The Army has plans to purchase 61 Black Hornet III small unmanned aerial systems, or SUASs, which are designed to provide reconnaissance support at squad level.
By the third quarter of 2019, 57 of those systems will be fielded to a yet-unidentified Infantry brigade combat team, said Capt. WaiWah Ellison, the assistant program manager for Soldier Borne Sensors, part of Program Executive Office Soldier.
Ellison spoke during the “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” demonstration on May 24, 2018, at the Pentagon.
The Black Hornet III can fly a distance of up to two kilometers and remain aloft for 25 minutes, she said.
The system takes color photographs and videos and can do so simultaneously, she noted. The system is also equipped with thermal imaging, which gives it night vision capability.
Most importantly, the Black Hornet III weighs less than two ounces. With soldiers carrying so much gear, reducing their load is a top priority for everything PEO soldier produces. Hauling around too much weight results in fatigue and reduces the ability of soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield when dismounted, Ellison explained.
The Black Hornet III comes with a docking station, where the batteries are charged, and with a monitor, which is about the size of a tablet computer, she said. The SUAS, docking station and monitor have a combined weight of less than three pounds. While the Black Hornet III is aloft, another battery can be charged and ready when it returns.
Wireless commands and data sent between the soldier and Black Hornet III are encrypted, Ellison said, to ensure the system is not susceptible to being hacked.
(photo by United Kingdom Ministry of Defense)
The Black Hornet III is not designed for long-term surveillance. Instead, it is designed to give soldiers a quick look at what’s ahead of them, over a hill, or on the other side of a building or wall, she explained.
After laboratory testing in early January 2018, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center in Massachusetts, the Black Hornet III was put through its paces at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, beginning in late January. The “fly-off” gave soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a chance to evaluate it in tactical conditions, she said.
It takes roughly 16 hours to train a soldier on how to pilot and maintain the Black Hornet III, she said, adding that operating it is fairly intuitive.
To fly it, you hold it in your hand and rotate it 90 degrees one way then 90 degrees the other way, Ellison explained. That wakes it up and gets the rotor spinning. You also turn on the monitor and it acquires a GPS signal. The entire operation from turning everything on to flight is a bit over a minute.
During the fly-off, Ellison said soldier feedback was positive. Soldiers liked the system’s reliability, saying it went where they wanted it to go and did not lose control sequences that were transmitted to it.
Don Sheehan, Integrated Product Team Lead for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems at Naval Air Systems Command, said the Navy had observers at Fort A.P. Hill during testing, as Marines and Special Operations operators are interested in the capabilities of the Black Hornet III and are likely to purchase a number of them.
Sheehan noted that the Black Hornet III is so quiet that during testing, one soldier was unaware that one of them was flying a few feet behind him.
Besides being stealthy, the Black Hornet III in its grey paint, is practically invisible in the forest or jungles and even if seen, could easily be mistaken for a small bird or large insect, he said.
Ellison noted that Black Hornet III is by no means the only model of SUAS that the Army is interested in.
More testing of the Black Hornet III and other types of SUAS from different vendors will take place in October 2018, at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, by soldiers from 7th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she said.
There will be a number of industry days coming up where vendors can tout their own SUAS prototypes. She encouraged interested vendors to visit FedBizOpps.gov for more information on industry opportunities.
Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.
“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.
“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”
Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.
The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.
The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.
Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.
“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.
The Pentagon’s accelerated development of a “nuclear-armed” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter attack envelope is of critical importance to a new sweeping strategic nuclear weapons modernization and development strategy aimed at countering Russia, China, and North Korea — and addressing a much more serious global nuclear weapons threat environment.
Adding a nuclear-capable F-35 to the air portion of the nuclear triad — to supplement the existing B-2, B-52, and emerging B-21 — will bring a new dimension to US nuclear attack options and potentially place a new level of pressure upon potential adversaries.
Discussion of the F-35’s role in nuclear deterrence emerged recently during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review.
In written testimony, Defense Secretary James Mattis cited the F-35 as an indispensable element of US and NATO nuclear deterrence.
“Modernizing our dual-capable fighter-bombers with next-generation F-35 fighter aircraft will maintain the strength of NATO’s deterrence posture and maintain our ability to forward deploy nuclear weapons, should the security situation demand it,” his testimony states.
Mattis also cited the emergence of the F-35 as a “nuclear delivery system” in the context of expressing grave concern that US nuclear weapons modernization has not, in recent years, kept pace with a fast-changing global threat environment.
“Nuclear delivery system development over the last eight years shows numerous advances by Russia, China, and North Korea versus the near absence of such activity by the United States, with competitors and adversaries’ developing 34 new systems as compared to only one for the U.S. — the F-35 aircraft,” Mattis wrote.
Officials with the Office of the Secretary of Defense confirmed to Warrior Maven that Mattis here is indeed referring to an emerging “nuclear variant” of the F-35. Multiple news reports, such as Business Insider, cite senior officials saying a nuclear-armed F-35 is slated to emerge in the early 2020s, if not sooner. The F-35 is equipped to carry the B-61 nuclear bomb, according to a report in Air Force Magazine.
It makes sense that the F-35 would increasingly be called upon to function as a key element of US nuclear deterrence strategy; in recent months, F-35s deployed to the Pacific theater to participate in military exercises over the Korean Peninsula. The weapons, ISR technology, and multi-role functions of the F-35 potentially provide a wide range of attack options should that be necessary in the region.
Utilizing speed, maneuverability and lower-altitude flight when compared to how a bomber such as a B-2 would operate, a nuclear-capable F-35 presents new threats to a potential adversary. In a tactical sense, it seems that a high-speed F-35, fortified by long-range sensors and targeting technologies, might be well positioned to identify and destroy mobile weapons launchers or other vital, yet slightly smaller on-the-move targets. As part of this equation, an F-35 might also be able to respond much more quickly, with low-yield nuclear weapons in the event that new intelligence information locating a new target emerges.
The F-35 recently completed a series of weapons separation tests and is currently able to be armed with the AIM-9X, AIM-120, AIM-132, GBU-12, JDAM, JSOW, SDB-1 and the Paveway IV, Lockheed Martin data states. While it is not yet clear exactly how a nuclear weapon might integrate onto the platform, the F-35 is configured to carry more than 3500 pounds of ordnance in stealth mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.
While senior Pentagon leaders are understandably hesitant to discuss particular contingencies or attack scenarios, the NPR is quite clear that a more pro-active nuclear weapons posture is aimed at strengthening “deterrence.”
After analyzing the global threat calculus, the NPR calls for rapid inclusion of two additional nuclear weapons options – to include a sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missile.
“A nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile and the modification of a small number of existing submarine launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a low-yield option – will enhance deterrence by ensuring no adversary under any circumstances can perceive an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.
Senior Pentagon leaders stress that neither of these new nuclear weapons recommendations in the NPR require developing new nuclear warheads or will result in increasing the size of the nuclear stockpile. NPR DoD advocates further stress that the addition of these weapons does align with US non-proliferation commitments.
Mattis and other senior leaders seem aware that elements of the NPRs strategic approach may reflect a particular irony or paradox; in response to questions from lawmakers about whether adding new low-yield nuclear weapons could “lower the threshold” to nuclear war and therefore introduce new elements of danger, Mattis told Congress that increasing offensive nuclear-weapons attack capability will have the opposite effect, meaning the added weapons would improve deterrence and therefore enhance prospects for peace.
Specifically, Mattis explained that a new, low-yield Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile could likely provide pressure on Russia to a point where they might be more inclined to negotiate about adhering to the INF treaty they have violated.
“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance,” Mattis told lawmakers.
Alongside this strategic emphasis, Mattis also stressed that the NPR stipulates that nuclear weapons will only be used in the most extreme cases, adding that the “use of any nuclear weapon is a strategic game changer. Nuclear deterrence must be considered carefully.”
Citing the rapid technological progress of adversary air-defense systems, Mattis further elaborated that a sea-launched cruise missile option might be necessary to hold potential enemies at risk in the event that air-dropped low-yield weapons were challenged to operate above necessary targets.
“To drop a gravity bomb that is low-yield means a bomber would have to penetrate air defenses. Air defenses are very different than they were 20 years ago,” Mattis told Congress.
For instance, Russian-built S-400s and an emerging S-500 are potentially able to detect aircraft at much further ranges on a larger number of frequencies. Furthermore, faster computer processing and digital networking enable dispersed air defenses to hand off targets quickly across wide swaths of terrain.
This phenomenon also provides indispensable elements to the argument in favor of the Pentagon’s current development of a new nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile – the Long Range Stand-Off weapon (LRSO). In similar fashion, a nuclear cruise missile could hold enemy targets at risk in a high-tech threat environment where bombers were less able to operate.
Some critics of the LRSO maintain that the introduction of the LRSO brings a “destabilizing” effect to the possible use of nuclear weapons. In a manner quite consistent with the current NPR, senior Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of several interviews that, by strengthening deterrence, the addition of a new LRSO is expected to have the reverse – or “stabilizing” – effect by making it more difficult for a potential adversary to contemplate a first strike.
NPR proponents say a strengthened and more wide-reaching nuclear weapons approach is necessary, given the current threat environment which does, without question, seem to be raising the possibility of nuclear confrontation to a level not seen in years.
“We’re concerned about: some of the adjustments in potential adversaries’ thinking about nuclear weapons. With a greater reliance on nuclear weapons, a featuring of them, in some cases — for example, in the Russian nuclear doctrine, called “Escalating to De-escalate”. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy told reporters when discussing the NPR.
From the Nuclear Posture Review
Russia’s belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide such an advantage is based, in part, on Moscow’s perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict. Recent Russian statements on this evolving nuclear weapons doctrine appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons.
The text of the report specifically cites the importance of dual-capable aircraft (DCA) in Europe and states that the F-35 is fundamental to deterring Russia.
“We are committed to upgrading DCA with the nuclear-capable F-35 aircraft. We will work with NATO to best ensure—and improve where needed—the readiness, survivability, and operational effectiveness of DCA based in Europe,” the Nuclear Posture Review states.
Nuclear weapons modernization
The NPR also seeks to accelerate ongoing efforts to modernize the air, sea and ground portions of the nuclear triad. DoD is immersed in current efforts to fast-track development and prototypes of a new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent ICBM, Air Force developers have told Warrior Maven.
Early prototyping, including expected prototype “shoot off” testing is slated for 2020, service developers have told Warrior Maven in recent interviews. Northrop Grumman and Boeing are both now under contract to build the new weapon. The Air Force plans to build at least 400 GBSDs, Air Force senior leaders have said.
Critical elements of the new ICBM, developed to replace the decades-old Minuteman IIIs, will feature a new engineering method along with advanced command control, circuitry and guidance systems, engineers have said.
Regarding the Air component, the Air Force recently completed a critical design review of its new B-21 Raider nuclear-capable stealth bomber. As is often the case with nuclear weapons, many of the details regarding the development of this platform are not available, but there is widespread discussion among US Air Force leaders that the bomber is expected to usher in a new era of stealth technology; much of the discussion focuses upon the bomber’s ability to operate above advanced enemy air defenses and “hold any target at risk anywhere in the world,” the Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch has told Warrior Maven in past interviews.
Early available renderings of the bomber show what appears to be an advanced, B-2-like design, yet possibly one with a lower heat signature and improved stealth properties. However, service leaders are quick to point out that, given advancements in Russian air defenses, stealth will surge forward as “one arrow in a quiver” of nuclear attack possibilities.
Concurrently, the Air Force is surging forward with a massive B-2 modernization overhaul, involving new digital nuclear weapons capability and the integration of a developing system called the Defensive Management System. This enables the B-2, which Air Force developers acknowledge may indeed be more vulnerable to advanced air defenses than in earlier years when it was first
built, to more quickly recognize locations of enemy air defenses at safer ranges as a means to avoid detection.
New nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine
Finally, shifting to a program widely regarded as among the most significant across the DoD enterprise, the Navy is already underway with early development of the new nuclear-armed Columbia-Class ballistic missile submarines. Several key current efforts with this, including early “tube and hull” forging of missile tubes, work on a US-UK common missile compartment – and little-discussed upgrades to the Trident II D5 nuclear missiles.
Undersea strategic deterrence, as described by Navy and Pentagon leaders, offers a critical means to ensure a second strike ability in the event of a catastrophic first-strike nuclear attack impacting or disabling other elements of the triad.
While it may seem obvious, nuclear deterrence hinges upon a recognizable, yet vital contradiction; weapons of seemingly limitless destructive power – are ultimately employed to “keep the peace” – and save lives. Along these lines, Senior Navy and Air Force nuclear weapons developers routinely make the point that – since the advent of nuclear weapons – the world has managed to avoid massive, large-scale major power force on force warfare.
While Pentagon leaders rarely, if ever, offer a window into current nuclear-strike capabilities, it is widely discussed that the current North Korean nuclear threat is leading US military planners to envision the full spectrum of nuclear weapons contingencies. Even further, the US did recently send B-2 bombers to the Asian theater – stationing them in Guam.
“The terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, sought not just to take the lives of U.S. citizens and crumble buildings; they hoped to break America’s spirit,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial observance. “They failed,” he said.
“The American people showed on that day and every day since, we will not be intimidated,” the vice president said. “Our spirit cannot be broken.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva hosted Pence for the annual remembrance for families and friends of those who fell at the Pentagon.
Seventeen years ago, terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. One hundred eighty-nine people perished — 125 service members and civilians working in the building, and 59 men and women and children aboard the flight.
The losses at the Pentagon, combined with those at New York City’s World Trade Center and in a field crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, totaled2,977 men, women and children.
A special burden
“To the families of the fallen gathered here and all those looking on, the cherished final moments you shared with your loved ones no doubt seem like just yesterday: a goodbye kiss, a tender embrace, or one last wave,” Pence said.
“Just know that your nation understands that, while we all suffered loss that day, we know you bear a special burden,” he added. “But we gather here in the shadow of the building where your loved ones departed this life to say that you do not bear that burden alone. The American people stand with you and we always will.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honor the flag during a 9/11 ceremony at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2017.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The vice president said that even before the smoke cleared and the fires were put out, Americans began to answer the call and step forward to serve the nation.
“It’s amazing to think in the 17 years since that day, nearly 5.5 million Americans volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the United States,” he added. “Those courageous men and women turned a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom.”
Hatred will not prevail
Mattis told the families and friends of victims that, “[In] the shadow of our rebuilt Pentagon, we are all part of your larger family. We stand with you every day in honored tribute of the fallen, of your loved ones.”
In that spirit, the secretary added, “this morning we commit ourselves to remembering and honoring the lives that might have been. We keep faith with the innocent who perished. We take solace in their deaths were not in vain, for in their passing they empowered us forever with our enduring sense of purpose. And we remember that hatred disguised in false religious garb to murder innocents will not prevail.”
We remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who fell here in America, and then on far-flung battlefields, he said.
“We salute the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines who nailed our colors to the mast, giving their last full measure of devotion, declaring proudly that Americans do not scare,” Mattis said.
Strength and resilience
Together with the families of the fallen, we remember all that is good, true, and beautiful about those we have lost, “And if we remember them, if we honor them by living as they would have us live, if we in the Department of Defense do our best every day to protect America’s promise to the world, then we keep our promise to them and to ourselves and to future generations,” the secretary said.
Selva told the audience that the ceremonies across the country, “inspire us to reflect not only on the nation’s strength and resolve after those brutal attacks, but also on the strength and resilience of individual people who continue to carry on, even to thrive, in spite of the pain of losing a loved one.”
The vice chairman said all should take comfort in knowing that those who died imparted a legacy of selfless service, courage and patriotism, and a belief in the high ideals, all of which continue to inspire a new generation of grateful Americans who have answered the call to serve.
“So today, let us reaffirm the commitment that as long as we have breath to breathe, our military members will defend this nation,” the vice chairman said. “We will ensure that future generations of America are able to enjoy the same freedoms and liberties that we inherited.”
In an interview with We Are The Mighty, the man behind the camouflage pattern, Guy Cramer of HyperStealth Biotechnologies, says there were very specific reasons why the Afghan army chose the uniforms it did, and that it wasn’t a decision imposed by the Pentagon.
1. The camouflage is actually perfect for the environment
Pentagon watchdogs argue the Afghan army uniform is built in a pattern that won’t help conceal soldiers in about 98 percent of Afghanistan’s environment. The country is mostly desert, rock or arid (think the New Mexico or Arizona mountains) and the green-heavy pattern the Afghan army adopted isn’t suited to most of the battlefields soldiers would fight in.
Cramer told us, however, that at the time the army adopted its pattern, most of the fighting was going on in the agricultural areas of Afghanistan’s south, among ribbons of lush growth flanking irrigation canals and croplands.
The pattern adopted by the Afghan army is similar to one that was developed for a competition in the U.S. Army to find an alternative to the gray-green Universal Camouflage Pattern the service began fielding in 2003. Cramer engineered so-called the US4CES family of patterns that in some tests performed far better than the MultiCam pattern the Army eventually settled on.
One of the things Cramer builds into his patterns is technology to help conceal soldiers at night, not just in daylight. Pentagon watchdogs claim there were several U.S. patterns available for the Afghans to choose from, including the UCP one and the old-style “Battle Dress Uniform” analog pattern.
But Cramer says the UCP and others “glows” at night when seen through night vision — a technology that’s becoming increasingly available to insurgents and terrorists.
The Afghan pattern is designed to help conceal soldiers during night operations, which are increasingly part of the Afghan army’s tactics.
3. It sets the army apart
Sure, Pentagon watchdogs point fingers — and possibly rightly so — at then Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak for his focus on fashion instead of utility in picking the AFPAT over other patterns like BDUs and desert digital. But Cramer says one of the things Wardak was looking to do was to set his forces apart from the rest of the hodgepodge of Afghanistan’s security forces.
“He wanted it to be distinct,” Cramer said. “The ANA is highly respected in Afghanistan and he wanted his troops to look different.”
Sounds kinda like the Marine Corps, doesn’t it?
Also, and potentially more importantly, Cramer argues that making a distinct, licensed pattern for the ANA is safer for the troops because it’s harder for insurgents to disguise themselves as friendlies and infiltrate bases.
“Anyone can get their hands on BDUs,” he added.
In fact, there have been several incidents in Afghanistan where insurgents have slipped inside friendly lines wearing Army UCP-pattern uniforms, and the Afghan army wanted to avoid that at all costs, Cramer said.
The fur is flying over the alleged “waste” of $28 million in an Afghan uniform that’s suitable for just 2 percent of Afghanistan’s terrain (if you just include “forest” as your measure), and there’s certainly a lot of waste, fraud and abuse to go around when it comes to bankrolling America’s Afghan allies.
But as with any Washington kerfuffle over Pentagon spending, there’s at least a little more to it than meets the eye.
The 80th Flying Training Wing is moving at the speed of innovation and is bound to only get faster as visionaries incorporate the latest in mixed realities to boost undergraduate pilot training.
Lt. Col. Jason Turner, 80th FTW Strategic Initiatives director, said the implementation of virtual and augmented realities is creating a portfolio of tools that allows instructor and student pilots alike to enhance the learning experience within the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, the world’s only internationally manned and operated combat pilot training program.
Through the use of 360-degree cameras, skilled pilots and actual images from flights over north Texas and southern Oklahoma, the program is able to build instructional content to train students on items such as local aerial procedures and ground operations.
In short, it’s creating a realistic flying environment in a controlled setting that enables students to learn and make mistakes in a safe setting.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets Preston Tower, left, Alexander Knapp and Ian Palmer fly three T-38C Talons in formation in a mixed reality environment during a flying training session with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by John Ingle)
“The solution essentially gives them the ability to visualize some of the things that they’ll experience airborne so that once they do get airborne, they’re able to take those reference pictures that they saw in mixed reality and apply them to their training in the air, hopefully making their air time training more valuable,” he said.
Maj. Steve Briones, the 80th FTW’s director of Wing Innovation, has played an integral role in leading the innovative charge to marry traditional simulator training and real flight time with fast-advancing technologies such as virtual and augmented realities. He said it has taken about six months to go from concept to two functional “Innovation Labs” available to ENJJPT instructors and students.
Virtual reality creates an experience where a person is immersed in a virtual world, whereas an augmented reality incorporates digital elements to a live view of an environment.
“It’s the future of learning in the Air Force,” Briones said. “It’s just being able to take different methods of delivering content or just making the learning content accessible in different ways.”
Briones said the innovative training tools will not replace traditional simulators as they provide a physical, hands-on platform to practice instrument familiarity and emergency procedures. However, the newest set up does allow for visuals that can’t be replicated in a simulator such as formation flying because they are able to link individual training stations.
The technology brings pilot training methodologies together in a new and adaptive way, he said, that is a cloud-based and student-focused in such a way that airmen in the ENJJPT program can access courseware wherever they are and whenever they want to.
“If you asked folks six months ago when we were just thinking about this if this was possible, they would’ve been like, ‘No way. There’s no way,'” he said. “So, I think it allows us to think critically about how we’re training and how we can make ourselves better.”
A group of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were in the 10-station lab Feb. 1, 2019, trying out the technology as part of a visit to the 80th FTW. Turner said the trio taking a virtual flight had spent about 30 minutes on the mixed reality trainers, but they were already showing a skill ENJJPT students learn over the course of the 55-week program: formation flying.
“They’re still learning. They’re still developing,” Turner said of the potential for student pilots as seen by the MIT students. “But this also gives them a place to practice where mistakes don’t cost them their safety.”
There is, admittedly, some hesitancy with the new technology as there is very little performance data in the program at this time to fall back on. Turner said part of that is because the technology has not been specifically introduced into the ENJJPT syllabus.
What they’ve done, he said, is encourage students to try out the equipment to change their mindset in regards to effectiveness of the training and the sense of reality it brings. What they’ve seen is when one student sees the capabilities, they bring others to the experience, who in turn bring more.
Turner said ENJJPT Class 20-04 will start a small-group trial at the end of February 2019, which will include deliberately implementing these technologies into their training. They will also soon have the ability to toggle between T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon training modules.
“While that virtual reality or mixed reality won’t replace actual flight time, it’s intended to augment it to make that time more valuable,” he said. “That’s when students will officially be coming here as part of their training experience.”
Turner and Briones both lauded the public-private partnership with industry leaders to create a training environment that compliments existing platforms. The technology, they said, is exceeding expectations and they are seeing how it will continue to enhance the ENJJPT training curriculum.
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which became law in December, provides the military justice system new tools to prosecute service members who maliciously distribute sexually explicit images of others.
The 2018 NDAA adds Article 117a to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. “The new article is titled ‘Wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images’,” said Lt. Col. Jay L. Thoman, a judge advocate and the chief of the Army’s Criminal Law Policy Branch.
The “Marines United” scandal of 2017 was a driving force behind the addition of Article 117a to the UCMJ, Thoman said.
As part of that scandal, more than 30,000 active duty and retired armed forces members were initially accused of being involved in the distribution or viewing of private, intimate, or sexually explicit imagery. A portion of the distributed material included images of female service members and military spouses.
“Posting compromising pictures of fellow service members not only works to undercut the trust within the unit but is completely counter to the values the services represent,” Thoman said. “It has the potential to destroy unit cohesion, hurts the victim, and is destructive.
“With the implementation of Article 117a, there is now a clearer way to bring offenders to justice,” Thoman said.
“It seems that Congress wanted to make sure that this type of behavior was unmistakably not acceptable. Criminalizing the conduct sent just that message,” Thoman said.
With the passing of the 2018 NDAA, those who distribute the kinds of images that were part of the “Marines United” scandal are now on notice that they could be found “guilty of wrongful distribution of intimate visual images or visual images of sexually explicit conduct and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Article 117a, now part of the UCMJ, goes to great lengths to clarify what constitutes wrongdoing, and defines specific terminology, Thoman said.
According to the article, the accused should know that the person depicted in the image retains a reasonable expectation of privacy.
In addition, the accused should know that the broadcast of imagery was likely to cause “harm, harassment, intimidation, emotional distress, or financial loss to the person depicted in the image, or harms substantially the depicted person’s health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation, or personal relationships.”
To provide even further clarity, lawmakers defined in detail the language used in the law.
The term “broadcast,” for instance, means to “electronically transmit a visual image with the intent that it be viewed by a person or persons.”
The term “sexually explicit conduct” is defined to include “actual or simulated genital-genital contact, oral-genital contact, anal-genital contact, or oral-anal contact, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, bestiality, masturbation, or sadistic or masochistic abuse.”
Other terms defined include “distribute,” “intimate visual image,” “reasonable expectation of privacy,” and “visual image.”
A necessary change
According to Thoman, there was a limit to the actions the U.S. military legal system could take against a service member prior to inclusion of Article 117a in the UCMJ.
“While it has been illegal to create an indecent photo of an unknowing subject, if they willingly participated, the legality of forwarding that picture to a third party was uncertain,” he said.
An example of this most commonly occurs in a relationship turned bad. If two Soldiers are dating, Soldier A can legally take a graphic picture of themselves and then send it to Soldier B, in most situations.
“However, just because it is legal does not necessarily make it a good idea,” he added.
Soldier B cherishes the picture and did not think of showing it to anyone else until the relationship sours and the two Soldiers breakup. Soldier B, still feeling angry about the breakup, forwards the picture to Soldier A’s squad. While Soldier B is temporarily upbeat about thinking of such an easy way to get back at Soldier A, in all likelihood, Soldier B has just committed a federal crime, Thoman said.
According to Thoman, the legal analysis to get to a federal conviction is now more straightforward for that case.
The accused knowingly distributed an image of another person. The image depicted the private area of that person. The person was identifiable. The identified person did not give their consent. The accused knew the person depicted had a reasonable expectation of privacy and was caused emotional distress as a result of the distribution. Finally, under the circumstances, the accused’s conduct had a reasonably direct and evident connection to a military environment.
In addition to the changes to the UCMJ, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program officials want to ensure that support is available to Soldiers impacted by the illegal broadcast of intimate or sexually explicit imagery.
Considered to be a form of sexual harassment, victims of the crime as spelled out in Article 117a who choose to receive services will receive support from a victim advocate who can provide crisis intervention. That intervention includes such things as referrals to behavioral health, chaplains, special victim witness liaisons, and the victim witness assistance program.
Additionally, Soldiers will have access to safety planning, accompaniment to interviews and appointments, and assistance with obtaining a military or civilian protective order, according to LeWonnie Belcher, SHARP program office branch chief for communications, outreach, and leadership engagement.
According to Thoman, the implementation of Article 117a fills a gap in military law. And while technology will continue to evolve, he said, the new law was written broadly enough to accommodate those changes.
“I think ‘revenge porn,’ as it is commonly called, is a growing issue across society,” Thoman said. “Because of that, we see an increase in the frequency in the military as well. Ultimately, Article 117a could help prevent that divisiveness in the future that could disrupt a unit when something like this happens.”
The Littoral Combat Ship has been nothing short of problematic for the US Navy. Engineering and mechanical issues have repeatedly sidelined a number of active LCS warships, sometimes in foreign ports for months at a time. Oddly enough, as much as the LCS has been a pain in the figurative neck, it’s far from the worst frigate-type vessel afloat in today’s modern navies.
In fact, that dubious distinction goes to the yet-to-be-accepted F125 series of “super frigates” commissioned by the German Navy.
Though the first of the F125 ships, the Baden-Württemberg, has already been built and has sailed under its own power, it was returned to its builder by the German government — which isn’t a very good sign.
The German military originally sought a replacement for its Bremen-class frigates in the early 2000s. While the Bremen boats were still fairly young at the time, they were rapidly walking down the path toward obsolescence. With operational costs steadily climbing at a time when the German military planned to make deeps cut in spending, a plan formed in the minds of the country’s highest-ranking civilian and uniformed defense officials.
Instead of ordering frigates that could fulfill just one or two types of missions, they would order and commission the largest frigates in the world to serve as multi-mission platforms. They would, hypothetically, be able to operate away from their German home ports for up to 24 months at a time, function using a smaller crew, and serve on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world as needed.
Additionally, similar to the LCS frigates, these new surface combatants would be able to field modules for various missions, quickly swapped out in port as varying objectives demanded. Special operations forces could also use the new ships as floating staging areas, with the ability to carry four smaller boats and two medium-lift NH90 helicopters.
In 2007, the first contracts for the new frigates — dubbed the F125 class — were inked, outlining an order for a batch of four ships with the potential for more in the future. The deal tallied up to nearly $3 billion USD with an expected delivery date of 2015-2016.
During the construction program, problems began to manifest, and with them came delays and cost overruns. By the time of the lead ship’s christening in 2013, German officials anticipated a commissioning date in 2016 or 2017 at the latest. However, by 2017, the situation had worsened when scores of defects were discovered during testing and evaluation.
The F125 class is far closer in size and constitution to a destroyer than a frigate. Coming in at around 7200 tons, the weight of the vessel (which includes its mission systems, propulsion, machinery, etc.) makes for a major speed disadvantage. The Baden-Württemberg can’t go faster than 26 knots (30 miles per hour) while underway. By comparison, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which are just 15 feet longer than the F125s and are in a similar weight class, has been known to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots (+35 miles per hour) with its engines are cranked up.
Not only does this have an impact on the F125’s performance, it also makes the ship considerably more expensive to operate in the long term.
Hardware and software woes are among the most damning issues plaguing the F125s. Defective mission-critical systems means that the ship is unreliable when at sea and probably completely unusable in combat situations. At this point, the F125s are more like extremely expensive military yachts than they are warships.
To top it off, the Baden-Württemberg has a consistent list to starboard, meaning that the ship is on a permanent lean to the right side.
In late December, 2017, the German military refused to accept the Baden-Württemberg for active service, citing the above flaws and defects. This is the very first time in German history where a warship was actually returned to its builder because it didn’t meet minimum operating standards and requirements.
There is no timeline on when the German Navy will finally accept the F125s into its surface fleet. That won’t happen until all four ships have been refitted and repaired to the satisfaction of German defense officials. Before that, millions of dollars will have to be reinvested into the already highly-expensive program.
The Russian Navy is apparently developing a new long-range cruise missile, Russia’s state-run Tass News Agency reported Jan. 8, 2019, citing a source in the military-industrial complex.
The weapon in the works is reportedly the new Kalibr-M cruise missile, a ship-launched weapon able to deliver a precision strike with a conventional or nuclear warhead as far as 2,800 miles away. That’s roughly three times the range of the US’s Block III TLAM-C Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The new missile will be carried by large surface ships and nuclear submarines once it is delivered to the fleet, which is expected to occur before the conclusion of the state armament program in 2027.
The Kalibr-M, with a warhead weighing one metric ton, is said to be larger than the Kalibr missiles currently in service, which are suspected to have a range of roughly 2,000 km (roughly 1,200 miles).
US Block III Tomahawk cruise missile.
(US Navy photo)
Although state media, citing its unnamed source, reported that the Russian defense ministry is financing the weapon’s development, Russia has not officially confirmed that the navy is working on the new Kalibr-M cruise missile.
Senior US defense officials have previously expressed concern over the existing Kalibr missiles, noting, in particular, the weapon’s range.
“You know, Russia is not 10 feet tall, but they do have capabilities that keep me vigilant, concerned,” Adm. James Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe, told reporters at the Pentagon in October 2018.
“They’re firing the Kalibr missile, very capable missile,” he explained. “It has a range which, if launched from any of the seas around Europe, … could range any one of the capitals of Europe. That is a concern to me, and it’s a concern to my NATO partners and friends.”
The Kalibr missile, around since the 1990s, made its combat debut in attacks on Syria in 2015.
Russia is, according to a recent report from the Washington Free Beacon, planning to deploy these long-range precision-strike cruise missiles on warships and submarines for Atlantic Ocean patrols.
Reports that the Jan. 19 special operations intelligence-gathering raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and 30 local civilians dead and six more troops injured was a result of hasty planning are “absolutely incorrect,” the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Raymond Thomas briefly addressed reporters after speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, D.C. He declined to go into operational details but emphasized that such raids are common and infrequently reported.
The White House has maintained that the raid, which resulted in the first military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, was well-planned and executed, but multiple news outlets have cited military sources complaining that the raid was hastily assembled and poorly planned.
Thomas told Military.com he does not categorize such operations as successes or failures, a hotly debated question surrounding the Yemen operation. He said discussion of the raid lacked the context of the frequency of such U.S. operations around the world.
“I don’t think that there’s awareness in the great American public that we’re a country at war, that ISIL and al-Qaida are in countless countries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That an operation like Yemen is what goes on any given night out there. And unfortunately it wasn’t in that context.”
“But in context, I think America needs to know we’re in a tough fight right now,” Thomas said. “We’re making progress, but unless we get governance on the backside of our military efforts, this is going to be a long struggle.”
Thomas, who replaced Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of SOCOM last March, repeatedly declined to comment on the workings and decision-making of the Trump administration.
But, speaking just hours after news broke late Monday night that retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the position, he gave a nod to the tumult at the highest levels of leadership.
“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope we sort it out soon, because we’re a country at war,” he said.
Republicans posted a snarky tweet after a congressional lawmaker and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared to make friendly digs at each other’s military service during the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on March 15, 2018.
While scrutinizing the department’s policy priorities for the upcoming budget, Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a former US Marine, asked Zinke, a former US Navy SEAL, how many meetings he’s held with a coalition of Native American nations.
“How many meetings did you hold with the Bear Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked.
“Pardon me?” Zinke said.
“How many meetings did you hold with the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal coalition?” Gallego asked again.
“I met them in Washington DC, I met them there, I met them over the phone, and had individual meetings,” Zinke replied.
“So the actual coalition, it sounds like you had one meeting then,” Gallego said. “One face-to-face meeting.”
“That would be incorrect,” Zinke responded. “I had a meeting there …”
“Ok, so what would you say the number is then,” Gallego later asked. “If you had to take a guess. Even giving you some sway on the meetings …”
“I had a meeting there with the coalition,” Zinke answered. “I had a meeting in Utah with …”
“Secretary Zinke, I’m asking just the number,” Gallego interrupted. “I know you’re a Navy SEAL and math might be difficult, but you know, give me a rough number here.”
“Rough number of what is specifically your question?” Zinke shot back. “And I take offense about your derogatory comment about the United States Navy SEALs. Of course, having not served, I understand you probably don’t know.”
Gallego, chuckling, appeared to reload for another quip.
“Not in the Navy and not in the Navy SEALs,” Zinke said with a smirk.
“Alright, Secretary Zinke, I apologize,” Gallego said. “But as you know, we have inter-rivalry jokes all the time as a Marine and as a grunt. And of course, I appreciate your service.”
“Semper fi,” Zinke said, referring to the Marine Corps shorthand motto of “semper fidelis,” or “always faithful.”
“Semper fi, brother,” Gallego said.
While the exchange appeared friendly, the House Committee on Natural Resources appeared to take offense to Gallego’s comments. The committee’s official Twitter account uploaded an edited clip of Gallego’s quip, and wrote: “Leave it to Committee Democrats to disgrace the service of a Navy SEAL for political gain…”
The GOP got some heat on Twitter, though, for editing out the “semper fi” exchange between the two.
“Gross. @RepRubenGallego served bravely in Iraq as a Marine. Today he ribbed Secretary Zinke as a former Navy SEAL. You edited out the part where Sec. Zinke smiles and says ‘semper fi’ to Rep. Gallego, who smiles back. We have enough work to do without ginning up fake outrage,” Rep. Don Beyer tweeted.
As a Marine in Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, Gallego deployed to Iraq in 2005. His company, which lost 22 Marines and a Navy corpsman, would experience arguably one of the toughest campaigns during the war.
Zinke served as a Navy SEAL officer and took part in operations that included capturing a Bosnian war criminal.
The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people was killed in a massive police raid north of Paris Wednesday.
The raid was conducted by over 100 police officers and soldiers who rushed into an apartment building in Saint-Denis and attacked the apartment at 4:16 a.m., according to the Washington Post. The reinforced door stayed close, triggering a seven-hour siege.
“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave… despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told Dabiq, an ISIS magazine.
“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”
Apparently, Abaaoud’s luck ran out. Abaaoud’s cousin also died in the raid when she detonated a suicide device, according to Fox News.
The raid came after French police received a tip from a waiter. The raid was part of a larger effort to prevent a potential follow-up attack aimed at Paris’s financial district, French officials told The Washington Post.
One police dog was killed in the raid, a 7-year-old named Diesel.
France’s military and police forces were already fighting the international terror organization before Friday’s Paris attacks, but have launched an increased number of police raids and military airstrikes since they suffered the worst attack on their territory since World War II.
Country music star and Army veteran Craig Morgan is releasing his newest album — God, Family, Country on May 22. “God, Family, Country” pays tribute to his past and his future both in the music industry and in his amazing life story.
He will also be part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Memorial Day Special. The venerable show that made country music famous will salute the United States Military with its annual Memorial Day Salute the Troops Opry performance on Saturday, May 23.
Joining Craig are Steven Curtis Chapman and Kellie Pickler. This year, the Opry will also honor essential workers who are on the frontline against the war on COVID-19. You can watch it live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates in addition to live streams on Circle All Access Facebook and YouTube channels.
We Are The Mighty talked to Craig about his album and what influenced some of the songs on it. Craig talked to us about his faith, family and love of our country. His faith is a big part of his life and Craig shared how it carried him through personal tragedy. That was the cornerstone of this album and Morgan does what a lot of great musical artists do. He takes his life and puts them into words that everyone else can relate to.
Before his long career in country music, Craig served in the United States Army. He took part in Operation Just Cause, during which the United States removed General Manuel Noriega from power in 1989. He later deployed with the 82nd Airborne as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After service on both active duty and the reserves, Craig left the military in 2004.
He then began a career as a chart-topping country music singer, songwriter and live performer. Craig returns now with his first new music in nearly four years.
“God, Family, Country”, however, is a little different. It combines five new songs with some of the most powerful tracks he recorded previously in his career including, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Almost Home,” and “God, Family, Country”.
Craig came onto the country-radio scene with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” “International Harvester” and “Little Bit of Life.” These songs showed off his unquenchable spirit and joy for life and resonated with fans of all walks of life.
But, he and his family have also known great loss: particularly the death of their son Jerry in 2016. Needless to say, the tragic death of Jerry had a great impact on Craig. Being the artist he is, he took that emotion and that unimaginable tragedy led to him writing his most stunning song to date, “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost.” The achingly personal ballad is an emotional journey for the listener and is the centerpiece of both God, Family, Country and of Craig’s story itself.
“We’ve never had a song like this. If you put ‘Almost Home,’ ‘What I Love About Sunday’ and ‘Tough’ all together, they didn’t have the emotional impact that this song is having,” Craig says. “It’s a very tough song to sing, and sometimes I can’t even look at people when I perform it, but it’s amazing to know what God has done, and how He has used something so traumatic in my life for good.”
When asked about the song and the process he went through to write it, Craig said, “Overall, it took four hours to write. But it was a painful four hours. Writing the song didn’t take away the pain of losing my son. But it’s going to help others.” And it has. Since the song’s release, people from all walks of life have reached out with messages telling him how it really helped them emotionally. “It’s given people hope. We all have a cross we have to bear, but if my pain brings comfort then that’s what I am supposed to do.”
The story of other songs on the album is absolutely epic. For “Sippin’ on the Simple Life,” he teamed with a pair of active duty Army Airborne Rangers who were about to deploy to Afghanistan for an impromptu writing session. Craig was speaking at a USO event when two soldiers came up to him.
“These two guys came up to me after a show in Washington, D.C., and said, ‘We want to write a song with you tonight.’ I joked with them and told them it doesn’t work that way!” Craig recalls.
But after realizing they weren’t kidding, he sat down with the servicemen, ordered drinks and started putting pen to paper. just before they deployed to Afghanistan. “I thought, ‘This is a tailgate drinking song,’ and I fell in love with it. I called them and told them I’m putting it on the record. They lost their minds.”
Morgan also features a cover of the Gavin DeGraw song, “Soldier.” “I loved the lyrics but the melody is what got me,” Craig said, “As a dude, we almost always listen to the melody first and that’s what caught me.” Listening to the song, it really resonates with anyone who served. Morgan said, “It truly exemplifies the personality and the character of a soldier and I just had to record it.”
“Whiskey” is another great track on the album. A song that talks about the pain people go through and how they try to find ways to ease that pain was something that really resonated with Morgan. After the death of his son, he was tempted to find outlets to mask the pain, but his faith was able to carry him through. However, many others don’t and turn to vices like drugs or alcohol and Morgan said the emotion of the song led him to record it.
“God, Family, Country” is an incredible album that features Craig taking us on an emotional journey that most veterans (and Americans for that matter) can relate to. We have dealt with loss, pain, challenges, uncertainty, and despair. But we have also relied on things important to us, like faith, family, and our patriotism to guide us through dark times.
The album comes out on May 22 on Broken Bow Records.