Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame - We Are The Mighty
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Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.


(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).

That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.

It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).

Also Read: The Marines want robotic boats and mortars for beach assaults

“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”

Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Assault amphibious vehicles with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.

“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”

“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”

So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.

The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:

Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”

Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.

Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.

Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.

Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.

Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.

Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.

“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.

“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.

“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”

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The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

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US launches over 50 cruise missiles at Syrian airfields over chemical attack

The US Navy has reportedly launched 59 cruise missiles at airfields controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Monday.


Tomahawk missiles were launched from two Navy warships stationed in the Mediterranean according to CNN, and NBC News.

No casualties have yet been reported but officials tell NBC News that no people were targeted.

Missiles hit runways and military infrastructure used by Syrian and Russian forces, who the US blames for using chemical weapons in the attack on Monday.

Several prominent GOP Senators and Representatives urged strikes on Syria after evidence of chemical attacks surfaced. The strike, while not targeting troops themselves, carried a high risk of killing Syrian and Russian servicemen in collateral damage.

This story is developing. Click here for updates.

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14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

We call it “the Korean War;” the North Koreans call it the “Fatherland Liberation War.” Whatever you call it, on June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th Parallel, the border that separated the Communist-controlled and supported North from the capitalist and Western-backed South. It was the first test of Western adherence to the Cold War doctrine of containment, a strategy to stem the forced spread of Communism worldwide.


Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

It was a brutal war that pitted the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and North Korea against the United Nations, led by the United States and South Korea. The war started with a wildly swinging pendulum of momentum that almost drove Western forces into the Sea of Japan. They were saved only by a heroic UN stand at the Pusan Perimeter and one of the most daring amphibious landings in history at Inchon. The Western counterattack drove the Communists all the way to the Yalu River, the North Korean border with China. The subsequent Chinese intervention pushed the then-heavily outnumbered Americans back to the original border and a subsequent two-year stalemate until an armistice ended the fighting in 1953.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

It was in Korea that some of the most legendary American military heroes said their most famous lines, made their most famous stands, and overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. The Korean War came just after the long, good fight of World War II, at a time when the world was weary of war. Just a few years later, the cultural fabric United States would be forever altered with coming of the war in Vietnam. Being sandwiched between and subsequently overshadowed by these other two, the Korean War has come to be called the Forgotten War, both by historians and the men who fought there. In an effort to relegate that nickname to the dustbin of history, here are some facts about the Korean War you may not have already known.

1. A U.S. Army sergeant in Moscow was the catalyst

Stalin prevented a war on the Korean Peninsula since the end of World War II, for fear of an all-out war with the West. When the KGB recruited an Army NCO from the code room at the U.S. Embassy, they discovered the U.S. had moved the bulk of its forces in the region to Japan. Stalin now believed the U.S. would not move to defend Korea and gave North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung the green light to invade the South. Stalin was wrong. The Army sergeant’s identity was never discovered.

2. The South was far from Democratic

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Rhee with Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The first President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, jailed or assassinated his political opponents. He also had an active secret police force to root out North Korean agents, but they detained, tortured, and killed many innocent civilians. Days after the start of the Korean War, he ordered the Bodo League Massacre, killing more than 100,000 suspected communist sympathizers and their families. Rhee was ousted when thousands of protesters overran the Blue House in 1960.

3. The U.S. knew about the North’s military buildup

The nascent CIA noticed the North Koreans moving their army toward their Southern border but thought it was more of a defensive measure. They reported to Secretary of State Dean Acheson that an invasion was unlikely. They didn’t know the Soviets already broke American military and diplomatic codes and knew the U.S. couldn’t mount an effective response to an invasion.

4. It was technically a “police action”

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

President Truman never asked Congress for a declaration of war, and Congress didn’t offer one. That was back when we cared about these kinds of things. Instead, Truman placed the fighting under the aegis of the United Nations, since Korea itself was a construct of UN agreements. For the first time since WWII, U.S. troops fought in combat at Osan, thirty miles South of Seoul.

5. The U.S. dropped more ordnance on Korea than in the entire Pacific during WWII

The Korean War absolutely devastated North Korea, and this memory is a major reason why so much animosity still exists to this day. The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on the North, compared to 503,000 pounds dropped on the entire Pacific Theater in WWII, killing an estimated 12-15 percent of the population. Curtis LeMay estimated an even higher proportion – he claimed 2o percent.

6. It featured the first all-jet dogfight

On November 8, 1950, 1st Lt. Russell Brown engaged a MiG-15 in his F-80 Shooting Star. The MiG was clearly a superior fighter and this discovery led to the development of the F-86 Sabre. It wasn’t superior enough to allow the MiG to win the dogfight, however. Lt. Brown downed the Communist jet. The skies over Northwest Korea featured many dogfights in the war years and soon became known as “MiG Alley.”

7. Frostbite was one of the most prevalent injuries

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Thousands suffered from frostbite, while many suffered from trench foot or a combination of both. Temperatures during some of the coldest fighting were as low as -54 degrees fahrenheit. The MASH unit (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) was just one of many battlefield medical innovations designed to stay close to the front and save the lives of more combat injured troops.

8. Seoul changed hands four times

The South Korean capital sits just 35 miles from the North-South border. It was first captured by the North Koreans on June 28, 1950, just three days after the North invaded. It was retaken by UN forces that September. The Chinese seized the city in January 1951 but lost it two months after that.

9. The first year was the deadliest

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Roughly a quarter of all Americans killed during the Korean War died between August and December 1950, during the battles of the Pusan Perimeter, the Chosin Reservoir, and Kunu-ri Pass. 178,426 UN troops died in Korea, compared to more than 700,000 Communists. The first American, Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick died near Osan.

10. Army Special Forces created an army of their own

The 8240th Army Unit, Army Rangers and other soldiers with experience in partisan warfare from World War II raised and advised local partisan armies in Korea on how to fight behind enemy lines and sabotage the Communists. The 8240th would advise more than 38,000 partisan fighters.

11. It was more than just Americans and Koreans fighting Communists

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Ethiopian troops fighting in Korea

Being a UN police action, other countries joined the coalition of forces fighting to keep the South safe for capitalism, if not democracy. Significant forces came from Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, especially Australia and Canada. Turkish forces faced their biggest military challenge since World War I at the Battle of Kunu-ri Pass. Other countries who gave significant troops included Ethiopia, Colombia, Thailand and the Philippines.

12. Generals weren’t far from the fighting

These days, you don’t hear much about general officers in the thick of the action unless they’re visiting a combat unit or are on some sort of tour or inspection. That wasn’t true during the Korean War. General Douglas MacArthur went to Korea himself during the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter to assess the situation there and determine how to proceed (the Inchon Landing is what he came up with).

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
From left to right: Puller, MacArthur, and OP Smith

Army General William F. Dean was among the last to retreat from Taejon as the North advanced. He wanted to make sure all his men and material made it out as orderly and safely as possible. While trying to help a wounded troop, Dean was knocked unconscious and captured by the Communists.

As the war raged on in and around the peninsula, a slew of Generals would find themselves in combat. Oliver P. Smith directed the breakout of the Marines surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir and led them back to the port of Hungnam. Chesty Puller was still racking up awards and decorations in Korea. He was promoted to Brigadier General after landing at Inchon and fighting at the Chosin.

13. The Korean War never ended

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Armistice talks took more than two years to complete. The real hang-up was over the repatriation of POWs. Eventually, the North conceded and an armistice was signed. The signatories didn’t end the war, however, just the fighting. The war continues to this day.

14. Korean War veterans are becoming just as rare as WWII vets

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The conflict itself fizzled out quietly. The men who fought in Korea didn’t come home to parades or parties and kissing in Times Square. The job of fighting the Communists fell to the generation who bore the burden of combat without hesitation or complaint, even after the world forgot the heroism they displayed or the people they kept safe. At the rate of an estimated 500 per day, they are slowly and silently passing into history, just as their war did.

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This is the weapon North Korea might be hiding

North Korea has shocked the world by making huge strides in missile technology since debuting an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, but according to James Kiessling, the road-mobile missile may just be an act of deception.


Kiessling, who works at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, gave Business Insider his personal views on North Korea, which do not represent the Pentagon’s official stance.

“If you’re really concerned about an ICBM from anyone, go back and look at history for what everyone has ever done for ICBMs,” said Kiessling. “All early liquid ICBMS are siloed.”

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Titan II ICBM at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. Photo by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA.

Through a painstaking analysis of imagery and launch statistics from North Korea’s missile program, Kiessling has concluded that the road-mobile, truck-based missiles they show off can’t actually work as planned, and may instead be purposeful distractions from a more capable missile project.

In a paper for Breaking Defense, Kiessling and his colleague Ralph Savelsberg demonstrated a model of the North Korean ICBM and concluded its small size made it basically useless for reaching the US with any kind of meaningful payload.

History suggests that building a true liquid-fueled ICBM that can be transported on a truck presents huge, if not insurmountable problems, to designers.

“The US and the Soviets tried very hard and never managed to reach a level of miniaturization and ruggedness that would support a road-mobile ICBM,” said Kiessling, referring to the minaturization of nuclear warheads needed to fit them onto missiles.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Image from Wikimedia Commons

ICBMs that use liquid fuel, as North Korea’s do, are “very likely to crumple or damage the tankage” while being carted around on a bumpy truck.

“While it may not be impossible, it’s bloody difficult and extremely dangerous” to put a liquid-fueled ICBM on a truck, according to Kiessling.

Instead, the US, Soviets, and Chinese all created silo-based liquid-fueled missiles, as the static missiles are more stable and less prone to sustaining damage.

But there’s no evidence of North Korea building a silo for missile launches, and Kiessling said that could be due to a massive deception campaign that may have fooled some of the world’s top missile experts.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Launch of a Titan II missile. Photo courtesy of USAF.

Kiessling thinks that North Korea has actually been preparing for a silo-based missile that combines parts of the Hwasong-14, its ICBM, with its space-launch vehicle, the Unha. Both the Unha and the Hwasong-14 have been tested separately, and Kiessling says they could easily be combined.

This analysis matches the comments of Mike Elleman, a senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who told Business Insider he saw the Hwasong-14 as an “interim capability” that North Korea was using to demonstrate an ICBM as quickly as possible.

Elleman believes that North Korea well develop a “heavier ICBM” that “may not be mobile,” but can threaten the entire continental US and carry a heavier payload, including decoys and other penetration aides.

But other prominent analysts disagree with Kiessling’s model, saying he incorrectly judged the size of the Hwasong-14. To that, Kiessling says that North Korean imagery, which has all been purposefully released by a regime known to traffic in propaganda, is geared towards deception.

 

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Photo released by the Korean Central News Agency

“One of the hardest problems imaginable is to find something you’re not looking for,” said Kiessling, of a possible missile silo in North Korea.

“If I was in the place of Kim Jong Un, and I wanted to have a cleverly-assembled ICBM program, I’d do it the way everyone else does it,” said Kiessling, referring to silo-based missiles. “But at the same time, you run a deception program to distract everyone else from what you’re doing until you’re done.”

A silo would also prove an inviting target for any US strikes on North Korea, as the target can’t hide once its found. If the US were to find out that North Korea hadn’t succeeded in miniaturizing its warheads enough to fit on its mobile missiles, a smaller-scale strike against fixed targets may seem like an attractive option.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Marines still love this old fighter

The AV-8B Harrier has been a mainstay of the United States Marine Corps for over three decades. The same could be said about some other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters (some of which have been around even longer), but the Harrier has a cachet about it that no others can match.

Part of its clout may stem from the fact that many of the Marine Corps’ most legendary squadrons have flown (or still fly) the Harrier. These squadrons include VMA-214, the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” led by Pappy Boyington, and VMA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers” who made a heroic stand at Wake Island and were tragically not reinforced.


The AV-8B Harrier has seen a fair bit of action, notably during Desert Storm, over the Balkans, and in the War on Terror.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The Harrier has the ability to hover – making for some interesting tactical possibilities. Its GAU-12 can bring about 85 percent of the BRRRRT of the A-10.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)

But it’s not all history for the Harrier — performance counts, too. With Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability, the Harrier is much less dependent on usable runways than other jets (plus, hovering just above a landing site looks cool as hell). Upgrades in the 1990s gave the Harrier the APG-65 radar (as used on the F/A-18 Hornet) and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

The Harrier first entered service with the United States in 1985. It can achieve a speed of 633 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The Harrier’s V/STOL capability allows it to operate from ships and way from conventional runways.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht)

The Harrier looks like it will be around for a while, even as the F-35B Lightning II, the V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter, enters service — and for good reason. It’s arguably America’s second-best close-air support plane, ranking second behind only the legendary A-10.

Learn more about the Harrier in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YwLfG-qQf4

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan is developing a 5th generation fighter of its own

The United States, Russia, and the People’s Republic of China have all either deployed or are developing fifth-generation fighters. These are planes that sport stealth technology, high performance, and very advanced avionics.


However, there’s another country looking at developing a fifth-generation fighter: Japan. This doesn’t come as a surprise — last September, reports surfaced that Japan had developed an unmanned combat air vehicle along the lines of the X-47 program. It’s clear that they’re looking to modernize and upgrade.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
The Mitsubishi X-2 in a hangar. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Hunini)

Historically, Japan has long been capable of building state-of-the-art jets. The Mitsubishi F-1 fighter, based on the T-2 trainer, was a successful, indigenous fighter design. Mitsubishi also built F-4 and F-15 fighters for the Japanese Self-Defense Force under a license from McDonnell-Douglas (later Boeing) in the 1980s and 1990s. They went on to develop indigenous upgrades for the F-4 and a roided-up version of the F-16, the F-2.

Japan currently is test flying the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin, also known as the ATD-X. The plane first flew in 2016 and is expected to have an internal 20mm cannon and six bays for a mixture of air-to-air and air-to-surface ordnance. MilitaryFactory.com notes that it has a top speed of just under 1,600 miles per hour. The X-2 is comparable to the Advanced Tactical Fighter prototypes that flew in the early 1990s, including the YF-22 Lightning and the YF-23 Black Widow.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
This model of the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin was used for wind-tunnel testing. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Hunini)

Should the X-2 successfully complete its test flight, Japan would be well on their way to fielding a true fifth-generation fighter. Such a fighter is likely to be designated F-3. Mitsubishi will likely produce the plane, making it the latest in a long line of deadly fighters the company has produced, including the legendary A6M “Zero.”

Learn more about the X-2 in the video below:

 

(Skyships Eng | YouTube)
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5 of the worst US Navy ship collisions in history

The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) have generated a lot of headlines.


But there have been other collisions – though they are certainly rare events, according to a June USA Today article. But even one is far too many, and some have been even worse than that suffered by those two destroyers.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18) in drydock at Bayonne, New Jersey, showing the damage to the carrier’s bow from her 26 April 1952 collision with USS Hobson (DMS-26). Wasp collided with Hobson while conducting night flying operations in the Atlantic, en route to Gibraltar. Hobson was cut in two and sank, 61 men of her crew could be rescued, but 176 were lost. (US Navy photo)

April 26, 1952: The USS Wasp (CV 18) collides with the USS Hobson (DD 464)

While making her way to the Mediterranean Sea, the Wasp was conducting night-time flight operations when she made a course change. A deadly combination of a surface-search radar and a poorly-thought out course-change by the destroyer caused the Wasp to ram the Hobson. The impact broke the Hobson in half and killed 176 sailors, including the Hobson’s captain.

The Wasp was repaired and back in action within 10 days. The Navy ultimately blamed the commanding officer of the Hobson for the collision.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
What was left of USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) after her collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. (US Navy photo)

June 3, 1969: The HMAS Melbourne rams the USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754)

For over two decades, the United States was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. This alliance also included Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, France, and the United Kingdom. SEATO was hoped to be a NATO for the region, but it never reached that potential — although allies did hold exercises.

Five years previously the Melbourne had rammed and sunk an Australian destroyer.

During an anti-submarine warfare exercise, there was a near-miss between the Melbourne and the destroyer USS Everett F. Larson (DD 830). Despite that near-miss, tragedy struck when in the early-morning hours of June 3, the Frank E. Evans cut in front of the Melbourne. Her bow was sheared off and sank, causing the deaths of 74 American sailors.

The collision resulted in a Navy training film, “I Relieve You, Sir,” or “The Melbourne-Evans Incident,” that was used to disseminate the lessons learned from this tragedy.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Damage done to USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) after her collision with USS Belknap (CG 26). (US Navy photo)

November 22, 1975: The USS Belknap (CG 26) collides with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67)

This collision is notable for the extensive damage the Belknap sustained. During operations in the Ionian Sea, the Belknap and John F. Kennedy collided. A burst pipe sent fuel onto the guided-missile cruiser, and a massive fire melted the Belknap’s aluminum superstructure.

Eight sailors died, and 48 were injured. This collision actually has shaped the ship that is the backbone of the fleet today. After studying the collision and fire, the Navy decided to make the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers out of steel.

The Belknap was rebuilt over the course of four years, and served as the flagship of the Sixth Fleet from 1986 to 1994, before she was sunk as a target in 1998.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
USS Greeneville (SSN 772) in dry dock after her collision with the Japanese fishery training ship Ehime Maru. (US Navy photo)

February 9, 2001: The USS Greeneville (SSN 772) rams the Ehime Maru

The Improved Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru, a fishery training ship for a high school while surfacing. The Ehime Maru sank very quickly, with nine people dead as a result.

A number of civilian visitors were aboard the sub at the time, and the failure of the Greeneville’s captain to ensure that their presence didn’t hamper military operations was a contributing factor to the fatal incident.

The next year, the Greeneville would collide with the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), and suffer minor damage.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) wait for the brow to be lowered during the ships return home to Submarine Base New London after a month-long surface transit from Bahrain in 2009. The sub’s sail is askew as a result of her collision with USS New Orleans (LPD 18). (US Navy photo)

March 20, 2009: The USS Hartford (SSN 768) collides with the USS New Orleans (LPD 18)

Navigational chokepoints are called that because maritime traffic has to go through them, and they are very narrow. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for error or complacency.

According to a 2009 Military Times report, though, the crew of the Hartford got complacent, and the Los Angeles-class submarine and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport collided.

The Hartford suffered over $100 million in damage, while the New Orleans had a ruptured fuel tank and spilled 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the sea. There were 15 sailors injured on the Hartford, which was almost knocked onto its side.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Feast your eyes on this F-16’s new ‘Ghost’ paint scheme

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet made its initial flight after receiving the first US Air Force “Ghost” paint scheme, May 23, 2019.

The design was chosen by a poll held by Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing commander, on his social media account to add a new look to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS).

“I love this job, and I love what we do at Nellis Air Force Base, so I want to take any opportunity to boast about our fine men and women who do great work for their nation,” said Novotny.

“Social Media gives me a chance to connect directly with the folks who have a similar passion for military aviation.”


Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Aircraft painters for Mission First (M1) assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Group sand the tail of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Jesus Yanez, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, sprays the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Troy Blaschko, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, peels off letters for the masking, inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 7, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS) received new decals and stenciling inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Peter Mossudo and Troy Blaschko, both 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painters, place masking for stenciling on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressors Squadron Viper Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the flight line at Nellis Air Force base, Nevada, May 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Senior Airman Rodolfo Aguayo-Santacruz, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) crew chief, prepares to control an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet getting towed out of the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

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

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In spite of Obama’s previous stance, it looks like boots are hitting the ground against ISIS

As 2015 wanes, calls among Washington’s politicos are on the rise. Those calls are increasingly in favor or are demands for ground troops to engage ISIS leadership in direct combat.


“This is a war.” – House Speaker Paul Ryan
I’m going to introduce an authorization to use Military Force against ISIL that is not limited by Time, Geography or Means. – Sen. Lindsay Graham
“The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force.” – Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush
“Air power is extremely important. It can do a lot but it can’t do everything.” – Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James

The Pentagon believes Congress should issue a new authorization of military force (AMF) for use against ISIS in Iraq and Syria while President Obama wants the flexibility to use Special Operations forces against the terror group’s leadership. Obama rejected long-term, large scale ground combat operations in favor of an incremental, air strike-based plan which relies on support for forces already fighting on the ground. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine just who the U.S. should back and the plan to back U.S.-trained rebels fell apart.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Coffee-fueled mayhem (Photo: Voice of America)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is in favor of a new AMF, but for some in Congress, the President’s proposal isn’t enough. As Germany, France, China, and Russia ramp up their own operations against ISIS, a few in the U.S. want to take their participation a step further. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are calling for 20,000 ground troops to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“The aerial campaign is not turning the tide of battle,” Senator Graham told The Guardian. Part of the McCain-Graham proposal includes the U.S. handling logistics for a 100,000 strong Sunni Arab army from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. There are a number of problems with this plan, however.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The first is that it props up the terrorist organizations recruiting claims that they are the bulwark of true Islam, fighting Western apostates. It also backs up the Sunni Jihadi myth of the “Grand Battle” to be fought for Islam. Most troubling is that the Senators’ plan explicitly supports the Sunni side of what is now widely believed to be a greater religious-political civil war throughout the region (and maybe beyond). As of right now, the U.S. has taken great pains to avoid the perception of taking sides.

The McCain-Graham plan also risks antagonizing the already tense situation relationships between all players. The Russia-U.S. rivalry is well documented, as are Iranian-U.S. issues. The missions of Russia, Iran, and the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria and Iraq is to ensure the survival of the Asad regime, a mission antithetical to the policies of the United States and its NATO allies.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
The last one to touch Putin wins . . . (Kremlin Photo)

In Iraq, a similar situation exists. Iraq is a Shia-dominated country where the locals come to increasingly believe the U.S. is supporting the Islamic State, rather than fighting it, and the Iraqis would be able to win if not for U.S. intervention against them.The Iranian-backed militias are seen as the primary bulwark against ISIS aggression despite, the 3,500 ground troops in Iraq, training and advising the Iraqi forces. The call for an increased presence from Congress is a strange idea, considering the Iraqi government has specifically asked the U.S. not to increase its presence in the country.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

Is it in the United States’ best interest to re-enter the conflicts of the Middle East? The Iraqis already are starting to think the U.S. is on the wrong side. It’s a well known fact the lineage of ISIS traces back to al-Qaeda in Iraq, who helped publish The Management of Savagery, a how-to guide for committing atrocities to trap the West in unwinnable ground wars in the Middle East, which was Osama bin Laden’s long-game strategy, first against the Soviet Union and now the United States. If Putin and Russia want to jump back into the Middle East fray, maybe we should consider letting him.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

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Today in military history: The M16 comes under fire in Vietnam

On May 23, 1967, the M16 went under fire for letting troops down in Vietnam.

The Army began to issue M16s to infantry units in 1965, but the rifle routinely failed when troops needed it most. The crisis gained national attention when Congressman James J. Howard went to the floor of the House of Representatives to read a letter from a Marine in Vietnam.

The letter claimed that many of the casualties suffered during the Battle of Hill 881 were due to malfunctions of the M16 rifle.

The resulting controversy spurred a Congressional investigation. The Army soon found many of the rifles were delivered without cleaning kits and that soldiers and Marines were told that the rifle was “self-cleaning.” The rifle had also received new powder in its 5.56mm cartridges that also caused problems. 

Troops hated the M16 so much, they started calling it the Mattel 16 “because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

“We hated it,” added Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

The M16A1 fixed the problems with a chrome-plated chamber among other improvements. The new rifles were even shipped with a comic-book style manual by legendary graphic novelist Will Eisner.

The improved model proved incredibly reliable, and the M16A4 is in service with our troops today.

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Can the stealthy B-2 Spirit Bomber elude high-tech air defenses?

Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.


“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

B-2 Mission

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today. These technological advances, inlcuding the now-in-development Russian S-500 reported to be able to hit targets 125 miles away, have led some to question whether stealth technology itself is becoming obsolete.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27 at the Utah Testing and Training Range here.

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

B-2 Weapons Upgrades

The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame
Staff Sgt. Michael Taylor (left) and Senior Airman Joseph Nelson load a bomb on a B-2 Spirit bomber. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This robot Army working dog may one day accompany soldiers into combat

Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.

The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.

The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.


It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.

“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)

“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”

The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.

“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.

Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.

“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.

Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)

“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”

“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”

Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.

Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.

“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.

If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.

“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.

“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”

Marines to test 50 futuristic technologies in massive April wargame

The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.

(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)

Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.

“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”

The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.

“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.

Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.

“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”

Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.

“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.

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

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