These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

The U.S. Army Research Lab recently paired a human Soldier with a battlefield robot in the first real-world demonstration of how robots can give American troops the edge in a 21st century fight.

The new Army robot being tested as a sort of battle-buddy can sense small changes in a Soldier’s environment that may indicate a threat. Those subtle changes are then relayed to the Soldier’s eye glasses, using state-of-the-art augmented reality to display the information in a quick and easily digestible way.


“This could let robots inform their Soldier teammates of changes in the environment that might be overlooked by or not perceptible to the Soldier, giving them increased situational awareness and offset from potential adversaries,” said Dr. Christopher Reardon, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.
“This could detect anything from camouflaged enemy soldiers to IEDs.”

The idea behind the Army’s newest robot is pretty simple. Researchers took a small, autonomous ground robot and equipped it with a variety of (LIDAR) laser-ranging sensors. Using those sensors, the robot is able to build a virtual representation of the environment the robot and Soldier occupy. That baseline environment is then constantly compared to the real-time data flowing through the robot’s sensors. When something in the environment changes, the robot identifies the change and transmits the data to the Soldier’s glasses, where the changes are visible in a 3D augmented reality view of the environment.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

The two robots used in the experiments are identically equipped, with the exception of Velodyne VLP-16 LiDAR (left) and Ouster OS1 LiDAR (right). (U.S. Army)

“Incorporating mixed reality into Soldiers’ eye protection is inevitable,” Reardon said. “This research aims to fill gaps by incorporating useful information from robot teammates into the Soldier-worn visual augmentation ecosystem, while simultaneously making the robots better teammates to the Soldier.”

In other words, the nearby robot is constantly scanning the area, and when something changes — whether it’s a nearby enemy combatant adjusting his footing or moving the leaves on a bush — that change is highlighted visibly in the Soldier’s field of view (thanks to the system glasses). This will allow troops to immediately identify hidden threats in their environment.

This robot is a part of the broader Army Artificial Intelligence for Mobility and Maneuver Essential Research Program, which seeks to better equip artificial intelligence systems with contextual awareness of its surroundings — particularly as they pertain to maneuverability. By combining such a sensor system with an AI equipped robot, the robot could choose its own path over difficult terrain. Many current robotic systems, including Boston Dynamic’s ever-popular “Spot,” need to be manually put on different settings when traversing a loose, rocky hill, as opposed to a flat bit of field.

Spot Launch

www.youtube.com

In a further bit of good news, the Army team running the experiment swapped out the sensor loads on the robot to test the efficacy of the system using higher and lower resolution sensors, and found that human operators were still able to discern environmental changes fed through the augmented reality glasses while using even low-resolution sensors. That realization means that these robot battle buddies could be produced with low-cost, low-resolution sensors that are not only more cost-effective, but can reduce the computational power (and in turn, battery requirements) of these systems as they explore ways to leverage them in combat.

It may be some time before we start seeing the U.S. Army deploy Soldiers with AI-enabled robots, but it seems more clear than ever that AI will play an active role in the combat operations of the 21st century. Last week, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot lost five straight dogfights to an AI pilot developed by Heron Systems, and just recently, Australia unveiled their first “Loyal Wingman” drone that is intended to accompany manned fighter jets into combat once complete.

Russia and China have both boasted development of their own infantry support robots in recent years. Russia’s, known as the Uran-9, is a larger tracked vehicle that, despite its fanfare, went on to grossly underperform while deployed to Syria. China opted instead to develop a flying quad-copter drone intended for use in urban environments for infantry support, thanks to its quick maneuverability and standard rocket payload.

Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill

www.youtube.com

The Army’s own robot AI initiatives are both benefitting from this Soldier/Robot pairing, as it offers vital information about how robots and humans might interact on the battlefield, while also bolstering efforts to improve the autonomy of these robots so they serve as more of an asset than a potential liability on the battlefield. It seems likely that human beings will always play an essential part of warfare, whether in the skies or on the ground; but AI will be along for the ride, every step of the way.

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

Articles

This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army’s new helmet protects against blunt force impact

It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.

Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.


“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.

During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.

“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”

Equipment return

On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”

Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”

Soldier protection system

After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.

The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.

The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.

“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.

The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.

In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.

Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.

Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.

“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.

Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US military is testing sealift  fleet like never before

The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.

US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.

While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.


Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.

Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.

The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.

These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.

There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.

These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)

“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”

There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.

The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

It’s the first time the U.S. military has made a major upgrade to personal weapons in over 30 years, and so far, the only way anyone’s gotten an impression of what this new gun can do is to look at press releases and a few pictures from test ranges.


But as the Army is set to field upwards of 500,000 new M17 and M18 Modular Handguns to replace the 1980s-era M9 Beretta pistol, We Are The Mighty got an exclusive look at the impressive new firearm from the folks who designed and built it.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Soldiers on the range testing the new Sig Sauer M17. (Photo from US Army)

Comparing the M9 to the M17, gone are the external hammer, double action and decocker, and in its place is a slick handgun with a streamlined build based on the most modern technology available in pistol operation and design.

Engineers with M17 maker Sig Sauer likened switching from the M9 to trading in a 1980 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon for a 2015 Honda Accord.

“That old car works just fine, but think of how far car design has come in over 30 years,” one Sig official said. “That’s kind of what’s happening here with the M17. Pistol design has come a long way since the 1980s.”

The new M17 — and its smaller cousin, the M18 — is a 9mm handgun based on the ground-breaking P320 civilian pistol, which is a lot like a pistol version of a Lego set.

The M17 is built with a removable trigger module that can be inserted into new grips and mated with new barrels and slides to make a whole new handgun based on whatever the mission calls for.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

But the main difference most soldiers will notice with the M17 is the change from a double action to a striker fired operation. What that means is an end to that heavy first-shot trigger pull with much lighter follow-up pulls. With the M17, every tug of the trigger is the same — and that makes for easier training and better familiarity with the handgun during yearly qualifications, Sig officials say.

“Soldiers will have a consistent trigger pull every time they shoot the M17,” said Sig Sauer pistol product manager Phil Strader.

Also, the M17 does away with the need for a decocker, so soldiers won’t have to be taught how to drop the hammer before holstering the weapon. Now, once you’re done shooting, you simply engage the external safety and put the gun on your belt.

Shooting the M17 is a no brainer. The design of the grip encourages a natural aim and the 4.7-inch barrel provides good balance between accuracy and compactness. During quick draw-and-shoot drills engaging steel targets at 10 meters, the M17 hit the target every time, even in this amateur’s hands and without taking the time to line up the sights.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

For those not used to an external safety on a striker-fired handgun, switching from safe to fire and back again takes a bit of getting used to, and lining up your grip hand thumb so that it doesn’t engage the slide released takes a few mags to drill into muscle memory.

But other than that, the M17 and M18 are pretty much as easy as any modern pistol to figure out.

The M17 also comes with glow-in-the-dark Tritium sights. The sights have a green front sight and orange rear sights to encourage proper alignment under stress, Strader said. What’s more, the M17 and M18 slides have a removable rear plate so soldiers can install Delta Point red dots optics.

All that, and the M17 is being outfitted with two extended 21-round magazines and a standard 17-rounder. The more compact M18 uses the same frame as the M17 with a size-medium grip and features a 3.9-inch barrel and shorter slide.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division will reportedly be the first to receive the M17, with more units following closely after. Rumor has it that the M17 and M18 have attracted the attention of the special operations community as well, with SEALs — who recently ditched their Sig P226 handguns for Glocks — particularly digging the ability to tailor the same gun to a variety of missions.

It was a tough fight that took many years, but in the end the U.S. military is poised to field an innovative, modern new handgun that makes the most of today’s technology and could give troopers a big advantage for a last ditch defense.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The astonishing way the Air Force tests ejection seats

Dr. John Paul Stapp earned the title “the fastest man on Earth” when he rode the Sonic Wind I rocket-propelled sled at the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on December 10, 1954, to a land speed record of 632 mph in five seconds.

He sustained the greatest recorded G-forces endured by man, decelerating in 1.4 seconds, which equaled 46.2 Gs, more than anyone had previously undergone.


When he was pulled from the sled, Stapp’s eyes flooded with blood from bursting almost all their capillaries. Stapp was rushed to the hospital, worried that one or both of his retinas had detached and would leave him blind. By the next day, he had regained enough of his normal vision to be released, though his eyesight would never be the same.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Col. John Paul Stapp rides the rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

More than 50 years later, the Holloman High Speed Test Track at Holloman still exists, but its riders have changed. Stapp was the last human to ride the track and now egress missions use highly instrumented mannequins to look at what loads are and then determine whether or not aircrew survivability was achieved.

“With a human you’re going to have to conduct a post-testing examination and then look at variables from human to human, where if you can put all the instrumentation on board a mannequin you can get all that data,” said. Lt. Col. Jason Vap, commander of the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB. “You can take that one step further and figure out what you need to do to your seat design, or perhaps a helmet design, or your flight gear to mitigate problems. Those are things that you are only going to get from a highly instrumented mannequin. Not from post-test examination of an individual or examining what kind of pains that they suffered from that.”

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Full-scale anthropomorphic test devices (ATD) that simulates the dimensions, weight proportions and articulation of the human body, and is usually instrumented to record data about the dynamic behavior of the ATD in simulated ejections.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)

The data is collected with a variety of onboard data acquisition systems or telemetered for post-test analysis. Additionally, technical imagery, including high-speed digital images, is available for scientists to examine the status of their payloads. Track personnel use the same imagery to determine the status of the sled vehicle during tests. All data can be post-processed and merged using a common time reference to verify the accuracy of the data, and to produce a unified data product.

“We’re always pushing to open up new capability fronts. Thinking differently,” he said. “It’s built into our culture to think about those next steps. What do we need to do? How do we refine things? How do we look at problems differently based upon what we learn out of a mission outcome? So it’s a constant learning process here.”

At 10 miles, the track is also now the world’s longest and it is used to test high-speed vehicles such as aircraft ejection seats.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
The Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) is a United States Air Force aerospace ground test facility located at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The HHSTT’s mission is to provide a cost-effective, realistic, dynamic test environment for the entire acquisition community, including the DoD.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)

“The Holloman High Speed Test Track hearkens back to the 1950’s,” Vap said. “The mission has changed over time and the track has grown over time, from 3,500 feet to now 50,000 feet of rail.”

With the current track, the 846th TS has reached velocities in excess of 9,000 feet per second. That is around Mach 8.6 when calculating for altitude. However, the goal speed of Mach 10 has yet to be reached.

“We’re going for success, but there’s still a lot of territory to be explored and to learn from,” Vap said.

Test missions on the track last a few seconds; however, there are weeks, if not months, put into the design effort, fabrication and getting prepped for a test. There are a litany of cameras along the track to make sure that everything is captured in a six-, 10- or 30-second test mission.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Egress Craftsman, from the 846th Test Squadron, assemble an Advanced Concept Ejection Seat II, at the Holloman High Speed Test Track, At Holloman Air Force Base, NM.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)

“We design the sleds, we fabricate them and we load them on the rail,” Vap said. “Prior to that work, we look at the velocity profiles … We look at our rocket motor inventory and we put together the payload necessary to reach the velocities that are needed to carry out the test mission.”

“But don’t kid yourself. It’s not a small measure,” he added. “It takes a great deal of engineering staff and a lot of hard work to carry out these missions, on the order of weeks to months to prep for a 10 second shot.”

The goal of these tests is to wring out some of the potential problems that could exist in an airborne environment.

“We don’t just slap something on a jet and hope it works,” Vap said. “Those are things that just aren’t done from an operational standpoint. You have to verify that it’s going work.”

This means failure is inevitable. Not everything is going to be a success and what Vap tells everyone is that you learn more out of your failures than your successes.

“We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Holmes, Egress Craftsman, 846th TS. “Our system isn’t used as frequently as most, which is a very positive thing. Being able to come out in this environment and actually test [an ejection seat] and see it operate is pretty exciting.”

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Various body parts for a Full-scale anthropomorphic test device (ATD) allows researchers to recreate different shapes and sizes of the human body.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)

Vap said there is no bigger “cool factor” in the Air Force than what the HHSTT does on a day-to-day basis. There is no other place in the Air Force that is essentially strapping rocket motors to a sled, pushing payloads down the track at flight relevant velocities and excess.

While the track’s passengers are no longer flesh and blood, they are still pioneers – of speed, science and safety. And their contributions to the high speed test track are making the goal of Mach 10 more and more a reality.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Watch this EOD guy dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers

We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.


Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291

twitter.com

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how some companies are responding to the emerging drone threat

The age of the drone is here.


Not only do Americans love these gadgets, but gosh darn it, the little drones are cool, inexpensive tech toys that provide a platform for everything and anything the user can think up.

But they’re not always used for wholesome activities. Besides their legitimate uses (package delivery, filming, photography, and even firefighting) they’re perfect for illegal activities like spying, theft, drug distribution, prison breaks, IEDs, and even murder (a teen recently test fired a 9mm from a drone successfully and scared the beejesus out of the internet).

 

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
A private drone with imaging capabilities flies high. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Adding to the problem for law enforcement is the fact that drones are practically untraceable. Tracking a signal from the device to the user is virtually impossible with the billions of signals flying around our atmosphere at any given time. So using them for crime or terrorism is a cheap, effective means with little chance of being caught (electroncs don’t talk in interrogation rooms).

Add a chem-bio weapon to the mix and things get downright scary.

Read More: This is how the Army wants to knock drones out of the sky

The age of the drone and all the ways it can benefit or interfere with your life is upon us, so the next question is, what can we do to defeat them, both on the battlefield and on Main Street? And if you do take one out of the sky, how do you prove the it was spying on you and not the neighbors? And if you destroyed it, do you have to pay for it? What if you shoot down a police drone? Even worse — what if you shoot down one that crashed into a house, a playground, or a car and caused casualties?

Most people turn to one obvious solution for drones – guns. But besides being illegal, shooting blindly into the air can cause casualties when the rounds return to earth. Fortunately some drone-defeating technologies are making their way to the average consumer.

1. Geofencing

Geofencing programs a set of coordinates into the drone’s software that prevents it from taking off or entering restricted airspace. NoFlyZone.org allows anyone to register an address in a database so the annoying gadgets will avoid flying over it.

If done right, the drone basically refuses to fly into restricted airspace, but this service is voluntary and doesn’t do anything to block the its camera. It can still spy on you from a distance.

2. Acoustic Shields

Several companies use acoustic technology to separate the sounds of birds and other flying objects and alert the user when a drone enters the airspace. But this technology is restricted in the sense that it only detects the flying devices. It doesn’t do anything to defeat them.

3. Malware

Some businesses offer malware that infects approaching drones and drops them out of the air like a bag of hammers. The problem is getting the virus into the onboard computer, which is not that easy.

4. Drones to kill drones

What better way to take out a drone than with a killer drone? Fight fire with a bigger fire. Want a drone with a cattle prod attached to it to zap weaker drones? It’s coming.

On the military front, several technologies are being developed. Battelle’s Drone Defender looks like an M-16 from Flash Gordon and has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as an ability to sync with a GPS network. It has been deployed in Iraq by US forces.

Openworks Engineering developed Skywall, a bazooka-like shoulder-fired weapon that casts a large net around the flying device to capture it. Airbus has developed a sophisticated jamming system to protect their customers in flight, but jamming is illegal in the U.S., so don’t hold your breath that it will be available here anytime soon.

The Army recently unveiled its 50mm Bushmaster cannon projectile, but this is more for larger drones that require a large caliber round to defeat them.

Dutch police have developed a truly innovative (and badass) way to take out drones – trained eagles.

Obviously there are a lot of legitimate and good uses for UAVs, not just for the hobbyist or the filmmaker, but for law enforcement as well. Police could use UAVs to provide intelligence on dangerous situations, pursue felons, or disseminate riot control agents against violent crowds. Commercial companies can use them to paint houses, deliver aid to injured hikers, spray crops, wash windows on skyscrapers, deliver water or foam to high level fires, and even perform high altitude repairs. Virtually any application you can think of can be accomplished by a drone and a little creativity.

But with that ingenuity comes a price – the evildoer with an equal amount of creativity and a nefarious cause. The drone market is here; hopefully the counter-drone market will catch up soon.

Articles

The GBU-43 MOAB makes its combat debut

Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.


According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (USAF photo)

FoxNews.com reported that the air strike came after a Green Beret was killed fighting the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon on display outside the Air Force Armament Museum, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”

The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.

The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Here is a video talking about the GBU-43.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFTQZ48J3kU
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US F-35 fighter jets are all still ‘below service expectations’

Even though the F-35 program is making strides, each of the Joint Strike Fighter variants is still coming up short on combat readiness goals, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

Based on collected data for fiscal 2019, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy variants all remain “below service expectations” for aircraft availability, Robert Behler, director of the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, said Nov. 13, 2019.

“Operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations,” he said before the House Subcommittee on Readiness and Tactical Air and Land Forces. “In particular, no F-35 variant meets the specified reliability or maintainability metrics.”


One reason for falling short of the 65% availability rate goal is that “the aircraft are breaking more often and taking longer to fix,” Behler added.

Lawmakers requested that Behler; Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment; Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, Program Executive Officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office; and Diana Maurer, director of Defense Capabilities and Management for the Government Accountability Office testify on sustainment, supply and production challenges affecting the program.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F-35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Results improved marginally from 2018 to 2019 but were still below the benchmark, and well below the 80% mission-capable rate goal set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in 2018.

Mattis ordered the services to raise mission-capable rates for four key tactical aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35. The objective was to achieve an 80% or higher mission-capable rate for each fleet by the end of fiscal 2019.

Units that deployed for overseas missions had better luck, Behler said.

“Individual units were able to achieve the 80% target for short periods during deployed operations,” he said in his prepared testimony.

Fick backed up that claim. For example, he said, the 388th Fighter Wing from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, deployed to the Middle East as part of the F-35A’s first rotation to the region. As a unit, the mission-capable rate for the jet fighters increased from 72% in April to 92% by the time they returned last month, he said.

Later in the hearing, Fick mentioned that a substantial contributor to the degraded mission capability rate — the ability to perform a core mission function — is a deteriorated stealth coating on F-35 canopies.

In July 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers the F-35 would fall short of the 80% mission-capable rate target over parts supply shortages to fix the crumbling coating that allows the plane to evade radar.

“[Canopy] supply shortages continue to be the main obstacle to achieving this,” Esper said in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to his confirmation. “We are seeking additional sources to fix unserviceable canopies.”

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army

33rd Fighter Wing F-35As taxi down the flight line at Volk Field during Northern Lightning Aug. 22, 2016.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

Nov. 13, 2019’s hearing comes on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office report that once again urges the Defense Department to outline new policies to deal with the F-35’s challenges.

“DoD’s costs to purchase the F-35 are expected to exceed 6 billion, and the department expects to spend more than id=”listicle-2641354570″ trillion to sustain its F-35 fleet,” the Nov. 13, 2019 report states. “Thus, DoD must continue to grapple with affordability as it takes actions to increase the readiness of the F-35 fleet and improve its sustainment efforts to deliver an aircraft that the military services and partner nations can successfully operate and maintain over the long term within their budgetary realities.”

The 22-page report largely reiterated what the GAO found in April 2019: that a lapse in supply chain management is one reason the F-35 stealth jet fleet, operated across three services, is falling short of its performance and operational requirements.

It’s something the Pentagon and manufacturer Lockheed Martin need to work through as they gear up for another large endeavor. The DoD last month finalized a billion agreement with the company for the next three batches of Joint Strike Fighters, firming up its largest stealth fighter jet deal to date.

The agreement includes 291 fifth-generation fighters for the US, 127 for international partners in the program, and 60 for foreign military sale customers.

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

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Articles

Chinese Navy carries out brazen heist of American UUV

The People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) conducting oceanographic research Thursday in plain view of a U.S. Navy vessel about fifty miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.


According to a report from the Washington Examiner, the brazen heist took place in international waters as the oceanographic research vessel USNS Bowditch (T AGS 62), a Pathfinder-class ship.

The BBC reported that the vessel responsible for the heist was ASR-510, identified in Combat Fleets of the World as a Dalang III-class “rescue and salvage” ship. The Chinese vessel apparently came within 500 yards of the Bowditch, lowered a small boat and seized the littoral battlespace sensing (LBS) glider.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Daniel Braun, left, Eric Sanchez and David Barney, Systems Center Pacific engineers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), perform pre-deployment inspections on littoral battlespace sensing gliders aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60). Each glider hosts a payload suite of sensors that will measure the physical characteristics of the water column as the glider routinely descends and ascends in the ocean. The gliders will be deployed during an at-sea test aboard Pathfinder Oct. 22-Nov. 5. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored.  The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”

According to a 2010 Navy release, the LBS glider can operate for up to eight months on a lithium battery. The data gathered by these gliders assist in everything from special operations to mine warfare to anti-submarine warfare.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) — Navy file photo of the T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ship, USNS Bowditch. Her mission includes oceanographic sampling and data collection of surface, midwater and ocean floor parameters; launch and recovery of hydrographic survey launches (HSLs); the launching , recovering and towing of scientific packages (both tethered and autonomous), including the handling, monitoring and servicing of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs); shipboard oceanogaphic data processing and sample analysis; and precise navigation, trackline maneuvering and station keeping to support deep-ocean and coastal surveys. There are 5 ships in this class. (U.S. Navy photo)

This is not the first time the Bowditch has been involved in a maritime incident with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Globalsecurity.org noted that a week before the 2001 EP-3 incident in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback collided with a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance plane, a Chinese frigate came very close to the unarmed vessel. The Bowditch, which is manned by a civilian crew, also was involved in incidents in 2002 and 2003.

China claims ownership of the South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “Nine-Dash Line.” An international panel rejected Chinese claims earlier this year in a case brought by the Philippines. The Chinese boycotted the process, and have since armed a number of artificial islands in the disputed region. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Chinese forces rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed waters.