The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Retired Reese Hines poses for a portrait showing his Explosive Ordnance Disposal occupational badge prosthetic eye, during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, June17, 2016.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. from Joliet, Ill., listens to instructions for adjusting the sight on his compound bow during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games held at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., June 17, 2016.
Soldiers scan the seafloor for obstructions and take depth measurements to ensure ships can safely maneuver in the waters near the port during a logistics exercise in Alameda, Calif., June 18, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Sailors clime back aboard after jumping from the USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) aircraft elevator during a swim call. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
PACIFIC OCEAN (June 22, 2016) Midshipmen 2nd Class Alex Harper is transferred from the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) to the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) during a high line passenger transfer. Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Chung-Hoon is operating as part of the John C. Stennis Strike Group and Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
Sgt. Anthony Lee, a reconnaissance Marine with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, awaits the execution of a reconnaissance and surveillance mission during the MEU’s Realistic Urban Training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, June 13, 2016. Reconnaissance and surveillance of an objective area allows the MEU commander to gain a greater understanding of the enemy’s presence and geographical details on the battlefield.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, a crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, rides in the back of a UH-1Y Venom as it approaches a landing zone during a training exercise near Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 17, 2016. Familiarization flights familiarize pilots new to the unit with the different landing zones and flight procedures around the Camp Lejeune area.
Members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division arrive at the cruise ship Crystal Serenity moored in Juneau, Alaska, to conduct a certificate of compliance exam June 22, 2016. The exam tests the crew’s ability to react in the case of an emergency covering a range of different scenarios.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb stand ready for a uniform inspection prior to the cutter’s change of command ceremony held at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach on June 16, 2016. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition, deeply rooted in Coast Guard and Naval history. The event signifies a total transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability of the command.
The Army just invoked Army Regulation 600-9 on one of its crew-served weapon systems. As a result, the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, also known as Carl Gustav, will be lighter and a little shorter.
According to a presentation at the 2017 Armament Systems Forum hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, the new M3E1 will be like the current generation of Carl. According to militaryfactory.com, the M3 recoilless rifle fires anti-armor, illumination, smoke, anti-building, and anti-personnel rounds. But the Army figured Carl could do better.
So, after the Army said to the M3, “Lose some of that weight, Carl!” here’s what happened after a lot of RD work, some of it from Sweden, according to an October 2016 US Army release.
The M3E1 comes in about 28 percent lighter. It is also 2.5-inches shorter. But Carl Gustav isn’t quite being the proverbial Carl this time — the M3 went and added something else from its visit to the fat farm: a new fire-control system.
The new system combines a laser-range finder with an optic for close-range shooting. The original versions of the M3, first introduced in 1991, used a 9mm spotting round that is a ballistic match with the 84mm round for the purposes of range-finding. As you might imagine, this wasn’t exactly the most practical method in a battlefield.
Now, why is this so important? After all, Army infantry units already have the FGM-148 Javelin for anti-tank purposes, and it is a very deadly anti-tank missile. Furthermore, the M134 shoulder-fired rocket is similar.
Well, the Army added the M3 for units headed to Afghanistan a few years back, and made it a permanent part of the platoon’s arsenal last year, according to Military.com. The M3 actually offered the best of both worlds. It was cheaper than the Javelin, but it also was re-usable, as opposed to the M134.
Not bad, considering the first Carl Gustavs were built in 1948. It just goes to show that a good system can be updated and provide decades of service.
In 1944, the U.S.’s progress in its island-hopping campaign through the Pacific brought it to Ulithi Atoll. From March to September, they bombed the Japanese forces stationed there until they eventually withdrew, believing the atoll was too small to accommodate an airfield and therefore not of value to either side.
Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.
Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.
The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.
“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.
One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.
Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.
The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.
No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.
“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”
Early in June 2016, a German court found former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning guilty of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder. He was sentenced to five years in prison for his time as a guard at Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
“It is my dream to be in Germany, in a German court, with German judges acknowledging the Holocaust,” Hedy Bohm, an 88-year-old Auschwitz survivor, told the Associated Press. “I am grateful and pleased by this justice after 70 years.”
Bohm wasn’t the only death camp survivor present. There were three others and a total of twelve testified throughout Hanning’s trial. One 95-year-old survivor demanded Hanning tell more young people about what happened at Auschwitz, which Hanning did not do.
Hanning joined the Hitler Youth in 1935 and then volunteered for the Waffen SS at age 18. After suffering a grenade injury fighting the Red Army in Kiev, he was sent to Auschwitz.
Former SS sergeant Oskar Groening was convicted of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder while serving at Auschwitz. His job was particularly notorious: he was in charge of confiscating the personal property or arriving prisoners and quantifying it. Like Hanning, he may not have killed anyone, but he saw the mass killings and did nothing. Unlike Hanning, Groening has taken great pains to dispel any implications that the Holocaust did not happen, making public statements. It was his activism against Holocaust denial that led to his arrest and prosecution. Groening was 93 at the time of his 2015 trial.
In 2009, 88-year-old former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk was extradited to Germany to stand trial for 27,900 counts of the same crime, for being a prison guard at the Sobibor Death Camp. Sentenced to five years, Demjanjuk died before his appeal could be heard. That wasn’t the extent of it. Demjanjuk is thought to be “Ivan the Terrible,” a former Red Army soldier and POW who worked at the Treblinka extermination camp. He was sentenced to death in Jerusalem in 1988 but that was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court for a lack of positive identification.
In 1995, Canada pushed for the deportation of Helmut Oberlander, a 92-year-old former translator for a Nazi death squad. In 2014, 89-year-old Johann Breyer was arrested in Philadelphia, charged with being a member of the SS’ “Death’s Head” Battalion, who were tasked with gassing prisoners at Auschwitz. 94-year-old Michael Karkoc was arrested in Minneapolis for his time as an officer in the SS Galician Division, which allegedly massacred Poles and Ukrainians in 1944.
Germany has a special prosecutor’s office for Nazi war crimes. There are still many more cases the office wants to go to trial. The LA-based Wiesenthal Center, founded by Mauthausen Concentration Camp survivor and famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, is dedicated to the arrest and conviction of the following fugitive Nazi war criminals, where they are thought to be and where they committed their crimes (in parentheses):
1. Helma Kissner – Germany (Poland) – served as a radio operator in the Auschwitz death camp from April to July 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 260,000 cases.
2. Reinhold Hanning – Germany (Poland) – served in the Auschwitz death camp from January 1943 until June 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 170,000 cases.
3. Helmut Oberlander – Canada (Ukraine) – served in Einsatzkommando 10A (part of Einstazgruppe D, which murdered an estimated 23,000 mostly Jewish civilians.
4. HubertZafke – Germany (Poland) – served as a medic in the Auschwitz death camp during the years 1943 and 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 3,681 cases.
5. Alfred Stark – Germany (Greece) – participated in the September 1943 mass murder of 120 Italian officers on the Greek island of Kefalonia.
6. Helmut Rasbol – Denmark (Belarus) – during the years 1942-1943 served as a guard in the Judenlager established by the Nazis in Bobruisk, Belarus, during which almost all the Jewish inmates of the camp were executed or died of the horrible physical conditions.
7. Aksel Andersen – Sweden (Belarus) – during the years 1942-1943 served as a guard in the Judenlager established by the Nazis in Bobruisk, Belarus, during which almost all the Jewish inmates of the camp were executed or died of the horrible physical conditions.
8. Johann Robert Riss – Germany (Italy) – participated in the murder of 184 civilians in Padule di Fucecchio, Italy on August 23, 1944.
9. Algimantas Dailide – Germany (Lithuania) – served in the Saugumas (Lithuanian Security Police) in Vilnius – arrested Jews and Poles who were subsequently executed by the Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators.
10. Jakob Palij – USA (Poland) – served as a guard in the Trawniki concentration camp.
“It is again with our deepest sadness, our heartbreak that we inform you that National Guardsman SPC. Angel Candelario-Padro was among the victims we have lost,” said Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Candelario-Padro had been a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and was assigned to the Army band, Thorn said in a statement. He also played clarinet with his hometown band and had just moved to Orlando from Chicago, he said.
Candelario-Padro served in the Guard from Jan. 12, 2006, until Jan. 11, 2012, at which point he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, confirmed in an email to Military.com.
Additional information about his service history wasn’t immediately available from the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Very painful to mention this but we have to recognize and do a tribute to one of our own,” it stated. “With great sadness I want to report the loss of who was in life the SPC ANGEL CANDELARIO. The Band 248 joins the sadness that overwhelms your family and we wish you much peace and resignation. Spc Candelario, rest in peace.”
Candelario-Padro for two years prior lived in Chicago, where he worked at the Illinois Eye Institute and had side jobs at Old Navy and as a Zumba instructor, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
He was at the Pulse nightclub frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred.
Authorities say 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 911 calls, killed 49 people and injured another 53 before being killed in a shootout with police.
Army Reserve Capt. Antonio Davon Brown was also killed in the attack and may be eligible to receive the Purple Heart, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Imran Yousuf, 24, is being recognized as a hero for helping between 60 and 70 people escape the mass shooting by unlatching a door near the back staff halfway of the building.
Candelario-Padro will be flown home to Puerto Rico to be buried in the Guanica Municipal Cemetery in a section reserved for service members, Thorn said.
In 2015, the standard issue service rifle for the Canadian Rangers got a much-needed upgrade. They were finally able to put away their well-worn Lee-Enfield No. 4 rifles, which were first issued in 1941.
A Canadian Ranger protecting mining facilities. (Department of National Defence photo)
Canada’s Rangers are a reserve unit that operates in the Canadian Arctic. It’s made up of 5,000 of Canada’s finest outdoorsmen and features a roster of heavily Inuit and other First Nations peoples. They conduct sovereignty patrols and maintain early warning system sites, giving Canada a military presence in the increasingly militarized (but still desolate) Arctic areas.
First formed in 1947, the Canadian Rangers’ intimate knowledge of their home turf allows them to act as guides and trainers for special forces units. During World War II, the Lee-Enfield was the standard issue rifle for British and Commonwealth troops. After the war, the abundance of the rifles made it easy to equip new units with the rifle.
A rifle platoon is tasked with assaulting a compound consisting of four buildings using only their own manpower plus a sniper team.
They will be wearing TALOS armor, an “Iron Man”-like suit which covers nearly their entire body, cools them off when necessary, and actively assists their movements to improve performance and reduce fatigue.
-15:00 — The platoon stages for the assault
The platoon moves into its assault and support positions. It has all of the troops it did in 2015, plus a drone operator.
Its weapons squads will be providing the base of fire, and are separate from where 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squads are preparing to assault. The sniper team is on overwatch, protecting the platoon from a nearby hilltop.
Weapons squad brings up video feeds from two of the drones on a tablet.
0:00-1:00 — The assault begins
At the platoon leader’s command, the platoon sergeant moves forward with 1st squad and initiates the breach into the enemy area. 1st squad fights the enemy personnel on the perimeter, forming an opening for follow on forces.
Simultaneously, the drone operator orders eight of his drones to fly to the target buildings ahead of the platoon.
They see the first laser truck between themselves and the compound. It knocks one of the advancing drones out of the sky, but the missile team fires two Javelin missiles at it. The laser swivels to counter the new threat and shoots down one missile in flight, but the second strikes the truck and destroys it.
Another drone goes down to laser fire when a still-hidden truck engages it.
1:00-4:00 — Breaching and mapping
Second and 3rd squad begin moving onto the objective as 1st squad forms and holds the breach in the enemy’s perimeter defenses.
One drone is taken down when an enemy soldier strikes it with his rifle butt and then immediately stands on the drone, holding it in place. The drone operator sees an alert and sends the self-destruct signal. A pound of C4 explodes inside a fragmentary case, killing the first soldier and wounding two others.
The other three drones send their maps to the advancing 2nd and 3rd squad leaders who relay key information to their men as they reach the entrances to the building. The drones then fly to the roofs and park themselves on the edges, looking for the other enemy laser.
4:00-5:00 — Striking the second laser and establishing an automated perimeter
One of the drones is spotted by the enemy laser team as it lands on the roof. The laser team waits for the drone’s rotors to stop spinning and then burns through its body, destroying it. The sniper team detects the beam on a sensor and uses it to spot the truck.
They radio the platoon sergeant and fire on the laser turret, cracking the glass and disabling the system.
With the counter-drone lasers down, the operator is free to signal the four drones that remained with the LS3 mules. The drones begin taking flares, mines, and sensors from the mules and deploying them at pre-programmed points around the objective.
The two remaining rooftop drones take off again and head to the third target building to begin mapping.
An Argus — a drone that can tell what color shirt the enemy is wearing from 17,500 feet overhead — heads to the battlefield.
5:00-6:00 — Securing the first buildings
Second and 3rd squad hit the first pair of buildings. Second squad knows to expect enemy casualties in the first room since the drone went off there. With the drone-generated maps, the squads know ahead of time where windows, doors, and most furniture are in the rooms. They take the buildings quickly and capture two enemy soldiers.
With the first buildings secure and no enemy personnel spotted around the perimeter, 1st squad attacks the laser truck and kills the crew. It then breaks into its fire teams and holds the captured buildings while 2nd and 3rd squads prepare to move on the second pair of buildings. The medic sets up a casualty collection point and begins treating the POWs. A Medevac is called.
The drones mapping the third target building are captured and the operator orders both to detonate. 2nd squad hits the third building with a mostly complete map while 3rd squad takes the fourth building more slowly. 3rd squad takes one casualty during the attack, a gunshot wound that catches a soldier through a gap in the stomach armor of the TALOS. The TALOS immediately squeezes the fibers in that part of the suit, putting pressure on the wound. It also alerts the medic, squad leader, and platoon leadership.
8:00-12:00 — Treating the wounded
The squad leader orders a fire team to move the soldier to the casualty collection point. The medic is low on medical supplies but knows he has a patient with a gunshot wound through the abdomen coming in. He requests additional supplies to the CCP from the drones and the drone operator confirms it as a top priority.
Two quadcopters with the Ls3 mules grab an aid bag from a mule’s back and fly it to the medic’s position, arriving at the same time as the patient. The medic grabs an injector of ClotFoam from the pack and tells the TALOS to relax the pressure on the wound. He places the injector into the hole formed by the bullet and fills the soldier with foam that will stop bleeding, hold the damaged organs in place, and be easily removed in surgery. He alerts the platoon sergeant that the patient is ready to be medically evacuated.
12:00-15:00 — The runner returns with friends
The Argus operator radios the platoon leader and tells him the runner is returning the the battlefield with two friends in a vehicle with a mounted machine gun.
Weapons and 1st squad are establishing the platoon perimeter and the platoon leader alerts them and the sniper team to the inbound threat.
A missile team moves to the expected contact side, but the sniper team already has eyes on the target. Knowing the vehicle will be moving quickly and bumping on the road, he loads EXACTO rounds. He leads the target and fires. The vehicle speeds up while the round is in the air, but the sniper continues to mark the target and the round turns in the air, finally ripping through the driver’s neck. With the vehicle stopped, the snipers quickly dispatch the other two fighters.
23:00 — Medevac and site exploitation
The medic gets his patients onto the Medevac bird and the platoon begins site exploitation. Their exploitation is protected by a drone that can watch the surrounding 15 square miles for threats, static defense placed by their drones, a sniper team with steerable rounds on overwatch, and their platoon perimeter.
A U.S. Navy destroyer had a close encounter with an Iranian vessel Monday, just two days before a crucial Iranian presidential election.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan, forcing it to fire flares toward the IRGC vessel after attempting to turn away from it, according to the Associated Press. The encounter is the latest of the Navy’s close encounters with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, coming two days before Iran’s radical conservative faction attempts to retake the presidency.
“[The] Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions,” Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told the AP in a statement Wednesday.
Iran’s leading conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, is the supposed favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority over the IRGC. It is unclear if the two events are related, but the timing of the event is telling. The IRGC’s provocation could be an attempt to exhibit the hardline faction’s strength against the U.S.
The Mahan had a previous encounter with Iranian vessels in January, at which time it was forced to fire warning shots at two patrol boats.
The IRGC has drastically increased its encounters with U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Many of the encounters occur near the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which 33 percent of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy recorded 35 “unsafe and/or unprofessional” encounters with the IRGC in 2016, up from 23 in 2015. Seven such instances have been recorded in 2017, including Monday’s incident.
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F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.
Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.
“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.
“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.
The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.
A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.
ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.
However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.
Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.
“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.
The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.
Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.
F-35 to Control Drones
As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”
Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.
Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.
“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.
A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”
Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.
Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.
At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.
Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.
Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.
Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”
Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”
It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.
The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.
It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.
Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
Midget submarines have arguably had a longer combat career than their bigger cousins. The Turtle, a one-man midget sub, was used in an effort to attack British ships off New York during the Revolutionary War.
The hand-powered midget submarine CSS Hunley successfully sank the sloop USS Housatonic in 1864. Larger coastal and fleet submarines didn’t really achieve a lot of success until World War I.
But the midgets still stuck around.
Nearly all the major powers used them in World War II. The British, Germans, and Japanese all had varying degrees of success with them.
The British X-boats managed to damage the German battleship Tirpitz. Japanese submarines had their high-water mark on May 29, 1942, when they damaged a British battleship and sank a merchant ship at Diego Suarez in Madagascar.
But Germany’s Seehund — or “Seal” — was probably the most successful. Built in 1944, the Seehund displaced 17 tons, carried two torpedoes, and had a crew of two. The vessel could go four knots underwater, and seven knots on the surface.
U-Boat.net notes that 137 of these midget subs were commissioned, which sank eight vessels and damaged three more in four months of operation.
Below is a video showing how a replica of one of these mini-submarines was made for a museum display. Take a look and see what went into making that replica — and what that display will teach future generations about what life on one of these vessels was like.