'Missile barges' could be America's secret weapon in the Pacific - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(U.S. Navy)

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(Pixnio)

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(PXHere)

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

LORA Weapon System Operational Demonstration

www.youtube.com

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how French commandos saved Christmas in Paris in 1994

On December 26, 1994, millions of shoppers across North America rushed to malls in an attempt to make the most of post-Christmas sales. Across the Atlantic Ocean, at an airport in Marseille, France, a small group of men decked out from head to toe in black garb were doing a different kind of rushing — clinging to the back of a mobile staircase while barreling at high speed (or at least as fast as the truck would go) down a runway.


These weren’t ordinary men. Their target was a hulking, cream-white Airbus A300 filled with more than 160 scared and bewildered passengers and flight crew, some of whom were now resigned to accepting an imminent death.

The men on the mobile stairs planned on taking the aircraft in front of them by force, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process. Success was the only acceptable outcome of this operation. Failure would result in the massacring of innocents. Hailing from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (more popularly known as GIGN), these black-clad ninjas were counter-terrorists, the best France had to offer.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
The GIGN raid on Flight 8969
(The Aviation Intelligencer YouTube)

Today’s mission was a hijacked Air France airliner, wired with explosives and crammed with 166 innocent lives. A small group of hijackers, armed to the teeth, were identified as the targets of this mission. Negotiations had failed and the last-resort scenario was now in play.

Just a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, that same aircraft sat at an airport in Algeria with flight attendants scurrying around, preparing the cabin for takeoff. The pilots and flight engineers chatted among themselves as they completed their pre-departure checklist. Labeled Air France Flight 8969, this plane would travel with 236 passengers and crew from Algiers to Paris.

Civilian airlines flying routes into Algeria were repeatedly warned, at the time, that their planes were under constant threat of missile attacks. As a result, Air France only allowed crews who volunteered for the Algiers route to fly it, as long as they knew the risks involved.

On December 24th, the threat didn’t come from a missile but rather from 4 members of the Armed Islamic Group — a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. Disguised as members of the Algerian presidential security force, they walked into the cabin of the Airbus without arousing any suspicion, though some found it quite odd that they visibly carried their weapons.

Outside the aircraft, airport personnel began to worry when the airliner sat on the apron, sealed and ready to depart for Paris, but didn’t move an inch. Already facing delay, the control tower tried to hail the cockpit — no response. Fears began to manifest and armed tactical response teams were deployed immediately.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
GIGN operatives practicing clearing a building
(Domenjod)

It was hijacked.

Aboard Flight 8969, the hijackers began checking passports, likely to earmark targets for execution in the event that their demands weren’t met. Soon after, amidst terrified screams, the terrorists revealed their intention to take the aircraft and waved their guns in the air, demanding cooperation.

The hijackers wired explosives in the cockpit and the main cabin while forcing the pilots, at gunpoint, to exchange clothes with them. The airliner was surrounded outside by police and Algerian military personnel. Negotiations began, but would soon break down.

Within hours of the hijacking, two passengers were executed and their bodies were dumped outside the aircraft. Attempts to use the lead hijacker’s mother to get him to surrender peacefully further enraged the terrorist, causing a breakdown in communications. By the following day, Christmas, another passenger was executed. French government officials were outraged — the Algerian military had botched the situation and were losing innocent lives.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
GIGN commandos with rifles and submachine guns
(Domenjod)

After releasing just over 60 passengers as a sign of good faith, the aircraft was eventually allowed to take off and continue to France, albeit to Marseille as it had burned through too much fuel to make it to Paris.

GIGN was notified and they diverted their aircraft to Marseille, which had already taken off for Spain — as close as they could get to Algeria without entering the country. Having familiarized themselves with the Air France A300 they were aboard — identical to Flight 8969 — they were ready to roll as soon as their plane touched down.

In the early hours of December 26, Flight 8969 landed and was ushered to a secluded spot at Marseille, Unbeknownst to the hijackers, they were now under surveillance by highly-trained and well-experienced GIGN snipers. Their new demands confirmed the rumors of an attack on Paris. They ordered 27 tons of fuel, instead of just the 9 they needed to make it to Paris.

They intended on turning the A300 into a flying, fuel-laden bomb, triggered using the explosives they had previously wired. When detonated over densely-populated Paris, it would kill all on the flight, scores on the ground, and wound and maim many more. GIGN wasn’t about to let this happen.

Tricking the hijackers into clearing a space in the front of the aircraft for a press conference (and forcing the passengers further towards the back of the jet), GIGN prepped the aircraft for a takedown. In the early evening of December 26, the raid began.

Airstairs (mobile staircases) began racing towards Flight 8969 loaded with GIGN commandos that were armed with submachine guns and pistols. They threw stun grenades and entered the fray.

In the chaos, one of the plane’s pilots jumped out of the cockpit window and hobbled to safety. Snipers began firing into the cockpit, aiming for a hijacker they knew had hunkered down in there. The teams that entered through the rear of the aircraft evacuated passengers. Three hijackers were immediately killed; a fourth remained in the cockpit for 20 minutes before meeting his end.

By the end of the engagement, all four hijackers were dead. 13 passengers and 3 crew were wounded. Aside from the 3 passengers who were executed, all survived. The majority of the Air France flight crew returned to the skies despite the trauma.

popular

The Wild West’s toughest lawman was born a slave

The real-world exploits of this U.S. Marshal sound like the stuff of legend, up there with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Except most of what you’ll hear about Bass Reeves is real. He escaped slavery in Texas by beating up his owner’s son. Then he lived among the natives in the Indian Territory of what is today Oklahoma. He memorized arrest warrants and always brought in the right criminal.

Bass Reeves was exactly what the Wild West needed.


‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

While he could neither read nor write, Reeves knew the Indian Territory. He escaped there after beating up his master’s son in a dispute over a card game. The need to survive led him to the tribes of the Cherokee, Seminoles, and Creek Indians, whom he befriended and lived with until the end of the Civil War made him a free man. While he was illiterate, his mind was like a steel trap, and his heart was as brave as they come. When U.S. Marshal James Fagan was tasked with cleaning up the Indian Territory of its felons and outlaws, his first hire was Bass Reeves.

Reeves was now the first black lawman west of the Mississippi River and was perfectly suited for duty in the Indian Territory, speaking their language and knowing the terrain. For 32 years, Reeves would bring in the most dangerous of criminals without ever being wounded in action, despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
Reeves and his Native American partner might have inspired “The Lone Ranger.”

 

At the end of his long, illustrious career, Reeves claimed to have arrested more than 3,000 felons and shot at least 14 outlaws dead during shootouts – he even had to arrest his own son for murder. Even though he claimed he’d never been hit by an outlaw’s bullet, there were times where they got the drop on the lawman. His favorite trick, one he used many times, was a letter ruse. When his quarry got the better of him, he would ask his captors to read him a letter from his wife before they shot him. Once the outlaws took the letter, Reeves used the distraction to draw his weapon and disarm or take down the bad guys.

His exploits were soon famous, and he earned the nickname “The Invincible Marshal” for all the times he’d escaped the jaws of death. Only at age 71 did death come for Bass Reeves – not in the form of an outlaw’s bullet, but rather kidney disease, in 1910.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines used a 3D printed F-35 replacement part for the first time

Marines with Combat Logistic Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, are now capable of “additive manufacturing,” also known as 3-D printing.

This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.


Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.

3-D printing is the future

“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.

The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.

“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”

The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.

‘Fix it forward’

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, a maintenance officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, holds a 3-D printed plastic bumper for an F-35B Lightning II landing gear door.
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)

“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”

Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.

Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.

‘My most important commodity is time’

“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”

VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
A Marine F-35B Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.

The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.

The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.


This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Army, NFL scientists team up to develop injury-reducing neck tether

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
The Rate-Activated Tether | U.S. Army photo


Army scientists, working with officials from the National Football League, have developed a wearable device that helps reduce head and neck injuries.

The Rate-Activated Tether, is a flexible strap that connects a helmet to shoulder pads or body armor, said Shawn Walsh of the Weapons and Material Research Directorate at Army Research Laboratory.

“What happens is if that when head is exposed to adverse acceleration, this RAT strap will basically transition into a rigid device that will transmit the load to the body, and it has been proven to significantly reduce acceleration,” Walsh told defense reporters at a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by Program Executive Office Soldier.

Over the years, the Defense Department has partnered with the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to research brain injuries. For example, the Army beginning in 2007 put blast sensors into tens of thousands of helmets to monitor head injuries from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon and NCAA in 2014 announced a joint study into concussions.

Army scientists are not sure if the device will eliminate Traumatic Brain Injury or concussions, but “we can say with some confidence that there is some benefit to reducing adverse acceleration,” Walsh said.

The device could help to prevent head injuries sometimes experienced by paratroopers, Walsh said.

“It is a known fact that paratroopers do experience head injuries,” he said. “They are trained to land very carefully, but sometimes at night, in the rain or in irregular terrain and something goes just a little off, they can land on their head,” he said. “There is some very real Army applications associated with that as well.”

Army officials also discussed more long-term science and technology initiatives such as a project to design robots that could one day deploy shields to protect soldiers in a firefight.

“Part of our job at the research center is to kind of try to push the Army out of its comfort zone,” Walsh said. “One of the things we are exploring now is robotics.”

An effort known as Robotic Augmented Soldier Protection is designed to shadow soldiers and deploy a protective shield when an attack occurs, Walsh said.

“A lot of people associate robotics with lethality, but what we are looking at is can we use robotics in a purely protective mode?” Walsh said. “Can we use these robotics to deploy protective mechanisms … that can work to protect a human?”

What is lacking right now is the science, Walsh said, adding that the Army is trying to work with the academic community on the effort.

Army officials that develop soldier requirements at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia are also interested in the concept, said Col. Curt “Travis” Thompson, director of the Soldier Division at Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manpower – Soldier.

“We are the closest touchpoint to the soldiers who are out in the field … but that doesn’t mean that we are the closest touch point to the realm of the possible or where we should be going,” he said. “We absolutely rely on ARL to kind of inform us to what is possible.”

The service’s leadership has shown interest in the effort, Walsh said.

“The Army is encouraging us; we were actually down at Fort Benning,” Walsh said. “They want to see more prototyping. They want to be introduced to these concepts as soon as possible.”

While still a fledgling effort, ARL does have a working prototype, he said.

“We are not saying that every soldier would have one,” Walsh said. “This is only useful in certain scenarios.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 of the ways the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are like your infantry squad

The brotherhood of an infantry squad is hard to match. No matter where you go after you leave, you’ll struggle to find that same type of camaraderie. Sure, there are civilian jobs out there that offer something similar, but let’s face it — nothing will ever rival getting sh*tfaced in the barracks on the weekend with your best buds after a long week of putting up with your command’s bullsh*t.

That’s why we love watching shows like Sons of Anarchy.

The fictional motorcycle club happens to embody a lot of the things we loved about “being with the homies” in our squads. The way they interact with each other and their overall lifestyle runs eerily parallel to the way grunts conduct themselves.


If you’ve watched the show, this won’t come as a surprise but, in case you haven’t, these are the ways Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original are a lot like your infantry squad:

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Nothing else compares…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Brotherhood

SAMCRO is all about the brotherhood. They’re always looking out for each other and going to extreme lengths to help one another. It’s not just about your duty, it’s about the love you have for the people with whom you serve. Being in an infantry squad helps you develop this mentality.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

And sh*t like this will suck less.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

Loyalty

Oftentimes, you won’t have to be asked to do things because you’ll want to do them without being asked. You know that your actions are for the betterment of the squad. The guys to your left and right depend on you and you them. This loyalty will be a driving desire in everything you do.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Even working out is something that benefits your squad mates.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

You go beyond “for the club”

After you get used to your squad and you’ve established your loyalty and brotherhood, you’ll begin to go beyond what’s required of you to help out the squad. You might even start taking MarineNet courses you’re interested in to help boost your squad’s effectiveness.

At the end of the day, SAMCRO members make choices and do things because of their love and loyalty to the club.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

You’ll do anything for your squad.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Dedication to one another

When one of your brothers is going through a rough time, you’ll feel a drive to do whatever you can to help them out. If someone hurts your squad mate in one way or another, no matter what it is, you’ll be out for blood. This is honestly one of the things that makes the Sons of Anarchy such an interesting group of people to watch.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The 6 worst plays in recent NFL history

Play calling in the NFL is a lot more difficult than it looks, but there are some moments in recent football history that were just so unbelievable, we can’t understand how they even happened.

If you’re a fan of one of these teams, you’ll never forget it. If you were a fan of the opposing team, you at least got a good chuckle out of it. The rest of us are still in disbelief. These are the plays that made us wonder just what the hell they were trying to accomplish.


6. Cincinnati falls apart

This is less of a single play and more of a series of unfortunate events. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990, but finished strong in the 2015-2016 season, earning a Wild Card spot and a shot at eliminating their AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bengals-Steelers games are always a toss-up, but can be particularly brutal. This one is a game neither will forget.

With just 1:45 left in the game and the ball under Bengal control, Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill fumbled and it was recovered by the Steelers. In the time that was left, Cincinnati players racked up 30 yards in penalties, which moved the Steelers into field goal range. Cincinnati lost by two points.

5. Seahawks Super Bowl pass

The Seahawks made it all the way to Super Bowl XLIX on the back of their beastly running back, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch was arguably the best running back of the season, and perhaps one of the best of all time. So with 25 seconds left in the game and the Seahawks down by four points, it’s second and goal. The Seahawks handed off to the unstoppable Lynch and won the game.

Just kidding, they went for a pass that was picked off by New England who ran the clock out and went home with the Lombardi Trophy. What, exactly, they were thinking has been a mystery ever since.

4. The Jets score a touchdown on their own kickoff

It’s New Years Day 2017 and the Bills decide to start the new year in the most Buffalo way possible. With three minutes left in the game, the Jets are up 23-3 and kick off to Buffalo following their latest garbage-time score. Returner Mike Gillislee opted not to field the ball, instead letting it bounce into the end zone — where it came to a complete stop, untouched by any Bill.

Jets safety Doug Middleton jumped on the ball in the end zone, giving New York another six points.

3. “The Buttfumble”

This might be the only play on this list that deserves its own 30 for 30 and the clip above features Rex Ryan talking about it. It was a terrible call from the start, the national game for NBC’s Thanksgiving Day football coverage. Some 20 million people watched Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez run head-first into the rear end of Jets Guard Brandon Moore.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the “Butt Fumble” (as it came to be called) caused Sanchez to drop the ball, which was picked up by the New England Patriots’ Steve Gregory and returned for a defensive touchdown.

2.  DeSean Jackson Literally Drops The Ball

Jackson, who has a history of dumb plays, picked up a 65-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles. To celebrate his touchdown, he dropped the ball in the end zone with some swagger and flourish — except it wasn’t a touchdown.

And there was definitely nothing to celebrate. It turns out, Jackson dropped the ball on the one-yard line, where it was eventually called dead because no one on the cowboys went to pick it up, either. The Eagles were lucky to regain possession on the 1.

1. The Colts’ Worst Punt/Pass Protection

I’m still not sure what to call this. The Colts wanted to trick the Patriots on a fourth down punt-or-pass play by shifting all their players to the right side of the field — except for two. The Colts were down by six points but had plenty of time left in the game on their own 43 yard line, so a punt (a real one) made sense. That’s not what happened. The snap and everyone involved with it was overwhelmed and crushed.

Maybe it was a try to get New England to jump offsides on 4th and 3. Instead, the Colts received an illegal formation penalty and the ball was turned over to the Patriots with great field position. The Patriots scored on that possession and won the game 34-27.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 of the best military-themed books

Have you found yourself with extra time during the social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future? Why not grab one or all of these great military books and learn some history, be inspired and connect with the military community. You won’t even need to leave the house.


8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor by Florent Groberg

If you don’t know the story of Florent Groberg you need to and now you have an opportunity through his new book. He grew up in France and became a naturalized citizen in 2001 and joined the Army in 2008. On his second tour to Afghanistan, his quick actions saved lives and led him to become a Medal of Honor Recipient.

The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a Seal Team Warrior by Robert O’Neil

An instant New York Times bestseller is a “jaw dropping, fast-paced account,” (New York Post) telling the biographical account of SEAL Team Operator Robert O’Neil’s, including an incredible 400 mission career. Highlights of his career include the attempt to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, and his pursuits culminate in the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist – Osama bin Laden. This book has been given rave reviews and was signed for a movie deal in 2019.

Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success by Deborah James

What does it take to become the Secretary of the Air Force? A lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and taking a risk to try something new. Those were key aspects to her success. She started her career in government then transferred to the private sector only to come back to government as the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force. She shares her story through a three-part strategy that guided her through her career sharing her experience through both personal and professional challenges.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis

Call Sign Chaos is a #1 New York Times Bestseller by everyone’s favorite general. Mattis is the former Secretary of Defense and one of the most formidable strategic thinkers of our time. This book is an account of his career which included leadership roles in three wars, including commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. With a three-part approach focused on direct, executive and strategic leadership you will walk away learning how to be an effective leader.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

Women of the Military by Amanda Huffman

Women of the Military is a compilation of 28 stories of women who have started their path to military life, are currently serving, separated or retired. It is the real-life stories of military women shared through an interview format that shows the challenges, the high points and how history was changed through each woman’s commitment to the U.S. military.

Sacred Spaces by Corie Weathers

What started as a trip for a military spouse to visit the troops overseas opened her eyes to what it meant to be a soldier and created a story to share. It not only allowed her to understand her husband’s deployments experience, but also allowed her husband to see the challenges military spouses face as he was left to help with the kids and manage the home front. Through this experience they learned from each other by walking in the other’s shoes and gaining an understanding.

A Knock at the Door by Ryan Manion, Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan

What happens when your family member or spouse dies overseas? A military service member knocks on the door and your whole life changes in an instant. Hear the real stories from three women who lost those closest to them. The book will put a story with the number of men and women we have lost at war. The hurt and pain, but also the courage to keep moving forward and make a positive impact in the world.

You Are Worth It: Building a Life Worth Fighting For by Kyle Carpenter

Kyle sacrificed himself when he jumped on a grenade in Helmand Province. And although he survived, he lost his right eye and had to battle for his life. He uses this book to share that life is worth everything we’ve got. Kyle shares what led him to the point in Helmand Province and how he came back from the gravest of challenges to live a joyful life full of purpose.

Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

Written from a collection of stories collected from women who attended West Point, Claire captures the true challenges of attending, graduating and heading off to war as a military woman. This novel inspired by real events will open your eyes to a detailed, in-depth look of the life of being a woman at West Point and beyond.

Final Flight Final Fight by Erin Miller

Do you know about the Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP) that took up the call of a nation looking for women to fill billets home station so men could serve overseas during World War II? Hear their stories and what one family did after their matriarchal leader died and Arlington refused to bury her on their hallowed grounds.

These are just a handful of the great military books that are worth diving into. What is your favorite military themed book?


MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to de-escalate an argument

Arguments are an unfortunate byproduct of any relationship. Even the best of partners will disagree on something from time to time. Of course, there are disagreements that walk the line between minor spat and major throw-down. When it comes to such arguments, a couple must perform a delicate balancing act that keeps the conversation on point while preventing things from escalating to a full-blown war of words. Sometimes a simple turn of phrase, a moment of patience, or a gentle touch is all it takes to cool everyone’s jets and bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution. Here’s what to do to prevent an argument from spinning out of control.


1. For the love of god, don’t interrupt

One of the main reasons an argument falls apart is because one or the other participant can’t get a word in. This never fails to be infuriating. People with a predilection for interruption will often simply wait until their partner is done talking and then jump in with an already formulated response, which is a way of signaling that they wait for their turn rather than listening. In order to keep the argument on message, give your partner the time they need to say their piece. “Even if you completely disagree with their point of view, it’s not healthy to shut them down,” says Maria Sullivan, a relationship expert and the vice president of Dating.com. “Let their voice be heard, just as you would want your partner to do the same.”

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

2. Mind your tone

When you raise your voice, your partner will begin to mimic your tone. From there, things can quickly escalate, until you find yourselves locked in a battle royale. The key, then, is to keep your tone even and calm. Not only will it keep the argument on track, but it will also help you to keep your thoughts organized. “If you take a deep breath and speak calmly and slowly, your significant other will do the same,” Sullivan says.

3. Keep things solution oriented

When couples argue, very often they tend to hammer at the problem over and over again, outlining what is wrong, why it’s a problem, and who’s responsible. This does nothing but fuel anger and resentment on both sides. Try to state the problem up front and then offer a solution. Saying something like, “I know it makes you angry that I don’t always get to the dishes; what’s a system we can put in place to make sure they’re done?” can diffuse an argument before it gets worse. “What has happened in the past is past. Look for a way to avoid it in the future,” says Susan Petang a lifestyle and stress management coach, and author of The Quiet Zone — Mindful Stress Management for Everyday People. “Asking your partner to come up with a solution or offering a collaborative solution makes it more likely they’ll stick to an agreement.”

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(Photo by Trung Thanh)

4. Rely on the power of touch

When an argument gets heated, both partners tend to retreat into their corners, pulling apart, and avoiding any contact. This can even extend to body language, with crossed arms and legs sending a message to the other person to keep their distance. Before things begin to escalate, reach out for your partner and try to make a connection. You would be surprised how a simple touch can change the emotion in the room. “It is really hard to continue fighting with someone who is being vulnerable and either asking to be held or who takes their spouse’s hand in their own,” says Dr. Miro Gudelsky, an intimacy expert, sex therapist, and couples counselor.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

(Photo by Jeremy Yap)

5. Take a break

There’s nothing wrong with calling a time-out. In fact, sometimes it’s the best way to cool down a dispute and keep things from rising into the red. Stepping out for a half-hour and taking a walk or doing a calming activity can be just what you need to gather your thoughts and approach the discussion rationally. “The reason we often feel regretful after arguing is because we get caught up in the moment and say things we don’t mean,” Sullivan says. “Take a breather and recollect yourself before continuing the discussion.”

6. Try a little humor

Yeah, you might not be feeling too funny in the moment, but a little laugh can take a lot of the stress and tension out of an argument almost instantly. You could throw out a one-liner like, “I’m sorry, could you yell a little louder?” or make a self-deprecating joke. Suzann Pileggi Pawelski, co-author of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts, even recommends speaking with an English accent (or a different accent for our English readers!). “We have used it in our own relationship many times,” she says. “We find that this healthy habit can transform relationships by increasing awareness of unhealthy behaviors that we automatically fall into when arguing.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

Behold the ‘bazooka Vespa’

In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.


The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
Isn’t the bazooka Vespa…that is…the Vespa Militare magnificent? (Photo: C. Galliani)

The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.

Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.

The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.

Also read: The most ridiculous weapons used throughout history

Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.

About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.

However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of the legendary HH-60 Pave Hawks

Based on the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk, the HH-60G Pave Hawk is a highly modified version with upgraded communications and navigation suite. The forward-looking infrared system, color weather radar and an engine/rotor blade anti-ice system, enables the Pave Hawk to fly in bad weather. The in-flight refueling probe and auxiliary fuel tanks allow the Pave Hawk to outdistance other rescue helicopters.

The Pave Hawk’s crew of pararescue airmen can utilize its hoist, capable of lifting 600 pounds, to perform personnel recovery operations in hostile environments. The HH-60G is also used for civil search and rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, humanitarian assistance, security cooperation/aviation advisory, NASA space flight support, and rescue command and control.


Design and development

In the early 1980s, the Air Force began its search for a replacement of the aging HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter. The Air Force acquired UH-60 Black Hawks and modified them with a refueling probe, additional fuel tanks and .50 XM218s machine guns. These helicopters were renamed “Credible Hawks” and entered service in 1987.
In 1991, the Credible Hawks and new Black Hawks were upgraded again and re-designated to Pave Hawk.

After almost 40 years of service, the HH-60G Pave Hawk will be replaced by the HH-60W. Increased internal fuel capacity and new defensive systems and sensors will provide increased range and survivability during combat rescue missions. The fleet of HH-60Gs will be fully replaced with 112 HH-60Ws by 2029 with the first delivery scheduled for 2020.

Operational history

The HH-60 has operated during operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, Enduring Freedom, and continues to operate in Resolute Support and Operation Inherent Resolve, supporting coalition ground operations and standby search and rescue for U.S. and coalition fixed-wing combat aircraft.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, secure the area after being lowered from a U.S. Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission Nov. 7, 2012, in Afghanistan.

(Photo by staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Personnel from 305th Rescue Squadron flew HH-60 Pave Hawks to rescue “Lone Survivor” Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, after his four-man team was ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan and he was the only one to survive.
After Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, more than 20 active-duty, Reserve, and National Guard Pave Hawks were deployed to Jackson, Miss., in support of recovery operations in New Orleans and surrounding areas. Pave Hawk crews flew around-the-clock operations for nearly a month, saving more than 4,300 Americans from the post-hurricane devastation.

Within 24 hours of the Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami in 2011, HH-60Gs deployed to support Operation Tomodachi, providing search and rescue capability to the disaster relief efforts.

Since then Pave Hawks have been instrumental in saving lives during natural disasters and major floods.

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 129th Rescue Wing, California Air National Guard, flies over Pardee Reservoir, in Lone, California, Saturday, April 14, 2018, during interagency aircrew training with CAL FIRE. Cal Guard helicopter crews and support personnel gathered for three days of joint wildfire aviation training to prepare for heightened fire activity in the summer and fall.

(Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Did You Know?

  • PAVE stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment
  • To improve air transportability and shipboard operations, all HH-60Gs have folding rotor blades.
General Characteristics:
  • Primary Function: Personnel recovery in hostile conditions and military operations other than war in day, night or marginal weather
  • Contractor: United Technologies/Sikorsky Aircraft Company
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines
  • Thrust: 1,560-1,940 shaft horsepower, each engine
  • Rotor Diameter: 53 feet, 7 inches (14.1 meters)
  • Length: 64 feet, 8 inches (17.1 meters)
  • Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (4.4 meters)
  • Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
  • Fuel Capacity: 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms)
  • Payload: depends upon mission
  • Speed: 184 mph (159 knots)
  • Range: 504 nautical miles
  • Ceiling: 14,000 feet (4,267 meters)
  • Armament: Two 7.62mm or .50 caliber machineguns
  • Crew: Two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner
  • Unit Cost: .1 million (Fiscal year 2011 dollars)
  • Initial operating capability: 1982
  • Inventory: Active force, 67; ANG, 17; Reserve, 15
  • This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

    MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

    This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

    New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

    The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

    A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


    Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

    The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

    ‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

    Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

    (Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

    “It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

    Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

    Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

    “The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

    In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

    The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

    Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

    Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

    ‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

    Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

    (Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

    “We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

    Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

    Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

    “We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

    “This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

    Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

    This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

    Articles

    Air Force grounds F-35s after reports of serious oxygen deprivation

    The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.


    Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.

    ‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific
    U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

    The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.

    According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.

    “Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

    In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”

    The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.

    Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.

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