Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire - We Are The Mighty
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Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

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The 8 best mobile device military games

Mobile gaming is awesome, and all the rage. Here are 8 great military ones:


1. Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/GoCaliberGaming

Good graphics and an awesome storyline for mobile combine with player vs. player modes to make MC5: Blackout a gem. Be warned though, the game gives an even larger than normal advantage to those players who use in-app purchases to get better equipment.

Available on iOS and Android.

2. Call of Duty: Strike Team

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/Wickedshrapnel

Call of Duty: Strike Team allows the player to control a fire team of special operators as they seek out those responsible for a surprise attack on the U.S. in 2020. In both first and third-person mode, it features great graphics and gameplay, but the settings all start to look the same after a few missions.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. Battle Supremacy

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/AppSpy

Battle Supremacy focuses on tank warfare from World War II. It’s graphics are great for a mobile game and features player vs. player combat. Players can use cover and concealment and the maps are large enough to allow for some real strategy.

The player can also use planes or rocket-ships in a couple of instances.

Available on: iOS

4. Arma Tactics

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/stratjacked

A turn-based strategy game that centers around a four-man Special Forces team, Arma Tactics drops the player into modern combat. The game features a campaign mode as well as randomized levels so there’s always something new to play.

Available on iOS and Android.

5. Sky Gamblers: Cold War

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/Infinite Flight

Pitting MiGs against Harriers is always fun. Sky Gamblers: Cold War allows players to control one of 17 different planes in high-speed combat against other players or computer opponents.

Available on: iOS

A World War II version is available on iOS and Android.

6. SAS: Zombie Assault 4

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/pistol star

It’s all in the title. Drop in as a single SAS operative or join a squad of four elite soldiers battling the undead. SAS: Zombie Assault 4 is a topdown shooter that keeps it simple, gratuitously violent, and fun.

Available on iOS and Android.

7. Star Wars: Commander

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/TheGameHuntah

Build a base and marshall forces in this strategy game set in the Star Wars universe. You can choose which side to fight for and raise armies of storm troopers or Rebel soldiers along with a selection of vehicles and spaceships.

Available on iOS and Android.

8. Frontline Commando

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
screenshot via Youtube/Pure Gameplay Videos

Frontline Commando is an older game that pits the player as a sole survivor of an attack against the entire army of the dictator who killed his team. This third-person shooter has lots of weapons and power-ups to try and the storyline can keep you entertained for hours. Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer.

Available on iOS and Android.

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A Navy Corpsman Earned The Navy Cross For Ignoring His Wounds To Try And Save 2 Marines

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Chief Petty Officer Justin Wilson (Photo: MARSOC)


A U.S. Navy Corpsman attached to Marine Special Operations Command will receive the Navy Cross for attempting to save the lives of two Marines despite his being disoriented and wounded by two IED blasts himself, Marine Times reports.

Chief Petty Officer Justin Wilson, 36, is set to receive the nation’s second-highest award at Camp Pendleton, Calif. on Nov. 25. On his third deployment to Afghanistan with MARSOC’s Special Operations Team 8113, Wilson volunteered to accompany explosive ordnance tech Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff to clear an IED from a nearby checkpoint.

But not soon after they began inspecting the device it exploded, wounding Sprovtsoff and disorienting Wilson, the Times reported.

The Times has more:

According to his medal citation, the corpsman immediately left his safe position and searched around the checkpoint until he found Sprovtsoff. While he was tending to the wounded Marine with the help of [Staff. Sgt. Christopher] Diaz and another team member, another IED detonated. The blast wounded Wilson severely, and ultimately led to the death of the two Marines. In the chaos, and despite the shock of his injuries, Wilson became single-minded.

“Ignoring the pain of his own injuries, [Wilson] focused solely on treating his fellow team members,” his citation states. “He dragged one outside the checkpoint and rendered aid until he succumbed, and then searched for the other casualties, who had been blown over the barriers by the second blast. Only after confirming they were already dead did he allow treatment of his own wounds.”

Wilson is a shining example for corpsman past and present, embodying the “example of all that is honorable and good” that ends the Corpsmen’s pledge. Both fallen Marines, Staff Sgts. Christopher Diaz, 27, and Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, will receive posthumous Bronze Stars with combat “V” for their heroism.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

The US is reportedly talking about expanding crackdowns on North Korean ships, along with allies such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.


North Korea currently uses ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned materials — sometimes in ports and sometimes in international waters — to evade sanctions from the international community. The UN Security Council has passed at least nine resolutions that imposed sanctions on North Korea, and Australia, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US have all placed additional sanctions on the country.

Also read: The US is seeking wide authority to hunt down North Korean ships and board them

Russian and Chinese ships have recently been caught exchanging goods and resources in ship-to-ship transfers, as has a ship registered in the Maldives.

The new efforts would expand the scope of the interceptions to possibly include searching and seizing North Korean ships in international waters. Currently, nations only have the authority to conduct these operations within their own waters, where North Korean ships that break sanctions rarely travel through.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan. (Photo from US Navy)

“There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business,” a senior American official recently told Reuters.

But the effectiveness of such operations is likely to be limited, Richard Weitz, the Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis and the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider.

Related: Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“The problem is the legal complexity,” Weitz said. “Just stopping every ship that leaves North Korea is too far for countries like Russia and China.”

If any maritime operation were to succeed, Russia and China would likely need to be physically involved, conducting joint patrols and interdictions on the Korean Peninsula with US and other regional navies.

Limited effectiveness of maritime interdictions

China’s cooperation would be particularly important, as Donald Rauch, a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer and former Commanding Officer of USS Independence, recently argued in Foreign Policy.

“Such a move would convince North Korea that its sole ally and biggest trading partner had reached the end of its strategic patience,” Rauch writes.

However, the likelihood that China would be part of this kind of operation is low, given that China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the West.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
The North Korean vessel Kum Un San 3 conducts a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, with the Panama-flagged Koti in an effort to evade sanctions, December 9, 2017. (US Department of the Treasury)

Still, more aggressive maritime interdictions, conducted in cooperation with partners in the region, could help with sanctions enforcement and could possibly slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions.

“I’d imagine that you could supplement it with good satellite intelligence, good espionage in the countries that are receiving the materials, and intercepted communications,” Weitz said.

More: North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

“It will be useful and it will certainly adapt and its an area that needs to grow, but unless China and Russia were really going all the way in, it’s going to be imperfect.”

Weitz also pointed out that North Korea will likely find another way to continue to get the materials and money it needs.

“Insofar as the maritime interdiction becomes more effective, the more North Korea will then turn to other means of smuggling material in and out,” he said. “Whether it be by air, through China, or other methods.”

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These are the details of recent strikes against ISIS

US and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria July 15, conducting 29 strikes consisting of 46 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.


Officials reported details of July 15 strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted 22 strikes consisting of 24 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, three strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed three oil stills and a vehicle.

— Near Shadaddi, two strikes destroyed an ISIS staging area and an artillery system.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, eight strikes destroyed 44 ISIS oil storage tanks, 22 oil stills, five cranes, a vehicle and a wellhead.

— Near Raqqa, nine strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed 14 fighting positions, two anti-air artillery systems and a vehicle bomb.

Strikes in Iraq

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
USMC photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 22 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Qaim, a strike destroyed a vehicle.

— Near Beiji, a strike destroyed a vehicle bomb and a vehicle bomb-making facility.

— Near Mosul, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed three fighting positions.

— Near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed seven boats, an ISIS-held building and a fighting position.

— Near Rawah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

July 13-14 Strikes

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

Additionally, 10 strikes were conducted in Syria and Iraq on July 13-14 that closed within the last 24 hours:

— On July 13 near Raqqa, Syria, two strikes damaged nine fighting positions and suppressed five mortar teams.

— On July 14 near Raqqa, Syria, five strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units, destroyed two fighting positions and two ISIS communications towers, and damaged four fighting positions.

— On July 14 near Kisik, Iraq, a strike damaged eight ISIS supply routes.

— On July 14 near Mosul, Iraq, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed 11 tunnel entrances.

— On July 14 near Qayyarah, Iraq, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed four boats, an ISIS-held building and a fighting position.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counter-fire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Army photo by Sgt. Ben Brody

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How airmen prepare for the Army’s legendary Ranger School

Imagine signing up to be starved, sleep deprived and trying to fight for survival during a 19-day combat leadership course in the mosquito-, rattlesnake- and wild boar-infested hilly terrain north of San Antonio with 28 other Airmen.

This was the scenario for 29 Airmen who took part in the Ranger Assessment Course at Camp Bullis, Texas, Oct. 29 – Nov. 16. Upon successful completion of RAC, the Airmen would have a chance to enroll in the coveted, yet even more grueling, Army Ranger Course.


Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Airmen from different career fields challenge themselves in the Ranger Assessment course which is a combat leadership course which can lead to attending Army Ranger School. The 29 Airmen who began the course came from six major commands and represented security forces, tactical air control party, airfield management and battlefield Airmen specialties.

One of the 12 instructors, Tech. Sgt. Gavin Saiz from the 435th Security Forces Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, said RAC is a combat leadership course emphasizing doctrine that uses a host of tactical and technical procedures to instruct the students, who have to learn and apply a firehose of information in a short period.

Qualified Airmen from any career field can attend the course, which is held twice a year. Efforts are underway to see if the course can be expanded to four times a year in order to conduct them in U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa and Pacific Air Forces. If the applicant is physically and mentally qualified, they can enroll in the course, but not everyone makes it to the finish line. The course has a 66-percent fail rate.

Since 1955 when the Army began accepting Airmen into its school, nearly 300 Airmen have earned the Ranger tab. The Army Ranger Course is one of the Army’s toughest leadership courses, with a concentration on small-unit tactics and combat leadership. The course seeks to develop proficiency in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in an around-the-clock, all-climates and terrain atmosphere. RAC is based on the first two weeks of the Army Ranger Course.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The RAC instructors provide this stress-oriented battle school for airmen to develop better leadership and command tools under the mental, emotional and physical strain. They push the students to improve their resiliency and coping mechanisms.

Capt. Nicholas Cunningham, 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, was one of five students selected for the Ranger Training Assessment Course (RTAC) which is a dynamic two-week spin up to acclimate Army and sometimes joint or partner service members to the rigors of Ranger School. If he successfully completes that course, he may be referred to Army Ranger School. “The course taught us tons of lessons about working as a team, pushing past mental limits and mostly leadership,” he said. “Where we as Ranger students at first were acting as individuals, we had to shift toward operating together as a single unit. The more we acted by ourselves, the worse we did as a team. To meet the objective, whether it was packing our clothes within a certain amount of time or assaulting an enemy force, required every Ranger to do their part of the task and then some.”

After the first week of classroom and hands-on training, Sloat said they select students for various leadership positions for the missions and then challenge them to plan, prepare and conduct missions, whether it is a recon or ambush mission. They plan backwards based on a higher headquarters Operation Order.

On the last day of missions, ten tired, hungry and cold Airmen made it to the finish line, having tested their mettle to the extremes. The 29 Airmen who began the course came from six major commands and represented security forces, tactical air control party, airfield management and battlefield Airmen specialties.

The first female to finish the course, 2nd Lt. Chelsey Hibsch from Yokota Air Base, Japan, has also been selected for RTAC. She said she saw more individuals fail as a follower because they didn’t want to go out of their way to help their partners succeed. “Those who were good followers tended to have others follow them with more enthusiasm because they had each other’s backs,” she said. “You learn how you react when everything is against you. Some individuals pressed on and others froze.”

The Air Force Security Forces Center, one of the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s subordinate units, hosted the course. The instructors, all having been through the course and graduated Army Ranger School, put the students through the mind-numbing days and nights. The instructors provide this stress-oriented battle school for Airmen to develop better leadership and command tools under the mental, emotional and physical strain and improve their resiliency and coping mechanisms.

Below are the names of those who successfully met the challenge in the 19-01 Ranger Assessment Course and will be recommended to attend the Army Ranger Course:
Staff Sgt. Paul Cdebaca/TACP/3 Air Support Operations Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson, Alaska
Staff Sgt. Mark Bunkley/TACP/350 SWTS – Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas
Senior Airman Troy Hicks/TACP/ 7 Air Support Operations Squadron– Ft. Bliss, Texas
Senior Airman Aaron Lee/SF/9 Security Forces Squadron, Beale AFB, California
Senior Airman Zachary Scott/SF/802 Security Forces Squadron, JBSA – Lackland, Texas

A second group of Airmen recommended for RTAC along with Cunningham and Hibsch:
Senior Airman Sage Featherstone/TACP/7 Air Support Operations Squadron, Ft. Bliss, Texas
Senior Airman Austin Flores/SF/75 Security Forces Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
Staff Sgt. Brayden Morrow/SF/341 Security Support Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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American dudes with rifles make a quick stop in Libya and no one knows why

A U.S. Air Force C-146A landed unannounced (and apparently uninvited) at Libya’s al-Watiyeh airbase last weekend. The numbers on the airplane that landed at the base Southwest of Tripoli match with craft assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron. Once on the ground, it dispatched a number of personnel, presumably American special operators.


Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The team of armed men wearing civilian clothes deplaned after 6am on December 14, 2015 without any cooperation from local authorities, which is why they were asked to take off. Their arrival had just enough time for the Libyan Air Force to broadcast them on social media.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The visit comes at a crucial time in Libya’s post-Qaddafi history. Factions of fractured Libya formed coalitions, militias and legislatures to claim legitimacy as the true head of government. One faction is Islamist-based and controls the traditional capital of Tripoli. The other is the democratically-elected, internationally-recognized government with the support of the Libyan Army, based in Tobruk. The two have been fighting since 2014.

The same week the U.S. special forces landed at al-Watiyeh, the two factions signed a UN-brokered peace accord to form a unity government while ISIS launched their own “Islamic police force” in the Libyan city of Sirte. Sirte is a former stronghold of support for deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s regime. The elected government will control the air base in the UN deal.

Aviation enthusiasts tracked the plane’s entire journey, and then tweeted it.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The purpose of the short layover is not yet known. The plane is part of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of unassuming special-ops planes with civilian call signs. (The Air Force has 17 of these.)  According to Inquisitr, when the Libyan Air Force personnel asked the assumed special forces members why they were there, the soldiers replied that they were part of a larger operation held “in coordination with other members of the Libyan army.” The forces were turned away anyway.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new artillery destroys targets without GPS

The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.

The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of an unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuse built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.


Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.

The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.

“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.

BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
A U.S. Army M109 howitzer.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica A. DuVernay)

“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.

Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.

GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attack without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envision as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.

The rise of near peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air, and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Marines assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit attach a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to an AV-8B Harrier II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Veronica Mammina)

Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers, and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation, and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.

Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.

At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite comms, harden networks, and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.

The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radiofrequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.

Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.

Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer range weapons and sensors.

This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — …”it is about out-ranging the enemy.”
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Mattis says US still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan

The Trump administration is still sorting out “the big ideas” for a new Afghanistan strategy, beyond troop levels and other military details, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said July 21.


“We’re close,” he said in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon one day after President Donald Trump met with him and his military chiefs for a broad discussion that aides said touched on Afghanistan and other issues.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and as recently as June, Mattis said, “we are not winning.”

Mattis told Sen. John McCain at a hearing last month that he would have the Afghanistan strategy ready by mid-July. On July 21 he was asked what is holding it up.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

“It just takes time,” he said. “It wasn’t that past presidents were dumb or anything else. This is hard work, so you’ve got to get it right. That’s all there is to it.”

He also said it is vitally important to “get the big ideas right,” meaning to establish a consensus within the government on what problem Afghanistan poses and what policy goal is being pursued by committing US troops there. He called this “orders of magnitude” more difficult than deciding military tactics.

“It’s easy only for the people who criticize it from the outside and who don’t carry the responsibility for integrating it altogether,” he said, referring to making diplomatic and economic elements a part of the overall strategy.

Although Mattis did not mention him July 21, McCain is among the more vocal critics of the administration’s lack of an Afghan strategy.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

On July 20, McCain mentioned his frustration on Afghanistan in a statement on the separate matter of the administration reportedly deciding to end a program to assist the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad.

“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan, either,” McCain said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mattis revealed no details of the ongoing administration debate.

He cast the Afghanistan problem in the context of past American wars, including those that did not end well — such as Vietnam — and those that still have not ended, such as Iraq. He said he wants to be sure there is administration agreement on the political goals as well as the military means.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“I realize this probably looks easy, but it is not easy,” he said.

Mattis said a decision disclosed by the Pentagon on July 21 to withhold $50 million in “coalition support funds” for Pakistan — money it receives each year as reimbursement for logistical support for US combat operations — was separate from deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy. Officials have said the US approach to Pakistan is an important part of the Afghan strategy debate, in part because a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. US officials called the Haqqani network the most lethal element of the Taliban opposition in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said in a statement July 21 that Mattis has informed congressional committees that he could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network to deserve full reimbursement this year. Of $900 million in proposed reimbursement, Pakistan earlier received $550 million and Congress a few months ago withheld $300 million.

Mattis’ certification decision means the remaining $50 million also will be withheld.

The Pentagon chief said this was not a reflection of a new, tougher US policy toward Pakistan.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire
A U.S. Army adviser from Task Force Forge conducts a room clearing drill with an Afghan trainee. (NATO photo by Kay M. Nissen)

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play” with regard to suppressing the Haqqani threat. “It’s not a policy. It is the reality.”

Pakistan is authorized to receive up to another $900 million in support funds this coming year, of which $400 million is subject to Pentagon certification of sufficient Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organizations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” a Pentagon spokesman, Adam Stump, said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter determined the Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network was insufficient, and as a result, $300 million in support funds was withheld.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans’ GI Bill benefits to continue during COVID-19 pandemic

Student Veterans will continue to receive their GI Bill benefits under S. 3503, which President Trump signed into law March 21.


The law enables VA to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students having to take courses online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

The law gives VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This allows for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from resident training to online training.

Thanks to the law, GI Bill students will continue receiving the same monthly housing allowance (MHA) payments they received for resident training until Dec. 21, or until the school resumes in-person classes.

In the wake of COVID-19, thousands of students nationwide have been converted to distance learning as many educational institutions are transitioning to technology-based lesson delivery.

“I commend President Trump and Congress for their work on this important law,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It will give Veteran students certainty as they continue their education.”

Students receiving GI Bill benefits are not required to take any action. Benefits will continue automatically. VA will work closely with schools to ensure accurately certified enrollments and timely processing. Updates will be provided to students via direct email campaigns and social media regarding VA’s effort to implement these new changes.

Students with specific questions can contact the Education Call Center at: 888-442-4551 between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.