Tag Archives: news

The Pizza MRE

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

eating pizza mre

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

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

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

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

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

M2A5 Bradley Proposals

The US Army is continuing to look at options to improve its Bradley fighting vehicles. In the wake of the termination of the Ground Combat Vehicle, the US Army sought a cheaper incremental upgrade process, consisting of two engineering change proposals. ECP1 improved the suspension and tracks, and ECP2 improved power generation and internal networking. For the record, Bradleys that have received both ECP1 and ECP2 are designated M2A4.1

But the US Army is not content to stop there. Further upgrades are being considered, and they consist of a series of proposed changes to both the hull and turret. The final M2A5 will probably consist of some combination of these.

Hull Changes
ECP1 added a reworked suspension to handle more weight. Let’s use that weight. The reworked hull design proposal uses a bunch of design work from the successful AMPV program, which is based on a turretless Bradley. The reworked hull should accommodate more armor and likely some kind of active protection system.2 It’s also somewhat taller than a regular Bradley. The biggest difference is a bit of hull stretch to accommodate an eighth solider. No extra roadwheels will be added. I’m curious about the new seating arrangement.

Turret Changes
This is a little less interesting to me, because these proposals aren’t really anything we haven’t seen before. The conversion from 25x137mm M242 to 30x173mm Mk. 443 is something that’s been trialed before and proposed before. Again, ready capacity decreases from 300 rounds to 180 rounds. Gains include armor piercing growth room,4 ammo commonality with the Stryker Dragoon, and the possibility of using airburst rounds. Not on the docket is any change to the TOW missile launcher. I might have expected Javelin instead, but that doesn’t look to be in the cards.

Alternatively, as ever there are rumors about the US Army investigating foreign made IFVs. I would expect the ASCOD 2 and the Puma to be on the short list of candidates being looked at. Maybe they’ll try to license one. Or maybe not.


  1. Finally. Wish they’d finally designate an M1A3 Abrams… 
  2. The system hasn’t been chosen yet, and it might get integrated into the turret. Or not; the TOW launcher is kind of in the way. 
  3. Or a derivative of the Mk. 44, like the M813 on the Stryker Dragoon. 
  4. 25x137mm Depleted Uranium APFSDS is roughly equivalent to 30x173mm APFSDS, so some well-made DU rounds should give yet more punch to the 30x173mm. 

EXTRA: Trouble at SilencerCo?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting to bring you this Extra Edition. Today we’re going to get business-y and talk a little bit about problems at SilencerCo. As you may have gathered if you don’t already know, they make suppressors.

A lot of this is speculation, because SilencerCo is not publicly traded, so there are no financial statements to read. But here’s what we know:

  • They haven’t had a big, mass-appeal product for a while now. The last one I recall was the Omega.
  • Their most recent product launches are pretty niche market. One of them, the Maxim 9 integrally suppressed pistol, was definitely an R&D-heavy project.
  • Between people waiting to receive silencers that they panic-bought during the Obama administration and people waiting to hear a decisive yes/no vote on the Hearing Protection Act, the silencer market is pretty down right now.
  • SilencerCo has had a rocky relationship with Silencer Shop lately, and Silencer Shop is one of the biggest silencer retailers in the US, and certainly among the easiest to buy from.

All of the above combine to really hurt cash-flow. They desperately need a rebound product and marketing help, both of which require money. SilencerCo has been going through a few rounds of layoffs. Which might just be reorganization.

Currently, there are rumors floating around that the top three executives have been voted out by the creditors at a shareholders’ meeting. And that is starting to get troublesome. It definitely looks like trouble is coming to a head over in West Valley City.

I hope SilencerCo can pull it out, but it doesn’t look good. We’ll see how it turns out.

Red Flag 18-1 Kickoff

It is on like Donkey Kong.

This year’s first iteration of the USAF’s aerial war games, Red Flag, kicks off today. There will be day and night exercises. There will be tons of the best simulated combat we can set up. Two things make this year’s Red Flag a little different than most.

First, the guest list. Red Flag is always an invitation only affair. For this one, it’s Diamond Super Platinum members only. Which means Australia and the UK, in addition to America. That’s it. Nobody else.

Pretty hardcore, right? You may be wondering why. There’s likely going to be some testing of sensitive capabilities. Also, let’s look at some interesting notifications for aircraft operating in Los Angeles Center airspace and flying in and out of airports in the Las Vegas area.

Arrivals and departures from airports within the Las Vegas area may be issued non-Rnav re-routes with the possibility of increased traffic disruption near LAS requiring airborne re-routes to the south and east of the affected area. Aircraft operating in Los Angeles (ZLA) center airspace may experience navigational disruption, including suspension of Descend-via and Climb-via procedures. Non-Rnav SIDs and STARs may be issued within ZLA airspace in the event of increased navigational disruption. Crews should expect the possibility of airborne mile-in-trail and departure mile-in-trail traffic management initiatives.

Huh.

Among other things, the US DoD is cranking up a bunch of high powered GPS jammers in the Nevada Test and Training Range, and this might interfere with nearby civilian traffic. Consider yourself warned.

It’s about time we did some training in a no-GPS environment. See how we cope and develop TTPs. That’s what Red Flag is for.

Wilson Combat’s New EDC X9

The double stack 1911, colloquially known as a “2011”, is super popular amongst competitive shooters. And for good reason. Combining the short, light, tunable 1911-type trigger with modern magazine capacities is a winning recipe. The problem is in the magazines. They’re not reliable. Want ones that work? Be prepared to shell out $140 per tuned magazine. And don’t drop them in the dirt. And there’s not any kind of overinsertion stop on the magazines, so if you jam them in with the slide locked back, you can jam them inside the gun, and you’ll need tools to get it out. Have fun.

Wilson Combat is working to change that. They’re about to release a brand new pistol: the EDC X91. It’s chambered in 9 mm. It’s got that 1911 SAO trigger goodness. And best of all, it uses reliable, modified PPQ M22 mags. Yes, that’s right. A 2011 with cheap, reliable mags.

It should sell well at it’s price point of a trifle under $3000. I’m sure competitors would prefer it in .40 for that major power factor scoring. And it’s competing with a bunch of tuned limited and open guns at that price. But they don’t take reliable magazines.


  1. The preorder page at Shooters Connection has gone live, and you can find photographs there. 
  2. Earlier versions of this article had these as Beretta M9 magazines. Our initial source was in error, and that is incorrect. They aren’t the M9 magazines, but a derivative of the PPQ magazine made by Mec-Gar (Who also makes OEM PPQ magazines for Walther. 

New VP Pistols from HK

I’m a big fan of the VP9. It’s a great pistol at a good price point. It has the best ergonomics around, an excellent trigger, and it handles recoil well. Of course, there are always things people want.

And HK has listened.1

The new models (currently released in the European SFP- series nomenclature, because someone else has the trademark for VP- there) are as follows:

  1. A longslide model (SFP9L/VP9L). Because who doesn’t like competition-y longslide versions. More sight radius is better. Also, longslide pistols look cool. Right now it looks like HK has done lightening to the longslide without adding a bunch of holes for mud to get into. Which isn’t a big deal for most, but is still nice for those of us who take classes in Somme-like conditions with sadistic shooting instructors.
  2. A subcompact model (SFP9SK/VP9SK). A smaller backup gun that can take the same magazines as its bigger brother. Yay. Interestingly, this will probably have a good sight radius for its size class due to how the slide is designed. I know lots of people have been wanting this
  3. An optics-ready model (SFP9OR/VP9OR). It’s got the interchangeable slide plates for a bunch of common optics, right from the factory. Pistol optics are cool

Am I interested? Of course I am. There are also two other pistol options available that aren’t of much interest to me, but might be of interest to you:

  1. Optional button mag release instead of the paddles. Hopefully this takes the same magazines. I guess HK got tired of people complaining. I like the paddles, but finally an option for those who don’t.
  2. Optional thumb safety. Yes, Virginia, it’s frame mounted. And it also looks nicely shaped to be easily accessible, but not in your way. I don’t care for these, but you might. So here’s the option for you.

Finally, HK is introducing new, bigger, badder, factory 20 round magazines. Score. I love me some extended magazines.


  1. This is a record for fastest turnaround time from Oberndorf. Give them a round of applause ladies and gentlemen. 

The USMC Moves to Issue the M27 to All Riflemen

See: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=278024299180d7a9c1185936329ae560&tab=core&_cview=0

This would be step one of the process to getting a whole bunch of them. One for every rifleman in the Corps.

Now, there are more steps that have to be done (an RFP), but this is step one of a procurement move.

And it’s pretty big. I know lots of folks who’ve been wanting to go this way, and HK originally called the 416 the “HK M4” until they ran afoul of trademark rules.

We’ll see if any snags come up. But this is an interesting move with the Corps.

Glad to see we agree again.

F-35 First Red Flag Performance

The F-35A is at its first Red Flag! And we’ve gotten some reports of how it’s doing.

First, a little review. Red Flag is the most advanced aerial combat exercise in the world. In a given year, there are several Red Flags, operated out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. There, the US Air Force and US Navy squadrons join with squadrons from other NATO and Non-NATO allies to engage in a series of realistic training exercises. They have the full suite of AWACS support, and air combat is staged against the Aggressors, instructor pilots who fly F-15s and F-16s and are trained in a wide variety of foreign flight tactics.

The Aggressor pilots are the best dogfight pilots in the world. That is literally all that they do. Their job is to be the nastiest guys in the sky, to catch pilots making mistakes in training where there’s a nice debrief so they can learn from their errors. Beats the Hanoi Hilton.

And the F-35 is, of course, the next fighter of the US Air Force, the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, the Royal Navy, the Israeli Defense Forces, South Korea, Australia, and a whole lot of others. It’s a huge, complicated, advanced program. And it’s had its share of problems as well as its share of detractors. And it was my pick for Borgundy’s Fighter in the Procurement Games. Despite the problems, I stand by that decision.

So with all that in mind, let’s see how it did. Keep in mind, this is only one Red Flag exercise. Small sample sizes can lead to problems. But it’s the data we have, and given the questions, it’s worth commenting on now.

As befits USAF doctrine, the F-35 has been primarily tasked with strike and SEAD missions. The USAF has F-22s for air combat. And the F-35 has done great. They didn’t lose any fighters on day one of the exercise when they engaged enemy air defenses, which is not something that usually happens. The Aggressor Team had to revise their exercises to be more complex and difficult in order to make life more difficult for the ‘Blue’ team (the good guys with the stealthy fighters). These tests are only interesting when they are hard.

But let’s talk about dogfighting. Nobody else has Raptors, so the rest of the world will need the Lightning II to be ready to mix it up, and the F-35 got some dogfights in. We do not know any of the specifics of the engagement–range, circumstances, rules of engagement, simulated loadouts, etc. But we do have a final score. 15-1 in favor of the Lightning. Questions abound, of course. What were the rules of engagement? What were the circumstances? Were these all WVR? BVR? We do know that the Aggressor pilots have had a lot of experience dogfighting (and mostly losing) to the F-22, so they may have been a little more ready for the F-35 than one might otherwise expect.

Pilot impressions of the Lightning II continue to be positive. The situational awareness is better than anything else in the sky, and unsurprisingly, pilots love being able to see and know more. No complaints about the aircraft have emerged. Also, it’s done great on the flightline. No F-35s have missed a sortie for maintenance problems, and the planes report a 92% mission readiness rate. Most legacy aircraft have a 70-85% mission readiness rate.

So despite the problems, many of which do not affect the -A variant, we can see that the Lightning is doing well in unscripted exercises. It’s a very good sign for the program.

And no, we do not expect the program to be cancelled as part of President Trump’s review.

HK 433 First Look

HK has released a new rifle!

Okay, it’s for armies. More specifically, it’s for the Bundeswehr. It seems a lot like a G36 version 2.0. Let’s take a look.

hk 433

It’s a 5.56 rifle, with an adjustable folding stock. The stock looks an awful lot like what was on the canceled XM-8. Or the SCAR. It’s got a charging handle mounted forward like on a G3. There’s a negative mounting system, which is HKlok1. Mag release is available in a G36 type paddle or the AR-15 type button. Bolt release is at the front of the trigger guard, again like the XM-8.

Larry Vickers has a source saying this rifle was designed for the Bundeswehr because the HK 416 was too expensive.2 Or something.3 And, I guess it’ll be cheaper to make than a 416. But let’s break it down.

Does this change our choice to go with the HK 416 in the Borgundy Procurement Games? Nein. To be honest, other than being the cheap version of the 416, the 433 does not impress me. The HK 416 is HK’s take on the AR-15 platform. It’s got some ambidextrous controls, a heavier barrel, nicer handguard, and that short-stroke gas piston system, but it’s still mostly AR-15. And I’m really not seeing improvements anywhere over the basic AR-15 design, unless you start with exotic ammo or require a bullpup layout.

A charging handle out front is going to get in the way of lights and lasers that you might mount. Which are increasingly popular for night operations. Frankly, there’s no good place for the charging handle. The AR’s might not be ideal to get to easily, but it’s out of your way the rest of the time, and the rifle is designed to minimize the number of times you have to run the AR-15 charging handle in the absence of a malfunction. And when you do, you won’t smash your knuckles on an optic or have to fish around your laser/IR illuminator unit.

The choice of HKlok is increasingly suspect. First, I’d still support picatinny rails, for most military applications, because there are so many picatinny-compatible accessories in the inventory. And if you were going to go with a newer, lighter ‘negative mounting’ method, the right answer is Mlok. Because it’s gotten more industry support faster, and it’s also available as an option on a number of Colt Canada’s latest rifle offerings. Plus, it’s also used on the HK CSASS handguard that won the latest US Army semiautomatic sniper rifle competition. Unless they want to lock themselves out of a ton of future aftermarket offerings, HKlok doesn’t make sense to me.

The other thing that’s bothered me is that this looks an awful lot like HK’s take on the FN SCAR design. Which is fine, I guess, except that the HK 416 keeps beating the FN SCAR in procurement competitions. So why bother trying to compete again with a loser? You’re winning with the 416. Don’t split the baby. Don’t split the production capacity. Stick with the 416 everyone likes.

I guess it’s an upgrade on the G36. But I still don’t see why it’s worth the bother. I suppose being a freaking special snowflake and wanting a Different Gun Because It’s Different transcends national borders.


  1. It’s like Keymod, but backwards. 
  2. No really. Too expensive. Nevermind that the French bought it. Seriously, the Bundeswehr is just sad and pathetic these days. 
  3. Maybe it looked too American? Maybe they couldn’t stand using the same rifle as the French? Even if it’s made in Germany and actually good.