This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions - We Are The Mighty
Intel

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

The engineers at the Carnegie Mellon University developed a robot prototype that could theoretically perform many, if not all, ground missions.


“By creating a system that can be readily reconfigured and that also is easy to program, we believe we can build robots that are not only robust and flexible, but also inexpensive,” said Howie Choset, the inventor of this robotic system in a Carnegie Mellon University news article. “Modularity has the potential to rapidly accelerate the development of traditional industrial robots, as well as all kinds of new robots.”

Watch how the robot is assembled like Legos to create a snake, a walking six-legged machine, and other wild things:

NOW: Hilarious robot fails show why you shouldn’t worry about ‘Terminator’ just yet

OR: This teenage genius created the best prosthetic ever

Articles

What we know about the next version of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird is rightly viewed as a legend. Best known as a recon plane that nobody could hit, it even was considered as the basis for a fighter and was the second-fastest manned plane in history.


It served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999. The SR-71 had been developed from the A-12 OXCART (no relation to the A-12 Avenger), a single-seat plane capable of making high-speed recon runs as well.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Blackbird pilots in front of an SR-71.

It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability. But Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which created the A-12/YF-12/SR-71 family, is now developing a SR-72, and they promise it will be faster than the Blackbird.

Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.

The new SR-72, though, is going to leverage technology from the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 to help it fly at speeds exceeding Mach 6. The HTV-2 hit Mach 20 during its flights.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
The factory floor of Skunk Works, where the SR-71 was manufactured. (CIA photo)

According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the SR-72 will also have a strike mission. While the exact weapons are unknown at this time, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that plans call for a “Flight Research Vehicle” to be constructed in the early 2020s, with a full-scale version to be in service sometime in the 2030s.

As for the lucky pilots who get to fly this plane, they will not need the very bulky suits that Blackbird pilots wear. That’s because the initial plans call for the SR-72 to be a drone.

Well, no successor to the Blackbird can be perfect.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are the top shooting tips according to a sniper

Hidden, the sniper peers through his scope. Watching from the shadows, he sets his sights on his target. He thinks through his shot. Holding his breath, he fires. The enemy never sees it coming. Target down.

When you hear the word “sniper,” the image that likely pops into your head is that of a concealed sharpshooter armed with a powerful rifle preparing to fire a kill shot from hundreds of yards away. There’s a good reason for that.

Snipers are defined, at least in part, by their unique ability to eliminate targets at a distance, taking out threats without letting the enemy know that they are coming. It’s a difficult job. Snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters, and occasionally take an enemy out from much farther away.


A Canadian special forces sniper, for instance, shattered the world record for longest confirmed kill shot in 2017, shooting an ISIS fighter dead in Iraq from over two miles away.

“There’s definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Business Insider. “Anything is possible.”

We asked a handful of elite US Army snipers, each of whom has engaged enemies in combat, what goes into long-range shots. Here is what these expert marksman had to say about shooting like a sniper.

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes told BI.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

First, a sharpshooter needs the right gear. A sniper’s rifle is his most important piece of equipment, his lifeline. The two standard rifles used by conventional Army snipers are the gas M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System and the bolt-action M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle.

Bullets fired from these rifles leave the barrel at speeds in excess of 750 meters per second, more than two times the speed of sound.

The other critical assets a sniper never wants to go into the field without are his DOPE (Data on Previous Engagements) book and his consolidated data card or range card — hard data gathered in training that allow a sniper to accelerate the challenging shot process. Snipers do not have an unlimited amount of time to make a shot. They have to be able to act quick when called upon.

Second, while every Army sniper has the ability to carry out his mission independently, these sharpshooters typically work closely with their spotters, a critical set of extra eyes on the battlefield.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

A U.S. Army sniper, paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, uses his spotter scope to observe the battlefield during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

The two soldiers swap roles in training so that each person is crystal clear on the responsibilities of the other, ensuring greater effectiveness in combat.

Third, a sharpshooter needs a stable firing position, preferably one where the sniper is concealed from the watchful eyes of the enemy and can lie prone, with legs spread to absorb the recoil. Snipers do, however, train to shoot from other positions, such as standing or kneeling.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Fourth, the sniper and his spotter must have a comprehensive understanding of all of the difficult considerations and calculations that go into the shot process, Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, sniper instructor team sergeant at Fort Benning, explained to BI. The team must measure atmospherics, determine range, determine wind, and then work together to fire accurately on a target.

“The biggest thing you have to consider is, right off the bat, your atmospherics,” he said. These include temperature, station pressure, and humidity for starters. “The sniper has to account for all of that, and that is going to help formulate a firing solution.”

An important tool is a sniper-spotter team’s applied ballistics kestrel, basically a handheld weather station. “It automatically takes readings and calculates a firing solution based on the gun profile we build,” Rance told BI.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

Next, the pair determines range, which is paramount.

Against lower level threats like militants, snipers can use laser range finders. But trained soldiers likely have the ability to detect that. Against these advanced battlefield enemies, snipers must rely on the reticle in the scope.

“So, basically, we have this ruler, about three and a half, four inches in front of our eyes that’s inside the optic that can go ahead and mil off a target and determine a range through that,” Rance said.

Once the sniper determines range, the next step is to determine the wind speed. Based on the distance to the target, the sniper must determine wind speed for different zones. “The sniper will then generally apply a hold,” Rance explained. “He will dial the elevation on his optic, and he will hold for wind.”

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

U.S. Army sniper Spc. Nicholas Logsdon, a paratrooper assigned to 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Mountain Shock at Pocek Range in Slovenia Dec. 8, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

When firing from great distances, bullets don’t fly straight. Over long range, bullets experience spin drift and gravity’s toll, which causes it to slow down from initial supersonic flight.

When it comes time to take the shot, the sniper will “fire on a respiratory pause,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at the sniper school at Fort Benning, explained to BI. “He is naturally going to stop breathing before he pulls the trigger.”

For an expert sniper, the gun will come straight back into his shoulder, and the scope ought to fall right back on target.

Fifth, a sniper has to be ready to quickly put another shot down range if the first fails to eliminate the threat. “If [the sniper] were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do the second shot correction before that target seeks cover and disappears.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the F-15C Eagle keeps getting better with age

The F-15 Eagle has put up one of the best records of any air-superiority fighter – ever. It has scored over 100 air-to-air kills with no losses. Yet while the development of the Su-27/30/33/35 and J-11/15/16 families of the Flanker from Russia and China have closed the gap significantly, the Eagle remains very lethal – and keeps getting better.


Part of it is the inclusion of new sensor capabilities, like the Legion pod, that enable the F-15 to do thing the Su-27 can do. Another part has been upgrades to the existing systems, like the AN-APG-63 radar, which has been replaced by a new version with an active electronically-scanned antenna version known as the APG-63(V)3.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle aircraft fires an AIM-120 AMRAAM. (U.S. Air Force photo)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Air Force did give the entire F-15 fleet an upgrade known as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System, or EPAWSS, which gave the F-15C/D an improved chaff and flare dispenser, a digital radar-warning receiver, and a towed decoy. This gives the F-15 a better chance against enemy surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles.

But the F-15 from the get-go had a lot of advantages. It could carry up to eight air-to-air missiles (today, the load is usually four AIM-120 AMRAAM and four AIM-9X Sidewinders), and it had a 20mm M61 Gatling gun with 940 rounds of ammo. It has a top speed of 1,875 miles per hour, and an unrefueled range of 2,402 miles. Boeing has been pitching an Eagle 2040C that would add even more missiles to the F-15’s already formidable armament.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Boeing is pitching the Eagle 2040C, able to carry 16 AMRAAMs. (Youtube Screenshot from Boeing video)

Over 1,500 F-15s of all types have been built, and the production line is still open, producing variants of the F-15E Strike Eagle for orders by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. You can see a video about why the F-15 is aging so well below.

Intel

Former Navy SEAL commander says Putin has outplayed the US and Russia is the greatest external security threat

  • Retired US Navy Adm. William McRaven said Tuesday that Russia was the greatest external security threat to the US.
  • McRaven, a former Navy SEAL and special-operations commander, said Putin has outplayed the US.
  • He praised Biden for efforts early in his presidency to press Putin on US national interests.

During a recent discussion of the challenges the new Biden administration faces, retired Adm. William McRaven said Russian President Vladimir Putin has outplayed the US and that Russia is the greatest external security threat.

“I am often asked where do I think the greatest external security threat is, and I always point to Russia,” McRaven, a former Navy SEAL and special-operations commander, said at a Chatham House event on Tuesday. “A lot of people think about China, but Russia jumps to mind first.”

While he acknowledged that Russia is not the superpower it once was, he stressed that “Putin has outplayed us.”

“He has played the great game better than anyone on the world stage,” McRaven said of the Russian president. Pointing to Russian actions in Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, and even the US that were detrimental to American interests, he said: “Putin is a very dangerous person.”

China is often regarded as the pacing threat for the US, and during the Trump administration, tremendous emphasis was put on countering China with less attention paid to Russia.

Nonetheless, Russia is a great power rival, listed as a leading threat alongside China in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

“We do need to find areas where we can partner with the Russians,” McRaven said, “but make no mistake about it, I think we need to take a hard line with respect to Russia … We need to let Putin know that there are lines you just shouldn’t cross.”

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

McRaven praised President Joe Biden’s first phone call with Putin, in which the president, according to a White House readout, “made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.”

Biden is said to have discussed arms-control concerns, asserted US support for Ukraine, and pressed Putin on the massive SolarWinds cyberattack that affected a number of federal government agencies and bureaus, election interference, and the poisoning of the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“I was pleased to see the president in his first phone call with President Putin addressed Alexei Navalny issue,” McRaven said. “I don’t think President Trump would have done that.”

As president, Donald Trump did not condemn Russia over the poisoning of Navalny, whom Russia recently put in prison.

Commenting on his discussion with Putin, Biden said Thursday that he “made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our election, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.”

“We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people,” he added.

McRaven said Tuesday that the US needed to not only make its position clear to Russia but also rebuild and leverage alliances “to make sure that Russia understands how they need to play.”

The Biden administration has made priorities of rebuilding alliances, reengaging in international affairs, and leading with confidence and humility. The president’s foreign-policy approach stands in stark contrast with Trump’s “America First” policies.

During his presidency, Trump was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for pushing away allies and partners while at times cozying up to adversaries.

In particular, critics expressed concern as Trump struck a conciliatory tone toward Russia, despite warnings from across the intelligence community and other parts of the US government that Russia was engaged in activities that harmed US interests.

McRaven, who voted for Biden despite considering himself a conservative, was an outspoken critic of Trump’s policies.

In an opinion column published in August, McRaven wrote that Trump was “actively working to undermine every major institution in this country” as the US struggled with “rising threats from China and Russia,” among other challenges.

One of his more famous op-eds was a 2019 article titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” in which he said: “If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.”

He said Trump’s actions threatened the trust of American’s allies and partners.

“If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military,” McRaven wrote. “And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?”

McRaven served nearly four decades in the military. As the commander of Joint Special Operations Command, he oversaw Operation Neptune Spear, the successful military raid that killed the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

After retiring from the Navy in 2014, he went into academia and has written best-selling books on leadership, including “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World” and “Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.”

Articles

Gear Porn: 3 new military gadgets that’ll be perfect in your loadout

The term “gear porn” might conjure up visions of late-night SkinaMax movie shorts, but this time we’re not talking about adult flicks after dark.


Instead, we’re talking about three new pieces of kit recently announced by their manufacturers that might just find a home in your gear locker: An adapter to attach a night vision monocular to your camera, a very interesting new multi-tool, and…

—•PVS-14 NVG Camera Adapter

—•Center Drive Multi-Tool

—•EDCCB – Every Day Carry Concealment Belt

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
The PVS-14 SLR camera adaptor from TNVC. (Photo from TNVC)

TNVC PVS-14 NVG Camera Adapter

TNVC (@tnvc_inc) has re-released its SLR camera adapter for PVS-14 NVGs. This thing will allow you to place any NVG that uses the PVS-14 eyepiece assembly and retaining ring on a DSLR or SLR camera, providing a 46 mike-mike step ring for the camera lens. It will also work on Sony e-mount lenses with the proper step-up or -down from the 46mm. The three piece ring mounts and optically aligns the AN/PVS-14 monocular to the camera by clamping around the NVG’s ocular. It is secured with a threaded ring.

TNVC, a veteran-owned and -operated company, describes it as the best way to take photos through the tube. As they tell it, “It works especially well with high magnification capable lenses for running surveillance at night, or just taking photos of landscapes, animals, stars, or your neighbor.” That sounds legit to us. It damn sure beats an old school weapon mount with a camera adapter ring. It’s manufactured from machined aircraft aluminum finished in Type III anodized hard coat.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
The Gerber Gear Center Drive multi tool. (Photo from Gerber)

Gerber Gear Center Drive Multi-Tool

This is the Center Drive, a multi-tool built with a full-size driver on the center axis with a standard bit. It hails from Gerber Gear (@gerbergear), built in the company’s Portland facility with American steel and will be available November 2nd. Sliding jaws open with one thumb, allowing access to spring-loaded pliers or a liner-locked, full-size knife blade with reverse thumb support. The replaceable bits include a Phillip’s and flat head and 12 others. All are magnetic.

Gerber describes it as, “Not for posers, slackers, hipsters, or momma’s boys.”

The tools ship with a nylon and elastic sheath that can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.

The Center Drive’s 14 tools include the folowing:

  • Needlenose Pliers
  • Regular Pliers
  • Magnetic 1/4″ Bit Driver
  • Fine Edge Blade
  • Serrated Blade
  • Cats Paw Pry Bar
  • Awl
  • Rotatable Carbide Wire Cutters
  • Wire Strippers
  • File
  • Ruler (stamped into handle)
  • Phillips Bit
  • Flathead Bit
  • Bottle Opener
  • Dual-Mount Sheath
  • Optional Standard Bit Set

EDCCB – Every Day Carry Concealment Belt

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
US PALM’s new everyday carry belt holds some handy surprises. (Photo from US PALM)

From Tactical Jay and Silent Bob from US PALM (@uspalm) down in Phoenix comes the US PALM EDCCB (Every Day Carry Concealment Belt). Designed in collaboration with The Wilderness, the EDCCB is a low profile belt that holds your britches up and hides assorted goodies inside a lengthwise zippered compartment.

It’s built from Frequent Flyer belt Delrin, double rings and a polyethylene-insert CSM (Combat Shooters Model) to support IWB or OWB holsters. It’s available in S, M, L, and XL sizes, and in either black or ranger green colors.

The EDCCB is just one of several pieces of kit in the new US PALM deep concealment lineup. Check out their Ankle-FAKs, LowProGear Urban Havok Bags and other bits of sneaky fightin’ goodness.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

A drone-killing, directed energy weapon prototype is now in the hands of Marines. The Compact Laser Weapons System — or CLaWS — is the first ground-based laser approved by the Department of Defense for use by warfighters on the ground.

“This was all in response to a need for counter unmanned aerial systems to take down drones,” said Don Kelley, program manager for Ground Based Air Defense at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We developed a CLaWS prototype for Marines to use and evaluate.”

In recent years, the Defense department has assessed directed energy weapons — more commonly known as “lasers” — as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.


CLaWS is not intended to be a standalone system for Marines to use to counter enemy drones. Rather, if the prototype continues to do well in the current research and development phase, it will serve as a component to an overall system used to counter drones.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

“We’re providing CLaWS to Marines as a rapid prototype for evaluation,” Kelley said. “Depending on the results, CLaWS could become part of a larger capability set.”

Rapid prototyping, rapid delivery

The GBAD program, managed within the portfolio of PEO Land Systems procured the CLaWS prototype through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium — or DOTC — which was commissioned by the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to foster collaboration between government, industry and academia regarding ordnance technology development and prototyping.

“The typical acquisition timeline can be lengthy,” said Lt. Col. Ho Lee, product manager for GBAD Future Weapons Systems at PEO Land Systems. “But this project, from start to finish — from when we awarded the DOTC contract, to getting all the integration complete, all the testing complete, getting the Marines trained, and getting the systems ready to deploy — took about one year.”

From a production standpoint, Lee said that the program office and its partners integrated various commercial items to create CLaWS.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“We’ve been doing rapid prototyping, rapid delivery,” said Lee. “With this and a lot of the other efforts we are doing, we are using items currently available and integrating them to meet a capability. Little development, if any, went into this.”

Leveraging expertise for increased lethality

Obtaining the green-light to deliver and deploy CLaWS requires a bit more finesse, which is why PM GBAD leveraged DoD interagency partnerships to fulfill the need.

The operational use of new laser weapons, such as CLaWS, requires approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as it involves various factors such as legal reviews, concepts of employment, rules of engagement, tactics, potential collateral damage and human effects, proposed public affairs guidance and other relevant information.

“This program lives and dies with the leveraging of expertise and resources with others,” said Kelley. “It’s about getting these capabilities quickly into the hands of Marines and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Move fast and laser things

As Marines evaluate the CLaWS systems over the next few months, the GBAD program office already has their next target in mind: upgrading it.

Depending on the results, the program office says it could incorporate the CLaWS into other fixed-site and mobile C-UAS defeat capabilities.

“What’s interesting about CLaWS for the Marine Corps is, usually for things like this, we’re on the back end,” said Lee. “With this one, we’re actually in front. Everybody is watching closely to see what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force replaces chem light with a glowing crayon

Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Strange DARPA projects that make sci-fi look low-fi

There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.

For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.


But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.

Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.

But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.

Houses that repair themselves

Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.

Lab-grown blood

This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.

Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules 

Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.

Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.

Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.

Articles

SOCOM and Marine Corps move closer to Ma Deuce replacement

There’s a lot going on behind closed doors in the ground services as planners see an opportunity to fundamentally change the mix of infantry weapons given bigger defense budgets and a command more receptive to change.


WATM earlier reported on moves in the Army to quickly outfit soldiers with an interim battle rifle capability with available 7.62 NATO chambered rifles to replace some standard-issue 5.56 M4s in the infantry squad and platoon. It now seems the service is set to issue an Urgent Needs requirement for over 6,000 battle rifles for soldiers in the fight now.

But in a move that analysts say could fundamentally transform the lethality of small units on the front lines, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps have teamed up to find ways to replace some of their M2 .50 caliber machine guns and M240 machine guns with a new one chambered in an innovative round developed primarily for long-range precision shooters in the civilian market.

WATM reported in March that the services were taking a hard look at the Lightweight Medium Machine Gun developed by General Dynamics that fires the .338 Norma Magnum round — a relatively new cartridge that’s seen few military applications until now. According to sources in close touch with military planners, the .338 NM machine gun is 3 pounds lighter than the M240B and has double the range and lethality of the 7.62 round.

On May 11, SOCOM and the Marine Corps issued a so-called “Sources Sought” message to industry asking for a LWMMG that weighs less than 24 pounds, with a rate of fire between 500-600 rounds and which includes a suppressed and un-suppressed quick-change barrel.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
This slide from a recent industry briefing shows the LWMMG and its .338 NM round potentially reach targets beyond the .50 cal M2 range. Stats show an incredible 5x energy at 1,000 meters compared to the NATO 7.62 round. (Photo from General Dynamics)

The LWMMG should have the capability to accurately engage point targets out to 2,000 meters, SOCOM and the Marine Corps says.

The request is in answer to worries by military planners that the enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other potential battlefields have widely-available small arms capabilities that can target U.S. troops at ranges Americans can’t reach with most weapons. Additionally, the M2 is extremely heavy and cannot be wielded by a single operator like the LWMMG can.

Documents show the 75th Ranger Regiment and Marine special operations units have successfully evaluated four LWMMGs and 16,000 rounds of .338 NM ammunition and want more.

The Sources Sought notice also includes a request for .338 NM ammunition with a polymer case rather than a brass or steel one — an effort to cut down on the overall weight of the system and allow more rounds per shooter. General Dynamics is well on its way to fielding a polymer-cased .338 round (less than 13 pounds for a 500-round box), and the Marine Corps is moving forward with outfitting its forces with polymer-cased .50 caliber rounds.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
The technology to develop lightweight rounds that can handle the heat and pressure of automatic fire is progressing rapidly. (Photo from General Dynamics)

“In my opinion, adoption of this capability is the single greatest small arms capability enhancement to the US military in the last century,” said one military small arms expert on the industry website SoldierSystems.net. “It offers the ability to deliver accurate sustained fire at ranges out to 2000m in a package which can be employed by one operator.”

Articles

Thursday Threesome: These optics show how much has changed in tactical glass

Stalking and intelligence gathering are different from creepin’, right? We’re pretty sure there’s a distinction. But good glass (i.e. a scope) can help with all three.


According to John Ratcliffe Chapman’s book Instructions To Young Marksmen, the first truly telescopic rifle scope was invented in 1835 and 1840 — put together by Morgan James with design help from Chapman himself.

Demand for (and improvement of) the rifle scope quickly increased until, with the advent of the Civil War, it became strident — though only in some circles. Although the use of marksmen with scoped rifles was considered by many generals to be ungentlemanly or even murderous, many a Whitworth, Kerr, Sharps, or Kerr Whitworth rifle went to work on Civil War battlefields with side-mounted Davidson, Vernier, Creedmore, and other scopes.

Some of them were a couple feet long (or longer), and extraordinarily heavy.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Image courtesy of oldsouthantiques.com.

And things have certainly come a long way since then, as NikonGPOTAC, and Atibal aptly demonstrate.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

One company building good rifle optics is Nikon. Most of you associate them with cameras, but they manufacture all sorts of “glass,” including binos and riflescopes. They’ve recently introduced a new line of scopes they call BLACK.

Another company is GPO – they’re about as little known as Nikon is well known, but we hear some good things about ’em. They’ve just introduced their GPOTAC 8XI Riflescope.

They’ve taken a German design and upgunned it with some high tech features. Then there’s Atibal, whose sights and spotting scopes — specifically the MROC — have made a pretty good impression on some of our friends in a short amount of time (and are rumored to be releasing a 3-12 variable soon).

Now, let’s be clear, we haven’t personally tried any of these. We’re just huge fans of optics because we’ve seen first hand what a force multiplier good glass can be in a real fight. From reflex sights to variable power first focal plane fightin’ scopes, glass is good. If you’re still running irons alone, you likely still have a rotary dial telephone. Going “old school” is all well and good for your social media persona, but blows a hard one wants the metal starts hitting the meat.

Not that we’re judging you or anything.

Anyway, here’s three new pieces of glass for your Thursday Threesome.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

1. Atibal MROC

The Atibal MROC is a 3 x 32 magnified optic that demonstrates in one small package just how improved our ability to reach out and see (then shoot) somebody has come. MROC stands for Modern Rifle Optic Component. It features an illuminated laser-etched reticle, fixed at three power magnification with an illuminated compensation chevron (for bullet drop) included (it’s calibrated for 5.56mm). The manufacturer advises it has a 37.7 field of view at 100 yards, which they describe as the “…largest field of view of any 3x prismatic scope currently on the market.”

An expanded field of view, of course, can make the difference between putting one in his noggin and catching on in yours.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Image courtesy of Blue Braid Tactical.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Image courtesy of Arizona Defense Supply.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Image courtesy 1 Shot Kill It Media.

The lens is FMC (Fully MultiCoated) to reduce glare and reflection. It is also intended to improve clarity of view. Windage and elevation adjustments are made by hand (no tools necessary, and ALL CAPS (see what we did there?) are leashed so you don’t lose them on the range or in the field. An integrated and detachable picatinny rail provides mounting options. The MROC runs on a single CR2 lithium battery.

Speaking of batteries, you might want to co-witness yours in case it goes dead. Not sure what that means or how to it? Easy – we’ll learn ya right here.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

Here are the specs on the Atibal MROC as they provide them (or, you can find more online here). We’ll provide more info as we get. The price point on these, taken in context with what we hear about their performance, piques our interest. Follow ’em on Instagram, @atibalsights.

  • F.O.V FT@100YDS: 37.7ft
  • F.O.V Angle: 7.2°
  • Eye Relief: 2.8″
  • Click Value: .5 MOA
  • W/E Max. Adj.: 60 MOA

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
Something else coming soon?

  • Parallax Free: 100yds
  • Battery Type: 1x CR2
  • Illumination: RED
  • Lens Coating: FMC
  • Length  5.11″

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

2. GPOTAC 8XI Riflescope

“[The] GPOTAC 8Xi is a scope like no other – it’s amazing. It’s packed with optical brilliance and technical features expected from super-premium tactical riflescopes. We were very careful to make sure every demanded feature available was jammed into this optic. You’ve got to see this scope.”

That’s what owner and CEO of GPO, USA says anyway. And it’s jammed full of vitamins too! You know though, if you can overlook the sensational, breakfast cereal commercial style prose, you’ll find the 8Xi does indeed seem to have some interesting features.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

The 34mm tube optic will initially be offered in what they call the 1-9 x 24i version, with something called the “iControl illuminated mil-spec reticle” — and it’s a first focal plane reticle too, which is a huge plus-up in our minds. Turrets are locking metal milrad, with what the describe as “GPObright high transmission lens-coating technology.” It features double HD glass objective lenses, “fast focus” rubberized oculars, and wide machined-aluminum magnification adjustment rings. The horseshoe center point is fiber optic driven, with an auto-off feature to prevent unnecessary battery drain (and provides an alert when the battery is down to 15% remaining life).

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

Yes, the press release sounded like it was written by Billy Mays, but this is another one we’re actually very interested in. You can check it out online here; full specs are at the bottom of the page. They’re on Instagram (sorta), @gpo_usa) and Facebook. FYSA they’ve also just released a binocular line.

Remember – even the best gear in the world will avail you nothing if you rely on equipment to compensate for skill and honed ability. Train accordingly.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

3. Nikon BLACK Riflescope Series

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

The BLACK Line optics are not Nikon’s first — they’ve had ProStaff, Monarch and other styles for years. However these are some of the first ones Nikon has manufactured specifically for tactical applications.

Its lineup includes five versions of what the company calls the BLACK X1000. That selection includes 4-16×50 and 6-24×50 models with X-MRAD or X-MOA reticles synced to windage and elevation turrets. Nikon describes what you see through the glass is a, “…visually clean, yet highly functional and advanced too for estimating range or maintaining holdovers.” (Not sure what all that means? Read this piece about Minute of Angle).

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

Their 1-4×24 scope uses what they call the “SpeedForce” reticle (nothing to do with Barry Allen, Jay Garrick, Wally West or anyone else drawn by Alex Ross). This reticle is intended to be used with the scope dialed to true 1x. It features an illuminated double horseshoe intended to assist in quick target acquisition, better ability to hit a moving target, and more precise intermediate range holdovers. (You can learn more about MILS here; we break it down Barney style.)

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions
This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

They’re all built with a 30mm body using an aircraft grade aluminum alloy, and they’re TYpe 3 anodized. The turrets are spring-loaded and “zero-reset”, and MSRP ranges from $399.95 up to 649.95. You can expect ’em to start showing up in the Spring and early Summer — meaning they’re just in time to let you, uh, provide “overwatch” on the beach or where they’re sunbathing out back of sorority row.

Follow Nikon on Instagram for lots of pretty pictures; @nikonusa.

This has been your Thursday Threesome. Got a tip on some new gear we should look at? Hit us up on the Instagramz, @breachbangclear, or drop us an e-mail at SITREP(at)breachbangclear.com. You can also send us a PM on Facebook. Don’t post nuthin’ to our wall. We never read it.

More news as we get it. You can also follow our Be Advised column (warning: occasionally NSFW).

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy improvised gas mask used by World War I troops

Time and again, the oft-repeated military adage is proven right: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. This old saying might be the military’s version of necessity being the mother of invention. Except in the military, necessity could mean the difference between life and death. This was certainly true of U.S. doughboys on the battlefields of World War I, where a single battle could cost up to 10,000 American lives or more.

Americans were used to overcoming long odds in combat. Our country was founded on long odds. But in the Great War, U.S. troops had to contend with a weapon from which they couldn’t recover: poison gas.


This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

Many different gas masks were used on the Western Front, but one was more improvised than others.

Throughout American involvement in the First World War, poison gas attacks killed and maimed some 2,000 American troops and countless more allies who had been fighting for years before the doughboys arrived. As a result, all the Allied and Central Powers developed anti-gas countermeasures to try and give their troops a fighting chance in a chemical environment. But gas was introduced as a weapon very early in the fighting, long before the belligerents knew they’d need protection.

But they did need protection. Gas on the battlefield was first administered by releasing the gas from canisters while downwind – a method that could go awry at anytime, causing the wind to shift toward friendly forces. Later on, it would be used in artillery shells that would keep the gas in the enemy’s trench – at least, until the friendly troops advanced to take that trench.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

German soldiers ignite chlorine gas canisters during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium on April 22, 1915.

But early gases weren’t as terrifying as chemical weapons developed in the course of the war. The first uses of gas attacks involved tear gas and chlorine gas. While tear gas is irritating, it’s relatively harmless. Even the first uses of tear gas on the Eastern Front saw the chemical freeze rather than deploy when fired. Chlorine gas, on the other hand, could be incredibly fatal but was not effective as an instrument of death. Chlorine gas had a telltale smell and green color. Troops knew instantly that the gas had been deployed.

To safeguard against it, allied troops used rags or towels covered in urine to protect their lungs from the gas. The thought was that the ammonia in urea was somehow neutralizing the chlorine to keep it from killing them. That wasn’t it at all. Chlorine just dissolves in water, so no chlorine would ever pass through the wet pieces of cloth on their face. They could have used coffee, and the trick would have still worked.

Water (or urine) wasn’t effective against what was to come.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

Troops burned by mustard gas in the First World War.

More than half a million men were injured or killed by poison gas during World War I. The terrifying, disfiguring effects of gases like colorless phosgene gas that caused lungs to fill with fluid, drowning men in their beds over a period of days. Then there was mustard gas, a blistering agent that could soak into their uniforms, covering their entire bodies with painful, burning blisters.

Small wonder it was banned by the Geneva Protocol in 1925.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 “creepy” DARPA projects that will save lives

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for both world-changing programs, like the internet, and creepy ones, like synthetic blood. Although it draws flack for creating multiple types of terminators, the Department of Defense’s “mad scientist” laboratory is still cranking out insane inventions that will save the lives of war fighters and civilians.

Here are six of them:


This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

A British poster advocating blood donation.

(Imperial War Museums)

Synthetic blood

We figured that intro may make some people curious, so we’ll talk about synthetic blood right up top. DARPA pushed the project in 2008 and the first batch of blood went to the FDA in 2010. Unfortunately, no synthetic blood has yet made it through FDA approval.

But DARPA backed the venture for a reason. The logistics chain to get blood from donors to patients, including those in war zones, can be insane. Blood shipments to Iraq and Afghanistan often end up being 21 days old when they arrive, meaning there’s only one more week to use it. Synthetic blood could be universal O-negative blood with zero chance of spreading infections and have a much longer shelf life.

So, sure, it’s creepy. But the lives of millions of disaster victims and thousands of troops are in the balance, so let’s press forward.

www.youtube.com

Remote body control

Yeah, we’re talking dudes with remotes controlling the bodies of other living animals. Sure, the organisms being controlled were beetles, not humans, but still, creepy.

But the cyborg insects worked, and could eventually see deployments around the world. The big benefit to using them? They were designed to carry chemical sensors into warzones to help identify IED and mine locations. The inventor who first got cyborg beetles into the air pointed to their potential for tracking conditions in disaster zones and even finding injured people in the rubble.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

A schematic showing the physical nature of deep brain stimulation.

(University of Iowa)

Brain implants

The process of implanting electrodes into the brain is even worse then you’re probably imagining. Doctors can either jab a large electrode deep into the brain, or they can create a lattice and plant it against the side of the brain,allowingsome brain cells to grow into the lattice. Either way:metal inside your skull and brain.

But, brace yourselves, amazing medicine is already being done with these things, from alleviating Parkinson’s symptoms to treating depression to allowing amputees to control prosthetics. And DARPA is doubling down, calling for new implants and procedures that will allow direct connection to 1 million neurons, way up from the few hundred possible today.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

A person shows off his tattoo with biostasis instructions. DARPA is looking at biostasis protocols that might work in emergencies.

(Photo by Steve Jurvetson)

Frozen soldiers

You’ll see this fairly often on mystery and conspiracy websites, “DARPA wants frozen soldiers.” Those same websites sometimes also claim that the U.S. is going to unleash an army of White Walkers and Olafs over the ice caps to destroy Russia. Or they’ll have reports of immortal soldiers who will presumably suck the blood of the innocent and wax poetic about how hot Kristen Stewart is.

In actuality, DARPA just wants to put injured people in biostatis to give medical personnel more time to evacuate and treat them, potentially turning the “Golden Hour” of medevacs into the “Golden Couple of Days.” This could be done by rapidly lowering blood temperatures, something the medical community has looked at for heart attack victims. But DARPA’s program focuses on proteins and cellular processes, hopefully allowing for interventions at room temperature.

If it works, expect to see the process in use in a war with near peers who can force our medevac birds to stay on the ground, and expect to see it quickly copied to ambulance services around the world.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

The schematic of a proposed nanorobot.

(Graphic by Waquarahmad)

Robot nano-doctors in our bodies

Imagine whole pharmacies inside every soldier, floating through their bloodstreams, ready to deliver drugs at any time. DARPA’s In Vivo Nanoplatforms program calls for persistent nanoparticles to be planted inside organisms, especially troops, but potentially also civilians in populations vulnerable to infection.

The idea is to have sensors inside people that can provide very early detection of disease or injury, especially infectious diseases that spread rapidly. That’s what they call, “in vivo diagnostics.” Other groups would also get “in vivo therapeutics,” additional nanoparticles that can provide extremely targeted drugs directly to the relevant infected or injured cells and tissues.

This robot is built like Legos and can do most ground missions

A SCHAFT robot competes in the DARPA robotics challenge it eventually won.

(Department of Defense)

Sweating robots

DARPA didn’t directly call for sweating robots, but the winner of their robotics challenge was from SCHAFT. Their robot can “sweat” and outperformed all of the other competitors. So, what’s so great about giving robots the ability to stink up the showers with humans? Is it to allow them to evolve into Cylons and seduce us before killing us?

Nope, it’s for the same reason that humans sweat: Robots are getting more complex with more motors and computing units on board to do more complex tasks. But all of that tech generates a ton of heat. To dissipate this, SCHAFT tried pushing filtered water through the robot’s frame and allowing it to evaporate, cooling it. Spoiler: It worked. And robots that can better cool themselves can carry more powerful processors and motors, and therefore perform better in emergencies.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information