30 May 2012

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The EM-33 Plasma Pistol from Star Trek: Enterprise


During the original run of Star Trek: Enterprise, I was interested in the original pistol of the NX-01 Enterprise, the plasma DEW EM-33. Here is the ficitional history of the EM-33 that I wrote in 2005.


The Earth Military-33 Plasma Pistol



Introduction

The iconic weapon of the UFP Starfleet is undoutable the Phaser, and seems that it was always that way. However, in the beginning years of Starfleet, the standard sidearm was the large framed plasma EM-33 pistol. It also service in the United Earth government the Earth Military, Earth Cargo Authority (ECA), from 2133 to the mid-2160s. The name EM-33 refers to the year of being adopted by the United Earth military, 2133, and the EM stands for Earth Military.




Technical Data

This semi-automatic pistol fires bolt of superheated ionized hydrogen gas enveloped by a electromagnetic sabot in the size of 12mm with a capacity of some 40 bolts. Its effective or “kill” range is 150 meters; however, the overall range is 320 meters, with lessened kinetic impact power at the upper range. Within the effective range of 150 meters, a single bolt is able melt .15 meters of harden steel. In the normal combat range of less than 20 meters, the effective penetration doubles. Development of the EM-33 was by Heckler and Koch (H&K) weapons research labs on the Martian colony, and was manufactured by H&K Company factories in Germany on Terra.



Early History of the EM-33

By the 22nd century, Terra was fully recovery from the devastation of the 3rd World War, with help from the Vulcan High Command. The old nation-states of Terra were united under one government, and slow expansion with off-world inter-solar system colonies. Exo-solar system deep space exploration and colonization, such as Vega colony were hampered by limited low warp factors; even so, a small group of people called “Space Boomers” had been extending Terra’s knowledge through long-haul cargo shipments in low-warp vessels.
However, the small United Earth military space fleet did not go much beyond the Sol system for these Space Boomers to protect themselves as best they could with relatively chemically propelled kinetic energy and laser beam pistols, while their starships carried heavier early plasma weapon technology.
The drive to develop stronger offensive weaponry was nonexistent, due Terra’s limited contact with other races outside of the Vulcans, especially hostile ones. However, Earth Cargo Authority personal far from home, did have their run-ins with alien pirates and double-crossing contractors. Their reports back to the ECA HQ back on Terra requested more advanced personal energy weapons. Heeding the “Space Boomers” call, the Earth Military announced in 2127, for a companies to submit entries for a contract for a plasma-based rifle and pistol. In the same year, the Heckler and Koch weapons research labs on Mars was working on a prototype personal plasma weapon system, called internally known as the Mark-27.
By 2131 the entries for the pistol military contact were tested in harsh conditions on Terra, Mars, and on the extreme off-world conditions of Titan. The winner of the contact was the H&K Mark-27. The company went back and made some improvements that were requested by the military, and in 2133, the EM-33 plasma pistol entered service with the Terran military, Starfleet, ECA, and was adopted by many police departments.

Mechanics of the EM-33

Like most plasma-based DEW systems, the H&K EM-33 utilizes a miniaturized magnetic containment bottle near the rear of the pistol’s upper frame. Stored normally is slush hydrogen fuel in a magnetic status. These bottles are not mated with the EM-33 frame until needed, until then; these magnetic bottles are kept in tightly regulated conditions to prevent accidentally plasma detonation.
When needed, the EM-33 is loaded with the bottle, and to be used, a safely switch is clicked to engage a series of lasers to super-heat the cold slush hydrogen fuel to plasma gas, which is about several thousand degrees, the magnetic bottle and a computer system keeps the process in check to prevent overheating and/or explosions.
When the trigger is pulled, a series of events occur in a split-second: a measured amount of slush fuel is released into another chamber, were lasers excite the hydrogen to a gaseous state, at optima temperature, around 4500 degrees, as been reached; the superheated ionized hydrogen gas is injected into the barrel assembly.
Within the barrel assembly, the stream of plasma is formed into cohesive bolt and propelled by powerful electromagnets down the barrel at every-accelerating velocity of somewhere within the several thousand meters per second area. During this an EM sabot is formed around the bolt to prevent the electrons of the superheat ionized-gas from scattering, destroying the cohesion of the bolt. Only the velocity and this EM sabot keep the bolt in a cohesive, lethal state. However, the EM sabot is only temporary, shortening the range of the EM-33 to around 150 meters.


Effectiveness of the EM-33

Plasma weapons have a terrible effect on organic matter; this is due to the super-high heats that are generated by a plasma bolt. When an organic target is impacted by a bolt, kinetic damage is suffered from the semi-solid bolt, but also massive thermal damage from the interior fluid of organic matter. Blood, water, lipids, and other bodily fluids are super-heated in a matter of moments, which results in rapid expansion of these fluids which can cause the organic target to explode in a pink mist. However, with the smaller caliber bolts, like the EM-33 12mm bolt, can generate localized third-degree burns with cauterization of the impact site. Often a plasma bolt impact site on inorganic matter is a blacken hole with a charred zone around it with pin point ‘spatter’ holes dotted the outside.
Even near-misses were considered deadly to the target due to the 4500 degree 12mm bolts, causing third-degree burns. This allowed MACO operators were trained to use the super-heat of the EM-33’s bolt as a less-than-lethal option
Unfortunately, an unlucky shot by an enemy can cause the hydrogen slush containment bottle to explode, killing the owner. The EM-33 upper rail containment bottle holds enough hydrogen fuel for about 40 bolts, and must be recharged under certain conditions. For extended in-field use or combat operations, recharging the EM-33 required spare containment bottles, which placed the operator at risk of a (un)luck strike at the ammunition pouch setting a lethal fire. To counter this, H&K outsourced spare bottle pouch specially constructed to offer short-term thermal flare-up.


Deployment History

For much of the EM-33’s core deployment years: 2133-2151, the weapon was not used in a formal war, the bulk of the combat experience of the pistol was acquired by ECA personal, police officers, and the MACO Special Operations Force. For the most part, the weapon’s core years of deployment were quiet.
By the 2140's, the EM-33 was serving on every ECA vessel, on the street with the police officers on Terra and off, and with nascent Starfleet.
At this time, the United Earth Government developed Starfleet, which was a combination of a space navy, space exploration and science service, staring some responsibilities with the United Earth Space Probe Agency.  All of the space-going combat vessels of the Terran navy were turned over to Starfleet Command, and with this, the EM-33 became the official sidearm of Starfleet. 
However, in 2145, the planetary governor of Vega colony was headed back fromTerra , when her Starfleet transport vessel was attacked by Nausicaan raider, who were common in the area.  Several Intrepid class heavy cruisers were deployed to the distress signal, but the Earth vessel was found empty.  
While the Vuclan High Command attempted negations with the alien pirates, the United Earth behind the Vulcans back,  mobilized an MACO  assault/rescue team. When the location of the Nausicaan terrorist base was learned by Starfleet via Section 31, the Intrepid class heavy cruiser USS-Jackson with 20 MACOS was sent to rescue the colonial governor. This successful rescue operation was visually recorded, and released to the public news media back on Terra, the footage showed the H&K built EM-33 pistol and the new EM-41 plasma rifle in action, this became the EM-33’s finest hour, and one the most tense epsiodes between the Vulcans and the United Earth.


The NX class and the Warp-5 Project

When the UESPA Warp 5 project  was began, its aim was to extend the range of Terran starships to explore and colonize, however, the Vulcan High Command viewed as a threat to both Terra and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. However, the Vulcans became much more vocal about the dangers of deep space exploration when the keel of the NX class exploration cruiser was laid in 2149. With mankind on the verge of deep space, the Vulcan High Command warned Starfleet Command on the dangers of carrying weapons like the EM-33 with them. The Vulcans had never liked the large plasma pistol, calling it “too offensive”, “a blunt tool of violence”, and “ancient symbol of cowboys”. Primarily, the Vulcans were concerned, that when force was used by Starfleet personal with their EM-33 pistols on a newly discovered race, that the damage that the pistol could infect could start an “intergalactic incident”. The Vulcans informed Starfleet Command that the EM-33 would place any landing party during a first contact situation in danger. The weapon was “too large” and “projected an air of aggression”, the Vulcans said. Their recommendation was for a development of a new direct-energy weapon (DEW) system, one that was fitted with a “less lethal” munition. To counter the Vulcans recommendations, Starfleet informed them that Terra did not possess the technology for a DEW system that fired both lethal and non-lethal energies.


The Wilson Energies Limited 001 series Phase Pistol

In mid-2149, Starfleet Command requested defense companies to submit DEW systems with non-lethal energies ability, while the United Earth Military and the ECA did not want the new weapon systems; they felt the non-lethal system would compromise the combat effectiveness of the weapon.
In addition, most of the defense companies stated the new dual energy DEW weapons would be expensive. The only company to come in with a design on budget and on time was the small Wilson Energies Limited company from North Carolina, North America, on Terra. Wilson Energies Limited did have on contract with Starfleet, for the much unloved Class III Close Quarters Plasma Carbine, developed for the limited space within a starship. However, Wilson Energies Limited is primarily known for its industrial mining lasers, used mostly on the Luna mining colonies. The Wilson-001 series Phase Pistol was much different than the H&K EM-33. The pistol was smaller, and featured a rechargeable and swappable energy cell. The weapon fires a stream of Rapid Nadions, which are limited-life subatomic particles that are used in a pulse-like form disrupting cellular functions via thermal/EM damage in the “Kill” setting. The “stun” setting is used to temporary disruption of the central nervous system (CNS), to immobilize the target, and cause a “black-out” effect. The Wilson-001 Phase Pistol RN-energy stream allows for the shooter to direct a narrow beam of energy on a target for longer periods of time than the very short-term effects of a plasma bolt. This is helpful in cutting operations, or heating an object, or defeating personal body armor. Starfleet was impressed with the Phase Pistol and official adopted the sidearm in 2151. However, Starfleet was the only Terran organization to buy the Phase Pistol in large numbers; several police departments had ordered a few.
Starfleet was able to afford such numbers of the pistol via a funding grant by the Vulcan High Command. It is rumored in the Terran defense company circles, that Wilson Energies Limited was helped by Vulcan technology provided by the Vulcan High Command. The pride of Starfleet, the NX-01 Enterprise only carried 15 of these units until 2152.
One of the reasons cited for the sea change from the EM-33 to the Phase Pistol, was due to the during combat engagements, when the EM-33experienced rapid firing conditions, the ramping up of the slush hydrogen feeding and the laser vaporization systems often suffered from inconstancy in regards to the size of the bolt, the strength of the EM sabot, which all effected range and point-of-impact lethality. There was nothing that could be done about this issue at the time, simply put; Terran technology was unable to improve this issue with plasma-based DEW. The Wilson Energies Limited 001-Series Phase Pistol suffered none of these; the emitter monitors the beam output for ramping issues, keeping the output clean

Late History of the EM-33


With losing the Starfleet contract for their EM-33, Heckler and Koch set about to design an EM-33 that could fire a non-lethal energy, to protect the future of their military and police contracts. In 2152, the H&K R&D labs on Mars had developed an EM-33 that fired a charge of 150,000 volts through the barrel emitter on the EM pistol model, the same technology as mounted onto the EM-41 rifle. This much more limited than the Wilson Energies Limited 001 series Phase Pistol. These were known as the EM-33A1 and the E-41A1. The EM-33 plasma pistol was phased out slowly by the Terran military and the ECA throughout the 2150’s. However, during the Romulan Wars (2156-2160), the mass mobilization of Terran armed forces outstripped the supply of Phase Pistols, causing the older EM-33/EM-33A1 were broken out of storage for use by Starfleet and United Earth military units. Once the Romulan Wars were over in 2160, so was the use of the EM-33 and EM-33A1, by this time, the upgraded Wilson Energies Limited 002 series Phase Pistol was in wide deployment.

The Assault Phaser: the 23rd Century EM-33?

By the 2280's, Starfleet In response, Admiral Nogura pushed for development of a hand-held combined phaser pistol that could preform both offensive and defensive actions with equal effectiveness, and featured 'hot-swap' power cells, thus increasing its tactical depth. Support was not forthcoming from the traditional circles within Starfleet, and the project looked dead, until Adrimal Cartwright and Colonel West, along with Captain Kirk added their support, allowing for the new offensive phaser project to be pushed forward. Colonel West, during the backroom discussions on the Assault Phaser, connected the old EM-33 large-framed Plasma Pistol to the modern Assault Phaser. Wilson Arms Limited, in parentership with a Zaranite weapon research firm, answered the call, due to Adrmal Nogura eyeing a complete wholesale replacement of the all Federation's stock of previous phaser-II models, which could have ended the very existence of Wilson Arms Limited. In 2286, Captain Kirk and his head of security, Pavel Chekov, pushed for the new Enterprise-A to be the first Federation starship to have its armory filled with the new Wilson Assault Phaser, this forged a tread throughout the fleet, causing the Assault Phaser to be the fashionable weapon for security personal and Away teams by the time of the Camp Khitomer in 2293.   

The Colonel Patrick West Collection

Every future historian that researches the mid-22nd centuries wholes a debt of gratitude to the Colonel Patrick West (2243-2293). In the entries on Federation history, longtime hawkish Starfleet officer and brilliant diplomatic and military strategist, Colonel Patrick West is forever tied to the Camp Khitomer Conspiracy, tarnishing his sterling record. Colonel West's involvement in those events of 2293, overshadowed his accomplishments with the Office of Strategic Planning and being  a noted collector of artifacts associated with the MACOs. At the time of his death in 2293, he had the largest collection of MACO artifacts in the Federation. After this death, his widow, Mary, donated his entire collection to the Fleet Museum in San Diego, save for two of his finest examples of the iconic EM-33 pistols. One was given another noted collection of Earth artifacts, Captain James T. Kirk and Admiral Harry Morrow. In a odd twist of fate, artifacts, namely the disruptor sniper rifle used at Khitomer Conference by Colonel West is on display along with his private MACO collection, demonstrating duality of this complex Starfleet officer.


Writer's Notes

The fictional arms company, Wilson Energies Limited comes from the non-canon FASA Star Trek: The Next Generation that was published around 1987, but was ordered pulled off the market by Paramount. Wilson Energies Limited was the manufacturer of the Phasers on the Enterprise-D, even a very cool phaser rifle, the Mark-VII. I used the real-world Hecker and Koch company because I loved H&K, but also, the EM-33 reminds me of the Mark 23 SOCOM offensive pistol. The partner company of Wilson for the development of the Assault Phaser, the Zaranite laser firm is from the background alien race that as been in canon Star Trek works since the 1979 movie, and a racial profile was featured in the FASA Star Trek: IV Sourcebook Update. I including the section on the Assault Phaser because I felt that was a style connection between the two weapons.

24 May 2012

FWS Topics: TIER-1 Special Operations Units


We are experts in the application of violence...We possess the mindset and will to do what is necessary...we are Tier-1. That was the dialog spoken in the first real trailer for the reboot of  the Medal of Honor video game series, and since then, the term 'TIER-1' as been associated with American Special Operations units like DELTA Force and SEAL Team Six. Now that a sequel to the 2010 epic video game is being dropped in October where TIER-1 units work together in task forces made up of various global Special Mission Units (SMU), the term TIER-1 will further enter into the common lexicon. But, what does TIER-1 mean and how does it apply to the black operations unit, and what units fall under the banner of TIER-1?
FWS will explore TIER-1 and show examples in science-fiction.

What does TIER-1 really mean?
I will freely admit that prior to the 2010 Medal of Honor, I'd never heard of the term TIER-1 associated with the more elite Special Forces units of the United States. At first, before I played Medal of Honor, I believed that Danger Close had coined a new term for an black operations group patterned after DELTA or DEVGRU, but then I played it and believe falsely that TIER-1 was a USSOCOM rating system for Special Operations groups, and it made sense that DEVGRU and DELTA were TIER-1. It was not until I began research on the topic for this very blogpost that I learned the truth from  http://sofrep.com/, and few other sites. It seems that TIER-ONE is not a rating system, like grading of beef, but a SOCCOM funding system, it just so happens that DELTA and DEVGRU fall under the top level of funding. Other groups within that same title of TIER-ONE is the Intelligence Support Activity (AKA GREY FOX), the Air Force's Combat Controllers and Parajumpers, along with the elite Joint Medical Augmentation Unit (JMAU) that medically supports JSOC activities. All of these units work together under JSOC with mixed teams, like Task Force 145 in Iraq when Al-Zarqawi was killed on June 7th, 2006, and ODA teams during the first days of operations in Afghanistan.

DELTA Force and SEAL Team Six: same kind of different?
When news broke about the death of UBL at the hands of TIER-1 special operators, most of us, including myself, believed it was unit similar to Task Force 121 or 145 that had been hunting in Iraq for HVTs. But, upon learning that it was Red squadron from DEVGRU, I was confused on why the SEALS got the mission over DELTA, and how similar these two TIER-1 groups were. So, I read an article over at  http://sofrep.com/, and learned the similarities and differences between DELTA and DEVGRU. The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) known global as DELTA Force and now CAG was formed in 1977, while SEAL TEAM Six, now known as DEVGRU was formed in 1980. The two units were both created by two Vietnam War veterans that were known for their outspoken visionary nature, DELTA had their Colonel Charging Charlie Beckwith and ST6 had Richard "Dick" Marcinko. Beckwin had based large amounts of DELTA on the British SAS whom he served with during an exchange program in the 1960's. Both units have their identities forged in the failed attempted resuce of American hostages OPERATION EAGLE CLAW. While DELTA and Beckwith were directly involved with the operation, Richard Marcinko was part of the naval team consulting on the aborted mission at the Pentagon. In the aftermath, Marcinko lead the charge for his idea to form a special unit within the SEALs for maritime counter terrorism (boats, cruise ships, and oil platforms).
Both of the TIER-1 units have similar organizations, DELTA has around three quadrons of 75 operators that are named A through C, while ST6 uses colors, Red, Blue, Gold, Silver are all assault units, while Grey is Recon, and Black is the boat team, and the training troop is Green. One of the major areas where CAG and DEVGRU differ is in selection. The bulk of recruits into the fold of CAG is from the Army Rangers and the Green Berets, but is open to all members of the branches, and selection is held twice a year in the Appalachian Mountains, and with about 90% fail rate. Once again, the CAG selection process is heavily borrowed from the British SAS.
While over in Dam Neck, ST6 selection is much different, a picture of the applicant is posted on a wall, and current DEVGRU operators cast postive or negative votes on the applicant with a mark on the picture. If the applicant is selected, they are placed into the Green team for six months of training, with a 50% fail rate, after, the rest of the ST6 squads hold a draft to select new members.The ranks of ST6 recruits are from within the teams (a pool of about 2500 members), but some soures say that ST6 selection is open to members of the Marine Corps, only after passing BUD/s.
Because of where TIER-1 units draw their recruits, builds the culture of the unit and the POV of them from other military units. While DEVGRU is drawn from the other SEAL teams, DELTA draws operators from two very different groups, the 75th Rangers and the Green Berets, giving CAG a greater international depth and skill sets in other operations besides direct action missions, which both the ST6 and DELTA operators excel at. On the other hand, if the op is in the water, than DEVGRU is authority.
Since at least the 1993 Mogdishu operation, CAG and DEVGRU have worked with one another in Task Force units, like TF-121, and the relationship between the two at one time was very hostile and frosty, due to the looming shadow of Marcinko habit of alienating people. This has improved when ST6 commanders working hard to change the culture of the unit, and today, the working relationship was described by Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, as being like "a bad marriage on the verge of breaking up." In the public eye, DELTA FORCE would received the lion's share of attention from the mass media, with films like DELTA FORCE, the TV show The Units and various books, however recently, with the death of UBL, the tables have turned, now everyone is talking about DEVGRU.
Here is the source for this material:

Black Ops? Special Mission Units? TIER-1?
Like most things in life, there are many terms for the same thing, and when it comes to the world of TIER-1 SMUs, the terms start flying. Okay, as near as I can figure it, TIER-1 is a funding system for USSOCOM, placing specialized elite units, like ST6 and DELTA at the top, which also share the title of 'Special Mission Units' or SMUs. While Black Operations is not a name of a specific unit, but a term used for deep cover, denial everything kind of mission, like the IMF units seen in the Tom Cruise Mission Impossible films. The best example of recent was OPERATION: NEPTUNE SPEAR, where a combined Special Mission unit mostly made up of the TIER-1 DEVGRU operators from Red Squadron, went on a completely classified Black Ops mission. 


Post-TIER-1 Life: CIA Special Activities Division (SAD)/Special Operations Group (SOG)
There are many names for the special agents of the CIA that carry out operations of all types in the field: Core Collectors, Paramilitary Operations Officers and Specialized Skills Officers. But, despite the fancy names, some of the sources for these CIA SAD/SOG agents is former TIER-1 operators. One of the best cases for the flow of former TIER-1 operators into the ranks of the CIA, was MSGT William "Chief" Carlson. I came to know Mr. Carlson after he was killed during an ambush in Shkin, Afghanistan on October 25, 2003 with an former ST6 operator, Chris Mueller, and displayed bravery of the highest caliber under enemy fire. Oddly, he was officially listed by the CIA as a contractor, which seems one way that the CIA puts former TIER-1 into the field.  

United States TIER-1 Special Operations Units

DELTA FORCE
-Year Established: 1977

-AKA: Combat Applications Group (CAG), 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), the Group, and the Unit.

-Number of Operators: 800-1000

-Unit Role: Counter terrorism, hostage rescue, covert strikes and training, Wetwork of HVTs, and CQC, close protection of VIPS.

-Recruits From: 75th Rangers, Green Berets, and the Army at large.

-Operation Known For: The battle of Mogadishu (1993)

SEAL TEAM SIX

-Year Established: 1980

-AKA:  Navy Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU)

-Number of Operators: around 200 (?)

-Unit Role: Maritime Counter terrorism, hostage rescue, covert strikes and training, Wetwork of HVTs, and CQC. close protection of VIPS.



-Recruits From: SEAL Teams and rumored, Marine Corps.

-Operation Known For: Operation NEPTUNE SPEAR (2011)

Intelligence Support Activity

-Year Established: 1981

-AKA: GREY FOX, the Activity, CENTRA SPIKE, Task Force Orange

-Number of Operators: Unknown

-Unit Role: The military intelligence service that provides actionable information for TIER-1 and CIA units.

-Recruits From: Unknown

-Operation Known For: The killing of Pablo Escobar and Operation Anaconda

-Notes: The origin of this unit began during the planning of another attempt to rescue the American hostafes in Teran in 1980, it was called Field Operations Group. This unit is mentioned in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, when  term "ISA Phone Snipers" is used during Team METAL's attempted rescue for Alena Borisovna in Berlin.

Other SOF units under the 'TIER-1' title

JMAU
-Year Established: Unknown

-AKA: Joint Medical Augmentation Unit

 -Number of Operators: Unknown

-Unit Role: In-flight trauma care

-Recruits From: The US Army

-Operation Known For: None

-Notes: According to limited information, the JMAU are specially outfitted MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft for in flight trauma care and surgeries. Some sources say that JMAU personnel collected DNA during the operation in Tora Bora to confirm if UBL was killed in 2001.


Air Force 24th Special Tactics Squadron
-Year Established: 1990

-AKA: 24 STS

-Number of Operators:

-Unit Role: Providing SAR operations (PJ), critical weather information (SOW), and CAS (CCT)

-Recruits From: Air Force

-Operation Known For:

-Notes: The 24th STS of the US Air Force is made up for three different types of special operators: Pararescue, combat controllers, and special operations weathermen, and normally place their operators within larger JSCO task forces, like Task Force Ranger (Somalia '93), Task Force 121 (Iraq 2003-2007) and Task Force 145, who killed Al-Zarqawi on June 7th, 2006. I've read a few accounts of the Parajumpers training, and honestly, I think it ones of the hardest selections and training in the whole of JSOC units.

International TIER-1 Units
Like America, the global community faces terrorism and the need for black operations, and to response there is a long list of specialized  units. US TIER-1 operators do train and work with other nation's TIER-1 units, like the British Special Boat Service in A-Stan during Tora Bora in 2001.
Part of the upcoming sequel to 2010's Medal of Honor, Warfighter, will be involvement of international TIER-1 units. Those units are listed below are confirmed in the game, and in keeping with the real-world approach to the game, our TIER-1 groups have worked with these units, what is interesting, is the absence of the French GIGN CT unit, which was featured in COD:MW3.





  • British SAS (one of the oldest SOF units in the world)
  • South Korean UDT
  • Polish GROM
  • The Canadian JTF-2
  • The Norwegian FSK/HJK
  • The Swedish S SOG
  • The Aussie SASR
  • Deutschland KSK
  • The Russian Spetznas
  • The IDF Sayeret Units (thanks to reader Angry Bell for the heads up!)

The TIER-1 Groups of The Israeli Defense Force
Despite the smaller size of the Israel, it as been able to amass the world's best military, and has no less than 24 Special Forces units called 'Sayeret' or RECON in Hebrew. Some are similar to US SOF units, like Unit 669 and Sayeret Shaldag of the IAF is about the same as the Air Force Parajumpers, and the CCT, along with the Israeli Navy having their SEAL-like unit, the Shayetet 13. When it comes to TIER-1 SMUs, the IDF seems to have about five, and it was seven until more recently when some TIER-1 SMUs that performed CT operations in the Gaza Strip were disbanded. The Israeli mirror of DEVGRU seems to be Shayetet 13 (pictured left) that performs maritime CT/assault operations, and the closest to CAG is the Sayeret Matkal, who became famous after airplane rescue mission in Africa, Operation Thunderbolt in 1976. This unit even takes the same motto and elements after the British SAS, who DELTA Force is also patterned after. Even the CIA SAD/SOG unit has an several IDF mirror units, the recently formed Maglan Unit, that is involved with operations behind enemy lines, and the Egoz Recon Unit, and secretive Kidon unit which is the "offensive assassination" arm of the Mossad. These units only reinforce the plain and simply fact that you don't fuck with Israel.


TIER-1 Groups in Science Fiction 
Most of the current generation of science-fiction creators, like me, have grown up during the rein of the Rambo/Schwarzenegger types of elite special soldiers, and this has colored our view of how the best-of-the-best are suppose to be like.
To me, the archetype of all TIER-1 operators was created the moment Snake Plissken entered into our lives. This tough-baked, burned-out badass was borrowed from the 'Man with no Name' of the Serigo Leone appeared to be able to handle most threats all while playing it cool. For better or worse, this is how most TIER-1 operators have been projected into science fiction as a general role, and mostly show the 'one-man-against-an-army' popular in the 1980's action films. To 'future-up' the central idea of the most elite special operators, sci-fi uses the idea of genetic alternated and/or cybernetic enhancements to create super-soldiers, seen in with the SPARTAN-II program and FOXHOUND. There has yet to be a realistic portrayal of TIER-1 based on the current real-world examples in a science-fiction novel or film. Then we come to the other sin that most sci-fi writiers committ about TIER-1 units, the names. No real SMU is going to name themselves, "Black Ops" or "Whiskey Company", oddly, I always thought that Escape from New York got it right with Special Forces units like 'Texas Thunder'.

Examples in Sci-Fi

Noble Team from HALO: Reach
It is no secret that I love the HALO universe, and my second favorite game of the series was 2010's REACH. Unlike much of the HALO games, save for HALO WARS, where there was only one SPARTAN-II, John-117, in Reach, we see an entire team. Noble team was highly specialized  comprised of experienced operators that are able to operate in the field with minimum support, and this was a mix of SPARTAN-II/III supersoldiers work together with different skills to achieve difficult missions. This is one of the better examples of a military sci-fi TIER-1 team, however, it does fall into the pattern of MSF creators using supersoldiers as the most elite SOF operators instead of 'normal' highly trained soldiers.

 Delta Squad from Star Wars: Republic Commandos
This is yet another supersoldier SPECOPS unit, however, like Noble Team, this clone trooper unit works together in a small team that has greater depth than its fewer commandos.
Despite Delta squad having a dumb name, each one of these commandos behave like a team, and use different skills to achieve impossible objectives in various conditions, like VBSS and direct assault.During these clones development on Kamino, Jango Fett asked for the Cuy'val Dar, one hundred Mandalorian warriors to come to Kamino and train the new Grand Army of the Republic, along with 75 commandos of the new army. Another interesting points about Delta Squad was that Star Wars created a continuing history of the unit after the events of the game, taking Delta through the Galactic Empre. I was impressed by this game for the original XBOX, and still have it to this day, I enjoyed the RAINBOW 6 level squad AI and commands, and having a real Star Wars shooter game with an elite SMU. Oh, and their armor was bitching. There has been rumors for years that Star Wars: Republic Commandos will get a next-gen remake or even a sequel.

MACOs from Star Trek: Enterprise

 There is no much in the way of canon history for the Military Assault Command Operations and its operators that were seen in the season 3 and 4 of Star Trek: Enterprise. When the Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha first started up, I created a fictional history of the EM-33 Plasma Pistol where the first use of the MACOs and the EM-33 was during a hostage rescue in 2145. I am thinking of posting it...
Anyways, it is assumed that the MACOs came the United Earth military, which is separate from Starfleet, and were trained in both endo and exo atmospheric combat on Earth and on Luna. Their skillset, what was gleaned from the show, was focused on CQC, hostage rescue, assault, and demolition. Unlike the Starfleet piss ant security personal, the MACOS wielded special DEW EM41 modular carbines, and the EM-33 pistol with a stun setting, along with batons for melee fighting, and a future stun grenade. Also, in contrast to the Starfleet personal, MACOs wore some sort of fatigues in a all-terrain digital camo pattern, and trained hard in hand-to-hand and marksmanship. I was deeply impressed by the decision of the producers of Enterprise to show such a hardline military unit on a Star Trek show, and to do it so well. The MACOs were a well-done example of a futuristic TIER-1 unit complete with realistic tensions between them and the pussy Starfleet security officers. There is no information on the MACOs after the formation of the Federation in  2161.

7th Kommando from the Battletech universe
Within the ranks of 'Mech units in the vast Battletech universe, few are better known than the Wolf' Dragoons mercenary unit. Not only was the Wolf's Dragoon featured the pen-and-paper game but, in the two Xbox Mechwarrior video games. Within the large mercenary unit is the 7th Kommando special mission unit,which works with Wolfnet, the intelligence arm of the Wolf's Dragoons, but also operates lone wolf (couldn't resist!) as the special forces arm of the larger unit performing intelligence gathering missions, targeted strikes, and infiltrations.
A big thank you to reader Angry Bell gave FWS for the heads up on this one.  I hate to admit it, I had forgotten about the more infantry and Special Oeprations side of the Battletech universe!

Emperor's Royal Guard from Star Wars
To this day, besides Boba Fett, the Royal Imperial Guard is my favorite figure of the Star Wars universe, and if I were to dress up in cosplay, than this would be these elite warriors of the red.the Imperial Guard were designed for one purpose, the close protection detail of the Imperial Emperor, and only a few were needed to assure protection. These badasses in red are not carbon copies of that Mandalorian, but drawn from the ranks of normal human Imperial military units later after the Empire was formed, but originally were formed out of the Red Guard, successor to the Senate Guard seen in the Phantom Menace.  The Guard were heavily trained on Yinchorr in all formers of combat, including piloting a TIE fighter, and were loyal to the Emperor to a fault. It is rumored that Royal Guardsmen are deployed to combat Stormtrooper units in special red armor to keep up their combat kills. The steer amount of money lavished on the Royal Guard alone would make them a TIER-1 unit.

The Rebel Alliance SpecForce Infiltrators from the Star Wars RPG
This is the only ground military unit of the Rebel Alliance that the Stormtroopers fear, according to the West End Games Sourcebook for the Star Wars RPG, and unlike a number of other elite TIER-1 groups, the SpecForce Infiltrators are biologically unmodified. This group seems based on the French resistance of World War II, the CIA SAD teams, and the close quarters battle skills of CAG or DEVGRU coupled with excellent marksmen skills. Much is made about the nearly legendary ( not a reference to Barney Stinson) skill of these operators to kill stormtroopers, however, it seems from the films, that they can't for shit...odd. The Star Wars wiki mentions that the Infiltrators were disbanded after the Battle of Endor, and the Fall of the Imperials.

FOXHOUND from the Metal Gear games
Elements of the very elite ninja-like black-ops FOXHOUND unit are bordering on fantasy and completely unrealistic for a TIER-1 SOG, however, its presentation and popularity make it one of the more well known fictional TIER-1 units.
The big issue I have with FOXHOUND and the Metal Gear in general is, while Solid Snake is very cool and has some real-world SPECOPS skill, the vast majority of FOXHOUND's operators are completely non-military. With colorful characters like Vulcan Raven, and Psycho Mantis, FOXHOUND  would be closer to the Manson family than elite black-ops unit!





Ghost Brigades from the Old Man's Universe
I give John Scalzi much credit for his followup to the Old Man's War, he explored the most elite unit in all of the Colonial Defense Force, the SPECOPS Ghost Brigades in full loving detail. From the text, the Ghost Brigade members are inducted differently than the normal recruits into the CDF, the Ghosts are nearly completely reliant on the Brain-Pal for communication, due to it speed over tradition oral. Unlike the elderly recruits of the normal military service, the Ghosts are 'born' into military service, with bodies created from former CDF members that died in training, and their DNA is used to construct new soldiers without the benefit of knowing their past lives, hence the name. It is an interesting point that Scalzi brings up, even within a  military organization of supersoldiers and nano-based weaponry, there still is the need for SPECOPS, and this speaks to the hostilities of the Universe that Scalzi has created. He needs to write more Old Man War books.


The Storm Troopers of the Imperial Guard from Warhammer 40K
Even with the Space Marines and the vast legions of the Imperial Guard, there is a specialized unit of normal human soldiers, the Storm Troopers. These warriors are drawn from the orphanages of the Schola Progenium, and brainwashed to the highest degree to worship the cult of the Emperor. Unlike the millions of Imperial Guardsmen, the Stormtroopers are from every world of the Imperium, and are a much lighter force than the heavy elements of the Imperial Guard or the Space Marines, using jumpships for lightning quick-strike tactics outfitted in light powered armor. Adding to uniqueness of the Stormtroopers, is their use of the Hellgun, a much more powerful Lasgun not normally issued to standard Guardsmen, and can draw power from a backbag. Given the oddness of the Warhammer 40K universe,   






The TIER-1 Interviews for the Medal of Honor game

Part One "Wolfpack":











21 May 2012

FWS News Feed: Starship Troopers Invasion Trailer

Well, we FINALLY have a teaser trailer for the upcoming CGI animation SST film, Invasion. The teaser uses some lines of dialog from the original book(!) and shows us a glory sequence of the new powered armor for the film, however, the only shot of a bug is the typical warrior we've seen since 1997. This looks better than I thought and I now have higher hopes for it. It is uncertain how much of the 1997 Verhoeven universe will make into the new film, or if Invasion is a complete reboot of SST. But, if's got bugs vs. powered armored soldier, you can count me in!








Here is the teaser:

FWS News Feed: SKYFALL Trailer!

This morning, the latest Bond film, Skyfall, had the first  trailer released, and it appears that the newest Bond film will be much darker than any previous. While Bond films have little or nothing to do with Military Science Fiction, I've been a Bond fan since conception, grew up with watching the films over and over, but the formula soured over the years, especially with the Pierce Brosnan films. While Bond was riding around in cloaked Aston Martin's, Jason Bourne was out-Bonding 007 with every film, forcing the holders of the Bond name to reinvent the character into a much more hard-boiled character. I personally believe that the most recent Bond is the best, and has the best films. But, could Skyfall be the end of the Daniel Craig as 007? From the trailer it feels that way, especially, it seems since the new Bond character is under a great deal of pressure since 2006 reboot, I mean, does 007 sleep? It is my hope that Daniel Craig stays on to be 007 a few more films...after all, look at what they are about to do with the Bourne films...Jeremy Renner as a new Treadstone agent...really?!

Here is the treaser trailer:


16 May 2012

FWS Topics: Pro-Tec Helmets and Special Forces


The first time I witness the power of the film Blackhawk Down, my wife and I had the same question...why were the Army's most elite badass soldiers, the DELTA Operators, using skateboard helmets? I would not find my answer until I read Mark Bowden superior Blackhawk Down novel, but then the little plastic helmet had gotten under my skin, and I was using for years after playing paintball.
I know from my research in the mid-2000's, that military forums were overloaded with the OMFG! D3LT4!!! people and thread starters wanting to discuss and detail the lightweight plastic helmets of Special Forces. Of course, these reenactors, like me, annoyed the piss out of the regulars on the forums, and started flaming wars for years after. Even now, you cannot mention the words 'Pro-Tec helmet' without eyerolls and flame wars. But here at FWS, I am different, and after watching Blackhawk Down this week, I thought I would put all of that research to good use and discuss, in depth, the little plastic helmet that could: The Pro-Tec.


 Why does the military plastic skateboard helmets?

1. Weight
If you have ever worn the original PASGT K-Pot helmet, than you know the weight of it, and I would not relish the opportunity to wield in the water or even mounting all manner of ligths and NVGs on it. The saving of weight was more critical than the need for ballistic protection in some combat situations, especially CQC, making the Pro-Tec a clear choice back then. 

2. Modularity
The hard Kelvar shell of the standard PASGT helmet was extremely difficult to modified for Special Operators to use the standard helmet with radios that were preferred by DELTA, ST6, and Parajumpers. When the MICH helmet came onto the scene in the early 2000's, they used the modular aspect of the Pro-Tec into ballistic helmet. Parajumper Tech. Sgt. Tim Wilkinson raised another positive of the Pro-Tec over the traditional K-pot in the Blackhawk Down book, the ablitiy to mount a flashlight with Velcro during trauma care. (Source: pg 13 of Blackhawk Down by Mark Bowden ) 

3. Bump Protection
The primary reason listed for Special Operation soldiers to use the Pro-Tec and other lightweight sport helmets is for bump protection during close quarters combat situations (like the Battle of Mogadishu) when the risk of head injury is greater than the OPFOR's ability to make headshots. One point raised by a friend of mine at the Trauma ICU was that ballistic helmets normally cannot protection against a direct from an assault rifle round anyway.
(Source: pg 172 of Blackhawk Down by Mark Bowden )

4. Vision
Some source online point to the fact that the PASGT helmet had a brim which cutdown vision and attachment usage caused Special Forces to unitize the Pro-Tec. Having worn both, I can attest to the improved visible in the Pro-Tec over the classic K-pot.

5. Designated Roles
Helmets like the Pro-Tec were designed for a specific reason, and specific sports. In certain situations, Kelvar protection is not warranted, and the soldiers can use the Pro-Tec for its designated purpose, like rock climbing training, water rescue and water vehicular training, motorcycle/ dune buggy use and training. This was the reason why DEVGRU RECON team MAKO-31 used Pro-Tecs during Operation: Anaconda in 2002 (Source: Sean Naylor's book Not a Good Day to Die )

 The History of the Pro-Tec usage by the Military

Before the use of Pro-Tec by specialized military units, it was common for Special Forces troopers to be associated with Boonie hats, Do-Rags, and bandannas due to their low-profile missions and the issues with the old steel-pot helmets. This was the classic image of the Special Force Snake-Eaters that I grew up with, but, that all changed after the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.
There is no clear date when Pro-Tec first became used by military units. According to the very limited information that I could dig up, aquatic-based military units, like the SEALs, the British SBS, and the Air Force Parajumpers began using these plastic helmets during the early 1980's for collusion  protection, weight saving, and salt water corrosion during seaborne operations. It is likely that first Pro-Tec plastic helmet used was the original 1970's Pro-Tec full-cut that can be seen even today in SEAL training.
Later, the same high speed/low drag concept was applied to the close quarters combat/hostage rescue, and  to the left is the first known picture of DELTA operators in the field with the Pro-Tec helmets, taken in 1989 during the Operation Just Cause. It was also during the 1989 American invasion of Panama, that DELTA Force rescued American and CIA operative Kurt Muse from a Panamanian prison, reportedly, these Tier-1 soldiers wore black Pro-Tecs during the lightning raid called Operation Acid Gambit. 
The next piece of pictorial evidence for the military use of Pro-Tecs came during Desert Storm, SEAL Team Eight was photographic in full Pro-Tec glory has they trained for ship boarding/VBSS in 1991 onboard the naval refueling vessel USNS Joshua Humphreys for their mission to enforce the UN sanctions. These were clearly of classic Pro-Tec full cut variety. However, it was Operation Gothic Serpent when the Pro-Tec helmet relationship with Special Operations become concrete in a little piece of hell called Mogadishu. Most of us are familiar with the events of October 3rd and 4th 1993, and that the Air force Parajumers, DELTA assaulters and possibly SEAL Team Six Operators all wore the iconic plastic helmet. Mark Bowden explained the role of the Pro-Tec in three different parts of the 1999 book, but he called the plastic helmets 'hockley helmets' or 'Pro-Tech' or even "little helmet', and he stated the death of DELTA Operator SFC Earl Fillmore was cause by an AK-47 round to the head and seemed to lay blame on the helmet.  

And yes, to all of those that doubters of the film, DELTA Force Operators really did wear Pro-Tec skateboard helmets during the October 3rd and 4th, 1993 battle on the streets of Mogadishu. These events and the death of SFC Fillmore was rumored to be genesis of the SPEAR MICH helmet project, which took elements of the Pro-Tec and the original K-pot into a lightweight ballistic helmet. After 1993, the Pro-Tec helmet continued to be used by Special Forces in the role familiar, water operations and CQC, unfortunately, there few if any pictures of this period displaying usage by Special Forces. 
After September 11th, Special Forces of all types were mobilized for a new war, and their plastic bump helmets went with them. Rumors have the Pro-Tecs of the classic variety and the newer Ace Wake helmet were used in cave clearing operations by American and British Special Forces, and during the Mir Wais Hospital  clearing by Army Special Forces.
By the time of the War in Iraq, Special Forces units were fielding the new MICH Kevlar helmet. These were designed with the needs of Special Forces in mind, and incorporated some elements of the Pro-Tec into the design, like the adjustable pad system, modularity, and unlike the Pro-Tec, the MICH offered ballistic protection. Did the MICH helmet spell the end of the Pro-Tec and other lightweight plastic helmets?
No, however the MICH did take away from most of its classic CQC duties, however,  if you go to BUD/s today than you will still be issues a full-cut classic Pro-Tec helmet for use during the boat drills. This is the same for Search-and-Rescue Coast Guard teams and seaborne missions of the Air Force Parajumpers. Despite the balletic protection that the new line of helmets like the MICH offer to operators, there have been photographs of soldiers in A-Stan using the Pro-Tec Ace Wake helmet and the new OPS-CORE FAST (Future Assault Shell Technology ) non-ballistic helmet. But why? It has been a tread in military units to use, as Military Morons.com called it, helmets as 'load-bearing equipment' mounting all manner of lights, NVGs, IR beacons onto the helmet instead of inside a pouch, lightening the load on the body but increasing it for the head, causing operators to turn to the Ace and the FAST to save weight and exhaustion. OPS-CORE has even designed a FAST helmet with ballistic protection that is 20% lighter than the standard ACH system.


Pro-Tec helmets in Military Sci-Fi

With the extreme popularity of the film Blackhawk Down, paintballers, airsofters, and 1/6th kitbashers all went bloody mad over the little skateboard helmets. This even included me when I used my DELTA BHD layout (just look at my blogger profile pic) for years on the paintball fields of the Midwest.  I was obsessed with finding the prefect helmet for paintball, and bought several, including a real Pro-Tec that lasted six months. The odd reason for that was the mineral oil in the paintball ate away at the glue, and went I was shot in the helmet during a speedball game, the helmet separated. It must have looked real frakking fun. 
This made me more hyper aware of the use of Pro-Tecs in military sci-fi works, and it seems that for the most part, Pro-Tec-like helmets were used only in a few MSF works. Namely, we're talking about the ISA Marines in the second KILLZONE game, and I believe the main reason behind the choice of using the Pro-Tec look for the 23rd century marines was because the Pro-Tec is tacticool.
Other MSF works use the lightweight and cheaper Pro-Tec helmets to be the base of their fabricated futuristic combat helmet, much like the Rossdale Alliance soldiers in the 2010 MSF webseries Trenches. Another helmet that precessed the tacticool trench of lightweight non-ballistic military helmets, and I could totally wrong here, is the Rebel Commandos from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Military science fiction as a whole talks little of the personal gear (or kit) of the soldiers, often this important aspect of the soldier's lives is ignored, and that is true of the helmet. If we are too look at the current trend, it is assumed that near-future soldiers will don lighter, stronger helmets with smaller gear than now...until they implant them into their skulls that is.    


The Three Know Types of Pro-Tec Helmets used by the Military

The newer Pro-Tec ACE Wake Helmet design



The Classic Water sport Pro-Tec full cut



The Classic Pro-Tec Skateboard Helmet





Pro-tec for the 21st Century: the OPS-CORE FAST Helmet














The OPS-CORE company developed a 21st century Pro-Tec with the Future Assault Shell Technology or FAST.  These FAST Helmet are available in both the non-ballistic carbon fiber bump shell and lightweight Kevlar ballistic variant that, according to the company's website, offers the same level of protection as the MICH 2002 helmet. Along with lightweight, the FAST offers adjustable interior pads, mounting rails, NVG mounting, breathing holes, and modular design to allow various radio/comm gear.
If it looks familiar, the FAST was seen on the lid of DELTA operator Sandman in COD:MW3 and several of the GHOST RECON squad in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Maybe it is me, but the FAST helmet reminds me of the M10 Colonial Marine helmet from ALIENS.
Price tag? About $600.