Mar 31, 2011

Photo of the Month March 2011

Hellenic Army National Guard assault rifles.
From top: HK G3A3, HK G3A4 and HK G3A4 modified.

AR Rifle Locking Mechanism

AR Vault
Keep an AR Rifle Secure.
GunVault unveils the AR MagVault, a revolutionary new way to keep an AR rifle secure. Inspired by extensive customer demand, the AR MagVault is versatile, easy to use and priced to fit any budget. A must have for AR owners.
This unique design fits in the magazine well and locks into place to keep the AR safe and secure at home, during travel or on the range. Once the AR MagVault is locked into place a round cannot be inserted or chambered.
The AR MagVault features an easy-to-operate key lock system and fits virtually all .223/5.56 AR carbine rifles. It is constructed from extremely durable glass-reinforced nylon for maximum durability.

Magvault on AR15

Mar 30, 2011

100 years 1911 pistol.

M1911 pistol
John Browning, with 128 gun patents, originally designed the 1911 for a .38 caliber cartridge, similar to a .38 Super. Browning redesigned the 1911 as a .45 caliber to meet the U.S. Army’s request for this cartridge. He also designed the .45 caliber cartridge with a 230-grain full metal jacket bullet.
Adding to its personality, the 1911 is a kick-butt handgun that has a record of reliability from its inception. Browning submitted the 1911 to the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department for testing and it went to the top of the class with a series of tests, which included the continuous firing of 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

Mar 27, 2011

Casey: Wars have been catalyst for Army change

Photo Credit: Myles Cullen.  Gen. George W. Casey Jr. discusses the challenges he has faced as Army chief of staff with Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service. Casey is retiring in April 2011, after four decades of service.
WASHINGTON, March 24, 2011 -- In a recent speech at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Army has changed the most of all the services.

"There's no catalyst for change like a war," said the architect of much of that change, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey will relieve Casey as Army chief of staff next month, when Casey ends four decades of service. During an interview in his Pentagon office, the outgoing chief of staff spoke about the changes that have happened in the Army since he became the service's highest-ranking officer in 2007.
"We will have done in seven years what normally would take us 20 years to do," Casey said. "We've done it in the middle of a war, and we are a fundamentally different force and a more versatile and experienced force than we were seven years ago. I'm very pleased with the way that turned out."
In the months before Casey took over, stories about the Army and its future were common in the media, centering on concern about the pace of operations and its effect on the service.

It was the height of the U.S. surge into Iraq, and Soldiers were deployed for 15-month tours and often spending less than a year at their homes before deploying again. Worries surfaced that departures of mid-level officers and noncommissioned officers would "hollow out" the service, and that families weary of the repeated deployments would get their Soldiers to vote with their feet and leave the Army.
When he first took office, the general and his wife traveled all over the Army to get their own sense of what was going on.
"When we got back we thought our way through it, and it was clear to us that the families were the most brittle part of the force," Casey said. "We needed to do something immediately to demonstrate to the families that we were going to take a load off."
An immediate move was to hire and pay family readiness advisers. The service put in place the Family Covenant Program, and doubled funding for family readiness programs.

Dealing with deployments was another priority, Casey said.
"The 15-month tours, on top of everything they had already done, that was choking people," Casey said. "We had to show them that there was daylight, and that daylight was going to come sooner, rather than later."
Then-President George W. Bush had authorized an increase in the size of the Army by 2012. Casey told about going into auditoriums full of troops in 2007 and telling them relief would come in 2012.
"And they would look at me like, "C'mon, General, get real,'" he said.

He met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and told him that the Army growth had to be sped up to 2010, "and he agreed," the general said. The Army met its growth goals in 2009.
Casey also was worried about a hollow force, and instinctively concentrated on the mid-level officers and NCOs.
"They were the ones carrying the heaviest loads," he said.
Casey looked to the Army's Center of Military History for historical research, and the data showed it really was all about the midlevel leaders.
"When the people it takes you a decade to grow leave, it takes you a decade to get [that capability] back," he said.
The service put in place selective retention bonuses for captains and increased the selective re-enlistment bonuses for mid-level NCOs.
"I believe it gave a lot of those captains the ability to look at their spouses and say, 'We're going to be OK," he said.
But people were saying the Army already was hollow because of the readiness level of "next-to-deploy" forces. The service had to strip these forces of Soldiers for units already in the combat theater.

"We started thinking about generating readiness differently and enhancing the Army force-generating model that we had come up with in 2005 to make it more realistic," Casey said. Follow-on forces now are fully manned and fully trained as a unit before deploying.
Dwell time, which is the time troops spend at home between deployments, became an important measurement. The goal is for Soldiers to spend twice as much time at home as deployed. Casey said the differences are visible in the Soldiers themselves.
"I went out with a unit that was home for 18 months," he said, "and you could see the difference that time at home meant in their faces, and in the preparation they could do."
The Army also is changing to meet the demands of 21st century operations. Casey continued the process of changing to a modular brigade system. During World War II, the division was the basic unit for the Army. Today, it is the Brigade Combat Team.

"With everything we had going on, if I had made hard turns, it would have derailed the progress," he said. "I came in and said, 'Let's finish it,' and we kept on going."
By the end of the year, the Army will have converted all but a handful of the 300-plus brigades to these modular organizations, "and we will have rebalanced 300,000-plus Soldiers out of Cold War skills to those more necessary today," Casey said. "Together, it's the largest transformation of the Army since World War II."
The personal costs and effects of combat also pushed Casey.
"I'd been in Iraq," he said. "I'd seen the effects of combat on folks and what it did to folks, and I recognized that no matter who you are, everyone is affected by combat in one way or another. I set out to try to reduce the stigma associated with getting treatment for behavioral health issues."

Post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries are the signature wounds of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there may be no outwardly visible signs of the injuries.
"I started getting the word out then to everyone we could that combat is hard. Everyone is affected by it. We're human beings," Casey said. "If you've got a problem, get some help."
The general said he wanted to encourage openness, and knew it was going to be a hard slog.
"We went from where 90 percent of the people wouldn't get help to now, where about half of the people won't get help," he said. "That's still a lot of people, but it's a start. We still have to crack the company and platoon levels. It's gradually getting more traction."

Concurrently, the Army's suicide rate began rising.
"It struck me how futile it is to be sitting around a company orderly room, like we've all done, with the first sergeant saying, 'Gosh, Smith was a wonderful guy. I should have seen something, I should have known something, I should have done something.' And you never can," Casey said. "It occurred to me that maybe we ought to come up with something that gives them skills on the front end before they get to that dark place that would lead them to suicide to begin with."

The Army introduced Comprehensive Soldier Fitness to unit operations to avoid some of the stigma that some people associate with a medical program.
"The whole idea was to bring mental fitness up to the same plane as physical fitness," the general said. "The thrust behind it is [that] part of being a good Soldier is knowing when you need a break and when you need to get some help. That doesn't mean you're a wimp."
All this is having results. Army surveys show that family satisfaction with the service has increased steadily since 2007, and this continues to trend upward.
But the Army is not out of the woods yet, Casey said. For the next several years, the United States will continue to send 50,000 to 100,000 Soldiers to combat. They are going to have to maintain their edge, but so will the thousands of Soldiers who won't be going to combat. At the same time, the Army has to reconstitute after a decade at war.

"What I worry about is you get these guys back in garrison and you go back to the same bull I went through in the 1970s, and these young guys are going to say, 'I'm outta here,'" Casey said.
The service also has to concentrate on building resilience in Soldiers and their families, Casey said. "We've just got to keep at it," he added.
The Army has learned from Iraq and Afghanistan that the next conflict probably won't look like anything it is fighting today.
"We changed our doctrine in 2008 and said that full-spectrum operations are offense, defense and stability operations," Casey said. "It's done simultaneously and in different proportions, depending where you are in the spectrum of conflict."
He said that when he commanded the 1st Armored Division in 2000 and 2001, he believed that if a unit could do conventional war, it could do anything.
"But after 32 months in Iraq, I don't believe that any more," he said. "What we realized was its not going to be either conventional or counterinsurgency. The wars in the 21st century are going to be different than the wars I grew up trying to fight. We're not going to be fighting corps-on-corps operations, except maybe [in] Korea.
"So we're working scenarios where we have hybrid threats that are a mix of conventional, irregular, criminal [and] terrorist, and we've set up the training centers with these types of [opposing forces]. The 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, went through such a hybrid threat scenario.
"We're training them for full-spectrum operations, and that includes having to deal with uniformed militaries," he said.

More work needs to be done, Casey said.
"While we've talked about this and thought about it," he added, "until we start putting brigades out there on the ground and have them do it, we're not going to crack it."
Casey said he is worried about the Army's budget. He wants a balanced force in which the manning, training and equipping is in the right proportion.
"The kicker is the wheels are falling off the budget," he said. The Army will remain its current size through at least 2015.
"People are motivated and focused and trying to do the right thing," Casey said.

Casey commanded his first platoon in April 1971 in Mainz, West Germany. He had nine Soldiers in a 36-man mortar platoon, and five of them were pending discharge from the Army. Each company had a duty officer, he said, and that officer had to be armed.
"Drugs were pretty bad, and there were tensions," he said. "I remember the first time we went to the field it struck me like a ton of bricks that these guys depended on me, and I resolved at that point to never let my subordinates down. I always tried to make the unit I was in as good as it could be."

It was just the scale that changed.

Mar 26, 2011

BAE Systems Celebrates One Millionth Hard Body Armor Insert Milestone

PHOENIX, Arizona – BAE Systems has completed the production of more than one million hard armor inserts under Department of Defense (DoD) contracts primarily in support of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Defense Logistics Agency. A ceremony to commemorate this milestone was held today at BAE Systems’ Protection Systems business in Phoenix, Arizona where the inserts are manufactured.

“A hard armor insert helps protect a warfighter’s vital organs and has been proven as a critical lifesaver on the battlefield. Our employees come to work each day knowing that the work they do could save a life and bring a loved one home to their family,” said Joe Coltman, vice president of BAE Systems’ Protection Systems. “Manufacturing one million of these plates is a significant milestone for BAE Systems and its employees to achieve. It brings into perspective the number of lives we are protecting.”

Attending the celebration were U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Arizona), COL William Cole, program manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, LTC(P) Jon Rickey, product manager for Soldier Protective Equipment and COL John Womack, Commander for the Defense Contract Management Agency in Phoenix.
“Last year, Phoenix and Tucson were ranked among the top ten U.S. metro areas with Aerospace and Defense manufacturing facilities,” said Congressman Pastor. “Arizona is proud to have as an Aerospace and Defense representative BAE Systems and its employees, who diligently create protective products, like the SAPI plate, for our troops worldwide.”

From L-R: COL William Cole of PEO Soldier, Margy Bons of Operation Homefront Arizona, and COL Shannon Womack of Defense Contract Management Agency
BAE Systems first introduced the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plate in 1998 to meet the demanding requirements of the DoD Interceptor program. SAPI plates, as they are often called, are hard armor inserts worn on the front, back and side torso to aid in protection against fragmentation and small arms. The protective plates offer greater ballistic protection over soft armor alone and are worn within a warfighter’s vest.
As the original equipment manufacturer of the SAPI plate, BAE Systems’ capabilities have expanded to include other SAPI derivatives and Next Generation (X) plates, including the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, Side SAPI, XSBI and XSAPI. These plates are designed to provide a wide range of ballistic protection to troops in a variety of combat conditions. BAE Systems continually strives to advance their designs to protect against emerging threats.
BAE Systems expanded its hard armor insert line in 2007 to include the ECLiPSE® Performance Gear SOLAR™ series. The SOLAR™ series of inserts meet specifications set forth by the Special Operations Forces Equipment Advanced Requirements (SPEAR) under its Body Armor and Load Carrying System program. 

BAE Systems is a leading provider of Soldier protective and load carrying equipment in the United States, producing a significant portion of the nation’s body armor, tactical vests, combat helmets and load carrying systems. Not only is the company focused on the design, development and production of leading edge survivability products, its integration of advanced materials into manufacturing, rigorous product testing, and field trials support the company’s focus on the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces.

Mar 24, 2011

Surefire tweaks High Capacity Mag; new ship date 6/30

Surefire shared some hot footage of a 100 round High Capacity Magazine function test with us. They ran 5 100-round mags back-to-back turning an M4 gas tube into a light bulb in the process. Don’t try this with your own, stock AR, though. They used a heavy-barrel, select-fire milspec Colt with a beefed up gas tube to deal with the extreme heat produced by 500 rounds of continuous fire. Watch it glow. Try this with your AR and you’ll watch the gas tube melt.
As far as the ship date of the new mags, Surefire representative Ron Canfield tells us the company has delayed both models if the HCM to make minor changes to the mags to guarantee they function in the broadest number of AR platforms possible. The new ship date is June 30, 2011.

Mar 22, 2011

U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle malfunctions over Libya, pilots safe.

Two crew members ejected from their U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle when the aircraft experienced equipment malfunction over northeast, Libya, March 21, at approximately 10:30 p.m. CET.
Both crew members ejected and are safe.
The aircraft, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Aviano Air Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn at the time of the incident.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
The identities will be released after the next of kin have been notified.
Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces.

Mar 19, 2011

Machinist creates universal MRAP key

KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Mar. 2011) - Innovations in military equipment and tools are often the result of many hours of research and development, along with the expenditure of significant amounts of taxpayer dollars.

However, this need not be the case, as Cpl. Scott Mayer, a machinist of the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, has shown by developing a universal key that will unlock all varieties of lock used to secure the doors on the Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected family of military vehicles.
The key is the result of Mayer's ability to identify a potential issue and come up with a simple, inexpensive solution that took him less than an hour to make in his welding shop.
"I'm a machinist," said the Lubbock, Texas, native, "and from day one we are taught to think outside the box to solve problems."

MRAP vehicles come in several different variants, each of which uses a different type of lock. Some variants even have as many as three different types of door locks on the same vehicle, all with a unique outer access point designed to allow them to be unlocked from the outside using the proper tool.
Creating a universal key that fits all locks could make a huge difference in responding to emergency situations when every second counts.
Mayer is currently working on more keys, intending build enough to supply each vehicle in 6-4 Cav.
"I just hope that, in urgent situations, we won't have to worry whether or not we have the right key," said Mayer, "and we can rely on one key to get us out of any vehicle.

Heavy body armor result of over-engineering

IOTV components
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 18, 2011) -- The armor plates used in the plate carriers and IOTV Soldiers wear in combat are safe -- maybe too safe.

The ceramic enhanced small arms protective inserts worn in the improved outer tactical vests and lighter plate carriers are designed to provide ballistic protection to Soldiers in combat. But they are heavy, and industry is at an impasse when it comes to developing new armor technology that is as safe, yet lighter, said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Officer Soldier.
"We don't see anything that is game-changing or anything in the near term that is going to change our ability to provide increased protection at a lighter weight," Fuller said of the plates. "I think the next (thing) we need to look at is what is our requirement and is it a validated requirement?"
Fuller spoke March 17 before the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on tactical air and land forces to discuss, among other things, the amount of weight Soldiers now carry on their bodies, as part of armor, gear, power and weapons, when they go into battle. That weight can sometimes be more than 120 pounds.
The general told lawmakers that perhaps the plates themselves could be made lighter because today, they are really over-engineered. He said a "holistic," head-to-toe review of body armor has shown the Army could provide a lighter plate to Soldiers because, Fuller said, "we have technically overbuilt our plates right now. We overbuilt them because of our testing process."
Fuller said the Army simply set the bar for protective capability of the plates too high.
"The way I say it is, we wanted to ensure you could go in the ring with Mike Tyson and if you could take two hits from Mike Tyson, then when Fuller climbs in the ring you knew you would be able to survive those rounds," he said.

Today, he said, body armor worn by Soldiers in the field may be unnecessarily heavy because it has been designed to protect against "a round that is not on any battlefield in the world," Fuller said. "We set that bar for a reason. Now we are trying to evaluate -- if that bar causes us to have increased weight, do we want to adjust the bar? "
Fuller also said as an effort to reduce weight on Soldiers, the Army is "trying to do a better job of systems engineering at the Soldier level." He said while the Army does a good job of systems engineering for large platforms "we've treated the Soldier as ... a Christmas tree -- we just hang things on Soldiers."
Fuller told lawmakers the Army must pay more attention to the amount of weight Soldiers carry on their back, and must do a better job of understanding "the physiological challenges of adding more kit regardless of its capability and the impact it will have on our Soldiers ability."
The general explained that a Soldier's cognitive skills diminish when they get tired from carrying so much weight, and "that's not what you want in a combat environment."

Fuller also said distributing loads across a combat unit might be one way to reduce the weight burden on the individual Soldiers.
"Can we distribute some of this capability across a unit? What's the risk and the advantages so we don't weigh down everybody with the same capability but distribute capability across the unit?" he asked.
Body armor for female Soldiers and for smaller Soldiers is also an issue Fuller said PEO Soldier has tackled. The latest version of the IOTV provides adjustments to allow smaller stature Soldiers to ensure their vests are cinched tight enough, while at the same time keeping the side plates where they belong -- at a Soldier's side.
"One size does not fit all within the Army," Fuller said, saying some 14 percent of the Army is women. The general said the Army is still having difficulties trying to make conforming body armor plates for Soldiers. "The physics associated with trying to have the body armor work in a complex shape is a bridge too far right now."

Another lawmaker questioned Fuller about the Army's individual carbine competition, to find a follow-on to the M4 Carbine weapon Soldiers are using now in Afghanistan. Fuller told the lawmaker the competition was not about meeting a specific need but about seeing if there was something better for Soldiers.
"We want to continue to improve the M4 -- not necessarily associated with a complaint or challenge the field might be having -- but we want to refresh that technology," Fuller said. He told legislators there's been 63 improvements to the M4 since it was first fielded in 1991
"This (competition) is another iteration of improvements," he said. "We want to see through a full and open competition is there something better? That's what this competition will be doing for our individual carbine."
After competition, he said, the Army would evaluate what comes out of that and measure it against the current M4 to build a business case for making the investment to replace it.
Currently, the Army has 500,000 M4s in its inventory, and right now the Army is working to upgrade some 140,000 of those to the M4A1 model, which is fully automatic, and includes a heavier barrel to allow for an increased sustained rate of fire without overheating and ambidextrous controls.

Mar 16, 2011

Army deploying 'Individual Gunshot Detector'

Photo credit PEO Soldier
A Soldier demonstrates how the Individual Gunshot Detector is worn. The first of 13,000 of these systems will be sent to Afghanistan later this month.
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, March 14, 2011) -- U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan will begin receiving the first of more than 13,000 gunshot detection systems for the individual dismounted Soldier later this month, service officials said.

"We're really trying to ensure that every Soldier is protected," said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Officer Soldier.
The Individual Gunshot Detector, or IGD - made by QinetiQ North America - consists of four small acoustic sensors worn by the individual Soldier and a small display screen attached to body armor that shows the distance and direction of incoming fire.
The small sensor, about the size of a deck of cards, detects the supersonic sound waves generated by enemy gunfire and instantaneously alerts Soldiers to the location and distance toward the hostile fire, said Lt. Col. Chris Schneider, product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors.

"When you get fired on, instead of trying to figure everything out, you will have technology to assist you in knowing what happened and where the shot was coming from," Fuller said.
The entire IGD system, procured by PEO Soldier and the Army's Rapid Equipping Force, weighs less than two pounds, Schneider said.
The idea is to strategically disperse the systems throughout small, dismounted units to get maximum protective coverage for platoons, squads and other units on the move, Schneider explained.
Over the next 12 months, the Army plans to field up to 1,500 IGDs per month, he said.

In the future, the Army plans to integrate this technology with its Land Warrior and Nett Warrior systems. These are network-situational-awareness systems for dismounted units, complete with a helmet-mounted display screen that uses GPS digital-mapping-display technology, Fuller said.
"The next thing we want to do is try to integrate this capability with other capabilities; for example, we have Land Warrior deployed in Afghanistan and we're going to have Nett Warrior coming into the force. How about, if you get shot at, not only do I know where that came from, but others know where it came from because I can network that capability," said Fuller.

"It's about how to leverage technology to improve your survivability and situational awareness." 

America pays final respects to last WWI veteran

Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Adora Gonzalez. Soldiers with 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) carry the casket of Cpl. Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last American World War I veteran, for his funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, March 15, 2001.
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, March 15, 2011) -- Hundreds of visitors to Arlington National Cemetery filed through the Memorial Amphitheater Chapel here to pay respects to America's last "Doughboy."

A guard from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) stood watch over the flag-draped casket of Cpl. Frank Buckles in the chapel. Buckles, who died Feb. 27 at 110 years old, was America's last World War I veteran.
Buckles had enlisted at the age of 16 by reportedly convincing an Army captain that he was older. He was the last living American doughboy to have served in France during World War I and the last of 4.7 million U.S. troops who signed up to fight the Kaiser 94 years ago.
Buckles later spent three years as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II after being captured in the Pacific while serving as a U.S. contractor. He died of natural causes at his home in Charles Town, W.Va., according to a family spokesman.

"It was really something to think that (he) is the last American from the First World War," said Albert Berkowitz, himself a former Soldier. "And it just made me think, that in 20 or 25 years, it'll probably be the Second World War this will be happening for. In 20 years it'll be them -- there are less and less of them."
Berkowitz was in the Army, as a private first class, from 1963-1965. He served as a microwave technician in Japan, first at Camp Tomlinson in Kashiwa, then in Okinawa. "It was great duty," he said.
Berkowitz was originally from Belgium and came to the United States when he was 12. His wife Esther came to the U.S. when she was two. The two were visiting Washington from Brooklyn.

"I find Arlington a very inspiring place," Esther said.
While Esther said they didn't know anyone who might be buried in the cemetery -- she did say she knew some that have died in World War II, "but not as Soldiers -- our families," she said.
Albert confirmed -- both he and Esther had escaped from Europe during the war, though not all in their families had been so lucky.

Corey O'Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, was also visiting the cemetery and passed through the chapel with his mother, Kathryn and brother, Ethan -- he clutched a World War II history book in his hand.
"I do have some WWI books at home and I study a lot about WWII," he said, adding his take on Buckles -- "He was a pretty good man."
Buckle's casket remained in the chapel at the cemetery until about 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the Old Guard took it to the burial site in the cemetery. Buckles was buried with full military honors in section 34 of the cemetery, within sight of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.

BLACKHAWK Dynamic Entry Mini Deployment Kit

Portable, easily stored and quick to put into action, the Mini Deployment Kit is the law enforcement officer’s solution to active shooter callouts. The specially designed entry tools are lightweight, portable and feature handle systems that are electrically nonconductive to 100,000 volts AC. The kit comes with BLACKHAWK!’s Mini BoltMaster™, Micro Thundersledge™ and Mini Breacher™.
BLACKHAWK® Dynamic Entry® now offers the Mini Deployment Kit. This compact and portable entry kit was created based on the unique demands patrol and tactical entry officers face today—including ever-increasing active shooter callouts.

Fast, Effective Entry
The Mini Deployment Kit™ consists of the Mini Deployment Bag™ with individual tool compartments for reduced noise signature and a secure carry of the Mini BoltMaster™, Mini Breacher™ and the Micro ThunderSledge™ entry tools.
The Mini Boltmaster is a compact and durable boltcutter featuring heat-treated cutting jaws with a 3/8” opening and a tension adjustment for fine tuning. The Mini Breacher gets teams in fast with its tempered, stainless steel wedge. Counter-angled friction ridges grip breaching surfaces securely and provide stability. It weighs less than five pounds and is just over a foot long—perfect for close-quarter situations.
The Micro ThunderSledge gives operators an effective tool that is compact and versatile. Its sure-grip handle system and lightweight design (4.6 lbs) make it an integral tool in any breaching kit.
Secure Carry
The Mini Deployment Bag can be worn over the shoulder and secured by thigh straps for added stability during extreme body movements. The shoulder strap has quick-release buckles for an immediate dumping of the kit if necessary. All three tools feature handle systems that are electrically nonconductive to 100,000 volts AC.
The BLACKHAWK Dynamic Entry Mini Deployment Kit can be easily stored in the trunk of a patrol or rescue vehicle and accessed quickly and easily when needed. The Mini Deployment Kit has a MSRP of $499.99.

BLACKHAWK! was founded in 1993 by former U.S. Navy SEAL Mike Noell and is a leading US manufacturer of tactical, military, shooting sports and law enforcement equipment. BLACKHAWK! manufactures tactical gear, body armor, law enforcement duty gear, holsters, hydration systems, protective gloves and gear, apparel and footwear, knives, illumination tools, breaching tools, hunting gear and recoil reducing stocks. BLACKHAWK! is now part of ATK Security and Sporting and is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, with US manufacturing facilities in North Carolina, Montana and Idaho. For more information on BLACKHAWK! and BLACKHAWK! products, log on to

About ATK Security and Sporting
ATK Security and Sporting, headquartered in Anoka, MN, is a leading technology developer and supplier of ammunition for law enforcement, military and sporting applications; a manufacturer of optics, reloading gear and sport shooting accessories; and a leading producer of tactical accessories. The company serves sport shooting enthusiasts, law enforcement professionals, military and tactical markets worldwide. The group’s products include some of the most widely known and respected brands in the industry, including Federal Premium, CCI, Speer, RCBS, Alliant Powder, Champion, Weaver, Eagle Industries, and BLACKHAWK!

About ATK
ATK is a global aerospace and defense company with operations in 24 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues in excess of $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at

Mar 15, 2011

Americans Buy a Close to 1 Million Guns in February 2011

NEWTOWN, Conn --( The February 2011 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 963,746 is an increase of 13.6 percent over the NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 848,036 from February 2010.
For comparison, the unadjusted February 2011 NICS figure of 1,463,138 is an increase of 18.2 percent over the unadjusted NICS figure of 1,237,617 from February 2010.
The adjusted NICS data was derived by NSSF by subtracting out all NICS purpose code permit checks used by several states such as Kentucky, Iowa and Utah for CCW permit application checks as well as checks on active CCW permit databases.
While not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF-adjusted NICS data provides a more accurate picture of current market conditions. Questions concerning NSSF-adjusted NICS data should be directed to NSSF research at 203-426-1320 or
In addition to other purposes, NICS is used to check transactions of firearm sales and transfers on new and used handguns and long guns.
Additional information on NICS and a complete set of current monthly NICS reports are available online. NSSF members may access historical monthly NICS reports in the log-in members section of

About NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to

Mar 14, 2011

West Point Class of 2014 Cadets conduct research on own sleep habits

Photo credit West Point courtesy graphic
The graphic represents a typical cadet sleep pattern derived from the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool software. Note that the previous night's sleep has a major impact on the next day's cognitive abilities. By Friday, this cadet is operating just below 75 percent effectiveness. It is also worth noting that trying to 'catch up on sleep' takes multiple nights.
WEST POINT, N.Y., March 9, 2011 -- In the typical university psychology course, undergraduates are in the receive mode. In classrooms built to hold 200 students, an instructor lectures and the students take notes. Periodic exams help determine how much information a student retains.

West Point psychology classes are dramatically different. Eighteen students study information in the text nightly and the next day they apply what they learned to hypothetical leadership problems generated by their combat-experienced instructors. While this method of learning sounds intense and daunting, it is not new. It's know as the Thayer Method, which was brought to the academy in 1802 by Superintendent Sylvanus Thayer.

What is new are the projects and research.

"Every freshman cadet will participate in and complete a research project before moving on to their sophomore year," General Psychology Course Director Col. Diane Ryan said. "We consider research projects essential to the development of a creative problem-solver who can lead on today's battlefield."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Training and Doctrine Commander, have told West Point leadership that the Army needs leaders who are adaptive, can understand new environments and can generate new approaches. Research is all about questioning the validity of information and testing new ideas.
For freshmen, the projects do require some tailoring.
"We developed the Self-Referent Sleep Study because the cadets have access to the data, already have some preconceived notions and the results and learning are critical to leading a platoon during a highly stressful deployment," psychology instructor Maj. Dan Hall said. "The cadets track both the amount of sleep they get over a 10-day period and how that sleep schedule potentially impacts their performance (e.g., learning and retention of academic material).
"They use the knowledge they've gained on the effects of sleep to design an 'ideal' rest schedule, which they then implement into their daily routine for the remainder of the semester. They write a detailed report on how increased sleep helped enhance their overall academic, physical and military performances," Hall continued.

The cadets are given access to sleep data analysis software called the Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool. Users simply input the amount of sleep received on a daily basis and the software provides them with predicted cognitive capability percentages that are correlated with blood alcohol content equivalencies.
"Prior to beginning this project, I knew that I didn't get enough sleep. It wasn't until after analyzing the resulting FAST data that I realized the full ramifications of my lack of sleep," Plebe Jacob Cook said.
"This was a very cool project," Cook said. "During the work week I typically slept around four hours a night. I knew that I was more tired and often had trouble focusing. One reason for my lack of sleep is time management. Another reason for my lack of restful sleep is that the conditions in which I was sleeping are still unfamiliar."
"I am on top of a bunk bed for the first time, and sometimes wonder if I might fall off in my sleep. I also think a lot about the next day's issues when I get in bed so when I did finally get to sleep, I did not sleep well," Cook explained.
"My solution was to increase my caffeine intake to counteract my fatigue. On the surface, I felt more alert after drinking caffeinated beverages," Cook continued. "This dependence on a substance, though, is not something I'd like to continue on a regular basis. The most shocking thing I learned was that I was operating at around 75 percent for most of my work week and on two notable occasions dropped below 60 percent effectiveness."

"The first was due to an extreme case of me only getting one point five hours of sleep because of stress and a combination of other factors, and the second was the result of three to four days of restless sleep combined with not enough sleep. On the weekends, I tried to make up for lost sleep, but it seems as if this strategy is less effective than I had anticipated,"
"The projects compare themselves to prior research on cadets conducted by the Naval Post Graduate School," Assistant Dean for Academic Assessment Tim Judd said. "That research found that many cadets were significantly sleep deprived. Interestingly, they also found that the most successful cadets were 'early birds.' Early birds go to sleep before 10 p.m. but wake up much earlier than the rest of the Corps to study and do homework. The least successful cadets tended to be night owls. Night owls wait until late in the evening to do their work."
Lt. Col. Carl Ohlson, director of the Center of Enhanced Performance, likes the content of this self-study.
"We work with cadets seeking to improve themselves and develop their own potential," Ohlson said. "When the cadets have data about their sleep habits, they can better form a plan to manage themselves and their work."
"Ultimately, these cadets are studying a complex environment and themselves, generating hypothesis and testing outcomes," Ryan said. "These are the skills that will develop into the adaptive leaders of the future."

Mar 11, 2011

U.S. Air Force launches mysterious X-37B robotic plane.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle. Image: Reuters.
The U.S. Air Force’s second mysterious robotic mini spacecraft, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, carrying classified payload. Soon after the launch a media blackout shrouded the mission in secrecy, fueling speculation about its possible military purposes.
The Air Force has said the unmanned mission is intended to test out new spacecraft technologies. The launch of a second secret space mission in two years has given room for renewed space weaponry rumors though the Air force says the mission is only about testing out hardware for future space shuttles.
“Partly as a result of the secrecy, some concern has been raised — particularly by Russia and China — that the X-37B is a space weapon of some sort,” according to
The spacecraft, which was built by Boeing for the U.S. military, looks like a NASA space shuttle and has a “payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed.”
The U.S. Air Force had launched the unmanned X-37B spacecraft in April last year. It was never fully explained if it was entirely a military project though Air Force officials did make a mention of the ‘warfighter needs’. “If these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly,” an Air Force statement said at that time.
Source: Jijo Jacob for

Mar 10, 2011

KQ-X Global Hawk First High Altitude Wake Survey Flight

Northrop Grumman Corporation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center took a major step toward demonstrating autonomous aerial refueling between two unmanned, high altitude aircraft, an operation never before performed. In a key risk reduction flight test, Northrop Grumman's Proteus test aircraft and a NASA Global Hawk flew as close as 40 feet apart at an altitude of 45,000 feet, an industry-setting record.

Mar 9, 2011

Lightfield's NEW line of Home Defender Rounds

Lightfield Ammunition now offers a full line of .410, 20ga and 12ga Home Defense ammunition. The ‘Home Defender’ line features several of our patented rubber projectiles. These products offer homeowners many new options for Home Defense at an affordable price. 

Mar 8, 2011

Stryker unit conducts live fire exercise in South Korea.

Photo credit Cpl. Hong Yoon-ki, Eighth Army Public Affairs
U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team dismount their Stryker following live fire training March 7 on Nightmare Range, South Korea.
NIGHTMARE RANGE, South Korea - A U.S. Army Stryker unit engaged and destroyed targets here at this South Korean live fire range March 7 during Exercise Foal Eagle.

The Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team dispatched their targets with heavy vehicle-based machine guns and small arms fire in mounted and dismounted infantry operations.
Agile, mobile and lethal, the Stryker is the centerpiece of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a multi-mission medium weight unit that complements the U.S. Army's heavy and light combat forces.
Named after Pfc. Stuart S. Stryker and Spc. 4 Robert F. Stryker who both posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions in World War II and Vietnam, respectively, the Stryker can be airlifted to any conflict, crisis or contingency on short notice.

The Fort Lewis-based 3rd SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division was the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team formed.
"They [Stryker Brigade Combat Teams] have a whole array of mission areas that they look at that they are ready to reinforce," said Col. Ross E. Davidson Jr., commander of the South Korea-based 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.
Tested in combat in Iraq, the Stryker unit also proved its mettle during the training exercise in the blustery and rugged terrain near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Sgt. Bryson Hounschell, a 2-3rd Infantry Stryker vehicle commander from Stark City, Mo., said the exercise gave his team the chance to train in a different environment.

"This is very different from Iraq," said Hounschell who returned from a deployment there last October. "We're training for a different kind of fight here."
Held around the same time every year since 1961, Foal Eagle is a defensive field exercise. Exercise Key Resolve, an annual Korean Peninsula-wide command post exercise, occurs at the same time.
Col. Bob McAleer, chief of Training, Exercises and Readiness for U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, said the threat posed by North Korea requires ROK-U.S. Alliance forces to hold exercises like Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

"We necessarily must have our plans, equipment and training level at a very high state," said McAller, who commanded a Stryker battalion in Iraq. "In Foal Eagle, we exercise the ability of U.S. forces to come from off the peninsula, primarily from the United States, to deploy here to Korea and then integrate with the ROK [Republic of Korea] and ensure that we are interoperable with the ROK military."
McAleer said several combat units from all four services are deploying for Key Resolve 2011 and training together with the ROK military until the exercise wraps up in late April.
"We have to maintain what we call a 'fight tonight' readiness," said McAleer. "We know that with the forces we have, especially because we're technologically superior, that we would prevail if they were to attack us."

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Mar 7, 2011

New T-11 Parachutes for US Army Paratroopers

The US military is to gain new parachutes through a multi-million dollar order placed with UK defence/aerospace firm BAE Systems.
The contract will see BAE Systems supply it with T-11 Personnel Parachute Systems for use by US Army paratroops on air-drop missions and operations. It follows an earlier order, placed in late 2009, and – combined – the deals have a value of around $13.7m.
As a result, new parachute systems will be supplied on a rolling basis from now until November this year.

T-11 Parachute System

The T-11 parachute system is the follow-up to the T-10 design, use of which within the US military dates back to the 1950s. Compared to the earlier system, the T-11 offers a range of design improvements and safety boosts. 
The parachute canopy itself is a brand new design. It’s a different shape, to begin with – it’s square, not round. When expanded, it comes in at 28 per cent larger than the T-10’s canopy. On average, it provides a descent rate of 5.8 metres a second – slower than the T-10’s 7.3 metres per second. This acts as a safety feature, reducing injuries caused when soldiers hit the ground at too high a velocity. 
Together, the canopy and the harness, through which it’s attached to the body, have a weight of 17 kilograms. 

US Army Paratroopers

US Army paratroopers can, therefore, jump with weightier payloads, which could give them a battlefield edge. “Our airborne troops using the T-11 Parachute are equipped with a system that provides superior safety and reliability while improving mission readiness”, BAE Systems’ Individual Protection Systems Director of Warfighter Equipment Programs, Greg Kraak, commented in a company press release issued at the start of March 2011. “The improved harness system and slower rate of descent reduces the risk of injury, and the redesigned canopy provides the advantage of carrying more combat equipment.”As the T-11 enters service, the T-10 parachute design is now being gradually phased out. Paratroopers serve across all strands of the US military. Use of parachutes within a military context dates back to the start of WW2 and, from that point on, airborne forces became a significant component of major combat engagements.

Shadow RQ7B defies gravity with success

Photo Credit: Army Photo . Soldiers in Iraq prepare RQ-7B Shadow 200 for launch from a trailer-mounted pneumatic catapult. The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance while "Q" means unmanned aircraft system, "7" refers to it being the seventh of a series of purpose-built unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems and "B" represents improvements over the previous A model.
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- An unmanned aircraft system in the Army's fleet today is defying gravity, soaring ever higher in performance and zooming down on cost.

And, in a budget-conscious Department of Defense, exceeding performance and cost goals are enough to make the RQ-7B Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle a target for recognition.
Such was the case last fall when Shadow won the prestigious Performance-Based Logistics Award from the Secretary of Defense. According to the award nomination package, the Shadow PBL contract achieved exceptionally high readiness with the system, while simultaneously reducing its costs and improving its reliability.
But such recognition doesn't mean the Shadow is coasting on its merits. Rather, its government-contractor team is honed in on even better performance and cost savings.
"We've taken cost very seriously and we've indoctrinated a lot of things into Shadow to bring those costs down. We've also decreased incident rates," Todd Smith, deputy product manager for Shadow, said of the 43 Redstone Arsenal-based employees whose work is centered on product development, sustainment, cost, scheduling, performance and other life cycle management issues pertaining to Shadow.

Described as the "workhorse" of the Army's unmanned aircraft systems, Shadow has exceeded 600,000 combat hours in Iraq and Afghanistan since it was introduced to the Army fleet in 2003, flying missions for the first time during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Army has fielded 98 Shadow systems, and the Marines 11. Its mission in unmanned, over-the-horizon reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition has made it a forerunner in providing situational analysis to Soldiers on the battlefield.
Even so, those early Shadow years did present challenges.
"The Shadow has been the Army's first and most successful unmanned aircraft program of record," said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, project manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Program Executive Office for Aviation.
"The program followed on the heels of other UAS programs that tried to do too much, too soon, failing in the process," Gonzalez explained. "Shadow's initial success was based on getting a simple capability quickly into the hands of the Soldiers."

Unfortunately, the simplicity in design caused problems with reliability, Gonzalez said. Early accidents of the Shadow system reached a rate of more than 400 per 100,000 flight hours.
"Even as the first systems were fielded to warfighters, the product manager embarked on a strategy to improve the capability and reliability of the system," Gonzalez said. "Early reliability improvements were easy to identify and fix. Over time it became much more difficult to build in reliability in a cost effective way, but the Shadow team pressed on and has done a miraculous job. The cumulative impact of these improvements is monumental."
For the quarter ending in December 2010, the Shadow fleet achieved the lowest accident rate in its history, approaching 29 incidents per 100,000 flight hours.
"It continues to fly unprecedented flight hours in theater," Gonzalez said.
Not only have the number of incidents been drastically reduced, so, too, have been the expense of repairs when incidents do happen.
"I think we can claim we're saving $5 million a year in aircraft repair," Smith said. "I think that's a very conservative number. It's hard to say. But we used to have this amount of mishaps costing at least $5 million a year."

Engine improvements have been the key to Shadow's increased reliability. In six months, accidents due to engine problems were reduced by 50 percent.
"Engine improvements led to the lowest mishap rate in the history of the Shadow," said Kristen Regula, who as quality lead for Shadow works with reliability engineer Ed Rymut on engine performance issues. "And, when we talk about preventing a mishap, we are saving $100,000 per mishap."
The Shadow uses a 40-pound, 40-horsepower engine on missions that put a lot of stress on its engine.
"It's the only engine in the world that works with the constraints of high performance, high stress and weight issues. The reason it has had reliability issues is because of what we are asking it to do," Smith said.
Engine improvements addressed carburetor icing, which occurs when Shadow flies in airspace ranging in temperature from 25 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, Rymut said. The improvement involved installing a heated throttle plate carburetor. In addition, the Shadow's oil pump was modified so that it could continue to pump oil at cold temperatures.
"Before the oil pump was modified, we had to restrict the Shadow based on temperature limitations," Rymut said.

"When it goes up in altitude, the air gets very cold quickly. So, Shadow was very limited in its mission. With the new oil pump, we were able to expand the mission significantly. Now, the Shadow can fly higher for a longer period of time, and it can fly in nearly all weather conditions in the winter months."
The product office has also incorporated post-flight inspections, requiring that a field service representative check Shadow engines after each flight.
"Twenty-one to date have been saved because of post-flight inspections that detected metal shavings, which means something failed internally in the engine," Regula said. "Ten of those 21 would have resulted in a mishap if they had flown again."
Instead, those engines were replaced so that the Shadows could continue their mission.
With as much flying as the Shadow does in battlefield conditions and often under poor weather conditions involving sand and heat on launch and landing, and cold temperatures at high altitudes, "engines will continue to deteriorate and, if not detected, result in a mishap," Regula said. "But we know what will deteriorate and what to look for, and we can replace the engine before a mishap occurs."
The Shadow's performance was also improved with the incorporation of a larger parachute, which was designed to decrease its rate of descent while also increasing weight and reliability, said Zach Zimmerman, system safety engineer for Shadow.

"We reduced the direct rate of descent from 45 feet per second to 30 feet per second," he said. "In addition, the parachute designed for earlier variations can only support a payload of 300 pounds. We were able to increase that payload to 400 pounds while working the descent rate exercise."
The parachute, now doubled in size, also "incorporated innovative and advanced technologies - like advanced packing techniques and deployment techniques - to minimize the weight of the system," said Jason Lucas, the Shadow's technical chief.
"The deployment of the parachute is very critical. We used six variants of older version Shadow aircraft in a controlled test environment to ensure that the new deployment mechanism worked."
In use since June 2009, the new parachute is more effective in controlling a smooth landing for the Shadow. Smoother landings mean more affordable repairs if there is a mishap.

"When we do have a mishap, the parachute lessens the impact so that repairs aren't as expensive," Regula said. "Instead of $280,000 to repair a Shadow, it costs $100,000."
Steps have also been taken to "error proof" Shadow operations, minimizing the affect operator mistakes can have on the system. Automation has been incorporated in the system, and serves to check the system during pre-launch to ensure Soldiers follow all steps for a successful Shadow launch.
"We've investigated every mishap we've had and what's caused those mishaps, whether they are operator related or material related," Lucas said. "We've instigated several advance technologies, and hardware and software solutions. We've increased automation, and decreased Soldier interaction and burden during the last three years. We've reduced operator workload and decreased the mishap rate."
The improvements are part of the growing pains that go along with a new system that is popular with Soldiers.

"As we fielded more and more units, Soldiers determine new things to do with them, and we are finding ways to incorporate those new missions to better serve the Soldier on the battlefield," Smith said. "For example, we've added an avionics and communications requirement to support Soldier requests."
"Some of our solutions have been very high tech and innovative," Lucas added. "We are using state-of-the-art battle technologies to provide a long duration of power in a lightweight package."
"Other solutions use simple technologies, such as instituting a break-away cable to solve problems with cables that tangled in the engine at launch. We look for the right solution to the problem, not necessarily the most expensive and highest tech."
Along the way, the Shadow's flight endurance has gone from five hours to nine hours, which decreases the number of Shadows needed to field a battlefield exercise. The Shadow's mission has expanded to include night-time reconnaissance, laser tagging of buildings and communications capabilities from Shadow operators to ground troops. Future capabilities will include arming Shadow with a weapon system and communications systems connecting it to manned aircraft.

"The technologies that we've incorporated have expanded the system significantly," Smith said.

Now used at the brigade level, the Shadow management team said there is a potential for more Shadows to be fielded to brigade combat teams as the Army looks for ways to "fill the gap between local tactical reconnaissance and strategic level reconnaissance," Smith said.
As long as the team "continues to maintain reliability as a top priority, as long as we stay focused on reducing life cycle maintenance and improving reliability, the Shadow will have new mission possibilities," Lucas said.
"If we continue to invest in technologies like we have in the last five years, Shadow will take giant leaps forward in its mission and its contribution will continue to be significant."
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