DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and/or small unmanned ground systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough swarm capabilities.


To continue the rapid pace and further advance the technology development of OFFSET, DARPA is soliciting proposals for the second “swarm sprint.” Each of the five core “sprints” focuses on one of the key thrust areas: Swarm Tactics, Swarm Autonomy, Human-Swarm Team, Virtual Environment, and Physical Testbed. This second group of “Swarm Sprinters” will have the opportunity to work with one or both of the OFFSET Swarm Systems Integrator teams to develop and assess tactics as well as algorithms to enhance autonomy.

The focus of the second sprint is enabling improved autonomy through enhancements of platforms and/or autonomy elements, with the operational backdrop of utilizing a diverse swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Swarm Sprinters will leverage existing or develop new hardware components, algorithms, and/or primitives to enable novel capabilities that specifically demonstrate the advantages of a swarm when leveraging and operating in complex urban environments.

The conclusion of the second sprint is aligned with a physical and virtual experiment, where “sprinters” will be able to more deeply integrate and demonstrate their technology developments. The sprinters will have the opportunity to work with DARPA and the Swarm Systems Integrators to further expand the capabilities relevant to operational contexts.

“As operations in urban environments continue to evolve, our warfighters need advanced capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing complexity of the urban scenario,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “The focus on enhancing autonomy in operational contexts will further advance future swarming capabilities allowing the warfighter to outmaneuver our adversaries in these complex urban environments.”

The announcement for this second swarm sprint follows the awarding of contracts to the first cohort of OFFSET Swarm Sprinters to:

  • Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Laboratories
  • SoarTech, Inc.
  • Charles River Analytics, Inc.
  • University of Maryland
  • Carnegie Mellon University

Each of these inaugural sprinters will focus on generating novel tactics for a multi-faceted swarm of air and ground robots in support of the mission to isolate an urban objective, such as conducting reconnaissance, generating a semantic map of the area of operations, and/or identifying and defending against possible security risks.

Instructions for submitting a proposal to participate in the second core swarm sprint (under Amendment 2), as well as full OFFSET program details, are available on the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://go.usa.gov/xRhPC. Proposals are due at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on April 30, 2018. Please email questions to OFFSET@darpa.mil.

(More information about OFFSET and swarm sprint thrust areas is available here: https://youtu.be/c7KPBHPEMM0 and http://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/offensive-swarm-enabled-tactics.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan-powered aircraft designed specifically for close air support and ground attack missions against armored vehicles.


The aircraft’s sub-sonic speed and large straight-wing design allows for extreme maneuverability at low altitudes and extended time on target or to loiter above the battlefield.

The airframe was designed from the very start as a short takeoff and landing aerial platform for the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute. When combined with the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile and laser-guided bombs, the A-10 can destroy enemy armor at close range or from a standoff position.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Redundant control surfaces and hydraulic systems combined with titanium armor protecting the pilot, control systems, and ammunition make the A-10 highly survivable in combat.

When performing forward air control missions, the A-10 changes its designation to OA-10, although it remains just as combat capable as the A-10.

Its lethal effect on the battlefield combined with the toughness to return its pilot to base even after suffering extensive damage has led pilots and crew to nickname the aircraft the “Warthog.”

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

Development and Design

The A-10 was born of the Attack-Experimental (A-X) program office, which launched in 1966 to develop a ground-attack aircraft to replace the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.

In 1970, the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s overwhelming number of tanks along the borders of Western Europe led the Air Force to request contractor proposals for an airframe specifically designed to conduct the CAS mission and destroy enemy armor.

The call for designs stipulated a low-cost aerial weapons platform – less than $3 million per unit – capable of loitering above the battlefield and engaging enemy targets at low altitude and speed with a high-speed rotary cannon, while providing extreme crew and aircraft survivability.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
A-1E Skyraider aircraft of the 34th Tactical Group, based at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam, fly in formation over South Vietnam June 25, 1965. In the 1960s, the USAF requested proposals from aviation contractors for a subsonic jet-powered aircraft designed exclusively for the a ground attack and close air support role which would replace the A-1 which served with the USAF during wars in Korea and Vietnam. The result was the Fairchild Republic A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Later, the requirements would be further specified to include a maximum speed of 450 mph and a normal operating speed of 300 mph in combat to enable easier engagement of slow moving ground targets.

Furthermore, the new aircraft was required to take off in less than 4,000 feet, enabling operations from small airfields close to the front lines, carry an external load of 16,000 pounds and have a mission radius of 285 miles, all for a final cost of $1.4 million per aircraft.

Of the six proposals submitted to the Air Force, Northrop and Fairchild Republic were selected to build prototypes.

In 1973, Fairchild Republic’s YF-10 was the winner of a fly-off against Northrup’s YF-9 and full production began in 1976, with the first A-10 being delivered to Air Force Tactical Air Command that March.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
A Northrop A-9A before touchdown on its first flight. The aircraft was one of two prototypes built to the requirements of the U.S. Air Force’s Attack-Experimental Program. Ultimately, the Fairchild Republic design for a dedicated ground attack aircraft, the YF-10, would be chosen by the Air Force over the Northrop design, leading to the production of the A-10. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Features and Deployment

Fairchild Republic’s WWII fighter, the P-47 Thunderbolt, had begun its service in Europe as fighter and bomber escort, but soon earned a reputation as a relentless and tough ground-attack aircraft that dispatched Nazi armor and artillery in close proximity to friendly troops, while creating havoc in enemy assembly areas and along rail and road supply routes. It was a natural choice for the company to name its new CAS-dedicated aircraft after its WWII-era forefather: “Thunderbolt II.”

The entire design of the aircraft revolved around the high-speed 30mm Avenger cannon. The weapon gives the A-10 its up-close tank-busting capabilities announced by the long “buuuuurp” sound that has saved and encouraged many an infantryman in dire straits on the battlefield.

Although developed initially to provide an aerial counterpunch to the mass of Soviet tanks poised along the borders of Western Europe, the A-10 did not see combat until the Gulf War in 1991.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
The business end of the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon extends from the nose of an A-10. The cannon, which can fire 3,900 depleted uranium shells per minute, was the anti-armor weapon around which the A-10 platform was designed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

There the “Warthog” earned its nickname, getting pilots back to base despite heavy damage from ground fire, while destroying 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and trucks and over 1,200 artillery pieces. Just four A-10s were lost to Iraqi surface-to-air missiles in over 8,000 sorties.

The A-10 next saw combat and search and rescue missions in the Balkans in 1994-95 and again in 1999, before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and participating in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It still currently conducts operations against ISIS targets.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
An A-10 launches an AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile during a training mission. The missile enables the A-10 to destroy armored vehicles and other targets from a standoff position. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Did You Know?

  • Many of the A-10’s parts, such as engines, main landing gear and vertical stabilizers are interchangeable on both sides of the aircraft, greatly increasing ease of maintenance and decreasing operational and maintenance costs.
  • The A-10’s ailerons constitute nearly 50 percent of the total wing surface, giving it an astonishing rate of roll and maneuverability at low altitudes and speeds.
  • If the redundant hydraulic systems and backup mechanical system are all disabled, the pilot can still lock landing gear into place using a combination of gravity and aerodynamic drag. The main gear does not fully retract leaving the wheels exposed decreasing damage in an emergency belly landing.
  • The A-10 gained its first air-to-air victory during the Gulf War in 1991 when Capt. Robert Swain shot down an Iraqi helicopter with 30mm cannon fire.
  • In 2010, the A-10 was the first Air Force aircraft to fly powered by biofuels.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

FACT SHEET: A-10 Thunderbolt II

Primary function: close air support, airborne forward air control, combat search and rescue

Contractor: Fairchild Republic Co.

Power plant: two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans

Thrust: 9,065 pounds each engine

Wingspan: 57 feet, 6 inches (17.42 meters)

Length: 53 feet, 4 inches (16.16 meters)

Height: 14 feet, 8 inches (4.42 meters)

Weight: 29,000 pounds (13,154 kilograms)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 51,000 pounds (22,950 kilograms)

Fuel Capacity: 11,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Payload: 16,000 pounds (7,257 kilograms)

Speed: 450 nautical miles per hour (Mach 0.75)

Range: 2580 miles (2240 nautical miles)

Ceiling: 45,000 feet (13,636 meters)

Armament: one 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun; up to 16,000 pounds (7,200 kilograms) of mixed ordnance on eight under-wing and three under-fuselage pylon stations, including 500 pound (225 kilograms) Mk-82 and 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) Mk-84 series low/high drag bombs, incendiary cluster bombs, combined effects munitions, mine dispensing munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles and laser-guided/electro-optically guided bombs; infrared countermeasure flares; electronic countermeasure chaff; jammer pods; 2.75-inch (6.99 centimeters) rockets; illumination flares and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

Crew: one

Unit cost: $18.8 million

Originally published in Airman Magazine November 2017.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Nazi officer risked his life to save an American soldier

It may surprise amateur historians to discover that wars can take a humanitarian turn. There are many, many recorded instances of exceptional displays of humanity, even during the most brutal fighting. Considering the Nazis’ monstrous reputation, it would surprise many others to discover that kind of kindness among the German officers in World War II.

Even in the Wehrmacht’s most desperate days, there were some among them who retained their humanity in the middle of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. In the Hürtgen War Cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, you’ll find a small monument to one of these brave souls.


DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”

As the Allies pressed their post-Normandy advantage against the Nazis in Europe, they began to outrun their supply lines. Unfortunately, the men and materiel required to bring down the Nazi regime weren’t as fast at replacing the men and materiel who were actively taking down the regime. The Allies were forced to slow down and, in some places, pause as their supplies caught up to their breakneck drive toward Germany.

This lull gave the Germans time to regroup and rest.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

The worst was yet to come.

Before the Allies could enter Germany, there were a few things they had to consider. They had to cross the Rhine, the city Aachen was under siege and refused to surrender, and the Allies were afraid the Germans would destroy the Ruhr Dam. To avoid this, the Allies needed to enter the dense woods that lay between the city and the dam and do it before the Germans thought to blow the dam.

During the relatively brief lull in the fighting, the Germans made good use of the Hürtgen Forest. Its hills and ravines were loaded with minefields, booby traps, barbed wire, and anything else they could think of that might halt the Allied advance or end it entirely. What’s more, deep inside the woods were the overgrown and abandoned remains of the concrete Siegfried Line. The advantage in numbers and air superiority the Allied troops enjoyed would be completely negated by the forest. The dark woods were now almost impenetrable, and the Allies were walking into it.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

This is not the place you want to assault.

For four months, the Allies sent men into the German-held meat grinder trying to dislodge the Nazis. Among the Germans trying to keep the Americans out was a Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. Lengfeld was a young officer who had just taken command of his unit in November 1944, after his commander was killed in combat. He and his men were holed up in a lodge of some kind, sheltering themselves from the elements and trying to stave off their hunger. Next to their shelter was a minefield known as the Wilde Sau.

An American attack pushed Lengfeld’s Germans from their shelter, but his men quickly counterattacked and retook it the day after. The U.S. troops scrambled out so fast that one of them walked right into the Wilde Sau and immediately stepped on a mine. The man survived and began calling for help.

None came. And to this day, no one knows who the wounded American was.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

This road once bisected the Wilde Sau minefield.

Lieutenant Lengfeld ordered his troops that no one was to fire at any Americans who would come for the man. Hours passed, the man begged anyone within earshot to help him. But no one came. The man cried for his compatriots the entire time, but still, no one came to his aid. Lengfeld decided he would help, and took a team of his medics along a road that led to the minefield. He was determined to help the man, but while his team had placed anti-tank mines along the road, he did not know the location of anti-personnel mines. Lengfeld stepped on one immediately, shredding his back. He would die later that night.

In 1994, a monument was erected at the Hürtgen Forest Cemetery, bearing the name and wartime deeds of Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. It read:

Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severely wounded in the “Wilde
Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.

The monument was placed there by the American members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to honor Lt. Lengfeld.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Haqqani network founder dead from illness, says Taliban

The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, the network’s ally, the Afghan Taliban, has announced.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement in English on Twitter early on Sept. 4, 2018.

The Taliban claimed that Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era.”

The United States, after allying with Haqqani to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, by 2012 had designated his organization a terrorist group.


The elder Haqqani was paralyzed for the past 10 years, AP reported. Because he had not been heard from in several years, reports of his death were widespread in 2015.

Haqqani was once a minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2002 that followed the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Prior to the U.S. invasion, Haqqani fostered close ties with Arab extremists, including the now-deceased Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who set up militant camps in Afghanistan before being run out of the country into hiding in Pakistan by U.S.-led NATO forces.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.

It was blamed for the truck bombing in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people, though the group denied its involvement.

The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Army should consider bringing back the Pathfinders

There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.

As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.

The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.


DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

It’s not an understatement to say that there is a bunch of math you’ll need to do on the fly. Hope you’re well-versed in trigonometry.

(U.S. Army photo by Lori Egan)

The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.

To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.

All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

If only there were a unit, typically a company sized element within a Combat Aviation Brigade, that has spent years mastering the art… Oh well…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.

Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.

Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The DoD has its own brownie recipe and it’s 26 pages long

Looking for a dessert that won’t just impress your houseguests but could impress them years from now? Look no further than the first name in cakes, pies, and other fine desserts: The Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a brownie recipe that is sure to end the clear and present danger to your sweet tooth.


Just imagine being able to whip up some sweet treats for your unborn children, whether you’re currently pregnant or not.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Kinda like this but without all that green sh*t.

The Pentagon’s brownie recipe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the only recipe that tells you exactly how things are gonna be and does it in the vaguely threatening manner that only the United States military is capable of. The consequences of diverging from the recipe aren’t listed, but you definitely get the feeling there might be consequences:

Shortening shall be a refined, hydrogenated vegetable oil or combination of refined vegetable oils which are in common use by the baking industry. Coconut and palm kernel oils may be used only in the coating. The shortening shall have a stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society. The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

“And parties found to have added walnuts to said brownies shall pay a 00 fine and serve no less than three years in a federal correctional facility because that sh*t is gross.” That’s not in the recipe, but it should be in every brownie recipe.

But the brownie regulations don’t stop at shortening. Each ingredient has more specific sourcing instructions than a vegan hipster with Celiac Disease. Even adding the eggs is enough to make any baker wonder what a legal chicken is.

“Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”

The strict regs came about in part because the military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. The U.S. military’s brownies are said to last up to three years, just in time to bake brownies for the kids currently in high school that will be deploying to Afghanistan by then.

Make the brownies yourself with this recipe.

Humor

5 Army instructions that are broken down way too stupidly

Sometimes you just got to break it down, “Barney-style,” for some soldiers. You know, instruct them in such an easy-to-follow manner that even a kid watching Barney could understand.


As much as we’d all like to pretend that no one in our unit got into the Army through an ASVAB waiver, the fact remains: There’re friggin’ idiots everywhere who need to be told exactly what to do. There are so many simple instructions in the Army, designed so that even our crayon-eating Marine brothers could easily follow them.

Related: 6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines

These are our favorite, dumbed-down directions.

5. Claymore Mine

Need to set up a Claymore anti-personnel mine, but you’re not quite sure which direction it’s supposed to be pointed? Just remember: front toward enemy.

Mess that up and everyone who’s left in your unit will f*cking hate you.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
At least it lets the as***le Prius driver behind you know to stop tailgating. (Image via Reddit)

4. Army Combatives

If you’ve never had the opportunity to glance through the old-school Army Combatives Manual, you’re missing out.

You’re skipping out on learning lovely, advanced techniques, like how to uppercut someone, how to palm-strike someone in the chin, and, of course…

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
…the swift kick to the nuts: the great equalizer. (Image via Army)

3. MRE

The much-joked-about, flameless heater in the MRE seems simple enough. Put in water, fold the ends, and lean against a “rock or something.”

It actually was meant as a joke when the designer said, “I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something.”

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
Instructions unclear; got troops stuck in 15-year war. (Image by WATM)

2. AT-4

Pretend you’ve never touched a rocket launcher before. How would you hold it?

Thankfully, the instructions include a tiny drawing and the words, “fire like this.”

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
How else would you be able to fire it? (Image via IMFDB)

1. Army Combat Boots

It’s so simple. It’s written in black and white. Our boots are not authorized for flight or combat use.

Come on, guys. What kind of idiot would void the warranty like that? Oh…

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
Apparently, this is just so they don’t need to replace our boots. Thanks, Army. (Image via Reddit)

MIGHTY CULTURE

These rugged grooming products were field tested by the military in some of the worst environments on earth

Think back to your poncho liner (or woobie, if that’s what you called it). For many of us, it was our most valuable piece of gear. Why? It kept us warm when it was cold and cool when it was hot. Many a veteran still has their poncho liner or bought one after they got out because they know it’s the best blanket out there — it did the best job under the worst conditions.

When we, the members of the military community, buy stuff, we fall back on if we used that item (or something similar) back in service and base a lot of our purchasing decisions on that.


When you buy work boots, you think of what worked best on all the forced marches, boots and utes runs, and standing around all day. When you buy a utility knife, you think of what worked best when you had to improvise fixing something outside the wire and all you had was the knife on your flack. Anytime you get a watch, belt, cold-weather jacket, backpack, workout gear — the list goes on — a lot of us think of similar items we used in Iraq, Afghanistan, on ship, during a training exercise, or when we were out in the field.

BRAVO SIERRA uses the principle of “agile product development” when it comes to designing their products. This company is founded by leading experts and operators across the consumer products and technology industries — a team of veterans and civilians — and they are using software to build a fast-response, product development platform.

You can, too.

BRAVO SIERRA calls their software, “BATTALION,” and it’s likely the future of consumer culture. They use a research, development, testing and manufacturing model that integrates the tester community throughout each step of the process, while engaging them through design and interaction.

Currently, the program and software allows BRAVO SIERRA to ensure the quality, relevance and performance of their products among their core community. The long-term goal is to constantly iterate product development, so the product you get tomorrow will be an upgrade from the one you purchased today. That’s a lot better than getting ‘military-grade’ products that were only tested in a lab, leaving you wondering which military they were graded for.

We looked at some of BRAVO SIERRA’s products and picked out the ones we think you should have when you’re out in the field, deployed, on ship, or outside the wire. We threw in real feedback from military members and veterans so you can see how well BRAVO SIERRA develops their personal care products.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Antibacterial Body Wipes

Body wipes come in handy when you need a quick shower alternative, need to clean your nether regions, wash your face, scrub your hands, or wipe down anything dirty. We’ve all had the wipes that easily fall apart, make you smell more like ass, or simply don’t do a good job. These wipes are on a different level. They are biodegradable, which makes them ideal for the field. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds and are 4x thicker than baby wipes.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Hair and Body Solid Cleanser

We have all done it while deployed: Taking a Navy shower, where you only have 30 seconds (maybe a minute, if you’re lucky) to lather yourself up as much as possible. BRAVO SIERRA’s Hair and Body Solid Cleanser is perfect for washing every part of your body (including that glorious low-reg you have going on). BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use traditional harsh cleansing agents that strip your skin. The hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp, even when you only have 30 seconds.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Hair/Body Wash & Shave

When you are out in the elements, the space in your ruck is invaluable. This is the ultimate space saver — soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. 2 out of 3 of the ‘three S’s are covered by this awesome product!

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Face Sunscreen SPF 30

It’s happened to most of us — even those of us who tan. You have a bunch of layers — a flak, combat load, Kevlar and sunglasses — on while you spend all day outside the wire, in the turret during a long convoy, or walking on a really long patrol. You get back to your outpost or FOB, take off your gear… and you’re sporting a very clear, very pink outline of where your sunglasses once sat. Sunscreen is key when out and about and BRAVO SIERRA makes sunscreen that is geared toward enduring rugged terrain. It’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky and best of all; fragrance-free.

Taking care of your body is important, whether you are in the roughest of environments or working a 9 to 5. Make sure you use the products that have been tested by, tweaked for, and proven to work for the military.

This article is sponsored by BRAVO SIERRA.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.


After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.

His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Related: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

The mountain-top consisted of three hills, “X, Y, and Z.” Baker and his troops began taking the heavily fortified area one hill at a time.

Facing fierce opposition, Baker often came in close enemy contact and managed to survive each deadly encounter as it presented itself.

“Somebody was sitting on my shoulder,” Baker says.

Full of adrenaline from taking the first hill, Baker was handed a submachine gun from a superior officer and instructed to proceed on to the next area.

Patroling nearly on his own, Baker spotted a small German firing position built into the side of the mountain. Armed with a few grenades, he chucked one and landed a perfect strike.

After it detonated and the smoke cleared, a German soldier stuck his head to look around. Baker quickly engaged the troop, killing him on the spot.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
Vernon Baker sporting his rightfully earned Medal of Honor.(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Also Read: The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.

After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.

The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.

52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.

1st Lt. Vernon Baker became the only living African-American serviceman from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor.

Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to listen to Vernon extraordinary story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

How French special forces rescued the holiest site in Islam

It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.

This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.


Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.

Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”

But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.

And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

“I choose Pierre.”

That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.

Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.

The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.

But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.

Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.

After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How to forge your own blade like Rambo

In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam’s Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.

It. Was. Awesome.

If you’ve never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It’ll make you feel alive.


Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) New Trailer— Sylvester Stallone

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Rambo: Last Blood Trailer

Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.

“A hammer can be used to build or destroy,” observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam’s Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.

He started out with safety information (“Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn’t have to be glowing to burn you…”) and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

“I don’t want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end.” Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.

Lionsgate Image

When the steel is at critical temperature, it’s ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it’s actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.

Then there’s the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.

Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.

Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Lionsgate Image

I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.

Once we’d begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.

Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

Lionsgate Image

First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.

Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly “quenching” it.

According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.

At the end of four hours, we’d each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.

Tony Stark Builds Mark 1 – First Suit Up Scene – Iron Man (2008) – Movie CLIP HD

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Here’s my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it’s got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It’s just cool.

I’m excited to share this with other veterans because it’s been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn’t exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although…maybe?) but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.

It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.

And then I walked away with a bitchin’ new blade to call my own.

HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don’t forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.

Articles

US wants to issue special operators a new personal defense weapon

It’s the caliber that’s beloved by the commando crowd for its close-in ballistics and smooth shooting through a short-barreled, suppressed rifle. And what was once a weapon for the secret squirrel types has now gone high-profile with a new solicitation from U.S. Special Operations Command asking industry for options to outfit spec ops troops with a new personal defense weapon.


DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat
Special Operations Command wants a new close-in battle weapons with nearly impossible specs. (Photo: Army Special Operations Command)

In a formal Request for Information, SOCOM is asking for options to equip its commandos with an M4A1-compatible upper receiver group that fires the .300 Blackout cartridge and configures the weapon into a short-barreled rifle no longer than 26 inches with the stock fully extended.

The whole PDW with the upper can’t weigh any more than 5.5 pounds and has to have a collapsed or folded length of a tick over 17 inches.

Also Read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

Those dimensions will be tough to meet, firearms experts say, and combined with the requirement that the weapon be able to fire with the stock collapsed or folded narrows the current options significantly.

And, oh, the upper has to convert from a .300 BLK barrel to a 5.56 one in less than three minutes.

(Could a variation of the Honey Badger be the only real option out there? Ah, the sweet irony!)

Aside from the dimensions, weight and conversion time, the selection of the .300 BLK cartridge for the new kit is one of the first public acknowledgements of special operators’ preference for the caliber in its close-quarters combat arsenal.

Developed about five years ago by the now Remington-owned Advanced Armament Corp. for SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force types who wanted a replacement of the MP-5 submachine gun, the .300 BLK is essentially a 7.62 bullet in a cut down 5.56 case. That gives it good short-range ballistics and allows operators to use the same magazines, lower receivers and bolts of standard-issue rifles but with a different barrel.

Because of the shortened case, the .300 BLK also performs better than 5.56 in rifles with extremely short barrels (under 9 inches) and when shooting with a suppressor, ammo experts say, which aligns with special operations troops’ preference for suppressed rifles in close-in shootouts.

The SOCOM request states that companies have until April 10 to respond with their options.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

PCS life hacks I learned from watching ‘Tidying Up’ on Netflix

As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…

Prepping for our PCS

As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.


Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.

But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)

Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.

And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Paper
  4. Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
  5. Sentimental Items

According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.

If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.

So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?

Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.

Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”

For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.

Can our next PCS move be different?

The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.