Resident of the world, traveling the road of life
9729 stories

M247 Sergeant York - Wikipedia

1 Share

The M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Division Air Defense) was a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun (SPAAG), developed by Ford Aerospace in the late 1970s. Based on the M48 Patton tank, it replaced the Patton's turret with a new one that featured twin radar-directed Bofors 40 mm rapid-fire guns. The vehicle was named after Sergeant Alvin York, a famous World War I hero.

The Sergeant York was intended to fight alongside the M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley in the U.S. Army, in a role similar to the Soviet ZSU-23-4 and German Gepard. It would replace the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System and MIM-72 Chaparral, ad hoc systems of limited performance that had been introduced when the more advanced MIM-46 Mauler failed to mature.

Despite the use of many off the shelf technologies that were intended to allow rapid and low-cost development, a series of technical problems and massive cost overruns resulted in the cancellation of the project in 1985.


Prior efforts[edit]

The first effective SPAAG in U.S. Army service was the all-manual M19 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage, which consisted of twin 40 mm Bofors guns based on the same chassis as used for the M24 Chaffee. When the M24 and vehicles on the same chassis were retired, the turrets were taken from the M19s, modified and mounted onto the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank chassis to produce the M42 Duster. While capable for the era it was designed in, by the time it reached widespread service in the late 1950s it was clear that it was ineffective against high-speed jet-powered targets. The Duster was completely removed from service by 1963, only to be re-introduced briefly during the Vietnam War when its replacement never arrived.[2]

The first proposed replacement for the Duster was the Sperry Vigilante, which referred to the six-barreled 37 mm Gatling gun proposed as the basis for a new SPAAG. Although the gun was extremely powerful, at some point in the late 1950s the Army decided that all gun-based systems were out of date.[3]

The next proposed replacement for the Duster was the ambitious MIM-46 Mauler. Mauler mounted a nine-missile magazine on top of an adapted M113 Armored Personnel Carrier chassis, along with detection and tracking radars. Mauler featured a completely automatic fire control system, with the operators simply selecting targets and pressing "OK". It would be able to respond to low-flying high-speed targets at any angle out to a range of about five miles. However, Mauler proved to be beyond the state-of-the-art and ran into intractable problems during development. Realizing it was not going to enter service any time soon, it was downgraded to a technology demonstration program in 1963, and eventually cancelled outright in 1965.[4]

Still lacking an effective anti-aircraft system, the Army started development of two stop-gap systems that were meant to operate in concert as the "Chaparral-Vulcan Air Defense System". The M163 VADS combined the M61 Vulcan cannon, the M113 chassis, and an all-optical fire control system with a simple lead-computing gunsight. Suitable for "snap shots" against nearby targets, the VADS system was equipped only with a small ranging radar for the gunsight, its firing range being too small to justify a larger tracking radar.[5]

VADS was intended to operate in concert with the MIM-72 Chaparral, which combined the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile with a more heavily modified version of the M113 chassis. The Chaparral's AIM-9D missiles were capable of tail-chase launches only, but offered ranges up to 5 miles. Also using an all-optical firing system, the Chaparral nevertheless required the operator to "settle" the missiles on the target for a period of time to allow them to lock on, limiting its ability to deal with quickly moving targets. Both vehicles were optionally supported by the AN/MPQ-49 Forward Area Alerting Radar (FAAR), but this system was towed by the Gama Goat and could not be used near the front lines.[5] The pair of weapons was, at best, a nuisance to the enemy and had limited performance against modern aircraft.

At one point the Army started to become concerned about developments in sensor technologies that would allow attacks by fixed-wing aircraft at night or in bad weather. They developed a requirement for a weapon system able to operate using FLIR and a laser rangefinder in order to counter these threats. However, the rest of the military establishment disapproved of the idea; even the US Air Force was able to carry out only limited operations in bad weather, and the Soviets had a considerably less capable force in this regard. The idea gained little traction and died.[6]

Pop-up problems[edit]

During the late 1960s the combination of the helicopter and anti-tank missiles improved to the point where they became a major threat to armoured operations. The U.S. led the field with their TOW missile on the Cobra gunship, demonstrating this powerful combination in combat in the Vietnam War's 1972 Easter Offensive.[7] The Soviets initially lagged the U.S., but the introduction of the 9K114 Shturm missile on the Mil Mi-24 (called the "Hind" by NATO) in the 1970s offered the USSR a level of parity.

Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters had the ability to loiter near the front behind cover and pick their targets. They would then "pop up", launch a missile, and return to cover as soon as the missile hit its target. Using fast-reacting wire-guided or radio-command missiles meant the total engagement time was kept to a minimum, as there was little or no "lock-on" time required; the operator simply fired as soon as they were clear of the terrain, and then adjusted the missile's flight path onto the target while it flew. Against these aircraft, the Vulcan/Chaparral combination was effectively useless.[8]

The Vulcan could react quickly enough to the fleeting targets, but its 20 mm gun had an effective range of only about 1,200 meters, far shorter than the 3,000 to 5,000 meters range of the 9K114. While the Chaparral had enough range to engage the "Hind", its lengthy lock-on period meant the Hind would have hit its target and hidden behind terrain again before the Sidewinder would reach it. Additionally, the older Sidewinder missiles used on the Chaparral homed in on exhaust, and had limited capability against helicopters faced head-on.

The limited effectiveness of the Vulcan/Chaparral was not the only problem the US Army was facing in the late 1970s. At the time they were also in the process of introducing the new M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley vehicles, which had dramatically improved cross-country performance. The M113-based Vulcan and Chaparral could not keep up with them on the advance, which would leave the new vehicles open to attack in a fast moving front.[9]

Finally, the Soviets were widely introducing the ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" SPAAG, which was cause for some concern after it appeared in the Middle East. Israeli pilots attempting to avoid fire from Syrian SA-6 batteries would fly low, directly into the Shilka's envelope. Several aircraft were lost or damaged.[10] The Shilka proved that a modern SPAAG was effective against modern aircraft.


A M247 in Nevada. The twin barrels are side-on to the camera.

For all of these reasons, the Army developed the "Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System" (ARGADS) requirement for a new weapon system combining the reaction speed of the Vulcan with the range of the Chaparral, and placing them on a chassis that could keep up with the new tanks in combat. They also worked in the earlier FLIR/laser requirement. The system was later renamed "Division Air Defense" (DIVAD).[11]

At the time, most U.S. military policy was based on the US Air Force quickly gaining air superiority and holding it throughout a conflict. In keeping with this, the Army had previously placed relatively low priority on anti-aircraft weapons. This gave them time to mature through testing and shakedowns. In the case of DIVADs the threat was considered so serious and rapidly developing that the Army decided to skip the traditional development period and try to go straight into production by using a number of "off-the-shelf" parts.[12]

Colonel Russell Parker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 1977 that "We expect this somewhat unorthodox approach to permit a much reduced development time, thus resulting in an earliest fielding date, albeit with higher but acceptable risks... the manufacturer will be required by the fixed price warranty provisions, to correct deficiencies."[12] It was claimed that this would cut up to five years from the development cycle, although it would require problems to be found in service and fixed on the operational vehicles.

Colonel Parker unveiled the DIVAD plan to 49 industry representatives on 18 May 1977. The DIVADs requirement demanded that the entrants be based on the M48 Patton tank chassis, provided by the Army, which were held in large quantities in surplus depots. DIVAD called for the gun to acquire a target and start firing within five seconds (later extended to eight) of it becoming visible or coming into its 3,000 m range, and had to have a 50% chance of hitting a target with a 30-round burst. In addition to all-weather capability, it also needed to have optical aiming capabilities, including a FLIR and laser rangefinder.[6]


General Dynamics entered the XM246 into the DIVAD project. The large round object on the front of the turret is the targeting radar, the search radar is on top.

Several companies responded to the DIVADs contest.[13]

Sperry Rand entered a system based on their older Vigilante gun, modified to fire the 35 mm round from the Oerlikon KDA series, widely used in NATO in the anti-aircraft role.[14] The gun could be fired at 3,000 rounds per minute for anti-aircraft use, or 180 rounds per minute for use against ground targets, fed from a 1,464-round magazine. The aluminium turret was topped by two radars and an IFF system, all from Sperry.

General Electric entered a version with a small turret mounting their 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon from the A-10 Thunderbolt II. It included a single search/track radar adapted from the earlier FAAR, although they later suggested an improved system.

Raytheon proposed using the turret from the Dutch version of the German Gepard flakpanzer. Most of the turret remained the same as the original Gepard, including the twin 35 mm Oerlikon KDA cannons, but used Hollandse Signaalapparaten radars and an Oerlikon Contraves fire-control computer. Raytheon demonstrated that the turret, although designed for the Leopard 1, could be mounted on the M48 with some adaptation.

General Dynamics' entry also mounted twin Oerlikon KDA cannons, but mounted them side-by-side in a new aluminum turret, as opposed to either side of the turret as in the Gepard. They could be fired in either the automatic or semiautomatic mode, and their combined rate of fire was 1,100 rounds per minute from a 600-round magazine. The radar and fire control systems were derived from their Phalanx CIWS system, with the tracking radar mounted on the front of the turret, beside the guns, and the search radar on top. The turret also included independently stabilized optical sights and a laser range finder for manual engagements.[13]

Ford Aerospace's entry was based around the Bofors 40 mm L/70 cannons, twin-mounted in the center of the turret in a fashion similar to the General Dynamics entry. The relatively large and boxy turret also mounted separate long-range search and short-range tracking radars on top. The radars were mounted on booms to give them a clear view of the sky, and both had the ability to be folded down to reduce the vehicle's height during travel. The tracking radar was a modified version of the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 from the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Like the GD entry, it also mounted a complete optical sighting and ranging system.[13]

Some critics claim that Ford's use of the 40 mm Bofors appears to have been a business decision, not a technical one. While the 35 mm round was already a widely accepted NATO standard and was technically well respected, Ford had a marketing agreement with Bofors. As Gregg Easterbrook later reported:

Immediately the lobbying began. Ford had a marketing agreement with the Swedish firm Bofors, a maker of 40-mm but not 35-mm cannons; while Ford could have switched to a 35-mm weapon for DIVAD, the potential profits from a 40-mm weapon were higher. Department of Defense lawyers, the Army pleading to Congress, had advised that specifying the caliber DIVAD's gun would be 'anti-competitive' and could lead to lawsuits-'the most ludicrous excuse I've ever heard' a high-ranking Pentagon official had told me. When the final DIVAD requirements were issued they called for a gun 'in the 30-mm to 40-mm range'.[15]

However, the Bofors 40 mm cannon also had worldwide popularity. In addition, FACC had developed a proximity-sensing round for the 40 mm, which increased probability of a kill, and the shell carried either a greater explosive charge or higher deadweight mass than the smaller anti-aircraft platforms. These factors would be important in the primary scenario for which the DIVAD was to be deployed, that being the large-theater land operations vs the Warsaw Pact.


On 13 January 1978, General Dynamics and Ford were given development contracts for one prototype each, the XM246 and XM247 respectively, to be delivered to Fort Bliss in June 1980. On schedule, both companies delivered their prototypes to the North McGregor Test Facility and head-to-head testing began. The shoot-off was delayed for two months "because the prototypes which arrived at Fort Bliss test range were too technically immature."[16] In the DT/OT II test series they shot down two F-86 Sabre fighters, five UH-1 Huey helicopters and twenty-one smaller drones.

After the 29-month Phase One trial, Ford's entry was selected as the winner of the DIVADs contest on 7 May 1981, and given a fixed-price $6.97 billion development and initial production contract for deliveries at various rates.[13] The system was officially named M247 Sergeant York when the contract was awarded.[17] The decision was controversial, as the GD entry had "outscored" the Ford design consistently in testing, nineteen "kills" to nine by most accounts.[15]

Ford's prototype vehicle started demonstrating problems almost immediately. The main concerns had to do with the tracking radar, which demonstrated considerable problems with ground clutter. In testing, it was unable to distinguish between helicopters and trees. When the guns were pointed upward to fire on high-angle targets, the barrels projected into the radar's line of sight and further confused the system. Additionally, the reaction time was far too slow; against hovering helicopters it was 10 to 11 seconds, but against high-speed targets it was from 11 to 19, far too long to take a shot.[6][18]

The RAM-D (reliability, availability, maintainability and durability) tests ran from November 1981 to February 1982, demonstrating a wide range of operation concerns.[16] The turret proved to have too slow a traverse to track fast moving targets, and had serious problems operating in cold weather, including numerous hydraulic leaks. The simple electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) suite could be defeated by only minor jamming. The used guns taken from U.S. Army stock were in twisted condition due to careless warehousing. Perhaps the most surprising problem was that the 30-year-old M48 chassis with the new 20-ton turret meant the vehicle had trouble keeping pace with the newer M1 and M2, the vehicles it was meant to protect.

In February 1982 the prototype was demonstrated for a group of US and British officers at Fort Bliss, along with members of Congress and other VIPs. When the computer was activated, it immediately started aiming the guns at the review stands, causing several minor injuries as members of the group jumped for cover. Technicians worked on the problem, and the system was restarted. This time it started shooting towards the target, but fired into the ground 300 m in front of the tank. In spite of several attempts to get it working properly, the vehicle never successfully engaged the sample targets. A Ford manager claimed that the problems were due to the vehicle being washed for the demonstration and fouling the electronics.[18] In a report on the test, Easterbrook jokingly wondered if it ever rained in central Europe.[15]

As early production examples started rolling off the production line, the problems proved to be just as serious. One of the early models is reported to have locked onto a latrine fan, mistaking its return for a moving target of low-priority. Reporting on the incident in another article on the vehicle's woes, Easterbrook reported that "During a test one DIVAD locked on to a latrine fan. Michael Duffy, a reporter for the industry publication Defense Week, who broke this aspect of the story, received a conference call in which Ford officials asked him to describe the target as a 'building fan' or 'exhaust fan' instead."[19]

Nevertheless, the program's manager within the Army was cautiously positive. Major General Maloney said, "The DIVAD battery-eight systems plus one spare-activated 1 November 1984, at Fort Bliss to prepare for tests, has been demonstrating 90% reliability for full systems capability. The systems have been able to operate in a degraded manner a further 2% of the time and have had an 8% inoperable rate."[20] He later stated that the “gun still had problems with software and electronic countermeasures, but my sensing was that it was certainly no worse than many weapon systems at this period in their gestation.”[12]


In spite of the bad press and development problems, the Army continued to press for the system's deployment as they had no other system in the pipeline to replace it. To add to the problems, another generation of Soviet helicopter and missile designs was pushing their envelope out to 6,000 m, rendering DIVADs ineffective at long range. In response, the Army announced it would consider adding the Stinger missile to the DIVAD system, leading to even more cries about its ineffectiveness.[6]

As Washington became increasingly fed up with the DIVAD's problems, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger ordered a $54 million series of battlefield-condition tests. Congress authorized production money to keep the program alive through a test-fix-test cycle but with a caveat; the funds would be released only if Weinberger certified that the gun "meets or exceeds the performance specifications of its contract." The tests were monitored by the Pentagon's new Director, Operational Test and Evaluation Office (DOT&E), mandated by Congress in 1983 to serve as an independent watchdog.[21] The tests were carried out late in 1984.

The results were abysmal. Unable to hit drones moving even in a straight line, the tests were later relaxed to hovering ones. The radar proved unable to lock even to this target, as the return was too small. The testers then started adding radar reflectors to the drone to address this "problem", eventually having to add four. Easterbrook, still covering the ongoing debacle, described this as being similar to demonstrating the abilities of a bloodhound by having it find a man standing alone in the middle of an empty parking lot, covered with steaks.[22] The system now tracked the drone, and after firing a lengthy burst of shells the drone was knocked off target. As it flew out of control, the range safety officer had it destroyed by remote control. This was interpreted by the press as an attempt to "fake" the results, describing it as "sophomoric deceits".[23] From that point on, every test success was written off as faked.[24]

The OT&E concluded that the gun could perform the mission as originally specified, but the tests also showed that the system had considerable reliability problems, many as the result of trying to adapt a radar system developed for aircraft to the ground role.[16] Initial production tests run from December 1984 to May 1985 turned up a continued variety of problems, failing 22 of 163 contract requirements, and 22 serious failures in operational readiness.[16] Contrary to the Army's earlier reports, OT&E Director Jack Krings said the tests showed, "the SGT YORK was not operationally effective in adequately protecting friendly forces during simulated combat, even though its inherent capabilities provided improvement over the current [General Electric] Vulcan gun system. The SGT YORK was not operationally suitable because of its low availability during the tests."[6][21] They measured the availability of the system at 33%, as opposed to the required 90%.[16]

On 27 August 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger killed the project after about 50 vehicles had been produced.[21] He said, "the tests demonstrated that while there are marginal improvements that can be made in the York gun, they are not worth the additional cost-so we will not invest any more funds in the system."[15] Noting that cancelling the project did not imply a lack of need, he started the process of studying a missile-based system to fill the same niche. This led to the Oerlikon Canada ADATS system, which suffered problems of its own and entered service only in the Canadian Army. The niche was eventually filled by the M6 Linebacker, an adaptation of the M2 with Stinger missiles. Although far less capable than the ADATS missile, the Linebacker is able to keep up with mobile heavy forces. The Linebacker has been retired from active service, while the M1097 Avenger HMMWV-based Stinger-equipped systems have been downsized.[25]

Most of the production M247 vehicles ended up as targets on air force bombing ranges. However, one is on display at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park in Pall Mall, TN where its namesake hailed from, another is located at the AAF Museum in Danville, VA, one at the Fort Snelling Military Museum in Minneapolis, MN (now closed), and one located at the Arkansas National Guard Museum at Camp Robinson, North Little Rock, AR.

See also[edit]


References & notes[edit]

  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "M247 Sergeant York". Military-Today. 
  2. Jump up ^ "M42 Duster", <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
  3. Jump up ^ "The Red Queen and the Vigilante"
  4. Jump up ^ Andreas Parsch, "General Dynamics MIM-46 Mauler", 2002
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b Andreas Parsch, "Ford MIM-72 Chaparral", 2002
  6. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Irene Willhite, "40-mm DIVISION AIR DEFENSE GUN: DIVAD (Sgt. York)", Cold War Times, March 2002, pp. 15–22
  7. Jump up ^ "TOW System History: Project Management", Redstone Arsenal
  8. Jump up ^ It did not fare much better against fixed-wing targets either, see "Chaparral Air Defence Tests", With Our Comrades In Arms, US Army, September/October 1976, pg. 59-60
  9. Jump up ^ Statements by General Louis Wagner, Jr., DIVAD Hearings, Hearings before the Subcommitte on Tactical Warfare of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, 1984
  10. Jump up ^ Simon Dunstan and Howard Gerrard, "The Yom Kippur War 1973: The Golan Heights", Osprey Publishing, 2003, pg. 25
  11. Jump up ^ Asher Sharoni and Lawrence Bacon, "Forward Area Air-Ground Defense", Armor, US Army Armor Center, Fort Knox, July/August 1996, pp 15-20
  12. ^ Jump up to: a b c John Adam, "The Sergeant York Gun: A Massive Misfire", IEEE Spectrum, February 1987
  13. ^ Jump up to: a b c d "M247 Sergeant York DIVAD"
  14. Jump up ^ Anthony Williams, "The Red Queen and Vigilante"
  15. ^ Jump up to: a b c d Gregg Easterbrook, "DIVAD", Atlantic Monthly, October 1982, pp. 29–39
  16. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e Thomas McNaugher, "New Weapons, Old Politics: America's Military Procurement Muddle", Brookings Institution Press, 1989, pp. 102-104, ISBN 0-8157-5625-9
  17. Jump up ^ Jane's Armour and Artillery, Volume 11 , pg. 544
  18. ^ Jump up to: a b Major Michael Ditton, "The DIVAD Procurement: A Weapon System Case Study", The Army Lawyer, August 1988, pp. 3–9
  19. Jump up ^ Gregg Easterbrook, The Washington Monthly, November 1984
  20. Jump up ^ Rudolph Penner, "Army Air Defense for Forward Areas: Strategies and Costs", U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986
  21. ^ Jump up to: a b c Bruce van Voost and Amy Wilentz, "No More Time for Sergeant York", Time, 9 September 1985
  22. Jump up ^ Gregg Easterbrook, "York, York, York", The New Republic, 30 December 1985
  23. Jump up ^ "No time for Sergeant", The Nation, September 1985
  24. Jump up ^ "Gunning for Sergeant York", Time, August 1985
  25. Jump up ^ Air Defense Artillery April-June 2005
  • Philip Trewhitt, "Armoured Fighting Vehicles", Prospero Books, 1999 (second edition?). ISBN 1-894102-81-9
Read the whole story
6 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story

2017-02-24 Unsocial Media

1 Share

The post 2017-02-24 Unsocial Media appeared first on Kickstand Comics featuring Yehuda Moon.

Read the whole story
7 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story

50 States of McMansion Hell: Cheshire, Connecticut

1 Share

Hello Friends! One last Thursday post for old time’s sake. This house comes from a fan email (ty Grace) and boy oh boy am I glad because this house is a gift. (In the same way that lighting a bag of poop on fire in front of your neighbor’s doorstep is a gift.) 

This lovely 5 bedroom 11 bathroom house (built in 1992 and remodeled in 2010) can be yours for the low price of around $1.1 million USD!

The Happy Meal of Shame™®

Draft Level: Vietnam. 

(OK was that a bad joke? I’m sorry.)

Sitting Room Alpha

Alternative Fabric Swatch: mercury-laced thin mint


Foursinkistan? Canlightistan? 

So many mystery appliances here. I’m sure somebody will know what those things are adjacent to the stove. 

Le Lounge

Pretty sure I’ve seen those sofas on a Carnival cruise. Also, is there such a thing as architect slash fiction? I mean it is the internet??? Would I read it? Curiosity would def get the best of me. 

Sitting Room Beta

Alternative niche level: non-Bartok viola concerti


ARCHITECTURE JOKE <man, I didn’t know Peter Eisenman had houses in Cheshire.> ARCHITECTURE JOKE


Peter Eisenman, House III (1971). Via @aqqindex (one of my FAV BLOGS EVER GO FOLLOW)

Bedroom 1

Hey, my bedroom in my parents’ house was the same color! Also having crap cable management will make you unattractive to potential romantic partners.

Presumably Master Bedroom


Presumably Master Bath

High school kids: you will miss thumbtacks. Also risk of electrocution in this room appears high. 


Bathroom 2/11 (sadly few bathrooms were pictured.)

what is even happening in this trainwreck?



Finally, this brings us to our lovely Rear Elevation:

The more I look at it, the more I am filled with anger and despair. 

Well, that does it for Certified Dank, CT. Stay tuned for Sunday’s McMansion Hell: UK edition! (If you’re on Twitter, pls feel free to tweet me UK McMansions @mcmansionhell - I respond faster that way.) 

If you like this post, and want to see more like it, consider supporting me on Patreon! Not into recurring donations? Check out the McMansion Hell Store - 30% goes to charity.

Copyright Disclaimer: All photographs in this post are from real estate aggregate and are used in this post for the purposes of education, satire, and parody, consistent with 17 USC §107. Manipulated photos are considered derivative work and are Copyright © 2017 McMansion Hell. Please email before using these images on another site. (am v chill about this, but I’ve seen some thieves lately.)

Read the whole story
8 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story

Forgotten History: The M247 Sergeant York and Its Propensity to Lock Onto Latrines Instead of Enemy Aircraft

1 Share

The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WW1 hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.

This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an: “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System”. This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.

In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.

The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.

To minimise production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off the shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.

As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.

Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.

After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…

As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.

Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.

And this is where hilarity ensued.

Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it”.

As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.

After a while the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.

In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realise that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.

Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.

The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favourable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonising 12 seconds just to acquire the target.

How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off the shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*)

On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)

Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.

Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumours of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defence Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.

The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line.  After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)

All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.

(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)

In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.

Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from congress, some members of which had been present at the test, cancelled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy subscribing to our new Daily Knowledge YouTube channel, as well as:

Expand for References

The post Forgotten History: The M247 Sergeant York and Its Propensity to Lock Onto Latrines Instead of Enemy Aircraft appeared first on Today I Found Out.

Read the whole story
12 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story

Apple Doesn't Need to Buy Netflix

1 Share

Calls for Apple to buy Netflix are getting louder. Instead of evaluating whether Apple should buy Netflix, a more valuable question is whether or not Apple actually needs to buy Netflix to accomplish its goals. Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that calls to buy Netflix are misplaced as Apple is chasing after something entirely different in the video streaming space.

Music Streaming Lessons

One way to judge Apple's approach to video streaming is to look at how the company approached music streaming. In 2014, Apple had a growing problem on its hands. A music streaming startup called Spotify had amassed 40 million subscribers by positioning free music as a carrot for signing up to paid music streaming, for which there were 10 million paying subscribers. While Apple was still seeing increasing revenues from its paid music download empire, the company lacked a viable music streaming alternative. iTunes Radio wasn't an answer as it was chained to the paid download model. 

With $147 billion of cash on the balance sheet at the end of 2013, Apple could have bought Spotify for $15 billion in 2014. Apple would have not only acquired an entirely new business model for content, but also solved its music streaming service problem overnight. Spotify would have had a difficult time turning down Apple's offer since $15 billion would be overvaluing the firm.

Instead of buying Spotify, Apple bought Beats for $3 billion in 2014. Three years later, many are still not sure what to make of the acquisition. Beats was a headphones company with a questionable balance sheet. The company also had a fledgling music streaming business via its MOG acquisition two years earlier. These items didn't position Beats as a traditional Apple acquisition target. If management wanted quick access to a successful music streaming service, the obvious path forward ran through Spotify, not Beats.

However, Apple wasn't looking to buy just a music streaming service. Instead, Tim Cook and Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, were looking for a long-term vision as to how Apple should approach music content. Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine was selling that vision. In fact, Iovine had tried to sell that vision to Apple more than a decade earlier as co-founder of Interscope Records. With Spotify gaining power and cracks beginning to appear at the edges of the iTunes empire, Apple decided it was time to buy into Iovine's vision in 2014. Instead of buying Spotify, Apple bought Jimmy Iovine. 

Music M&A

Apple relies on a very particular M&A strategy. Management acquires companies in order to fill holes in product strategy. As a result, Apple uses M&A primarily to buy technology and teams of people behind a certain technology. In such a scenario, the product is placed above all else. In recent years, Apple has been an active acquirer, buying 15 to 20 smaller companies every year. 

Apple looked at its music strategy and concluded that the product hole involved more than just streaming technology. If that were the case, Spotify would have done a great job at plugging up that hole for Apple. Instead, management saw weakness when it came to talent, ideas, and a broader vision for content. Apple wanted fresh connections and relationships with the music industry - items Spotify lacked. Management was searching for a vision as to how it could strengthen its relationship with Hollywood, push the music industry forward, and strengthen the iOS ecosystem. Jimmy Iovine and the Beats team, including former music industry executives such as Larry Jackson, had the relationships Apple was chasing.  

Streaming Results

By acquiring Beats, has Apple's streaming music plans worked out? Would Apple have done better by acquiring Spotify? As seen in the following chart, Apple Music has done well when looking at the number of paid subscribers. While some thought the product had little chance of gaining adoption out of the gate, Apple now has more than 20 million paying subscribers after just 17 months in the market. Apple management is likely pleased with that total. The service has obviously benefited from Apple's extensive marketing campaign as well as prominent placement within the iOS platform. The company has unofficially positioned its goal as surpassing 100 million paying subscribers. 

When it comes to assessing Spotify's performance, the task becomes more complicated. On the surface, Spotify's paid subscriber growth rate appears to have remained steady following Apple Music's launch. The streaming service last disclosed 40 million paying subscribers. The problem is that Spotify has moved the goal posts when it comes to paid subscribers. The term has lost much of its meaning due to Spotify's heavy usage of promotions and bundling. In addition, Spotify's disclosures have become more sporadic when it comes to paid subscribers. Apple Music's disclosures have remained consistent to date. 

There are also questions regarding Spotify's business model and sustainability. It's not clear when or how those questions will be answered. This has placed a shroud of mystery over the music streaming space. 

In the meantime, Apple appears to be running fast with Apple Music as it positions "Planet of the Apps" and "CarPool Karaoke: The Series" as the first two original video shows for its streaming service. Apple's efforts with Apple Music don't appear to have been jeopardized by passing over Spotify as an acquisition target. It remains unclear if Spotify will serve as a ceiling to Apple Music's user growth. This is why Spotify's financial well-being is such a crucial topic to consider when thinking about Apple's long-term strategy to play in the music streaming space via Jimmy Iovine.

Why Acquire Netflix?

When it comes to the world of video streaming, Netflix is in an even stronger position than Spotify. With close to 90 million paying subscribers, Netflix has seen an incredible amount of success in getting people to pay for video content.

The crux of the argument for why Apple should buy Netflix centers around revenue growth. However, a few other reasons are often cited.

  1. Revenue growth. By owning Netflix, Apple management would be well on its way to reaching their goal of doubling the Services business in four years. A $12 billion per year stream of subscription revenue (100 million Netflix customers paying $10 per month) is approximately 40 percent of Apple's annual Services revenue.
  2. A different business model. Subscription revenue would help smooth the lumpiness found with Apple hardware sales and could eventually help the company make a push into a more encompassing subscription/service business model.
  3. Original content. Netflix would give Apple a shot in the arm when it comes to original content programming. Instead of spending years to build something from scratch, Apple would quickly be in a position of producing enough original video content to match ESPN. 

Netflix Acquisition Lacks Rationale

Upon closer examination, calls that Apple should buy Netflix are misplaced as they do not take into account how Apple actually views the world. Many of the arguments assume Apple's current hardware-centric revenue model is in trouble. In addition, each of the three primary reasons cited for why Apple should buy Netflix contain significant gaps in logic and rationale. 

  1. Revenue. Apple doesn't, and shouldn't, use M&A to directly acquire revenue streams. Apple didn't buy Beats for its revenue-generating headphone business. Instead, Apple bought Jimmy Iovine's music vision. A headphones business just happened to be attached to that vision. If M&A is used as a tool to grow revenue, Apple's effort to place the product above everything else is put into jeopardy. This logic explains why Apple doesn't acquire the large companies often paraded in the press as possible acquisition targets.
  2. A different business model. Apple has already shown the willingness to embrace change when it comes to selling product. This is a company that pivoted from a very successful paid music download model for iTunes to paid subscriptions with Apple Music. With more than 20 million paying subscribers for Apple Music after only 17 months, the streaming service is already 20 percent the size of Netflix - and this is with little to no video content.
  3. Original content. There is no evidence to suggest Apple wants to own large portfolios of video content. Instead, the company is still focused on being a content distributor with its iOS platform. In addition, rather than buying legacy content portfolios (Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, etc.) or original content initiatives found at tech companies masquerading as media companies (Netflix, Amazon), Apple is more interested in buying great ideas. This was very much on display with Apple's approach to music streaming. 

Apple's Video Strategy

In essence, Netflix is like Spotify. Apple could acquire Netflix and instantly become the leader in paid video streaming. However, there is evidence that Apple is instead looking for something different. Apple is searching for another "Jimmy Iovine," new connections and relationships with Hollywood. 

Apple's content goals have a better chance of being reached by working with smaller Hollywood production companies than by acquiring Netflix. This explains Apple's reported interest in Imagine Entertainment. According to The Financial Times, Tim Cook and Eddy Cue discussed a range of possibilities with Imagine Entertainment, founded by Ron Howard and Grazer, including a possible acquisition. The takeaway from those talks doesn't revolve around Apple getting its hands on an existing content portfolio. Rather it focuses on bringing people on board to come up with new ideas. 

Another scenario that would likely interest Apple would be sitting down with a well-known entertainer and producer, such as Oprah, to discuss the possibility of working together on a few big ideas. Such an opportunity would let Apple stand out from the pack in the video streaming space instead of competing head-to-head with Netflix or Amazon Video. Such actions may seem trivial compared to Netflix doing 1,000 hours of original content programming. However, Apple would be looking to compete on different terms. 

The preceding Apple strategy is the cornerstone of my Apple Studios theory. Apple would build a Hollywood arm tasked with coming up with original video (and music) content. Instead of viewing this as a Netflix 2.0, Apple Studios would be more of an incubator for trying out new entertainment ideas. Apple Studios would sit uniquely within Apple's organizational structure in order to have the independency needed to prosper yet not be completely cut out of Apple. 

Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine like to say they are positioning Apple Music to be all about culture. When Apple says "culture," the company is actually referring to relevancy. Apple wants to remain relevant in the entertainment space. They want people to talk about what is going on in Apple Music. Eddy Cue recently compared Apple Music to MTV. While the juxtaposition may not be the most flattering thing for Apple Music these days considering MTV's weakened influence, Cue likely meant the MTV of yesterday. The cable channel was a cultural force for decades.

Apple is more interested in acquiring select ideas that have the potential to extend beyond just video or music content than it is in using a portion of its $230 billion of cash to buy huge content libraries. Apple held a monopoly on music mindshare during much of the late 2000s and early 2010s with iTunes. Management wants that mindshare back with Apple Music. This explains Apple's unusual arrangements with artists like Drake, Frank Ocean, and Chance the Rapper. Apple is showing us their blueprint for regaining relevancy.

This drive for relevancy also explains Apple's decision behind "Planet of the Apps." A show about apps doesn't seem to have much in common with a streaming music service. However, Apple Music has never been just about music, but rather it is about capturing relevancy. While the premise behind Planet of the Apps is similar to Shark Tank and The Voice, the integration with iOS is new and different. Planet of the Apps will include video content via an iOS app as well as broader iOS integration by having the apps that appear on the show featured prominently in the App Store. We are still firmly living in an app world. Apple thinks Planet of the Apps can get people talking - the same goal the company has for the broader Apple Music initiative. 

Apple never had iTunes-like mindshare in the video space. That title went to a collection of traditional broadcast and cable companies. Looking ahead, Apple isn't trying to be like HBO, Showtime, Netflix, or Amazon Video by owning large swaths of content. Instead of buying Spotify, Apple bought Jimmy Iovine's vision for regaining relevancy in music. Apple is now looking to translate Jimmy Iovine's music vision around relationships, ideas, and mindshare into a broader strategy for video. The strategy doesn't require owning Netflix. 

Receive my analysis and perspective on Apple throughout the week via an exclusive daily email (2-3 stories a day, 10-12 stories a week). To sign up, visit the membership page.

Read the whole story
13 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story

Hands-on: Garmin’s New Fenix 5 Multisport GPS Series–with mapping!

1 Share


Right on cue, Garmin has released their next edition of the Fenix series – the Fenix 5.  This follows a relatively steady annual release cadence of the Fenix series each year in January.  Last year for example we saw the Fenix 3 HR, while the previous year was the Fenix 3.  Prior to that was the Fenix 2 in the same rough timeframe.

This year the release is all about making the lineup more appealing to a broader user base.  The Fenix 3 series was already Garmin’s most successful watch series ever. While the company has never released specific Fenix 3 numbers, they have beat around the bush publically in other ways, likely putting the Fenix 3 series at over a million units sold.

One of the challenges though with the Fenix 3 series has been its appeal (or lack thereof) to those with smaller wrists – most namely: females.  While Garmin did try and appeal to that market segment with the rose-gold editions of the Fenix 3, it remained the same large size.  The Fenix 5 aims to address that with a new smaller size.

At the same time, they wanted to appeal to folks that were increasingly looking to cell phones for maps on the trails – so they tossed in mapping in the Fenix5 as well.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here – instead, let’s dive into all the feature differences down below.

Oh, one last thing.  Wondering why there’s not a Fenix4?  That’s because the phonetic pronunciation of that in Chinese roughly translates to ‘fast rise to quick death’.  Not exactly the starting point Garmin wanted to begin with.

What’s new and different:


So what’s new in the Fenix 5?  Well, the two biggest pieces would be it now has maps on the Fenix 5X edition (legit maps!), and that there are two sizes now.  Previously there was just one size with a crapton of different bands.  Now there are three sizes with an equally large crapton of bands.  But I’ll cover bands/sizes/editions in a later section below.

For now, let’s talk about all the differences – both nuanced and big.  But first I need to explain that there are three editions of the Fenix 5:

Fenix 5S: 42mm wide, women’s/smaller wrist focused – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5: 47mm wide, baseline – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5X: 51mm wide, includes mapping – only in Sapphire glass

Each of these three editions is then split into basically two categories: Sapphire and non-sapphire.  Except the 5X, which only has Sapphire.  What’s most notable though is that the non-Sapphire editions do NOT have WiFi (kinda like Garmin Fenix Chronos).  Whereas the Sapphire editions all have WiFi.

With that in mind, I’ll note each of the new features below, and whether they are specific to a given version.  If no specific version is noted, then it’s applicable to all versions.  In the below, I’m largely using the Fenix 3/Fenix 3HR as my baseline for changes.

Display: Went from 218×218 pixels to 240×240 pixels (except 5S, which stays at 218×218).
Display: Went from 16 colors on Fenix 3 to 64 colors on Fenix 5
Display: Now supports Emoji, right to left languages (Arabic and Hebrew)
Connect IQ: Fully supports CIQ 2.2.3+, as well as 64KB for Widgets, 32KB for Data Fields, and 128KB for apps
Battery: Increased battery life up to 24 hours (Fenix 5) in GPS at 1s, or 14hrs for the 5S, and 20hrs for 5X
Battery: Increased UltraTrac battery life to 75 hours (Fenix 5), with hopes of 100 hours
Gyroscope: Added Gyroscope to all models, used to increase track points in UltraTrac mode
User Interface: Slight tweaks to UI to match Fenix Chronos series
User Interface: Added new quick access controls menu, to access apps/widgets
Strava: Added Strava Live Segment support for Bike & Run
Sensors: Added Varia Vision Heads Up Display Support (all ANT+ remote displays technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Lights (all ANT+ lights technically)
Sensors: Added Varia Bike Radar
Sensors: Added Shimano Di2 Shifting, ANT+ Gear Shifting Support (SRAM RED eTAP & Campagnolo EPS)
Sensors: Added ANT+ Muscle Oxygen Sensors (MOXY/BSX)
Optical HR Sensor: Revamped tech, now records 24×7 data every 1-2 seconds
Optical HR Sensor: Flattened out even more, virtually flush with back of unit
Training Data: Added FTP Estimation for cycling
Training Data: Added new Training Load functionality
Training Data: Added split of aerobic and anaerobic training effect
Training Data: Now supports Swimming PR’s (along with previously added Swim Structured Workout support)
Live Group Tracking: Added to all Fenix 5 models, à la the Edge 820 group tracking
Golf: Added TruSwing, Greenview, and Autoshot features
Other Sports Added: Mountain Biking, Treadmill and Indoor Track separated, Ski and Snowboard separated, Navigate app, and Track Me app
Navigation Functions: Added Proximity and Navigation Alerts (for distance to waypoint, and time/distance remaining to destination)
5X Only – Mapping: Includes Topo maps in package, can add your own maps if you want
5X Only – Mapping: Ability to display mapping for current position
5X Only – Mapping: Ability to create automated running/riding routes (round trip mapping
5X Only – Mapping: Can find POI’s around you (i.e. food, including Chipotle)
5X Only – Mapping: Routing engine can ingest GPX & FIT files for saved routes

Got all that?

Ok, but what’s been removed or no longer present compared to the Fenix3 series? Well, according to Garmin it’s purely one thing: WiFi on the base models (Sapphire glass models have it).


But of course, sometimes you don’t quite find out all these nuances until the product has started shipping.  I’ve seen cases in years past where even things present at CES are pulled in the final version.  Said differently: Don’t count your chickens till they hatch.

Oh – and finally, before you ask – the Garmin Fenix Chronos folks will receive all of the above updates, except mapping of course, since it simply doesn’t have the storage or processing power to handle that.

Video Explainer!

Want the low-down in one easy to watch (and easy to share) video?  No problem, I’ve distilled it all down below, complete with my best video editing skillz. Special effects included free of charge.

Was that video above not detailed enough for you?  No problem!

I’ve got even more details, in geekfest fashion.  The below video is simply a detailed walk-through of the menus on the watch.  Basically, I press and push almost everything there is to push on the watch, in one handy-dandy video.  It’s got no special effects, nor nifty transitions.  But it has plenty of details:

Update – and here’s another video I put together at ISPO, this one focused on the charging cable, since there’s been tons of questions about that.

Don’t forget that I’ll be publishing other Fenix 5 videos to YouTube as we go forward, so definitely subscribe to the channel so you don’t get left behind!

Mapping on the Fenix 5X:


Ahh yes, mapping.  Seen as the Holy Grail feature of wearables, and something that various companies have flirted with over time – but never quite got to stick.  For example, way back when we had the Motorola Motoactive contain maps.  Then there was the Leikr watch.  And then even Garmin’s own Epix watch, exactly two years ago tomorrow.  All of these have flopped for various reasons, of which all were totally unrelated to mapping.  The maps were merely a casualty along the way.

But I think the Fenix 5 will change that, largely due to the popularity of the Fenix series.  Of course, maps are only available on the Fenix 5X, which contains 16GB of storage on it.  Whereas the other Fenix 5 units lack that storage, and thus lack maps.  These maps come in the form of topographic and cycling maps (+ 40,000 golf courses), which show details not just of roads and routes, but also points of interest.


Points of interest include places like food, hotels, gas stations, tourist attractions, and more.  Food being the most relevant of course to any endurance athlete.  You can search around you, and route to them immediately.

When you route to them, you’ll get turn-by-turn instructions.  And these are legit turn by turn instructions that include the street names:


In addition to routing to saved waypoints, or on courses, you can also generate Round Trip Routes.  This is a feature we saw added to the Garmin Edge series a few years ago, allowing you to generate rides on the fly for a distance of your choosing.  That’s now added here, allowing you to generate both runs and rides.


First, you’ll enter in a given distance you want to ride/run:


Then, you’ll specify whether or not you have a direction preference (any, or North/South/East/West):


And then finally, it’ll come back with three route options for you.

Garmin-Fenix5-Course1 Garmin-Fenix5-Course2 Garmin-Fenix5-Course3

It’s pretty cool stuff.

The unit will not only show you the map and roads around you, but also elevation information about the route.


Outside of round trip routing, you can show the map whenever you’d like.  The render time can take a few seconds though, depending on where you are.  And creating of routes themselves seems to take about 20-40 seconds per route to create, which is a touch bit slower than that seen on the Edge series.  But I suppose that’s faster than Googlin’ and figuring out a route yourself.

Within the settings there’s a bunch of different mapping display options you can configure as well – such as whether to lock to roads or not, or what maps you choose.

Note that one issue here is still the lack of ability to create routes on a mobile device and send them to your watch.  Sure, you can create routes on a desktop and then transfer them via mobile phone, but you can’t create them on your phone using Garmin’s native tools.  Garmin says that things are in the works there…though, they also said that 3 years ago.

Last but not least, you can indeed transfer your own maps to the device, using the same steps as seen with the Garmin Edge series.  And you can also drag/drop any GPX/FIT file routes onto the device as well.

Bluetooth Smart Sensor Support:


Mark this date in your books: January 4th, 2017.

It’s the date hell froze over.  Or at least, some small slice of it.

As of today, the Fenix 5 series now supports Bluetooth Smart sensors, making it the first Garmin device to support any Bluetooth Smart sensors (the VIRB action cam supports legacy Bluetooth automotive sensors).

You can now add Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensors to the Fenix 5, just by scanning for external HR sensors.  For example, here’s the Polar H7 Bluetooth Smart only strap.  You can see the Bluetooth Smart ID displayed in the user interface:


Garmin says that they’re starting off with the Bluetooth Smart Heart Rate sensors first, merely because that standard is the most stable (which is true).  But that they plan to add other sensor types quickly.  For example, I’d expect to see them add the cycling cadence/speed sensor and running footpod types, since those are generally considered as pretty stable specs.  Whereas the BLE power meter continues to this day to be a @#$#@ for companies to get right on both sides of the aisle.  Even in the last two weeks I’ve seen cases where major companies (Quarq & Polar) can’t agree on how the spec should be implemented, causing consumers to be left in the middle.

The good news on the power meter front is that quite frankly there are almost no power meters that aren’t ANT+ anyway, so that’s less of an issue.  Virtually all BLE power meters are also ANT+ concurrently, thus making the issue largely moot.

Nonetheless, it’s fantastic to see Garmin go this direction, and hopefully a sign of things to come for other devices down the road.

The Fenix 5 Editions:


Trying to keep track of all the Fenix 5 versions?  Join the club.  Feel lucky you don’t have to type it all out and ensure it’s correct.  Here’s the best way to think about it.

First, choose your watch size:

Fenix 5S – 42mm: This is the smaller one, unofficially targeting women
Fenix 5 – 47mm: This is your standard issue one, officially targeting everyone
Fenix 5X – 51mm: This is the mapping one, it’s bigger to fit in more battery/storage/processing

Here’s how these three look side by side, assuming you were just using the simple silicon band (no fancy bling) – Fenix 5S, Fenix 5, and then Fenix 5X:


Next though, you need to choose whether or not you want Sapphire glass.  That drives whether or not you get WiFi.  In theory, it also might prevent your unit from getting scratches on the lens.  In reality, that’s usually not the case.

Fenix 5S: Non-Sapphire is $599, Sapphire is $699
Fenix 5: Non-Sapphire is $599, Sapphire is $699
Fenix 5X: This ONLY has Sapphire, starting at $699

Decided what size and version you want?  Ok, good.  Now you get to decide what bands you want.  Here’s how that rolls out:

Fenix 5S – $599: White bezel with white silicone band (band officially called ‘Carrara’)
Fenix 5S – $599: Silver bezel with turquoise silicone band
Fenix 5S – $599: Silver bezel with black silicone band
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $699: Black bezel with black band (+ includes a yellow silicone band)
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $699: ‘Champagne’ bezel with gray suede band (+ includes a white silicone band)
Fenix 5S Sapphire – $849: ‘Champagne’ bezel with golden color metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)
Fenix 5 – $599: Slate gray bezel with black silicone band
Fenix 5 – $599: Slate gray bezel with yellow silicone band
Fenix 5 – $599: Silver gray bezel with granite blue silicone band
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $699: Black bezel with black silicone band (+ includes a yellow silicone band)
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $849: Slate gray bezel with metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)
Fenix 5X Sapphire – $699: Slate gray bezel with black band
Fenix 5X Sapphire – $849: Slate gray bezel with metal band (+ includes a black silicone band)

Oh no no, we’re not done yet.  Finally, you need to decide if you want a bundle or not.  The bundle is only offered in the following editions, so if you want an HR strap bundle (that comes with the HRM-TRI strap), for capturing swim workout data), then you have to pick one of the two specific bundles offered (neither 5S or 5X).  Burger King this is not.

Fenix 5 – $699: Slate gray bezel with black silicone, with HRM-TRI strap
Fenix 5 Sapphire – $769: Black bezel with black band + yellow silicone band, with HRM-TRI strap

Got all that?  Good.  That makes one of us.

Now, you may be wondering about all these bands.  Officially they’re called QuickFit bands, as they are designed to pop on and off super-quick.  And indeed, they do with a single button press.  There’s virtually no risk of these popping off in an openwater swim or like, because the lever is below the band against your wrist.


The idea being you can buy extra bands of differing colors as you see fit.  And oh – these QuickFit bands are also compatible with the Garmin Fenix3 series as well.  Because I’ve gotten tired of typing out spec sheets, I’m going to go into abbreviated mode now.  The bands are as follows:

QuickFit 20 (20mm for Fenix 5S): White/Turquoise/Black/Yellow/Purple/Red Silicone – $49, Grey suede leather – $79, Champagne stainless steel – $149

QuickFit 22 (22mm for Fenix 5): Black/Granite/Yellow/Red/Blue Silicone – $49, Brown leather – $79, Stainless steel – $149

QuickFit 26 (26mm for Fenix 5X): Black/Yellow/Red/Green Silicon – $49, Brown leather – $79, Stainless steel – $149

Wondering when all this craziness will be available?  Officially it’s by the end of Q1, which is the end of March 2017.  Unofficially you never quite know. Stability felt pretty good on these units, though there were a few quirks here and there.  But I’d peg it as better than I’ve seen in the past for a release date in March.  So I think that’s reasonably realistic.

Size Comparisons!


You asked for it, it’s time to talk size between the units.  Of course, size isn’t everything – but in this case, it might well be.  The Fenix 5 is offered in three sizes, corresponding to the three models (5/5S/5X).

Now officially, here are the exact specs of the three sizes (plus the Fenix3 HR at the bottom for comparison):

Fenix 5S: 1.7” x 1.7” x 0.6” (42.0 x 42.0 x 14.5 mm) – 67g
Fenix 5: 1.9” x 1.9” x 0.6” (47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm) – 87g
Fenix 5X: 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.7” (51.0 x 51.0 x 17.5 mm) – 98g
Fenix 3 HR: 2.0” x 2.0” x 0.6” (51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm) – 86g

But that can be hard to conceptualize, so instead, let’s make it easier in simple text.  Note, in the below I’m specifically talking about the width of the watch (round part), not so much the depth.

Fenix 5S: Same size as Forerunner 735XT/230/235
Fenix 5: Slightly larger than the 5S, but smaller than Fenix3HR
Fenix 5X: Virtually identical to Fenix 3 HR in size (except not as deep)

Note that technically the screen on the 5S has less pixels (218×218) vs the 5/5X (240×240), but it retains the same color (64 colors).  There’s no changes in terms of contrast or display brightness between any of the watches, or compared to the Fenix 3 series.  If you liked the Fenix 3 brightness, you’ll be fine with the Fenix 5.  And if you didn’t like the Fenix 3 brightness, you probably won’t like the Fenix 5 brightness.

First up, let’s look at just the three core watches side by side:


Next, for fun, let’s add in the Fenix 3 HR as a bit of a benchmark on size.  You can see that the Fenix 5X and Fenix 3HR are identical in terms of face size.  This is why you can switch the new bands on the Fenix 5X to the Fenix 3/3HR lineup.  Whereas the Fenix 5 and Fenix 5S won’t be compatible with the older Fenix 3/3HR bands.


Now let’s get all horizontal and see how they stack up.  Here it’s super clear just how big the optical HR sensor bump is on the back of the unit.


What? You’re into optical sensor bumps.  If that’s your thing – then here’s two more pictures comparing the Fenix 5 to the Fenix 3HR optical HR sensor bump:

Slide7 Slide8

Now let’s throw them all down on the pavement and see how they shake up.  I tossed in the Fenix Chronos, FR920XT, and FR735XT in there.  Note that the FR735XT shares the same exterior shell dimensions as the FR230 and FR235.  So if you’re familiar with those watches, that should help you understand a bit.


And here’s the depth on them.  You’ll notice just how much that bump from the Fenix 3HR has been reduced with the new optical sensor design on the Fenix 5 series (or even compared to Chronos).  Keep in mind on Chornos it’s thinner in part because of the fact it has less battery.  The sensor bump is still bigger on Chronos than the Fenix 5.


Next, just two lonely watches to more clearly show just how close the Fenix 5S and FR735XT are in size.


But I hear ya – sensor bumps aren’t your thing.  Instead, it’s wrist fetishes.  No worries, I’ve got you covered.

DSC_9291 DSC_9295

DSC_9293 DSC_9297


Phew – more than you ever wanted to know probably!  One last tidbit.  Remember that the Fenix 5X is thicker than the Fenix 5/5S because of the larger battery. That larger battery is required to handle the bigger processor on the 5X, which is in turn required to handle the maps and routing functions.

Product Comparison:


I’ve added in the Garmin Fenix 5 into the product comparison database.  At present, I’ve consolidated it into a single product – inclusive of the Fenix 5, 5S & Fenix 5X, noting differences where applicable.  At some point between now and eternity I’ll split them out in the database.  In the meantime though, this allows you to compare it against the Fenix 3 series more easily.  Though even then, the product comparison tool simply doesn’t capture some of the nuances of software differences between the two models.  The reason being I try to avoid getting too crazy in minor software features in the database, else it just becomes massive to try and find the key differences in a product.

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Product Announcement DateJan 5th, 2016Jan 4th, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateFebruary 2016March 2017
GPS Recording FunctionalityYesYes
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi (Sapphire only)
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 50hrs in GPS with optical off, about 20-25% less with optical HR onUp to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 75hrs in UltraTrac GPS
Recording Interval1S OR SMART1S or Smart
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreat
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYEs
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYes
Can control phone musicYEsYes
Has music storage and playbackNoNo
ConnectivityGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)YesYes
Group trackingNoYes
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNo
CyclingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Designed for cyclingYesYes
Power Meter CapableYesYes
Power Meter Configuration/Calibration OptionsYesYes
Power Meter TSS/NP/IFYesYes
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableYesYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoYes
Crash detectionNoNo
RunningGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Designed for runningYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)YEsYes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN (Not via Optical HR)With HRM-TRI or HRM-RUN (Not via Optical HR)
VO2Max EstimationYEsYEs
Race PredictorYesYes
Recovery AdvisorYesYes
Run/Walk ModeYEsYes
SwimmingGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Designed for swimmingYesYes
Openwater swimming modeYesYEs
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYes
Record HR underwaterWITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)WITH HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM (Not with optical HR)
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYes
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YEsYEs
Indoor Drill ModeYEsYes
Indoor auto-pause featureYEsYes
Change pool sizeYesYEs
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths17M/18Y TO 150Y/M17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYEsYes
Can change yards to metersYEsYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYEsYes
Indoor AlertsYesYes
TriathlonGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Designed for triathlonYesYes
Multisport modeYesYes
WorkoutsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Create/Follow custom workoutsYesYes
On-unit interval FeatureYesYEs
Training Calendar FunctionalityYesYes
FunctionsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Auto Start/StopYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureYesYEs
Virtual Racer FeatureYEsYes
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)YesYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataYesYes
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)YesYes
GeocachingVia GPS coordinatesVia GPS coordinates
Weather Display (live data)yESYes
NavigateGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)YesYEs
Markers/Waypoint DirectionYesYes
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoYes (5X Only)
Back to startYesYes
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoYes (5X Only)
Download courses/routes from phone to unitYesYes
SensorsGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeMagneticMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleYesYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableYesYes
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableYEsYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableYEsYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapableYesYes
ANT+ Weight Scale CapableNoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)NoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlNoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoYes
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNo (can control VIRB though)No (can control VIRB though)
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)With Connect IQ AppsYes
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoYes
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoYes
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoPotentially future
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapablenOPotentially future
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoPotentially future
Temp Recording (internal sensor)YesYes
Temp Recording (external sensor)YesYes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsYesYes
SoftwareGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
PC ApplicationGarmin ExpressGarmin Express
Web ApplicationGarmin ConnectGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/Android/Windows PhoneiOS/Android/Windows Phone
Ability to Export SettingsNoNo
PurchaseGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Amazon LinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLink
DCRainmakerGarmin Fenix3 HRGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)
Review LinkLinkLink

Note that you can create your own product comparison charts between watches I’ve had time with, here in the product comparison database.



In some ways, the Fenix 5 series release is more evolutionary than revolutionary.  There’s no doubt a boatload of additions for the Fenix 5 & 5S watches, mainly software tweaks and enhancements.  Yet where it becomes more revolutionary is within the Fenix 5X lineup, which now includes maps on a wearable.  Yes, Garmin has tried this before – but never in something as small and sleek at this form factor.

Perhaps the bigger news in this though is that Garmin is now opening up to Bluetooth Smart sensors. That’s a major turning point for the company that will undoubtedly have ramifications for not just themselves, but also for various products in the cycling/running segment.  For example – will sensors like RunScribe and others soon be able to leverage Connect IQ functionality over Bluetooth Smart?  This could, if played right, open up Connect IQ to far more devices than just those on ANT+.  The possibilities are greatly expanded here.

There are some downsides though to the Fenix 5 series, most notably price.  The watch continues to climb higher and higher.  It used to be that the Fenix series was $399, then came $499 with the Fenix 3, and now it’s at $599 as the entry point for the Fenix 5 (matching the previous Fenix 3 HR initial price), with prices going up to $849 for the highest-end Fenix units.  Not only that, but WiFi connectivity used to be baseline in all Fenix 3 units, and now it’s only available at $699 and above in the Sapphire models.  Of course, all models now include optical HR sensors, whereas in the past that wasn’t the case with the less expensive options.

Last but not least, we don’t yet know how well it handles for things like GPS and barometric altimeter accuracy on final production models, as both the hardware and software won’t be finalized for at least another month or two.  As such, this isn’t a full in-depth review, since I don’t have final hardware or software to base an opinion on.  That’ll come later though – fear not.

With that – thanks for reading!  Feel free to drop any questions down in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to try and get answers.  Same goes for requests for photos and/or videos of various features.  The two videos I uploaded above should cover the vast majority of questions (and in fact, even cover more detail than this post in some areas).  But I’m always open for other video ideas.

Pre-orders: You can now pre-order the Fenix 5 series, scheduled for delivery by the end of Q1 (aka March).  Here for the Fenix 5, the Fenix 5S, and the Fenix 5X. Doing so through the links here helps support the site and makes you awesome.  Also – Clever Training Europe/UK is available for pre-orders here.

Read the whole story
13 hours ago
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
Share this story
Next Page of Stories