Here's how DARPA's Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.


Illustration: Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.

Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.

GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.

The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.

GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

Four companies were recently awarded phase 1 contracts for the project and are tasked with designing launch and retrieval systems for the gremlins. Phase 2 involves the creation of a preliminary design of the drone itself and phase 3 will requires that manufacturers create a functioning prototype.

The drones would be “limited-life” aircraft and fly approximately 20 missions each before being retired. Their downtime between missions would need to be 24 hours or less.

If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.

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This former SEAL Team 6 member is climbing Everest for vets

A former member of SEAL Team 6 and founder of Frogman Charities is headed to Mount Everest to try and become the first Navy SEAL to summit the world’s highest peak.


Former Navy SEAL and adventure racer Don Mann. Photo: Will Ramos Photography

Don Mann is an accomplished athlete and climber with the goal of standing on top of the tallest summit on each continent. He’s starting with a climb up Everest, and at the same time he hopes to draw attention to the challenges that the military community faces every day.

“The challenge seems almost insurmountable with the conditioning required, the funding required, and the non-stop worries of altitude mountain sickness, avalanches, crevices, hypothermia, frostbite, etc.,” Mann said in a press release. “But the prize, to have an opportunity to stand on top of the world while raising awareness for the needs of our military personnel and their families, is beyond description.”

Mann has proved that he has the athletic chops for such a climb. Besides being selected as a member of SEAL Team 6, he was once rated as the 38th best triathlete in the world and has been climbing mountains for years.

Still, he acknowledges that weather and the mountain often decide who will and will not survive the climb. In 1996, a record eight people died in a single day on the mountain when a sudden blizzard descended on the mountain. Dozens have died attempting to climb the mountain since 1922.

Adventure racer and former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Don Mann poses on Mount Denali, Alaska, a mountain with a 20,310-foot summit. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

During his attempt, Frogman Charities, a nonprofit organization that hosts virtual run and walk events to raise money for Navy SEAL charities, will be updating their Facebook page and website every day with stories from veterans and with organizations that support veterans and service members.

After the Everest climb, Mann wants to climb the rest of the continent’s highest peaks and to bring other veterans with him on the climbs. As with his Everest attempt, he hopes to raise public awareness of veterans’ causes.

Don Mann will be carrying a custom flag from a business sponsor during his climb. Photo: Courtesy Don Mann

The team that Mann will be climbing with aims to summit between May 13 and 25 but the buildup to the final summit attempt starts in early April. The climbers will trek to base camp from Apr. 3 to Apr. 12 and then begin the process of acclimating and climbing

Mann’s climb is being financially supported through business sponsorships and a GoFundMe page.

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US carriers deploy new torpedo defense system

The Navy is arming aircraft carriers with a prototype high-tech torpedo defense technology able to detect, classify, track and destroy incoming enemy torpedoes, service officials said.


The Anti-Torpedo Defense System, currently installed on five aircraft carriers and deployed on one carrier at the moment, is slated to be fully operational by 2022.  

The overall SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, Navy officials said.

The emerging Surface Ship Torpedo Defense technology includes the Anti-Torpedo Defense System, or ATTDS and an SLQ-25 Acoustic Device Countermeasure; the ATTDS consists of a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo program and Torpedo Warning System.  

A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

 “The ATTDS is designed to detect, classify, track and localize incoming torpedoes utilizing the Torpedo Warning System leading to a torpedo hard-kill by employing the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo,” Collen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior.

Thus far, the ATTDS has completed three carrier deployments.  The ATTDS Program of Record plan for future ships includes additional carriers and Combat Logistic Force ships.

Earlier this year, the ATTDS was installed and operated on the USNS BRITTIN (TAKR-305) over a six day period during which the latest system hardware and software was tested. The results of the testing are instrumental for continued system development, O’Rourke added.

The technology is slated for additional testing and safety certifications.

The emergence of a specifically-engineered torpedo defense system is quite significant for the Navy – as it comes a time when many weapons developers are expressing concern about the potential vulnerability of carriers in light of high-tech weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons. An ability to protect the large platforms submarine-launched torpedo attacks adds a substantial element to a carrier’s layered defense systems.

Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges.

For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.

The Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. | YouTube

Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.

The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles – or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT – attached to the side of the ship.

The towed array picks up the acoustic noise.  The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, Navy officials said.

The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.

The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less.  Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.

After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by then Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.

The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.

The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, officials said.

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Trump announces plan to boost carrier force to 12

President Donald Trump visited the aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and announced plans to boost the Navy’s carrier force to 12.


In a speech given during the visit, the president announced the 12-carrier goal, which would bring the force up to a level it has not been at since 2006, according to a Navy listing of ship force levels.

President Donald J. Trump tours Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2, 2017 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history,” the President said.

Currently, the force is at 10 carriers, all of which are nuclear-powered. The Gerald R. Ford is slated to commission later this year, to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in December 2012, being formally decommissioned last month. The new aircraft carrier has seen numerous delays due to problems with its advanced systems.

President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Trump visited March 2 to meet with Sailors and shipbuilders of the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier during an all-hands call inside the ship’s hangar bay. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard/Released)

“In these troubled times, our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I.  That’s a long time ago.  In fact, I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including having the 12-carrier Navy we need,” the President said.

“Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense. Right now, our aging frontline strike and strike-fighters — the whole aircraft; many, many aircraft — are often more likely to be downed for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky,” the President also said, noting the problems that have plagued Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.

President Donald J. Trump salutes the rainbow sideboys before his departure of the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell/Released)

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump called for the elimination of the sequester as it pertained to defense spending. It came on the heels of what the Washington Times reported was a proposed $54 billion increase in the defense budget.

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That time Los Angeles fought off an imaginary Japanese bombing raid

In February 1942, Army units defending Los Angeles launched a devastating barrage of anti-aircraft fire into the sky, sending up 1,433 rounds against targets reported across the city in the “Battle of L.A.”


Fortunately for the occupants (but unfortunately for the egos of everyone involved), the City of Angels wasn’t under attack.

In the months after the Pearl Harbor attacks, the American Navy was largely in retreat across the Pacific, and the West Coast was worried that it was the next target of a Japanese attack.

Army gun crews man a Bofors anti-aircraft gun in Algeria in World War II. (Photo: Library of Congress)

In reality, the chances of a Japanese attack on the West Coast were low since the Navy was pulling back from far flung outposts in order to secure ground they knew they had to hold, like California, Oregon, Washington, and vital bases on Pacific islands.

But LA was overtaken by fear and uncertainty in the early months of 1942. Then, on Feb. 23, a city in California was attacked by the Japanese. A long-range submarine surfaced near Santa Barbara, California, and shelled an oil refinery there.

The very next night, a light was spotted over the ocean off the coast, possibly a signal flare sent up to guide Japanese planes or carriers to their target. Then, a few hours later, blinking lights were spotted and an alert was called. When no attack materialized, the alert was called off.

But in the early hours of Feb. 25, radars picked up activity at approximately 12,000-feet. Lookouts reported dozens of aircraft closing on the city. “The Great Los Angeles Air Raid” was on, and the city residents and their Army gun crews knew exactly how to respond.

American anti-aircraft gun crews firing in World War II. (Photo: Flickr/U.S. Army RDECOM)

Army Air Force crews rushed from their beds to await launch orders and gun crews ran to their stations. Volunteer air wardens fanned across the city to enforce the blackout.

At 3:06 a.m., the first gun crews spotted their targets and began firing into the sky. For the next hour, a fierce barrage lit up the night as searchlights and shells looked for targets. In all, 1,433 rounds would be fired by gun crews.

Citizens drove through the street against orders and caused three auto fatalities while two others were lost to panic-induced heart failure. Fuzes failed to detonate some rounds in the air and they crashed back to earth where they destroyed property while luckily causing no fatalities.

But the embarrassing reality started to become clear at headquarters. With no reports of bomb damage and few reports of downed aircraft — none of which could be confirmed — either both sides were engaging in the least effective battle in the history of war or there were not actually any Japanese bombers.

The alert was suspended at 4:15 a.m. and later lifted entirely. Soon, the entire country heard that the reported attacks in Los Angeles were actually just a case of the jitters.

A 1983 military investigation of the incident found a possible explanation. A swarm of meteorological balloons had been released that night with small lights attached to aid in tracking. It’s possible that the gun and radar crews saw these balloons and, in the nervous atmosphere, mistook it for an attack.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s railgun is a lesson on how to not develop weapons

The US Navy’s efforts to develop a powerful electromagnetic railgun are a lesson in what not to do, a top US admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.

The US has “a number of great ideas that are on the cusp,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that “some of these technologies are going to be absolutely decisive in terms of defining who wins and who does not in these conflicts and in this new era” of great power competition.

But the US needs to accelerate the process because its adversaries are moving faster, he said. The admiral called attention to the railgun, a $500 million next-generation weapon concept that uses electromagnetic energy to hurl a projectile at an enemy at hypersonic speeds.


The US Navy has been researching this technology for years, but the US has not armed a warship with the gun. China, a rival power, appears to have mounted a railgun on a naval vessel, suggesting it may be beating the US in the race to field a working railgun with many times the range of existing naval guns.

Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

“I would say that railgun is kind of the case study that would say ‘This is how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,'” Richardson said. “It’s been around, I think, for about 15 years, maybe 20. So ‘rapid’ doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about timeframes like that.”

He said that the US had learned a lot from the project and that “the engineering of building something like that, that can handle that much electromagnetic energy and not just explode, is challenging.”

“So we’re going to continue after this, right? We’re going to install this thing. We’re going to continue to develop it, test it,” he said. “It’s too great a weapon system, so it’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

The admiral compared the railgun to a sticky note, which was invented for an entirely different purpose, to illustrate that the US had learned other things from its railgun research.

The hypervelocity projectile developed for the railgun, for instance, “is actually a pretty neat thing in and of itself,” he said, and “is also usable in just about every gun we have.”

“It can be out into the fleet very, very quickly, independent of the railgun,” he said. “So this effort is sort of breeding all sorts of advances. We just need to get the clock sped up with respect to the railgun.”

During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, the US Navy fired hypervelocity projectiles developed for railguns from the standard 5-inch deck gun on the destroyer USS Dewey, USNI News reported in January 2019.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) transits the Pacific Ocean while underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

And it’s apparently a concept the Navy is considering for the Zumwalt-class destroyers, the guns for which do not work and do not have suitable ammunition.

These hypervelocity projectiles are fired through the barrel via sabots that hold the round in place and harmlessly fall out the end of the barrel after firing. The sheer power of the electromagnetic pulse and the round’s aerodynamic profile allow it to fly much faster than normal rounds to devastating effect — the US Navy has said its experimental railgun could fire these bullets at seven times the speed of sound.

But experts argue that the railgun is inherently problematic technology, saying that regardless of who gets there first, the guns are likely to be militarily useless.

Railguns are “not a good replacement for a missile,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”

He added: “It’s not useful military technology.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Military spouse beautifully captures homefront life in new poetry book


On her way to graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University, Victoria Kelly didn’t envision a future as a military spouse. She was intently focused on political science with an eye on a career in international law.

All of that started to change when she attended the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference during the spring semester of her senior year. There she met one Midshipman First Class Will Kelly who was on his way to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar at the same time she was headed to Ireland to pursue a masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College in Dublin. That connection led to a relationship.

Victoria Kelly — Navy spouse, mother, poet, and novelist

They managed to keep their love alive over the months that Will attended flight school and Victoria studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she honed her literary chops, mostly focusing on the fiction genre. Once Will pinned on his Wings of Gold the two got married and moved to Virginia Beach where he was assigned to his first F/A-18 squadron.

Will went to sea with VFA-31 “The Tomcatters” and flew missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom while Victoria took care of the homefront. For all of her education, nothing to that point had really prepared her for the emotions — the fears and frustrations — that surround a wartime deployment.

It was fertile ground for an artist. The muse descended and the words started coming to her but as poetry not fiction. She was satisfied enough with the results to submit her poems to some contests and literary journals, and she wound up winning awards and getting her work published. Her first poetry chapbook, Prayers of an American Wife, won the Coal Hill Prize and was published by Autumn House Press in 2012.

Her second book of poems, titled When the Men Go off to War, was just released by the Naval Institute Press and is already receiving a lot of attention from both the military community as well as literary critics. Connecticut State Poet Laureate Dick Allen said, “Hers is one of the finest first collections of poems I’ve read in the last decade,” and writer Dorianne Laux characterized the work as “quiet, spare, and moving.”

An excerpt from the poem “Patuxent River” provides a good example of Kelly’s signature phrasing and metaphor:

. . . My husband stopped the car, stepped out to the road, and lifted

his face toward the roar of the jets overhead, looking

the way people look in the rain in movies

when they are happy. To him the were

as beautiful as children, those gray,

hairless beasts that had brought us here,

but he talked of them like mistresses, and he loved them,

and I loved him . . .

When the Men Go off to War is full of these sort of evocative passages, at once beautiful and tragic and always real. Navy SEAL veteran and bestselling author Eric Greitens may have put it best when he said, “We leave [Victoria’s] poems wiser and stronger.”

Watch this animated short featuring the title poem from When the Men go off to War:

Besides being an accomplished poet, Kelly is about to be a published novelist. Her debut, Houdini’s Wife, will hit shelves in March of 2016.

For more information about Victoria Kelly and to order the book visit her website here.

Now: These women served by serving booze to soldiers in battle

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How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment

Being on deployment in a dangerous region means being away from your family. Most service members play soccer, read old magazines and smoke a lot of butts.


It’s not like you’re allowed to leave the FOB to hit the mall and catch a movie.

Here’s the old school way of watching movies. (Source: Out of Regs)

But you’re in luck, we’re going to show to how to craft a home theater out of some native materials and your smartphone.

Related: 7 things every Marine needs before deploying

Here’s the supplies you’ll need:

  • a shoebox or a regular box
  • X-Acto knife or bayonet
  • a pencil or pen
  • scissors
  • a magnifying glass
  • tape and/or glue
  • smartphone

Step 1: Place the magnifying glass in the center outside of the shoebox and trace around it with the pencil making a circular stencil.

Step 2: Use the X-Acto knife to cut out the traced magnifying stencil, then pop out the excess cardboard. Cut the lid or it will hang down over the magnifying glass.

Step 3: Insert a clean magnifying glass into the cut hole and secure it down with tape or glue.

(Note: paint the inside of the box with polish or black paint)

Step 4: Use the excess cardboard to make a smartphone stand.

Step 5: Invert your smartphone screen through the settings app then lock the screen on.

Step 6: Place your smartphone in the box, on the stand and place the lid on as usual.

Step 7: You can adjust focus by sliding the phone while it’s on the stand inside the box.

Step 8: Enjoy your favorite movies.

Also Read: 8 things Marines love to carry other than their weapon

(TechBuilder, YouTube)What other deployment hacks have you heard of? Comment below?
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Russia just inked a deal that lets its air force stay in Syria for the next 49 years

Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a bill ratifying a protocol to the 2015 agreement between Moscow and Damascus regulating the deployment of the Russian Air Force in Syria for 49 years.


The protocol signed by Russia and Syria in January 2017 regulates issues related to the deployment of the Russian Air Force on Syrian territory as well as related to Russia’s exercise of jurisdiction over its military movable and immovable assets on Syrian territory. It also covers the measures needed to maintain the operation efficiency of the Russia Air Force.

Under the protocol, the Russian Air Force are allowed to stay on Syrian territory for 49 years with an option of automatically extending that arrangement for 25-year periods after this term expires.

Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The document, published on the Russian official legal information website, particularly says that the Syrian government is handing over a plot of land in the Latakia province, where the Khmeimim Air Base is located, over to Russia for its free use.

The bill ratifying the protocol was signed by Putin on July 27, according to a Kremlin statement.

It was adopted by the Russian State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, on July 14 and approved by the Senate five days later.

Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Air Base, Syria. Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense.

The Russian Air Force was deployed to Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the Syrian government as part of the operation aimed at fighting terrorist groups. The group was stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base.

Most Russian troops initially deployed to Syria were withdrawn in March 2016 after Putin said that the objectives of the five-month anti-terrorist operation in Syria were “generally accomplished.” At that time, Russia said it would keep a military presence at the port of Tartus and at the Khmeimim airbase to monitor the situation in the region and observe the implementation of ceasefire agreements.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Combat Flip Flops are all about freedom — and not just for your feet

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the person of leisure (POL):

~ Footwear fabricated for you by warzone friendlies ~

Matthew “Griff” Griffin’s company, Combat Flip Flops, found its mission somewhat off the beaten path of American vetrepreneurship — somewhat outside the parameters that veteran-owned businesses usually set for themselves.

Returning from his tours in Iraq, the former Army Ranger found himself wondering what role, if any, the private business sector might play in stabilizing some of the international communities that the U.S. military has been laboring through the first decades of this century to liberate.

Read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Many vets return from war looking to brush the dirt off their shoulders and get on with the business of living as free and fortunate Americans. The businesses that veterans found are most often designed to put other vets to work, while giving back to veteran causes here on the home front.

And make no mistake, that is good and proper — and WATM goes out of its way to shine the light of public awareness wherever we find such stories unfolding.

But Combat Flip Flops’ approach is just different enough to make us pause and reflect. Is there another way, now that we’re home, to support the mission we fought overseas to advance? Matthew Griffin thinks so.

Combat Flip Flops sells goods – from the eponymous sandals and sneakers to bags, scarves, and accessories – that are manufactured by workers in war-torn countries, the proceeds of which go to fund business development and education for the people of those communities.

Griffin’s goal is to attack the vicious cycle of poverty begetting local violence begetting regional instability begetting the kind of endemic violence that requires U.S. military intervention.

Combat Flip Flops currently manufactures its shoes in factories in narco-insurgent Columbia. Their employees in Afghanistan, many of them women, make their scarves and sarongs. They sell jewelry made from detonated landmines and funnel a portion of the profits back to mine-clearing efforts in Laos. And they’re always looking for new synergies.

Combat Flip Flops is investing in the economic health and social well-being of communities living in the wake of warfare. They recognize that, by the very nature of the mission, veterans and active duty personnel are the de facto sales reps of 21st century American democracy to some of the most at-risk communities in the modern world. And when combat in these areas concludes, the message shouldn’t just be “You’re Welcome.”

With the right kind of private sector support, it can be shorter and much more profound. The message can simply be “Welcome.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

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How firefighters could harness the power of military drones

Watch the latest video at a href=”http://video.foxnews.com”video.foxnews.com/a

What happens when a terrorist hunting drone and a resupply helicopter drone join forces?


Fires get stopped.

Aircraft with human pilots have been supporting American firefighters for several decades. This is a new generation of machines helping to fight fires.

The Stalker Extended Endurance (XE) and K-MAX drones could reinforce firefighters and potentially reduce the risk to the lives of first responders.

Last year alone, there were a staggering 1,298,000 fires reported in the U.S., resulting in more than 3,275 civilian deaths and 15,775 injuries.

Stalker XE and K-MAX (Lockheed Martin).

Both Stalker and K-MAX are designed to be cutting-edge military tech, but they also have great potential for civilians to help reduce the loss of life and life-changing injuries suffered every year.

How do the drone duo fight fires?

Basically, Stalker XE is the boss and K-MAX does the heavy lifting. Stalker XE is a small surveillance drone and K-MAX is a large resupply helicopter one. Together, they can fight fires all by themselves. Stalker finds the fire and directs K-MAX to drop water at exactly the right location to put it out.

They’re both unmanned systems, or drones. Stalker uses its state-of-the-art military tech to flag and precisely locate a fire. The drone then communicates with the much bigger K-MAX, which is loaded up with water.

In a recent demonstration, Stalker XE successfully directed K-MAX to drop water exactly at the necessary spots to put out the fire.

Heat can be a serious challenge in fighting fires. In spite of the immense heat fire can generate, K-MAX was designed to maintain performance in extremes and can still perform.

Conditions like smoke can also limit traditional missions due to visibility for human pilots, but K-MAX can carry on picking up water and delivering it by itself in low visibility conditions.

Stalker XE is an intelligence, surveillance and recon drone made by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, famous for innovative aircraft design.

Popular with special operations, Stalker XE is a small drone with a 12-foot wingspan. When flown at about 400 feet, it is silent to people on the ground.

Launched by just one operator and a bungee, it can stay aloft for more than eight hours, reach speeds of 45 mph and heights of up to 15,000 feet with its ruggedized solid oxide fuel cell.

It is designed to provide high-definition images in a range of the extreme environments. In both daylight and at night, the drone can provide images and data.

In addition to its high-def capabilities, Stalker XE’s image-tracking tech has the ability to pan, tilt and zoom using its electro-optical infrared camera, which can precisely locate and analyze fire intensity for K-MAX. The imagers and laser can also provide precise geo-referenced imagery products for human firefighting teams to review.

K-MAX

Manufactured by Kaman and equipped with Lockheed Martin’s advanced mission systems and sensors, K-MAX is used by the military to get massive amounts of supplies to forces quickly. It can lift and deliver a whopping 6,000 pounds of cargo at sea level as well as travel at speeds of about 115 mph.

During a three-year period between 2011 and 2014, when it deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps, for example, K-MAX delivered more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo for the Corps while flying more than 1,900 missions.

Its design includes a four-hook carousel that helps to maximize the cargo it can deliver to different locations in just one flight.

With the drone’s advanced autonomy tech, K-MAX can deploy day and night on repeat missions – without the limiting factor of human fatigue and crew availability.

The helicopters twin-rotor design helps to maximize lift in extreme environments. Very robust, it has also been designed to fly in all sorts of challenging weather conditions.

Will they get the chance to fight fires in the U.S.?

Recently, both drones worked together to fight a fire successfully integrated into the National Airspace System. Using a prototype of unmanned Traffic Management tech, the robot team effectively communicated with Air Traffic Control in real time.

This is a key step forward to joining the fight against fires. Because for these drones to deploy in civilian space, they need to prove they can cooperate with, and within, the civilian airspace framework.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new body armor and combat shirt coming to US troops

For as long as it’s existed, the U.S. military has always looked for ways to improve the odds of survival for troops in combat. Troops appreciate the effort, but lately, they’ve been carrying a lot of stuff — up to 200 pounds in some cases. They’d like that burden to be lighter.


The Army’s new Soldier Protection System. (US Army photo)

Luckily, it looks like the Army is going to be able to do that for the troops, starting in 2019. A 2016 report from the Army Times notes that troops will be receiving new body armor and an improved shirt. New body armor has emerged a few times throughout the War on Terror. First, troops used the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops until 2004, then replaced it with the Interceptor Body Armor. The Interceptor then got an Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

US Marine Corps (USMC) Corporal (CPL) Joe Rattlif sites through the scope mounted to a 12.7mm .50 in Barrett Light Fifty Model 82A1 sniping rifle, while training at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) facility, Camp Pendleton, California (CA), during Exercise KERNEL BLITZ 2001. (USMC photo)

Now, the Army is replacing Interceptor with the Soldier Protection System. One of the most notable features is the Torso and Extremity Protection (TEP), which includes a Modular Scalable Vest. According to Army Systems Command, the TEP is 26 percent lighter than the comparable system on Interceptor. The Vital Torso Protection (VTP) system, which replaces the Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates, also helps reduce the load, by as much as 14 percent.

The Torso and Extremity Protection comes in four tiers. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army also is releasing a new shirt known as the Ballistic Combat Shirt. The Army Times notes that this shirt allows troops to do without a portion of the Interceptor system called the Deltoid Auxiliary Protector, because the shirt provides the same level of protection. Because it feels like a normal shirt, troops are hauling less and have a freer range of movement, which makes for better rifle handling.

The armor plates used in the Vital Torso Protection component of the Soldier Protection System. (U.S. Army photo)

The trend may not stop there. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) website notes that it is pursuing newer technology to help troops carry more protection that weighs even less. This could be a big help for the troops facing down the bad guys in the future.