Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

The new Star Wars movies are pretty exciting. It freaked out the entire media landscape in a way unseen since the days before cable TV ensured we all didn’t watch the same episode of Friends on Thursday night. As each trailer brings the new, Jar-Jar free reality of an impending new saga upon us, the inner child of someone who once read the Star Wars Encyclopedia cover to cover bubbles to the surface, realizing some of the tech seen in the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have been really useful on some real-world deployments.


Rey’s Visor

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a human scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku (that’s not the desert world of Luke Skywalker’s Tattooine). Jakku is home to thieves and other criminals and someone like Rey must survive by salvaging old parts and reselling them. Having protection from the elements in the harsh, dry, dusty environment (sound familiar?) of Jakku is a real plus.

Rey’s eyepro is stripped from an old Stormtrooper helmet, giving her the same tactical advantage Imperial Stormtroopers had on the battlefield. Though it limits her field of vision, it does help her see in the dark, and through smoke, sand, and glare.

BB-8 “Roller Ball” Droid

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

As an Astromech droid in the line of R2-d2, the BB-8 droid can deftly work with electronic devices, which would do efficient work with deactivating explosive devices. The new droid comes with a number of improvements on the R2 unit’s original design, including a head which appears to float on a 360-degree base, giving the robot vastly improved maneuverability for the rocky slopes of Afghan terrain.

Luke Skywalker’s Cybernetic Hand

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Although in some sci-fi epics, cybernetic hands are more of a problem, in the Star Wars universe, cybernetic limb replacements allow for full range of motion, full use, and full sensitivity. These prosthetic replacements connect mechanical parts directly to the user’s brain via a neural net interface, covered by synthskin, to where no one would know the difference to look at it. This would be an excellent way to care for troops injured in Afghanistan, considering more than 1,000 lost limbs there. Good thing science already figured this one out. Thanks, DARPA.

Deflector Shields

What military unit wouldn’t want an invisible force field to protect them from harm while they destroyed their enemies. It may not be necessary in Afghanistan, but it sure would be nice to have. It’s much more necessary in the Star Wars Universe, where not having deflector shields looks like this:

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Honorable Mention: Rey’s Staff

It may not actually help in combat in Afghanistan, but if you want to see how Rey’s skills with that staff weapon might look onscreen, check out this video of Daisy Ridley’s stunt double, Chloe Bruce, working with one like it:

Close enough for government work, either with the U.S. or the New Republic.

And finally, we want lightsabers. Please, please make it happen, DoD.

NOW: Meet Adam Driver, Marine Vet and Star Wars’ Next Villain

OR: The U.S. Military wants to build Star Wars hover bikes

Articles

Al-Qaeda leader tells Iraqi Sunnis to prepare for long guerilla war

On the heels of Turkey’s entry into the war against ISIS in Syria, its precipitous loss of territory, and the death of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani — the group’s spokesman and frontman for “lone wolf” attacks abroad — al-Qaeda is already planning its resurgence in war-torn Iraq.


Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Abu Muhammad al-Adnani (Photo from France 24 via YouTube)

According to Reuters reporter Maher Chmaytelli, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Iraq’s Sunni population – who (nominally) share the sect of Islam with ISIS and al-Qaeda – to prepare for what he called a “long guerilla war.”

Within the last 18 months, the Islamic State has lost half its territory in 2016 to various groups in Iraq and Syria. Syrian government forces are poised to capture the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa. Kurdish and U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are at the gates of Aleppo, and now the Turkish army is squeezing the terrorist movement from the North.

In Iraq, security forces and Peshmerga units have recaptured the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in June, and are poised to recapture the major Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Many strategists and U.S. officials say when Mosul falls, so too does ISIS.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri in a still taken from a distributed video.

“The Sunnis of Iraq should not just surrender upon the fall of (their) cities into the hand of the Shi’ite Safavid army,” Zawahiri said in a video on social media. “Rather they should reorganize themselves in a long guerrilla war in order to defeat the new Crusader-Safavid occupation of their areas as they defeated them before.”

“Safavid” is a derogatory comment for Iraq’s Shia-led government. You can probably guess what he means by “Crusaders.”

He also implored Syrian “mujahideen” to help those in Iraq because they are “fighting the same battle.”

It’s unclear which group he was addressing. The Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front cut ties with al-Qaeda and rebranded, just as ISIS did when it stopped being known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. And there’s friction between the terror groups, since ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi doesn’t recognize Zawahiri as the successor to Osama bin Laden.

Some believe Iraq’s Sunni minority may be forever changed by its experience under occupation and may not respond to the al-Qaeda leader’s video.

After the liberation of Fallujah by Iraq’s security forces in June 2016, Vocativ’s Gilad Shiloach reported its citizens celebrating “a Fallujah without terror,” and residents tweeting things like, “From today on, Fallujah will never send explosives to Baghdad and the Shiite provinces.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
An Iraqi T-72 tank during the Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi

Some Iraqis think ISIS was somehow a creation of the U.S. Even so, they’re glad when the terrorists leave.

“The legend that was created by America has been smashed in Fallujah today,” wrote an Iraqi Twitter user. “It has appeared as a paper tiger in front of the strikes of our army and militias.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Marine and a SEAL traded service rivalry jabs in Congress

Republicans posted a snarky tweet after a congressional lawmaker and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared to make friendly digs at each other’s military service during the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 15, 2018.


While scrutinizing the department’s policy priorities for the upcoming budget, Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a former US Marine, asked Zinke, a former US Navy SEAL, how many meetings he’s held with a coalition of Native American nations.

“How many meetings did you hold with the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked.

“Pardon me?” Zinke said.

“How many meetings did you hold with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked again.

“I met them in Washington DC, I met them there, I met them over the phone, and had individual meetings,” Zinke replied.

Also read: This DNC delegate joined the Army after spending 22 years as a state lawmaker

“So the actual coalition, it sounds like you had one meeting then,” Gallego said. “One face-to-face meeting.”

“That would be incorrect,” Zinke responded. “I had a meeting there …”

“Ok, so what would you say the number is then,” Gallego later asked. “If you had to take a guess. Even giving you some sway on the meetings …”

“I had a meeting there with the coalition,” Zinke answered. “I had a meeting in Utah with …”

“Secretary Zinke, I’m asking just the number,” Gallego interrupted. “I know you’re a Navy SEAL and math might be difficult, but you know, give me a rough number here.”

“Rough number of what is specifically your question?” Zinke shot back. “And I take offense about your derogatory comment about the United States Navy SEALs. Of course, having not served, I understand you probably don’t know.”

More: Congressman and former Marine officer raises concerns about SEAL fighting techniques

Gallego, chuckling, appeared to reload for another quip.

“Not in the Navy and not in the Navy SEALs,” Zinke said with a smirk.

“Alright, Secretary Zinke, I apologize,” Gallego said. “But as you know, we have inter-rivalry jokes all the time as a Marine and as a grunt. And of course, I appreciate your service.”

“Semper fi,” Zinke said, referring to the Marine Corps shorthand motto of “semper fidelis,” or “always faithful.”

“Semper fi, brother,” Gallego said.

While the exchange appeared friendly, the House Committee on Natural Resources appeared to take offense to Gallego’s comments. The committee’s official Twitter account uploaded an edited clip of Gallego’s quip, and wrote: “Leave it to Committee Democrats to disgrace the service of a Navy SEAL for political gain…”

 

The GOP got some heat on Twitter, though, for editing out the “semper fi” exchange between the two.

“Gross. @RepRubenGallego served bravely in Iraq as a Marine. Today he ribbed Secretary Zinke as a former Navy SEAL. You edited out the part where Sec. Zinke smiles and says ‘semper fi’ to Rep. Gallego, who smiles back. We have enough work to do without ginning up fake outrage,” Rep. Don Beyer tweeted.

As a Marine in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Gallego deployed to Iraq in 2005. His company, which lost 22 Marines and a Navy corpsman, would experience arguably one of the toughest campaigns during the war.

Zinke served as a Navy SEAL officer and took part in operations that included capturing a Bosnian war criminal.

Watch Zinke’s and Gallego’s comments here:

Articles

The U-2 Dragon Lady is keeping her eye on Pyongyang

With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.


Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.

Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.

In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Lockheed TR-1 with the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron. (USAF photo)

An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.

The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.

The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
A pilot guides a U-2 Dragon Lady across the air field in front of deployed E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, en route to a mission in support of operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (DOD photo)

That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.


During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.

Robots

Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.

Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.

Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.

The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.

By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
By 2025, the Army sees ground troops conducting foot patrols in urban terrain with robots, called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicles. Overhead, unmanned aircraft will also serve as spotters to warn troops so they can engage the enemy on their own terms, according to the the Army’s new strategy on robotic and autonomous systems. (U.S. Army graphic)

In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.

The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.

The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.

The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.

Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.

Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.

The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Army Reserve Sgt. Santiago Zapata, 2nd Platoon, 323rd Engineering Clearance Company, operates the Talon tracked military robot by using a ground remote on a route clearance mission while at the Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 19, 2015. (DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Ground combat vehicles

David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.

The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.

The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.

It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.

There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.

A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.

Also Read: Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.

Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.

CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.

Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.

There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.

Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.

Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.

And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.

The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
A prototype illustration for The Next Generation Combat vehicle. (U.S. Army graphic)

Other future weapons

Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.

Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.

The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.

The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.

Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.

The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.

“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”

Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.

The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
An M109A6 Paladin with Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment (Pacesetters), 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division waits for darkness before the night live-fire portion of the table six gunnery certification. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. John W. Strickland)

Joint development

Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.

The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.

Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.

He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.


In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.

The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.

The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.

The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.

Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.

Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.

The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.

Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”

Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”

Also Read: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.

Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.

The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.

Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.

In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.

“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
ISIS in Syria.

Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.

“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”

Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.

Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.

McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More recruits will see longer training in expanded program

The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.

About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.


Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.

“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].

“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)

Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.

“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.

The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.

“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.

“That is a long time in training.”

The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.

But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”

The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.

“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military dad writes children’s book to explain PTSD to his kids

After sixteen years spent deployed to Qatar, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Army Reserve First Sgt. Seth Kastle retired and returned home to Wakeeney, Kansas. And while he was happy to be back with his wife Julia and daughters Raegan and Kennedy, Kastle struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“When I returned home and began the reintegration process, it was difficult, but I didn’t understand why,” Kastle told Babble. To deal with his feelings and hopefully help his kids understand his PTSD, Kastle sat down at the kitchen table and started writing a story he’d been mulling over for a long time. Half an hour later, the first draft of Why Is Dad So Mad? was complete.


Kastle’s effort is a children’s book is about a family of lions, modeled after Kastle’s own, in which the father is struggling with PTSD. The disorder is represented in the book’s illustrations by a fire raging inside his chest.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

(Amazon)

Kastle hopes that his book, which met its initial Kickstarter goal in a matter of hours, helps other veterans and their families, not just his own.

The VA estimates that 11 to 20 percent of veterans of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have experienced PTSD, but it remains a difficult subject to discuss.

“Reading this book to my daughters was a pretty powerful experience,” Kastle said. “After I read it to my oldest daughter, she told me she was sorry I had a fire inside my chest.

“That is something that will stick with me.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Camp Blaz is the first new USMC base in nearly 70 years

On October 1, 2020, the United States Marine Corps activated its first new base since 1952. Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz will host roughly 5,000 Marines of III Marine Expeditionary Force on the island of Guam. The Marines will relocate from their current station in Okinawa, Japan over the next five years. 1,300 Marines will be permanently stationed at Camp Blaz while the remaining 3,700 Marines will serve as a rotational force.

The new Marine Corps strategy in the Pacific calls for a smaller, more agile and lethal force. “We have to spread out,” said the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger. “We have to factor in Guam.” Camp Blaz will allow the United States to distribute its premiere amphibious fighting force across the Pacific. Operating from Guam, the Marine Corps will be able to respond to a wider array of aggressive actions from China. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (yes, that’s actually what it’s called) is officially the largest navy in the world. While the United States more than doubles the PLAN in tonnage and outclasses it in quality, the threat of numbers cannot be ignored.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
Brig. Gen. Blaz’s official Marine Corps portrait (U.S. Marine Corps)

Camp Blaz is named for the late Brig. Gen. Vicente Tomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to reach the rank of general officer. Blaz was born on Guam on February 14, 1928 and lived through the Japanese occupation of the island during WWII. After the war, he attended the University of Notre Dame on a scholarship and commissioned as a Marine officer in 1951.

Over his 29 years of service, Blaz earned the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star Medal with a Combat “V” for valor, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross for his service in Vietnam. Following his retirement from the Corps in 1980, Blaz worked as a professor at the University of Guam. In 1984, he was elected to the House of Representatives as the delegate from Guam. He served in Congress until 1983 when he retired. Blaz died in 2014 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The new base that bears this Marine’s name solidifies the union between the Corps and the people of Guam. “As the Marine Corps presence on Guam grows, I am confident that we will live up to our motto of honor, courage, and commitment,” said Col. Bradley M. Magrath, Camp Blaz’s first base commander. “We will honor the history of the island of Guam, we will have the courage to defend it, and we will remain committed to preserving its cultural and environmental resources.” The Marine Corps plans to hold a formal activation ceremony in spring 2021.

Marines conduct the first flag raising at Camp Blaz (U.S. Marine Corps)
Humor

These 10 letters kids sent to deployed troops will make you smile

Words can’t be expressed how grateful deployed troops are when they receive care packages and letters from back home. A swarm of grown men and women will hover around them just to get whatever goodies they can out of them.


I’ve seen people fight over chocolate that made it through the trip (spoiler alert: there’s a one in a million chance it doesn’t melt on the way over). I’ve seen someone buy a pack of Girl Scout cookies for $50. I still wear a 550-cord band that I got in one of mine because a kid wrote that it’d keep me safe. I’m still here today so technically, you can’t prove the kid wrong.

The letters from the kids are the amazing. The letters fall somewhere between savage as f*ck to random as sh*t. These are some of the best from the Internet.

1. Thank you. Don’t Die

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Thanks, kid. I’ll try not to.

2. This ‘Merican AF dragon!

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

I said consummate ‘v’s!

3. Call Me Maybe

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

And now we all have that song stuck in our heads… Thanks, Maddie.

4. My mom likes drinking wine

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Awesome!

5. You rock more than AC/DC or Metallica, or Red Hot Chili Peppers

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Kid knows AC/DC, Metallica, and Chili Peppers, even if he can’t spell them? Yeah. He’s probably going to enlist some day.

6. Thank you for fighting in the war

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Don’t know if spelling error or not… But we do whatever it takes to keep our country proud of us!

7 Happy America Nut’s Kream

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Meow America, indeed.

8. My Grandpa Bob was in the Navy and now he loves peanuts.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Peanuts. Yes, peanuts. Couldn’t possibly be anything else.

9. You’ll probably never get to see your family again

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

Thanks for caring, Donovan.

10. My dad said you guys are fighting a bunch of goat f*ckers.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(Image via Imgur)

For someone who doesn’t know what a goat f*cker is, Jack has some pretty good spelling and penmanship.

Articles

Watch a soldier surprise kids who sent care packages to the troops

Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Stanley fought in Afghanistan and graduated from air assault school. But when he visited an elementary school near his base, he found that even an auditorium full of youngsters could make him nervous.


For two years, the children of North Bay Elementary School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, sent care packages to the men and women of the U.S. Army’s Charlie Troop, 3/89 CAV, from Fort Polk, Louisiana, during C-troop’s time in Afghanistan.

“To get a letter, a picture, or a box of junk food, it’s amazing,” Stanley told ABC affiliate WLOX. “To be able to get up in front of these kids and say thank you means a lot to me.”

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(twitter.com/TrangPhamBui)

WLOX’s Trang Pham-Bui captured this video of young students gathered in a patriotic assembly. The kids were giving their thoughts and remembering what it felt like to decide what to send American soldiers overseas.

 

Stanley drove for six hours just to surprise the students. He read them a heartfelt thank you from Charlie troop and presented the school and children with several American flags flown over Afghanistan.

Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan
(twitter.com/TrangPhamBui)