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Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

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White Ravens: Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

For each military vehicle that is accepted into service, there are often roughly ten others that never proved to be either effective or economically viable. However, they are not usually “born” in vain – some of them are later used for the development of unusual generations of weapons. Sputnik has gathered five such examples from Russian history.

Golden Fish

Project 661 Anchar, widely known as the K-162 or K-222 nuclear powered submarine, (NATO reporting name Papa class) is still considered to be the fastest submarine built in the world. It managed to reach speed of 44.7 knots (82.8 km/h or 51.4 mph), carried 10 cruise missiles and 12 torpedoes, which it could launch at any ship by quickly approaching it and then leaving the scene untouched.

Project 661 Anchar - Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

Project 661 Anchar

The problem with the K-222 was that its hull was built from titanium, which made it exceedingly expensive (it was even known by the nickname the “Golden Fish”). Aside from this, the submarine was also very noisy, which stripped it of a key advantage — low detectability. The only K-222 unit was commissioned in 1969 and decommissioned after 20 years of service. Some of the ideas used in its production were utilized during the construction of other nuclear-powered submarines, such as Project 670 Skat (NATO reporting name Charlie class).

Soviet Caspian Monster

The Lun-class ekranoplan (NATO reporting name “Duck”) was a so-called ground effect vehicle, which could glide over a water surface. Unlike most similar vehicles, it was huge (74m in length and 44m in width) and carried six P-270 Moskit anti-ship missiles with 300kg warheads. Half that number was enough to slay an aircraft carrier (which was its prime target in the course of its development). The Lun could also approach its target with an impressive speed of 297 knots (550 km/h or 342 mph). Since it was gliding over the water surface, most radar systems wouldn’t detect it until it was too late.

Soviet Caspian Monster - Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

Soviet Caspian Monster

Lun was based on an earlier prototype, the Korabl Maket, known in Western countries as the Caspian Monster. Unfortunately, it shared the fate of the Golden Fish. In 1987, when the first Lun was deployed, the USSR couldn’t muster the funds for serial production and abandoned the project. However, the authors of the original Caspian Monster announced in 2015 that they gain started development for a modern version of the ekranoplan.

Su-57’s Father

The prototype jet fighter Su-47 Berkut (NATO reporting name Firkin) had one distinctive feature — forward-swept wings that granted it extreme agility and maneuverability, shorter consume-off and landing distances, as well as improved stability at high angles of attack. At the same time, such a design increased the stress on the wings, requiring much more expensive materials to be used in production.

su 47 berkut - Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

Su-47 Berkut

In combination with the slated completion date, 1997, at a time when the Russian economy was highly vulnerable, led to the closure of the project. But the ideas utilized in its production didn’t proceed in vain either — they are currently being used in the development of the fifth-generation Russian fighter Su-57.

‘Black Eagle’

Object 640 or the Black Eagle tank was not very different from models that were being used by the Russian army at the time, but it had one advantage — during combat, the crew’s seats were lowered in the inner compartments, which improved survivability for the crew in case the tank would be hit. A lack of innovations prevented its serial production, but the core view was later used in the unusual, cutting edge Russian tank “Armata.”

Black Eagle tank Object 640 MBT - Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

Black Eagle tank Object 640 MBT

‘Soviet Slipper’

The MiG-105, nicknamed “Lapot” (Russian slipper) for its design, was a Soviet orbital spaceplane project. It was developed to rival the cancelled US Dyna-Soar project, but instead of using expendable rockets for its launch, Soviet engineers planned to launch it not from the ground, but mid-air using a liquid fuel booster stage in a bid to reduce the costs of launches.

mig 105 - Russian Prototype Weapons That Never Made Into Serial Production

MiG-105

The project was terminated after a decision was made in favor of the rocket-propelled Buran orbital spaceplane. The ideas behind the MiG-105 haven’t been used so far, but maybe one day its hour will approach.

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Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

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israeli tanks - Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

Challenger 2 is considered one of the best-protected tanks in the world, equipped with second-generation Chobham Armor , a composite matrix of ceramic and metal with superior qualities over typical steel-rolled homogeneous armor . The result is tank armor capable of defeating both kinetic energy and high-explosive anti-tank rounds. The UK is currently planning on upgrading Challenger 2 and is evaluating equipping it with an active protection system similar to the Israeli Trophy.

The world of the tank—an armored fighting vehicle equipped with a large main gun, tracks, and whose mission is to conduct mechanized warfare on the modern battlefield—has stagnated. Look around at the tank fleets of all the major powers and most so-called main battle tanks have been in service since the 1990s—or even the 1980s. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the shift to terrorism have placed tank forces on the back burner—or, in the case of the Netherlands, eliminated them entirely .

Most tanks—at least those in the arsenals of the West—are pretty much the same in terms of overall capability. Many countries, such as South Korea , have used the slowdown to catch up to the status quo. The top five most lethal tanks today aren’t necessarily the newest or most expensive. Each does one thing particularly well to stand out from the crowd, making it an extremely dangerous opponent on the battlefield.

T-90A (Russia)

The last in a long line of tanks stretching back to the late 1940s, the T-90 is the most advanced common tank in Russian Ground Forces inventory. The T-90 can trace its roots to the T-54 medium tank, and is most directly related to the T-72/T-80 series of tanks. Russia currently operates hundreds T-90As, enough to fully equip one tank and one motor rifle division.

t90 tank - Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

T-90 Tank (Russia) (Photo: Wiki)

The T-90A is tops among tanks for long-range lethality. Although the 125-millimeter 2A46M main gun is less effective than its western peers, especially the Rhienmetall 120-millimeter L44 smoothbore gun, it is lethal at longer ranges thanks to its ability to fire anti-tank missiles from the gun tube. The 9M119M Refleks laser-guided missile gives the T-90A the ability to penetrate 700 millimeters of rolled homogeneous armor equivalent with a high degree of accuracy at ranges of up to 3.1 miles.

M1 Abrams (United States)

The M1 Abrams main battle tank is the standard tank of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Since its introduction in the late 1970s, the M1 has undergone a steady stream of upgrades, from the introduction of the German-designed 120-millimeter gun to the addition of depleted uranium armor and networking capabilities such as Blue Force Tracker.

Task Force Commander ISIS Forces Degraded from Caliphate to Caves - Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

An Iraqi soldier observes a live-fire exercise from atop an M1 Abrams tank at the Besmaya Range Complex in Iraq, Nov. 12, 2018. Army photo by Spc. Eric Cerami

The M1 stands out on this list as the undisputed king of the post–Cold War era. It sets the standard for the ideal combination of firepower, protection and mobility. While other tanks may be good if not just as good, they don’t have the battle record to back it up. The M1 Abrams tank has fought in two major conflicts—the 1991 Persian Gulf War and 2003-2010 Iraq War, destroying scores of enemy tanks without a single loss to Iraqi tanks.

Leopard 2 (Germany)

The German-produced Leopard 2 tank is in many ways a cousin of the M1. Both were developed after the failure of the German-American MBT-70 tank project. The two tanks are roughly identical in weapons and performance, although the American tank, with its depleted uranium hull, is heavier and better protected.

leopard 2a7 - Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

The Leopard 2A7 (Photo: Wiki)

The Leopard 2 is the best European tank of the current lot, as a listing of current operators easily demonstrates. While the M1 Abrams has made some inroads in the European market, the Leopard 2 has dominated, with countries from Spain to Turkey to Norway operating large fleets. Admittedly, this is largely due to Germany having shed 90 percent of her tanks since the end of the Cold War, producing a large number of relatively inexpensive surplus tanks available for export, but the Leopard is indisputably popular. Although the exact models differ from country to country, NATO’s de facto standardization on the Leopard 2 will make the alliance’s future logistics, especially in mixed units, easier to manage.

Merkava IV (Israel)

The construction of an entirely new class of main battle tank by Israel, a tiny country, is certainly a major achievement. By the time of the Merkava’s introduction Israel had already fought three wars in which it was outnumbered by much larger Arab tank forces. Combined with a tiny general population in which even minor personnel losses were felt across society, the Israeli military envisioned a tank which prioritized defensive capabilities and firepower above all else.

The Merkava has excellent protection. Its turret and frontal hull area are sharply faceted to present maximum armored protection at all angles, giving the turret a knifelike edge. The tank’s engine is in the front of the hull, placing a large, dense mass between enemy fire and the crew. The armor believed to be some kind of new type of “hybrid armor,” and is modular so individual sections can be rapidly replaced. Most importantly though, it has the Trophy active protective system , a combination of sensors and a shotgun-like weapon capable of downing rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles.

Challenger 2 (United Kingdom)

The latest in a very long series of tanks by the country that invented the tank, the Challenger 2 equips the British Army’s tank corps. Although based on the older Challenger 1 , extensive redesigns resulted in a tank with only five percent parts commonality with its predecessor. Unique among tanks of the world, Challenger 2 is still equipped with a rifled barrel, the 120-millimeter L30 gun.

British Tank Challenger II - Top 5 Tanks on Planet Earth

Challenger II (United Kingdom) (Photo: Wiki)

Challenger 2 is considered one of the best-protected tanks in the world, equipped with second-generation Chobham Armor , a composite matrix of ceramic and metal with superior qualities over typical steel-rolled homogeneous armor . The result is tank armor capable of defeating both kinetic energy and high-explosive anti-tank rounds. The UK is currently planning on upgrading Challenger 2 and is evaluating equipping it with an active protection system similar to the Israeli Trophy.

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5 U.S. Special Forces Raids That Went Bad

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The value of special-operations forces lies in its human capital. When these units take casualties, they cannot easily replace losses; each individual operator represents years of intensive training, along with a rare set of physical, mental and emotional traits. But unfortunately, shrapnel and plane crashes do not respect human capital. When special operators are pushed into conventional tactical situations where they cannot leverage their capabilities, they suffer and die like any other soldier. And in these cases, the loss to the country is immense, not only because of the political importance of specific operations but also because of the loss of some of America’s finest warriors.

Since World War II, the U.S. military has experimented with special-operations forces, small groups of warriors with the equipment and training to undertake extremely difficult missions. In effect, special forces exist to leverage human capital in unusual tactical situations. Soldiers selected for high physical and mental capabilities, then intensively trained, can theoretically achieve objectives that normal soldiers cannot.

The successes of special operators are well known; they include, most notably, the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But special operations have always faced criticism from more conventionally oriented parts of the military. The basic tradeoff involves the loss of human capital that regular line units suffer when their best soldiers and officers join special-forces formations. Training resources dedicated to special operators may also, in some cases, shortchange conventional forces.

There are also organizational problems; while some commanders have proven overly conservative regarding the use of special operators (keeping them out of the fight in anticipation of some unknown job on the horizon), others have expended special forces in conventional operations, where the high human capital of the units has limited effect. And politicians, with a limited sense of military utility, tend to find special operations attractive without fully evaluating their costs.

In his new book Oppose Any Foe, Mark Moyar turns a critical eye on the history of U.S. special forces, taking seriously the costs that developing such units imposes on the rest of the military, and taking account the strategic limitations of special operations. Moyar argues, among other things, that the glamor and undeniable heroism of special operators has helped deflect scrutiny of some of their more egregious failures, and of the special-operations enterprise as a whole.

Here are five of the most disastrous raids in the history of U.S. special-operations forces:

The Makin Atoll Raid

In August 1942, the recently formed Marine Second Raider Battalion launched its first raid, against Japanese-held Makin Atoll in the South Pacific. Submarines delivered 222 specially selected and trained Marines within a distance of the island; their mission was to attack and destroy Japanese installations, thus showing a sense of strategic vulnerability in the Japanese high command.

The Raiders quickly lost the element of surprise, but nevertheless managed to inflict some casualties on the defending Japanese. The commander, Evans Carlson, decided that the remaining Japanese resistance was too stiff to accomplish the main objectives, which included the destruction of radio sets. However, the unit’s efforts to leave the island were stymied by high seas; only a small contingent was capable of swimming back to the waiting submarines.

When day broke, the Americans discovered that most of the Japanese were, in fact, dead. The Marines destroyed the remaining Japanese facilities, and a submarine returned to pick up the survivors. Unfortunately, at least one boat could not survive the surf. Altogether, thirty of the Marines committed to the operation died, with many more injured. The middling success of the raid gave U.S. commanders a sour taste regarding further such operations in the Pacific.

North Korea: Hill 205

On November 25, 1950, as part of the broader U.S. offensive into North Korea, the Eighth Ranger Battalion, a unit established in August, was assigned the job of capturing and defending Hill 205, along the Chongchon River. Unbeknownst to the Americans, regular Chinese forces had infiltrated North Korea in great numbers and were preparing to launch a major counteroffensive.

The use of special operators (even when hastily assembled) as the spearhead of a conventional offensive was neither new nor outside the traditional missions of such units; similar units had regularly undertaken such jobs in World War II. But the risks in such an approach soon became evident, as the Rangers took serious casualties attacking a hill with a stouter-than-expected defense. The situation grew worse when the counterattack came; Chinese infantry and artillery swamped the Rangers’ defenses during the night of November 25, in six separate assaults. Eighty-eight Rangers attacked Hill 205; forty-seven survived to defend it; only twenty-one left the hill alive.

The performance of the Eighth Ranger Battalion was undoubtedly heroic, but not so much better than a regular infantry battalion as to make the sacrifice worth it. The commitment and massacre of many of the Army’s best soldiers caused little more than a hiccup in the Chinese advance.

Operation Eagle Claw: Escape from Tehran

As the hostage crisis in Tehran drew on, the Carter administration began to consider military options for resolving the standoff. A conventional attack on the Iranians seemed to make little sense, and there was not much reason to believe that a coercive air campaign could force the Islamic Republic to give up the hostages.

The military responded with a plan to rescue the hostages by air, using primarily Rangers and Delta Force operatives. The complex raid involved landing helicopters near the embassy grounds, incapacitating or killing the Iranian guards, then loading the hostages into the aircraft before regular Iranian forces could react. It was carefully orchestrated, and needed to be; one wrong step could either result in the deaths of dozens of hostages, or the addition of a few special operations to the hostage list.

But on the day of the raid, little went right. Mechanical problems affected several of the choppers, leaving the contingent with too few aircraft to successfully pull off the operation. After the order to scrub was given, one of the helicopters crashed into one of the C-130s, killing eight servicemen. The failed raid helped guarantee President Carter’s defeat in the 1980 presidential election.

Grenada: Three Days of Confusion

Displacing the government of Grenada seemed like an operation well within the capabilities of the United States military. Although defended by contingents of Grenadian and Cuban soldiers, the government had little real ability to resist a concerted U.S. assault. And indeed, the main period of conflict only lasted three days, in 1983.

But in those three days, U.S. special operators ran into a host of problems. Insufficient appreciation of the weather led to the drowning of four Navy SEALs on the night of October 23; an air assault on Richmond Hill prison faced unexpected fire from antiaircraft batteries, after a delay left the Black Hawk helicopters flying in daylight; an effort to seize an empty barracks on October 27 led to the crash of three helicopters and the death of three Rangers.

All in all, thirteen of the nineteen U.S. dead from the Grenada invasion were special operators. Commanders blamed the difficulties on poor communications, and on a poor understanding by conventional officers of SOF capabilities. The problems in Grenada helped drive reform not only of the special-operations forces but also of the military as a whole; the framers of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 paid special attention to the difficulties that the invading forces faced.

Mogadishu: What Are We Doing Here?

The United States entered the Somali civil war under the aegis of a humanitarian mission, designed to restore food supplies to the greater portion of the civilian population. Before long, however, U.S. goals expanded. It didn’t help that a transition from President George H. W. Bush to President Bill Clinton left created political incoherence; Clinton had little foreign-policy experience and an unclear notion of precisely what outcomes he wanted in Somalia.

On October 3, 1993, in an effort to apprehend the top lieutenants to the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, a group of U.S. Rangers and Delta Force operatives attempted a combined air and ground raid against targets in central Mogadishu. Both prongs of the operation quickly went wrong; the ground vehicles struggled to find their way to the target area, while one of the helicopters crashed after taking a hit from a rocket-propelled grenade. The ensuing melee lasted most of the night and resulted in the crash of another helicopter, the loss of nineteen American operators and the death of upwards of a thousand Somalis.

The value of special-operations forces lies in its human capital. When these units take casualties, they cannot easily replace losses; each individual operator represents years of intensive training, along with a rare set of physical, mental and emotional traits. But unfortunately, shrapnel and plane crashes do not respect human capital. When special operators are pushed into conventional tactical situations where they cannot leverage their capabilities, they suffer and die like any other soldier. And in these cases, the loss to the country is immense, not only because of the political importance of specific operations but also because of the loss of some of America’s finest warriors.

Most of these operations combine an excessive degree of military optimism about the parameters of possibility with a lack of political understanding of the risks and costs of failure. But these problems are not incidental to the special-operations-force paradigm; high-human-capital individuals tend to have a strong sense of their capabilities, and a strong belief in their ability to get tough jobs done. And civilians lacking in military expertise often have reason to take these beliefs at face value, especially when the SOF offer quick, easy solutions to knotty problems.

The post first appeared a few years ago on The National Interest and was written by Rob Farley.

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