The U2 was produced in 1955 by Lockheed’s Skunk Works for aerial reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union. The proposal to build a plane that could fly 70,000 feet came from the need to fly beyond the reach of Soviet fighters, missiles, and radar; basically, anything that could threaten it.
The U.S. Air Force solicited designs from several aircraft companies, including Lockheed before settling on the winning concept. Lockheed’s first try, by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—its best aeronautical engineer at the time—included the base of an XF-104 with elongated wings and a shortened fuselage named CL-282. The design was essentially a jet-powered glider; it had a single jet engine, had no landing gear, but could reach an altitude of 73,000 feet. Gen. Curtis LeMay famously walked out during the design’s presentation, saying that he was not interested in an airplane without wheels or guns.
After the rejection and several iterations later, Lockheed submitted the design for the U2 spy plane, nicknamed “Dragon Lady.” Its basic design is still in use today, thanks to its meticulous Programmed Depot Maintenance inspections every 4,700 flight hours.
While the aircraft didn’t fully adopt the no wheels design, it did find a compromise. Instead of the typical tricycle landing gear used in most aircraft, the U2 uses a bicycle configuration with a forward and aft set of landing wheels. This minimalist approach and other design elements make the airplane lighter, which is one of the main reasons the airplane can cruise at such a high speed.
This video shows spectacular footage from the cockpit of the U2 spy plane at 70,000 feet above the Earth. Watch:
The Army plans to arm its force with more than 500 medium-weight Mobile Protected Firepower combat vehicles engineered to bring heavy fire support, high-speed mobility, and warzone protection for fast-maneuvering infantry.
The service plans to pick two vendors in the next few months to build prototype vehicles as an initial step toward having one vendor start full-rate production in 2025.
“Our plan is to award up to two contracts. Each vendor will build 12 vehicles and the we will down select from two to one. When we go into production, we will build 504 vehicles,” David Dopp, Army Program Manager, Mobile Protected Firepower, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.
Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints — such as deploying rapidly by air or crossing bridges in a heavy firefight.
Senior Army leaders say that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. Service and industry developers say the MPF is being engineered with a medium-class, yet strong 105mm cannon; this will enable attack units to destroy some enemy tactical and combat vehicles as well as infantry formations and some buildings or support structures.
Also, while likely not able to match the speed of a wheeled Stryker vehicle, a “tracked” MPF can better enable “off-road” combat.
An M1A2 Abrams tank can typically be pushed to speeds just above 40mph — yet wheeled Strykers, Humvees and other combat vehicles can easily travel faster than 60mph. Therefore, engineering a vehicle which does not slow down a time-sensitive infantry assault is of paramount importance to MPF developers.
“MPF has to keep up with infantry. We did a lot of tracked and wheeled vehicle studies, and that is what led us to identify it as a tracked vehicle,” Dopp said.
The Army has a near-term and longer-range plan for the vehicle, which Dopp said still needs to integrate the best available Active Protection Systems. Service leaders
“We have a two pronged approach. We are trying to develop systems for the next fight and the fight after next with Next-Gen Combat Vehicle. At the same time, we want to modernize our current fleet to fight any war until we get there,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Also, rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.
Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy.
On mobile protected firepower the Army said it wanted a 105 they were really interested in having alot of firepower down range for those light skinned medium kinds of tactical vehicles.
General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin I MPF Demonstrator.
General Dynamics Land Systems, is one of several industry offerings for the Army to consider. GDLS weapons developers tell Warrior Maven their offering is an evolution of its MPF Griffin I demonstrator vehicle unveiled several years ago.
“We did it with Griffin 1 for Mobile Protected Firepower it was a powerful tool for us to go back and redesign what we thought the Army really wanted,” Michael Peck, GDLS Director of Business Development, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Other industry bidders include BAE Systems and SAIC. BAE’s offering is based upon improvements to the Army’s M8 Armored Gun System.
“Our infantry fights in close terrain, urban areas and remote locations, so a smaller lightweight vehicle that still provides superior protection was essential to the design of our MPF offering,” Jim Miller, director of Business Development at BAE Systems Combat Vehicles business, said in a company written statement.
For its vehicle, SAIC has formed an industry partnership; its offering includes an ST Kinetics armored vehicle chassis and a CMI Defense turret, SAIC data says.
The Army’s new lightweight MPF armored vehicle is expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.
Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.
Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight, but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, ,do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.
The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005. US Army weapons developers have said their MPF will likely be heavier to ensure a higher level of protection for US soldiers.
When asked if the MPF deployment plans will mirror Army plans to send Strykers to Europe as a deterrent against Russia, Dopp did not rule out the possibility.
“MPF will go to support IBCTs….whatever they encounter,” Dopp said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
There is another contender — the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
So, yeah, there is another massive bomb. It is a heavier bomb — 30,000 pounds compared to the 21,700 of the GBU-43 MOAB. But the 30-foot long GBU-43 is ten feel longer than the GBU-57, and at 40 inches, it is about 8.5 inches wider.
So, what is the deal with the MOP? Why get it when you had MOAB? It’s for the same reason you have a high-explosive round and an armor piercing round.
The MOAB, like the BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter,” is like a giant high-explosive round. It detonates — either with the help of a standoff fuze or a proximity fuze — with the intent of using the blast to clear a large area or to leave a psychological mark on the bad guys.
The MOP, on the other hand, is like an armor-piercing shell. As its name suggests, it is designed to penetrate deep into a heavily-protected facility, then go boom. What sort of facility? Think bunkers and command posts.
The MOP, it should be noted, was also designed to fit inside a strategic bomber, notably the B-2A Spirit; but the B-52 Stratofortress (or BUFF) can also carry it.
Both bombs, by the way, use the Global Positioning System for guidance, allowing them to be dropped from high altitudes.
This not only allows the plane to escape the blast — something that was difficult with the unguided BLU-82 — but it also reduces the threat from air-defense systems. In the case of the MOP, altitude helps it go deeper underground, making sure that buried target you want to go away goes away.
(You can go ahead and make some penetrator jokes now.)
The US Navy finally completed the repair work on the propulsion system on its new supercarrier, but two defense contractors are still trying to figure out who has to pay the Navy back for repairs likely to reach into the millions.
Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., the shipbuilder, and subcontractor General Electric Co. are in a dispute over who is responsible for covering the costs incurred by the Navy for fixing the propulsion system, which, among other problems, has delayed delivery of the USS Gerald R. Ford amid rising costs for the already over-budget carrier, Bloomberg reported Sep. 4, 2019.
The service announced recently that the repair work for the propulsion system on the Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carrier, has been completed. Whether or not it works remains to be seen, as it still needs to be tested.
The Ford first began experiencing problems with its propulsion system in April 2017, but it started having problems again during sea trials in January 2018, when the crew identified what was later characterized as a “manufacturing defect.”
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
The January incident was tied to a problem with a “main thrust bearing,” with the Navy concluding in a March 2018 assessment that the failure was caused by “machining errors” attributed to General Electric, Bloomberg reported last year.
More propulsion plant problems were detected in May of last year, when the ship was forced to return to port early to be repaired. Then, in March of this year, the Navy revealed that the Ford would spend an additional three months at the shipyard undergoing maintenance, partially due to continued problems with the propulsion system.
After repairs, the system is said to be good to go, but there are questions about who is going to pay the Navy back after it picked up the tab for those repairs with taxpayer funds. And right now, the Navy won’t say how much the repairs cost, with one spokesman telling Bloomberg that publishing “cost information could jeopardize the pending negotiations.”
Huntington Ingalls signaled its intent last year to seek compensation from General Electric, but the issue reportedly remains unresolved. Huntington Ingalls told Insider that “we continue to work with appropriate stakeholders to support resolution of this situation.” General Electric declined to comment.
Gerald R. Ford sitting in drydock during construction.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl)
“As a first-in-class ship, some issues were expected,” the Navy explained last month when it announced that the Ford’s propulsion system has been repaired. Indeed, the carrier has been something of a problem child as the Navy tries to get leap-ahead technology to work to the high standards of reliability needed for combat operations.
For example, there have been issues with the aircraft launch and arresting gear, and there continue to be problems with the weapons elevators designed to move munitions more rapidly to the flight deck.
The Ford is billions of dollars over budget with a total cost above billion, and lawmakers have been fuming over the many issues with this project.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, the Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, sharply criticized the Navy in July 2019, saying that its failures “ought to be criminal.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.
The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.
And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.
The DF-26 warhead revealed.
(CCTV / YouTube)
What we know about the missile
The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.
With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.
First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.
Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.
Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.
Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.
Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.
If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Though the Navy is dancing in the end zone over its newest destroyer, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the futuristic ship has already lost one of the major pieces of its arsenal.
To be more precise, the 155mm Advanced Gun Systems will need a new round to fire.
The future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016 with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of DDG 1000, the future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). Following a crew certification period and October commissioning ceremony in Baltimore, Zumwalt will transit to its homeport in San Diego for a Post Delivery Availability and Mission Systems Activation. DDG 1000 is the lead ship of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, next-generation, multi-mission surface combatants, tailored for land attack and littoral dominance. (U.S. Navy/Released)
According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the Navy has cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). This round, guided by GPS satellites, was to have been used to hit targets as far away as 60 miles. One of the biggest issues came about because of the cut in the buy of the Zumwalt – from 32 ships to only three. The Daily Caller noted that cutting the size of the Zumwalt buy caused the per-unit cost to go up from $4.1 billion to $7 billion. That meant that the cost per shell went up to $800,000, largely because the RD cost is being borne by far fewer rounds than originally thought. As a result, the program met the Pentagon chopping block.
Now, this does not mean that the Zumwalt’s AGS is reduced to an ornament. The good news about the 155 round is that there are a host of options aside from the proverbial spitballs. Here are a few:
M107 High-Explosive: This is a conventional round – but there are a lot of them in stock, and it can still do a lot of damage. The M549 adds rocket assistance to increase range. Newer shells like the XM1113 and XM1128 will provide longer range and near-precision capability.
M864 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM): Think of this as a very small cluster bomb. The bomblets can take out armor or infantry, and it allows room for error. On a ship, these rounds could do a lot of damage to exposed antennas for radars and radios.
M712 “Copperhead”: This is a laser-guided artillery round. And a lot of UAVs have laser designators, including the MQ-8 Fire Scout (which can be operated off ships). While intended for land use, it should be noted that the Navy has used laser-guided weapons at sea, notably AGM-123 Skippers against the Iranian frigate Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis.
The M982 Excalibur 155mm round leaves the barrel of an M777 Howitzer during a live fire shoot conducted by Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Oro Grande Range Complex, N.M., Dec. 5. The shoot was the first of its kind conducted outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., and combat. (US Army photo by Sgt. Sean Harriman, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, Public Affairs)
M982 “Excalibur”: This is a GPS guided shell already in service with the Army. Costing $68,000 a shell, it doesn’t have the range that LRLAP would have brought to the table, but it is combat-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vulcano: The Vulcano from OTO Melara uses infra-red guidance to hit its targets at ranges of about 50 miles. The Italian firm offers this shell in 76mm and 127mm versions as well as its 155mm version. Laser guidance is also an option for these shells. Vulcano might be a better bargain than LRLAP, since it is also capable of being used as an anti-ship weapon.
The company who won the contentious contest to build America’s next military handgun is throwing its hat in the ring to provide a potential replacement for a weapon used by the country’s most elite counterterrorism units since the 1970s.
In March, U.S. Special Operation Command posted a notice to industry to come up with a new so-called “personal defense weapon” that had nearly impossible specs to achieve. The weapon had to be no longer than 26 inches with the stock extended, had to collapse to less than 17 inches AND be able to fire from the collapsed configuration.
And oh, the weapon had to be made to fire both .300 Blackout cartridges and 5.56 rounds.
These rifles would replace the MP5 variants in special operations stocks — 9mm submachine guns that are both aging and offer significantly less effective range than more modern calibers compatible with subgun-length barrels.
Well, Sig Sauer, makers of the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun, stepped up to the MP5 replacement plate with its new MCX “Rattler.”
“We had groups coming to us and saying the situations [they] were being put into with 9mm subguns, the caliber is not appropriate,” Sig Sauer officials said during a live event releasing the Rattler to the public.
The Heckler Koch MP5 submachine gun of U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Samuel Caines, assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe Security Detachment, ejects a bullet casing at the Training Support Center Benelux 25-meter indoor range in Chièvres, Belgium, Oct. 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie)
They wanted, “an escape gun that is going to have the firepower that [they] need.”
Based roughly on Sig’s MCX design, the Rattler has a 5.5-inch barrel and with its folding stock collapsed, the entire gun is just 16 inches long.
And it can fire in that configuration.
“The PDW stock allows you to function the gun when it’s folded,” Sig officials told RECOIL magazine. “It is the shortest rifle that’s on the market today.”
In fact, the Rattler comes in at just 3.5 inches longer than the ultimate CQB weapon — the MP5K.
“We wanted to give these guys a gun in a subgun size but that had the firepower to shoot out to 200-plus yards and effectively do what they needed to do,” Sig said.
The Rattler can fire suppressed in the 300 BLK configuration, but Sig says the barrel is too short for operating 5.56 cartridges with a can.
The Rattler upper is swappable with any standard M4 or AR-15-style lower, checking the box for the SOCOM PDW request to have the gun be able to change caliber in less than three minutes.
The Kirov-class nuclear-powered guided-missile cruisers often grab most of the attention when people look at the Russian Navy’s surface ships. That’s very understandable — these are powerful assets, packing powerful weapons, like the SS-N-19 Shipwreck surface-to-surface missile and the SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missile.
But Russia has other, almost-as-powerful cruisers that roam the seas. The Slava-class cruisers entered service in the 1980s, and they are no slouches, even though they’ve never had the cachet of the Kirovs.
Today, Russia is focusing more on smaller ships with a big punch, back in the heyday of the Soviet Union, they were trying to reach the status of a blue-water navy. The Kuznetsov-class carriers — and a nuclear-powered follow-on called the Ulyanovsk — would need escorts capable of providing area air defense and to kill enemy ships.
The Slava could do that. The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World notes that the Slava-class cruiser carried 16 SS-N-12 Sandbox surface-to-surface missiles and 64 SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles. The ship also carried a pair of SA-N-4 missile launchers for point defense, a twin 130mm gun, six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns, two quintuple mounts of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and a Ka-27 Helix helicopter.
Russia presently has three such ships in its arsenal. A fourth vessel sat around, waiting to be finished for roughly two decades before being scrapped. Two others were planned and slated to be equipped with improved surface-to-surface missiles, but were canceled after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“Moskva” (“Moscow”) (ex-“Slava”, which means “Glory”) is the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy. The Project 1164 Atlant class was developed as “Aircraft carriers killer”. This warship was used in the 2008 Russia–Georgia War. (Wikimedia Commons photo by George Chernilevsky)
The Russian Navy will have these ships around for at least another decade, by which time they hope to have the Lider-class destroyer ready to enter service. Until then, the Slava-class cruisers give the Russian Navy a hefty punch.
When a newly-minted Marine Corps Scout Sniper graduates from the sniper school where they learn their trade, they will be presented with a 7.62 round, the ammunition commonly used by the Marines’ elite scout sniper corps. But earning the actual HOGs Tooth is a much, more difficult task – because a Marine will be squaring off against another sniper looking for a HOGs Tooth of his (or her) own.
Before graduating sniper school, Marines are called “PIGs” – professionally instructed gunmen.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos)
Before we all drown in Facebook comments, let it be known that the point of this isn’t to make one tradition seem greater or more badass than the other. We’re talking about two different traditions that just have similar superstitious origins. It was once said there was a round out there destined to end the life of any sniper – the bullet with your name on it. The idea behind the HOG’s Tooth is that if anyone could acquire the bullet with their name on it, they would be invincible.
For a sniper to acquire the tooth of a “Hunter Of Gunmen,” a sniper must go through three steps, each more difficult than the last. The first step is to become an actual sniper, not just someone who’s really good at shooting. This means snipers need to go through a sniper school and deploy to an active combat zone. Don’t worry, deploying to a combat zone definitely won’t take long.
The third step is a doozy.
Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon dig deep to complete the two-week preparation course.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
The third step to getting that HOG’s Tooth trophy actually has a few sub-steps. It starts with forcing a duel against another sniper (preferably an enemy). Once a sniper defeats an enemy sniper in sniper-on-sniper combat, they must then make it over to the enemy position where they will hopefully find the scene undisturbed. This will likely be difficult because they’re supposed to be in hostile territory. If they get there before anyone else, they should capture the enemy’s rifle. But more important to the trophy process is capturing what’s in that rifle: the round in the chamber.
That round is the “bullet with your name on it.”
If a sniper captures this bullet, superstition says, that sniper cannot be killed by gunfire on the battlefield because no one there has the bullet that is destined to kill them. Separate the bullet from the cartridge and use 550-cord or some other tried-and-true stringing method and feel free to use the round as a necklace. The bullet meant for you will always be around the neck of its potential victim rather than inside him somewhere.
What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.
Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.
New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.
To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.
ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.
(U.S. Army illustration)
“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.
This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.
Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.
Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.
The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.
Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.
“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”
The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.
The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”
Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.
PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.
Blackhawk is in the midst of reinventing itself. Josh Waldron, who founded and ran SilencerCo, took the reins as president last year.
No more yelling
Note in particular that we’re no longer yelling “Blackhawk!” — as the exclamation point has been excised from the over two-decades old brand. It’s emblematic of the new leadership at Blackhawk and the revitalization they wish to propagate throughout the company. Waldron’s been pushing hard to transform the company’s culture and brand, build a passionate team, and release innovative products.
So it’s fitting that the first full-scale product launch from the new team is the Blackhawk T-Series, a new line of retention holsters and successor to Blackhawk’s ubiquitous and controversial Serpa holsters.
The type of retention provided by holsters is commonly referred to as ranging from level 1 to 3 (or 4). A level 1 holster only has passive retention, whereby friction keeps the pistol in place in the holster. Most concealed carry holsters are in this category. Level 2 holsters add active retention on top of friction, using some sort of mechanism that the user must actively disengage before they can draw their weapon. This could be a thumb break snap, as you might find on a leather holster, or some sort of button or lever. A typical application for this type of holster is law enforcement or open carry, as it provides additional security against someone accessing your sidearm. A level 3 holster adds yet another retention mechanism, such as a hood; these in particular are commonly used by uniformed law enforcement officers.
The highlight of the new T-Series system is its thumb-actuated retention release. By simply acquiring your master grip on the gun, your thumb naturally falls on the release lever. Pushing inward toward the gun with your thumb, as you would as you acquire your grip anyway, releases a spring-loaded trigger guard lock and allows you to draw the weapon. The release lever can only be accessed from directly above, making it more secure in a potential scuffle.
The level 3 duty holster version features a secondary retention mechanism, a spring-loaded rotating strap that loops behind the pistol’s slide. Whereas some other holster systems require two separate motions to clear the first and second retention, the T-Series releases both the trigger guard lock and the strap in one fell swoop by pressing the thumb lever.
The polymer holster benefits from a two-stage manufacturing process that results in a strong Nylon exoskeleton with a soft-touch elastomeric inner liner that’s waterproof, slippery, and noise-dampening.
As commonly found on concealment holsters, a screw adjusts the friction provided for passive retention. It tightens or loosens the holster to your preference. The backside of the holster features Blackhawk’s three-hole pattern to attach belt loops, spacers, and quick detach attachments. The hole pattern allows you to configure the holster vertically or with a forward or backward rake. The offset belt loop on our sample was robust (much more so than Blackhawk’s mass market belt loops and paddles) and can be screwed down to bite into a belt rig.
Removing the derp from the Serpa situation
In our range session with the T-Series holster, we found the thumb-actuated release to work well and to be very intuitive. The primary adjustment we had to make was to make sure to keep our thumb vertical when grabbing the gun rather than sweeping the thumb into place; the latter would result in hitting the shields around the lever and fumbling the draw. Additionally, we also had to adjust to the lack of a speed cut on the front of the sample holster, which fully shields the entire slide and rear sights.
The new system addresses key complaints about the Serpa system. First, the trigger finger isn’t tasked with any other job than simply being a trigger finger. There’s even a relief molded into the outside of the holster to guide your trigger finger safely. Instead, the thumb releases the retention, and it does so in a very intuitive motion for quick and efficient draws. Second, if you pull up on your gun before depressing the release on a Serpa, it stays locked. The T-Series will release the retention when the lever is pressed whether or not you’re yanking on it like a teenage boy. Finally, the Serpa’s retention latch is susceptible to locking up when clogged with debris. We’ve observed this ourselves during some training evolutions years ago. Blackhawk says the new T-Series has additional clearance specifically for debris and a different spring design to avoid this problem.
We also noticed that the new materials did mute the distinctive sounds of holstering and unholstering. It was by no means ninja-quiet, but certainly wasn’t as loud as typical kydex or polymer holsters.
Blackhawk put a lot of thought and attention to detail into the design and manufacturing of the T-Series. This bodes well for the new Blackhawk, with or without an exclamation point.
The T-Series will initially be available for Glocks and in black, with support for additional pistols to come later in the year as well as variants with a speed cut that will be red dot compatible and options for weapon-mounted lights.
Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.
The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.
It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.
“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.
(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)
“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”
The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.
“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.
Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.
“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.
Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”
“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”
Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.
Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.
“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.
If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.
“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.
“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.
“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”
The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.
“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.
Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.
“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”
Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.
“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.