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Railgun is future of maritime superiority

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The US Navy’s electromagnetic rail gun is poised to undergo further field testing at the Naval Surface Center in the US state of Virginia.

“Initial [repetition rate of fires] of multi-shot salvos already have been successfully conducted at low muzzle energy,” according to a statement from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) provided to Scout Warrior. “The next test sequence calls for safely increasing launch energy, firing rates, and salvo size.”

The power behind the gun is difficult to fathom. ONR states that one megajoule is approximately equivalent to a one-ton truck cruising at 160 miles per hour. The US Navy hopes to test the weapon at 20 megajoules within the next couple months and then with 32 megajoules in 2018.

“Railguns and other directed energy weapons are the future of maritime superiority,” says Thomas Beutner, director of the Naval Air War and Weapons Department at ONR.

Engineers anticipate each projectile will achieve speeds of 2,000 meters per second and that the gun will pop off 10 rounds per minute, Scout Warrior reports. “Navy planners are targeting a 100+ nautical mile capability,” ONR states on its website.

The service intends to use the railgun for surface fire support, land strikes, warship defense, and general deterrence, according to ONR.

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Is This a Sneak Peek at the Israeli Army’s New Tank?

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A small armored wedge with a remote-controlled turret: is this what the Israel Defense Force’s future armored vehicles will look like?

The answer is . . . maybe. At a conference in Israel last month, the former chief of the IDF’s Armored Corps showed a simulation of what Project Carmel—the IDF’s effort to develop technology for the its generation of tanks—might produce.

The virtual vehicle is wedge-shaped, with the hull sloping towards the front. The cannon-armed turret is set at the rear of the hull, with a machine gun mounted on top. In one of the screenshots, below the turret there is what seems to be—and your guess is as good as mine—a row of vision ports (you can see other screenshots here and here).

Israel is developing two next-generation armored vehicles. One is the Eitan, the IDF’s first wheeled armored personnel carrier and the chosen replacement for Israel’s fleet of old and poorly armored M113 APCs. Already in the prototype stage, the eight-wheeled Eitan somewhat resembles the U.S. Stryker. The thirty-ton Eitan will be paired with the much heavier Namer, an APC based on the chassis of the Merkava tank.

However, the simulated vehicle displayed at the conference by retired Brigadier General Didi Ben-Yoash, who is heading Project Carmel, is much more of a tank. It would be tracked rather than wheeled like the Eitan, and would weigh thirty-five to forty tons (compared to a sixty-eight-ton M-1 Abrams). With just two crewmen, the vehicle would mostly function autonomously, including “autonomous navigation and driving, target spotting, aiming, independent firing whenever possible plus other features,” according to Israel Defense magazine.

The “cockpit” of the Israeli vehicle will have space for a third crewman to operate drones and standoff weapons. The tank would also have an active protection system, such as Israel’s Trophy, to deflect antitank missiles and rockets. “The future armored platform will be light, agile, small, relatively inexpensive and simple to operate and designed primarily for operation in urban areas with the hatches closed,” Israel Defense said.

The new tank will not replace the current Merkava 4, which is expected to remain in production until 2020. “Rather, it is a research-and-development program aimed at a state-of-the-art, medium-weight combat vehicle,” according to Defense News.

“It won’t be Merkava 5,” an Israeli official told Defense News. “The operational requirement will be something entirely different.”

Much like the United States and its Ground-X Vehicle Technology project, Israel is aiming to develop smaller, lightweight tanks that can operate in urban terrain. In Israel’s case, the IDF is mindful of the lessons of Operation Cast Lead, the 2014 incursion in Gaza that saw Israeli soldiers challenged by a city with narrow streets and crisscrossed by tunnels. Also in line with U.S. thinking, the Israeli vehicle will be heavily networked into battlefield command and control systems.

The Below the Turret Ring blog offers a thoughtful analysis of what’s known about Project Carmel vehicle so far. The Israeli vehicle is considerably lighter than the forty-eight-ton Armata, which is Russia’s next-generation tank. Its active protection system might stop antitank missiles, but its armor won’t stop heavy cannon rounds from tanks such as the T-72. “The closest Russian counterpart to the Carmel might be the BMPT/BMPT-72 Terminator fire support vehicle designed by the Russian company UVZ,” the blog notes.

In that sense, Project Carmel sounds less like a main battle tank that can replace the Merkava or Abrams in a turret-to-turret armored slugfest. A small tank protected by medium armor and armed with an autocannon and missiles, it would seem to have its own niche as an infantry support vehicle.

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US Army Laser Prototype Intercepts Drones in Mid-Air (VIDEO)

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The US Army’s 60 kilowatt advanced test high energy asset (ATHENA) laser weapon prototype took down five Outlaw unmanned aerial systems over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico last month.
The weapons platform is designed by Lockheed Martin, which posted the following video of ATHENA in action.

According to the defense contracting giant, the weapon system makes use of the magnifying glass effect to strengthen the beam applied against targets. It can horizontally rotate to strike targets in any direction; boasts unlimited ammunition by injecting power and removing excess heat from the turret itself; and is compatible for air, land, and sea domains.

On Wednesday, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) chief Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb said the service plans to test a much stronger 150 kilowatt laser weapon system aboard a gunship in 2018. The weapon system, known as the high energy liquid laser area defense system (HELLADS), is the result of a General Atomics project that has received significant development support and funding from the Pentagon’s secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) because it wouldn’t be related to the government if it didn’t have an acronym.

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