Those of you who have a good memory for the history of body armor will recall the issues that the now-defunct Pinnacle Armor ran into with its Dragon Skin product. Dragon Skin body armor was supposed to be a revolution in personal protection. The concept was to replace the monolithic plate of regular body armor plates with an array of overlapping ceramic discs. Having multiple discs would prevent the propagation of cracks across the whole plate. In 2006, the US military found Dragon Skin to be unsatisfactory as a replacement for the hard plates used in the Interceptor body armor system. Pinnacle claimed the tests were biased, and sued. The lawsuit found in favor of the US Government. The arguments continued, especially on various internet forums, but Pinnacle Armor eventually went out of business in 2010.
The goal of trying to gain resistance to more hits by stopping the propagation of cracks lingered, and I’ve recently found someone else who is tackling the basic concept.
Enter RMA Defense’s Model 1189 Level IV plate.
RMA Defense is claiming, and has the all-important third-party tests to back up, that their plate will stop 5-7 rounds of .30-06 M2AP. This is pretty impressive when you consider that all that’s required for a Level IV rating is to stop one round of M2AP. “Multi-hit” generally means three rounds of M2AP. Having a third party lab verify that you stopped six rounds is awesome.
We can get some notion of how the armor works from their patent. The key bit is a series of tiles, joined with structural adhesive. Think of a set of bathroom tiles, only made of silicon carbide. Then, cracks from a hit on one of the tiles will only propagate as far as the joints, leaving most of the rest of the array intact. This ceramic array is mounted over a plate of UHMWPE and wrapped in a fancy aramid. It’s pretty cool.
Price per plate is pretty reasonable for ceramics at $299 a piece. Weight of 6.9 lbs is on the heavy side for ceramics, and is similar to that of the similarly-sized, high-end steel TAC3S plate. Also, the 1189s are single-curve plates, and that’s pretty old school. Triple curve is the current standard, and will fit you a lot better. That said, it’s still an innovative product. Personally, we’d wait for the future generation model.
Poland’s Rak 120mm self propelled mortar is the sort of turreted system that Russia has had for years but never really caught on in the west. It’s built on the Rosomak chassis, which is a Polish-made variant of Patria’s 8×8 AMV.
In the turret is a 120mm breach-loading mortar. It has an automatic loading system with a capacity for 20 ready rounds. 26 additional rounds are stowed in the hull. The autoloader and mortar has a rate of fire of 6-8 rounds per minute. The mortar has the expected computerized fire control system that is integrated with the GPS/INS navigation system. This fire control system also allows for direct fire with a laser rangefinder and a day/night sight. A coaxial 7.62mm UKM-2000D machine gun is also provided.
Chief among the advantages of a turreted mortar carrier is the ability to provide protection for the crew. The Rak has STANAG Level 1 armor protection all-around, which means it’s rated to resist 7.62mm M80 rounds and 5.56mm M855 and M193 rounds fired from a distance of 30 meters. It’s also proof against fragments from a 155mm artillery shell detonated at 100 meters. That’s pretty good, but I’d prefer a bit more protection. More specifically, I’d be concerned about DPICM-type submunitions hitting the roof, and I don’t expect the Rak to be protected from these.
The Rak has a crew of three, which is notably less than the simpler mortar carriers. That’s good for life-cycle costs. Overall, I like the Rak a lot.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 44 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, 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.
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.
Are you curious about ATGMs? Watching some video online and wondering what missile was used?
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.
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.
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 X9. It’s chambered in 9 mm. It’s got that 1911 SAO trigger goodness. And best of all, it uses reliable, modified PPQ M2 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.
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.
The new models (currently released in the European SFP- series nomenclature, because someone else has the trademark for VP- there) are as follows:
- 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.
- 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
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.