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The Black Friday Initiative.

By Tom Demerly.

NOTE: This story is fiction based on news accounts. It does not contain factual depictions of any events from official sources.


10:17 Local (15:17 UTC), Monday, 7 October 2013, Administrative Offices, Triple Five Group, Mall of the Americas, Bloomington, Minnesota, United States.

Bob Davis felt a chill race up his spine and down his arms. He saw his hands tremble on the desk in front of him. His ironic sense of humor kicked in when he thought, “Well, Bob, that’s why they call it terror-ism.” He looked at the two men sitting across from him, their mouths moving, but he didn’t hear the words for a second. He forced himself to tune back in to their meeting despite a feeling that this couldn’t be real. It was like walking onto the pages of a Clancy novel.

“…Possibly V-IED’s in the parking lots, ah, that means vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, a car or truck bomb, like Timothy McVeigh used on the Federal Building, if you recall… There could be some form of crude, locally produced chemical weapon; chlorine gas, something like that. Those have big shock value with the media.  There definitely will be explosives and assault weapons used. They can source that equipment locally and may already have from gun shows around the Midwest. We have agents from the Bureau and the ATF at those shows. Even the NRA people have been helping us, but we can’t catch everything.”

Bob Davis manages operations for the Mall of the Americas in Bloomington, Minnesota. Over the past eight years he has seen women give birth there, the most elaborate shoplifting schemes every devised (and busted), a ring of prostitutes operating in the mall and a coyote that somehow made its way inside the giant shopping center on a busy Saturday night. This was the first time he sat across his desk from two FBI agents getting briefed on plans for a possible Al Qaeda style suicide attack on his mall during Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the busiest mall in the United States.

Davis was being briefed by the FBI about possible terrorist attacks at the Mall of the Americas two days after a pair of U.S. special operations raids, one in Libya, and one in Somalia. Sixteen days earlier Al Shabaab militants attacked the Westlake Mall, a U.S. style shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya. The FBI men told Davis it was a miracle only 67 people were killed in the Africa mall attack. Based on the damage to the mall, they felt the toll would have been higher. “Westlake was a test run for Al Shabaab. It was training for them, a field exercise. They won’t make the same mistakes twice.”


The two FBI agents pulled up a file on their tablet computer. “Our estimates of casualties here at Mall of the America in a Black Friday attack are between 400 and 800 killed.”  Davis felt the grip of what an attack would mean. The country, the economy, Minnesota, his community, his tenants, his family, his job. He remembered the economic impact from the 9/11 attacks. He was 40 years old then, working for the Taubman Centers back in Michigan. They managed a large number of shopping malls around the U.S. The 9/11 terror attacks had gutted the company’s occupancy in the next five years when the economy tanked. And that hadn’t been a direct attack on a U.S. shopping center. What the FBI agents were describing to Davis now could sink the shopping mall industry in the United States.

“The real damage, though,” Continued the larger agent with the iPad, “will be the broader economic impact on U.S. business. Retail for the holiday season would be destroyed. Even the e-commerce guys, like, would take a hit since people would not only be afraid to shop at a mall, they would be afraid to shop, period, because of concern over another economic crash. This is the new 9/11. It really would be Black Friday”

Bill Davis had one question for the two FBI men, “So, what do we do to make sure this doesn’t happen?”

“Well,” The smaller of the two FBI men said, “We think we may have reduced the capabilities of the attackers to execute their previous plans, but we still need your cooperation here at Mall of the Americas, Mr. Davis.”

“I’m all ears guys.”

02:45 Local (23:45, 2 October UTC), Thursday, 3 October 2013, Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, Headquarters, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).

Nine men were arrested in Africa following the Kenyan mall attack. It took a few days for… the authorities… to extract information from those nine men. Taken one at a time none of them provided anything that seemed of much use. But each minor detail they provided, from how they paid for their meals to how they learned to use their weapons, began to congeal into a pattern. When that pattern was fit against the sides of other patterns, now electronically in a basement in Langley, Virginia, there was a horrific conclusion: The U.S. was next.

Once that conclusion was reached the Director of National Intelligence was briefed. He briefed the President, a man deeply embroiled with a domestic political battle when Congress refused to approve economic changes forcing a shutdown of some government offices. The President and his staff were busy with, among other things, trying to manage the first ever White House online flaming campaign via e-mail and social media. Their target was Congress and their intent was to depict them as uncompromising and unreasonable. To his credit as Commander in Chief, when the briefing materials on the Nairobi attacks reached his desk, the President did not delay. He set the wheels in motion via Admiral William H. McRaven at MacDill AFB. McRaven is the ninth man to command the United States Special Operations Command at MacDill, a unified command that coordinates the training, equipment, doctrine and employment of all U.S. special operations units.

McRaven’s units include some of the most sophisticated military intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities in the world. These operate organically to the special operations community, from the field around the world back to MacDill, largely for the purposes of mission planning. The strategic intelligence may flow upward from McRaven’s units, or downward from Langley, but flow it did, in both directions. When the intelligence McRaven’s units had collected was collated with the information garnered from the West Lake Mall attack in Kenya the picture was crystal clear.

A big part of that picture pointed back to a beach house in the Somali coastal city of Barawa.


Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, had been training local indigenous forces in the region.  They also collected intelligence from them during training. Both special operations and CIA operatives joined the activities related to Somalia at Camp Lemonnier to help with data collection and facilitate better, more context-based interpretation of intel. SPMAGTF Recon Marines had even conducted beach reconnaissance of some areas of the Barawa, Somalia coastline.  That hydrographic survey data, combined with signals intelligence, some limited HUMINT (human intelligence from operatives on the ground in the target area), satellite and drone images merged with data from the West Lake Mall detainee interviews.

Back at Camp Lemonnier, at MacDill AFB in Florida, on a ship off the coast of East Africa and in Langley, Virginia, planners held a web conference to review the final plans for a direct action mission to interdict the capability of Al Shabaab to carry out their planned U.S. mall attack.

It was Thursday night. The raid on Barawa was a “go”.

barawa compound

03:50 Local (12:50 UTC), Saturday, 5 October 2013, 473 meters off the coast of Baraawe, Somalia.

High tide hit the rocky beach off Baraawe, Somalia at 04:38 hours under a dim, waxing crescent moon. Just before high tide the incoming tidal current urged the twelve combat swimmers of the Naval Special Warfare Combat Interdiction Group (formerly “SEAL Team 6 or “DEVGRU”) toward the rocky outcrops that lay just off the Somali coast. Swimming along the surface was easy; the black African waters were warm. High clouds filtered what little moonlight there was.

The assault team had left their F470 CRRC boats almost 2 miles off shore to prevent visual detection of the assault boats from land. The boats used sound suppressed motors that were extremely quiet. After dropping off the combat swimmers the rigid inflatable boats immediately turned back out to sea for recovery on a U.S. Navy ship that was even now steaming back toward the coast after the insertion.

Navy SEAL photo downloads

The first element of the combat swimmer/assault team would hit the beach, remove their swim fins and floatation vests then cross inland on foot less than a kilometer south of their target, a large beachfront villa on the southern edge of Baraawe. They would turn immediately north toward the objective. This first six-man element of the team moved inland approximately 400 meters toward the concealment of low scrub. The other six-man element lay prone in the gently lapping waves of shallow water just off the beach until the flanking assault element was in place. A series of clicks on their updated, secure AN/PRC-126 radios would signal the first assault team was in place. Then the two teams would move toward the target, a two-story villa where the objective, a high value personnel target named Ahmed Abdi Godane, was supposed to be located.

The two elements of the assault team were in place. The wind was gentle coming just barely off the ocean, it was 71 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun would not rise for another hour and forty minutes. Each member of the second assault element heard the clicks in their headset when the first element got into position. They responded with a single click of the mic button. Then each team member checked right, then left, clearing his field of fire and began a low, quick advance across the beach, trending right or north to the target.

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 4.57.30 PM

The building was surrounded by low walls on three sides and a high wall at the back. It made sense to go over the lower sections of the walls, enter the courtyard section, assault any threats that were providing security and then conduct the entry. Once the entry began, speed and violence of action was their primary tactic. They had to overwhelm what security may be in place quickly, assault the target building and secure the objective, detain Ahmed Abdi Godane or neutralize him, then exfil the target area. The primary extract route was by helo extraction near a defensible LZ south of the target area. The secondary extract was back out to sea.

Overhead surveillance by an RQ-170 Sentinel drone would provide a live video feed to the command center back at MacDill and help give the Naval Special Warfare operators on the beach a high degree of situational awareness via radio. What the Sentinel video showed now was troubling.  There were more personnel between the insertion point and the objective than normal. Within the walled compound itself, no less than eight hot targets could be seen, some of them milling around from target to target as if they were spreading information. Outside, there were more than ten hot spots between the insertion point at the beach and the objective.  The insertion would almost certainly involve contact earlier than they planned.

A common feature of operations in this region is that its difficult to tell who is a combatant and who is not from overhead surveillance. The hot spot on the drone feed may be a fisherman rigging his boat to go out at first light, or an insurgent walking a security perimeter armed with an automatic weapon and grenades. Until the assault team got eyes on they would not know from the drone feed. They didn’t have to wait to see to find out.

The insurgents initiated contact with one man firing a single round at one of the SEALs as he moved to a concealed position across the beach to establish the flanking position. The single round alerted every other sentry. The SEAL’s weapons were suppressed.  When another assault team member put two rounds into the insurgent it didn’t make enough noise to be heard back at the compound a couple hundred meters away. Nonetheless everyone in the compound was alerted by the single shot, then the silence. Now they were coming outside the wall.

The assault team worked an “L” shaped hasty ambush on the objective, both teams directing controlled fire toward targets they could see. When the volume of returning fire began to increase the SEAL assault team leader radioed for a pair of Viper gunships from an assault ship orbiting off the coast to swing inland for fire support.


The Viper gunships, an upgraded version of the AH-1 Cobra helicopter, overflew the target from the ocean. They banked hard and attacked facing back out to sea to avoid collateral damage from their guns. When the rounds from the AH-1Z Viper ‘s 20 mm cannon hit the compound the result was like cracking open a hornet’s nest. The pilot and gunner could see personnel and vehicles scatter through their Thales Top Owl helmet imagery system. White streaks showed the path of gunfire reaching into the dark to find the assaulters.


Special operations is a fragile craft with a courageous heritage. But the reality is lightly armed men are flung against sometimes heavily fortified targets in inferior numbers. Their primary advantage is speed and violence of action. If their objective is compromised before it can be overwhelmed their chances of success evaporate by the split second. The SEAL assault force commander on the beach knew this well, having operated on both sides of this double-edged sword for a decade. He knew he had men inland a few hundred meters who risked being cut off from the sea extraction route and that securing a landing zone for extraction was, at best, an iffy proposition now.

The assault was compromised before it began. He signaled for mission abort and emergency extraction.

This contingency was well drilled. The beach fire team put 40 mm grenade fire on the target while the inland team broke contact, peeling back toward the sand and the sea. Each man covered the next in a modified version of the classic peel maneuver to break contact. The Vipers overflew the target at high speed and low altitude, this time flying inland and banking left or south, the opposite direction as before, then paralleling the beach on a gun run to cover the SEALs.

Only twenty-five minutes after the first assault element crossed the beach the team was back in the water as their assault boats raced back inland to recover them. After a twenty-minute swim to the east and south the recovery boats spotted the infrared strobes of the assault teams and the recovery was completed. The Vipers left their orbit along the beach just before the SEALs were picked up off shore and the assault force collapsed back out to sea as the sun lit the horizon an angry orange. It would be hours or even days until U.S. assets would know if the target had been compromised in the raid.

The raid on Baraawe to capture Ahmed Abdi Godane did not go as planned. It also was not a failure. While the primary objective was not achieved it may have killed or wounded Godane. If not, it sent a clear message to Godane and his men: The U.S. will cross the beach to get you before you can get us. Regardless of the results on the beach that night in Baraawe that message was sent and received loud and clear.

10:58 Local (15:58 UTC), Monday, 7 October 2013, Administrative Offices, Triple Five Group, Mall of the Americas, Bloomington, Minnesota, United States. 

“We’ll have teams of agents operating undercover all the way from the parking lots to the inside of the mall itself.” The FBI agent told Bob Davis. “We need to put some of our people under cover as store employees and mall workers over the weekend too. Prior to the weekend we’ll be installing some additional surveillance equipment outside and inside the mall. We’re pretty sure we know what we’re looking for and this surveillance should prevent any operatives from gaining access to the mall.”

Davis thought he should be reassured. The thought of installing security checkpoints at the entrance and exit to the mall was unthinkable. It would ruin business and attract the wrong kind of media. This softer approach seemed much less… obtrusive. He hoped it was enough. He noticed his hand shake again.

Option 3: How The U.S. May Intervene in Syria.

By Tom Demerly for


The Arleigh-Burke cruise missile frigate the USS Mahan (DDG-72).

There are three likely options for a U.S. punitive strike on Syria in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons:

Option 1 is the predictable Tomahawk cruise missile strike. It would likely be launched from the specially equipped USS Stout (DDG-55), the USS Mahan (DDG-72), the USS Ramage (DDG-61), the USS Gravely (DDG-107) and the USS Barry (DDG-933) as they cruise the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast. They would strike the confirmed chemical weapon storage sites with some of their 300+ precision guided UGM-109E Tomahawk Block IV Land Attack Missiles once accurate targeting coordinates (supplied by the Israelis among other assets) are uploaded to the missiles. The destruction will likely be complete and, from a U.S. casualty exposure perspective, antiseptic.

Option 2 is a precision air strike carried out by B-2 Spirit bombers launched (possibly) from Whiteman AFB in the U.S. and supported by French aircraft and assets. This is a complex option for a number of logistical and perceptive reasons. It exposes the expensive B-2’s and their crews to a long flight from Missouri. The mission would require multiple mid-air refuelings along with exposure to risk over the target area.

The B-2 Spirits of the 509th Bomb Wing may be forward deployed closer to the region, at Diego Garcia for instance, as they were to the Philippines during the recent North Korean crisis. That said, B-2’s launched from Whiteman AFB were recently used for precision strikes against Libya. On March 19, 2011, three B-2s of the 509th Bomb Wing struck 45 targets including the airfield at Ghardabiya, Libya. Bomb damage assessment photos showed hardened aircraft shelters at that base were precisely targeted and destroyed by the B-2’s.

The concern with using B-2’s isn’t so much that the Syrians could shoot one down, although their Soviet style integrated air defense network is formidable, it is the complexity of a B-2 raid.  A B-2 raid on Syria from Whiteman AFB would likely be over 25 hours in duration. It would cover 12,000+ non-stop flying miles.  A benefit of a cruise missile strike compared to B-2’s is, if a Tomahawk missile crashes, no one gets a visit from a chaplain. If a B-2 and its crew are lost that is two terrible messages to deliver and billions in lost technology and training.

Option 3 is the wild card.

A combined French/U.S. special operations team would use intelligence gathered in the previous months by a number of nations, including Israel. The combined task force would infiltrate Syria from the north via land- likely using trucks. They would assault and capture the chemical weapons storage facility with tactical and rotary wing air support, collecting video of the weapons cache- the “smoking gun”for later distribution to news networks . The world would see the verification. The team would perform a match of the stored chemical weapons against those used in the attacks on the Syrian rebels and civilians.  There would be minimal exposure to Syrian casualties, good guys and bad, an intact “smoking gun” of captured chemical weapons and a gold star for an administration already renowned for its creativity.

There is no perfect option. Option 1 seems politically antiseptic except for the problem that attacking a chemical weapons cache with cruise missiles risks disbursing the very weapons they are sent to destroy. The US could unwittingly create its own chemical attack. There is also the issue of verification. Tomahawks would make deep, smoking, contaminated craters that could be spun in any number of ways; that there was nothing there, that the strikes spread the weapons even further, that it was, in fact, a pharmaceutical research facility or even that the Tomahawks had carried the gas residue into the target area themselves.

Option 2 is so close to option 1 the line between them is blurred. There is the additional exposure of US aircraft being over Syria. Not that there is much concern over Assad’s forces shooting down a B-2, but more that one may have an in- flight emergency and go down anywhere in the region. Messy. Complex. Same problems as Option 1.

Then there is option 3.

There is a saying that if your favorite tool is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. The President has used this hammer before, and hit the nail on the head. The Bin Laden raid was a similar affair. It wasn’t enough to antiseptically dispatch the target with drones or stealth bombers Bill Clinton style. There needed to be a “body”, a “smoking gun”, although hopefully not literally smoking in this instance. Like the Bin Laden raid, there needs to be an airtight case that the chemical weapons seized are the ones used to kill hundreds s of Syrian rebels and civilians. There needs to be irrefutable proof.

The hypothetical play out:

In a three-hour meeting on Friday evening at the White House, Option 3 won. A ninety-minute phone call between the U.S. President and British Prime Minister David Cameron put the requisite parties in touch, and the required wheels turning. Parliament voted the British out, the French were still in.

Planning for Option 3 began at Headquarters; United States Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida. Directives were issued. The units involved were sent into isolation for planning. The U.S. Army and the Navy had maintained a WMD special operations response capability since 9/11. They had deployed operationally several times, mostly in Iraq for WMD recovery. Their commanders brainstormed ideas using existing mission templates for this contingency. It only took an hour to flush out a viable plan by comparing templates to intel.  Thirty hours later the assets were in motion. A key part of the plan was to strike while the news cycle still carried the photos of dead Syrian children on their front pages. In the Internet age the public has a short memory for horror.


The U.S. special operations team inserted into Turkey under various covers as journalists, aid workers and weapons inspectors before launching their raid into Syria.

The U.S. special operations component of the mission would remain entirely classified, as it usually did except in the case of Operation Neptune Spear, which made for darn good Hollywood and bookstore fodder. No one would ever know the details of U.S. ground involvement in this operation, now internally dubbed “Operation Specific Scalpel”. As far as the media was concerned this was a joint operation between a hastily assembled coalition, the Syrian rebels and with “assistance and support” from the U.S. and France.

Israeli intelligence said the missiles used in the mass attack came from the Adra Industrial City complex to the Northeast of Damascus.  In an attempt to maintain maximum unattributability Assad’s special chemical strike units had used an indigenously developed short-range attack missile. The Israelis estimated its maximum range to be no more than 30 kilometers.


The mysterious missiles that delivered the chemical weapons were nearly impossible to identify suggesting local production adding to their unattributable nature.

The plan was simple. The U.S. and French Counter WMD Special Operations team would covertly infiltrate Syria using trucks from Turkey. They would drive south toward the target in Adra where they would dismount and begin the assault. The objective was not to destroy the chemical weapon storage facility in Adra but to capture it intact and turn it over to a joint Free Syrian security team who would then grant access to chief chemical weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom’s team via UN disarmament chief Angela Kane.

“Special Operations” are called that because there is always a creative element to them. They don’t fit molds or mission templates exactly. This operation had a lot of sharp edges. Any op involving chemical weapons had an ominous aspect to it.

The assault team decided it would not use protective chemical suits. The suits would not facilitate the need to appear as indigenous personnel. The intelligence suggested they were attacking a storage facility, and that the chemical weapons would be “safed” or not assembled in their delivery state yet since it was dangerous even to store them in that state.

The trucks would deploy the assault team around the perimeter of the storage compound. The assault would open with precision shooters neutralizing guards, vehicles and even attempting to breech locks with their .50 caliber sniper rifles.

Under the cover of the sniper/spotters, four assault teams would approach the facility, one from each side.  To prevent a “Mexican firing squad” of deadly crossfire only one assault element would push through the target, from the high ground to the north, breeching the fence line with bolt cutters and breeching charges and then fanning out into the rows of storage buildings while the surrounding snipers provided what overwatch they could. Once the facility was seized the supporting international units would insert via helicopter. Included in their charges would be weapons investigators to verify the presence of the weapons and “fingerprint” the chemicals. They would also take possession of the unique delivery rockets from the U.S. commandos who seized the target.

As news of the seizure by the United Nations forces hit the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and MSNBC the U.S. team would already be extracting back to Lebanon and back to the ships they deployed from.

Why The F-35 Has No Friends on Facebook.

By  Tom Demerly for


The F-35 was unveiled to the media like a new car model or an up and coming pop star. And subjected to similar public vitriol.

You’ve seen posts on Facebook about the new F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter contending it’s a “failure”, “a waste”, “damaging to the environment” and even that “F-35 Basing is a Racial Injustice: New Americans and people of color are disproportionately harmed.” The public vitriol surrounding the F-35 program eclipses any previous defense program.

The discussion begs the question, is the F-35:

A. A costly boondoggle spun as a super plane by the Pentagon “old boy network”?

B. The next ultra-weapons system that will render nation-users invincible?

C. A combat aircraft at the beginning of a typically difficult development program?

The reality is “C”.

Another reality is the F-35 is the first major weapons system to do combat on the battlefield of social media. Social media is a great equalizer among combatants. All you need is a laptop and “friends” to fight a battle with the biggest defense contractors on earth. Whether you are Lockheed or Larry Smith the anti-F-35 activist, every opinion on social media is 800 x 600.

November 23, 2011 F-35 assembly area bi-monthly photo shoot for Ralph Heath Monorail images of EMAS, Moving Line and Forward Fuselage Assembly areas for the F-35

The F-35 in its low-rate initial production phase at Lockheed-Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas assembly facility.

If you add some historical context to the development of military aircraft you see daunting realities. Firstly, the F-35 is actually doing quite well for such an ambitious project. In fact, some of the criticism for what has been described as “delays” may actually be the F-35 program’s primary drawback: too much caution. Partially because the magnifying glass of public opinion has focused so much heat on the F-35 the program has ground slowly ahead with more than the typical degree of caution.

Let’s look at some previous military aircraft development programs and think about how they would fare under “trial by Facebook”.


An early model B-17 Flying Fortress breaks up over Germany in WWII. More airmen died in the first versions of the celebrated bomber than any combat aircraft in WWII.

In WWII my father was a draftsmen for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington at “Plant 2” near the Duwamish River. His first project was drawing a quickly conceived update to the B-17 Flying Fortress: a chin turret with two forward facing .50 caliber guns. The first eight versions of the B-17 lacked adequate guns to defend themselves from a frontal attack. German pilots quickly learned to attack the B-17 from high and head-on, or “Twelve O’clock High”. The results were catastrophic. Early B-17 crews attacking Germany had better odds of dying than surviving before completing their required 25 missions. In fact, more aircrews from the Allied 8th Air Force died over Europe than all of the Marines killed in the Pacific in WWII. Today the B-17 is remembered as a “great aircraft”. How would Facebook pundits have treated the first eight versions of the B-17 with a record like that?


A B-29 Superfortress crashed into a meat packing plant in Seattle during its secret testing phase. The program was so classified that firefighters and first responders were initially prohibited from entering the crash scene.

My dad was transferred to a top secret project working on a super bomber that would fly too high to shoot down and carry a larger bomb load than the B-17. It was the B-29 Superfortress, a project so secret he wasn’t allowed to tell my mom what he was working on. The B-29 delivered the only nuclear weapons used in combat. It is largely credited with ending the war in the Pacific. But the B-29 was a difficult and dangerous aircraft to operate. It used four Wright R-3350 engines that were prone to overheating, and catching fire. With a full bomb load while straining to get to altitude it was common for the B-29 to have engine fires. The B-29 killed a lot of U.S. flight crews. The engine problem, combined with navigation and bombing accuracy problems encountered from an undiscovered high altitude wind phenomenon called the “jet stream” forced Maj. General Curtis LeMay to order B-29’s to attack Japan from low altitude, well within range of Japanese anti-aircraft guns. To carry more bombs LeMay told his bomber crews to remove their defensive guns and leave their gunners behind, a request some crews ignored according to the definitive account of B-29 operations, Mission to Tokyo by author Robert F. Dorr. What would people have said about the B-29 program on Facebook?


The General Dynamics F-111 was originally intended as a multi-role, do everything aircraft for both the Navy and the Air Force. The Navy dropped it in early development, opting for the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. It ended its largely undistinguished career in service with the Australian Air Force.

More recently, and in an oddly similar program to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, in 1961 former Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara asked for a feasibility study on the development of one aircraft that could perform low-level, supersonic penetration bombing missions into the former Soviet Union and also serve as a fleet defense interceptor launching from aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy. The result was the General Dynamics F-111. The F-111 was never adopted by the navy and served with mixed results in the Air Force. Initial F-111 operations in Vietnam were a catastrophe, with 50% of the aircraft being lost and the Vietnam deployment being halted. The one shining moment for the F-111 came during Operation El Dorado Canyon under the Reagan administration, when F-111’s attacked Libyan airfields in retaliation for Libyan sponsored terrorist attacks on U.S. servicemen. A version of the F-111 never initially envisioned, the EF-111 Raven electronic warfare aircraft, did serve successfully in the early Gulf war but, in general, the entire F-111 program fell well short of its original multi-role, multi-service concept.

These are three examples of aircraft that had major problems eclipsing anything the F-35 faces. But that was a long time ago. We’re not in a major air war with a similarly equipped air force. Technology has come a long way. Engineering tools exist today that were unheard of even in the 1970’s when the current generation of operational combat aircraft were first conceived. And those are some of the reasons the F-35 has been treated unfairly.


The development and production costs of the F-35 are to be shared between a host of nation-users, but the Eurozone crisis and global recession has placed more economic pressure on the program.

When cost estimates for the F-35 were originally drafted much of the development program included the new generation of virtual prototyping and testing. Computational Fluid Dynamics replaced early prototype flight-testing. Finite Elemental Analysis replaced actual strain gauge developmental analysis. The business model for the F-35 included development in the virtual space spread over international economies of many user-nations. Each of these factors left opportunities for a host of variables to act on the program and drive costs up. Some of those variables, such as the European economic crisis, have become a reality.

Another reality is the need for all combat aircraft to evolve significantly over their life span. The F-16, FA-18, AH-1 Cobra and AH-64 Apache are just a few legacy aircraft flying today that have undergone such sweeping updates they only vaguely resemble their original versions. The F-16 now has conformal fuel pallets, different control surfaces and improved sensors installed. One version of the FA-18 has gotten larger wings, new intakes, improved avionics and become an entirely new aircraft called the EF-18 Growler. And then there is the B-52 bomber, the plane that just won’t die. The B-52’s in operation now are older than their flight crews. They were based on lessons Boeing learned from- you guessed it- the B-17 and B-29 development programs my dad worked on in WWII. And the B-52 is still flying. People post photos of them on Facebook now, talking about how amazing an aircraft it is. Social media wasn’t around for the bumpy development years.


U.S. Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Russ Clift performed the first F-35B night-time vertical landing aboard the USS Wasp off the Maryland coast last Tuesday, August 13, 2013. The F-35B replaces the aging AV-8B Harrier for the U.S. Marines and the Royal Navy.

The F-35 wasn’t developed in the middle of a world war, but it is being fielded in one of the most volatile periods in history, when enemies use airliners as attack aircraft and superpowers are fielding a new generation of combat aircraft like the Russian T-50 and the Chinese J-20. While it’s unlikely Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad and their radical splinter organizations will field a new- or any- combat aircraft the ability to command the airspace over insurgent controlled territory has kept their doctrine in the Stone Age. It has also helped prevent another 9/11.

The F-35 won’t bring peace to the world. It isn’t the final answer- no single combat aircraft is. It’s likely not even the best combat aircraft ever. But it is a viable next generation multi-role combat aircraft with a degree of information sharing and mission flexibility that can’t be retrofitted to aging current aircraft systems. It is also designed to fight a war we don’t know everything about yet: the next one. And while uncertainty, at a minimum, swirls around the F-35 on the vaunted spaces of social media the one thing that is certain is, that next war will come.


In an official Lockheed-Martin photo, the V-STOL variant of the Lightening II, the F-35B, performs an early vertical landing. Test pilots report that vertical take-off and landing in the F-35B is “extremely easy” compared to the previous AV-8B Harrier it replaces.

Naval Special Warfare by Greg E. Mathieson Sr. and David Gatley.

By Tom Demerly for


NSW Publications has released a comprehensive new reference book on all aspects of United States Navy Special Operations titled United States Naval Special Warfare by Greg F. Mathieson Sr. and David Gatley. The book is a large wardroom-table size 13.5 X 10 inch (35.5 cm X 25.5 cm) and is 403 pages long, weighing a hulking 8 pounds.  It contains hundreds of new, never published, photos in addition to the original text.


Both an entertaining visual experience and a valuable reference, “Naval Special Warfare” contains accurate insights into SEAL and SWCC equipment from the past, current and even into the future.

The Navy SEAL book category is a crowded one with returning 4,389 results for a search on the book topic “Navy SEALs”. What sets United States Naval Special Warfare apart is its freshness, accuracy and scope. Previous large format photo books on Naval Special Warfare have contained generic, public release official U.S. Navy photos usually seen in numerous publications. United States Naval Special Warfare uses photography we’ve never seen in previous books or publications. Even the photos of historical, older SEAL training and operations in United States Naval Special Warfare are original.


Authors Greg E. Mathieson Sr., (left) and David Gatley (R).

Co-Author/Photographer Greg E. Mathieson Sr. served over a decade in the U.S. Army prior to becoming an expert in defense photography. He is the founder of MAI Photo News Agency, a journalistic resource that specializes in military and tactical photojournalism. Mathieson has published photos in every major, mainstream news publication. His relationship with each branch of the military and his experience as a member of the U.S. Army provide him with a degree of technical insight that, arguably, no other photojournalist currently enjoys. Mathieson’s photos bring this book to life as an engaging and fascinating insight that serves as a strong visual reference.

Co-author David Gatley owns three Pulitzer Prize nominations and has 35 years experience as a professional photographer. He is also a former RAND Corporation analyst for military weapons systems. Gatley owns six tours in the Middle East with deployed combat units. He has also done commercial photography for General Dynamics, Lockheed, ITT Defense and has provided imagery of sensitive material to his clients.

A big part of the appeal of United States Naval Special Warfare is the scope of the subject matter. Topics given short-shift in previous books are examined in detail in Mathieson and Gatley’s book. Of special note are new photos and detailed insights into submersible operations and SEAL delivery vehicles past and present.


We’ve never seen this level of detail and insight into the (previously) secret SEAL Delivery Vehicles.

The book also devotes considerable photography and insights into the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) branch of Naval Special warfare with new insights into their littoral boat technology, operations and the training and history of their crews. While much has been written about the SEAL teams themselves, there is very little available reference material on the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman units.


Mathieson and Gatley’s photography is fresh and original, even in depictions of Naval Special Warfare team operations from a number of years ago.

Most gallery style military books are primarily photo references but Naval Special Warfare backs up the great, original photography with accurate, detailed and in some cases, previously unavailable insights into Naval Special Warfare. Additionally, the text is well written and engaging. Nailing both the photography and the writing in a book that reports on a secretive society is a high bar to clear, and Naval Special Warfare sets the new standard for books on this subject.


Significant attention is given to the special operations “brown water” navy, the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen units in “Naval Special Warfare”.

Finally, if you enjoy well made and archival, library quality paper books the construction of Naval Special Warfare is impressive. The giant book uses a real “case binding” with beautiful quality case cloth on the board outer of the binding with nicely done shoulders on the signatures of the book binding. This is a historical grade binding and printing that can serve as an empirical research resource in libraries.


The cover on our review copy had no paper slip cover, likely because of the elaborate, deeply embossed Naval Special Warfare Insignia.

The cover of the book features a deeply and intricately embossed insignia of the Naval Special Warfare Command and the SEAL qualification badge, the Trident. It looks like something you’d see on a flag pole outside the Phil H. Bucklew Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California.


The book is built with a library quality “case binding” with heavy cloth board cover.

Every aspect of Naval Special Warfare is covered in detail and with currency and authority in Naval Special Warfare. This book is the start point for any literary survey of Naval Special Operations and will be an important title in any collection of books on Naval Special Warfare.

The book is currently sold directly from NSW Publications LLC for a “Printers Promotional Price” of $65.00 with an advertised “List Price” of $98.00.

SHOT Show 2012: The Players.

By Tom Demerly for

The Multicam Man: Caleb Crye, innovator of Multicam and Crye Precision products made an appearance in his booth and shared a smile. The Crye Precision booth hosted the darling Hot Shots calendar girls making it a popular stop.
People make our industry and the 2012 SHOT show was a great opportunity to meet the faces behind the products in the defense industry. One of the many benefits of attending the SHOT show is the opportunity to speak to the people behind the products. The 2012 SHOT was an all-star cast of product innovators in defense and tactical innovation.
One of the most impressive, and unassuming figures at the the 2012 SHOT Show was Multicam innovator Caleb Crye. In contrast to many of the defense industry personalities at SHOT with their close cropped military haircuts and tactical clothing Caleb Crye sported a stylish flop, jeans and a family reunion T-shirt styled after Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. You would hardly guess he is one of the most influential military equipment designers in the world.
Crye’s uniforms and equipment have vaulted the soldier’s gear forward. In many cases his advances have come so fast the military has had difficulty keeping up. The slow moving government acquisition process has been a thorn in his side. Crye Precision cleared a major hurdle after the U.S. military community realized the Army ACU pattern was ineffective in arid environments and authorized Multicam as a camouflage uniform. The change provided Crye Precision with a healthy bump in government contracts to its already massive bottom line.

Quiet, shy and unassuming, Caleb Crye is like many great innovators. It was a pleasure to meet him in person, and a little tricky to get him to smile for our cameras.

 Another man responsible for innovative camouflage schemes is Guy Cramer of Hyperstealth. Cramer uses mathmatical equations and detailed insights into how the eye and the brain perceive objects visually to develop his unusual camouflage schemes. Some of them are truly bizarre. He showed us an “urban” camouflage scheme that seemed to have buildings printed on it, an outwardly odd idea that Cramer claimed was “highly effective in maintaining visual stealth and tricking the eye in the urban tactical environment”.

Guy Cramer's innovative camouflage designs include this unusual urban concept that he claimed made it difficult to visually acquire a soldier in an urban setting.

Cramer’s designs rely on, among other features,  patterns within patterns or “fractal patterns”. Fractal patterns trick the brain into categorizing visual images as something other than they are. His designs are effective. One of them is a finalist in the Army’s current selection process for the new soldiers’ uniform being conducted by the Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC).

Cramer's visual stealth schemes include the interesting digital pattern on their rep (left) and samples of the proposed new U.S. Army combat uniform scheme on the hangers in the background.

 Between interviews at SHOT show we got a chance to meet members of some of the most interesting and elite military and law enforcement units. Some could discuss their units and be photographed, others could not due to security concerns. Among two we ran into who were willing to appear on were a pair of Special Operators from NASA’s elite Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. Founded in 1979 the team is tasked with high level security operations around our nation’s space centers such as the John F. Kenedy Space Center and other facilities.

Among the many interesting units we met at 2012 SHOT were these officers from the Royal Dutch Army (left) and a pair of operators from NASA's elite SWAT team that secures our nation's space operations.

Another brilliant innovator we had the pleasure of  meeting in person is Beej Cronin, Mastermind Designer along with his associate Chris Cronin, Director of Sales for Kitanica. If there are two greatly under rated tactical innovators in apparel design Kitanica is one of them, the other we’ll mention in a moment.
Beej Cronin showed us a number of new designs from Kitanica including their new Winter Softshell, 2 Zip Fleece and Mark V jacket. We’ve been wearing Kitanica’s impressive PNT GEN2 tactical pants and they are the finest full-feature tactical pants available. Their new fleece tops follow that trend in technology and features and are a strong value at reasonable prices.
The new Winter Softshell uses 4 chest pockets and a unique flow-through ventilation system on the chest ideal for managing heat while carrying a pack. There are also hand warmer pockets, a rear lumbar pocket, three shoulder pockets and a waist and bottom hem drawstring. The jacket is Polartec PowerSheild laminated fleece with a windproof, water resistant layer laminated into the fabric.
The unique 2-Zip Fleece uses a raglan-pattern zipper system that enables the top to be donned over the head while wearing a helmet. This is a boon for layering while inside an aircraft or small vehicle. This also looked like something we’d want to wear under a dry suit for a diving operation. The top is heavy, made of Polartec 300 Thermalpro. It would be an excellent piece for cold maritime environments and layering under a shell jacket in arctic conditions.

Beej Cronin, Mastermind Designer of Kitanica shows us their new 2-Zip Fleece (left) of heavy Polartec 300 Thermalpro and the impressive Kitanica Winter Softshell jacket in windproof and water repellant Polartec Powersheild.


The second tactical apparel innovator we were so impressed by is Vertx. Vertx discreet tactical operator pants are the very best low profile tactical pants we’ve used. The fit, fabric, pattern, pockets and overall features are superb. It’s the tactical pant you can wear without looking… too tactical.

The gem in Vertx’s booth was their new Vertx Multicam Smock. This new version of the classic parachutist’s smock uses new patterning, fabrics and design details to reinvent the tactical smock category. This completely replaces the conventional field jacket, merging an active insulation layer with a shell garment that spans a wide range of temperatures and climates. The Vertx Multicam Smock packs so much technology and design innovation into one garment we are devoting an article to its review (coming soon).  

Vertx showed us their discreet tactical pants (left) and their new softshell tactical smock, a great update on this design theme that redefines the category.


We have one final update in our SHOT show 2012 Series here on

SHOT Show 2012: Lighting and Accessories.

Surefire showed their new Wristlight combined watch and flashlight, an innovative direction in tactical lighting.

Accessory categories including tactical lighting were significant at SHOT Show 2012 with an incredible number of new and innovative products and even a few new product categories.
Surefire’s booth was crowded with show attendees looking at their new G2X Polymer tactical lights. The G2X is an economical, sub $100 personal light with a durable LED for a lamp and Nitrolon polymer body. The new G2X family uses the traditional Surefire switch, press a button for momentary light, turn the end cap righty-tighty for constant on. The body of the light feels great in your hand with an anti-slip, matt finish and a series of recessed areas so you can hold the light between an index finger and middle finger while you depress the momentary “on” switch with your palm. The light is sold in tan, black, yellow and forest green and uses two CR123A batteries for 200 lumens lasting an advertised 2 hours burn time. Surefire has a series of accessories to support the light line including a button press tailcap switch and a series of filters you can slide on the front of the light to change the light color. At $95 MSRP the G2X is a great update for Surefire’s polymer tactical lights.

Surefire's new G2X Nitrolon LED tactical light brings high performance lighting to the sub-$100 price point for 2012.

When the new Surefire Nitrolon G2X attracted people to the Surefire booth the Wristlight wrist mounted flashlight and combined Wristlight/Traser tritium luminous display watch kept them there. While Surefire was tight-lipped about an introduction of the combined watch/light unit the stand-alone wrist light has had an extensive development and is slated for consumer release. The thing is bright, 200 lumens, the same as the G2X Nitrolon flashlight. No word on battery life or release date, but a new “must have”.

Surefire's new Wristlight is 200 lumens of bright light where you need it. The combined Traser watch/Wristlight may... or may not live to see the consumer market. We'd buy it!

SOG Specialty Knives and Tools let us try the new DarkEnergy 214 and 247 tactical flashlights. These two flashlights from SOG, known for their knives and multi tools, are intended to maximize the light output in the smallest possible flashlight size. Their diminutive DarkEnergy 214, a 3.8 inch light, blasts out a claimed 214 lumens from only one CR123A battery. There are two beam strengths with a maximum claimed run time of 3 hours on the lower light setting. The flashlight bodies are 6061 T-6 aluminum and the switch is a full click on/off switch with a flashing mode and a “half on” 40% light output mode. MSRP on the smaller DarkEnergy 214 model is $105 and should be in retailers by Spring of 2012. A larger, brighter DarkEnergy 247 blows out 247 lumens max (hence the name) for only $25 more at $130 MSRP. The brighter light is larger since it uses two CR123A batteries in its 5.1 ” long body. Run time is longer too with a maximum claimed 8 hours run time on low setting. We turned the light on and off and the switch felt great. Fit and finish on the pre-production samples we saw was very nice. These imported lights are strong performers at good price points.

SOG Specialty Knives and Tools showed their new DarkEnergy 214 and 247 lights with super high output, 6061T6 aluminum alloy body and multi-function on/off switch.

 Streamlight had a wide variety of innovative lighting products including their versatile Sidewinder Compact II. Streamlight sells the Sidewinder Compact II as “20 Flashlights in One” since it has multiple modes, four different models (Military, Aviation, Medical and Sportsman) and can be used on a helmet mount, as a headlight with strap, will clip to MOLLE webbing and work as a stand alone flashlight. The Sidewinder Compact II has incredible battery life and operating temperature range from its CR123A 3 Volt Lithium battery. The versatility of the Streamlight Sidewinder Compact II combined with its reasonable price below $70 US make it a strong value.

Streamlight's Sidewinder Compact tactical multi purpose light packs a lot of lighting versatility into a compact, value oriented system.

 Princeton Tec showed a growing line of tactical lighting gear including their proven Remix Pro and Fred Tactical MPLS in tan, ACU/OD, Tan/Multicam and black. With over 70 hours of burn time on the high beam and 35 lumens from 3 AAA batteries the Fred Tactical MPLS adapts to helmet NVG mounts, MOLLE and uses a headstrap. MSRP is less than $50.
Princeton Tec also showed a growing range of helmet mount “Switch” personal task lights using their versatile “flexi-neck” design. These little lights have a few unique features including the little flexible stalk the LED light is mounted to. The stalk enables the user to direct the light where they need it and keep it there hands free. The Switch uses a miniature 2016 litium battery and gives off a tactically appropriate 10 lumens of light in a few different colors. A new version from Princeton Tec uses a larger battery case and three LED’s for more run time and better illumination.

Three of Princeton Tec's lights include the new triple LED unit on the right of the helmet above.

A truly impressive brand we found at SHOT Show is  Alpha-TAC ExtremeBeam. ExtremeBeam lights featured aluminum cases, high output that ExtremeBeam claims exceeds “performance of some 600 lumen lights” excellent feeling controls and incredible prices, many below $60 US MSRP.  We spent considerable time in the ExtremeBeam display booth trying different models and became more impressed with each light as we used the switches, disassembled the lights and then, most pleasantly, learned about their excellent pricing.

ExtremeBeam showed a wide variety of nice quality, value priced lights with double sealed alloy bodies, shatter resistant lenses and nice feeling switches.

The folks manning the booth at ExtremeBeam knew their flashlights and pointed out that the color frequency of their lights optimized contrast and visibility in moist/humid weather conditions. The design of the flashlight body also accommodates several battery configurations adding versatility. ExtremeBeam told us the run time on the SX21 model was “about 7 hours” on one set of CR123 lithium batteries.

ExtremeBeam's SX21R was bright, light weight and inexpensive with an MSRP of less than $80 USD.

Our SHOT Show 2012 coverage continues this week with more new products and people from the tactical/defense industry on

SHOT Show 2012: Footwear.

The evolution in tactical footwear was never more evident than at SHOT 2012. Danner’s impressive booth featured this beautiful U.S. made, Berry compliant boot for 2012 called the Rivot TFX.

In our first round of SHOT Show 2012 coverage for we look at new footwear innovations and some proven styles shown at the SHOT show in Las Vegas, Nevada from January 17-20th, 2012 at the Sands Convention Center. 

Military footwear has undergone a much needed evolution in the last decade with changes in tactical requirements and the introduction of new manufacturing processes borrowed from the athletic and recreational outdoor markets. These influences have evolved tactical footwear into new mission specific designs that provide the operator with comfort, maneuverability, stealth, performance and durability never available in military footwear.
One of the leaders in outdoor and tactical footwear, Danner, showed a number of new designs that borrowed from their 75-year heritage while also showcasing new technologies in sole design, light weight and visual stealth. Danner has done an exceptional job of building modern mission specific footwear tailored to the individual operator’s mission while combining many traditional material and construction techniques.

Danner's new DFA is an update to the tactical boot harkening back to the original Adidas GSG-9 but in a more durable platform with fast-rope specific features and a stealth sole.

Danner’s new DFA tactical boot reminded us of the original Adidas GSG-9 special operations boot made famous by the German Federal Police Special Operations unit, Grenzschutzgruppe 9- but much better. The DFA is a tremendous evolution of early lightweight tactical boots with a full nubuc leather upper built over a Gore-Tex sock liner. The unique sole features a medial reinforcement of Vibram V-4 rubber for use during fast rope insertions. This fast rope specific feature called “Danner VIA” is patent-pending and makes rope descents smoother and braking easier even with a load. The outsole compound and low lug tread pattern optimizes audible stealth and traction on all floor surfaces, even when wet. An additional padded section on the medial ankle help protect the operator during fast rope insertions, dynamic entries and vehicle ingress/egress. 
The boot is impressively light weight and flexible due to the Pebax midsole plate and proprietary molding of outsole/midsole and upper. The Danner DFA is a strong option for police tactical units, Homeland Security, private security and other law enforcement and military units that require a long wearing, silent soled boot with fast rope and dynamic entry features.

Danner's new ICH tactical mountaineering boot in two colors with a full Gore-Tex sock liner.

Danner showed the new U.S. made, Berry compliant ICH boot. The ICH brings high altitude mountaineering design to tactical footwear. Danner used the Vibram Bifida outsole to maintain support, flexibility and comfort across a wide range of temperatures including extreme cold. The ICH uses a full Gore-Tex sock liner for weather protection. This will likely be a relatively flexible mountaineering boot compared to crampon-specific technical  mountaineering boots. You will be able to hump heavy loads on mountain terrain for long hours in relative comfort with the ICH.  Missing from the Danner ICH boot is any type of outsole/heel or toe groove for use with crampons, snowshoes or ski bindings. This may be because of its more flexible outsole/midsole for walking that does not translate well to crampon/snowshoe/ski use. The Mountain Assault Boot is a true soldier’s boot nicely configured for specialty mountain units, long range surveillance units and any application that includes high altitude, long distances and load carrying. There are two colors in the ICH, olive and tan.

We got spy shots of prototype Danner boots in the new A-TACS FG woodland pattern. Note that this prototype boot has a new A-TACS FG color upper but the previous A-TACS (non-FG) sole.

Danner is releasing a similar high altitude boot to the ICH in July 2012 called the Mountain Assault Boot. The Mountain Assault Boot will use a Pebax framework and Danner’s Dynamic Response System riding on the Vibram Tsavo outsole. The Mountain Assault Boot does have a molded in horizontal heel recess for crampons, snowshoes and ski bindings. The Mountain Assault Boot is to be sold in canteen color, a darkish brown. It is similar in appearance to the ICH but will provide a stiffer ride. 
Lightweight boots with new camouflage schemes were shown in Danner’s booth with their new Melee line-up that includes camouflage models in Crye Multicam and A-TACS patterns along with solid canteen color, black and a very nice low quarter version in the canteen brown/green color. The Melee is a flexible fabric upper boot and shoe family available with either a waterproof Gore-Tex lining or a more breathable non-Gore lining. These new boots are packed with details like a convenient “lace garage” for tucking in your tied laces. Different models feature either waterproof full grain leather uppers (solid color boots) or a 1000 denier fabric upper on the A-TACS, Multicam and low quarter boots.

A new low-quarter version of Danner's Melee in Canteen color with a 1000 denier nylon upper makes for a lightweight, comfortable and durable everyday low profile shoe.

 One of the most impressive boots in Danner’s 2012 line-up is the Rivot TFX. Rivot TFX is designed for the U.S. Marine Corps as well as other military unit, law enforcement and tactical outdoor use. The Rivot TFX is U.S. made and features a full Gore-Tex sock liner. The upper is 1000 denier nylon with Space Frame Webbing reinforcement built-in that is reminiscent of traditional jungle boot design. The lower portion of the boot is waterpoof rough-out leather that is durable and non-reflective.

The Danner Rivot TFX is intended for the U.S. Marine Corps market along with other military end users.

 There is an additional non Gore-Tex version of the Danner Rivot TFX sold in men’s and women’s sizes. Both the Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex boots are built on the successful Danner Terra Force-X platform in the midsole over a Vibram Rivot TFX outsole with a unique tread pattern that allows “increased pivotal movements”. The boot meets AR 670-1 uniform requirements for “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia”

The welt construction, double reinforced toe, rough-out leather lower, drain holes (reminiscent of jungle boots) and Space Frame Webbing reinforcement on the Danner Rivot TFX.

Lowa’s successful Task Force line continued with expanded colors including Air Force Grey and black in their popular Zephyr GTX and GSG Revo black tactical boot. We’ve worn Lowa boots for five years with excellent comfort, performance and durability. As we walked the floor at the SHOT show in Las Vegas we were wearing Lowa Task Force boots.

Lowa's successful Task Force line has been expanded with more colors including an Air Force uniform color option.


The unusual looking Lowa Monowrap exterior frame design wraps the outsole onto the upper for added stability and shock reduction. Monowrap remains a proven design that will continue forward according to Lowa’s Marketing Director. The Monowrap is a Lowa-owned patent that has been used for several years by Lowa in both their military/LE  Task Force line and their civilian technical footwear. Lowa specifies their “Mid TF” boots are ideal for operators carrying up to 25 pounds of equipment. We’ve worn earlier versions of the Zephyr Mid Task Force boot with 40+ pound loads and excellent comfort and performance. A unique feature to the Zephyr Task Force boots is their seamless design to reduce hotspots. The company claims, and our experience confirms, the boots require no break in.

The new sage green Zephyr GTX Mid TF and the black high-top GSG Revo with Gore-Tex sock liner.

Magnum showed their successful Multicam boots including the Magnum Spider 5.1 HPi Multicam, an unusual low-quarter, light weight high mobility boot with a 1650D ballistic nylon upper and a grippy fast rope reinforcement. The Spider 5.1 HPi fits and feels like a very light hiker or a trail running shoe. While it may be a little low topped for uniform wear or bloused BDU pants it is a great option for when you have to move fast and light. It’s a joy to wear boots that are so light and maneuverable. The open vents in the forefoot make it a great hot weather choice.

The Magnum Spider 5.1 HPi Multicam boot is a low quarter, lightweight boot with plenty of ventilation and super maneuverable feel. We love this boot for non-garrison wear.

Magnum also showed Multicam trail running shoe called the Intrepid HPI (left photo above, background). The Intrepid HPI used a dual-density running shoe midsole and a unusual seamless upper to shed debris. The laces are anchored to an unusual clear polymer saddle frame. There is a breathable mesh tongue and a hefty toe reinforcement. We’ll be doing some trail runs in this shoe and will report our impressions.
There was so much new and interesting footwear at the SHOT show they could have had a separate tactical footwear  show. With so many new introductions and the ongoing evolution of tactical footwear it was one of the most interesting categories at the show. Our SHOT show coverage will continue here on this week (1/24/2012).

Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi

Magnum Boots long awaited Multicam Sidewinder HPi has arrived- and was entirely worth the wait.


By MILTECHREV Editor Tom Demerly.

Magnum Boots has released their new Sidewinder Combat Desert Multcam HPi boot after initial changes in the delivery schedule. This outstanding boot is worth the wait. The Sidewinder Combat Desert HPi is not an entirely new boot for Magnum Boots. A previous version in solid desert tan has been available and evaluated by over 1456 “testers” in 192 countries according to Magnum Boot’s website.

The primary difference with the latest version of the Sidewinder Combat Desert HPi is the Multicam pattern that covers the entire boot, including the sole. This concept of camouflage boots to provide better concealment for the soldier is relatively new but already proving to be effective and popular. This trend in tactical uniforms marks another functional step away from uniforms that were initially designed for garrison wear such as black or solid color boots. 

The Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is packed with technical details that work together to make this an exceptional tactical boot. The features and benefits range from subtle changes in fabric and design philosophy to more conspicuous changes in the outer design of the boot such as the overall camouflage scheme and the unique fast rope panel on the medial instep area.

Three testers wore this boot in size 9.5 US including wear tests while carrying a pack, on technical, rocky desert trails and for long road marches on pavement at speed. We even had the opportunity to do some PT running in this boot.

The packaging and the "Magnum Challenge" 60-Day wear guarantee nomenclature when we received production boots. This is the consumer packaging.

Ion-Mask: Better Boot Performance in the Real World.

A key feature in the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is ion-mask technology. The ion-mask protective layer on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is an ultra-thin coating layer over a thousand times thinner than a human hair. This coating does not wash or rinse off and is as durable as the material it is applied to. Ion-mask treatment repels water, grit and dust at the fiber level, allowing the fabric to remain breathable and quick drying. It is not a waterproof treatment, but rather, a means of making individual fibers less permiable, more durable and actually improving the breathability and drying speed of the overall fabric made up of the individual ion-mask fibers. Ion-mask even makes stitching on the boot water repellant, making it stronger since it will not soak up water or stretch.

Side views of the boot inside and outside. Notice the fast rope device above the instep on the left.

The ion-mask treatment on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi effectively moderates overall boot comfort, function and performance in the real world. Ion-mask does not fight the losing battle of trying to keep your feet entirely dry in a wet environment. Instead the design of the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi works effectively with the environment to protect feet from blisters, moisture and injury. Your feet can get wet in these boots, but they will dry out faster and remain more comfortable than an entirely waterproof boot. If this idea sounds familiar think back to the original jungle boot from the 1960’s. These boots did not fight the losing battle of keeping water out, but rather, took a more pragmatic approach of controlling ventilation and moisture with boot design.

A comparison of relative boot heights for the Lowa Zephyr Desert Boot (left), the Magnum Sidewinder Desert Multicam HPi (center) and the Danner TFX Hot Boot, A-TACS (right).

A drawback to waterproof boots is ventilation and breathability. While most waterproof boots use a waterproof/breathable microporous sock liner to prevent water from getting in they tend to be long on water repellancy but short on breathabiltity. Even the best designed waterproof/breathable boots are noticeably warmer than a similar non-waterproof design. The result is, while your feet may not get wet from external moisture like rain or stepping in water, your skin does get moist from perspiration inside the waterproof sockliner of the boot. As your foot perspires your skin become vulnerable to blisters from being wet. Your footwear system is more reliant on your socks and frequent sock changes, not always possible in the tactical environment. The ion-mask treatment on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi prevents the fibers from soaking up water, allowing them to dry faster, provide better ventilation and prevent soaking.

The Multicam color scheme is even executed on the lacing eyelets, a nice detail.

Another benefit of the ion-mask treatment is the boot stays cleaner since foreign matter does not stick easily and what may stick cleans off much more easily than non- ion-mask boots.

No More Stink: Agion Silver-Based Treatment.

Another proven technology built into the Magnum Boots Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is the use of Agion anti-microbial treatment to reduce odor. Agion relies on silver ions to reduce the accumulation of smell from the boots. The boots don’t gather bad smells from perspiration. This silver-molecular impregnation has been used successfully in athletic apparel by endurance sports brands like Pearl Izumi (they make bicycling, running and triathlon apparel). For tactical applications it means you can wear your boots on a week long patrol, pack them in your deployment bag and put them on a C-141, fly home, open the bag and not be gassed by the smell of your own boots.

The unique design of the heel and toe of the new Vibram outsole improves traction and handling when climbing and when walking downhill.

SuperFabric: Making Fabric Boots that Wear Longer.

Wear of the boots, especially the fabric sections, is enhanced by using HDM Inc.’s SuperFabric. SuperFabric is a plating technology for increasing fabric abrasion and tear resistance. The earliest versions of fabric boots had the advantages of being cool, lighteweight, quick to break in and functional but they also wore very quickly. SuperFabric armor makes fibers more resistant to abrasion while retaining breathability.

Ortholite Insoles: Aftermarket Athletic Shoe Performance.

Another fabric/material/design feature on the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is the use of Ortholite insoles right out of the box- the boots come with them. Ortholite is a brand partner with Nike, Merrell, Timberland, Adidas and New Balance. They do insole/orthotic manufacturing for many of these brands and sell their own line of aftermarket orthotics. The advantage to an Ortholite brand insole is materials, engineering, performance and durability. This is a thicker, more anatomically correct and more durable insole than the generic Cambrelle type insole.

The mesh ventilated lining with the Ortholite insole installed (left) and removed (center) and the Ortholite insole removed.

The Boot Design.

Great fabric technologies are no good without good basic footwear design. The Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi uses a number of solid design cues to optimize the fabric technologies.

Firstly, the boot is an in-between 8.5″ (21.5 cm) height. I’ll argue this is an optimal height for most purposes. It can be donned easily, provides good ankle stability (along with the outsole- more on that in a moment) and retains reasonably light weight. The boot has a padded and scalloped upper collar. The lacing on this boot is superb. Good boots are a matter of details and this boot has attended to the details. Firstly, the laces: These laces mimmick the feel and weave of .550 parachute cord. The weave of the laces is dense, making them slide through the eyelets more easily and last longer. Before you discount the importance of decent laces consider the awful cotton laces one high end tactical boot supplies their boots with. You have to replace them right out of the box or suffer the consequences in the field. That brand’s boots are great- but the laces are awful. Speaking of lacing, the eyelets on the Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi also show attention to detail. They are Multicam color keyed and the fourth eyelet from the top is a locking eyelet that helps secure the adjustment of the boot tightness when donning.

At 787 grams (27.7 ounces) The Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi is a relatively lightweight boot.

The boot lining is perforated and padded adding to both breathability and out-of-the-box comfort. Tongue design integrates with the rest of the upper to prevent debris from entering and folds easily when donning and lacing. We wore several different weight socks during our wear testing and all worked well, even a very light sock-liner worn by itself.

Toward the bottom of the boot there is a hefty fast rope panel on the medial instep to help dissipate heat and get a grip on the rope. It also helps with rope climbing. The mid sole is described as dual density molded construction. Given the relatively cushioned feel this technical hiking boot/trail running shoe technology seems right at home on this tactical boot.

A thoughtful detail on the lacing system is this locking eyelet that allows intermediate adjustment of how tight the boot is.

A particularly nice feature for steep terrain is the radiused-grip heel on the molded Vibram sole. The heel of the boot is partially rounded with a series of grippers molded in. The grippers are angled downward to provide some purchase on the back of the boot if your weight shifts rearward. This is especially important when walking down hill wearing a big ruck. You should already know to keep your weight over the ball of your foot when descending with a ruck on, but this feature is extra insurance if you start to slip or have to descend fast. This technology is borrowed from Vibram’s successful S2V outsoles. These molded, integrated outsoles represent a new direction for Vibram.

Even little details like more durable, tighter weave laces (bottom) are included on the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam.

The toe portion of the sole wraps upward for better traction. This will also make the boot last longer since a lot of boots die when the toe section of the sole delaminates from upper.

Overall our test boots in size 9.5 US weighed 787 grams or 27.7 ounces (1.73 pounds). Volume in the forefoot and instep/saddle area were spot on for a 9.5 slightly wide foot with average arches. The boots fit well directly from the box. No break in was required.

How Did They Work?

We have been looking forward to this boot for so long that when we finally got them we absolutely beat them. Three testers tag teamed these boots over 2 weeks. They were almost constantly on someone’s feet, almost constantly in motion. When they weren’t marching on pavement they were rucking in the mountains. We hammered them, likely putting 2 months of normal wear for one owner into 2 weeks with three testers sharing one pair.

I put 8.5 hard miles on these boots wearing very thin, low socks directly out of the box. No blisters, no hot spots. The boots felt light and agile and provide good shock absoption. My first impression wearing these is the boots ride “high”. The midsole, insole and outsole are thick. I am taller with these on. There is a lot of “cush” to the soles.

A visual comparison of the Magnum Sidewinder combat Desert Multicam HPi (left) and the Danner TFX Hot Boot, A-TACS (right).

Wear testing them in lose terrain on an 8 mile up, 8 mile down technical trail that climbed to 9,000 feet while wearing 25 pounds at the start (got lighter as the tester ate and drank from their hydration reservoir) was equally impressive: no blisters, great stability, handling and excellent traction, especially descending. No hot spots at the ankle or ball of the foot. Laces stayed tied and adjusted.

We didn’t get the boots soaking wet or swim with them but we did one rope descent on a static trainer- the grippers on the inside are sticky and grip the rope well if you are light and not wearing a pack. We did pull a pair of swim fins over them and they work well with the little Force Fins. I installed a pair of Grivel Air Tech Light semi-rigid adjustable crampons on these boots and, once adjusted, they worked fine. Clearly there is a lot of versatility with the design of these boots.

No review is complete without some criticism and, although any complaint with a boot this nice is about impossible to find we did miss a heel loop to help with donning. Beyond that, we couldn’t find a thing to change.

A close look at the Multicam colored outsole. The soles are slightly lighter since soil will cause them to darken slightly with field use.

It took a while for the Magnum Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi to reach the market but they are absolutely worth the wait. Magnum did well to delay the release of the boot until everything- including reasonable supply- was ready for the consumer market. This boot has been extensively tested around the world in several versions and is absolutely proven now. The new Multicam color scheme adds another layer of function and appeal. The Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi comes with Magnum’s “Magnum Challenge” 60-Day Guarantee: According to the hang tag in the boot box from Magnum, if you are  U.S. customer you can return the boots within 60 days for a full refund if they do not work for you. That suggests Magnum has a high degree of confidence in the performance of this boot.

Our tests also reinforce a high degree of confidence in this boot. They have excellent out-of-the-box comfort and show almost no wear after hard use. Each of us found the boots comfortable, maneuverable and lightweight. None of us developed blisters or hot spots even on varied terrain across wide temperature ranges using different socks and carrying a load. It’s hard to not be impressed by this boot. They were truly worth the wait.

Magnum's new Sidewinder Combat Desert Multicam HPi took some time to hit the market but is absolutely worth the wait.

County Comm Government Products Group Embassy Pens

By Tom Demerly.

County Comm Government Products Group has made a limited number of their lightweight 6061 T-6 Aluminum Alloy and heavyweight Stainless Steel Embassy Pens in the "REV 2" versions available to the non-government market.

The “tactical pen” has become a big category in the last decade. The cottage industry defense contractor, County Comm Government Products Group, has released a limited number of their heavy-duty Embassy Pens in both lightweight alloy and the heavy stainless steel version.
The “tactical pen” was given life by writing instrument innovator Paul Fisher of the Fisher Space Pen Company. Fisher invented a refillable pen cartridge that could work in different pen “bodies”. He went on to develop a more dependable pen cartridge using thixotropic ink. Thixotropic ink is more leak proof, less messy, dries faster and applies to varied surfaces more evenly since it remains in a mostly solid state inside the pen until the action of a rolling ball pen tip causes it to liquify, coat the pen tip, then flow evenly onto the surface the pen is writing on.

The heaviest of the County Comm pens we tested, the Stainless Steel version (silver, 3rd from left), is nearly ten times more substantial than a standard Parker T-Ball Jotter retractable pen. You can read the weights on these pens for comparison by clicking on this photo to enlarge it.

Fisher went on to fill the thixotropic ink cartridge with nitrogen gas at higher than ambient pressure. This pushes the ink out of its storage vessel, onto the tip at all angles. This system does not rely on gravity to feed the thixotropic ink onto the rolling ball writing surface where it is liquified. The pen always writes dependably- at any angle. It is not reliant on gravity to feed ink to the roller ball. The pen can literally write upside down, in a zero gravity environment and even in a limited negative G environment. Fisher was granted a U.S. patent in 1965, Patent # 3,285,228 “Anti Gravity Pen”. Three years later the pen was made famous as the “NASA SEB 12100051 Data Recording Pen” by NASA Astronauts on the Apollo 7 mission. Fisher Space Pen Co. claims NASA tested the pen “for two years” before implementing it in the Apollo Space Program.

The threaded cap and surface knurling on the County Comm Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) is beautifully precise and well done.

On a practical level there are few things more frustrating than a pen that doesn’t write, except a pen that leaks and ruins clothing or a brief case and documents. Fisher’s Space Pen Cartridge proved remarkably reliable and caught on quickly. Market share steadily grew as Fisher Space Pen released more models. A satirical episode on the TV sitcom Seinfeld was even written featuring the Fisher Space Pen.

Handling and feel on these pens is very nice. The Fisher Space Pen pressurized cartridge produces good quality, dependable print even upside down, like this sample was made.

The pens from County Comm Government Products Group are large, precision machined bodies for the Fisher Space Pen Cartridge. The heavier Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) is large and heavy enough to use as an improvised weapon like a kuboton. The kuboton is a hand-to-hand combat weapon developed (and patented) by Takayaki Kubota in the 1970’s for use by the Los Angeles Police Department. As a result of its improvised weapon capability, the TSA likely won’t let you take one of these pens through some airline security inspections.

The size and heft of the County Comm pens give them some "weapons capability" in the most desperate circumstances. Because of this the TSA may not let you carry these on a commercial flight.

County Comm Government Products Group offers three versions of the Embassy Pen: The Titanium Embassy Pen made of 6/4 vanadium/titanium alloy ($85),  the exotic Solid Copper Embassy Pen ($175), the Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) and the 6061 Aluminum Alloy Type 3 Anodized Embassy Pen (REV 2) ($44.50). We tested the Stainless Steel Embassy Elite Pen (REV 2) ($55) and the black 6061 Aluminum Alloy Type 3 Anodized Embassy Pen (REV 2).

The top of the pen unthreads once opened to insert the Fisher Space Pen pressurized cartridge.

Tactical pens are basically metal housings for the Fisher Space Pen cartridge. The thing that sets them apart is the level of workmanship and the design. The County Comm Government Product Group pens are unique because of their hefty design, nice finish, pleasing shape and good ergonomics. The heft is especially apparent with the 107 gram (3.77 ounce) Stainless Steel pen we tried. These things feel substantial in your hand, especially the heft of the Stainless Steel version which we weighed in at 107 grams, about the same weight as a coin roll. It feels nice to write with a heavy pen- as long as you don’t have to write too long. The heavy Stainless Steel version is a great choice for a police officer writing a short ticket or someone taking notes. I wouldn’t want to write out a report with one of these pens though. The lighter weight aluminum alloy version is very nice for longer writing projects though.

Pen sizes for comparison: Bottom, Fisher Space Pen. 2nd from Bottom, Parker T-Ball Jotter, Top two, County Comm stainless steel and anodized 6061 T6 aluminum.

These pens are not retractable, you unthread the forward, cap section and remove it to write. Many high-end pens have this construction.  One thing that struck us as less than elegant is that, once you unthread the cap you have to do something with it. It doesn’t slide or thread onto the back of the pen or otherwise conveniently store itself. I’m worried about losing the cap. That said, the pens handle very well. The knurling turned into the forward section and the taper formed by threaded area mean you can grip these well even when wearing gloves, and that is a big advantage to these pens over smaller “space” pens.

The nice machining and functional shape give these pens durable, functional appeal. These are the threads inside the removable pen cap.

Each pen has a 301 grade stainless steel clip bolted to the main body with two Torx threaded fasteners, a big improvement over the little Fisher Space Pen that has a clip-on pocket clip that can slide up and down the pen body- and eventually fall off. That won’t happen with the County Comm pens.

Disassembly of the pens is easy, simply unthreading the cap and the top of the pen exposes the Fisher Space Pen cartridge which fits precisely inside the housing.

Writing with and carrying these pens is a joy. They feel great and, as mentioned, are one of few pens that work well wearing Nomex flight gloves or tactical assault gloves. Another nice feature, especially of the robust Stainless Steel pen, is that you can find them easily in a pocket. Since these pens are large they are easy to find but may not fit in all pen tube storage holders. Triple Aught Design had a small Velcro pen storage tube some time ago and this pen is too large for that little fabric/Velcro accessory tube. The function and robust nature of the design, quality of the manufacturing and engraving and overall fit and feel of the pen make it functional and attractive. Pull this out in a board meeting and it will get attention. Jot down coordinates or radio freqs in the dark cockpit of an EC-130E Compass Call and it won’t fail you.

The County Comm pens on top of a Spec Ops Brand check book holder.

County Comm Government Products Group is a fascinating company with a host of useful items that are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else. Many of these are County Comm designs, some are sourced from other companies and compiled into their quaint and convenient shopping portal. Their unique tactical pens are just one product category of many. County Comm’s website is a worthwhile stop for the military, law enforcement, tactical enthusiast and technology fan and their tactical pens are a great introduction to their products.

Boonie Bust Up: A Tale of Seven Boonie Hats.

By MILTECHREV Editor Tom Demerly.

The evolution of the boonie hat started in the early 1960's in popular U.S. military culture and has continued to evolve for five decades.

By popular accounts the “boonie hat” or soft hat evolved from locally procured full brim fabric hats during the Vietnam Conflict beginning with the French occupation of Indochina and accelerating with the arrival of U.S. Special Forces advisors in the early 1960’s. Most early boonie hats were procured locally in South Vietnam. The local manufacture of boonie hats became a significant cottage industry that survives to this day in modern Vietnam. Now the hats are sold in Vietnam mostly as souvenirs of the “American War”.
The boonie hat came into popular use by Special Operations teams such as the U.S. Army Special Forces and ARVN units along with counter insurgency units such as Naval Special Warfare teams. The most photographed users seem to be the U.S. Army “LRP” or “LRRP” teams, “Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol” teams used to locate and harass the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong insurgents and provide bomb damage assessment after air strikes. These teams favored the soft boonie hat to a helmet since it was cooler to wear, did not interfere with hearing and broke up the outline of the soldier’s head assisting with concealment. The brim also provided a measure of comfort against monsoon rain and hot sun.

The original Vietnamese boonie hat in tiger stripe camouflage. Notice the missing camouflage loops and the pointed top. This example was purchased in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam.

The original Southeast Asian campaign boonie hats came in a number of colors but the “Tiger Stripe” camouflage was the most commonly used. Tiger stripe uniforms never had a U.S. stock number and were purchased locally including the tiger stripe boonie hats. The hat became synonymous with the Vietnam Conflict and is featured in the statue The Three Soldiers (alternatively referred to as The Three Servicemen) by artist Frederick Hart at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. In the John Wayne movie The Green Berets characters wore the tiger stripe boonie hats on secret missions to kidnap a North Vietnamese officer and to repatriate a Montagnard village.

The boonie hat was popularized in U.S. military culture by Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) Teams such as this one in Vietnam in 1968.

Another locally available version of the boonie hat still seen today was a solid color reversible version with desert tan on one side and solid Olive Drab on the other. This version was made popular by intelligence organizations and private military contractors who were either discouraged or prohibited from wearing camouflage apparel or military uniforms. The Olive Drab side had vertical loops sewn onto the side.

This boonie hat is reversible from desert tan to olive drab with the olive drab side having loops to insert foliage for camouflage. These were never issued but used by intelligence organizations and private contractors and are seen everywhere as casual wear from beach tourists to Abercrombie alterna-teens.

The loops on boonie hats have remained a fixture although there is confusion about what the fabric loops around the crown of the hat are actually for. Some people (mostly civilians) thought the loops were to store ammunition, which would not have worked. The purpose of the loops is to thread pieces of foliage as natural camouflage to further break up the outline of the soldier and help them blend into their surroundings. U.S.defense contractors did begin to produce official issue boonie hats for servicemen deployed to hot weather regions after the success with locally procured ones in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines were early adopters of issue boonie hats, solid olive drab for the U.S. Army and later woodland camouflage and then the “digital” pixelated camouflage schemes for the U.S. Army ACU’s and in the U.S. Marines’ distinctive desert and woodland pixelated scheme. The U.S. Army also adopted a “chocolate chip” or five color camouflage boonie hat and a later (still used by some units, especially Naval Special Warfare) three color camouflage. Some Middle Eastern countries also adopted these uniforms, most notably Egypt with the five color desert uniform.

The U.S. Marine Corp issue boonie hat had a large brim, four vents, the Globe and Anchor embroidered logo and a built-in sweat band inside the front of the cover.

A notable feature on the USMC issue version of the boonie hat is the Globe and Anchor Marine insignia embroidered on the front of the “cover”. These covers (Marine vernacular for hat) were manufactured by Sekri Industries and sold in size names “Small”, “Medium” and “Large”. Marines in Iraq during Gulf II believed that the hat should be worn in the largest possible size for comfort and maximum shade. The Marine insignia is more than a matter of pride, it also signifies the front of the hat, where a sweat band is located to absorb perspiration. The hat features four metal mesh vents nd uses a generous 2.87 inch wide (7 cm) brim. There is a chin lanyard and the ubiquitous webbing loops around the crown of the hat for camouflage.
The military issue boonie hats gave way to a storm of commercially produced boonies in various camouflage schemes based on military camouflage. These are used by military enthusiasts, private contractors, law enforcement and foreign government military units. 5.11 Tactical makes a version with a 2.25 inch (5.7 cm) brim, four mesh vents, chin strap, camouflage retention bands and a hidden pocket in the top of the hat for concealing a thin, flat object like ID card or plans for your secret missions.

5.11 Tactical's boonie hat is inexpensive, lightweight, has a nice brim width and a unique hidden pocket in the top. The camouflage mimmicks (but is not an exact match of) USMC desert camo.

In 2004 Caleb Crye  introduced a seven color camouflage scheme intended to be used in all terrains and climatological zones. It provides visual concealment in desert, woodland, arid and even tundra settings. The idea is to replace the need for separate woodland and desert camouflage uniforms while increasing the overall effectiveness of the soldier’s battle dress in providing tactical concealment. The result is Crye Precision’s patented Multicam pattern. Multicam has been adopted by the U.S. Army, many military and law enforcement special operations teams such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and is popular in the civilian/tactical enthusiast market.

Well conceived details like a drawstring around the crown of the hat, large integrated vents along the side and a Velcro IFF patch holder on top set the Crye Precision Multicam boonie hat apart.

Crye Precision produces a Multicam boonie hat that is truly outstanding. The fit, workmanship, pattern and features are all very good. It includes the standard boonie hat features such as an adjustable chin strap and the camouflage retention loops around the crown. It also has a Velcro loop section on the top for infra-red reflective identification friend or foe (IFF) insignia. These small black IFF squares reflect only infra-red light and glow brightly when illuminated by an IR frequency light source such as a night vision scope but remain completely dark to the naked eye. Another thoughtful feature to the Crye Precision boonie hat is a drawstring around the crown of the hat so it stays on well. The early versions of the hat did not use the metallic, round mesh vents but had a fine mesh liner in the upper section and fabric panel vents on each side. More recent  versions have round metal vents. These earlier integral vents are much larger and more effective than the little wire mesh vents. The Crye Precision boonie hat is made in hat sizes like 7, 7&1/4, 7&1/2, etc. Brim on this hat measures 2.5 inches (6 cm.)

Crye Precision's Multicam boonie hat is packed with features like a drawstring crown, large discreet side vents, Velcro pile IFF patch on top and a nicely sized brim.

The next evolution in boonie hats tracks with the development of Digital Concealment Systems’ (DCS) A-TACS camouflage pattern. A-TACS is a pixelated camouflaged system using “organic pixels” This camouflage pattern is created from an algorithm of computer interpreted light patterns and is a much tighter, smaller set of pixels more closely mimicking not only colors in the natural environment but also the behavior of light and shadow. The result is a hauntingly effective camouflage pattern. Current A-TACS is intended for arid, rocky, desert and high desert terrains but also crosses over effectively to some high alpine and dry wooded areas. Digital Concealment Systems just released the new A-TACS FG camouflage for use in jungle, heavily wooded and deep foliage areas. This new camouflage pattern is distinctly more green than the original arid terrain A-TACS.
A big part of the A-TACS concealment system is the philosophy of applying the camouflage pattern to all of the operators equipment, from battle dress to personal equipment and backpacks to weapons. Obviously headgear is included.

Tactical Performance Corporation of California has continued the development of their evolved A-TACS uniforms with the introduction of two A-TACS patterned boonie hats.

Tactical Performance Corporation of California was one of the first companies to show two versions of an A-TACS patterned boonie hat with their C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat and their unique C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat.
The C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat from Tactical Performance Corporation is a conventionally configured boonie with a 2.5 inch (6 cm.) brim similar in size to Crye Precision’s boonie. This is an optimal size for the brim of a boonie hat in our opinion as it provides adequate sun shade, spills rain and does not interfere with your field of vision as much as larger brim boonie and sun hats. The hat is ripstop 50/50 NYCO fabric and uses the metal mesh vents and small chin strap along with a series of loops around the crown for camouflage. The A-TACS camouflage pattern is uncanny in the high desert. Don’t set this hat on the ground- you’ll have a tough time finding it since it blends in so effectively even at close range.

The Tactical Performance Corporation Sniper Boonie in A-TACS is difficult to manufacture but effective in breaking up the wearer's outline.

The second version of the Tactical Performance Corporation boonie hat is the unusual C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat. One of the principles of camouflage is to break up the outline of the shape against its background rendering it less recognizable.. The Tactical Performance Sniper Boonie Hat has a brim with ghillie suit style simulated foliage around the outside. This breaks up the outline of the operator’s head, casts unusual shadows and creates visual confusion even at short range. When combined with cut natural foliage inserted into the camouflage retaining loops around the hat it becomes even more effective. The vents on the C-2100AT Sniper Boonie Hat are very similar to the Crye Precision boonie. They are large slots in the main section of the hat instead of little screens. There is also a drawstring around the crown of the hat to secure it. In terms of providing concealment, this is the most effective of the boonie hats since it not only blends into the background due to the A-TACS camouflage pattern but it effectively breaks up the wearer’s outline with the unusual trim on the brim.

Tactical Performance Corporation's C-2000AT A-TACS Boonie Hat has a perfect brim size and uses ripstop 50/50 NYCO fabric.

Boonie hats have become synonymous with the special operations soldier, law enforcement SWAT team and military/tactical enthusiast. The evolution of the boonie over the past half century has brought us to the new advanced designs from Crye Precision and Tactical Performance Corporation. More than any time in military history the boonie hat has become an important part of soldier, operator and tactical enthusiast’s wardrobe.