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Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018

Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018
Photo Credit: US Army


MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 28, 2015 – Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is cool. But it’s not real.

The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit is cool, too. But it is real and may soon be protecting America’s special operations forces going into harm’s way.

The TALOS suit “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, Socom’s commander, said at the National Defense Industries Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here yesterday.

The joint acquisition task force for the suit was established in November 2013 and is banking on breakthrough technology — or technologies — to protect special operators, Votel said. Socom, he said, has put together an unprecedented group from industry, academia and government to develop the prototype.

And Votel says they are on the mark.

“Although many significant challenges remain, our goal for a Mark 5 prototype suit by 2018 is on track right now,” he said.

A Holistic System

Future prototype suits have exoskeletons that augment the power of the operators, Votel explained. They will also feature helmets with heads-up display technology. Other future prototypes will feature cooling/heating systems and medical sensors to monitor an operator’s vital signs.

“It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” said a joint task force member speaking on background during a recent interview at Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “Survivability is our number-one tenet. We have to look not only at the integration of current systems for personal protective equipment, but also to augment the guy’s motion.”

This is serious science with risks and serious trade-offs, and the task force’s main effort this year was to “get as many smart people working on it as possible,” the task force member said.

A rapid prototyping event was held in Tampa from April to June 2014. “The idea of the event was to bring industry , Interagency [and] academia together with special operators to accelerate the development of the technology and accelerate the brainstorming of the ideas for the suit and the project,” said a task force member.

It worked.

More than 200 people from a wide range of disciplines answered the open call. “Putting those people in one room enabled cross polinization and an incredible collaborative teamwork atmosphere,” the task force member said.

But the rapid prototyping event was more than simply charting the way ahead of theorizing on how the various parts would fit together, the task force member said. There were 3D computer modeling designers participating, he added.

“People could explore concepts by seeing what it would look like, how it would fit, how it would affect other aspects of the design,” an engineer said. “Usually in [Defense Department] contracting you don’t get that kind of immediate feedback. We could actually have a physical model of what we were thinking about.”

The team went from cutting designs from foam to sculpting it from clay to 3D printing the prototypes. “We were able to try a group of different ideas with the experts in the room,” a task force member said.

‘Big Leap’ Challenges Remain

Going into the rapid prototyping event, the task force members had ideas of what the problems were going to be and the event confirmed them. “It also pointed to ways we can surmount those challenges and pointed out challenges we really didn’t think would be that tough,” the engineer of the group said.

An untethered power source is going to be a problem, officials said. The power will be needed to operate the exoskeleton, cool or heat the operator and fuel all the sensors in the suit. “Identifying an untethered power source for extended duration is one leap of technology,” one official said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist in that man-portable size technology. If someone has an arc reactor in their basement, I know how they can make a lot of money.”

The task force is looking at novel materials and materials used in different configurations. “If you could make armor that was super, super light and is a leap in technology, that buys down some of our other problems,” an official said. “We wouldn’t need as much power, for example.

“We’re looking to get those leaps of technologies,” he continued. “Those leaps of capabilities to the guys so they can do their jobs better than they do now.”

Suit Sensor Challenges

Another challenge is with the suit’s sensors, officials said. One problem deals with latency — the time between when a sensor detects something and when it is transmitted to the brain. Night-vision goggles are immediate — there is zero-difference from when the sensor picks it up and it hits the eye.

“When I move my head, the picture is with me all the time,” the engineer said. “The problem with current visual solutions right now is when I move my head, it lags and takes a second to catch up.”

Today, even the best prototype sensor solution still creates nausea after being under it for 30 minutes.

The task force never forgets they are developing this suit for real people, for comrades in arms, and they have constant interaction with operators, officials said. “The last thing you want to do is build a suit that nobody wants to get inside,” said one task force member.

The task force has given various pieces of technology to operators to test. Recently, operators tested various heads-up displays. They also had user assessment of the first-year exoskeletons. “We had operators from all components strap them on and run through an obstacle course,” one task force member said. “We also did functional movement tests. It gives the operators the chance to come and tell us what they liked and disliked about the prototypes.”

TALOS has a number of civilian uses as well, officials said. Firefighters may find the initial prototype passive load bearing exoskeleton suits handy, as would other people working in extreme environments. The results of tests will be seen not only in the special operations community, but in improved ballistic protection for all service members.

On the wall of the task force building is a countdown calendar. The day of the interview, the number read 877 — the days left before the Mark 5 first prototype suit must be ready for testing.

“We know why we’re doing this,” one member of the task force said. “This is life-saving technology. There are challenges, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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What is SGLI and do you actually need it?

Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018
The white gloved hands of a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard hold a folded United States flag. The triangular shaped folded flag and accompanying ceremony is an inspiring way to honor the flag and what it represents during solemn ceremonies. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA


In the military’s acronym-packed lingo, SGLI stands for “Service Members Group Life Insurance,” and according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is a “program that provides low-cost term life insurance coverage to eligible service members.”

Troops that are eligible for SGLI are active duty in any of the service branches; commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service; cadets, or midshipmen of a U.S. military academy; members, cadets, or midshipmen of an ROTC unit and engaged in authorized training or practice cruises; a member of the reserve or National Guard and are scheduled to attend a minimum of 12 periods of inactive training per year; or a service member who volunteers for mobilization in the Individual Ready Reserve.

Service members who are eligible for SGLI are automatically enrolled at the maximum rate of $400,000, though they may choose to decline or lower their coverage and make changes to it.

Service members retain their SGLI coverage for 120 days after separation from the service, though completely disabled veterans may extend that coverage for a maximum of two years after separation.

Reserve members who do not qualify for coverage are allotted “part-time” coverage.

So why do you need SGLI anyway?

Being a service member is obviously a high risk job. High risk jobs, according to CheatSheet, can cost as much as $2000 extra annually for life insurance companies, which is roughly 500 percent more than you’ll pay through your SGLI.

The bottom line is that SGLI is incredibly inexpensive, at just $29 a month, and it’s worth it for your family to have some peace of mind should something happen to you in the line of duty.

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Watch Marines drift their tanks on ice

U.S. Marines training in Norway took their tanks and armored vehicles on a drifting course over solid ice.


Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018
GIF: US Marine Forces Europe and Africa Facebook Video

The Marines are taking part in Exercise Cold Response 16 which is a 12-nation NATO exercise. American airmen, sailors, and Marines are learning how to fight in the extreme cold, a muscle the U.S. didn’t flex much while focused on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Exercise Cold Response was scheduled before Russia began its aggressive actions in Ukraine but the skills learned in Norway will be useful if relations don’t improve. The United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, and Latvia are also participating.

Learning to safely drift tanks may seem like a crazy stunt, but it will help U.S. Marine Corps tank crewmen maneuver during a fight in the extreme cold.

U.S. Marines in the exercise have also trained on surviving a fall through ice and constructing snow shelters.

(h/t Washington Post)

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Why tech execs want to ban robot weapons

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.


Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

 

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

The United Nations has scheduled a November meeting to discuss the implications of autonomous weapons. It has created a group of governmental experts on “lethal autonomous weapon systems.” The letter asked the group to “work hard at finding means to prevent an arms race in these weapons, to protect civilians from their misuse, and to avoid the destabilizing effects of these technologies.”

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United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

Founder and CEO of the artificial intelligence company SparkCognition, Amir Husain, signed the letter but insists that he is against any ban or restrictions that would stifle progress and innovation. He pointed out that the campaign was organized by professor Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales in Australia, and was meant to highlight the “potential dangers of autonomous weapons absent an international debate on these issues.”

The industry wants a healthy debate on the benefits and risks of AI and autonomy, Amir told RealClearDefense in a statement. But a blanket ban is “unworkable and unenforceable.” Scientific progress is inevitable, “and for me that is not frightening,” he added. “I believe the solution — as much as one exists at this stage — is to redouble our investment in the development of safe, explainable, and transparent AI technologies.”

Wendy Anderson, general manager of SparkCognition’s defense business, said that to suggest a ban or even tight restrictions on the development of any technology is a “slippery slope” and would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage, as other countries will continue to pursue the technology. “We cannot afford to fall behind,” said Anderson. “Banning or restricting its development is not the answer. Having honest, in-depth discussions about how we create, develop, and deploy the technology is.”

Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

August Cole, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and writer at the consulting firm Avascent, said the concerns raised by tech leaders on autonomous weapons are valid, but a ban is unrealistic. “Given the proliferation of civilian machine learning and autonomy advances in everything from cars to finance to social media, a prohibition won’t work,” he said.

Setting limits on technology ultimately would hurt the military, which depends on commercial innovations, said Cole. “What needs to develop is an international legal, moral, and ethical framework. … But given the unrelenting speed of commercial breakthroughs in AI, robotics, and machine learning, this may be a taller order than asking for an outright ban on autonomous weapons.”

But while advances in commercial technology have benefited the military, analysts fear that the Pentagon has not fully grasped the risks of unfettered AI and the possibility that machines could become uncontrollable.

“AI is not just another technology,” said Andy Ilachinski, principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He authored a recent CNA study, “AI, Robots, and Swarms: Issues, Questions, and Recommended Studies.”

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USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Defense has to be concerned about the implications of this debate, he said in an interview. AI is transforming the world “to the level of a Guttenberg press, to the level of the Internet,” he said. “This is a culture-shifting technology. And DoD is just a small part of that.”

Another troubling reality is that the Pentagon has yet to settle on the definition of autonomous weapons. In 2012, the Department of Defense published an instruction manual on the use of autonomous weapons. That 5-year-old document is the only existing policy on the books on how the US military uses these systems, Ilachinski said. According to that manual, a weapon is autonomous if “once activated, it can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.”

Policies and directives are long overdue for an update, he said. “We need to know what AI is capable of, how to test it, evaluate it.”

He noted that the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, published two studies on the subject in 2012 and 2016 but provided “no good definition of autonomy or AI in either of them.” These are the Pentagon’s top experts and “they can’t even get it straight.”

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USAF photo by Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Something about Musk’s warning strikes a chord with scientists that truly understand AI, Ilachinski observed. When Google’s Deepmind created a computer program in 2015 that beat the world’s Go champion, it was a landmark achievement for AI but also brought the realization that these algorithms truly have minds of their own. “This is an issue of great concern for DoD.”

There are areas within AI that scientists are still trying to wrap their heads around. In advanced systems like Deepmind’s AlphaGo, “you can’t reverse engineer why a certain behavior occurred,” Ilachinski said. “It is important for DoD to recognize that they may not able to understand completely why the system is doing what it’s doing.”

One reason to take Musk’s warning seriously is that much is still unknown about what happens within the brains of these AI systems once they are trained, said Ilachinski. “You may not be able to predict the overall behavior of the system,” he said. “So in that sense I share the angst that people like Elon Musk feel.”

On the other hand, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, Ilachinski added. The United States can’t let up because countries like China already are working to become the dominant power in AI. Further, the Pentagon has to worry that enemies will exploit AI in ways that can’t yet be imagined. Anyone can buy a couple of drones for less than a thousand dollars, go to the MIT or Harvard website, learn about AI, download snippets of code and implant them in the drones, he said. A swarm of smart drones is something “would have a hard time countering because we are not expecting it. It’s very cheap and easy to do.”

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How interrogation techniques are used on recruits and no one knew it

For countless years, various interrogation techniques have been used to locate the bad guys, gain confessions and convict criminals. In 1996, the CIA and Army intelligence officers were forced to release a collection of writings called “Kubark” after a Freedom of Information Act request.


This former secret document reveals practices used against the nation’s enemies to admit wrong doings and learn information to prevent future attacks.

Related: President ponders review of suspected terrorist interrogations and black sites

Section nine (shown below) describes the stages of coercive techniques used to extract vital information from sources. Once you look closely, you may realize you’ve experienced one or more of these techniques up close and personal during your stay in boot camp.

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The levels of Kubark from the original document published in 1963. (Source: NSA Archive / Screenshot)

Here’s how 8 out of 12 forms of counterintelligence interrogation techniques are used on recruits in basic training.

1. Arrest

In this case, arrest doesn’t mean being handcuffed and hauled off to jail, we’re talking about using the element of surprise to achieve the maximum amount of mental discomfort. Picture a few drill sergeants barreling into a squad bay screaming and yelling waking up their recruits at moments notice — it’s the same principle.

2. Detention

According to the NSA archive, the continuity of a man’s surroundings, appearance, daily habits, and actions define his identity. In boot camp, the recruit has no control over any of these aspects in his new military life.

3. Deprivation of Sensory Stimuli

Basic training is known for breaking down recruits before they’re built back up. So recruits are banned from anything positive at least until graduation.

4. Threats and Fears

When a DI tells you that nothing you can do is right and you’re a complete failure, it takes a toll on the mind. Even worse, if you fail you’re going to have to repeat the tough evolution if you don’t get a move on.

5. Debility

Living in close counters with up to 80 other people means getting sick is almost guaranteed. Getting a head cold and forced to hard days work can break anyone’s spirit. The interrogation doesn’t stop for a detainee if they have a little fever.

6. Pain

Everyone’s threshold to tolerate pain is different. As many would collapse and quit, others use it as motivation to push forward and fight. Boot camp is all about mental and physical toughness and so is surviving a harsh interrogation.

7. Heighten Suggestibility and Hypnosis

This state of consciousness means getting someone to accept suggestion without them thinking about it and taking action. In military terms, it’s building up muscle memory.

8. Narcosis

Today it’s mainly known as sleep deprivation. Everyone needs rest or they can make vital mistakes. Boot camp is widely known for keeping military hopefuls up for multiple hours conducting various tasks to see how they respond to the stress.

Also Read: This Navy SEAL’s intense boot camp prepares actors for movie combat

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Clint Eastwood casts Paris train heroes as themselves in film

The three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris will be playing themselves in the upcoming film “The 15:17 to Paris,” directed by Clint Eastwood.


According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone will be acting alongside Jenna Fischer (The Office), Judy Greer, and Ray Croasini in the film.  Eastwood, whose films Sully and American Sniper both garnered Academy Award nominations, is producing the film with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier. According to Variety.com, filming of the project began on Tuesday.

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards the Soldier’s Medal to Spc. Alek Skarlatos, Oregon National Guard, the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and the Defense Department Medal for Valor to Anthony Sadler, at a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard Sept. 17, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)(Released)

TheTrackingBoard.com had reported that Eastwood had initially wanted to cast Kyle Gallner, Jeremie Harris and Alexander Ludwig as the three heroes in the film, which is based on a book by Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone.

On August 21, 2015, Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guard soldier, Stone, an Airman assigned to the 65th Air Base Group, and Sadler, a high school classmate who was attending college, thwarted an attack being carried out by a “lone wolf” terrorist who had an AKM assault rifle. Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler tackled the gunman, whose rifle had jammed, then Stone, a medic, treated a passenger who had been shot in the neck by the jihadist, despite being wounded himself. Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day, while Stone received the Airman’s Medal and Purple Heart. Sadler was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor.

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Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

The casting of Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler is not the first time a military hero portrayed himself. In 1955, Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy portrayed himself in “To Hell and Back,” based on his 1949 memoirs. It should also be noted that in 2012, the movie Act of Valor starred Navy SEALs as themselves, but in a fictional scenario. The SEALs were not formally credited in the movie directed by Scott Waugh and “Mouse” McCoy.

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Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

President Donald Trump again teased the prospect of placing a “big order” of F/A-18 Super Hornets to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Friday.


“We are looking seriously at a big order” of F-18s said Trump to applause from the crowd at Boeing, the company that builds the F/A-18.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced in January that the military would “review” the F-35 program and possibly opt for more “advanced Super Hornets” instead of the F-35C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that continues to struggle.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

Trump continues to seriously explore the idea despite backers of the F-35 program have protested the notion that an updated F-18 can do the F-35’s job.

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F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/Released

The advanced Super Hornet package offered by Boeing builds on the company’s reputation for delivering upgrades to the F-18, first built in the 1970s, on time and on cost.

This contrasts heavily with the Navy’s F-35C, made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin, which has faced significant difficulties achieving readiness in the military.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s.

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How America literally chops the heads off of nuclear bombers

Boeing’s B-52H Stratofortress will be in service into the 2040s — a long career for the eight-engine bomber. But what of the earlier versions of the B-52? What is happening to them? Well, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty consigned many to a fate reminiscent of the French Revolution.


The luckiest B-52s were placed on static display – many as “gate guardians” outside air bases and some in museums. A few others ended up as training airframes – permanently grounded, but still serving.

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This Boeing B-52G is on display at the Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The rest of them, though, were given a very harsh sentence in the so called “Protocol on Procedures Governing the Conversion or Elimination of the Items subject to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” — an ignominious death.

The so-called “BUFFs” sentenced to elimination were taken to a “conversion or elimination facility.” The United States chose the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to be that facility.

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Once there, the BUFF was to be “eliminated” in accordance with the Treaty. Here’s that that protocol says must be done:

“(a) The tail section with tail surfaces shall be severed from the fuselage at a location obviously not an assembly joint;

“(b) The wings shall be separated from the fuselage at any location by any method; and

“(c) The remainder of the fuselage shall be severed into two pieces, within the area of attachment of the wings to the fuselage, at a location obviously not an assembly joint.”

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A before and after shot of scrapped B-52s. (USAF photo)

The tool for this is surprisingly simple. According to a CNN report, it was a 13,500-pound blade that is hoisted about 60 feet above the BUFF. Then the blade drops like a guillotine (vive la France!).

The planes are then left out for 90 days to allow a Russian satellite to verify that the planes have gone through the “elimination” protocol. After that, they will be taken to be scrapped. Among those that have met that fate, according to CNN, was “Memphis Belle III,” a descendant of the famous World War II bomber. Each plane has 150,000 pounds of aluminum and other metals that will likely be soda cans, a car fender, or the stereotypical razor blades.

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B-52s destroyed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (USAF photo)

Below is a video showing this process underway from the ground level.

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Trump widens potential rift with Mattis over NATO

President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”

“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.

Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.

In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.

“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.

‘It’s Obsolete’

After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.

“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.

In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.

The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”

Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.

Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.

However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”

A Deal With Putin

Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”

The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.

In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”

“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.

Reassuring Europe

To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.

To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.

In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”

“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”

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Watch this year’s Marine Corps birthday message celebrating 240 years of service

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The Marine Corps’ top leaders are wishing Marines everywhere a happy 240th birthday in a new video released on Oct. 23.

Though the nearly 10-minute video is a bit early — the Marines’ birthday isn’t until Nov. 10 — the video message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps have become a staple of the Corps in recent years.

This year is no different, with a message from new Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green filmed at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

“We hope each of you will have a chance to reflect on our history, remember those who sacrificed and reaffirm your commitment to the strengthening of our Corps,” Neller says in the video.

The video features interviews with other Marines, along with historical footage from past battles, including The Battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought 70 years ago.

“Happy birthday Marines, wherever you are. … We must continue to uphold the legacy of those who have gone before, and we remain Semper Fidelis,” Neller says in closing, using the Marine Corps Latin motto, meaning “Always Faithful.”

Watch:

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How this Navy jet ended up 3,000 feet under the Atlantic

The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.


Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.

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A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II  assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)

Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.

The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

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Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.


As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.

Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.

With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.

Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:

The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base

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B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs

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A B-52D Stratofortress from the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, California, drops bombs. B-52Ds were modified in 1966 to carry 108, 500-lb bombs while the normal conventional payload before was only 51. (Image: Wikimedia)

A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam

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A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario Aug. 22. The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region. During their deployment to Guam, the bomber squadron’s participation in exercises will emphasize the U.S. bomber presence, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit

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Aircrew assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron participate in a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircrew is assigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station

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Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

At the navigation station

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Capt. Michael Minameyer reviews map during a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. Captain Minameyer is a navigator assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Mid-air refueling

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — A member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing off-loads fuel to a B-52 over the Pacific near Guam.

Refueling over Guam

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Airmen of the 916th begin to return to home in early November after a deployment to Guam supporting the bomber mission. Here, a KC-135 tanker refuels a B-52.

Pulling chocks

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A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 21. The bomber is with the 5th Bomb Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw6XTz_GGFU
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A year in, no female SEAL applicants, few for SpecOps

A little more than 12 months after training pipelines for previously closed elite special operator jobs opened to women, the U.S. military has yet to see its first female Navy SEAL or Green Beret.


The component commanders for each of the service special operations commands say they’re ready to integrate female operators into their units, but it’s not yet clear when they’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Related: Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

The Navy is closely monitoring the interest of female applicants. In fact, Naval Special Warfare Command is eyeing one Reserve Officer Training Corps member who’s interested in the SEALs, and another woman who has yet to enter the service but has expressed interest in becoming a special warfare combatant craft crewman, a community even smaller than the SEALs with a training pipeline nearly as rigorous.

But it will likely be years until the Navy has a woman in one of these elite units.

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Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes the elite SEALs and other Navy special operations units, noted that the enlisted training pipeline for SEALs is two-and-a-half years from start to end, meaning a female applicant who began the process now wouldn’t join a team until nearly 2020.

And that assumes that she makes it through the infamously grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.

“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”

While the Army Rangers famously had three female officers earn their tabs in 2015 in a special program ahead of the December 2015 Defense Department mandate that actually gave women the right to serve in the Rangers, the elite regiment remains male-only, at least for now.

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Cpt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army Ranger School Class 08-15 render a salute during their graduation at Fort Benning, GA, Aug. 21, 2015. Griest and class member 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female graduates of the school.(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

To date, one female officer in a support military occupational specialty has completed the training process and will likely join the unit by the end of March, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commander of Army Special Operations Command.

In other previously closed Army special operations elements, he said, two enlisted women have attempted special operations assessment and selection but haven’t made it through. One, who was dropped due to injury and not to failure to meet standards, is likely to reattempt the process, Tovo said.

Two female officers are also expected to begin assessment and selection in the “near future,” he said.

“So we’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was the first service to report publicly that it had women in its training pipeline. But in a year, MARSOC has had just three applicants, and none who made it through the first phase of assessment and selection, commander Maj. Gen. Carl Mundy III said at the conference. Currently, he added, there are no women in training, and none on deck to enter the pipeline.

The Air Force, which opened its combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party jobs to women last year, has had several applicants, but all have been dropped from training due to injury or failure to meet standards, said Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.

“I think this is a slow build … and we’ll keep after it,” Webb said, noting that that the service observed similar trends when it opened other jobs up to women decades ago. “AFSOC is looking for the highest caliber candidates, and when a person meets that standard, she will be joining our ranks.”

For some of the services, the challenge is twofold.

Tovo said Army Special Forces recruits primarily from the infantry, which opened to women at the same time SF did. And women are moving quickly into these previously closed jobs; the first 10 women graduated from the Army’s infantry officer course in October, and 140 women are reportedly on deck to enter infantry training in 2017, while more have already been reclassified. But it’s still a small field.

MARSOC also recruits heavily from Marine Corps ground combat MOSs. To date, just three female Marines assigned to one of these jobs have entered the fleet.

“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”

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U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 04, 2013. Delta Company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mancuso

Szymanski suggested that social barriers to women serving in units such as the SEALs may no longer be the impediment they once were, as younger, more tolerant sailors enter the force.

“The students coming through, it’s no big deal to them,” he said. “This generation’s much more tolerant of society than our generation — a multi-diverse, gender-neutral society. Some of the integration [challenges] will be with our older cohorts.”

It’s possible, however, that the services will have to rethink recruitment in light of a widened field of potential applicants. Szymanski said his contracted SEAL scout teams visit high schools to recruit talent, but tend to target events with high male participation.

“Typically in the past, that’s been things like wrestling matches and those types of things,” he said. “So I now have to be sure that they’re thinking about, how do they incentivize or attract younger females at some of those events. Maybe swimming meets; swimmers typically will fend well in the pipeline if they’re good in the water.”