Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army gets new tech for training Black Hawk aircrews

Three years after the first prototype for the Black Hawk aircrew trainer was set up and implemented as a training aid at Fort Bliss, Texas, that technology has been enhanced.

A team from System Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation & Missile, also known as AMRDEC, has developed the Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment. Crew chiefs and gunners can train in a realistic setting where they see and hear the same things simultaneously.


Because there was no funding, Joseph P. Creekmore Jr., S3I aviation trainer branch chief and BAT Project director, said BAT team members used borrowed or discarded materials to work on the CAPE during breaks between scheduled projects.

It paid off.

“Design began over a year ago at a somewhat frustratingly slow pace for the BAT Team but, week by week and part by part, the CAPE device took shape and became the device we have today,” Creekmore said.

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

The singular focus of the Army’s modernization strategy is making sure the warfighter and their units are ready to fight, win, and come home safely. As the head of the BAT Project, Creekmore said he believes the Army needs the CAPE to contribute to and ensure readiness in aircrews.

“Because we are a nation that has been continuously at war since 9/11, all the BAT Projects’ Army aviators have experienced combat overseas,” Creekmore said. “They all went into combat as part of a trained team.

“They all survived combat because they fought as a team. All the BAT Project’s former and retired Army aviators know to their very core that, to fight and win America’s wars, the Army must train as it fights and that includes training as a full aircrew,” Creekmore explained. “So, from Day 1, the BAT Project dreamed and planned for an opportunity to demonstrate an excellent whole-crew trainer that would contribute to the readiness of all U.S. Army Air Warriors.”

CAPE and BAT are linked using an ethernet connection. Creekmore said the nine locations with fielded BAT devices only need a tethered CAPE to provide Army aviation units with a way to train a complete UH-60 aircrew.

Manuel Medina, S3I assimilated integration technician, said he was blown away when he was first introduced to this technology. “Back when I was in, we didn’t even have anything like this… If we had the flight hours and the maintenance money to train, we would.”

According to Jarrod Wright, S3I lead integrator who built the BAT, many aircraft incidents are a result of some type of aircrew miscommunication.

Manuel Medina, assimilated integration technician with Systems Simulation and Software Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Aviation Missile, demonstrates the capability Collective Aircrew Proficiency Environment that is tethered to the Black Hawk Aircrew Trainer.

(Photo by Evelyn Colster)

“What we’re trying to do here is … teach that crew coordination to allow pilots and crew chiefs to train like they would in combat with two devices tethered to each other,” said Wright, who spent more than eight years as a crew chief.

“In combat, no UH-60 breaks ground without its full complement of two rated aviators, a non-rated crew chief/door gunner and a second door gunner,” Creekmore explained. He said this type of equipment and training is necessary to maintain the high performance level and proficiency that exists in our Warfighters.

“This environment allows you, not only to train, but to evaluate potential crew chiefs and door gunners,” Wright posited. “You’re not throwing someone in there and saying, ‘I hope he gets it’.”

Medina, also a former gunner and crew chief, said this technology can benefit the Army in many ways. Not only can maintenance costs, flight hours, fuel, and training dollars be reduced, but the BAT and CAPE systems focus on considerations like spatial orientation or disorientation, response to changes in gravity, and susceptibility to airsickness. These devices mimic conditions crews see in flight and can identify adverse reactions while minimizing inherent risks.

The BAT Project team has high hopes for the CAPE.

“It is my hope that … the Army invests in further development of the CAPE and then fields it as BAT mission equipment so we can get this critical training capability in the hands of UH-60 aircrews throughout the Army,” Creekmore said.

Wright said the potential exists to use this technology to train complete crews in rescue hoisting and cargo sling load — any scenario they might encounter in any type of combat or rescue situation. He even sees the possibility for the BAT and CAPE to be used as preparation for hurricane relief or similar missions.

The Aviation Missile Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why ‘Phoenix Raven’ is the Air Force’s most rigorous training

The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.


The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.

This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.

Providing security

The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Kayla Wadley, bottom, and Air Force Airman Emmanuel Benitez, both students in a mobile Phoenix Raven Qualification Course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, participate in a physical training session, Jan. 30, 2018. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.

The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.

Vigorous physical training

The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.

Also read: Here are the best military photos for the week of November 25th

McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.

“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”

Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bataan Death March survivor just died at 100

A San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II has died. He was 100.


Ramon Regalado died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honor Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.

U.S. Army National Guard and Filipino soldiers shown at the outset of the Bataan Death March. (Image from The National Guard Flickr)

“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.

Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender in 1942 to the Japanese after a grueling three-month battle.

The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to make the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.

Also Read: This POW led over 3,000 guerrillas after escaping the Bataan Death March

Regalado survived and slipped away with two others — all of them sick with malaria. They encountered a farmer who cared for them, but only Regalado lived.

Afterward, he joined a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a civilian for the U.S. military.

In his later years, he gave countless interviews to promote the wartime heroics of Filipinos, who were promised benefits and U.S. citizenship but saw those promises disappear after the war ended.

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served with U.S. troops in World War II, including more than 57,000 who died.

POWs on the Bataan Death March. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The veterans have won back some concessions, including lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

In an October ceremony in Washington, D.C., remaining Filipino veterans of World War II were awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gaerlan said Regalado did not make the trip due to poor health, but he got his medal in December in an intensive care unit in Richmond, California.

He is survived by his wife, Marcelina, five children, and many grandchildren.

Articles

Army, NFL scientists team up to develop injury-reducing neck tether

The Rate-Activated Tether | U.S. Army photo


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.”

Articles

Navy to fire 150Kw ship laser weapon from destroyers, carriers

The U.S. Navy is moving at warp speed to develop lasers with more lethality, precision and power sources as a way to destroy attacking missiles, drones aircraft and other threats.


“We’re doing a lot more with lasers,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director, Surface Warfare Division, said earlier this month at the annual Surface Naval Association national symposium.

The Navy plans to fire a 150-kw weapon off a test ship within a year, he said. “Then a year later, we’ll have that on a carrier or a destroyer or both.”

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

That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.

And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.

“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”

That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.

The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.

Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.

DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard USS Ponce. | US Navy photo

The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48″ x 66″ x 100″ – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.

The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.

An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.

The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.

He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”

Long-Term Effort

The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement.

A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

A rendering of the weapon system in action. | Boeing

LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.

The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.

While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said.

Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.

USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. | U.S. Navy

Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integraed Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns.

“Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,”  Beutner added.

In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.


All without risking lives.

Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.

“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.

Also read: How the Army plans to counter massive drone attacks

In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.

The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.

Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.

The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.

The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle. (Spc. Roland Hale)

Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.

The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.

“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.

Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.

The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.

The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.

To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.

Related: Why the Air Force will get more enlisted drone pilots

“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”

The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.

The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.

It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.

“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.

Apache helicopters may see drone integration technology in the very near future. (Photo: US Army Capt. Brian Harris)

The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.

“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.

Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.

Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.

It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.

“I love it,” he said.

Articles

Senator says the $400 million payment to Iran ‘put a price on the heads of Americans’

Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.


Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Geneva. (Photo: U.S. Mission/Eric Bridiers)

Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”

Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.

The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”

Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New holes in Russian claims about poisoning suspect

A photograph on display at a Russian military academy is adding to the growing evidence identifying a Russian military intelligence officer who was allegedly involved in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.

The photo, highlighted in an Oct. 2, 2018 report published jointly by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, builds on other recent reports that have used data from passport registries, online photographs, and military records to focus on a Russian man identified by British authorities as Ruslan Boshirov.

British authorities say that Boshirov and another man identified as Aleksandr Petrov were behind the March 2018 poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury.


The Skripals survived the poisoning, which used a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok.

Days after being publicly identified, the two Russians went on state-controlled TV channel RT and claimed they were merely tourists.

The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the poisoning, which prompted London, Washington, and other Western allies to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.

Passport information and other data compiled by Bellingcat, however, revealed that the two suspects had links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

Later research pinpointed Boshirov’s alleged true identity as Anatoly Chepiga, who graduated from the Far Eastern Military Academy and received a medal — the Hero of the Russia Federation — in 2014, and holds the rank of colonel in the GRU.

Several people from Chepiga’s hometown also corroborated his identity to Russian and Western media, and confirmed he had been awarded a medal.

Using social-media postings, RFE/RL’s Russian Service, along with Bellingcat, discovered a wall of photos at the military academy honoring famous graduates.

One of the photos, posted between July 2014 and March 2016, is identified as Chepiga. The photo shows a man resembling the man identified as Boshirov on the RT interview.

Bellingcat also obtained a higher-resolution version of the Chepiga photograph on the wall, showing a close resemblance to the man who was interviewed on RT.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has asserted that the allegations about Chepiga and the other man are part of an “information campaign” aimed at Russia.

In June 2018, two other British citizens were also exposed to the nerve agent, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This could be the Army’s next rifle — and it’s totally awesome

The U.S. Army’s chief of staff recently made a bold promise that future soldiers will be armed with weapons capable of delivering far greater lethality than any existing small arms.


“Our next individual and squad combat weapon will come in with a 10X improvement over any existing current system in the world, and that will be critical,” Gen. Mark Milley told an audience at AUSA 2017 on Oct. 10.

Milley’s pledge to “significantly increase investments” in a leap-ahead small arms technology appeared low in the story I wrote for Military.com since soldier lethality was the lowest of the Army’s top six modernization priorities.

As Milley was speaking, Textron Systems officials were showing off their new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm on the AUSA exhibition floor.

Textron Systems booth at AUSA on October 10, 2017 (Image, Textron Facebook)

The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.

Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.

The ICTC is a closed bolt, forward feed, gas piston operated weapon, weighing 8.3 pounds. The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, Textron officials maintain.

“I think the most important thing is what we have been able to do with the intermediate caliber, the 6.5mm in this case,” Wayne Prender, vice president of Textron’s Control Surface Systems Unmanned Systems told Military.com. “We are able to not only provide a weight reduction … and all the things that come with it – we are also able to provide increased lethality because of the ability to use a more appropriate round.”

Textron officials maintain they are using a low-drag “representative” 6.5mm bullet while U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is developing the actual projectile.

“We actually used three different bullet shapes and we scaled it,” said Paul Shipley, program manager for of Unmanned Systems. “We scaled 5.56mm up, we scaled 7.62mm down and took a low-drag shape and ran that between the two” to create the 125 grain 6.5mm bullet that’s slightly longer than the Army’s new 130 grain M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round.

Textron officials maintain that the new round retains more energy at 1,200 meters than the M80A1. At that distance, the 6.5mm has an impact-energy of 300 foot pounds compared to the M80A1 which comes in at about 230 foot pounds of energy, Textron officials maintain.

The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. Army photo from Todd Mozes.

“The increased lethality we are referring to has to do with the energy down range,” Shipley said. “You can take whatever kind of bullet you want, compare them and it’s going to have increased energy down range.”

Lethality has always been a vague concept. Is it the amount of foot pounds of energy at the target? Or is it the terminal performance, or the size of the wound channel, it creates after it penetrates an enemy soldier?

It’s hard to predict how much performance will change if and when ARDEC creates a 6.5mm projectile that meets the Army’s needs.

A lot can be done to predict performance with computer modeling, but ultimately there is no way of knowing how a conceptual bullet will perform until it is live-fire tested thousands of times under multiple conditions, according to a source with intimate knowledge of military ballistics testing.

The Army has also spent years developing its current M855A1 5.56mm and M80A1 7.62mm Enhanced Performance Rounds. After many failures, the service came up with a copper-jacketed round composed of a solid copper slug that sits behind a steel penetrator tip designed to defeat battlefield barriers and remain effective enough to kill or incapacitate.

Is the Army going to throw all of that away, invest millions of dollars to redesign its ammunition-making infrastructure to switch to case-telescoped ammunition?

“What they’ve got in stockpile does what it does, and they know that is not good enough anymore, so they are faced with that choice,” Shipley said.

The Army has not come to a definitive conclusion on a future caliber, but it has been very open about its waning trust in the 5.56mm round.

In late May, Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

A group of 7.62mm rounds are staged in a UH-1Y Huey during Northern Strike 17 at the Combat Readiness Training Center Alpena, Mich., Aug. 10, 1017. Northern Strike is a joint exercise hosted by the Michigan Air National Guard that emphasizes on close air support and joint fire support to enhance combat readiness. Photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Ohira

In August, the service launched a competition to find an Intermediate Service Combat Rifle chambered 7.62mm NATO. The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation, but sources say that the service has already backed away from that endeavor.

Textron’s 6.5mm case-telescoped carbine certainly looks like the leap-ahead, small-arms tech that the Army is searching for to arm its future soldiers.

Then again, the Army’s imagination was also captured in the late 1990s by the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or XM29.

Remember that? It featured a 20mm airburst weapon mounted on top of a 5.56mm carbine. XM29 had an advanced fire-control system that could program 20mm shells to burst at specific distances. At 18 pounds, it proved to be too heavy and bulky for the battlefield.

Textron officials maintain that case-telescoped carbine can be customized to whatever the Army wants.

“It’s configurable,” Shipley said. “The technology that is inside is what counts.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pro-Putin Russians look to scrap presidential term limits

A proposal submitted to the Russian parliament would scrap the constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms, enabling Vladimir Putin to remain in power past 2024.

The proposal published on the State Duma website on May 18, 2018, would restrict presidents to three straight terms instead of two. It comes less than two weeks after Putin started a new six-year term as president — his second in a row and fourth overall.


It was submitted by the legislature in Chechnya — a region whose head, Ramzan Kadyrov, has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Putin and said he should rule for life.

Putin, 65, has been president or prime minister since 1999. Facing the limit of two straight terms in 2008, he steered ally Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency and served for four years as prime minister before returning to the Kremlin in 2012.

Dmitry Medvedev

Elected again on March 18, 2018, in a vote that opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said deprived voters of a genuine choice, Putin would be barred from running again in 2024 under the existing constitution.

That barrier has led to widespread speculation about Putin’s future moves, with many analysts predicting he will seek a way to keep a hold on power after his current term. The most straightforward path would be to change the constitution.

When lawmakers in Chechnya announced plans for the proposal earlier in April 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not on Putin’s agenda and that Putin had made his position on changing the constitution clear in the past.

On the day he was elected, Putin said he had no plans to change the constitution “for now.”

He also laughed off a suggestion that he might take a six-year break before seeking the presidency again in 2030, when he would be 77 at the time of the vote.

“It’s a bit ridiculous. Let’s do the math. Shall I sit here until I turn 100? No!” Putin said at the time.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.


The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

(North Korea state Media)

Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.

To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

(Photo from North Korean State Media)

Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.

Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

Read Also: This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.

Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.

An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image Youtube)

While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.

Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.

“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.


Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.

Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.

Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.

“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.

Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.

“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the CIA recruited and handled its top KGB mole

On June 22, 1977, Aleksandr Ogorodnik killed himself with a CIA-supplied suicide pill after the KGB arrested him based on information initially provided by a mole within the Agency. Just over three weeks later, CIA officer Martha (Marti) Peterson — unaware of Aleksandr’s death — was seized in a KGB ambush while servicing a dead drop in Moscow.

The streets of Moscow were one of the most important, and dangerous, battlefields of the Cold War. American intelligence officers like Marti worked with assets like Aleksandr in the shadows to collect Soviet secrets. The Soviets, in turn, closely watched all foreign nationals and their own citizens for signs of espionage.


Although the story of TRIGON ended tragically, the intelligence Aleksandr provided gave US policymakers valuable insights into Soviet foreign policy plans and intentions. It was insights like this which ultimately helped us win the Cold War.

Recruiting a spy:

Aleksandr Ogorodnik was a mid-level official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) posted in Latin America and had access to information about Soviet intentions for the region. He enjoyed his life in Latin America and disliked the Soviet system, which he found oppressive.

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The CIA recruited Aleksandr in South America in 1973. Upon signing up to spy for the Agency, he was given the codename TRIGON.

TRIGON smuggled documents from the embassy and took them to a safe-house, where Agency officers photographed them. The material he provided gave unique insights into Soviet policies in Latin America, including plans to influence other governments.

Return to the motherland:

In anticipation of his recall to Moscow, CIA officers taught TRIGON operational trade-craft and techniques. He also received training in secret writing, the use of one-time pads, and dead drop techniques.

One of the first female CIA case officer to serve behind the Iron Curtain, Marti Peterson, went to Moscow to be TRIGON’s handler. At the time, the KGB discounted the ability of women to conduct intelligence operations, so Marti went unnoticed for almost 18 months.

TRIGON’s value rose significantly after he returned to Moscow in October 1974. He had agreed to continue spying for the Agency, but he asked that the US government resettle his then-pregnant girlfriend. Before leaving for the Soviet Union, TRIGON requested a suicide device in case he was caught. After high-level deliberations at Langley, his CIA handlers reluctantly gave him a fountain pen containing a cyanide capsule.

TRIGON’S dead drop instructions made by CIA.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A few months later, per his recontact instructions, TRIGON gave a “sign of life” signal in February 1975. As face-to-face meetings were too dangerous, impersonal operational encounters—using signal sites, radio messages, concealment devices, dead drops, and car drops—began in October and were scheduled monthly.

For nearly two years they worked together, Marti and TRIGON never met. They were only spies passing in the night.

Dead rats for dead drops:

Moscow was a challenging environment to operate within. Even finding one’s way around Moscow proved difficult because Soviet-produced maps of the city were deliberately inaccurate. The Agency had to get creative when communicating with assets, which regularly included the use of dead drops.

Dead drop rock intended for TRIGON.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

Dead drops are a way for intelligence officers to leave or receive items at a secret location in order to exchange information with an asset without having to meet directly. Everyday items like fake bricks can be used for dead drops. Packed with messages or supplies, the bricks can be deposited at a set location, such as a construction site, for later pickup.

Marti Peterson’s purse, used during dead drop operations in Moscow.

One of the more surprising concealment devices sometimes used by the CIA were dead rats. The body cavity was large enough to hold a wad of money or roll of film. Hot pepper sauce kept scavenging cats away after the “rat” was tossed from a car window at a prearranged drop site.

Marti used a purse to conceal supplies and equipment that she transferred to TRIGON via dead drop exchanges. Because of the KGB’s gender bias, the purse, like Marti herself, did not attract suspicion.

The mole:

TRIGON soon secured a position in the Global Affairs Department of the MFA that gave him access to incoming and outgoing classified cables to Soviet embassies worldwide. He provided sensitive intelligence about Soviet foreign policy plans and objectives. His reporting went to the President and senior US policymakers.

Meanwhile, Karl Koecher, a naturalized US citizen, was working at CIA as a translator and contract employee. (Unbeknownst to CIA, he was also working concurrently for the Czech Intelligence Service.) He had incidental access to information about TRIGON’s first dealings with the Agency and told his intelligence service, which then notified the KGB.

When that occurred is not known, nor is the time when the KGB began investigating TRIGON. In early 1977, however, his case officers began noticing indications—principally a marked decline in the quality of the photographs—that he had been compromised and was under KGB control.

The Krasnoluzhskiy Most

TRIGON never showed up for a dead drop encounter on June 28, 1977, so another was arranged via radio message for two weeks later.

Krasnoluzhskiy Most, Moscow Bridge site for dead drop.
(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

On July 15, Marti went to the Krasnoluzhskiy Most — a railroad bridge near Lenin Central Stadium —to set up the dead drop. The bridge spanned the Moscow River with a pedestrian walkway running along the side of the tracks. A spot was prepicked where TRIGON would receive a “drop” from Marti, and leave a package to be retrieved later that same night.

As night fell over Moscow, Marti left a concealment device in a narrow window inside a stone tower on the Krasnoluzhskiy Most. It was a trap.

(SPYCRAFT, by Robert Wallace and H Keith Melton)

A KGB surveillance team was waiting and seized Marti. They took her to Lyubianka Prison, where she was questioned for hours and photographed with some of the espionage paraphernalia Agency officers and TRIGON had used. She was declared persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and sent back to the US immediately.

The Agency later learned that Alexander Ogorodnik had killed himself a month before Marti had been apprehended. He told the KGB he would sign a confession but asked to use his own pen. Marti wrote in her memoir, The Widow Spy, that “Opening the pen as if to begin writing, he bit down on the barrel and expired instantly in front of his KGB interrogators. The KGB was so intent on his confession that they never suspected he had poison….TRIGON died his own way, a hero.”

This article originally appeared on Central Intelligence Agency. Follow @CIA on Twitter.