Here's the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

American special operators are known to have exacting standards for their weapons, vehicles, and other gear. When it comes to tactical motorcycles, elite troops across the Pentagon have settled on one very specific type.

In July, officials with the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing approved a plan to buy more than 50 Christini Technologies all-wheel drive 450cc motorcycles for special tactics personnel. These air commandos work with other special operators to coordinate air drops and parachute jumps, help secure drop zones and call in air strikes.

“The Christini Technologies, Inc. AWD Motorcycle is the only AWD tactical motorcycle on the market,” the flying branch’s contracting officers explained in a so-called “justification for other than full and open competition” document. “There are no other tactical motorcycles on the market that provide the AWD function needed by Air Force Special Tactics.”

tactical motorcycle in camo

Government agencies need to submit one of these reviews any time they want to give a contract to a specific company and avoid a lengthy bidding process. To back up their argument, the Air Force  pointed out that Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces troops, and the super-secretive Joint Special Operations Command were all using the Christini bikes.

To the casual observer, the AWD 450 probably looks like any other high-end dirt bike. At a glance, the vehicle appears is something you might expect to see at the X Games or a Motocross rally.

Despite being derived from a Honda CRF 250, the motorcycle is far more rugged than its commercial competitors. The Christini model has a top speed of over 60 miles per hour on roads and a range of approximately 90 miles without needing to stop for gas.

The bikes feature rugged suspension and a modified seat for long missions rather than laps around a track. An enlarged, bullet resistant radiator helps keep the cycles working in extreme weather conditions. On top of that, they have run-flat tires and a headlight that can be switched to shine infrared light.

Most importantly, the engine powers both wheels. Since 1995, Christini has been cooking up and building patented all-wheel drive setups for both mountain bikes and motorcycles. The feature provides extra power in rough terrain and makes it easier for the rider to handle a tactical motorcycle.

“We’ve … done testing that that shows our AWD bike is 30 percent less fatiguing than a standard bike,” Steve Christini, the company’s founder, told We Are The Mighty in an email. “You just don’t get stuck … in anything.”

Coupled with an anti-stall clutch, the AWD 450s can come to a sudden, complete stop and then get going again without the rider having to restart the motor. Even if the transmission system breaks, the motorcycle’s rear wheel won’t stop running. It’s these elements that have made Christini’s product the go-to choice for American special operations forces.

Troops around the world have used tactical motorcycles as long as the vehicles have been in existence. In World War I, American soldiers started running messages between command posts on early Harley-Davidsons instead of horses.

Over the next century, soldiers, Marines, and airmen continually experimented with new roles for bikes. Relatively stock commercial types were the standard.

During the first Gulf War, American and British special operators hunted for Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles in the Iraqi desert in light trucks and on motorcycles. Some versions of the Desert Mobility Vehicle – a special Humvee Army Special Forces came up with – were set up to carry Desert Operations Motorcycles on the back. The “DOM” was a single-wheel drive Kawasaki KL type.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Kawasaki KL 250. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

With the lighter, more discreet vehicles, commandos could scout ahead to survey targets or possible areas to establish a temporary camp, according to one 1999 Army manual. The bikes could carry troops or small amounts of gear to and from forward bases and listening posts and ambush positions.

Weighing more than 350 pounds and able to make 60 miles per hour on roads, the Kawasakis served their purpose well enough. Unfortunately, as time went on, it became clear that these cycles were simply not tough enough the missions at hand.

When American special operations forces went to Afghanistan after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, they brought their Kawasaki KLXs with them. Less than two years later, commandos took the vehicles to Iraq as an international coalition toppled Hussein regime. We don’t know for sure, but elite troops have likely used the motorcycles during other counter-terrorism missions, too.

“The Kawasaki KLX 250cc tactical motorcycle proved to be marginally fit for the high-altitude, rugged terrain of Afghanistan,” the Air Force pointed out in their justification. After nearly a decade of continuous combat operations, Army Special Forces were ready for a change.

In January 2010, the Army’s Special Operations Research Support Element looked into the Christini design. The evaluators were thrilled with the bike.

“The AWD motorcycle is far superior to a conventional single wheel drive motorcycle,” the office wrote in an unclassified review of the tests. “Increase in traction stabilizes the bike, reducing the fatigue on the operator while negotiating rough terrain and enables the bike to go places a standard motorcycle would not be able to go (eg: deep sand and steep inclines).”

“This vehicle enables the … operator, both motorcycle savvy and non-motorcyclist alike, to navigate off-road over difficult terrain,” the Special Forces soldiers added.

As of July, Christini had been working with America’s elite forces for more than four years, including sending 25 bikes to the SEALs, according to Christini. His company has also supplied tactical motorcycles to special operators and regular troops in the U.K., Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. Law enforcement agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol are getting their own batches.

The North Carolina bike maker has partnered with Tactical Mobility Training, another private training company also located in the state. Together with the Army’s unique Asymmetric Warfare Group, Tactical Mobility Training helped developed a new concept of operations for motorcycle-mounted commandos specifically based around the AWD 450.

The special operations missions still focus largely on scouting ahead of larger formations and providing extra situational awareness of the battlefield and possible chokepoints. But commandos are now prepared to chase down or cut off fleeing terrorists and militants – nicknamed “squirt control” – during attacks on compounds or other sites, according to the Army’s review.

But regardless of the actual operation, if you happen to spot a special operator on a motorcycle these days, chances are good it’s a Christini.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why technology degrades over time, according to your commo guy

Dealing with computer problems and other technical failures is just one of the many joys of being in communications. Being trained to work with computers and radios often means that the commo guy becomes the go-to person for any and all computer-related problems, even outside of work.

Of all the problems that a commo guy will deal with, most stem from the continual pain-in-the-ass that is time. There are many ways to reduce the strain put on consumer goods, but Father Time remains undefeated. Eventually, there will be a point in the lifetime of any device where they become obsolete — and we’re not saying that something’s useless compared to the “newer, bigger, better” models out there — things just degrade. It happens.


Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Some companies (we’re not naming names) are known for their products losing juice over time. That’s how they sell yearly releases of the same product.

(Photo by Marco Verch)

Now, to avoid losing people to technical jargon, we’re going to break things down to their simplest forms — Barney style — when explaining technology. Just know that there’s almost always (read: almost) a valid, technical reason for a product aging into degradation.

www.youtube.com

The biggest tech aspect affected by Father Time is power supply. Back in the day, larger power supplies and batteries could seemingly last an eternity (by today’s standards). The Nokia 3310, for example, could run for weeks on a single charge, so you’d expect technology would just improve on that, right?

Well, no. Consumer demand drove companies to adopt faster and slimmer batteries to power phones that have more capabilities than ever. While most companies do try to include the most powerful available battery in a product, lithium-ion batteries have an average life cycle of 1200 full charges. Once they’ve been depleted and charged up around 400 times, the maximum charge is roughly 80% of the original capacity. From there, it gets exponentially worse if you allow your batteries to drain to 0% on a constant basis.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

One of the many benefits of owning a desktop over a laptop computer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Caleb Vance)

Another aspect is performance. To sum it up broadly, this is what’s really happening when a not-so-tech-savvy person says their computer is “running slower.” Think of your computer as a pack mule: The more you use it (like installing programs, downloading files, visiting websites), the more stress you put on it.

Your once-beautiful darling that could once stream videos at lightning speeds now has all of that baggage weighing it down. This is also broken down into two different categories of problem: either you don’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) to juggle all the tasks you’re giving it (active or passively) or you don’t have enough hard-drive space for all the crap you’re asking it to carry.

Thankfully, both of those have really easy-to-solve solutions: upgrading parts. If your computer can be cracked open, it’s far cheaper to slap in a new stick of RAM than it is to buy an entirely new computer. Adding new hard-drives is even easier.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

All that tech and some people still just use it for the games.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)

But it’s not always a result of overuse. If you were to take a fresh computer that has been sealed since 1999 out of the box — never downloaded anything, battery has never been drained, or hooked up to the internet — it still wouldn’t perform to today’s standards.

In 1999, the tech world was blown away by the IBM Microdrive when it was announced that it came with a whopping 340 MB of storage. This was around the same time it took the entire night of downloading just to watch a two-minute trailer of Star Wars: Episode I using dial-up internet.

It should go without saying that technology has become exponentially better over time. Now, you can just pick up that 512GB microSD card (that’s about the size of a toenail) and watch the entire Star Wars series from your smartphone from almost anywhere in the world, streaming video in real-time. What was groundbreaking then isn’t even comparable to just a few years later — your device isn’t just getting worse slowly, everything else is also getting better.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

You don’t need to buy something that will last forever. Just for a while.

Sure, it sounds grim, but you can still do many different things to maximize your computer and phone’s lifespan. If you care for your technology and aren’t constantly using it, it’ll see a few more years of use. But there will be a point where your tech just isn’t good enough to get by.

When you’re planning your next tech purchase, keep lifespan in mind. The cheaper option may end up costing you more money over time. Why buy a 0 “meh, it’ll do” laptop and watch it careen into obsolescence in 12 months when a 00 beast of a desktop could last you several years?

So, if your computer or cell phone that’s been doing its duty just fine for the last six years starts hobbling on its last legs, don’t be shocked when your computer friend tells you it’s time to put it out to pasture.

It happens — don’t shoot the messenger.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new recon helicopter might be on the chopping block

The Army has been looking for a new scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for over two decades. Between budget cuts and iffy cancellation decisions, a number of contenders, notably the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, have failed to make the cut. Now, the Army is hoping to get another chance to replace the Kiowa, which retired from U.S. Army service in 2017.

However, it’s looking like Congress may put the kibosh on putting any new birds in the sky.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Army’s desire to buy a new recon helicopter is being questioned by some on Capitol Hill. There are concerns surfacing about whether manned helicopters can survive on a modern battlefield full of advanced missiles and self-propelled guns. Currently, the Army is using AH-64 Apaches to fill the gap in reconnaissance capabilities left by the Kiowa’s retirement.

The Army has long planned to find a new scout/utility bird under the Future Vertical Lift program, but now it seems they’re looking to get results faster — and they’ve requested $75 million (couch-cushion money in the DOD budget) to do so. One of the reasons for the rush is that the Apache, as impressive as it is, is not exactly the best choice for recon.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired without a replacement — and the scouting mission got handed over to the AH-64 Apache.

(US Army)

Under the Future Vertical Lift program, one of the proposed Joint Multi-Role helicopters, the JMR-Light, is intended to be a scout/light-utility helicopter. One likely contender for that role, Lockheed’s S-97 Raider, has recently been cleared for full flight testing. The helicopter first flew in 2015 and can reach a blistering 220 knots, according to Lockheed Martin.

Although the S-97 is extremely capable, the Army has expressed a desire for a “pure” scout helicopter — Congress, however, citing the concerns mentioned earlier, don’t share that desire.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The AH-64 Apache carries the same rocket pods and Hellfire missiles as the S-97 Raider, but it carries a lot of them.

(US Army)

The Raider is capable of using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75-inch rocket pods and either a 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun. The Raider can transport up to six troops and has a range of 323 nautical miles. It can carry the fuel needed for almost three hours of sustained flight time.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The ARH-70 Arapaho didn’t make the cut — one of several efforts to replace the OH-58 that failed,

(US Army)

The Raider is not the only experimental system being considered to fill a gap in recon capabilities. Bell is offering a family of tilt-rotor aircraft, including the V-280 Valor and the V-247 unmanned aerial vehicle. Other companies are also offering prototypes, seeking to get in on a contract that’ll likely be a massive financial windfall.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

You can now buy this terrifying flamethrower to attach to your drone

Drones are being used by companies from Amazon to Uber, but one company built a flamethrower you can hook up to your personal drone for all your fire-spewing purposes.

In a video from company Throwflame, the TF-19 WASP flamethrower drone attachment is seen spewing long streams of fire into the air and engulfing dead bushes in flames.

Although Throwflame advertises using the flamethrower drone for mundane things like cleaning up vegetation and getting rid of wasp nets, the video paints a terrifying view for what the future of drone flight could entail.

It’s important to note that the $1,500 price tag is only for the flamethrower attachment itself. You’ll have to buy the drone separately — the one that Throwflame recommends for its flamethrower will cost you at least $1,500.

Check out the features of the TF-19 WASP flamethrower drone attachment and what it can do:


Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Throwflame envisions the flamethrower drone being used for tasks such as “clearing vital infrastructure, igniting remote vegetation, and eliminating pests.”

In the past, flamethrowing drones have been filmed burning off garbage and debris from electrical wires.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

The flamethrower attachment can be used with any drone that has a payload capacity— how much weight the drone can hold — of 5 pounds or more. In the video, the TF-19 WASP is attached to a DJI S1000 octocopter drone, which sells for id=”listicle-2639318262″,500.

The DJI S1000 drone goes for id=”listicle-2639318262″,500 on websites like eBay and in stores such as BH.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

(Throwflame/YouTube)

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Scorpion was Army airborne’s lightweight anti-tank firepower

In nature, scorpions are deadly creatures that wield a fearsome sting. So, it makes sense that they’ve lent their name to many a weapon, like the F-89 Scorpion and the Textron Scorpion, just to name two of the most prominent. One of the lesser-known weapons to hold this arachnid moniker is the the M56 Scorpion.

The M56 was a contemporary of the M50 Ontos, an anti-tank six-shooter that served with the Marine Corps for 13 years, giving them a lightweight vehicle with a potent punch. The Army took a different approach in fielding a similar vehicle.

Instead of the six 106mm recoilless rifles the Marines selected for the Ontos, the Army opted for a single M54 90mm gun as the primary armament for the M56. The Scorpion had 29 rounds for the main gun — which was its only weapon.


The Scorpion was intended to give the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions some serious anti-tank firepower. They needed something lightweight — and the Scorpion was only 15,750 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com, less than a third of the weight of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. That weight combined with a 90mm gun and you’ve got yourself a winning vehicle, right?

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

This M56 at the American Armored Foundation Museum shows how small the M56 Scorpion was, despite its powerful 90mm M54 gun.

(Photo by Ryan Crierie)

Well, not quite. It turns out that when you’ve a powerful gun on a light vehicle, the recoil can be vicious. In this case, it was real bad – firing the Scorpion’s gun could send it flying three feet into the air. As you can imagine, this was an extremely uncomfortable experience for the crew in two ways. Not only did it jolt them about, risking serious injury, it also exposed their position to enemy forces — which is last thing you want on a battlefield.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

The M56 Scorpion, like the M50 Ontos, saw action in Vietnam.

(US Army)

Unlike the Ontos, the Scorpion did see some export sales. The Spanish Marines bought some, and so did Morocco and South Korea. The M56 saw action in the Vietnam War, primarily serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The M56 was eventually replaced by the M551 Sheridan, which not only saw action in Vietnam, but served into the 1990s.

Learn more about this lightweight Scorpion in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPZR40OHdfc

www.youtube.com

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

Why Iran is training to swarm the US Navy with speedboats

Iran has dispatched its elite Islamic Republican Guard Corps navy to the Strait of Hormuz, a massively valuable waterway that Tehran has threatened to close as retaliation against the US — and despite their small size and dated ships, these commandoes could do real damage to the US Navy.

The US Navy stands unmatched on earth in terms of size and ability, but Iran’s IRGC ships are small, fast, deadly, and designed specifically to present an asymmetrical threat to the toughest ships on earth.


The IRGC doesn’t have any interest going toe to toe with the US Navy by building its own destroyers or carriers, instead, it’s formed a “guerrilla army at sea” of vicious speedboats with guns, explosives, and some anti-ship missiles, Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.

“They understand full well that there’s a decisive qualitative disadvantage against the US and its allies,” Lamrani said of the IRGC. “They know they can’t win, so they plan to attack in a very fast way with many, many small ships swarming the US vessels to overwhelm them.”

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.

(Fars News Agency photo)

Currently, that situation is exactly what the IRGC is training for. US officials said that more than 50 small boats are now practicing “swarming” attacks to potentially shut down the strait which sees about 30% of the world’s oil pass through, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson .

For the Iranians, it’s a suicide mission. But in Iran’s struggle to oppose the US at any cost, something it sees as a spiritual matter, they could employ these little ships and irregular warfare to cripple the US Navy.

How the US would fight back

If the US knew a hostile group of IRGC fast attack craft were swarming around the Gulf trying to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there’s no question its destroyers and other aircraft carrying ships could unleash their helicopters to strafe the ships to the bottom of the sea. With enough notice, nearby US Air Force planes like the A-10 Warthog could even step in.

“The biggest weapon [US Navy ships] have against these swarm boats is the helicopter. Helicopters equipped with mini guns have the ability to fire very fast and create standoff distance to engage them,” said Lamrani.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

If some swarming ships did break through, the Navy has automated close-in weapons systems and missiles it can fire to pick the ships off. But, “the problem is, with these swarm boats, there’s only so much they can engage before the vessels get in range and cause damage.”

But Iran holds the first mover advantage

Iran holds the first mover advantage. The US Navy regularly transits the Persian Gulf, and it does so peacefully. The US and Iran are not at war, so when Iranian ships have harassed the US Navy in the past , they’ve come within a hundred yards of the billion-plus dollar ships before being warded off by warning shots .

That means the ideal scenario for the US, where it sees the enemy a ways out and can call in devastating air power, likely won’t happen. Iran knows it can only win with a sneak attack, so Lamrani thinks that’s how they’ll do it.

“If they decide to do this, they’re going to go as fast as possible, in as many numbers as possible before they get wrecked,” said Lamrani.

The US Navy’s lack of training against low-end threats like speedboats further exacerbates the problem. Navy watchers frequently point out the force is stretched thin across a wide spectrum of missions, and that surface warfare, especially against a guerilla force, hasn’t been a priority.

Ultimately, no serious military analyst thinks 50 or so Iranian speedboats could hold off the US Navy for long , but caught unawares, the first round could deal a devastating loss to the US.

“Given the constraints, this is a very, very effective tactic, very cost effective,” said Lamrani. “Even if they lost an entire fleet of speedboats and they managed to sink an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer,” the effect would be devastating.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine regains mobility with robotic exoskeleton gear

It took Marine Corps veteran Tim Conner more than a year of training and waiting, but it paid off. He was finally able to take home his new (exoskeleton) legs.

Conner has used a wheelchair since 2010. An accident left him with a spinal cord injury, and he is the first veteran at Tampa Bay VA Medical Center to be issued an exoskeleton for home use. The robotic exoskeleton, made by ReWalk, provides powered hip and knee motion that lets Conner stand upright and walk.

Before being issued his own exoskeleton, Conner underwent four months of training, then took a test model home for four months as a trial run. He then had to wait several more months for delivery. He was so excited about getting it that he mistakenly arrived a week early to pick it up.


“They said, “You’re here early, it’s the thirtieth,'” Conner said with a laugh. “I was like, that’s not today. I looked at my phone and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited, what can I say.'”

For Conner, the most significant advantage of the exoskeleton is being able to stand and walk again. Which, in turn, motivates him to stay healthy.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators

Tim Conner and the team that helped him walk again. From left, Chief of Staff Dr. Colleen Jakey, Cassandra Hogan, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Brittany Durant, and Spinal Cord Injury Service Chief Dr. Kevin White.

“I’m not 3-and-a-half, 4 feet tall anymore. I’m back to 5-8,” Conner said. “Not only can I stand up and look eye-to-eye to everybody. I’m not always kinking my neck looking up at life. It’s been able to allow me to stay motivated, to stay healthy, because you have to be healthy to even do the study for this program. That is going to keep me motivated to stay healthy and live longer than what could be expected for the average person in my situation.”

Exoskeleton

The exoskeleton is an expensive piece of equipment, with some versions costing as much as 0,000. According to Dr. Kevin White, chief of the Tampa Bay VA spinal cord injury service, that is why the hospital has been conducting research on the units.

“We wanted to know that the patient when they get it, they’re actually going to utilize it in the community,” said White. “If they’re showing that benefit, the VA has made a commitment to make sure that any veteran who needs it and qualifies, whether it’s a spinal cord injury and even stroke. That they have that opportunity, and we provide it free of charge.”

Walking in the exoskeleton is like “a mixture between Robocop, Ironman, and Forrest Gump,” said Conner. “It is pretty cool, especially when you’re walking and people are like, ‘Oh my God, look at this guy. He’s a robot.’ But I can’t imagine walking without it, so it’s just a normal way of walking. It feels the same way it did if I didn’t have a spinal cord injury.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

The Abrams tank could soon have this new force field to make it even tougher to kill

The M1 Abrams tank has a reputation for being very hard to kill.


According to Tom Clancy’s book “Armored Cav,” in one instance an Abrams got stuck in the mud during Operation Desert Storm and was attacked by three T-72s tanks.

The Iraqi rounds bounced off – including one fired from less than 500 yards away. After the crew evacuated, a platoon of Abrams tanks then fired a bunch of rounds with one detonating the on-board ammo.

The blow-out panels worked and it turned out that the only damage was that the gun’s sights were just out of alignment. The tank was back in service with a new turret very quickly. The old turret went back to be studied.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Abrams tanks on the move. (US Army photo)

An Abrams tank doesn’t get much tougher to kill than that, right? You’d be wrong, especially when the Army equips it with an active defense system. According to a report by DefenseTech.org, three systems are in contention, with the Trophy Active Protection System by Rafael being the front-runner.

Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett, who is in charge of the Army’s programs in the area of ground combat systems, said that he was hoping to make a quick decision on an active protection syste, for the Abrams.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators
Israel’s Merkava MK-IV (Mark 4) | Israel Defense Forces photo

“I’m not interested in developing, I’m interested in delivering,” he said, noting that the Army is looking to upgrade the bulks of its inventory of armored vehicles. Only the M113 armored personnel carriers are being replaced by the BAE Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

The Trophy system works by using four radar antennas and fire-control radars to track incoming rockets, missiles, and rounds. When a threat is detected, one of two launchers on the sides of the Abrams would then fire a shotgun-type blast to kill the threat. Similar systems are on the Israeli Merkava 4 main battle tank and Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank.

Here’s the tactical motorcycle of choice for special operators T-14 Armata (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Some reports claim that Russia has developed a weapon capable of beating an active-defense system like Trophy. The RPG-30 reportedly used a smaller rocket in front of its main rocket to try to trigger the system.

But still, the Trophy can attack rockets and grenades at a distance, before the warhead even reaches the Abrams’ skin.

Articles

This is how to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto

We know the key facts of what happened on April 18, 1943. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed when his Mitsubishi G4M Betty attack bomber was shot down by a Lockheed P-38 Lightning flown by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., marking the “Zero Dark Thirty” moment of World War II.


It was the moment of triumph for the plane, which had its own troubled development, and which was further hampered due to a friendly fire incident.

But it took a bit more training to get the most out of the P-38.

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The P-38 Lightning was the premiere twin-engine American fighter in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

Lockheed helped out in this regard by making a training film, using expertise from their production pilots. The takeoff procedure was different, mostly in not using flaps. The plane also was very hard to stall.

The plane did have limitations: A pilot needed to have a lot of air under him, due to both the compressibility that early models suffered, and the speed the P-38 could pick up in a dive. The pilot couldn’t stay inverted for more than 10 seconds, either.

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The J model of the P-38 carried the same .50-cal machine guns and 20mm cannons of its predecessors, but could also carry bombs. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

The film also showed some P-38s modified as trainers. The film shows one trainee being shown how to deal with propellers running wild. The pilots were also trained to feather props.

The P-38 was surprising easy to fly as a single-engine plane. The film shows Tony LeVier, a noted test pilot, simulating an engine failure during takeoff.

The P-38 was a superb fighter, even if the Mustang, Hellfire, and Thunderbolt got most of the press. Put it this way, America’s top two aces of all time, Maj. Richard Bong and Maj. Thomas McGuire, flew the P-38 plane in World War II and combined for 78 confirmed kills.

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Maj. Thomas B. McGuire Jr. with Richard I. Bong (Majs. Bong and McGuire were the top two scoring U.S. aces in World War II with 40 and 38 victories, respectively; taken Nov. 15, 1944 in the Philippines). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The training film is below. Now you have a sense of what it was like to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what it takes to change the 28 tires on the Air Force’s largest plane

How many airmen does it take to change a cargo aircraft tire? Too many, according to J.D. Bales, Air Force Research Laboratory and Junior Force Warfighter Operations team member of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

The 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, who maintain the US Air Force’s largest aircraft, the C-5M Super Galaxy, contacted the JFWORX team seeking assistance to increase the safety and decrease the manpower requirements of the current tire-changing process.


Each C-5 tire wears down approximately 0.002 inches per landing on an aircraft that has 28 tires. The current tire changing method is performed several times a week. It is a complicated multistep procedure that requires up to five people working together for an extended period of time with a number of safety risks due to the size and weight of the tires and tools.

The design of the hub consists of a single large nut that holds the wheel in place. Heavy tools ensure placement of the wheel (almost 4 feet in diameter). The spanner wrench, used to tighten the nut, weighs 15 pounds and has to be held accurately in position so the nut can be tightened to the appropriate torque specification.

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The rear wheel assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft inside a hangar at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

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Current C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement requires up to five airmen with a multitude of tools to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

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The new C-5 cargo airplane tire replacement platform requires only three airmen with one tool to replace a tire, Aug. 26, 2019.

(Air Force Research Laboratory/Donna Lindner)

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The nose and main landing gear tires of a C-5M Super Galaxy hang over a parking spot at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Two 30-ton tripod aircraft jacks hold up the nose section of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, June 25, 2015.

(US Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, remove a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, both crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, install a new C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, left, and Nathan Shull, center, and Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, right, all crew chiefs assigned to the 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure a C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly to the main landing gear bogie at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Nathan Shull, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, cleans the number four main landing gear bogie assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hamilton, front, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects the main landing gear brake assembly of a C-5M Super Galaxy at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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Airman 1st Class Vincent Gaspara, 436th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, rolls a defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

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A defective C-5M Super Galaxy main landing gear wheel and tire assembly prior to being taken away for maintenance April 22, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 22, 2014.

(US Air Force/Roland Balik)

The primary technical focus of JFWORX projects is the rapid development of customer-centric projects that will provide real-world solutions to existing warfighter needs.

JFWORX develops near term, innovative solutions to warfighter operational needs. Department of Defense organizations interested in working with the JFWORX team can contact the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate’s Corporate Communications team at AFRL.RX.CorpComm@us.af.mil to learn more.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: www.afresearchlab.com.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the tools of a modern bladesmith

A pleasant drive through a farming community a little south of Phoenix, Arizona, leads to a dirt driveway with a sign that reads, “Wuertz Farm.” As cars file in past the miniature donkeys and horse corrals, a gentleman directs drivers where to park. A cameraman with a pack that appears to be tethered to a 100-ft extension cord works to get a live feed on a large flat screen TV. What may sound like a trip to the state fair is the opening scene to the Wuertz Machine Works 2019 Hammer In.


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Travis Wuertz welcomes the crowd at the start of the 2019 Hammer In.

The Hammer In is a gathering of bladesmiths from around the country, who come to share and exchange knowledge of their ancient craft. As one might expect, there is no shortage of beards on site, but not everyone is shrouded in Viking-style facial hair. A quiet young lady with a secret passion for bladesmithing stands alone, trying to warm herself in the morning sun, while a fifteen-year-old bladesmith of two years shows off some of his amazing work to his adult colleagues. Regardless of age, gender, experience, or skill, it is immediately apparent that this is a brotherhood like no other — a brotherhood of steel.

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The beautiful work of 15-year-old bladesmith Zander Nichols.

Not so primitive

While the perception of some may be that bladesmithing is a primitive craft, the reality is quite different. There is an old Japanese proverb, “On-ko Chi-shin,” which literally translates, “Study the old, know the new.” The idea is that by studying the old ways, one can better understand the new ways. This very concept can be seen in practice by the astute observer within seconds of setting foot into the Wuertz Hammer In.

A hundred-year-old power hammer that has been retrofitted with an electric motor sits just feet always from a self-regulating, ribbon-burner forge, built by Travis Wuertz himself. As an engineer who is constantly looking to refine his bladesmithing, Travis designed a forge that not only distributes heat consistently throughout using a ribbon burner design, but also automatically adjusts to maintain a consistent temperature, and monitors the gas/oxygen mixture for efficient fueling. The design ensures very precise control during the forging process, where overheating can result in damaged steel.

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A not-so-primitive self-regulating, ribbon burner forge in action.


Mareko Maumasi, a Forged in Fire champion from Connecticut, and a wizard of Damascus steel, can be seen splayed over a large white easel pad working out a complex mathematical equation. When asked about it, he explains that it is an equation for predicting Damascus patterning. Apparently, there is more to it that just mixing hard and mild steels.

Old dogs and new tricks

Throughout the two-day gathering, both young and seasoned bladesmiths deliver periods of instruction on topics in which they are highly skilled. Michael Quesenberry, who specializes in daggers, bowies, and forged integrals, kicked off the event with a demonstration of how he forges his integral knives. An integral knife is one in which the blade, bolsters, tang, and pommel are forged from a single steel billet. With finesse and precision, Quesenberry hammers a round billet into an integral knife in less than an hour.

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Michael Quesenberry demonstrates how he forges his integral knives.

William Brigham awed attendees with a detailed explanation of Mokume-gane, a Japanese metalworking process used to bond a mixture of metals to produce a distinctive layered pattern, similar to wood grain. Mokume-gane loosely translates to “wood grain metal.” This process was originally used in Japanese sword-making to produce highly aesthetic accoutrements like the Tsuba (guard) and now serves modern bladesmiths in like manner.

A gathering such as this could not take place without plenty of talk about Damascus steel. Mike Tyre and Eric Fleming gave an informative lecture about feather Damascus. This technique involves stacking many layers of steel several inches tall and using a dull wedge to split through and stretch the layers. A feather-like pattern is the result when the sections are rejoined and flattened out. Mareko Maumasi also gave a mathematically-charged lecture on mosaic Damascus, and shared the cold coffee etching recipe that he uses to create the deep color contrast his blades are known for.

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Mareko Maumasi lectures the crowd on Mosaic Damascus.

At one point during the second day, one of the ABS Master Bladesmiths attending the event turned to this author and said, “You know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. There’s not a whole lot I haven’t seen or don’t know how to do when it comes to making knives, but these new guys are taking things to a whole new level.”

Fit & finish

Any bladesmith worth their salt will tell you the clean finish and precise fitting of a blade to the handle and accessories is what truly distinguishes the master craftsman. This requires the ability to work around a grinder to cut, shape, refine, and polish the blade, handle, and fittings. Mike Quesenberry demonstrated his mastery of fit and finish with a handle shaping demonstration and a blade grinding demonstration. There are few blade designs that challenge a bladesmith’s symmetrical grinding ability like a dagger, and Quesenberry showed us why he is one of the best at making daggers.

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A well-used TW-90 grinder, the invention of Travis Wuertz himself.

Of course, the Wuertz Hammer In would not be complete without a demo from Travis Wuertz himself. Travis has designed the most coveted knife making grinder on the planet, the TW-90, so he finished up the two-day event with some of his tips and tricks for precise grinding and finishing using his grinder and the myriad of attachments he has designed to make the knife maker’s life a whole lot easier.

Shenanigans

At rare events like this, where bladesmiths and knife enthusiasts gather from all over the country, there’s not much desire to go back to the hotel at the end of the day, rather the real fun begins when the day is “over.” The hammers come out, the forges are lit, and sparks begin flying in the darkness of night as the intimate exchange of information takes place and the good times roll.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing after-hours activity was the knife throwing class taught by Jason Johnson, an expert knife thrower and Forged in Fire: Knife or Death Season 1 finalist. Johnson instructed participants in his instinctive and powerful knife-throwing technique prior to turning them loose on the firing line, so they could try their hands at sticking some knives. It was an impressive sight to see even the young kids sticking knives into the wooden targets at various ranges after only a few minutes of instruction from Johnson.

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Knife Throwing expert Jason Johnson schools us on his personal method.

Wrapping it up

At the end of this two-day venture, new friendships have made, old friendships have been rekindled, and this brotherhood of steel is alive evermore. These bladesmiths are bonded by the blood, sweat, and tears that flow through down the anvil and the spirit of fire that burns through the forge. They part ways with the kinds of hugs and handshakes that only those of a kindred spirit can share. Until they meet again.

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A coffee-etched kitchen knife created by Don Nguyen of Tucson, AZ.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army tested its first damage sensors on these helicopters

For the first time ever, a team of researchers successfully developed and tested networked acoustic emission sensors that can detect airframe damage on conceptual composite UH-60 Black Hawk rotorcraft.


Researchers with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center said their discovery opens up possibilities for new on-board features that could immediately alert the flight crew to the state of structural damage, like matrix cracking and delamination, as they occur, giving the crew greater opportunity to take corrective actions before catastrophic failure.

ARL has been studying several possible alternatives to rotorcraft airframe health monitoring. This effort, which began almost two years ago, makes a strong case for integrated real-time damage sensing methodologies on future airframe structures. The sensing method can be used to reliably detect and locate the initiation and growth of damage that may occur during service.

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The approximate cut-out location of the test article and location of group sensors. Sensor groups 1 and 2 are shown. Groups 3 and 4 are on the opposite side. (Image from U.S. Army)

“Future Army airframe structures are required to be lighter, safer, and ultra-reliable,” said Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer. “To achieve these, the Army must adopt a combined strategy of implementing advanced structural design methods, improved structural materials, and integrated damage-sensing and risk-prediction capabilities.”

He said the team turned to acoustic emission tests because other methods, such as ultrasonic and radiography, require an external energy source in the form of a directed wave.

“The external energy has the undesirable effect of interfering with other systems of the aircraft. In addition, other methods are not as good as AE in detecting early damage,” he said.

Acoustic emission sensing is a passive, non-destructive technique for detection of damage in the very early stage, and long before the structure experiences catastrophic failure. Unlike other methods, acoustic emission detects damage in real-time (or at the instant the damage is happening). The fact that AE is passive means that it does not require an external energy to detect damage. It relies on the energy that is initiated within the structure, Haile explained.

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Acoustic emission sensors used in the distributed network are lightweight broadband piezoelectric crystals. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“The novelty of the current work is that we introduced several new concepts on wave acquisition control and signal processing to recover damage-related information in networked acoustic emission sensors,” Haile said. “The Eureka moment was when the sensing network consistently identified and located the initiation and progression of damage during a prolonged fatigue test that lasted over 200,000 cycles — a feat that has never been achieved before.”

The ARL sensing network is composed of several lightweight transducers encapsulated in 3D-printed, non-intrusive sensor mounts. Sensors of the network are optimally distributed in multiple zones to maximize coverage as well as probability of damage detection. The data acquisition process is embedded with a software-controllable timing parameter to reject reflections of a direct wave, as well as waves coming from non-damage related events. Meanwhile, the signal processing algorithm is augmented with a layer of adaptive digital filters to minimize effects of signal distortion during location analysis.

Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the Vehicle Technology Directorate, along with Haile, Nathaniel Bordick, and other ARL partners, collaborated to elucidate detailed mechanisms for full-scale damage detection in complex rotorcraft structures using the distributed sensor architecture. Key to the technique is the development of signal distortion control parameters, acquisition timing control, and 3D-printed sensor capsules.

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Dr. Jaret C. Riddick (left), an aerospace engineer in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate, interacts with an attendee at the Maryland 3D Printing event. (Photo from U.S. Army Research Laboratory)

“The downtime due to routine inspection and maintenance represents the major fraction of the life cycle cost of Army platforms, because we are not using the platform and we have to pay for inspection, which, in most cases, reveals no damage. So, the idea is to integrate a reliable damage sensing network and perform maintenance only when necessary,” Riddick said.

Currently, the Army sustains its fleet using phase maintenance paradigm, which is a periodic calendar-based practice that requires inspection and maintenance at fixed time intervals. The process is highly inefficient, costly and entails extended downtime. The newly developed sensing network will enable condition-based maintenance or maintenance on demand. It has the potential to drastically cut the life cycle cost of Army vehicles. The work also supports the Army’s long term vision of maintenance-free aircrafts.

Related: The Army is building futuristic robots (which is awesome and terrifying)

“Large-scale AE monitoring is a data-intensive process with several million hits being received by each transducer per flight,” Halle said. “This puts a higher load on the internal bus and circuitry of any data acquisition hardware. In general, most hits are not related to damage. Rather, they are noises from moving parts, such as the clicking or rubbing noises of fasteners, panel connections, and vibrations from other non-damage related sources. Unwanted AE hits also arise due to reflections of an already received and processed AE wave. The challenge is to develop a system which is sensitive only to damage related hits and insensitive to all other hits.”

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The damage sensing network is integrated into a conceptual composite UH-60M Black Hawk rotorcraft. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“Most of the available AE-based structural health monitoring is for simple plate-like structures, despite most airframe structures not being simple plates,” Bordick said. “Not much has been done on integrated full-scale airframe health monitoring using AE. The problem is quite complex. I’m glad that we were able to successfully develop and demonstrate the sensing network.”

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development, and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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