Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

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Dozens dead after 3 suicide bombings rock Istanbul’s international airport

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey | Yazar Mertborak/Wikimedia Commons


Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, on Tuesday.

The Associated Press, citing senior Turkish officials, said that nearly 50 people have died.

The attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. local time and appeared to be coordinated, left at least 60 others injured, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The “vast majority” of victims were Turkish nationals, Reuters reported, but foreigners were also among the casualties, the wire service said, citing an official on Wednesday.

The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest that ISIS is responsible for the attack.

“The assessments show that three suicide bombers carried out the attacks in three different spots at the airport,” Vasip Şahin, Istanbul Province’s governor, said.

The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.

It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, but ISIS and Kurdish groups have claimed multiple attacks in Turkey in the last year. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country’s southeast.

The Ataturk attack “fits the ISIS profile, not PKK,” a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn’t usually go after international targets.

Some flights to the airport have been diverted, an airport official told Reuters.

Ataturk is the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015. Many have noted that Turkey had assigned extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months.

Airport-security workers recorded the surveillance-camera footage of the moment the explosion ripped through the airport:

Footage has emerged of panicked travelers running away from the scene of the explosions:

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.

All scheduled flights in both directions between the US and Istanbul have been temporarily suspended, a senior US official told ABC. The airport will be closed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday local time.

The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” in a warning posted on the department’s website.

The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack’s victims, the State Department tweeted.

Many passengers are now stranded outside of the airport:

ISIS has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks on Turkish soil since mid-2015.

In January, 13 people were killed and 14 injured in a suicide bombing in a popular central square in Istanbul. The perpetrator was identified as Nabil Fadli, an ISIS follower from Syria.

Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, a n ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.

Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that ISIS has a “lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement.”

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37. A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor’s office.

Articles

The amazing way the military says goodbye to working dogs

Military working dogs are some of America’s hardest working service members. They find IEDs, drugs, victims of natural disasters, and dozens of other things. They also serve beside special operators and engage enemies with their human counterparts.


Unfortunately, they also live shorter lives than their humans.

That means that nearly every human handler will one day have to say goodbye to their friend and partner. The military allows handlers to go through a process that ensures the humans get one last day of bonding with their animals and the dogs receive a dignified sendoff.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Retired U.S. Air Force Military Working Dog, Mica T204, carries a toy while waiting for her final patrol to begin Nov. 14, 2016, at Tyndall Air Force Base. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

First, a decision is made about who will handle the canine during their final day. This is often the current handler assigned to the dog or the person who adopted them upon their retirement, but it could also be someone who spent a long time with the animal or who bonded most strongly with them.

This handler and other service members who love the dog will spend time playing together one last time.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

Then, the canine is taken for a “Final Patrol” or, sometimes, a “Final Walk.” Depending on the installation and the dog, this can be anything from a low-key walk around some of the greener parts of the base to a full-fledged parade down the base’s main drag.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S. Army photos by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson)

Sometimes, the dogs may be too sick or old to conduct the final patrol on their own. In those circumstances, the units will arrange an escort with handlers and other people who loved and respected them.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(U.S Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

At the end of the final patrol, a human with close ties to the dog will walk them past a final salute.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson)

Service members line the walk to render honors to the animals who have served faithfully. This will be the last chance for many of the humans to express their gratitude.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz)

Inside the clinic, veterinarians will begin the euthanization process while handlers comfort the dogs.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson)

The handlers stay with the dogs until the end.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Brix, a retired Navy MWD, is comforted by Navy Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Drew Risley before Brix’s euthanization. Brix earned the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Army Commendation Medal in Iraq. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tristin English)

Once it is done, the dog is draped with the flag and prepared for their final rest. Usually, the dogs are cremated.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson)

Handlers and other members of the unit will then hold a memorial ceremony with a display of a kennel, a tipped dish, a collar and leash, and sometimes the dog’s ashes.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Pvt. Kaitlin Haines, a handler with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment and a native of Sacramento, Calif., salutes during a Feb. 9, 2015, memorial service at Miesau Chapel for Cak, a local military working dog who was put to rest in December. (Photo and cutline: Elisabeth Paqué)

The handlers then have to overcome their grief and find a new partner to work with.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Pvt. Kaitlin Haines, a handler with the 100th Military Working Dog Detachment, runs beside MWD Beny as he trains at the Miesau Army Depot Kennels in Germany on Feb. 18. (Photo by Brandon Beach)

Articles

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman completed Special Forces training; these operators have some thoughts

On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.


Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.

Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.

“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.

“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.

“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.

“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.

Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.

“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.

“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.

“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.

“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.

“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.

“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.

“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.

“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.

“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.

“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.

“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”

Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron. 

“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.

“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.

“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.

“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.

“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.

“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”

Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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Watch this close-call during an air refueling operation

It seems almost routine in some DOD videos, but aerial refueling is a very dangerous process where a lot of things can go very wrong. It’s really not very surprising that stuff can go wrong, when you think about what that procedure entails.


 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Pacific Ocean March 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher E. Quail)

What a mid-air refueling involves, for all intents and purposes, is joining two fast-moving aircraft together to pass the fuel from the tanker to the receiving plane. When it goes well, aerial refueling helps extend the reach of combat planes. It can also save an air crew when their plane has a problem.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
The A-3 Skywarrior may be the most underrated airplane of the Vietnam War.

 

However, the fact remains that when you are passing jet fuel from a tanker to a combat plane, it gets tricky. In 1966, a B-52 and a KC-135 tanker collided over Palomares, Spain during a flight carried out as part of Operation Chrome Dome. In 1959, another B-52/KC-135 crash took place over Kentucky.

 

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Aerial refueling is accomplished in one of two ways: The refueling boom that is primarily used by the United States Air Force due to its ability to rapidly refuel bombers, or the probe-and-drogue method, used by most other countries around the world, as well as the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Air Force also uses the probe-and-drogue method to refuel helicopters and the V-22 Osprey.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military Spouse of the Year champions suicide awareness Million Mile Project

Paulette Fryar was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 7th, 2020. It was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a Coast Guard spouse and the excitement over her win reverberated loudly throughout the military spouse community. The next day, the joy and excitement over her honor would be muted.

Her cousin committed suicide.


David Heathers was a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. After leaving the service and returning home, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Living through the effects of that diagnosis in the midst of the isolation of COVID-19, would ultimately take his life. Fryar comes from a long line of family members who have served, but had not yet truly been touched by devastating impacts of war, until now.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
“I had no idea how bad it was for my cousin David until it was too late. If there is something I can do to bring more awareness so that other families don’t have to go through this, I want to,” Fryar said.

Although her initial platform of serving young military spouses and families had garnered her the title of Military Spouse of the Year, this deeply personal experience shifted things for her. Fryar has become very vocal about discussing the impacts of trauma and PTSD. She wanted to do something to combat the issue.

The Million Mile project was born.

In collaboration with the 2020 branch and base winners of the Military Spouse of the Year award, she approached Armed Forces Insurance to help sponsor the project. They immediately said yes. The goal was to unite the entire military community, as well as any patriotic supporters in raising suicide awareness. The participants would do this through logging miles for 22 days, to remember and honor the veterans lost to suicide.

“I knew I wanted to start a campaign to bring attention to this issue and provide some resources in hopes that other families would not have to experience this kind of loss,” Fryar explained.

The project began on August 15th, 2020 – which would have been her cousin’s 39th birthday and was the day in which is family held his celebration of life. This day was also significant because it was exactly 22 days before suicide prevention week would begin in September.

“One reason I wanted to start this Million Mile Project is that losing my cousin to suicide really opened my eyes to how awful this issue of military and veteran PTSD and suicide is. Once I saw it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye or look away,” Fryar said.

Studies have shown that up to 20% of veterans who have served since 9/11 are diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide has also been on the rise according to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Medical professionals are now on alert for increased rates of suicide due to the isolation and stress that COVID-19 is placing on veterans in particular.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Fryar and the other 2020 branch winners created a Facebook group for The Million Mile Project and it has over 6,000 members and continues to grow. The unique miles project allows members to log their miles in almost any way. Participants can walk, run, bike, swim or even skateboard for the suicide awareness project.

The parents of Fryar’s cousin have joined the project and have expressed their deep appreciation for the love and support they’ve received. It is their hope that through creating events like The Million Mile Project, they can reach people contemplating suicide and show them they matter and how important they truly are.

It is their hope that their story will show that life isn’t better without them.

“As the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, my main quote is ‘Together we are stronger’ and I feel it applies to the Million Mile Project so well,” Fryar explained. She continued, “Working together on a campaign like this is so important! I want people suffering from the loss of a loved one or possibly a veteran struggling with PTSD or suicide ideation to know that they are not alone, that they are needed and loved deeply.”

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why helicopters don’t crash when they lose an engine

Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.

In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.

Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.


A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.

Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.

As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.

Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.

You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:

Helicopter Autorotation EC-120

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

Drone strike kills suspected al-Qaeda militant in Yemen

A drone strike killed a suspected al-Qaeda militant in southern Yemen on April 6 as the U.S. steps up its air war against the extremists.


The missile hit al-Qaeda provincial official Ahmed Ali Saana as he was riding a motorbike late on April 5 in the town of Khabar al-Muraqasha in Abyan province, a major target of recent drone strikes, an official said on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon has confirmed more than 70 airstrikes on al-Qaeda targets in Yemen since Feb. 28.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Yemeni security officials have reported dozens of suspected fighters killed in the strikes on Abyan and the neighboring provinces of Shabwa and Baida.

A commando raid against al-Qaeda in Baida province was the first operation U.S. President Donald Trump ordered after taking office in January.

It went badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of a U.S. Navy SEAL and multiple civilians — including women and children — the Pentagon acknowledged.

In March, Trump reportedly gave the CIA new powers to authorize drone strikes against extremist targets in the Middle East independently of the Pentagon.

More than two years of civil war have created a power vacuum that al-Qaeda has exploited to consolidate its presence.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in March 2015 after Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and overthrew President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. has supported the Saudi-led coalition through weapons sales, air-to-air refueling of jets, and intelligence sharing.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US and NATO are boosting their presence in a hotspot for military activity near Russia

The long-awaited announcement about the redeployment of thousands of US troops currently in Germany finally came at the end of July.

US officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Tod Wolters, who heads US European Command, outlined the moves and the strategic reasoning behind them. President Donald Trump immediately undercut their remarks, but their references to the Black Sea reflect how the region is a growing point of tension with Russia.


“We’re moving forces out of Central Europe, Germany, where they had been since the Cold War,” Esper said. “We’re following, in many ways, the boundary east [to] where our newest allies are, so into the Black Sea region” as well as Poland and the Baltics.

The shift means European Command will “now be able to rotate units in perpetuity in multiple locations,” including the Black Sea, which “dramatically improves our operational capability,” Wolters said.

‘The Kremlin sees that’

Moscow, the most powerful Black Sea state, invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008. Tensions have remained high since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

“The Black Sea region is what the Kremlin uses launch its operations in Syria and Libya and the Eastern [Mediterranean],” Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe between 2015 and 2017, told Insider. “It’s how they influence everything that goes on in the Balkans and the Caucuses as well as obviously Ukraine and Moldova.”

Hodges is one of many who criticized the redeployment of European Command forces, arguing it doesn’t improve readiness and that the manner in which it’s being done hurts NATO.

“Having said that, I always welcome any additional focus on the Black Sea region, because I think that … needs to be a much higher priority,” Hodges said, adding that Esper’s suggestion that a Stryker brigade could be deployed to the region was “a very good idea.”

“Increasing [NATO] naval presence in the Black Sea region really is even more important,” as the Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian navies are “still not a match for the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” Hodges said.

Hodges cautioned that the coming months — with an ongoing drought in Crimea, US and Ukrainian elections, and Moscow’s major Kavkaz-2020 military exercise in southwestern Russia — could see more Russian action.

Concerns about more aggressive moves by Moscow have risen on other occasions since 2014, and experts have said seizing more Ukrainian territory now amid that drought doesn’t make much political or logistical sense for Moscow.

But the combination of factors creates an opening, Hodges said.

“Given the inconsistent response by this administration in the United States, and other than EU sanctions on Russia there hasn’t been that much in the way of real, firm response in the region” to Russian actions, Hodges said. “I think the Kremlin sees that.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. (US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy)

‘The increasingly important Black Sea’

In June, Adm. James Foggo, outgoing commander of US naval forces in Europe, said eight US ships spent about 120 days patrolling the Black Sea last year and “routinely” conduct “complex exercises” like Sea Breeze with allies and partners.

The US military has increased its presence in the area in recent years, and the 20th iteration of Sea Breeze, a Ukrainian-US exercise with other Black Sea and NATO nations, was the latest example.

“Every visit to the Black Sea encompasses working together with our partners and growing our interoperability,” Cmdr. Craig Trent, commanding officer of Navy destroyer USS Porter, told Insider. “Together, we executed a complex, multi-warfare exercise all without stepping foot ashore for face-to-face planning due to COVID mitigations.”

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

US sailors conduct simulated small boat attacks from USS Porter during Sea Breeze, July 22, 2020. (US Navy/Interior Communication Electrician 2nd Class Jeffrey Abelon)

This year it included more than 40 ships and aircraft from eight countries. The Porter was there on its third Black Sea patrol in five months.

The destroyer “conducted surface action group tactical maneuvering, over-the-horizon surface targeting, air defense, and anti-submarine operations,” Trent said.

The Porter worked with a US P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “to share a common tactical maritime picture” and “with Ukrainian tactical aircraft during the air-defense exercises,” Trent said.

The P-8A worked with ships and aircraft, including Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets, on undersea warfare and air-intercept training, Cmdr. M. Trever Plageman, head of Patrol Squadron 47, told Insider. (Russian planes frequently intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea, including during Sea Breeze.)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

USS Porter and an Air Force MC-130J exercise together during Sea Breeze, July 20, 2020. (US Navy)

The Black Sea “provides complex training opportunities, which enhance aircrew proficiency for littoral undersea warfare,” Plageman said. “Of equal importance was the cooperative interaction with allies and other partner nations, which improved our squadron’s interoperability within the increasingly important Black Sea region.”

The Porter also worked with the US Air Force on “air defense and surface-to-air integration of systems,” Trent said.

During Sea Breeze, US Air Forces Europe led a one-day mission with Navy and Space Command assets “to train US forces to integrate, operate, and communicate while executing all domain operations,” according to a release.

It included F-16s that “conducted training scenarios” using Joint Air-to-Surface Missile cruise missile tactics. The JASSM is a long-range “precision standoff missile” designed “to destroy high-value, well-defended targets.” US Special Operations Command Europe also sent an MC-130J aircraft “to exercise special operations forces insertion.”

Sea Breeze concluded on July 26, but on August 2, the Navy and Air Force conducted a similar exercise in the area — with live weapons.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

7 of the most lethal Navy weapons in history

The Navy has the mission of securing American interests on the ocean, otherwise known as “most of the planet.” Here are 7 weapons that have help them fight battles throughout the  years:


1. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile- one of the most dangerous weapons

At $569,000 apiece, Tomahawks are expensive cruise missiles that pack a huge punch. They fly at 550 mph and have a maximum range between 700 and 1350 nautical miles, depending on which version of the missile is used. They can carry either 166 bomblets, a 1,000-pound conventional warhead, or the W80 nuclear warhead with a 5-150 kt yield. The Block IV Tomahawk missiles can even be reprogrammed in flight to hit different targets.

2. MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo

The MK 48 heavy torpedo has 650 pounds of high-explosives packed into its warhead. It can swim at 28 knots for more than 5 miles to reach its target, homing in on it with an advanced sonar system. The Mod 7 version has sonar and guidance for better engaging targets in both deep and littoral waters while getting past enemy countermeasures.

3. Trident II Ballistic Missile

Deployed aboard Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, each Trident II can carry 14 independently-targeted nuclear warheads. The warheads can be the W76 with a yield of 100 kt or the W88 which yields a 475-kt explosion. The submarines were built to carry 24 each. The number of nuclear warheads on a Trident II was limited to eight and the number of missiles on each submarine was limited to 20 by nuclear treaties.

4. Standard Missile- There’s really nothing standard about this weapon.

The Standard Missile has a boring name but awesome capabilities. It’s a family of missiles that are primarily for shooting down planes and helicopters but can also attack ships, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles. One even took out a satellite.

Currently, different missiles are needed for different missions. The SM-2 can cripple an enemy ship while the SM-3 focuses on ballistic missiles. The youngest member of the family may change that. The SM-6 has successfully engaged cruise and ballistic missiles and may be tested against surface ships in the future.

5. MK 50 Advanced lightweight torpedo

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

While the MK 50 is much lighter than the MK 48 above, it still hits with an impressive 100-pound warhead and can swim at a blistering 40 knots. Designed to chase down and destroy double-hulled nuclear submarines, the MK 50 was created to get past torpedo countermeasures and kill the enemy, even in shallow water. It’s one hell of a weapon.

6. Laser Weapon System

Yes, this weapon is exactly what it sounds like. Already deployed aboard the USS Ponce, the Navy’s Laser Weapon System concentrates light into a fine point, heating a target until it burns or explodes. So far, the laser has only been used in tests but the crew of the USS Ponce is allowed to use the laser to defend the ship from actual threats. The laser can fire at different targets in rapid succession. Since shots cost less than a dollar each, double-tapping is probably fine.

7. Railgun

Like the laser above, the railgun is currently serving on only one Navy ship. The USNS Millinocket carries the prototype weapon, essentially a cannon that uses magnets instead of chemical propellants to fire a round over 110 nautical miles. Because the round is moving so fast, it can bust bunkers and other hard targets without the need for explosives. Also, the railgun is expected to be able to engage missiles, speedboats, and aircraft at a fraction of the cost of other weapons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 13 funniest memes for the week of May 4th

It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.


Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.

Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Salty Soldier)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via USAWTFM)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Five Bravo)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.

It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via Military World)

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

(Meme via /r/Military)

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