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.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it’s like to fire the A-10’s BRRRRRT in combat

“Oh, man … It’s amazing,” an A-10 Warthog pilot, who preferred to be called “McGraw,” told Business Insider when asked what it’s like to fly the aircraft.

It’s “incredibly easy to fly, outstanding performance,” McGraw said on the phone from Afghanistan, adding that it’s very reliable, which he partially credited to the maintenance teams.


“If you’re employing bombs, bullets, rockets, or missiles, obviously that’s rewarding because you know you’re impacting the battlefield to help save Coalition forces,” McGraw said. “But even if you’re just overhead and nothing’s going on on the ground, and you know that the ground forces are sleeping well because they simply know the A-10s are overtop, that’s a very rewarding and self-fulfilling mission.”

“Plus it’s just cool to fly A-10s,” McGraw added.

When asked what it’s like to shoot the 30mm gun, McGraw said, “I wish I had better terms for it — but it’s amazing.”

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
US Air Force Senior Airman Corban Caliguire and Tech. Sgt. Aaron Switzer, 21st Special Tactics Squadron joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC), call for an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft to do a show of force during a close air support training mission Sept. 23, 2011, at the Nevada Test and Training
(DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

“To just feel the airplane shake and to know that you can employ a gun from an airplane diving at the ground [at] 400-plus mph [and at] a 45 degree dive angle, and [that] I can confidently, on every single pass, put 30mm exactly on target … it’s very rewarding,” McGraw said.

McGraw, who has completed five tours in Afghanistan, said he’s flown about 300 combat missions in the wartorn country, deploying his weapons about 25% of the time.

“That gun is incredibly accurate, and it obviously delivers fearsome effects and devastating effects … so when I pull that trigger, I know those bullets are going where I want them [to],” he said.

“The whole heads-up display shakes,” McGraw said. “You’re engulfed in the gun exhaust … it’s a pretty awesome feeling.”

The US sent a squadron of 12 A-10s back to Afghanistan in January 2018, where its quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic Navy SEAL now works to save working dogs

You probably know the name James Hatch — or maybe you’ve heard of Jimmy Hatch. He’s famous for one of the worst days of his life. The Navy SEAL was on one of the ill-fated missions to rescue Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier walked off of his base in Afghanistan. This mission resulted in the death of a military canine and left Hatch with a crippling wound to his leg.


This is what happens when a SEAL brings a dog to an elementary school.

youtu.be

Now, Hatch is working to help working dogs, especially police and military dogs, stay safe on the job.

The Spikes K9 Fund, named for Hatch’s first working dog, a SEAL dog that died during a mission in Iraq in 2006, runs campaigns that each focus on a particular need of working dogs.

The Piper Campaign focuses on cold-weather gear and is named for a dog that kept wildlife safely away from planes, even when the snow was a foot deep on the ground. The Diesel Campaign covers medical expenses for wounded or retired working dogs. And the Krijger Campaign raises money for ballistic vests for dogs, vests that might have saved Hatch’s dogs, Spike and Remco.

Remco was the dog working with Hatch on the mission to rescue Bergdahl. He was tragically lost to insurgent gunfire on the mission.

The fund says that it has helped 710 dogs so far, and that’s no small feat. Ballistics vests for dogs can easily cost over ,000, and veterinary services for wounded, injured, and retired dogs can quickly become quite pricy as well. But dogs save lives in combat situations, so saving the dogs can help save police officer lives.

And the fund has had some high-profile successes, including when they convinced Anderson Cooper to not only donate himself, but also to speak and get others to open their wallets.

The video at top tells the story of a dog that was shot in the line of duty, but was able to go back to work with a vest provided by the students of an elementary school.

You can learn more about Hatch and his efforts at spikesk9fund.org.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pistols are carried by NCOs at the Tomb of the Unknowns

Many military members are familiar with the sight of a shift change at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Only the U.S. Army’s finest can join the Old Guard and walk the carpet as a tomb sentinel, so the highlight of any visit to Arlington is catching the Changing of the Guard, where the guard’s M-14 rifle is famously inspected during the ceremony.

What you might not notice is the duty NCO’s sidearm, holstered but clearly ready for use. This weapon is as clean as the rifle the NCO inspects, with one important difference for the guards.


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

Firepower.

The M-14 rifles used by the Tomb Sentinels are fully functional, the Old Guard says. While the unit would not discuss further security measures due to the sensitive nature of what they do, it’s clear the rifle isn’t loaded when it’s carried by the men walking the line in front of the Tomb. An M-14 with a magazine is distinctly different than one without. Furthermore, when the rifle is inspected during the Changing of the Guard, the inspection would eject a round from the rifle, were there a round in the chamber.

No one really knows if there are live rounds in the nearby tent or another means for the sentinels to defend themselves in case of an active shooter. But the NCOs are packing.

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

Serious firepower.

When an NCO of the Old Guard attends to the Changing of the Guard, the NCO is equipped with a custom, U.S. Army-issued weapon, the Sig-Sauer M17. The weapon was built by the gunmaker specifically for the Tomb Sentinels and comes with a number of beautiful features. There are only four like them ever created, and all are carried exclusively by NCOs in the Old Guard.

The hardwood in the grip of these special pistols comes from the deck of the USS Olympia, a cruiser first laid in 1895 and seeing service in the Spanish-American War and World War I. Marble from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is superheated, converted into glass, and added to the weapon’s sights, making for one of the most unique weapons created for the military anywhere.

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

Since things are so tight at the Pentagon in terms of operational security, it’s not known whether the NCOs are carrying ammunition for the sidearms, but since there is a magazine in the weapon, they certainly could be. After the 2014 shootings at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and subsequent spree on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, they certainly should be.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why US allies want the world’s most advanced sub hunter

South Korea and New Zealand are moving closer to buying the Boeing-made P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, joining India and Australia as the only countries in the region to field the advanced aircraft.

The purchases come as the region grows more interested in submarine and anti-submarine warfare — a trend driven in large part by China’s undersea technological advances — and in boosting their abilities to coordinate with the US and other partners in the region.

June 2018, New Zealand Defense Minister Ron Mark is set to make a proposal to purchase four P-8As to the country’s Administration and Expenditure Review Committee. If approved, the proposal would move to Cabinet for a final decision.


There’s no set date for the proposal to go to the Cabinet, though Mark expects it to get there before the end of July 2018. The acquisition process was started by the previous government, and the US State Department signed off on it in spring 2017, but Mark paused it when the new government took office at the end of 2017 to review it.

“I am confident now that the recommendation I will take to Cabinet committee stacks up. That it is robust. It’s justifiable, and I’m in the stage where I am consulting with people,” Mark said, according to local media. “So my closing comment, not being able to pre-judge what the Cabinet committee or Cabinet might decide … I would simply say, put your cellphones in flight mode, put your tray up, buckle in, hold on, it’s coming.”

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Malaysian Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin watches crew members demonstrate advanced features of a P-8A Poseidon during a familiarization flight, April 21, 2016.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu)

New Zealand’s Defense Ministry said in 2016 that the Orions needed to be replaced by the mid-2020s, and maintenance costs for the planes have spiked over the past decade.

The State Department approved a sale worth $1.46 billion to replace New Zealand’s aging fleet of P-3 Orion patrol aircraft, though the New Zealand Defense Force has said the purchase would likely cost less.

South Korean officials also said that Seoul would make a $1.71 billion purchase of Poseidons on a “sole-source” basis, forgoing a tender process, according to Reuters. A South Korean official said an “open contest” would have likely pushed up the price of the Poseidon.

The number of Poseidons that South Korea plans to buy was not specified, though Defense News has reported Seoul wants six.

South Korea said in February 2018 it would replace its P-3 Orions with maritime-patrol aircraft from a foreign firm in order to counter the threat posed by North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The Poseidon’s large payload capacity and flight range made it a prime candidate.

Tensions with North Korea have eased in the months since Seoul announced its intention to buy new planes, but the purchase still makes sense, according to Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum.

“Even if South Korea and US decided not to hold military drills in 2018, we have to maintain security until North Korea fully denuclearizes, and we also needed to replace our old maritime patrol aircraft,” Yang told Reuters.

‘One of the best maritime … assets in the world’

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
One of India’s P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, dedicated on Nov.u00a013, 2015.
(Indian Navy photo)

India first purchased its Poseidon variant, the P-8I, in 2009, deploying eight of them in 2013. Delhi bought four additional aircraft in 2016, and naval officials have said the country is looking to buy more.

India has its own designs on a role in the global maritime order, but it is also concerned about increasing Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean. The planes are but one element of the country’s shifting security focus, away from its northern boundary with China toward the Indian Ocean.

Australia is currently in the process of acquiring 15 P-8A Poseidons to replace its own aging P-3s. The Royal Australian air force declared initial operating capability for the aircraft in March 2018, five months ahead of schedule. At that time, six of the 12 Poseidons under contract had been delivered, and three more were going through the approval process.

Australia’s P-8As will work with the country’s Triton remotely piloted aircraft, of which Canberra plans to buy six, with the first arriving in mid-2023 and the last by late 2025.

Tritons taking off from Australia’s Northern Territory will be able to do a lap around the South China Sea, covering an area the size of Switzerland in one flight.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
An Australian P-8 Poseidon in 2018.

Australia plans to cooperate with the US on Triton operations, and Canberra and Wellington are likely to coordinate maritime patrols as well.

New Zealand officials have already been in contact with their Australian counterparts about maximizing the advantages of both countries operating the Poseidon, according to Defense News.

The Poseidon’s range, armaments, and capabilities make it an ideal platform for the Indian and Pacific regions, where militaries are increasingly focused on their ability to project power at sea.

“The P-8 is the best ASW localize/track platform in the fleet, one of the best maritime [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] assets in the world, with the ability to identify and track hundreds of contacts, and complete the kill chain for both surface and subsurface contacts if necessary,” a pilot told The War Zone in early 2017.

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

Articles

The Air Force wants cyber weapons that can knock out Russia’s air defenses

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Ajvol


As foreign air defenses become more and more sophisticated, Air Force planners are working solutions to keep America’s technical edge, an edge that has been narrowing for the past few years. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh wants cyber solutions to enemy systems like the Russian Buk, the probable weapon that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He’s looking for cyber weapons that do things like filling an operator’s screen with false contacts, stopping a missile from launching or, the ultimate solution, allowing a missile to launch before redirecting it to attack its own launcher.

For the full rundown, check out this article at Defense One 

NOW: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on 

OR: The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period 

Articles

5 jobs future recruits will enlist to get

As DARPA and other military research organizations create crazy new technologies for the battlefield, the military will have to start training service members to start using and maintaining these capabilities. Here are five jobs that the military doesn’t need today but will tomorrow.


1. Beekeepers and trainers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvLjX5YgWHw

The military began training bees to detect explosives and defeat IEDs, but they will also be useful for finding mines when the U.S. is fighting other nation states. Bee keepers will work in anti-mine and counter-IED teams to identify probable buried explosives. Since the bees’ training wears off after after a certain period, trainers will stay on forward operating bases to re-certify colonies. The bees move around the battlefield on their own, so these troops will rarely leave their bases.

2. Hackers

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Photo: US Air Force

The military already has cyber defenders and has discussed the possibility of some of those troops conducting limited counter-attacks to network incursions. This won’t be enough for long. Future enemies will have robust networks and drones. Maneuver commanders will need intelligence that can be stolen from enemy networks and will need enemy drones taken out as part of a planned assault.

They won’t need network defenders for this, they’ll need network attackers. These troops will likely stay on a well-defended base, possibly in theater for faster connection to the enemy’s network.

3. Forward drone controller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGJlne3bm1c

Every U.S. military branch has dedicated drone pilots with the Air Force’s being the most famous. But as drones become more intelligent, a second branch of drone operators will be needed. Rather than piloting the machines, they will input simple commands for the drone to move to a point or patrol a designated area.

These service members will go forward with patrols and control semi-autonomous drones in support of a platoon leader’s commands. There will be both walking and flying drones capable of ferrying supplies, surveilling key terrain on a battlefield, or carrying indirect fire radar or sensors to detect enemy muzzle flashes.

4. Robotic systems maintainer

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Segovia

With the military getting robotic pack mules, robotic hummingbirds, and robotic people, they’re going to need dedicated mechanics to service the equipment in the field. Robotics systems maintainers will mostly replace whole parts and send damaged pieces to vendors for repair. They’ll likely operate like vehicle and generator mechanics do now: small teams will deploy to outposts when required while most maintainers will stay on forward operating bases or larger installations.

5. Powered armor maintainer

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Photo: Youtube.com

Currently, damaged body armor is simply replaced from stocks in supply. For expensive and complicated suits like the TALOS, this won’t be a viable option. Powered armor maintainers will operate like computer/detection systems repairers, working in a secure location to replace and repair damaged components. Powered armor maintainers may even be able to focus on the mechanical parts of the system while allowing computer/detection systems repairers, who already maintain a wide variety of electronic systems, handle any software or electronic issues.

Bonus: Jetpack qualifier

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Photo: Youtube.com

While it won’t be a separate job, certain units will field new DARPA jetpacks to allow soldiers to quickly move on the battlefield or for scouts to break contact if discovered on a mission. Going to jetpack school will be a privilege new recruits could enlist for or re-enlisting soldiers could choose. Like airborne or air assault schools, some graduates would go on to serve in units where they actually need to know jetpack warfare while others would just attend training for the cool skill badge and promotion points.

NOW: 6 jobs in the military that require insane brainpower

WATCH: The 7 Coolest Current High Tech Military Projects | Military Insider

Intel

This fire-and-forget artillery round can guide itself to any target

The M982 Excalibur is the world’s most sophisticated artillery munition designed for a weapons system that was introduced during the Vietnam War: The M109 Howitzer.


This smart munition was co-developed by U.S.-based Raytheon Missile Systems and Swedish BAE Systems Bofors to precisely kill targets from long range and eliminate collateral damage. It gives a projectile the same precision you’d expect from a missile.

“You can aim the gun off target up to 20 degrees off angle and the round will still fly itself back to your target,” said Jim Riley from Raytheon Missile Systems in the video below.

Watch:

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

American Heroes Channel

Articles

These glasses can turn any location into a simulated battlefield

Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.


These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
Four viewpoints of exercise participants during an AITT test. In this GIF, Marines engage simulated enemy tanks near an objective. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.

Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.

All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.

These robot battle buddies could be a game changer for the Army
This is the view a participant sees when a truck is destroyed during an augmented reality training mission. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 on a golf course after a series of upgrades and other tests. The goal is to allow Marines to practice engaging each other in force-on-force exercises without the cost or risk associated with training using live munitions and vehicles.

Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.

See the system in action in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How assault vehicles destroy IEDs without locating them

For ground troops, the improvised explosive device threat is considered one of the deadliest defensive components ever to hit the battlefield. Enemy forces have placed countless IEDs anywhere, including alleyways, open terrain landscapes, and along transportation routes.

With all the different mine-defeating technologies allied forces have available, many homemade explosives still manage to still go undetected at times.

Enter the Assault Breacher Vehicle.


Crammed with 7,000 pounds of explosives, this mode of transportation can destroy nearly any hazard the enemy might plant.

The ABV uses its weaponry to destroy a preselected area of enemy terrain within seconds — much faster than foot patrol.

“The ABV can clear a route faster than dismounted patrols because it doesn’t actually have to find the IED,” Lance Cpl. Jonathan Murray stated.

The vehicle is tailor-made to find and destroy IEDs that protect the enemy’s stronghold. Along with its superior armor, the ABV fires a mine-clearing line charge known as an MICLIC.

The MICLIC is as a 350-foot-long “sausage link” that contains nearly one-ton of C-4 explosives that can clear a surface area of a football field in a single blast. Once a MICLIC is fired off by the operator, they will send out an electrical charge that will completely detonate the line and everything in its path.

The massive explosion that follows will set off any IED with the surrounding sector 45-feet wide, making it safer for troops and local nationals to walk. As the ABV maneuvers through the enemies’ backyard, the vehicle can also detonate the IEDs with a plow system mounted in the front.

The plow has the ability to dig up the lethal mines before our brave service members have a chance to step on it — saving lives.

Check out American Heroes Channel‘s video below to watch this beast of a vehicle clear a massive area of IED threats.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tests headset that transmits sound through user’s bones

An innovative in-ear headset is being tested by the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England.

The device, which uses the bones in the user’s ear to transmit sound waves, provides both communication and hearing preservation capabilities to airmen working in noisy environments.

RAF Mildenhall was awarded funding to test the product after US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa identified the base’s proposal, to incorporate bone conduction communication technology into their operations, as especially innovative. The base was paired with Denmark-based INVISIO, a hearing protection and communications company, which was able to supply a product using this technology.


“We’re funded by USAFE-AFAFRICA specifically to provide feedback and input to the Air Force on whether bone conduction is a viable option across many platforms,” explained US Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Pettingill, 100th AMXS continuous process improvement and innovation manager. “We get to be the guinea pig and determine if it works for us and whether it’s worth investing in more.”

Maintenance airmen will be required to wear over the ear hearing protection in addition to the product, but they will more clearly be able to communicate due to the in-ear headset microphone.

“When aircraft engines are running or in a loud environment, our maintainers are required to wear ear plugs in addition to a headset,” said Pettingill. “Imagine sticking ear plugs in your ear and then trying to have a conversation with somebody; it doesn’t work. Enter the dual in-ear headset. This product offers hearing protection and also a microphone you can communicate with.”

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

A dual in-ear headset at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 30, 2019. The headset, which provides hearing protection and situational awareness to the user, is being tested at RAF Mildenhall to determine whether the Air Force will invest further in the technology.

(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

In addition to enhancing hearing protection and communication abilities for maintainers, the device will also benefit airmen in other career fields during exercises and real-world conditions, circumstances which necessitate the wearing of protective gear.

“RAF Mildenhall wanted to invest in the product not only due to the advantages it would provide the maintenance squadron, but also the ease of communication it would provide users in an exercise or in a real world event,” said Pettingill. “If you’re wearing a gas mask and you are trying to communicate with a radio, it’s going to be muffled. The product provides a better alternative to radios, which you actually have to bring up to your face to speak into.”

The 100th AMXS and 100th MXS production staff were chosen to test the in-ear headset because they are responsible for the movement of manpower and resources on the flight line, including such things as where aircraft are parked, when fuel is dispatched and which maintainers service certain aircraft, responsibilities that make communication essential. They were given the opportunity to provide their feedback about what they liked and disliked about a device not initially designed for maintenance Airmen, but special operators.

“We’re afforded the resources and the money to provide that feedback,” said Pettingill. “It’s not all positive, but that should be expected. We’ll just have to make adjustments.”

Both maintenance squadrons continue to test the in-ear headsets they have, but they’re waiting for funding to become available that will allow them to purchase the bulk of the headsets for testing.

“Once we’re ready to execute, we will outfit our maintainers and encourage them to use the product as much as possible. We’re going for a single issue rollout, so each airman will be assigned their own headset,” said Pettingill.

RAF Mildenhall’s position as the only installation in the Air Force to be testing this technology is due in large part to the maintenance senior leaders who were convinced of the product’s worthiness.

“It’s a huge honor to be able to test this innovative product,” remarked Pettingill. “We’re afforded the ability to try things out, and that’s why we are so successful. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re the first to do these things. Our leadership has our back.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force and Navy are getting more high-tech missile decoys

The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $96-million contract to Raytheon to produce more Miniature Air-Launched Decoys, missiles that can be launched from jets or dropped out of the back of C-130s to simulate the signatures of most U.S. and allied aircraft, spoofing enemy air defenses.


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

Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles sit in a munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, March 21, 2012. The missiles can dress themselves up like nearly any U.S. or allied aircraft and can fly pre-programmed routes.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)

The missiles, which Raytheon calls “MALD® decoy,” can fly 500 nautical miles along pre-programmed routes, simulating missions that strike aircraft would fly. Modern variants of the missile can even receive new flight programming mid-flight, allowing pilots to target and jam “pop-up” air defenses.

To air defense operators on the ground, it looks like a flight of strike aircraft are coming in. So, they fire off their missiles and, ultimately, they kill nothing because their missiles are targeting the Air Force-equivalent of wooden ducks floating in a pond.

www.youtube.com

Meanwhile, real strike aircraft flying behind the decoys are able to see exactly where the surface-to-air missiles and radar emissions are coming from, and they can use anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles to destroy those defenses.

The Raytheon missiles are the MALD-J variant, which jams enemy radars and early-warning systems without degrading the illusions that make the decoy system so potent. This leaves air defenders unable see anything except for brief glimpses of enemy aircraft signatures — which might be real planes, but could also easily be MALDs.

The missile is a result of a DARPA program dating back to 1995 that resulted in the ADM-160A. The Air Force took over the program and tested the ADM-160B and, later, the MALD.

The Air Force began fielding the missile in 2009 and they might have been launched during attacks against Syria while emitting the signatures of Tomahawk cruise missiles, but that’s largely conjecture. In fact, it’s not actually clear that the MALD can simulate the Tomahawk missile at all.

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

Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles wait to be loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Ma 14, 2012. The B-52H crew can communicate with the missiles in flight and change the flight patterns to engage newly discovered enemy air defenses.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Meanwhile, the Navy commissioned the MALD-N, a networked version of the missile, for their use.

Whether or not the missiles were employed in Syria, they represent a great tool for defeating advanced enemy air defenses, like the S300 and S400 from Russia or the HQ-9 and HQ-19 systems from China. While the missile systems and their radars are capable, possibly of even detecting stealthy aircraft like the B-1s and B-2s, they can’t afford to fire their missiles and expose their radars for every MALD that flies by.

At the same time, they also can’t afford to ignore radar signatures emitted by MALDs. They have little chance of figuring out which ones are decoys and which ones are real planes before the bombs drop.

Sorry, guys. American forces are such teases.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the M107 howitzer doesn’t get the recognition it deserves

The M107 self-propelled howitzer hasn’t gotten much attention. The M109 series of 155mm howitzers, on the other hand, is reaching its 55th year in operational service with the United States Army. Meanwhile, the M107 is fading into obscurity. Despite its (lack of) reputation, this howitzer was crucial for both the United States and Israel, among other nations.

The M107 and M110 shared the same chassis, but both were equipped with different guns — the M107 packed a 175mm gun and the M110 used an eight-inch cannon. Sharing a chassis was a boon in terms of both maintenance and logistics, since it meant the supply clerks had fewer categories of parts to handle.


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

A M107 self-propelled gun reaches out to touch the enemy during a fire mission in South Vietnam.

That also meant the guns were swappable — a M107 could become a M110 and vice versa depending on the mission. Want to deliver a particularly big punch? The M110 was your choice. Need to reach out and touch someone up to 25 miles away? The M107 is your choice for that.

The M107 entered operational service with the United States Army in 1962. By 1979, it had been retired, but it served for a while in a number of other militaries. Its most notable service was with Israel, which pushed its maximum range to 30 miles thanks to the efforts of Dr. Gerald Bull. M107s shelled Damascus during the Yom Kippur War, destroyed at least 15 surface-to-air missile sites, and are still held in reserve by the Israeli military.

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

The Israelis were able to use M107 to hit targets up to 30 miles away.

(US Army)

The M107 also saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, where it was used by Iranian forces. The M107 was first replaced by the M110A2, a longer-range eight-inch gun, and, ultimately, by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.

You can see how the Army introduced this long-range gun to America in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC4-sYimzwM

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