Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.


Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades.  There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.

Also read: Meet the Army’s new stealthy hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.

The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
The Marine Corps’ current AAV in Iraq. | Wikimedia Commons

Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.

The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.

Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.

Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.

“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”

Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.

“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.

An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.

Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.

BAE Systems ACV 1.1

The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.

In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.

BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.

“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.

The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.

Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.

Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, Ground Combat Element, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Forward, III Marine Expeditionary Force, in amphibious assault vehicles train with smoke grenades. | III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs photo by Pfc. Mark Stroud

Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.

The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.

 The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack

The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.

“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.

However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.

Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.

“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Marines posts security at the rear of an Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda

Amphibious Assault Vehicle “Survivability Upgrade”

The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is making the most of the coronavirus to dislodge the US as the world’s main superpower

China is aggressively pushing its foreign policy agenda while the world is focused on the coronavirus.

In recent months, as the coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, spreads, the government led by President Xi Jinping has tried to strengthen its position around the world, while trying to dislodge the US from its position as a superpower.


Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

It has done this by enforcing its sovereignty over the South China Sea, asserting control in Hong Kong by cracking down on protesters from last year, and intimidating Taiwan with increasing military measures.

China is also using its wealth to push its agenda. It pledged tens of millions of dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) after the US government announced it would freeze its own funding, and it is providing relief on loans to African countries in exchange for them putting up national assets like copper mines as collateral, according to Vox.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, a think tank in Washington, DC, told Vox: “When it sees opportunities, China moves to exploit them. And we are in a moment where the Chinese definitely see opportunities.”

On April 18, China struck back at protesters in Hong Kong. More than a dozen key people were arrested for their roles in protests that gripped the city between August and October. According to The New York Times, “The arrests signaled a broader crackdown on the anti-government movement.”

On the same day, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea. China created two new districts for cities on Yongxing Island, which, along with earlier renaming the areas, was part of an attempt to assert its sovereignty, according to The Diplomat.

An island in the South China Sea might not sound like much when it’s only about 12 square miles of land, yet the city covers 1.2 million square miles of sea, and China’s push for sovereignty clashes with other claims made by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

As for Taiwan, on April 23, Al Jazeera reported China was escalating military drills around the island, signaling discontent towards Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen who was reelected earlier in the year.

Throughout April, China increased military exercises, including having five warships sail unusually close by, conducting a 36-hour endurance exercise, and having its air force reportedly conducted its first night mission in the area.

In Africa, China’s using the struggling nations’ debts to gain assets. China is the continent’s largest creditor. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studied African governments are indebted to China for about 3 billion.

As debt continues to grow some governments are considering handing over assets to China in exchange for relief, according to the Wall Street Journal. For instance, Zambia was considering handing over its third-largest copper mine.

The most obvious recent occurrence of China moving in on the US was its offer to provide funding to WHO. Business Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported on its pledge to give WHO million after President Donald Trump announced earlier in April that the US would freeze 0 million in payments, which was previously the largest contribution from a single country.T

John Lee, a former national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, told Business Insider the new contribution was not from goodwill but was designed to boost its “superficial credentials” as a “global contributor” dealing with the coronavirus.

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

Articles

China’s newest infantry fighting vehicle takes a page out of Russia’s armor book

China didn’t just unveil a new tank during a demonstration at a NORINCO-owned range in Inner Mongolia, its military also unveiled a new infantry fighting vehicle. The demonstration of the VN-17 took place alongside that of the VT-5 light tank.


According to a report by Janes.com, the VN-17 is based on the chassis, powerplant, transmission, armored protection, and tracks of the VT-5. This is not a new set-up, as Russia’s Armata family of armored fighting vehicles includes both a tank and infantry fighting vehicle. The VN-17 has a 30mm cannon in an unmanned turret, along with two anti-tank missiles.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
NORINCO VT-5 light tank. (Youtube screenshot)

According to deagel.com, the VN-17 has a crew of three and weighs about 30 tons. No information is available about the number of dismounted troops it can carry, but other Chinese infantry fighting vehicles in service, like the ZBD04 and ZBD05 carry seven or 10 personnel. Janes noted that the VN-17’s turret is similar to that of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle, which according to some sources is an export version of the ZBD04.

While the ZBD04 is lighter, it is reported to have a 100mm main gun, a main weapon similar to that on the Russian BMP-3. Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle has the Vietnam-era S-60 57mm gun as its primary armament.

IFV turrets can be customized, and many Russian IFVs and armored personnel carriers can be equipped with new turrets featuring a wide variety of weapons.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. A new IFV in development is replaces the combined 100mm gun and 30mm cannon turret with an unmanned turret with a 40mm gun. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

The United States operates the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles using the same concept as the Armata family of vehicles and China’s VT-5/VN-17 combination.

The Stryker family includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a mobile gun system, a mortar carrier, a reconnaissance vehicle, an ambulance, and a command vehicle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing Microsoft training is the key to the ultimate post-military tech career

The military of today looks very different from the military of parents or grandparents. Many of us veterans will go into high-tech training on things like satellites, avionics, or even automated weapons. Military careers with a technical background are a great starting point for a post-military career.


“Veterans and transitioning service members are an amazing talent pool,” says General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Military Affairs at Microsoft. “You have a group of amazing young men and women who have served their country, put their organization above themselves, and come with unique skills and sense of discipline.”

“From a great career in the military, we want them to have the opportunity to go into another great career in the technology industry,” Cortez says.

But what if you didn’t happen to work in a technical field?

Much of the warfighting capability of U.S. armed forces still depend on door-kickers and trigger-pullers. A noble job, but it doesn’t always have a civilian equivalent. And then there are the military careers we take for granted: the plumbers, boatswain’s mates, and undesignated airmen (and others) that may not want to continue those careers after serving.

We live in the information age, in a digital word, where tech jobs are the holy grail of well-paying careers. Sometimes it seems like getting to work in tech after the military means coding your own app and moving to Silicon Valley.

Or maybe check out what Microsoft is doing for the military-veteran community.

Edgar Sanchez joined the Army at 32 and while he was at the base education office, he learned about Microsoft Software Systems Academy, or MSSA. The program is an intense 18-week training course that gives aspiring vets a background in Information Technology systems.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

In a world full of shady dealers who will tell you anything to get a piece of your GI Bill benefits, isn’t the idea of Microsoft directly teaching you things like cloud application development, server cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, and database business intelligence administration a bit comforting?

Best of all, finishing the course gets you a job interview at Microsoft. But don’t worry if you don’t get that job. More than 240 companies have hired MSSA graduates. The program has a 94 percent employment rate.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Sanchez describes his transition from the U.S Army to a civilian career. (YouTube screenshot)

“Why not bring the technology industry’s skills gap and thousands of transitioning service members together?” Cortez asks. “Why not fill this need in technology by training people that are interested, that are leaving active duty, and preparing them for those jobs?”

A thought that would be comforting when it’s time to think about leaving the military.

Articles

Navy vying to be the most inked service with new tattoo policy

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
(Photo: U.S. Navy by MC3 Timothy Shumaker)


Sailors have a long history of sporting tattoos, and now the sea service is taking it to the next level with some major mods to the tattoo policy. The new rules, which take effect April 30, will allow sailors to:

  • Have multiple or large tattoos below the elbow or knee, including the wrists and hands, effectively allowing sleeve tattoos that can be seen even while wearing short sleeve uniforms.
  • Have one tattoo on their neck, which includes behind the ear, and it may not exceed 1 inch in length or height in either or both directions.
  • Sailors with visible tattoos will now be eligible for recruiting duty or leading recruits at boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. These tough assignments often give sailors a leg up to make rank.

The rules do not change the Navy’s content guidelines that apply to body art “anywhere on the body,” the policy says, which means that “tattoos that are obscene, sexually explicit, and or advocate discrimination based on sex, race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin” are still banned.

“In addition, tattoos that symbolize affiliation with gangs, supremacist or extremist groups, or advocate illegal drug use are prohibited — waivers will not be given for tattoos with prohibited content,” the service said.

“We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our Navy,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens told Navy Times in a March 30 interview. “We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only 29 percent of young people are eligible for service

Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.


But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.

According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
And 4,000 new Coast Guardsmen, but they never have to worry about meeting their numbers. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.

But that’s a long ways off.

There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Working hard is a virtue shared by troops. Being fit means they’re one step closer mentally. (Photo by Scott Sturkol)

The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).

If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An alligator snuck onto the flight line at MacDill Air Force Base (and how to wrangle an alligator)

Officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, Florida reported an unusual obstruction on the airstrip this past Tuesday preventing military aircraft from taking off: a laid back alligator seemingly perfectly content to catch some sun on the warm blacktop of the runway.

While alligators are no stranger to Florida, they are an uncommon sight in places like a military flight line, where perimeter fences and frequent traffic tend to make for an unwelcoming area for wildlife–especially the sort that tends to move at a leisurely pace outside of the water. Alligators are, of course, capable of achieving downright terrifying speeds in short bursts on land, but this gator didn’t seem to have speed on its mind as it was approached by MacDill officials.


MacDill Air Force Base

www.facebook.com

MacDill Air Force Base

As luck would have it, wrangling wayward alligators happens to be one of the unusual skill sets I’ve gathered over the years, cutting my gator wrestling teeth in a large animal preserve in Colorado some time ago.

The preserve maintained a sizeable population of wild and rescued alligators, many of which sometimes require medical care for the small wounds they tend to give one another in their sporadic alligator squabbles. Some of the worst gator-on-gator injuries, I came to find, often involved long-term mating pairs going through bad breakups. Despite having the size advantage, it’s often the males that require medical attention after a breakup–and I’ll leave any jokes about the fury of a woman scorned for you to make for yourself.

At MacDill, they were able to get their alligator intruder off the flight line by coaxing it into the bucket of a front loader using a bucket of food, which was probably the safest and most expedient method of dinosaur removal you could come up with on short notice. My experience wrangling alligators was slightly different… as the gators I was after were submerged under waist-deep opaque water and often injured.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

Although you can’t see it, there’s an alligator right beneath me here.

Despite the terror associated with wading around in water you know is chock-full of apex predators, alligators can be a surprisingly docile species when approached by humans. Don’t let that fool you. It isn’t a friendly demeanor that keeps them still, but rather a supreme confidence in their ability to manage the threat posed by your squishy, meat-filled body.

Getting a submerged alligator out of the water for treatment is a nerve-racking but surprisingly simple endeavor: you walk barefoot through the water very slowly, being careful not to lift your feet, as a submerged alligator might mistake a raised foot for a swimming fish. As you slowly push your feet forward, you feel for the leathery hide of an alligator resting on the river bed. Maybe it’s their thick skin, maybe it’s their confidence, but alligators rarely react when you nudge them with a toe.

From there, the stress begins: you need to determine which way the head is pointing and step over the alligator’s back, so you’re standing with the submerged gator between your legs, with its head pointing in the same direction as yours. Then it’s as simple as reaching down under the water and carefully looping your rope around the alligator’s neck. Once the rope is secured, you once more very gingerly, step away from the gator with the other end of the rope in hand. Once you’re a few feet away, you’ve got a gator on a leash, and you need to get it to shore: there’s only one way to do that. With one tug of the rope, hell breaks loose. An explosion of water fills the area as the alligator tries to attack with both teeth and tail. There’s nothing left to do now but play tug of war with a dinosaur.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

Just like taking your giant, tooth-filled dog for a walk that he really doesn’t want to go on.

Once on shore, the fight has just begun. You pass the rope to your partner to put some tension on it to redirect the alligator’s focus while you circle around. Once you’re sure the alligator has lost sight of you, you move as quickly as you can to get onto the alligator’s back with your feet beneath you, sticking your fingers into its mouth at the rear near the jaw joint and heaving your weight backward as you pull to subdue the monster.

With small alligators, this is a challenge. With big alligators, it’s exactly as scary as you imagine. If the gator bucks you off (as they sometimes do) your partner will need to move quickly to save your life. Alligators attack at angles and with lightning quickness, making their aggressive movements difficult to predict and even more difficult to evade.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

Believe it or not, this was still a “small” alligator during training classes.

Once subdued, we used good old fashioned triple antibiotic ointment on small wounds and antibiotic injections for larger injuries before releasing the alligators back into the water.

Fortunately for MacDill, a bucket of food and a bit of heavy equipment did the trick just fine this time… but if these sightings keep up, alligator wrestling could become one heck of a B-billet.

Articles

Today in military history: Senates approves female combat pilots

On July 31, 1991, the United States Senate voted to allow women to fly combat aircraft.

Although women had been flying since 1908, nearly all were restricted to general aviation. During World War Two, female pilots supported the military in non-combat roles, never gaining full military status.

In the 1970s, women were finally permitted to fly in the U.S. armed forces but were banned from combat aircraft or missions. It wasn’t until July 31, 1991 that the Senate overwhelmingly voted to lift the ban.

In 1993, Jeannie Leavitt became the Air Force’s first female fighter pilot. Over her ongoing career, she proved herself with over 300 combat hours over Iraq and Afghanistan in the seat of an F-15E Strike Eagle. 

She’s a General now, thank you very much, proving that women have no problem taking it to the danger zone.

There’s no doubt that the Air Force continues to advance its air-power capabilities. In 2015, the Air Force introduced its new multi-role fighter jet, the F-35A Lightning II. Once all the particulars are fine-tuned, this airframe is slated to eventually replace the F-16 and A-10. But along with its strides in technological advancement comes the breaking of gender-biased boundaries.

That same year, the first female F-35 pilot was assigned as the deputy commander of 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group at Eglin Air Force Base. Lieutenant Colonel Christine Mau was appointed one of 88 pilots qualified to fly the F-35. Graduating from the Air Force Academy and having a family history of pilots is what led Mau towards becoming a pilot herself. Today, she is still only one of a handful of female F-35 pilots.

Capt. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe, the new face of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter demonstration team, is used to being outnumbered as a female pilot.

“A lot of people have [misconceptions] still about either females flying or females being fighter pilots, all the way from little kids…to adults,” she told Military.com. “So that’s probably the most important part, is that they get to see it … for them to see that anything’s possible.”

At the same time, she said regarding the gender of pilots: “the jet doesn’t care.”

Featured Image: Air Force Lt. Col. Christine Mau readies herself for her first flight in the F-35A Lightning II.

Articles

The Army may allow all soldiers to sport ‘operator beards’

You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.


Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Confederate General James Longstreet

For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”

According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Army Special Forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.

“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”

The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”

“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.

The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.

At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hurricane Hunters were in Michael’s eye when he made landfall

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron started flying into Hurricane Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and over the next four days observed it intensify from a possible tropical depression to a Category 4 storm, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 10, 2018.

“This storm started out as a low level investigation with the possibility of it reaching tropical storm status by the end of the first flight,” said Col. Robert J. Stanton, 403rd Wing vice commander and navigator who was on the mission. “We had a challenge on the first entry into the storm trying to find the center because the eye of this storm was oval shaped and roughly 30 to 40 miles long.”

Stanton said that during the next two passes into the eye, they were getting better readings because the storm was developing throughout the course of their mission.


The track was predicted to hit the Florida Panhandle from the start. It was named Michael Oct. 7, 2018, and was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by Oct. 8, 2018.

“Michael was different than others, because the track pretty much stayed the same from day one,” said Capt. Kelsie Carpenter, 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer, who flew into the storm on Oct. 9, 2018. “We sent the data to the National Hurricane Center and watched it go from a Category 1 to a Category 2 storm while we were fixing the center and it appeared to be intensifying.”

The 53rd WRS “Hurricane Hunters” were inside the storm as it made landfall in Florida as a Category 4.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles

Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a category 4 hurricane over the Florida panhandle.

(NASA photo)


The 53rd WRS is the only Defense Department unit that flies reconnaissance missions into severe tropical weather during the hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, to gather data for the National Hurricane Center to improve their forecasts and storm warnings. In all, the squadron flew nine missions into Hurricane Michael to gather this information.

While the model forecasts have improved for tracking, Maj. Jeremy DeHart, 53rd WRS ARWO, said intensity forecasts are tricky to predict.

“Data from our drop today indicated that it continued to strengthen right up to landfall,” said DeHart. “Our last dropsonde measured a central pressure of 919 millibars, which was lower than both Katrina and Andrew.”

“This was such a powerful storm for building up in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t happen often that you see a storm increasing intensity while making landfall,” said Lt. Col. Sean Cross, 53rd WRS pilot.

While inside the eye, the crew could see the storm surge hitting the coastline of Florida, said Cross.

“The eyewall also looked different than others I have flown because it was like we were inside an 18-mile-wide barrel or drum, with the eyewall going straight up and down,” he said.

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 150 mph winds near Mexico Beach, causing massive damage.

“After our experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina we understand how difficult it is to experience and recover from a devastating storm,” said Stanton. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are being impacted by Hurricane Michael today.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

ISIS just targeted French troops and Kurds with an explosive drone

The Islamic State reportedly used an armed drone full of explosives to wound French troops and kill two Kurds on Oct. 2, according to a report from French newspaper Le Monde.


The strike, believed to potentially be the first of its kind against Western forces, took place just outside Irbil, which is located in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reports.

Two Kurdish peshmerga troops were killed in the attack, and two French special operators were also seriously wounded. One is still in critical condition. Both were whisked away back to France immediately.

Due to the rapid proliferation of drone technology and the fact that component prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, militant groups are quickly adopting drones as a new weapon.

And yet, the use of drones with explosives, much less against Western forces, is uncommon. In many cases, ISIS simply uses drones for surveillance footage to use in propaganda films.

U.S. forces in Iraq now carry the equipment to bring down these kinds of drones, such as a Battelle DroneDefender, which actually doesn’t even use bullets. Rather, the technology works by disrupting the communication line between the drone and its operator.

It’s unclear if France possesses the same counter-drone technology in the field.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Articles

These glasses can turn any location into a simulated battlefield

Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.


Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
Four viewpoints of exercise participants during an AITT test. In this GIF, Marines engage simulated enemy tanks near an objective. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.

Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.

All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.

Marine Corps receives first of its new, more lethal amphibious combat vehicles
This is the view a participant sees when a truck is destroyed during an augmented reality training mission. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 on a golf course after a series of upgrades and other tests. The goal is to allow Marines to practice engaging each other in force-on-force exercises without the cost or risk associated with training using live munitions and vehicles.

Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.

See the system in action in the video below:

Do Not Sell My Personal Information