Misc. Friday Ramblings...

  • A DIY Cruise Missile
    Some time ago I wrote an article in which I suggested that it would not be difficult for terrorists to build their own relatively sophisticated cruise missiles using off-the-shelf components and materials.

    Not surprisingly, that piece has produced a significant amount of feedback from the tens of thousands of people who have read it so far.

    Included in this feedback, I've received quite a number of emails from former and currently serving US military personnel who acknowledge that the threat is one they are very much aware of and for which there is little in the way of an effective defense available.

    However, there have also been a number of people who claim I'm overstating the case and that it's not possible to build a real cruise missile without access to sophisticated gear, specialist tools and information not readily available outside the military.

    So, in order to prove my case, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and build a cruise missile in my own garage, on a budget of just US$5,000

    If his goal was to raise awareness, it worked too well. Now, he has the government of NZ shutting him down by any means necessary. A disgruntled engineer is someone that you don't want to mess with, because they usually know how stuff works.

  • Stryker Ramps Up Mobile Gun System
    The newest version of the Stryker vehicle, designed to provide fire power to Infantry units, will be unveiled May 15 at Fort Knox's Armor Warfighting Symposium.

    The development of the Mobile Gun System is being managed by Fort Benning's Training and Doctrine Command System Manager-Stryker/Bradley.

    The system was developed to meet the infantry’s need for a highly mobile support vehicle to supply rapid, direct fire, specifically during close assaults, said Dave Rogers, a TSM-Stryker senior analyst. The Mobile Gun System will eventually be integrated into Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.

    "The Mobile Gun System brings a tremendous battlefield capability to the Stryker formation, providing direct fire support to infantrymen in close, complex terrain," said Col. Donald Sando, the director of the TSM Stryker/Bradley.

    The Mobile Gun System's firepower includes a turret-mounted 105 mm cannon, a mounted M-240C machine gun and a pedestal-mounted M-2.50 caliber machine gun for the vehicle commander.

    The cannon can blast holes through reinforced concrete walls creating a breach point for infantry, and destroy bunkers and machine-gun nests that typically pin down infantry squads and platoons.

    The 105 mm cannon can also take out snipers, Rogers said, because with one shot, it can destroy the entire area where a sniper is firing from. The cannon also fires canister rounds, which are used when confronting large groups of combatants. The canister round sends out a spray of titanium balls, similar to the pellets from a shotgun, which can impact several targets at once.

    As long as it won't be pressed into something it wasn't designed to do, it sounds like a good idea on paper. A Hellcat it isn't, but then again, who needs a dedicated tank killer anymore in the missile era.

  • 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel. How things come back around again.
    I don't think that either round is "barking up the wrong tree" - they're just different answers to the same tactical problem. Let's look at the problem, rather than one particular solution, and then consider the answers.

    The problem is that during WW2 and Korea, studies showed that the vast majority of effective shots by infantrymen were at relatively short ranges (less than 200 yards in something like 90% of cases, IIRC). Furthermore, many infantrymen, under the stress of combat, couldn't reliably hit their targets at even close range. Longer-range shots were the province of trained marksmen and those few infantrymen who could keep their cool under fire - a very small percentage.

    This meant that the standard .30-caliber battle rifle round (and its foreign equivalents such as 7.92x57mm. Mauser, 6.5mm. Swedish, .303 British, etc.) were over-powered for the "average" shooter, being accurate out to several hundred yards, in rifles designed and equipped with sights for shots out to 1,000 yards or more. Also, these rounds were relatively heavy, limiting the amount of ammo a soldier could carry. The development of the 7.62x51mm. NATO round as a "compact" .30-caliber helped a little, but not much.

    So, armies looked for ways to solve the problem. One solution was the German "short Mauser" round - a full-caliber 7.92mm. bullet in a shortened case, with lower velocity, recoil, etc. This was extraordinarly effective, particularly in the StG44 assault rifle. The Russians followed suit with their 7.62x39mm. round for the SKS and AK rifles. These rounds were much lower in recoil than the full-house stuff, and more controllable (particularly in full-auto fire), but still almost as heavy as the bigger rounds, so that not much more ammo could be carried.

    A number of countries experimented with much smaller rounds overall, including Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA. The US 5.56x45mm. round eventually came to dominate the scene. It was so small a round as to be illegal for all but varmint hunting in many areas, but could still inflict a significant wound on a human being - particularly in full-auto fire, where multiple hits magnified the effect. Its extremely light weight also meant that the individual soldier could carry more than twice the ammo of the heavier .30-caliber rounds. However, long-range effectiveness was marginal - not a problem to the designers, or the Army, both of whom wanted a round that would be effective at typical combat distances.

    Today, the 5.56mm. is derided as being ineffective against cover, in comparison to the .30-caliber rounds, which would turn a lot of cover into nothing more than concealment. It's also criticised for being less than effective as a "stopper" in its current military ball round (SS109). This is a valid criticism - the SS109 was specifically developed to give greater penetration at long range, being designed to penetrate a NATO-standard Kevlar helmet at 600 yards. Obviously, if built for deep penetration, its tumbling and fragmentation effect (pretty good in the earlier 55gr. rounds) has had to take second place. However, the overall advantages of the 5.56mm. - lower recoil, greater controllability (particularly in full-auto fire), greater ammo carrying capacity, etc. - still outweigh these disadvantages, and have ensured its survival.

    The 6.5mm. and 6.8mm. rounds are an attempt to find a "happy medium" - a round that will provide better terminal performance in flesh than 5.56mm., penetrate cover better, be accurate and effective at longer ranges, and yet be light enough to permit a significantly higher ammo load than the old .30-caliber rounds. They're trying to be "all things to all men". The approach is admirable, as is the intent, but they have to overcome a supply system filled with perfectly usable rifles, accessories and ammo for the current 5.56mm. systems. Unless the new rounds offer a significant advantage over what they're trying to replace - significant in every way, including cost to implement! - they won't displace the existing round.

    This happened before, with the Garand. It was designed to use a .276-caliber round (6.5 or 6.8, anybody?). MacArthur rejected this, insisting that it be designed to use the .30-'06 round already in use in the Army, so as not to waste the millions of rounds of ammo already in stock. I think the Garand would have been a much better rifle with the .276 cartridge, but the inertia of the system overcame its technical advantages.

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