This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations - We Are The Mighty
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This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

It is not Iron Man. It isn’t even Iron Fist. Lockheed Martin’s newest exoskeleton is more like Iron Leg. But for a soldier humping his weapons, ammo and body armor up a mountain in Afghanistan or a high-rise building in a future urban battle, a device to take the load off would be welcome. And, unlike science fiction supersuits, we can build it now.


Exoskeletons are part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which seeks to use robotics and artificial intelligence to enhance humans on the battlefield, rather than to replace them. There’s no area where the need is more acute than in the infantry, which takes the vast majority of casualties.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
U.S. Army official file photo: A Punisher unmanned ground vehicle follows Soldiers during the PACMAN-I experiment in Hawaii. (U.S. Army photo)

One particularly persistent problem: weight. US foot troops have been overburdened since at least D-Day, where some men drowned in shallow water under their heavy packs. The problem has become especially acute since 9/11, with US troops in body armor laboring to chase Taliban in flip-flops. The military is constantly looking at ways to make equipment lighter, but those improvements are mainly on the margins, a pound shaved here or there. It’s also experimenting with wheeled or tracked robots that can carry some of a squad’s equipment, but these robotic mules can’t yet keep up with nimble infantrymen over rough terrain.

So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.

How It Works

The Lockheed exoskeleton’s full and unwieldly designation is FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD), which makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover. In fact, it’s a sophisticated synthesis of multiple technologies:

a rigid load-bearing framework to transfer weight off the wearer to the ground; compact actuators at the knee to increase strength (future models may add actuators at the hip as well); soft materials that buffer between the human being and the rigid frame, helping translate analog human movements into digital signals to the actuators; and an artificial intelligence that adjusts the machinery to move seamlessly with the wearer — unlike past earlier exoskeletons that often resisted the body’s natural movements.

In tests, elite Tier One special operators wearing K-SRD found they could do twice as many squats lifting 185 pounds of weight, going from an average of 20-25 reps to over 50. There were similar improvements climbing stairs carrying a 185-lb simulated casualty, said Lockheed product manager Keith Maxwell, a former Navy and “Other Government Agency” operator himself. “It literally pushes you up flights of stairs,” he told me. “(You) do it faster, with much less fatigue.”

However, the gains are greatest with vertical movement and least on level ground, Maxwell emphasized. On a 15-degree slope, he said, the device reduces the human’s energy expenditure — the “net metabolic cost” — by only about 9 percent. On level ground, it doesn’t save any energy, he said. Why? Humans evolved over millions of years for long-distance chases across the savannah: The theory of persistence hunting suggests our ancestors, lacking bows and arrows, simply ran after prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing modern technology can make is likely to improve on human performance over level ground, at least any time soon.

With K-SRD on level ground, said Maxwell, “what we’re able to do is break even” — which is a marked improvement over past exoskeletons. Lockheed spent years on an 85-lb rigid exoskeleton called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which was good at carrying heavy weights but lousy at matching human movements. “The problem was that terrain is irregular and human gait is infinitely variable,” Maxwell said, so HULC’s computer kept misunderstanding what the wearer wanted to do and moving the wrong way. Overall, Maxwell said, walking around in a HULC actually cost 15 to 25 percent more energy than having no exoskeletal “help” at all.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
The FORTIS Industrial Exoskeleton. (Lockheed)

Lockheed moved on to the less ambitious FORTIS, essentially a rigid support frame — it doesn’t require electricity because it doesn’t have actuators — that could help factory and shipyard workers handle heavy tools without fatigue. The wearer has enough mobility to relocate, tools in hand, to another worksite within 100 yards, but the industrial FORTIS far too awkward for the battlefield.

The FORTIS K-SRD, by contrast, uses its mix of rigid and flexible components, and a much more sophisticated set of algorithms than HULC, to move with the wearer’s body. Testers were able to operate it with only 15 minutes of training, Maxwell said, and some of the special operators didn’t bother with the training at all.

“They can run, they can climb, they can squat,” Maxwell said. They can hit the dirt, take cover, and crawl, then jump up and dash forward and take cover again. They can even walk along a balance beam although for such precision movements he recommends turning the strength-magnifying actuators off, done with a simple thumb movement on the controls. One tester even found his K-SRD comfortable enough to sleep with it on.

The Case Against Iron Man

After decades of exoskeleton development, Lockheed wants to get this device out into the field soon. The K-SRD team is working mostly closely with the Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which they expect to buy a number of K-SRDs for test purposes and institute a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) in the next 30-60 days. Other partners include the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad initiative. Lockheed is even working with theDepartment of Homeland Security and some foreign fire departments on potential firefighting and rescue applications, since those also involve heavily burdened humans climbing up and down with life and death and stake.

Maxwell did not mention Special Operations Command, whose TALOS program envisions a full-body suit of mechanical armor able to resist point-blank gunshots — what then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven compared to Iron Man’s suit.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relies on the JARVIS artificial intelligence to help pilot his Iron Man suit — the kind of “human-machine teaming” that increasingly intrigues the Pentagon. (Marvel Comics/Paramount Pictures)

“Can we have an up-armored solution that’s capable of breaching and entering and being relatively invulnerable to 7.62 AP (armor piercing) bullets at point-blank range? Yeah, we can do that,” said Maxwell. That said, it’d probably be heavy and slow, far from the flight-capable suit in the comics.

“Iron Man has…hurt exoskeleton development,” Maxwell said, because it’s created impossible expectations — literally impossible, since the CGI suit in the movies routinely violates the laws of physics. When Iron Man drops from the sky to a neat three-point landing, in particular, the sudden deceleration would liquefy Tony Stark inside the suit.

Nevertheless, Maxwell said, while real-world exoskeletons may not copy the comic books, they’re still a marvel. When our best troops put them on, he said, “they become something more than human.” They become something more than mere machines, as well, he said: “The man in the machine will beat the machine (by itself) every time.”

That’s the so-called centaur model of human-machine teaming at the heart of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy. It’s the synergy of a human imagination and agility controlling the strength and speed of a machine, like the mythical centaur combining rider and horse into a single being.

“As long as there’s judgment (required) in situations in which the person is going to have to make a call, we’re going to want a human in the loop. Eventually, if we can get machines to do that for us…we’ll just make these robots,” Maxwell told me. “Until then…you take the absolute best human beings and combine them with the absolute best in machines.”

Articles

8 things vets learn while transitioning out of the military

 


Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.

Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.

1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.

LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry’s hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.

2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.

Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.

3. When you interview, play up your strengths.

Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.

4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.

It’s important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company’s benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.

5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.

This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It’s important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.

6. Don’t seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.

While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.

7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.

People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. “One team, One fight” is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a “team player,” make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation’s measure of trust with you.

8. Research your state’s requirements for terminations and layoffs.

Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It’s important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.

More from GI Jobs:

This article originally appeared at GI Jobs. Copyright 2015. Follow GI Jobs on Twitter.

Articles

The US Air Force’s Biggest Research Program Is Also One Of Its Most Mysterious

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo Credit: Youtube/screenshot


The most expensive weapons system under the Air Force’s $17.9 billion research, development, test, and evaluation funding request for 2016 is also without a doubt the most mysterious.

Under the proposed 2016 budget, the Air Force has requested an allocation of $1.2 billion for its Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program, according to Defense News. The program, which is expected to reach initial operating capability by the mid-2020s, envisions the construction of 80 to 100 planes with an estimated unit cost of $550 million each (though the actual cost will most likely be much higher).

The LRS-B is being billed as the successor to the US Air Force’s B-2 Stealth Bomber. Last summer, the Air Force opened a competition for the development and construction of the plane. Northrop Grumman, the developer of the B-2, and a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin are vying for the chance to build the LRS-B.

Alongside the F-35 and the KC-46 aerial refueling plane, the LRS-B is one of the Air Force’s top three priorities for future research and acquisition.

“I think the long-range strike bomber is absolutely essential to keep our deterrent edge as we go into the next 25 years,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a town-hall meeting at Whiteman Air Force Base.

The focus on the development of the LRS-B, alongside the F-35 and the KC-46, is aimed toward the Air Force’s having a “family of systems” approach in which each airframe seamlessly complements the others during operations.

“Everyone focuses on ‘the fighter,'” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told National Defense Magazine. “But the answer to next generation air dominance is likely to be a family, like the long-range bomber.”

Although details of the LRS-B program are classified, the plane is expected to be stealth and nuclear capable — and perhaps even able to carry out missions without a manned crew.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these Greeks built Nazi armored cars from scratch

If you can’t own or buy it, you make it. And that’s exactly what Zacharias Ourgantzidis from Thessaloniki, Greece did. He decided to build a replica of the Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222, a light four-wheel drive armored car, used by the German armored forces during World War II. The production ran from 1937 until 1943 and a total of ca. 990 were produced.


At the beginning of the war, the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 222 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. Later, both of the guns were upgraded to a 2 cm KwK 38 and MG34. It had a crew of 3 and saw action on the Eastern Front, North Africa and Europe. Even China purchased a lot in 1937.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
German tanks pass a knocked-out German Sdkfz 222 armoured car.

Less than a handful of authentic Sdkfz 222 survived and reside in private collections and museums around the world. So, Zacharias Ourgantzidis, decided to recreate an original scale replica of the Sdkfz 222. Costing approximately 10.000 euro.

“My vehicle is a replica and I built it step by step, based on all available documentation”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis to WW2Wrecks. Adding, “I already own 2 Willy’s jeeps, 3 motorcycles, a BSA, a BMW and a Mustang, as well as a variety of other period vehicles and I wanted to add an armored vehicle in my collection.”

“I researched for almost a year and the actual implementation of the plan, from the drawing board to reality lasted 19 months, at a cost of approximately 10,000 euro.”, Mr. Ourgantzidis explained.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
The SdKfz 222 in a private collection.

The chassis is based on a modified ISUZU Trooper SUV, the engine is a 2600cc and all other parts are custom made, based on the specifications and measurements of the original vehicle. There are several original parts used too, mostly coming from Russia and Germany, such as the lights, gun muzzle and other elements which add a period touch to the vehicle.

“I painted the SdKfz 222 with RAL7021, since color used by the Wehrmacht during Operation Marita, the campaign to conquer Greece in 1941, as my vehicle is participating in reenactment events, parades and World War II shows.”, said Mr. Ourgantzidis.

You can enjoy the photographic journey of this painstaking step by step 19-month production to build this Sdkfz 222 replica:

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

Articles

This admiral is a great barometer for what the Chinese might do next

Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong is a leader in the Chinese Navy, a professor at Beijing’s National Defense University, Chief Weapons Specialist and Strategist, and what some call “the Head of the Strategic Fool You Agency.”


This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

The last is a nickname he earned because Chinese Netizens came to realize quotes from Adm. Zhang would suddenly mean the opposite of his intent. He said the Chinese would use fishermen on wooden boats to take out the new Zumwalt-Class destroyers, as the Chinese commissioned their first aircraft carrier, when he also said the Chinese defense against U.S. submarines would be “ropes of seaweed” a threat the U.S. did not foresee. He also publicly claimed the Chinese were not developing a fifth-generation stealth jet right before the Chinese test piloted its J-20 fighter in May 2011.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
The J-20 Fighter (CCTV)

Admiral Zhang once criticized U.S. media for overestimating the threat of Chinese power. He said China could not keep pace with the U.S.if it wanted to, which it doesn’t. He acknowledges the need to increase the strength of Chinese military, but only because of “provocation” from the United States.

“American media like to make claims about how fast China’s military will surpass the United States,” Zhang told Want China Times. “What I have to say is that China is not going to catch up with the United States even if it stopped all military projects.

The admiral publicly stated China should do everything in its power to protect Iran from U.S.-Israeli aggression, “even if it means a third world war.” In response to the U.S. deploying a laser weapon on the USS Ponce, he said he believes the smog covering Chinese cities are the best defense from laser weapons.

“Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10km (6 miles),” he said, adding, “When there’s smog, it’s only 1km. What’s the point of making this kind of weapon?”

Zhang “retired” from the PLAN in 2015 and is now the most well-known and most senior military commentator on China’s state television.

NOW: This is China’s version of SEAL Team Six

OR: Here’s how China’s aircraft carrier stacks up to other world powers’

Articles

Here’s a look inside America’s amazing blast-proof super-fortress

According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.


Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Cheyenne Mountain is about 9,500 feet tall, and the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 feet from the top. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.

“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”

 

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”

The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”

Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.

Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.

“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”

The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.

“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.

“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”

Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.

“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”

Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.

“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee

Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.

“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”

As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.

 

Articles

That time when Americans and Germans fought together during World War II

Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”


It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.

In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.

The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.

From The Daily Beast:

There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.

Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.

Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.

As for the book, apparently it’s been optioned to be made into a movie. With a crazy story like this, you’d think it would’ve already been made.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superb pilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.


In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Recognition graphic of a ZSU-23-4. (U.S. Army)

The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.

The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.

Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zEcPEIzekM
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
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Elite Marine Raiders were among those killed in tragic C-130 crash

For an elite band of US Marines known as the Raiders, the fiery military plane crash this week in Mississippi represents a second devastating blow during training in less than three years. Six Marines and a Navy corpsman from a Raider unit died July 10 on their way to training exercises, linking them in tragedy with seven members of the same North Carolina-based command who died in a March 2015 helicopter crash off Florida.


The present incarnation of the Marine Raiders was formed in 2006 amid the global war on terror — making it the newest of the military’s counterterrorism forces that also include the Army’s Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The group was officially named the Marine Raiders in 2015 to link its heritage to World War II commando units made famous in movies.

The Raiders’ command now has about 2,700 troops, including those in intelligence and support roles, according to spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo from USMC

Tragedy also struck the close-knit command in March 2015 when seven of its Marines died with four soldiers in a helicopter crash during training off Florida. Mannweiler said he knows of no other significant training losses in the decade-long existence of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. At least 31 members of MARSOC have died in combat, Mannweiler said.

The Marines killed this week were headed to Yuma, Arizona, with guns, ammunition, radios, and body armor to participate in training for an eventual deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Mannweiler said such pre-deployment training in the desert would have likely ranged from urban combat to language skills.

Mannweiler said the Raiders’ flight aboard a Marine Corps Reserve airplane wasn’t an unusual arrangement because the command doesn’t have its own planes.

“Marine Corps aircraft are always our personal preference,” Mannweiler said in an interview. “We’ll catch a ride however it makes the most sense.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
A ceremony commemorating 11 fallen service members lost in March 2015 crash. USMC photo by Cpl. Steven Fox.

Mannweiler said the crash in Mississippi will be felt acutely in the tight-knit group of Marine Raiders and their families.

“This is a closed-loop community,” he said. “The loss of seven Marines from a battalion literally impacts the entire organization.”

The Raider name was made famous by World War II Marine units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations that were dramatized in books and movies such as “Gung Ho!” in 1943 and “Marine Raiders” in 1944.

The original Marine Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider leaders studied unconventional warfare tactics and were credited with beating larger Japanese forces on difficult terrain in the Pacific. Their name wasn’t used in an official capacity by the Marine Corps for decades after World War II.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Marine Raiders, 1944. Photo from US National Archives.

When the Raider name was re-adopted in 2015, the Marine Corps said the moniker offered its elite personnel special shorthand similar to Army Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Marines in MARSOC must pass a selection process that includes grueling swims and hikes, as well as specialized combat training.

While the training has some similarities to special units in the Army and Navy, retired Navy officer Dick Couch wrote in a 2015 book that members of MARSOC are known for their marksmanship and maturity, when compared with other branches’ elite. In “Always Faithful, Always Forward,” Couch wrote that he was “in awe” of how the Marines Corps needed so little time to develop an effective training program to make its “brotherhood within a brotherhood” ready for combat.

“They’re an excellent addition to the special operations mix,” Couch said in a phone interview July 12. “I’m sorry to see they lost some people. They’re in a risky business. It can happen in training or in combat.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why B-52s are about to be four times as threatening

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a legendary bomber that can bring the intimidation factor. One incident during Desert Storm proved this when an Iraqi commander who surrendered gave as his explanation, “the B-52s.” He was reminded that his unit wasn’t hit by those bombers. He said he knew that, but he had seen units that were hit by the BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat F***ers).

Back then, the B-52 could only carry dumb bombs. They were a blunt instrument. Today, the B-52 can carry all sorts of smart bombs, and it is still quite intimidating. Now, there is talk of upping it even more by enabling it to carry four times its current external load. That’s a lot more intimidation just on volume alone.


The current external load the B-52 can carry is about 10,000 pounds. According a report by Janes.com, that figure could go up to 40,000 pounds through the installation of new pylons. The current pylons were installed in the 1960s, and while they have served well, they haven’t kept up with new ordnance. B-52 external pylons have been used to carry a variety of weapons, including Mk 82 and M117 bombs, AGM-142 HAVE NAP missiles, AGM-86 and AGM-129 cruise missiles, and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

The B-52 has carried a wide variety of weapons in its long career.

(USAF photo)

Air Force Materials Command has sent out the request for information on a new pylon. There is no word yet on the timeline, but one very tantalizing prospect is that the B-52 would now be able to carry some of the largest weapons in the Air Force’s inventory on those pylons, enhancing its options against hard targets like cave complexes and bunkers.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst currently can only be delivered by MC-130H/J transports, but new pylons could allow the B-52 to carry this powerful weapon.

(USAF photo)

One weapon likely to be added to the B-52’s repertoire would be the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst — fondly referred to as the “Mother Of All Bombs.” This GPS-guided system is currently only usable by MC-130s with Special Operations Command, which has 37 MC-130J Commando II and 18 MC-130H Combat Talon transports in service. The Air Force presently has 58 B-52s in active service and another 18 BUFFs in the Air Force Reserve.

Plans also call for work to be done on the B-52’s wings and to replace their eight TF33 engines with commercial engines that would have much greater fuel efficiency. Combined with these new pylons, the B-52 could end up having a huge part to play for decades to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This combat Cessna can shoot Hellfire missiles

Cessna’s are not the sexiest or most frightening aircraft, but there is a variant that could sneak towards an enemy relatively quietly and from low altitude before blowing that enemy away with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.


The AC-208 Combat Caravan is a modified version of the civilian C-208 that is used for everything from commercial air travel to science research to air ambulances.

The Combat Caravan contains additional sensors and a laser-designator for targets, as well as two points for mounting Hellfire missiles. It also has defensive measures such as ballistic panels and a flare system.

Weapon pylons hold the Hellfire missile, either the laser-designated AGM-114M or the “fire-and-forget” AGM-114K that uses its own radar to stay on target.

 

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
An Iraqi air force pilot from the 3rd Squadron fires of some flares from an Iraqi air force Cessna AC-208 above the Aziziyah test fire range in Iraq on Nov. 8. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Bolick)

 

The ground-attack aircraft is in service with the Iraqi Air Force. It first engaged in combat in 2014, striking ISIS targets near Ramadi and Fallujah.

The Iraqi Air Force originally purchased three of the AC-208s and three C-208s with reconnaissance capabilities but has been buying them at a decent clip since. One of the AC-208s crashed near Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2016, but the Iraqi Air Force still has eight and is asking to buy two more.

 

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Caravan at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base. (Photo: courtesy Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs)

Other militaries have purchased the Combat Caravan. The planes are in service in Afghanistan, Argentina, Honduras, Kenya, and other countries — typically flying ground-attack and reconnaissance missions against Islamic extremists.

While the AC-208 is not the beefiest of ground-attack aircraft, it does give a lethal capability with relatively little training and infrastructure requirements. This allows air forces with smaller budgets to get Hellfires in the air for use against enemy forces.

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Army revs up M4 carbine lethality upgrade

The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

To date, the Army has completed 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 48,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”

Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbine on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
U.S. Staff Sgt. Chad Hart with Green 0 Security Force Advisory Team, 10th Mountain Division, fires his M4 carbine down range on Khair Kot Garrison, Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 2, 2013. Staff Sgt. Hart assumed the standing firing position for qualification. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Chenee’ Brooks/ Released)

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camouflage, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

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11 Things new soldiers complain about during basic training

Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.


Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:

“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Army

New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.

“This food is terrible.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell

Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.

“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.

“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Department of Defense by Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.

“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Army

It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.

“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shaw Jr.

Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.

“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Army by Vince Little

They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.

“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Desiree N. Palacios

The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.

“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”

“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.

“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”

This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations
Photo: Army Pfc. Kirby Rider

For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)

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