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VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
Photo: DARPA.mil


The Pentagon wants to launch satellites from a fighter jet as it seeks to lower the costs of sending Defense Department satellites into space.

Also Read: Can You Identify These Jets? Take The Quiz 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is leading the project called Airborne Launch Assist Space Access, or ALASA. Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said earlier this month the agency plans to  execute the program’s first flight demonstration by the end of the year and then 12 orbital tests in 2016.

Engineers have designed a launch vehicle that can be carried under an F-15. The F-15 would carry the launch vehicle to a high enough altitude before the launch vehicle would separate from the aircraft. The vehicle would then use its own rocket boosters to leave the Earth’s atmosphere before delivering the satellite into orbit.

DARPA officials hope the program can deliver satellites under 100 pounds within 24 hours notice and for a price tag under $1 million.

The Boeing Company, which builds the F-15, is the prime contractor for ALASA.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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New Army body armor is lighter, more flexible than before

The average Generation II Improved Outer Tactical Vest weighs about 26 pounds. But the new “Torso and Extremity Protection System” or TEP, under development now at Program Executive Office Soldier, sheds about five pounds of weight and also adds a wide degree of scalability that commanders can make use of depending on threat level and mission.


VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
The Torso and Extremity Protection System

The TEP is part of the new “Soldier Protection System” under development now at PEO Soldier. The SPS includes both the TEP and the Integrated Head Protection System.

The TEP can replace the IOTV, at less weight and greater scalability, depending on the mission. It includes the “Modular Scalable Vest,” the “Ballistic Combat Shirt,” the “Blast Pelvic Protection System,” and a “Battle Belt,” which is aimed at getting weight off a Soldier’s shoulders and onto the hips.

With the TEP, commanders can require Soldiers to go with full protection — which provides the same level of protection as a fully-loaded IOTV — or go all the way down to wearing soft armor under their uniforms for missions that require less protection.

“It’s about giving commanders on the battlefield the ability to use the modularity capability of the equipment to fit their particular mission profile or protective posture level,” said Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The IOTV sometimes required Soldiers to wear the Deltoid Auxiliary Protection — cumbersome parts that snapped on to the IOTV and protected their shoulders. Soldiers might have also been asked to wear the smaller, easily-lost collars that also snapped on to the IOTV. Both are gone with the TEP. They’ve been replaced by the Ballistic Combat Shirt, which is a shirt with breathable fabric and which also includes those smaller ballistic protection parts built in. Soldiers would wear the BCS under the TEP’s Modular Scalable Vest.

“We have tested it,” Brown said of the Ballistic Combat Shirt. “Soldiers like it. There is 95 percent Soldier acceptability of it. What we are working on now is tweaking the sizes.”

The TEP also includes the Blast Pelvic Protection System, which is designed to protect a Soldiers thighs and groin against ballistic threats and burns. The BPPS is meant to replace the current combination of the pelvic undergarment and the pelvic outer-garment, or “PUG” and “POG.” The PUG has sometimes been referred to as “ballistic underwear.”

Brown said the BPPS “provides the same level of protection” as the PUG and POG combined, including both burn and fragment protection. She said Soldiers have reported that it feels more like it is “part of the pants.”

The “Battle Belt” included with the TEP is part of a weight management system, but it also offers some protection as well.

“It’s designed to remove the weight from your shoulders and put it on your hips,” Brown said. Whereas Soldiers might strap a radio or other gear onto their IOTV in the past, the Battle Belt can now take that gear and move the weight onto a Soldier’s hips.

Brown said that after successful ballistic testing, production of the TEP will begin in probably May of this year, and that Soldiers could see it in 2018 or 2019.

Another part of the Soldier Protection System is the Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS. In its full configuration, it looks similar to a motorcycle helmet.

The IHPS consists of a base helmet, similar to the polyethylene “Enhanced Combat Helmet” that some Soldiers are already wearing. The IHPS also includes add-ons for the base helmet, including a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “Ballistic Applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet. The complete ensemble is known as the “high threat configuration.”

Brown said that eventually all deploying Soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other Soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration.

The IHPS currently has a Picatinny rail mounted on the side for attaching gear, and will also provide for attaching head-mounted night vision goggles.

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a Soldier’s face, but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So Soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

Maj. Jaun F. Carleton, also with PEO Solider, had a pair of new sunglasses that are authorized for use by Soldiers if they want to buy them, or if their commanders buy them for them.

The sunglasses, which also come in a face mask version as well, start off as un-darkened — offering no protection against the sun. But with the press of a button, LCD modules that adhere to the lenses darken and provide protection against the sun. That happens in less than a second.

“The benefit is that using one pair of protective eyewear, you wouldn’t have to switch from a clear goggle to a dark goggle — you’d have one protective eyewear for all conditions,” Carleton said.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying Soldiers,” Brown said.

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

As part of extensive human factors evaluations, Brown said that PEO Soldier has used Soldiers, extensively, to evaluate the new gear.

“We had a massive scale of Soldiers to evaluate the equipment, usually over a three-week to month-long timeframe, where they would perform their different mission sets, where they will execute basic rifle marksmanship, and ruck marches,” she said.

Afterward, she said, those same Soldiers were asked what they think of the gear through a qualitative evaluation methodology (Soldier survey).

“They would give us the good, the bad, the ugly,” Brown said. “It’s extremely important to get Soldiers’ input. First, Soldiers are brutally honest and they are going to tell you exactly how they feel about the equipment. Second, why buy equipment Soldiers won’t wear? And third, who’s better to give us the best answer about how the kit should be designed than the Soldier who will actually wear the equipment?”

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This British sniper took out six insurgents by detonating a Taliban suicide vest

A 20-year-old Lance Cpl. of Britain’s Coldstream Guards was right on target in December 2013. His quick shooting prevented a major offensive by Taliban fighters when he hit the trigger of an enemy suicide vest – with a round from his L115A3 rifle.


VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
The L115A3 is the primary weapon of British military snipers. (MoD photo)

The UK’s Telegraph reported that his unit was hundreds strong during a joint patrol with Afghan counterparts in Helmand Province, near Karakan. They came under heavy fire from a Taliban ambush. The commanding officer of the 9/12 Royal Lancers, Lt. Col. Richard Slack, did not give the name of the sniper, but acknowledged his decisive action.

“The guy was wearing a vest. He was identified by the sniper moving down a tree line and coming up over a ditch,” said Slack. “He had a shawl on. It rose up and the sniper saw he had a machine gun. … They were in contact and he was moving to a firing position. The sniper engaged him and the guy exploded.”

It was the lance corporal’s second shot of his tour. When he hit the vest’s trigger, the man exploded, taking out five more of his fellow fighters. He was 930 yards away.

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
An Afghan Taliban suicide vest. (Khaama Press)

The sniper’s first shot killed an enemy machine gunner during the same engagement. That shot was from more than 1,400 yards away.

When the smoke cleared, British forces found a second vest containing 44 pounds of explosives.

Holly Watt of the Telegraph called it “one of the dwindling number of gun battles between British forces and the insurgents.”

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The 7 types of SNCOs in every military unit

Not all staff non-commissioned officers are created equal.


Across branches and job descriptions, most senior enlisted leaders develop their own unique personalities and leadership styles. But that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes fall into certain archetypes, from “drill instructor” to “guidance counselor.”

In just about every unit, you’ll find these personality types for SNCO’s.

1. The drill instructor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHNTufCZmH4

Paying close attention to details and quick to correct even the slightest mistake, “the drill instructor” maintains order through fear, respect, and constantly demanding maximum effort. They are so passionate about maintaining order and discipline that they may be willing to lose their bearing to achieve it, as demonstrated by the sergeant major in the video above who demanded a Marine veteran take off the drill instructor campaign cover during a protest.

2. The career cruiser

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit

Also known as “retired on active duty,” these are the SNCO’s on the backend of their career who are just skating by. With only a year or two left until their retirement date, the “career cruiser” is working hard to not work hard. Basically, they do just enough to get by and punch the clock until they can get out.

3. The cool parent

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They view each and every one of their troops not just as subordinates but as their extended family and are very protective of each and every one of them. They give their personal number to all of their junior ranking troops so that if they ever find themselves in a questionable situation or need a ride at 0300 on a Saturday morning, they should feel comfortable knowing “the cool parent” will be there to help them out.

4. The guidance counselor

Most troops are young and inexperienced in not only their military careers but in life in general. These SNCO’s are always finding ways to give personal and group mentorship every chance they get, whether they need it or not. “The guidance counselor” helps junior troops advance in life and in their careers while keeping them motivated and mission-ready.

5. The super motivator

Their tone, posture, speed, intensity, and character is always a cut above the rest. No matter what your mood or level of motivation, after every interaction you have with this SNCO, you leave feeling more dedicated and proud to be wearing the uniform and your role in the unit’s mission.

6. The warrior-leader

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Not one for talking, they are found doing. They have impeccable fitness, the highest qualifications scores, the highest standard of military bearing, and always mission ready, even while off duty. They exude confidence and their track record demands respect. Not one to shy from making tough decisions, they will always be found leading their men by example, like Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal (pictured above), who earned a Navy Cross for his heroic actions in Fallujah.

7. The all-in-one

The SNCO that embodies all of the leadership traits. They are able to maximize the efforts and morale of everyone in their command, and are looked upon by their peers for guidance as masters in developing new leaders.  Everyone, from commanders to the most junior ranks, can count on them to make sound decisions and always have their best interests at heart.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

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The Air Force may offer a ‘fly only’ option to keep more pilots in its jets

The Air Force’s pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.


As a result, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.

“Should we go with a ‘fly-only’ track?” Gen. Carlton Everhart II said in an interview July 26.

Everhart said he envisions something like this: “You stay with me for 20 years, and I let you fly. You … could maybe [make] lieutenant colonel, but you may not make higher than that.”

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Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, left, Air Mobility Command commander, shakes hands with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Squadron. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“Then, [we] allow you to stay at your home station for three to four years instead of two to three, so you can get some longevity,” he continued. “Then, it’s not just [flying airlift cargo or tanker planes]. You could go to [Air Education and Training Command] and help out there for three to four years to help bring on new pilots.”

“To sweeten the deal, as you come into your career, maybe in the last four years, we allow you on a ‘dream sheet’ to put your top three choices, try to get you moved to there so you can establish your family and where you want to retire,” he said.

Everhart said the ‘fly-only’ effort would still encompass wing, squadron, and group duties and deployments but — bottom line — “it’s longevity.”

The same aviator retention bonuses would also apply, he said.

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

“The idea being explored is seeking airmen volunteers for a professional ‘fly-only’ aviator track comprised of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the AMC flying force,” said Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for the command, in an email. “This small group of airmen would be linked to flying jobs throughout a career.”

AMC has nearly 49,000 active-duty members and civilians; 42,000 Air Reserve component military; and 35,000 Air National Guard members, according to the command.

RELATED: The Air Force is running out of pilots

The mobility Air Forces has roughly 8,500 total force pilots. Throughout the Air Force, active-duty mobility pilots total 5,125, Karns said. Active-duty pilots assigned to AMC installations total 2,866.

How airmen will be selected for the ‘fly-only’ program is still being determined, the officials said, as well as how many will be involved.

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

Everhart said his teams are looking at the program to establish more fixed methodology behind the effort, but would like to “look at it in the next three to four months” to begin a trial run.

“There’s certain things we have to do to code these folks … and I’ve introduced the notion and got a tentative nod from [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein],” he said. “I think there’s merit there, but I’ve just got to work all the way through it, then do the small group tryout and see where we go.”

“I’m not taking anything off the table because I need them with me, I need them to fly with me,” he said.

The Issues Wearing Out Pilots

Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have said the service was 1,544 pilots short by fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots — with the deficit expected to grow.

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Everhart said the Air Force stands potentially to lose 1,600 pilots who are eligible to separate from the service in the next four years.

He has been working with an AMC aviation retention task force for the past few months, trying to come up with recommendations as a result of airman feedback.

That feedback includes: Flying has become secondary to administrative duties; airmen desire more stability for themselves and their families; they lack support personnel; and they fear the impact of service politics on their career paths.

Airman feedback has resulted in one concrete move — the removal of additional duties, a common complaint.

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit
USAF photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

In August, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as “additional duties” typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. It has since cut 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”

Some duties were reassigned to commander support staffs, and civilians will be hired to take on some other duties in coming months.

ALSO READ: 23 terms only fighter pilots understand

Other areas are also getting scrutiny: Officials are looking at accession and promotion rates, giving commanders more freedom to think of creative solutions, and working with US Transportation Command to look at deployment requirements, Everhart said.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with headquarters Air Force A3 … so we don’t get in crossways with each other, and can we, as solution sets, put these across the entire broad perspective of the Air Force,” he said, referring to Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, head of operations, plans and requirements.

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

He’s also in communication with Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the Air Force’s chief of manpower, personnel, and services, and the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, he said.

Lessons learned from these discussions and trial programs could then be applied to the fighter pilot community, Everhart said, but that’s still a ways out.

But the Air Force is not the only organization in crisis.

Working With Civilian Airlines

Boeing Co., the US’ largest aerospace company, on July 26 said it predicts that in the next 20 years, North American airline companies will need 117,000 new pilots to keep up with commercial demands, CNN reported.

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USMC photo by Sgt. Keonaona Paulo

Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.

Last May, the Air Force met with representatives from civilian airline corporations such as American Airlines and United; academic institutions such as Embry Riddle University, an aeronautical university; civil reserve airfleet institutions such as FedEx; and Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy.

The groups established working areas, Karns said, that need critical attention, such as exploring ways to make a career in aviation more desirable; finding ways to reduce the cost of earning a civilian aviation certification — for example, a debt relief program; looking at enhanced data analysis to establish a baseline for what is actually required to meet national pilot need; exploring potential alternate pathways to becoming a pilot — possibly by accelerating timelines; and improving the effectiveness of “shared resources” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.

“We’ve got another airline meeting coming up in September,” Everhart said, in which leaders will discuss the secondary phases for these working areas.

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USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“We need to instill in the hearts of our American public what … aviation is all about,” he said.

Rotating Air Force Assets

AMC already employs a rotational system to keep its aircraft sustainable longer.

“In an effort to extend the life service of various mobility fleets and enhance aircraft availability, we’re looking to work with the Guard and Reserve to rotate aircraft more regularly and consistently to avoid disproportionate wear-and-tear on systems,” Karns said. “What has been known as enterprise fleet management is adjusting to what is called ‘Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet.’ ”

The system rotates aircraft from the three components more often in order to “shrink … and no longer have that airlift gap,” Capt. Theresa Izell, a maintenance officer, said in March during an AMC media day at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

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USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith

Could that system be applied to the pilot gap — moving pilots flying various platforms throughout, or qualifying pilots to fly more platforms?

“I think you’ve got something there,” Everhart said. “I think we already do that with cross training. We do some cross training for airframes as far as pilots flying tankers versus cargo, but I have to explore that more. I haven’t looked at it from the human dynamic prospect — and I think that’s something to pull back [on]. I love it.”

Love for Country

Everhart reiterated that time in service always comes back to the willingness to serve.

In June, the Air Force unveiled a new tiered Aviation Bonus Program, an expansion of Aviator Retention Pay that puts into place the cap authorized for the incentive under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

Should they choose to stay, fighter and drone pilots, for example, are slated to receive the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year, while special operations combat systems officers would receive the least at $10,000. Officers have until Oct. 1 to decide whether they want to extend their service.

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USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer

The number of pilots taking the aviator retention bonus for AMC has also slightly declined, Karns said. In 2015, the “take-rate” of pilots choosing the bonus and choosing to re-up into the Air Force was 56 percent; in 2016, that number dropped to 48 percent, Karns said.

While bonuses matter, Everhart reiterated it’s not always about the money.

“They stay in the military because what’s in their heart, and their service to America. They really believe [in] an American fighting force. That’s why they stay,” he said.

“The bonus? Sure, that’s sweet. But that’s not why I stayed,” Everhart said. “I stayed because it’s service to the nation. And that’s what I’m finding out across the board” from other pilots.

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DARPA designed a kit to make any plane or helicopter a drone

Move over, Jennifer Garner, there is a new ALIAS that’s more awesome than the show you were on for five seasons. This one, though, has been developed by DARPA, not JJ Abrams.


According to a report from Voactiv.com, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has unveiled the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System. This system, already tested on the Cessna C-208 Caravan, the Sikorsky S-76 and the Diamond DA-42, took about six months to develop through Phase 2 of the program.

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A three-man Iraqi aircrew from Squadron 3 fired 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)

Two versions of ALIAS were competing for the development contract. One was from Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, the other was from Aurora Flight Systems. Both versions involve the use of a tablet computer (like an iPad or Kindle Fire) to fly the plane.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” DARPA program manager Scott Wierzbanowski said in a release.

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The Queens Helicopter Flight S-76 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

DARPA selected Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky’s version for Phase 3 of the ALIAS program. Their version of ALIAS can be installed under the cabin floor, not taking up any space in the aircraft or helicopter, while quickly connecting to the flight systems of the plane or helicopter. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and NASA have all expressed interest in this system.

For a sneak peek at one way this system could work, here is a video released by Aurora Flight Systems:

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Marines could ditch ammo cans in push to get lighter

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Marines lift ammo cans during a Company C squad competition at Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, Sept. 23, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.


QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.

Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.

Also read: 5 obvious fixes for the military’s weight problem

Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”

Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.

The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.

But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”

Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.

The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.

“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”

Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.

Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.

“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”

Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.

Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.

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This is how the military is integrating women

Gender integration is vital for the success of women in the military, the commander of US Southern Command said July 13 at the closing ceremony of the second Women in Military and Security Conference held in Guatemala City, Guatemala.


Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd made opening and closing remarks at WIMCON 17, a two-day conference on gender perspectives in force development and military operations co-hosted this year by the Southcom commander and the Guatemalan armed forces.

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Photo courtesy of Southcom

In attendance were US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd D. Robinson, Guatemala Chief of Defense Maj. Gen. Juan Perez, and regional leaders.

The first WIMCOM was held last year in Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the past two days, Tidd said, “we’ve shared insights and observations and learned from one another’s experiences. We’ve celebrated our progress and identified the obstacles that still remain in our paths. And we’ve reinforced … a commitment to equality, a commitment to equity, a commitment to opportunity.”

The admiral said the Western Hemisphere offers a potential model for regional cooperation on gender integration and advancing gender perspectives.

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U.S. Marines PFC. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro (Center Left) and PFC. Julia R. Carroll (Center Right) of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East (SOI-E), stand at parade rest during their graduation ceremony from SOI-E aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Nov. 21, 2013. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E/Released)

“This week we’ve seen how much we have to share with one another, and I know this is only the beginning of setting the standard for the rest of the world,” Tidd added.

Community of Interest

The Southcom commander proposed two ideas for the group going forward, the first being to commit to establishing a formal community of interest to further the topic.

“Southcom will happily take on the task to find the best tool for continuing this vitally important conversation,” he said, “and we will use the contact information you provide today to share this forum once we create it.”

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Logo for the Women in Military and Security Conference held July 10-13 in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Gender advisors — subject matter experts attending the conference — are ideal members, Tidd added, but other personnel also will add value and over the next year the community can work on issues identified at WIMCOM 2017 as focus areas for improvement.

Second, the admiral said, is a need to collect better data to document progress.

“We have a term in English called baselining — determining a minimum starting point to use for comparisons,” he explained. “There’s clearly a lot more work to be done on [the kinds of] data we need to gather and share, but we’ve all heard this week about the importance of using data to further this message.”

Regional Observatory

Southcom, he said, offered to serve as a regional observatory to help keep track of integration progress by country, regional advances and obstacles to advancement.

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Female soldiers negotiate obstacles during the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program which prepares all-female Soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika)

Tidd added, “If you will get us the data and research, we’ll help collate it and make it available for our collective use.”

Other highlights from the meeting included the idea that equality for women in the military requires male acceptance and collaboration; that qualification and advancement for everyone should be based on capability, competency and character; and that fair standards should be set and all should be required to meet them.

The admiral also asked for ideas or recommendations for the focus of WIMCOM 2018.

“I sincerely hope that you’ll seek to replicate the face-to-face, candid conversations we sought to foster in this conference,” the admiral said. “Hopefully this is just the beginning, not the end, of those types of conversations.”

Articles

Here’s the Russians’ answer to anti-tank missiles

The Arena active protection system is a Russian tanker’s answer to rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles.


Unlike reactive armor which neutralizes impacts with an outward blast of its own, the Arena system aims to avoid impacts altogether by intercepting incoming threats with projectiles. It’s also more technical in that it uses a multi-function Doppler radar and digital computer scans that arc around the tank like an invisible forcefield. Its computer system has a reaction time of 0.05 seconds and protects most of the tank except for the area behind the turret.

Here’s the step-by-step explanation of how the system works:

The Arena active protection system forms an invisible protection barrier around the perimeter of the tank.

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vaso opel, YouTube

Once a weapon crosses its perimeter, the Arena system deploys its projectiles to intercept the threat.

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stuka62, YouTube

The Arena’s weak spot is the area behind the turret, which could be the front or the back of the tank depending on the gun’s position.

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vaso opel, YouTube

The entire sequence literally takes place in a blink of the eye.

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vixed123, YouTube

Here’s the same shot from a different angle.

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vexed123, YouTube

Here is the entire sequence in super slow-motion.

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vexed123, YouTube

Watch the Arena active protection system test video:

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best tactical gifts to buy dad this year

Enough messing around. Dad’s got the gag gifts and the cushy hunting gear. He doesn’t need another beautiful knife or the latest gizmo for convenience in the field. No, what Dad wants is to be ready for when shit hits the fan, dammit. Time to get tactical.

That means simple, effective gear that’s built to be tough and trustworthy in the field. Finding the gear you can trust your life with is the tricky part, friends. That’s why we went to our experts: The entire team here at SOFREP put our heads together to pick our favorite tactical gear. So whether it’s a solar panel that will never fail, a contingency knife that’s always ready to go, a tactical boot that’ll help you pound ground, or the ultimate loadout box for all the important stuff you’ve already got, here’s the gear we stand by. It certainly stands by us.


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1. Overland Solar Bugout Panel

When things go south, power is… well, power. Overland Solar makes the daddy of all solar chargers for a serious off-the-grid setup. It’s good for 130 watts of power in various conditions and produces seven amps an hour thanks to high solar cell efficiency. It charges in low angle light, and when it’s overcast, rainy, and even lightly snowing. Plug and play with your camper, or throw it on the roof of your micro-cabin for solid power basics.

Overland Solar: 5

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2. Browning Range Kit

Everything needed for a range kit, nothing more. Polycarbonate shooting glasses, soft foam earplugs, adjustable fit muffs. It’s the perfect replacement gear for the old, beat up shit you’ve had for years. The earmuffs and earplugs are good for 31 and 27 decibels, respectively. And anyway, the best gift you can receive this year is healthy eyeballs and eardrums in old age.

Cabela’s:

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3. Bulldog Quick Vault

What’s the right level of protection for your bedside equalizer? This thing. It’s got just the right pairing of quick access and safety: open it using RFID access card or keycard or LED-backlit access code. Its Soft Stop door technology means you can open it silently, or set it to a decibel mode for family safety. Oh, and it’s heavy-duty 12-gauge steel.

Cabela’s; 0

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4. Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench

Nobody in the movies ever needs to fix a jammed rifle or disassemble one for cleaning. This is not the way of the world, though. The Real Avid Armorer’s Master Wrench has everything you need for rifle housekeeping: torque wrench attachment point, armorer’s hammer, castle nut wrench, multiple hammerheads, muzzle brake wrench, and more. With it, as long as you have ammo, you’ll be fine.

Cabela’s:

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5. Sig Sauer Red Dot Sight

Zese Germans make a sehr gut firearm. They also make a prime red dot sight for MSR platforms of all calibers. It’s waterproof, runs off one included battery for up to 20,000 hours, has 10 daytime brightness settings, and two for night vision use. At just a hair over a Benjamin, it might be the perfect tool for target acquisition at close and mid-range.

Cabela’s: 0

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6. WK Contingency Knife

Curved handle, simple sheath, skeletonized, full-tapered tang, and a 3.5-inch blade: this knife is ready to go when it needs to be. It’s intended as an everyday carry, but you’d be forgiven for showing off its maple handle and black oxide no-glare finish 80CrV2 steel blade. Its beauty is terrible to behold, especially if the beholder is trying to fuck with you.

Tactical Distributor: 0

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7. Rapid Dominance Carbon Fiber Knuckle Combat Gloves

What does a glove buy you? Try serious hand protection in a combat situation thanks to carbon fiber knuckles, a reinforced synthetic leather palm, and rubberized grip padding. Gloves so affordable rarely come with bonus features, but these ones do: their four-way spandex helps with a comfortable fit, and each glove has two-way touchscreen-friendly fingertips. They’ve got everything you need to throw hands without hesitation.

Sportsman’s Guide:

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8. VISM Soft Body Armour Panel

Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is a hell of a material. Ask a scientist if you want the nitty-gritty, but basically, it’s got the highest impact strength of any thermoplastic humans can currently manufacture. It can stop 9mm and .44 rounds up to 1,400 fps, which means you want it in your vest. And because it’s flexible and lightweight, you won’t mind it in your carry-on luggage, or wherever else you have to take it.

Sportsman’s Guide: 0

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9. Smith & Wesson Tactical Range Bag

SW’s Recruit Tactical Range Bag is made out of ballistic fabric, with oversized zippers and rubber foot skids for protecting your gear. Its two internal pockets are big enough for your handguns, and the main compartment has all the room you need for ammo, ear protection, and the like. External pockets include seven magazine slots, plus tons more room for all the extra crap you’re lugging around.

Smith Wesson:

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10. Otis Elite Gun Cleaning Kit

The best way to get serious about cleaning your gun properly is to get all the right gear. This one has everything you’ll ever need, and then some: 22 bronze bore brushes for every caliber of shotgun, rifle and pistol, cleaning patches, memory-flex cables, obstruction removal tools, precision cleaning tools, and quality solvent. It totals over 40 components and comes in a nylon case. If you don’t keep everything clean with it, well, that shit’s on you.

Cabela’s: 0

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11. Viridian TacLoc Holster

Viridian makes a mean laser sight. Their Tacloc holsters pull triple duty: they secure your weapon; aid in a smooth, accurate, quick draw; and activate the integrated laser sight instantly when that draw happens. The company makes them for your Beretta, Glock, MP 45, Sig Sauer, and several other guns. And, thanks to rugged Kydex construction and a seven-year warranty, it’ll last.

Viridian:

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12. Salomon Quest 4D Tactical Boot

The perfect tactical boot is well suited to any situation. That’s what makes the Salomon Quest 4D our go-to. It’s got the support and grip of a mountain boot, thanks to a serious outsole and supportive midsole. And its uppers are built for combat: anti-reflective, with anti-debris mesh, mudguard, and waterproofed materials like Goretex. Oh, and the Ranger Green looks damn sharp, too.

LA Police Gear: 0

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13. Notch Brim Multicam Operator Cap

Finally, a fix for the annoying, simple problem: you can’t get your brim low enough when you’re wearing your eye protection. A simple notch in this cap fixes that problem. But it’s also just a quality cap: button-less at the top, so your hearing protection fits smoothly, 98 percent breathable, stretchy cotton, moisture-wicking headband, low profile fit, hook-and-loop for your patch of choice. It might be the last ballcap you ever buy.

McGuire Army Navy:

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14. Hackett Equipment Tactical Plate Carrier

Minimalistic in all the ways you want, full protection where you need it. That’s the deal with this plate carrier, which is fully adjustable to fit all body types, holds a front and backplate, and is made of durable, rigid, weather-resistant 600D polyester with PVC coating. The straps are padded so you’ll stay cozy, princess.

Hackett Equipment:

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15. Darn Tough Socks

When it comes to thinking tactically, it’s easy to forget your feet. Don’t. Darn Tough makes some of the best socks out there today. They’re built around performance merino wool with durable, breathable, comfortable design elements. They’re the perfect tool for staying light on your feet all day, no matter the terrain or operation.

Darn Tough: +

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16. Kelty Tactical Redwing 50 Pack

Kelty’s been the name behind top U.S. forces tactical gear for decades. This one is issued to spec ops soldiers, and its features make it clear why. It’s got easy access through top and side loading panels, storage options for all your gear, and then some, and its aluminum suspension system is lightweight but durable. And 50 liters of storage is just right for most ops.

Kelty Tactical: 9

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17. PMAG 30 Round Magazine

It’s the best AR-15 mag on the market. What else is there to say?

Palmetto State Armory:

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18. Grey Man Tactical Vehicle Weapon Rack

This modular vehicle rifle rack and rigid MOLLE panel will mount to any vehicle to help you haul your gun plus MOLLE pouches and extra accessories. It’s made of injection-molded glass-reinforced nylon, perfect for holding plenty of weight. The panel can be installed in under a minute with no tools thanks to mounting straps.

Grey Man Tactical: 0+

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19. YETI LoadOut GoBox 30

Our favorite cooler company already makes indestructible boxes to keep stuff cold — so the pivot to indestructible boxes for important gear is an easy one. This is our favorite gearcase around: it’s waterproof, dustproof, and stackable, and can be outfitted with dividers and caddies to organize and store your gear just the way you like.

YETI: 0

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20. SOFREP Team Room Subscription

Stay up to date on the latest news, insider info, and the best tactical gear and equipment reviews. Annual subscribers to the Team Room get full access to all SOFREP stories, plus the TeamRoom’s award-winning military documentaries, SPEC OPS training footage and war stories, forums and community chats, podcasts, and exclusive interviews.

SOFREP:

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


Articles

This is why Bunker Buster bombs are made from spent howitzer barrels

It was a common sight during Desert Storm: grainy black-and-white footage of an Iraqi bunker or hanger slowly getting closer and closer to the screen.


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Munitions with cameras fed the footage of new, precision-guided “smart bombs” to Americans watching the war at home.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army used underground facilities beneath layers of sand and reinforced concrete to protect his command and control centers, research labs, and ammo dumps. The U.S. military tasked its defense apparatus to come up with a way to penetrate and destroy these shelters.

Thus, the GBU-28 Bunker Buster bomb was born.

The GBU-28 is a 4,400-pound monster of hardened steel and tritonal explosives, a mixture of TNT and aluminum powder. Once the target is marked with a laser, that laser guides the bomb to its target and the rest (like the target) is history.

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That hardened steel is what protects the bombs for their initial penetration through concrete. Barrels of artillery guns are designed to hold up to repeated artillery blasts, which is why the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal used barrels from 8-inch self-propelled howitzers as casings for the design.

That protection the spent barrels provide is perfect to give the bunker buster bomb time to penetrate a target while its time-delay fuse waits to unleash the real payload.

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An 8

Engineering changes to the initial casing were made via telephone, even as the original barrels were being stripped and reconfigured by machinists on the assembly line. Watch the whole story of the birth of the bunker buster bomb in the video below.

Articles

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

The US military’s special operations forces (SOF) are increasingly returning to their roots of advising foreign militaries to fight for them — and it seems to be paying dividends in Iraq and Syria.


The campaign against ISIS is being fought less by US troops on the front lines, but instead is being conducted ” by, with, and through” local forces, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of CENTCOM, told Congress.

There have been three big changes in how SOF has been used against ISIS, and if successful, these new tactics might be used in future conflicts, Linda Robinson, a senior analyst with RAND, writes at The Cipher Brief.

As Robinson notes, special ops are on the ground in ideal numbers, they accompany and are dispersed with local forces at the front, and they provide crucial fire support to local forces.

In the late 1940s, SOF were seen to have little purpose in a new world where atomic weapons and strategic bombers reigned. But that changed with the emergence of the Cold War, where proxy wars and insurgencies became more prevalent.

One of the first examples of the new way SOF were used was in the 1950s when the 10th Special Forces Group was tasked with establishing guerrilla forces behind Communist lines in eastern Europe. “That was the moment Special Operations warriors point to as their birthday,” Dwight John Zimmerman and John D. Gresham write in “Beyond Hell and Back: How America’s Special Operations Force Became The Best Fighting Force In The World.”

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A member of the U. S. Army Special Forces conducts Security Assistance Training for members of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP). This field training is held on the Zamboanga Peninsula of the Philippine Islands with the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. | U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer First Class Edward G. Martens

After 9/11, however, SOF began to be used in more “precision, highly kinetic strike forces enabled by technology and linked through a digitally networked battlefield.” But by and large, the new counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria may prove to be something of a reset to SOF’s former tactics.

The number of SOF in Iraq and Syria has now reached about 10,000, giving them the means to provide “meaningful support to the variety of indigenous forces fighting ISIS,” Robinson writes.

Related: US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Furthermore, SOF now accompany local forces to secure locations near the front lines. They no longer give tactical advice from distant headquarters, where they had to analyze operations through “the soda-straw perspective of drone feeds,” Robinson says.

This allows them to see local forces in action, and therefore give better advice.

Over the last year, SOF has increasingly provided more fire support. US Apache helicopters were first used in June 2016 to capture Qayyarah, which is now a staging base for coalition forces’ assault on Mosul. This base now has an ICU, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems set up to support the assault.

US howitzers are also set up at a base in Hamman al-Alil, providing support to Iraqi CTS and Federal Police advancing into West Mosul.

This support has been even more helpful to Syrian Democratic Forces, an irregular force that is not heavily armed but nevertheless is the main force fighting ISIS in Syria.

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A U.S. Army Soldier, attached to The 7th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, conducts reconnaissance during a live-fire exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif. | United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit have also moved into Syria with 155mm howitzers to assault Raqqa. It was reported in March that US Marines near Raqqa “had killed hundreds of enemy fighters and destroyed more than 200 fortifications.” One of the canons they used in these strikes was the M-777 Howitzer, which fires 155mm shells and has a range of up to 25 miles.

SOF has also recently helped position 500 local forces near the strategic Tabqah Dam, which was eventually wrested from ISIS.

However, the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is far from over. ISIS has dug bunkers, trenches and tunnels, and laced Raqqa with mines, while in western Mosul, there are still more than 400,000 civilians caught in the middle of heavy fighting.

But if the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria succeeds, “this new way of combining forces and using SOF to direct a ground war, could become a model for conducting low- to mid-level combat.”

Check out the full article at The Cipher Brief

Articles

Sen. John McCain calls Gen. Mattis one of the ‘finest military officers of his generation’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just released a glowing endorsement of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary.


In a statement released Monday, McCain called the 66-year-old retired four-star general “one of the finest military officers of his generation” who, he hopes, “has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Related: When Gen. James Mattis talks, we listen — and so should you

The senator knows Mattis quite well, since he serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he was in charge of Central Command and leading troops in Iraq, Mattis testified to that committee regularly.

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General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I am pleased that the President-elect found General Jim Mattis as impressive as I have in the many years I have had the privilege of knowing him. General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defense and the service of heroes,” McCain wrote in his statement.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis is seen as a top contender for the position at the Pentagon. He met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to discuss whether he might be interested in coming out of retirement to oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Afterward, Trump praised Mattis on Twitter as “a true General’s General” who was “very impressive.”

If he were tapped to be defense secretary, Mattis would need a waiver from Congress to take the position, since it requires a military officer to have been off active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.

Mattis currently splits his time between Stanford and Dartmouth as a distinguished fellow, conducting research and giving lectures on leadership and strategy.