Author Archives: parvusimperator

The SAIFV

There are two consistent complaints about the Bradley. One is that it doesn’t carry enough dismounts. The other is that it’s not well protected enough. The US Army has made several attempts to rectify both of these issues. Today, we’re going to look at an alternative design to fix the latter problem: the Special Armor IFV, which dates to around 1978. Continue reading

The 1920s Screening Force

Having finished Shelby Foote’s excellent three-volume Civil War set, I’ve switched over to some more recent naval history: A History of U.S. Cruisers, by Norman Friedman. One of the cool bits of naval history in it is a breakdown of expected US Navy fleet screening requirements, circa 1920. This posited a main body consisting of seventeen battleships and six battlecruisers. These were considered separate elements, and as such, each had its own screen. There were separate screens for dealing with submarines and dealing with torpedo-armed light assets (the so-called “attack” screen). Each force also had its own scouting assets. Let’s look at the breakdown of what they expected to need to screen the main body in a future war at sea.

TypeBattleship ScreenBattlecruiser Screen
Antisubmarine
Light Cruisers10
Destroyer Leaders21
Destroyers2412
Attack Screen
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders318
Destroyers540
Scouting Forces
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders32
Destroyers5436

Quite the force. The large number of destroyers is fascinating, as is the relatively small number of cruisers employed in the screen. Cruisers were called for elsewhere, of course. Also of note is that while the term ‘light cruisers’ appears in the plans, ‘heavy cruisers’ does not. Presumably light cruisers were cruisers that weren’t battle cruisers; questions of guns and tonnage would not be relevant until the various naval treaties of the 20s and 30s.

Cool Hornet Features

The F/A-18 Hornet is a really neat aircraft. While it didn’t win our Retro Light Fighter contest, it’s still an awesome plane with a couple unique options. Let’s take a look.

ATARS
ATARS, or Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System, combines image capture, datalink and image storage capability in one package. It’s got both visible-spectrum and thermal cameras, two data storage units, an interface with the APG-73 radar to save synthetic aperture radar imagery, and a datalink. That datalink can transmit to any Common Imaging Ground/Surface Station compatible system. The coolest part about ATARS is that the package fits in the gun bay of a F/A-18D, so it doesn’t require a big, heavy, draggy pod.

Night Attack Variant
The Guy in the Back isn’t a very popular feature amongst fighter pilots. The regular -D model Hornet has the usual second set of flight controls there. But under the Night Attack program, these were replaced with a dual-sidestick layout of the back seat cockpit of the Strike Eagle. Also, the center Multipurpose Color Display and Upfront Controller were transposed. This gave a position optimized for using the targeting pod and guiding weapons. I’m surprised Fishbreath hasn’t gone for this more, being a carrier-capable, smaller, cheaper strike fighter. The Night Attack layot could be swapped back to a conventional trainer rear cockpit, with center stick and throttles. This was not common practice though.

M1 Abrams Fuel Capacities

Another short fluid capacity post, this time for the M1 Abrams. All versions of the M1 use the Honeywell AGT-1500 gas turbine engine and the Allison X1100-3B transmission.

Fuel System
Internal Tanks: 505 gal. (1,911.6 L)
Internal Tanks if UAAPU is mounted: 450 gal. (1,703.4 L)

The Under Armor APU (UAAPU) is fitted standard on the M1A2C1. Previous versions may have an APU mounted in the bustle rack as a retrofit, the UAAPU as a retrofit, or no APU at all.

The Abrams makes no provision for external fuel. Suck it up, buttercup.

Engine Oil Capacity: 25 qt. (23.7 L)

Transmission Oil Capacity: 40 gal. (151.4 L)


  1. Formerly known as the M1A2 SEP v.3 

Parvusimperator Reviews Yakuza 6

I picked this up mostly because I heard from a couple friends that this series was great. I only found out after the fact that it might have made more sense to start with the prequel Yakuza 0. No matter. I have Yakuza 6 and that’s where I started the series. So what do I think?

I love Yakuza 6.

There, that’s out of the way. Now, let’s get down to the why. Yakuza 6 is one part soap opera about criminals, one part fantastic beat-’em-up, and one part sort-of-open-world game. Let’s look at each of those.

The story is very much dramatic soap opera. I don’t speak Japanese, so I’m doing a lot of reading of subtitles. I don’t really mind. I think the story is loads of fun, mostly because it’s so different. It does have a bit of an anime feel to it in the ‘awesome drama trumps some realism’ department, but that’s ok. If you want to skip the cutscenes, you can. You’re missing out on some great story though. Just because it’s a little stylistically different doesn’t mean it isn’t well written. And fun. It’s lots of fun.

I also want to take a moment to commend Yakuza 6 for doing a great job of bringing someone totally new to the series up to speed with a minimum of fuss. And I didn’t feel like I was being lectured to. That’s rare.

Combat is pretty fantastic. There are some combos, but they’re pretty simple. It doesn’t feel like an old-school fighting game with giant lists of button press sequences to memorize. What sets Yakuza 6 apart from say, the Arkham games, is that the environment is full of weapons for you to use. There’s a lot of fun in picking up random things and beating your foes with them. Plus, there’s a “Heat Mode” which lets you power up, punch with awesome blue flames, and use larger blunt objects to smash people in the face. Things like mopeds.

There are also a good number of cool unlockable moves. Not so much that it ever felt grindy, but you can definitely unlock some fun extras.

Yakuza 6 has some open world elements in that there are a lot of optional sidequests and minigames that you can do. Some of these can get annoying, so it’s good to space them out. However, I never found them to be anything but fun. I think my favorite was running around trying to befriend stray cats by feeding them. Or perhaps the spearfishing rail-shooter minigame. In any case, these are all nicely optional.

Overall, there’s a good, fun story, an excellent combat system, and a solid grab bag of minigames. I give it a thumbs up. Definitely worth the asking price.

Witness Protection Shotgun

There are a number of shotguns released today designed to avoid classification as a “short barreled shotgun”. For our international readers, under the complicated and confusing US law, a “short barreled shotgun” has to be registered with the ATF, which means a $200 fee, fingerprints, photos, and a six month wait. But a short, “stockless” gun like the Tac-14, Shockwave or V3 Tac-13 is not legally an SBS, and so you can buy it and take it home with you immediately, with no extra fee.1

Now, lots of people will debate the utility of such a weapon. I think the utility might be best understood with a little history, not that every weapon needs to serve a practical purpose. Some guns are fun guns, and that’s awesome. But this weapon has good applications. For one, shotguns with slugs are good bear repellent, and a very compact, stockless shotgun can be strapped to or thrown in a backpack pretty easily.

What many may not know is that the US Marshals had a professional gunsmith make something an awful lot like the Tac-14 back in the 80s. They called it the Witness Protection Shotgun. Being law enforcement, the US Marshals could buy what the NFA would call “Short Barreled Shotguns” with 14″ barrels and stocks no problem. But that’s not what these were.

The Witness Protection Shotgun started life as a Remington 870. It had a 12.5″ barrel, which was as short as they could cut the 870’s barrel given how it attaches to the rest of the gun. It also had a cut, shaped, and refinished “bird’s head” grip of wood, shaped a lot like you’d see on the Tac-14. They also added a sling plate at the front, much like the Wilson Combat vertical sling plate. The idea here was to both attach a sling and provide a handstop to make sure that the support hand didn’t end up in front of the muzzle. Magazine capacity was four 2 3/4″ shells.

You may have figured out the intended role from the name. The idea was to have a tremendously powerful, concealable weapon for use in the witness protection program. With a very short barrel, no stock, and general lack of bulk that comes from a pump shotgun (as compared to say, a Colt Commando), the Witness Protection Shotgun was easy for a marshal to hide under his coat. These were popular with the US Marshals in the 80s, and then fell out of favor.

And with proper technique you won’t hit yourself in the face when shooting one either.


  1. Your mileage may vary. Some restrictions may apply if your state is run by communists. 

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.

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.

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.