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The Army's World War II Panzer Killers Were The Real Deal

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 21:19

War Is Boring

Tanks,

But don’t dare call them tanks. These were tank-destroyers.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The tank-destroyer force was the Army’s response to the wild successes of German armor in Poland and France in 1939 and 1940. Panzer divisions would concentrate more than a hundred tanks on a narrow front, overwhelming the local anti-tank weapons of defending troops and rolling deep into enemy lines.

During the 1940s, the U.S. Army developed a special weapon to counter the tanks of the German Wehrmacht. Most of these vehicles had the hull of a Sherman tank and a turret with a long-barrel cannon.

But don’t dare call them tanks. These were tank-destroyers.

After the war, the U.S. Army concluded tank destroyers were a waste of time. Official histories excoriated the failure of the program.

But a look at historical records shows that tank destroyers actually did their job well.

The tank-destroyer force was the Army’s response to the wild successes of German armor in Poland and France in 1939 and 1940. Panzer divisions would concentrate more than a hundred tanks on a narrow front, overwhelming the local anti-tank weapons of defending troops and rolling deep into enemy lines.

In 1941, the Army concluded that it needed mobile anti-tank units to intercept and defeat German armored spearheads. Towed anti-tank guns took too long to deploy on the move and it was difficult to guess where the enemy would concentrate for an attack. Instead, self-propelled anti-tank battalions would wait behind friendly lines.

When the German armor inevitably broke through the infantry, the battalions would deploy en masse to ambush the advancing tank columns.

The Army didn’t intend for its own tanks to specialize in defending against enemy panzers. The new armor branch wanted to focus on the same kind of bold armored attacks the Germans were famous for.

The Army tested the concept out in war games at Louisiana in September 1941. Tank-destroyers performed extremely well against tanks — perhaps because, as the armor branch alleged, the “umpire rules” were unfairly tilted in their favor. Tanks could only take out anti-tank units by overrunning them, rather than with direct fire.

M10 and M36 Tank Destroyers 1942-53 (New Vanguard)

With the support of the Army’s chief of training and doctrine Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair, tank-destroyers became their own branch in the army, just like armor and artillery already were. A tank-destroyer center began training units at Fort Hood, Texas. Fifty-three battalions of 842 men each initially mobilized, with plans to grow the force to 220 battalions.

Each battalion had 36 tank-destroyers divided into three companies, as well as a reconnaissance company of jeeps and armored scout cars to help ferret out the disposition of enemy armor so that the battalions could move into position. The recon company also had an engineer platoon to deal with obstacles and to lay mines.

The first tank-destroyer units made do with hastily improvised vehicles. The M6 was basically an outdated 37-millimeter anti-tank gun mounted on a three-quarter-ton truck.

The M3 Gun Motor Carriage, or GMC, was an overloaded M3 halftrack — a vehicle with wheels in the front and tracks in the rear — toting a French 75-millimeter howitzer on top. Both types were lightly armored and lacked turrets.

Scooting and shooting in Tunisia

Though some M3 GMCs resisted the Japanese invasion of The Philippines, tank-destroyer battalions first saw action in the deserts of North Africa starting in 1942.

Their most important engagement pitted the M3s of the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion against the entire 10th Panzer Division in the battle of El Guettar in Tunisia early in the morning on March 23, 1943.

Deployed in defense of the 1st Infantry Division just behind the crest of Keddab ridge, the 601’st 31 gun-laden halftracks moved forward and potted off shots at the panzers as they rolled down Highway 15, then scooted back and found new firing positions. They were bolstered only by divisional artillery and a minefield prepared by their engineers.

Two companies from the 899th Tank Destroyer Battalion reinforced them at the last minute, one of them suffering heavy losses while approaching.

The panzers advanced within 100 meters of the 601st’s position before finally withdrawing, leaving 38 wrecked tanks behind. However, the 601st had lost 21 of its M3s and the 899th lost seven of its new M10 vehicles.

The heavy losses did not endear the tank-destroyers to Allied commanders. Gen. George Patton said the tank-destroyers had proved “unsuccessful.”

In fact, the battle of El Guettar marked the only occasion in which U.S. tank-destroyers were used in the manner intended — deployed as an entire battalion to stop a German armored breakthrough concentrated on a narrow front.

The German army remained largely on the defensive in the second half of World War II, and failed to achieve armored breakthroughs like those in Poland, France and Russia. As a result, the U.S. Army scaled back the number of tank-destroyer battalions to 106. Fifty-two deployed to the European theater and 10 to the Pacific.

Another problem was that tank-destroyer doctrine presupposed moving into ambush positions after the German tanks had already overrun defending infantry. In practice, nobody wanted to consign the infantry to such a fate, so tank-destroyers deployed closer to the front line for forward defense.

The first proper tank-destroyer was the M10 Wolverine, which featured the hull of the M4 Sherman tank and a new pentagonal turret. General Motors and Ford produced 6,400 M10s.

The Wolverine mounted a long-barrel high-velocity 76-millimeter gun thought to have good armor-piercing performance. However, it had less effective high-explosive shells for use against enemy infantry — at least, compared to the 75-millimeter shells fired by Sherman tanks.

Naturally, tank-destroyer units carried more armor-piercing shells than high explosive shells, while the reverse was true in tank units.

Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia all fielded tank-destroyer vehicles, as well. Some were simply anti-tank guns mounted on a lightly-armored chassis, such as the Marder and Su-76, while others were heavily-armored monstrosities with enormous guns, such as the Jagdpanther and the JSU-152.

None had turrets. These were seen as expensive luxuries unnecessary for the defensive anti-tank role. American doctrine envisioned a more active role, thus the turrets. However, the M10’s hand-cranked turret was so slow it took 80 seconds to complete a rotation.

While Sherman tanks had three machine guns, the M10 had just one pintle-mounted .50-caliber machine gun that could only be fired if the commander exposed himself over the turret. Movie star Audie Murphy won the Medal of Honor when he repelled a German assault near Colmar, France using the machine gun of a burning Wolverine.

The M10’s biggest deficit lay in armor protection. The Wolverine had an open-top turret, meaning the crew was exposed to shrapnel and small-arms fire from above. Its armor was also thinner overall than the Sherman’s was.

These shortcomings had their rationales. Even the heavier armor on a Sherman could be reliably penetrated by the long 75-millimeter guns of the standard German Panzer IV tank, let alone the more potent guns on German Panther and Tiger tanks.

Therefore, the Wolverine’s inferior protection made little difference against those vehicles. It did leave the M10 more vulnerable than the Sherman to lighter anti-tank weapons, but these were no longer very common.

Likewise, the M10’s open top gave the crew a better chance of spotting the enemy tanks first — usually the factor determining the winner of armor engagements. It would rarely be a weakness when only fighting tanks. Of course, it would be a problem when engaging enemy infantry and artillery, but that was meant to be the Sherman’s job.

The M10 fully replaced the M3 GMC by 1943, but its superior gun proved less of a panacea than the Army had hoped. The Sherman tank’s short 75-millimeter gun was unable to penetrate the frontal armor of German Tiger and Panther tanks, which accounted for roughly half the Wehrmacht tank force by 1944.

The Wolverine’s 76-millimeter gun supposedly could — but experience in combat showed it failed to penetrate the frontal armor of Germany heavy tanks at ranges greater than 400 meters. A problem known as shatter-gap meant that the tip of the 76-millimeter shell deformed when it hit face-hardened armor plate at long distances, causing it to explode before penetrating.

The tank-destroyer’s inability to take out the best enemy tanks heightened the branch’s generally negative reputation.

In the Italian campaign that began in 1943, German armor was rarely encountered in large numbers, and M10s were often asked to provide fire support for the infantry. They were even used as indirect-fire artillery. Though firing lighter shells, a tank-destroyer battalion had twice as many gun tubes as 105-millimeter artillery battalion did, and longer range.

Instead of holding tank-destroyers in corps reserve, it became standard practice for commanders to attach a tank-destroyer battalion to front-line infantry divisions. Rather than fighting as unified battalions, companies or platoons of tank-destroyers would detach to provide direct support to infantry and combined arms task forces. For every anti-tank round the tank-destroyers fired, they fired 11 high-explosive rounds.

Doctrinaire officers complained that the M10s, vehicles in most respects similar to a tank, were being employed as if they were tanks. Gen. Omar Bradley suggested that the Army should instead use heavy towed anti-tank guns, which could be more effectively concealed in dense terrain.

As a result, half of the battalions converted to towed, 76-millimeter M5 guns similar in effectiveness to the M10’s own gun. These supplemented the companies of lighter 57-millimeter guns integrated in each infantry regiment.

As tank-destroyers were drawn increasingly into infantry support roles that exposed them to artillery and infantry fire, their crews piled sandbags on top of them in order to detonate Panzerfaust anti-tank rockets. Other field-modifications included additional machine guns and even armored panels covering the tank-destroyers’ vulnerable open tops.

The arrival of new Sherman tanks in 1944 sporting their own 76-millimeter guns further blurred the distinction between tank-destroyers and tanks. There were now Sherman tanks just as effective at tank-hunting.

Busting panzers in Normandy

Tank-destroyers fought in two major engagements in Normandy in addition to numerous smaller skirmishes. On July 11, 1944, three panzer battalions of the Panzer Lehr Division, supported by mechanized infantry, launched a counterattack to relieve Allied pressure on the city of Saint Lo.

The two wings of the attack ran into dispersed M10 platoons of the 799th and 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalions near the village of Le Désert, supported by abundant air power. In a series of sharp engagements in the claustrophobic hedgerow corridors of the Normandy countryside, the Panzer Lehr division lost 30 Panther tanks.

Three weeks later, four panzer divisions attempted to pinch off the Allied breakout from Normandy in the Mortain counteroffensive. The Panzers ran into the towed guns of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion. In the dense early morning fog of the opening engagement, the 823rd was forced to fire at the muzzle flashes of equally-blind Panther tanks.

Unable to pull back the entrenched weapons, the 823rd lost 11 guns but succeeded in taking out 14 tanks. Self-propelled tank-destroyer battalions rushed into help. U.S. forces held Mortain and the German armies in northern France collapsed into a full retreat.

New tungsten-core, high-velocity, armor-piercing ammunition began to arrive for the 76-millimter guns in September 1944. The new rounds could reliably pierce German armor at range. Each Wolverine received only a few rounds of the rare ammunition, but it at least gave them a fighting chance at penetrating the German heavies.

Eleven tank-destroyer battalions were designated “colored” units. They were manned by African-American enlisted men and, mostly, white officers. The third platoon of the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, equipped with towed guns, won a Distinguished Unit Citation for beating back a German infantry counterattack after losing three of its four towed guns.

Its commander, Lt. Charles Thomas, stayed to direct the fight even after his M20 scout car was knocked out and his legs were raked with machine-gun fire. He was awarded a Distinguished Cross that was upgraded to a Medal of Honor in 1997. By contrast, the 827th Tank Destroyer Battalion was infamously plagued by poor leadership.

M10s and M18s also saw action in the Pacific, serving notably at Kwajalein Atoll, Peleliu, The Philippines and Okinawa. Facing only limited enemy armor, they specialized in destroying Japanese pillboxes, though some apparently took out tanks in the Battle of Saipan.

More than 1,600 M10s would also serve in Royal Artillery anti-tank regiments of the British Army. Almost two-thirds were eventually given extra armor plates and up-gunned with the superior 17-pound anti-tank gun, and were known as M10C Achilles. The 17-pound — also 76 millimeters in caliber — was a reliable Tiger- and Panther-killer. British doctrine treated the Achilles as a fast-deploying defensive weapon rather than as an active tank-hunter.

The Achilles acquitted themselves well. In a battle near Buron, France, they knocked out 13 Panzer IV and Panther tanks for the loss of four of their number. They often escorted heavily-armored Churchill tanks that lacked adequate anti-tank firepower.

Some 200 Wolverines served in the Free French Army, where they were well-liked. Famously, the French M10 Sirocco fired across the two-kilometer-long Champs-Élysées boulevard of Paris from near the Arc de Triomphe to knock out a Panther tank at the Place de la Concorde.

Even the Soviet Union operated 52 M10s received through Lend Lease. These served in two battalions that saw action in Belarus.

The new blood

In 1944, two additional tank-destroyer types entered service. Buick designed the M18 Hellcat for pure speed. Lightweight and powered by a radial aircraft engine, it could zoom along at 50 miles per hour in an era that tanks rarely exceeded 35 miles per hour.

However, it had only an inch of armor and was armed with a 76-millimeter M1 gun that was little more effective than that on the M10. Several units in Italy refused the upgrade to the M18 — armor was more important than speed in the cramped mountainous terrain. But the M18 was popular in Patton’s hard-charging 3rd Army.

While speed is useful for getting armored vehicles where they’re needed, accounts differ as to whether it provided the M18 much benefit at the tactical level. An Army study concluded it was unimportant in tactical combat. Other sources maintain the Hellcat’s speed enabled it in using hit-and-run tactics.

The M36 Jackson — or Slugger — on the other hand, had the hull of the M10 with additional armor and finally upgraded the armament to a heavy 90-millimeter gun. Not only were the heavy shells effective Tiger- and Panther-killers at long ranges — one once knocked out a Panther nearly four kilometers away — but they were significantly more effective against infantry.

2,324 were converted by the end of the war from various M10 and M4A3 vehicle hulls.

The new tank-destroyers acquitted themselves well in combat. In the Battle of Arracourt, two platoons of Hellcats — eight in total — from the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion moved swiftly into ambush positions behind a low ridge on a foggy day, only their turrets poking over the rise.

When a battalion of Panther tanks from the 113th Panzer Brigade entered their sights, they knocked out 19 for the loss of three of their own number. At the Siegfried Line, M36s excelled at knocking out fortifications and helped beat back Tiger tanks that had decimated Shermans of the 9th Armored Division.

The Battle of the Bulge, a massive German counteroffensive in the frozen Ardennes forest, was the swan song of U.S. tank-destroyers. The Hellcats of the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion helped the 101st Airborne repel German armored assaults at Bastogne.

A detached platoon of M18s escorting Team Desobry helped take out 30German tanks in Noville. M36 Jacksons of the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion took 50-percent casualties in a delaying action at Saint Vith, knocking out 30 Panther tanks in the process.

The towed tank-destroyer battalions didn’t fare so well. Several battalions had to abandon their guns in the face of the German advance. Others got stuck in the mud and snow. While M10s of the 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion destroyed 17 tanks in two days in the ill-fated defense of Elsenborn ridge, the towed guns of the 801st fighting in the same battle lost 17 guns.

Of the 119 tank destroyers lost in the Battle of the Bulge, 86 were towed guns. Meanwhile, the tank-destroyers claimed 306 enemy tanks. In January 1945, it was decided to re-convert the towed units to self-propelled battalions.

By the end of the war, the writing was on the wall for the tank-destroyer — particularly when the first of the early M-26 Pershing tanks armed with the same 90-millimeter guns as on the M36 began to see action in early 1945.

Tank-destroyers were pretty much just tanks with inferior armor and better guns. Contrary to doctrine, commanders in the field asked them to perform most of the same tasks as regular tanks. Why invest in a whole separate branch of the army and different class of vehicles when you could simply give tanks the same gun?

Just three months after the end of World War II the Army disbanded the tank-destroyer branch. While the U.S. military did develop a few more specialized anti-tank vehicles, such as the M56 ONTOS, Army doctrine would go on to assert “the best means of taking out a tank is another tank.”

World War II was not quite the end of the line for U.S. tank destroyers. The M36 Jackson and its 90-millimeter gun were hastily called back for use in the Korean War five years later to counter North Korean T-34/85 tanks.

Surviving tank destroyers were resold all over the world. M10s and M18s saw action with the Nationalist army in the Chinese civil war. Wolverines cropped up in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Pakistani M36s battled Indian tanks in 1965. Croatia and Serbia used M36s and M18s in the Yugoslav civil war of the early to mid-1990s. Yugoslavia even deployed M36s as decoys against NATO airstrikes during the Kosovo War. Upgraded M18s remain in Venezuelan service today.

The shortcomings of U.S. tank destroyers are clear. They were intended to fight in a specific context that largely failed to materialize. They had inferior armor protection. With the exception of the M36, they weren’t reliably capable of taking out the scariest enemy tanks.

Post-war Army historians roundly lashed them for these shortcomings. Yet here’s the funny thing. Operational records show that the tank-destroyers actually rocked.

Active, self-propelled tank-destroyer battalions were judged to have killed 34 tanks each on average, and about half as many guns and pillboxes. Some units, such as the 601st, reported more than 100 enemy tanks destroyed. This led to an average kill ratio of two or three enemy tanks destroyed for every tank-destroyer lost.

The ultra-lightly-armored M18, with its unexceptional gun, had the best ratio of kills to losses for any vehicle type in the Army!

Why? Ultimately, it may come down to how tank-destroyers were employed, even though it was not the manner intended by Army strategists. While Sherman tank units sometimes embarked on risky assaults and unsupported rapid advances, tank-destroyers usually deployed in support of combined arms task forces with infantry.

This cooperation with friendly forces meant they showed just where they needed to be, spotted the enemy first and got off the first shot. And being the first to shoot usually determined the outcome of armored engagements in World War II, regardless of the quality of the vehicles involved.

Tank-destroyers also taught the Army not to over-specialize. There was no need for multiple classes of tanks that were strong in one respect and weak in another. The post-war concept of the main battle tank embraced this idea to the fullest.

As such, the U.S. tank destroyer branch constitutes one of the most curiously successful failures in U.S. military history.

This article originally appeared at War is Boring in 2016.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

In World War I, Even Animals Needed to Wear Gas Masks

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 21:13

James Simpson

History, Europe

During World War I, more than 90,000 soldiers died on all sides from gas attacks, which debilitated many more.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Horses often chewed through the canvas bags after mistaking them for feed. They were still vulnerable to skin blistering during mustard gas attacks and irritation from eating contaminated feed. Some cavalry horses had their own goggles to protect their eyes during chlorine gas attacks, but issues with fogging limited the use of goggles

There was nothing more terrifying in the trenches than the call of a gas attack — “GAS! GAS!” This warning cry sent men scrambling for their masks as the poisonous fog enveloped them. Soldiers succumbed to the strangling effects of chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas for years as the stalemated armies searched for news ways to defeat each other.

During World War I, more than 90,000 soldiers died on all sides from gas attacks, which debilitated many more. And it wasn’t just human combatants who suffered — many military working animals died from chemical weapons.

Take the most famous canine hero of the war, Sergeant Stubby of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, American Expeditionary Forces. The most decorated dog of the war earned many of his accolades from alerting his human comrades to incoming gas. A dog’s nose can be tens of thousands of times more sensitive than a human’s — which makes canines useful detectors of explosives, drugs and even cancer.

Stubby’s strong response to poison gas had its roots in an earlier close call. During that attack, mustard gas sealed his eyes shut with viscous mucous and he barely moved for days. It was an undoubtedly traumatic experience that taught Stubby all he needed to know. After his recovery, Stubby went on to save human lives because he understood the danger.

Stubby wasn’t the only dog left with a fear of this deadly new weapon. Rags — a mongrel with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division — fell foul of a German gas attack, as too did Tommy, a German Shepherd in service with the British Expeditionary Force.

Gas threatened the lives of all military working animals on the Western Front. The death or immobilization of these animals meant curtailing their enormous and unique contributions to the war effort.

However, there was one other tiny gas-detecting hero on the Western Front — the slug. Slugs were far more effective than dogs at detecting incoming mustard gas attacks. The U.S. Army was the first to discover the slug’s life-saving secret. Three times more sensitive than humans, slugs reacted to mustard gas at one particle per 10-12 million. They would compress their bodies and temporarily stop breathing, alerting soldiers to the danger and giving them enough time to pull on their gas masks.

What’s more, thanks to their natural abilities, slugs would actually survive the attacks unscathed — which is more than could be said for every other animal on the Western Front.

A beastly army

More than eight million horses, mules and donkeys and a million dogs died in World War I. Everyone knows the enormous human cost of the conflict, but it is easy to forget the fates of the million of animals that supported the war on all sides. Animals were important companions and workers to the soldiers at the front, and like their human compatriots they needed protection from the perils of chemical warfare.

Pack animals carried supplies and weapons on the front and rear lines. The railways that carried the millions of tons of food and ammunition to the rear were frequently several miles away, so horses, mules and donkeys bridged the gap even after engineers set up light railway and automobile supply lines. (The Germany army would remain majority horse-drawn through World War II.)

Between 1916 and 1918, gas hospitalized 2,200 horses and killed 211, mostly because logistical uses limiting their exposure to the more dangerous areas at the front.

The Germans used some 30,000 dogs on the Western Front, and the Entente kept around 20,000. Some dogs pulled heavy machine guns on trolleys, others used their keen sense of smell and hearing for sentry and scout work. Their small size helped them slip over and between trenches to deliver messages, shuttle medical supplies or lay down communication wires.

In a less formal way, dogs improved morale within the trenches by hunting rats and acting as companions to troops in miserable conditions. Cats also performed well in this role.

Homing pigeons carried out a crucial mission in the conflict. Carrier pigeons were the most reliable communications tool in the war. Around 100,000 birds carried messages back and forth from the front with a success rate of more than 95 percent. They were so important as messengers that pilots would even carry them to call home if they found themselves stranded behind enemy lines. To counter the pigeons, the Germans trained hawks to hunt them and retrieve their messages.

The front lines were hard enough for their human masters, but the animals were acutely sensitive to chemical warfare. They typically received less food than the soldiers and worked to exhaustion. They didn’t have the autonomy of their human comrades, either.

In a gas attack, troops had to save their own lives before they could cover up their more vulnerable animal brethren. And when it came to covering up, all sides of the war attempted to protect their vital animal assets.

Animal gas masks

Before animals received customized gas masks, many soldiers simply attached human masks. Troops wrapped straps around the noses of pack animals, or squeezed dogs’ faces into the soft baggy masks they used for themselves. This caused some problems. The shallow covering of the human mask could not protect a dog’s sensitive ears. For horses, mules and donkeys, the distance between their eyes and nose left some blinded during poison gas attacks.

Birds presented an even bigger problem — how do you fit the large human respirator onto a small bird?

The answer was customization.

The obvious answer for birds was to fit the respirator onto the bird’s carrier. The Germans used a wooden box with filters as a portable option, and fitted their trenches with larger steel lofts to house birds when on the front. On the whole, however, pigeons proved resistant to all but the deadliest of gases and continued their critical flights in even the most awful conditions.

Horses’ eyes, like pigeons, proved resistant to tear gas and other irritants. So initial efforts simply focused on protecting their respiratory systems. The British fitted their horses with nose plugs — horses are natural nose-breathers, so handlers stuffed their noses with gauze and pinned it in place. But it was painful and time-consuming.

So the Army found inspiration from existing technology — the equine feedbag attached to the horses’ heads. Both the Germans and British armies developed a five-inch by 14-inch flannelette and cheesecloth bag soaked in filtering chemicals fitted around a horse’s nose. But this afforded limited protection.

Horses often chewed through the canvas bags after mistaking them for feed. They were still vulnerable to skin blistering during mustard gas attacks and irritation from eating contaminated feed. Some cavalry horses had their own goggles to protect their eyes during chlorine gas attacks, but issues with fogging limited the use of goggles. As a result, exposure to the more dangerous gases left horses blinded alongside their human comrades.

Dogs had their own gas masks, too. Many of these early masks simply restitched the goggles and respirator from the human mask and fitted the apparatus to a canvas bag or sock that wrapped around the dog’s neck. This protected the entire head from exposure.

Canines, like humans, are susceptible to the effects of tear agents and needed nasal and oral protection. The new contraption protected their sensitive ears, too. This, and the space to allow their jaws to open, were essential if dogs were to continue working during an attack.

To protect Sergeant Stubby, his owner John Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment bought a French canine gas mask. The U.S. Army would not begin work on its own mask until 1926, but the Germans, French and British had experimented with applying existing human masks to their dogs early into the war.

However, Stubby’s mask was a poor fit for the thick bull terrier’s head. With the help of a French officer, Conroy made a new mask that fit the dog better and trained him to not only leave it on, but to retreat to the safety of the trench’s bunker.

Dog handlers had it easy compared to the pack animal operators. While dogs could be trained to calmly sit still while their handlers strapped and tied the mask to their animal, soldiers had to restrain mules with ropes. But saving these pack animals from gas attacks allowed them to continue to deliver critical supplies to the front.

Gas mask development continued into the interwar years with significant development in human, equine and canine gas mask development before World War II.

The horrors of chemical warfare have thankfully yet to be repeated on such a devastatingly similar scale, but the experience has allowed militaries worldwide to protect even their most vulnerable service members from harm.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.​

Image: Wikipedia.

What in the World?

Foreign Policy - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 21:10
This week in FP’s international news quiz: Olympics obstacles, a spyware scandal, and a bold quarantine escape attempt.

Why Is Everyone Going to Iceland?

Foreign Policy - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 21:10
How Reykjavik successfully managed the pandemic and brought tourism back.

Glock 42: This Small Pistol Packs a Huge Punch

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 21:08

Kyle Mizokami

Glock,

In the right hands, the Glock 42 pistol could conceivably become as deadly as its larger caliber brethren.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The smallest Glock, it is also suitable for whom concealability is a major purchase factor. While not for everyone, the combination of Glock’s pistol platform and John Browning’s small automatic caliber is still a compelling choice for users who combine both skill and discretion.

A combination of the successful Glock pistol design and a caliber invented by armsman John Moses Browning, the Glock 42 is certainly worth taking a look at.

The pistol combines the Austrian gun manufacturer’s gun operating system with the .380 ACP pistol cartridge. The result is both a pistol for concealed carriers who desire a low recoil pistol and the smallest pistol in Glock’s lineup.

Austrian gun manufacturer Glock has taken a tree-like approach to its pistol lineup, with the original Glock 17 9-millimeter pistol the trunk each major caliber it forays into a branch. The company will typically introduce the full-sized Glock in a new caliber, then quickly follow with compact, sub-compact, and competition-sized pistols to round out the caliber offering.

Unlike other branches, like the .45 ACP and the .40 Smith & Wesson, the .380 ACP branch of the Glock tree is the smallest of them all, consisting of a single pistol: the Glock 42. The smallest and least powerful of all calibers the company has endorsed, the nature of the .380 ACP round makes it only suitable for a modern subcompact design.

The .380 ACP round was invented in 1908 by inventor John Moses Browning. The early 1900s were perhaps Browning’s most prolific and influential period, with the invention of firearms such as the M1911 handgun, M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and .380 ACP and .45 ACP calibers. While the round enjoyed a brief run of success as a pistol round in European armies before World War II, after the war standardization on the larger, more powerful 9-millimeter parabellum edged out the smaller round in military service, becoming a civilian caliber.

The .380 ACP, with a handful of individual exceptions, is a subsonic round. Most iterations range between 75 and 95 grains. The Federal .380 ACP full metal jacket round weighs 95 grains, hits with the force of 203 foot-pounds at the muzzle, and moves at 980 feet per second. By comparison, the 9-millimeter (.350) Federal FMJ round is approximately the same size, at 364 foot-pounds packs more than sixty percent more energy and travels at 1,150 feet per second.

The advantage to .380 ACP is not power or velocity but lighter recoil. A .380 pistol should, all things being equal, be easier to place rounds on target than a 9-millimeter pistol. Thus a tradeoff between the two calibers: accuracy versus damage. Accuracy, placing rounds where you want them will get you damage, but damage will not get you accuracy.

Thus the argument for a pistol like the Glock 42. Although not as powerful as its cousin, the subcompact 9-millimeter Glock 26, the Glock 42 is more controllable. The .380 caliber, although relatively low-powered, also has more than a century of load development and is capable of reaching up to 294 foot-pounds with Buffalo Bore +P rounds.

The Glock 42 is the smallest pistol in Glock’s lineup, with an overall length of 5.94 inches. The G.42 also has the shortest barrel length of any pistol, at just 3.25 inches. It is the only Glock to break the one-inch width barrier, being only .98 inches wide.

Glock’s .380 offering is also by far the lightest of the company’s pistols. It weighs just 13.76 ounces unloaded, rivaling lightweight revolvers such as the Ruger LCR. The next heavier pistol in Glock’s lineup is the 9-millimeter single stack Glock 43 that weighs seventeen ounces unloaded. Even loaded with six rounds of .380 ammunition, the Glock 42 is still two ounces lighter than the Glock 43.

In the right hands, the Glock 42 pistol could conceivably become as deadly as its larger caliber brethren. The smallest Glock, it is also suitable for whom concealability is a major purchase factor. While not for everyone, the combination of Glock’s pistol platform and John Browning’s small automatic caliber is still a compelling choice for users who combine both skill and discretion.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Creative Commons.

Vaccines Are Japan’s New Tool to Counter China

Foreign Policy - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 20:43
Despite its worsening pandemic, Tokyo’s vaccine diplomacy has gained traction.

Glock Who? The Heckler & Koch VP9 9mm Might Be Even Better

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 20:28

Richard Douglas

Guns,

If you haven’t owned a firearm by Heckler & Koch before, you owe it to yourself to get one.

Here's What You Need to Remember: What everyone at the range wants out of a pistol is one that is more accurate than them. The HK VP9 certainly delivers in this regard. Especially if you’re a beginner just learning how to shoot, a weapon like the VP9 is an excellent option to get you started.

The HK VP9 is a full-sized striker-fired pistol made by Heckler & Koch. Often compared to the Glock, the VP9 actually gives the more common polymer pistol a run for its money. In fact, if you’ve used a Glock and felt underwhelmed, you’ll want to get your hands on a VP9. This modern European firearm would be great at the range, for self-defense, or even concealed carry. 

Accuracy 

What everyone at the range wants out of a pistol is one that is more accurate than them. The HK VP9 certainly delivers in this regard. Especially if you’re a beginner just learning how to shoot, a weapon like the VP9 is an excellent option to get you started.

As a full-sized pistol, the barrel length makes for not only an accurate shot, but also a longer sight radius when compared to, say, the Glock 19.

The sights themselves are luminescent, with two dots on the rear sights and a single forward sight. Lining up a shot is simple, and straightforward: everything you want out of a pistol.

Reliability 

If you haven’t owned a firearm by Heckler & Koch before, you owe it to yourself to get one. In my experience, every HK gun I’ve been able to test has been reliable unerringly, and the VP9 is no exception.

This isn’t even taking into account the inherent reliability of the striker-fire platform, but I look forward to many long days at the range with the HK VP9.

Handling 

The handling of the HK VP9 deserves special mention. It seems the designers of this gun put ergonomics as a top priority, with a few key features that stand out among similar pistols.

First, the grip: the grip of the VP9 is molded, with a light texture that allows purchase without being aggressive. Notably, the grip is customizable, coming out of the box with small, medium, and large panels that can be fitted into the side and back of the grip however you’d like.

This means that you can, for example, fit a large grip on the backstrap with small ones on the side panels, or vice versa. The moddable grip is the perfect way to accommodate lefties, and is a feature not many pistols have right out of the box. The pistol itself is made to be ambidextrous, with the magazine and slide releases on both sides of the weapon.

One thing that might disappoint some shooters is the paddle-style magazine release. Paddles tend to be unpopular in the United States, and for a reason: this one is just a little awkward to hit, which forced me to shift my grip in order to reach it. If you absolutely hate the paddle-style magazine release, I recommend looking into the HK VP9-B, which replaces the paddle with a button.

Lastly of note is the two polymer wings on the back of the slide, just below the rear sights. These little things are a massive help in pulling the slide back, especially if you’re wearing gloves or the gun is wet. Any feature that makes the operation of a firearm smoother is a good thing in my book.

Trigger 

The trigger, according to HK, has a pull of 5 lbs, 4 oz, which is comparable to other full-sized polymer-based pistols (read: Glocks). HK also claims that the VP-9’s trigger is “best-in-class,” surpassing all its competitors, and I don’t disagree.

I also don’t think that’s a major accomplishment, however. In general, the trigger is smooth on the take up and has a decent break. It features ridges that assist your trigger finger with the pull. It’s better than the Glock, for sure, but I’d say it’s fairly middle-of-the-pack for a factory trigger.

If you see this pistol getting a lot of use from you, an aftermarket trigger would be a simple upgrade.

Magazine & Reloading 

The HK VP9 comes with two 15-round magazines of 9x19mm ammunition. Cutouts at the base of the magazine make stripping them easier, a quality-of-life feature that I like seeing in my firearms.

Again, the paddle-style release isn’t popular, but works just fine as an ambidextrous magazine release once you get used to it. I found using my trigger finger (as opposed to my thumb) worked better, but I often forgot to do that while actually shooting. It requires a different type of muscle memory, which anyone can develop with time.

Also of note is a loaded chamber indicator on the back: a red dot just below the rear sights. While a nifty feature, I don’t think it’s necessary for anyone who knows how to safely handle a gun, and the loaded chamber indicator can, like every other mechanical part of a firearm, sometimes malfunction.

As a 9mm pistol, the VP9 has a wide array of different bullets available, and it can also eat just about all of them thanks to masterful construction by Heckler & Koch.

Length & Weight 

If you’ve held a Glock before, you basically know what it’s like to hold a VP9. The VP9 measures 7.34” long, 1.32” wide, and 5.41 tall, which is almost the same size as the Glock 17. Empty, the VP9 weighs 25.56 oz, which is slightly more than the Glock 17’s 22 oz.

While some might consider it too large for concealed carry, especially compared to subcompact pistols such as the Ruger LCP, the VP9 is still a solid option provided you have a decent belt and holster for it. Even if not, it’s still a great size for a home defense option.

Recoil Management 

Being a 9mm full-size pistol, the felt recoil on the HK VP9 is fairly soft and easy to manage, despite its lightweight.

My only complaint in this regard is the high bore axis of the gun. While the backwards recoil of the shot is soft, the muzzle flip caught me off guard at first and took a few rounds to get used to. Overall not a big issue.

Price 

The MSRP of the VP9 sits at $719, which is quite the investment for the average buyer.

However, the gun is a few years old by now, making them fairly easy to find on sale. If you can pick up a VP9 for $600 or lower, in my opinion, it’s without a doubt a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a full-size, striker-fired pistol.

My Verdict? 

The HK VP-9 is a solid 9mm workhorse pistol that you can take to the range or carry for self-defense.

For those who just hate the paddle-style magazine release (which I totally understand), I recommend looking into the VP9-B, which features a button release but otherwise is largely the same pistol.

If you don’t yet own a striker-fired pistol and want to, the HK VP9 is a solid choice as a dependable sidearm with HK’s time-tested reliability. It will without a doubt be worth the cost of purchase, measured over its long lifespan.

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in large publications like The Armory Life, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Where’s Your Stimulus Check? Here’s How to Get Your Hands on It

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 20:14

Ethen Kim Lieser

Stimulus Check Help,

Currently, the fastest way to fast-track a stimulus payment from this third round is to file a tax return if they haven’t already.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department are already four months into the process of disbursing millions of coronavirus stimulus checks to eligible Americans that were approved in March via President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

The agencies this week made even more headway in this endeavor by issuing 2.2 million additional $1,400 stimulus checks with a value of more than $4 billion. This newest tranche boosts the total number of checks sent out to date to approximately one hundred seventy-one million worth roughly $400 billion.

Despite the latest estimates suggesting about 90 percent of all stimulus checks already have been mailed out or direct deposited, know that there are still millions of Americans who have been relegated to the sidelines. And in some instances, they still haven’t seen the checks from the first two rounds.

Do be aware that the IRS is trying its best to juggle several responsibilities concurrently—which include the disbursement of child tax credits, the so-called “plus-up” payments, unemployment benefit refunds, and the annual refunds from federal tax returns, for which there are thirty-five million returns to manually process.

File a Tax Return

Currently, the fastest way to fast-track a stimulus payment from this third round is to file a tax return if they haven’t already. Do take note that the IRS has stated that the majority of checks from the recent stimulus payment batches has been heading out to recent tax filers who did not have the necessary information, such as an address and bank account and routing numbers, on file at the tax agency. Without such information, the IRS is handcuffed on where to issue the funds.

“Although payments are automatic for most people, the IRS continues to urge people who don’t normally file a tax return and haven’t received Economic Impact Payments to file a 2020 tax return to get all the benefits they’re entitled to under the law, including tax credits such as the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit,” the IRS noted.

Recovery Rebate Credit

It is indeed true that the May 17 tax filing deadline for this year has already passed—but know that individuals can still apply for an extension and file by the October 15 deadline. If this is done successfully, people would also be able to utilize the Recovery Rebate Credit that has been added to all returns this tax season. This handy option will make it possible to claim stimulus checks from the previous two rounds.

“Many people miss out on tax benefits simply because they don’t file a tax return,” IRS Wage & Investment Commissioner Ken Corbin, who also serves as the agency’s Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer, said in a statement

Another convenient portal that has been recently made available due to the rollout of the child tax credits is the Non-filer Sign-up Tool, which can also be used to claim stimulus checks from this current third round.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

F-35s are Making Aircraft Carriers Deadlier Than Ever

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:49

Kris Osborn

U.S. Navy, Asia

The aircraft carrier is still the most powerful platform for power projection, and the concept is still extraordinarily vital.

Here's What You Need to Remember: If an F-35C or F-18 can be refueled in flight by a carrier-operated drone refueler, they will not only have more dwell time over targets but they will be able reach target areas and project power from carriers operating at safer standoff ranges.

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are said to be extremely vulnerable to modern missile attacks, since they represent huge floating targets that are less agile and mobile in high threat circumstances. In fact, some commentators have gone so far as to wonder if recently emerging long range anti-ship missiles may have rendered aircraft carriers obsolete.

This is not true, at least according to many prominent Navy leaders, weapons developers, futurists and influential members of Congress. All of these leaders clearly explain that America’s signature emblem of maritime power is going nowhere.

“The aircraft carrier is still the most powerful platform for power projection, and the concept is still extraordinarily vital. If it was not the Chinese wouldn’t be building aircraft carriers. So they are looking to catch up because they understand you’ve got to deploy power away from your shores,” Rep. Rob Whitman -(R) Va., ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, told The National Interest in an interview.

While there will be adaptations to new threats, such as greater use of amphibious assault ships for airpower and much broader use of unmanned systems, the fundamental premise of carrier operations and emerging Ford-class aircraft carriers, appear here to stay.

Alongside advancing a clear sense that existing aircraft carrier power projection is something which should both remain and simultaneously adapt to emerging threats, Wittman was also enthusiastic about the additional mobility and multifunctional advantages of amphibious assault ships, now increasingly capable of projecting long-range airpower with the arrival of the F-35B stealth jet fighter.

As has been the case for years, the Navy will continue to study questions about future carrier configurations with a close eye upon new threats, weapons, and potential enemy tactics, yet many believe that a emerging consensus may be emerging. Such advocates argue that newer aircraft carriers, if properly defended and fortified by range-extending platforms such as carrier-launched drone refuelers, are likely to endure throughout this century.

The reasons for this may simply be too numerous, interwoven and complex to specify, yet several do immediately come to mind. Emerging layered ship defenses are now enabled by laser interceptors, electronic warfare applications able to jam missile targeting systems and new generations of longer-range precision interceptor missiles increasingly able to change course in flight to destroy incoming attacks.

All of this bears upon the almost “all too often discussed” threat equation presented in the Pacific by Chinese DF-26 and DF-21D carrier killer anti-ship missiles which can reportedly hit carriers at ranges of 2,000 and 1,000 miles respectively. The weapons are regularly test fired and cited in Chinese newspapers as being highly effective and able to deny access to vital strike ranges from which carriers might need to operate.

The rhetoric about these missiles, however, often overlooks several key variables of great significance to the tactical equation, such as the extent to which the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-launched refueler drone might actually double the strike range of carrier-launched aircraft. If an F-35C or F-18 can be refueled in flight by a carrier-operated drone refueler, they will not only have more dwell time over targets but they will be able reach target areas and project power from carriers operating at safer standoff ranges. Also, there is likely a reason why so many Navy leaders regularly say the service can operate carriers anywhere it needs to, meaning the breakthrough levels of ship defenses, coupled with the added protections from ships in a Carrier Strike Group, enable carriers to operate in high threat areas to a much larger extent than may be realized.

“I think that the aircraft carrier will continue to be a viable option, mainly because, you know, our effort is to keep any sort of conflict away from conus. And the only way to do that is to protect power. So nobody has come up with a substitute for that in today’s world,” Wittman said. “We can probably dock our ships in allied ports and stage many operations from friendly countries, however the 20th century concept of basing in foreign nations is something that’s not going to happen in the future.”

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr.

Bad News: A Child Tax Credit Advance Can Affect Your Tax Bill

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:36

Trevor Filseth

Child Tax Credit,

The advance payments of the Child Tax Credit are not regarded as a payment in themselves; they are considered an advance on a payment that is scheduled to be made in April 2022.

Here's What You Need to Remember: In recognition of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has waived repayment in certain cases, and has offered installment plans in others. Still, to avoid being caught unaware, parents can update their information via a portal on the IRS’s website.

Over the coming weeks, millions of American families will receive the first of six monthly checks from the federal government. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government made half of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) funds available in advance; this half will be paid out monthly from July until December, with the first payment slated for July 15. The other half of the credit must be claimed on a family’s tax returns in April 2022.

The American Rescue Plan, the legislation that provided for the most recent round of stimulus checks, also approved the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit. It also increased the amount of each; while prior to the pandemic, each child netted their parents $2000 per year, regardless of age, this number has now been increased to $3000 for children aged six and up and $3600 for those younger. Per month, this translates to $250 per child for older children and $300 for younger ones.

These advance payments will unquestionably make a difference in many Americans’ lives. Because they amount to transfers of cash with no strings attached, unlike most conventional welfare benefits, they have been compared to the COVID-19-era stimulus checks.

However, there is a substantial difference. The advance payments of the Child Tax Credit are not regarded as a payment in themselves; they are considered an advance on a payment that is scheduled to be made in April 2022. For this reason, if the amount that a family owes by April changes, they may be forced to pay back a portion of the advance on the following year’s taxes.

For instance, if a child turned six in May, he or she would only be eligible for the smaller amount per month, rather than the larger one. However, the IRS will not learn about this until April, when it comes time to file 2021 taxes. From July until December, it will have been sending $300 checks rather than $250 ones, and it will want its money back the following year.

Other considerations include income; if a family’s income exceeds $150,000 in 2021, it will have exceeded the payment cap, and the IRS will request that the family repays a portion of the credit.

In recognition of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has waived repayment in certain cases, and has offered installment plans in others. Still, to avoid being caught unaware, parents can update their information via a portal on the IRS’s website. They can also simply request to cancel the advance payments, to ensure the proper amount of money is given in April.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

The Glock 19 Gen 4 Might Just Be the Best Gun Out There

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:36

Richard Douglas

Guns,

The Glock 19 Gen4 is designed for function first.

Here's What You Need To Remember: Glock is renowned for reliable weapons that function in almost any circumstance, and the Gen 4 is no different. A new dual-recoil spring assembly increases the system’s life by reducing the wear and tear suffered by a gun using just a single spring.

Ever since the Glock 19 debuted in 1988, the famous “plastic gun” has been a hit with both private owners and law enforcement. Released in 2009, the fourth generation of the Glock 19 has continued in Glock’s tradition of unrivaled reliability and practicality. Let’s break down the specifics.

Accuracy

The Glock 19 Gen4 is designed for function first. This design philosophy means that the gun parts fit together more loosely than most, making it not as accurate as competition-level pistols. Nevertheless, the Gen4 is sufficiently accurate for self-defense and range shooting. I found some small variations at longer ranges (25–100 yards), but found I could shoot 4 inch groups at 25 yards. That accuracy is perfectly sufficient for self-defense. If you want more accuracy, you can look into purchasing an aftermarket barrel or mounting a micro red dot like the T1. I’d also recommend replacing the plastic sights with AmeriGlo GL-433 Hackathorn Sight Set. It’s more durable, easier to pick up and and quicker to sight.

Reliability

Glock is renowned for reliable weapons that function in almost any circumstance, and the Gen 4 is no different. A new dual-recoil spring assembly increases the system’s life by reducing the wear and tear suffered by a gun using just a single spring. The reinforced polymer frame, steel barrel and slide make the Gen 4 a hardy, durable weapon. I had no malfunctions after firing thousands of rounds through the Gen 4 (from a variety of ammo manufacturers). There’s word from other shooters with numbers as high as fifty-eight thousand rounds fired without any malfunctions. You’re not going to beat that kind of reliability.

Handling

The Gen 4 is a safe weapon with a unique feel. Like all Glocks, the Gen 4 doesn’t come with a safety switch like many other weapons. Instead, a small lever on the trigger itself must be depressed in order to fire the weapon. This makes it almost impossible for an accidental trigger pull to occur. It also comes with internal safety measures as well, making it a uniquely safe gun.

Glocks are known to be thick, somewhat blocky weapons. The Gen 4 has improved its ergonomics (compared to earlier generations), but if you don’t like how a Glock handles, you probably aren’t going to be won over by this one. Many who don’t like Glocks complained that earlier versions of the Glock 19 were too thick; the Gen 4 addresses this problem by offering different sized back straps to allow customization of the thickness of the grip. The grip comes with finger grooves—these fit my hand well, but some of my friends complained that their hands sat on top of the grips rather than between them. The trigger guard itself is thick and square. The trigger guard would smash my middle finger when firing. This issue is common enough that a light bruise on the middle finger has been called “Glock finger.” Some recommend using a Dremmel tool to shave it down to a more comfortable size. Other improvements include the option to switch the magazine release for left-handed shooters and updated stippling (which made a huge difference in rainy weather to grip).

Trigger

The Glock’s trigger is average. The pull is listed at 5.5 pounds. The pull is somewhat mushy. If the trigger pull is too heavy, switch the trigger connector to take some of the extra weight off the pull, making it easier for you to pull the trigger without yanking the gun (resulting in a less accurate shot). However, only professional shooters or very dedicated hobbyists will have a bone to pick with the trigger. The trigger functions well and is perfectly functional for self-defense and hobby shooting.

Magazine & Reloading

If ordered from the manufacturer, Glock will send three fifteen-round magazines with your Gen 4 (unless you live in a state where the law requires a maximum of ten rounds per magazine). You will also receive a speedloader. The magazine is ultra-reliable; I had no issues with rounds feeding into the chamber. Some found some difficulty with loading all fifteen rounds into the magazine at once, but I found that if I loaded the magazine and let it sit for two weeks, the spring at the bottom of the magazine softened sufficiently for me to load the magazine fully without any problems. The gun can also take the seventeen round Glock 17 magazine, as well as a variety of aftermarket magazines of differing sizes. I did have some issues with aftermarket magazine reliability, so I would stick with the manufacturer’s magazines for the Gen 4. Fifteen rounds should be perfectly sufficient for a self-defense situation. If not enough for your needs, you can always carry the two additional magazines that come with the gun.

Length & Weight

One of the most impressive features of the Gen 4 is its size. Measuring in at 7.28 inches long, 4.99 inches high, 1.18 inches wide, and under 21 ounces, the Gen 4 is a rare pistol that straddles the line between compact and full-sized. This means that you get the benefits of full-sized (less snappy when shooting, larger magazine capacity), and compact (light, easy to conceal-carry). This balance makes it a perfect all-purpose size weapon that can be used for self-defense, competition, or hobby shooting. Speaking of competition, the DDM4V11 is a great 3-gun competition rifle that you might be interested in.

Recoil Management

The Gen 4 was easy to control when shooting, and didn’t have an aggressive recoil when compared even to other full-size pistols. The dual recoil springs and Glock’s unique signature block palm swell (which directs the recoil energy straight back, rather than up or to the side) both contribute to making this an easy weapon to control when firing.

Price

The Glock Gen4 has an MSRP of $629.99, but can often be purchased for $550 or less. In fact, you can get it for $500 over at Palmetto State Armory. That makes this quality weapon fit right in the middle of pistol price ranges—not cutting features to save on cost, but not breaking the bank either. With its extreme durability, you’ll get your money’s worth.

Conclusion

The Glock 19 is a classic, and for good reason. It’s:

● Highly reliable

● Very customizable

● Easily concealable (good for personal protection)

In short: If you’re looking for a solid self-defense firearm, or just to have a good, reliable handgun to shoot on the weekends, go for the Glock 19 Gen4. You won’t be disappointed.

Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in large publications like The Armory Life, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog. This article first appeared earlier this year.

Image: Reuters.

China Has Little Hope to Beat These 5 Russian Weapons

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:15

Kyle Mizokami

Russia, Eurasia

Both Russia and China would have their own advantages and disadvantages in a war.

Here's What You Need to Know: A multirole fighter bomber, the Su-35 is superior to any operational Chinese fighter. Avionics, propulsion and weapons systems are all superior, as are the NPO Saturn AL-41 engines. Radar-absorbent materials are used in the construction of the airframe. The plane is a flying arsenal, featuring a stunning 14 hardpoints for carrying weapons, jammers, fuel tanks and added sensors.

In our last article, we discussed the possibility of Russia and China going to war. Relations between the two are currently fairly good, and war between the two countries is seemingly unlikely. That being said, the two have had their share of territorial disputes, and at this point it is probably not a good idea to consider any dispute with China dormant.

Both Russia and China would have their own advantages and disadvantages in a war. The Russian military has gone to war numerous times in the last twenty years, in Chechnya, Georgia and now Ukraine. Russian forces, although often ill-trained and ill-prepared, are resilient and capable. Russia also holds a technological edge over China—for now, anyway.

The flip side is that Russian equipment, on balance, is fairly old. Russia’s economy is also less than a fifth of China’s, which will chip away at her strategic position. Another issue is as old as Russian power: much of the country’s military lies west of the Urals and would need to be sent east by air and rail.

China’s main advantage would be that the bulk of the People’s Liberation Army would be relatively close to the theater of operations. The PLA is also larger than the Russian military with fewer distractions—such as NATO or a restive Caucasus—that require an armed presence.

On the other hand, Chinese forces have been unbloodied in war since 1979. The PLA’s grasp of the new warfare invoked by the Revolution in Military Affairs is notional and academic at best. And, despite the growing ranges of Chinese weapons, European Russia would be largely out of reach of the PLA.

Thus, the Russian side would seek to exploit its advantages in weaponry and experience. With regards to the former, here are 5 Russian weapons of war China should fear.

PAK FA Fighter

PAK FA—or Perspektivniy Aviacionniy Complex Frontovoi Aviacii—is Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter design. Helmed by the famous Sukhoi bureau, PAK FA has been in development since April 2002.

PAK FA will be a multi-role aircraft capable of both air superiority and attack missions. The aircraft will have both an active electronically scanned array radar and an electro-optical sensor to track and engage targets. It will be a stealthy plane by design, with flattened and faceted surfaces designed to lower the aircraft radar signature.

PAK-FA is capable of carrying up to six long-range air-to-air or air-to-ground missiles and bombs in an internal weapons bay, giving it potent killing power while remaining difficult to detect by radar. Production is set to begin in 2017, and Russia intends to purchase between 400 and 450 PAK FA fighters between 2020 and 2040.

Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber

The Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” turboprop bomber is a nuclear cruise missile carrier, capable of being armed with conventional land-attack cruise missiles. The Bear has astonishingly long range, regularly making the flight from Ukrainka Air Base in Siberia to the California coastline.

Although an obsolete design, the Bear is still a capable platform for conducting standoff cruise missile attacks. The Bear doesn’t have to get anywhere near Chinese airspace to loose a salvo of up to eight Kh-101 cruise missiles against Chinese targets. The Kh-101 is Russia’s new stealthy, precision-guided conventionally armed cruise missiles with an estimated range of 2,700 to 5,000 kilometers.

Flying from Engels Air Base in European Russia, a Bear could easily travel 2,000 kilometers and then release a salvo of Kh-101s against targets across China, even as far south as Hainan Island.

Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber

Russia’s most advanced bomber, the Tu-160 Blackjack was developed towards the end of the Cold War and is in the process of receiving long-awaited upgrades.

The four engine, swing-wing Blackjack is Russia’s most capable bomber, able to operate at night and adverse weather conditions carrying a large internal payload of laser-guided bombs or cruise missiles. The Blackjack can carry 22 tons of ordnance in two weapons bays.

While the Tu-95 Bear would launch cruise missiles from outside the enemy air defense network, the Blackjack is designed to penetrate defenses flying at low altitude. The Blackjack is also armed with the new Kh-101 long-range cruise missile. The missiles are carried internally on a rotary launcher, preserving the Blackjack’s stealthy profile.

While the prospect of an aging, lumbering bomber lingering outside China’s national borders and flinging deadly modern cruise missiles is scary enough, the prospect of the world’s largest heavy bomber flying over Chinese territory, evading air defenses and striking targets should give Beijing pause.

Su-35 Flanker Fighter

Meant as a stopgap measure between the aging Su-27 fighters and the PAK FA, the Su-35 is a credible fighter in its own right. A blend of the older Su-27 airframe and modern aircraft systems and weapons, the Su-35 will form the sharp end of the Russian Air Force until the PAK-FA appears in significant numbers.

A multirole fighter bomber, the Su-35 is superior to any operational Chinese fighter. Avionics, propulsion and weapons systems are all superior, as are the NPO Saturn AL-41 engines. Radar-absorbent materials are used in the construction of the airframe. The plane is a flying arsenal, featuring a stunning 14 hardpoints for carrying weapons, jammers, fuel tanks and added sensors.

The proof of the Su-35’s superiority is that China itself is attempting to purchase Su-35s. Until the J-20 and J-31 start rolling off the assembly lines the only possible equal to the Su-35 would be… the Su-35.

T-14 Armata Tank

The next-generation tank for the Russian Ground Forces, Armata is a long-overdue replacement for the T-72/T-80/T-90 series of tanks. Armata is a totally new design, bigger, heavier, with more protection and better armament.

Should a Sino-Russian war include ground combat, Armata is Russia’s best bet for holding ground and conducting rapid counterattacks into Manchuria. Armata outclasses China’s frontline Type 99 tanks, which are based on the T-72.

Armata is longer than the T-72 series, with an extra road wheel to accommodate a full crew compartment and future growth. Armor appears to be composite laid out in a modular fashion, making it more easily repairable. Weapons consist of an improved 125-millimeter main gun, 12.7-millimeter remotely operated machine gun and 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.

Armata is actually a family of vehicles, including the T-15 Heavy Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Heavily protected, the T-15 is designed to safely transport Russian infantry across battlefields laden with anti-tank weapons.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch.

This article first appeared in 2015.

Image: Wikipedia.

Worst Case Scenario: Could China Successfully Invade Taiwan?

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:14

Kris Osborn

China Taiwan,

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is massively revving up war preparation exercises near Taiwan by flying fighter jets and surveillance places through Taiwan’s “self-proclaimed Southwest air defense identification zone.”

Here's What You Need to Remember: Any kind of actual Chinese amphibious assault upon Taiwan may very well encounter unforeseen complexities and potentially result in failure.

China is “ready for war” against the United States and Taiwan in the Pacific, according to statements from analysts quoted in a Chinese-government-backed newspaper.

The Global Times is reporting that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is massively revving up war preparation exercises near Taiwan by flying fighter jets and surveillance places through Taiwan’s “self-proclaimed Southwest air defense identification zone.”

The Chinese aircraft include the use of J-10 and J-16 fighter jets along with Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and two KJ-500 early warning planes. As part of this integrated warfare preparation, the PLA is also conducting beach landing attacks and amphibious assault operations in waters near East China’s Fujian Province.

The Global Times report quotes an analyst saying, “Taiwan secessionists and the U.S. are leaving the Chinese mainland and the PLA with no choice but to enhance war preparedness in case of ‘Taiwan secessionism.’” By contrast, the paper also quoted Taiwanese officials not backing down when faced with these visible Chinese maneuvers, saying “Taiwan would fight to the end if the Chinese mainland attacks.”

Given all this, any kind of actual Chinese amphibious assault upon Taiwan may very well encounter unforeseen complexities and potentially result in failure. Chinese war-planners, at least when assessed in light of comments from Chinese analysts quoted in the paper, may be operating with an inflated confidence for a number of reasons.

As a maritime combat circumstance, any Chinese-driven amphibious attack would not only need to establish air superiority but also overcome U.S. and emerging Taiwanese attack submarines likely to patrol the Taiwan Strait beneath the surface of the ocean. As if that were not complicated enough, an approaching Chinese amphibious force would confront long-range, precision-guided, ground fired rockets and missiles fired to destroy or greatly derail the attacking force. Also, the comment that Taiwan would “fight to end” if confronted with a Chinese invasion is given additional credibility by virtue of the island countries’ ongoing acquisition of U.S.-built Abrams tanks. Certainly, the existence of these kinds of tanks might be able to fully stop, if not heavily delay any kind of Chinese land incursion into Taiwan by exacting an unexpected toll upon attacking forces.

Certainly, many U.S. and allied surveillance planes would detect an approaching Chinese amphibious force well before it entered closer-in, highly threatening ranges, and would likely encounter the U.S. Navy on the way, depending upon its operational proximity and presence. Given the regularity with which the U.S. operates carriers and Carrier Strike Groups near both Taiwan and the South China Sea, moving Chinese amphibious attack assets would be almost certain to encounter air attack from carrier-launched fighter jets.

Perhaps with this kind of contingency in mind, the Chinese Global Times raises the issue that U.S. amphibious assaults ships and destroyers have been conducting drills and combat exercises near Taiwan. The U.S. Navy is operating a significant blend of Carrier Strike Groups and amphibious assault ships together, a tactical move which exponentially increases scope and scale of any possible U.S. counterattack.

“Taiwan secessionists and the U.S. are leaving the Chinese mainland and the PLA with no choice but to enhance war preparedness in case of ‘Taiwan secessionism,’” the Global Times writes.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

New ECOSOC President aims to maximize ‘reach, relevance and impact’

UN News Centre - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:05
The role of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in promoting development has become “even more critical” as a way of guiding and informing the COVID-19 pandemic response worldwide, Collen Vixen Kelapile said on Friday, speaking for the first time as the UN body’s president. 

Flattop Failure: These Aircraft Carriers Are Total Pieces of Junk

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 19:01

David Axe

Aircraft Carriers,

What follows are not the success stories. They are the case studies in flattop failure.

Here's What You Need to Remember: Renamed Vikramaditya, the flattop was due to enter service in 2008. But the poorly-managed Russian shipyard was overwhelmed by the scale of the refit. The cost doubled and trials were bumped back to September 2012. And when the crew pushed the conventionally-powered ship to her theoretical top speed of 32 knots, her boilers overheated.

Imposing, flexible, able to sail fast and launch devastating airstrikes at long range, aircraft carriers are the ultimate expression of national power. And many of the world’s best-armed countries are acquiring them. China, Russia, India, Brazil, the U.K., France, America.

But just getting your hands on a flattop is hardly enough. For every example of a country that succeeds in deploying a functional carrier and matching air wing, there’s a counter-example: a flattop hobbled by mechanical problems, stricken by age, sidelined by bad design or stuck with warplanes that simply don’t work.

What follows are not the success stories. They are the case studies in flattop failure … and object lessons for all the countries building aircraft carriers today.

Mother Russia’s tugboat bait

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was launched in 1985 and joined the fleet in 1991. Since then the 55,000-ton, fossil-fuel-powered flattop has managed just four frontline deployments—all of them to the Mediterranean, and all of them just a few months in duration.

By contrast, American flattops typically deploy for at least six months every two years. The nuclear-powered USS Enterprise, commissioned in 1962, completed 25 deployments before leaving service in 2012.

One of Admiral Kuznetsov’s major problems is her powerplant. The vessel is powered by steam turbines and turbo-pressurized boilers that Defense Industry Daily generously described as “defective.” Anticipating breakdowns, large ocean-going tugs accompany Admiral Kuznetsov whenever she deploys.

Poor maintenance makes life difficult and dangerous for Admiral Kuznetsov’s 1,900 sailors. A short circuit started a fire off Turkey in 2009 that killed one seaman.

Her pipes are bad. “When it’s this cold, water freezes everywhere including pipes which may cause a rupture,” English Russia reported. “To prevent this, they just don’t supply almost 60 percent of the cabins with water (neither in winter nor in summer). The situation with latrines is just as bad. The ship has over 50 latrines but half of them are closed.”

Almost 2,000 men. Twenty-five latrines. Do the math. Training and morale are so poor that in 2009 Admiral Kuznetsov sailors apparently botched an at-sea refueling, spilling hundreds of tons of fuel into the Irish Sea.

And even when the ship functions as intended, her design limits her utility. Admiral Kuzentsov does not have steam catapults like American flatttops do. Instead, her Sukhoi fighters launch into the air off a bow ramp. The fighters must stay light, meaning they can carry only a few air-to-air missiles and a partial fuel load. Their patrol endurance is measured in minutes rather than hours.

English Russia summed up the Russian aircraft carrier’s fundamental limitations succinctly. “Actual aircrafts visit this ship pretty rarely.”

Moscow appreciates its flattop problem and has vague plans to replace Admiral Kuznetsov sometime in the 2020s, by which time planners can realistically expect to have deployed the decrepit old lady maybe two or three more times.

But the Russians promised us she would work

Admiral Kuznetsov’s ill repute did not deter the Indian and Chinese governments from acquiring second-hand Russian carriers. China’s Liaoning, a rebuilt sister ship of Admiral Kuznetsov, began limited testing in the summer of 2012, serving a mostly educational role while a Chinese shipyard slowly built a new carrier from scratch.

Outfitted with the same faulty powerplant and performance-limiting bow ramp, Liaoning is unlikely to venture far from shore or send her lightly-loaded J-15 fighters—copies of Russian Sukhois—into serious combat. In a rare pique, Chinese state media denounced the J-15s as “flopping fish.”

India’s experience has been even worse. In 2004 New Delhi inked a $1.5-billion deal for the 1982-vintage Russian flattop Admiral Gorshkov. In Russian service, the 45,000-ton vessel had carried a few helicopters and small Yakovlev jump jets; the Indians paid to have the flight deck expanded and a bow ramp fitted to accommodate up to 16 MiG-29 fighters.

Renamed Vikramaditya, the flattop was due to enter service in 2008. But the poorly-managed Russian shipyard was overwhelmed by the scale of the refit. The cost doubled and trials were bumped back to September 2012. And when the crew pushed the conventionally-powered ship to her theoretical top speed of 32 knots, her boilers overheated.

“India didn’t want to use asbestos as heat protection for the boilers,” Defense Industry Daily explained. “Instead, the boilers’ designer had to use firebrick ceramics. Which, as we see, didn’t work so well. Especially on a ship that Russia put up for sale in 1994, after a boiler room explosion.” Our emphasis.

More repairs. More delays. More money. “The problems revealed during sea trials last year have been fixed,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin vowed in late 2013, by which point Vikramaditya was expected to enter active service in India in the spring of 2014.

“Active service” being a relative term. If Russia’s own experience with its crappy carriers is any indication, the Indian ship will spend most of her time in port being repaired between brief forays into near waters. New Delhi is building a new carrier from scratch that should eventually complement the Russian hand-me-down.

The floating museum

Not all bad aircraft carriers are Russian. The U.K. and France have both sold to poorer navies decommissioned flattops that probably should have been permanently retired. In 2000 the Brazilian navy acquired the former Foch from Paris for $12 million.

Commissioned into French service in 1963, the 33,000-ton, non-nuclear Foch carried 40 fighters and helicopters. Unlike Russian flattops, Foch had a steam catapult, allowing her to boost heavily-laden planes off her deck.

The Brazilians renamed her Sao Paulo and, for the first four years, busily sailed the second-hand vessel in a series of regional exercises—practicing with her upgraded A-4 fighters, sailing with the American carrier USS Ronald Reagan and even qualifying Argentinian planes for deck operations. Sao Paulo was, and remains, Latin America’s only aircraft carrier.

But her age began to show, despite Brazil spending an additional $100 million on upkeep. On-board fires in 2005 and 2012 killed two sailors and left the flattop “barely functioning beyond flag-flying and light duties,” according to Warships International Fleet Review. “The Brazilian defense ministry admitted the ship’s effectiveness is extremely limited.” Today the A-4s rarely fly.

Sao Paulo’s replacement is still in the planning stages: a brand-new carrier to enter service sometime in the 2020s, around the same time that Russia, China, and India all hope to have new and better—that is to say, safe and functional—flattops of their own.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr

2 Aircraft, 7 Flights: Why the XF-85 Goblin Fighter Never Took Off

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 18:57

Alex Hollings

XF-85 Goblin,

The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation’s XF-85 Goblin was to be a fighter unlike any other.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The Air Force wasn’t as convinced that a flying aircraft carrier of this sort could work. Even if McDonnell could work all the issues out of deploying and recovering these parasite fighters, it was clear that only the most capable pilots would ever be able to manage such a feat, and even then, there was a high risk of failure.

The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation’s XF-85 Goblin was to be a fighter unlike any other. It was tiny–so small it was often referred to as a “parasite” fighter–and instead of taking off from runways, it was intended to be deployed from the inside of flying aircraft carriers.

When the United States was plunged into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the nation was not the military powerhouse it is today. The Japanese and Germans were indeed aware of America’s potential strength, but that was really more a measure of the nation’s industrial infrastructure and population. In 1939, two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor, America had only 174,000 troops in the entirety of its military. Of course, within just six years, the United States would emerge as the most potent military power on the planet.

By 1946, America’s military had grown to over 16,000,000 troops, demonstrated the destructive power of its atomic weapons on the world’s stage not once, but twice, and was beginning test flights on a bomber with the largest wingspan in history. The combination of America’s nuclear weapons and this new bomber, the aptly named B-36 Peacemaker–with its 10,000-mile range–left America without equal in the days immediately following World War II.

But even then, America knew there would be challengers on the horizon. The Soviet Union, already positioning themselves for conflict with the West in the waning days of the second Great War, was hot on America’s atomic heels. The U.S. needed more than a bomber with global range, more than atomic bombs with seemingly limitless destructive capabilities… it needed a way to ensure that bomber could reach its targets to successfully deter a whole world’s worth of competition.

But with such incredible range, no fighter on the planet could escort the mighty B-36 all the way to Moscow and back. So, the team at McDonnell Aircraft came up with a new idea: Have the massive bomber carry its own support fighters.

Flying aircraft carriers and parasite fighters

If any aircraft could handle carrying its own backup, it was the B-36. Conceived before intercontinental ballistic missiles came into vogue, the Peacemaker was the largest piston-engined bomber ever to roll through an assembly line. It could carry an astonishing 86,000 pounds of ordnance, 16,000 more than the modern heavy payload titan B-52 Stratofortress, and could fly from American airstrips to Moscow and back without needing to refuel. The bomber was so massive that one of them was even converted to operate on nuclear power, hanging a 35,000-pound reactor from a hook in its middle bomb bay.

With that kind of payload capability, the B-36 could potentially carry a number of small aircraft internally or on external pylons and still have plenty of room left over for nuclear or conventional ordnance.

Related: NB-36 CRUSADER: AMERICA’S MASSIVE NUCLEAR-POWERED BOMBER

But despite the B-36’s massive size, it still wasn’t big enough to lug any of America’s existing air superiority fighters across the Atlantic. Most existing fighters were ruled out for technological reasons as well. Aircraft like the legendary P-51 Mustang, which had entered service just six years prior, were already outdated as compared to new jet-powered fighters that were already entering service. America’s first jet-powered fighter, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, first took to the skies in 1942, and the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star followed suit in 1944. If the B-36 was going to secure America’s future, its escort fighters couldn’t be stuck in World War II.

Initially, plans developed for the B-36 and similar bombers to carry their parasite fighters semi-exposed beneath their belly, allowing for a rapid drop into the fight when attacked. The Air Force soon scrapped that idea, however, citing concerns about increased drag, prompting McDonnel’s design team to return to the drawing board. When they came back, they had devised plans for a tiny, egg-shaped fighter with foldable, swept-back wings and notably, no landing gear.

Related: THE AIR FORCE’S PLAN TO TURN A BOEING 747 INTO AN AIRBORNE AIRCRAFT CARRIER

Theoretically, there’d be no need for landing gear, as this new parasite fighter would not only be deployed from the belly of the bomber, it would also be recovered by the same aircraft. A retractable hook on the nose of the plane would allow the pilot to close with a retractable trapeze beneath the bomber. The fighter would catch the trapeze with the hook and be pulled back into the aircraft. In order to support the concept further, Convair made plans to adjust its B-36 production to create a mix of aircraft intended to serve solely as bombers, and others that would carry a bevy of fighters to escort the bomber missions.

The concept wasn’t without precedent. Both the Royal Air Force and U.S. Navy had operated parasite fighters deployed from rigid airships to varying degrees of success and the Soviet Union had experimented with deploying fighters from their own TB-2 and TB-3 bombers. To some extent, the concept of flying aircraft carriers just seemed like the logical progression of airpower projection, and the assertion at the time was that making it work was just a matter of finding the right approach.

Goblins, Phantoms, and Banshees… Oh my

McDonnell Aircraft founder James McDonnell had a thing for the supernatural. In 1945, he unveiled the FH Phantom, the first jet-powered fighter ever to land on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Then, in 1947, he gave the world the FSH Banshee, a fighter that would go on to earn prominence during the Korean War. In keeping with his fantasy-line of fighters, the tiny, bulbous parasite fighter McDonnell produced for the B-36 was dubbed the XF-85 Goblin.

Related: 5 CRAZY AIRPLANES AMERICA ALMOST BOUGHT

The single-seat fighter was 14 feet 10 inches long with a 21-foot wingspan that could fold up to fit into a B-36’s bomb bay. The aircraft weighed in at under 4,000 pounds and was powered by a single Westinghouse XJ34-WE-22 turbojet engine that produced a respectable 3,000 pounds of thrust. The turbojet would push the XF-85 Goblin to a top speed of 650 miles per hour, with an operational ceiling of 48,000 feet. To hold its own in a fight, the parasite fighter was armed with four .50 caliber MR Browning machine guns. Despite its small size and lightweight construction, the Goblin still had a fully functional ejection seat in case the aircraft was hit by enemy fire.

The U.S. Army Air Forces (predecessor to the soon-to-come U.S. Air Force) agreed to fund the construction of two prototype XF-85s. There were no B-36’s available for testing, so plans were made to utilize an EB-29B Superfortress that had been extensively modified to support the parasite fighter. A “cutaway” bomb bay was added for the XF-85 Goblin to rest inside, along with a trapeze just like the one intended for the Peacemaker. A front airflow deflector was incorporated, along with a variety of cameras used to assess the success of the concept.

On July 23, 1948, the XF-85 Goblin rode into the sky for the first time, but wouldn’t be deployed from the bomber itself. It was the first of five captive-carry flights meant to show that the bomber really could operate with a baby-fighter in its bomb bay. Once that was clear, the Goblin was lowered into the airstream without engaging the engine–again, to give the bomber pilot an opportunity to see how his aircraft would react to the shifting aerodynamic situation.

With those successful flights behind them, McDonnell test pilot Edwin Foresman Schoch, who had ridden in the Goblin for the captive-carry tests, was ready to see what this new parasite fighter could do. For the team at McDonnell, it felt like they were on the precipice of a new era in military aviation. The time of flying aircraft carriers was at hand; all they had to do was make it work.

The XF-85 Goblin was easy to fly (and to crash land)

Related: AMERICA’S CRAZY FLYING AIRCRAFT CARRIERS COULD HAVE ACTUALLY WORKED

On August 23, 1948, Schoch and his XF-85 were released from their Superfortress mothership 20,000 feet above Muroc Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) in California. As the tiny parasite fighter was released, Schoch set to work, executing a 10-minute proving flight at speeds ranging from 180 to 250 miles per hour, demonstrating the aircraft’s basic maneuverability and testing its controls.

However, as he closed with his EB-29 mothership, the bomber’s draft created heavy turbulence that the tiny aircraft could only manage through intense pilot focus. The air cushion created by two other observation aircraft in close proximity made the situation even worse, and as Schoch approached the trapeze with his nose-hook, the situation seemed unsafe, and he backed away. After a moment, Schoch made another attempt, but was once again forced to back off.

Finally, Schoch pushed through the turbulance, but miscalculated his approach, colliding with the trapeze and damaging the Goblin’s canopy. Despite having his helmet and mask torn off in the collision, Schoch kept his bearing and got the tiny fighter under control, guiding it into a belly landing in a nearby dry lake bed. It was a disastrous first flight, and further testing was suspended for nearly two months.

During that time, changes were made to the XF-85 Goblin to make it more manageable for recapture, including boosting the trim power and adjusting the aircraft’s aerodynamic profile. Two more captive-carry flights followed before Schoch would make another attempt at successfully managing both a release and a capture from a flying mothership, which he accomplished on October 14 of that same year.

Related: THE AIR FORCE JUST DROPPED NEW CONCEPT ART OF ITS NGAD FIGHTER

Further testing showed that the XF-85 Goblin itself was a pretty capable little airplane. It was considered very stable and user-friendly for the pilots onboard, and proved easy to recover from a spin. It seemed everything about the concept was working as it should, with the exception of the capture process.

On October 22, a bit more than a week after Schoch’s first entirely successful flight in the XF-85, the tiny fighter once again failed to hook on to the trapeze at the completion of its flight. After four attempts at managing the turbulence, Schoch finally managed to get the hook to the trapeze… only to have it break off as he made contact. For the second time, Schoch was forced to belly land the prototype aircraft in a dry lake bed.

Shoch would go on to belly land the XF-85 Goblin two more times after failing to successfully hook back up to the trapeze. Once on March 18 of 1949 and again on April 9.

The Goblin becomes fictional once again

The test flights of the XF-85 Goblin seemed to prove that the aircraft wasn’t going to be able to manage the job of serving as escort fighters for the B-36, but McDonnell still believed in the flying aircraft carrier concept itself. Aware that the Air Force wouldn’t want a parasite fighter that had a bad habit of crash landing every time it was deployed, they took proactive steps to come up with a new plan, a new fighter, and a new method of recovering the jets.

Their new fighter would be faster, nearly capable of breaking the sound barrier, and would be deployed and recovered using a trapeze system on a telescoping rod that could extend down below the turbulence created by the mother ship.

Related: X-20 DYNA-SOAR: AMERICA’S HYPERSONIC SPACE BOMBER

But the Air Force wasn’t as convinced that a flying aircraft carrier of this sort could work. Even if McDonnell could work all the issues out of deploying and recovering these parasite fighters, it was clear that only the most capable pilots would ever be able to manage such a feat, and even then, there was a high risk of failure.

But the real nail in the XF-85 Goblin’s coffin, as well as the entire concept of a flying aircraft carrier, was the broad adoption of in-flight refueling. While the concept had already been around for decades, it was only then becoming commonplace. While it did require some technical flying, the pilot requirements for in-flight refueling were still significantly lower than snagging the trapeze of a B-36 mother ship. The adoption of the Boeing KB-29P and its aerial refueling system in 1949 effectively spelled the end of flying aircraft carriers and their parasite fighters.

In all, only two XF-85 Goblins ever reached the skies a total of just seven times. Of those seven flights, the parasite fighter only made a successful capture with the hook and trapeze in three of them. The program was officially canceled on October 24, 1949.

This article first appeared at Sandboxx. This article is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Wikipedia.

Stimulus Checks Forever? How the Child Tax Credit Could be Permanent

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 18:49

Ethen Kim Lieser

Stimulus Check,

Recent reports and studies are indeed supporting claims that the credits would substantially reduce child poverty in the country.

Earlier this month, the first batch of advance monthly payments from the expanded child tax credits worth roughly $15 billion were sent out to about thirty-five million families across the United States.

For many of them, these modest payments of $250 or $300 for each child will considerably help them ease some of the financial struggles they have encountered amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But what will happen when next year rolls around and these recurring monthly payments suddenly come to a stop?

Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, hopes that it won’t ever come to that.

“I strongly believe it should be permanent. It’s helping hardworking families,” she said in a recent interview on Yahoo Finance Live.

“There are countless families around our country that are still struggling. We have to make sure that we have resources available to bring our children out of poverty. So many working families, particularly working moms, have been stuck in this horrible limbo of not being able to afford child care for their children so that they can go back and work,” she continued.

Slashing Poverty

Recent reports and studies are indeed supporting claims that the credits would substantially reduce child poverty in the country. One report put together by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that a permanent expansion of the child tax credit could potentially lift more than four million children out of poverty.

“Every child needs food, health care and safe and stable housing. Millions of households with children already lacked these necessities before the pandemic,” the report contends.

“To continue on progress already made on recovery, the foundation recommends: making the expansion of the federal child tax credit permanent,” it continues.

In addition, the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University has estimated that the credits will eventually cut U.S. poverty by more than half.

Jarrett added that “what President Biden is doing is redefining infrastructure, not just roads and bridges, but infrastructure to support working families so that they are able to go back to work and get the skills that they need to compete for the jobs of the future.”

She continued: “This more holistic approach to rebuilding our economy positions the United States to be globally competitive.”

Gaining More Support

In recent weeks, a notable group of Democratic lawmakers—including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), and Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.)—have demanded that the expansion of the child tax credit be made permanent.

“We have a real opportunity to not just throw money at a problem, but to ... lift up all children and families,” DeLauro told reporters during a recent press conference.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

North Korea's 200,000 'Commandos' Are a Sight to Behold—And Fear

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 18:40

Kyle Mizokami

North Korea,

North Korea has likely the largest special forces organization in the world, numbering two hundred thousand men—and women—trained in unconventional warfare. Pyongyang’s commandos are trained to operate throughout the Korean Peninsula, and possibly beyond, to present an asymmetric threat to its enemies.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The country maintains twenty-five special-forces and special-purpose brigades, and five special-forces battalions, designed to undertake missions from frontline DMZ assault to parachute and assassination missions.

One of the most vital parts of North Korea’s war machine is one that relies the most on so-called “soldier power” skills. North Korea has likely the largest special forces organization in the world, numbering two hundred thousand men—and women—trained in unconventional warfare. Pyongyang’s commandos are trained to operate throughout the Korean Peninsula, and possibly beyond, to present an asymmetric threat to its enemies.

(This first appeared in April 2017.) 

For decades North Korea maintained an impressive all-arms force of everything from tanks to mechanized infantry, artillery, airborne forces and special forces. The country’s conventional forces, facing a long slide after the end of the Cold War, have faced equipment obsolescence and supply shortages—for example, North Korea has very few tanks based on the 1970s Soviet T-72, and most are still derivatives of the 1960s-era T-62. The rest of Pyongyang’s armored corps are in a similar predicament, making them decidedly inferior to U.S. and South Korean forces.

What a War Between America and China Would Look Like

In response, North Korea has upped the importance of its special forces. The country maintains twenty-five special-forces and special-purpose brigades, and five special-forces battalions, designed to undertake missions from frontline DMZ assault to parachute and assassination missions. The Light Infantry Training Guidance Bureau, part of the Korean People’s Army, functions as a kind of analog to U.S. Special Operations Command, coordinating the special forces of the Army, Army Air Force and Korean People’s Navy.

What a War Between NATO and Russia Would Look Like

Of North Korea’s two hundred thousand “commandos,” approximately 150,000 belong to light infantry units. Foot mobile, their frontline mission is to infiltrate or flank enemy lines to envelop or mount rear attacks on enemy forces. North Korea’s hilly terrain lends itself to such tactics, as does the network of tunnels that the country has dug that cross the DMZ in a number of places. Eleven of North Korea’s special forces brigades are light-infantry brigades, and there are smaller light-infantry units embedded within individual NK combat divisions.

What a War Between China and Japan Would Look Like

A further three brigades are special purpose airborne infantry. The Thirty-Eighth, Forty-Eighth and Fifty-Eighth Airborne Brigades operate much like the Eighty-Second Airborne Division, conducting strategic operations including airborne drops to seize critical terrain and infrastructure. NKPA airborne forces would likely target enemy airfields, South Korean government buildings, and key roads and highways to prevent their sabotage. Each brigade is organized into six airborne infantry battalions with a total strength of 3,500. Unlike the Eighty-Second, however, NKPA airborne brigades are unlikely to operate at the battalion level or higher, and due to a lack of long-range transport cannot operate beyond the Korean Peninsula.

In addition, North Korea has an estimated eight “sniper brigades,” three for the People’s Army (Seventeenth, Sixtieth and Sixty-First Brigades), three for the Army Air Force (Eleventh, Sixteenth and Twenty-First Brigades), and two for the People’s Navy (Twenty-Ninth, 291st). Each consists of approximately 3,500 men, organized into seven to ten sniper “battalions.”  These units fulfill a broad variety of roles and are roughly analogous to U.S. Army Rangers, U.S. Special Forces and Navy SEALs. Unlike their American counterparts, it appears some these units are capable of fighting as conventional airborne, air assault, or naval infantry.

Sniper brigades are trained in strategic reconnaissance and so-called “direct action” missions including assassination missions, raids against high-level targets military and economic targets, sabotage, disruption of South Korea’s reserve system, covert delivery of weapons of mass disruption (including possibly radiological weapons), and organizing antigovernment guerrilla campaigns in South Korea. They will frequently be dressed in civilian, South Korean military, or U.S. military uniforms. One platoon of thirty to forty troops per Army sniper brigade consists solely of women, trained to conduct combat operations dressed as civilians.

Finally, the Reconnaissance Bureau maintains four separate reconnaissance battalions. Highly trained and organized, these five-hundred-man battalions are trained to lead an an army corps through the hazardous DMZ. They likely have intimate—and highly classified—knowledge of both friendly and enemy defenses in the demilitarized zone. A fifth battalion is reportedly organized for out-of-country operations.

Special forces are generally meant to operate behind enemy lines, and North Korea employs considerable, though often obsolete, means of getting them there. For ground forces, one obvious means of infiltrating South Korea is through the 160-mile-long and 2.5-mile-wide DMZ. Undiscovered cross-border tunnels are another means. By sea, Pyongyang has the ability to deliver an estimated five thousand troops in a single lift, using everything from commercial vessels to Nampo-class landing craft, its fleet of 130 Kongbang-class hovercraft and Sang-O coastal submarines and Yeono midget submarines.

By air, North Korea has a notional fleet of two hundred elderly An-2 Colt short-takeoff and -landing transports. Capable of flying low and slow to avoid radar, each An-2 can carry up to twelve commandos, landing on unimproved surfaces or parachuting them on their targets. The regime also has a fleet of about 250 transport helicopters, mostly Soviet-bloc in origin (and age) but also including illicitly acquired Hughes 500MD series helicopters similar to those flown by the Republic of Korea. Pyongyang also appears bent to acquire modern, long-distance transports such as this aircraft, manufactured in New Zealand. Aircraft such as the P-750 XSTOL would allow North Korean special forces to reach as far as Japan and Okinawa, both of which would serve as forward bases for U.S. forces in wartime.

In the event of war, North Korea would likely launch dozens of separate attacks throughout South Korea, from the DMZ to the southern port of Busan. Whether or not these forces can make their way through Seoul’s considerable air and sea defenses is another question. Valleys, passes and waterways that could be used by low-flying aircraft and watercraft are already covered with everything from air-defense guns to antitank guided missiles. Given proper warning, South Korean defenders would inflict heavy losses on North Korean commandos on the way to their objectives.

North Korean special forces have evolved from a nuisance force designed to stage attacks in the enemy’s rear into something far more dangerous. Their ability to distribute nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological weapons could, if successful, kill thousands of civilians. They have even trained to attack and destroy a replica of the Blue House, the official resident of the South Korean president. Although many would undoubtedly die en route to their destination, once on the ground their training, toughness and political indoctrination make them formidable adversaries.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Image: Reuters. 

The Sig Sauer P-320 X-Carry Gun: Beyond Belief or All Hype?

The National Interest - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 18:34

Kyle Mizokami

Guns,

Sig Sauer’s new P-320 pistol is enjoying a considerable streak of publicity, in large part due to the U.S. Army’s adoption of it as the service’s new handgun.

Here's What You Need to Remember: The new pistol would also make a very good choice for civilians as a carry or all-around handgun.

Sig Sauer’s new P-320 pistol is enjoying a considerable streak of publicity, in large part due to the U.S. Army’s adoption of it as the service’s new handgun. One new variant of the rapidly growing P-320 line is the X-Carry, a compact handgun designed for concealed carriers and those that want smaller firearms with the handling qualities of full-sized pistols. The P320 X-Carry carries on a tradition of compact firearms that don’t compromise on performance.

(This first appeared several months ago.)

One of the first compact firearms was the Colt Commander, a variant of the Colt 1911A1 .45 ACP service pistol.

A 1911A1 service pistol, more than eight inches long, could be difficult to draw and manipulate in the cab of a truck or armored vehicle. It also needed to be smaller and less obtrusive in case the soldier carried a full-sized rifle in the field.

For this weapon, the Commander maintained the same size grip and ammunition magazine as the full-sized Colt Government but was half an inch shorter in length. Designed for use by vehicle crews, officers, and senior noncommissioned officers, the gun was designed for the confines of mechanized warfare. It was a reasonable tradeoff between compactness and barrel length, and required minimal retraining to transition between the two gun types.

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The P-320 X-Carry carries on the Commander tradition, a pistol with the grip qualities of the original P-320 but with a shorter overall length.

Introduced in January 2017, the X-Carry is basically a P-320 behind the trigger, with virtually the same grip module and grip length as the larger, full-size P-320 X-5. The X-Carry grip module does have an extended beavertail which helps seat the user’s hand in the gun quickly and more easily. The P-320 series use a common internal chassis inserted into the grip module that contains the fire control group in a stainless steel sled. Unlike other firearms the P-320’s chassis, not the lower receiver, is legally considered the firearm.

The P-320 X-Carry differs from the larger X-5 in several ways.

With an overall length of 7.4 inches, the P-320 X-Carry is more than an inch shorter than the X-5. The P-320 has a barrel length of 3.9 inches, as opposed to 5 inches for the larger gun, which results in the P-320 also being 1.1 inches shorter. The X-Carry’s lack of a flared external magwell means it is also a third of an inch narrower than the X-5. The X-Carry is also slightly shorter, again likely because of the absence of a magwell. The X-Carry is also significantly lighter than the X-5, at 27 ounces a whole half pound lighter than the larger, full-sized gun.

Unlike previous Sig Sauer pistol offerings, the P-320 X-Carry is a striker-fired handgun. The gun features ambidextrous slide stops and magazine releases for left handed shooters. Unlike other versions of the P-320 it has a straight, flat-faced trigger that the manufacturer claims will help shooters avoid inadvertently shooting to the right or left, a common problem rooted in improper finger placement on the trigger.

Sig Sauer’s X-Guns are all chambered in nine millimeter Luger. The X-Carry takes a double-stacked 17-round magazine, and each pistol ships with three such magazines. Most modern handgun designs are readily adaptable to other calibers however, and it is probably inevitable that the company will release .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 ACP versions of the X-Carry.

Materials-wise the P-320 X-Carry breaks down primarily into polymer and steel. The grip module is made of polymer finished with stainless steel. The slide is made of stainless steel finished with Sig Sauer’s Nitron coating to resist rust and corrosion, and the barrel is made of carbon steel.

Although the X-Carry has a very good pair of night sights, one of the most interesting features of the pistol is the ability to change out and replace them with a powered optical sight for rapid target acquisition. The X-Carry’s rear sights are actually mounted on a steel sled that, once removed, make room for a Sig Sauer Romeo 1 reflex sight.

The X-Carry carries on the tradition of compact pistols ergonomically similar to their older, larger siblings. The X-Carry was recently adopted by the Danish Armed Forces, and it seems likely that other European armies on the lookout for a new service pistol may choose it as well. The new pistol would also make a very good choice for civilians as a carry or all-around handgun.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch.

Image: YouTube

Lebanon: Public water system on the verge of collapse, UNICEF warns

UN News Centre - Fri, 23/07/2021 - 17:32
The public water system in Lebanon is “on life support” and could collapse at any moment, putting 71 per cent of the population, or more than four million people, at immediate risk of losing access to safe supply, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, warned on Friday. 

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