Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone? - We Are The Mighty
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Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has unveiled a new unmanned combat air vehicle that has reportedly been based on the Lockheed Martin RQ-170. The report comes nearly five years after one of the secret drones went down in Iranian territory.


According to reports from Arutz Sheva, the UCAV is called “Saegheh” and has been modified from the RQ-170 to carry up to four smart bombs underneath its fuselage. Reports of an Iranian version of the American UAV have been controversial ever since Iran unveiled footage of a purported copy in 2014.

This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP) This is reportedly a photo of the Saegheh drone copied from a captured US RQ-170 Sentinel. (Photo from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps via AP)

Despite the skepticism, Iran has developed a formidable military industry to cope with sanctions and a cutoff of American support since the mullahs took over in 1979. Among the systems the regime has built on its own include the Bavar 373 surface-to-air missile system, based on the SA-10 Grumble, the Jamaran-class frigates, and Peykan-class missile boats. The regime has also copied numerous high-tech systems, including the C-802 anti-ship missile and SM-1 surface-to-air missile, and has managed to improve its force of M47 and Chieftain main battle tanks.

Iran has also been acting very aggressively towards American ships in the Persian Gulf, including threats to American maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft and incidents with American surface warships.

The RQ-170 is operated by the United States Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Creech Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Very few performance details have been released, and the only hard data is an apparent operational ceiling of 50,000 feet. A released Iranian video of the UAV captured in 2011 indicated the plane had a wingspan of 85 feet. The RQ-170 first emerged in 2007, and was known as the “Beast of Kandahar” when it was spotted in photos of Kandahar Air Base.

According to a 2012 estimate, around 20 RQ-170s are in service with the United States military and it is rumored the RQ-170 was used to keep an eye on SEALs during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An animated look at Carlos Hathcock, the legendary Marine

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock was the kind of Marine that would inspire generations of warfighters. He engaged in sniper duels and came out on top every time. He hunted Viet Cong and North Vietnamese officers through the jungles and grasses of Vietnam. And a new animation from The Infographics Show tells his story as a cartoon.


Most Hard Core American Sniper – The White Feather

www.youtube.com

Hathcock was an Arkansas native who grew up hunting in order to help feed his poor family. He aspired to military service, and specifically the Marine Corps, and enlisted soon after he turned 17. He was soon competing in marksmanship competitions with the Marine Corps and won some prestigious competitions including the Wimbledon Cup.

So, when he was deployed to Vietnam, he could’ve stuck to his military police job but opted to volunteer as a sniper instead. His hard-earned ability to sneak up on game combined with his talent for shooting made him a natural in the brush and jungle, and he quickly proved himself one of the most lethal men in theater.

From a base in Vietnam, he achieved the longest sniper shot up to that point in history, and he did it with a .50-cal. machine gun in single-shot mode. He waged an extended sniper duel against the “The Apache,” a female Viet Cong platoon leader who tortured Marines, eventually dropping her from 700 yards when she got lazy and peed in the open.

He hit her with his first shot even though he had been switching rifles when he spotted her. After the first shot dropped her, he scored a second hit, just to be certain.

In another engagement, Hathcock and a spotter saw a green platoon of North Vietnamese Army troops. Hathcock hit the lead officer, and his spotter dropped the officer at the back. There was a third leader who tried to escape across a rice paddy, and so the Americans dropped him too. In order to protect their position from discovery, the sniper team stopped firing.

Instead, Hathcock and his partner called artillery, moved positions, and wiped out the enemy force.

He killed an enemy officer after four days of crawling to the target. (Hathcock believed it was an enemy general, though the NVA never acknowledged losing a general at the time and place that Hathcock scored his kill.)

He hunted down an enemy sniper sent to kill him, shooting his foe through the scope just moments before the Vietnamese sniper would’ve hit him.

So, yeah, there were lots of reasons that he was a legend. Check out the cartoon at top to learn more.

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This Marine walks off the battlefield after being shot in the neck

This video starts with Marines engaged in a firefight against the Taliban in the Afghan countryside in 2012. All of a sudden, around the 0:50 mark, shots are fired and the helmet camera scans to the left as a Marine goes down. The next thing you hear is him yelling, “aghhh, aghhh, I’m f–king hit!”


The Marine settles into a state of temporary frantic but is quickly calmed when his battle buddy comes to assist. Trained for this type of scenario, the assisting Marine methodically removes his buddy’s gear to get to the wound while yelling for a corpsman.

The corpsman arrives, treats the wounded Marine, and by the end of the video the Marine walks himself to the helicopter on his own for evacuation.

Watch:

Deadbolt1975, YouTube
Articles

This is how the Roman Empire structured its military

The Roman Empire had one of the best militaries of ancient times. It steamrolled over the Carthaginians, Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, more than held their own against many other forces for centuries.


So, how did the world’s most powerful government organize its deadly legions? Well, it started with a group of eight men known as a contubernium – which was a little smaller than a typical infantry squad (usually nine personnel). Ten contuberniums, plus the command staff, formed a century of 85 men.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
Some of the specialist roles that were usually filled by auxiliaries. (Youtube Screenshot)

Six centuries – about 540 men – made up a cohort. This unit was roughly the size of a present-day infantry battalion. Ten cohorts, plus attachments including a force of cavalry, made a legion of about 6,000 men, roughly the size of a brigade.

The legions were the largest force in the Roman military. Only citizens could serve in the legions but the Roman military also had cohorts of auxiliaries which allowed non-citzens to serve in the Roman army.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

These auxiliaries were usually slingers, archers, and additional cavalry. Many Roman citizens, who had to provide their own equipment, served as infantry.

After 25 years of service in the Roman army, legionnaires and auxiliaries could look forward to a generous retirement. Those who weren’t citizens gained Roman citizenship and all that meant, plus a plot of land and a generous retirement bonus.

ISO Design, YouTube

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This artist shows combat through a fighting man’s eyes

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?


It’s been said that if you look at an infantryman’s eyes you can tell how much war he has seen. Stare into the eyes of many of the fighting men portrayed by World War II combat artist Tom Lea and you can tell his subjects have seen Hell – and then some.

Muralist, illustrator, war correspondent, portraitist, landscape artist, novelist, and historian, the multi-talented Lea covered World War II for “Life” magazine, a publication that pioneered photojournalists’ coverage of combat yet still showcased his drawings and paintings of warfare. Now, the public has a rare opportunity to view some of Lea’s best work at a single impressive exhibit.

“Tom Lea: LIFE and World War II” is showing at The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, through January 1, 2017. Sponsored by The Woldenberg Foundation, the exhibition features nearly 30 original paintings and illustrations on loan from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, as well as from private collections and museums.

There are also interpretative displays, audio-visual presentations of oral histories from World War II veterans who participated in the battles Lea portrayed, and displays of personal items that belonged to Lea such as his drawing table, brushes and an easel.

Even though World War II is frequently remembered as a time when the combat photographer came into his own, Lea’s work as an artist was relevant during World War II because it was extremely dynamic and caught the imagination of service members’ families and other civilians back home, said Larry Decuers, the exhibit’s curator.

“His images provided everyone on the home front with a realistic — if haunting— view of combat unfolding overseas,” Decuers said. “Lea’s works also represented a unique aspect of wartime journalism because they were so detailed in design.”

Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea III, who died in 2001, said his mission as an artist and journalist was straightforward: “I did not report hearsay; I did not imagine, or fake, or improvise; I did not cuddle up with personal emotion, moral notion, or political opinion about War with a capital W. I reported in pictures what I saw with my own two eyes, wide open.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Lea was one of the first civilian artists hired by “Life” as a correspondent during World War II. His work in numerous theaters of operation required him to travel more than 100,000 miles during the war.

Lea risked his life to document combat ranging from convoy battles involving destroyers in the North Atlantic to the bloody beach assault during the Battle of Peleliu. His subjects ranged from admirals and generals to ordinary servicemen, but he felt a particular affinity for the men below decks and the Marines who faced some of the most ferocious combat of the entire war.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

His paintings ultimately became full-color spreads in 10 issues of “Life,” reaching more than 30 million readers and providing a chilling perspective on the war.

Among the art displayed in the exhibit is perhaps Lea’s most famous – and haunting – wartime painting, “That 2,000-Yard Stare.” It has become one of the most iconic images of the effects of war on the human psyche.

“He left the States 31 months ago,” Lea wrote about his subject, a combat Marine at Peleliu. “He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”

But the display also includes drawings and sketches of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines engaged in the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes jobs that made the fighting possible.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

And then there is his painting of U.S. Navy chaplain John J. Malone experiencing combat for the first time as he does his best to help overwhelmed corpsmen treating casualties. “He was deeply and visibly moved by the patient suffering and death,” Lea wrote. “He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home.”

The exhibit helps people today understand Lea’s contribution to how the public learned about World War II’s events at a time when there was no cable or satellite news and no Internet to provide instantaneous coverage.

“As it is the museum’s mission to tell the complete story of the American experience in World War II, it is critical that we share all aspects of the war – including stories about the courageous men and women who traveled overseas in order to share stories with anxious families back home,” Decuers said. “Lea’s work is a significant piece of World War II, and we’re thrilled to share it at our institution.”

For more information, call (877) 813-3329 or (504) 528-1944, or visit the museum on the Web at nationalww2museum.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Old nuclear bombs are getting fancy new guidance kits

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center received formal approval in late October 2018 to enter the production phase for the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb’s new guided tail-kit assembly, or TKA.

“This marks the completion of a highly successful development effort for the tail kit,” said Col. Dustin Ziegler, AFNWC director for air-delivered capabilities.

The AFNWC program office recently passed the Air Force review of the weapon system’s development and received approval to end its engineering and manufacturing development phase and enter the next phase for production of the tail kit. In the production phase, the testing environment will more closely approach real-world environments.


Known as Milestone C, the decision to enter this next phase marked the completion of a series of developmental flight tests. The program office completed a 27-month test program in less than 11 months, with 100 percent success for all of its 31 bomb drops. The accelerated schedule, as well as other risk mitigation strategies, enabled the program office to save more than 0 million in development costs, according to Ziegler.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart.

(DoD photo by Phil Schmitten)

“The flight tests demonstrated the system works very well in its intended environment,” said Col. Paul Rounsavall, AFNWC senior materiel leader for the B61-12 TKA, Eglin AFB, Florida. “This development effort brought the first-ever digital interface to the B61 family of weapons and demonstrated the B61-12 TKA’s compatibility with the Air Force’s B-2 and F-15 aircraft. In addition, the TKA achieved greater than five times its required performance during developmental testing and is ready to start initial operational test and evaluation.”

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responsible for the B61-12 nuclear bomb assembly. The Air Force is responsible for the B61-12 TKA, joint integration of the bomb assembly and TKA into the “all-up-round” of the weapon, and its integration with aircraft.

Headquartered at Kirtland AFB, AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command and in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,100 personnel assigned to 18 locations worldwide, including Eglin AFB; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; Hill AFB, Utah; Kirtland AFB; and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, in the U.S. and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing has a plan to turn the B-1B into a supersonic gunship

In the fast-moving world of defense technology, it pays for contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing to stay on top of Uncle Sam’s spending habits. If you can accurately predict how the government will be looking to spend its massive defense budgets, you can position yourself well to secure tomorrow’s contracts with just a little bit of leg work today–and over the past few years, few have managed to do so as effectively as Boeing.


With so much money being funneled toward stealth and hypersonic platforms over at Lockheed Martin, Boeing has adopted a different angle in its pursuit of tax dollars: leaning into America’s recent love affair with revamping aging platforms for continued use. Instead of offering up costly, all-new aircraft to the Pentagon, Boeing has focused on finding cost-effective ways to keep existing platforms relevant. This effort is not only responsible for the new slew of updated F-15EXs expected to begin production in 2020, but also the sweeping upgrades to the Navy’s Super Hornets that are so substantial, some have taken to calling the Block III version of the fighter, “Super Duper Hornets.”

It’s almost certain that same mindset led Boeing to secure a patent last May that would turn America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber into the world’s fastest gunship.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

With a top speed of Mach 1.2, the Bone would make for one quick cannon-carrier

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)

The B-1B Lancer had a tumultuous start, with the program canceled and revived twice over the span of four sitting presidents only to finally make it into production just in time to see its nuclear delivery mission sidelined by the fall of the Soviet Union. The fighter-like bomber would have to undergo yet another technical shift, converting it into a conventional payload bomber following America’s signing of the START treaty in 1995, before the “Bone” (as aircrews took to calling it) would find its way into the fight. Now, however, with the next generation B-21 Raider slated to enter service in the coming decade, the B-1B has been set to enter retirement just as soon as there are enough new bombers to replace it.

That is, unless Boeing has something to do with it. The patent they secured last year included a number of different cannon options to be added to the swing-wing bomber ranging in size from 25mm to 40mm. Some design options involve opening the bomb-bay doors to reveal the cannon, others have cannons unfolding from the belly of the beast, but the intent is the same in either regard: creating a supersonic platform that can deliver firepower like the legendary AC-130U Spooky Gunship and still outrun whatever trouble may be headed its way.

Deadly AC-130 Gunship in Action Firing All Its Cannons

youtu.be

The Bone’s speed and advanced terrain following flight systems would allow it to fly in contested airspace with minimal detection, something an AC-130 can’t do, and its massive fuel stores and payload capacity mean it could loiter for hours over a target and deliver thousands of pounds of guided bombs between cannon volleys.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the B-1B Gunship concept. Thanks to the swing-wing design, the B-1B may have a lower stall speed than you might find in some other supersonic platforms, but it still seems unlikely that the aircraft can fly slow enough to reliably use a cannon in close air support missions. The B-1B’s biggest proposed cannon, at 40mm, is tiny compared to the 105mm cannon fired from the Spooky Gunship — though that concern could be mitigated by the B-1B’s ability to drop highly accurate ordnance in combination with the hypothetical cannons.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

One of the designs includes a cannon that would lower from the Lancer’s belly, while others would rely on opening the bomb bay doors.

(U.S. Patent Office)

The Bone would also be a costly replacement for the much slower AC-130U, to the tune of about ,000 more per flight hour, though one could argue that if they found a way to use the cannon effectively in the B-1B, it would broaden the options for commanders in the field enough to warrant the cost. Because the AC-130U tops out at around 300 miles per hour and is too big to miss with many anti-aircraft weapons, they tend to be used only in nighttime operations in lightly contested or utterly uncontested airspace. The B-1B, on the other hand, could fly close air support missions in far more threatening environments.

Will this concept ever make it off of paper and into American hangars? Well, it’s tough to say. Securing a patent doesn’t mean Uncle Sam is interested in what they’re selling — but having it means it’s always an option on the table, and as the B-1 continues to find new uses in the forms of new anti-ship and stealthy cruise missile armaments, the Air Force may find reason to invest new money in the B-1s future after all. Who knows what the wars of the future might bring.

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This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

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Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

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Here is what you need to know about the Army’s new incredible eye protection

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
In this Feb. 6, 2006 file photo, 1st Lt. Anthony Aguilar wears the ballistic protective eyewear that prevented a bomb fragment from possibly damaging his eyes when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker vehicle in Iraq. U.S. Army photo


As part of its new Soldier Protection System, the U.S. Army plans to field eye protection that adjusts to daytime and night conditions so soldiers won’t have to constantly change eyewear on operations.

Senior Army equipment officials on Wednesday discussed the new body armor system with lawmakers at a hearing before the House Armed Services Tactical Air Land Forces Subcommittee on the ground force modernization budget request for fiscal 2017.

Army Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, told lawmakers that soldiers have typically had to carry two pairs of protective eyewear over the last 15 years — one for day and one for night.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but that is a huge deal to not have to physically transition eye protection,” Murray said. “The actual lenses do it for you.”

The Soldier Protection System, or SPS, is a full ensemble that goes beyond torso protection and provides the soldier with improved protection for vital areas such as the head and face.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked about the recent decision to accelerate the program and the incorporation of sensors designed to monitor a soldier’s vital signs.

The Army’s 2017 budget request shows a significant increase in research and development of the effort, from about $5 million to $16 million, she said.

“The additional funding helps to get us there sooner,” said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology. “Although we were looking at these systems simultaneously, the way the funding allocated wasn’t until 2019 that we could get to the integrated sensor suite.”

The integrated sensors portion of the SPS is “a really important component because what that will allow you do is not only measure things like heart rate but it will also give you feedback on things like hydration,” he said.

Eye protection is another key part of the SPS, Williamson said.

“One of the more impressive things they are doing is building transitional eyewear that allows a soldier to move from a dark environment into the light and back and forth without the disorientation that occurs because of that change in environment,” he said, adding that the new eyewear also increases the blast fragmentation protection by about 10 percent.

The new Modular Scalable Vest portion of the SPS features a more streamlined design compared to the current Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

The most noticeable feature of the SPS is the new Ballistic Combat Shirt, or BCS, which has been updated with soft armor on the neck, shoulders, high chest and high back to protect against 9mm rounds and shrapnel. The lower part of the shirt is still a breathable, fire-resistant material.

It also features the Integrated Head Protection System, which gives the soldier the ability to attach extra armor to the top of the helmet to provide additional protection against snipers shooting down on soldiers riding in an open turret, as well as the armored facemask to protect against gunfire and shrapnel.

The SPS is also part of the Army’s effort to lighten the soldiers load, Williamson said.

“The goal for the entire system is 10 to 15 percent less weight than the soldier carries today,” he said.

Marine Brig. Gen. Joe Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command told lawmakers that the Marine Corps often works with the Army on individual protection equipment programs, such as the new “Enhanced Combat Helmet that we have developed with the Army and now are final stages if fielding the first 77,000 of those.”

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Pentagon to pursue bonuses mistakenly paid to Guardsmen

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook updates reporters about the California National Guard bonus repayments at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., Jan. 3, 2017.


The Pentagon announced yesterday that they had met Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s deadline of January 1 to set up a streamlined system to recover bonuses they had accidentally paid to thousands of California National Guardsmen several years ago.

Late last year, Carter ordered the suspension of efforts to recover the funds from soldiers until a system could be set up to fairly recover the bonuses.

Peter Levine, acting as the undersecretary for personnel and readiness, headed up the team to develop the recovery system. Levine spoke to reporters during the press conference, admitting that, though some of the Guardsmen might have made mistakes, “sometimes the service does” as well.

Levine said he had worked with the National Guard Bureau, the Army Audit Agency, the Army Review Boards Agency, and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to develop the system, and that part of that system involved screening each case to determine if there was even enough information to pursue a resolution.

Cases that are determined to have enough information will go before the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and Guardsmen will have an opportunity to make their cases then.

There are currently about 17,500 cases up for review which have been separated into two categories.

Also read: Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

The first category consists of roughly 1,400 cases where the Guard has determined that recoupment should happen, and they have been referred to DFAS for collection of those funds.

Levine said that he expected to see half of those debts forgiven.

For the remaining approximately 16,000 cases, Levin anticipated about 15,000 not meeting the criteria for pursuit.

The other thousand cases, according to Levine, will go through the same process as the 1,400 currently referred to DFAS.

In all, he said, he expects “fewer than 1,000” of the cases to go before the Board of Correction of Military Records.

Levine believes that the Board of Correction of Military Records will be able to hear all of the cases by July — the deadline set by Carter.

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ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.


IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.

On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
Drones like this are easy to acquire but can be very lethal targeting tools. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.

It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.

But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.

Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.

Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.

Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.

Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.

Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.

Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.

Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.

They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.

If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.

But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.

This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.

The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This is a deadly combination.

The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.

Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.

If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.

After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.

Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.

The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There is an official time frame for the US withdrawal from Syria

By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.


As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.

The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.

President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

Did Iraq just build a knockoff of a secret US drone?

A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.

The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.

Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.