Earlier this year I wrote a post on the URG-I upgrade kit for USASOC’s M4s. This is a pretty simple set of drop-in parts to improve the functionality of the M4 by using a low-profile gas block, barrel with a midlength gas system, improved flash hider that can also mount a suppressor, and a new, longer, free-float handguard with mlok slots instead of picatinny rails.
When I first wrote the article, I compared it to a “stock” M4 upper. To do so I had to make some guesses as to the weights of the new parts. I have since been able to find the correct weights, and the article has been updated with those.
If you just want the correct weights without re-reading the article, they are as follows:
Geissele Mk 16 13″ handguard, 14.7 oz.
Surefire SF4P flash hider, 4.48 oz.
Daniel Defense 14.5″ CHF Midlength, Gov’t profile barrel, 24 oz.
The US army has finally decided to improve it’s mobile mortars. They have announced their goals to develop a turreted mortar system for their vehicles, with a completion target of 2021. Let’s break down what they’re looking at:
- Caliber: 120mm
- A manned or unmanned turret
- Autoloading system must accomplish loading rounds from ready rack into the breach.
- Ideally all ammunition handling would be automated
- Vehicle should be able to stop moving and fire within one minute of getting a fire mission
- Project will investigate being able to shoot on the move
- Maximum rate of fire (sustainable for one minute): 16 rounds/minute required, 24 rounds/minute ideal
- Sustained rate of fire: 6 rounds/minute required, 12 rounds/minute ideal
- System should have a direct-fire capability
- System should be compatible with all existing 120mm mortar ammunition
- Maximum range should be at least 5 miles
- Minimum range should be 220 yards (direct fire)
Patria’s NEMO system comes close to meeting the above requirements, but would need some work to meet the short-term maximum rate of fire requirements. AMOS should be able to do the rate of fire goals given its twin barrels. My one worry is that the perfect would be the enemy of the good enough. Big Army should just pick an off the shelf system (probably the reasonably priced NEMO) and start slapping them on Strykers and AMPVs and call it a day. Have a couple beers and some wings in Alexandria. Any such turreted system is going to be a significant improvement in survivability for the mortar crews, and should also provide improvements in effectiveness. Don’t overcomplicate this.
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.