The US Army is building a new crash test dummy - We Are The Mighty
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The US Army is building a new crash test dummy

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
(Photo: U.S. Army)


Over the course of fighting America’s most recent wars, troops faced the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs on a daily basis. More than a decade later, the U.S. Army is building a new crash test dummy to better understand the physical risks these crude but deadly weapons pose to soldiers downrange.

In addition to registering the location of impacts and stress during tests, the new design will be coupled with an extensive database to help predict how likely an individual is to suffer a serious injury. The ground combat branch has dubbed the program the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin, or WIAMan. As anyone in the military probably already knows, “WIA” is also the acronym for “wounded in action.”

The Army hopes that the new device will help provide more information on just what happens when a bomb goes off underneath a vehicle. “There is a wide range of test conditions and environment parameters” and “no two sets of system responses are the same,” engineers and scientists working on WIAMan explained in a briefing in June.

The individuals from the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Research Laboratory sat down with defense contractors to talk about the state of the program. The service wants to start looking for a company to make WIAMan dummies by the end of 2017.

But just building a prototype machine that fits the requirements has been a long and complex process. The Army kicked off WIAMan more than five years ago as the bulk of American forces were starting to leave Iraq.

By that point, IEDs were a well-known threat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, huge bombs routinely ripped through unarmored Humvees and better-protected vehicles. The Pentagon had responded by rushing mine-resistant trucks, bomb detectors and jammers and other gear to troops in the field. Though this equipment saved lives, it did not eliminate serious injuries.

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, explosives had accounted for more than three quarters of all military injuries, according to a study Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, Chairman of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Neurosurgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, led and published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2013. Explosions underneath vehicles specifically were likely to cause severe damage to the pelvis, spinal column, legs and feet, Andrew Merkle, a principal professional staff member at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and his colleagues explained in another 2013 piece.

At that time, Army researchers had to rely on modified auto industry manikin, called Hybrid III. The manufacturer, Humanetics, only intended the original dummy for testing head on collisions in commercial cars. On top of that, the design reflected an outdated 1970s body shape.

Instruments in this surrogate person only show damage and strain in broad areas and joints. To help engineers and scientists log potential injuries, the Army’s version only has five so-called “biofidelity response corridors,” or BRCs.

By comparison, WIAMan will have more than 800 BRCs. This means that instead of simply sensing impact on a section of chest or foot as a whole, the manikin would report dangerous forces on particular ribs or the soles or heel specifically.

The prototype dummy was structured around a 50th percentile male soldier. After the Pentagon removed the last restrictions preventing women serving in combat roles in December 2015, the full production run will have to include female body shapes.

Combined with an extensive and growing knowledge-base of injury data, WIAMan should not only be able to highlight possibly dangers but predict them, too. This means that when the Army considers a new tank or truck in the future, researchers might be able to gauge the likelihood of the drivers and occupants suffering specific injuries if they run over a roadside bomb.

And capturing more data from the dummy itself means engineers won’t have to try and cram secondary cameras or sensors inside armored vehicle compartments or truck cabs to gather additional significant information. These spaces are cramped to begin with and these sensitive systems are often damaged in testing.

A “blast test of a surrogate vehicle structure … provided realism,” another one of the June presentations noted. “However, it is costly, not repeatable and occupant response cannot be fully observed.”

Unfortunately, WIAMan alone won’t be able to fill all of the Army’s research gaps by itself. The manikin will not be able to test for a slew of effects beyond an underbody blast.

In its prototype form, the soldier stand-in cannot determine whether troops might be at risk from shrapnel or burns. In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs often set off fuel or ammunition in vehicles leading to serious burns.

In 2006, the Marine Corps notably banned leathernecks from wearing synthetic clothing, including popular Under Armour undershirts, because of their low melting points. The Corps found evidence that the garments could fuse to skin with horrific results in a fire.

More importantly, WIAMan will not be able to help gather badly needed information about the potential for traumatic brain injuries, commonly called TBIs. Concussions and other TBIs have been increasingly linked to long-term brain damage and increased risk of serious health conditions.

Since 2000, the Pentagon has diagnosed more than 340,000 active service members with various kinds of TBIs, according to statistics compiled by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Medical professionals classified 5,000 of these cases as “penetrating,” instances where an actual object pierces the skull and physically hits the brain.

By far, the majority of the instances are “mild,” a synonym for concussions.  However, research shows that people who suffer from multiple instances of these injuries suffer far from mild consequences.

While scientists are still studying the exact relationship between concussions and other health issues, there is significant correlation between the injuries and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also seen in boxers and other professional athletes, this is a form of dementia characterized by declining memory, cognition and motor control and itself linked to depression, suicidal behavior, and aggressive outbursts.

American troops have already spent some 15 years in a state or near constant combat operations. Given the rise of new terrorist groups like Islamic State, the Pentagon’s high operational tempo seems unlikely to change in the near future.

In the meantime, soldiers and other service members will likely continue to suffer TBIs and other injuries from IEDs. Though not perfect, WIAMan will give scientists and engineers critical information to help protect our men and women in uniform.

Articles

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Look Ma! No pilot! (Or RIO, for that matter.) (Photo: U.S. Navy)


Phantom Phanatics have loved the F-4, even though the legendary fighter has been out of United States service for two decades. But that may not be an accurate way to think of it. Because theF-4 actually has still been serving – and still has about two months of life left with the United States Air Force.

According to an Air Force release, these Phantoms that have been serving just haven’t been manned – for the most part. QF-4 Phantoms (the Q standing for “drone”) have been providing “live” targets for the testing of air-to-air missiles (like the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM), usually by simulating an enemy aircraft during those tests. Any number of pilots who have used air-to-air missiles in combat can thank those target drones for helping make sure those missiles worked.

How did the Phantom provide two decades’ worth of target drones? Well, it’s not hard when you realize that almost 5,200 were built by McDonnell-Douglas. Now, that includes those that were exported, but even with combat losses in Vietnam (73 for the Navy, 75 for the Marine Corps, and 528 for the Air Force). The Air Force arranged for 324 airframes to become QF-4s. The Navy also used the QF-4 after retiring its last F-4 from USMC service in 1992 – getting another 12 years of service from the “Double Ugly” until the last airframe retired in 2004.

The QF-4s were not the first planes to serve as target drones. The QF-86 Sabre, QF-80 Shooting Star, QF-100 Super Sabre, and the QF-106 Delta Dart have been among former fighters that provided additional service beyond their “official” retirement date by serving as target drones. Even the legendary B-17 had a version that served as a target drone. In fact, just as the F-4 Phantom was replaced in active service by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the QF-4 Phantom will be replaced by QF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The surviving QF-4 Phantoms at White Sands Missile Range will get one more round of maintenance, mostly to remove hazardous materials, and then they will serve as ground targets.

Here’s a video of QF-4s taking a few for the team:

Articles

This is how US troops help spread ‘Americana’ throughout the world

There aren’t many places in the world where you can’t order a glass of American whiskey, sing along to the latest Top 100 song, or watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Hell, North Korea may be the only country in the world where you can’t easily buy a Coke.


American culture made its mark throughout the world, for better or worse. And it turns out, American troops are some of the country’s best cultural ambassadors.

It’s a time honored tradition for soldiers to “Americanize” Local Nationals where ever they go. The ice cream man in Baumholder, Germany, never failed to get a laugh out of my unit whenever he would use our slang through his thick German accent. The carpet salesman in Afghanistan kept up with the latest superhero films far more than any of us did. And Kuwaiti workers would clean out Porta-Johns, rocking blue jeans.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy

The nations that U.S. troops have partnered with have had their economies grow drastically. One of the best places in the world to see this is in post-war Japan.

America provided a “Security Umbrella” to its former enemy, letting the island nation to focus more of its GDP on manufacturing and reentering the international marketplace. Today, Japan is the fourth largest export economy, with it’s top export going to the United States.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Flyer for the Hell Fighters Band

As America shed it’s isolationist ways and entered World War I in Europe, the world got a glimpse of what we’ve been up to on the other side of the ocean. When stationed in Paris, African American soldiers brought with them jazz, swing, and ragtime music.

The soldiers, between conflicts, would perform their new style in music halls. French crowds went crazy for it. Lieutenant James Reese Europe and his Harlem Hellfighters traveled all across France and quickly became one of America’s first international celebrities.

Related: Here are 5 things the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ did that cemented their place in history

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
U.S Army photo by Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong

One nation that had plenty of American influence is South Korea. South Korean technology has boomed in recent years and has helped spawn K-Pop (The genre of music that gave the world Gangnam Style) and Hallyuwood (Korean film industry).

This East Asian country had U.S. troops stationed there since the ’50s. All males between age 18 and 35 have been conscripted for a mandatory two year obligation. With this, many of the Republic of Korea Army soldiers are also sent to train and serve with the U.S. Army.

KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) soldiers form strong bonds of friendship with their American counterparts. Through this program, many Koreans learn of American culture and vice-versa.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra

No matter where US troops are sent, they are sometimes the first actual interactions locals have with Americans. Some places refuse to serve Americans, others welcome them with open arms.

As long as you’re not a jack a–, you’ll be embraced. Even if you are brash, just be funny.

Articles

Here’s what you need to know about chaplains

Army chaplains and their assistants provide spiritual support to soldiers, both in a deployed environment and back at home. They are part of a support network for soldiers going through a hard time or just needing someone to share their thoughts or concerns.


The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin presents a quilt to Spc. Zowie Sprague during a battlefield circulation visit in Taji, Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. The quilt was hand-made by a family from a small town in Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cesar E. Leon)

The Army’s Chaplain Corps provides counseling for soldiers in times of crisis, such as extreme stress, grief, or psychological trauma. Army chaplains are teamed-up with an enlisted soldier known as a chaplain assistant.
Together, they form what is known as a Unit Ministry Team.

Related: What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“Chaplains have to be extra resilient and take time for self-care,” said Army Maj. James S. Kim, the chaplain for the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

“Caregiver” is a term that can be given to chaplains and their assistants within the military. On a day-to-day basis, ministers may deal with many grief counseling cases and always have to remember the importance of self-care.

“I have learned from my past deployment, that when I am assisting people with their issues, there is only so much I can help with,” Kim said. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to unravel everything I heard from the day and be able to get my own counseling.”

Compassion Fatigue

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Army Chaplain. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/USAF)

UMT’s are empathetic to soldiers’ personal problems, such as substance abuse, relationship issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are not conscious of the psychological toll their empathy can take on them, they run the risk of suffering from what is known as compassion fatigue.

UMT’s need to find ways to cope and release the weight they take on from providing moral support to their soldiers.

Also read: The surprising link between spirituality and performance

“It is important to understand your limitations, what you can and can’t do, but most importantly finding that time to connect to your faith,” said Army Master Sgt. Samuel W. Gilpin, the chaplain assistant for the 1st Sustainment Command UMT.

The Army Chaplain Corps provides responsive religious support to the unit in both deployed and garrison environments. The support provided can include religious education, clergy counsel, worship services, and faith group expression.

Chaplains have been an integral part of the armed forces since 1775, when the Continental Congress officially made chaplains a part of the Army.

Chaplains serve commanders by offering insight into the impacts of religion when developing strategy, campaign plans, and conducting operations.

They also provide soldiers an outlet for spiritual practice and provide counseling and moral support for soldiers in need.

Articles

This is how JTACs stay sharp

We all know troops on the ground love their air support — especially from planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt II.


But those planes need to know what to hit. How does that happen?

Well, the Air Force’s Joint Terminal Attack Controllers are who make that happen. JTACs are members of what are known as Tactical Air Control Parties, and their task is to coordinate air support for ground units. Becoming a JTAC isn’t easy. Business Insider has a look at the process of how someone goes from civilian on the street to becoming one of these elite personnel.

In 2015, the Army and Air Force formalized the embedding of Air Force JTACs in Army units down to the company level. These personnel aren’t just good at bringing down firepower, they can even advise ground commanders on how to handle cyberspace operations.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
U.S. Air Force Combat Control JTACs from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron call for close air support from a A-10 Thunderbolt II while attending the Air Force’s JTAC Advanced Instructor Course (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

But it’s not just train, deploy, and be done. There’s always a need to refresh skills, and there are always new perspectives. So, recently, some JTACs with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing were joined by JTACs from the Royal Air Force. The cross-training helps, primarily by breaking down communications barriers.

“Since we’re going to be working together, we need to practice together before we go do that in the real world,” RAF Flight Sergeant Simon Ballard said. The RAF controllers are familiar with the U.S. Air Force, particularly the A-10s, which they praise effusively.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
A Joint Terminal Attack Controller with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command communicates with a Navy MH-60S helicopter during takeoff as part of Carrier Airwing training conducted by the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center aboard Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., April 7, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle McNally, released)

“While I was a JTAC in Afghanistan, the vast majority of our aircraft were U.S. aircraft,” British Squadron Leader Neil Beeston said.

The ultimate benefit to this cross-training, though, is that the stakes are lower. Master Sgt. Francisco Corona told the Air Force News Service, “I’d rather integrate in (training) where we can make mistakes and learn from them instead of making mistakes in a deployed location.”

Articles

This Marine just saved the government $15 million

The Marine Corps was paying $60,000 more than it was supposed to for a type of radio cable since 2007, according to Stars and Stripes.


The cable was discovered to be overpriced in October 2016, when Marine Cpl. Riki Clement had to fix a radio. After being told that the needed parts would take six to eight months to arrive, he decided to reverse engineer a replacement using old parts and found out its true cost was actually closer to $4,000.

Later that month, the Marine Corps said the corporal had saved the government $15 million.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
The cable that the Marine Corps was overpaying by $60,000. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The defense contractor that makes the cable, Astronics, had been charging $64,000 for each cable. Astronics did not immediately respond to request for comment.

“There may be a good reason for the price, but based on us taking apart the cable and researching the individual parts, we’ve found no reason for this part to cost as much as it does,” Clement told Stars and Stripes in December 2016.
The overpriced cable was one of six in the same parts catalog, Barb Hamby of Marine Corps Systems Command told Stripes.

“The catalogued mistakes were made nearly seven years ago,” Tony Reinhardt, the command’s team lead for automatic test systems, told Stripes. “We went through every [item] in the kit to confirm the prices and fix the errors.”

Reinhardt said the cable costs $4,000 because of the material that goes into it, as well as the process of designing, developing and manufacturing it. He added that there’s no record of the Marine Corps ever purchasing individual replacement cables. The originals were part of kits, and Marines had been using parts from other kits for repairs.

The cost of each kit was $21,466, Capt. Frank Allan, a project officer at Marine Corps Logistics Command, told Stripes.

This isn’t the first time the military has been caught overspending.

In December 2016, it was discovered that the Pentagon had buried a study from late 2015 exposing $125 billion in administrative waste. President Donald Trump has also attacked defense contractors for overpriced weapons, despite recently calling for a $54 billion boost in defense spending.

Articles

Here’s what it’s like to fly attack missions in the A-10

Known for an ability to keep flying after taking multiple rounds of enemy machine gun fire, land and operate in rugged terrain, destroy groups of enemy fighters with a 30mm cannon and unleash a wide arsenal of attack weapons, the A-10 is described by pilots as a “flying tank” in the sky — able to hover over ground war and provide life-saving close air support in high-threat combat environments.


“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy, Moody AFB, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Also read: Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

The pilot of the A-10 is surrounded by multiple plates of titanium armor, designed to enable the aircraft to withstand small-arms fire and keep flying its attack missions.

“The A-10 is not agile, nimble, fast or quick,” Haden said.  “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful calculated and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II, with the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, sits on the flight line of Clark Air Base, Philippines. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton

A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been in service since the late 1970s and served as a close air support combat aircraft in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, among others.

Having flown combat missions in the A-10, Haden explained how the aircraft is specially designed to survive enemy ground attacks.

“There are things built in for redundancy. If one hydraulic system fails, another one kicks in,” he said.

If the aircraft loses all of its electronics including its digital displays and targeting systems, the pilot of an A-10 can still fly, drop general purpose bombs and shoot the 30mm cannon, Haden explained.

“So when I lose all the computers and the calculations, the targeting pod and the heads up display, you can still point the aircraft using a degraded system at the target and shoot. We are actually trained for that,” he said.

Unlike other air platforms built for speed, maneuverability, air-to-air dogfighting and air-to-air weapons, the A-10 is specifically engineered around its gun, a 30mm cannon aligned directly beneath the fuselage. The gun is also called a GAU-8/A Gatling gun.

“The 30mm cannon has 7 barrels. They are centered the way the aircraft fires. The firing barrel goes right down the center line. You can point the aircraft and shoot at the ground. It is designed for air to ground attack,” Haden explained.

Armed with 1,150 rounds, the 30mm cannon is able to fire 70-rounds a second.

Haden explained the gun alignment as being straight along the fuselage line without an upward “cant” like many other aircraft have. Also, the windows in the A-10 are also wider to allow pilots a larger field of view with which to see and attack targets.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon

The engines of the A-10 are mounted high so that the aircraft can land in austere environments such as rugged, dirty or sandy terrain, Haden said. The engines on the A-10 are General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans.

“I’ve seen this airplane land on a desert strip with the main gear buried in a foot of sand. On most planes, this would have ripped the gear up, but the A-10 turned right around and took off,” he added.

There have been many instances where A-10 engines were shot up and the pilots did not know until the returned from a mission, Haden said.

These aerodynamic configurations and engine technology allow the A-10 to fly slower and lower, in closer proximity to ground forces and enemy targets.

“The wings are straight and broadened. The engines are turbofan. They were selected and designed for their efficiency, not because of an enormous thrust. We have a very efficient engine that allows me to loiter with a much more efficient gas-burn rate,” Haden said.

Close Air Support

By virtue of being able to fly at slower speeds of 300, the A-10 can fly beneath the weather at altitudes of 100 feet. This gives pilots and ability to see enemy targets with the naked eye, giving them the ability to drop bombs, fire rockets and open fire with the 30mm cannon in close proximity to friendly forces.

“We shoot really close to people. We do it 50-meters away from people. I can sometimes see hands and people waving. If I get close enough and low enough I can see the difference between good guys and bad guys and shoot,” Haden explained.

The aircraft’s bombs, rockets and cannon attack enemies up close or from miles sway, depending on the target and slant range of the aircraft, Haden added.

“We deliver the munitions by actually going from a base position – then pointing the jet at the ground and then pulling the trigger once we reach the desired range,” he explained.

The A-10 uses both “Lightning” and “Sniper” pods engineered with infrared and electro-optical sensors able to find targets for the pilot.

“The aircraft uses the same targeting pod as F-15E and F-16. However, most of the fighters can’t transition between the two targeting pods and we can, based on our software,” Haden said.

The A-10 carries a full complement of weapons to include Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM GPS-guided bombs; its arsenal includes GBU 38s, GBU 31s, GBU 54s, Mk 82s, Mk 84s, AGM-65s (Maverick missiles), AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and rockets along with illumination flares, jammer pods and other protective countermeasures. The aircraft can carry 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance; eight can fly under the wings and three under-fuselage pylon station, Air Force statements said.

A-10 Avionics Technology

Pilots flying attack missions in the aircraft communicate with other aircraft and ground forces using radios and a data-link known at LINK 16.  Pilots can also text message with other aircraft and across platforms, Haden added.

The cockpit is engineered with what is called the CASS cockpit, for Common Avionics Architecture System, which includes moving digital map displays and various screens showing pertinent information such as altitude, elevation, surrounding terrain and target data.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
A-10A Thunderbolt II cockpit | US Air Force Museum

A-10 pilots also wear a high-tech helmet which enables them to look at targeting video on a helmet display.

“I can project my targeting pod video into my eye so I can see the field of view. If something shoots at me I can target it simply by looking at it,” he explained.

Operation Anaconda

During the early months of combat in Operation Enduring Freedom, in a battle known as “Operation Anaconda,” Haden’s A-10 wound up in a fast-moving, dynamic combat circumstance wherein U.S. military were attacking Taliban fighters in the Afghan mountains.

During the mission in March of 2002, Haden was able to see and destroy Taliban anti-aircraft artillery, guns and troop positions.

“We could see tracer fire going from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley. We were unable to tell which was from good guys and which was from bad guys. Using close air support procedures in conjunction with our sensors on board, we deconstructed the tactical situation and then shot,” he said.

The Future of the A-10

Many lawmakers, observers, veterans, analysts, pilots and members of the military have been following the unfolding developments regarding the Air Force’s plans for the A-10. Citing budgetary reasons, Air Force leaders had said they planned to begin retiring its fleet of A-10s as soon as this year. Some Air Force personnel maintained that other air assets such as the F-16 and emerging F-35 multi-role stealth fighter would be able to fill the mission gap and perform close air support missions once the A-10 retired.

However, a chorus of concern from lawmakers and the A-10s exemplary performance in the ongoing air attacks against ISIS – has lead the Air Force to extend the planned service life of the aircraft well into the 2020s. Despite the claim that other air assets could pick up the close air support mission, advocates for the A-10 consistently state that the platform has an unmatched ability to protect ground troops and perform the close air support mission.

Now, the Air Force has a begun a three-pronged strategy to replace or sustain the A-10 which involves looking at ways to upgrade and preserve the existing aircraft, assessing what platforms might be available on the market today or designing a new close-air-support airplane.

Sending the close-air-support aircraft to the boneyard would save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years alone, Air Force officials previously said.

The overall costs of the program including lifecycle management, sustainment and upkeep had made the A-10 budget targets for the service, however many lawmakers pushed back on the plans.

There have been many advocates for the A-10 among lawmakers who have publically questioned the prior Air Force strategy to retire the aircraft. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. and Sen. John McCain have been among some of the most vocal supporters of the A-10.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Capt. Dustin Ireland fires a missile as his A-10 Thunderbolt II breaks over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex April 24 during live-fire training. | US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland

On several occasions, Ayotte has challenged the Air Force decision to retire the plane.

“The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft—creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” an Ayotte official said several months ago.McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the news that the A-10 might remain longer than the Air Force had planned.

“I welcome reports that the Air Force has decided to keep the A-10 aircraft flying through fiscal year 2017, ensuring our troops have the vital close-air support they need for missions around the world. Today, the A-10 fleet is playing an indispensable role in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and assisting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” McCain said in a recent statement.

Also, the A-10 has been performing extremely well in ongoing attacks against ISIS, creating an operational demand for the durable aircraft and therefore reportedly informing this Air Force decision.

“With growing global chaos and turmoil on the rise, we simply cannot afford to prematurely retire the best close air support weapon in our arsenal without fielding a proper replacement. When the Obama Administration submits its 2017 budget request in the coming weeks, I hope it will follow through on its plan to keep the A-10 flying so that it can continue to protect American troops, many still serving in harm’s way,” McCain added.

Although the continued existence of the A-10 is assured well into the next decade, the debate about what, if anything, might be able to replace it is quite likely to continue.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The 5 MOPP levels that could save you from a chemical attack

For hundreds of years, humans have developed technologies that yield the maximum amount of enemy fatalities in efforts to protect the home front. As time progresses, so, too, do the methods military leaders use to strike fear into the hearts of their deadly opponents. One such threat that dates back hundreds of years is that of a chemical attack that can strike in an instant and indiscriminately kill.


Chemical attacks were deployed on the battlefields of World War I and, although they’re looked down on by much of today’s international community, they can still be deployed at any time. Now more than ever, U.S. troops are trained to protect themselves from potential hazards using specialized gear. This gear is ranked by Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) levels, which ensure that troops have proper protection against any amount of chemical threat.

Here’s how to protect yourself from a chemical attack

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
Marines and sailors with the 11th MEU’s command element put their MOPP gear on during the 11th MEU’s gas chamber training.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

MOPP levels range from zero to four. They’re based on current chemical and biological threats and can elevate in minutes, so troops must always be prepared. Over garments, gas masks and hoods, boot covers, and gloves round out the gear necessary to protect troops.

Level 0

MOPP level zero is simply having all the gear stated above on-hand and ready to don. Though chemical threats are unlikely, they do exist and service members need to be ready.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
MOPP level zero

Level 1

MOPP level one requires the troop to don over garments. This means a chemical threat is present, so troops must remain alert, as the hazard could escalate at any time.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
MOPP level one.

Level 2

As the threat increases, so do MOPP levels. MOPP level two mandates that ground pounders quickly put on the both over garments and boot covers.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
MOPP level two

Level 3

Moving on to MOPP level three. Service members must don over garments, a gas mask and hood, and boot covers. At this level, the threat of coming in contact with hazardous vapors is high.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
MOPP level three

Level 4

Lastly, MOPP level four — which is, by far, the scariest of them all. This level requires over garments, gas masks and hoods, gloves, and boot covers to be worn as a chemical or biological threat is present in the area.

The US Army is building a new crash test dummy
MOPP level four

To determine threat levels, troops use M9 paper, which can detect the presence of liquid chemical agents, like nerve agents. When this paper comes in contact with a harmful agent, it turns a reddish brown color. This tape is usually placed in well-occupied, highly visible areas for constant monitoring.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Libyan rebels called in airstrikes against Gaddafi will blow your mind

In 2011, Libyans took arms against the 40-plus year rule of Muammar Gaddafi. The dictator tried to brutally crush a demonstration against his regime in Benghazi. The response from the Libyan people was a nearly nine-month-long civil war which ended with the death of the dictator near his hometown of Sirte. But it was a victory that almost never was. The Libyan Rebels needed to level the playing field when it came to air superiority – they needed to be able to call in airstrikes.

That’s where Twitter came in.


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Some people swear by it.

By mid-March 2011, Gaddafi’s loyalist forces were pushing the rebels back fast. All their hard-won gains liberated more than half of Libya from the dictator who promised to make the streets of Benghazi run red with rebel blood. Gaddafi’s air power was proving to be a decisive advantage in the civil war. Luckily for the rebels, there was a NATO task force assembling offshore.

American, French, British, and Canadian ships had all joined each other off the Libyan coast and began to hit Gaddafi’s positions with the full might of their respective sea-based air forces. They also began to enforce a no-fly zone. This was enough to turn the tide of the rebels, who were battle-hardened veterans, fighting for their lives. It was a strategic win for them, no doubt, but the tactical use of NATO air power proved problematic.

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“I can just call a jet fighter and one will come kill these tanks? This must be what being a U.S. soldier is like.”

Many wondered how NATO fighters could know where to drop tactical missiles and bombs when their own JTACs are not on the ground with rebel forces, and NATO has no direct communications with the fighters it’s supporting. The answer is that the Twitter social media network became part of NATO’s overall “intelligence picture.” NATO allies began analyzing data gleaned from Twitter posts to understand Gaddafi’s movements but also to assist rebel fighters in pushing down pro-Gaddafi attacks.

Rebel fighters using their cell phones would gather coordinates from Google Earth and then tweet those coordinates to NATO, who would then come in and light up the loyalist forces. The top NATO brass says it’s a normal step any military would take.

That’s how Gaddafi would meet his end, and where his death would be posted for the world to see.

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“Yes, right up his butt. It’s on YouTube.”

“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” said Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a NATO spokesman. “We will take information from every source we can… The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information.”

Since NATO had no boots on the ground but deems it vital to support the Libyan rebels, extrapolating the information needed by commanders seems like a totally legitimate means of intelligence gathering – and an effective one to boot. NATO airplanes decimated Libyan air defenses and made the critical difference in the war for the Libyan people to liberate themselves from a terrible dictator.

And then tweet about it.

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Are military bands a thing of the past?

Music in the military has a long history.


While marching toward the enemy, the armies of the ancient Greek city states would sing paeans to the God Apollo in unison. It was an homage to their god, inspired the Greek hoplites to fight, but also was intimidating to the enemy. It also helped the tight, packed formations typical of hoplite warfare keep time in their march.

In a similar way, music played a vital role after the musket was introduced to the battlefield in the 16th century. The weapons were relatively inaccurate and short-ranged, and the concept of massed coordinated volley fire was needed to make them effective in the open-field engagements of the time.

Drums, flutes, and bugles were all used to issue commands over the noise of battle, as well as helping large groups of soldiers keep their ranks as they marched and maneuvered. Young boys were often used for the role, and they could face dangers as great as any of the regular soldiers. More conventional bands were used to entertain troops during the Civil War, often even on the front lines.

Two weeks ago, the House passed legislation that would ban military bands from performing at social functions other than formal military ceremonies and funerals to help cut defense spending.

The Defense Department spent $437 million in Fiscal Year 2015 on “musicians, instruments, uniforms and travel expenses,” according to Stars Stripes.

“For every dollar that is spent on our bands to entertain at social functions, that’s a dollar we’re not spending on national security and on our troops and our families,” said Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel who sponsored the bill.

The Army currently has 99 bands, the Air Force has 15 bands, the Marine Corps has 12 bands, and the Navy has 11, according to Politico. The bill now heads to the Senate.

The history of military bands is long and storied.

Though bands had played varying roles since the Revolutionary War, it was Army Gen. John Pershing during World War I who set the stage for the military’s current band system after seeing the much more elaborate European army bands in action. He believed the bands to be essential to troop morale and set up a formal training system in place of what was previously fairly ad hoc, greatly expanding regimental bands.

Though by World War II such use of music on the battlefield had largely been abandoned, there were still some examples, if far more eccentric ones. The famed British commando ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill, who clearly had a taste for older styles of warfare, would go into action playing bagpipes to inspire his men while carrying a Scottish broadsword and a longbow. The Soviet Union was known to play patriotic music before it’s troops charged as well.

In modern warfare, however, military bands are seen more and more as an anachronism used for strictly ceremonial purposes, and are confined to the parade ground rather than the battlefield.

It’s been a long time since military bands performed in combat. In an era of tighter budgets and ever more modern warfare, it’s clear Congress is beginning to see military bands more as a frivolity than a necessity.

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4 things you need to know about North Korea’s missile program

Early Monday morning on the Korean peninsula, Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean military launched four ballistic missiles into the sea, with some landing in Japanese-operated areas.


Related: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

The North’s missile program goes back decades, and includes secessions by the country, and then blatant ramp-ups of nuclear proliferation.

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A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

1. They signed a NPT under President Clinton

In 1994, the U.S. and North Korea agreed to a non-proliferation treaty, aiming, among other things, to normalize political and social relations between the two companies, and requiring the North to convert their graphite-moderated 5MWe nuclear reactor and two others under construction into light water reactors within 10 years.

Under the agreement, the U.S. was to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year, until the first of the light water reactors could be built.

Also read: 4 other ways the US could shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile

The agreement broke down in 2003, ending with North Korea withdrawing from the NPT. Officials in both countries widely speculated the U.S. only entered into the agreement because they assumed, after the death of Kim Il-sung 1994, the North Korean government would collapse.

2. They use the offer of drawing down as a bribe

Beginning with the NPT agreement in 1994, and as recently as 2012, North Korea has dangled the idea of backing down from their effort to create nuclear weapons in exchange for aid—food, money and energy being the top requests.

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In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

3. Their missile tests often happen around the same time each year

During the spring, South Korean and U.S. military troops conduct joint drills on the Korean peninsula, something the North Koreans have always found to be threatening. Officials in the North have said the drills are an obvious threat, and practice for eventual invasion of the country. It is often during these annual drills in South Korea that the North makes grand statements about their capabilities, or launches some sort of missile as a show of force.

4. They have become more aggressive under Kim Jong-un

After the death of the former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, the country became more aggressive with missile launches and nuclear expansion. Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, assumed power as supreme leader of North Korea in late 2011, and since then, the country has forged ahead with nuclear warhead developments, has launched more missiles and is less responsive to negotiation tactics than past leaders.

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5 epic battles where the victors ended up losing the war

There’s no more unfortunate name in the annals of military history than King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose lands were on the west coast of the Hellenic Peninsula, in modern-day Greece. While he famously won a string of battles against Rome and Carthage in 281 BC, he took horrendous casualties, sometimes as high as 15,000.


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You can probably guess how that turned out.

After one of his costly victories, Pyrrhus famously declared, “One more victory like that and we’re finished.”

Thus the term “Pyrrhic Victory” was born, describing any victory in warfare that cost so much to gain, the winner’s army never really recovers.

This victory may have been the first Pyrrhic one, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Here are a few more costly “wins” that nevertheless lost the war.

1. The Battle of Malplaquet

In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II died without an heir. In the power struggle that followed, France’s 90,000-strong army fought a coalition of 100,000 Dutch, Austrian, Prussian and British soldiers. Slightly outnumbered, the French sought to level the playing field by setting up obstacles and digging fortifications to stymie the coalition.

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It took 7 full hours to dislodge the French, and the Duke of Marlborough lost 24,000 men doing it. The rest were too tired to keep going. The French lost less than half that. Marlborough was replaced and the alliance against the French began to fall apart.

2. The Battle of Bunker Hill

In another case of superior numbers running head-on against a fortified position, 2,200 British regulars advancing on Breed’s Hill were ordered to attack the 1,000 American militiamen there. Capturing the hill would give the British the Heights overlooking Boston, so British General William Howe ordered three advances.

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Good luck with that.

The first two repelled the redcoats because of very accurate fire from the militiamen. Out of ammo and looking at a hand-to-hand fight for the hill, the militia abandoned the fortification and retreated on the third British advance. The British lost almost half of their attacking force while the colonial rebels lost only 400 men.

3. Napoleon at Borodino

L’Empereur’s invasion of Imperial Russia in 1812 took more than a half million Frenchmen into the heart of the Russian Empire. Napoleon chased the Russians, first under General Barclay de Tolly and then General Mikhail Kutuzov, all the way to Moscow, the Russians burning or otherwise destroying anything in their wake that might have been of use to the French. Near the village of Borodino near modern-day Moscow, Kutuzov’s army stopped to give Napoleon a fight.

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The Russians positioned their right wing on an ideal defensive ground while the left occupied a series of redoubts near the village. Napoleon threw 130,000 men at the redoubts, which the Russians fought bitterly to keep. The French lost 35,000 men but failed to destroy the Russian Army. Napoleon marched on Moscow but found the Russians burned the city. The French Emperor stayed for two months. When he realized the Russians would not negotiate for peace, he marched his exhausted troops home. By the time Napoleon’s Grande Armeé found its way home, there were only 93,000 survivors.

4. The Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, colonist in the Mexican province of Texas rebelled against the dictatorial regime of Mexico’s General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texian rebels drove Mexican forces out of Texas The next year, 100 American-born Texian rebels occupied the Alamo, an old Spanish mission near modern-day San Antonio, along with legendary adventurers of the American West.

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Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Santa Anna marched 1,500 troops into Texas to dislodge the defenders of the Alamo. After ten days of skirmishing, the Mexicans advanced on the Alamo in force and slaughtered every defender to the last man. When word reached the rest of Texas, people rushed to join the Texian Army under Sam Houston. Houston used those troops to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning in just 18 minutes. The Texians cut down the fleeing Mexicans and captured Santa Anna the next day, winning Texas’ independence.

5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee’s outnumber Confederate troops bet on a maneuver that flew in the face of military doctrine – he divided his forces, twice, and fought the Federal forces instead of retreating. This division was unique because it prevented the Union Army under General Joseph Hooker from surrounding the outnumbered rebels.

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Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Unfortunately, the move cost Lee 13,000 men and his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men. Two months later, the South would miss those 13,000 at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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6 nice perks of joining Special Forces while in the US Army

Everyone knows special operators are an elite warfighting team. Not to take anything away from conventional forces, we’re just saying that everyone has their place and special operations is a hard job. 

Sometimes sending 10,000 warfighters into a country with all their support units just isn’t feasible. They get the job done, sure, but when you’re conducting heart surgery, you want a doctor with a scalpel, not an axe. Also, a mission calling for a small force would require each member of the unit to have multiple specialties, so the Special Forces (SF) side of the Army gets a lot more training than the rest of big Army. 

When the United States has that much invested in you, you get a little bit more leeway when it comes to daily Army life, as former Green Beret Mark Giaconia noted on Quora in June of 2021. He admits he can only speak for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but you have to admit the everyday perks are pretty good.

1. No Formations

Special Forces soldiers don’t really have the same work or life schedules as the rest of the U.S. Army. They also likely have a whole host of pretty important things to do — some of them secret, others ordinary. 

This means they don’t have time for all the formations most military units often have. Some Army units have as many as three formations a day. Giaconia says his SF unit had one formation a day at most, and usually when something important needed to be discussed.

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A formation this big, odds are someone is going to lock their knees and pass out (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

2. No Inspections

Ever see Special Forces guys out in the field or catch a photo of one of them at work? They don’t look like soldiers in the United States Army most of the time, and that’s a really important point. They aren’t necessarily supposed to look like soldiers while they’re deployed, so grooming standards are usually much more relaxed.

If this is the case, then it doesn’t really make much sense to have a uniform inspection. The same goes for their nonstandard equipment (which we’ll delve into later). 

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Special Forces have leveled up past this nonsense ( (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)

3. Better Training and Pay

Green Berets get a number of stipends, Giaconia writes. On top of those special stipends, they also get extra pay for any number of special trainings they received. This includes jump pay, HALO (high altitude, low opening) pay, scuba certification and literally anything else you can get trained to do and receive specialty pay for. These guys see it all and they get paid for knowing how to handle it. 

On top of the pay, they also receive better per diem rates, as they mostly live off the local economy while deployed. 

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Being this awesome is going to cost Uncle Sam a little more (U.S. Army)

4. Better Gear

What is probably best known about how Army Special Forces operates is that they have a lot of leeway in choosing what equipment and which weapons work best for any given mission. In his own experience, Giaconia says he had a different kit setup for carrying a SAW than when carrying an M4 or M21.

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And then… like teenagers watching their favorite pop star, gear-dos will copy your setup… to go quail hunting (U.S. Army)

5. Flying Commercial Air

Depending on the mission and which Special Forces Group they’re in, America’s Green Berets don’t always have to rely on military aircraft to hitch a ride to where they’re going. In some cases, a military aircraft won’t even be an option, as they may not want anyone to know they’re with the U.S. military anyway.

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Though, if we’re comparing to Spirit Airlines, we might prefer the C-130 ride (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Patrick Dixon)

6. Drinking Is Part Of The Job

Special Forces are often exempt from the U.S. military’s no alcohol rules, where they’re applied, especially while working with foreign units whose culture centers around drinking. Giaconia says while in Bosnia and Kosovo, he and his fellow Green Berets were attached to a Russian liaison, and needed to drink vodka with them.

Giaconia says this is called “building rapport.”

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“C’mon… you don’t want all the cool countries to think you’re a nerd, DO YOU?” (Image by lannyboy89 from Pixabay)

Feature image: U.S. Army

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