This is how the Marines are hiding their command posts from drones - We Are The Mighty
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This is how the Marines are hiding their command posts from drones

You can run, but you can’t hide – especially the age of satellites, hand-held GPS devices, Google Earth and inexpensive, camera-bearing drones.


So with easy surveillance tools in the hands of a technologically unsophisticated enemy, how does a unit hide its command post?

During the recent Large Scale Exercise 2016, I Marine Expeditionary Force experimented with a new tent setup for its command post, or CP, that included big swaths of tan-and-drab camouflage netting draped over hard structures and tents.

The idea, of course, was to disguise – if not hide – the presence and footprint of the command post that I MEF Headquarters Group set up for the exercise, a de facto MEF-level command wargaming drill that ran Aug. 14 to 22. During a similar exercise in February 2015, its top commander acknowledged the large footprint occupied by his field command post, then set up in a field at Camp Pendleton, California, but without any camo netting.

Multiple tents connect to create a Combat Operations Center during a 2nd Marine Division Command Post Exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 29, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kirstin Merrimarahajara/Released)

It was, frankly, large and obvious that the tents and structures were something important to the battle effort. And that makes it a big target, whether seen on the ground from line of sight or from the air from drones, aircraft or satellite imagery, officials say.

This year, intent on better concealment, headquarters group Marines looked at ways to hide the lines and structures of the CP. They came up with a new camo netting design and refined it with some bird’s-eye scrutiny.

The Leathernecks went “back to basics,” one officer said.

“We flew a drone over it. Now, it’s a little bit more ambiguous,” Col. Matthew Jones, the I MEF chief of staff, said last week as the command worked through the exercise’s final day from its CP set up in a dusty field. “It’s just camouflaged, it’s a lot better concealed.”

MEF officials declined to reveal the secret sauce of the new CPX camo set they used. “This is the state of the art right now,” said Jones.

U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Detachment 391, 3d Transportation Support Battalion, set up a command operation center on Camp Mujuk, South Korea, in support of exercise Ssang Yong, Feb. 29, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Sgt. Joseph Sanchez/Released)

Still, he acknowledged camouflage netting has some limitations, saying, “I won’t say it won’t look like a hard military installation.”

“The fact is, it’s clearly visible from space,” he added. “You can’t mistake it. Even if it’s camouflaged. … It’s big enough to be worth shooting at.”

In fact, camouflage and concealment are as basic to warfighting – whether on the offensive or defense – as weaponry.

It’s all about deception – hiding your capabilities and your location, which taken together might help spell out your intentions, unintentional as that may be. Deception like camouflage can mask your true force strength, combat power and, more so these days, technological capabilities. But a collection of tents and structures, and the presence of radio antennas, satellite dishes, power generators and containers, can spell out the obvious presence of an important headquarters.

“If you can be seen, you will be attacked,” Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told a Center for Strategic and International Studies audience on Aug. 6.

Neller relayed I MEF’s experience with camouflaging the field CP, which despite netting efforts still had the vulnerability of detection from light shining off concertina wire that encircled the facilities. He wants Marines to get back to the basics of fieldcraft, like “digging a hole, preparing a defensive position, and camouflaging that, living in the field, and not going back to a [forward operating base] overnight to check your email.”

That will be more relevant, top leaders have noted, as more Marines deploy and operate in the dispersed, distributed battlefield of the near future.

And it’s not just the physical look that I MEF and the Marine Corps wants to change. Trendy gadgets and new technologies make it easier to detect and interfere with electronic signals. Such electronic surveillance poses real threats to military command networks and command and control.

“We are working really hard on our electronic signatures … that would make it easier for the enemy to detect you,” Jones said. It’s especially critical if U.S. forces get into a fight against a peer or near-peer adversary with similar surveillance capabilities, so “maybe we need to be thinking of other ways.”

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Watch Russian and Chinese marines invade the South China Sea together

The Russian and Chinese militaries set the news world buzzing last September when they conducted a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea that, among other things, saw hundreds of Marines conducting beach landings and air assaults to take over an island.


(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

While the week-long exercise also featured anti-submarine warfare and other naval operations, most of the news coverage was of the Marines hitting the island. (In their defense, getting good footage of submarine battles is kinda tough).

Sure, pundits wrung their hands about the ramifications of a China and Russia conducting joint operations. But the fear may have been a bit overblown. After all, China participates in a lot of naval exercises with the U.S. as well.

(GIF: WarLeaks – Daily Military Defense Videos Combat Footage)

The location and the activities in the exercise are important, though. Portions of the hotly contested South China Sea are claimed by a few nations, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. If China were to try to edge other countries off their claims by force, this is the exact exercise they would need to do to get ready.

And the Chinese marines do look good in the video below, working with landing craft, tanks, and air assets to quickly take and hold the island alongside their Russian counterparts in green. See more footage of them in the full video from War Leaks below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCc2rh74mHM
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7 deals to remember when PCS’ing


When it comes to the military move, there are certain truths we all know. Moving dates are subject to change. Something you love will get broken. Babies don’t sleep well in hotel rooms. And you’re going to have some out-of-pocket expenses.

But you can find all sorts of deals to help lessen some of those pesky PCS expenses. Here are 7 deals to look into before, during and after your PCS move:

1. Storage

Are you planning a Personally-Procured-Move (PPM)? Do you need to stash some of your stuff in storage? Before you store, remember to use the military discounts available from companies like PODS Moving and Storage, CubeSmart, Oz Moving & Storage,SMARTBOX and Zippy Shell. Local storage facilities, like Simply Storage in Virginia Beach, may offer discounts for military as well, so make sure you ask wherever you go.

2. Transportation

If a PPM is in your future, you’re probably going to need to rent a moving truck as well.Penske and Budget Truck Rental offer military discounts on truck rentals to get you and your belongings where your orders take you.

Need help shipping your vehicle? iMovers, an auto transport brokerage that provides shipping services to every state but Alaska and Hawaii, offers military discounts to those who need assistance transporting their vehicles.

Want to learn more about shipping a car overseas? Click here for details.

3. Pets

Moving your family is hard enough. But moving with a pet can make a move even more complicated, especially if you’re moving overseas. Pet Air Carrier offers military discounts when moving your pet internationally. They also help with clearing customs when returning to the States.

4. Organization

Whether you’re trying to set aside the personal items you don’t want the movers to pack or you’re attempting to figure out how to make the most of the space in the world’s smallest closet, PCS moves go so much more smoothly when you’re organized.

It’s also essential to keep important documents such as copies of military orders, birth certificates, powers of attorney and packing checklists organized before, during and after your move. Store them all in one place by creating a PCS binder as soon as you as you start the moving process.

Stores like A.C. Moore, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft and Michaels have military discounts that can help with with any organizational needs you might have.

5. Home décor

Whether you sold some of your belongings so you would have less stuff to move, you’re upgrading to a larger house, or your PCS is just a good excuse to redecorate, you’re probably going to be shopping for items to decorate your new home. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s likely a military discount to help you out, including Build.com, Blinds Chalet, Crate and Barrel, Overstock.com, Pottery Barn Kids, BJ’s and Sam’s Club.

6. Home improvement

Unless you live in a perfect world where grass doesn’t grow, pictures hang themselves and appliances don’t break, you’re bound to face some home improvement tasks when you reach your final destination. Both Home Depot and Lowes offer a year-round military discount to help you either spruce up the house you’re trying to sell or turn your new house into a home.

7. Tech support

Part of getting settled into your new home is hooking up computers and other electronics. But sometimes that daunting task requires some help. Need tech support? My Nerds offer military discounts.

What are some of your PCS tips?

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The tactics to achieve victory in Iraq are changing

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.


The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.

The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.

Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”

He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.

An AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter flies over the desert terrain between Tall’Afar and Mosul, Iraq. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.

This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.

He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”

This is a key difference in the U.S. outlook. In 2006, Gen. David Petreaus played a role in crafting a U.S. field manual on Counterinsurgency, later referred to as COIN, or counter-insurgency strategy.

In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.

H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”

Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).

“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”

The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.

Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.

This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.

This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.

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These were the 6 most massive tank battles in US history

Here are 6 times American tank units found themselves massively fighting it out with enemy armor:


1. Battle of the Bulge

Photo: US Army Sgt. Bill Augustine

When the Germans assaulted Allied Lines in what would become the Battle of the Bulge, U.S. tanks and infantry struggled to hold the line against the nearly 1,000 tanks and over 200,000 troops that struck on a 75-mile front.

Tanks with the 7th, 9th, and 10th Armored Divisions helped the infantry hold the lines as the Germans attacked, and tanks operating under Patton’s Third Army spearheaded to effort to save the 101st Airborne Division. The tank that led that rescue effort survived the war and was rediscovered in 2008.

2. Battle of Norfolk

Photo: US Department of Defense

Fourteen coalition and Iraqi divisions fought each other at the Battle of Norfolk, the last battle of the Persian Gulf War. Four U.S. and British divisions plus elements of two more destroyed Iraqis fighting in eight divisions, including the elite Tawakalna Republican Guard Division.

The battle opened with a massive artillery and rocket bombardment that fired almost 20,000 artillery and rocket rounds, destroying 22 Iraqi battalions and hundreds of artillery pieces. Tanks and Apache helicopters moved forward, slaughtering their way through Iraqi resistance. The Tawakalna Republican Guard Division and ten other Iraqi divisions were destroyed in the fighting. The U.S. lost six men.

3. Battle of Arracourt

Photo: Public Domain

The Battle of Arracourt from Sep. 18 to 29, 1944, was the largest tank battle the U.S. had conducted up to that point in history and saw the American forces brilliantly destroy two Panzer Brigades and additional units from two Panzer divisions.

The U.S. commander used true combined arms artillery, infantry, airpower and armor to win. On one fog-covered morning, the Shermans flanked the Panzers and took out 11 in a single attack. The 12-day battle in Eastern France ended with 86 German tanks destroyed and 114 damaged or broken down from an original total of only 262.

4. Battle of Sidi Bou Zid

Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The Battle of Sidi Bou Zid took place within the Battle of Kasserine Pass. German Gen. Heinz Zeigler led over 200 tanks, including two veteran Panzer divisions. Meanwhile, the American forces were a single understrength division with only 7 of its 13 maneuver battalions. Worse, many of the units were still using the technologically inferior M3 General Grant tanks.

The U.S. units were quickly pushed back and then surrounded on a series of hilltops. After days of hard fighting, the U.S. retreated and left the cutoff forces. American units lost over 2,500 men and had 103 tanks destroyed.

5. Battle of Medina Ridge

Photo: US Marine Corps Jeremy Fasci

Over 100 U.S. tanks raced towards about 100 Iraqi tanks that were dug into defensive positions at the Battle of Medina Ridge in Apr. 1991. The fights was one-sided as the Americans had air support and tanks that could fire from nearly twice as far as the Iraqis. After only 40 minutes, most of the Iraqi tanks were burning in their holes while the Americans continued their advance.

6. Battle of 73 Easting

Photo: US Navy PHC D. W. Holmes II

Then-Capt. H.R. McMaster (now a lieutenant general) was leading his troop of nine M1 tanks in an armed reconnaissance when he crested a hill and found himself facing an elite Iraqi division. He decided he was too close to the enemy tanks to withdraw and call in the rest of the armored cavalry regiment, so his tanks attacked their way through it instead.

The Americans cut a five-kilometer-wide swath through the Iraqi division and then their brothers in Ghost, Killer, and Iron Troops joined the fight. By the time the U.S. stopped firing to ask for the Iraqis’ surrender, 1,000 Iraqi soldiers had been killed and 85 tanks, 40 armored vehicles, 30 other vehicles, and two artillery batteries had been destroyed. Most of the Iraqis quickly surrendered.

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The best martial arts for self defense, according to a SEAL

When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.


When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.

Willink discusses martial arts. (Youtube Screenshot)

“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”

Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?

Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt Andre Galvao demonstrating a full-mount grappling position at the 2008 World Jujitsu Championship. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.

He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.

Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.

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This Boston Red Sox catcher changed the course of World War II

In the mid-1930s, baseball players Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Moe Berg (with a few others) formed an all-star group of baseball players who went on a goodwill tour of Japan to play some exhibition games. Ruth and Gehrig were already legends. Berg was a scholar with a degree from Princeton and a law degree from Columbia. He also spoke seven languages. But he wasn’t a baseball legend. He was a third-string catcher when he departed for Japan, and that visit might have changed the world forever.


World travel was in Berg’s blood. After his first season with the team that would become the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent time in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne. He toured Italy and Switzerland during the next year’s offseason, instead of working on his game. He was transferred to the Midwest. He improved slightly and moved up to the White Sox, where he moved from shortstop to catcher. It was as a catcher that he traveled to Japan to teach seminars on baseball.

Moe Berg in Japan

Ruth and Gehrig came with Berg on his second trip to Japan. He spoke Japanese and addressed the Japanese legislature with a welcome speech. While the all-stars were playing an exhibition in Omiya, Japan, Berg went to Saint Luke’s Hospital in Tsukiji, to visit the daughter of American ambassador Joseph Grew. Except he never saw Grew’s daughter. Berg’s language ability allowed him to talk his way onto the roof of the hospital. Once there, he used the 16mm film camera given to him by MovietoneNews to record his trip, to instead record the city and its harbor.

Berg’s footage was used by American intelligence agents to plan bombing runs over Tokyo during the coming Second World War, including the Doolittle Raid. Berg started the war monitoring the health and fitness of U.S. troops stationed in the Caribbean and South America for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. In 1943, he was recruited by “Wild” Bill Donovan into the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the American CIA.

Berg was dropped into Yugoslavia to assess the strength of Chetniks loyal to King Peter and the Communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. His assessment of Tito’s superiority led to the U.S. support for Tito. Berg also was assigned to assassinate German nuclear scientist Werner Heisenberg if the Germans were working on the atomic bomb. Berg determined the Germans would not be able to develop the bomb before war’s end and let Heisenberg live.

Moe Berg in Oslo conferring with Allied superiors.

Moe Berg was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1945 but turned it down. His war service changed Berg forever. Often described as “strange,” he appeared to his friends to be more comfortable alone with books than around people. Moe Berg never told anyone what he did as a spy. When asked, he would just put his finger to his lips, as if that part of his life were a secret. He tried spying on the burgeoning Russian nuclear program for the CIA but returned little information and his contract was not renewed. He lived with relatives for the rest of his quiet life. After his death in 1972, his sister accepted the Medal of Freedom on his behalf.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Still the champ: 3 things you should know about the SR-71 Blackbird

Before the advent of stealth aircraft, the U.S. military had a very different approach on how to operate its planes in contested airspace. That approach could be summarized in two words:

Brute force.

In those early years of air defense system development, the U.S. was less interested in developing sneaky aircraft and more concerned with developing untouchable ones– utilizing platforms that leveraged high altitude, high speed, or both to beat out air defenses of all sorts — whether we’re talking surface to air missiles or even air superiority fighters.


Lockheed’s legendary Kelly Johnson, designer of just about every badass aircraft you can imagine from the C-130 to the U-2 Spy Plane, was the Pentagon’s go-to guy when it came to designing platforms that could evade interception through speed and altitude. His U-2 Spy Plane, designed and built on a shoestring budget and in a span of just a few months, first proved the concept of flying above enemy defenses, but then America needed something that could also outrun anything Russia could throw its way. The result was the Blackbird family of jets, including the operational SR-71 — an aircraft that remains the fastest operational military plane ever to take to the sky.

You could make a list of 1000 amazing facts about the SR-71 without breaking a sweat — but here are three even a few aviation nerds may not have of heard before:

USAF

The Blackbird had over 4,000 missiles fired at it. None ever hit their target.

The SR-71 Blackbird remained in operational service as a high speed, high altitude surveillance platform for 34 years — flying at speeds in excess of Mach 3 at altitudes of around 80,000 feet. This combination of speed and altitude made it all but untouchable to enemy anti-air missiles, so even when a nation knew that there was an SR-71 flying in their airspace, there was next to nothing it could do about it. According to Air Force data collected through pilot reports and other intelligence sources more than 4,000 missiles were fired at the SR-71 during its operational flights, but none ever managed to actually catch the fast-moving platform.

Its windshield gets so hot it had to be made of quartz.

i1.wp.com

Flying at such high speeds and altitudes puts incredible strain on the aircraft and its occupants, which forced Lockheed to find creative solutions to problems as they arose. One such problem was the immense amount of heat — often higher than 600 degrees Fahrenheit — that the windshield of the SR-71 would experience at top speeds. Designers ultimately decided that using quartz for the windshield was the best way to prevent any blur or window distortion under these conditions, so they ultrasonically fused the quartz to the aircraft’s titanium hull.

The SR-71 was the last major military aircraft to be designed using a ‘slide rule.’

USAF

There are countless incredible facts about the SR-71 that would warrant a place on this list, but this is one of the few facts that pertains specifically to the incredible people tasked with developing it. Not long after the SR-71 took to the sky, the most difficult mathematical aspects of aircraft design were handed off to computers that could crunch the numbers more quickly and reliably — but that wasn’t the case for the Blackbird. Kelly Johnson and his team used their “slide rules,” which were basically just specialized rulers with a slide that designers could use to aid them in their calculations in designing the mighty Blackbird. Years later, the aircraft was reviewed using modern aviation design computers only to reveal that the machines would not have suggested any changes to the design.

Just for fun, here’s Major Brian Shul’s incredible “Speed Check” story about flying the Blackbird.

Major Brian Shul, USAF (Ret.) SR-71 Blackbird ‘Speed Check’

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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Now you can help develop drones and apps for the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is looking for a few good innovations to shape the future force.


The Quantico, Virginia-based lab will kick off the first “CMC Warfighting Challenge” this month, said Col. John Armellino, the warfightinglab’s operations officer. Marines can starting submitting ideas through the new “CMC Innovation Portal” once it officially goes online Sept. 15. A different challenge will be offered every other month.

Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has encouraged Marines — from general officers to privates — to get creative and identify new ways to bolster the service’s storied combat force. Neller wants, as he often says, “disruptive thinkers.”

Officials seek ideas that are “forward looking, futuristic and cutting edge,” Armellino said. “What we are trying to do is to address our current challenges to ensure the Marine Corps is organized, trained and equipped to meet the demands of the future environment,” he added.

Submissions can be made via the web portal, which had a “soft” opening on Sept. 1. While the first challenge is aimed at getting Marines’ input, Armellino said, the Marine Corps also wants to hear from people in academia and industry. And anyone who submits an idea will be kept in the loop, he said, and “remains part of the process.”

First up: Ideas and ways to make autonomous, robotic systems that can better support Marine air-ground task force operations. The September challenge is targeted at finding solutions to what “Marines do today that seem considerably dull or dirty or dangerous,” Armellino said.

So the lab has pitched this challenge: “Identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine (or Marines) to accomplish, that could, and should, be replaced by robotic, autonomous, or unmanned systems. Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty or dangerous in nature.”

Some Examples:

  • Dull: Filling sandbags
  • Dirty: Going into a potential CBRNE environment to sense for chemicals
  • Dangerous: Sweeping for mines/IEDs

For November, the Marine Corps wants ideas from developers for apps “that enhance quality of life, physical fitness and warfighting in general,” Armellino said.

The innovation challenges are part of the service’s broader and ongoing effort to help develop the future force. The CMC Warfighting Challenge, he said, will provide “a focused, analytical framework.”

And it wants answers and solutions a lot faster.

So the Marine Corps also is establishing a Rapid Capabilities Office. The office will manage the crowd-sourcing portal and other pathways for innovation and will be “empowered to accelerate turnkey solutions or further incubate ideas” that could be demonstrated, tested and experimented, Armellino said. It also will play a part in the Future Force Implementation Plan.

The RCO, he said, will be a bridge between the Marine Corps’ combat development and systems commands — think, concepts and ideas and the equipment and systems that bring those to life. And it “could accelerate technology for development or rapidly get” what’s available to the operating force much faster, he said.

Innovation is a hot phrase of late, perhaps driven by the resetting of the force mired in two major wars over nearly a generation and facing a much more-advanced, high-tech and hybrid threat environment. Agencies like DARPA have reached out to outsiders for ideas, say, to counter threats to drones.

And the Marine Corps isn’t alone in tapping crowd-sourcing to broaden its stable of thinkers and developers. The Navy created Task Force Innovation in January 2015, along with a web portal for virtual collaboration called The Hatch, spurred by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus‘ Innovation Vision for the department.

The Army in 2013 started soliciting ideas for its “Rapid Equipping Force” program through a website that remains in place today. Soldiers can submit ideas or solutions online. The Army is taken a greater collaborative approach with workshops and meetings to pull ideas from soldiers and others whose innovations, expertise and skills just might help develop better gear, vehicles and equipment. Its third annual Innovation Summit was held Aug. 16-17.

“Innovation needs to be a culture, not a niche corner or a specific time,”Army Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins told the audience at the two-day meeting in Virginia. Soldiers “are natural innovators. We just need to make sure we don’t stifle them.”

In late August, Army Secretary Eric Fanning announced the creation of a Rapid Capabilities Office to find and field technology and equipment more quickly. “We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said, in an Army news story. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”

What tangible, concrete innovations come of these efforts remain to be seen.

The CMC Warfighting Challenge is like a next-gen take on “Marine Mail” from the mid-1990s, when the top general, Gen. Chuck Krulak, sought out creative and innovative ideas from Marines. Krulak also established the warfighting lab during his tenure as commandant. In 2007, in the midst of two major conflicts, then-commandant Gen. James Conway revived Marine Mail, but it’s not clear what specifically came of that effort.

Marine Mail, said Armellino, was “a great idea” that also was “unsustainable.” If it’s set up as a “virtual suggestion box,” he said, “you run the risk of being potentially overwhelmed.”

Will the new CMC Warfighting Challenge work?

The Warfighting Lab worked through the web portal bugs during a beta test in July to collect thoughts about wearable technologies. That drew 260 ideas, Armellino said. It likely will fall to the lab’s RCO to cull through those suggestions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New guided missile frigates will be ready for war by 2025

The Navy is now strengthening and extending conceptual design deals with shipbuilders tasked with refining structures and presenting options for a new Navy multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate — slated to be ready for open warfare on the world’s oceans by the mid 2020s.

Navy envisions the Frigate, FFG(X), able to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat, according to service statements.


In early 2018, Naval Sea Systems Command chose five shipbuilders to advance designs and technologies for the ship, awarding development deals to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine Corporation, and Lockheed Martin.

The service has now modified these existing deals, first announced in February 2018, to enable the shipbuilders to continue their conceptual design work and “mature their proposed ship design to meet the FFG(X) System Specification,” according to the deal modifications.

The Navy expects that new weapons and sensors will better enable the ship to destroy swarming small boat attacks, support carrier strike groups, conduct dis-aggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile, and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare, service statements specify.

Lockeheed Martin’s conceptual design for the FFG(X).

“These Conceptual Design awards will reduce FFG(X) risk by enabling industry to mature their designs to meet the approved FFG(X) capability requirements. The Navy has not changed its FFG(X) capability requirements,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Service Command, told Warrior Maven.

The Navy hopes to expedite development to award a production contract in 2020 and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. For this reason, bidders were required to submit designs that have been “demonstrated at sea” and already paired with a shipyard for rapid production, according to the previous service solicitation.

“The Conceptual Design effort will inform the final specifications that will be used for the Detail Design and Construction Request for Proposal that will deliver the required capability for FFG(X),” the Navy’s contract announcement said.

Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.

“The FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking (ISRT) efforts,” Naval Sea Systems Command FFG(X) documents said.

The “blue force sensor” language is explained by Navy developers as integral to the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept which, as evidenced by its name, seeks to enable a more dispersed and networked attack fleet suited for dis-aggregated operations as needed.

Also, by extension, longer range sensors will be needed to identify enemy attackers now equipped with long-range precision strike weapons and enable command and control across vast distances of open water and coastal patrol areas.

The Navy vision for the ship further specifies this, saying the “FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”

Along these lines, the Navy’s FFG(X) Request for Proposal identifies a need for a netted sensor technology called Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).

CEC is an integral aspect of key emerging ship-defense technologies aimed at “netting” sensors and radar technologies in order to better identify and destroy approaching threats such as anti-ship missiles, drones and enemy aircraft.

“CEC is a sensor netting system that significantly improves battle force anti-air warfare capability by extracting and distributing sensor-derived information such that the superset of this data is available to all participating CEC units,” a Raytheon statement said.

Current analysis is no longer restricted to the idea of loosely basing the “hull design” upon the LCS, as was previously the case, Navy officials say.

Designs for the ship no longer merely envision a more “survivable” variant of an LCS. Previous FFG(X) requirements analyses conducted by a Navy Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team examined the feasibility of making the ship even more lethal and survivable than what previous plans had called for, Navy officials said.

Existing plans for the Frigate have considered “space armor” configurations, a method of segmenting and strengthening ship armor in specified segments to enable the ship to continue operations in the event that one area is damaged by enemy attack. Discussions for Frigate technologies have included plans for an MH-60R helicopter, Fire Scout drone and ship defense technologies such as SeaRAM.

The Navy already plans for the new Frigate to be integrated with anti-submarine surface warfare technologies including sonar, an over-the-horizon missile and surface-to-surface weapons, which could include a 30mm gun and closer-in missiles such as the HELLFIRE. An over-the-horizon missile chosen by the Navy for the LCS is the Naval Strike Missile by Kongsberg-Raytheon.

Navy plans for the FFG(X) also call for advanced electronic warfare tech along with both variable depth and lightweight sonar systems.

The new ship may also have seven 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats for short combat or expeditionary missions such as visiting, searching and boarding other ships.

The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.

In addition, Navy developers explain that the ship will be configured in what’s called a “modular” fashion, meaning it will be engineered to accept and integrate new technologies and weapons as they emerge. It certainly seems realistic that a new, even more survivable Frigate might be engineered with an additional capacity for on-board electrical power such that it can accommodate stronger laser weapons as they become available.

The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations Concept builds upon the Navy’s much-discussed “distributed lethality” strategy. This strategic approach, in development for several years now, emphasizes the need to more fully arm the fleet with offensive and defensive weapons and disperse forces as needed to respond to fast-emerging near-peer threats.

Part of the rationale is to move back toward open or “blue water” combat capability against near peer competitors emphasized during the Cold War. While the strategic and tactical capability never disappeared, it was emphasized less during the last 10-plus years of ground wars wherein the Navy focused on counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and things like Visit Board Search and Seizure. These missions are, of course, still important, however the Navy seeks to substantially increases its offensive “lethality” in order to deter or be effective against emerging high-tech adversaries.

Having longer-range or over-the-horizon ship and air-launched weapons is also quite relevant to the “distributed” portion of the strategy which calls for the fleet to have an ability to disperse as needed. Having an ability to spread out and conduct dis-aggregated operations makes Navy forces less vulnerable to enemy firepower while. At the same time, have long-range precision-strike capability will enable the Navy to hold potential enemies at risk or attack if needed while retaining safer stand-off distance from incoming enemy fire.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is buying ultra-long range howitzers

The Army is starting formal production of a new Self-Propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension, and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.

The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons..

As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.


Senior Army weapons developers have explained that the current 80s-era 39 calibre Howitzer is outgunned by its Russian equivalent — a scenario the service plans to change.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery. When GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks, and fast growing attack drone fleet — all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.

The M109 Paladin.

(US Army photo)

Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft, and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance.

Former Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch (Rasch is now the PEO) told Warrior in a previous interview that the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.

Building a higher-tech, more lethal Paladin

Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of on-board power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives and projectile ramming systems.

Army developers say the A7 has a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.

“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” a senior Army weapons developer said.

Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle and service extension — all aimed to improve logistics — the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Improved on-board power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve — such as lasers or advanced ammunition.

The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.

One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.

Soldiers fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during Exercise Combined Resolve IX at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 21 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Hulett)

The Army has also been working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.

While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality, and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers, and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.

“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet,” a senior Pentagon weapons developer told reporters during prior testing of the HVP.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

Air Force 4-Star: F-16s may be vulnerable to cyber attack

Air Force fighter jet mission data, sensors, missiles, intelligence information, precision guidance technology, data links and weapons targeting systems are all increasingly integrated with computer systems in today’s fast-moving high-tech warfare environment — a scenario which simultaneously upgrades lethality, decision-making and combat ability while also increasing risk and cyber-vulnerability, senior service leaders explained.


With this paradox and its commensurate rationale in mind, senior Air Force leaders unveiled a comprehensive “cyber campaign plan” designed to advance seven different lines of attack against cyber threats.

While faster processing speeds, advanced algorithms and emerging computer programs massively increase the efficiency, accuracy and precision of combat networks and weapons systems, increased computer-reliance also means weapons systems themselves can become more vulnerable to cyber-attack in the absence of sufficient protection.

For instance, how could Joint Direct Attack Munitions pinpoint targets in a combat environment where GPS signals have been destroyed, hacked or knocked out? What if navigation and geographical orientation were destroyed as well? How could an F-35 use its “sensor fusion” to instantly integrate targeting, mapping and threat information for the pilot if its computer system were hacked or compromised? How could drone feeds provide life-saving real-time targeting video feeds if the data links were hacked, re-directed, taken over or compromised?

These are precisely the kind of scenarios Air Force future planners and weapons developers are trying to anticipate.

Seven Lines of Attack 

Speaking at the annual Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, National Harbor, Md., Gen. Ellen Marie Pawlikowski Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, delineated the inspiration and direction for the 7 lines of attack.

US Air Force photo

A key impetus for the effort, as outlined in the first line of attack, is working to secure mission planning and recognized cyber vulnerabilities, Pawlikowski explained.

For instance, she explained the prior to embarking upon a global attack mission, an Air Force F-16 would need to acquire and organize its intelligence information and mission data planning – activities which are almost entirely computer-dependent.

“We did some mission planning before we got that in the air. Part of that mission planning was uploaded into a computer,” Pawlikowski said.  “An OFP (operational flight plan) is developed using software tools, processors and computers. When you lay out a mission thread it takes to conduct a global mission attack, you find that there are cyber threat surfaces all over the place. How do you make sure your F-16 is secure? We need to address each and every one of those threat surfaces.”

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford Jr.

The second line of attack is described in terms of technology acquisition and weapons development procedures. The idea, Pawlikowski said, was to engineer future weapons systems with a built-in cyber resilience both protecting them from cyber-attacks and allowing them to integrate updated software and computer technology as it emerges.

“We want to understand cyber security as early as we can and develop tools that are needed by program managers. We want to engineer weapons systems that include cyber testing in developmental and operational tests,” she said.

Brining the right mixture of cyber security experts and security engineers into the force is the thrust behind the third line of attack, and working to ensure weapons themselves are cyber resilient provides the premise for the fourth line of attack.

“We can’t take ten years to change out the PNT (precision, navigation and timing) equipment in an airplane if there is a cyber threat that negates our ability to use GPS,” Pawlikowski explained.

Part of this equation involves the use of an often-described weapons development term called “open architecture” which can be explained as an attempt to engineer software and hardware able to easily accommodate and integrate new technologies as they emerge. Upon this basis, weapons systems in development can then be built to be more agile, or adaptive to a wider range of threats and combat operating conditions.

In many cases, this could mean updating a weapons system with new software tailored to address specific threats.

“Open mission systems enable me in avionics to do more of a plug-and-play capability, making our weapons systems adaptable to evolving cyber threats,” she explained.

The fifth line of effort involves establishing a common security environment for “classification” guides to ensure a common level of security, and the sixth line of attack involves working with experts and engineers with the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop built-in cyber hardening tools.

US Air Force photo

For instance, Pawlikowski explained that by the 2020s, every Air Force base would have cyber hardening “baked” into its systems and cyber officers on standby against potential cyber-attack.

Preparing to anticipate the areas of expected cyber threats, and therefore developing the requisite intelligence to prepare, is the key thrust of the seventh line of effort.

“We planned and built our defenses against an expectation of what our adversary was able to do. We need to understand where the threat is going so we can try to defend against it,” Pawlikowski said.

Articles

The 6 ways troops tried to counter tanks when they first appeared

The very first tanks in combat rolled across the plains of Europe on Sep. 15, 1916, at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Allied tank power only grew from there. Since the Germans most commonly found themselves on the receiving end of tank warfare, they were the ones who improvised the first responses. Here’s what they came up with:


1. Flame throwers

Flamethrowers at an Army show in New Orleans in 1942. Photo: National Archives

Flamethrowers were typically used after a tank suffered a mobility kill. A soldier with a flamethrower would approach the tank and order the crew to surrender before killing them if they didn’t. In some cases, soldiers would approach operational tanks and attempt to burn out the crew.

2. Reversed bullets

While standard rounds were nearly useless against tanks, Germans found that modifying their ammunition would let them kill tank crews at short ranges. First, the projectile was removed from the cartridge. Then, more powder was added and the projectile was put back on the cartridge backwards, with the point to the rear and the blunt side of the projectile forward.

When the rounds struck a tank at close range, they could dent in the armor with enough force that the armor would spit shrapnel into the crew area, killing and injuring the soldiers. Frequent misfires were reported though, so the Germans eventually invented armor piercing rounds.

3. Targeted artillery and mortar attacks

Photo: German Imperial War Museum

Artillery in World War could engage tanks with either howitzers, field guns, or mortars. Howitzers and mortars are traditionally fired “high-angle,” where they fire a shell into the air so that it falls on enemy targets, piercing the top armor when they hit tanks. In some cases, especially with mortars, desperate crews would “direct fire” their weapons at tanks.

Field guns were typically shot in direct fire mode, pointing the weapon at the enemy and attempting to punch through its hull with the force of the round. At first the German field guns only had high explosive rounds that could score mobility kills, but they eventually got armor piercing rounds that could destroy the target entirely.

4. Grenades

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daderot

Because they were already handy, grenades were some of the first weapons pressed into anti-tank warfare. While a single grenade was unlikely to destroy a tank, it could achieve a mobility kill by breaking the treads.

Later, stick grenades would be bundled together and tossed at oncoming enemy tanks. When everything went well, the combined explosive force of the grenades would break through the hull.

5. Tank obstacles

A British tank straddles a trench in 1916. Significantly wider trenches could stop tanks. Photo: Imperial War Museums

While tanks are the ultimate all-terrain vehicle, it’s still possible to carve the land so that tanks can’t roll over it. While thin trenches could be crossed with ease, very wide trenches were impassable for tanks and the Germans began digging accordingly.

6. Anti-tank rifles

Photo: Imperial War Museums

The German Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr fired a large, 13.2 mm round with a steel core at 785 meters per second, easily piercing the tank armor of the day. Unfortunately, they were developed too late and in too few numbers to stem the Allied tank advance.

NOW: Here’s what life is like for US Army tankers