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The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
Updated: 4 months 1 week ago

Israel Loves the F-35 and the F-15 (And Would Love to Buy Lots of Them)

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 20:00

Dario Leone


But it made have to choose. 

Israel’s Globes says the country will decide by this summer what type of fighters it will acquire using U.S. defense aid money.

The report says the air force is keen to buy both the F-15 and F-35 if there are no budget constraints.

In the coming months, in fact, Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Aviv Kochavi will face one of the most important decisions the Israeli defense establishment has ever made: how to spend $11 billion on buying dozens of new top-of-the-line aircraft that the Israel Air Force (IAF) will use for many decades into the future from the US arms industry.

(This first appeared several months ago.)

The arms procurement plan, one of Israel’s largest ever, will tie up almost one quarter of US defense aid money in the coming decade. It includes a new squadron of attack planes, 5-7 new tanker aricraft, and transportation helicopters to replace the Yasur (Sea Stallion) helicopters used by the IAF for four decades. All of these will be accompanied by additional investment in new systems to be installed on the aircraft, development of special equipment, operating and maintenance infrastructure, etc.

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Stealth Armada: 24 F-22 Raptor Fighters Launching Together Can Only Mean 1 Thing

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 18:00

Dario Leone


An elephant walk. We explain. 

On Mar. 26, 2019 a squadron of USAF aircraft “elephant walked” down Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Alaska, as part of a routine to demonstrate their combat airpower and response abilities.

The “elephant walk,” which refers to the close formation of military aircraft before takeoff, comprised of 24 F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, a C-17 Globemaster III transport, and an E-3 Sentry.

The routine was part of Polar Force, a two-week exercise that allows squadrons to showcase “their abilities to forward deploy and deliver overwhelming combat airpower,” officials said.

The F-22 Raptors are from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group, which are both associated with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Should a crisis arise in the Pacific region, the aircraft and airmen of the 3rd Wing would be among the first responders.

Video from the exercise shows the aircraft taking off one by one before returning to the airstrip.

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Two Army Officers Are Still up for Promotion Even After 4 Deaths During Niger Ambush

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 17:00

Task and Purpose

Security, Africa

The right call?

Efforts to reach both men for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Two commanders involved with the deadly 2017 Niger ambush are reportedly still eligible for promotion, and the Pentagon has no problem with that.

Four soldiers were killed on Oct. 4, 2017 when their convoy was attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters near the village of Tongo Tongo: Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

U.S. Africa Command's investigation into the incident found serious problems with how their team was trained before and after arriving in theater and how the mission was planned. Their commanders also did not adequately work with French and Nigerien forces for casualty evacuation planning prior to the mission, according to a redacted copy of the investigation, which was provided to Task & Purpose.

The mission itself kept changing, and when the team asked to return to base, they were told to continue to their objective even though commanders had not reassessed the risks they faced given that the team had no plan to evacuate wounded under fire; no quick reaction forces were assigned to them; the team had little rest in the past 24 hours; and they would be operating near the border with Mali, the investigation found.

Still, Politico has reported that Col. Brad Moses, who was commander of 3rd Special Forces Group in Africa during the deadly incident, is still eligible for selection to brigadier general, though he has not yet been nominated. Lt. Col. David Painter, who reportedly denied the team's request to return to base, has also been selected to advance to colonel (The Army confirmed to Task & Purpose that Painter is a colonel-select).

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F-35 Is Old: Russia Could Turn Its Su-57 Into a 6th Generation Stealth Monster

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 16:18

Dario Leone


Here's how. 

Russia could turn its first fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57, into a sixth-generation fighter the former head of the Russian Aerospace Force, chief Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev recently told TASS.

“This is actually a splendid plane and it can embrace both fifth-and sixth-generation features. It has huge modernization potential,” Bondarev, now chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, said. “Importantly, it is the best among the existing versions by its stealth characteristics. It incorporates all the best that is available in modern aviation science both in Russia and in the world,” he added.

(This first appeared in late 2017.)

As reported by Franz-Stefan Gady in an extensive piece for The Diplomat, Russian defense officials have repeatedly claimed that hardware elements designed for a future sixth generation fighter have been tested on the Su-57 prototype, including flight and navigation systems as well as advanced electronic warfare and radar systems.

Noteworthy Russia revealed the design of a new sixth-generation fighter aircraft for the first time in March 2016. According to Russian defense officials, the new aircraft is slated to be available in manned and unmanned configuration and could take to the air for the first time in the late 2020s.

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Record: How 2 A-10`Warthog’ Pilots Destroyed 23 Tanks in One Day

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 16:12

Dario Leone


That's amazing. 

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed for close air support (CAS) of friendly ground troops, attacking armored vehicles and tanks, and providing quick-action support against enemy ground forces. It entered service in 1976 and is the only production-built aircraft that has served in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) that was designed solely for CAS. Its secondary mission is to provide forward air controller – airborne (FAC-A) support, by directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets. Aircraft used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.

The A-10 was used in combat for the first time during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 other military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces.

As the ground war slipped into its second day, with allied tanks and troops rolling across the desert sands, the venerable A-10A ‘Warthog’ continued to prove its low-tech mettle against Iraqi armor. There were dozens of anti-tank sorties on the morning of Feb. 25, but one which stood out was flown by a pair of A-10A pilots who set a record of sorts, as explained in the book Gulf Air War Debrief. A large column of Iraqi tanks was rolling south from areas occupied by the Republican Guard. Captain Eric Solomonson and Lieutenant John Marks of the 76th TFS/23rd TFW scrambled to engage them.

Solomonson arrived over Iraq at sunrise. Solomonson and Marks, after considerable action already, were surprised to see no anti-aircraft fire coming at them. The way was paved by a FAC in an OA-10, who confirmed that no friendlies were in the area. “You guys can just go in there and start shooting.”

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Pilot: I Flew a B-52 Bomber. Here's What It Was Like.

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 14:35

Dario Leone



I trained as a crewmember on a specific student crew as the copilot. My pilot was a pipe-smoking major who could fly well enough but had a hell of a time refueling. Had I known then what I knew much later, I could have explained it to him, but instead I had to watch him thrash and curse trying to accomplish this required task. He finally got minimally satisfactory on our check ride, but I hope he got much better, because the time might have come where his wing’s ORI score, or his own butt, would depend upon getting the gas.

We flew our first training sortie with a senior renowned B-52 pilot, Lucky Luciano, a Lt. Col. with long B-52 experience. He had Italian movie star good looks and a mild, confident manner that made him a valued senior member of the B-52 community. Regrettably, I tested that mild confident manner on my first landing attempt. Lucky had explained extensively how, because of the structure of the B-52, the pilot must trim the horizontal stabilizer throughout the landing flare. This was necessary because the length of the fuselage compared to the relatively small and ineffective elevators on the tail required that the entire horizontal tail section be moved to provide enough aerodynamic authority to rotate the aircraft into the nose-up landing configuration. As I later explained to students when I was a Castle instructor, you must fly “into the tunnel”; that is, get right down to the runway at the approach end and then hold the plane just above the runway as the aircraft slows and you trim to rotate it to a nose-up lauding attitude.

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Shutdown Showdown: How the Strait of Hormuz Factors into the U.S.-Iran Crisis

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 14:02

Sidharth Kaushal

Security, Middle East

It is only within the context of substantial policy differences on either side of the Atlantic that Iran’s catalytic strategy makes sense.

The recent mining of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, attributed to Iran by the United States, offers an important window into the strategic thinking of Iran and similarly situated regional powers. The incident is notable because the act of mining a limited number of vessels makes relatively little sense when viewed through the lens of traditional patterns of coercive behavior. Limited coercive acts typically have little value with regards to gaining concessions from a determined opponent. Generally, these acts may serve as a visible demonstration of a state’s willingness to enact some other, more substantial threat, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz outright. However, this requires the state making the threat to have the capacity to make good on its more substantial threats and for its opponents to believe that it is willing to incur the risks entailed. Iran, however, could not shut down the Strait of Hormuz for very long even if it wished to—something noted by President Donald Trump—and is unlikely to incur the substantial risks that an attempt would entail. Iran’s opponents, then, clearly don’t see its limited provocations as harbingers of something worse.

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Aerial Killer: This Might Be the Most Advanced F-14 Tomcat Ever Built

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 10:00

Dario Leone


Too bad it didn't fly that long. 

The photo in this post shows an F-14D Tomcat of VF-213 deployed with the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)flying with the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) system (whose blue transmit antenna is circled in red in the image).

ROVER allows ground forces, such as Forward air controllers (FACs), to see what an aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is seeing in real time by receiving images acquired by the aircraft’s sensors on a laptop on the ground. There’s a little time delay and usage of ROVER greatly improves the FAC on the ground reconnaissance and target identification which are essential to close air support (CAS).

ROVER capability was added to the F-14D Tomcat On Dec. 10, 2005. It was first used by VF-31 and VF-213 on their last cruise with the Tomcat in 2005 and 2006.

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See This Stealth Fighter? It Almost Turned the F-22 Into Just Another Failed Prototype

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 09:00

Dario Leone


So what happened? 

The Northrop YF-23A and the Lockheed YF-22A, which of course are the two cool aircraft you see in the photos of this post, competed against each other in the late 1980s/early 1990s in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program.

As we have already explained the origins of the ATF program trace back to late 1970s, when a new generation of Soviet fighters and Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs)prompted the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to find a replacement for the F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter.

The Advanced Tactical Fighter entered the Demonstration and Validation phase in 1986. The prototype aircraft (YF-22 and YF-23) both completed their first flights in late 1990.

The extensive flight tests conducted demonstrated that the YF-23 was stealthier and fasterwhile the YF-22 was more agile.

The YF-23A, unofficially dubbed the Black Widow II, emphasized stealth characteristics: in fact to lessen weight and increase stealth, Northrop decided against using thrust vectoring for aerodynamic control as was used on the Lockheed YF-22A. Northrop built two YF-23A prototypes.

Eventually, the YF-22 was selected as best of the two and the engineering and manufacturing development effort began in 1991 with the development contract assigned to Lockheed/Boeing.

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Russian Su-27 Pilot Films His Fighter Jet Intercepting U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 08:00

Dario Leone



Russia says it scrambled a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jet to intercept a US Navy P-8A Poseidon that was flying close to the annexed territory of Crimea.

As the videos in this post show the Flanker pilot used his mobile phone to record footage of the latest close encounter between US and Russia aircraft.

The Su-27 pilot is seen holding his phone in a reflection as he films the P-8 flying above his Flanker and then pans down to show land and water below.

Russia’s defense ministry said that the Poseidon changed course when it was intercepted by the Flanker.

The US military has not yet commented on the claims.

The Russian defense ministry said: “An Su-27 fighter jet as part of the Southern Military District’s air defenses was scrambled to intercept the target.

“The crew flew the aircraft at a safe distance to the aerial target and identified it as a US P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance jet.”

The statement added that the US plane “immediately changed the direction of its flight to fly away from the Russian state border”.

Currently, US forces are participating in NATO’s Sea Breeze naval drills in the Black Sea.

The Russian Navy has its own “combat training” exercises in the Black Sea, reported Moscow media.

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Turkey Will Soon Have Russia's S-400 (And Is Stockpiling F-16 Parts)

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 07:00

Dario Leone


Turkey has been stockpiling parts for F-16s and other military equipment in anticipation of a U.S. sanction for acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system.

Bloomberg report says Turkey has been stockpiling parts for F-16s and other military equipment in anticipation of a U.S. sanction for acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system.

Two anonymous officials from Turkey who spoke to the news outlet refused to clarify on what types of spares were accumulated, how much was acquired and how long they can last.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated over the course of the Syrian civil war, when the U.S. armed a Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan that his government blames on a Turkish imam residing in the U.S.

NATO member Turkey is determined to acquire ballistic missile technology, and aims to co-produce the next generation of the S-400, the officials added, citing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan said his country will take delivery of the S-400 within days.

“The first batch of S-400s will be delivered in a week or 10 days,” Haberturk newspaper cited him as saying in a report Monday. “I’ve clearly told this to Trump, Mr. Putin also said it.”

The U.S. argues that the pivot to Moscow could allow Russia to collect critical intelligence that would weaken NATO and compromise the American F-35 stealth fighter, which Turkish companies are helping to build. Yet while Congress is drawing up potential sanctions plans that at their harshest would cripple the Turkish economy, U.S. President Donald Trump has cast Turkey as a victim in the saga.

At the Group of 20 nations meeting in Japan on Saturday, the U.S. president said Erdogan was treated unfairly by the Obama administration when he sought to buy the U.S. built Patriot air-defense system. While the S-400 deal is “a problem,” the U.S. is “looking at different solutions,” he said.

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Donald Trump Seems To Love the A-10 Warthog and F-35 Stealth Fighter

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 06:00

Dario Leone


POTUS shares his insights while in South Korea. 

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has to hold on to the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft President Trump told airmen in South Korea on Jun. 30, 2019.

As reported by Air Force Times, during his visit to Osan Air Base after his visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Trump cheered plans in the Pentagon’s budget to buy 78 more F-35s, 24 new F/A-18s and eight F-15EX fighter jets, before pivoting to the Warthog.

“By the way, the Warthog right behind me is not so bad,” Trump said. “I’ve got more people asking us to keep the Warthog. They say it’s sort of running out, but we’re fixing up — you know, we’re going to keep them as long as we can.”

“But people love them. Are they that good?” Trump said to applause.

Trump also gave a hat tip to Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who flew A-10 Warthogs in the USAF and has consistently advocated for keeping the airplane.

“Every time I see her, she said, ‘Please don’t let the Warthog go,’” Trump said. “It’s just a very great machine, and we’re looking at ways that maybe we can keep it around a little bit longer.”

During the Obama administration, since it was bringing on board the F-35 fleet which required more people and resources the USAF repeatedly sought to mothball the A-10. The Pentagon ran into resistance on Capitol Hill, however, and the A-10 Warthogs stayed.

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Why Terrorists Sometimes Apologize for Their Actions

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 02:03

Ioana Emy Matesan, Ronit Berger

Security, Europe

They do what?

Such sensitivity to public perception may explain why the New IRA offered its “full and sincere apologies” after public condemnation of the killing.

Armed groups often rely on violence and instilling fear to show strength and resilience. And yet, every so often, they are willing to apologize when things go wrong.

The New IRA recently apologized for killing Lyra McKee, an investigative journalist, during a riot in Derry. The group’s targets, which they described as “enemy forces,” were officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

As scholars of conflict, we both study a variety of armed groups, from nationalist and separatist liberation movements to Islamist opposition groups. When we were graduate students at Syracuse University, we shared a cubicle and often compared stories of attacks that did not go as planned.

Over time, comparing anecdotes turned into a systematic investigation of armed attacks, in order to address an understudied question: Do rebel groups ever apologize for their mistakes?

If such groups were ever willing to apologize for their actions, we wanted to understand when and why they would do so. We hoped it would help us find ways to negotiate resolutions during conflicts.

From Wisconsin to Nigeria

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Surprise China, More Patrol Planes are Coming to the South China Sea

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 01:36

Michael Peck

Security, Asia

A big deal.

“The defense chief said he will soon make a formal request for the acquisition of the American aircraft,” according to a Philippine government news release. The purchase would be made through the U.S. government’s Excess Defense Articles Program.

In a move that won’t please China, the Philippines is planning to acquire U.S. P-3 long-range maritime patrol planes.

“It will be good if we acquire even one P-3 Orion,” said Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. “Provided it has all its original equipment. Otherwise it will just be another transport plane. We will find out if we can get one or two.”

Lorenzana said the patrol aircraft would enhance the Philippines to monitor the region. The Orions would be “very important as our domain awareness will be greatly enhanced,” he said.

(This appeared in June 2019.)

“The defense chief said he will soon make a formal request for the acquisition of the American aircraft,” according to a Philippine government news release. The purchase would be made through the U.S. government’s Excess Defense Articles Program.

Currently, the Philippines has a limited maritime patrol capability. The Philippine Navy has five TC-90 patrol planes donated by the Japanese navy in 2017 and 2018. Based on the ubiquitous Beech King Air civilian turboprop aircraft, the TC-90 has a range of about 1,200 miles.

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An Aircraft Carrier Armed With Nuclear Weapons? Why the Navy Said 'No Way'

Sun, 07/07/2019 - 00:00

Sebastien Roblin


Do you think they regret it?

In the United States, it was assumed that nuclear weapons would be widely employed in future conflicts, rendering conventional land armies and fleets at sea irrelevant.

(This article appeared earlier this year.)

In the wake of the mushroom clouds that blossomed over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it swiftly dawned on political and military leaders across the globe that warfare between superpowers would never again be the same. But what exactly were the implications of nuclear weapons when it came to planning military force structure?

In the United States, it was assumed that nuclear weapons would be widely employed in future conflicts, rendering conventional land armies and fleets at sea irrelevant. The newly formed Air Force particularly argued that carrier task forces and armored divisions were practically obsolete when (ostensibly) just a few air-dropped nuclear bombs could annihilate them in one fell swoop.

The Air Force touted it soon-to-be operational fleet of ten-thousand-mile-range B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bombers as the only vital war-winning weapon of the nuclear age. This logic resonated conveniently with the postwar political program mandating sharp cuts to U.S. defense spending and force structure—which the Air Force naturally argued should fall upon the Army and Navy.

The Army responded by devising “Pentomic Divisions” organized for nuclear battlefields, with weapons ranging from nuclear-armed howitzers and rocket artillery to bazooka-like Davy Crockett recoilless guns. The Navy, meanwhile, sought to find a way to integrate nuclear bombs into its carrier air wings. However, early nuclear bombs were simply too heavy for World War II-era carrier-based aircraft.

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Sneaky: America's F-22 Stealth Fighter Snuck up on an Iranian F-4 Phantom

Sat, 06/07/2019 - 23:00

Robert Beckhusen

Security, Middle East


It was a close call.

Back in 2013, Pentagon press secretary George Little said that an Iranian air force F-4 Phantom combat plane attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone flying through international airspace near Iran.

As we reported back then, one of the two F-4 Phantom jets — in service in Iran since the Shah — came to about 16 miles from the Predator, but broke off pursuit after two American planes escorting the drone broadcast a warning message.

It was a close call.

The March 2013 episode happened only a few months after a two Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (the informal name of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran.

After this attempted interception, the Pentagon decided to escort drones involved in reconnaissance missions with fighter jets: either F-18 Hornets embarked on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, currently in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of responsibility, or F-22 Raptors like those deployed to Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates.

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Why Attacking Iran Is an Insane Idea

Sat, 06/07/2019 - 22:00

Robert Gaines, Scott Horton

Security, Middle East

Chaos here we come.

Figures such as former CIA director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and organizations like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), still insist that an operational relationship exists between Iran and Al Qaeda. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as claims like these are a staple in pre-war propaganda campaigns.

Undeterred by decades of carnage and the disastrous outcomes of prior conflicts, ideologues within the Trump administration are clamoring for military action against Iran. The exact basis for this escalation varies. Common among the allegations are concerns over Iran’s civilian nuclear program, in spite of Iranian compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) and their Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Other pro-intervention voices decry Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terror organizations or cite a general concern for U.S. interests in the region as a pretext for action. This view of the Iranian regime is overly narrow and ahistorical. Iran is a conservative state in a region otherwise awash in radicalism. Any military action undertaken by the United States or its allies against the regime in Tehran will represent a grave error.

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So You Wanna Build Your Own AR-15 on the Cheap?

Sat, 06/07/2019 - 21:00

Gun News Daily

Technology, Americas

A how-to guide.

So there you have it. That’s pretty much everything you’ll need to know in order to do a fast and smooth DIY AR-15 build.

As I’ve said before, there are a lot of great AR-15s out there at a variety of price points, but maybe you’re like me and you want to get your hands dirty and try your luck at making one of your own.

Building a fancy, customized precision sniper rifle is something that can be done by hand, but it might take some time and money. For the more frugal beginner who wants to create their first build on a budget, I’ve got you covered.

Today, I’ll show you just how simple it is to build a dependable AR-15 at home for hundreds less than what you would spend on a pre-built model.  All you need to do is accumulate everything you need separately, from the upper receiver to the lower receiver to the trigger to the magazines and so on.

Before we jump into it, let’s go over just what you’ll need when planning for your AR-15 build.


  • Cost of Parts

  • Cost of Tools

  • Overall Time

The first thing you should think about is the price of the parts necessary for your build. The various components that comprise the AR-15 are the essential area of consideration as this is what will make your build functional.

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The Army Has a Shiny New M1 Abrams Tank

Sat, 06/07/2019 - 20:00

Dan Goure

Technology, Americas

The finest.

The leadership of the U.S. Army is taken with the idea of transforming how and with what the Army fights.

The U.S. Army is on an intensive quest for an array of new technologies with which to design and build new armored fighting vehicles, particularly a replacement for the long-serving Bradley. However much it might yearn for a new tank, the Army lacks the critical technologies that would justify the time and expense pursuing such an objective. Moreover, it doesn’t need to make the effort. The Army’s current main battle tank, the Abrams, is the tank of the future.

The Army is just beginning to receive the first of the latest Abrams upgrade, the System Enhancement Package Version 3 (SEPv3), with additional upgrades in development. Instead of searching for the elusive Holy Grail of ultralight armor or laser weapons, technologies that would justify building a brand new tank, the Army would be best served by aggressively pursuing a major redesign and improvement program for the Abrams, an M1A3.

(This first appeared in June 2019.)

The leadership of the U.S. Army is taken with the idea of transforming how and with what the Army fights. They particularly want new armored fighting vehicles. And not just another family of metal boxes with a turret and cannon. Technology enthusiasts, including many in the Army’s new Futures Command, wax eloquently about the potential for hover tanks that shoot laser beams and are autonomously guided by artificial intelligence housed in quantum computers.

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Is China's J-20 Stealth Fighter a Ripoff of Russian Technology?

Sat, 06/07/2019 - 19:00

Mark Episkopos

Technology, Asia

What we know.

TASS, Russia’s leading state news agency, echoed Sputnik in noting that a number of J-20’s currently run on the AL-31F engine and that the J-20 shares a distinctive “duck-like” aerodynamic design with the MiG-1.44, but stopped just short of claiming that the Chinese directly consulted the Russian fighter’s design in building the J-20.

As the Su-57 enters serial production in much larger quantities than previously expected, Moscow is making a concerted effort to pitch the fifth-generation fighter to major arms importers including Turkey, India, and China.

Over the past several years, Chinese defense media has been particularly keen on following the Su-57’s development; their--mostly positive commentary--has long been taken as one bellwether of Chinese import interest.

(This first appeared in June 2019.)

But the question is rarely asked in reverse: namely, what does Russia think of China’s own J-20 fighter?

Whereas Chinese defense commentary has been largely complimentary of the Su-57, their Russian counterparts have been much more tepid about the J-20. In a recent article on the “mutual benefit” of a China Su-57 import deal, prominent Russian defense outlet RG concluded that the Su-57 is neither better nor worse than the J-20 but fulfills an altogether different operational purpose. The J-20 was designed as a stealth missile platform that can penetrate sophisticated air defenses in order to target critical infrastructure or military assets. The Su-57, on the other hand, excels as an air superiority platform that trades stealth and ground attack features for raw dog fighting potential. Thus, RG aptly characterizes the thrust of the Russian export argument: China’s air force should buy the Su-57 not as a replacement, but as a complement to the J-20.

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