Friday, June 23, 2017

The IDF resurrects its Haruv Special Operations Unit

via Shepard Media.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced in April that it was reviving the Haruv Special Operations Unit following its disbandment in 1974 as part of a wider restructuring of the army.

Today, Haruv is already operational, with the special operations unit scheduled to achieve a full operational capability (FOC) within the next two years, unit officials explained to Shephard.

The deputy commander of Haruv, Capt Ben Eichenthal, described to Shephard on 12 June that the unit was revived in response to emerging requirements across the contemporary operating environment, particularly relating to increased demand for specialist counter-terrorism (CT) missions in and around Israel.

‘The IDF has a need for a special unit capable of operating in Palestinian areas,’ Eichenthal explained while making reference to covert operations in urban and densely populated areas such as the Gaza Strip.
Story here. 

Another Special Ops unit?  Wow.  An Army made up of specialist units....I wonder if Israeli Special Ops now outnumbers its general purpose force units?

Congress pushes the Army to modernize/buy armored vehicles...which leaves the Marine Corps in a quandary...

The United States has run up against enemy tanks in the early stages of both Iraq wars, but an uneven fight where the America’s military had command of the air (planes beat tanks in the big rock-paper-scissors of combat, generally) isn’t really a good test of its tank capabilities the way that a land war with Russia would be.
In such a fight, Congress is worried that the current vehicles, like the M1 Abrams MBT — there’s approximately 9,000 of them at $5 million a tank — won’t quite cut it. The M1 has been in service since 1980, and until now the military’s policy has been to keep slapping upgrades and new technology on the same platform, basically across the board. In the future, though, it’ll be much easier to incorporate new technology on a platform specifically designed for it, and the military will need an entirely new main battle tank in the future.
As Breaking Defense reports, the Army already had plans for a successor to the Abrams, first in the “Ground Combat Vehicle” program (which it ended in 2013), and currently with the Next Generation Combat Vehicle program, which wants to have a new design for a heavy vehicle that acts as a mothership for packs of drones and unmanned ground vehicles. But the HASC’s message is clear: hurry up.
Story here. 
ACV contestants aboard ship

Read the entire article to get the flavor of things but consider this....The US Army has gone from the M1A2, M1A2 SEP, M1A2 SEP v2, M1A2 SEP v3, and are working on the M1A3 for introduction around the 2020 time frame.

Meanwhile the USMC will make a decision on the final winner of the ACV in 2018 with full scale production hopefully in 2019.

The USMC M1A1?  It will soldier on.  While the US Army will have gone thru (counting the base M1A2) four iterations of the M1A2 and will be working toward the M1A3 the USMC will be soldering on with the M1A1.

That my friends places the Marine Corps on the horns of a dilemma.

The solution (from my chair) are a series of uncomfortable choices that introduce risk into the equation if we ever have to do another "800 mile" cross country run.

US Army Stryker Mobile Gun System

Solution 1:  Go with the Mobile Gun Solution.

LVT-A5 AMTANK at Saipan
The Tank community would howl but a possible solution is to go the Mobile Gun System route.  Marine Corps Tankers take pride in supporting the infantry, but they're trained to destroy tanks.  Going to a MGS will require a change in culture, but should be doable.  Tank killing would fall to properly equipped
ACVs designated as anti-tank variants and equipped with TOW or a similar missile.  MGS variants of the ACV would take care of pillboxes, fortifications, obstacles etc...An immediate advantage is that they would be able to swim ashore and would be a nod to history.  AMTANKS was once a thing and there might be a few old skool Marines still hanging around that would cheer its return.

USMC tanks in Norway

Solution 2:  Soldier on with the M1A1.

It could be argued that the M1A1 is "good enough" for Marine Corps purposes. Some would say that modest upgrades will keep it highly capable into the future.  Some would say that the real problem is in having enough of these vehicles in fighting shape where and when we need them is more of a pressing problem than actually keeping pace with the Army and updating them.

BAE Modernized M8

Solution 3.  Follow the Army Airborne and go light tank.

I have no idea how Marine Tankers would react to this idea.  I don't think you'll see a potential USMC Light Tank variant being dropped out the back of C-130's, but the weight saving aboard ship might see bigger detachments.  I assume that the Airborne boys would want their vehicle to be as fuel efficient as possible so that also yields benefits unrealized, and since they're going for a large caliber cannon (I believe 120mm but it could be a 105) it might be capable of engaging MBTs. NOTE:  A quick Google search reveals that the BAE entrant has the 105 while the General Dynamics sports the 120. Regardless we could see brand new opportunities open up.  Amphibious raids with platoons of Light tanks escorting ACVs?  SOCOM would love that for some of their raids and even if we're acting in a supporting role, that kind of firepower would be welcome.  But there is always a downside.  For the light tank option you're looking at a vehicle that just can't take the hits that a MBT can.  Instead of leading the assault the light tanks will be back providing supporting fire to infantry assaulting...alone.

Solution 4.  No tanks.

This is the solution that the Marine Corps once appeared to be pursuing (and still might for all I know).  Tank strength in the Marine Corps has been drastically cut (misplaced an excellent article on it...I'll try and find it) and many in the Tank Community were becoming alarmed.  Recently we've heard of some planned upgrades for the M1A1 so perhaps those plans were never real and only rumors.  Quite honestly I see no upsides to this.  Direct fire will always be a necessity on the battlefield.  Any weather, always on hand firepower is a must have.

My guess on how this will play out?

I don't see a "AMTANK" coming anytime soon.  While I believe this is the best option if we can't have a real tank, and while being able to swim to shore with the assault element and standardizing or "necking down" to one armored vehicle type makes all kind of sense I just don't see it happening.  We don't have the money.  A light tank option?  Don't see that either.  I've already pointed out the advantages and operating a common vehicle with the Army is a money saver in so many ways I just don't think the Marine Corps is culturally ready to accept a light tank (yeah I AMTANK based on the ACV would just be a LARGE light tank but it swims so its in a different category).

My guess is that this can gets kicked down the road.  The M1A1 in some modestly upgraded form will soldier on till around 2030 or so.  I expect the Marine Corps to totally skip the M1A2 gen of tanks and wait and see what the M1A3 offers.  If the updates are adequate, no breakthrough in tank technology is achieved then we could see the Marine Corps going till 2040-2050 with a tank that was first conceived in the 1970s.

USS Fitzgerald mishap becomes clearer...Freighter on autopilot at time of collision.

via Free Beacon.
The deadly collision between a U.S. destroyer and a container ship June 17 took place while the freighter was on autopilot, according to Navy officials.

The Philippines-flagged cargo ship ACX Crystal was under control of a computerized navigation system that was steering and guiding the container vessel, according to officials familiar with preliminary results of an ongoing Navy investigation.

Investigators so far found no evidence the collision was deliberate.

Nevertheless, an accident during computerized navigation raises the possibility the container ship's computer system could have been hacked and the ship deliberately steered into the USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

A more likely explanation is that collision was the result of an autopilot malfunction, or the autopilot's warning signals, used to notify the ship's operators, were missed.
Story here. 

Bill Gertz is the last of a dying breed.  Hardcore defense journalists.  Even if you don't lean right you should subscribe to the Free Beacon just to keep up with his reporting.

Back on task.

Could the N. Koreans have gamed out this incident and used one of their only world class weapons to almost destroy a US warship?  Could they have hacked the navigation system?  Gertz smashed the theory right after he raised it but still....

F-35B's grounded in Yuma.

via Breaking Defense.
A glitchy software upgrade to the ALIS ground support system has grounded the Marine Corps F-35B squadron based in Yuma, Arizona, the F-35 Joint Program Office announced. Details are sparse, but a Marine Corps statement (reproduced in full below) said the unspecified “anomalies” only affected maintenance codes and only in the Yuma squadron, VMFA-211. The Marines have been the service most bullish on the F-35, pushing their variant, the F-35B jump jet, into service earlier than the Air Force or Navy.

Senate Armed Services chairman, former Navy fighter pilot, and F-35 skeptic John McCain swiftly issued a statement that he was “concerned” with the latest grounding but so far has held back from the ferocious criticism for which he’s famous.
Story here. 

Wow.  Is this ALIS system a point of vulnerability so big that black hat hackers, mercenary hackers or just bored computer nerds could change the course of a battle?

I don't know enough about this, but software is becoming a serious sore point for this program.

Can anyone explain why it needs so much code?  They brag that it has more code than the Space Shuttle but is that something to chest thump about?

Open Comment Post. June 23, 2017

Rapid And Cost-Effective Rotorcraft (RACER), 400 km/h high cruise speed helicopter from Airbus

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Saudi Arabia on the brink. Israel dispatches fighter planes to prevent a coup...

Thanks to Overwatch DVA for the link!

via FARS.
TEHRAN (FNA)- 18 Israeli fighter jets along with two Gulfstream aircraft landed in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to prevent any hostile or military moves by former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz who was replaced with Saudi King Salman's son.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced on Wednesday his decision to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman.

After the decision was announced, the Israeli air force sent 18 of its fighter jets, including F16I, F15CD and F16CD, along with two Gulfstream aircraft, two tanker airplanes and two C130 planes, special for electronic warfare, to Saudi Arabia at the demand of the new crown prince bin Salman to block his cousin (bin Nayef)'s possible measures.

According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Saudi media announced that King Salman has called for a public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday night.

The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.

Just days ago, the Saudi king stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.
Story here. 

This one could get ugly.  A Saudi Arabia in turmoil?  I personally think they deserve it, but we will unfortunately be hip deep in the drama.  We're not done with the desert yet.

Why I don't get excited about long distance shots by allied snipers...

Everyone is hitting me with the same news.  Some Canadian Snipers from JTF-2 scored a long distance hit on a bad guy in the desert.

I can understand everyone getting excited by the news but I can't.  I look at this differently.  Long distance shooting is simply a matter of teaching, good gear, a little math and the ability to read the elements.

But bushcraft is different.

That's the part of Scout Snipers that cause me to give them a nod, a grudging respect.

It's also something we're not seeing much in Afghanistan (or at least its not reported).  Everyone that has ever held a rifle in the military knows about Carlos Hathcock.  Most have read his book.  Some have seen the Scout Sniper course and some have even been thru it.

The stalk.  The crawling thru brush.  The ability to gut out the pain, the heat, the thirst, the bad weather...that's the Scout in Scout Sniper.

Don't get me wrong.  The guys that did this are bad ass.  The guys that are doing this mission are too.

But from my seat Sniping is relatively easy.  Scout Sniping is the hard thing and that's why I don't get excited about long distance shots.

Now if these guys laid up in a hide for two weeks waiting for the high value target to appear, leaning on their sides to take a piss, getting ate up by insects and waiting for dark to take a shit (if not shitting their pants)...all while avoiding detection?  Then this is something super special.  If not then its just a super long shot.

Amphibious Combat Vehicle is at sea!!!!

via USNI News.
The Marine Corps launched and recovered Amphibious Combat Vehicles from the back of an amphibious ship for the first time, in testing last weekend with BAE Systems’ and SAIC’s competing vehicles.
The ACV program office and Marines from the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch at Camp Pendleton, Calif., tested the vehicles at sea last weekend from amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25), proving that both vendors have provided a more capable vehicle than was asked of them for this first phase in ACV development.
Story here. 


Patria AMV 28A swimming (pic)

Wow.  If this is being floated with a simulated load then this vehicle is showing impressive buoyancy.  I really expected it to ride lower in the water. Note too that it's carrying the Denel 30mm RWS (I believe) so that makes the freeboard even more impressive (again assuming that it's carrying a simulated load).

82nd Airborne Troop has his "tower of power" but Sapper has precedence over Ranger Tab?

I was checking out the Army Instagram Page and saw this Airborne Troop with his "tower of power" (they used to call that the tab stack...don't know if they still call it that) and one thing caught my eye.  A Sapper tab has precedence over a Ranger tab?

Is Sapper School that sought after/prestigious now?  Can Marines attend like Ranger School or is it Army only?

UK Ministry of Defence gearing up for Armed Forces Day this Saturday (Jun 24, 2017)