Last month, Toyota unveiled its new autonomous driving platform, as well as a car equipped with two steering wheels that will be used to test it. Now the automaker has announced where testing will take place.
Toyota will use the GoMentum Station, a dedicated autonomous car testing facility located on the site of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, in Concord, California. Toyota says it will use the 5,000-acre facility to see how self-driving cars perform in "hazardous driving scenarios."
The automaker's latest autonomous-driving system, called "Platform 2.1" includes two driving modes. "Guardian" leaves a human driver in control, but keeps the autonomous system operating in the background, allowing the car to take over in emergency situations. "Chauffeur" gives the car complete control, turning all humans onboard into passengers.
Because these systems involve different levels of interaction between human and machine, they introduce even more variables than the typical autonomous-car test. While Toyota also plans to conduct tests on public roads, GoMentum Station's closed environment will allow it to see how the system responds in what the automaker calls "extreme" events that can't be undertaken safely on the street.
Unlike other automakers, Toyota seems committed to keeping human drivers in the loop, even in an age of autonomous cars. The company wants to start testing self-driving cars that use artificial intelligence to "talk" to human drivers around 2020, turning autonomous vehicles into co-pilots rather than machine overlords.
It's an appealing idea that could strike a balance between the potential safety benefits of autonomy and the desire for human drivers to stay in control. But it remains to be seen whether the technology can deliver on that promise.
The Kirov class nuclear powered battlecruiser Admiral Nakhimovhas been in dry dock undergoing a deep refit for years now, with the promise being the ship would come out the other side basically new, with a whole host of new weapons and sensors.
The Russian Navy's plan is to eventually have two massive Kirov class ships operational at the same time, which will be a first in nearly two decades. Before that can happen Admiral Nakhimov's refit needs to be completed, after which the Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great), which soldiers on today with largely all its Soviet-era weapons and sensors, will replace it in dry dock. After the Pyotr Veliky is refit to the same standard as the Admiral Nakhimov the two battlecruisers could potentially roam the seas for decades to come.
Executing a deep refit it on a severely dated, 28,000 ton nuclear battlecruiser that has sat idle for over a decade and a half years in the frigid White Sea is no small task. In fact, the Russian Navy's initiative to refit the Admiral Nakhimov is a decade old, with work only really picking up steam in 2014. And now the news is that the ship's delivery will be pushed back yet another year, to 2021.
Admiral Nakhimov which was originally named Kalinin, photographedcirca 1991, just three years after she was commissioned into service—The fall of the Soviet Union was not kind to the Russian Navy's fleet, but Admiral Nakhimov has survived and is slated to return to the sea far more powerful than it ever was before. " />
Originally the project was going to end in the latter part of this decade, around 2018. Then it was pushed back to 2019, and then 2020. Normally this would sound like the whimpering end to yet another over ambitious and under funded Russian weapons initiative, but in this case it appears to be quite the opposite.
Images and video shot recently of the giant surface combatant show it receiving a lot of attention, with many portions of the vessel totally gutted, especially areas where new weapons and sensors will go in the place of old ones. Scaffolding encompasses almost the entire vessel, and even its red hull paint paint look fresh.
There is no question that the ship's refit is deeply underway and that it's not just a cosmetic facelift and bolt-on remodel aimed to squeeze a few more years out of a tired old design, it's a total rework of the vessel that is very unlikely to not come to fruition with so much momentum behind hit. And once Sevmash shipyard is finished, Admiral Nakhimov, which was launched in 1986, is slated to bristle with modern weaponry.
The refit ship is slated to feature a whopping 174 vertical launch tubes—more than any other surface combatant or submarine in the world. 80 of these tubes will be filled with modern Russian cruise missiles, such as the subsonic Kalibr, supersonic Onix, and supposedly the hypersonic Zircon. Additionally, the ship's air defense capability will be adapted from the S-400 system and will have the rest of its tubes stuffed with the family of missiles associated with it (40N6, 48N6, 9M96). In addition, pretty much every combat related system on the ship is supposedly going to be replaced with modern components and many of the ship's other systems will also be overhauled. The work is being done by Sevmash shipbuilding.
Video showing just how extensive the work on Admiral Nakhimov is (starts at 4:45):
SS-N-19 "Shipwreck" missile farm was in this still from the video above. VLS cells will fill this space where 20 angled SS-N-19 launch tubes were previously." />
Once completed, both ships will serve as the centerpieces of Russian flotillas and will be the largest Russian fighting vessels in operation until—or if—the carrier Admiral Kuzetsov comes out of its own refit, which has supposedly been slashed in scope recently due to budgetary concerns.
Some would argue that putting so much into these dinosaurs from the Cold War era is a waste of scarce funds that could be used to build smaller surface combatants and more submarines. But seeing how far along the Admiral Nakhimov is, the proverbial "ship has sailed" on that debate, and Pyotr Veliky will likely cost far less to modify because it is in good operational condition today and Admiral Nakhimov has already served as an experimental template for the refit.
Lider class, was seen as a potential replacement for the Kirov class. But that program has been set aside aside before it even got truely started due to budget concerns." />
With Russia's long-hyped but now sidelined Lider class super destroyer no longer in potential competition with the Kirov class, at least not in the foreseeable future, these huge Russian surface combatants will continue on in a class of their own.
Welcome to Critic's Notebook, our impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
The guy in the Infiniti never knew what hit him. How his Q50 sport sedan could have been swatted aside by a Jeep Grand Cherokee, like an ant flicked off a pantleg, leaving him a forlorn speck on New Jersey’s Palisades Parkway.
I’m not sure the look on the guy’s face was worth $99,965, the as-tested price of this certifiably-insane, 707-horsepower, Hellcat-powered Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. But if automotive cognitive dissonance is your thing, you may appreciate the pleasures of a Jeep that looks like it’s headed to football practice—and may well be—but will happily pause to deliver humiliating stoplight lessons to Corvettes, Porsches, Mercedes-AMGs, whatever.
The name “Trackhawk” suggests that the Grand Cherokee belongs on a track. This is a lie, a literal whopper—largely because the Jeep weighs 5,360 pounds. Considering all that mass, the Trackhawk—stiffened, beefed up and lowered, with 15.4-inch front brake rotors large enough to plate pizzas—delivers grip and composure galore, as I learned during laps at Monticello Motor Club and a week of testing. But really, the only time a Trackhawk should be on track is to tow another car off it, which its 7,200-pound towing capacity easily allows.
No, like its forebears, the Charger and Challenger Hellcats with the 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8, the Trackhawk lives for a simpler American time, when men were men and the rules were as straight as the roads. (Some of the men were another story, but nobody talked about that stuff in the Sixties.) Those rules, written in my Detroit hometown, made clear that no one gave a damn about what happened when the road finally curved. As what Jeep dubs the world’s fastest SUV (apparently they don't count the crossover-leaning, electric Tesla Model X), the Trackhawk both hews to and updates those rules. The Trackhawk will put the straight-line stomp on everything from a Mercedes-AMG G65 and Range Rover SVR to a Porsche Cayenne Turbo and BMW X6 M. And if your conventional sports car or sedan isn't bringing at least 550 horses to the party, the Trackhawk will likely spoil your cruise night as well.
ŸSpeed, ideally without speeding tickets.Whether you’re going 20 mph or 120, the Jeep’s force is almost indescribable; “stupid fast” sums it up. Alone on Monticello’s long back straight, I dialed up the Jeep’s automated launch control and torque reserve functions—the latter pre-fills the intake manifold and puts roughly half the 11.6 psi of supercharger boost on instant tap—and snapped my own neck en route to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, and an 11.8-second quarter mile at 115 mph. That compares to 4.4 seconds and 12.8 seconds, respectively, in the merely-475-hp Grand Cherokee SRT.
Dial up the clever Performance Pages displays on the center screen, adjust your engine launch speed by 100 rpm increments—1,800 rpm worked great at Monticello—and the Jeep briefly chirps all four tires before it catapults toward the horizon. Performance Pages than lets you save your scores in various acceleration and braking measures, a video game come to life. My time actually beat Jeep’s estimate of 3.5 seconds to 60 mph, and fell just short of its own mark of 11.6 seconds in the quarter.
Top track speed is 180 mph, but this Jeep is all about the street: The Trackhawk’s ability to sneak up on unsuspecting cars—especially the snobby variety—and blow them to smithereens is positively addictive. Yet even with wide, 295/45/20 Pirelli P Zeros at four corners, yellow Brembo brake calipers, and a few badges, the Jeep’s subtle presentation let it slip through traffic virtually unnoticed. Let the police focus their remorseless gaze, and their radars, on young hooligans in Mustangs, BMWs, or hell, Dodge’s own Challengers: As I sliced up nighttime traffic on New York’s Saw Mill Parkway, I realized that I needn’t worry about some busybody dialing 911, because what would they say? “Yes, officer, it’s some man in an…SUV. What’s that? How should I know what kind? But definitely an SUV…(click). Hello? Hello?”
The Trackhawk can, however, make quite the aural statement, unleashing hellhounds and practically belching fire with every upshift and downshift of its eight-speed automatic. Crank that ZF transmission into Track mode to experience spine-snapping gear changes in as little as 160 milliseconds. There’s less supercharger whistle and whine than the Dodge Hellcats, thanks to the Trackhawk’s unique “Helmholtz resonator,” part of the air intake that quells unwanted frequencies in a Jeep SUV that’s still pitched for family transport.
Go easy on the throttle, and the Jeep is surprisingly docile—much better than the overwrought, non-stop-boisterous Range Rover SVR. Everyday civility is boosted by active noise cancellation in the cabin, and an exhaust system largely lifted from the Durango SRT. But step into it, and the metal attack recalls a five-seat Viper. My colleague and neighbor Ben Preston knew I had the Trackhawk, but (I assumed) no idea where I was. Then I romped down a street two blocks from Preston, and my cell phone suddenly rang: “Are you driving that crazy Jeep in the neighborhood?” he asked. Guilty as charged.
Advancing that Jekyll and Hyde philosophy, the Trackhawk is more versatile than you might expect, including a pliant adaptive suspension, the intuitive UConnect infotainment system, and oodles of space for people and gear. Inside and out, the Trackhawk reads as simply a grander Grand Cherokee. The Jeep is no Range Rover or Porsche inside, but it’s snazzy enough, and it costs dramatically less. A raft of standard gear includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and braking, blind spot and cross-traffic monitors, a remote start and heated seats front and rear. Extra goodies include including a snazzy leather-wrapped interior (a $4,995 upgrade); a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon audio system ($1,995); rear-seat entertainment screens ($1,995) and a dual-pane sunroof ($2,095).
As noted, the Jeep feels stable and confident in any situation, including generating a very respectable 0.88 g of lateral skidpad grip. By Jeep standards, the steering, handling and brakes are revelatory. But other companies have more experience with this speedy stuff, and it shows: At 5,200 pounds, the 567-hp BMW X6 M weighs nearly as much as this Jeep, yet it pulls a physics-defying 1.0 g on the skidpad and matched the previous-gen BMW M3’s time around the Nürburgring. Both the BMW and Porsche Cayenne Turbo feel notably more agile and car-like, and should carve this Jeep up in the twisties.
Also, the Trackhawk slurps premium unleaded with the best (or worst) of them, with 11/17 mpg EPA ratings in city and highway, respectively. Only the Jeep’s classification as a light truck saves it from a guzzler tax. And that 17 mpg highway figure must have been measured with a gale-force tailwind: I couldn’t keep the Jeep above 15 mpg on a bet, and I observed 11 or 12 mpg in combined (though admittedly heavy-footed) driving. The 570-hp Cayenne Turbo is no slouch, with a 176-mph top speed and a 3.8-second squirt to 60 mph, yet it consumes roughly 20 percent less fuel, at 14/21 mpg.
The speedometer is a letdown, despite its suggestive 200-mph peak. That wide span of numbers is scrunched into a desultory half-circle on the left side of the driver’s display, with 200 mph in the straight-up 12 o’clock position and 100 mph at 9 o’clock. It’s a presentation more suited to a Toyota fuel gauge than a speedo in a smoking muscle car. Oh, and the steering wheel is ridiculously thick, like the business end of a Louisville Slugger. Yeah, we get it, the Trackhawk is manly. But you shouldn’t have to be Andre the Giant to get a comfortable grip.
Finally: To some people, including The Drive editor Mike Guy, anyone who spends $86,995 on a Grand Cherokee (or nearly $100,000 after options) has muscle where their brains should be. Guy has a point. But in its defense, the Jeep’s competitors all charge more—typically much more, including the Cayenne Turbo S at a heady $160,000.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, ranked:
Hauling people: 4/5
Hauling stuff: 5/5
Curb appeal: 3/5
The Bottom Line
So why would someone drop Range Rover (if not Rover SVR) money on a Jeep? I’ll tell you why. Because they love going fast, and they either already own more-traditional performance cars—or they just love the idea of whupping unsuspecting drivers with a big-ass SUV. Compared with the two-door Challenger Hellcat especially, the Jeep makes a better daily driver and four-season ride: Roomier, quieter when you want it to be, far more luxurious and practical. Its selectable four-wheel-drive system virtually eliminates the wheelspin that can be smoky-good fun in the Hellcats, but can also hamper their traction and stability, not least in foul weather.
Some people will dismiss the Trackhawk as an abomination, a Hummer redux, the definition of resource-squandering overkill or poor taste. But they’re not the target market. Ultimately, the Trackhawk lets Mopar fans—including guys with SUV-favoring wives and children—have their Costco-sized cake, eat it too, and carry the leftovers in back.
Is a 707-horsepower SUV ridiculous? Of course. So is a Lamborghini, or a 650-horsepower Corvette for that matter. But no one complains about those. As I’ve asked before, who decreed that SUVs aren’t allowed to be fun?
Looks like the electric wave is finally hitting the engine bays of Sant'Agata's supercars. In a report from Autocar, the next Lamborghini Huraca?n will apparently be a "radical" plug-in hybrid. "The [next] Huraca?n—that car will need hybridization. Hybridization is the answer, not [fully] electric," company CEO Stefano Domenicali told the British auto publication.
Equipped with state-of-the-art, lightweight batteries, the next-gen baby Lambo will include a silent, electric-only mode à la the McLaren P1, Porsche 918, and Acura NSX—just in case you'd like to be able to take your Lamborghini to work every morning without being that guy. Should make Lambo ownership that much more neighbor-friendly.
The upcoming electro-ghini won't be the first hybrid to wear the famed, yellow badge. A hybrid-powered Urus crossover is apparently confirmed as well and expected to bow this December.
The purists among you reading this while shaking your head in disappointed disbelief, Lamborghini hasn't forgotten about you. The Italian supercar maker plans to release a successor to the Aventador before the Huraca?n sequel drops and says it'll stick to an unassisted, fire-and-brimstone V-12. Just like a Miura straight out of 1966. Okay, so it'll probably be pretty different from that car, but you know what I mean.
Speaking on their current clientele's affinity for natural aspiration, Lamborghini commercial boss Federico Foschini said, "When they come to Lamborghini, they are asking for the power and performance of our naturally aspirated engines. That’s why we have already decided that the next-generation V-12 will stay naturally-aspirated and it is one reason why the [Aventador] remains unique."
Domenicali agrees, but also sees the battery-powered writing on the wall. "There is still a lot of potential for the V-12. The right approach for us is to have the V-10 and V-12 to suit our customers and then be ready to switch [to a hybrid] at the right moment," the Lambo boss told Autocar.
The electrified Huraca?n II should be out by 2022.
The U.S. Army is rushing ahead with its project to develop a new light tank to give infantry brigades extra firepower, especially against a near-peer opponent such as Russia. In the past, though, developing a vehicle that is both lighter than a traditional main battle tank and still survivable and useful on a modern battlefield has proven to be a difficult proposition.
The Army plans to send out a final, formal request for proposals for the program, known as Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF), to interested defense contractors in November 2017. The service then hopes to power through the contracting process and pick a winning design during the 2019 fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
“We expect to be delivering prototypes off of that program effort within 15 months of contract award,” U.S. Army Major General David Bassett, the service’s program executive officer for Ground Combat Systems, said earlier in October 2017. The goal is “is getting it in the hands of an evaluation unit six months after that – rapid!"
The Army has focused discussions of the MPF program heavily on the contracting side of things. After suffering spectacular setbacks in armored vehicle modernization with the cancellation first of the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program and then of the subsequent Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), the service has been keen to stress that this effort will be different.
Getting the vehicles to units quickly is important because the Army has identified a clear need to improve the firepower of infantry units in particular against a more traditional opponent. After more than a decade of limited, low-intensity conflicts against terrorists and insurgents, the U.S. military has become increasingly concerned it isn’t prepared for a conventional, high-intensity battle.
After Russia seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, subsequently began fighting alongside separatists battling the central government in Kiev, and adopted a broadly revanchist foreign policy, this only became more apparent. Since then, the United States and NATO members have taken up and expanded defensive posture along the alliance’s eastern flank and have experienced increasing harassment from Russian forces and intelligence services.
MPF will follow a number of other similar rapid procurement efforts primarily focused on the European theater of operations, including the development and purchase of an up-gunned Stryker armored vehicle with a 30mm automatic cannon and of a turret for other variants of the 8x8 design that features both a .50 caliber M2 machine gun or a 40mm Mk 19 Mod 3 automatic grenade launcher and a Javelin anti-tank missile system.
As for the actual requirements for the MPF, the Army appears to have done its best to keep them as opened ended as possible. The design should be able to blast its way though bunkers and other fortifications, attack enemy forces taking shelter in buildings, and destroy various enemy armored vehicles, according to one official briefing.
At the same time it has to be light enough – approximately 25 to 30 tons – to fit inside at least a C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, and hopefully even a smaller C-130 Hercules. Since the Globemaster III can already carry a single M1 Abrams, the goal is for a C-17 to be able to deliver two MPFs straight into a combat landing zone. It should be protected against at least small arms and shrapnel air burst artillery rounds, with additional armor kits offering defenses against more powerful threats.
There’s no apparent stipulation that the vehicle has to be tracked rather than wheeled or what kind of main weapon it should have to do its job. Without tracks, it's unlikely the vehicle would be able to negotiate the required obstacles or have the requisite off-road mobility – and it definitely wouldn't qualify as a tank, light or otherwise. The Army would really prefer if you didn’t call it a tank at all though.
"I don't want to say it's a light tank, but it's kind of like a light tank," David Dopp, the MPF project lead, told the service’s reporters in June 2017. “It's not going toe to toe with a tank. …it's for the infantry. It goes where the infantry goes – it breaks through bunkers, it works through targets that the infantry can't get through.”
Its true that from this description, it might be more accurate to call the proposed vehicle an "assault gun," since its not necessarily supposed to take on enemy tanks. So far, though, the three major competitors for the program have presented designs that would look very much like tank to the average person, that is to say a tracked vehicle with a turret armed with a medium caliber main gun that is able to traverse 360 degrees.
In 2016, General Dynamics debuted a vehicle called Griffin as its likely entrant for the MPF program. The design leverages a significant amount for the company’s existing experience, including the hull of the Ajax scout vehicle it is building for the British Army, a turret dervied from the one on the M1 Abrams containing the lightweight 120mm cannon it developed for the FCS project. Internally, the turret has many of the same systems and a nearly identical basic layout as the M1, too, which could reduce how much of an additional training regimen the Army would need to create to get troops qualified to operate the vehicle. The firm said the total package weighed approximately 28 tons.
Then there’s the much smaller team of defense contractor SAIC and Singapore’s ST Kinetics, or STK. The same partnership has already provided 16 Terrex 2 8x8 wheeled vehicles for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 program. For MPF, the plan is to provide a version of STK’s Next Generation Armored Fighting Vehicle (NGAFV) armed with the 105mm-gun armed Cockerill 3105 turret from CMI in Belgium. The exact weight of this configuration is unclear.
Lastly there is BAE Systems, which has put forward an upgraded version of its M8 Buford Armored Gun System (AGS), called the Expeditionary Light Tank. This vehicle, weighing in at less than 20 tons in its lightest configuration, also features a turreted 105mm cannon as its main weapon. BAE has already conducted low-level air-drop tests of this design, as well, but its unclear whether or not this is still a core MPF requirement.
"What it will not be capable of is a low-velocity air drop from a C-17," U.S. Army Major General Bassett said earlier in October 2017, according to the service's official report. "Protection and lethality requirements will probably make it heavier than what's acceptable for a C-17 air drop," U.S. Army Major General Bassett said earlier in October 2017.
There is always the possibility that additional competitors may submit bids after the final requirements become available. At the Association of the U.S. Army's main annual conference and exhibition earlier in October 2017, South Korean conglomerate Hanwha displayed a model of a design based on its K21 armored fighting vehicle that also uses the Cockerill 3105 turret.
In theory, adding any one of these vehicles to the Army’s infantry brigades and providing it air-landed option for airborne forces could increase the capability and flexibility of those forces. At present, the largest combat vehicle available to those units is a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee, with an M2 machine gun, Mk 19 grenade launcher, or TOW missile launcher.
These troops will eventually receive new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, but the armament options may very well be the same. The Army is considering adding a 30mm cannon to some of these 4x4 light trucks in certain units, but this would not have anywhere near the capability to blast fortifications or take on larger armored vehicles the service expects from MPF.
With a larger armored vehicle, light infantry and airborne units would have a more powerful answer to enemy forces with those own similar capabilities or hunkered down behind heavy cover, especially in urban areas. Advances in programmable, multi-purpose large caliber ammunition mean that the vehicles may even be able to take on many of these targets with just one type of shell.
As it stands now, these units must rely on M1 Abrams from nearby armored formations or air support to provide this type of capability, which might not always be forthcoming in a crisis. In addition, the M1 might not be able to navigate narrow streets, small bridges, or generally dense urban environments, especially those troops might regularly encounter during a conflict in Europe.
The MPF would be “essential to defeating local fortifications, point defenses, and blocking positions to maintain momentum,” the Army explained in a combat vehicle modernization white paper in 2015. “Without the combat vehicle, the infantry [brigade combat team] requires reinforcement with heavier armored vehicles for close combat against capable enemies.”
More pointedly, in 2016, the RAND Corporation estimated it would take heavy armored Russian forces less than a week to steamroll over American and other NATO forces in the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This was in no small part due to the lack of available anti-tank weaponry among friendly forces or vehicles protected to any serious degree against massed artillery fire.
Underscoring this potential threat, in September 2017, thousands of Russian and Belorussian troops took part in a massive exercise, called Zapad, or West, which occurs every four years. Though the Kremlin insisted it was purely defensive in nature, the goal was to demonstrate the capability of the two countries to conduct large scale operations across a wide area against a notional major opponent, which most experts assume is a stand-in for NATO.
So, the requirement for a system like MPF is definitely there. The only problem is whether there is a design that truly meets the Army’s requirements or whether it will have to water down its wish list, resulting in vehicle that has limited utility on any battlefield.
To drive the point home, there’s a reason why BAE Systems had a design that it could simply update in the first place. The basic MPF requirements sound very similar to those that led to the development of the original M8 in the 1990s. United Defense crafted the Buford before the Army cancelled the program ostensibly in response to post-Cold War budget cuts in 1996. In 2005, BAE bought the company.
But it was never clear that the AGS concept was truly workable. When it scrapped the project, the Army was facing criticism that the M8 was too vulnerable in its lightest configuration and at the same time too heavy and bulky to be air-dropped or fit inside a C-130 with the protection offered by its heaviest add-on armor package.
By the mid-1990s, the Army had already been struggling with what it really wanted from a light tank for more than three decades. The M8 was supposed to have been a direct replacement for the last such vehicle, the M551 Sheridan, which entered service in 1969.
The Sheridan itself remains a prime example of “feature creep” in weapon design, as engineers attempted to make an over-ambitious multi-purpose tracked vehicle to fill the job of an “armored reconnaissance/airborne assault vehicle” or AR/AAV for armored cavalry and airborne troops. The final M551 weighed just more than 15 tons, was supposed to be able to swim across rivers and lakes, and featured a futuristic and lightweight 152mm combined gun-and-missile launcher that was supposed to make up for the lack of space for a traditional tank cannon.
To fit this into a package that the Air Force could drop from a C-130, it had exceptionally little armor and could barely withstand the recoil of its main weapon. Firing the huge cannon had an above average chance of destroying the M551’s sensitive missile targeting system, as did dropping the vehicle out of an airplane, essentially defeating the entire purpose of using the combination weapon.
The vehicle had, at best, a mixed reception from cavalry soldiers who put it to use first in Vietnam. Its 152mm gun could fire a massive anti-personnel shell, but it was vulnerable to even light anti-tank weapons and had little if no real protection against land mines.
In 1989, the Air Force air-dropped 10 of them during the U.S. intervention in Panama, destroying two in the process. In 1991, the 82nd Airborne brought them to Iraq during the first Gulf War, where reportedly some of them actually employed their Shillelagh anti-tank missiles for the first and last times in combat. There is no indication that any of the vehicles killed any Iraqi T-55s or T-72s.
The M8 AGS was supposed to rectify the failings of the M551 and incorporate lessons learned from various experiments in unconventional vehicle design during the 1970s and 1980. During that period, the Army had explored lightweight vehicles with unmanned turrets, including that could elevate its main gun to fire from behind cover, and smaller, high velocity cannons.
As the AGS program progressed, though, the vehicles requirements grew and so did its size, a theme the Army ran into again with FCS and then GCV, the latter of which had ballooned to 84 tons, more than an M1 Abrams tank, before that project ended. The M8 project itself morphed into the much maligned wheeled Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) variant, which has weathered its own criticism of being too lightly armored, too heavy for widespread use, and unable to properly withstand the shock of firing its special medium-velocity 105mm cannon.
Contractors can and are seeking to use as many existing and off the shelf components to reduce the risk of delays and keep costs down, but these efforts can’t stop the laws of physics. With the relatively open-ended requirements and the need for MPF to protect against steadily emerging threats, including, but not limited to the proliferation of advanced, man-portable guided anti-tank missiles and small drones, the Army will have to keep a close eye on the MPF development to avoid more feature creep and weight growth.
With the Army already talking about add-on armor, one of the factors that doomed the Buford, protective features will be a particularly important consideration. The MPF competitors could choose to sacrifice passive armor in favor of an active protection system to help keep weight down. The Army is already buying Israel’s Trophy system for its M1 tanks and is considering lightweight versions of it, as well as other systems, for other vehicle types.
The Army might not be willing to give up too much conventional protection, though, since hard-kill defenses have a limited number of shots before they have to be reloaded, something best done off an active battlefield. There's always the danger that nearby troops could find themselves in the path of the intercepting projectiles, too. The service could always decide to accept different kinds of risk by relying more on active protection, something it has already suggested it is trying to convince tankers as part of the decision to add Trophy to its Abrams.
“There has to be a level of trust in whatever it is that you're trying [to use] to displace that passive armor,” U.S. Army Lieutenant General John Murray, Deputy Chief of Staff for Resource Management, told industry representatives in March 2017. The officer wasn't sure then that troops had real confidence in active protection.
An ammo-less system such as an electronic warfare system might be a better solution, but Jammers might not have the same effect on all incoming projectiles or could block friendly communications or other systems. Combining electronic warfare equipment with an active protection arrangement could help mitigate their individual disadvantages, but both would still have risks for nearby troops. New training and tactics could reduce the chances of any sort of friendly fire.
The use of lightweight composite materials for portions of the vehicle’s construction or the employment of a similarly compact hybrid propulsion system its with reduced fuel requirements could free up trade space, as well, if the MPF final requirements call for defensive or other systems. Again, though, many of the applicable technologies are relatively young, especially in terms of their utility on an armored vehicle for use in a combat scenario.
With the Army insisting on such an aggressive schedule, we won’t have to wait long to see if the prototypes stay relatively the same shape once BAE, General Dynamics, and SAIC and ST Kinetics get their hands on the final requirements.
Recently, Donut Mediahas been releasing weekly videos for their series Everything You Need to Know | Up to Speed featuring a back story on enthusiasts' favorite cars and brands, but before they started that series they had an Evolution video series. The videos in the Evolution series were simple, they picked an enthusiast's car and started with the first variant of it. You then slowly see that model mold over time into the car you see today with some specs on what changed year-to-year sprinkled in. Donut Media recently released a new video for that Evolution series on the Honda Civic.
The video starts with the 1973 Honda Civic SB and takes you through the different generations touching on milestones such as the 1985 Honda Civic 1500 Si AT which was the first Civic with Sports Injection (Si), the 1997 Honda Civic Type-R which was the first Type-R Civic, and the 2016 Honda Civic Type-R which has bought the Type-R hype back to the United States.
Toyota is looking to reduce the weight of its battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles, while also boosting their performance. Although the technology is not ready to be commercially used as of yet, the Japanese automaker is beating others to the punch.
"Airless tires contribute to greater safety and peace of mind in transportation by freeing the driver from worries about punctures and the trouble of having to manage tire pressure.” Sumitomo wrote in an official statement, adding that other Japanese carmakers are interested in its airless tires as well.
According to Chief Engineer Takao Sato, this is the first time the brand is using airless tires on any vehicle in its fleet (or future fleet). These wheels feature individual motors in each and are comprised of a band of rubber that goes around the plastic-aluminum hub. Because of this construction, the Sumitomo tires could compensate for the weight of the motors, he said.
At this point in time, the concept tires weigh around the same as its pneumatic tire. Sato is determined, however, to reduce the weight by about 11 pounds, or 30 percent, from each tire by the year 2025. Sumitomo Rubber Industries has been testing these wheels mostly on minicars and golf carts. The company did come forth saying that other Japanese car brands are interested in these tires for EVs. Head of the Airless Tire Project, Wako Iwamura, explained that his personal target is to have a commercial product ready for the market within the next three years.
Apart from making a lighter tire, Iwamura seeks to overcome the challenge that is known as rolling resistance, basically friction. He estimates that it is somewhere between 10 percent and 20 percent worse than the current pneumatic tires, which is a clear negative for those cars using every bit of their driving range from their lithium-ion batteries.
Sumitomo is not the first to dive into the airless tire arena, as Bridgestone and Michelin already have a product available for machinery and recreational vehicles. While the technology has not been tested or proven on passenger cars, the manufacturers are looking to ensure the public that they are safe to use and should be welcomed.
Iwamura says that consumers can rest assured their wallets won't ache. These airless tires should cost about the same as those filled with air. You can expect to pay the same, while possibly gaining something at that.
Good news for VTEC-crazed engine swappers, Honda is making the most powerful production engine it's ever sold in America available as a crate engine. Yes, you can now own a Civic Type R engine completely on its own. No ridiculous wings, no outrageous dealer markups (that we know of), no actual car. Just the heart. First person to throw this into a Dodge Demon wins all of the internet points.
The mill in question is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in the new, critically acclaimed, and questionably-styled, hot Honda Civic. Officially known as the K20C1, it produces 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. Targeted toward racers of both the amateur and professional variety, the à la carte engine will be sold by the HPD Honda Racing Line program and carry a price tag of $6,520.
For the first time, stateside VTEC enthusiasts will be able to drop Honda's latest and greatest powerplant into, well, anything that'll fit it, really. Factory-turbocharged EK9 hatch? An inevitability, at this point. Want to shove this into a new, base hatch for a DIY Type R? The dealers can't mark this one up, that's for sure. Put a piece of glass on it and call it a coffee table? We sure hope you like being single.
After meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the South Korean government has announced its intention to buy more “high tech capabilities” from the United States for its military, continue its own long-range missile development programs, and expand strategic cooperation with the U.S. military to improve the country’s defenses against North Korea.
The statements came amid persisting heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and it's unclear as ever whether these new announcements are more likely to restrain the Hermit Kingdom or provoke premier Kim Jong-un into making new threats or taking more provocative action.
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo revealed these defense priorities at a shared press conference with Secretary Mattis in the country’s capital Seoul on Oct. 27, 2017. Mattis and Dunford had arrived in South Korea on Oct. 26, 2017 for a series of high profile meetings with their counterparts in the country, also known as the Republic of Korea (ROK) regarding how to approach the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s provocative ballistic missile and nuclear weapons tests and subsequent threats.
“First and foremost, the ROK and U.S. government condemn in the strongest terms the reckless provocation by North Korea, including the six nuclear tests and the multiple ballistic missile launches,” Song said through a translator. “We have agreed to continue supporting the diplomatic efforts by the Korean and U.S. governments to denuclearize North Korea and back up our government's efforts with firm ROK-U.S. combined defense posture.”
The bulk of what Song discussed in the rest of the press briefing is necessarily not new. On Sept. 4, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke on the phone following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, the detonation of a thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb.
According to an official White House readout of the chat, the two leaders discussed increasing their shared military capabilities, renegotiating the limits on South Korea’s missile development work, and “many billions of dollars’ worth” of future arms sales. But Song’s remarks did add new and important context.
Most notably, the top South Korean defense official said that discussions about the deployment of unspecified U.S. military “strategic assets” to the country and the Pacific region as a whole included examining “the implementation of extended deterrents and commitments.” As it stands now, the United States already includes South Korea in its so-called “extended deterrence” posture, which places it under the protective umbrella of America’s nuclear arsenal.
With North Korea rapidly expanding its own nuclear weapons capability and the necessary delivery systems, it’s understandable that South Korea would want to review the situation and make sure the threat of a massive American retaliation is as credible as ever. In addition, given the close proximities involved, it could be difficult, if not impossible for the United States to launch a nuclear response before North Korean missiles hit their targets in the South. Earlier in October 2017, the U.S. Air Force walked back a report that it was exploring the possibility of putting nuclear-armed bombers back on 24/7 alert, in part because of growing concerns over the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
As such, authorities in Seoul could easily be interested in discussing just what options might exist for a preemptive or preventative strike and when it might be politically and legally possible to put those plans into action. The United States, importantly, does not have a “no first use” policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons, leaving open the possibility of responding with these devastating weapons in response to a conventional crisis. We at The War Zone have already written a detailed look at how the U.S. military might go about launching a nuclear strike, thanks to documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, which you can find here.
However, both the United States and South Korea have deniedor deflected that there are any serious discussions about the U.S. military to redeploying nuclear weapons to South Korea itself, at least on a permanent basis. It is possible that rotating "strategic assets" could include actual weapons on bombers or changes to the top secret patrol patterns of ballistic missile submarines.
American officials ordered the last remaining stockpiles of nuclear weapons removed from US bases on the Peninsula in 1991. Defense Minister Song did say reintroducing the weapons was something worth looking at in Sept. 2017 and Mattis confirmed they had talked about it later that month.
However, there have been reports in South Korea that the U.S. military is considering deploying B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to South Korea on a rotating basis and a B-2 made an apparent flight to and from Guam while Mattis and Dunford met with their counterparts in Seoul. The U.S. Air Force has also announced plans to begin rotational deployments of the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter to Japan beginning in November 2017.
These would be the kind of aircraft that would most likely fly the opening missions of any actual strike against North Korea. And unlike the B-1 Bone bombers that have been a key feature in shows of force in the region, the B-2 is capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Earlier in October 2017, the U.S. Navy revealed that it would have three aircraft carrier strike groups in the Western Pacific for the first time since 2011. Aircraft carriers have long been one of, if not the most eminently visible display of American military power.
Theodore Roosevelt, one of the three carriers that will be operating in the Pacific Ocean in November 2017, replenishes at sea in October 2017." />
"This was a unique opportunity for – to show that the U.S., the only power in the world that can demonstrate that kind of presence, and a unique, you know, opportunity for them to be together,” Joint Staff Director U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said during a press conference on Oct. 26, 2017. “It does demonstrate a unique and powerful capability that has a very significant assurance effect on our allies in the Western Pacific,” he noted later in the briefing.
Earlier in 2017, the Navy put the USS Carl Vinson and her strike group off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. On Oct. 21, 2017, the USS Ronald Reaganmade a visit to the South Korean port city of Busan.
In his own remarks from South Korea, General Dunford was also keen to stress that there are no new plans to increase the number of bombers, ships, or other assets assigned to the Pacific region and that the number of assets in the area are essentially “fixed.” “What’s not fixed is the manner in which we integrate all those … things. So when do we do it? What pattern do we show?”
Ronald Reagan sits in Busan harbor in South Korea on Oct. 21, 2017." />
High tech weaponry
But South Korea seems intent on expanding its own long-range arsenal to hold North Korea at threat without necessarily needing American support. When asked about what “higher end weaponry” South Korea wanted to buy, Song specifically and exclusively about long-range missiles.
Earlier in October 2017, the South Korean Army had unveiled a plan to launch a huge missile barrage against the North during the opening stages of any conflict on the Korean Peninsula. That concept relies almost entirely on domestically designed short-range ballistic and cruise missiles, which South Korea is developing with significant help from the United States.
At present, the two countries have an deal in which South Korea agrees not to develop missiles able to fly more than 500 miles or carry a warhead larger than 1,100 pounds in exchange for technical military assistance. Trump and Moon’s have tentatively agreed to change those restrictions amid reports that the South Koreans have already started the basic development work on a new long-range ballistic missile, referred to as Hyunmoo-4.
There is also the very likely possibility that the South Korean Navy will include a ballistic missile capability in its upcoming Jangbogo III-class diesel electric submarines, as well as retrofit such a system onto some of its existing boats. The ability to produce longer range missiles with larger payload capacity would only give South Korea’s military more flexibility in positioning and employing any future sub-launched ballistic missile capability.
And while Song did not mention it specifically, much of what is known about South Korea’s plans to respond to a crisis with North Korea rely heavily on having the best possible picture of where the bulk of North’s nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and long-range artillery are positioned at any particular time. In September 2016, the South Korean government had announced a three-tier operational concept, starting with “Kill Chain,” a surgical strike using land-, sea-, and air-launched ballistic and cruise missiles to try and neutralize an imminent North Korean threat.
A constellation of five spy satellites, which South Korea hopes to have in orbit by 2023, along with high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, able to peer into the North from a stand-off distance using various long-range sensors, were an essential component of Kill Chain. The South Korean Air Force expects to receive its first two Global Hawks in 2018, followed by another pair the next year.
Unfortunately, South Korea has also revealed that there was a massive breach of its military computer networks by North Korean hackers around the time Kill Chain – and the two other tiered responses, known as the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) – became public knowledge. Kim Jong-un’s spies likely compromised the specifics of those plans when they stole some 235 gigabytes of sensitive military documents.
But the missile attack plan the South Korean Army described earlier in October 2017 suggests that the core concept remains largely unchanged from Kill Chain. So, it is possible that Song and Mattis explored how the U.S. government could facilitate the acquisition of additional or new intelligence gathering or other assets to make sure the breach would not limit South Korea ability to respond in a crisis. It seems almost certain that discussions about cyber security enhancements for both South Korean forces and shared U.S.-ROK command and control assets would have been on the agenda.
Although Song appeared to deflect a question about ballistic missile defense, something that may have been lost in translation, the South Korean military is undoubtedly keen to expand its capabilities in this regard. Japan is already looking to purchase the Aegis Ashore system and the U.S. Army recently finished setting up its first Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea.
It would be hard to imagine that the Trump administration wouldn’t offer South Korea the option of purchasing its own THAAD systems, including the long range AN/TYP-2 radar, as well as becoming a bigger partner in the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system’s continued development. In the past, South Korea has been wary of becoming more closely integrated in such projects for fear of responses from China, which sees the deployment of these defenses on the Korean Peninsula as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent.
North Korea’s rapid development of newer and more capable ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons seem to be steadily changing that calculus for both parties. The South Koreans could opt to focus on something such as the SM-6 surface-to-air missile system, which is less capable against ballistic missile threats, but increasingly versatile nonetheless, or a similar domestically produced weapon, such as the Korean Medium Surface to Air Missile (KM-SAM), as lower cost and potentially less provocative options, as well.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is also working on developing a laser-armed drone to try and destroy ballistic missiles during their initial boost phase. South Korea might be especially interested in such a capability given how close North Korea's likely launch sites are to its own territory.
Of course, both the United States and the South Koreans will have to weight their choices in implementing these new agreements against whether or not they expect their decisions are more likely to provoke Kim Jong-un to action rather than deter him. As we at The War Zone note routinely, threats, regardless of how American and South Korean officials couch them, feed into North Korea’s massive propaganda machine and confirm the pariah regime’s paranoid fears of an imminent attack or outside attempts to assassinate its leadership.
“What kinds of things have proven to cause [Kim Jong-un] to be concerned? What kinds of things do we believe have actually deterred him from doing things in the past?” Dunford said during his remarks in South Korea. “What things maybe exacerbate a crisis or perhaps have, you know, been counterproductive?”
Since September 2017, the North Koreans have threatened to shoot down U.S. bombers and other combat aircraft during shows of force and suggested they could launch ballistic missiles near Guam or conduct an unprecedented atmosphere nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean. North Korea’s state media reiterated its own deterrent threat in response to reports stemming from Song’s talk of extended deterrence.
“The DPRK is a world nuclear power equipped with powerful capability for preemptive nuclear strike and counterstrike,” North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial. “Tragic is the fact that the U.S. does not know that its plan on ‘limited nuclear war’ for preemptive attack on the DPRK will be a self-destructive option hastening the final end of the empire of evil.”
North Korea might decide to conduct another provocative missile or nuclear weapons test to coincide with Trump’s Asian tour in November 2017. The American president has already made a number of charged off-the-cuff comments about the continuing crisis, including vague threats of “fire and fury” and dubbing Kim “Little Rocket Man.”
“The United States does not accept a nuclear North Korea.” Secretary of Defense Mattis said himself alongside his South Korean counterpart on Oct. 27, 2017. “Make no mistake any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated. Any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming.”
With the new military cooperation agreements, the U.S. and South Korean governments have shown their resolve is as strong as ever, but so far Kim has made equally clear his willingness to defy this sort of international pressure.
There are countless reasons to save it for the track, but even if you're too self-involved to care about public safety, the thought of mucking it up and crashing in front of everyone on the road (and in many cases, on the internet) to see should keep some of your more reckless impulses at bay. That's why this video of a BMW driver whipping through a crowded highway at high speeds before losing it and wrecking is so very satisfying—there's no guilt mixed in with the schadenfreude, because in the end he only takes himself out.
It's a fact of life that there are certain stereotypes attached to drivers of certain brands, and while there are BMW drivers who stick to the speed limit and use their turn signals, this guy isn't doing anything for the cause. He appears to have mounted a Go Pro-style camera to the sunroof of his E46 3 Series to record a high-speed, highly illegal jaunt down a public road. Starting at around 30 seconds, he merges onto a two-lane divided highway with no shoulder and absolutely floors it, weaving between cars at around 90 mph.
But as he pushes it past 100, he changes lanes too sharply to avoid traffic and immediately begins to spin. He careens across the road, striking the guardrail on both sides and narrowly missing another car before sliding harmlessly to a stop. Compounding his idiocy is the fact that he's not wearing a seatbelt, so he's incredibly lucky the first impact didn't toss him into the passenger's seat and cause him to lose control entirely.
Remember: If you do a stupid thing in a car and record it, we will point at you and laugh. It's the way of the Internet.