Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.

The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.


Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”

After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.

“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”

The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.

“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.

One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.

The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.

“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”

Phase II, III

In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.

This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)

Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.

“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.

Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.

“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.

The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.

“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”

There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.

“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”

The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

A C-130 aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.

With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.

Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.

“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.

“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.


In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Also read: The hilarious reason Winnie the Pooh is banned in China

“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.

Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.

“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.

While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.

China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen.

Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.

In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”

Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.

Related: Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.

“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.

“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”

 

 

An excerpt of Xi’s speech:

“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.

We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.

We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.

More: China’s president is kind of a big deal

We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.

And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”

Lists

5 reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody

Every day, the ordinary person encounters issues that they find difficult to solve.


As veterans, we hail from a world of military service where conflict and struggle are constants.

But what separates most veterans from the average Joe is how we manage to resolve these frequent problems using our unique military backgrounds.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Related: 8 of the top federal agencies ranked by Americans

Check out five reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody.

5. We improvise, adapt, and overcome

No mission ever goes as expected. Although we plan for what we think might happen, there’s always a hiccup or two. We pride ourselves on our ability to think on our toes, come up with plans, and solve problems in ways civilians couldn’t fathom.

That’s our thing!

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Bear gets it.

4. We negotiate well under pressure

Many people freeze up when conflict arises. The military trains us to think under pressure and continue to execute until the mission is completed. We tend to carry that impressive trait over to the civilian workforce.

3. We learned to delegate responsibility

In the military, we’re trained to look for our team members’ strengths and positively utilize those traits. Not everyone can be great at everything. Focusing on individual talents builds confidence, which yields the best results when they’re tasked with a crucial mission.

Most civilians stay away from certain responsibilities if they know it’ll lead to a rough journey down the road.

We can tell. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Our experience alone solves issues

Most military personnel travel the world and encounter the problematic events that life throws at us. These experiences give us a worldly knowledge and teach us how we can better work with others outside of our comfort zone.

Also Read: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. We don’t stress about the little sh*t

Many of us have been a part of intense combat situations. So, when conflict does rear its ugly face, comparing those issues to a firefight quickly de-escalates the situation.

It’s a talent.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Articles

Boeing unveils commercial for Eagle 2040C


The F-15C has a very enviable combat record. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that during Operation Desert Storm, United States Air Force F-15s scored 36 kills in air-to-air combat.

The Royal Saudi Air Force notched two more kills with the F-15, and Israel has a number of kills with this plane as well.

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.

Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.

The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.

In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)

Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why taping your grenades is a terrible idea

Grunts everywhere are always searching for new ways to make their lives easier and more convenient. From buying lighter body armor to buying an original Magpul, we always want to improve our effectiveness on the battlefield. There are certain adopted rituals, however, that are actually more inconvenient than they are improvements. One such ritual is wrapping a single piece of duct tape around the pin of an M67 frag grenade.

This ritual stems from a fear that the pin might get snagged on a tree branch and get accidentally pulled, initiating the fuse countdown. Anyone who has pulled the pin on a grenade can tell you, though, it’s not that simple. Any Marines will tell you that the process is actually, “twist pull pin” because if you try to just pull it straight out, it ain’t happening.

Here’s why it’s a bad idea to tape your grenades:


Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

The training grenades have all those safeties for a good reason…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)

The pin is not the only safety

Hollywood would have you believe that all you have to do to use a grenade is pull that pin, but it’s not so simple. There’re three safeties on the M67: the thumb clip, the pin, and the safety lever (a.k.a. the “spoon”). The entire purpose of the thumb clip is to ensure the fuse isn’t triggered if the pin is pulled first.

We all know that one guy who pulled the pin before sweeping the safety clip and threw it into a room, waiting hopelessly for the grenade to go off… How embarrassing.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

When you think about it, you’re going through an unnecessary amount of effort for just a four second delayed explosion.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin)

You don’t have time

According to the Marine Corps Squad Weapons Student Handout for the Basic School, the average individual can throw a frag 30 to 40 meters. Why is this important? It means that if you’re using that glorious ‘Merica ball, it means you’re in close-quarters.

Do you have time to rip that tape off during a close encounter? No, you don’t.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

It’s not easy enough for you to pull it out with your teeth. Just take our word on that.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chelsea Baker)

The pin is already difficult enough to pull

The pin is in there just tightly enough so that you can rip it out quickly with the right amount of force, but it’s not so easy that it slips out when snagged on an inanimate object.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Notice how the pins are safely tucked inside.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

Experts say you shouldn’t

In an Army.mil article, Larry Baker, then-FORSCOM explosives safety and range manager, is quoted as saying.

“…to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence in the history of the M67 hand grenade to suggest that it requires taping and there is no evidence that a Soldier needs to tape it because of inherent safety issues.

Larry Baker, a Vietnam veteran, had nearly thirty years of experience at the time the article was written. He goes on to state that grenade pouches exist for the purpose of safely transporting grenades to your objective.

Articles

Army tests laser that shoots down drones

During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”


The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.

So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.

But the laser was the star.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)

“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.

Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.

But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.

Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”

“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”

Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.

A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.

For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.

popular

Airman claims she was abducted by aliens

In an interview with Aquarian Radio, Former Air Force radar trafficking operator Niara Terela Isley claims she was abducted at age 25 while working at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Throughout 1980, she was taken to the moon eight to ten times, where she was forced to have *ahem* relations with reptile aliens on the far side of the moon.


Her enslavement doesn’t stop at alleged abuse. In taped interviews, Isely says she was forced to operate machinery to excavate parts of the moon to expand the alien military installation there. The base is manned by reptilian personnel, “gray aliens” and humans as well. Her abductor was “humanoid, with a tail, yellow eyes and vertically split pupils, who would pass her around to other reptilians” and wouldn’t let her sleep.

Isely, now 60, lives in Colorado and is a mother of two. She recovered these memories through hypnosis when she noticed she couldn’t remember three months of her life during the year 1980.

The idea of reptilian, shape-shifting aliens didn’t originate with Isely. British conspiracy theorist David Icke believes they come from the Alpha Draconis star system and hide in underground bases. Icke believes they are creating a worldwide conspiracy against humans. Conspirators include Presidents Bush and Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Mick Jagger, Alan Greenspan, and Tony Blair.

 

“A group of reptilian humanoids, called the Babylonian Brotherhood, control humanity… I wish I didn’t have to introduce the following information [on reptilian shape-shifting] because it complicates the story and opens me up to mass ridicule. but I’m not afraid to go where information leads me. Humanity is mind controlled and only slightly more conscious than your average zombie.” – David Icke
The Biggest Secret (1999)

NOW: The 6 craziest military myths

OR: The guy who committed the biggest hack of the US military is still free

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to escape a minefield

Getting stuck in a minefield is the kind of situation where soiling yourself is understandable but not helpful. Most nations have agreed to stop buying mines and to destroy existing stockpiles, but minefields from decades ago are still a threat to modern troops.


Two airmen were stuck in a minefield just outside Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan in 2004. A group of British paratroopers were trapped by a field in 2006.

Here are some strategies that help troops get out alive:

Don’t move, but do call for help.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
It’s much better to call this dog and have sniff out a safe route than to try and find a route out on your own. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Samuel Padilla

 

If at all possible, don’t move. Call for help. It’s best if you can just call out verbally, but use a phone or radio if you have to. Minimize your transmissions. The signals could trigger remote-operated mines.

Hopefully, a nearby unit will be able to grab you. The British paratroopers were rescued by Blackhawk helicopters with winches and the U.S. airmen were saved by Army engineers.

Until rescue arrives, it’s imperative that movement is limited. In the British emergency, one soldier stumbled while trying to catch a water bottle and lost his leg. Another slipped off the rock he was standing on and lost his foot.

Step in existing footsteps and tire marks

If no help is coming, there’s a threat of enemy attack, or you can’t wait for rescue, you may have to escape the minefield on your own.

Aim for existing footprints or tire tracks. These areas are less likely to have mines since the explosives would’ve been triggered by the soldiers and vehicles that moved over them before.

At the very least your own footprints leading into the field will be present, so follow them out. Remember to step in the actual footprint, matching your earlier position as closely as possible. Missing by just an inch could trigger a dormant mine.

 

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Mines like the Claymore are commonly triggered by tripwires, so look carefully while moving. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Tramel Garrett

 

Remember to also watch out for trip wires as you step. You may not have snagged a wire on the way in, but these near-invisible wires could still be triggered by your passage out.

Finding your own way out

 

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Photo: US Army Spc. Kelly McDowell

 

Of course, sometimes no help is coming and your earlier route may be impassable. In this scenario, you’ll have to clear your own way out.

First, look for any minefield markings you may have missed. Markers painted white and red, signs with a skull and crossbones, or signs with the word “mines” on it could mark the edge of the field. If you can’t see markers, try to exit as close to where you entered as possible.

Obviously, ground-penetrating radar or a metal detector is the best way to search out potential mines in your escape route.

As an alternative, you can slide a stick into the ground at an angle. Most mines are sensitive to downward pressure, so something entering the dirt at an angle is less likely to trigger it. Getting onto your hands and knees to do this is dangerous, so scan your area carefully before getting down.

If possible, leave anything metal with a buddy. Some mines are triggered magnetically and a rifle, compass, or even dog tags could cause an explosion. Once you get out safely, he can follow your path and get out behind you.

WATCH: ‘Kilo Two Bravo’ tells the harrowing true story of soldiers trapped in an Afghan minefield 

Articles

This U.S. Army artillery unit savaged 41 Iraqi battalions in 72 hours

During Desert Storm the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment provided artillery support to the 24th Infantry Division throughout the invasion of Iraq. During one phase of the war they took out 41 Iraqi battalion, two air defense sites, and a tank company in less than 72 hours.


Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment fire their Multiple Launch Rocket Systems during certification. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob McDonald

3-27 entered Desert Storm with a new weapon that had never seen combat, the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Nearby soldiers took notice, to put it mildly, as the rockets screamed past the sound barrier on their way out of the launcher and then roared away from the firing point. A first sergeant from the 3-27 told The Fayetteville Observer that the first launch created panic in the American camp. Soldiers that had never seen an MLRS dove into cover and tried to dig hasty foxholes.

“It scared the pure hell out of everybody,” Sgt. Maj. Jon H. Cone said. But the Americans quickly came to love the MLRS.

“After that first time, it was showtime,” Cone said.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Carlos R. Davis

Like everyone else during the invasion, the 24th Infantry Division wanted to push deeper and seize more territory than anyone else. That meant their artillery support would be racing across the sand as well. 3-27 came through and actually spent a lot of time running ahead of the maneuver units, looking for enemy artillery and quickly engaging when any showed.

During a particularly daring move, the battalion’s Alpha battery moved through enemy lines and conducted a raid from inside enemy territory, engaging artillery and infantry while other U.S. forces advanced.

The largest single attack by the 3-27 was the assault on Objective Orange, two Iraqi airfields that sat right next to each other. 3-27 and other artillery units were assigned to destroy the Iraqi Army’s 2,000 soldiers, ten tanks, and two artillery battalions at the airfield so the infantry could assault it more easily.

The launchers timed their rockets to all reach the objective within seconds of each other, and used rockets that would drop bomblets on the unsuspecting Iraqi troops.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Duane Duimstra

A prisoner of war who survived the assault later told U.S. forces that the Iraqis were manning their guns when the rockets came in. When the rockets began exploding in mid-air, they cheered in the belief that the attack had failed. Instead, the bomblets formed a “steel rain” that killed most troops in the area and destroyed all exposed equipment.

By the time the infantry got to the airfields, the survivors were ready to surrender.

The battalion was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation after the war for extreme bravery under fire.

(h/t to The Fayetteville Observer‘s Drew Brooks and to “Steel Rain” by Staff Sgt. Charles W. Bissett)

MIGHTY CULTURE

9 epic photos of Marines drinking snake blood and eating scorpions

On Feb. 12, 2019, the US and Thailand launched Cobra Gold, one of the largest multi-national exercises in the world.

The annual exercise brings together 29 nations as participants or observers; nine participating countries include the US and Thailand as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea, according to a US Army release.

The exercise, which will end on Feb. 22, 2019, includes a field training exercise, humanitarian and disaster relief components.

One of the most anticipated aspects of the exercise is jungle survival training, when Royal Thai Marines teach their US counterparts how to identify edible foods, including plants and animals.

During the training, US troops have the opportunity to eat scorpions and geckos, and drink snake blood — all skills necessary to survive if one becomes isolated from their unit.


Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

U.S. Marines drink the blood of a king cobra during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

1. These Marines aren’t drinking snake blood just for show.

Jungle training teaches essential skills for survival in a wild, tropical environment.

Marines learn skills from identifying poisonous plants, differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes, and finding water sources if they get lost.

One of the instructors interviewed by Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg said that drinking animal blood is one way to stay hydrated in the absence of another water source.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

US Marines cheer on comrades during the highly anticipated jungle survival training during exercise Cobra Gold.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

A Royal Thai Marine instructor shows US Marines different types of snakes during jungle survival training.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

U.S. Marines watch as Royal Thai Marine instructor shows off a snake during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Royal Thai Marine Corps instructor passes around freshly cooked meat during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

A US Marine eats a scorpion in jungle survivor training during Cobra Gold 19.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Gassaway eats a plant during jungle survival training as part of Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Royal Thai Marine shows US Marines what to eat in the jungle during the exercise.

(US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Royal Thai and U.S. Marines learn how to make fire in the jungle during Cobra Gold 19.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Mary Calkin)

9. Marines also learn skills like building fires and alternate ways to stay hydrated.

“I didn’t know that ants are a trace of water. Wherever they’re filing to, they know where the location of water is,” said US Army Spc. Louis Smith.

Smith said that new knowledge is something he’d take back home with him.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops wearing unearned awards is still stolen valor

Troops and veterans have little sympathy for the clowns that put on a military uniform around Veterans Day just to try and get 10 percent off their restaurant bill. For lack of a more polite word, the military community offers nothing but unbridled rage to those unworthy of wearing uniform who degrade it in the public eye.

But there is another form of so-called “stolen valor” that rarely gets brought up within the military community — and that’s in-service stolen valor. The Army simply refers to it as being a “PX Ranger,” named after the fool who goes to the PX, buys a Ranger tab, and slaps it on without even stepping foot on the course, let alone completing it.

In addition to going against many official regulations, the troops who do this are damaging the good order and discipline of the military far more than the phonies who make laughable attempts to shave a few bucks off their lunch.


Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

You should know which awards you have. After all, you were likely there to receive them.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin)

Now, to be clear, there’s a huge difference between in-service stolen valor and the obligatory embellishments that come with military storytelling. It’s one thing to tell a group of younger Joes that, “no sh*t, there you were…” and it’s another to wear an unearned award to back up your claim. For starters, everyone knows to take service stories with a grain of salt. Amplifying a few details to get the point across is harmless; wearing accolades you’ve not earned, on the other hand, is strictly forbidden by Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Depending on the severity of the infraction, the accused could face a maximum punishment of forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a bad conduct discharge, and up to six months in confinement. According to the rules, there’s no distinction made between the guy who adds an extra oak leaf cluster to an Army Commendation Medal and the scumbag who tells everyone their Silver Star is “still being figured out by their last unit.”

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

There’s just some things you can’t just “yeah, well, you see. What had happened was” your way through. Being a ranger is one of them.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

This harms the military in several ways, the most prominent being that it takes away from the hard work and dedication of those who spent blood, sweat, and tears to get recognized. Regardless of the decoration, there’s weight behind it. If you see an NCO wearing a Ranger tab, you can assume that they’ve got a solid understanding of what it takes to be a bad*ss. They will become the go-to expert on all things relating to operational and tactical planning. If that understanding is built on a lie, then the entire unit suffers.

Because it is punishable under the UMCJ and it’s assumed that wearing a decoration means you’re worthy of it, there shouldn’t have to be the background checks that have inevitably cropped up because of these Blue Falcons. Sure, the old lady at the register still doesn’t ask for a Ranger School graduation certificate when someone buys the tab, but these phonies have helped foster an unwarranted level of scrutiny among the troops. Any real Ranger can easily provide proof, yes, but it’s a shame we need to spend time validating what we’ve already earned because of a few bad apples.

There isn’t anything wrong with being the average Joe in the formation. The moment you raised your right hand and completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’ve earned the respect of all the brothers and sisters who’ve come before you.

Embrace who you are. If you want to be better, go out and be better. Talk to your training room about getting into that school you want. Do extraordinary things in your unit to get that prestigious award. Request a change in MOS if you feel like you’re being held back by your position in the unit. Whatever you do, don’t just pin yourself with something unless you’ve earned it — or else you’re no better than the prick screaming for a military discount after buying a uniform online.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how early World War II cluster bombs worked

The Joint Direct Attack Munition gets a lot of attention for its ability to strike within 30 feet of a target, no matter what the weather is like. But with all that attention, other bombs get short shrift it seems. Take, for instance, the cluster bomb.


Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

The German SD2 bore a resemblance to a butterfly, getting the nickname “Butterfly bomb.”

(U.S. Army)

JDAMs can’t do everything

The truth is that cluster bombs can do things that JDAMs simply can’t. In fact, the bombs are so useful that, this past December, Secretary of Defense James Mattis decided to reverse the Obama Administration’s plan to ditch these valuable weapons. Despite recent controversy and efforts to ban their use, systems like these have been around for decades.

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

The CBU-103 is a modern cluster bomb, able to hit within 85 feet of its aimpoint with 202 BLU-97 submunitions from 10 miles away.

(U.S. Air Force)

Germany’s lethal “butterflies”

Cluster bombs first saw widespread use by both sides in World War II. The Germans used a version called the “Butterfly bomb,” also known as the SD2, which carried a number of “bomblets,” or four-and-a-half-pound submunitions. One attack in 1943 on British cities used over 3,000 of these bombs — some were set to go off immediately, others had a delayed detonation.

The system proved effective, so the United States made copies of that bomb: the M28 (100lbs) and the M29 (500lbs). The Americans added a proximity fuse to some of the bomblets, making them even more devastating to troops caught in the open.

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Modern cluster bombs are more lethal

Today, modern cluster bombs, like the CBU-97, make attack planes like the F-15E Strike Eagle or strategic bombers like the B-1B Lancer capable of wiping out dozens of tanks in a single pass. Other cluster bombs opt to replace the boom with the ability to knock out a country’s electrical grid.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Six years ago, Dutch intelligence agents reportedly infiltrated a malicious group of hackers working out an office building not far from the Kremlin. Dutch agents hacked into a security camera that monitored people entering the Moscow building, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant; they also reportedly monitored in 2016 as the hackers broke into the servers of the U.S. Democratic Party.

The hackers came to be known as APT-29 or The Dukes, or more commonly, Cozy Bear, and have been linked to Russia’s security agencies. According to the report, the Dutch findings were passed onto U.S. officials, and may have been a key piece of evidence that led U.S. authorities to conclude the Kremlin was conducting offensive cyberoperations to hack U.S. political parties during the 2016 presidential campaign.


Fast forward to 2020: the Cozy Bear hackers are back — though for those watching closely, they never really went anywhere.

British, American, and Canadian intelligence agencies on July 16 accused Cozy Bear hackers of using malware and so-called spear-phishing emails to deceive researchers at universities, private companies, and elsewhere.

‘Totally Unacceptable’

The goal, the agencies said, was to steal research on the effort to create a vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

“APT-29 is likely to continue to target organizations involved in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as they seek to answer additional intelligence questions relating to the pandemic,” the British National Cyber Security Center said in a statement, released jointly with the Canadian and U.S. agencies.

“It’s totally unacceptable for Russian intelligence services to attack those who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations “unacceptable.”

“We can say only one thing: that Russia has nothing to do with these attempts,” he told reporters.

The advisory did not name which companies or organizations had been targeted, nor did it say whether any specific data was actually stolen. The head of the British National Cyber Center said the penetrations were detected in February and that there was no sign any data had actually been stolen.

The advisory did say the hackers exploited a vulnerability within computer servers to gain “initial footholds” and that they had used custom malware not publicly associated with any campaigns previously attributed to the group.

Russia’s main intelligence agencies are believed to all have offensive cybercapabilities of one sort or another.

Sophisticated Techniques

Cyber-researchers say Cozy Bear most likely is affiliated with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR, possibly in coordination with the country’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to researchers, the group’s origins date back to at least 2008 and it has targeted companies, universities, research institutes, and governments around the world.

The group is known for using sophisticated techniques of penetrating computer networks to gather intelligence to help guide Kremlin policymakers.

It is not, however, known for publicizing or leaking stolen information, something that sets it apart from a rival intelligence agency whose hacking and cyberoperations have been much more publicized in recent years — the military intelligence agency known widely as the GRU.

GRU hackers, known as Fancy Bear, or APT-28, have been accused of not only hacking computer systems, but also stealing and publicizing information, with an eye toward discrediting a target. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused GRU hackers of stealing documents from U.S. Democratic Party officials in 2016, and also of leaking them to the public in the run-up to the November presidential election.

“The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in a July 2018 indictment that charged 12 GRU officers. “These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Three months later, U.S. prosecutors in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, issued a related “Fancy Bear” indictment accusing some of the same officers of conducting a four-year hacking campaign targeting international-sport anti-doping organizations, global soccer’s governing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and other groups.

A GRU officer named in the Mueller indictment has also been named by German intelligence as being behind the 2015 hack of the Bundestag.

But unlike the GRU and the Fancy Bear hackers, there has never been any public identification of specific Cozy Bear hackers or criminal indictments targeting them.

The U.S.-based cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, which was the first to publicly document the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee, said in its initial report that both the Cozy Bear and the Fancy Bear hackers had penetrated the committee’s network, apparently independently of each other.

Unclear Motives

It’s not clear exactly what the motivation of the Cozy Bear hackers might be in targeting research organizations, though like many other nations, Russia is racing to develop a vaccine that would stop COVID-19, and stealing scientific data research might help give Russian researchers a leg up in the race.

Russia has reported more than 765,000 confirmed cases. Its official death toll, however, is unusually low, and a growing number of experts inside and outside the country say authorities are undercounting the fatalities.

In the past, Western intelligence and law enforcement have repeatedly warned of the pernicious capabilities of Russian state-sponsored hackers. In the United States, authorities have sought the arrest and extradition of dozens of Russians on various cybercharges around the world.

As in the Mueller indictments, U.S. authorities have used criminal charges to highlight the nexus between Russian government agencies and regular cybercriminals– and also to signal to Russian authorities that U.S. spy agencies are watching.

For example, the Mueller indictment identified specific money transfers that the GRU allegedly made using the cryptocurrency bitcoin to buy server capacity and other tools as part of its hacking campaigns.

As of last year, those efforts had not had much effect in slowing down state-sponsored hacking, not just by Russia, but also by North Korea, Iran, China, and others.

“[I]n spite of some impressive indictments against several named nation-state actors — their activities show no signs of diminishing,” Crowdstrike said in a 2019 threat report.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political consultant and former top Kremlin adviser, downplayed the Western allegations.

“We are talking about the daily activities of all secret services, especially regarding hot topics like vaccine secrets,” he told Current Time. “Of course, they are all being stolen. Of course, stealing is not good, but secret services exist in order to steal.”

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers signaled that the findings would add further momentum to new sanctions targeting Russia.

“It should be clear by now that Russia’s hacking efforts didn’t stop after the 2016 election,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

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

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