Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round - We Are The Mighty
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Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

So it doesn’t seem that the Army or the Marine Corps are in any hurry to explain to Congress why they don’t use a common 5.56mm round.


The final joint version of the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Appropriations Act includes a provision requiring the secretary of defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees explaining why the two services are using different types of 5.56 mm ammunition for their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines.

The bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate this week before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

This is not the first time Congress has gotten its dander up over this subject. Lawmakers asked both services to explain the same thing last year, but Marine Corps leaders said they need to do more testing of the Army’s M855A1 enhanced 5.56mm round.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers do not use a common 5.56mm round. Congress wants to know why. (Photo: DoD)

I reached out to the Marine Corps yesterday and the Army today to ask about how they planned to deal with the request. I could almost hear the head-scratching as if neither service had heard anything about it.

According to the provision, the report must be submitted within 180 days after the bill, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year, is enacted.

If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.

OK so here is the back story for those you out there who don’t know it.

The Army replaced the Cold-War era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 enhanced performance round, the end result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.

The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, Army officials maintain. It penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855.

The Marine Corps had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.

The setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed.

Since then the Marine Corps has purchased millions of MK 318 rounds.

The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo.

The Army quickly replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems in 2010, Army officials said.

The new Army round also weighs 62 grains and has a 19-grain steel penetrator tip, 9 grains heavier than the tip on old M855 ammo. Seated behind the penetrator is a solid copper slug. The M855A1 consistently penetrates battlefield barriers such as windshields more effectively than the M855, Army officials contend.

What is interesting is that the Corps was supposed to run tests on the current M855A1 round back in 2010. In 2015, Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, then commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, told a congressional panel there were plans to test the M855A1 rounds again.

Military.com would really like to know what those tests show. We are going to continue to follow this story with great interest.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

9 epic photos of riverine sailors preparing for combat

The U.S. Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 is proving itself right now in preparation for mobilization, and its sailors have been showing off at tasks from convoy security to medical aid to speeding around in boats (a fun and major part of their mission) in complex tasks at Camp Pendleton, California.


So, it’s a bunch of badass sailors playing with machine guns and boats in Southern California. Wanna see some photos? Yeah, of course you do.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Engineman 2nd Class Christian McCain of Arlington, Texas engages opposing forces while dismounted with a M240 machine gun.

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Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

(U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)

popular

This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing delivers first ‘loyal wingman’ drone prototype for testing

The Royal Australian Air Force has its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype, which will use artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict.

The company delivered its first “loyal wingman” prototype to Australia this week; it is expected to be used in tandem with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters on the battlefield, officials said in a release.


It’s also the first aircraft “to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years,” Boeing said, adding that it’s the company’s “largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.”

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”

The delivery in Sydney is the first of three for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, officials said.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow last year. Australia is investing roughly million into the program, CNN reported.

The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, according to its fact sheet.

It uses artificial intelligence “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft, the fact sheet states. The first prototype was constructed using digital engineering concepts, allowing developers to simulate parts via computer models, according to the company.

“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space Security.

“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept,” Robertson said. The drone-jet will now begin ground testing, followed by a first flight later this year.

“We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System,” she said.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own “Loyal Wingman” program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

In January, the Air Force conducted test flights of the XQ-58A Valkyrie drone at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, taking the unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Kratos Defense, to higher altitudes than previous tests.

The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft, which are intended to be reusable but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.

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

Articles

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round


Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”

Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.

“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.

Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.

“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.

It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?

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4 good reasons to declare war on China

This piece is an opinion piece of the author. Response articles are always welcomed by sending an email to editorial@wearethemighty.com.

A new threat has risen in the East once again. Born from communism, nurtured by corporate greed and emboldened by appeasement, the Chinese Communist Party is on a path of world domination. Chinese propaganda alleges “the 21st century belongs to China” and also referred to it as the Chinese Century. However, despite the paper dragon’s roar, it has no bite. Too long has Chinese aggression gone unchecked, unpunished on the world stage. Australia, UK, India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other countries are changing to more aggressive policies with the CCP. A war with China will not be a war between two Nations, it will be the Third World War: The world versus China.

1. Illegal islands

The importance of the South China Sea cannot be understated. It serves as a mercantile corridor for more than three trillion dollars worth of shipping per year. In recent decades, undersea oil deposits have been discovered. A large number of the world population relies on its rich fishing territories for their food needs. The CCP has attempted to enforce a weak, fabricated, unenforceable claim to the sea. Without exaggeration, the contested area on the map looks ridiculous. The CCP wants to claim 80% of the area, effectively stealing historically-owned seas of other nations in the Pacific.

China’s illegal claim to the South China sea, also known as the “nine-dash line,” was ruled to have no claim in the area by the Hague Tribunal. To counter this, they built islands to serve as military bases. These man-made islands are unsinkable aircraft carriers for the Chinese military. CCP’s history of bullying other nations also extends to preventing them from harvesting their resources in their own waters.

There are a few weaknesses to these islands:

  • They are far away from the mainland.
  • Most of the islands only have one runway.
  • They are vulnerable to typhoons.

Islands are crumbling because they cut corners and are sinking into the ocean. A few strong typhoons could sweep the Illegal Islands into the sea. While they are military bases with anti-air capabilities, the islands themselves are not a direct military threat. They are bait for retaliation against any nation that does not appease China. The CCP is using a strategy of aggression and counting on appeasement not unlike Hitler as he expanded the Third Reich. They are also employing a tactic called aggressive defense. This is when one lures the enemy into making the first move and then you can maneuver a counter-attack on the most advantageous terms.

2. They have concentration camps

Human Rights Watch and European parliament compare China’s Uighur camps to Nazi concentration camps. Racism is so prevalent in China that if you grow a beard you could be classified as an extremist. DW German reports human rights violations against Muslims.

3. Relentless identity theft and cyber-attacks against the U.S.

The former Director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina warns that the CCP has stolen 80% of personally identifiable information. The Chinese government is using the information gained from cyber-attacks to the benefit of the CCP military. State-sponsored hackers are constantly attacking our infrastructure and private companies to gain a tactical edge over America.

There are two ways Chinese interests are gaining access to our personal biodata. Either we are giving it to them unwittingly through unread, signed terms and conditions. Or, state-sponsored Chinese hackers are stealing it from the healthcare, biotech and pharma companies who we trust to protect it.

Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber

4. They are using our DNA to develop bioweapons

There is an ongoing international investigation on whether the COVID-19 epidemic was an accidental or deliberate outbreak orchestrated by the communists. Wuhan, ground zero of the coronavirus, is also home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The level 4 biosafety facility has over 1,500 different strains of the coronavirus. With rising tensions in the East, we cannot rule out that China is developing bioweapons to be unleashed on the world. Other allegations point to the CCP stealing DNA information of people to develop weapons that will only target minorities. China considers anyone not Han Chinese to be a minority. India is accusing China of “surreptitiously developing a biological weapon capable of mass destruction.”

Regardless, the unwillingness of the Chinese government to cooperate with investigators from the World Health Organization is highly suspicious. Are the Chinese conducting a cover up to hide a weaponized coronavirus? Are they covering up criminal incompetence? What consequences could be brought down on the Beijing if our worst suspicions are proven to be true? America is not alone in thinking China is a problem. No one wants a World War but if China’s increasingly problematic actions continue, force may be necessary.

The inability to comprehend the maliciousness of Xi Jinping’s actions. Minds rebel against the notion that the world now faces a monster. Democracies, although they have been attacked, have always had difficulty recognizing evil. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the world faces with communist China’s regime.

Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China

Featured image: War with China, Canva

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pentagon wants advanced AI for military vehicles

The Pentagon is making a massive push to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence to ships, tanks, aircraft, drones, weapons, and large networks as part of a sweeping strategy to more quickly harness and integrate the latest innovations.

Many forms of AI are already well-underway with US military combat systems, yet new technologies and applications are emerging so quickly that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has directed the immediate creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD’s military missions and business functions.” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb told Warrior Maven.


Pentagon officials intend for the new effort to connect otherwise disparate AI developments across the services. The key concept, naturally, is to capitalize upon the newest and most efficient kinds of autonomy, automation, and specific ways in which AI can develop for the long term — yet also have an immediate impact upon current military operations.

AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control. While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems, large platforms and combat networks as well.

Rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize ISR input such as images or video – to identify points of combat relevance of potential interest to a commander.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

AI enabled technology can perform these kinds of procedural functions exponentially faster than humans can, massively shortening the crucial decision-making timeframe for combat decision makers. At the same time, many experts, developers, and military leaders recognize that the certain problem-solving faculties and subjective determinations unique to human cognition – are still indispensable to decision making in war.

For this reason, advanced AI relies upon what developers refer to as “human-machine” interface or “easing the cognitive burden” wherein humans function in a command and control capacity while computer automation rapidly performs a range of key procedural functions.

AI & IT

This AI-driven phenomenon is of particular relevance when it comes to data systems, IT as a whole and advances in cybersecurity. For instance, Air Force developers are using advanced computer automation to replicate human behavior online – for the specific purpose of luring and tracking potential intruders. Also, AI can be used to perform real-time analytics on incoming traffic potentially containing malware, viruses or any kind of attempted intrusion. If the source, characteristics or discernable pattern of an attempted intrusion are identified quickly, cyber defenders are better positioned to respond.

When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.

For example, the Army is working with a private firm called NCI to establish a certification of worthiness for a specific AI-enabled program designed to streamline a number of key tasks.

The NCI-developed program enables account creation, account deletion, background checks and other kind of high-volume data analysis.

“You can log into 10 different websites simultaneously, rather than having a person do that. A machine can go through and gather all the information for a person,” Brad Mascho Chief AI Officer, NCI, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “Humans can focus on higher priority threats.”

At the same time, big data analytics can quickly present new challenges for a variety of key reasons; a larger data flow can make it difficult for servers to “flex” as needed to accommodate rapid jumps in data coming through. Therefore, AI-empowered algorithms such as those engineered by NCI are needed to organize incoming data and identify anomalies or potential intrusions.

There is also a growing need for more real-time monitoring of activity on a message “bus,” because standard analytics methods based on probability and statistical probability often detect intrusions after the fact and are not always reliable or 100-percent accurate, cybersecurity experts and analysts explain.

AI & cyber defense

Algorithms calling upon advanced AI are being used to quickly access vast pools of data to perform real-time analytics designed to detect patterns and anomalies associated with malware.

“Every day, the Defense Department thwarts an estimated 36 million e-mails containing malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems,” Babb told Warrior Maven earlier this year.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.

One particular technique, now being developed by CISCO systems, seeks to address a particular irony or cybersecurity paradox; namely, while much DoD network traffic is encrypted for additional safety, encryption can also make it more difficult for cyber defenders to see hidden malware in the traffic.

CISCO is now prototyping new detection methods as part of an effort to introduce their technology to the US military services.

“We have the ability to read and detect malware in encrypted web traffic. Even though the data is encrypted there is still a pattern to malware,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for CISCO Navy programs, told Warrior Maven.

AI & large combat platforms, tanks & fighter jets

Real-time analytics, informed by AI, has already had much success with both Army and Air Force Conditioned-Based Maintenance initiatives. The Army used IBMs Watson computer to perform real-time analytics on sensor information from Stryker vehicles and tactical trucks.

Drawing upon seemingly limitless databases of historical data, Watson was able to analyze information related to potential engine failures and other key vehicular systems. Properly identifying when a given combat-vehicle system might malfunction or need repairs helps both combat and logistical operations. Furthermore, the Army-IBM Stryker “proof of principle” exercise was able to wirelessly transmit sensor data, enabling AI to compare new information gathered against a historical database in seconds.

The Army is also working with IBM to test AI-enabled “autonomy kits” on tactical trucks designed to enable much greater degrees of autonomous navigation.

Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems such as Watson to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other on-board vehicle systems.

“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information and other vehicle technologies – and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.

When created, IBM stated that, “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.

Working with a firm called C3IoT, the Air Force is doing something similar with F-16s. On board avionics and other technologies are monitored and analyzed using AI-enabled computers to discern when repairs or replacement parts are needed.

Applications of AI are also credited with enabling the F-35s “sensor fusion” technology which uses computer algorithms to autonomously gather and organize a wide-range of sensor data for the pilot.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

It goes without saying that targeting data is of critical importance when it comes to mechanized ground warfare. With this in mind, Army combat vehicle developers are prototyping AI-enabled sensors intended to combine sensor information essential to identifying targets. If long-range EO/IR or thermal imaging sensors are able to both collect and organize combat data, vehicle crews can attack enemy targets much more quickly.

Some near-term applications, senior officials with the Army Research Laboratory say, include increased air and ground drone autonomy. It is an example of an area where AI is already having a large impact and is anticipated to figure prominently over the long-term as well.

“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”

For instance, Kappra explained that sensor-equipped micro-autonomous drones could be programed with advanced algorithms to send back combat-relevant images or provide attacking forces with key interior dimensions to a target location.

“We are looking at micro-electrical mechanical systems and image-based systems to fly through a building autonomously and show you where walls and threats are inside the buildings,” Kappra said.

Also, Army combat vehicle developers consistently emphasize manned-unmanned teaming with “wing man” drone robots operating in tandem with manned vehicles to carry ammunition, test enemy defenses, identify targets and potentially fire weapons. Some senior Army weapons and technology developers have said that most future combat vehicles will be engineered with some level of autonomous ability or manned-unmanned teaming technology.

Increased computer automation also performs a large function on the Navy’s emerging Ford-Class aircraft carriers. The new carriers use advanced algorithms to perform diagnostics and other on-board maintenance and procedural tasks independently. This, Navy developers say, allows the service to reduce its crew size by as many as 900 sailors per carrier and save up to billion dollars over the life of a ship.

Warfare, ethics & AI

Interestingly, debates about the future of AI, especially when it comes to autonomy, continues to spark significant controversy. Current Pentagon doctrine specifies that there must always be a “human-in-the-loop” when it comes to making decisions about the use of lethal force. However, the technology enabling an autonomous system to track, acquire and destroy a target by itself without needing human intervention – is already here.

In a previous interview with Warrior Maven, an Air Force scientist made the point that the current doctrine is of course related to offensive strikes of any kind, however there may be some instances where weapons are used autonomously in a purely defensive fashion. For instance, AI-enabled interceptors could be programmed to knock out incoming enemy missile attacks – without themselves destroying anything other than an approaching enemy weapon. In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved.

Naturally, this kind of technology raises ethical questions, and some have made the point that even though the US military may intend to maintain a certain ethical stance – there is of course substantial concern that potential adversaries will not do the same.

Also, while often heralded as the “future” of warfare and technology, AI does have some limitations. For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind.

Many things in warfare, naturally, are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined factors – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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APRIL 8: Today in military history: The Japanese take Bataan

On April 8, 1942, the Japanese captured the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. The next day, the U.S. surrendered the peninsula to the Japanese, leaving the approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan to the mercy of their captors, who forced the brutal 65-mile trek to prison camps known as the Bataan Death March.

The Japanese Imperial Forces’ attack on Pearl Harbor in Dec. 1941 is perhaps the most infamous attack of a much larger campaign unleashed on U.S. and Allied Forces across the Pacific. The day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched an invasion against the Philippines, capturing the capital within a month. 

Over the following months, U.S. forces fought desperately to hold the islands, but by April 6, they were fighting against overwhelming odds as defensive lines were destroyed or ordered to withdraw before they could be fully occupied. Crippled by disease, starvation, and lack of supplies, the U.S. defense was deteriorating.

On the morning of April 8, the U.S. was fortifying new positions on the Alangan River in an attempt to form one last safe space from which to fight when Japanese planes began hitting the line and forced the withdrawal of the infantry and tanks on the right side of the line.

That night, the U.S. dug a final line of defense at the Lamao River only to discover that the Japanese already held ground on their flank. 

Forces were redistributed to try and stem the tide, but U.S. Navy sailors were sent to destroy the remaining stockpiles of ammunition and other material before it could be captured. The siege of Bataan was essentially over — and the Japanese had won.

The next day, U.S. forces surrendered and the Japanese forced the survivors, including 12,000 Americans, on the cruel march to the prison camps in San Fernando. Thousands of prisoners died along the way at the hands of their captors, who starved, beat, and bayoneted the marchers. Thousands more would die from disease, abuse, and starvation in the prison camps.

Featured Image: This picture, captured from the Japanese, shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.” Philippines, May 1942.

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The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

Army and Marines in no rush to chamber a common 5.56mm round
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

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Here is how the United States Navy gets SIGINT

Russia has a “tattletale” (spy ship) operating off the East Coast of the United States, but they’re not the only ones collecting Signals Intelligence (SIGINT). Here’s how the U.S. does spying of its own.


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The Karelia, a Vishnya-class intelligence ship, sails near the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39). (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Viktor Leonov’s snooping has drawn headlines this year – although a similar 2015 operation didn’t draw as much hoopla. It is one of a class of seven vessels in service with the Russian Navy, and is armed with a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 close-in weapon systems.

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USS Pueblo (AGER 2).

The United States has not operated similar vessels ever since the environmental research vessel USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was captured off the coast of North Korea in 1968 and the technical research vessel USS Liberty (AGTR 5) was attacked by Israeli forces that mistook her for an enemy vessel in 1967, during the Six-Day War.

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EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. (U.S. Navy photo)

Still, the Navy needs to carry out collection missions and it does have options.

One is the use of aircraft like the EP-3E Aries II electronic intelligence aircraft. Based on the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, a Navy fact file notes that a dozen were purchased in the 1990s.

The plane was involved in a 2001 mid-air collision with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback. The EP-3E made an emergency landing at Hainan Island and the Chinese pilot was killed.

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An antenna for the AN/SLQ-32 system on board USS Nicholson (DD 982). (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy also uses its ships and submarines to gather signals intelligence.

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, many of its top-of-the-line surface combatants, like the Ticonderoga-class cruisers and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are equipped with the AN/SLQ-32 electronic support measures system for SIGINT collection.

According to the Raytheon web site, this system also has the capability to jam enemy systems in addition to detecting and classifying enemy radars.

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Sailors aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) moor the boat to the pier. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian G. Reynolds)

U.S. Navy submarines also have a sophisticated SIGINT suite, the AN/BLQ-10.

According to the Federation of American Scientists website, this system is capable of detecting, processing, and analyzing radar signals and other electronic transmissions. It is standard on all Virginia-class submarines and is being backfitted onto Seawolf and Los Angeles-class ships.

In other words, every American sub and surface combatant is able to carry out signals intelligence missions.

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The 5 best military ghost stories

The military fights wars, and that’s bound to have created a few vengeful spirits over the last few centuries.


Here are 5 stories of these sorts of mil-ghosts from around the webs. (And if you have any cool ones, share them in the comments.)

Listen to our veteran hosts discuss haunted bases and urban legends in the U.S. military.

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1. The combatants from Little Big Horn are still fighting.

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Lithograph: Library of Congress by Charles Marion Russell

The U.S. Army’s “Soldier’s Creed” calls for troops to never quit, never accept defeat. Apparently Maj. Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his men got the message 127 years before the Soldier’s Creed was written, because they’re still fighting the lost Battle of Little Bighorn.

The story goes that visitors have seen spirits moving around the battlefield, and at least one has seen U.S. soldiers and Native American warriors fighting to the death.

2. A Revolutionary War general rides through Pennsylvania trying to find his missing bones.

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Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons/Niagara

We’ve previously discussed Maj. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the fact that he’s buried in at least two places. Wayne died while touring military defenses in Pennsylvania and was buried near Lake Eerie. When his son came to recover the body twelve years later, he found that Lake Eerie had preserved the body.

Since the younger Wayne only had room for his dad’s skeleton, he had the flesh boiled off and then moved the bones across the state in a cart. The story goes that he lost a few pieces along the way. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s ghost still rides the trail, trying to recover the bones his son scattered like some kind of sick Johnny Appleseed.

3. An Air Force base’s security headquarters has a helpful ghost nurse.

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Photo: Wikipedia

Look, few people particularly love military police and security forces, but they provide a needed service. It’s sort of rude to put their headquarters in a haunted building, but that’s what happened at Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.

Building 34 used to be the base hospital, and supposedly a nurse still roams the halls and tries to do her job. No word on how many sleeping staff runners have been woken up with ectoplasm IVs, so we have to assume more than 20.

4. A group of fiery monks protect the Alamo.

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After Santa Anna’s forces finally captured the Alamo, Mexican forces had to decide what to do with it. They decided to raze it to the ground in an effort led by Gen. Juan Jose Andrade. Andrade sent a colonel who attempted to complete the mission, but came running back, babbling about ghost monks.

Andrade went to destroy the chapel and remaining fortifications himself with a cannon and torches. When the general and his men arrived, they took aim at the chapel doors. Six monks with flaming swords walked out of the walls of the chapel. As they and other spirits began hurling fireballs at the Mexican soldiers, the general ordered a tactical retreat.

5. USS Hornet is the most haunted ship in the Navy fleet.

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Photo: US Navy

The USS Hornet saw extensive service in World War II and the Vietnam War, and so it’s no surprise that a couple of ghosts may have decided to make it home.

It has a reputation as an extremely haunted place though. Visitors to the museum regularly report seeing officers in their blue uniforms or a sailor wearing his dress whites. (No one knows why an eternal spirit would decide to spend his time looking like the Cracker Jack mascot.)

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North Korea’s missile shot at Japan could be a warmup for a Guam strike

North Korea fired a missile over Japan’s Hokkaido province in the early morning hours of August 29, and the early figures coming out from the launch indicate it could have been a warm up for similar action toward the US territory of Guam.


North Korea has expressed vitriolic anger over US and South Korean war games throughout the month of August. It culminated in the announcement of a plan to fire missiles toward Guam, where the US keeps nuclear-capable bombers and some 7,000 military personnel.

The launch August 29 overflew Japan and traveled almost 1,700 miles before crashing down into the sea, hitting a high point of about 340 miles over land. Japan has previously said it would shoot down any missiles headed toward its territory, but this one simply flew over. The missile launch coincides with the completion of Northern Viper, a joint US-Japanese military drill in Hokkaido.

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Lance Cpl. Mario Anderson checks on a team member during a live fire training event Aug. 16, 2017 at the live fire range in Hokudaien, Japan, in support of Northern Viper 17. USMC photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger.

Specifically, North Korea threatened to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan into the waters just about 20 miles short of Guam.

Experts contacted by Business Insider said it would be unlikely that North Korea could pull off such a feat with a missile that has only been tested once successfully. Furthermore, doubts remain about North Korea’s ability to create a warhead that can survive reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Based on early estimates, the launch August 29 appears to have used a single Hwasong-12 rocket in a possible confidence-building measure before any possible attempt on Guam.

But even if the launch ends up having been another missile, or not intended to sure up capabilities headed for a shot toward Guam, the violation of Japan’s sovereign air space will likely demand a response. And US and Japanese policymakers may look to shoot down further tests if they travel the same route.

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What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is rightly viewed as a legend. Best known as a recon plane that nobody could hit, it even was considered as the basis for a fighter and was the second-fastest manned plane in history.


It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.

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Blackbird pilots in front of an SR-71.

It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.

Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.

The new SR-72, though, is going to leverage technology from the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 to help it fly at speeds exceeding Mach 6. The HTV-2 hit Mach 20 during its flights.

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The factory floor of Skunk Works, where the SR-71 was manufactured. (CIA photo)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the SR-72 will also have a strike mission. While the exact weapons are unknown at this time, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that plans call for a “Flight Research Vehicle” to be constructed in the early 2020s, with a full-scale version to be in service sometime in the 2030s.

As for the lucky pilots who get to fly this plane, they will not need the very bulky suits that Blackbird pilots wear. That’s because the initial plans call for the SR-72 to be a drone.

Well, no successor to the Blackbird can be perfect.

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