In early December, the United States Air Force and aerospace giant Northrop Grumman pulled back the curtain on the B-21 Raider, the future long-range strategic bomber that is now set to enter service by the end of the decade. It will serve alongside the current fleet of B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and B-52 Stratofortress bombers as it enters service, and in the next decade will replace the aging B-1Bs and B-2s, and eventually be America’s sole workhorse for delivery of strategic ordnance.
It was among the most high-profile weapons systems to get its moment in the spotlight in 2022, but several other weapon platforms were announced this year that will soon be in the U.S. military’s arsenal.
New Small Arms for the American Warfighter
This year, the U.S. Army announced that it had selected Sig Sauer to produce the M5/M250 rifle and automatic rifle that are replacing respectively the M4 carbine and M249 Squad Assault Weapon (SAW). This will be the first substantial change to U.S. military small arms since the adoption of the M16 in 1964.
Unlike the M4 and M249, which were two distinct firearms, the M5 and M250 are essentially the same weapons – but in two different sizes to meet different needs on the battlefield. Both weapons will be chambered for the newly developed 6.8mm cartridge.
T-7A Advanced Pilot Training System
Though it is aircraft such as the aforementioned B-21 and fighters like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II that get the lion’s share of attention, for most military pilots it begins in the cockpit of a trainer. In April, the U.S. Air Force announced that the first T-7A Red Hawk training aircraft had rolled off the production line at the Boeing Defense, Space & Security building at Lambert International Airport.
It was the first of a planned 351 aircraft to be delivered to the Air Force under terms of a $9.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018. The aircraft, along with simulators and associated ground equipment, will replace the Air Education and Training Command’s aging fleet of T-38C Talon aircraft.
Production models sport the iconic “Red Tail” symbol that was on the aircraft flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen during the Second World War, while the Red Hawk name was derived from the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk – which was among the fighters flown by those African-American pilots. Attending the April ceremony to mark the production of the first T-7A was Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. George Hardy.
MH-139A Grey Wolf Helicopter
After what had been more than a year’s long delay, Boeing also delivered the first four MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters to the United States Air Force in August, after the aircraft was finally certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The Grey Wolf is based on the commercial AW139, made by Italian-based Leonardo, and it had previously been evaluated by Europe’s civil aviation safety authority. Yet, Boeing was still required to obtain the FAA certification before the helicopter could be delivered to the Air Force for evaluation.
The rotary aircraft has been touted as a modern, versatile helicopter that could offer greater range, speed, and endurance than the UH-1N Huey it will eventually replace. The Air Force expects to buy a total of 80 MH-139A helicopters over the next decade.
AMPV – Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle
On the ground, the U.S. Army will receive the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), the replacement for the M113 Family of Vehicles (FoV). It will be produced in five variants, including a General Purpose model that will accommodate a crew of two and carry an additional six passengers. Fitted with a variety of communications and battle management systems, it will also be reconfigurable to carry a litter or mount crew-served weapons.
The Mortar Carrier will accommodate two mortar crew members, one mounted 120mm mortar and 69 rounds of 120mm ordnance. It will be equipped with communications and fire control systems.
The Mission Command variant has been described as the cornerstone of the Army’s ABCT Network Modernization Strategy. It is intended to take advantage of increased size, weight, power, and cooling technology and provide a significant increase in command, control, communications, and computer capability. This AMPV variant will accommodate a driver and commander along with two workstation operators, and its red side network provides full Tactical Command Post capabilities at brigade and battalion levels.
Two specific medical variants will also be produced. These include the Medical Evacuation model, which will include room for three crew members, six ambulatory patients or four litter patients or three ambulatory and two litter patients, and storage for medical equipment. In addition, the Medical Treatment variant would include room for four crew members, one litter patient, and a patient treatment table.