Army scientists, working with officials from the National Football League, have developed a wearable device that helps reduce head and neck injuries.
The Rate-Activated Tether, is a flexible strap that connects a helmet to shoulder pads or body armor, said Shawn Walsh of the Weapons and Material Research Directorate at Army Research Laboratory.
“What happens is if that when head is exposed to adverse acceleration, this RAT strap will basically transition into a rigid device that will transmit the load to the body, and it has been proven to significantly reduce acceleration,” Walsh told defense reporters at a recent roundtable discussion sponsored by Program Executive Office Soldier.
Over the years, the Defense Department has partnered with the NFL and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to research brain injuries. For example, the Army beginning in 2007 put blast sensors into tens of thousands of helmets to monitor head injuries from roadside bombs in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon and NCAA in 2014 announced a joint study into concussions.
Army scientists are not sure if the device will eliminate Traumatic Brain Injury or concussions, but “we can say with some confidence that there is some benefit to reducing adverse acceleration,” Walsh said.
The device could help to prevent head injuries sometimes experienced by paratroopers, Walsh said.
“It is a known fact that paratroopers do experience head injuries,” he said. “They are trained to land very carefully, but sometimes at night, in the rain or in irregular terrain and something goes just a little off, they can land on their head,” he said. “There is some very real Army applications associated with that as well.”
Army officials also discussed more long-term science and technology initiatives such as a project to design robots that could one day deploy shields to protect soldiers in a firefight.
“Part of our job at the research center is to kind of try to push the Army out of its comfort zone,” Walsh said. “One of the things we are exploring now is robotics.”
An effort known as Robotic Augmented Soldier Protection is designed to shadow soldiers and deploy a protective shield when an attack occurs, Walsh said.
“A lot of people associate robotics with lethality, but what we are looking at is can we use robotics in a purely protective mode?” Walsh said. “Can we use these robotics to deploy protective mechanisms … that can work to protect a human?”
What is lacking right now is the science, Walsh said, adding that the Army is trying to work with the academic community on the effort.
Army officials that develop soldier requirements at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia are also interested in the concept, said Col. Curt “Travis” Thompson, director of the Soldier Division at Training and Doctrine Command’s Capability Manpower – Soldier.
“We are the closest touchpoint to the soldiers who are out in the field … but that doesn’t mean that we are the closest touch point to the realm of the possible or where we should be going,” he said. “We absolutely rely on ARL to kind of inform us to what is possible.”
The service’s leadership has shown interest in the effort, Walsh said.
“The Army is encouraging us; we were actually down at Fort Benning,” Walsh said. “They want to see more prototyping. They want to be introduced to these concepts as soon as possible.”
While still a fledgling effort, ARL does have a working prototype, he said.
“We are not saying that every soldier would have one,” Walsh said. “This is only useful in certain scenarios.”
The Air Force F-22 has been refining it dog-fighting skills, assessing technical upgrades and testing air to air combat tactics during a recent Red Flag exercise in Nevada – designed to improve attack maneuvers and solidify emerging communications technologies and sensors, service officials said.
The aircraft, from the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, have been performing air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air operations in mock combat scenarios.
“Red Flag incorporates all spectrums of warfare to include command and control, real-time intelligence, analysis and exploitation, and electronic warfare,” MSgt. Sanjay Allen, 57th Wing Public Affairs, Nellis Air Force Base, told Warrior Maven.
While Allen said the F-22s in particular are performing primarily air-to-air support, the aircraft is also shown to be effective as a close air support platform; it has performed close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Confronting simulated “Red” force ground and air threats, F-22s attacked targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites, added.
Although modern weapons such as long-range air-to-air missiles, and the lack of near-peer warfare in recent years, means dogfighting itself is less likely these days. However, as the service prepares for future contingencies against technologically advanced adversaries – maintaining a need to dogfight is of great significance. For instance, the emerging Chinese J-10 and Russian 5th Gen PAK-50 clearly underscore the importance of this.
Advanced dogfighting ability can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
Connectivity with air and ground combat assets, drawing upon emerging data-link technology, has been a key part of the exercise as the Air Force strengthens efforts to work with other services on cross-domain fires operations.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improve data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
”If somebody broke our encryption they could listen to our conversation. LINK 16 transit allows us to share our screen without having any voice pass,” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 Programs, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Merchant added that F-35-F-22 LINK 16 connectivity should be operational by 2020.
“This new philosophy will allow us to set an aggressive target for ourselves. Pilots will be better able to see an enemy or air-to-air asset coming their way,” Merchant said.
Once fielded, the F-22 TACLink 16 will enable the F-22 to receive and transmit with other platforms, such as the F-35, F-16, F-15
and others, Grabowski said.
Additional F-35-F-22 LINK 16 tests are planned for 2019 and 2020.
First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called “super-cruise” capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22.
The F-22 is built with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said.
The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds.
One of the most important skills a Marine can possess is to be lethal with their primary weapon. ‘Every Marine is a rifleman’ is a motto that personnel other than grunts use against infantrymen in arguments. It’s not just about bragging rights, we’re playing for keeps. A high rifle score is essential for a promotion. Earning a perfect rifle score is not just achievable but repeatable. Here’s how.
For the uninitiated, Marines have an annual rifle range requirement. There are two events, Table One and Table Two. They will go to the rifle range and sleep there; it is usually mandatory to stay but if not, Marines have the option to drive home or barracks room. The first week is Grass Week where Marines practice maintaining firing positions and aim at a firing barrel. Coaches may schedule this on an open field near the barracks. The second week they will go to the live fire range and qualify for their rifle badges.
Only Table One is for bragging rights. However, for promotions the total is used.
On Table One the maximum score is 250 and Table Two it is 50. The scores are combined and the total is used toward their cutting-score, a cumulative number required for a promotion to the next rank. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on Table One.
Most Marines do not know that there are waivers for those ranked Expert two or more years in a row. If you hate going to the range for two weeks and eating box chow in a pit, earning the Expert Badge has benefits. Your unit may issue an order to send Marines to the range en masse, this may be the time you want to mention it.
Chapter 2, 2002. section g. Marines who qualify Expert for two consecutive years are eligible for a 1-year exemption from firing. No expert scores prior to 1 Oct 05 will be counted towards meeting the two consecutive expert criteria. This exemption is not automatic and must be granted by commanding officers at the company level or higher based on demonstrated proficiency, training, deployment schedules, and other factors deemed applicable. Marines granted this exemption will be required to fire during the next fiscal year and every other year thereafter while the Marine maintains an expert score and is granted an exemption by their Commander. Marines who qualify less than expert will be required to fire expert two consecutive years in order to be eligible for the exemption again.
I hope you kept your name clean because this is one of those times when a good reputation pays off.
1. Take Grass Week seriously
Whether you are personnel other than grunt or a seasoned veteran of the middle east, take Grass Week seriously. To be complacent here is going to set up a weak foundation for the next week. Take a slice of humble pie and really work on your bone support and fundamentals of marksmanship. Ask your coaches to help you with your form. The both of you are literally there all day, all week, so you might as well give them something to do and earn their pay. Make them be your personal coach because everyone else is goofing off. Your rifle score will thank you.
2. Slow and steady squeeze of the trigger timed with your breathing
Pulling the trigger should be almost a surprise. Control your breathing, squeeze the trigger on the exhale and time the shot when your body is completely at rest.
3. Review the range book for any changes from last year
Again, complacency can kill your rifle score. Some people do not even open the log until test day and are lost in the sauce on where to write things. The worst time to familiarize yourself with the paperwork of the rifle range is when you are at the rifle range. Take literally two minutes and know where everything is in there, so you do not have to scrabble when every second counts later.
4. Mark every shot in the range book
I don’t know why some people are averse to writing things in the rifle book. Maybe it’s pride or hubris. Regardless, mark your shots. At some point during the range, a Marine will have the misfortune of a shot called a miss when they know they hit. That Marine can contest the call and have the pit investigate in detail for the shot. Sometimes a thing called a keyhole will happen which is when a shot hits the edge of another hole. It’s hard to notice the first time around but those guys in the pit have been looking at that target all day. If it happened, they will find it.
The burden of proof is on you first, if you didn’t mark your shots you can’t prove it was their mistake and not yours. Who would you believe? A Marine with attention to detail or one who can’t be bothered to mark a dot on a piece of paper?
5. Do not give pit love
Pit love is when someone pulling targets falsifies a shot for the benefit of the shooter. Bro, c’mon. We’re not in elementary school where you help your best friend cheat on the test. The Marines running the range are aware of cheating and every method that has been used. You will be with people you do not know from other units and they will not give you pit love. They will believe they shot on merit and that you suck. The only way to prove otherwise is to admit you cheated. Don’t do it.
6. For a higher rifle score, do not shoot the target as soon as it comes back up
The Marines pulling the targets may not be paying attention immediately as the target goes up. They are surrounded by the sounds of hundreds of bullets impacting around them. If you fire as soon as it comes up because you’re in a rush they may not see it in time. As a result, you will have a target that does not come down and labelled a miss. This is when your marked shots in your range book will come in handy to challenge the call and have them look for it again.
Or you could’ve avoided it by taking a breath, concentrating on your fundamentals of marksmanship and fired your well-aimed shot.
7. Use that coach as much as possible
They will tell you if your breathing is off, if you’re jerking the trigger, whether your footing or shoulders are off or if your sling is too loose. Be as annoying as possible because you’re a war-fighting professional and you deserve your dedication to pay off. When coaches see someone taking the rifle range seriously, they will huddle around that person and give more instruction. When you start shooting high, everyone wants to know who is the badasses climbing their way to expert or even a perfect score.
Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.
Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.
It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.
With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.
“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”
Creating a Cadre
Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.
The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.
Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.
“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.
For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.
Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.
“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”
The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.
“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.
February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.
Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.
That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.
The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.
Foundation of Skills
Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.
Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.
“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.
Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.
“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.
“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.
Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.
“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.
According to a1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.
“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.
“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.
Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.
“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”
But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.
Rooted in History
Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.
Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.
“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.
Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.
The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.
When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.
With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.
“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.
New Focus on Warrant Officers
“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.
While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.
“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.
“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.
Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.
Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.
Key Decisions Ahead
Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.
“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”
Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.
“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.
“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.
While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.
“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.
“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”
Having completed their missions, some troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are heading back to their home bases, US Northern Command reported Dec. 13, 2018.
The number of troops at the border, which peaked at 5,900 troops from across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, has been decreasing. Around 750 service members serving in Texas and Arizona redeployed to their home bases to prepare for other missions on Dec. 12, 2018. The Department of Defense currently has roughly 4,200 active-duty troops at the southern border.
By state, there are 1,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,000 in Arizona, and 1,500 in California. There are also approximately 2,100 National Guard units deployed to the US-Mexico border. For the active-duty troops, the mission, originally known as Operation Faithful Patriot but later renamed “border support,” was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018, but the Department of Defense agreed to extend the mission to the end of January following a Department of Homeland Security Request.
Army engineers install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, on the Anzalduas International Bridge, Texas.U.S Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure the southern border of the United States.
(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)
The troops that have left the southern border are certain engineering, logistics, and headquarters units, some of which were involved in hardening points of entry and erecting barriers. Since late October 2018, troops have set up 70 miles of wire obstacles and moveable barriers at 22 ports of entry.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Among the remaining troops are military police units, which have completed 10,000 man-hours of unit training — including tactical and riot control training — in recent weeks, while military rotary wing aviators flew more than 740 hours in support of the border mission. These units will continue their service in border areas.
Several thousand troops were sent to the border toward the end of October 2018 to support Customs and Border Protection as large caravans consisting of thousands of Central American migrants marched northward. While the mission initially focused on barrier emplacement, a force protection element has also been incorporated for the active-duty military personnel deployed to the border.
U.S. Soldiers and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, practice non-lethal crowd control drills at the Calexico West Port of Entry in Calexico, California on Nov. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Nyatan Bol)
While there was a clash between migrants and CBP personnel at the San Ysidro port of entry November 2018, there have not been any serious escalations since. Some of the migrants have actually started heading home.
President Donald Trump stated Dec. 11, 2018, that the military could be directed to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but the Pentagon explained the same day that there is no plan at this time for service members to do so.
Many of the president’s critics have accused Trump of using the military for a political stunt. These accusations have been rejected by the Department of Defense and the administration.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.
The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.
2. Stealth Coating
It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.
3. Smart Tanks
DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.
4. Space Drones
DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.
5. Jetpack-Assisted Running
The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.
The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.
Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.
No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM
We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
The Sherp all-terrain Russian adventure-mobile looks like a Tonka truck. The two-passenger ATV with 63-inch wheels is deceiving in that it appears much larger than it actually is from far away.
The Sherp’s all-terrain capabilities are impressive. With nearly two feet of ground clearance, it can roll over brush fields, swamps, forest floors, and even fallen trees — it can clear anything up to 27.5 inches tall. Its ridged wheels are grapplers in rocky terrain and act as water paddles in the river.
The truck is way underpowered, however, sporting a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 44 hp. The engine gives it a head-spinning speed of 28 mph on land and 3.7 mph in the water. Despite the power let down, it looks incredibly fun to drive.
On December 1st of 2020, Fort Benning launched a new type of platform. One where soldiers could bring their best ideas to the table and have them heard by the higher-ups. Known as the Maneuver Innovation Challenge, or MIC, the goal was to bring in great ideas that could help all involved, from soldiers, to the base as a whole, and the programs that help it run. It was put into action by Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.
Inspired in part by the TV show, Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, the MIC created a way for small voices to be heard in a big way. Maj. Gen. Donahoe served as a judge, along with Col. Matthew Scalia, Sgt. 1st Class Kendall Willridge, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McAuliffe, Dr. Jay Brimstin and Capt. Joseph Barnes.
The project was announced through a series of videos and social media posts, alerting people to sign up with their idea.
“The best ideas are not going to come from some old, staid general. They’re gonna come from some young sergeant figuring out the next great solution. So join us in the Maneuver Innovation Program, and let’s figure out the next big idea,” – Donahoe said.
The MIP works like this: between Dec. 1st and Feb. 1, 2021, soldiers and civilians could pitch their ideas to the cause. Using an online platform, folks submitted their best ideas to the powers that be. A total of 23 ideas were collected online, ranging from functional apps, to improving tank camouflaging, to programs to help divorced, dual military couples.
The team narrowed the ideas to four finalists, which were pitched live to judges on Feb. 4th. Those making the cut earned prizes in their own right, including:
• A four-day pass.
• Sitting as Donahoe’s guest(s) for a luncheon at MCoE headquarters.
• Official backing for a training course of their choice at Fort Benning, if enrollment qualifications are met.
After the competition, a video was released on Twitter with the hashtag #shootmoveinnovate, announcing that the final four ideas would be put into action by integrating with facilities through TRADOC, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innovation program resources.
The ideas included: streamlining policies for on-post housing, an app for maintaining digital accountability of soldiers during holiday block leave, and multiple variations for digital options for in/out-processing.
“They’re all winners, Donahoe said. “Clearly when you look at it, all good ideas.”
Tommy Prince was a member of the Ojibwa, one of Canada’s First Nations tribes (what the United States calls Native Americans or American Indians), who tried many times to join the Canadian Army during WWII.
Prince became a sapper first, then a paratrooper, and a member of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Eventually, he was sent to a special forces unit, the 1st Special Service Force — a combined special forces operation with the United States known to the enemy as “the Devil’s Brigade.”
These are the unbelievable missions that helped Tommy Prince become one of Canada’s most celebrated soldiers, the country’s most decorated indigenous veteran, and the most decorated member of the Devil’s Brigade:
5. Attacking an impenetrable mountain fortress.
The Italian Campaign was young in 1943, but the Special Service Force was assigned to go behind the enemy lines at the Battle of Monte La Difensa. It was a steep, mountainous fortress that already repelled three full-scale Allied assaults.
The Devil’s Brigade changed the situation in a hurry.
Prince walked across the entire front line near the village of Majo, infiltrated every single machine gun bunker, and killed everyone inside. Without making a sound. When the Allies advanced the next morning, the machine guns were silent.
4. Reporting on German movements right in front of them.
In 1944, Prince was in Italy running a communications line. He was reporting enemy movements back to the Allied forces near Littoria. As a Nazi artillery position fired on his allies, Tommy Prince was about 200 meters away, watching every move the Nazis made and reporting it to his command.
The comms wire was accidentally cut during the battle. Prince disguised himself as a farmer and began to work the land. He shouted curses at both Axis and Allied troops.
When his work took him to the cut in the wire, he bent over to “tie his shoe,” repaired the wire, and pressed on with his 24-hour long watch.
3. Walking three days to fight an entire enemy camp, then capturing everyone.
Just after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Summer 1944 invasion of Southern France, Prince was assigned to locate an enemy camp in the nearby mountains. He walked across the terrain for three days with little food or water to find it. Once he did, he walked back to the Allied lines only to lead the assault force on the camp.
The small assault team captured some 1,000 enemy prisoners. He was called to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with the Military Medal and the American Silver Star.
2. Rescuing the French Resistance along the way.
As Prince hiked around Southern France, he ran into resistance partisans in a firefight with some Germans. To level the playing field, the Canadian started to pick off as many Nazis as he could with just a rifle and his elevated position.
The young Native was an expert marksman from childhood, so the Nazis were easy pickings.
They quickly broke off the fight and ran. When Prince came down to talk to the Frenchmen, they told him his fire was so intense, thought they were rescued by an Allied infantry company.
1. Using Moccasins to sneak into German barracks…just to show them he could.
His compatriots in the Devil’s Brigade knew Prince carried moccasins in his kit bag. Using these instead of his boots allowed Prince to sneak into anywhere he wanted, including enemy barracks.
At night, he would enter Nazi barracks as they slept, steal their shoes (sometimes off their feet), and slit the throats of every third soldier.
The makers of China’s new J-20 stealth fighter revealed the combat mission of the aircraft, and one of its key tasks would most likely see it getting shot down by decades-old US and European fighter jets.
The J-20 has impressed observers with its advanced design and formidable weapons, but the jet’s actual combat mission has remained somewhat of a mystery.
But Andreas Rupprecht, a German researcher focused on China’s air power, recently posted an informational brochure from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the J-20’s maker, laying out its mission.
It described the J-20 as a “heavy stealth” fighter that’s “renowned” for its dominance in medium- and long-range air combat and first lists “seizing maintaining air superiority” as its core missions.
But the J-20s purported air-superiority role is likely to raise more eyebrows.
J-20 stealth fighter jet.
(Flickr photo by emperornie)
J-20 loses the old-fashioned fight for the skies
Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that for the J-20, fighting US or European jets for control of the skies represents a losing battle.
The J-20 is “certainly likely to be more capable as an air-superiority platform than anything else the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” — China’s air force’s official name — “is currently operating,” Bronk said.
“With a powerful radar and multiple internal air-to-air missiles as well as long range, it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as an air-superiority machine,” he continued.
But just because it’s China’s best doesn’t mean it can hold a candle to Europe’s Typhoon fighter or even the US’s F-15, which first flew in 1972.
“In terms of thrust to weight, maneuverability, and high-altitude performance, it is unlikely to match up to the US or European air-superiority fighters,” Bronk said.
China’s J-20 made a solid entry into the world of stealth fighter aircraft and became the only non-US stealth jet in the world. It’s designed to significantly limit the ability of US radar to spot and track the large fighter, but the stealth mainly works on the front end, while the J-20 is flying straight toward the radar.
Tactically, experts have told Business Insider, the J-20 poses a serious threat in the interception and maritime-strike roles with its stealth design, but so far the jet has yet to deliver.
China has suffered embarrassing setbacks in domestically building jet engines that would give the J-20 true fifth-generation performance on par with the F-35 or the F-22.
Bronk said China still appears years away from crossing this important threshold that would increase the range and performance of the jets.
“The engines are a significant limiting factor” in that they require inefficient use of afterburners and limit high-altitude performance, Bronk said.
An F-15C Eagle preparing to refuel with a KC-135R Stratotanker.
(US Air Force photo)
What air superiority looks like
As it stands, the J-20 couldn’t match the F-15 or the Eurofighter Typhoon, or even get close to an F-22, Bronk said.
“Against the F-15C and Typhoon, the J-20 has a lower radar cross section but worse performance, and its air-to-air missiles are unlikely to yet match the latest [US] series and certainly not the new European Meteor,” Bronk said.
Bronk said that China had made great strides in air-to-air missile development and was testing at an “extremely high” pace, so the capability gap could close in a few short years.
But how does the J-20 stack up to the greatest air-superiority plane on the planet today, the F-22?
“The F-22 likely significantly outperforms the J-20 in almost every aspect of combat capability except for combat radius,” Bronk said, referring to the farthest distance a loaded plane can travel without refueling.
Undoubtedly, the J-20 represents a significant leap in Chinese might and poses a serious and potentially critical threat to US air power in its ability to intercept and launch deep strikes.
But in the narrow role of air superiority — beating the best fighters the other side can offer to gain control of the sky — the US and Europe could most likely beat down China’s J-20 without much trouble.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.