While the Russian Navy has been a basket case both on the surface and down below since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost three decades ago, in recent years, we’ve seen an attempted comeback. There are plans to build few ships to fill out the fleet.
However, the budget has been a problem. Russia just simply hasn’t been able to build ships in the same quantity or as quickly as the Soviet Union used to. The Soviet Union built 17 Sovremennyy-class guided-missile destroyers. When production was in full swing, it took about four years from laying down the ship to commissioning. Today, a smaller Steregushchiy-class frigate takes as many as eleven years to build.
So, Russia sought to cut down on its RD time and expenses. After the Cold War, Russia started building some ships for other countries. China, for example, acquired four Sovremenny-class destroyers (two incomplete at the time the Soviet Union fell, two newly-built from Russia). But Russia’s biggest naval customer is India, who got a modified version of the Krivak called the Talwar-class guided-missile frigate. Six of those vessels were built for India, but it didn’t take long for Russia to want a few of their own.
In Russian service, the vessel is called the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate. It is equipped with a single launcher for the SA-N-7 surface-to-air missile, an eight-cell launcher for the SS-N-27 Sizzler surface-to-surface missile, a single 100mm gun, two CADS-N-1 point-defense systems, and two twin-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes. These frigates can also operate a Ka-27 Helix helicopter, giving them additional anti-submarine weaponry.
The production of these vessels, however, has come to a screeching halt. This is because Russia sourced the propulsion plants from Ukraine, which halted deliveries after the Russian takeover of Crimea.
As the US military is focusing on the Russian and Chinese threat, the Arctic becomes an ever more important region. The bountiful natural resources reportedly existing under the endless ice of the Arctic make the contested region highly desirable for all contestants — and there’s a lot of them.
In addition to the US, the European Union, China, Russia, Canada, and the United Kingdom all present some claim to the Arctic and are claiming sovereignty over portions of the plentiful natural resources that are hidden underneath the ice.
US special operations units, thus, have every interest to prepare for action in an arctic environment since they are at the tip of the spear of the American military.
In September, a Special Forces mountain team from 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, participated in exercise Valor United 20. The exercise, which brought together special operations and conventional troops, took place in Seward, Alaska. Its aim was to boost the experience and expertise of the participants in arctic warfare and increase the interoperability between special operations and conventional forces.
A Navy SEAL with a Special Operations Military Working Dog training in arctic conditions (US Navy).
The participants focused on patrolling, arctic, alpine, and glacier movement, crevasse rescue, and long-range communications under the austere conditions of the arctic environment. Regarding the last aspect of the training (long-range communications), the Special Forces team’s communications sergeants were able to send high-frequency messages from their positions to their headquarters in Okinawa, more than 4,400 miles away. In doing so, they tested their ability to securely transmit a message over an extremely long distance without being compromised. It’s important to remember that in a near-peer conflict, the enemy’s capabilities compete with or match those of the US military, unlike what has been happening in the Middle East for the past 20 years where US troops have been fighting a technologically inferior enemy.
A Special Forces communication sergeant (18E) with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) sets up an antenna for high-frequency transmission during Valor United 20, an arctic warfare training exercise in Seward, Alaska (1st SFG).
While they were in the area, the 12-man Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) had the chance to work alongside the 212th Rescue Squadron and assist the Air Commandos in wilderness search and rescue missions.
“This was a great opportunity to refine previous Small Unit Tactics training and expand our proficiency to conduct arctic operations in an austere mountain environment,” said the ODA’s team sergeant in a press release.
Training offers units the opportunity to test tactics, techniques, and procedures, the utility of gear, and the rationale of established concepts in different environments. For example, a soldier moving and fighting in the arduous arctic environment needs significantly more calories than a soldier who sits on a forward operations base most of the day and goes out on a direct action mission at night or from a troop who is training a partner force. Thus, exercises like Valor United 20 are a great opportunity to answer the “what” and “how” questions units might have about operating in different geographical environments.
Rangers undergoing the Cold Weather Operations Course (US Army).
Army Special Forces soldiers aren’t the only ones who are getting additional arctic warfare training. The 75th Ranger Regiment, arguably the world’s premier light infantry special operations unit, has been sending troops to the Cold Weather Operations Course (CWOC) with increased frequency.
The Army has recognized the increased importance of and emphasis on arctic warfare by introducing the Arctic Tab. Since January, soldiers who successfully complete the Northern Warfare Training Center’s Cold Weather Leaders Course (CWLC) are awarded the Arctic Tab. This decision sparked some controversy since many feel that another tab would diminish the value of the preexisting ones, such as the Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Honor Guard Tab, or Sapper Tab.
The Air Force has begun a formal study to analyze the sleep habits of airmen in an effort to prevent mistakes and mishaps caused by exhaustion.
The service said its 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, will examine sleep, fatigue and overall performance by tracking sleep habits “while also evaluating sleep-monitoring technology to ensure its accuracy and ability to work in an operational setting,” officials said in a recent release.
“It’s a multi-pronged approach to studying sleep and fatigue,” said Dr. Glenn Gunzelmann, 711th HPW Airman Systems Directorate training core technical competency lead, in the release.
“Providing airmen with information on their sleep patterns and history helps airmen understand how sleep affects their operational effectiveness,” Gunzelmann added. “Giving leadership this data also helps inform policy and how to account for sleep needs in their planning.”
Tech. Sgt. Ray Decker, 320th Special Tactics Squadron special operations weather team, takes a nap on an MC-130P Combat Shadow bound for Sendai Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
The service said it will develop ideas to reduce exhaustion, with some already being workshopped in a NATO aircrew fatigue management working group. The group also includes Army and Navy researchers, according to the release.
The working group is constructing a “sleep toolbox,” which officials say will “have educational resources on fatigue risk assessment with ways for mitigation.”
“It will also have information on insomnia, including cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and other sleep disorders,” the release states.
“Our current operations cross over multiple time zones, resulting in circadian rhythm issues, sleep deprivation or insufficient sleep,” Lt. Col. Dara Regn, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine internal medicine branch chief, said in the release. Both Regn and Gunzelmann participate in the group.
“As partner nations, we all deal with similar challenges, like increased mission tempo, long-range missions and pilot shortages. We are working together to optimize our pilots and bring back the importance of sleep,” Regn said.
A patient falls asleep during overnight sleep study.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher R. Morales)
The pooled resources will be made available through an open-source NATO website as well as a “secure offline application,” the officials said.
The overall goal is to reduce detrimental sleep habits that lead to fatigue or exhaustion, especially in the pilot community.
“About 80% of aviation accidents are due to human error, and pilot fatigue accounts for about 15 to 20%of that,” Regn said.
It’s not the first time the Air Force has looked for better sleep habit solutions.
For the last few years, Air Force Maj. Alexander Criss has researched ways to get more rest for pilots and crew heading out for operations across the globe.
Through his study, Criss, who has flown as a C-21, KC-10 and C-5 pilot, found that more than half of mobility pilots — 53% — were flying “during this window when their body thinks they should be sleeping,” he said during a recent interview with Military.com.
Criss, now assigned to U.S. Transportation Command in Illinois, said his research helped with the development of a smartwatch app and system that aims to help pilots and crew understand their bodies’ rhythms and when they’re most drowsy.
The project, known as the Better Effectiveness Through Tracking Yourself, or BETTY, “helps fill a gap in our current fatigue risk management system,” Criss said.
While BETTY is a multi-pronged process, the data-gathering system includes a wristwatch that measures a pilot’s circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle.
“Circadian rhythm disruption … is when our bodies are out of sync with our sleep and wake cycles,” Criss said. After flying, many people feel jet lag because the body and mind interpret differently when they should be asleep or awake, he explained.
A proposed software app would monitor data from the watch, in addition to comparing and contrasting it through some of the sleep models that are already out there, he said.
A U.S. Army sniper takes aim while wearing a ghillie suit (U.S. Army photo/Released)
The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.
One shot, one kill.
Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.
Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)
The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.
A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.
Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.
Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)
The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.
A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.
After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.
Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.
The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.
According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.
“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.
Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.
“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.
Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.
Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.
The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.
The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.
The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.
A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.
(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)
While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.
Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.
The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.
A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)
Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”
While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.
The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.
In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.
The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.
Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.
“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 2013, the United States government finally admitted the famed Area 51 of conspiracy theory lore was not only real, but also there are a lot of tests that go on there. And that was about it. Even though the area’s existence was confirmed, nothing else about it was revealed.
All we really know is that the area is located north of Las Vegas, at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the desert and there are two other facilities at Groom Lake, the Nevada Test Site and the Nevada Test and Training Range.
The truth is that even though a lot of secret research, testing, and training happens at Area 51, for the most part, it’s just like any other military installation (except there’s no flying over Area 51). You still need access to go on the base and if you go on the base without access, a number of things could happen.
Just like any other military base, how you illegally enter the base will determine how Air Force security forces (or whoever is guarding Area 51) responds to you. So, in short, swarming Area 51 like the internet planned to do a few years back would go terribly, terribly wrong for everyone involved.
If you were to somehow find yourself on the base without being authorized to be there, there’s no roving execution squad driving around to find infiltrators. I mean, they are looking for infiltrators, but security forces isn’t going to summarily execute one.
Air Force security forces are authorized to use deadly force on an intruder, as every sign outside of a base installation says. They don’t, however, have to use deadly force. In fact, before they start shooting at you, you have to demonstrate three things: intent, opportunity, and capability of either using deadly force yourself, causing bodily harm, or damaging or destroying resources.
So tiptoeing onto a base might get you captured and questioned, but it won’t get you executed unless you start going all “True Lies” on anyone who happens to accidentally cross your path. Again, this is true of any base. At Area 51, the entrances to the Groom Lake area are really far from any actual buildings, so there’s no opportunity there.
Driving like a bat out of hell through a gate, however, might demonstrate all three conditions at the same time, so there are good odds that the shooting will start immediately, maybe even before you make it to the gate. This actually happened at a regular base in 2010, when the driver of a stolen car refused to slow down or stop at the entrance of Luke Air Force Base.
The driver got lit up by Air Force security forces and though he made it onto the base, he didn’t make it far. He crashed the vehicle almost immediately and was arrested by local authorities.
At Area 51, the third criteria for the use of deadly force might be interpreted a little more loosely, considering the installation’s national security mission. If the Air Force is okay with assuming that anyone not authorized to be in the area has the intent and capability of causing harm to national security and is capable of doing whatever it takes to do so, then they might just assume that the only good intruder is a dead one.
We’re all familiar with the weapons the GIs carried during World War II, but a gun just ain’t much use without the ammo. The GIs, as Star Trek‘s Scotty once famously admonished, needed the right bullets for the right job.
The ammo that the GIs used ranged from the famous .45 ACP to powerful artillery rounds. In a training film, released in 1943 and linked below, the Army took the time to show what the more common rounds could do.
For most WWII-era artillery, the effective range was quite short. Anti-tank guns, for instance, were rarely impactful against targets more than a thousand yards away. Today, anti-tank missiles, like the BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile, reach out about two and a half miles or more. The bazooka, potent at 200 yards, has its modern counterpart in the FGM-148 Javelin, which kills tanks over 2,000 yards away.
It’s also interesting to note that the ammo and weapons are quite versatile. The Browning BAR, primarily known as an automatic rifle intended to send hot lead downrange at enemy troops, was also an effective option against enemy aircraft. The 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns weren’t exclusively useful against enemy tanks, but also against pillboxes and other fortifications. The M2 .50-caliber machine gun was devastating against aircraft and troops alike.
One of “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” is that “The best tank killer is another tank. Therefore tanks are always fighting each other … and have no time to help the infantry.”
One of the reasons this rings true is because the rounds used by tanks to kill tanks are so darn effective.
The round that became known as the “Silver Bullet” from American tanks is the M829A1 for the M256 main gun on the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks used by the Army and Marine Corps (plus the Saudis, Egyptians, Moroccans, Australians, Kuwaitis, and Iraqis). This round uses a hardened dart dubbed a “sabot” to punch through an enemy tank.
And the M829A1 did a lot of that in Desert Storm.
The M829A1 is an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot – APFSDS – round. The long-rod penetrator is usually no more than 1.25 inches wide and is held in a “shoe” that enables it to be fired in a gun whose bore is a little under five inches long. When the round is fired and exits the barrel, the shoe flies off, and the round is on its way.
The long-rod penetrator then flies downrange towards the target. Once it hits, the round just punches through the armor. The result is the enemy tank tends to blow up in what tankers call a “Jack in the box.”
How well does it work? Well, in Tom Clancy’s “Armored Cav,” the stories abound. One “silver bullet” killed two T-72s with one shot. Another, fired from an Abrams tank that was stuck in the mud, penetrated a sand berm before it blew up a T-72.
That was the M829A1. Since 1991, the United States has switched to the M829A2, which made improvements to the depleted uranium penetrator. Globalsecurity.org notes that the M829A2 round was late replaced by the M829A4, which has even further improvements to the penetrator and adds changes to the sabot.
Check out the video below to see what the sabot does so lethally well.
His team spotted by insurgents and forced to take cover in an abandoned compound, Marine sniper Joshua Moore went against his instinct when two grenades landed next to him, throwing one of them back at the enemy and holding off insurgent fire until help could arrive.
Moore, at the time a Lance Corporal, was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
Moore was part of a scout sniper platoon during a mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, in March 2011, when insurgents targeted his team.
The Marines fell back to a nearby compound, but enemy machine gun rounds soon sliced through the air, wounding two of them. After taking cover, Moore felt two objects hit him in the back. When he turned he saw two grenades lying in the sand.
He reached down, grabbed the first grenade, and threw it back out the window where it detonated just a moment later. He went for the second but noticed it was covered in rust and was likely a dud.
The young sniper would later say that he was, “scared out of my mind, but I knew we had to do everything possible to get everyone home.” Despite the brush with death and under the continuing threat of incoming fire, Moore crawled from the building and held off the enemy until a quick reaction force arrived.
He went to the north where the enemy attack was heaviest and began aiding the wounded and returning fire. He used an M4 with an attached M203 grenade launcher to suppress fighters where he could find them.
The arrival of a quick reaction force and another sniper platoon allowed the Marines to finally gain fire superiority, evacuate the wounded and fall back to their patrol base.
Moore was meritoriously promoted to corporal less than two months after the battle and was awarded the Navy Cross in Nov. 2013.
“It’s an honor to receive an award like the Navy Cross. But to be honest, I was just doing my job,” Moore said after the ceremony.
Since then, Moore has been promoted to sergeant and assigned as an instructor at the scout sniper basic course. He told Stars and Stripes that he often shares the story of the engagement with his students, but that he avoids talking about his medal.
An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.
According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)
Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.
The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.
The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.
The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.
Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.
These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.
“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.
Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.
“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”
US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)
High Clearance Control Arms
The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.
“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”
A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.
To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.
With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.
US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)
Clutch Improvement Kit
The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.
“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”
The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.
Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)
The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.
“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.
Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.
“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”
Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)
For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.
“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”
This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.
“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”
US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)
Environmental Protection Cover
The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.
“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”
US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)
Road March Kit
The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.
The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.
“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”
The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sir Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Orbit, conducted a successful test drop of an unpowered LauncherOne rocket on July 10, 2019, over California’s Mojave Desert near the Mojave Air & Space Port. The test is the latest step in Virgin Orbit’s goal to offer an affordable, small payload orbital launch capability to both commercial and government contract customers.
The unpowered air-launch drop test was the last major step toward the next phase of testing for LauncherOne, a future powered flight following a drop from the Boeing 747-400 named “cosmic Girl”. July 10, 2019’s test drop was initiated from an altitude of 35,000 feet using an unpowered LauncherOne vehicle filled with antifreeze and water as ballast to simulate a payload. Following the test drop the LauncherOne test vehicle fell seven miles to earth and its destruction following impact with the desert.
The LauncherOne test vehicle under the wing of the drop aircraft moments before July 10, 2019’s successful test drop.
The Boeing 747-400 drop-test mothership aircraft was flown by noted test pilot and Air Force Academy graduate Kelly Latimer, a combat pilot and also a graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School. Latimer is a veteran of the Virgin Galactic program and has also flown the WhiteKnightTwo specialty built aerial launch vehicle.
In a blog post on VirginOrbit.com published July 9, 2019, the company said, “We’ll be monitoring and rehearsing a million things, but this test is really all about those few seconds just after release, as we ensure the rocket and aircraft separate cleanly and observe how the rocket free-falls through the air.”
The course flown by the Boeing 747-400 drop aircraft for July 10, 2019’s successful test drop. The aircraft could be tracked on Flightradar24.com.
(Flightradar24.com via Virgin Orbit Twitter)
The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne project is one of many recent commercial space launch projects, not all of which have succeeded. Following the dramatic first flight of late billionaire Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch aircraft on April 19, 2019, the Reuters News agency ran a story on May 31, 2019, saying the Stratolaunch flight program would be shut down until a buyer for the ambitious project came forward. A June 14, 2019 report on CNBC.com by reporter Michael Sheetz said, “Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch at 0 million, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.” Branson’s Virgin Orbit LauncherOne may be a more practical approach to short lead-time, low cost orbital launches. LauncherOne is claimed to have a payload capacity of 300 kilograms (660 lbs.), although Space.com reports the payloads can be up to “1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms)”. Extremely short launch lead times can be only 24 hours from mission preparation to orbit, a feature that may make this launch technology attractive to military customers.
Branson’s greatest achievement with LauncherOne may be even more practical; cost. Boosting a payload into orbit using Virgin Orbit and LauncherOne may cost as little as M USD per mission. This compares to M USD to launch a larger 50,000 lb. payload into orbit using Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. On a pound-per-dollar basis, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is less expensive, but LauncherOne can specialize in smaller, shorter lead-time orbital payloads.
Virgin Orbit has not said when the next phase of testing, to include launching a powered LauncherOne into orbit from the 747-400 launch plane, will take place, but reports suggest it will happen soon. Virgin Orbit has confirmed the operational rocket for the first powered air launch has “already undergone extensive testing”.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Marines can fight in the air, on the ground and at sea – and soon they’ll have a robot that can tag along for at least two of those. Pliant Energy Systems’ Velox robot can track you on both land and sea. Snow, sand, ice, mud, it doesn’t matter the terrain; the Velox can follow you anywhere. But its true “natural” habitat is underwater, where its undulating propulsion system and efficient electrical drive can keep up with any target.
Its official designation is the Agile Amphibious Swimmer, and it first appeared at the 2017 Naval Future Force Science and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. What’s special about it is that its undersea mode is not driven by the usual propeller system, but rather a pair of versatile, undulating fins that glide through the water, acting as both thrust and guidance systems.
What’s amazing is how the robot performs when it makes an amphibious landing, moving just as mobile on difficult terrain as it does in the water.
To the Brooklyn-based designers of Pliant Energy Systems, the smoothly undulating fins are a step far ahead of current, propeller-based systems. Undulating drives mean a lower environmental impact and a lower rate of entanglement in aquatic plants and animals. The fins create movement underwater in much the same way that manta rays do while crawling over land like a snake. This is its biggest selling point to the Office of Naval Research: it can handle any terrain during a single mission.
“The robot’s swimming performance alone is unprecedented outside of the natural world,” claimed Benjamin Pietro Filardo, founder, CEO, and CTO of Pliant. “But that’s only half the story because it can deploy its swimming fins to travel over various land topographies in ways that don’t seem to have been explored yet in the field of terrestrial robotics.”
The robot’s biomimic propulsion is just the beginning. Future versions of the robot could feature a propulsion system that can recharge itself in wind and in waters at sea. The secret is in the substance that makes up the robot’s fins, electroactive polymers. As it expands and contracts, it generates electricity. When an electrical current is applied to the material, the material moves, much like biological muscles.
In the future, Pliant looks to create electrical generators powered by the movement of water in waves, rivers, and streams from the same materials that power the Velox drone (like in the video above).