The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle - We Are The Mighty
Intel

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

The US Army and Lockheed Martin developed and tested a self-driving convoy system.


“The Army envisions a future operational concept where autonomy-enabled formations augment the warfighter as team members, not just as tools,” Army Lt. Col. Matt Dooley told an audience, according to Defense One.

According to the Army’s Operating Concept for 2020-2040, soldiers will be more lethal while making their job less hazardous by combining troops and semi-autonomous machines during operations.

This video shows the autonomous convoy system developed between the Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin:

Intel

These soldiers recorded a catchy Beatles cover from a snowbank

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The US Army Field Band made a splash this week when it released a cover of “Here Comes The Sun,” more famously performed by The Beatles, on its Facebook page.

Four soldiers from the band went into the snow of Massachusetts to perform the tune from within a snowbank, adding special significance to the line, “I see the ice is slowly melting.”

The video is pretty fun and the tune is very catchy, so check it out below.

That’s not all from the “Six String Soldiers.” The group also posted another video recently with some backup help from the University of Massachusetts Drum Line.

 

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A restored P-51 Mustang, once flown by the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, iconic US Air Force fighter pilot, flew with 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons during an event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

The event included aerial maneuvers by the P-51, formation flight training with F-16s and a presentation about Robin’s accomplishments by his daughter, Christina Olds.

Robin was a triple-ace fighter pilot who had 16 kills by the end of his career. The P-51 that arrived to Spangdahlem, named SCAT VII, was Robin’s seventh airplane which he flew in the last days of World War II. It was restored and is still flying around Europe in the same color scheme it had nearly 75 years ago.


The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

SCAT VII, a P-51 Mustang, on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, over Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This crazy photo shows the power of the Carl Gustaf M4 bazooka

The above photo is of an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Spc. Michael Tagalog, firing an 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle from an observation post in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province in September 2017.

The specialist apparently fired the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, or Carl Gustaf, in defense of a US base in Afghanistan. Originally used by special operators, the US Army began issuing the Gustaf to soldiers in 1991 in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.


The Saab-made bazooka is 42 inches long, weighs about 25 pounds and can hit targets from 1,300 meters away, according to army-technology.com.

It fires a variety of munitions, including high explosive anti-tank, high explosive dual purpose, and high explosive rounds. The Gustaf can even fire smoke and illumination rounds.

Army and industry weapons developers are also currently working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to develop a guided-munitions round for the Gustaf.

The US is quietly ramping up the nearly 17-year war in Afghanistan that has been criticized by many as a “forever war” and a game of “whack-a-mole.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force helps fight American wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.

That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.


The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)

“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”

Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch Keanu Reeves get some tactical training for ‘John Wick 3’

Keanu Reeves is back at it.

Vigilance Elite just released footage from a training session with Reeves for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and you can see that he’s training like an operator, not just an actor. In the video below, trainer and former Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan walks Reeves through room clearing with a rifle — in particular, negotiating the “fatal funnel.”

This kind of dedicated training is just one reason why Reeves is highly respected and his films are so fun. Check out the video for a bit of Reeves-worship…but stay for the refresher in case you ever get into a sh*t sandwich.


Keanu Reeves Tactical Training for John Wick 3 with Vigilance Elite .MP4

www.youtube.com

Check out the video:

“My character’s always in shit sandwiches,” jokes Reeves.

Reeves maintains a professional, respectful demeanor throughout the process, which is exactly the kind of attitude that bridges the divide between military and civilian audiences. Reeves is believable as an assassin because he puts in the work to understand weapons and tactics; military audiences can spot a phony a mile away and it ruins the cinematic experience.

Related: Video shows just how operator Keanu Reeves can be

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BwEso5VFim6/ expand=1]Shawn Ryan on Instagram: “Say when… ? @vigilanceelite #saywhen #johnwick #keanureeves #johnwick3”

www.instagram.com

It’s clear he’s got a good student-teacher relationship with Ryan, considering the banter on social media — and the fact that Reeves is a repeat customer.

Shawn Ryan on Instagram: “Ok Keanu, we all know you can shoot like a BAMF. But… Can you shoot like that while doing the “limbo”? How low can you go❓ ?…”

www.instagram.com

From the shots we get in the trailer, it looks like that training has paid off (my question is whether Ryan offers swordsmanship training as well?).

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019 Movie) New Trailer – Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry

www.youtube.com

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, and Laurence Fishburne, opens in theaters May 17, 2019.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A 60-year-old D-Day veteran beat Special Forces climbing Pointe du Hoc

“They hug the cliff too much,” Herman Stein said as he approached a waiting crowd on an overcast day in June 1984. Stein was a former Army Ranger with Dog Company who landed at Pointe du Hoc during World War II. He was slightly older than 60, but he had just beaten a dozen Special Forces soldiers up the cliffside.

“All these younger guys will be alright if they just stick with it,” Stein said.


Stein was one of 225 Rangers of the 2d Ranger Battaltion who landed there on D-Day, Jun. 6, 1944, to scale the cliff face and take out the Nazi guns. Some 40 years later, the climb was re-enacted for onlookers celebrating the 40th anniversary of the operation, the largest amphibious landing ever performed, which led to the end of the war.

The original recreation was supposed to consist of a dozen Ranger-qualified Green Berets, but Herman Stein wasn’t about to let them go alone. Stein, a roofer back in the United States, was still in top shape for the job. Despite the worries of his fellow veterans, he not only made the climb, but left the much-younger Special Forces in the dust.

This event was recounted in Patrick K. O’Donnell’s book, “Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.”

The first time he went to scale the cliffs of Normandy, they were part of Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall,” and time was of the essence. Although the Nazis believed the Americans weren’t crazy enough to attempt a landing at the cliff face, They were wrong. Stein and Dog Company landed on the West side of Pointe du Hoc and scaled the 90-foot cliff under heavy fire.

As President Ronald Reagan would remark at the 40th Anniversary event:

“The American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.”

The Rangers were successful in neutralizing the guns and other Nazi positions at the top of the cliffs but they face stiff resistance and a harsh counterattack throughout the rest of the day and into the night. By the time a large relief column arrived for them, they had suffered a 70 percent casualty rate.

Later, Stein would recall meeting President Reagan during the event. He said the President was visibly inspired by Stein’s performance in climbing the cliff face and outdoing the Special Forces.

“Reagan was all over the moon about my climbing to the top of Pointe du Hoc,” Stein said. “I think he wished he could have done it with me.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 bomber part landed in a woman’s yard during training

A part from a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber fell off and landed in a British woman’s front garden during a training exercise last week, the BBC reports.

The B-52 bomber is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, which is deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The aircraft was participating in a training exercise when its wing-tip gear door fell into the yard of a Warwichkshire woman, according to the BBC.


“Yesterday around 5:30 PM in Brailes a resident reported hearing a thud in her front garden,” the nearby Shipston on Stour police department said on its Facebook page on Oct. 24, 2019. “Thankfully no harm to persons/animals/property.”

The woman, who requested anonymity, told local media outlet Gloucestershire Live that it was a “miracle” no one was hurt.

“You won’t find any evidence in the front garden where it landed, we managed to get it back to normal pretty quickly,” the woman said. “I’ve been contacted by the police and even the MOD [Ministry of Defense]. We are on a flight path here but you never expect something like this to happen.”

“The part landed in a local national’s garden and was retrieved by 2nd Bomb Wing personnel, in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence Police,” the US Air Force told the BBC. “A safety investigation is being conducted, as is the standard with these types of events.”

Insider reached out to the US Air Force and the 2nd Bomb Wing for more information about the aircraft’s status, as well as what led to the incident, but did not receive a response by press time.

Four B-52s and about 350 airmen deployed to the UK earlier in October 2019 to train with the RAF and other NATO partners as part of US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force. The B-52 has been in service since 1955 and can carry both nuclear and conventional weapons.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want a 100-meter ‘Taser’ for non-lethal fights

The Marine Corps wants the defense industry to design a wireless, non-lethal munition capable of stunning individuals out to 100 meters.

The human electro-muscular incapacitation, or HEMI, munition is intended to be a small-caliber, non-lethal round that can be fired from current conventional small arms, according to a Sept. 24 solicitation posted on www.sibr.gov, a government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to encourage small business to engage in federal research and development.

Currently, all the services field a version of the Taser International X-26 “Taser,” a pistol that fires a wire-tethered cartridge out to 25 feet to disrupt the body’s electro-muscular system for about five seconds.


The Marine Corps is “seeking innovative technologies to design” a HEMI munition capable of “hitting human targets at an effective range of 100 meters and physically disabling them for at least 30 seconds up to more than three minutes,” the solicitation states.

The projectile would have to be capable of withstanding the force of being fired from weapons chambered in calibers such as 9mm or 12-gauge, according to the solicitation.

“At least four previous DoD-sponsored SBIR efforts have been initiated on this technology area … but none led to the development of an effective HEMI munition that met the [Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program] capability gap,” it says.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

Gunnery Sgt. Alexander H. Orellana, a non-lethal weapons instructor, fires the X26 Taser into the leg of Pfc. Luis E. CruzLopez with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers)

If successful, the new technology may not be cheap. The solicitation states that the Marines want a “low-cost” solution described as less than “id=”listicle-2608119323″,000 per round.”

“The prototype design may or may not be single use (i.e., parts of the design could be designed to be reusable),” the solicitation states. “This re-usability would be a design enhancement.”

The closing date for the solicitation is Oct. 24, 2018.

Early prototypes that pass initial testing will be “utilized to build additional (100+) advanced prototypes for a long-range, extended-duration HEMI munition,” according to the solicitation, which did not give a timeline for program completion.

In addition to the Marine Corps, “this developed capability to non-lethally disable/incapacitate individuals at distances in excess of 100 meters is needed to support the joint services, civilian law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and Customs and Border Protection,” it states.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happens when the Air Force releases a new plane

Total Force crews delivered the first two KC-46A Pegasus aircraft to McConnell Air Force Base.

The 22nd Air Refueling Wing and 931st ARW marshalled in the newest addition to the Air Force’s strategic arsenal.

“This day will go down in history as a win for Team McConnell and the Air Force as a whole,” said Col. Josh Olson, 22nd ARW commander. “With this aircraft, McConnell will touch the entire planet.”

Since being selected as the first main operating base in 2014, McConnell airmen have been preparing to ensure their readiness to receive the Air Force’s newest aircraft.


Contractors constructed three new KC-46 maintenance hangars, technical training dormitories, an air traffic control tower, fuselage trainer and many other facilities specifically for the Pegasus’ arrival. These projects brought 7 million to the local economy by employing Kansas workers and using local resources.

Aircrew members simulated KC-46 flights, boom operators practiced cargo loading and the 22nd Maintenance Group created a training timeline for the enterprise.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

A KC-46A Pegasus flies over the Keeper of the Plains Jan. 25, 2019, in Wichita, Kansas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Thompson)

Working with aircraft manufacturer Boeing, McConnell maintenance airmen have been developing new technical orders for three years. They streamlined processes and got hands-on exposure to the jet in Seattle.

“Some of us have been involved in this program for years and it has given us time to become experts as far as the technical data goes,” said Staff Sgt. Brannon Burch, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-46 flying crew chief. “Knowing it is one thing, but having hands-on experience on our flightline is what we all crave. We’re just happy the wait’s over and we finally get to get our hands dirty on the Pegasus — it’s almost surreal.”

The KC-46 team at McConnell AFB is comprised of Airmen with a variety of backgrounds from other aircraft who bring different aspects of expertise to the multifaceted new tanker.

“Every airman who was transferred to the KC-46 team was hand-selected specifically to bring this airplane to the fight,” said Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock, 344th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “They are versatile maintainers, pilots and boom operators who are prepared for any learning curve that comes with a new aircraft.”

The active duty 344th ARS and Air Force Reserve 924th ARS, will be the first units in the military to operationally fly the KC-46.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

A KC-46A Pegasus

(Photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)

“This airplane has a wide variety of capabilities that we haven’t seen here before,” said Spurlock. “We’re going to get our hands on it, then expand on those abilities and see how we can employ them operationally.”

Once airmen in the Total Force squadrons have perfected their craft on the new aircraft, they will pave the way for the entire KC-46 enterprise and other bases receiving the aircraft in the future by developing tactics, techniques and procedures to share with those units.

“I have never been a part of a unit that is more excited about the mission before them and the legacy they’re going to leave,” said Spurlock.

Today, the waiting ends and integration begins for the next generation of air mobility that will be a linchpin of national defense, global humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for decades to come.

“For those of us who have spent years watching this process happen, it’s enormously humbling to finally see it come to a close,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st ARW commander. “We are grateful to everyone who is joining us as we fulfill the potential of this amazing new aircraft.

“We are honoring the rich culture that we have been gifted by those who came before us,” said Heseltine. “That culture continues today. For example, the forward fuselage section of the KC-46 is built by Spirit AeroSystems right here in Wichita. This aircraft literally came home today.”

With the KC-46 on the ground at McConnell AFB, the Air Force will begin the next phases of familiarization and initial operations testing and evaluation.

“McConnell Air Force Base is ready!” said Olson.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

The Army is building robot trucks that drive themselves into battle

(U.S. Navy)

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

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Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

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Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
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(Pixnio)

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

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(PXHere)

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.

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Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

LORA Weapon System Operational Demonstration

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That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

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Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

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Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

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Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.

“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.

That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.


“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”

Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)

An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.

“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.

For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.

“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.

Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.

“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.

Robinson echoed his sentiments.

“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.

Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.

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A C-17 Globemaster III.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”

That capability means filling a variety of roles.

“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”

Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.

“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.

“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”

Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”

The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.

Those partnerships are important.

“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”

For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.

Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.

That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.

“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.

The result was a total redo of network systems.

“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”

It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.

“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.

“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.

The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.

“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”

Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.

“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.

“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”

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