The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

On September 30, 2020, U.S. Army Contract Command awarded a $77,168,400 contract to SIG Sauer to equip soldiers with the Direct View Optic for use on the M4A1 carbine. The outgoing M150 Rifle Combat Optic, manufactured by Trijicon as the TA31RCO, provides soldiers with a fixed 4x magnification and is effective out to 500 meters. The new DVO allows the end-user to quickly switch between 1x and 6x magnification and boasts an increased effective range of 600 meters.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A soldier fires an M4A1 equipped with an RCO (U.S. Army)

Introduced by the Army in 2007, the RCO makes up a relatively small portion of the service’s M4 carbine optics. Though equipment varies by unit, the majority of soldiers are issued rifles equipped with the M68 Close Combat Optic. Manufactured by Aimpoint as the CompM2, the CCO was accepted by the Army in 2000 and is a non-magnified red dot reflex sight designed for use with the M4 out to an effective range of 300 meters.

The Army has not said whether or not the DVO will eventually replace the CCO as well. While the CCO excels at close-quarters fighting thanks to its reflex reticle, the Army’s requirement for the DVO stated that, “The DVO will be capable of variable power magnification with minimum magnification of 1.0x with no rounding and maximum magnification greater than or equal to 6.0 power.” The “1.0x with no rounding” is important because it calls for the DVO to provide a true 1x magnification setting; many commercial Low Power Variable Optics provide close to, but not true, 1x magnification. This requirement is given reasoning in the Army’s notice. “Variable power magnification optics combine the capabilities of the non-magnified optic’s ability to engage close quarter targets with a fixed-magnification optic’s ability to detect, recognize, identify, and precisely engage targets at extended ranges,” the Army explained. “This allows the Soldier to have both critical capabilities without the limitations of either non magnified or fixed magnification optics.”

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
The SIG Sauer Tango6T selected for use by DMRs and SOF (SIG Sauer)

Given these requirements, it would not be unreasonable to think that the Army may try to distribute the DVO across entire infantry squads. After all, the Marine Corps has already done just that with its new Squad Common Optic. On February 23, 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had awarded a $64,000,000 contract to Trijicon to supply its infantry with the Variable Combat Optical Gunsight 1-8×28 mm rifle scope for use on the M4 carbine and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle weapon systems. The SCO is set to begin replacing the Corps’ RCO during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021.

While the exact model of SIG Sauer LPVO is unknown, there is speculation that the DVO may be the company’s Tango6T 1-6×24 mm SFP scope. The Tango6T has already been selected for use on the Army’s M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, a derivative of the Heckler & Kock G28/HK417, and general use by Special Operations Forces.

The contract allows for delivery of the DVO over the next five years. However, it is unknown how many of the new optic the Army plans to acquire from SIG Sauer, further lending to the theory that the DVO may replace the CCO as well.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Special Forces gear that regular troops have now, too

It’s often said that if you want to know what equipment your car will have in 10 to 20 years, just look at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class; and it’s true. Every car today has a pretensioner seatbelt that preemptively tightens to prevent you from jerking forward in the event of a crash. The S-Class was the first car to include this feature in 1981. Today, many cars have active safety systems that use radar and cameras to detect if you’re about to have a collision and apply the brakes to bring you to a stop. While adaptive cruise control was first introduced by Mitusbishi, Mercedes introduced the first system that could bring the car to a complete halt on the S-Class back in 2005. The same principle applies to the military too. If you want to know what the regular line soldier will be equipped with in a few decades, look no further than special forces. Here are a few pieces of gear that have trickled their way down from tier one.

1. Rifle Optics

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A Delta Operator with an Aimpoint 2000 on his CAR-15 (U.S. Army)

In modern infantry units, just about every soldier gets some sort of optic on their rifle. Whether it’s a magnified ACOG or red dot CCO, having some sort of optic is a huge help when you’re on the shooting range (both one-way and two-way). The Army has even adopted a new variable-power rifle optic to equip all of its line soldiers across the force. However, before optics were commonplace in infantry units, they were first seen in special forces. One of the first red dots fielded by special forces was the Aimpoint 2000. “This was a game changer to me,” said former Delta operator Larry Vickers. “I went through OTC with iron sights…went to A Squadron, saw guys using red dot, I tried it, and at that point I realized the advantage that something like an Aimpoint red dot sight brings to the table…The way that red dot rights are used today kinda started back in the Delta Force late 1980s era with the Aimpoint 2000.”

2. Silencers

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A Navy SEAL (left) armed with a silenced MP5 (U.S. Navy)

Yes, they’re called silencers. Hiram Percy Maxim received the patent for his design in 1909 and marketed them as “Maxim Silencers”. The DoJ and ATF also use the term silencer. However, silencers are a bit of a misnomer. Depending on variables like caliber, bullet weight, powder, and barrel length, a silencer generally suppresses the sound of a gunshot. Very few firearms can actually be silenced to Hollywood levels of quiet. Still, the devices are effective at masking or modifying the noise created by a gunshot. Special forces units have used silencers since at least WWII with specialized weapons like the Welrod. In 1993, the Special Operations Peculiar Modification kit was introduced. The SOPMOD accessory system allowed special forces operators to adapt their weapons to different missions with attachments like optics, lights, and a silencer. At the end of 2020, the Marine Corps announced that it had begun widespread fielding of suppressors. The Corps’ goal is to field 30,000 suppressors by FY2023. The Army is also considering widespread use of suppressors with its Next Generation Squad Weapon program.

3. ATVs

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A special forces prepares to drive his ATV into a CH-47 Chinook (U.S. Air Force)

Well, ATVs and four-wheelers anyway. A specialized dune buggy called the Desert Patrol Vehicle was used extensively by special forces during Operation Desert Storm. In fact, the first U.S. forces to enter Kuwait City were Navy SEALs in DPVs. During the early years of the War on Terror, light utility vehicles were purchased off-the-shelf and employed by special forces. They proved invaluable for navigating the mountainous terrain and rough trails of Afghanistan. Motorcycles, quad bikes, and four-wheelers all helped tier one operators hunt down and destroy Taliban fighters throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the potential of off-the-shelf vehicles like these, the Army adopted Polaris vehicles like the MRZR Diesel and the Sportsman MV850. These vehicles are often employed by light infantry units as scouts to quickly transit rough terrain. Their small size means that they can also be driven into a CH-47 Chinook and airlifted onto the battlefield.

4. Pistols

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A Navy SEAL armed with a Sig Sauer pistol (U.S. Navy)

While pistols are not new to line units, they are less common. The Beretta M9 was generally issued to officers and senior non-comissioned officers, but not to leaders at the squad and fireteam levels. On the special forces side, all members are dual-armed with both a rifle or their assigned weapon and a pistol. However, with the adoption of the Sig Sauer M17/M18 pistol, the Army plans to issue sidearms down to squad and fireteam leaders. This new policy gives junior leaders in regular line units more options in close quarter battle situations. Moving in this direction, it’s likely that all line soldiers will eventually be dual-armed just like special forces.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The bravery of America’s first paratroopers will blow your mind – Video

America’s airborne forces did some truly amazing things during World War II — a conflict that marked the apex of airborne warfare.


American (and British) paratroopers in units like the 82nd Airborne Division wreaked havoc on the Nazis in World War II — particularly during the invasions of Sicily and Normandy.

After watching these badasses do their thing in the video below, it’s hard to imagine that Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted to disband the airborne units after Sicily.

We not only get a look at the paratroopers who helped kick in the door of “Fortress Europe,” but also their weapons: The M1 Garand, the M1A1 Thompson submachine gun, the M1 Carbine, the M3 Grease Gun.

While the show does not explicitly cite the Rule of the LGOPs, the phenomenon’s existence is very strongly implied.

Which of those weapons would you jump into action with? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army boosts soldier battery power for greater lethality

Army Futures Command, or AFC, is helping to increase soldier lethality and survivability through the research and development of lighter batteries with more power and extended runtimes.

As the Army modernizes the current force and prepares for multi-domain operations, the quantity and capabilities of soldier-wearable technologies are expected to increase significantly, as will the need for power and energy sources to operate them.

Engineers and scientists at AFC’s subordinate command — the Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC — are making investments to ensure future power and energy needs are met by exploring improvements in silicon anode technologies to support lightweight battery prototype development.


“This chemistry translates to double the performance and duration of currently fielded batteries for dismounted soldiers,” said Christopher Hurley, a lead electronics engineer in the Command, Power and Integration Directorate, or CPID, of CCDC’s center for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — or C5ISR.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

“The capabilities of these materials have been proven at the cell level to substantially increase energy capacity. We’re aiming to integrate those cells into smaller, lighter power sources for soldiers,” Hurley said. “Our goal is to make soldiers more agile and lethal while increasing their survivability.”

Soldiers currently carry an average of 20.8 pounds of batteries for a 72-hour mission. With the Army focused on modernization and the need to add new capabilities that require greater power, the battery weight will continue to increase and have a detrimental effect on soldiers’ performance during missions, Hurley said.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

“The C5ISR Center is helping the Army get ahead of this problem by working on advanced materials like silicon anode,” said Hurley, who noted that incorporating silicon-based anodes into Army batteries will cut their battery weight in half.

The C5ISR Center is incorporating component-level RD of advanced battery technologies into the Army’s Conformal Wearable Battery, or CWB, which is a thin, flexible, lightweight battery that can be worn on a soldier’s vest to power electronics. Early prototypes of the updated silicon anode CWB delivered the same amount of energy with a 29 percent reduction in volume and weight.

The military partners with the commercial power sector to ensure manufacturers can design and produce batteries that meet Warfighters’ future needs. However, the needs of civilian consumers and Warfighters are different, said Dr. Ashley Ruth, a CPID chemical engineer.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

The Army cannot rely on the commercial sector alone to meet its power demands because of soldiers’ requirements, such as the need to operate at extreme temperatures and withstand the rigors of combat conditions. For this reason, the electrochemical composition in battery components required for the military and consumer sector is different.

“An increase in silicon content can greatly help achieve the high energy needs of the soldier; however, a great deal of research is required to ensure a suitable product. These changes often require entirely new materials development, manufacturing processes and raw materials supply chains,” Ruth said.

“Follow-on improvements at the component level have improved capacity by two-fold. Soldiers want a CWB that will meet the added power consumption needs of the Army’s future advanced electronics.”

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the C5ISR Center is maturing and applying the technologies to support the power needs of the Army’s modernization priorities and to inform requirements for future networked Soldiers. This includes leading the development of the Power and Battery Integrated Requirements Strategy across AFC, said Beth Ferry, CPI’s Power Division chief.

As one of the command’s highest priorities, this strategy will heavily emphasize power requirements, specifications and standards that will showcase the importance of power and energy across the modernization priorities and look to leverage cross-center efforts to work on common high-priority gaps.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

Power Division researchers are integrating the silicon anode CWB with the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, a high-priority augmented reality system with next-generation capabilities for solider planning and training. Because IVAS is a dismounted soldier system that will require large amounts of power, the Army is in need of an improved power solution.

To gain soldiers’ feedback on varying designs, the C5ISR Center team plans to take 200 silicon anode CWB prototypes to IVAS Soldier Touchpoint 3 Exercise in July 2020. This will be the first operational demonstration to showcase the silicon anode CWB.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Sgt. 1st Class Edvar Chevalier demonstrates a prototype of the Conformal Wearable Battery that incorporates silicon-anode technology at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., in June 2019.

(Army photo by Dan Lafontaine)

The C5ISR Center is finalizing a cell-level design this year, safety testing this summer, and packaging and battery-level testing taking place from fall 2019 to spring 2020. Advances in chemistry research can be applied to all types of Army batteries, including the BB-2590, which is currently used in more than 80 pieces of Army equipment.

“A two-fold increase in capacity and runtime is achievable as a drop-in solution,” Ruth said. “Because of the widespread use of rechargeable batteries, silicon anode technology will become a significant power improvement for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The definitive guide to US special ops

You’ve heard about the men who come in the night, the badasses, the snake eaters. These are the rough and tumble soldiers who spill out of helicopters and kick in doors, neutralizing a high-value target and egressing before locals get a clue. These are the gritty recon Marines who stalk through the underbrush before taking down a terrorist camp. But special ops isn’t one thing; it’s a bunch of different things. Operators from different units conduct missions in very different ways.


Check out this handy WATM guide that covers the basics of special ops:

Army

Delta Force

Along with SEAL Team 6, Delta Force is one of the most famous and capable anti-terrorism teams in the world. It’s members are pulled from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, primarily from the Army’s Special Forces and Rangers (more on them in a minute). As an anti-terrorism task force, Delta is tasked with hunting down some of America’s worst threats- the most intense special ops around. They were sent after Osama bin Laden in 2001 and more recently killed Abu Sayyaf, a key figure in ISIS. They specialize in “direct action.”

Special Forces (The Green Berets)

Special Forces soldiers focus on supporting foreign allies by training with and fighting beside their military and police forces. Special Forces also engage in reconnaissance and direct action missions. The multi-tool of special ops, SF soldiers are sometimes tasked with peacekeeping, combat search and rescue, humanitarian, and counter narcotic missions.

Rangers

 

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire off a Carl Gustav 84mm recoilless rifle at a range on Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 26, 2014. (Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Rashene Mincy)

The modern 75th Ranger Regiment was established with three Ranger battalions in 1986, though it has roots dating back to World War II. The Rangers form three infantry battalions that focus on moving fast and striking hard. They are deployable to anywhere in the world within 18 hours. Rangers are primarily a direct action force, entering an area forcibly and engaging whatever enemies they find.

The Night Stalkers (160th Special Operations Air Regiment)

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops. (Photo: Department of Defense)

 

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) flies helicopters in support of other special ops units, especially the Army units discussed above. They fly modified Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters as well as the MH/AH-6M Little Bird. The Night Stalkers can drop off combatants on a battlefield and provide air support to fighters already on the ground.

Navy

SEAL Team 6 (DEVGRU)

 

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Navy SEALs practice desert fighting techniques during an exercise. SEAL Team 6 specializes in anti-terrorism operations and are perhaps best known for the successful raid into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden. (Photo: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric S. Logsdon)

Like Delta, SEAL Team 6 is a top-tier anti-terrorism force. Officially named United States Special Warfare Development Group and sometimes called DevGru, SEAL Team 6 specializes in arriving violently and killing bad guys. They recruit their members from the Navy SEAL community (discussed below). Though they train to operate anywhere in the world, they specialize in fighting on the waters and the coast.

MORE: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

SEALs

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

SEALs are named for their ability to fight in the sea, air, and on land. Though designed to conduct operations that begin and end in the water, modern teams routinely operate far from water. They primarily conduct reconnaissance and perform direct attack missions but are capable of training with and fighting beside foreign militaries like U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers do. They are also the operators most known for working with the CIA’s Special Activities Division.

Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen


www.youtube.com

SWCC, pronounced “swick,” provide covert insertions in coastal areas, most notably for the Navy SEALS. They operate small boats which they can use to drop off operators as well as provide heavy weapons support when necessary. They can drop their boats from planes or helicopters and can be picked up with a helicopter extraction. Additionally, SWCC teams have their own medics who provide care for special operators when evacuating patients, and they get at least 12 weeks of language training.

Marine Corps

Marine Special Operations Regiment (Raiders)

Similarly to the Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders specialize in training, advising, and assisting friendly foreign forces. They can also conduct direct action missions: Kicking down doors and targeting the bad guys. They receive more training in maritime operations as well as fighting on oil and gas platforms than their Army counterparts.

Recon

Some of the world’s best reconnaissance troops, Recon Marines primarily support other Marine units, though they can provide intelligence to other branches. They move forward of other troops, getting near or behind enemy lines, where they survey the area and report back to commanders. They can also engage in assaults when ordered, though that mission has been transferred in part to the Marine Special Operations Regiment discussed above.

Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Brown

This Marine Corps ANGLICO’s primary mission is to link up with friendly units and direct fires assets from different branches. That means they have to be able to tell helicopters, jets, cannons, and rockets which targets to hit and when during large firefights. They support other U.S. military branches as well as foreign militaries, so they have to train for many different operations and be able to keep up with everyone from Army Special Forces to British Commandoes to the Iraqi Army.

Air Force

Combat Controllers

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.

Combat controllers, like ANGLICO Marines, support all the other branches and so have to be able to keep up with all special operators. They deploy forward, whether in support of another mission or on their own, and take over control of air traffic in an area. They direct flight paths for different classes of planes and helicopters to ensure all aircraft attacking an objective can fly safely. They also target artillery and rocket attacks. In peacetime missions, they can set up air traffic control in areas where it’s needed.

The day after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, combat controllers began directing air traffic control from a card table with hand radios. They directed the landing of over 2,500 flights and 4 million pounds of supplies with no incidents.

Pararescuemen (PJ)

Pararescumen are some of the world’s best search and rescue experts. They move forward into areas a plane has crashed or there is a risk of planes being shot down. Once a plane has hit the ground, they search for the pilots and crew and attempt to recover them. In addition, they perform medical evacuations of injured personnel and civilians. To reach downed crews, they train extensively in deploying from helicopters and planes. In order to save injured personnel after recovery, they become medical experts, especially in trauma care.

Coast Guard

Maritime Security Response Team

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team from Virginia participates trains on tactical boardings-at-sea, active shooter scenarios, and detection of radiological material in a 2015 exercise. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)

The MSRT focuses on counter-terrorism and law enforcement against well-armed adversaries. They are like a SWAT team that can also deal with chemical, biological, and nuclear threats on the open water.

Though this list focused on operators who engage in combat with the enemy, there are members of the special operations community who provide support in other ways.

The Army has military information-support operations which seek to spread propaganda and demoralize the enemy and civil affairs soldiers who serve as liaisons between the Army and friendly governments. The Air Force has special operations weather technicians who deploy into enemy environments to conduct weather analysis in support of other military operations. The Marine Corps has the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force which responds to possible attacks by chemical, biological, or nuclear means.

Articles

Report blames Boeing mechanics for Air Force One oxygen problems

Contractor mechanics failed to follow proper maintenance procedures leading to the contamination of the oxygen system on an Air Force VC-25A aircraft undergoing regular heavy maintenance, according to an Accident Investigation Board report compiled by Air Force Materiel Command.


The contamination occurred in April 2016 while the plane was at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility in Texas. The mishap resulted in approximately $4 million in damage, which Boeing repaired at its own expense.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Air Force One, carrying President Barack Obama, lands aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Sept. 26. Obama flew into MCAS Miramar before a presidential campaign stop in La Jolla, Calif.

The VC-25A, one of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B aircraft, is flown by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is used to transport the President. When the President is on board, the plane is referred to as Air Force One.

According to the report, three Boeing mechanics contaminated the aircraft’s oxygen system by using tools, parts, and components that did not comply with cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The contamination was discovered after an unapproved regulator was found connected to the passenger oxygen system.

The report also identified other contributing factors to the mishap, including the failure of a Boeing maintenance technician to observe explicit cautions and warnings when working on oxygen systems, Boeing’s failure to exercise adequate oversight of the quality of maintenance being performed on the VC-25, and the failure of mechanics to “absorb and retain” training received on oxygen systems.

Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, convened the AIB. Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was the AIB president. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and substantially contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This is what makes tankers so deadly

American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.


But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
U.S. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fire an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams Main Battle Tank during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the 7th Army Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger)

Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks move to engage targets during a joint combined arms live-fire exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait Dec. 6-7, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)

These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)

The tanks can fire canister or other rounds to destroy enemy infantry and light vehicles, but they can also turn to their mounted machine guns. The Abrams has a .50-cal machine gun and two 7.62mm machine guns.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Command Sgt. Maj. Eric C. Dostie, U.S. Army Central senior noncommissioned officer, fires a M2A1 .50 Caliber Machine Gun with a Soldier from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, during a visit to Camp Buehring, Kuwait Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An M1 Abrams Tank emerges out of wooded terrain after Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division had concealed it to blend in with surrounding environment, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division sit in an M1 Abrams Tank after concealing it in wooded terrain, Jan 20, at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tarr)

Abrams tanks were originally produced in 1978, but they’ve been modernized many times since then to keep them as capable as possible. The M1A1 rolled off in 1985 and the M1A2 in 1986. Now, upgrade kits like the TUSK or the System Enhancement Packages (SEP) improve M1A2s’ capabilities.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
The Abrams Integrated Display and Targeting System, or AIDATS, upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high definition camera, and permanently mounted color display. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An M1A2 Abrams tank from 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, sits on the dock after being off-loaded from a cargo vessel at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, Jan. 6, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Scott Walters)

When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Sgt. Arnulfo Ramos, an M1A2 Abrams tank crewman for Company Bravo, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, secures the chains on a tank after it was loaded on to a rail car at Fort Carson, Colorado, Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Ange Desinor)

But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
(Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley)

The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)

…to scrub-covered plains…

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)

…to sandy deserts.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An Assault Breacher Vehicle with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, idles in the Black Top Training Area aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 17, 2016. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)

The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)

The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A U.S. Marine Corps Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) assigned to 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) launches a Mine Clearing Line Charge (MCLC) on range 600 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 20, 2015. Armed with approximately 7,000 pounds of C4 explosives and a mine resistant Titanium-plated undercarriage, the ABV ensures Marines can maneuver on the battlefield despite enemy minefields. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Warrant Officer Wade Spradlin)

The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)

Articles

The Coast Guard could have the solution for a bigger US Navy

With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.


The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter Bertholf

However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
A closer look at the biggest visible difference (aside from the paint job) of the FF4923 as opposed to the Bertholf-class national security cutter: The 76mm gun and 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System. (Photo by Huntington Ingalls)

The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.

The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) at Pearl Harbor. The FF4923 patrol frigate displayed at SeaAirSpace 2017 could be a true replacement for these vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico)

This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.

Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.

Articles

This is what happens if you try to illegally enter Area 51

In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed. 

All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
“Sir, this ID is cardboard and your name is clearly written in crayon…”(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zachiah Roberson)

Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.

If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one. 

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
It would be a lot of ground to cover for said roving execution squads (Wikimedia Commons)

Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources. 

So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there. 

Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.

Area 51
“Target is wearing an ‘X-Files’ t-shirt, staggering and complaining that they’re thirsty…” (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities. 

At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Green Beret describes how good the Russian Spetsnaz are

In 2001, Mark Giaconia was a Green Beret patrolling the border areas between Kosovo and Serbia. His counterparts were Russian troops, many of which were airborne. Their mission was to disrupt the movements of Albanian UCPMB rebels in the area. For six months, he and his Russian allies worked side-by-side, in the forests and mountains around Kosovo.

Then one day, his coworkers put on what they called a “Spetsnaz Show” – and Giaconia realized who his tactical buddies really were.


To be clear, the “Spetsnaz” aren’t any single part of the Russian military apparatus. They are any special operations unit of the Russian military, including the Russian Navy, Airborne troops, and FSB (formerly the KGB). Most often, when westerners refer to the Spetsnaz, they’re referring to the special operations section of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.

Giaconia’s experience with the Russians was his first – and it was the first time American Specials Forces and Russian special operators worked together. The height of their mission in Kosovo was rolling on a rebel base that had killed one of the Russians’ soldiers. The team captured a young rebel while on a patrol and extracted the location of the rebels’ base of operations.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

American and Russian Special Forces troops in Kosovo alongside Swedish Jaegers, 2001.

Giaconia describes his time in Kosovo with his ODA in his book, One Green Beret: Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and beyond: 15 Extraordinary years in the life – 1996-2011. He describes the joint US-Russian Special Forces outfit arriving in an area called Velja Glava, where the rebel camp was supposed to be. After dispatching the sentries, the joint team dismounted from their armored vehicles and moved through the forest to assault the camp. The Russians deftly traversed through the vegetation while Giaconia laid the forest bare with a Mk 19 grenade launcher.

The Russians captured the Albanian rebels that were still able to be captured, and the UCPMB camp was taken out of action permanently. When it came to the performance of the Spetsnaz in combat, Giaconia says they were keen on tactics and had great intuition and instinct. They could shoot well, took care of their weapons and equipment, and were in great shape, and were very well-disciplined.

In short, he says he had a lot of respect for these “badasses in spirit.”

Articles

The Air Force will have lasers on planes soon

By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
DARPA Air Force Laser Concept

The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.

“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
For the uninitiated, this is what the current gun on the AC-130 looks like.

Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic
It’s like Star Wars lasers vs. Star Trek lasers. So that debate might be settled soon too.

Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.

The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11v=LThD0FMvTFU

 

NOW: The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The Army is upgrading to a new rifle optic

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information