Here's how DARPA's Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.


Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Illustration: Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.

Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.

The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
GIF: YouTube/DARPAtv

Four companies were recently awarded phase 1 contracts for the project and are tasked with designing launch and retrieval systems for the gremlins. Phase 2 involves the creation of a preliminary design of the drone itself and phase 3 will requires that manufacturers create a functioning prototype.

The drones would be “limited-life” aircraft and fly approximately 20 missions each before being retired. Their downtime between missions would need to be 24 hours or less.

If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines prepare to wage big-city battles

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks’ ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August 2019.

They’ll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They’ll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.


It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Sgt. Dalyss Reed, a rifleman with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, maneuvers through a breach hole while conducting an urban platoon assault.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

With tensions heating up with Iran, China and Russia, it’s likely Marines could face a far more sophisticated enemy than the insurgent groups they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just this week, Iran shot down a massive U.S. Navy drone capable of flying at high altitudes that collects loads of surveillance data. President Donald Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes just minutes before the operations were slated to kick off.

Less than two weeks prior, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy warship in the Philippine Sea. These are just some of the examples of close calls that could have left Marines and other U.S. troops facing off against near-peer militaries equipped with high-tech equipment in highly populated areas.

At the same time, the Marine Corps’ Operating Concept, a document published in 2016, found the service isn’t manned, trained or equipped to fight in urban centers, Maj. Edward Leslie, lead planner for Dense Urban Operations at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“The enemy has changed,” Leslie said. “… They obviously have more access to drones. I think the enemy’s sensing capabilities have increased, they have the ability to see in the night just as well as we can, and they have capabilities that can exploit our technology or disrupt our technology.”

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

The Marine Corps isn’t alone in grappling with these new challenges. The Army is spending half a billion dollars to train soldiers to fight underground, and has begun sending small-units to its massive training center in California where leaders are challenged with more complex warfighting scenarios.

The Army also found that young sergeants in most infantry and close combat units don’t know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com reported this spring.

Those are skills Marines must continue to hone, Leslie said, since so many advantages they’re used to having on the battlefield are leveling off. It’s not just room-clearing Marines need to be good at, he said, but overall urban operations — things like figuring out ways to penetrate a building without destroying it since it’s right next to a school or hospital.

“I think that’s the value we’re going to get [with Project Metropolis],” he said.

A next-gen fight

The training center Marines and British Royal Marines will use this summer is a sprawling 1,000-acre site that houses dozens of buildings, some with up to seven stories and basements. The complex also has more than a mile’s worth of underground tunnels and active farmland.

The urban center has been used not just to train troops, but to help government leaders prepare for pandemic responses or natural disasters as well.

Kilo Company will complete four phases during the month they spend there, Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, who recently served as the Warfighting Lab’s commanding general, told reporters May 2019. It will culminate with a five-day force-on-force simulated battle in which the Kilo Company Marines, equipped with new high-tech gear, face off against a like-minded enemy force with its own sophisticated equipment.

The concept was introduced by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last summer to help Marines better prepare to fight a near-peer enemy. The British Royal Marines participating in the exercise will either join Kilo Company’s efforts against the aggressor, or act as another force operating in the same region, Leslie said.

Project Metropolis will build on years of experimentation the Marine Corps has conducted as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 concept. Leslie said the grunts picking up the next leg of experimentation in Indiana will be further challenged to use some of the new technology Marines have been testing in a more complex urban setting, similar to what they’re likely to face in a future warzone.

Marines have been experimenting with different infantry squad sizes to incorporate drone operators. Now, Leslie said, they’ll look at how to organize teams operating a new tactical self-driving vehicle called the Expeditionary Monitor Autonomous Vehicle, which will carry a .50-caliber machine gun.

“That’s going to be a major thing,” he said. “We’re looking to see, what’s the table of organization look like to work with that, and is it any different if it’s an urban vehicle?”

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Marines practice Military Operations on Urban Terrain at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 23, 2012. The Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy R. Childers)

Rifle squads will continue experimenting with unmanned aerial systems, Leslie added, to spot enemy positions without sending someone into a danger zone. They’ll use ground robots that have the ability to map the insides of buildings, and will test Marines’ decision-making when they’re overwhelmed with information.

“Really want we want to see is how the tech integrates and also how it operates in a dense urban environment,” he said.

Kilo Company will also work with nonlethal systems, Wortman said, which they can turn to if they’re in an area where there could be civilian casualties. They’ll have access to kamikaze drones and “more sophisticated tools for delivering lethal fires,” he added.

It’s vital that they see that Marines are able to put these new tools to use quickly and easily, Wortman said, as they don’t want them to be fumbling with new systems in the middle of combat situations.

Building on the past

Marines aren’t new to urban fights.

Leathernecks saw some of the bloodiest urban battles since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in Fallujah, Iraq. About 12,000 U.S. troops fought in the second leg of the 2004 battle to turn that city back over to the Iraqi government. In the fierce battle, which involved going house-to-house in search of insurgents, 82 U.S. troops were killed and about another 600 hurt.

The Marines learned during those battles, Leslie said. But a lot has changed in the last 15 years, he added. With adversaries having access to cheap surveillance drones, night vision and other technology, military leaders making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield must adjust.

The goal, Wortman said, is to keep Marines armed with and proficient in to keep their edge on the battlefield.

Every city has a different character, too, Leslie added, so what Marines saw in Fallujah is not going to be the same as what they can expect in a new fight.

There has also been a great deal of turnover in the Marine Corps since combat operations slowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leslie said. Today’s generation of Marines is also incredibly tech-savvy, Wortman said, and they’re likely to find ways to use some of the new gear they’re handing to them during this experiment and come up with innovative new ways to employ it.

“We have the expectation that these sailors and Marines are going to teach us about the possibilities with this technology because they’ll apply it in creative … ways the tech developers didn’t fully anticipate.”

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

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Music fans prove terror won’t win at One Love concert

More than 60,000 defiant music fans joined Ariana Grande at her One Love concert at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester June 4, as they stood together in the face of extremism and pay tribute to those killed in terror attacks.

The American singer’s manager Scooter Braun said the Manchester gig now has a “greater purpose” than ever after the country’s second terror attack in two weeks.


Niall Horan, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Take That, Robbie Williams, Mumford Sons and Little Mixtook to the stage and performed for free to raise at least £2m towards the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

Bono and his U2 bandmates sent an emotional video message to the huge audience at the One Love Manchester gig.

Currently in America on their Joshua Tree tour, which played Chicago June 4, he paid tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack and sent a message of support to those affected.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
U2 at the United Center in Chicago, IL, June 25, 2015 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

“All our hearts are with you. All our hearts are with Manchester and with the UK and so many of our friends in this great city.

“We’re broken-hearted for children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children from this senseless, senseless horror,” he said.

“There is no end to grief, that’s how we know, there’s no end to love, a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.”

On June 3 seven people were killed and nearly 50 injured after three men drove a van into a crowd on London Bridge and set upon people in a crazed knife rampage.

Despite the atrocities, fans including those injured in the Manchester Arena on May 22, headed to the venue in their droves, proudly wearing clothes emblazoned with the slogan, “We stand together”.

Mumford Sons’ Marcus Mumford was the first to take to the stage, asking for a minute’s silence in tribute to those who have lost their lives in the two weeks prior, including the 22 killed in the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena.

In between renditions of Giants and Rule The World, Gary Barlow told the crowd: “Thank you everybody for coming out tonight, thank you for everybody watching at home, thanks to Ariana for inviting us tonight.

“Our thoughts are with everyone that’s been affected by this.

“We want to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud.”

Barlow then introduced his former band mate, Robbie Williams. Williams serenaded the crowd with his song Strong, changing the words to, “Manchester we’re strong”.

Concert-goers began queueing outside Lancashire Cricket Club’s Old Trafford ground from 8.30am ahead of the One Love Manchester gig.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Ariana Grande at a 2015 Jakarta concert. (Photo by: Berisik Radio)

The event marked Ariana Grande’s first return to the stage since suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device.

All Grande fans who attended the gig on May 22 were offered free passes to the benefit concert.

Grande’s manager Mr Braun said all the acts involved had shown “unwavering” support.

Questions were raised by fans about whether the One Love benefit gig would still go ahead in the wake of the latest terror attack in London.

However in a statement Mr Braun said: “After the events in London, and those in Manchester just two weeks ago, we feel a sense of responsibility to honor those lost, injured, and affected.

“We plan to honor them with courage, bravery, and defiance in the face of fear.

“Today’s One Love Manchester benefit concert will not only continue but will do so with greater purpose.

“We must not be afraid and in tribute to all those affected here and around the world, we will bring our voices together and sing loudly.

“All artists involved have been unwavering in their support this morning and today we stand together. Thank you,” he added.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to protect a ship’s crew from a weapon of mass destruction

Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).

The two act in combination at times — just look at the saga of USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) for one such case.


These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.

(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)

Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.

Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.

(US Navy)

Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.

While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.

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Here’s a sneak peek at the new World War I Memorial going up in DC

In the coming years, Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park will be transformed as a memorial honoring the men and women who fought in the First World War is built, adding to where the statue of General John J. Pershing currently stands.


The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act established the World War I Centennial Commission, which was given the authority to build the memorial in the park. Over the course of a year, potential designs were submitted and voted on. In January 2016, the design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, was chosen.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Pershing Park today (wikimedia photo)

The designers, Joseph Weishaar, an architect-in-training currently located in Chicago, and collaborating artist sculptor Sabin Howard of New York, explained their vision:

The fall sun settles on a soldier’s etched features, enough to alight the small girl patting his horse. Above him 28 trees rise up from the earth, flamed out in brazen red to mark the end of the Great War. He stands on the precipice of the battlefield, surveying the rising tide which has come to call his brothers from their havens of innocence. The figures before him emerge slowly, at first in low relief, and then pull further out of the morass as they cross the center of the wall. They all trudge onward, occasionally looking back at the life that was until they sink back in and down into the trenches.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

This is a moment frozen in time, captured in the darkened bronze form which has emerged from the soil to serve as a reminder of our actions. Along the North and South faces we see the emblazoned words of a generation gone by. 137 feet long, these walls gradually slip into the earth drawing their wisdom with them. Around the sculpted faces of the monument the remembrance unfolds. Each cubic foot of the memorial represents an American soldier lost in the war; 116,516 in all. Upon this unified mass spreads a verdant lawn. This is a space for freedom built upon the great weight of sacrifice.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
World War I Centennial Commission

The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
World War I Centennial Commission

The raised form in the center of the site honors the veterans of the first world war by combining figurative sculpture and personal narratives of servicemen and women in a single formal expression. The integration of a park around and atop the memorial alludes to the idea that public space and personal freedom are only available through the sacrifice of our soldiers. Above all, the memorial sculptures and park design stress the glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

These themes are expressed through three sources: relief sculpture, quotations of soldiers, and a freestanding sculpture. The figurative relief sculpture, entitled “The Wall of Remembrance,” is a solemn tribute to the resilience of human bonds against the inexorable tide of war. The 23 figures of the 81′ relief transform from civilians into battered soldiers, leading one another into the fray. The central piece, “Brothers-in-Arms,” is the focus of the wall, representing the redemption that comes from war: the close and healing ties soldiers form as they face the horrors of battle together. The wounded soldier is lifted by his brother soldiers toward the future and the promise of healing.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
World War I Centennial Commission

The quotation walls guide visitors around the memorial through the changes in elevation, weaving a poetic narrative of the war as described by generals, politicians, and soldiers. The sculpture on the upper plaza, “Wheels of Humanity,” recreates the engine of war. These are soldiers tested and bonded by the fires of war to each other and to the machinery they command. For all of the courage and heroic stature they convey, each looks to the other for guidance and a signal to action. The bronze medium used throughout stands for the timeless endeavor we face in the universal pursuit and right of freedom.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The M1014 – Inside the USMC’s combat shotgun

The story of the M1014 is fascinating. The Marine Corps rarely gets to be the lead on a joint service project. The small size and limited resources of the Marine Corps often make them second to the Army when it comes to searching out new small arms. However, in 1998 the USMC got their opportunity, and as the Marine Corps tends to do, they charged forward, ready to deliver the best possible option. 

The U.S. Army Armaments Research, Developments, and Engineering Center, aka ARDEC, put out the solicitation for a new semi-automatic combat shotgun. The Marine Corps was tapped to lead the project and quickly developed a set of requirements. Benelli, an Italian shotgun firm well known for its shotguns, submitted their newly developed M4 shotgun. 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

The USMC put the gun through the wringer, and the M4 proved successful. The M1014 killed it and won the competition. Subsequently, the Marines order 20,000 of them.  

Enter The M1014 

The Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. Shotguns in the military were traditionally manually operated designs. With these other shotguns, troops have to manually operate a pump-action between shots. The Benelli M1014 changed the game by being a semi-auto design. 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Like the rifles issued to troops, the weapon fired once per trigger pull and did not require a manual action between shots. The M1014 did not fully replace pump-action shotguns in military inventories but augmented it. A pump-action shotgun can handle less-lethal loads due to the manual operation. These less lethal shells are not powerful enough to cycle the semi-automatic M1014. 

The M1014 is a pure combat shotgun designed for fighting in close quarter’s situations. Benelli built the M1014 from the ground up to meet the Marine Corps requirements. Marines wanted a shotgun that could reliably function and work with various optics and attachments. Benelli’s previous shotguns, the M1, M2, and M3, were inertia-operated. 

Inertia-based guns are fascinating and are very capable weapons. Inertia-based guns fail when users start adding weight in the form of optics, accessories, and so forth and so on. Gas-based guns, like the M1014, are not affected by the addition of weight. 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Between the Handguard and the barrel sits the ARGO gas system.

Gas-based shotguns existed before the M1014, but and Benelli did things differently. Benelli invented the ARGO gas system for the M4 series guns. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas system. As the name implies, the ARGO system automatically adjusts to varying power levels and lengths. 

Gas drives two stainless steel pistons to operate the action. These pistons drive the bolt rearward and eject the fired shell, cock the hammer, and loads the next round. 

Trial By Fire 

The M1014 hit the fleet in 1999, and two short years later, the Global War on Terror kicked off. Marines deployed with a wide variety of weapons, and the M1014 was one of them. Pictures from the GWOT started showing the M1014 in action. Shotguns rule close-range fighting, so they are somewhat niche. 

Troops often carry a rifle and shotgun, something I did when issued a Mossberg 590A1. In the Battle of Fallujah, shotguns cleared rooms, breached doors, and worked checkpoints.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

The United States isn’t the only user of the M4 shotgun. The SAS also issue the weapon, and famously the gun eliminated five ISIS insurgents in mere seconds. The SAS partnered with MI6, and Iraqi Special Operation pulled off an early morning raid on a bomb-making factory. The pointman entered and quickly took down five armed insurgents. 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Shotguns in close quarters absolutely dominate. Semi-automatic shotguns dominate close-quarters combat, and while that role is small, it’s important. The Benelli design has proven to be extremely popular and more than capable in that role. 

How It Handles 

As a Marine, I only handled the M1014 as a familiarization exercise. The Corps gave me a Mossberg 590A1, and the M1014 was a pipe dream. However, I’m a free man and a gun nerd, so I did the American thing and purchased one. 

You can read all about a piece of gear, but until you experience it’s tough to grasp. That’s especially true with the Benelli M4/M1014. Once you handle the gun you know why the USMC chose it.  

Firing a shotgun means getting a beating most of the time. However, the gas-operated design reduces recoil significantly. Firing accurate and fast follow-up shots is boringly simple. That’s critical for close quarter’s battle scenarios that rely on speed and decisive action. 

The ARGO system allows for reliable operation that’s not ammo picky and does require constant cleaning. It can take a real beating and not be fouled by dust, carbon, and whatever else the world throws at it. Semi-auto shotguns are ammo picky and often unreliable in harsh conditions. The M1014 changed that perception and became the king of combat shotguns. 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

The M1014 has been successful now for more than two decades. Deployment of the M1014 is rare, but when it’s needed, there is no better option. The Marines do most things well, and the M1014 exemplifies that. 

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

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5 military perks that will help you win at service life


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

We did not join the military for the fabulous pay — if money were the only motivator, we’d all go somewhere else.

Related: Dale Dye wants to make this epic World War II movie with veterans

Most vets will have you believe that he or she joined because it’s their patriotic duty. While that may be part of the reason, Blake Stilwell’s alcohol-fueled honest answer sums it up for a lot of the troops:

“At 18, and with my only experience being a sea food cook, I don’t know where I was going to go,” Stilwell said. “It was either the Air Force or ‘Deadliest Catch,'” he claimed, referring to the popular Discovery show about king crab fishing off the coast of Alaska.

Luckily, there are tons of benefits that service members receive. From cash bonuses to the G.I. Bill, the military takes care of its own. And then there are the little-known advantages of service life — the perks.

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss their favorite perks of service life.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

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An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How America would slaughter Kim’s nuclear subs

As North Korea continues with their will-they/won’t-they stance on de-nuclearization, it’s worth looking at what options the U.S. has for countering the doomsday weapon that North Korea might posses: a nuclear-armed, ballistic-missile submarine. These are, broadly speaking, comparable to America’s Trident submarines designed to deliver a nuclear strike anywhere in the world with zero warning.

So, how is the Navy ready to prevent a radioactive Alaska or metro Los Angeles?


Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Literally everything in this picture is more capable and stealthy than any asset the North Korean Navy has.

(U.S. Navy photo by Fire Control Technician Senior Chief Vien Nguyen)

America’s best offensive tool against enemy submarines is our own nuclear-powered attack subs. Right now, the Virginia class is the top of the line, and we’ve covered before how these things are basically 400-feet of black death. They’re super stealthy and capable of finding most other vessels underwater. They also carry a huge arsenal with up to 12 tomahawk cruise missiles and 38 torpedoes, usually the Mk. 48. They can also carry anti-ship missiles, but that requires trading out torpedoes.

When fully configured for anti-ship, anti-shore missions, the subs can take 50 shots at enemy forces on a single cruise. If it catches some enemy subs in the docks, the tomahawks can quickly wipe them out. But catching them underwater is even better since the Virginia-class can flood its torpedo tube, take its shot, and then disappear back into the surrounding ocean noise for a re-attack or to hunt down more targets.

Best of all, the Virginia-class has a huge noise advantage over North Korea’s fleet of antique and homegrown subs, all of which are diesel electric. While diesel-electric boats can be quieter than nuclear ones, it still requires a huge amount of research and engineering knowledge to create stealthy subs. North Korea’s fleet mostly pre-dates these developments and their performance in the open ocean has been less than stellar. It’s doubtful that their ballistic missile subs are much stealthier than the rest of the fleet.

Oh, and if you don’t like the Virginia class, we still have dozens of Los Angeles-class and Seawolf-class attack submarines that are also leaps and bounds ahead of anything North Korea can put to sea.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

The USS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, fires an anti-submarine rocket that is otherwise known as the “North Korean party crasher.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann)

But surely we aren’t counting solely on a couple of subs being on-station when a potential war breaks out? Of course not —rest assured, scared doubter that I made up for this segue. America also has a number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that we deploy to the Korean peninsula, especially during anti-submarine exercises.

The Arleigh Burke-class vessels are equipped with the awesome Aegis radar that you’ve likely heard so much about. If not, it’s such an amazing air defense radar that it’s often used on land-based installations to counter nearly anything that flies including Russia’s nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

If a North Korean sub actually got a nuclear missile into the air, the Arleigh Burke-class has a good chance of knocking it right back out of the sky. The chances are slim that the sub would even get a chance to fire that missile since the Arleigh Burkes’ towed sonar array would likely find the sub and the destroyer’s anti-submarine rockets could put a quick end to it.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

These things can hover over you, waiting as long as is required to murder you and your whole crew.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Benjamin A. Lewis)

Add in the destroyer’s anti-submarine helicopter (yup, it has those), and it’s hard to imagine that those poor North Korean crews have much of a chance.

But what if all of that is somehow not enough? After all, the subs and ships have to get fairly close to the North Korean subs to find them, and there’s a lot of ocean out there.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

NK Sub: I’ll just hide way over here, far from the destroyers and subs. P-8 Poseidon: LOL

(U.S. Navy)

Luckily, the U.S. has also invested in a little thing called the P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft. It’s a Boeing 737, but with all the flight attendants and overhead bins ripped out and replaced with all the electronics you could ever imagine, all focused on spying out enemy submarines and reporting their locations to any and every asset in the area that can hurt them. Badly.

The plane can also do search and rescue or whatever, but that’s not important for this discussion.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

America has all these assets to destroy North Korean subs. Meanwhile, this North Korean sub was captured when it got itself stuck against the South Korean coast.

(Idobi, CC BY-SA 3.0)

So, with all the assets in theater, there are planes and helicopters in the air scooping up data on everything under the water, surface ships towing sonar arrays, and submarines carefully patrolling beneath the waves, listening to everything that happens in every nook and cranny.

And once one of them finds a target, Americans in the air, on the sea, and under the surface can all start pinning it in and attacking it with a vengeance. So, good luck, North Korean submarine crews. For your sake, you better hope that your engineers somehow created more stealthy submarines than the U.S., Russia, China, or NATO, because you will be very dead otherwise.

Articles

Check out these 17 awesome photos of military working dogs at war

In his new book, “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Knopf), Kael Weston recounts his travels from Twentynine Palms in California to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the American hometowns of Marines who fell during his watch. Along the way, he introduces American troops, Iraqi truck drivers, Afghan teachers, imams, mullahs and former Taliban fighters, all while grappling with the larger questions these wars pose.


Among the details of military life that “The Mirror Test” highlights are military working dogs and their handlers. As these 17 photos illustrate, these loyal animals have served with valor and distinction alongside their human counterparts.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Nick Lacarra, a dog handler with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 20-year-old native of Long Beach, Calif., and Coot, an improvised explosive device detection dog, hold security in a field during a partnered security patrol with Afghan Border Police in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. A sign hangs on the gate of the improvised explosive device detection Dog (IDD) kennel, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) compound at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. IDD dog handlers, often volunteers from their home units, are matched with a dog and work together to perform route clearance and other duties in a combat environment. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, pause for a break while sweeping a chokepoint during a patrol in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Cpl. Danny Reetz (left), 21, from Indianola, Iowa, and Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, 21, from Millingport, N.C., an assaultman and a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, rest next to Blue, an improvised explosive device detection dog, after clearing compounds with Afghan National Army soldiers during Operation Winter Offensive in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., and Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, both attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search a compound for hidden threats during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, and Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, hunt and clear a hill for weapons, drugs and IED component caches during a patrol through Sre Kala village in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 5, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Lance Cpl. Isaiah Schult, a dog handler with Jump Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 20-year-old Indianapolis native, jokes with Afghan children while providing security with Big, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a shura outside a local residence in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 22, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Cpl. Clint Price, a dog handler with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB), directs Ace II, an improvised explosive device detection dog (IDD), during a training session at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Cpl. Kyle Click, a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 22-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Mich., shares a moment with Windy, an improvised explosive device detection dog, while waiting to resume a security patrol in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., and Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, both attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search a compound for hidden threats during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and native of Arlington, Texas, sights in with his infantry automatic rifle while providing security with Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a patrol in Khan Neshin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Cpl. Kyle Click, a dog handler with 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 22-year-old native of Grand Rapids, Mich., walks past a produce vendor with Windy, an improvised explosive device detection dog, during a security patrol here, Feb. 27, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Ken Bissonette, a dog handler with 4th Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 21-year-old native of Babbitt, Minn., scans a nearby road while halted with Chatter, his improvised explosive device detection dog, on a security patrol with Afghan National Police during the Garmsir district community council elections in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez, left from Burbank, Calif., Viky, an improvised explosive device detection dog, and British Royal Air Force Regiment Lance Cpl. Thomas Bailey from Burnley, England, all attached to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (2/2) search the area for discarded weapons during Operation Grizzly in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Lance Cpl. Jarrett Hatley, a working dog handler with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and his dog Blue provide security while clearing two city blocks during Exercise Clear, Hold, Build 1 on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 4, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Lance Cpl. Brandon Mann, a dog handler and infantry automatic rifleman with Alpha Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 21-year-old native of Arlington, Texas, and a policeman with the 2nd Tolai, 1st Afghan Border Police Kandak watch Ty, an improvised explosive device detection dog, roll around in the mud while posting security during a patrol through Sre Kala, Afghanistan, March 23, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

 

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
1. Yeager, an improvised explosive device detection dog, lies in front of a battlefield cross as Staff Sgt. Derick Clark and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Dale Reeves observe a moment of silence in honor of Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, a dog handler and mortarman who served with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during a memorial service in Marjah District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 22, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

“Kael Weston’s The Mirror Test is essential reading for anyone seeking to come to terms with our endless wars…. A riveting, on-the- ground look at American policy and its aftermath.” – Phil Klay, author of Redeployment

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

For more on this amazing book go here.

Articles

The US Air Force has an absurd plan for replacing the A-10 Warthog

The US Air Force has presented several plans for replacing the beloved A-10 Warthog close air support attack plane over the years, but their latest plan takes the cake as the most absurd.


As it stands, the Air Force wants to purchase or develop not one, but two new airframes to eventually phase out the A-10.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
U.S. A-10s and F-16s take part in an Elephant Walk in South Korea | US Air Force photo

First, they’d pick out a plane, likely an existing one, called the OA-X, (Observation, Attack, Experimental), which would likely be an existing plane with a low operating cost. Propeller-driven planes like the Beechcraft AT-6, already in use as a training plane for the Air Force, or Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, which the US recently gave to Afghanistan for counter-insurgency missions, are possible options.

Related: Here’s a friendly reminder of how big the A-10 Warthog’s gun is

The OA-X would fly with A-10s in low-threat air spaces to support the tank-buster, however this option appears to make little sense.

A sub-sonic, propeller-driven plane can perform essential close air support duties in much the same way a World War II era platform could, but it’s a sitting duck for the kind of man-portable, shoulder-launched air defense systems becoming increasingly prominent in today’s battle spaces.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
Mobile air defenses are already widespread, and only gaining ground. | YouTube screenshot

Next, the Air Force would look to field an A-X2 to finally replace the Warthog. The idea behind this jet would be to preserve the A-10’s CAS capabilities while increasing survivability in medium-threat level environments.

So while an update on the 40-year-old A-10 seems to make sense, the funding for it doesn’t.

The Air Force expects a “bow-wave” of costs in the mid-2020s, when modernization costs are looming and can’t be put off any further. This includes procuring F-35s, developing the B-21, procuring KC-46 tankers, and even possibly embarking on the quest to build a sixth-generation air dominance platform.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James seemed puzzled by the proposed plan to replace the A-10, saying in an interview with Defense News, “everything has a price tag … If something goes in, something else has to fall out.”

Air Combat Command chief Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, noted to Defense News his doubts that the proposed replacements would be a good use of limited public funds.

“If you look at the things within the combat Air Force portfolio that I’m responsible for in modernization and taking care of those systems, I don’t know where the money would come from,” Carlisle said. “And if we got extra money, in my opinion, there’s other things that I would do first to increase our combat capability before we go to that platform.”

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
The US Air Force has a shortage of planes, where perhaps money could be better spent. | U.S. Air Force photo by Andrew Breese

Also, Carlisle doubted the need for a plane to operate in low-threat or “permissive” airspaces, as they are fast disappearing.

“Given the evolving threat environment, I sometimes wonder what permissive in the future is going to look like and if there’s going to be any such thing, with the proliferation of potential adversaries out there,” he said.

“The idea of a low-end CAS platform, I’m working my way through whether that’s a viable plan or not given what I think the threat is going to continue to evolve to, to include terrorists and their ability to get their hands on, potentially, weapons from a variety of sources.”

Furthermore, the Air Force’s proposal seems to run contrary to other proposals to replace the A-10 in the past. For a while, Air Force officials said that the F-35 would take over for the A-10, and though the F-35 just reached operational capability, it was not mentioned as part of the newest proposal.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever
US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Air Force General Mark Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee that other legacy fighters, the F-16 and F-15 could fly the A-10’s missions in Iraq and Syria until the F-35 was available, but that idea was also mysteriously absent from the Air Force’s two-new-plane proposal.

The Air Force, expecting huge costs in the near future, is wise to try to slash costs, and retiring an airplane and all the associated infrastructure makes an attractive target, but the A-10 represents just 2 percent of the Air Force’s budget, and has unique capabilities that no other aircraft in the fleet can hope to match.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

All-female Air Force team wins bomb-building competition

The first all-female team to compete in the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, took home the win, the Air Force announced last week. And they did it while wearing costumes that paid tribute to Rosie the Riveter.

The RAGE contest began last October to highlight several adaptive basing procedures and is being held quarterly. Last year, a team named “Wing it” won.


The Bouncing Bettys, the six-airman team that won Jan. 7, 2020, was from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731st Munition Squadron. The team members overcame six evaluated events: a written test, stockpile practices, trailer configuration, trailer re-configuration, 463L palletization and a weapons build.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

Senior Airman Audrey M. Naputi, a munition inspector from the 731st Munition Squadron, sits and prepares for the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition to begin at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

One of the competitions had them conduct an inert bomb build.

Named after M16 land mines, the team was made up of two munitions inspectors, two stockpile management technicians, a munition control supervisor and a noncommissioned officer in charge of the 31st MUNS conventional munitions support.

Here’s how DARPA’s Gremlins are going to change strike warfare forever

U.S Airmen from the 31st Munition Squadron and the 731 Munition Squadron compete at the Rapid Aircraft Generation and Employment competition at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 7, 2020.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)

It was the idea of Air Force Staff. Sgt. Ana L. Merkel, a munitions inspector, to have the team dress as Women Ordnance Workers — the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter — and highlight the “impact females have on Sortie generations,” an Air Force news release noted.

Wearing dark blue jumpsuits, a brown belt and signature red bandanas with white polka dots, the women hoped to honor those who “paved the way” by working in manufacturing during World War I and World War II, the release said.

In honor of their win, the women will have their names etched on plaques to be displayed at the unit.

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

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