computer systems for ‘sensor fusion’), and faith that those aids would actually work. The Israelis have been working on a next gen combat vehicle called the Camel, which also has a crew of two. So it’s very possible, but it requires some forward thinking. Big Army is not usually fond of being forward thinking, so good on them.

Five dismounts is a bit more than half of the old GCV’s goals. It’s nice to see the Army realizing what gave them so much trouble last time and trying something else. Five dismounts reduces the size of the armored volume. It also is smaller than the standard six-man dismount capability that seems to be the common standard. The army is not changing the number of dismounts per platoon though; they’re planning to have six OMFVs in each platoon.

I’m coming around to the idea of smaller, well-protected vehicles with fewer dismounts. I’m a little skeptical of a platoon of six vehicles with thirty dismounts though. That seems a lot for one platoon commander (probably some Lt.) to manage. Maybe modern technology makes it easier. Maybe they plan to give platoon command to some other rank. Or maybe they know something I don’t.

The Opinionated Bastards: Tukayyid (Oct. 8, 3052)

Introduction

Well, it’s a week or two late, but we’re back.

The Action of September 28, 3052

Scouts indicate that a rebel force is moving in the direction of Bear’s Bruisers, who have been bearing the brunt of the fighting so far. The Bruisers move slightly toward Second Lance to take up defensive positions amidst some hilly scrubland, and position themselves so that the rebels will come across their positions in darkness. A snowstorm blows in as they wait.

Second Lance is on the march, but won’t arrive for eight rounds.

Deployment

The rebel force appears to the north, looking battered already. The length of this campaign is wearing them down pretty seriously, especially given their lack of logistical support compared to us.

The Bruisers deploy in the middle of the battlefield, in formation. The darkness means it’s going to be difficult to shoot at long range.

Round 1

The two forces move closer together, but remain well outside of effective weapons range.

Round 2

round2

A solitary Wasp is now quite close to our forces, but impossible to hit based on its movement, the falling snow, and the darkness.

Round 3

round3

Teddy Bear and Wizard both stand still this turn, hoping to get good shots off at the Wasp or perhaps one of the vehicles. Severe moves closer. Her Koshi’s weapons are best at short range. Euchre follows her.

As it turns out, only Wizard‘s large laser and Severe‘s ER medium lasers are sufficient. They both take shots best described as speculative at the Galleon tank.

Predictably, everyone misses.

Round 4

The rebels continue to pull back as the Bruisers advance, staying just out of medium laser range. Wizard takes a shot and misses.

Round 5

round5

The rebels seem to commit to an attack as the Bruisers continue to push forward. The Wasp dead ahead is the primary target, but if shots at the vehicles are more plausible hit chances, we’ll take those instead.

Even at this relatively close range, hits are unlikely on a moving target, as our mech pilots try to put their sights over a very slightly darker moving shape in the darkness of the night. Teddy Bear‘s medium laser bites deep into the Wasp’s torso armor. Everyone else misses.

Round 6

round6

Now this we can work with. Severe took the unusual step of not moving. Her Koshi has very good alpha strike damage, which we’re going to try to exploit by giving her the best chance to hit we can.

Finally, some results! Teddy Bear hits the Wasp again, though only with his flamer. Wizard puts five of her six SRMs into the side of the Galleon tank, the explosions ripping through its armor, cutting cooling lines in its engine, and exposing its turret-mounted small laser. Severe hits the Locust, cutting off its right arm and nearly blowing its right torso out its back armor, and Euchre‘s medium laser severs its left arm.

Teddy Bear kicks the Wasp’s left leg out from under it to close the round.

Round 7

round7

The Wasp falls after taking Teddy Bear‘s kick, and fails to stand this round, so Teddy Bear turns his torso on the Locust and plans to kick the Wasp again. Wizard likes her chances shooting at the Locust, so lets her sights settle on it while Euchre and Severe take aim at the nearby Galleon.

Wizard and Teddy Bear combine to knock out the Locust’s right torso, while Euchre notches the kill on the Galleon with a medium laser shot that punches right through the battered front armor and into the crew compartment.

For reasons unclear to me, Wizard doesn’t get the option to make a physical attack. Teddy Bear kicks the through the prone Wasp’s right torso, while Severe turns her Koshi’s fists on the Locust, hitting twice. (The Koshi’s weapons are all torso-mounted, which means Severe can attack with all of them and still punch.)

Cleanup

The two mech pilots eject, leaving only a Vedette on the field. Wizard and Euchre pause to pick up the ejected enemy mechwarriors, while Severe and Teddy Bear advance to finish off the Vedette. Severe gets the kill with a devastating punch, cracking the tank’s side armor with an uppercut which flips it onto its back.

Damage, Injuries, Salvage

salvage

It was very nearly a perfect mission. Teddy Bear and Euchre took some hits, but only from machine guns.

For salvage, we take the Wasp and the two burned-out vehicles. We’ll strip the armor and weapons and sell the chassis.

Special Mission: Star League Cache

On October 1, Rook‘s Stalker finishes its refit, now kitted out with Artemis-capable LRM-15 launchers along with ER Large Lasers and sufficient heat sinks to fire everything. She takes it out for a little shakedown run in a peaceful area of the Bastards’ AOR, only to see a big blip on her sensors.

It’s an Emperor EMP-6A, a Star League-era mech packed with advanced Inner Sphere technology. It’s not entirely clear where the rebels got it, but it’s on Rook to knock it down, hopefully in such a way that we can salvage it and add a third assault mech to the Bastards’ roster.

Deployment

Rook starts on the north edge of the battlefield, her view of the Emperor blocked by buildings in a small outlying town.

Round 1

She moves south. The Emperor stays out of range, keeping behind the buildings.

Round 2

round2

See round 1.

Round 3

Rook tries to get around the east side of town to get a shot on the Emperor, but can’t quite manage.

Round 4

round4

The Emperor moves into range. Rook lets him have it with everything she can bring to bear.

Her alpha strike costs 43 heat, but deals a whopping 35 damage, knocking the Emperor prone. In return, an LBX-10 burst clatters against her right arm.

Round 5

round5

Rook has to be a bit more circumspect with her weapons fire this round, sticking with her LRMs and the ER Large Lasers. She doesn’t want to get too close—the Emperor’s weapons fit is deadly at short range.

Her goal for the next few rounds is to sneak around further to the east, whereupon she can collapse the building on which the Emperor is standing out from under it.

This round, Rook’s weapons deal 43 damage, as 27 of the 30 missiles she fired find their marks.

Round 6

round6

One more hex, I think, and then Rook can knock down the building. Moving more slowly, she finds the shot on the Emperor even easier this time.

Unfortunately, the Emperor’s shot against her is easier, too. A bit rusty at driving the Stalker, she puts a foot wrong as autocannon fire slams into her armor and tips over.

Round 7

round7

That was the opening the Emperor’s pilot was looking for. The enemy mech uses its jump jets to descend to the ground, closing inside Rook‘s missile range. That’s fine by Rook, though; she has medium lasers to spare, and in lieu of firing her LRMs, switches to those.

Round 8

It’s an old-fashioned slugging match now. Rook is a better gunner, but seems to have a little bit less damage on tap than the rebel pilot. Thanks to her efforts at longer range, however, she’s still ahead on the damage race.

Round 9

round9

Rook backs up as the Emperor jump-jets closer to her. She’s finding the Stalker’s performance most agreeable. Thanks to its combat computer, she can fire either her large lasers and missile launchers, or her large lasers and medium lasers, without worrying about her mech’s heat. That’s a major improvement over her previous ride.

Round 10

Alarms begin to flash in Rook‘s cockpit, indicating that her armor has been blasted away over her mech’s left arm. In return, however, her sensors indicate that she’s broken through the Emperor’s armor in multiple places.

Round 11

round11
The Emperor jumps up onto a ridgeline, so Rook moves into a hull-down position at its edge.

Round 12

Rook backs up slightly, hoping to stay out of melee range, but the Emperor is able to jump into position on the ridge above her, where it can kick down at her mech’s head.

She consults her cockpit displays quickly. With a worrying lack of armor on her left side, right where the Emperor is, she decides to try a risky close-range shot with her long-range missiles, hoping to knock him down before he’s able to bring a leg to bear.

She pulls her triggers, and weapons fire flashes back and forth between the two mechs. Alarms blare loudly in her cockpit as an LBX-10 shell impacts her mech’s left arm. With a sound of shearing metal, it breaks free.

Her missiles strike true, arcing out of their launch bays and arming just in time to pockmark the Emperor’s right torso. Her lasers, too, carve deep into it, and just as they finish their bursts, she sees the telltale signs of internal explosions. The force directed outward, the blossoming fireball nevertheless bends back a panel on the Emperor’s center torso armor. With her last large laser, Rook steadies her aim and squeezes the trigger. The large laser strikes true, slicing in behind the damaged armor to penetrate the Emperor’s engine. It staggers back, then falls to the ground, raising a vast cloud of dust as it hits.

Damage, Injuries, and Salvage

It takes some doing, but Drake manages to talk our ComStar liaison into letting us keep the Emperor in exchange for October’s paycheck.

The bad news is that the Stalker is pretty badly beaten up. The good news is that it won’t take all that long to fix, especially now that Rook‘s tech Edina Cameron is familiar with the design and can direct the repairs. Rook herself is unharmed, and permits herself a rare grin as the rest of the Bastards congratulate her on her victory in a most unexpected combat.

Kill Board(s)

In addition to the pictured kills, Rook notches one by taking down the Emperor.

On the strength of her Koshi, Severe is really rising up the board.

Last Battle

killboard

All-Time Leaders

  1. “Rook” Ishikawa (28, 9 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  2. “Drake” Halit (14, 6 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  3. “Woad” Kohler (14, 5 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  4. “Carcer” Ngo (11, 5 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  5. “Wizard” Que (7, 6 mechs, 6 Clan kills)
  6. “Teddy Bear” Jamil (7, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kills)
  7. “Severe” Payne (6, 5 mechs)
  8. “Double Dog” Dare (5, 2 mechs, 1 Clan kill)
  9. “Hanzoku” Yuksel (5, 4 mechs, 2 Clan kill)
  10. “Linebuster” Atkinson (5)
  11. “Milspec” Ortega (4, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  12. “Ker-Ker” Ec (3, 2 mechs)
  13. “Euchre” Kojic (3, 2 mechs)
  14. “Blinky” Stirzacre (2)
  15. “Kicks” Hernandez (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  16. Simona (1, 1 mech, 1 Clan kill)
  17. “Wojtek” Frajtov (1, 1 mech)

Status

It is now October 8, 3052. I really wanted to get a full month in, but there’s yet another battle pending.

Finances

We have 69.736 million C-bills in the bank.

Repairs and Refits

The techs managed to get Rook‘s Stalker turned around. The Emperor is under repair, pending arrival of a few parts.

Mechwarrior Claims and Assignments

  • For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
    • Captain Huri “Drake” Halit (Mephansteras) – Awesome Custom (refitting)
    • Lt. SG George “Linebuster” Atkinson (Hasek10) – Lancelot LNC25-02
    • Lt. SG Mariamu “Rook” Ishikawa (Culise) – Stalker STK-3Fb
    • Lt. JG Sung-min “Double Dog” Dare (a1s) – Thunderbolt TDR-5S-T
    • Sgt. Jose “Milspec” Ortega (milspec) – Crab CRB-20
    • Sgt. Tedros “Teddy Bear” Jamil (Knave) – Vulcan VL-5T
    • Cpl. Damayanti “Carcer” Ngo (Dorsidwarf) – Flashman FLS-7K
    • Cpl. Ferdinand “Woad” Kohler (A Thing) – Grasshopper GHR-5H
    • Pvt. Jan “Euchre” Kojic (EuchreJack) – Trebuchet TBT-5S
    • Pvt. Cathrine “Severe” Payne (Burnt Pies) – Koshi Custom
    • 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
    • Pvt. Abdul-Hafiz “Pepper” Popalzi (mrkilla22) – Archer ARC-2K
    • Pvt. Kevin “Blinky” Stirzacre (moghopper) – Ostroc OSR-2C
    • Pvt. Gwenael “Kicks” Hernandez (Sheyra) – Phoenix Hawk PXH-1K
    • Pvt. Elroy “Faceplant” Farooqi (NickAragua) – Dragon DRG-5N
  • The following mechwarriors are available.
    • Rec. Simona – Ryoken/Stormcrow B (missing lasers)

Action Items

It’s time for another assault mech organization question. We now have three of them. We could combine them with a heavy mech to make a proper assault lance, or we could continue to split them out among the other lances to make top-of-the-line heavy lances.

Also, we have to decide who gets to drive the Emperor. Linebuster is a prime candidate, being one of our better pilots in general and specializing in ballistic weapons, of which the Emperor has several. That would also free up his Lancelot for someone else to drive.

If we do build three heavy lances around our three assault mechs, I think it would make sense to reorganize Bear’s Bruisers a bit, moving Simona and the Ryoken in, and probably Hanzoku and Severe out to the heavier lances.

Let’s Bash: The “Combat-Reliable” AR-15 Build

TFB ran an article about a so-called “Combat-Reliable” AR-15 build. It’s silly.

First, the concept is dumb. What does “Combat-Reliable” even mean? Looking at the parts list, lots haven’t been used in actual combat. And that would be “combat tested”. If you want a “combat reliable” rifle, here’s one, albeit one with a slightly longer barrel. And technically, without burst or auto fire capability. Let’s say you’re an army and looking to buy carbines. You’re not going to gucci it up and spec out specific parts. You’re going to call your preferred FMS-approved vendors, buy some M4s,1 and go have beers. You don’t want to bother with parts compatibility and testing. And carbines aren’t all that important anyway. They need to work. Savings can go into more important things like bombs and artillery.

And really, if we look at how many rounds are fired in combat, it tends to fall way short of the MRBS numbers on an existing Colt/FN/whoever M4. Not to mention that there’s a big supply chain for parts for boring old M4s already. If your bolt breaks, replace it. Which you can do with the existing supply system.

But ok. Let’s suppose we want to make a rifle as reliable as possible for our own reasons. Which is fine. That’s a thing we can do as a civilian with our own money. Let’s just not make too much of a fetish of combat. It’s not 2006 anymore. So let’s look at the particular parts.

Lower, why? Billet because it’s cool? There are other lowers (Radian AX556, LMT MARS) that do all this one can AND let you lock the bolt back from either side, so they do ambi better. The LMT is also forged, so it should be lighter. Billet lowers look awesome, but do nothing for reliability.

Upper: Why?! Again, are we picking this part because it looks cool? Fine, but don’t try to tell me it’s somehow “more reliable”. Why still have the forward assist? Where’s the reliability/functionality gain? If you want “more rigidity” (not that I think it matters), get the Vltor MUR. Otherwise, go forged. On the other hand, if this build was sponsored by San Tan Tactical, good on your for getting a sponsor, and why aren’t you touting their awesomeness for being part of your project?

Bolt carrier: It’s a standard full-auto spec carrier, which is a fine part. Let’s look at the coating though. There are a lot of coatings out there. Hard chrome is chosen here, but there’s also DLC/Ionbond, NiB and NP3 (nickel-teflon). What I have never, ever found is any actual data showing that these are actually better than the standard parkerization in field use. Yes, some coatings are harder or more naturally lubricative. But the AR-15 is normally run with oil on the carrier and bolt, and the mil-spec phosphate coating “holds” lubrication pretty well. Now, if you want to make the argument that some other, non-standard coating is better, you need to tell us what we’re trying to improve. NP3 is the slickest and DLC is the hardest, so those seem like obvious choices. Hard chrome is great for abrasion resistance, and it looks awesome, but these are internal parts and the existing phosphated carriers don’t really have a problem with abrasion.

Bolt: This is a standard bolt with a hard chrome coating. There are bolts out there made of better steel that have extractors with better tension and lugs that are more resistant to shear. If your goal is to make a super tough rifle, you should probably have one of those.

Rail: The centurion rails are a nice upgrade to a milspec rifle build because they fit the stock barrel nut and are freefloated. But this is built from scratch, so why use the “stock” barrel nut at all? Geissele Mk 16 (from the URGI) seems the obvious choice here, because MLOK is lighter, cheaper, and doesn’t require rail covers. Geissele claims that their rail is the most rigid, which is good if you plan on attaching lasers to it and are looking for the last 1% of awesomeness. Also, most aftermarket barrel nuts that are reasonably modern don’t require timing for the gas tube, which is great. As a builder, timing is an annoying step.

If you want to argue that quad rails are the right choice, you need to tell us why. Most people are going another direction, including USASOC. USASOC going mlok seems to indicate that it’s certainly tough enough. Even if you want to go quadrail, why 9″? Why not go longer and have more room for accessories/your hand/bracing on a support? I’ve seen no data indicating that quadrails are actually any better at retaining accessories, if that’s a concern. They’re also more expensive.

Gas block: Why bother with a folding front sight block in 2018? Irons are not your primary. Get a longer rail and put folding BUIS on that like a normal person. You can’t even make a durability argument here, because those still fold. A fixed FSB would be more rugged, but that’s not what you have here.

I would argue, like Ian and Karl did with the WWSD rifles, that buis are superfluous these days, but I recognize that not everyone agrees. If you want irons, get something that is made of better materials than the ARMS sights and is elevation adjustable. Those rear sights aren’t all that durable, and isn’t that our goal here? Not to use old parts from 2006?

Barrel: Why is midlength gas optimal on a 16″ We’ve just seen Crane testing show that midlength is better than carbine gas on a 14.5″ barrel. So maybe intermediate gas is better on a 16″. Also, that is a government profile barrel, and that is a stupid, muzzle-heavy profile. Either go with a lightweight profile to save weight, or go with a medium profile for better accuracy/automatic fire capability. The government profile makes no sense.

The chosen flash hider should be able to mount a suppressor. If we want “combat” suppressors, maybe the Surefire SOCOM ones that have seen combat. But in any case, suppressor capability should be there. Even the basic “A2” flash hider can mount some suppressors.

Stock: Again, a really old part. Why? There are better stocks. There are certainly tougher stocks, to the extent that such things matter.


  1. Or HK 416s, since those are about 95% M4. 

EAPS: The US Army’s New 50mm Cannon?

Over at AUSA 2018, General Dynamics showed off their Griffin III demonstrator vehicle, which was armed with, among other things, a new 50mm cannon. At first, I thought this was simply someone actually executing on the old 50mm Supershot idea, but this is only half true.

What’s carried over from the Supershot program is the basic cartridge shape1, i.e. that of a 35x228mm cartridge ‘necked out’ into a straight-walled case. The gun, which is basically a Bushmaster III with a new barrel and slightly revised feed system, is still externally driven. Nothing super new there. What is new is the goal.

50mm Supershot was designed to have a way to get a more powerful APFSDS round out of the 35mm cannon. A quick barrel change, add new rounds, and you could smash up a tougher Soviet IFV, since 50mm Supershot got you about as much propellant as a 40mm Bofors round, but in a smaller package. Of course, the Soviet Union is no more, and now they have much smaller armored forces. What they do have are precision guided munitions, UAVs, and the traditional giant artillery park.

The new Extended Area Protection System (EAPS–yeah, it’s a stupid name) worked to adapt modern technology and the capacious 50mm round to attack the problem of C-RAM (Counter Rockets, Artillery, and Mortars) as well as countering larger UAVs. What they’ve settled on is a Course Corrected Projectile, fired out of the 50mm gun, equipped with command guidance and a fragmentation warhead.

EAPS and its guided projectiles have passed some basic proof-of-concept testing. It remains to be seen how well the system will shake out. I kinda like the idea, and it’s a better reason than most to increase the autocannon caliber. I’m skeptical that it will work all that well in practice, but it’s at least a new idea.

As for the gun, we can extrapolate a little from the Bushmaster III. Still no word on the capacity of a mounted one yet.


  1. Though the devil lurks in the details. I have no idea if the old rounds would also fit in the chamber for the new gun. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 10, 2018)

A long one this week, courtesy primarily of the Association of the United States Army and the plans to replace the Bradley.

AUSA 2018

Other Defense

Guns

Football

Technology and Other

Let’s Bash: The Ribbon Gun

I was going to write a nice answer to Chris’ question about this new thing, but then I thought “Why not write an article instead?” So let’s do that.

The Ribbon Gun is the latest in a long line of “Space Age Future Rifles”. It has four 6mm barrels side-by-side in one big block, and it shoots ammunition stored in blocks that keep all the bullets in a neat little row. It’s supposed to have a theoretical cyclic rate of something like 250 rounds per second. Ignition is electronic, but it sill uses (supposedly) some sort of gunpowder to drive the projectiles.

So let’s get on to my opinion. As you may have guessed from the title, I’m not a fan. Here we have a rifle that supposedly capable of some sort of ludicrous cyclic rate of fire. There’s no word on how it’s going to eject those ammo “blocks” fast enough, or how a solider is going to carry enough ammo. The ammo magazine looks big, bulky and heavy. Which is perfect for soldiers who are already overburdened with electronics, body armor, and batteries. Let’s give them more ammo weight; that’s the ticket to success. Perhaps they just mean it as some sort of “hyperburst,” but that comes with its own problems.

Electronic ignition is nothing new. The advantages of such are frequently touted, but the success and popularity of designs featuring electric ignition is just not there. The VEC-91 was a market failure, and had its share of problems. It’s the gun of the future, and it always will be. Or so the joke goes. Electronic ignition should be simpler, but do we really need more batteries? They better at least be standard batteries. Does it lag?

And of course, any kind of rate of fire that’s quite fast will have the problem of waste heat. This design shows very little appreciation for how it will be cooled, though it is just a prototype. That’s always a problem with high rates of fire or so-called “hyperbursts”. One of the things seen in previous programs was trying to figure out just the right amount of dispersion in a hyperburst to get enough spread at expected combat ranges to make up for aiming errors. It’s a very difficult problem to solve, and no one quite has it figure out.

We’ve seen a number of high rate of fire weapons before. I have a book full of fantastic future rifles. They went no where. There are significant technical problems inherent in such a design, and the tradeoffs really aren’t worth the costs. Perhaps they can make a soldier “more accurate.” Or perhaps they’ll just enable him to miss faster. And nobody ever talks about keeping Pfc. Schmuckatelli supplied with enough ammo to sustain the rate of fire. Could every man in the Werhmacht Heer have carried an MG42? I think not. And no, it’s not the weight of the weapon that’s a problem; it’s the weight of the quantity of ammo.

I’d rather buy JDAMs. Maybe I’m missing out on another SPIW. Maybe I’m missing out on the next Lebel. If it proves to be good, it’s a lot easier to make the second of something. But that’s really not all that likely to be needed. Existing carbines are pretty good, when you look at them as a whole.

Let’s Bash: the Laugo Alien pistol

Today’s obscure piece of firearms technology is the Laugo Alien, a fascinating handgun whose slide rides between the frame and an interchangeable top strap.

This is objectively cool, and in the same way that CZ’s low-ride slides yield a nice straight-back recoil impulse, I can see how this design would do the same. It has the added benefit of fixing the sights to a non-moving platform, which is good both for tracking sights, and for not subjecting electronic sights to quite as severe conditions. All told, I think it’s a worthwhile experiment, and could very well be the next thing to catch on.

That said, as ever, we have to ask ourselves what the gun is for. The answer is pretty clearly ‘competition’. For one, just look at the colors. Subtle this ain’t. For another, look at the front iron sight: a big, delicate fiber-optic jobber. Finally, read the text in the second link. Laugo is planning an Open-division kit, which includes a Picatinny top strap, a flared magazine well, and a compensator. (No pictures of the comp, unfortunately.)

So, is it a good choice for competition? The answer is pretty clearly no. Let us count the reasons why.

One: caliber choice. The Alien teased so far is a 9mm pistol. That means USPSA Limited is out, at least as a serious contender. .40 is the sweet spot there, as in any sport with a major/minor distinction. USPSA Production? I think the iron-sight version would technically be Production-legal, but Laugo has to sell a few thousand, then get them on the Production list, and buying one for Production prior to that is a bit chicken-and-egg. USPSA Open? They seem to be leaning in that direction, with a pistol a full half a pound heavier than a Beretta 92 which has an optional Open-division kit. I wouldn’t want to be the first to put a few thousand rounds of 9mm Major through it, though. Carry Optics? Also no, because the sight is frame-mounted.

There might be some room for it in other shooting sports without a major-minor distinction, but then you run into problem two.

Two: magazine choice. Catastrophically, the Alien uses proprietary magazines. This is never, ever a good idea, especially if you’re building something in the technological avant garde. Magazines are hard to get right, and the best answer is almost always, “Use Glock, Beretta 92, or CZ 75 mags.” Proprietary magazines also limit you to 17 rounds of 9mm, which is insufficient for any sort of competition use besides Production division. Too, they’re expensive, they can be hard to find, and they’re a big part of problem three.

Three: no aftermarket. The best competition guns are those you either have custom made to have irresponsibly light triggers, those with custom shops which will do irresponsibly light trigger jobs, and those you can buy irresponsibly-light trigger parts for. Laugo is probably not going to sell a pistol out of the box with a two-pound trigger, and until such time as parts are available, it’s going to be a less-optimal choice.

All that being said, I can’t deny the coolness. Furthermore, like I said above, I think it’s very likely to end up being a good idea. I just don’t think it’s quite ready for the crucible of competition yet.

(If you’re reading this and want to prove us wrong, Laugo, we’ll give you our local FFL’s address.)

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Oct. 3, 2018)

Lots of F-35 news today.

Defense

Guns (etc.)

Miscellaneous