It’s almost time for the Marine Corps’ Blue Dress Uniform to get knocked off their pedestal for the first time since their introduction in the late 19th century. The Army’s recent change to the uniform standard reintroduces the much-beloved WWII “Pinks and Greens” dress uniform. So far, this decision has been met almost-universal praise from the Army and veteran community.
Recent changes have been made to the prototypes. Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Daniel A. Dailey, brought four soldiers to Capitol Hill on Feb. 2 to spotlight the variations of the new dress uniform.
Here’s what you need to know.
Nostalgic color scheme
The uniforms are a callback to the dress uniforms worn by WWII-era soldiers and they’re just beautiful. The first prototypes surfaced at the annual AUSA meeting and were made nearly-official when Sgt. Maj. Dailey wore them to the Army-Navy game.
I’m not saying that we won the Army-Navy game because of how majestic the “Pinks and Greens” are, but if that’s why, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The headgear looks much sharper than the current dress uniform’s beret. The crush cap and garrison cap are a welcome callback to previous generations of soldiers. The crush cap will be authorized for NCOs and officers. The garrison cap will, to put it bluntly, look better on a Private’s head if they don’t know how to properly shape a beret.
The reintroduction of the “Pinks and Greens” headgear will be another nail in the coffin of the standard-issued black beret.
Not only does the belt give soldiers a much slimmer appearance, it also distinguishes the Class-A uniform from the business-suit-with-medals look that the Air Force has going on. Even from the back, this belt makes the uniform clearly identifiable as military.
I guess it also gives the “bigger” folks in formation an incentive to shrink their waistline.
For male soldiers, setting up the ribbon racks, awards, badges, and name tapes are simple. Take a ruler and go 1/8th of an inch up from the pocket, make sure they’re not crooked, and you’re done. Female soldiers? Not so easy.
Without the pockets to use as a guideline, female soldiers have to put on the uniform, approximately mark where everything should go according to the name tape (which should be 1″ to 2″ above the top button), take off the uniform, affix decorations, put the uniform back on, realize everything’s slightly off, try again, realize it’s still off, and then give up hope and pray no one notices. Those pocket flaps will make things much simpler for female soldiers setting up their dress uniform.
The current maternity Class-A uniform isn’t being changed by much, except for tweaks to the color scheme and the addition of shoulder epaulets to show the soldier’s rank. Although these are small changes, they go a long way in making the uniform “more military.”
The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.
The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.
Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.
A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.
(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)
The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.
The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.
The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Before getting too deep into the details, let it be known that American nuclear submarines can come to rest on the ocean floor. Even since the early days of the nuclear sub program – dating back to Admiral Hyman Rickover himself – these submarines have been able to touch the bottom of the ocean, so long as that bottom wasn’t below their crush depths.
But the more important question is whether they should touch the bottom or not.
The Navy’s Seawolf-class nuclear submarine first started its active service life in 1997, and while it’s not the latest and greatest class, it is a good midrange representation of the possibilities of a nuclear sub. Like all U.S. nuclear subs, its real crush depth is classified, but it has an estimated 2,400 to 3,000 feet before its time runs out. So the Seawolf and its class can’t touch the very depths of any ocean, but it is able to come to rest in some areas below the surface, those areas in the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones of the ocean. These are the areas where sunlight can still reach the depths.
The problem for U.S. subs isn’t the temperature or pressure in these zones; it’s what is actually on the seafloor that can cause trouble for nuclear submarines. Rocks or other unseen objects can cause massive damage to the hull of a submarine, tearing up its vents, stealth cover, or steering.
Or hitting a mountain like this submarine did.
What’s more, is that the submarine’s engines pull in seawater to cool steam down from its main condensers and those intakes are on the bottom of the vessel. Bottoming a submarine could cause mud and other foreign objects to be pulled into the submarine. The boat could even get lodged in the muck on the seafloor, unable to break free from the suction, like a billion-dollar boot stuck in the mud. This is why the Navy has special equipment and/or submarines for bottom-dwelling.
The U.S. Navy’s NR-1 research submarine was a personal project of Adm. Hyman Rickover, the godfather of the nuclear submarine program. The NR-1 was designed to bottom out to collect objects from the seafloor and was fitted with retractable wheels to be able to drive along the ocean’s bottom. But that’s not all; the second nuclear submarine ever built had a similar capability.
A model of the USS Seawolf with its special operations features deployed.
The USS Seawolf (not of the later Seawolf-class) was eventually fitted with a number of unique intelligence-gathering equipment and devices that would make it very different from other submarines in the U.S. Navy fleet. Along with extra thrusters and a saturation diver dock, she was fitted with retractable sea legs so that she would be able to rest on the bottom for longer periods of time without getting damaged or stuck.
So while any submarine can bottom for evasion and espionage purposes, they really can’t stay for long. Those that are designed to hang out at the bottom aren’t likely to see the light of day anytime soon.
The UH-60 Black Hawk has been a mainstay of the United States Military since it was first delivered in 1978. This highly versatile helicopter has since served with all five branches of the armed services and has even found a home with other agencies, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well.
The primary purpose of the Black Hawk is to haul troops — at least 11 of them — but it’s also very capable of hauling cargo — it can support 9,000 pounds hanging from a cargo hook. Versions of this helicopter also serve as medevacs, in command and control capacities, and as support to special operations forces. Some even pack a lot of firepower and take to the skies as gunships.
UH-60A Black Hawks land at Point Salinas Airfield in Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was the Black Hawk’s baptism by fire.
Some have even done their share of counter-smuggling. H-60 Black Hawks with the Customs Service have busted their share of folks running marijuana — not to mention a host of other drugs — and enough cash to buy a good chunk of Miami. The drugs get torched and the money gets handed over to the authorities.
The Black Hawk has seen decades of action since its combat debut as part of Operation Urgent Fury, the American invasion of Grenada. Since then, the Black Hawk has seen action in every American conflict, from the invasion of Panama to the War on Terror. It’s done very well in every one of those conflicts.
UH-60 Black Hawks with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Black Hawk will likely be around for a very long time. In fact, orders are still coming in for brand-new Black Hawk helicopters — and not just within the United States. These birds have been exported around the world, to countries ranging from Chile to Sweden. Over 2,600 Black Hawks have been produced, and this total doesn’t reflect other H-60 airframes, like the Navy’s Seahawk family and the Air Force’s HH-60 Pave Hawk family.
Learn more about this versatile helicopter that’s sure to stick around for at least 40 years in the video below.
For almost 40 years, the Irish people endured a constant state of fear stemming from a low-level war that killed thousands of Irish civilians, British troops, and Irish fighters – all in a stunningly understated conflict called “The Troubles.” While British and U.K. loyalist forces were well-equipped and armed for the task, the Irish Republican Army, fighting for a united Ireland, had to improvise a little.
This is why “Irish Car Bombs” are a thing.
The Irish Republican Army was a homegrown paramilitary organization that was at best outlawed, and at worst, designated a terrorist organization. They were committed to a fully united Ireland by any means necessary and resisted the United Kingdom’s occupation of Northern Ireland, also by any means necessary. This usually meant improvised guns, bombs, and even mortars. That’s how they created what British troops called the Mark 15. The IRA called it the “Barrack Buster.”
Barrack Busters first started to appear in the IRA arsenal in the 1990s and was an improvised 36-centimeter mortar capable of firing three-foot-long propane tanks filled with high explosives. The Mark 15 was usually made of a cooking gas container created for use in rural areas of Ireland. It was capable of launching one of these powerful explosive containers nearly a thousand feet.
The IRA improvised mortars of various sizes and power, and hit not only military barracks, but bases and even 10 Downing Street.
The Mark 15 was described as having the effect of a flying car bomb, that has taken down barracks, helicopters, and even Royal Air Force planes. It was the fifteenth in a line of development that stretched as far back as the early 1970s. It was the largest homemade mortar developed by the Irish Republican Army. The development does stretch to a Mark-16, but that weapon was more of a recoilless rifle than it was a traditional mortar.
Introduction of the giant mortar did have an impact on British forces. The United Kingdom was forced to pull its checkpoints away from the Irish border after the introduction of the Mark 15 mortar. It was so effective as a weapon it was adapted for use by paramilitary forces in other countries and conflicts, including the FARC in Colombia and the Free Syrian Army in Syria.
The Pentagon is making a massive push to accelerate the application of artificial intelligence to ships, tanks, aircraft, drones, weapons, and large networks as part of a sweeping strategy to more quickly harness and integrate the latest innovations.
Many forms of AI are already well-underway with US military combat systems, yet new technologies and applications are emerging so quickly that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has directed the immediate creation of a new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the DoD Chief Information Officer to standup the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in order to enable teams across DoD to swiftly deliver new AI-enabled capabilities and effectively experiment with new operating concepts in support of DoD’s military missions and business functions.” DoD spokeswoman Heather Babb told Warrior Maven.
Pentagon officials intend for the new effort to connect otherwise disparate AI developments across the services. The key concept, naturally, is to capitalize upon the newest and most efficient kinds of autonomy, automation, and specific ways in which AI can develop for the long term — yet also have an immediate impact upon current military operations.
AI performs a wide range of functions not purely restricted to conventional notions of IT or cyberspace; computer algorithms are increasingly able to almost instantaneously access vast pools of data, compare and organize information and perform automated procedural and analytical functions for human decision-makers in a role of command and control. While AI can of course massively expedite data consolidation, cloud migration and various kinds much-needed cybersecurity functions, it is increasingly being applied more broadly across weapons systems, large platforms and combat networks as well.
Rapid data-base access, organizing information and performing high-volume procedural functions are all decided advantages of AI applications. Algorithms, for example, are increasingly able to scan, view and organize ISR input such as images or video – to identify points of combat relevance of potential interest to a commander.
AI enabled technology can perform these kinds of procedural functions exponentially faster than humans can, massively shortening the crucial decision-making timeframe for combat decision makers. At the same time, many experts, developers, and military leaders recognize that the certain problem-solving faculties and subjective determinations unique to human cognition – are still indispensable to decision making in war.
For this reason, advanced AI relies upon what developers refer to as “human-machine” interface or “easing the cognitive burden” wherein humans function in a command and control capacity while computer automation rapidly performs a range of key procedural functions.
AI & IT
This AI-driven phenomenon is of particular relevance when it comes to data systems, IT as a whole and advances in cybersecurity. For instance, Air Force developers are using advanced computer automation to replicate human behavior online – for the specific purpose of luring and tracking potential intruders. Also, AI can be used to perform real-time analytics on incoming traffic potentially containing malware, viruses or any kind of attempted intrusion. If the source, characteristics or discernable pattern of an attempted intrusion are identified quickly, cyber defenders are better positioned to respond.
When high-volume, redundant tasks are performed through computer automation, humans are freed up to expend energy pursuing a wider range of interpretive or conceptual work.
For example, the Army is working with a private firm called NCI to establish a certification of worthiness for a specific AI-enabled program designed to streamline a number of key tasks.
The NCI-developed program enables account creation, account deletion, background checks and other kind of high-volume data analysis.
“You can log into 10 different websites simultaneously, rather than having a person do that. A machine can go through and gather all the information for a person,” Brad Mascho Chief AI Officer, NCI, told Warrior Maven in an interview. “Humans can focus on higher priority threats.”
At the same time, big data analytics can quickly present new challenges for a variety of key reasons; a larger data flow can make it difficult for servers to “flex” as needed to accommodate rapid jumps in data coming through. Therefore, AI-empowered algorithms such as those engineered by NCI are needed to organize incoming data and identify anomalies or potential intrusions.
There is also a growing need for more real-time monitoring of activity on a message “bus,” because standard analytics methods based on probability and statistical probability often detect intrusions after the fact and are not always reliable or 100-percent accurate, cybersecurity experts and analysts explain.
AI & cyber defense
Algorithms calling upon advanced AI are being used to quickly access vast pools of data to perform real-time analytics designed to detect patterns and anomalies associated with malware.
“Every day, the Defense Department thwarts an estimated 36 million e-mails containing malware, viruses and phishing schemes from hackers, terrorists and foreign adversaries trying to gain unauthorized access to military systems,” Babb told Warrior Maven earlier this year.
Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
One particular technique, now being developed by CISCO systems, seeks to address a particular irony or cybersecurity paradox; namely, while much DoD network traffic is encrypted for additional safety, encryption can also make it more difficult for cyber defenders to see hidden malware in the traffic.
CISCO is now prototyping new detection methods as part of an effort to introduce their technology to the US military services.
“We have the ability to read and detect malware in encrypted web traffic. Even though the data is encrypted there is still a pattern to malware,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for CISCO Navy programs, told Warrior Maven.
AI & large combat platforms, tanks & fighter jets
Real-time analytics, informed by AI, has already had much success with both Army and Air Force Conditioned-Based Maintenance initiatives. The Army used IBMs Watson computer to perform real-time analytics on sensor information from Stryker vehicles and tactical trucks.
Drawing upon seemingly limitless databases of historical data, Watson was able to analyze information related to potential engine failures and other key vehicular systems. Properly identifying when a given combat-vehicle system might malfunction or need repairs helps both combat and logistical operations. Furthermore, the Army-IBM Stryker “proof of principle” exercise was able to wirelessly transmit sensor data, enabling AI to compare new information gathered against a historical database in seconds.
The Army is also working with IBM to test AI-enabled “autonomy kits” on tactical trucks designed to enable much greater degrees of autonomous navigation.
Advanced computer algorithms, enhanced in some instances through machine learning, enable systems such as Watson to instantly draw upon vast volumes of historical data as a way to expedite analysis of key mechanical indicators. Real-time analytics, drawing upon documented pools of established data through computer automation, can integrate otherwise disconnected sensors and other on-board vehicle systems.
“We identified some of the challenges in how you harmonize sensor data that is delivered from different solutions. Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.
Watson, for example, can take unstructured information from maintenance manuals, reports, safety materials, vehicle history information and other vehicle technologies – and use AI to analyze data and draw informed conclusions of great significance to military operators, Aven explained.
When created, IBM stated that, “more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses,” according to IBM Systems and Technology.
Working with a firm called C3IoT, the Air Force is doing something similar with F-16s. On board avionics and other technologies are monitored and analyzed using AI-enabled computers to discern when repairs or replacement parts are needed.
Applications of AI are also credited with enabling the F-35s “sensor fusion” technology which uses computer algorithms to autonomously gather and organize a wide-range of sensor data for the pilot.
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
It goes without saying that targeting data is of critical importance when it comes to mechanized ground warfare. With this in mind, Army combat vehicle developers are prototyping AI-enabled sensors intended to combine sensor information essential to identifying targets. If long-range EO/IR or thermal imaging sensors are able to both collect and organize combat data, vehicle crews can attack enemy targets much more quickly.
Some near-term applications, senior officials with the Army Research Laboratory say, include increased air and ground drone autonomy. It is an example of an area where AI is already having a large impact and is anticipated to figure prominently over the long-term as well.
“We know there is going to be unmanned systems for the future, and we want to look at unmanned systems and working with teams of manned systems. This involves AI-enabled machine learning in high priority areas we know are going to be long term as well as near term applications,” Karl Kappra, Chief of the Office of Strategy Management for the Army Research Lab, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. “We also know we are going to be operating in complex environments, including electromagnetic and cyber areas.”
For instance, Kappra explained that sensor-equipped micro-autonomous drones could be programed with advanced algorithms to send back combat-relevant images or provide attacking forces with key interior dimensions to a target location.
“We are looking at micro-electrical mechanical systems and image-based systems to fly through a building autonomously and show you where walls and threats are inside the buildings,” Kappra said.
Also, Army combat vehicle developers consistently emphasize manned-unmanned teaming with “wing man” drone robots operating in tandem with manned vehicles to carry ammunition, test enemy defenses, identify targets and potentially fire weapons. Some senior Army weapons and technology developers have said that most future combat vehicles will be engineered with some level of autonomous ability or manned-unmanned teaming technology.
Increased computer automation also performs a large function on the Navy’s emerging Ford-Class aircraft carriers. The new carriers use advanced algorithms to perform diagnostics and other on-board maintenance and procedural tasks independently. This, Navy developers say, allows the service to reduce its crew size by as many as 900 sailors per carrier and save up to billion dollars over the life of a ship.
Warfare, ethics & AI
Interestingly, debates about the future of AI, especially when it comes to autonomy, continues to spark significant controversy. Current Pentagon doctrine specifies that there must always be a “human-in-the-loop” when it comes to making decisions about the use of lethal force. However, the technology enabling an autonomous system to track, acquire and destroy a target by itself without needing human intervention – is already here.
In a previous interview with Warrior Maven, an Air Force scientist made the point that the current doctrine is of course related to offensive strikes of any kind, however there may be some instances where weapons are used autonomously in a purely defensive fashion. For instance, AI-enabled interceptors could be programmed to knock out incoming enemy missile attacks – without themselves destroying anything other than an approaching enemy weapon. In this instance, AI could serve an enormously valuable defensive function by performing intercepts exponentially faster than having a human decision maker involved.
Naturally, this kind of technology raises ethical questions, and some have made the point that even though the US military may intend to maintain a certain ethical stance – there is of course substantial concern that potential adversaries will not do the same.
Also, while often heralded as the “future” of warfare and technology, AI does have some limitations. For example, problems presented in combat, less-discernable nuances informing certain decisions, determining causation and the analysis of a range of different interwoven variables – are arguably things best performed by the human mind.
Many things in warfare, naturally, are often a complex byproduct of a range of more subjectively determined factors – impacted by concepts, personalities, individual psychology, historical nuances and larger sociological phenomena. This naturally raises the question as to how much even the most advanced computer programs could account for these and other somewhat less “tangible” factors.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
In the days before naval aviation and submarines, the battleship was the unchallenged king of the seas. Building a bigger and better ship with more and bigger guns was basically the order of the day, and it continued all the way up until the days before World War II, when the world reached peak battleship, and airplanes proved to be deadlier than the Navy ever imagined.
But America almost reached peak battleship before World War I was even a possibility, and it was possibly the biggest battleship ever conceived – it also might have been an ironic joke from someone who hated the Navy.
Benjamin Tillman, famous racist and Navy hater.
Benjamin Tillman was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. He was annoyed at the Navy for coming to Congress every year to request money to build more and bigger battleships. Despite this pretty much being what the Navy is supposed to do, Tillman decided it would be best to just get the whole arms race out of the way and build the biggest possible battleship they could at the moment. This led to the creation of the Maximum Battleship design.
No, that’s really what they called it.
Tillman hated the Navy’s battleships, and everyone knew it, but when he requested the Department of the Navy just submit the plans for the biggest battleship they could, the Navy obliged him anyway. There were, however, restrictions on U.S. ship designs at the time. Namely, they had to fit through the Panama Canal.
The first design submitted was a massive 70,000 tons – almost 50 percent heavier than the modern Navy’s USS Missouri – and this was in 1916. It carried 12 16-inch guns and had an armor thickness of 18 inches. In comparison, the Iowa-class battleships of World War II would carry just nine 16-inch guns and have a maximum armor thickness of 14.5 inches. The next iteration of Maximum Battleship designs would have 24 16-inch guns and an armor thickness of 13 inches. It was the third design that really took the cake, however.
Maximum Battleship III – also known as the Tillman III design – weighed 63,000 tons. It had the armor of the second design and the guns of the second design. It could even move at an absurd 30 knots, which is almost as fast as an Iowa-class ship and an insane speed for a ship of that size in 1916. This is a weight equal to the largest battleships ever actually built that moves even faster and was supposed to be built 20 years earlier. That wasn’t the end of the attempt, though. There would be another.
The largest of the Tillman Designs.
The fourth design for Tillman featured the 24 guns and even thicker armor, coming in at 19 inches. It was clear by now the Navy wasn’t expecting to get funding for these. The fourth design would displace 80,000 tons and was practically impossible to build with the technology of the day. In all, six designs were made, each bigger and more ridiculous than the last. It would be as big as the modern American supercarriers and carry the most and biggest weapons of anything on earth, on land, or on the oceans. And it would have been sunk just as easily with the advent of naval aviation.
The ability to detect and identify targets at night and under poor visibility conditions has long been an essential military requirement. History has shown that the ability to maneuver under the cover of darkness gives tacticians a big advantage over the enemy. Since its invention, night-vision technology has taken a firm place not only in individual soldiers’ kits, but in almost every component of the tactical spectrum, ranging from the perimeter defense to helicopter pilots and tank drivers.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams)
Today’s reality: Modernizing and retrofitting
Today, many governments face the costly need to upgrade their fleets of armored vehicles (AVs) that have become obsolete with time. Despite budget cuts and insufficient funding, armies around the world still need effective, affordable modernization options for their AV fleets.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were great lessons, too, in terms of understanding the usefulness of this modern technology. Many new technologies sprang up during these wars, ranging from unmanned platforms to smart sensors, but night-vision technology offered a completely new dimension to tactical operations and, possibly, changed the course of war.
But what are these systems capable of? Let’s explore what thermal imaging systems can do and what they cannot.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini)
Fighting tank blindness: Improved situational awareness
Thermal imaging is a boon to the armed forces, especially for ground troops. Nowadays, armored vehicles are required to operate in all-weather battlefield environments, and there is the need for proactive situational awareness (SA). Modern thermal imaging cameras certainly provide the necessary technological innovation to achieve this end.
A tank, besides being a formidable machine, is also a large target. For tank crews, it is important to detect before they are detected. Modern thermal imaging systems can offer up to 360° visibility and generate higher-resolution images — this will help AV crews get crucial information before they physically encounter a potential threat.
Such systems also typically have a wide-view screen with the ability to select a point of interest anywhere on the screen, and the capability to zoom in to study the object further, or the ability to switch between multiple camera feeds. To improve the operators’ tactical edge, such cameras have different screen orientations with options for secondary views of the periphery. What’s more, these systems can provide supporting analytics and alert operators to important events for faster decision-making and therefore higher survivability.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley)
Besides the rich SA about what is happening around them, AV operators need to know the nature of the terrain on which they are advancing to successfully maneuver and tactically position themselves for battle.
This is what modern thermal imaging technology excels at. It gives AV operators the ability to reconnoiter, identify, and tag targets at greater distances or at close range, 24/7 and in any weather conditions. By being able to see the terrain ahead in total darkness, through tall grass, camouflage, dust, light fog, sand storms, and rain, drivers are able to detect obstacles or potential threats sooner and will have more time to react. Thermal imaging can also see through smoke, which is exactly what AV crews need on a smoke-covered street or battleground.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
How effective thermal imaging is for AVs?
Since zero-visibility conditions have zero impact on thermal imaging cameras, they are capable of “seeing” in environmental conditions that are impenetrable to any other technology on the market. The types of threats these systems can detect are diverse: IEDs, vehicles, human targets, anti-tank missiles, and various terrain features and obstacles (cliffs, large boulders, waterways etc.).
This technology is not infallible though. Thermal imaging will have difficult time detecting AVs that use invisibility cloaks or other stealth technology, for example, the one in use by the Russian army.
The modern army’s growing need to operate at night and under poor visibility conditions has led to development of more and more sophisticated thermal imaging devices. One example is a research project that an experimental physicist Dr. Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Dr Sean Hu are conducting for the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Their new camera, which relies on sensing polarized light, can see small hidden objects such as tripwires and booby traps, and it shows images in such detail that AV crews soon may be able to detect and identify specific individuals, for example, in urban environments or in the open field. Other advances, such as battle management systems, can be integrated as well with thermal imaging units for improved capabilities.
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
The officer who’s running a massive Marine Corps and Navy war game in April that’ll test around 50 new technologies for storming beaches actually wants things to go wrong.
Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, a top tester for the service’s future concepts and technologies office, went so far as to say during a March 23 meeting with reporters: “If we don’t fail, I haven’t done my job.”
Now, before you start measuring Mercer for a new white coat with a very snug fit, think about this. With the upcoming Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 in April, the Marines are looking to change how they carry out forced-entry operations. Forget what you saw in “The Pacific” – the renowned HBO series actually presents an outdated view on such operations. It’s not going to be sending hundreds of Higgins boats to storm a beach under heavy fire. Instead, the Marines, rather than storming a surveyed beach, will be looking for what Doug King of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory called a “gap in the mangroves.”
But how will they find that gap? The answer lies in new technology – and this is what ANTX 2017 is intended to evaluate. With over 50 dynamic demonstrations planned for the 11-day exercise and another 50 static displays, ANTX 2017’s purpose is to find out what the state of today’s technology is – and to turn “unknown unknowns” into” known unknowns” or “known knowns” — to borrow from the logic former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made popular.
“In these early stages of prototype demonstrations and experimentation, the intent is to push the envelope and take on higher risk technologies,” Mercer told We Are The Mighty. “We expect to find systems that perform well technically, but score low in the operational assessment and vice versa.”
“If everything is performing well and going exactly as planned, then we were probably not aggressive enough in our efforts to advance.”
So, that’s why Mercer is hoping to see failures during ANTX 2017 — if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.
While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.
The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.
The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.
A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.
The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.
The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.
For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.
Development and design
The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.
In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.
The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.
The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.
The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.
Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.
The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.
In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.
Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.
(Photo by Damon Kasberg)
Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.
The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.
There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.
The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.
An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
(Photo by Stephany Richards)
Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.
In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.
The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.
The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.
A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.
(Photo by Jeremy Lock)
Operation and deployment
Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.
While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.
All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.
Did you know?
The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.
(Photo by Erin Babis)
KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:
Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
Builder: The Boeing Company
Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
Initial operating capability: 1956
Unit cost: .6 million
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
China’s military has surged in capability and size in the recent decades, but that rise has come, partially, as a result of stealing, copying, or imitating technology developed by the U.S. and other countries. From drones to ships, here are six of the most recent copies:
A Chinese Type 726 landing craft.
LCAC / Type 726
The Chinese Type 726A Landing Craft, Air Cushioned is a near carbon copy of the Navy LCAC, the hovercraft used by the U.S. Navy uses to deliver everything, from bullets to tanks, to bare enemy beaches. The two vessels even have similar capabilities — both can carry 60 tons, but the U.S. LCAC can “overload” to 75 tons.
It’s unclear whether Star UAV System gained intel as a result of cyber espionage or through the Chinese government, if at all, but the similarities between the X-47B and the Star Shadow are hard to ignore.
But, they do manufacture it more cheaply, leading to an edge in exports. An answer to the MQ-9 Reaper drone also exists, the CH-5, but it lacks the altitude of the proper Reaper. It can reach a paltry 9,000 meters, compared to the 15,000 meters of the Reaper.
The Chinese heavy lift Y-20 aircraft at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2014.
(Photo by Airliners.net, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Y-20 / C-17
Rolling off the line in June, 2016, the Y-20 is slightly smaller and carries slightly less weight than the American C-17, to which it appears to be a close cousin. Despite its relative smallness, it’s still a massive transport aircraft capable of carrying Chinese main battle tanks and other gear across the planet.
China purchased Sikorsky S-70 helicopters, the civilian variant of the UH-60 Black Hawk, back in the 1980s. Eventually, they wore out, so China created the “homegrown Z-20,” which are basically UH-60s. They’re so closely related that commentators took to calling the Z-20 the “Copy Hawk.”
The Chinese Type 052 destroyer is an imitation of the U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class. The Chinese Haribing (DDG 112) is pictured above.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Arleigh-Burke / Type 052
China’s Type 052 guided-missile destroyers have large radars, vertical missile tubes that can attack everything from submarines to enemy missiles, and a helicopter hanger, just like the rival Arleigh-Burke class in the U.S. arsenal — and their designs and appearances are very similar.
This is one case, though, where the technology appears to be more imitation than theft. Unlike the drones, the Y-20, and other programs, there’s little evidence that China gained direct access to Arleigh-Burke designs or technology. More likely, Chinese leaders observed the capability of the destroyer, tried to steal it, but figured they could approximate much of the system with their own engineers if necessary.
Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.
The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones — next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field — the company said in a recent press release.
Measuring just 6.6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these “nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems” are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 1.24 miles, covering ground at a max speed of 20 feet per second.
The “nearly silent” combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.
The Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm’s way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.
The new drones “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.
The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.
Deliveries will start early 2019 FLIR said in its recent press statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.