U.S. Army robotics officials got their first look Aug. 30, 2018, at an innovative new technology for launching and recovering unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from a moving combat vehicle.
“Think of a drive-through Venus flytrap,” Don Sando, deputy to the commanding general of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told defense reporters Aug. 30, 2018, following a robotics and autonomous systems industry day.
Hosted by the Capabilities and Integration Directorate, the event drew 200 participants representing 100 defense industry firms.
“Ten percent of them were first-time participants with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army as we look at expanding our collaboration beyond traditional big defense companies to some of the smaller companies that may have some creativity and innovation that we are just not aware of yet,” Sando said.
One of the small firms that stood out was Target Arm LLC, which is developing the Talon UAS launch and recovery system.
Talon is a very “simple design, applicable to any vehicle, wheeled or tracked. That’s very innovative in my judgment,” said Sando, who was impressed with a YouTube video he saw Aug. 30, 2018.
“I was like, ‘Hey, that is simple, yet elegant,’ ” he said. “The ability to launch and recover aircraft from a moving platform really helps our ground formations on a battlefield, where we know they have to move quickly. Anytime you stop, you become a target.”
While there were no demonstrations at the event, many of the companies brought white papers to showcase new technologies that might meet the needs of the service’s new Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Initial Capabilities Document, said Col. Thomas Nelson, director of Robotics Requirements at Benning.
The document was approved at Army level in July 2018 and “essentially approved by the Joint Staff in August 2018,” Sando said, adding that it will help the service focus its goals for how new RAS technology will communicate with soldiers and other Army systems.
Many of the industry day attendees will take part in experiments scheduled for November and December 2018 in the United Kingdom, said Lt. Col. Nick Serle, commanding officer of the U.K. Infantry Trials and Development Unit.
“That really ties into the great partnership that we have between [Benning’s] Maneuver Battle Lab over here and the work that we do back in the U.K.,” he said. “We will be learning together.”
For now, there isn’t an Army requirement for the Talon system, but the technology could be submitted to the Robotic Enhancement Program (REP), Nelson said, adding that the company could submit a proposal “and potentially, there may be Army funding to explore that potential innovative solution further and test it by letting soldiers get hands on.”
Currently, combat vehicles are limited to line-of-sight targeting and surveillance systems, Sando said. “But what if it had its own [UASs] that it could dispatch kilometers and miles in advance just to help me see, help me target beyond line of sight?
“So the next thing is how I start to describe and quantify that combat advantage to being able to do that. … Put it in the hands of soldiers and say, ‘OK, how would you use this? Does it really make you better as opposed to stopping and launching a system and then recovering?’ Or ‘Hey, I don’t have to stop at all; I can maintain my momentum. I don’t have to hazard my soldiers by taking them out of a protective combat vehicle.'”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the world of combat, enemies of the U.S. don’t typically fight fair. So, as a defensive measure, we need to prepare for every possible situation that could arise — even situations that involve the use of outlawed weaponry.
Fortunately, our armed forces go through detailed training to prepare for an event in which one of the countries we occupy decides to get froggy and releases a chemical attack.
It’s no secret that such chemicals exist and to combat the threat, allied forces have the technology readily available.
Not all released chemicals are absorbed into the human body via inhalation. For some dangerous substances, any contact with the body can be deadly. So, the military has unique suits and a system called “Mission Oriented Protective Posture” to define the level of protection required by each circumstance.
The MOPP system technically has five different levels. Level 0 means the area appears to zero threat, but troops must still keep those specialized suites handy. This level rises as dangers become greater so that troops know to don additional gear for protection.
You might ask yourself, what if the troop works as a tanker and they cant put on their MOPP gear fast enough due to a lack of space?
That’s a great question and we’re glad we asked.
Moden day tanks and light armored vehicles are built to protect the troops inside, even in the event that the enemy decides to pass gas. Get it? How funny are we, right?
The cleverly constructed vehicles are fitted to have all the hatches seal airtight when closed. Those light armored reconnaissance vehicles are well constructed that they can maneuver through harsh terrain during attacks like it’s no big deal.
Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”
This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.
Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.
Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.
Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.
In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.
That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.
Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.
While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.
Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.
“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.
It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.
The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.
“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”
Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.
“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”
Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.
“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”
Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.
“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.
The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.
“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.
“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”
In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.
“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.
“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”
According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.
“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”
Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.
Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.
“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.
Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.
“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”
“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”
Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.
During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.
“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.
But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.
A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)
Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.
“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.
(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)
The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.
Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Aug. 12, 2018, to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.
Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.
The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.
“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”
The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.
(NASA / Bill Ingalls)
During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September 2018 and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.
“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”
Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October 2018 – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November 2018 to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.
Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.
Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?
Renowned physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
(NASA / Glenn Benson)
Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.
“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”
Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.
The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.
A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May 2018. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.
The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.
“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”
The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.
The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.
U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”
The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.
Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.
A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”
The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.
“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”
The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.
The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.
Anyone who has watched a lot of Japanese anime knows that giant robots are a major theme. Heck, the first four “Transformers” films have netted almost $3.8 billion at the box office since making their debut in 2007. In August, American and Japanese robots will go head-to-head in real life – and we could be seeing some of the classic military sci-fi coming to life.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the American company Megabots issued the challenge to the Japanese robotics firm Suidobashi in 2015 after Megabots had completed the 15-foot tall, six-ton Megabot Mark II. The Japanese company accepted the challenge, but insisted that hand-to-hand combat be allowed before agreeing to commit their battle bot, KURATAS.
Megabots then spent two years re-designing its robot warrior to address the changed dynamics of the duel. They also needed to be able to transport the robot inside a standard shipping container. That meant the company had to be able to quickly deploy the Megabot Mark III — a 16-foot tall, 12-ton behemoth — from an air transportable configuration. That’s not an easy task when you consider there are 3,000 wires, 26 hydraulic pumps, and 300 hydraulic hoses to bolt into place.
Plus, the robot’s 430-horsepower engine was originally designed to move a car, not power a piloted robot in a duel to the death – of the robot, that is.
“When we show our robot to people who haven’t heard of us, the reaction is always ‘Oh! I saw that in…’ and then they list any of 60 or 70 different video games, movies, [or] animated shows that feature giant robots fighting. We’re trying to bring the fantasies of sci-fi fans around the world to life,” Megabots co-founder and CEO Gui Cavalcanti said.
Which robot will emerge victorious, and which one will turn into scrap? We’ll find out this summer. Will we eventually see these robots in the military? Don’t bet against it. Meanwhile, watch the challenge Megabots issued to Suidobashi.
There are few “safe” jobs in armed conflict, but certainly one of the toughest and most dangerous is that of a sniper. They must sneak forward in groups of two to spy on the enemy, knowing that an adversary who spots them first may be lethal. Here’s what Army and Marine Corps snipers say it takes to overcome the life-or-death stress of their job.
“As a scout sniper, we are going to be constantly tired, fatigued, dehydrated, probably cold, for sure wet, and always hungry,” Marine scout sniper Sgt. Brandon Choo told the Department of Defense earlier this year.
The missions snipers are tasked with carrying out, be it in the air, at sea, or from a concealed position on land, include gathering intelligence, killing enemy leaders, infiltration and overwatch, hunting other snipers, raid support, ballistic IED interdiction, and the disruption of enemy operations.
Many snipers said they handled their job’s intense pressures by quieting their worries and allowing their training to guide them.
A Marine with Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, uses a scout sniper periscope.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
“There is so much riding on your ability to accomplish the mission, including the lives of other Marines,” a Marine scout sniper told Insider recently. “The best way to deal with [the stress] is to just not think about it.” An Army sniper said the same thing, telling Insider that “you don’t think about that. You are just out there and reacting in the moment. You don’t feel that stress in the situation.”
These sharpshooters explained that when times are tough, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself because there are people depending on you. Their motivation comes from the soldiers and Marines around them.
Learning to tune out the pressures of the job is a skill developed through training. “This profession as a whole constitutes a difficult lifestyle where we have to get up every day and train harder than the enemy, so that when we meet him in battle we make sure to come out on top,” Choo told DoD.
A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover.
(US Marine Corps photo)
‘You are always going to fall back on your training.’
So, what does that mean in the field, when things get rough?
“You are going to do what you were taught to do or you are going to die,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, told Insider. “Someone once told me that in any given situation, you are probably not going to rise to the occasion,” a Marine scout sniper, now an instructor, explained. “You are always going to fall back on your training.”
“So, if I’ve trained myself accordingly, even though I’m stressing out about whatever my mission is, I know that I’ll fall back to my training and be able to get it done,” he said. “Then, before I know it, the challenge has passed, the stress is gone, and I can go home and drink a beer and eat a steak.”
Choo summed it up simply in his answers to DoD, saying, “No matter what adversity we may face, at the end of the day, we aren’t dead, so it’s going to be all right.”
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
Do the impossible once a week.
Sometimes the pressures of the job can persist even after these guys return home.
In that case, Sipes explained, it is really important to “talk to someone. Talk to your peers. Take a break. Go and do something else and come back to it.” Another Army sniper previously told Insider that it is critical to check your ego at the door, be brutally honest with yourself, and know your limits.
In civilian life, adversity can look very different than it does on the battlefield. Challenges, while perhaps not life-and-death situations, can still be daunting.
“I think the way that people in civilian life can deal with [hardship] is by picking something out, on a weekly basis, that they in their mind think is impossible, and they need to go and do it,” a Marine sniper told Insider. “What you’re going to find is that more often than not, you are going to be able to achieve that seemingly-impossible task, and so everything that you considered at that level or below becomes just another part of your day.”
He added that a lot more people should focus on building their resilience.
“If that is not being provided to you, it is your responsibility to go out and seek that to make yourself better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The first time you select afterburner in a fighter is an experience you’ll never forget. Over a decade later, I can still remember every second of it.
I had made it through the attrition of pilot training and was now in the 9-month B-Course learning to fly the F-16. After several months of academics—going over every system on the jet and how to troubleshoot malfunctions, it was time to finally get in the air.
The way the jet is configured makes a big difference in terms of its performance. Usually, there are several weapons, pods, and fuel tanks hanging off the jet, which makes it much more capable in combat. However, they add a significant amount of weight and drag to the airframe.
The squadron leadership had decided to completely clean off the jets for our initial phase of flying—nothing external would be added, making it the stripped-down hot-rod that John Boyd famously envisioned back in the ’70s. It’s a rare configuration that I’ve only seen a handful of times during my career.
On the day of the flight, after I strapped in, I started the engine and could feel the F-16 coming to life: the slow groan of the engine transforming into a shrieking roar.
After the ground-ops checks, my instructor and I taxied to the end of the runway—as a wingman, my job was to follow him throughout the sortie. Once we received clearance to take off, he taxied onto the runway and pushed the throttle into afterburner.
I could see the nozzle of his engine clamp down as the engine spun-up into full military power—the highest non-afterburning setting. The nozzle then rapidly opened as the afterburner kicked in and a 10-foot bluish-red flame shot out of the back of the engine. Looking into the engine, I could only see a few feet of the nozzle before it disappeared into a whitish-yellow fire, similar to the sun. As he rapidly accelerated down the runway, I taxied into position.
After 15 seconds, I pushed the throttle forward until it hit the military power stop. I then rotated the throttle outward, which allowed me to push it further into the afterburner settings. Nothing happened for what seemed like a minute, but in reality, it was only a few seconds. It was enough time for me to look down to make sure nothing was wrong when, suddenly, the thrust hit me in the chest.
Before flying the F-16, I had flown a supersonic jet trainer called the T-38, so I was familiar with high-performance aircraft… But this acceleration was on another level. Before I knew it, a second jolt of thrust hit me, further increasing my acceleration—and the engine wasn’t even at full thrust yet.
There are five rings in the back of the engine that make up the afterburner. Each ring has hundreds of holes, through which fuel is sprayed at high pressure and then ignited. In order to not flood the engine, each ring sequentially lights off. So far, only two of the five rings had started spraying fuel.
The interesting thing about the way a jet accelerates is that as it goes faster, it accelerates faster (to a point). This is unlike a car, which starts off quickly and then slows down. As each afterburner ring lit off, my acceleration further increased. Before I knew it, I was at my rotation speed of 150 knots, or 175 mph. As soon as I was airborne, I began retracting my gear, reducing my drag, which further increased my acceleration. Even though it takes just a few seconds to retract the gear, I came dangerously close to overspending the 300-knot limit.
The one thing that stands out about that takeoff is that even though I was operating way behind the jet, I was smiling the whole time–it was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.
Milkor’s Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher (MSLG) is a revolver on steroids.
Originally introduced in 1983, this six-shooter is designed to be simple, rugged, and devastating. It uses the time-tested revolver principle to fire six rounds in less than three seconds from up to five football fields away. Each chamber can be loaded with a variety of rounds, including shrapnel, flares, smoke, non-lethal rounds, and more.
Using it easy. Simply crank and load and you’re ready to fire.
Feature image: A 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion critical skills operator surfaces from the ocean and advances up a beach, completing a combat dive exercise in Key West, Fla., Feb. 18, 2015. (DoD Photo).
Today, a female college student is set to make history by graduating from one of the toughest special operations courses in the entire U.S. military.
Sandboxx News has learned that on Thursday a female cadet will become the first woman to ever graduate from the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School (SFUWO).
A rising junior at a state school and a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), the female student has also been chosen as the class honor graduate, a remarkable distinction reserved for the best student who has distinguished him or herself through his or her physical and mental fortitude.
“The news is a very big deal. [Combat] Dive school is arguably the toughest school in the military with the highest attrition rate. It demands perfection and attention to detail every single day. The course is long and wears down everyone,” John Black, a retired Special Forces warrant officer and combat diver, told Sandboxx News.
Graduating from one of the toughest special operations schools in the military will set the female cadet up for success in her military career, whether she pursues a conventional or special operations path.
Located in Key West, Florida, SFUWO trains Army special operators, such as Rangers, Green Berets, and even Delta Force operators, to become combat divers, dive supervisors, or dive medical technicians. Although SFUWO is an Army school, commandos from other services, such as from the Air Force Special Operations Command, also attend from time to time.
A six-week course, the CDQC graduates approximately 300 students every year. It teaches surface and subsurface waterborne infiltration, including the use of the Draeger closed-circuit/ semi-closed-circuit underwater rebreather.
Admission to the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC)—the flagship course of the SFUWO and the one that the female cadet will be graduating from—is highly selective. A special operator must have already excelled at his home unit and passed several in-house assessment and training courses before getting orders to Key West.
It isn’t uncommon for seasoned Rangers and Green Berets to fail CDQC. It’s also not uncommon to have fatalities in what is, by all accounts, a very difficult course, both physically and mentally. Only a few weeks ago, a Green Beret from the 10th Special Forces Group died during the CDQC.
“Dive school is extremely difficult. To endure the physical and mental aspects of the course, it’s a huge achievement. To be the honor grad is a big deal. She’s the fastest and the best. Big congratulations to her and those that will follow,” Black added.
This isn’t the first time an ROTC cadet has graduated from the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Several universities send ROTC cadets to the schoolhouse during the summer, with a rare few making it through. However, up to this point, no female, regardless of service status, had ever graduated.
Although this is a high point for the Army special operations combat diver community, not everything is rosy within their ranks. The community has been suffering from some degree of neglect throughout the past two decades of fighting terrorism in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
The commander of Sweden’s air force, Mats Helgesson, recently made the bold statement that his country’s Saab Gripen E fighter could beat Russia’s formidable fleet of Sukhoi jets with none of the expensive stealth technology the US relies on.
“Gripen, especially the E-model, is designed to kill Sukhois. There we have a black belt,” Helgesson told Yle at a presentation in Finland, where Sweden is trying to export the jets.
Russia’s Sukhoi fighters have achieved a kind of legendary status for their ability to out-maneuver US fighter jets in dogfights and pull off dangerous and aggressive stunts in the air, but Gripen may have cracked the code.
The Gripen can’t carry the most weapons and has no real stealth. And it isn’t the longest-range, the fastest, or even the cheapest jet. But it has a singular focus that makes it a nightmare for Russia’s fighter jets.
Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that like the A-10 Warthog was built around a massive cannon, the Gripen was built around electronic warfare.
Virtually all modern jets conduct some degree of electronic warfare, but the Gripen E stands above the rest, according to Bronk.
Montage showing the different phases of an acrobatic maneuver performed by a Sukhoi Su-35.
Gripen pilots don’t like to show their cards by demonstrating the full power of the jet’s jamming in training. But the one time they did, it completely reversed the course of the mock battle in training, Bronk said.
“Several years ago the Gripen pilots got tired of being made fun of by German Typhoon pilots and came to play with their wartime electronic warfare and gave them a hell of a hard time,” Bronk said. One of the Gripens was “reportedly able to appear on the left wing of a Typhoon without being detected” by using its “extremely respected” jamming ability, Bronk said.
“It would be fair to assume the Gripen is one of the most capable electronic warfighters out there,” he said, adding that the Gripens that baffled the Typhoons were of the C/D series, which have much less powerful electronic-warfare capabilities than the E series Gripens that Helgesson described.
To defeat Russia’s fearsome fighters and surface-to-air missiles, the US has largely turned to stealth aircraft. Stealth costs a fortune and must be built into the shape of the plane.
If Russia somehow cracks the code of detecting stealth-shaped fighters, the US’s F-35, the most expensive weapons system in history, is cooked.
But Saab took a different, and cheaper, approach to combating Russia’s fighters and missiles by focusing on electronic attack, which gives them an advantage over stealth because they can evolve the software without a ground-up rebuild, according to Bronk.
Saab plans to update the software on the Gripen E every two years, giving it more flexibility to meet evolving challenges, according to Bronk.
Map from 2016 showing Russian air-defense deployments.
But Bronk noted one issue with electronic warfare.
“The problem with basing a survival strategy around an electronic warfare suite is you don’t really know if it’s going to work,” he said. “Even if it does, it’s going to be a constant battle between your adversary and you” to get the edge on the enemy fighters as wave forms and methods of attack continuously change.
However, Sweden benefits from a Russian focus on US fighters. “Sweden is too small really to optimize your counter-electronic warfare capabilities against,” Bronk said.
If war broke out between Russia and the West, Russia would likely try hardest to push back on US electronic warfare, rather than against Sweden’s Gripen Es, of which there would be only a few dozen.
The whole concept of the Gripen E is to “operate in Swedish territory, take advantage of all sorts of uneven terrain under cover of friendly surface-to-air missiles with a superb EW suite which should in theory keep it safe from the majority of Russian missiles and air to air threats,” Bronk said.
Additionally, the Gripen E can fire almost any missile made in the US or Europe.
“If you couple a very effective radar with excellent EW and a Meteor, the most effective longest range air-to-air missile which is resistant against [Russia’s] jammers … There’s no reason not to assume it wouldn’t be pretty damn effective,” Bronk said. “If you’re a flanker pilot, it’s probably a very scary thing to face.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.
The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.
The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.
“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.
Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.
When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.
“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”