“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.
Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.
FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.
FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.
Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.
Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling. And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.
In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.
Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.
“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”
Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”
Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.
“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”
He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.
“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”
The Air Force basically owned the market on drones for decades, so it must’ve come as quite the shock last year when the Super Bowl LI light show featured a few hundred drones making beautiful designs in the sky, eclipsing the best of the Air Force’s drone choreography (but falling well short of the Air Force’s best light shows).
The men and women at Travis Air Force Base got to enjoy a similar light show on July 5, though, when Intel brought their drones to the installation for a special Independence Day Celebration. We’ve got some photos from the event below.
US military commanders deeply appreciate the autonomy and hands off approach the Trump administration takes to battlefield operations, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31.
Townsend explained that the Trump administration has “pushed decision making into the military chain of command,” as opposed to the widespread micromanagement of military operations seen under the Obama administration. “I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces who doesn’t appreciate that,” he said.
“Our judgment here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get twenty questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take,” Townsend said. “I think every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility, and then the trust and backing to implement that.”
US Special Envoy to the counter-Islamic State coalition Ambassador Brett McGurk told reporters in early August that gains against ISIS have “dramatically accelerated” under the Trump administration, highlighting the terror group’s loss of territory.
President Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that US rules of engagement were too restrictive in the ISIS fight during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the early months of his presidency he has loosened rules of engagement and launched dozens of drone strikes under looser authorities.
“There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a US defense official told the Wall Street Journal in April in the midst of high tempo operations against the terrorist group.
Elon Musk said being one of the first people to colonize Mars won’t be glamorous.
Speaking during a QA at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, the SpaceX founder addressed his plans to colonize Mars and what it will be like for those early pioneers on the red frontier.
According to Musk, there’s a misconception that a base on Mars will serve as “an escape hatch for rich people.”
“It wasn’t that at all,” Musk said of his colonization vision. “For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing.”
“There’re already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” Musk continued.
Speaking to a packed theater in Austin, Texas, Musk said he expects SpaceX to begin making short trips back and forth to Mars in the first half of 2019. His long-term plan is to put 1 million people on the planet as a sort of Plan B society in case nuclear war wipes out the human race.
In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”
In order to “regenerate life back here on Earth,” Musk said he prefers to get the backup civilization on Mars operational before an event like World War III begins on Earth.
“I think it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” Musk said.
Musk’s plan to build giant reusable spaceships for colonizing the red planet is an ambitious one. He and SpaceX have yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end. Many people still have practical questions for the tech billionaire.
Musk has ideas for how Mars might be governed
Musk instead offered some predictions for what he thinks governance on Mars might look like.
The SpaceX founder suggested his title might be “emperor,” adding that it was only a joke.
Musk said he imagines Mars will have a direct democracy instead of the system of government used in the US — a representative democracy — whereby elected officials represent a group of people. On Mars, Musk expects people will vote directly on issues.
He said that the centuries-old representative democracy made more sense during the nation’s founding, before the government could assume most people knew how to read and write.
Musk urged future colonizers to “keep laws short,” so that people can easily read and digest the bills before voting on them. He warned that long laws have “something suspicious” going on.
“If the law exceeds the word count of Lord of the Rings, then something’s wrong,” Musk said.
The quote got a laugh from the audience and sparked speculation that Musk was taking a jab at the Republican tax bill that was passed in December 2017. The bill came in at 503 pages and ran over 1,000 pages including the related conference committee report.
Musk also recommended that laws be easier to repeal than install. Doing so would prevent arbitrary rules from accumulating and restricting freedoms over time, he said.
On creating culture on Mars, Musk said that “Mars should have really great bars.”
American special operators are using a new virtual reality trainer to simulate their air insertions before they jump, allowing them to conduct near-perfect rehearsals over and over before the actual mission.
PARASIM incorporates a harness tailor-made to parachute manufacturer’s specifications, a virtual reality headset, and a digital environment using weather simulation and satellite or map imagery. All of this put together allows operators to create custom mission profiles and then practice them.
“If I need to insert a SEAL team in Syria tomorrow night, all I need is a latitude and longitude,” David Landon, president and CEO of Systems Technology Inc., told Defense News. “So by the time they actually make the jump, they’ve already done it. There are no surprises.”
The system can even handle multiple jumpers in a single simulation, allowing a unit to virtually jump as a team and work together to make the proper insertion to the target area.
Every military branch in the Department of Defense has purchased the system, according to Systems Technology Inc.’s website.
Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced June 21 that U.S. Marines will continue rotational training and exercises in Norway through 2018, U.S. European Command said in a news release.
“Our Marines in Norway are demonstrating a high level of cooperation with our allies,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. “The more we train together alongside one another the stronger our Alliance becomes.”
Nelson said the decision to extend the presence of the Marine rotational force in Norway is a clear sign of the U.S. and Norwegian commitment to NATO and the strong partnership between the two countries on defense and security.
John Waters (right), USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez master, discusses maritime operations with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Helen G. Pratt, 4th Marine Logistics Group commanding general, and Norwegian Commodore Rune Fromreide Sommer, Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization, during offload operations at Hammersodden, Norway, June 6. USNS Lopez, a Military Sealift Command prepositioning vessel, was supporting the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, known as MCPP-N, with the delivery of supplies and equipment. MCPP-N enables the rapid deployment of a large, credible, and balanced force to support its NATO allies and partners. (Photo by Daniel Burton, MSCEURAF operations specialist)
Norway is an exceptional ally, one that is increasing its defense budget and is committed to acquiring critical capabilities. Both the U.S. and Norway are focused on strengthening the development of joint leaders and teams who understand the synergy of air, sea, and land power as a potent asymmetric advantage in the battlefield.
About 330 Marines have been stationed in Vaernes, Norway, on a rotational basis since January. They will now continue to rotate beyond 2017, with two rotations per year.
Luftwaffe (German Air Force) has confirmed that two GAF Typhoons crashed after colliding midair in northeastern Germany shortly before 14.00LT (12.00 GMT) on June 24, 2019. Both pilots managed to eject from the aircraft even though their health status is not clear at the time of writing. (Update 15.00GMT: one pilot was recovered, one is reported as killed in the accident).
Both Eurofighters were from TLG73 “Steinhoff” squadron based in Laage and were flying an Air Combat Mission along with a third Typhoon. The pilot of the third Eurofighter observed the collision and reported two parachutes descending to the ground.
The aircraft crashed near Lake Mueritz some 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Berlin, according to EHA News, that also posted a video filmed just after the crash shows two plumes of smoke rising from the ground.
Here’s what could be gathered by means of ADS-B/Mode-S transponders:
In 2014, a Lear Jet with two people on board crashed after colliding mid-air with a German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon over Olsberg, in Germany. The “Lear” was a target plane operated by the “Gesellschaft für Flugzieldarstellung” (GFD), a civilian company cooperating with the German Air Force for air targeting exercises, while the Eurofighter was part of flight of two Typhoons involved in a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) training mission, in which the Eurofighters intercepted the Learjet. The military jet safely landed at Nörvenich air base whereas the private owned plane crashed in an unpopulated area, killing both pilots on board.
This is what I wrote about midair collisions between fighter jets some years ago, responding to the questions of readers who wanted to know how two F-16s might collide:
There is always the risk of a midair collision when two (or more) aircraft fly close to each other. Even if some collisions in the past took place because of failures or during engaments, air-to-air combat maneuvering, many (more) have occurred as perfectly working aircraft were rejoining the formation. That phase of the flight can be extremely dangerous, especially at night: the two pilots, flying in a tactical spread formation, have to tighten the formation. The lead aircraft is reached by the wingman, with the latter initially forced to keep a higher speed (otherwise it would not reach the leader) and then to suddenly reduce his speed to match the leading plane’s airspeed. A distraction can be fatal. And don’t forget how close the aircraft fly from the moment until landing: once again, a sudden move, a distraction, hence a human error could cause the midair.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said that the service’s carrier-launched F-35C will be the last manned fighter produced, given the progress of autonomy and algorithms allowing for rapid maneuvering. The Air Force, however, has not said something similar despite the service’s obvious continued interest in further developing autonomy and unmanned flight.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
Airmen at Travis Air Force Base are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man hours and increase mission effectiveness.
Over the past several months, the base has implemented a variety of innovations including 3D printing and 3D scanning.
Cultivating a culture of innovation is essential to mission success, said Col. Matthew Leard, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.
“At Travis (AFB), airmen are empowered to identify and solve problems at their level, rapidly,” he said. “We want airmen to think big and try the ideas others say will never work. It does not always have to be proven technology or have a business case. Let’s just try it, who knows it may just work.”
The innovations under way at Travis AFB were made possible when the Air Force distributed million in Squadron Innovation Funds in an effort to increase readiness, reduce cost, save time and enhance lethality of the force.
In October 2018, Travis AFB procured a 3D hand scanner capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.
“The scanner displays the deepest part of a dent to the nearest thousandth of an inch,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “The scanner can identify the shape of a dent, as well as if it’s sharp, smooth or round, which allows us to give our engineers a better damage analysis than we could before.”
Joshua Orr, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, uses a CreaForm HandyScan 700 to capture digital information to render a three-dimensional image of an aircraft part into specialized computer software, Nov. 16, 2018, at Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
Smithling said the scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike, and over the past month, has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.
“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” he said. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”
The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.
“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it, and within four to eight hours, we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.
That capability, he said, will decrease the time Travis AFB aircraft are out of service.
“Right now, we could have one of our aircraft down for about 48 hours while we try to get the part it needs,” he said. “Once we have this additive manufacturing capability in place, we will likely be able to print and replace parts in a few hours and return our aircraft to flying status much quicker.”
Innovation is also leading to improved patient care at David Grant USAF Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Air Force. The Dental Clinic at DGMC received a Form2 printer in August 2018, which has enabled the clinic to produce a variety of items used for dental surgery.
A Formlabs Form2 printer, operated by 60th Dental Squadron airmen, prints a dental guard at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“We currently fabricate surgical guides, hard night guards and dental models or casts with different variations,” said Capt. Geoffrey Johnston, 60th Dental Squadron prosthodontist. “We are also investigating printing temporary crown and bridge restorations, complete and partial dentures and orthodontic clear aligners.”
“Prior to additive manufacturing techniques, there were shapes and designs for instruments and restorations in dentistry that were either impossible or so expensive and cumbersome to fabricate, they were not feasible to create,” Johnston added. “The Form2 overcomes those pitfalls and does so with resins that have been determined biocompatible for intraoral use.”
This technology leads to improved patient care, said Johnston.
“By merging 3D radiographs of jaws with 3D models of actual teeth, we are able to plan exact placement of implants and with 3D printing technology added to that, we are able to carry out those plans with extreme precision,” he said. “This precision of placement gives us the ability to more predictably avoid nerves, vessels and adjacent teeth with our implant placement. Also, this technology enables us to have temporary crowns made before dental implant surgery to attach to the implants at the time of surgery.”
Currently, Travis AFB airmen are working on a dozen 2018 SIF-funded projects and preparing to submit innovative ideas for the 2019 SIF campaign. Airmen can submit ideas through the U.S. Air Force Ideation Platform at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/.
During a meeting this week with the Marine Corps rotational force stationed in Norway, the Corps’ commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, told Marines that war could be looming and that his command may soon adjust its deployments to meet rising threats.
Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, telling members of the U.S. force in the Nordic country to be ready at all times.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
Marines have been in Norway since January, when a rotation from the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived. The rotation was extended during the summer, and a replacement from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines arrived in August. The rotation is the first time a foreign force had been stationed in Norway since World War II.
Neller told Marines in Norway that he expects focus to shift from the Middle East to Russia and the Pacific — areas highlighted by President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy and home to three parts of the Defense Department’s “4+1” framework: Russia, North Korea, and China (along with Iran and global terrorism).
Marines in Norway have trained with Norwegian and other partner forces for cold-weather operations. Earlier this year, the Marines carried out a timed strategic mobility exercise, organizing the vehicles and equipment that would be needed to outfit a ground combat force.
Norway and the Marine Corps have jointly managed weapons and equipment stored in well-maintained caves in the central part of the country since the Cold War. The commander of Marine Corps Europe and Africa told Military.com this summer that Norway could become the service’s hub in Europe.
Places like Norway would become more of a focal point for the Marine Corps, according to Neller, deemphasizing the Middle East after two decades of combat operations there.
“I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said in Norway, when asked by a Marine about where the force saw itself fighting in the future. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
A Marine artillery unit recently left Syria after several months supporting the fight against ISIS there (burning out two howitzers in the process), but Marines remain in the region — including 450 training and advising partner forces in Afghanistan and hundreds more in Iraq, where they recently returned to “old stomping grounds” in western Anbar province to support anti-ISIS efforts.
While Neller admitted that U.S. forces would remain in the Middle East for some time to come, he predicted “a slight pullback” from that region and a reorientation toward Russia and the Pacific.
“So I believe we’ll turn our attention there,” he said,according to Military.com.
‘We’ve got them right where we wanted’
Countries throughout Europe have grown wary of an increasingly assertive Russia, especially the Baltic states and others in Eastern Europe.
But Norway and others in Western Europe are concerned as well. Norway has publicly discussed ways to counter Russian armor and boosted its defense spending.
Earlier this year, Oslo decided to buy five P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft — a move that tied it closer to the U.S. and UK, with whom it maintained a surveillance network during the Cold War. In February, Norway decided to shift funds from cost-savings programs into military acquisitions. That same month, Norway teamed up with Germany to buy four new submarines — two for each. (None of Germany’s subs are currently operational.)
In November, Norway accepted the first three F-35A fighters to be permanently stationed in the country, joining the seven Norway has stationed in Arizona for training. This month, Norway signed a contract for 24 South Korean-made K9 self-propelled howitzers and ammunition resupply vehicles.
U.S. forces have also moved throughout Europe in recent months for training and deployments to bolster partners in the region, but the rotational force in Norway has been particularly irksome for Russia, which shares a 120-mile border with Norway.
U.S. Marines in Norway have been hesitant to link their deployment directly to Russia — going as far as to avoid saying “Russia” in public — but Moscow has still expressed displeasure with their presence.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said relations between Oslo and Moscow were “put to a test” when Marines arrived in January. Moscow warned its neighbor in June that the Marines’ deployment could “escalate tensions and lead to destabilization” in the region.
Norwegian officials themselves have also questioned their government about what the Marines are doing there, out of concern that the country’s leadership could be shifting its defense policy without debate.
For some of the Marines, Moscow’s displeasure appears to be a point of pride.
“They don’t like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don’t like the fact that we oppose them,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green told Military.com. “Three hundred of us, surrounded by them. We’ve got them right where we wanted, right? We’ve done this before.”
The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.
Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.
Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.
(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)
Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.
Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.
“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”
In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.
Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.
Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.
It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.
Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.
(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)
Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.
Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”
At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.
The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.
If you know anything about Marine infantry, you know that we’ve built up one h*** of a reputation over the past 243 years. Whether it’s destroying our enemies or our profound capability to drink an entire town dry of alcohol, one thing is for sure — we’ve made a name for ourselves. But, the biggest and most important reputation is the one we have on the battlefield.
But the infantry plays the biggest role — closing with and destroying the enemy. Some may even regard us as the best in this respect but, to be the best, you have to train like the best from the ground up. This all starts at the Marine Corps School of Infantry so here are some things you should know about how the Marine Corps makes Infantry Marines:
You’ll be pushed further than you were in boot camp.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chelsea Anderson)
Infantry training is tough
You probably expected as much. But, let’s get this out of the way now: it’s tough but it’s not as tough as you’ll think it is. There are going to be lots of challenges but remember that the goal is to mentally and physically prepare you for being a professional war fighter.
A lot of late nights and early mornings, but it’s for the best.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Not unlike the first 48 hours of boot camp, you’re deprived of sleep. Very unlike the rest of boot camp, the sleep deprivation doesn’t end after the first 48 hours. In fact, you might develop a mentality like, “I can sleep when I get to my unit.” But, chances are, you won’t.
It’s better than nothing though.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane T. Manson)
Malnourishment is a common side effect of joining the infantry
In boot camp, you get three meals at the mess hall each day with the exception of field week, where you get MREs, and the Crucible, where you get, like, one MRE for three days. In SOI, you get nothing but MREs – and believe me, your gut will feel it.
There might even be times your instructors don’t pull your platoon aside to make sure you eat; you’ll just have to eat when you can.
Okay, you might get tents in your unit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Donato Maffin)
Sleeping indoors is rare
You might have expected this. Infantry Marines sleep outside no matter what. Sleeping inside is something you only get to do when you’re out of the field so get used to sleeping in the dirt under the rain.
Remember that they’re teaching you a lot of valuable lessons, even by being tough.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)
The instructors are more harsh
Just because they don’t scream in your face all the time like Drill Instructors doesn’t mean they’re better. Combat Instructors are, in a way, much easier to deal with. Overall, they’re way more harsh in the long run because they know you might end up in their squad or platoon and they want to make sure they trained you well enough to be there.